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Sunday, 18 July 2021 09:08

Gladys and the Blue Gum

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The NSW Lockdown has personal impacts on families.

The NSW Lockdown has personal impacts on families.

 

Life in Greater Sydney – an oxymoron now if ever there was one – has been reasonably tough these past days.  Mercifully a mere visitor these days from the relative bliss of the simple, non-Covid life in the regional north of the State, I have experienced afresh the spiralling out of control of normal existence in the State’s capital city.

New South Wales is normally held up as “the sensible state” when it comes to Covid management, with caution leavened by liberalism.  The middle ground between “letting the virus rip”, an approach mis-attributed to lockdown sceptics, and CovidMania as practised (alas) by most governments here and overseas.  The pass given to the NSW Government is generous, to say the least, and in the current circumstances, hopelessly out-of-date.

A weekend visit for lunch, on the eve of the Sydney-wide lockdown-plus, to the historic Blue Gum Hotel in Waitara, in Sydney’s north, tells the story.  Of course, like the United Kingdom pub-test only not as bad – in many British pubs you actually have to order your pints online ahead of time – the process is the punishment. 

First, there was the reason we were attending the pub in the first place.  That would be because hosting my family at our place would be considered an illegal act under the NSW Government’s new numbers rule.  We (two) could visit the family, but they (seven) couldn’t visit us.  An inconvenient Plan B was needed.

Second, there is the inevitable bureaucracy at the entrance door, with entry points reduced to one (of course).  As a QR code refusenik, I normally just sign a paper-book in a vain attempt to keep the State’s Covid marshals at arm’s length.  At least, unlike a Facebook friend who shall remain nameless, I do actually give my real name and real phone number, though this practice is now under review.  But as of yesterday, when the hotel staff enter your details on the ipad, you get a text message and code from the Macquarie Street bunker to make sure it is you.  This, I believe, is new.  Or maybe the practice simply hasn’t been widespread.  The contact-trace panopticon ever closes-in on the pub-goer.

Next is the surly girlie behind the bar who won’t serve you a beer unless you are masked up.  I got an apology of sorts.  My wife was not so lucky.  She just got the surly glower.  The place was terribly quiet, just one example of, no doubt, hundreds across the metropolis, of a self-imposed lockdown by the people of Sydney, prior to and probably anticipating the real one. 

Remain seated and masked.  Keep your distance.  Mask up to walk ten metres to the bathroom or the bar.  Mask up to order your food from the bistro.  Mask up to take the kids to the bathroom.  Mask up to walk outside.

Rumours started circulating that the Hotel would be closing at six in the evening.  Foolishly, we thought initially that this was merely a sad, inevitable consequence of the lack of Sydneysider interest in going out.  No, the news of the new super-lockdown finally hit us.  No Saturday night out for the newly arriving evening customers who had booked.  Babysitters arranged.  Evenings planned.  Instead, they were being told at the door to go home and stay there.  No warning.

Finally, on departure, I had to return from the car park to the hotel to visit the facilities.  I had spent twenty minutes consoling two sobbing youngsters now unable to visit their grandparents for a school holidays visit following the announcement of the lockdown.  A lockdown that the Premier had said days previously wasn’t necessary.  No, I wasn’t able to be re-admitted to the hotel where I had been all afternoon, without a whole, new sign-in process.  The mandatory (officious) security guard manning the sanitiser cum sign-in station and I didn’t part on the best of terms, I would have to say.

The city on Thursday, where I was due to attend an inevitably cancelled (for the second time) university graduation, was a ghost-town.  Melbourne-like, you might say.  No wonder the tourism/hospitality sector is in free-fall, in Sydney as elsewhere.  Must be time for some more piddling vouchers to get people to go out and spending money, as announced in the State’s Budget this week.  I, indeed, had used two of them to take the grandchildren to the Zoo.  Oops, that got cancelled too.

