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After isolation

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In the driver’s seat and turning the key I notice the windshield is dusty. It’s nearly a month since my car went anywhere. It’s been in quarantine too.

Having reversed out the garage I change gears. Crunch. Like a dawn golfer on the opening tee-block I’m easing into my routines.

Up the end of our street I see a girl, bent down in the driveway, admiring her chalk drawings of pink and blue on the grubby concrete. Home-schooled, her Art lesson’s done.

I’ve not been outside in Australia since early March. April 1st is a fitting date to tiptoe out. Over the past fourteen days the mostly imagined, newsfeed horror of supermarket fights, deserted malls and shut playgrounds has battered me. A girl drawing out the front of her home is a welcoming image; at once pristine and sweetly unknowing.

Heading towards the city Anzac Highway is quiet although a bus cuts me off. I almost applaud. The ancient annoyances are now likely to comfort. I see an old man at a bus-stop. Squatting next to him is his terrier. Both appear calm. There’s a patience about them. What choice do we have?

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Triple J is playing something antagonising. Maybe now, I’m finally too old. I push the radio button for Triple M. Some dire 1980’s song. Maybe not.

I pass the monolithic and charmless Highway Inn, all shut except for its drive through. It’s mid-morning, but a couple utes are in there. Taking opportunities when they can. Never have I so acutely felt the tension between self and family and community.

Up near South Road a new petrol station is being built. Half a dozen tradies are in the forecourt, on the canopy, putting in windows. Previously, I’d connect this to cars, fossil fuels, climate change. But today it’s a reluctant symbol of growth and hope.

I then see an old BP. Fuel is 84 cents. This seems more 1991 and not 2020. I rub the back of my neck. No. No mullet there. The day before we flew to Sweden fuel was $1.40.

On our final night in isolation I shaved off the first-ever beard I’d grown. Confinement offered opportunity too. The patio pavers enjoyed their first pressure clean in a decade. Claire got stuck into the cupboards. I rang family and friends. Sat in the sun.

Arriving at work to collect a camera for the globally-compulsory Zoom meetings, I pulled into the barren carpark.

I was also there for my flu shot.

In our world of heightened immuno-consciousness, this seemed an urgent idea. I fumbled for my security tag.

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We love our new kennel

 

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Cockroaches might withstand nuclear attack, and forcible drowning as my garden hose was turned right up and blasting onto their stinking evil-black little scuttling arses, but as we know a rubber thong, like a Texan electric chair, guarantees a swift, if messy exit.

Unsurprisingly, there were three or four of these dreadful bugs living in our new, second-hand purchase along with some spiders, who, having heard and possibly witnessed the executions, headed south along the lawn to the pumpkin patch.

The boys and I were cleaning our dogs’ kennel. Buddy and Angel (or Angela Merkel as we also respectfully know her) need an outside bed.

Ignoring the time-wasters and spectacularly moronic wanna-be scammers I love Gumtree. Kerry reminded me just after lunch to have a look, and by mid-afternoon it was home and enjoying an aquatic enema, of sorts.

It was fifteen dollars, but to buy the timber would cost, I reckon, about fifty. It’s sturdy and has a beautiful, homemade, bespoke quality to it that screams, “I was built in a Fulham Gardens garage by a lovely old Italian gent while his wife was in the kitchen cooking.” No, not a cheap stereotype, the truth. She told me as I hauled it to the car, taking some bark off my shins.

With its off-white finish, asymmetrical spires and welcoming façade we immediately christened it The Chapel of Love. Speaking of christenings, remember after the birth of one of his kids when David Beckham was asked if he and Posh were getting the child christened and he replied, “Yeah, we have to fink about it. We’re not sure which religion yet.”

If I squint and imagine a stunning tropical esplanade behind the kennel it also reminds me of St Marys’ by the sea in Port Douglas, but I concede, this might be fanciful.

So pleased were we with our purchase that we sent photos to family and friends celebrating our good fortune and clever commerce.

Under the patio sitting around our new fire bucket- more on this soon- that night I kept sneaking glimpses of our kennel. We love it and it invests the backyard with a sense of completion; a warmth that arises from both its function and its daggy, delightful form.

Now, if we can just get the dogs to sleep in it.

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