Lockdown 5

I went to the supermarket for the first time in four days on Tuesday. When I walked into the kitchen on my return home, having not seen my housemates since we made a group trip to the local bottle shop (I think this was illegal) the night before and then worked through our chosen booze while watching a film, I was immediately met with questions. Not because they are keeping tabs on me (they are) but because the likelihood of one of our chosen shops becoming a Tier 1 site is becoming more apparent every day and no one wants to deal with quarantine.

We will all go through the motions of checking venues of exposure over the next few days. We will message the group chat referencing one housemate’s huge night before lockdown, whether someone was on that particular train line, were you at that bar, did you go to that specific Coles on that specific day? This is our fifth time around. Lockdown has just been extended. We are all so tired but keeping our spirits up for the benefit of each other, so thankful for each other.

As I write this I am sitting with my laptop at the kitchen table while the three boys time their individual dinner preparation and how long they each need to use our gas stove. Two of them went to the supermarket (I think this was also illegal?) and I asked them to pick up some things for my own dinner. Now we’re all negotiating when it is our turn to use our tiny kitchen, where is the tarragon, how long do you need the oven, have you seen the strainer, do we both need the giant pans at once? 

Lockdown gives us one thing and it is time with each other — if it weren’t for this, we would all be at the pub with our friends or out for a meal or playing a gig. I might still be at the kitchen table writing, unless one of them had a show, in which case I would venture out and drink the same amount of wine but in a public place (frowned upon by the entire household, including me).

And there are so many things it takes away. In the time between my last blog post and now, my dad has been diagnosed with a degenerative brain disease while I am on the other side of the world. If we weren’t in covid times I would have already flown to him. I would be there to go to his appointments and monitor his progress and listen to his shit-talking in person instead of on the phone. I would take the weight off my sister who is the only one of us there and is constantly scheduling and planning and updating and planning again. I would be living my life beside his diagnosis, I would be helping him use his phone and order food and recognise his neighbours and respond to emails. But instead I am writing about it on this ridiculous blog because I cannot get to him.

We already have enough lockdown discourse; the last thing any of us needs is more content written about what it has ruined. But when I ask my housemates what the biggest aching part is for them, one of them justifies why he spends so much time in his room, because mostly he can’t deal with conversations with the outside world. The other one is wondering what the outside world will be like when we’re back and feels fatigued by the very idea of trying to get there. The other is sick of the sameness of everyday; he says that memory has become an abstract concept because the days have blended into one. How did we spend his last birthday? Will we do the same this year? One of them talks about his anger for so much being taken away from him — he knows this is the time he should be using wisely and he can’t make the most of it.

I am as angry as these boys who seem to take everything in their stride but are all suffering in similar and different ways. I have started my second semester of school this week, which was planned on campus but is now online again because of lockdown, and I am working two days a week at the bookshop, for which I am grateful, but is a small sadness in itself as my income has been cut in half. My best friends have lost gigs because venues have been shut down and I’m getting Facebook notifications for the last weekend of trading for cafes that are due to close. I can’t apply for jobs in my industry because it is precarious and terrifying and I cannot risk a trial period to then be made redundant because what if I can’t pay my rent? The boy I’m seeing is finding it hard to get out of bed and there are moments in each day when I feel incredibly alone despite living in a house full of people.

But there are so many others who are worse off. Everyone has lost something. Someone has lost more than you. There are 21st and 18th and 30th birthdays, jobs and headline shows and money and opening nights and plane tickets. So many funerals and birthdays and first dates and book launches and heartbreaks and big projects that all deserve more than what the world can give them right now. Many people do not share a home with three boys they can write about and are instead bearing the brunt of this by themselves. 

It feels wild to me that we aren’t all in a constant state of mourning for what could have been, what we have lost and the way we wish things were had the last 18 months not unravelled whatever we envisioned for ourselves by now. I am mourning every day. Maybe everyone is but we aren’t talking about it. Maybe everyone is just keeping it together for the sake of each other, so thankful for each other.

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Walking

’So, I’m the queen of reading too much into things!’ I text him at 12.30am, a bit drunk, giddy and full of love after seeing our mutual friends at the pub, ‘but I’m also the queen of walking around the north when things are grim. Please let me know if they are.’ He had messaged me the day before, wondering what I was up to as he was strolling around my suburb. This would be utterly unremarkable to most, but it is funny how attuned you stay to someone if you spent a part of your life loving them.

