I’m writing to you from Melbourne, Victoria, in week 15 of our second lockdown, just as you enter yours.
I think we need to talk about sourdough.
And Netflix. And maybe even golf courses — but more on them later.
With the first one: forget about it. The bakers of Ireland, essential workers all, will need your support. So don’t worry about that “Lockdown Mark I bread-making” obsession. It just doesn’t feel as comforting and charming the second time around.
Bugger it. Get it home delivered.
About Netflix. Yep — just like the first time, you’ll be watching a lot of it now that you’re going back into a second COVID lockdown. I’m afraid it’s mostly the same stuff, but you’ll know you’re starting to feel like your pandemic strategy is working and things are getting better when you ditch the comedy and turn to the documentaries.
This is going to get worse
As I write, this Australian state has recorded one new infection and no new deaths.
That’s right, just one new infection.
The day our premier told us we were shutting down again after the worldwide lockdown most of us went through in March, there were 191 new cases. One month after that, with curfews and even further restrictions looming, the number had grown to 732.
I’m sorry Ireland, but just like your mum might have told you when you came down with the measles — this is going to get worse before it gets better.
Our state has a population not too much greater than yours, but your infection rate is higher than ours ever went. Back in our dark days, with infections rising by the hundreds, it was hard to avoid a sense of panic — but panic at what? At the fear that a shutdown would kill off the very life of a city and state that we were trying so hard to save?
Or was it panic that we could not get this thing back in the bottle? That when community spread is this wide, it’s too late?
When Victoria’s stage 4 lockdown started on July 8, with its ban on travelling no more than 5km from home, and limit to one essential shopping trip a day, the idea of achieving the Government’s target of less than an average of five daily cases seemed absurd.
Today, we are three days away from the original next step out of lockdown — and the 14-day average is 5.8. No, we can’t quite believe it either.
I wish you good luck
So, I write to wish you good luck with your lockdown. Our strategies are very similar. Although, unlike ours, your kids will keep going to school, and just getting them out the door each morning will make life so much easier and help maintain a sense of rhythm and normality that has been impossible for tens of thousands of families here.
You have a pandemic unemployment payment too — that’s good. Fight to keep it for as long as you can.
As for golf courses: do you also have those high-profile loudmouths who feel that being denied 18-holes twice a week is the greatest infringement on their personal liberties since Julian Assange was taken away? I can’t advise you on what to do about those people. I know one of them, and he has the kind of job and lifestyle that when we finally re-opened the courses here, he took a week off and played golf seven days straight. They’re just a different kind of human, they are.
Beyond that, I think you know how this goes. You have to try to find some pattern within the monotony and take joy from the clever way your community will create enchantment.
A local pub will become an absolute hero for its home-delivered meals and emergency beer. Chain letters from the neighbourhood kids will appear in your letterbox. High holidays and Holy days will be commemorated from your front door. And it will feel strangely intimate, and very beautiful.
Be brave. Go on
Dear Ireland, ancestral homeland of so many of us Australians: if I was to distil all this to postcard-size, I’d say — it’s worth it. The sacrifice is worth it.
No, we don’t really know what the full economic impact will be: we can’t see the bottom yet, but some of our best-regarded economists predict a “beautiful” recovery — they say we’ll fairly roar out of it as we head into Christmas.
But even if recovery is slower and harder than that — and like you, we will recover, we are that kind of people — know that you are doing the right thing. You closed down so that when you open up again, you’ll have as many of your fellow citizens with you as a humane and careful society can hope to have. Be brave. Go on.
Back here, you can consider the US President’s weird email blitz or life on an all-meat diet. Hayley Gleeson’s excellent investigation of family violence by serving police officers, and this explainer by Matilda Marozzi, are the stories you cannot look away from.
Have a safe and happy weekend and let your microwave do the cooking tonight as we all settle in for an AFL grand final like no other — Saturday night football! A box of 24 frozen party pies should do it. Yes, I’m serious.
The reviews of Netflix’s remake of the Daphne du Maurier classic Rebecca are in — and I’m afraid they are not good.
This is devastating as it’s one of my touchstone books, and a novel I return to again and again. I recently sat down with author Tegan Bennett Daylight to discuss why I can’t shake this story.
If Rebecca — smart, beautiful, wilful and occasionally cruel — was a song I think she’d be this.