• Countries Visited: 17
  • Travel Wishlist: European Alps, Central & South America
  • Locked down in: Bright, Victoria, Australia

It was Disneyland. Punctuated with exclamations, ciggy breaks, drink spillages and oven-baked frozen snacks, it was like being a child at a sleepover every week.”

I experienced two rather different lockdowns this year. The first was in Geelong with my partner, my sister and her boyfriend and two friends in a house we rented from my mother. The second was in Bright in the Victorian high country after my partner and I relocated for the winter in anticipation of working the Mt. Hotham winter again.

For the most part, I’ve had a great year. I’ve been fortunate that during this difficult time I was able to maintain relationships with family, and able to have freedom in the second part after escaping the Ring of Steel. While the year has had some disappointments due to missed job opportunities, for the most part I’ve been just fine.

Which is not to say there has not been some bumps in the road.

I’m not sure if you have siblings, but if you do, I’d like you to imagine living with them again 10 years after that particular curse was lifted. The sweet transition from bitter teenage enemies into young adults who quietly enjoy each other enough to know where to leave well enough alone. Like snow leopards, each respecting each other’s territory so neither has claw the eyes out of the other and eat their children for spite.,

Add to this the dynamic of having both partners and friends in a rather small house, with one living space. Fair to say, while we get along, it is a lot to deal with.

The main difficulty with living with family once you’ve become a self-actualised adult is that you do not afford them the same tolerance or basic conversational filter that you’ve developed in your years since leaving the nest. Their slights transgressions from the norms of what you have deemed to be civilised co-habitant behaviour are not quietly absorbed and accommodated. They take you back to being 10 years old, quietly seething that you had to clean the bathroom because your sister somehow doesn’t understand the important relationship between gravity and toothpaste. It takes you back to having to watch ‘Cheaper by the Dozen’ and ‘Beethoven’ on repeat throughout your whole childhood. It takes you back to that time they did something that was obviously too stupid for a human being, so you reach the undeniable conclusion that they weren’t born, they simply slithered out of the primordial ooze into your house to make your life miserable. Probably as punishment for the time you kept the money you were supposed to put in the Church offering plate.

Things they say that differ slightly from your own opinion, or how you would have phrased and idea, are the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard. Innocuous habits like putting the pepper on the third shelf rather than the second are the acts of someone who was clearly dropped as a child.

As I am obviously without fault, living with me is a joy that some cultured and sophisticated people have the wit to see. However, I have recently become aware that there is another school of thought, if you could deem it that, that might find me to be irritating, condescending and low level obnoxious. I will leave it up to you to decide which group you think you belong to.

The cheese grater

In my 29 years upon this planet, I have found there are several adages which hold true to in almost every case. Age old wisdom that has stood the test of time. Never trust a fart. Don’t get involved in a land war in Asia. The Veet recommendation ‘not for sensitive areas’ is for your own good. This sort of stuff.  

But there is only one immutable truth of the universe, which is that nobody puts the cheese grater in the same place. However, there are some places that are stupider than others, and to all of these places, my sister subscribes. I have never come across someone caught in an internal battle with themselves about where to store the cheese grater. I understand a turf war within the house for above the stove, the utensils drawer, out in the bench where you can see it. But no, locked in an epic battle with herself. The Tupperware cabinet. The rotating pots-and-pans-in-the-cupboard- -thing. In the side of the cutlery draw. Now, one of these choices I could understand, if not accept. However, after several months of never being able to find the stupid thing in a consistent place, I asked her about it. One thing I will say for Leah, she does a lot of dishes so I assumed she was the primary cause of mystery of the moving grater.

‘Oh, I’ve got a couple of spots for it. Sometimes I like to put it here’ she said pointing at the roundabouty thing, ‘but sometimes I put it in with the Tupperware’.

‘Or I will just leave it in the dishwasher because I know where it is there’.

There are no words.

The Stupid-Sink-Grub-Catcher-Thing

The stainless-steel-slotted plug-replacement thing that is supposed to filter out grubs before they go down the drain is not a bad idea in theory. It should catch the grubs and then the water goes down, leaving you with an easy, removable way to get gunk out of the sink. I do not fault the thought process, only the execution. The thing never works. In my experience, all that happens is that people think the sink-thing will catch the grubs, forget to clear their plate into the bin and then clog the sink-slotter thing with grubs, which then leaves half a sink full of gross orange water. After which, you’re forced to grab the thing out and empty it. During the process of pulling the thing out and walking to the bin, the water drains out, taking the remaining grubs with it. Leaving them in the plughole. Which means that really all you’ve done with your stupid slotting thing is add an extra step to doing the dishes. A step which involves putting your hand in mank, orangey, leftover pasta water up to your elbow to pull out dripping mess of gunk, walk it dripping across the kitchen, only to return to a sink and wash the grubs down the sink anyway. It is about as useful as a cock flavoured lollipop. It is worse than Britney Spears’ Instagram. It is the sort of invention used by people who can only count to 10 if they’re barefoot or wearing sandals.

