‘Before all this’, as we’ve been saying in our house for several months, I used to check online news every morning. During Australia’s bushfire season 2019-20, I’d start with ABC and Sydney Morning Herald, and, depending on the news, message family and friends in NSW to see how they were coping. Canadian news – CBC and the Toronto Star – was next on my list, and news of the virus was gradually making headlines.
By February, with the pandemic threatening, and my planned May flight to Sydney in question, I got a bit obsessive around online news, most of which was frighteningly bad. Opinion pieces and social media were the worst, and I had to stop reading them. Then on March 16 Canada went into lockdown, and I spent the first two weeks wondering if I had the virus, having been on crowded buses and in a busy restaurant just days earlier.
Early in ‘all this’, I was concerned about Australia’s seemingly slow start to enforce restrictions, while Canada appeared to be dealing with the crisis relatively effectively, with a fairly sane and sensible prime minister. Sadly, that situation was soon reversed, and Toronto is still in Stage 2 of a three-stage plan to reopening, averaging about 30 new cases daily.
Obviously, I’m not on holiday at Manly this year.
Like many regular swimmers, I despaired of finding a substitute when Toronto’s indoor pools closed. Jogging kept me fit, but offered none of the joys of water, as Julia Baird’s Phosphorescence and Roger Deakin’s Waterlogged eloquently describe. Toronto is on the shores of Lake Ontario, the 13th largest lake in the world, but in March, the water is close to freezing. At the end of May, after a lot of online research about size and thickness, I ordered a heavy-weight wetsuit on Amazon. By then, water at Toronto beaches was about 10 C. Swimming in a 5mm wetsuit is a challenge – one swimmer on my Facebook swim group aptly calls his a sausage suit. It kept me warm but was not a tight fit and bulged in strange places. It seems that I should have paid twice as much for a suit designed for swimming, with thinner material on the arms and legs. The plan is to buy one now that stores are open, so that I can have a longer open water swimming season this year.
It’s possible that most Australians reading this will not know anyone who caught the virus. I personally know of only a few. Two of my UK colleagues at Emerald Publishing were quite ill in April, as well as two young Toronto women, friends of my son and daughter-in-law, and one university colleague.
My generation tended to self-isolate, and retired University of Toronto faculty have stayed in touch through weekly Zoom ‘coffee times’ and regular online presentations replacing the monthly in-person talks. Weekly online meetings of a group called Oasis (a secular community, see <torontooasis.org>) also nurture my mind and spirit. Cyclists have benefitted, with Toronto creating new cycle lanes throughout the city, and closing the major lakeshore highway to cars every weekend. The so-called ‘new normal’ might not be as bad as it seems.
HELEN JEFFERSON LENSKYJ