At long last. I am vindicated for a lifetime of keeping a precautionary stash of pantry goods. That is, I’ve always been ready for a small famine. And now Alice Springs is in lockdown. This is the first we have seen of this (having been away last year in the Southern Ocean at the start of the pandemic) and I can’t help but wonder what the thousands of caravans full of visitors here for the good weather and the free lifestyle are thinking about now!

When we returned from our trip last year, the initial lockdowns and emergency precautions had eased. We were allowed to isolate in our home for two weeks. It was a bit weird but we adjusted. Since then there has been much more weirdness to adjust to. New protocols when entering shops ranging from all kinds of strange sanitising concoctions, to scanning QR codes for better contact tracing. New phone apps to install…some that actually work. We live in interesting times.

Our masks now hang beside our hats and scarves, as if they have always belonged there. The first morning I dressed for my walk in the 4C degree temps, I donned the mask and sunglasses and then tried to open my phone to start a podcast. Why wouldn’t my phone open? Ah, face recognition was not recognising me! Not sure most people who know me would have recognised me for that matter. On the mostly empty golf course walk, I did see a couple of parents walking small children, from a distance, a lone woman walking and another one in the far distance walking her dog. The adults were all wearing masks and I was buoyed that my fellow humans and I were all working together on this thing. Before the pandemic, we only saw face masks being worn by a number of Asian migrants and tourists in the bigger cities, and sometimes in Alice Springs because we get a lot of tourists here. Beyond that, most of us didn’t dream they would become necessary for our health, let alone a fashion statement. I have a collection of them. You can now buy a face mask with just about any kind of design on it you would like. I’m pretty conservative so I go for the simple things with regard to body adornment.

The first day of our lockdown was mostly a repositioning exercise. Given we had only an hour and a half notice, Don had to quickly pack up his desk at the Uni and bring home his work paraphernalia. Being I have spent huge chunks of time at home for many months, I could only speculate if the groceries I had ordered the previous day would arrive the next day, or if the hoards of panicked shoppers would wipe out the shelves—yet again. I scoured the freezer and pantry to loosely plan replacement meals in case the grocery items didn’t appear. Most of them eventually did appear, with a few substitutions and one ‘out of stock’.

For weeks we have had ‘temporarily out of stock’ notices for online shopping, so I have worked around it. Why? Because we have had literally thousands of people pulling their caravans up here from the southern states, where they hoped to enjoy the warmth and relative safety of the Northern Territory. What people don’t realise is, we are not like the southern areas where the shelves can be restocked from the distribution centres within a few hours. It is days, sometimes a week or even two before our shelves are restocked. To be honest, we have enough trouble getting goods at the best of times, and this is a bit beyond that. Which is why, I refer you back to the opening paragraph, and mostly try to keep a stocked pantry and freezer.

Don is on the greens committee for the local golf course. Since he is missing his normal rounds of golf, his version of exercise at the moment is to walk the holes and mark down the location of the valve boxes for watering. Not mentally stimulating but since the golf course has no record of them and they need one, he is doing a good deed and getting his exercise as well. One hour at a time, of course, because that is all we are allowed out for exercise. My exercise is housework and my usual stretches and morning walk.  So, nothing different. The afternoons are saved for a bit of rest, reading or movie viewing and some painting. Most recently I’ve been practicing painting lemons. We have a tree full so the reference material is to hand, but it was also a request from a special someone. I’m not doing commissions but I have told a couple of people I will notify them if I do something I think they might find interesting. Commissions give me the heebie-jeebies. For so many years I had to work for others whose agendas were mostly not invested in my self expression. Go figure. So these days I truly work on what makes me happy.

And just like that, on day 2 of our lockdown, it was over. A day early even. We almost settled into it and then there was a new normal. We wear a mask when in public and shopping but no longer have to wear one for exercise out in the open. It is precautionary, we have no community transmitted cases. My phone still doesn’t recognise me, but other than that the whole thing was of little consequence to me personally, and hopefully of good use to the public at large. I do feel for people with small businesses and families, they are the worst hit by these lockdowns. So this morning we went to our local IGA to do the shopping and put some money into the locals who own it. There is always some little thing we can do to help others, even in these unusual circumstances.

And there is painting to be done.