Monday 30 March 2020

The Covid Chronicles #1

This may, or may not, become a thing, but right now I cannot get my head around writing a book response for love or money, let alone reading anything for any length of time. So, The Covid Chronicles it is!

My last two weeks worth of posts were pre-scheduled ones written over three weeks ago (and I still have two more to come). Three weeks ago, Mr Books and I spontaneously decided to go for a long drive to the South Australian wine districts, so I scrambled to get all my outstanding book responses finished before we left.

As it turned out, our time away coincided with the escalation of Covid-19 emergency updates and restrictions. Looking back over those two weeks now, it is fascinating to observe how quickly our lives have changed.

However, my year has been weird almost from the start.

First the drought and bushfires absorbed all my attention and energy, then the dramatic, torrential rain storms in early February changed my work situation. Our beautiful new bookshop was badly flooded and after trying to trade for a few days, we realised we couldn't safely continue to do so until remedial work had taken place.
My new boss has spent the time since going through all the insurance red tape. Most of the books survived, but the flooring and shelving were cactus. We had to pack up ALL the books, for the work to go ahead. Since then I have worked a few office days to catch up on paperwork and see some reps, essentially though, I have not been working since mid-Feb.

Mr Books new job (of a year ago) was also not going well. A takeover meant that he was no longer doing the job he had been signed up for. He was unhappy and dissatisfied with the new direction (or lack thereof).

At the end of January, B19 suddenly informed us that he planned to transfer his uni degree from Canberra Uni to Macquarie Uni and was moving back home. Transfer and move proceeded smoothly, but he was three days late in getting his recognition of prior learning paperwork in, which meant they could not guarantee it would be awarded by the cut-off date for enrolment. It wasn't. So he made the decision to defer for six months and look for full-time to work to tide him over.

B22 and his lovely GF moved in to their first place together. They invited us over to be their first dinner guests. We discussed the possibility of Coronavirus coming to Australia, what it might look like if it did and what would be the best way to combat it.

Mr Books then came home one Friday evening, saying that a number of people in his office had 15 minute early morning meetings with management on Monday. He was first up.
Over the weekend, we figured it either meant he was being offered another role within the new group or he was going to be told that his services were no longer required. If it was the latter, we decided to jump in the car and take off for our first two week break in nearly two years.

This was the first sign of a Covid-19 change in our planning style. Normally, if we had the sudden opportunity to have a holiday, we would jump on-line and check the deals for places like Bali, the Solomon Islands or Taiwan. But international travel didn't feel safe. Even domestic flights felt fraught with unknown dangers in the recycled air. A car trip was the best fit for these uncertain times.

As I was walking into my first rep meeting on Monday morning, Mr Books sent a text message, 'pack your bags'.

In and around this, news about the growing Covid-19 epidemic was increasing. Somewhere along the way, we stopped calling it Coronavirus. A few international travellers had returned to Australia with the virus, but were (supposedly) self-isolating. We were being careful and cautious and starting to plan for a different future. It didn't feel real or even particularly likely, despite the news coming out of China and Italy. I bought an extra pack of cold & flu tablets and panadol, plus some soup, pasta and tinned tomatoes. I felt a bit silly for preparing for something that might not even happen, or if it did happen, was still too far away to really worry about yet.

The government was telling us to keep our distance, especially from the elderly and people unwell with auto-immune issues. Washing our hands thoroughly became the big news message. I was still going about my usual (off-work) routine. I was conscious of not touching door handles or elevator hand rails or touching my face, but it was basically life as usual with a few modifications.

But then...

As we were packing our bags for the roadtrip, the toilet paper panic suddenly came out of nowhere. Images of people fighting over bags of tp in the supermarkets were distressing and surreal. It highlighted the level of fear building up in Australia, and our bizarre attachment to bathroom routines.

The panic bred more panic as our government failed to provide clear and precise messaging. I understand that the situation was changing rapidly each week, but rambling conferences with conflicting advice only made the public more fearful, or more dangerously, dismissive. The news from overseas was starting to get a bit scary. Not only was Italy having a terrible time, but Iran, Spain and the US were quickly catching up.

Many Australians consoled themselves with the idea that we were an island, used to strict quarantine measures, a long way from anywhere. But, of course, nowhere is a long way from anywhere, anymore. And strict quarantine measures only work if over 90% of the people do the right thing. Or we know what we're quaratining.

Good news came our way when B19 was successful in getting a full-time position at a local chemist chain, starting immediately.

We went for a grocery shop to make sure B19 had enough of the basics for the time we were going to be away, but there was no toilet paper, no hand sanitiser (a product we had never bothered with before) and almost no pasta.

As Mr Books and I headed off into the sunset with a precious two-pack of toilet paper in our bags, we were being admonished by our Prime Minister to stop hoarding. To just stop it! It was un-Australian behaviour and we should just stop it.

