Living through lockdown on the other side of the world
“The virus just isn’t here anymore,” my sister tells me over the phone, as she escapes a small gathering at her shared house to go and buy dumplings.
Never did I think that 2020 would be the year that Perth, Australia – the Southern Hemisphere’s most isolated capital city – would become the best place in the world to live. The same town I escaped six years ago to pursue a career in journalism. (And then one year ago escaping the country to follow my dreams of living in the UK and travelling around Europe. Great timing, huh.)
While the United Kingdom has recorded one of the highest death tolls in Europe, Australia has almost rid itself of the virus. Just over 100 deaths, about 7,000 cases, and almost zero community transmission in some states.
In Perth there have been 600 cases and nine deaths, with a whopping 126,700 tests conducted. Most of cases have come from either overseas travel, cruise ships or commercial vessels.
One moment that I will never forget was the day before we went into lockdown.
My partner and I had gone for a drive, knowing it could be our last chance, to the picturesque fishing village of Pittenweem. After a day in the sun (and wind) on the drive home we were pulled over by police; our MOT had expired.
After a lengthy conversation on the side of the road, and a ticket, I heard the officer tell my partner we would be going into lockdown the following day and then asking about his background. “I’ve moved back to the UK after living in Australia for seven years,” he told the cop. “Australia? Bet you wish you were back there now,” the officer replied.
On the car journey home, aware we were about to go into a three-week lockdown but not knowing it would become three months, I cried.
The seasons were different, I reasoned. In March the UK was at the end of winter and Australia was ending its summer.
But I couldn’t help but be annoyed about some of the decisions taken by the UK Government. Australia had ordered all arrivals to self-isolate for 14 days in March. The UK has just taken this decision – but in June. Perhaps if this had happened sooner, we would have a little more freedom than we have now.
While my family and friends in Perth told me they were in lockdown when we were, back in April, it wasn’t really a lockdown. They could still meet another person. They still held Easter Sunday lunch at my parent’s house, all five of them together: my three siblings, two of whom live out of home, and my parents.
And then Instagram became my torture device. Every day I’d watch families and friends reunited, drinks and dinner at the pub, weekends away at the beach. When I could finally lay in a park for the first time, my sisters were having house parties, driving down south on holiday, going out on dates, holding Kath and Kim cocktail nights.
I am not one to get homesick. I moved out of home when I was 19 and then interstate a few years later. I haven’t lived in the same city as my family since early 2013. But I have noticed myself feeling more emotion towards home. Maybe home weak is a better description than homesick.