Shepparton News

Raining flowers in a COVID cloud

- MY WORD John Lewis john.lewis@ sheppnews.com.au ● John Lewis is a journalist at The News.

Here we are in the eye of the storm.

Outside, everything is calm and tranquil. It looks like a beautiful spring day out there. But it’s a digital nightmare vision of reality. Lots of lovely sunshine and buildings — but the people have gone. It’s a silent spring.

Neverthele­ss, there are real f lowers to be found.

I thought this was going to be another lockdown. I thought no worries, I’ve been through a few lockdowns. I’m a lockdown veteran. Hunker down in front of the fire, pour a glass of Woop Woop Shiraz from out the back somewhere and settle in for a few days of poetry, guitar and home-grown pumpkin soup, interrupte­d by a dog walk and a pound on the keyboard to earn some cash.

But no, this one is different.

The stark reality of a lockdown where one third of the population has disappeare­d was a closed glass door with a taped sign that said: Dear customers. We are currently closed due to being a Tier 2 exposure site. We apologise for any inconvenie­nce.

Two weeks ago, I would have assumed Tier 2 referred to a luxury hotel’s mezzanine floor. Now we are all so familiar with the COVID jargon I knew we were in real trouble.

If supermarke­ts are closing, we’re only one Kalashniko­v away from Beirut-style shopping.

If this closure notice appeared on my hairdresse­r’s door I could have carried on regardless and avoided mirrors. But this was my supermarke­t. There’s only so long I can live on dry cornflakes and wholemeal biscuits with no cheese. Eventually, Prince Finski will get angry and demand fresh chicken necks with his dried food and then we’re all in trouble — including the magpies.

It was dark when I approached the closed doors of the supermarke­t and saw a few people milling around, looking as dazed as I felt. Was this a rip in the fabric of time and we were now living in post-war Berlin under Soviet rationing? There was a lady at the door telling people the place was closed and please go home. I felt sorry for her. It was a rough job, but she was the last employee standing at the door on that cold, dark night.

A fellow in a supermarke­t jacket, probably a forklift guy, drove past in a ute and rolled down his window, shouting ‘‘sorry we’re closed’’. He wasn’t angry. He was just as bewildered and anxious as we were.

My fellow thwarted shoppers pulled up our hoodies and walked back to our cars in the windswept car park. No cornflakes, no cheese, no beer, no chicken necks.

I drove home through the town, through the empty streets and the flickering traffic lights. There was a gathering mist of desperatio­n hovering over the buildings and the pavements.

The next day was another digital nightmare of blue skies and sunshine.

I had to interview Jeremy Rensford, the tenaciousl­y positive and vibrant chairman of Shepparton FoodShare about the charity’s search for new premises and how they were coping with increasing demand from struggling families in this descending COVID cloud.

He said they were doing okay and that the community was wrapping itself around them and offering help and that GV Cares had stepped into the frame and was doing an amazing job, the Sikhs were cooking, and already struggling businesses were offering help with deliveries.

We stood in a yard, busy with forklifts and delivery vans.

When it came time for a photo we asked Jeremy to remove his mask. A bloke in a hi-vis vest walked past and yelled out, ‘‘I hope you’ve got insurance for that camera lens!’’

I thought, yep, we’ve got more than insurance. We’ve got the whole town covering us.

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 ??  ?? We may be living under a dark COVID cloud . . . but there are still flowers to be found.
We may be living under a dark COVID cloud . . . but there are still flowers to be found.

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