Melbourne is a city buzzing with excitement, as soon as you leave one café an unexpected treat is around the corner. The promise of a mouth-watering meal infiltrates the senses of most, from sweet and spice to the aroma of the intense heat of curry. Precisely at midnight and every hour thereafter, fireballs of gas give a reprieve to the cold as onlookers watch with awe. The night life of Melbourne is invigorated by the pulsating music from the band. Couples walk hand in hand whispering words that are not heard by others, seeming oblivious to the those around them. It is a perfect New Year’s Eve Saturday night as it is cool enough to see the gentle breeze hit the trees, while taking in the flickering lights gleaming from the Southbank water.
Entering one of Melbourne’s finest restaurants is alluring, the waiter introduces himself ensuring confidence that he is there to meet our needs as patrons. The menu selection is vast, and as one glances through the food selection, it seems that the unwritten order that the waiter takes is for its customers to be happy and joyful knowing that the end of the year is hours away. The validation of these thoughts is asked by the person I am sharing this night with.
‘I love it, I feel so alive, I forgot how to feel this way, it feels so good, I can’t seem to express how different this is. I have missed having fun, not thinking of any worries, thank you again for taking me out tonight!’
The above words echo in my mind, as that was the Melbourne of December 31, 2019. The streamers from dance floor celebrations have been swept away, the music played from the DJ forgotten as those nursing sore heads from New Year’s Eve celebrations realise 2020 has arrived. This was the year of big dreams and restored hope, an exciting opportunity to change life directions, little did I realise that life changed in directions that nobody could have predicted.
It is now August 19, 2020 and my pensive mood is begging me to do something with my thoughts. The begging voice compels me to write.
Lina, write, revise and rewrite, this is a story to write unlike anyone else can do, this is my chance to tell the inside story, let that disposition within you do something. There must be good, it is my opportunity to share hope even though I do not know what that looks like.
I am compelled with candour and desire to explain why this writing pain is begging me to tell the story of what 2020 is. The streamers of New Year’s Eve feel years ago. The next generations need to understand the emotions and thoughts of what it is like to live-in present-day Melbourne.
The change is due to what is now known as COVT-19, or Corona Virus, it has had the capacity to bring countries to their knees and throw notions of what normal life is out the window. In Wuhan, 2019 a microscopic organism formed, which has unleashed a pandemic, an unprecedented event in history, or as I name it, an event called fury. This fury is known as first and second wave destructions. This fury has killed, destroyed any semblance of what normal is. This fury has hit millions, hit countries, hit cities, it has hit my hometown of Melbourne with such destruction and devastation that all I know is this, a once in a lifetime event has changed everything in 2020. This is much bigger than one person moving states, this fury has jumped all borders and crept into all facets of society and changed the lives of all.
Make no mistake that fury has changed life, obliterated normality, crushed the emotions of everyday people and tumbled the economy as everyday Melburnian’s struggle to hold onto livelihoods. My thoughts intrude as I think of this struggle.
It did not take long for fury to change life; it came with such force that entire communities have been segregated and told not to see each other, it seems all wrong.
Many businesses have been a standing institution in Melbourne for a long time and a regular fixture for coffee connoisseurs, but to know that some are no longer standing is heart-breaking. The figures of how many businesses are closed does not show the human factor of what fury has done. Driving in Melbourne and seeing the sign that says ‘closed’ is knowing that one more family is struggling, one more family disconnected to society, one more family destroyed with an uncertain future. This thought leaves me decidedly uncomfortable.
Can it get any worse for a business owner in Melbourne? Will the sobbing of adults crying behind closed doors be heard by children? How do you explain to your children that to move forward is accepting closure, accepting defeat, accepting failure? My mask cannot hide the tears spilling down on this keyboard.
Fury does not discriminate as the fragile and most vulnerable in our society are losing the fight of their lives. Aged care facilities have become the breeding ground of despair, anguish, heartbreak, and death. The influx of daily numbers rising because the task has become for some aged care facilities unmanageable is profound. Loved ones are desperately ringing facilities to be met with no response. Families knock on silent doors to see if what is shown on the news is real. The unfathomable is knowing that at the age of 80 another person is dying without the hands of a loved one in their own, knowing their last breath holds no meaning but a statistic for some. My thoughts creep in again.
