What lockdown?

For me; retired, no mortgage, good health, a section to wander around, family near-by and pleasant surroundings, the shut-down is nothing more than a mild inconvenience. A far cry from the experience of the many people who don’t know how they’ll get by without savings, job or secure home, never mind anxiety about the looming economic depression. Even so, this ‘unpresidented’ event should be kept in perspective. Some media folk have likened the virus to war. Come on lads! And they are lads, who have more air time than they deserve. Clearly they have difficulty comparing the experiences of our grandfathers and great grandfathers who were sent away to fight in two world wars to us being asked to stay at home.

Still, what a shock to our habits. The two small groups I belong to, and took for granted, have closed down for the ‘duration,’ (a word my parents used about the war and rationing). I miss both groups. The pandemic has reminded me that email, a wonderful communications tool, and even the telephone, is a poor substitute for the spontaneous pleasure of face-to-face conversation. On the bright side, this may be an opportunity for people addicted to eyes-down, hand-held computers to discover that real conversation is a pleasure beyond words.

Some habits need a shock. I wonder what would have happened if alcohol had been declared a non-essential purchase. An opportunity for alcoholics to dry out and for thousands of drunken assaults to be prevented, or for dry drunks to go mad looking for booze and another excuse to bully their families. We’ll never know.

Yet for some workers an enforced holiday is a gift, an opportunity to start training for that marathon or to finally read all those books that have been on the shelf for ages begging to be read, or to finish projects around the house and garden.

And for others who hate exercise and DIY equally, there’s Netflix, which should come with a warning about over-eating while watching the telly and risking getting too fat to get back to work.

I watched episodes of The Crown, a superb production which is so convincing it finally made me too uncomfortable to continue watching. In my view it is grossly insensitive and disrespectful to the Queen. This may seem an odd view for me to take, first because I doubt if the Queen, even in her nineties, has the time to watch television in the evening, and second because I’m a republican. I have always been perplexed and at times angered by the way we call ourselves a democracy yet  allow a monarchy with aristocratic hangers-on the Right of Inherited Rule. It is too bizarre to spend time thinking about, and yet, the Queen has earned my respect. If we must have a queen, what an example of hard work, dedication and sacrifice. What a woman!

Making up intimate scenes and private conversations between this woman and members of her family is taking creative licence beyond unethical to the unscrupulous. It suggests standards and   respect for privacy have been abandoned for the sake of ratings. Which is a pity because The Crown is one of the few good shows that does not rely on cops and ever more gross killing and strung out episodes to include more and more contrived and unbelievable endings.

On the other hand, Unbelievable, an eight part series about a girl who reports being raped and is not believed, is genuine. There are no contrived plot points and no conventionally beautiful women. In fact one of the women has an exceptionally wrinkled face and comes across as an engaging character. The acting is spot on. The two main detective characters have sound marriages, neither is an alcoholic or drug user or is haunted by an abusive background or has any gimmick ‘spectrum’ traits for magically solving cases. It is all hard, systematic, frustrating police work. And yet the result is a brilliant production, as good as anything I’ve seen on television.      

It is questionable if performances of this calibre are replicated in our own pandemic politics, which has certainly been different for the last few weeks. Someone said, ‘Everyone’s a socialist during a pandemic.’ So will the almost universal blessing of the government’s even-handed business and welfare financial package move us back to a welfare society? Because this package has ‘wellbeing.’ all over it. No? Okay, I was dreaming.

Still, I never thought I’d feel sorry for Simon Bridges, but what bad luck, just when the government’s looking shaky in election year, the prime minister is given an opportunity to demonstrate daily on prime time television her excellent management and superb communication skills. Who’d be an opposition leader now?

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Chris Horan

Chris is a former social worker, probation officer and Family Court counsellor, living in Hawea in the South Island.