* Culture, Featured

Back into lockdown

Philomena Cannon on entering lockdown for a second time in Melbourne, Australia

“It’s four in the morning, the end of December
I’m writing you now just to see if you’re better …”

Leonard Cohen ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’

It’s four in the morning, the midst of the Winter (apologies to Leonard Cohen) and four hours into our second lockdown.

I am living in Melbourne, one of the few cities in the world having to return to lockdown to bring safety to all our citizens.  We share this notoriety with parts of Beijing and Leicester.

What does it feel like?  I lay in bed and contemplate.  My ears hear the normal sounds of the night; the quiet breathing of another.  My skin feels the comforting weight of a warm hand-knitted blanket laying over a quilt; I am warm.  My eyes see the stars and the moon through the window;  this is a rare sight indeed in Melbourne – no cloud cover and very little smog. And I breathe in the warm human smells around me.  All is well.

But how can it be?  With 1004 hours left of the six week lockdown ahead of me, how can I say ‘All is well?’

Three weeks ago, when Australia was looking forward to the relaxing of restrictions, there was a joy in that expectation.

My husband and I made plans to catch up with my grandkids, see our children, have dinner with friends.  We even went to a café for the first time in three months and had lunch. It felt wonderful to see the streets of Melbourne becoming busy again.  To contribute to the economy by paying for a sit-down meal.

Then the numbers of coronavirus infections in Melbourne started to rise again.  And rise…. and rise.

As the rest of our country was allowed to attend a footy match, stand at a bar and have a drink in a pub, we saw some suburbs in Melbourne returned to lockdown.  Horrible.

Then, worse, nine high density housing towers placed in immediate ‘hard lockdown’ for five days, minimum.  No leaving the building at all.  No warning, just buildings cordoned off by the police.  This was horrific to watch.

I felt my life spiralling out of control.  This wasn’t how it was meant to be.

How could I connect with friends or family when we were no longer living in a safe environment?   An environment that was becoming less safe every day. I felt an underlying sense of foreboding within my heart.

My normal COVID-style survival connections were failing me.  Because I could not bring myself to connect to them.  My regular Sunday on-line church service left me cold … I switched it off.  My baking forays held no excitement.  My COVID hobby of posting photos on Facebook of my daily Iso-walks had gone by the wayside.  No interest in responding to emails.

I could not bring myself to fulfill my personal commitment to ring and connect with others regularly.  Actually what felt better was to not do anything but continue to read the News, watch the News, check the Government website every hour or so to see when the ‘number of new cases’ tally was posted.  Not exactly a relaxing out-of-COVID way of living.

And then came the announcement that all of Greater Metropolitan Melbourne and all of the Mitchell Shire would return to lockdown for six weeks.  Once again our Government leaders were making decisions to protect all of us.  Once again, we were all in this together.  We would all need to follow the same protocols.  We would all remain at home except for the four main reasons we in Melbourne already know so well (shopping for food/essentials; care-giving; outdoor exercise; work or study if you can’t work or study from home).

It was no surprise to hear these words.  It was expected by many.

So how did it feel?  It felt better.  It felt more secure.  I felt the serious heaviness that I was carrying lifting slightly.  This would be the way we would make it through COVID with less deaths, loss and brokenness.  We were once again being told we needed to act responsibly for the good of all; we would stay home;  we would sacrifice and we would endure.

For those of us in the lockdown area there was solidarity once again … not division.  No single building towers bearing the weight of a lockdown.  No boundaries set between suburbs stating who could visit family and who could not.

I know this will be hard. It will be much harder for those in the lockdown that now have to re-jig work arrangements, home schooling, care-giving.

But for me, it is manageable.  It is a cross I am comfortable with as I have carried it before.  I know I can do it again.  It is preferable to carry this cross into the next six weeks rather than walking into the unknown with clusters of community transmissions continually arising.

So, on some level, I feel that all is relatively okay.  I wish good karma to all those who are travelling the road of a second lockdown, either now or in the future.

Philomena Cannon