For most of this year, I have joked that the “COVID fairies” must really like me. Until March, I had been living in New York for the past decade until the expat guilt (and mass exodus of many friends who were over spending their life savings on renting tiny studio apartments) made me decide to head on back to the Emerald City.
As my friends and I threw back some bubbles and spent my last night in the city that is essentially the love of my life, they begged me to change my flight and stay “just one more week.” I was almost tipsy enough to be persuaded but ultimately realized that I couldn’t bear another round of gut wrenching goodbyes, and caught my scheduled flight.
One week later, I watched the news in tears as I saw my beloved city shutdown as many of my favourite bars and restaurants that had already been struggling, announced their permanent closures. While my friends completely understood why I was so heartbroken, they also pointed out how lucky I was to have escaped just in time.
Even as Sydney started to shut down in response to its own surging numbers, I thanked my lucky stars that I was in such a beautiful part of the world replete with stunning bush tracks and coastal walks on which to take my daily hour of permitted exercise.
I felt even more lucky when our restrictions lifted fairly quickly, allowing us to step cautiously back into our pre-lockdown lives, guiltily relaying details of in-person happy hour catch ups over FaceTime to friends in New York and London who hadn’t seen anything outside of their four walls in months.
Thanks to our impressive response to the pandemic, I was able to still celebrate my birthday with friends, spend quality time with my Mum who is considered at-risk due to her age and go on a first date with the man I now share a home and am planning a future with.
Like I said, lucky.
Alas, nothing lasts forever and so, much like Quibi, planking and the marriage of Brad and Jen, so too did my lucky streak end because I live on the Northern Beaches and as you probably know, we’re kind of not welcome anywhere right now.
When news first broke that a cluster of COVID cases had appeared on the “insular peninsula”, I’ll admit I wasn’t terribly worried. Like many people, I had become rather complacent in our “post-COVID” world and, because the cases appeared to be the problem of Avalon (I live in North Manly) I just enjoyed the hilarious memes and carried on planning my partner’s surprise party for December 19th.
This surprise party, by the way, had been a beast to organise as I tried to keep up with ever-changing restrictions and organising for a big group of people to find baby-sitters during the busiest and most expensive time of the year. Not to mention the difficulty of keeping such a massive secret from the person I spend more time with than any other.
So, when NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced on Friday December 18 that the cluster had grown by another 28 cases, my heart sank as I realised that the likelihood of the surprise party going ahead had basically evaporated. Of course, this is hardly the end of the world. There are people separated from loved ones, struggling with unemployment and whose businesses have suffered incredible losses due to this virus. Not to mention the 1.66 million people who have died from it globally. So yeah, a cancelled surprise party is not a big deal, so I cried for five minutes, told my (completely blown away partner) the sad news and waited for the next update.
Of course, that update came in the form of being told on Saturday December 19 that all residents of the Northern Beaches were in lockdown as of 5pm that afternoon (I guess the virus had stuff to do during the day or was kind enough to give us a few hours to stock up on snacks and wine.)
We dug up our masks and headed to Warringah Mall to get groceries and, because my partner likes to leave things until the last minute, my Christmas gifts (exasperated sigh). The outing allowed us to see that most people were following government suggestions to wear masks and that people were largely adhering to social distancing rules once more after months of being rather relaxed in that department. Also great to see was the very long line of people waiting to get tested at the end of our street.
That night, I tried my best to throw my first ever “lockdown” birthday, insisting that my partner and I still get dressed up and drink champagne as I prepared his requested meal of Snapper Pie (recipe courtesy of the sadly now closed Boathouse at Blackwattle Bay) and tried to repurpose some Thanksgiving table decor into “restaurant quality” stylishness.
As I toasted to my soulmate’s birthday and the (hopefully better) year ahead, I once again found myself reflecting on how fortunate I feel. Yes, the curse of COVID finally caught up to me after months of remaining unscathed by it, but if it means being trapped in a beautiful house with my best mate, then I’ll happily take it. And, if Christmas is cancelled, we get to eat a 4kg ham and a kilo of prawns all to ourselves so there’s that too.
Many jokes are made about the “cliqueiness” of the Northern Beaches, it’s been like that for as long as I can remember (I went to High School here), and this latest news has brought forth a ton of new material ranging from suggestions to leave the Spit Bridge up and my favourite tweet which read “Northern Beaches residents asked not to leave, leaving millions of plans unchanged.” Lol.
In fact, I myself am guilty of poking fun at my part of the world, joking to my friend, and TheLatch— entertainment editor Anita, that at least the Northern Beaches is finally being seen as a “hot spot” – even if it is for an abundance of a deadly virus and not a bunch of trendy places to go out.
Jokes aside, it makes me proud to not only be a Northern Beaches resident, but an Australian, as I see how we all knuckle down and follow the guidelines in these situations so that others might suffer a little less.
As numbers continue to skyrocket in the country I called my home for so many years, I can’t help but wish the citizens of America could find a little Aussie sprirt themselves so that we might finally put this nightmare behind us once and for all.
The health crisis is ever-evolving. If you suspect you or a family member has coronavirus you should call (not visit) your GP or ring the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.