How did the COVID-19 pandemic affect you the most?Tuesday (12th of May) was the start date for my new job in Hobart. I came to Cambridge for a post-doc, but my husband died half-way through, I clung on by my fingernails till the end of my contract, collapsed in a heap and haven’t got back up for 2 years. So the move to Hobart for a proper, professional job was real progress. First I needed to visit my mum in Scotland. At 86, who knows when, or even if I’d see her again, moving to the other side of the planet. I also need to finish dealing with my husband’s estate. Then the virus hit. I moved out of the housing co-op where nearly 100 of us live together, so I could isolate to not risk infecting Mum. I moved in with my boyfriend, 3 loads across Cambridge on the bike. We rented a car and headed north just as Australians were being urgently recalled. I couldn’t just leave without seeing Mum and sorting things out. We arrived just after my stepbrother, who was visiting from Australia, left and lockdown started. Mum, a professional housewife, shops at M&S and Waitrose. There were no delivery slots to be had and the best I could organise was phone shopping and delivery to the car boot with the Co-op, but that was too much of an adjustment for Mum, who snuck out in the car at 8am to get her dose of M&S, the first time she’s driven alone for years. Her husband, who is frail, would be very unlikely to survive the virus. After we left he did succeed in crashing the car into the side of the house, righting it off and requiring the attendance of all the emergency services. The trip back to Cambridge was a record 6 hours across an eerily deserted country, with a risk of being stopped by police. As I started to prepare for my flight, Australia and Tasmania both introduced quarantine in government facilities. This would mean a month in solitary confinement, with no access to the outside world, maybe not even telecommunications. Australia’s had good practice at this, it’s been doing it to refugees for years. Qatar Airways had cancelled one leg of my flight rebooking me on a later flight which missed the connections stranding me in Doha, and were unreachable. I contacted my employer to see if they’d had a change of heart about letting me start later or remotely. It took him 10 days to reply, saying they’d delayed the project 3 months, by which time I’d finally managed to get through to QA and rebooked my flight. If I caught the new flight I’d have to quarantine in Melbourne and Hobart, but Qantas doesn’t allow a stopover for this so I’d lose my flight to Hobart. I checked to see if I could travel by ferry instead and found that I didn’t seem to meet the travel criteria. So this is what my boss meant by ‘travel restrictions’. I contacted Jetstar, the Melbourne-Hobart carrier, and they said they would take me. Are you sure?, I asked, Your website says residents and essential workers only. Let me check. Long pause. Ok, no, we can’t take you. Time to contact my MP. Oh yes, you can travel to Tasmania. Are you sure, I asked, the ferry and the airline say ‘no’. Let me check. Next day. Oh no, sorry, you can’t come. Ok, well can you let me know how I meant to know whether I can travel or not? QA cancelled my flight again and this time said I can rebook any time. So at the moment, the plan is to go in July if they haven’t gone bust by then. In the meantime, I’ve reported the airline for not being contactable and complained to the UN about Australia’s cruel and unusual punishment of people in quarantine. People have died in there. By the time I get to Hobart, I hope I have sufficient sanity to actually do this job.
What is your wish for the future?I wish we could come out of this with a more life-loving culture. Can’t we find a way to live that allows other life to live too? The way we’re going, it’s going to be just humans and our domestic species left.
What would you like to be doing right now?If I could, I would be running my conservation start-up, but I can’t do it alone, if you know anyone who might want to help!
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