If my tennis racquets could speak (forgive me but I have just been reading a persuasive New Yorker piece in which a woman's shoes in her closet ask her pandemic-themed questions about their underemployment) they'd surely indignantly ask me why they've not been taken out of their tennis bag for three weeks.
They're used to fresh air and vigorous use several invigorating sweat-raising times a week.
If I told tell them, truthfully, that it's all because the chief minister of our capital territory has specifically forbidden the playing of tennis (and of golf), that our tennis club's courts are padlocked shut, they, my handsome Princes, would not believe their ears.
"As if!" they'd scoff.
"This is a liberal democracy. Our politicians don't tell us when and where and what we can play. C'mon Ian. What's the real reason we can't go out and play?"
There are unprecedented weirdnesses about Australian democratic life during this pandemic. Bigger and better minds than mine are attending to these same things and a recent edition of ABC Radio National's The Minefield had three public intellectuals brainily attending to these things.
One of them, Scott Stephens, set the stage with the true observation that "the Covid pandemic is changing, transforming our conception of democratic life, our democratic habits, our relationship to the state and to our democratic leaders".
Stephens fancies that "[small-l] liberalism is politics for the good times". But suddenly, now, bad times are upon us, and for the first time in the lives of most of us, our leaders are illiberally (albeit for what arguably may well be essential reasons) ordering us not go out, to wear masks, to forego many ways in which we usually gambol through the days of our democratic life. We are not used to this.
For this columnist, today's oddities and novelties include the ACT chief minister's daily televised live Covid briefings/press conferences.
As 11.45am approaches I've found myself even pausing a wondrous YouTube performance of Shakespeare's Hamlet, to put the tormented, deranged Dane on hold so as to instead watch Andrew Barr starring as a calm, sane, sensible chief minister.
Perhaps what's so novel, so gripping, is how today's pressing duties to address the pandemic and nothing but the pandemic have transformed out premieres and chief ministers from wriggly, ambitious little point-scoring hobgoblins into something else. Pandemic duties are somehow ennobling them.
So for example, suddenly Andrew Barr, every morning at 11.45 no longer seems a political party animal (the pandemic has strangely "desexed" our leaders party-politically so that one no longer remembers or cares whether state and territory leaders are Labor or Liberal) but is somehow (opinions will differ on how well he performs these roles) the ACT people's counsellor and psychotherapist.
At his lectern he is slightly suggestive of a mild-mannered clergyman (of a diffident denomination) in his pulpit delivering a shy, calming, quietly-cajoling,
His manner (as if conscious of the people of the ACT being sheep that must be carefully coaxed so that they don't break into a stampede) is painstakingly restrained. I've yet to see him raise his voice, gnash his teeth and kick his lectern even though right now there's lots to gnash and kick out about. Watching politicians shape-shifting into something else entirely is fascinatingly strange.
Then, what bleak, politicking-eclipsing times these are for Australia's parliamentary leaders of oppositions.
Always in a sense superfluous in the greater scheme of things, in this moment's even larger greater scheme of things their (faithfully reported by the ABC with its obligation to report "both sides") complainings and whingeings leave one groaning. Whenever these spokesmiserabiists pop up they are suggestive of mere bumps on logs, John McEnroe's famous dismissal of umpires he argued with.
Here in the ACT the Canberra Liberals' opposition leader, even in hot political times a believe-in-nothing, never-speak-up-about-anything person (everything about him or her escapes me for the moment) is so completely absent, so politically eclipsed by these pandemical times, they have become just a shadow's shadow (thank you Mr Shakespeare for that exquisite notion) that one cannot be sure one has not just imagined him or her.
Should the pandemic endure, my racquets continue to gather dust, the locks on the tennis courts hardeningly rust and chief minister Barr stay in his blameless role of pandemic-combatting counsellor and psychotherapist right up until the next ACT elections (our softly spoken psychotherapeutic St Andrew in shining armour taking on the terrible dragon of COVID-19), how will the Canberra Liberals' leader find anything about him to convincingly oppose and offer an alternative to?
Strange, transformed, tennis-bereft days indeed.