DARWIN in the COVID19 Times

May 2020

I came across a piece of writing the other day that uses a boating analogy to explain something that I have been contemplating of late (the original was a bit long, this is the Suz version).  According to the lovely jingles on Australian TV, ‘We are all in this together’ and that is true, but only in as much as we are all in the same storm together, we are not all in the same boat.  When writing our blog, I am acutely aware that Peter and I are in a much sturdier boat situation (literally and figuratively in this instance) than many around world who are trying to survive this storm in not much more than a dinghy, and for some that dinghy is leaking badly in several places.

For many boaters, quarantine and self-isolation is a regular part of our lifestyle.  Isolation is time for coffee, peace and music, and boredom just means that there is some maintenance being ignored.  For others, quarantine and self-isolation is a genuinely life-threatening, soul destroying experience.  Some of us are riding out the storm with enough supplies/financial security to take the losses.  For many others the financial and familial strains are enormous and all encompassing. 

This impacts how I feel writing a blog that speaks of how well things are going with us and the little problems we are facing, mindful of how that may appear to others or how they may react to this blog given their situation.  This blog is our record of our experiences and I will keep writing as such, but if that is likely to bring you down at the moment, please do not read on.

Being mindful that there are people out there needing help to stay afloat, we do what we can from here in Darwin.  We can’t help the whole world but we can support family and friends with phone calls and ‘funnies’, support the businesses that are still operating (sooo much takeaway coffee and meals from the restaurants that managed to go to a pickup/takeaway model).  We have brought forward some of the bigger boat maintenance jobs that we were going to do in Queensland, so that we can use local mechanics and suppliers and support those people still working in the industries we left behind.  We keep out of the way and choose not get involved in pointless/unconstructive conversations.  We do what we can do.

Our best wishes to you and yours for getting safely through this storm, in whatever boat life has dealt you.

It is May and we are finally back on the boat.  The humidity has disappeared, the amenities block at the marina has a reassuring bleachy smell (I still take my GLEN20 with me), the air-conditioners have been serviced and Neon has just been given the A-Ok by the vet for this year.  The Queensland borders are still closed, so as with many others, we are in a holding pattern (travel-ly speaking) for the foreseeable future.  Unlike some other parts of Australia (and certainly the world) the Northern Territory (NT) has done well to date with the pesky COVID19 and is currently Corona case free.  Hopefully the re-opening of the social scene won’t set us back.

It was so good to get back onto the boat.  I can do my Spanish lessons (on the Zoom thing) in the front cabin, Peter is working on his latest assignment for his course (marine engine drivers) back in the saloon and Neon is lounging in the pilot house after a particularly exhausting morning chasing a catnip rat up and down the stairs (he has just acquired a taste for catnip and it certainly keeps him fit) and we were loaned a car by some friends when the virus popped up here, so we don’t have to keep using public transport – Thankyou Jackie and Andreas.

It has been difficult being so far from family and friends during these interesting times (I should say unprecedented, as no-one has used that word much over the last few months).  Thank goodness for modern technology.  Although it brings a deluge of bad news every morning, it means I can stay in daily contact with Mum and Parents-in-Law.  Our children are gamers and Uni students (with more of a casual relationship with their educational institutions) and only vaguely aware that ‘the world as we know it is coming to an end’ (I quote one of the more startling news headlines on morning TV).  In fairness to modern technology there has also been a huge amount of really beautiful stuff put out there too; the ‘Couch Choir’ and all those domino runs.  I spent a fair amount of time these last few months sharing the NT take on things with family and friends; and I thought I might put up some of the comments for posterity.

Warning: NT humour and language choices may cause offence.

Back in January there was a run on toilet paper down south (obviously someone in Melbourne mis-interpreted what respiratory symptoms meant).  The NT News was here to help; they published an issue with an extra 4 pages, blank, with perforations ready for the toilet.  That led to a family WhatsApp discussion about our Grandmother’s terrible outside toilet with the wire hook of torn newspaper – I think the only ones that enjoyed that toilet were the spiders (and yes there were redbacks behind the toilet seat).

The local businesses also got in on the toilet paper theme:

One of my posts saying ‘I was ready’ (see photo below) resulted in some very enthusiastic and interesting suggestions for additions (it should be noted they were mostly alcoholic variations).

Peter took to calling in at delis when he was out riding to find the odd items that were out of stock in the city centre supermarkets.

The Hunter-Gatherer returns victorious

My family commented that Peter is looking slimmer; the carton of cat food is strategically placed, but it is true that his tummy doesn’t take a beer carton to cover anymore.  It’s all the riding; he is doing over a 120kms a week now.

This excellent suggestion was pinned on the window of our local coffee shop (‘La Cure’ also does a mean strawberry crepe that survives takeaway really well). 

According to my girlfriends, this is a perfect explanation

The next week the same coffee shop followed with these sage words of advice in NT speak.

