This column is for anyone who in the past 24 hours has watched more than one social media post of Italians singing from their balconies or svelte young women learning how to be Jedi warriors or cheer leaders to get through social isolation/quarantine.
Back in prehistory when I was a kid, we practiced social isolation regularly. We called them ''weekends''. Shops shut at lunch time Saturday, tram and buses mostly stopped running, few people had cars and one did not go surfing or play football on Sunday, or not if Grandma was watching. Though you could play backyard cricket or table tennis. Grandma was a four-foot-eight-inch backyard cricket and table tennis master.
But people did stuff. Blokes built each other's boats or caravans. Women ''ran up'' a dress, which did not mean stampeding for the New Year sales but making a garment, usually from the material from an old dress gone thin under the arms. Kids made go carts, flying foxes, taught each other how to fall off a tightrope, dug large pits under the house hunting for fossils or pirate treasure, watered the strawberries, washed the dog or performed a short opera on the veranda watched only by a caged cockatoo and a cat, though come to think of it, the cat may have been watching the cockatoo. I also read books, which subverted me sufficiently to lead the life I live now.
The best way not to be bored is to do your own living, instead of having a slice of vicarious life via a screen. (Books are not vicarious life because the reader has to create them in their mind's eye - every work of fiction is a collaboration between author and reader.)
Here's 10 ideas to get you started:
1. Buy/build a window box, or install a rail in the middle of your sunniest window, suitable for hanging small pots. Someone asked me two days ago if they could grow tomatoes or lettuce in winter in Canberra. I told them they'd need a heated greenhouse but I could have said ''put a window box in the sunniest, warmest room in the house''. Plant a cherry tomato and a few cut-and-come-again lettuces, feed well and keep.
2. Buy a couple of ''grow lights'' and turn half the living room into a winter green house. I've never used grow lights but have recently bought a couple. It was only when the store offered me humidity-free containers to store my ''stash'' that I realised their other customers may not have been after winter lettuces. (I'll let you know how the lettuce growing goes.)
3. Plant a herb garden because thyme, marjoram et al are hard to kill and because if you add herbs to all the pasta and rice being wheeled in bulk from supermarkets, you might end up with something that tastes good. The ''cuisine of poverty'' of a hundred years ago is now healthy and fashionable. I won't say ''plant lots'' or there might be a run on thyme as well as toilet paper.
4. Plant a burglar deterring prickly cactus garden under accessible windows. It may not stop the burglars but you'll hear them swearing. Cactus gardens are also mostly unkillable unless you overwater them or a burglar squashes them.
5. Find a fruit tree. Pick the fruit. Make jam. Twelve jars of jam on the windowsill give a sense of achievement and serenity.
6. Build a flying fox. Look for someone else's instruction on how to do this so you can blame them if someone breaks a collar bone. You don't need a big backyard for a flying fox to be fun, though a communal flying fox might be a good way of getting to know the neighbours.
7. Build a barbeque or dig a fire pit. The emphasis here is on ''build'' and ''dig'', not ''go out and buy one''. A fire pit is fun, even if you already have a barbeque. Check with council and bushfire regulations before using it. If you are really keen, build a pizza oven - there are many online sites with instructions. An outdoor pizza oven is also an excellent way to warm a Canberra winter courtyard.
8. Plant a hedge of fruit trees.
9. Plant a hedge of fruit trees for your Mum.
10. Build your Mum a pizza oven in time for Mother's Day, or even a flying fox. I bet she'll love it.
This week I am:
- Buying lemons. For the first time in over 40 years I don't have any home grown ones, nor will have till next year. Bought lemons do not taste as lemony as home grown ones. They are also surprisingly expensive for someone who uses six lemons a day.
- Picking roses. Many roses. Even Possum X who lives in the ceiling above my study can't make a dent in all the rose growth just now. It's glorious, for humans and possums.
- Cutting back wood that died in the drought before it rots and the rot spreads to tree roots.
- Celebrating the new green shoots on our one azalea, that seemed deceased for six months. For some reason the wallabies don't eat it, though they have gobbled every other kind I've tried here. I should probably graft 100 from it.
- Watching the big clumps of golden nerines bloom. One year I will even get around to planting more.
- Deeply missing the sour cherry jam I should have made in January, but every fruit tree here sensibly decided not to crop this year. Do not be seduced by sweet cherries or sweet oranges if you are a jam or marmalade maker. Sour cherries and Seville orange may lack sugar but they have a richer deeper flavour and are extremely hard to find these days unless you grow your own.