I saw that man on yesterday’s news calling to see how his mother was and then tonight, I see her face as another person which has lost their life. Behind that man I can see another woman placing a photo of her mother on a fence, she must be thinking at least someone can see she too was important. How did this happen? What if it was my father? I cannot fathom that thought. I blink with disdain for what fury is doing.
The change in daily life is clear as every Melburnian waits for 11am daily press conferences. Every conference is another opportunity to see that hope is met with disbelief that numbers have risen. The man that is providing us with all we need to know and speaks the same dialogue is Premier Daniel Andrews. The premier of this state has not missed one daily conference, as he himself now has named fury: ‘the wicked enemy’. The words he utters are almost so robotic that as someone watching the news my thoughts are intervened from his dry monologue:
You keep telling us to ‘stay the course’ but how long do we need to be doing this? Are you talking as the Premier or a man who genuinely cares? Is this nothing but politics to you? I believe you need to push your glasses up, stand a bit more upright because your hunched over mannerism is now agitating me, seriously my head is hurting as it is the same attire, maybe a change of shirt could do, we know this is serious but a smile of reassurance would be nice.
The reality though is not so comical. Numbers are real and at times one could lose focus as numbers represent people, people represent another statistic of infections and the risk of further death. To understand that one family is burying their loved ones, dirt thrown on top of the casket, voices of anguish is the reality. To acknowledge this heartache is important but knowing that stage 4 restrictions limit how many can attend a funeral is crushing, it has now become a luxury to have unlimited people at a funeral.
The daily conferences are ingrained into everyday life that sometimes one could think it is a reality show with the same people taking centre stage every day. The reality is that Melburnians are living the life that fury dictates, it is not a show, the daily conferences give instruction, rules and journalists quizzing the Premier with repetitive questions. It can be said that at 11am Melburnians share a date with the Premier, a date that holds expectation of hope, confidence, and a despondency that things have remained unchanged. All political members take centre stage including Chief Health Medical Officer, Brett Sutton. Many names have been attached to the Chief health medical officer, namely a ‘silver fox’, coffee is sweeter when his image takes over the television screen, I can understand why.
Brett Sutton you are my saviour, your ‘George Clooney’ silver tinged hair with cheeky grin makes me feel better. The way you answer the questions that are bombarded to you does not stop you from being the calm in this crazy state. When you ask every person in Metropolitan Melbourne to do the right thing, I am thinking; ‘Anything for you Brett! Is it wrong to think this way? Maybe this is the hope that I am seeking.
The significance of this position that Melburnians are facing is not lost on me but taking gloomy and depressing and changing it too something positive is indicative for what Melburnians need. Each day changes, emotions change and from all accounts, Melburnians are changing under stage 4 restrictions. Those outside of Victoria cannot understand what a night curfew means, only able to venture to light once a day and restricted to nothing but essential. The essential is work, food and care giving. Wearing a mask that suffocates breathing without human touch is not natural. As the stage 4 restrictions keep ticking by, extending further by weeks, so does the patience and positivity grind down for most. The right for freedom has escalated to protests by a select few, distressing scenes for families are apparent. Law enforcement is being savaged by civilians; children are crying as they see parents being handcuffed because of a breach of restrictions. The untold story is unfolding every day.
As an essential worker driving in the early mornings guilt is in my mind, guilt that as an essential worker driving to work means the I can escape the confinement of home restrictions, as most Melburnians do not have this comfort. The cars that travel in the lane next to me are scarce, the roads are empty, the roads represent curfew, restrictions and is a constant reminder that none of this is normal. The roads stretch out, the light flickers as rain pours down as my morning music plays, but my music does not stop from my mind thinking and wondering how wrong this feels.