Crossing the Great Divide felt like a great escape. The term social distancing had materialised out of nowhere and became a hashtag for our trip. Driving west, we congratulated ourselves on being in a place and space (our car, just the two of us) where it would be relatively easy to practice this social distancing thing.

The skies opened up, the roads cleared and Mr Books and I (both country kids at heart) felt our usual sense of relief and comfort as we entered rural NSW.


  1. Goodness, it has been a very busy time for you! And what is it with this toilet paper desperation replicated all over the world??? Wishing you and your family all the best, and glad you managed to have a little escape before lockdown.

    1. I honestly don't know why people thought they would need over a year's worth of toilet paper. I understand wanting to get in some extra basics to tide us over, but I don't understand the quantities and lengths some people went to.

      Wishing you and your family well too Marina xo

  2. wow. I've read it out of breath. Hope This will end without harming any other human being anymore:( we deal with the same problems here in Turkey. Thank you for sharing your feelings!

    1. I've been watching the news from Turkey the past couple of days - things seem to be happening very fast there right now. Take care and nice to see you blogging again :-)

  3. Oh, my. You have been having a time of it, haven't you? I hope you enjoyed your trip. I would say that I hope life settles down but I don't think it is going to settle down for anyone for a while. These are crazy times we live in.

    1. It certainly has been an odd year so far...but it's given me oodles of blogging material! And I now have the time to do something about it :-)

  4. The changes have been extraordinary, and it sucks that clear messaging and decisive action could have prevented so much drama! I hope you enjoyed your break and are safely back home now.

    1. Safe and sound back at home with B19 thanks Shelley. Nice to have the happy memories (and the wine) to get us through the next 6 months, or however long this goes on for.

      I hope you and your family are managing well too xo

  5. That is a very interesting view of coronavirus in Australia. And a lot you went through leading up to that. The first thing that shocked me into the realization of the impact of the virus was shopping at the grocery store (Santa Barbara, CA) on March 11 and seeing the toilet paper and kleenex aisle totally empty. It took until yesterday, March 30 to finally find some toilet paper. I was so relieved. Very silly I know, but symbolic in some way. I am retired now, so not much affected, my husband is working from home, and we only go out for groceries and gas.

    1. I am amazed how the virus not only went global, but so did the panic about toilet paper. Glad you found some tp before the need got desperate!
      With B19 working in a chemist now, we feel more secure in our ability to source things like that when need them.

  6. What an interesting post. I was surprised how the hoarding and shortages in AU and the US are pretty much the same. In addition to T.P. flying off the shelves along with hand sanitizer, Tylenol and meat! We haven't been able to get any of these products in 3 weeks when our groceries/paper products are delivered. Luckily I stocked up on TP - 24 rolls 2 mths ago when it was on sale. Stay safe

    1. That's interesting about the meat Diane - meat, fruit and veg seem to be fine here. Some days the meat is depleted by the end of the day, but always reappears the next.
      As I said previously, I understand the desire to get in a few extra things to tide you over, but the whole
      supermarket hopping, driving to other towns and filling up car boots and vans with groceries, did my head in!

  7. Crazy times. I've managed enough concentration to read, but blogging seems to be a loss lately, too.

    Sorry about Mr. Books' job; that's tough. Hopefully you'll be OK on that. Nice that you could use it for a bit of vacation, but still worrisome I imagine.

    Toilet paper has been OK where I shop, though I've seen stories about it here in Canada. Eggs were gone one week, and canned tomatoes a different week. Dry cereal was gone one trip, except the brand we like, which was on sale at less than half-price. Go figure. I felt a little weird buying six boxes of cereal, but at that price I would have even if there was no panic... ;-)

    Keep well! Maybe Australia can still get off lightly? Let's hope. You guys have had some other challenges lately...

    1. Thanks Reese.
      Mr Books worked form home with his own business for over 15 yrs, before going back into an office job last year. He kept the bare bones of the business going during this time as an insurance policy. Very grateful right now, that he's such a cautious businessman and can fall back into his old work.

      I'm still hopeful that my work might return with reduced hours and a different model of servicing our clients in the next few weeks too. Fingers crossed.

  8. It sounds like a really crazy and stressful time! I hope that your time in the country was at least a little relaxing. :)

    I'm sorry to hear that the messaging from the government in Australia was so poor; it certainly helps when the messages coming from the people in charge are clear and timely.

    I like what you said about our "bizarre attachment to bathroom routines"; I really couldn't understand the toilet paper thing when my friends and family in Australia were telling me about it, but looking at it from this perspective makes it clearer why, of all things, toilet paper made it onto the list of items to stockpile!

    1. Psychologists suggested our thing with toilet paper was a natural response to move to control something in a bigger situation that was out of control. I completely understand the need to order one's environment, I just don't understand why it was toilet paper (one of the few manufacturing companies still left in Australia...therefore we weren't going to run out) and not things like cold and flu medicine.


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