It’s mid-afternoon and I’m sitting at the kitchen table at Pat and Jack’s place in Lismore. Pat is sitting on the back verandah making her way through one of those “word game” books, and Jack is having a mid-afternoon nap on the couch. Pretty soon, we’ll be watching “The Chase” on Prime 7. This is a familiar routine for 2021, as I spent a fair amount of the year based in Lismore.
Since about the age of 18/19, I’ve been living away from Lismore. During my university years in Brisbane I was often back (most weekends, in fact). And then when I began pursuing my career in other parts of Australia, there was a long period of time where I only made it home once a year.
More recently I’ve tried to make it back two or three times each year, but it has been, generally speaking, only for a week at a time.
That all changed this year when I came home for a couple of weeks. Nancy had been ill for quite some time, and died in June, aged 75.
I’d always planned to spend a couple of weeks here, helping out with various family activities. But then the COVID-lockdown hit Sydney. Faced with a choice of returning to Sydney, or staying here, I chose the latter.
A few weeks later, I didn’t have much choice, as Lismore, too, was forced into a lockdown. There was a period of time when people from Sydney weren’t allowed to travel to Regional NSW and vice-versa.
And so I settled fully back into the front bedroom of Pat and Jack’s place for both work and home. Pat even found an old desk which I could use (with a 1980’s map of the world featuring many countries which no longer exist). And suddenly, it was almost four months later!
I settled into a routine of doing family errands, picking up a daily coffee at the nearby coffee shop, and then at night, after dinner, we would watch Neighbours, Home & Away and NCIS. Jack used to fall asleep during NCIS. I really loved being back as part of my family on a more permanent basis, and also re-discovering my home town more as a “local” than as a “visitor”.
As the lockdowns began to lift, there was a window of opportunity for me to return home, which I did and settled back into life in Sydney.
“I’m sad that you’re going because I feel like we’ve just got to know you again properly”, Jack said to me, as I was farewelled at Ballina Airport a few months ago. It’s something which touched me then, and touches me still, a few months later.
As they’re both in the 70s/80s now, I have really treasured the opportunity to have been back with them, and spent some time (both quality and quantity) with them. In the midst of an otherwise terrible year for the world, I am truly grateful for the opportunity this year has unexpectedly provided us.
Aside from that, it’s been a fairly regular kind of year.
In January, I travelled to Canberra and Wagga, and then in October, Sue and I visited the Snowy Mountains.
Also this year, I participated in Mardi Gras, along with my awesome colleagues from ABC Pride, the staff-led diversity group.
And here I am, back in Lismore for New Years Eve. A few weeks ago I bought a ticket for the annual “Tropical Fruits Party” being held at Lismore Showground. At this stage (mid-afternoon), I’ve decided to stay home. Even though it’s a mostly outdoors event, I’m still worried about COVID. It’s not so much contracting COVID (I’m double-vaxxed), it’s the chance I could pass it on to others.
As we end the year, the world still seems pretty F$%%ed.
My niece in Brisbane asked a question on Facebook yesterday about whether she could fly in Queensland without being double-vaxxed. I stopped myself from commenting. The other day I learned my nephew “doesn’t believe in vaccination” to which I replied, “Well, he was also the idiot who thought it was a good idea to walk down in the floodwaters to check the power box when the power went off during the 2017 flood”. So much for genetic evolution.
I’m hoping that in 2022, we (as a nation, and as the world), will get out shit together. In some ways, COVID has given the world the opportunity to re-assess our lives, learn some things, and take action towards a better future. Sadly, I’m not seeing much evidence of that.
A few months ago, I was sitting around with some friends and solving the problems of the world, as you do. We all came to a conclusion that maybe we spend too much time reading the papers and not enough time reading the history books. You can learn a lot from history, can’t you? 100 years ago, we’re in the midst of a global pandemic. And we were seeing the rise of right wing nationalism around the world.
As people we seem to have the memories of goldfish, barely able to remember last week, let alone what happened last year or the year before.
Though I’m not much of a fan of Sean Micallef, I liked what he had to say on Twitter the other day : “The PM is keen for us not to look in the rear-view mirror but I think it’s sometimes helpful to check and see what you’ve just run over.”