The other day I was reading a comment that we will look back on these days in the same way our Grandies looked back on the war years (not quite the same magnitude I would hope!) I will be able to proudly say I traced family trees and knitted my time away during the ‘Virus Days’.  If it goes on for much longer, I will have a neo natal wing worth of premmie beanies and enough hand mitts for a plethora of unemployed Uni students.  I don’t usually finish projects so regularly.  I do love the comments from people making a stand and refusing to use this time to bake/clean/learn/dance – go the rebels.

Peter worked on and completed his Captains course.  He now has a Certificate III in Maritime Operations to 24m near coastal; Captain Pugwash Peter.  He is also cooking his way through an Italian cooking book (Nina Colloca).

Easter Friday’s fish was stupendous at Beilby’s Balcony Bistro

Pizza delivery with a beer and toilet paper, flown in by plane. Certainly, the remote station people were in a bit of a pickle getting supplies for a wee while.  Their normal shopping list is for six weeks, so despite how it looks, they aren’t actually hoarding when they come in for a shop, and they can’t just keep popping into town to top up.

How they do things in the NT

WA’s Premier got in on the fun too, issuing an ‘Egg-semption’ for the Easter Bunny to cross the closed borders into WA.

The little book shop in the main mall on Smith St. has a wicked sense of humour.  They are a small independent book shop, but have an excellent range.

ANZAC Day (a major commemorative event in Australia) was different and really lovely.  Standing along the marina at 6am with candle pictures on our phones and the bugle playing across the water from the radio – very surreal this year.

Getting ready for Friday, when the restaurants and pubs re-open in the NT.  Eddie from ‘Frying Nemos’ (seriously excellent fish and chips on the boardwalk at Tipperary Waters Marina) will need to do some gardening, as mother nature had a growth spurt during lockdown.

Territorians are allowed back to the pub

The NT News is a proper newspaper and is moderately legendary in Australia when it comes to their headlines (the actual news is well presented, includes a good selection of international news and the local comments page is truly eye opening).  A selection of previous headlines over the years was offered in the same edition for use as beer coasters for this historic event.  The headlines feature a lot of crocs (crocodiles), nudity, stupidity and more crocs.

They publish books of the best

We have done a lot of riding to the Darwin Botanic Gardens, which are truly beautiful, for exercise (and more coffee).  Eva’s, the little shop there, does a really good breakfast in normal times.  They had set up a lovely board offering coffee vouchers paid by customers for those having a hard time.

Paying forward

The toilets at the Botanic Gardens also have the best posters for hand washing that I have seen.  You can sing your 20 second hand washing song all you want, but having a picture guide infront of you makes it really easy to get it right (and it turns out that medically we are all hand rubbing not washing anyway – the things you learn).

Easy to follow

A surprising thing I am really enjoying at the moment is the smell of sunshine on washing.  It may well be that the weather has changed and the lack of humidity means there is more particle action happening in the air (the Suz precis of a science paper I read about the smell of sunshine), but that explanation just doesn’t do it justice.  For 4 months we were drying the washing under a fan in the apartment or in the dryer (it was too humid outside).  Now I can hang the clothes in the sun (the poor boat looks like a laundry) and the smell just brings a smile to your dial.  Yet there is no word for it!  There is that odd word for the smell of rain on dry ground, petrichor (Greek – from the words for rock/stone and the fluid that ran through the veins of the Gods!); and as a desert girl that smell brings back a lot of lovely memories of home.  But there is no word for the glorious smell of sun dried washing.  Any suggestions?

Neon notes:

The vet said I was well weighted for my age?  I left Perth a trim (in my considered opinion) 7.5kg and last week I weighed in at 5.5kgs – if you need to lose weight the Kimberley is the place to do it. Mum is sure my fur is softer now because I have taken to licking out the last of her yoghurt in the evenings.  It is quite yummy and as it is low in lactose (because it is cultured) it is ok for my tummy too – win win.

I’m not a messy eater, the bit on my chin is for afters.

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. So glad to hear things are going well for you Suz! Mmm the smell of sunshine – nothing beats it! I would love to read an actual copy of the NT times, their headlines are bloody hilarious. All the best to you and Pete and of course, Neon x

    1. Apparently there are people all over the world who subscribe to the NT News just for the headlines (and the opinion pages)! Hope all going well for you and yours.

  2. Thank you for the post! It was wonderful reading something positive after I saw all the negative news this morning. Please keep blogging.

  3. Living on a boat seems to make “Isolation” second nature but with benefits. Good to see everyone fit and healthy with high morale, (keep eating that yogurt Neon!).

    1. Don’t worry Mitch, Neon is not going wanting in the food department. Although I think he is a bit concerned there hasn’t been any fresh fish for a while.

  4. I shall not correct any grammar issues, I’m sure you’re under a lot of stress lounging about tactfully covering the old mans belly, but nice blog.

    1. OMG both my sons are reading our blog – it is indeed an odd time in the world. Love Mum

  5. I always enjoy reading your blog. Puts a smile on my face. Glad you are both happy and healthy!! And of course that includes Neon 😁.

    1. Good to hear from you Cynth. Hope all is well for you guys too.

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