The Band Plays Again: Short Fiction

Those of you who have been following along will know I like to write short fiction and I am a very keen fan of the Australian Writers Centre Furious Fiction Competition. The once a month competition has been revamped to be only once every three months. I’m disappointed that my monthly writing prompts have been whisked away. I know I will be less inclined to write without the monthly prod.

This story is inspired by true events from April 2021. In NSW, we were between lock downs and I had taken a short road trip with my grandson. We were glamping in a caravan park. I envisaged the story to be written in three parts from different points of view.

This is Part 1 – my own viewpoint. Unashamedly, there are lots of Australian references which may be baffling to a wider audience. If you’ve not heard of Cold Chisel check them out, they are a quintessential Aussie pub band.

No doubt we’ll start seeing movies and books based on Covid and it’s affects on our lives.

The Band Play Again – Robyn’s Story

Robyn’s finger was firmly jammed into her ear in a vain attempt to block out the road noise. 

Conveniently located close to the Newell Highway” the ad for the holiday park had stated.

“Hmmph, very fucking conveniently!” she thought “So convenient the trucks sound like they are about to run over the tent.”

Then a whistle blew, followed by the steady ka-thump ka-thump ka-thump of a slow train rattling on the tracks.

“Oh great! A freight train!” She rolled over and switched fingers.  

A new noise entered the tent. Unfamiliar but familiar. She withdrew the wedged finger. Music? Live music? A crowd cheering and hooting. The bass drum a dull thud, but a thud no less. She listened more intently. “What are they singing? Is it Khe Sanh?” She picked up the lyrics in her head and began to mouth the words. “Yep, Khe Sahn.” She smiled.   By the way the crowd were reacting, it could have been Jimmy himself performing.

Her smile was followed by the wider realisation that this was the first live music she’d heard in over a year. Some of the restrictions had been eased. You could walk around with your beer. You could dance AND sing and bands could play.

Despite the fact that it was keeping her awake she couldn’t but help feel the joy as she imagined those happy rockers who were finally out playing again.

Judging by the set-list they had to be over 55. It was all old stuff. Not all Oz Rock but all from the ‘70s and ’80s. I bet they were all wearing black jeans and had skinny legs. Some band’s logo (probably AC/DC) would be emblazoned across their chest. Tufts of white hair sticking out from their neck lines. The lead singer would have long hair. Long, grey wiry hair that should have been cut 30 years ago. Their leathery faces cracked by the Australian sun would make them look older than they really were and the years of hard drinking and smoking added another decade.

Distant chimes of the town’s clock struck twelve, interrupting the music and heralding the fact that the band would have to stop soon. The bar staff would have already started collecting the glasses and offering last drinks. On cue, at 12:05, the band did stop and the crowd whistled and jeered in disappointment.

MORE! MOOORRRE! MOOORRREE! They were crying out. This special evening obviously finishing too early for the COVID starved crowd. 

The band began again. The crowd settled and another classic of the ‘80s crossed the road and swirled around her tent. Billy Jean? That seemed like an odd choice. Perhaps it was the only other song they knew. 

Two more songs and they were done. The crowd was less insistent on them returning to the stage and soon the sound of squealing utes (they had to be utes, after all, this was Dubbo) filled the void. 

She drifted off to sleep thinking how lucky we had been here in Australia. How sensible we had all been following the restrictions, after all, people were still dying like flies in the UK and the US. Little did she know.

This is a ute (short for Utility)

Parts 2 and 3?

I haven’t written the next bits yet! This part was written in May 2021. We are still muddling along with Covid and not as lucky anymore! Gary one of the wiry grey headed band members will tell his story and Alicia a young woman in the crowd will go home with her drunken abusive partner.

The New Normal

Back in 2020 when we had our first big taste of COVID, when all the world was locked in and celebrities got together to do online concerts to keep their own and the world’s spirits up, we began to talk about the new normal

Back in 2020 when most of the world’s cars and planes were off the road and out of the sky, the air was crystal clear and the horizon went that bit further.  We talked about the new normal enthusiastically. (We especially welcomed those clear skies in eastern Australia after a summer of fire.)

When many of the office-bound workers and their bosses figured out you could actually work from home more productively and cut out that commute, we got really excited about the new normal.

