Getting cut off

If there had been a pandemic when I was a kid, I don’t think I’d have noticed many changes to my life.

I grew up in Newcastle in the ‘70s. Lives were much smaller back then. Our most exotic family holidays were a couple of trips to Surfers Paradise. The rest of my school breaks were spent at my grandparents’ place in Port Stephens.

My companion on those Port Stephens holidays was my sister. We went to the beach or the river for swims, we played board games, we watched tellie. It was a simple life and we loved it.

Our only takeaway was the occasional Golden Gaytime from the corner store. My grandparents didn’t even do weekly grocery shops. They’d drive half an hour to Raymond Terrace once a month and stock up in bulk. There was a chest freezer in the kitchen for all the meat and the decrepit vegies were still used long after they’d have been binned in my modern-day household.

Back home, we rarely went to restaurants during my childhood and suburban Chinese was about as fancy as it got. Our weekly treat was Kentucky Fried Chicken on a Saturday night.

Afternoons and weekends were spent exploring the bushland behind our house or hanging out with the other kids in our street.

Not much would have changed if COVID had struck, other than schools closing. The only thing that would have shattered my world would have been if the government had banned visiting grandparents. Aside from that, I’d have been living much the same life as usual.

Kids were far less aware of current affairs back then. My knowledge came from the nightly NBN news and a set of encyclopedias in our hallway. I didn’t even leave Australia until I was 21, when I flew to Hawaii with my mum for a week (and was mistaken by the flight attendant for a teenaged boy, due to my short hair and penchant for wearing men’s clothing and baseball caps).

Things are much different in 2021. My elderly parents live in Newcastle and I haven’t seen them for most of this year and the majority of last.

I miss being able to socialise, eat out and travel. I now have extensive knowledge of how much fun those things can be and it’s blah that I’m stuck at home.

It’s also stressful to be a freelancer during a pandemic. I don’t like uncertainty and freelancing is full of it.

I got a message from MyGov yesterday informing me that my government benefits had been cut off because I hadn’t been reporting my income. I’m supposed to tell Centrelink every fortnight how many hours I’ve worked and how much money I’ve made.

I’d somehow missed the message reminding me to report in mid-August, so I was struck off with nary a warning. There had been a niggle in the back of my mind that something was amiss, but I was distracted by the demands of keeping the ship afloat as a single mum.

I sat on the phone waiting to talk to Centrelink for about half an hour and then the nicest woman helped me sort it out. I was so impressed and relieved by her kindness and patience.

She also explained that I need to be registered as a sole trader due to my current circumstances, and is sending me out the paperwork. Bless her.

I have no idea where all the resources are coming from to keep the country afloat during this interminable lockdown.

We might not want the cases of COVID to keep rising, but we can’t afford to keep everything locked down forever.

OK, I’d better face the day. It’s a busy one in the HotHouse Kitchen – sticky beef spare ribs and beans, chicken curry and meatballs with Mediterranean pasta salad – plus two client websites that need updating. I need to get cracking!

I hope all is well in your world.

Song of the day: Skyhooks “Living in the 70s”

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