Sharp witted and considerate individual that I am, I took every opportunity to remove this burden from the lives of housemates. Every time I went and battled the stanky demon water to get the stupid-slotted-sink-thing out of the way, I cleverly left it out of the sink so that nobody would have to suffer through this nightmare again. All was right with the world. Drunken old men would regale their friends with tales of my heroism. Maidens would yearn for of me in the quiet places of their hearts they only dare listen to deep in the night. Children would fight for the privilege to play me in their make-believe games.

Unbeknownst to me, there was another. A mistress of the darkest arts who saw the stupid-slotted-plug-thing as the tool which could deliver the household from the sink grubs which had long plagued their fair kitchen. She sought the slotted-demon-plug-thing out of a desire to do good, not knowing that no good would come of it.

For months, these two misunderstood heroes battled back and forth in secret, quietly working for the greater good. Passing like ships in the night, they worked at crossed purposes, each believing that their cause was the most righteous, the most just, the sure way to deliver the house from grated-carrot-chunks and spinach leaves.

Finally the fair hero of our tale was set upon by the plug banshee, who unleased an attack of such ferocity one evening it felled bystanders, her words cutting through the peace our hero had delivered like a poke in the ribs with a sharp stick.

Her eyes dark with power, the shadows seemed to cling to her she emerged from the kitchen and let forth the bloodcurdling screech which would have left even the most hardy heroes quivering in fear. 

‘Can whoever keeps taking the sink-strainer thing out just fucking stop it? It’s doing my head in!’

The fury of this sorceress was so great and terrible to behold, that it turned our hero into a small boy who had no memory of his valiant acts at all. The house lived on after that, in the grubby-orange-elbow-water delivered by the stupid-stainless-steel-plug-thing and it’s powerful disciple.

The Last Dance

Our house had 6 occupants, all with diverse interests and levels of employment during the lockdown. For a time only my girlfriend was working, which left 5 of us on top of each other for the long days and monotony of isolation. This breeds its own sort of disconnection. If you have nothing on, there’s no rush to do anything. You have nothing but time. If you are working, you have been so busy that it defies belief that people could spend a whole day doing nothing.

This mostly manifested itself in me cleaning from about 1 til 4pm so when she came home, I could say ‘Ohh, I’ve barely stopped all day, been cleaning for the past 3 hours’. It also left me sometimes shaking my head and muttering, vacuuming while housemates lifted their legs for me to get the crumbs beneath them while they played video games like entitled teenagers. For the most part the joy of living with people far outstrips the frustration caused by differing standards of behaviour, cleanliness or decorum. It was great to still have people around during isolation, but it definitely strained some of the relationships from time to time.

The one thing that brought us all together at the same time was MJ Mondays, when The Last Dance documentary was dropping on Netflix. I think I speak for all of us when I say this was our favourite part of those isloation weeks. The video game boys who were operating a ‘sleep at dawn, wake at 3pm’ setup were stirred out of their vampire-like reverie to realise there were other beings in the house. Everyone else was excited to have a weekly event, and a good documentary far outstrips even the best fictional narratives. And I was beside myself with excitement. I’d been counting down to the first two episode drop of Last Dance for months. My internet habits basically consist of watching basketball highlights and getting in arguments with strangers. The opportunity to see extended MJ in his prime sated the desire for the first and provided opportunities for the second. It was a dream come true.

We prepared for this documentary each week with evening beers and darts, getting slightly pissed before parking up in front of the TV with a bottle of scotch to watch a childhood hero bully his teammates into history. It was Disneyland. Punctuated with exclamations, ciggy breaks, drink spillages and oven-baked frozen snacks, it was like being a child at a sleepover every week. Jordan allowed us to live vicariously, watching someone accomplishing something with his life, and brought us together as a house before we moved up to Bright shortly afterwards. Also Rodman. Everything Rodman.

It was a great end to our isolation times, and felt like Phil Jackson was bringing us together to put our memories in the coffee can before moving on to the next thing. Despite our lack of general decency and tolerance towards each other, my sister and I are closer than ever and our family feels more like a family than it has in long years. I am coming to the slow understanding that she may be wiser than me, thought she is still clearly an idiot.

And that was isolation round one. Tune in next time for the learning experiences of living alone with your partner for the first time. This includes such exciting and confusing areas of study as:

  • ‘What do you want to eat tonight’ and why ‘whatever you want’ is not a helpful answer.
  • The difference between ‘fine’ and ‘fine’; a study into the inflection of the female voice.
  • How to choose a film in the evening.
  • Boy looks: how you think you’ve been looking for things your whole life, but actually haven’t.
  • A perspective study on the differing meanings on the word ‘pigsty’, and  how to accept your definition of clean may render you of porcine ancestry.
  • The subtle distinction between firm plans and suggested ideas, and how the failure to clarify them is probably your fault.
  • Nice things, and how expensive they are to replace if you drunkenly break them.

Stay safe, and drink plenty of water.