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Lock Down; Down Under and Everywhere

Beata works as a qualified primary school teacher, a councillor for drug and alcohol addiction and a farm caretaker for organic olive grow.

My last cycling trip down the road


A few middle aged men in lycra

Wave from a 1.5 m distance

Riding the opposite way

Their faces covered by masks

Headphones tight in their ears

While they push up the hill

Their faces red with exhaustion

Wrinkled with worry

Can their small businesses

And their families survive

COVID-19 pandemic time

The freeway is empty

Even the new petrol station

And fast food stores passing by

The loud music keeps a few delivery trucks

Parked there awake

They work around the clock to keep Supplies in place.

Toilet paper fights are out of fashion

It is now the rush to get your beer and wine

Safely in your fridge

Fridges are out of stock too

And pubs serve fast food now

Next is the suburb that we are riding through


The new houses look empty

Playgrounds are silent too

Still freshly painted flashy posters

Invite you to live in this family paradise

And taste real community spirit

But all I see is a worried young dad

Wearing a mask and pushing a pram

Through the door of his home

With its big welcome sign

that he locks from inside

There's a small group of elderly people

Queuing for medication

That they fear they may not get

Malaria medication is out of stock

Doctors prescribe it to their family members

A few weeks back

It is supposed to cure the virus we all want to forget

And get through

“I need my immunity supplements,” I hear the snippets of conversation

“I am sixty years old and a teacher

We still have a few kids at school

I have no choice, the principal says to carry on

or retire, but I love teaching you know.”

“Is it worth carrying on?”

The other elderly lady asks her sadly:

“You know the older you are, the bigger chance you have of dying from it.”

“I stopped drinking ‘Corona’ beer,” added another elderly man gingerly

“But you know what? I'm happy to wait here with you,

This is the first conversation with another human being I've had in weeks.”

The pharmacy’s door opens and the lady invites them in:

“Don’t you stand in groups. Not even here,

You will be fined, no gathering of more than two people.”

The cycling path is 3 m wide


So we are following the new distance regulations

They nod their heads

Listening to the Prime Minister’s speech on Sunday

After the emergency meeting in Canberra

There will be hard months ahead

Spent in isolation and working from home

If you are lucky enough to still have a job

Otherwise you join the long line in front of Centrelink to get your benefits

to survive

Squashed together, these desperate Australians

No luxury to keep the 1.5 m distance from each other

The need to eat and keep a roof over your head

Wins over the fear of the pandemic

Is someone in that line positive to Covid-19?

How can they know? How can anyone know?

The Prime Minister promised that no landlord can evict you

In these difficult times.

He also promised that there will be enough food

In supermarkets for all Australians.

My old neighbour can afford only one weekly shopping day

It takes time for him to start the car and drive a half an hour away

I promise to buy food supplies for him as well

“Don’t forget the toilet paper, pasta and beans.”

I promise I'll do my best, but none of those items are on the shelves.

‘Two items per person’ the leaflet pinned on them informs you.

“Your elderly neighbour needs to come in the morning,

He should get what he needs” A kind cashier informs me.

I search my house for the last toilet roll and a few cans of baked beans

Then I call my neighbour and say that I'll leave it in front of his door.

I know he is lonely but it is the only way.

My son set up WhatsApp for him to hear all the government announcements

and I check up on him there daily, just like on my elderly mother

She is in Europe in her own self isolation


She sent me pictures of the first spring flowers

That bloom in front of her apartment.

She is allowed one hour walk daily and her own kind neighbour brings her own supplies.

“We do not have enough face masks. Nor respirators in hospitals,”

She informs me and I nod. It is the same everywhere around the world.

Then my 75 old mother sent me a selfie wearing her own hand-made face mask with a note that said:

“When times are hard we have to rely on ourselves

Without forgetting about others.”

I agreed: “Sure we do.”

It is the last Sunday of March 2020

The weather is pleasant and sunny

Still warm on this quiet solitary Perth autumn day

I park my bike back in the shed

The sign on every door in our house says:

“Don’t forget to wash your hands.

So I do that in the sink outside,

20 seconds thoroughly with soap.

My friend working with the homeless calls me,

I disinfect my mobile before touching it again.

“I have exciting news from the Department of Communities.

Our homeless will be accommodated in Perth hotels this winter

You know it makes sense as the hospitals can not take them in the time of this pandemic

and the hotels are empty anyway and happy to get a little cash.

Apparently one hotel manager told us

That it is the most rewarding time in the hotel industry that he has ever had.”

I know and she knows that it would never happen in normal times.


Red tape becomes irrelevant.

There is a message from my fellow teacher in Kenya

I was working with her in her village last year.

She is teaching students how to wash their hands

To prevent the pandemic but they have no clean affordable water.

I feel her desperation and suddenly feel very helpless.

We are so lucky here in Western Australia

Even if we seldom realise it.

My Syrian student I was teaching English to in Istanbul calls me

His situation is even more tragic.

After trying desperately to reach Europe he is stuck

In the overcrowded refugee camp with no hope.

“Maybe it is better for us all here if we die in the pandemic,”

He tells me as a matter of fact.

“The problem will be solved for everyone then.

Because we are not human beings anymore, just a problem.”

I would like to oppose him, but I would be lying

So I say nothing and I know he appreciates it.

I put the ABC radio on

The commentator informs me

That we are one great Perth community And that it is a privilege to serve us in the pandemic crisis.

I go back to ‘house cleaning’ and sorting out what I can send off

By the next delivery van to Perth’s homeless people.

Suddenly the radio informs me,

‘Welcome to a carbon reduced lifestyle.

Electricity demand has reduced,

transport's fossil fuel thirst has gone,

emissions have fallen,

the air is clearing,

I stop cleaning and look out through my window


The backyard is still dry from the scorching heat of summer

The last fire burnt the bush not far away

The biggest wild fires in history destroyed our Australia

I listen in silence to nature breathing with relief

I hear birds chirping

I hear the trees leaves rustling while waiting for rain

I sense hope

The governments are taking science seriously regarding the pandemic.

Maybe they'll learn to take science seriously

Regarding our environmental issues too

Perhaps it's helpful that each country's response

Directly affects their own

Quickly-realised outcomes

And with luck

The pandemic should be over

In a few months or a year.

Alas, climate change is not afforded any of these luxuries

Yet I fear it will be more deadly than COVID-19 by far.

In these times of COVID-19

People have stopped wasting their time

and money travelling

When they can work from home

and meet up on-line.

Maybe this reduced carbon lifestyle is something

That can stay with us long after the virus crisis has passed.

Maybe, just maybe…we'll learn something new

From this pandemic once it passes us by

Maybe this reduced carbon lifestyle is something that can stay with us long after the virus crisis has passed.