We have a small house in an insignificant little town on the south coast. So insignificant that when it appears in the news (because of bushfires or the rapacity of property developers), it is often referred to as a “hamlet.” The only hamlet in the country as far as I can tell.

Since the end of March, we hadn’t visited it although we had left ourselves with a list of unfinished work to do. The COVID19 regulations at that stage made it quite clear that travelling to the country for any reason other than urgent care for oneself or a close relative was forbidden. Specific mention was made of not going to a house that was not one’s principal place of residence. It was assumed that any such travel must be for a holiday, something that was supposed to occur only in one’s home or on its balcony.

Reading the latest iteration of the regulations appeared to show that travel between two houses that were our own property had acquired legitimacy since the earlier versions. So, equipped with the most recent council rates notice as proof of ownership and a copy of the regulations with the relevant paragraph highlit in fluorescent green, we set off, prepared to argue the case with the police when they pulled us up to enquire whether or not we were on lawful business.

No-one did stop us. We got down there and worked quite hard for a few days. Of course we went for walks on the local beaches and through the bush to see how much recovery there had been after the bushfires which had come close to destroying our hamlet entirely. P. even spent half an hour in the water, immersed in socially appropriate isolation from friends from the house two doors up our street.

Appropriate isolation

It made us think a bit about what a holiday is. We had a holiday in the sense we were doing something we wouldn’t otherwise have done and not done things we would otherwise have done. Prohibiting holidays seems to rule out an important therapeutic practice, even though their safety or efficacy in treating coronavirus infection hasn’t been established by randomised double blind controlled clinical trials. We’d put our hands up for such a study provided we could be assured that we wouldn’t be in the placebo group.


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