What we do as the plague approaches: Post 1

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What we do as the plague approaches: Post 1

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Melbourne writer Arnold Zable began regular posts on Facebook in mid March about his thoughts and feelings on the pandemic. He has given permission for them to be reproduced here.

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What we do as the plague approaches: Post 1. Wednesday 18 March. A balmy summery evening. I am driving back to the streets of my childhood. North Carlton. I am drawn back there, as if returning to the womb. En route, I skirt the Edinburgh Gardens. An eerie air of normality. Hundreds are out on the lawn, picnicking, sitting in pairs, in large groups, intimate circles. Let’s party while we can, they seem to be saying. Let the devil take tomorrow. And this is how it is in the Rathdowne Street drag, the local shopping centre of my youth. The cafes, the pub and restaurants are doing a brisk trade. Pavement tables are full with revellers. In Curtain Square, the village park, couples sit in the dark; the murmur of conversation, the red tip of a dying cigarette. I walk past the houses of my first loves. Pause to look up at the balconies of two-storey terraces. Perhaps this is where people can spend their time when the full shut down is finally mandated. A waiter stands on the footpath and waves goodbye to a family about to step into their car, parked in the middle of the roadway. ‘See you on the other side’, he says. But in this moment he remains on this side, hanging on to the reassuring presence of the familiar. While out there, beyond the Square and the shopping strip, the streets and bluestone lanes are deserted. I pass by the single fronted terrace I grew up in: the lights are out, all is quiet. I am thankful for the solitude.

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