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  • Writer's pictureMark Tamhane

The 5 things that really matter now Melbourne’s lockdown is at an end


Ah, Melbourne...the world's most “liveable” city.

The major sporting events, the concerts and cultural life, the restaurants, the hidden rooftop bars, the great coffee. Much of it finally back open again.


Forget all that. I’ve got small children - three kids under 6 - so the end of the longest lockdown in forever means just 5 things to me.

  1. I can get Sam the upholstery repair guy around

  2. I can buy new tap washers

  3. I can replace my worn-out trackie daks

  4. My 5-year old is finally back at school

  5. I won’t have to keep looking up complicated rules and guessing if people are taking the piss


Sofa:

If you’ve ever tried to keep three boisterous children inside on a cold wet day, you’ll know your couch is bound to get a good workout. Now imagine that for months straight - especially with playgrounds locked off for most of that time.

Our couch is ten years old, but through July, August, September and October, it has been a trampoline, a boat, a rocket ship, a diving board and a castle being raided by marauders.

Things came to a head one evening when I was getting dinner and the children were jumping on the couch, engaged in what childhood experts would like to term “robust play”. I’d prefer to describe it as World Championship Wrestling.

SPOING!

“Umm Dad, the couch just made a funny noise..”

A close inspection revealed a large spring protruding from underneath the sofa.

Two days later, I noticed a small tear in the leather in an, admittedly, worn area of one of the seating cushions.

I could have sworn I’d seen 2-year old Grace rolling around on the couch with a sharp pencil earlier in the day….


Tap:

Inanimate objects don’t know stuff?

Bollocks.

The minute that Stage 4 lockdown started, as if by magic, the tap in our large bathroom started leaking.

It KNEW I had no spare washers in the garage and that every hardware shop in Melbourne was closed indefinitely - except to tradies.

Drip…..drip...drip… Concerned that our leaky tap would single-handedly drain the city’s reservoirs, I placed a bucket in the wash basin under it.

THUNK…..THUNK...THUNK…

My wife did complain it was hard to sleep at night, but hey, we had extra water for the kid’s baths, and it meant we didn’t have to flush the dunny as much - a major consideration in a house with 5 occupants.

Daks: This second lockdown was very different to the brief one earlier in the year.

“Quaint” was the word my wife and I both came up simultaneously to describe that seemingly golden period back in March and April.

She baked sourdough and french loaves. The cook on Jobkeeper from the local pub dropped around some home-made mortadella. Our Balkan friend from several suburbs away did a sneaky run out of her immediate surrounds to make sure we didn’t run out of home-made pickles. Another family friend dropped around two huge IKEA bags of dress-up costumes for the kids. I’m sure both of them could have argued that they were “providing care” if the cops had pulled them over…

I did zoom drinks with work colleagues and even dressed up for an on-line seminar where I was a guest speaker.


This time around there was a heaviness as we watched or listened to that daily Dan Andrews press conference as the numbers went up and up.

“Did he just say 725?!”

“Yep.”

“FAAAAAAAARK!”


I’d pull on my soft black jumper and trackie daks at 6:15 in the morning when the first of our kids would wake up, and I wouldn’t take them off all day. I’d work, eat and exercise in those clothes as a kind of uniform of honour. The pants started to wear thin in the seat after a couple of months of this.

“I’m looking slovenly so the rest of Australia is safe”, I’d say to myself in nobler moments. Then as the day wore on I would get angry, “I’m not going out - except with a mask on - and no one will recognise me - so why should I give a rats how I dress?”

I also felt tired. Very tired. Drained. And so did just about everyone else I talked to. Worn out by coronavirus - just by trying to avoid it. Worn down by the nightly news bulletins, the arm-chair experts, and worse, the pontificating from those who didn’t live in Melbourne about how lockdowns were unnecessary and an attack on our fundamental freedoms.

“I mean”, they’d say, “just look at Sweden…”

Boy, didn’t that turn out well?


Looking at social media became too depressing, as people in other states and countries posted beautiful pictures of coastal scenery and the bush walks they’d done. In one post I saw before I threw my phone across the room, someone complained (tongue in cheek, no doubt) about being “stuck” in a pub. Our local hadn’t been open since March.


Only a couple of our friends understood.

One day a heavy parcel arrived from Sydney. Madeleine had lovingly made up a box for each of our three kids, full of colourful play doh, figurines and unusual shapes and molds. That kept them occupied for hours and hours.

Ann-Maree in the Blue Mountains sent down some pre-loved Disney character dresses for our girls.

