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Melbourne Odds and Ends

Out

This time a year ago like everyone else I was preparing for the pandemic. A State of Emergency had been declared in Victoria; museums, art galleries and libraries were closing; festivals, the Grand Prix, footy matches were abandoned; toilet paper was being hoarded and all of us became experts on how viruses spread.

We knew a lockdown was coming, but we had no idea of what that meant or what was to be at the end of it. Were we heading into a dystopian future? I bought dress material and potting mix, planned to learn Auslan, decided to clean out my cupboards and wash the windows. I still have the material, only recently used the potting mix, never began learning Auslan, and the windows and cupboards remain as they were. Fortunately we didn’t head into the dystopian future.

Then in July Melbourne and I went into an even longer lockdown. My list reduced down to making sure I laughed everyday and to find comfort in creating. And there was a comfort in knowing that all I had to do was stay at home and be safe. The roof over my head was secure, as was my income. Like everyone I learnt that there was enough toilet paper to go round and that food would be on the shelves.

Although most of our restrictions were lifted during October it is only now that I am feeling like going out and about. It’s a strange thing, because it is not fear of the virus that had kept me from wandering further than my neighbourhood. (My reduced fear is not reckless, our community transmission numbers are very low.) Instead I think I have become something of a hermit. Home feels safe, secure. I don’t have to go far to find what I need.

My health issues have made me reluctant to go far afield and I worry about the Fella. But really, I am just not ready.

Well, I wasn’t until Friday of last week.

I went, with my sister, to the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) to see the Triennial Exhibition. What winkled me out of my hermit cave was combination of spending time with my lovely sister and seeing the exhibition.

And what a lovely day it was.

I caught the tram into town. I haven’t done that for over a year! I wandered across the Yarra to the NGV. I haven’t done that for over a year! We were amazed by the exhibition. I haven’t done that……(!) To top it off Judy and I had a delicious lunch in the restaurant and chatted. We have talked a lot over the year, and she has been one of the people who has kept me afloat.

The Triennial exhibition is a wonder, a collection of contemporary art and design spread through out the gallery. I am sorry I can’t show you the really amazing ones which involved light shows and changing digital images. If you follow this link you will see some of the exhibits. Maybe you will just be happy with some of my photos. If you live in Melbourne, and are ready to venture out, you have until mid-April to see it.

Yep, that chandelier is made from glasses lenses.

So yes, it is time to leave the hermit cave and remember what life used to be like.

Categories
AnneLawsonArt Melbourne My art work Odds and Ends

Time for an update

Last time I wrote I was settling back into Stage 3 lockdown. Unfortunately case numbers in Melbourne are not flattening, and there is talk about going into Stage 4. That will be a new world, because things weren’t that strict last time around. However, we have to get the numbers down.

And really, for me, it doesn’t make a lot of difference. I am only making brief forays into shops for food and often a walk up the street for take away coffee. I can get food delivered, and can forgo the coffee 😩. I have a backyard that needs lots of work and plenty in the house to keep me out of mischief. My heart goes out to the others who are not in my position, and unfortunately there are so many of them at the moment.

Also I wrote about the public housing towers. Residents in eight of the nine towers are now at Stage 3 ~ able to go out for food, exercise, work and care. However one tower had to be kept in strict quarantine as it was deemed that residents were either positive or a close contact of those who were. They are, apparently well supported. I am not sure what level of care is being taken in other towers around Melbourne.

But enough of the virus!


The other day I received three delightful treats in my letter box. The first was a card from my Mum, who lives on the other side of town. We often write to each other. Then there were two lovely protea flowers. I must have a secret admirer, as I have no idea who they were from.

The third was even more special. It was a parcel from Catherine in New Zealand. She blogs at Random Thoughts from a Non-Warped Mind and Catherine: the Maker. She constantly amazes me with the things she makes, and this parcel was full of joyful creations.

A treasure trove of goodies from Catherine

You can see the range of goodies ~ cards, notebooks, fabric squares, knitted delights, hand embroidered pieces, papers embellished and printed. How blessed am I? And blown away by her generosity, and talent.


It is a while since I have told you anything of my art, aside from my Stitch-A-Long sewing. I have been better at keeping my newsletter readers more up-to-date; if you want to be in the know you can sign up for my vaguely fortnightly newsletter. There will be a new one in the next day or two, where I will be writing in more detail about tearing paper.

While it took me a while to get going, lately I have been busy with arty things, especially any thing to do with paper:

Gelli plate printing

Collaging

Folding paper

And now tearing and sewing paper (More on this in my newsletter.)

It is good to have a place to escape into, isn’t it?


As you can tell from the fancy dropped capital letters and the little separating dots, I have been playing with the new WordPress editor. I only have one whinge. In the old system I could upload photos straight from Google photos. Now I have to download them into iPhotos and then upload them. Am I missing the magic button that will save me a few steps? Any ideas?