And, so, one is driven by all this to check the latest count of Covid deaths in Australia.  Surely there must have been a catastrophic hockey stick style spike given all the manic Covid theatre of the past week.  No, still only 910 deaths.  The most recent Australian Covid death was in April, an unfortunate eighty-year-old who actually lived in the Philippines and came back after contracting Covid over there.  The death before that was in December last year.  In Germany this week, there were around 700 daily cases on average.  Everything is open there, my Munich-based contact informs me.  In Britain, flu and pneumonia are now causing ten times as many deaths as Covid.

I said that this latest episode of Covid fascism is “lockdown-plus”.  That is because, on exiting Sydney’s lockdown to return to the erstwhile sanity of regional New South Wales, two weeks’ isolation now awaits.  Just for having had the crazy-brave intent of innocently visiting a city of five and a half million, which has had a few dozen positive tests to a seasonal virus, and having not been within cooee of a super-spreader or a hot spot or a cluster or a spike or whatever.  The isolation order, forced home detention, follows a week of one cancelled event after another.  Some were months in the planning.  Two of them were once-in-a-lifetime episodes.  Most of them much-anticipated, increasingly precious family occasions.  We all now have our equivalents of the previously reported, cancelled BluesFest in Byron Bay. 

And Gladys is proportional on Covid?  Really?  No, she is just like all the rest of them, perhaps even  worse because of the now-dashed hope that she engendered that New South Wales would remain the smart (Covid) state.  The endless joy for politicians and their offsiders of Covid theatre breaches political divides and knows no limits.  Just ask the few, brave, hassled diners at the Blue Gum.

 

Life in Greater Sydney – an oxymoron now if ever there was one – has been reasonably tough these past days.  Mercifully a mere visitor these days from the relative bliss of the simple, non-Covid life in the regional north of the State, I have experienced afresh the spiralling out of control of normal existence in the State’s capital city.

New South Wales is normally held up as “the sensible state” when it comes to Covid management, with caution leavened by liberalism.  The middle ground between “letting the virus rip”, an approach mis-attributed to lockdown sceptics, and CovidMania as practised (alas) by most governments here and overseas.  The pass given to the NSW Government is generous, to say the least, and in the current circumstances, hopelessly out-of-date.

A weekend visit for lunch, on the eve of the Sydney-wide lockdown-plus, to the historic Blue Gum Hotel in Waitara, in Sydney’s north, tells the story.  Of course, like the United Kingdom pub-test only not as bad – in many British pubs you actually have to order your pints online ahead of time – the process is the punishment. 

First, there was the reason we were attending the pub in the first place.  That would be because hosting my family at our place would be considered an illegal act under the NSW Government’s new numbers rule.  We (two) could visit the family, but they (seven) couldn’t visit us.  An inconvenient Plan B was needed.

Second, there is the inevitable bureaucracy at the entrance door, with entry points reduced to one (of course).  As a QR code refusenik, I normally just sign a paper-book in a vain attempt to keep the State’s Covid marshals at arm’s length.  At least, unlike a Facebook friend who shall remain nameless, I do actually give my real name and real phone number, though this practice is now under review.  But as of yesterday, when the hotel staff enter your details on the ipad, you get a text message and code from the Macquarie Street bunker to make sure it is you.  This, I believe, is new.  Or maybe the practice simply hasn’t been widespread.  The contact-trace panopticon ever closes-in on the pub-goer.

Next is the surly girlie behind the bar who won’t serve you a beer unless you are masked up.  I got an apology of sorts.  My wife was not so lucky.  She just got the surly glower.  The place was terribly quiet, just one example of, no doubt, hundreds across the metropolis, of a self-imposed lockdown by the people of Sydney, prior to and probably anticipating the real one. 

Remain seated and masked.  Keep your distance.  Mask up to walk ten metres to the bathroom or the bar.  Mask up to order your food from the bistro.  Mask up to take the kids to the bathroom.  Mask up to walk outside.

