Reflections on the End of the World – Part Three

Last night I saw the shorts for the new film featuring Gerard Butler. Called ‘Greendale’, it’s one of those calamitously noisy films about the impending end of human kind.  I can’t say for sure what kicked it all off, but the footage showed human beings as they crawled over each other in a quest for survival.  Doubtless the studio will describe this as an edge of your seat adventure set against the backdrop of human misery and a looming apocalypse.  It does nothing for me.  In fact, after the past year, I wouldn’t describe scenes of desperate humans struggling to survive as ‘entertainment’.  I’d call it ‘Tuesday’.  Or, for that matter, pretty much any day of the week over the past year.

I’ve learned a lot since the pandemic arrived.  Mostly I discovered that hand sanitizer is a wily beast that’s not going to leave the nozzle the way you expect it to.  It might come out sideways, slantways or – if you’re not careful – creep up behind you when you least expect it and tap you on the shoulder before asking directions for the nearest pair of hands.  Surely there’s a list of all the hand-sanitizer related injuries of the past year, where the unpredictable liquid has made a beeline for the eyes of some poor hapless soul.  Never have I been more relieved to wear glasses than I have during hand sanitizer’s reign of terror.  

A lot of people have acquired a new skill whilst stuck at home.  A new language, a musical instrument – there’s been no end to the challenges people have taken on.  I, on the other hand, have gone the other way in that seemed to have forgotten how to drive. Last week, I sat behind the wheel for twenty minutes, unsure of what to do and waiting for a ‘zoom’ meeting to start.  That said, I have mastered the art of making coleslaw.  Granted, this is a skill that many others take for granted, but I really wanted to get it right.  It’s not going to help me much when – at some point in the presumably distant future – I land on the shore of some far-off country and people start speaking to me in a language I don’t understand.  It’ll do me little good when all I have to offer them is a weak smile and a bowl of chopped up cabbage.

My father has not acquired a new skill during these uncertain times.  Instead of learning Latin or mastering the lute, he used his lockdown to chop firewood.  He’s currently eighty-one years old.  Based on the quantity of firewood my father has chopped up, I’d say he’s planning to live to around one hundred and seventy.  It’s probably the first woodpile that can be seen from space.  I guess he’s being practical, but I’m beginning to regret buying him his own personalized lute for his eightieth.

I’ve learned that a dog really is your best friend.  As one of the wholly sanctioned options for leaving the house, our dog provided one of the few legitimate means by which to socialize with other human beings.  The ability to go to the park with the dog and see other people; to commiserate, encourage and generally be around in a socially distant way, was profoundly important. Other pets couldn’t compete. That said, I did see one brave soul attempting to take his cat for a walk.  It is fair to say that the cat objected to the leash and was being ‘uncooperative’.

The songwriter, Bill Fay, once sang; ‘Life is people’.  I think that’s true.  I also think that lockdown really made that clear.  I missed seeing members of my family.  Even though I feel I never see them enough, extended periods of not seeing them at all served only to emphasize their importance to me.  Work colleagues too. A zoom meeting is well and good, but is not substitute for seeing people in person.  

Now here we are in another lockdown, albeit of the ‘snap’ variety.  I’m sure it’ll be short and am confident that it’s for a good reason, but suspect that no-one in Melbourne can even hear the word ‘lockdown’ without a slight chill running down their back.  It feels too soon to go back there.  Lockdown 3.0 carries with it a sense of resignation. Like most sequels, there is a sense of diminishing returns – the adherence to wearing a mask has, much like the mask itself, slipped a little.

Two weeks ago, I was at my father’s house in Tyabb.  There was noise movement and kids were scattered everywhere.  My father made sure everyone had their picture taken in front of the woodpile he’d built, arguing that if it was good enough for the ‘Big Banana’, it was good enough to the ‘Big Woodpile’.  In my photo, I’m grinning and giving a big-old cheesy thumbs up.  As you do.  

I’m yet to watch that Gerard Butler film.  Presumably there’s a scene where he scarpers down to Woollies in search of toilet paper only to the find that there’s not a roll of two-ply Sorbent left anywhere. This, of course, makes no sense in that surely the people who hoarded the bog roll in the first two lockdowns have enough to last them to 2050.  Gerard will take matters into his own hands when he learns he can only get one packet of mince.  I think I’ll ignore that movie for the time being and find something more uplifting.  Lord knows we need it. At the very least, I have pictures of the world’s biggest woodpile to take my mind off things.