It’s a pandemic … Please sit down
When I was a young child we played a game, often at birthday parties, called musical chairs. We would walk in a circle around a group of chairs with lively music playing in the background. Suddenly the music would stop and we would scramble to secure one of the chairs. There was always one less chair than there were participants.
The arrival of the recent pandemic reminded me of that game. Our lives had been swirling at an ever-faster pace, trying to take in more and more, until we had consumed the world. We were always dashing to a mainland city, a shack on the water, an overseas trip, a cruise across the seas or respite on a tropical island. Then all of a sudden we were told to stop all this movement, sit down and not move. It was a shock to our frantic way of life.
After the shock set in, we looked around, more closely than ever, at our immediate surroundings. I am lucky. My home is a mid-sized city that is pleasant, walkable and situated on an island with a magnificent harbour, rich sources of local food and abundant trails. The city has become calmer. The throngs of tourists and lineups of buses and cruise ships disgorging thousands have suddenly evaporated. It is our town again. The boats gently bob in the harbour, the gardens flourish and there is a sense of serenity and quiet. Not a bad place to have to sit on a chair for a while.
In my situation, I am talking about the City of Victoria, the Capital City of the Canadian Province of British Columbia, on Vancouver Island, splendidly isolated from Vancouver and mainland Canada. I could as easily be in Hobart, more specifically, Battery Point. Through friendship, I have been visiting Battery Point since 1972. If there was another place I had to sit for a while, what better choice could there be than Battery Point with its harbour views and proximity to the Derwent River, enabling people to stroll past the historic homes down to the Hobart waterfront?
In Victoria there has been a noticeable increase in civility. As we walk and encounter, at a safe distance, everyone engages with a greeting and a smile. It is a magnificent spring right now and our parks and gardens are resplendent in the colours of the blossoms and flowers. There is much less traffic and it is noticeably quieter. While our shopkeepers and artisans are suffering, there is a growing swell of support to purchase locally from those who grow food, those who prepare food and those who are being creative in a thousand small ways. Many of us are contacting local restaurants to order take-out meals and staying in touch with other favourite merchants. Most of us who had pre-purchased theatre tickets and other arts events are waiving refunds and taking a tax receipt instead.
We don’t know how and when it will all be over but maybe, just maybe, we will have a greater appreciation of our homes and our neighbours. Maybe the lungs of the planet will breathe more freely. We are missing our Jazzfest this summer, our Gay Pride Parade, our Canada Day celebrations, our Swiftshire Yacht races, our Buskerfest, our Cook Street Village Party, our Oak Bay Tea Party, our Moss Street Art Walk and many other events. But they will return and will seem more special than ever.
Maybe it’s good the music stopped and we had to sit still for a while. We have the most wonderful Provincial Health Officer, Dr Bonnie Henry, who speaks to us every day. She always ends with the same line: ‘Be kind, keep calm and stay safe.’ That would be my wish for the wonderful people and friends in Battery Point.