When something happens that hurts or I find difficult to process, from the trivial and seemingly innocuous to gut-wrenching ouches, I walk. When something happens that doesn’t make sense to me, when I am trying to understand something or make a decision or decipher how I feel, I use my two legs to take my body 10 or 15 kilometres away from my front door. Earphones, ciggies (although I am vaping now–this blog might need a rebrand), house keys, two full water bottles (just in case) and a book (you never know), shoved into a messenger bag. Off to retrieve a brain much more orderly than mine, which usually takes five or six hours. Continue reading

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Luster and my achy breaky heart

I recently found a note on my phone that I wrote while reading Luster by Raven Leilani. It’s dated 30 December 2020 and contains more than fifteen quotes that made my heart absolutely ache at the time. Reading them back, the ache is still very much there, so of course my instinct is to write about it and get disgustingly personal on the internet.

The novel follows Edie, a Black woman in her early twenties who gets involved with a married white man and, later, his wife. Leilani is unflinching in her examination of race and class and the realities of this intersection for an American woman today. The general chaos of Edie’s life, however, is universally relatable; her future is unknown, her choices are messy and, ultimately, she is flawed.  Continue reading

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Nattering on

It’s been a long minute between updates on here and that is largely due to the fact that I am just a walking husk of a person and three tiny brain cells at the moment. It is also for other reasons—exciting and exhausting and happy and heavy ones—but mostly the husk thing. 

I also haven’t been reading much and have felt enormous pressure to pump out reviews just to keep Manic Ciggie moving (which I also haven’t done). But! Then I remembered I made this dumb blog and can just waffle on about shit if I want to, so here we are.  Continue reading

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Sad Books for Bad Days

When I’m really sad – the kind of sad that makes it hard to get out of bed or speak in full sentences – I will exclusively listen to sad music. I know how counterintuitive this is, but do I stop? No. Because I love being miserable and making things worse. The ultimate crybaby.

I do the same thing with books. I don’t want to read something soft and uplifting if I’m having a shit time and the absolute last thing I need is to be bombarded with the happiness of other people (even if those people are literally not real). So, in no particular order, here’s a weeny list of some of the saddest books I’ve read. They will definitely make bad days worse but, from personal experience, there’s some healing power in being captivated by wounds that are not your own.* Continue reading

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Still ruminating: Unquiet by Linn Ullmann

I expected to find mandatory isolation difficult for many reasons. The one thing I did not anticipate was frogs. My hometown has experienced so much torrential rain in the last few months that my mum’s backyard has become a haven for those little green bastards. I’m sure they’re lurking during the day but their ribbits and croaking at 120 decibels starts right on sunset. You could say it has been very… Unquiet. That was an awful joke but the rest of this is pretty gloomy, so sit tight.  Continue reading

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David Sedaris is very funny and I’m incredibly late to this party

Would you like to know something seriously ironic about suddenly being stuck indoors for 14 days, unable to leave the four walls of your mum’s house in case you accidentally super-spread coronavirus all over the NSW coast? I have not been able to do anything with this abundance of time. Read one book, just one single book? Physically incapable. Write a blog post that isn’t just manic drivel? Absolutely not. I had no idea how much my concentration span was tied to stimuli from the outside world. I also had no idea how much I’d miss things like buying dumb stuff from the supermarket and putting pants on in the morning. Continue reading

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A bit lost for words, but here’s some about Memorial

I was sitting on a plane when I began writing this post. The pilot had just made an announcement to welcome ‘all passengers on flight JQ474 through to Newy’. Moments later I returned to Memorial and read the line “It’s hard to head home without succumbing to nostalgia, standing where so many versions of yourself once stood.” I hadn’t been back to NSW in twelve months because of coronavirus and Australia’s inability to keep our state borders open. I was finally heading home and this was exactly how I felt, so naturally I pulled out my laptop and started frantically writing about how incredible this book is. Continue reading

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Insufferable Bookworm Starts a Blog

When I first started working in books, I felt like a fraud. Mostly because I was one.

I have a lot of dear mates who share my deep, unconditional, total infatuation with reading. And these mates love to talk about how much they read when they were children. It’s very sweet. They always had their silly little noses in silly little books and it’s simply no wonder their bookshelves are collapsing under the weight of their literary prowess now that they’re grown. Yes, I am a surly bitch about this. I was not one of those kids and wish desperately that I was. I wasn’t even one of those adults until relatively recently, but I’ll explain that in a sec. Continue reading

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