Shots from the bunker by Trevor Plumbly
All together now!
One of the blokes on the radio the other day was banging on about community spirit and it struck a bit of a nerve. So I’ve taken to sitting on the porch and it’s surprising how many passers-by are happy to chat. One was a young guy from up the road who’s really into this together stuff. He urged us to stand at the gate at 7-00pm to applaud our front line workers. This evoked tales of the London blitz in WW2: the camaraderie, British Bulldogs and all that stuff.
Full of good intentions, Pam and I trooped out at 6-55, hoping to exchange neighbourly smiles and waves while waiting for the clock to tick over, but at 6-58 the street still had that Sunday morning funeral feel we’ve all got used to lately. Undeterred, even by the absence of the flag-waving boy scout from up the road, at the stroke of 7-00 we did our stuff; a passing motorist slowed at the sight of two 70-odd residents, one politely clapping, the other rattling a long white cane along the picket fence. He must have wondered whether our medication had gone awry or perhaps we’d attacked the Aussie Shiraz a bit early. As a display of neighbourhood unity it went down like a lead balloon and, feeling like extras in a rejected Monty Python skit, we retreated back inside the bunker to less public matters, like telly and the Aussie Shiraz. Lockdown? Piece of bloody cake!
Another guru cautioned me against getting stuck in a rut: some folks get off on variety, ‘spice of life’ and all that. I’m OK with that mentally, but physically it brings a few problems. I’m on the cusp sightwise: past the point of being able to rely on my remaining vision, but not yet up to tapping around with any great confidence. I’m not sure I’m cut out to be a poster boy blindy, master of my own space and oozing stoicism, but with this isolation thing, it’s an opportunity to experiment.
Experiment is a great word, with visions of blokes like Rutherford and Edison fiddling around doing Nobel Prize stuff, but it’s hardly applicable to an old blindy trying to get from A to B without falling arse over tit. I had a couple of goes at the eyes shut routine then flagged it; it’s possible, I discovered, to grope my way round the dining table three times without actually finding the salt shaker. So being an elderly Brit, I’ve decided that a good moan is the best course to follow. There’s little achievement in it, but some comfort. It can offer creative options, take the frequently lost corkscrew: it can be the accusatory, ‘I wish people would put things back where they belong’ or the plaintive, ‘don’t worry, I can’t read the bloody label anyway.’
If, as the pundits predict, our lives will be changed when this is over, it might be time for a serious look at our social framework and responsibilities. Maybe we could take a fresh look at our dependence on money: as markets crash, the value of the stuff becomes a lottery and its social worth negligible. Look at the great depression when basic human needs became essential currency. Instead of learning from that, we got back on our bikes and started worshipping paper wealth all over again, led, of course, by opportunists. For years now we’ve been spending our assets and energy on consumerism and entitlement instead of each other. Here in ‘clean green’ NZ it’s a safe assumption that there are more motor vehicles being imported than there are residents qualified to drive them. We blithely pollute rivers that used to be a food source at the same time as exporting drinkable water to countries that ignored the same warnings. Climate change anyone? As the recession deepens, will unemployment bring an increase in mortgagee sales creating another sandpit for speculators to play in?
As I said, I like a moan; it’s a personal thing for me, like religion with a bit of mischief on the side. Aimed at the politicians and Daddy Warbucks of the world, it’s relatively harmless, but with the current restrictions it’s reached national competition status. The warm fuzzies are on their way out, and the whiners are in rehearsal mode, pointing out errors in judgement, services and supply. What the hell happened to the ‘we’re all in this together’ thing we had a couple of weeks ago? Of course there were mistakes, but there was commitment and kindness too; the recovery process should be focused on those rather than the negatives, there’ll be plenty of time and, no doubt, willingness to rake those over later. Finger pointing is a common trait, but at times like this it’s harmful. So I say to those over-anxious to use it as an instrument of blame, in all our interests ‘Stick it where the sun don’t shine’.