A parcel arrived from Sarah in New Zealand. It was full of activity books, and plastic gel frogs that you throw and they stick to the walls. There sure is something about Kiwi frogs. Weeks later, two are still stuck to the dining room ceiling…


We fumed at the telly during the AFL Grand Final as the singer from Sheppard kept yelling “Yay Brisbane!” during the half-time entertainment. How about a call-out to all of us down south, as you get your big moment on the national stage because of some cosmic slip-up? Geronimo that, dude.


School:

5-year old Jack is unlikely to forget his first year of school in a hurry. He’s spent the majority of it, not in the classroom, but learning at home on the small white table at the end of the kitchen bench.

Most of the time, I was sitting next to him.

“Ok mate”, I’d say, “Let’s leave the colouring in for later. Magic spelling words now..”

If we got a wriggle on, we could start at 8am and knock-off most of the schoolwork allocated for that day by about midday.

Then the real challenge began. How to fill the rest of the day.

“Try to limit your child’s screen time” was the unhelpful advice from his school.


One day I just snapped, after the part-time PE teacher put up her lesson on a program usually only used by students to upload material for teachers to assess.

“Seesaw is quite hard to use and read on a smartphone and it’s not straightforward to print worksheets from it, let alone view videos”, I ranted in an email.

“We are already trying to educate kids from home using Compass, Google Meets, Google Suite, the school portal, Loom, YouTube, Sunshine Online, Wooshka, Seesaw Family, Seesaw Class and the old school app, and frankly, it’s getting a bit overwhelming” I thundered.


After lunch, i would often collapse on the sofa for about half an hour staring blankly into space while Jack watched something on ABC Kids or Netflix.

I’d then drag myself to the kitchen and make a cup of tea before starting to organise the afternoon.

Chris, one of our neighbours, had kindly dropped around a couple of expensive scooters his adult boys had long grown out of, so Jack and I would hit the local bike path for our designated hour of exercise.


Then he somehow discovered Pokemon Go.

Thereafter all our exercise routes were designed around trying to visit as many places where he could fill up with Poke balls to “battle” and catch the critters (I still don’t understand how the game works, but can appreciate it’s wildly addictive qualities...like one can understand the addictive qualities of crack cocaine…)

Suddenly my wife was planning her daily jog around filling up at “Poke stops” with her mobile phone to keep Jack primed, and I started driving to the supermarket and our daughters’ day care centre via strange routes to try to collect more “battle” balls.


I’m glad Jack’s back at school. Although, if the truth be told, I actually did rather enjoy going through his lessons with him and I think the constant one-on-one attention meant his reading is leaps and bounds ahead of where he’d otherwise be. But at least the pressure to collect Pokémon Go battle balls from around the neighbourhood has abated….


Rules:

The phone rang.

“Hey, I was just watching Andrews and Brett Sutton and they were explaining the “bubble” rules…”

“Oh yeah, here we go….”

“Look, I think under an interpretation of the rules, I can take the kids around to Mum’s and we are ok as long as we are all in the backyard.”

I looked up coronavirus.vic.gov.au - the official Victorian government website where the rules that govern everyday life in Victoria now reside.

I read them and re-read them again.

I called Emily back:

“Yeah….nah”, I said, “‘I’ve read the rules. I don’t think your “interpretation” is within the spirit, let alone the red letter of the rules.”


It was a Saturday night about 8:30 and we’d finally got the kids to bed. We were no doubt watching something uplifting like “Raven” - a bleak Polish drama about a troubled detective who sees visions and is fixated on getting revenge on the paedophiles who preyed on kids at the orphanage where he grew up….

Then suddenly there was a loud banging at the door.

A woman in a tight dress holding a bottle of wine was standing on the doorstep.

No mask. Faaaark!

“Who’s in there?” she said, peering through the screen door, swaying.

It was obvious she was out for a big night and was already half-tanked.

“Emily and I. What house were you looking for?”

“Number 3”

“I think you’ll find we’re number ten. Number three is that way.”


“Who was that?” Emily asked.

“I think it was someone out on a Tinder hook-up with one of the neighbours and she didn’t know where to go. She’s already half-cut.”

“I thought you couldn’t go around to people’s places?”

Google Victorian government website….

“Ummm, I think she might be trying to exploit the “intimate partner” provision.”

“What if they don’t end up having sex? Have the cops got a rule-breaker case then?”

“Yeah...you got me there! Hey, I’m stuffed. I’m heading to bed.”


Well that’s the end of another non-exciting day, I thought to myself as I lowered my head onto the pillow. Sleep time now…


And then I heard it..


Drip, drip, drip…..


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