Voices From Lockdown #4: Lucy Treloar, Melbourne
In the fourth Voice from Lockdown, Lucy Treloar talks about the shifting state of lockdown in Melbourne, Victoria, from the unexpected arrival of a new trauma to the welcome prospect of ‘fun’ on the other side.
It’s seven weeks since my home state, Victoria, went into lockdown in response to the escalating coronavirus crisis. Although people had been talking about it for months, it was a peripheral thought. The immolation of vast swathes of the country and billions of living creatures and the country’s inept leadership were greater concerns. We weren’t ready for a new trauma. But the virus didn’t wait for us.
At first, the ‘stay at home’ message seemed temporary. Now, in mid-May, my calendar feels like an historical record, the events listed as distant as childhood. I have become accustomed to living this way, and my memories of the time before that seem fragmentary, implausible, and even surreal. Did we go out freely at night to pubs and bars and hug our friends with affection?
Early on, I kept a ‘Covid Diary’ on my desktop computer:
April 2, 2020
Yesterday I was felled by fatigue and went and slept for an hour. Magpies in the tree outside woke me. I felt heavy on waking, reassuming the weight of life. Stage 3 restrictions have come in: no visiting other homes, even those of family members. Even that phrase, Stage 3, strikes a chill: of familiarity, dull acceptance, the bureaucratizing of disease response. We have a family Zoom meeting and find out that we are spread along an anarchy–compliance spectrum. One child says, ‘I can see who believes in the police state!’
April 10, 2020
I looked at my diary today, and crossed off the things that never came to be, including writers’ festivals I had been booked for, all of them now cancelled.
April 13, 2020
One of our dogs is ill and has to go to the vet. Somehow the thought of managing an ill dog during lockdown throws me.
Tonight, one of my sons, lying in front of the fire, says, ‘Absolutely everything has changed. It’s probably the biggest change since World War II.’ I agree. The world is unimaginably different, and won’t return to what it was. We live in uncertainty now – a state that has been common for much of the world for a long time. We had thought ourselves immune from disaster and discovered that we were not.
That was my last desktop ‘diary’ entry. I was thinking ‘what’s the point?’ about a lot of things. I stopped writing.
But life continued. In a weird way everything feels noisier inside the house despite the streets being so quiet. The outside world has come inside. Everyone’s on social media all day, which I suppose means I am too, or they’re on Zoom for meetings and book launches and catch-ups with friends, or they’re tending sour dough starters and baking and starting vegetable gardens and then reporting on these things. It feels as if we’re living in a reality show on life in wartime. I think of my stepfather’s childhood memories of raising rabbits to supplement his family’s diet in Norfolk during the war.
A group of my friends meets. It’s as if we’re calling to each other across a football ground and aren’t really sure of each other’s moods. On my dawn walks people avoid each other, but when walking the dogs at lunchtime in glorious autumn weather, families are out riding bikes and laughing. It’s beautiful to watch. In those moments I feel better.
The total COVID-19 count for Australia is 6894 confirmed cases and 98 deaths today – 18 of them in Victoria. It is nothing compared to other countries, but it is something to us. It has brought us fear and anxiety. It is like a wave from a Japanese woodblock print: at once suspended in its motion and rearing to fill the consciousness. Is anything other than this happening in the world? Is there anything else to talk about? It is consuming, and dull.
But this week, with infection rates so low, restrictions are slowly starting to lift. Family members are coming to dinner tonight. Shops are opening. I’m going out to a friend’s place tomorrow night, and these things feel somehow transgressive, even dangerous – and fun. I’m feeling a little lift at the thought. I might do some writing tomorrow.
Lucy Treloar was born in Malaysia and educated in Australia, England and Sweden. She is the author of Salt Creek, which was shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize and Miles Franklin Literary Award and was a Times Book of the Year. Lucy lives in Melbourne with her husband, four children and two whippets.