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As part of my house arrest, I spent five months in isolation. But this time around, I see nothing but positivity and opportunity.
With millions of Australians out of work, thousands of businesses ‘in hibernation’ and teetering on the brink of extinction, I hope this Hinch take on the coronavirus lockdown is not seen as frivolous. But, lockdown? Social isolation? Been there, done that.
Last time I did it, it was called ‘house arrest’ and I spent five months in isolation. I also spent two weeks in solitary confinement in a tiny Melbourne prison cell at the start of my last stint in jail. The same one, the same floor, where George Pell spent his early months in the slammer. The cells were so small that, standing, I could touch both walls with outstretched hands. And I’m no six-footer.
The small, hard bed was crosswise under the barred window. Pell, at six-foot-plus, would have been cramped.
Back to the voluntary lockdown. You do get used to your own company. I have written before about a journalistic trick amongst adversity and such unusual experiences as house arrest. You start to think of yourself in the third person. Thirty-five years ago, I sat outside myself and watched Hinch convicted and jailed for my campaign against Father Michael Glennon, a paedophile priest. It was the genesis of Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party and my foray into the Senate.
I sat outside myself and watched Hinch get cancer, have a transplant, recover and get into politics.
With solitude you think more, read more, write more, and certainly cook more. I was not surprised that, after the dunny paper stampede, flour became as rare as hen’s teeth. People have been cooking up a storm and Instagram and Twitter have been graced with impressive shots of beautiful, crispy loaves of browned home-cooked bread.
With solitude you think more, read more, write more, and certainly cook more.
Luckily, we are still allowed to get out and walk, jog, or ride a bike during the lockdown or we would be a nation of waddlers when things get back to semi-normal. And we didn’t exactly start out as the sveltest nation.
Under house arrest (just post-transplant) a doctor’s certificate gave me permission to leave my apartment for one hour a day to exercise in the courtyard. Wearing my ever-present bulky ankle bracelet, I shuffled around (79 steps per circuit) and relished the fresh air.
After one excursion, I was alerted by those who rule that I was in breach of my house arrest conditions and taken by police car to prison HQ in Carlton. There, two stern-faced officials advised me I was in danger of having my court-ordered house arrest revoked and being sent to jail.
When I asked for details of the offence, I was advised it happened on August 6 and the ankle bracelet had advised I was late getting back to my apartment.
When I ascertained that August 6 was a Saturday I said: “I live in a large apartment block. People move in and out on Saturdays. There are only two lifts and I live on a high floor”.
Then I asked how late was I.
“28 seconds? I didn’t have time to go to fucking Paris, did I? And who says your clock is right and mine wasn’t?”
They sent me home.
Another big difference between house arrest and the current lockdown is that I was banned from using social media for five months. (Bliss, some of you would say).
I was actually officially cautioned when my executive assistant sent an email on my behalf. They checked my computer every visit.
Another big difference is that, under my lockdown conditions, alcohol was forbidden. I had surprise knocks on the door at 9.30pm to be breath-tested by police. They waived the urine test.
Far cry from the current lockdown where, reportedly, liquor sales are up by 80%, we have seen panic buying at Dan Murphy’s on the TV news and weekend drinkers are now drinking daily to pass the time and ease the boredom. The question is: will those drinkers revert to the norm when Australia (sort of) reverts to the norm?
There’s a lot of DIY in lockdown. Bunnings is booming. Things being done that were in that category of “I must get around to it”.
That jogged a memory. In New Zealand, my parents had a circular sign on the wall that said: “This is a round tuit. It is for all those people who said: ‘I must get around to it’”.
To finish on a positive note. Coincidentally, I posted a Facebook note about the lockdown and I wrote: “I’m very lucky. In this coronavirus lockdown we are enduring, I have a wonderful, tranquil, open-air balcony to escape to, and to contemplate the proverbial navel – unlike some people trapped alone in small apartments and flats. And, to make it even better, my balcony plants are flowering like crazy. In autumn”.
So. Stay safe. Stay home. Download the app. Let’s beat this scourge.