This is depressing, there is no traffic on the road, I wish there were! If there was traffic that would mean some normal would return, I wonder what the driver next to me is thinking or doing for the day. I know one thing, not having to wear the mask while driving is liberating but I know that as soon as I step out of the car not only is it essential, it is law. This feels so crazy wrong, Fury, you are killing my spirit. I know I need to pull it together; I am trying but I feel as if I am failing!
The untold tragedy of what is occurring each day is that the statistics are not accounting for loneliness, segregation, melancholy moods and for some is the ultimate in despair and no hope, death by their own hands. The tragedy is that statistics show a drop of cancer diagnosis, but these misleading statistics is a result that daily physical check-ups has been postponed to virtual conferences with doctors.
Some Melburnians are getting caught in bureaucracy gone mad, as 5 kilometres means emergency dashes across borders to say goodbye to loved ones is breaking the law. Bureaucracy does not even give Melburnians the answers that they are seeking by formal enquiries of how extended lock down has occurred. One minister says they don’t know, the other puts her hand on the bible to tell the truth about the second wave source, but I simply ask myself is this important, for some it is, for others they seek the solace of needing answers. I know my mind goes into overdrive thinking of this.
What is normal? Do I care? Do I really want to know how it all went wrong? I know that now all I am seeking is the embrace of a family member, all of this is nonsensical but at the end of the day I just think, it’s done, Melburnians cannot change the past, I need to focus on the future, the desolate streets that are almost apocalyptic will change, focus on the positive.
The positive of what fury has not been able to take from every Melburnian is strength of character. As tiresome and somewhat endless that is stage 4 restrictions is knowing that a new normal will arrive soon, this will ease the mind and body that fury has been able to take from Melburnians since March. Melbourne life is vastly different prior to fury hitting. The pulsating music, unplanned weekends with family and friends was taken for granted, but this is now different. The mental psyche of Melburnians is strong, determined and has a never give up attitude. Talking to different individuals at work is the realisation that the statement ‘we are all in this together’ is not my opinion, it is the truth of all Melburnians. The truth is demonstrated by Melburnians wearing masks, keeping 1.5 metres apart from each other, keeping to night curfews and finding ways to cope when being at home is the only option we have. Hope has been restored as my way of thinking as changed, my attitude has changed, I have changed.
I would never have thought that cutting my own hair and removing my fake locks is liberating. The nails that I thought needed to be done every 6 weeks has gone, my own nails are strong. The mask that I wear each day, well I have saved on buying lipstick, really who is going to see my lips? In saying that, I have perfected the art of making my eyes look good, I have had to maintain some dignity as that is the only physical part of my face that anyone can see. I am a female and feeling beautiful within myself is important as I take pride in how I look.
Melbourne is a beautiful city, full of culture and communities fortified with courage. The streets that are desolate with people will fill again. The markets that supply food will soon be occupied with customers supporting local business. The challenges faced by me and every Melburnian has not broken spirits, it is reinvigorated convictions that life will return to a new normal. The human spirit that is innate within individuals is tested in many ways and for Melbourne it has been challenging, but not impossible. The reality though is that fury will be here for quite some time and adjusting to that change is needed. Much has unfolded in Melbourne this year but one thing that fury has not taken is our individual resolve to keep moving forward. Moving forward with freedom and wrapping arms around the ones we love that we have not seen for months is hope. Melbourne has been on the receiving end of the toughest restrictions in the world since fury hit. Being in lockdown for most of the year has instilled a drive and passion to continue with 2020 and know that 2021 is brimming with hope. My final thoughts are spilling onto my page.
Hope is a wonderful thing, adversity tests character and a once in a lifetime event will not take away my spirit and that of my fellow Melbournians.
Unlike any other event in this generation Melbourne has been tested, individuals and families have been pushed to breaking point, but the buzz of what Melbourne is will re-emerge. This buzz may have been momentarily taken away, but a new revitalised Melbourne awaits to change the closed sign to open, this open sign is for all Melbournians, an invitation to say we are back in business as everyday life begins a new normal in 2020.
Written by Lina Raudino
Follow me on @nucha73637221