Rumours started circulating that the Hotel would be closing at six in the evening.  Foolishly, we thought initially that this was merely a sad, inevitable consequence of the lack of Sydneysider interest in going out.  No, the news of the new super-lockdown finally hit us.  No Saturday night out for the newly arriving evening customers who had booked.  Babysitters arranged.  Evenings planned.  Instead, they were being told at the door to go home and stay there.  No warning.

Finally, on departure, I had to return from the car park to the hotel to visit the facilities.  I had spent twenty minutes consoling two sobbing youngsters now unable to visit their grandparents for a school holidays visit following the announcement of the lockdown.  A lockdown that the Premier had said days previously wasn’t necessary.  No, I wasn’t able to be re-admitted to the hotel where I had been all afternoon, without a whole, new sign-in process.  The mandatory (officious) security guard manning the sanitiser cum sign-in station and I didn’t part on the best of terms, I would have to say.

The city on Thursday, where I was due to attend an inevitably cancelled (for the second time) university graduation, was a ghost-town.  Melbourne-like, you might say.  No wonder the tourism/hospitality sector is in free-fall, in Sydney as elsewhere.  Must be time for some more piddling vouchers to get people to go out and spending money, as announced in the State’s Budget this week.  I, indeed, had used two of them to take the grandchildren to the Zoo.  Oops, that got cancelled too.

And, so, one is driven by all this to check the latest count of Covid deaths in Australia.  Surely there must have been a catastrophic hockey stick style spike given all the manic Covid theatre of the past week.  No, still only 910 deaths.  The most recent Australian Covid death was in April, an unfortunate eighty-year-old who actually lived in the Philippines and came back after contracting Covid over there.  The death before that was in December last year.  In Germany this week, there were around 700 daily cases on average.  Everything is open there, my Munich-based contact informs me.  In Britain, flu and pneumonia are now causing ten times as many deaths as Covid.

I said that this latest episode of Covid fascism is “lockdown-plus”.  That is because, on exiting Sydney’s lockdown to return to the erstwhile sanity of regional New South Wales, two weeks’ isolation now awaits.  Just for having had the crazy-brave intent of innocently visiting a city of five and a half million, which has had a few dozen positive tests to a seasonal virus, and having not been within cooee of a super-spreader or a hot spot or a cluster or a spike or whatever.  The isolation order, forced home detention, follows a week of one cancelled event after another.  Some were months in the planning.  Two of them were once-in-a-lifetime episodes.  Most of them much-anticipated, increasingly precious family occasions.  We all now have our equivalents of the previously reported, cancelled BluesFest in Byron Bay. 

And Gladys is proportional on Covid?  Really?  No, she is just like all the rest of them, perhaps even  worse because of the now-dashed hope that she engendered that New South Wales would remain the smart (Covid) state.  The endless joy for politicians and their offsiders of Covid theatre breaches political divides and knows no limits.  Just ask the few, brave, hassled diners at the Blue Gum.

Read 179 times Last modified on Sunday, 18 July 2021 09:21
Paul Collits

Paul Collits is a freelance writer and independent researcher who lives in Lismore New South Wales.  
 
He has worked in government, industry and the university sector, and has taught at tertiary level in three different disciplines - politics, geography and planning and business studies.  He spent over 25 years working in economic development and has published widely in Australian and international peer reviewed and other journals.  He has been a keynote speaker internationally on topics such as rural development, regional policy, entrepreneurship and innovation.  Much of his academic writing is available at https://independent.academia.edu/PaulCollits
 
His recent writings on ideology, conservatism, politics, religion, culture, education and police corruption have been published in such journals as Quadrant, News Weekly and The Spectator Australia.
 
He has BA Hons and MA degrees in political science from the Australian National University and a PhD in geography and planning from the University of New England.  He currently has an adjunct Associate Professor position at a New Zealand Polytechnic.