Did someone say “Totally over?”

On 10 May, just 7 weeks into Sydney’s lockdown, I overheard a good-looking young woman talking on her mobile phone at the pedestrian crossing. I came home, repeated her remark to Michael, and sat down to write the following piece of doggerel.

“I’m totally over Covid!”

Said the pretty girl into her phone.

I came home and told my beloved,

Who said, “She isn’t alone.”

At the risk of becoming a moaner,

I’m totally over corona.

I’m feeling just like the phoner

Who certainly isn’t a loner,

Becoming bovine or bovid –





At that time, we were only supposed to leave the house for a few defined purposes. We couldn’t eat in restaurants, ask friends to visit, or get in hugging distance of anyone.

Our wings were clipped, no doubt about it.

But 17 weeks on, my rhyme looks decidedly petulant.

17 weeks on, petulance just won’t do.

So I’ll try to see it more positively.

I’d rather live in a country with a death rate of 4 deaths from COVID-19 corona virus per million of population, than one with more than 400 deaths per million.

I’d rather live in a country where decision makers listen to the health experts and base their decisions on evidence, than one where fear and egotism hold sway.

I’d rather live in a country with a safety net for most of the people who lose jobs.

I’d rather put up with a few restrictions than run the risk of a terrifying death.

I know there will be moments when I’m as petulant as the woman on the phone, and totally over the whole thing. Patience is not one of my virtues. I don’t always handle confusion and uncertainty well. Who does?

Dark thoughts in the night are inevitable.

I didn’t like cancelling overseas travel. I do worry about my family members in the US. There are plenty of minor irritations, and occasional dark moods.

But “totally over”? If we’re nearer the start than the finish, we need more resilence than that.



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.



We first talked on video to our grandson, one and a half, in early March when we could no longer visit. He walked to the back of his mother’s phone, looking for us.

His grandfather and I. We were his universe on Wednesdays from the time he turned one.

My girlfriends, The Three Grannies, created a Vivaldi Four Seasons app for the under-fives.

As soon as his mother was on the 470 bus, heading for work, my grandson and I started our morning ritual of playing all of the Seasons. We watched as his appreciation of Vivaldi and the Three Grannies evolved. From sitting on the lap of his grandfather who conducted, no words yet from him but he was totally captivated by sound and moving pictures. Later he could walk and talk. His footwork synced with the Seasons. Dancing on the spot he held our tablet tight with both hands in case the experience ran away.

Wednesday rituals

Then a single word stumbled out one day. POP! he squealed as frogs jumped from one stepping stone to another in the pond in Vivaldi’s spring.

His mother said he liked reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar before his mid-morning sleep. POP! again when the milky moon appeared in the night sky, when the red sun rose in the horizon when Caterpillar became Butterfly. Then he drifted to sleep holding my hand in case we separated.

This is joy, woven into human DNA across cultures over zillion years. So very spontaneous.

I captured the moments. I watch them now before getting up. POP! I squealed in one voice with him this Wednesday morning.

Then I remember. Isolation. I am a whole journey of the 470 away from him. It is unbearable.


Life Since the Ides of March


  • Being an introvert has some advantages.
  • Jogging can replace swimming for endorphins, but not for the pure pleasure of water.
  • If you bake a lot of cakes, you feel compelled to eat them.
  • Making yogurt in a slow cooker is effortless, magic, and cheap.
  • Some people are kinder and friendlier to each other now, some people are not.
  • Twitter brings out the best and the worst in humans – but always the best in dogs and cats.
  • Everyone out on the street seems to have a dog – who knew? Where were they hiding them before now?
  • Twitter posts can be depressing.
  • It’s easy to zone out of Zoom meetings, and you can have snacks and washroom breaks unobserved.
  • I still don’t know what TikTok is, and I really don’t care.
  • “A garden is a lovesome thing, God wot!” Our “fringed pool” has stagnant water, needs to be drained, but.
  • Indoor plants grow faster when I water them regularly.
  • Routine events like garbage pickup and mail delivery are strangely reassuring.
  • And so to bed.



I was out of home for April. Renovation. A plan made late last year. Looking back, who could have envisioned the novel beast on the horizon?

Thought it was strategic to move out close to home to oversight proceedings. It turned out I didn’t venture out, much less oversighting.

I stayed in a temporary home in the land of sacred homes. Mary McKillop Place in the next street, every second building is an Australian Catholic University campus. But a sacred shelter I didn’t feel my neighbourhood was.

I went for solitude walks in St Leonards Park, young fathers pushing strollers, few people shared my space…except, came late afternoon, joggers started to pound the paths, working off their strangely isolated work day of Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

I ducked into grassland to hide from their enthusiasm, acutely aware of Norman Swan’s estmation of the air power of these human moving machines. We shared the same health goals but for the quarter centry that separated our births. They will have a lifetime of struggles ahead of them. Those muscle-proud legs will run strong against life’s headwinds.

Life became somewhat tentative. Decision Fatigue is the syndrome they name it. Take it easy, take it slow, every interaction with the ouside world calls for deliberation.

So Corona, look what you made me do in this valley of time. I became a bit tentative approaching my trusted tradesmen until they showed me, in my absence, how they patiently restored my 19th century home for it to last another 100 years. I was a little shy with my elderly neighbour until she was the first to mask up to shield both of us.

Depending on our perspectives, this can be a tiny glimpse of humanity, or indeed a huge deal showing me the irreprssibly positive power of community, our Aussie community.

  • KIM VU