Isolation diary day 22

Ay, caramba! I won’t say “how time flies, when you’re having fun”. It has been fun, in part. Making plans, and exploring how something new will work, is always more interesting than just doing it, day in, day out. Everyone’s probably more in the latter phase now. Certain things are just a bit easier, like getting food (even loo paper, apparently). Is that because suppliers, like supermarkets, have regulated their businesses to help more people get more of the stuff they came for? Or is it because we’re more savvy about how these new arrangements work? Probably both. Notably, things that were never in short supply, like fuel (as far I know) never made the news. The reports about empty shelves in the supermarkets made “panic buying” a self-fulfilling prophecy.

We were running a bit low on some stuff ourselves, so did a second food shop this morning, getting some stuff also from the pharmacist. I rode shotgun, as usual, while my beloved did the hard yakka. I had a nice time sitting in the car having a coffee that I had taken with me, listening to ABC Classic, and buying some stuff from the Melbourne Museum shop. (25% off, BTW — ends tomorrow! Yes, that is a plug.) We got home, put the comestibles away, had some lunch, and watched another ep of Deutschland 83. (These links will point to a useful service I found called JustWatch, which is a free database of what movie or TV show is showing on which streaming service or free-to-air channel.) Afterwards we read the paper, and listened to the lunchtime program on 3MBS-FM. 

My beloved felt like some exercise, so we got togged up for an expedition. (Herself put on her vintage sheepskin coat, beanies, scarves and gloves, I reached for my puffer and the other bits.) It was quite refreshing, actually — cold, but not freezing. My puffer has a hood, but I had fortunately thought to grab a brolly for my beloved. (It got well used, with some quite lengthy showers.) After a few circuits of Wattle Park oval, we thankfully headed for home refreshed, energised, and invigorated. Cocooning is great, as long as you can get out and stretch your legs occasionally — within the rules, of course! 7,500 steps again.

We watched the last episode of Stateless a few nights ago. This series dramatised some of the stories behind the perilous journeys undertaken by asylum seekers, and the conditions under which they are detained in Australia. (See the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre policy statement on community based processing.) The involvement of actors like Cate Blanchett,  Yvonne Strahovski, Asher Keddie, Marta Dusseldorp, and Dominic West indicates that this is a serious dramatic enterprise. It was very well done. The stories are compelling.

Yet it was something we initially had to brace ourselves to watch. For me this is because we know that the policies and practices shown in this series, and which are widely supported by the Australian electorate, are plainly inhumane. Neither of the major political parties in Australia dares to even try to humanise how asylum seekers are treated, for fear of being described as being “soft on border control” by its evil twin. Yet to apply for asylum in Australia is a right enshrined in international treaties such as the International Declaration on Human Rights and the International Declaration on Refugees. We have been signatories to these monuments of international law for decades.  

After watching this show, I hauled out my library copy of No friend but the mountains, by the Iranian author and detainee Behrouz Boochani. I had started this before, but abandoned it at the beginning of our self-isolation. (It was borrowed for our book group, the meetings of which are suspended for the duration.) Watching Stateless gave the book a context, however, that made it impossible for me to overlook it any longer. Like the TV series, it was something about which I realised I had a bad conscience. No friend but the mountains was the recipient of a Victorian Premier’s Literary Award last year, winning the Victorian Prize for Literature, and the Prize for Non-Fiction. Even if it were not a good book, though, the circumstances in which the manuscript was created (as a series of text messages on the author’s mobile phone) claim our attention. Boochani wrote it this way for fear it would be confiscated. Prisoners in concentration camps and the like have used clandestine measures to write books in wartime. (Is this really happening in Australia? In peace?) The result is something that takes some getting used to, but has tremendous urgency and authenticity. I don’t think I have read a book like it, and intend to finish it this time. 

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