The new normal in 2021

In 2021, when we were yo-yo-ing between lockdowns, learning from home, getting our jabs we felt a ripple of pride. Even though we were locked in, at least the hospitals were coping. The infection rate was heading in the right direction. The supermarket shelves were full. No one was panic buying toilet paper anymore! Ha! That was so 2020!!  

The new normal was just becoming “how we have to do it around here”. We had our routine down pat with our day briefly punctuated by our 11 o’clock coffee for Gladys’ presser. Oh my, we’d say, 600 cases in one day! 

The newer normal in 2022

Then came Freedom Day and here in NSW, we had a change in Premier. This change coincided rather neatly with a change in COVID variant. As it turns out, those coinciding events have come to be a perfect storm. 

Dom said it’s time we got used to this virus and learnt to live with it. We need to save the economy. Let it rip. And rip it has. 

Sums it up well! (Source: Timeout Magazine)

As you know infection rates have soared, hospitals already under stress are now close to breaking point.  Medical staff who haven’t had a chance to rest since 2020 are now sick themselves.  According to the ABC, nearly 50% of the workforce in NSW are off work due to the effects of COVID. They are either sick or isolated because of being a close contact.  

Dom and Scott decided the best way to deal with this emergency was to change the rules about isolation. Shorten the time and tinker with the definition of close contact. 

HELLO????? Hello, leaders????  

Um, I’m no epidemiologist but won’t that just mean that MORE of our essential workers will get COVID??

Supermarket shelves are now empty, not because of panic buying but because truckies are home with a fever and the food industry has no one to run its production lines. 

Good job on saving the economy, boys! Things are worse now than when we were locked down. This is not the new normal we were looking for.

I sure hope you kept growing those veggies you planted in 2020. You’re really going to need them this time. 

Freedom day In Greater Sydney

Freedom Day? October 11th 2021.

Today has been unofficially labelled as “Freedom Day” for people in NSW and especially those of us in Greater Sydney. We have been in lockdown since June 16. We started with Lockdown Lite followed by full-strength lockdown since 28th June. Today, the Monday after the State reached 70% fully vaxxed, we are getting out! But not completely. 

The shops will be open, not just the essential ones. Cafes and restaurants will be open under various density rules that limit the number of people who may enter. We can have up to ten people  visit our homes. We can ditch the masks when we are outside but still need them indoors. The “roadmap” is long and precise. 

Everything you need to know!

Tourist in your own town.

We can travel beyond our LGA but we can not leave Greater Sydney and conversely, regional people can not travel to Greater Sydney. We have to wait till 80% vaxxed for that. There’s no firm date for the 80% day, but it will be some time in early November. By December 1 2021, everyone including those confined to the “leper colonies” of the unvaxxed, will be allowed to do basically anything with no density or occupancy limits. I guess this means for the next little while we will all be tourists in our own town or city.

Finding little delights while out COVID-walking

Nervous Nellys?

I have to admit I am a little anxious about going back out into the big wide world, and I know that there are plenty of other nervous Nellys like me. Will people go crazy and forget to keep their distance? Will there be a spike in numbers? (The answer to that is yes, of course there will be!) Will the lockdown we have just endured be for nought? I hope not. 

It doesn’t help that our Premier, Gladys quit last week and the new fellow seems like a backward sort of person who supported Trump! He made some significant changes to the roadmap including bringing schools back a week early while still demanding all teachers are vaxxed before they can return. Many teachers have bookings but can’t get the jab in time, but they won’t be allowed to come to school. Just who will take their classes?

Keeping a low profile

I have decided I’m going to continue to keep a low profile until we reach the 80% target. I am fully vaxxed, but that does not mean I am not capable of being a transmitter. Some of my work colleagues are very vulnerable and I don’t want to put them at risk.

Besides that, I quite liked some of the aspects of lockdown. Not ”having” to go out. Saving truckloads of money. Enjoying walks after dinner. Picnics. Outdoor crafternoons with a singles buddy. I am hoping these habits stay after today. The thought of going back to a noisy pub or restaurant as the preferred entertainment option does not fill me with joy. At least lockdown gave me a good excuse to pamper my introverted side.

More COVID-walking!

I am rather glad that the craft stores will be open though! 🙂