Here in South Fremantle everything has changed – and yet nothing has changed. We bask in the privilege that our locality bestows. Peaceful streets, laneways and cul-de-sacs, renovated limestone cottages, larger houses revealing architectural flair, rows of townhouses, modern apartments and kerbside gardens. Sanctuaries like Parmelia Park and South Beach within walking distance. And South Terrace, with all its commercial eccentricities, not the least of which are the coffee shops, mercifully still open for takeaway caffeine and patisseries.
Yes, we can continue to bask in that privilege. Yet, of course, it is a Brave New World to which we awaken each day. A tiny virus has turned us upside down – both locally and globally. In our own way, we are all coming to terms with this strange and sudden upheaval.
Music can be a blessing and a balm. Operatic sounds drift across the rooftops. Somebody on Lefroy likes Verdi. Outside the Third Wheel, a busker brightens the day. Coffee-huggers stand at discreet distances, sharing the gossips of the morning.
We park at South Beach. For some unfathomable reason, there always seem to be more cars than people. Not so many vans, though. Perhaps the backpackers migrated to Broome before the borders closed. Adjacent to the café, the regular swimming group recap their daily ocean progress. Conversation seems to swirl around how many metres each have accomplished. Like other conversations, in the park, and on the beach, participants keep their distance. Awareness levels have certainly risen – not perfect, if the letter of the law was to be observed, but seemingly safe and sensible.
Not everyone is as accommodating. We make way for a lumpkin who trudges down the centre of the track to the beach. ‘I don’t buy that,’ he grunts, as my wife indicates she is trying to maintain due separation.
Thankfully, this attitude is not shared by most beachgoers. Physical distancing is accepted and maintained. Our greatest fear is that beaches will be closed and though we don’t want to become policemen and policewomen, some of us feel obliged to remind stray transgressors of their community responsibility. Unlike northern beaches, we have not yet seen a sustained uniformed presence, let alone a drone circling above. But we know that day may still come.
This morning there are more people about. And why not? Glorious early autumn sunshine, a faint breeze and every cell in the body demanding a stint outdoors. Swimming, gardening, walking or simply sitting quietly under a tree. Perfect weather, 10 out of 10.
Leaving economics aside (if that’s possible), there’s an invitation to seek out the positives. My guess is that people will find ways to help themselves and to help others. Hopefully, this may inculcate a wider and deeper sense of community. We in Fremantle can succumb to self-praise – that we are sharing, caring mob. This can be a trap, if not reflected in how we actually behave. Now, in Corona-time, we are given a wonderful opportunity to practice what we might have preached. We can do this, everyone, in ways great and small. For every curmudgeon who wants to incessantly grumble about restrictions, blame the government, or abdicate any personal responsibility – there are a hundred good souls willing to take a deep breath and embrace this bizarre period as an offering to grow and to learn. Inherently, that is a positive thing.
Whether I am sitting in my eyrie penning these words or enjoying appropriate outdoor exercise, I’m aware that none of us is truly alone. There is an inter-connectivity that binds us as humans and to our environment. Going about our normal, daily lives, we can forget that. Our very busy-ness can consume us. But now, in Corona-time, that rug has come out from underneath. We are being tested in a different way. Let’s hope the better angels of our nature will dance and sing and deepen our connections as the days, weeks and months unfold.