Life under Covid 19 – the pandemic that has stopped the world

During this incredible historical moment I feel it is important to record what’s going on in our lives even if it is just for our grandchildren and their children and future generations of our family.

We are all practicing self distancing ie keeping 1.5m away from each other unless we live together, and some of us are in home isolation. We need to treat the outside like a combat zone. It’s an extreme sport going shopping and you have to keep your wits about you. Don’t touch your face, only pick up what you are going to buy, don’t touch any surfaces, use your card to pay but don’t touch the eftpos machine with it, use sanitiser before you touch your car, and many other restrictions. Then it’s a whole set of fun and games when you bring your groceries home like unpack them outside if you can, empty contents of packages into prepared containers and throw the packaging away, wash cans and jars and fruit and vegetables with soap and water. It is a stressful time indeed.

I am having fun writing and illustrating a picture book. The difference with this book is that I’m publishing it as I go, all on social media. It is a day-by-day project with no plan and for this reason it may get a little messy. By publishing as I go, I’m committed – I can’t go back, only forward. It’s a fun experiment though, something I would never have thought of doing if it wasn’t for Covid 19.

These are the first three pages of THE LICKETY.

Aski and Mirka’s favourite place was the forest.
‘Push me, Aski. Push me high I want to fly,’ said Mirka.
‘Wait,’ said Aski. ‘What is that noise?’

‘Oh dear,’ said Mirka. ‘It must be the Lickety!’
‘What’s the Lickety?’ asked Aski.
‘It’s a monster so big it fills the whole sky with its body. It’s really ferocious with long sharp teeth. And it’s hungry, really hungry … all of the time!’
‘How do you know?’ Aski asked.
‘The trees told me,’ said Mirka. ‘Trees know everything.’
‘Run away!’ cried Aski.

‘Gwaaa… why so scared?’ called Crow.
‘It’s the Lickety. The Lickety is coming!’ cried Mirka.
The crows shrugged their wings and flew away. 
Meanwhile, deep in a hollow two eyes blinked on then off….

At the moment I find it impossible to concentrate on anything that requires deep thinking as my current novel, The Story Magician demands. This year I was fortunate enough to gain an Australia Council Literature Grant to work on the story which will be part narrative, part short stories, part graphic novel. Writing and illustrating this novel requires a certain amount of emotional stamina which I don’t have the energy for. So writing this picture book is fun and light and a wonderful diversion.

I have no idea what the ending will be for my picture book, just as I don’t know what the outcome of this pandemic will be for Australia. But at least when I’m writing, I have ‘relative’ control and the ending will be happy, I promise. I say ‘relative’ because writing is a strange beast and a lot of the time when I write a book I am not in control at all!  

Everyday we are bombarded with updates of the catastrophe this virus is causing throughout the world – the terrible death toll in Italy, Spain and other nations, and how the US is rapidly heading towards a major disaster. And then there are the poor health workers, the doctors and nurses on the frontline who don’t have the equipment, the protection that they need, who have to decide who lives and who dies. The elderly are disadvantaged here. Australia has not come to this yet. Some people are advocating a total lockdown. I haven’t watched or listened to the news for years but it is hard not to now as things are changing so rapidly.

How lucky are we to have social media where we can still maintain connections with each other. I am having private Italian language classes and an African dance class all via Zoom. And I will start skyping again with my Italian friend who lives in Bologna. I ring my family and friends more regularly to see how they are doing. I have lost income due to this pandemic but our lives are quieter, our dogs are happier and I am enjoying spending time in my pjs.

My one sorrow is not being able to cuddle my six month old grandson, Harrison. I’m missing those moments when he first sits up by himself, when he has his first taste of solids. It’s hard to think that he may be one year old before I can actually sit him on my lap and read him a story like I did so many times when he was a baby.

My daughter, Lei Lei is a photographer. On Sunday she went into Melbourne’s CBD and took these photos of a deserted city. The usual crowds around Flinders Street Station, the Arts Centre, Southbank and the National Gallery of Victoria are gone. We have been told to stay home to stop the spread of the virus, and that’s what people are doing which is wonderful.

Flinders Street Station Image Lei Lei Clavey
Image Lei Lei Clavey
The Arts Centre Image Lei Lei Clavey
Image Lei Lei Clavey
Image Lei Lei Clavey
Image Lei Lei Clavey
Interior Flinders Street Station Image Lei Lei Clavey
St Kilda Road Image Lei Lei Clavey
Southbank Image Lei Lei Clavey

It is indeed an interesting time to be alive. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity for world leaders to look inwards, to reassess how humankind is going. It is a time where we realise that we are made up of small groups and communities and that during hard times we are discovering small ways of helping each other. My next door neighbour offers to buy my groceries and I give her tomatoes from our garden. My daughter just rang to see if we wanted anything at the supermarket. Once a day I walk in the park with another neighbour who always makes me laugh. Such a dry sense of humour she has. Laughter is a cure in itself.

Stay safe, stay well dear friends,

Gabi x

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