Categories
Melbourne

A Melbourne-wide lockdown

When I wrote to you last week my suburb was one of ten postcodes that had been put into lockdown. Numbers of positive cases have continued to grow, and so all of Melbourne has gone back into lockdown. Last time the numbers were mainly from overseas travellers. Disturbingly, this time numbers are from community spread. There has been a huge amount of testing and each positive case has to be traced, and contacts contacted and isolated. It is a mammoth job, requiring personnel from other states.

Our Premier, Dan Andrews, has likened it to a bushfire ~ and we are very familiar with them. There is the front of the fire that has to be brought under control, but we also know that there are spot fires that cannot be allowed to get out of hand.

[Andrews has copped a lot of flack because of the spread from hotel quarantine to security personnel. My friend Meeks points out that others, including the federal Liberal Government, had a big role to play in the outbreak too.]

Borders to other states have been closed. Like everything to do with this pandemic, closing the physical borders with South Australia and New South Wales, has thrown up many associated problems. Along the Murray River, the border between Victoria and NSW, are twin cities and towns. Like Albury and Wodonga; the former is in NSW, the latter in Victoria, but in so many regards they are the one city. People cross the border to work, go to medical and other appointments, visit friends and relatives and all those other things of daily life that we used to take for granted. Now they will need a permit to cross. No surprises to learn that the website approving the permits crashed because of high demand.

However, there has been a far more disturbing development.

A spike of cases has been identified in nine tower blocks of public housing on two separate sites in Flemington and North Melbourne. On Saturday the state government determined that those nine towers go into immediate hard lockdown ~ nobody was able to leave their flats for any reason at all. There was no warning for the 3,000 residents. The first they knew was a massive police presence on the estates, stopping people from leaving their homes.

This must have been so distressing for the tenants. Social housing means that residents have been doing it tough. There are many refugees, recent migrants, unemployed people, culturally and linguistically diverse communities. I can only imagine the trauma they felt when they saw the police on their doorstep. Many had memories of police and army brutality in their birth countries, while over the years policing on the estates has been very heavy handed.

Then it became clear that many issues had not been thought through. The main one was getting food and other essentials to the residents. The community rallied, providing food, meals, sanitary items, kids’ activities and so on. However, there seemed to be a long delay, sometimes days, before the food was able to get to people. Early on delivery was of culturally inappropriate food, food that was out of date or missing basics like nappies or milk. I don’t know why it was not possible for the food that was literally at the bottom of the towers to get to the residents. I am hoping that these supply chains have been built and that people are getting what they need.

I understand that public health action was needed. However it needed a public health response and not a policing one. If there had been a smaller police presence and a greater nursing/social worker/interpreter/community leader presence the anxiety of residents would have been minimised. It was always going to be difficult to ask people to not leave their home for at least 5 days, but I think the government created so many more difficulties by not communicating effectively, in as many languages as necessary.

I don’t want to give the impression that residents have been ignoring the public health advice. I am sure they abided by restriction in the previous lockdown. The problem is the conditions where they live ~ conditions, like small flats and lifts, that they have no control over.

However, this outbreak in the tower blocks has exposed so much more about the deep problem we have with our social housing, which is our lack of decent social housing.

These tower blocks were built in the 60’s, and there are a number dotted around Melbourne. They have never been the answer to public housing. The flats are small, with poor ventilation, and probably little maintenance, much less upgrade in those years. There are two small lifts in each block, expected to carry everyone up and down twenty stories. No surprise that they often break down.

Into these we put our most vulnerable citizens. People who usually have no ‘fat’ ~ no well stocked pantries, no extra in their bank accounts, little superannuation to draw on, no sick leave. Often jobs that are casual and/or precarious or in industries that can’t work from home. And no space. Such as a family with seven children in a two-bedroomed flat, where the girls sleep in one room, the boys in another, Mum and Dad sleep in the lounge room. There are many single parent families. Families could be multigenerational, which increases the likelihood of co-morbidities.

It is no wonder that we are seeing positive cases on the rise here. This virus is showing us the cracks in our society. It thrives where people are vulnerable, where they can’t distance, where they have to use communal spaces. We see this time and again around the world.

So, surely it is our job as a compassionate society to make make life as safe as possible for everyone. I hope the lessons from here are being applied in the other tower blocks. That hand sanitiser is freely available on all floors, in lifts, at entrances, and that it is replaced when it runs out. That all communal areas, especially lifts, are cleaned regularly and deeply. That the communication is ramped up, and provided in all languages necessary. That residents are involved, as this is their home. That community leaders are involved as well.

Residents in these tower blocks are not ‘other’, not ‘them. They are us, they are part of our vibrant community. And what an amazing job they have done. They have been at the front of this bushfire coronavirus, battling to help protect all of us.