Many countries in the last months have been dealing with the rocky ride of transitioning out of hard lockdown into something a bit more normal. In Austria, the official date was May 19th. And yes, I took the afternoon off work to go to the pool… and yes, it was freezing but I went anyway.
With the opening of the restaurants and so on, they introduced the 3G rule. That is… Getestet, Geimpft oder Gesund. Basically if you want to eat at a restaurant, have a haircut, visit a pool or lake etc. you have to be able prove that you have either a valid negative Covid test, have been vaccinated (3+ weeks) or have recovered from Covid (in the last 6 months).
With the news of Victoria’s flash seven day hard lockdown last week, I’m reminded again what a yoyo of an experience this whole thing has really been. On one side I’m in Europe where measures against Covid were relatively mild… and I say relatively because the flip side of that coin was Australia where life in my home state basically stood still for months on end. At first I was thankful I was in Europe, where we were coming into summer and were safe – this thing would be over soon. It was lucky I wasn’t stuck in Australia in a hard-core lockdown. That would be awful. But then it flipped again. Europe hit the cooler months and Covid raged… while in Australia it was back to business as usual.
And there’s these words I keep hearing again and again… it’s not so bad…
I’m not even sure if everyone knows what a hankie is these days… let alone uses them. Of course, what I’m talking about is the humble handkerchief. You know that thing a handsome man presents when a woman becomes upset – a clean, ironed, folded handkerchief – even allowing her to take it home with her. It’s in the movies, so it must have happened in real life. I’m sure it was a ploy back in the days to get a piece of a beau’s belongings. Or to make an excuse to see someone again. And it would have worked great for me, since I’m a bit of a crier.
Still, hankies have gone out of favour – they’re old fashioned and they’re disgusting – tissues are far easier to contend with. Still, in a time of banning the straw and plastic bag, I think there’s a good case for bringing back the good ol’ hankie.
Recently in Europe we moved our clocks forward an hour. Normally, this can be quite a traumatic event. Having to get up an hour earlier for work is just no fun. And there’s this weird sense of almost-jetlag that goes along with it. Is it time to eat yet? Am I even hungry?
For the loss of the hour I usually placate myself with the knowledge that it means summer is coming. And I have to say, I’m a fan of the time change. I know not everyone is – I know the cows are unhappy – I know the curtains are fading – but I’m down with it. There is a lot of talk of removing it altogether now – I know the original reason for introducing it is invalid – but for me, it adjusts the light of the day better. In any case, whatever is decided in the future, I’ll live with it.
Who would have foreseen this? That the first lockdown (which began officially for us on March 13, 2020), would be ongoing one year later? Now, I know that there are different lockdown labels (I think we are in number 3?), but realistically, even though we opened up quite a lot for summer last year, we weren’t ever completely free. So basically it’s just one long lockdown.
What I see here in Austria is a lot of Covid-fatigue. People are sick of it. And fair enough too. It’s been a long haul. With numbers rising (around 3000 for the last few days) it’s hard to believe there are people who haven’t had it. How have we not reached herd immunity yet? Well… because we’ve been very very good (or most of us have), we’ve protected our fellow citizens and we’ve endured. And a lot less people have died than otherwise would have. And the cost of that (to the ecomony and what-not) is probably not fully understood yet. But I digress.
I am a keen puzzler. And for those of you unfamiliar with my terminology, that means that I like doing jigsaw puzzles… a lot. One of my standard winter activites is puzzling. Even though I also usually spend a chunk of this time travelling, I usually have time to do a couple of puzzles. Because what’s better than sitting inside on a cold day, with the winter sun (or heating) streaming in to keep you warm, and an Aperol at hand to imagine you’re somewhere else entirely. I think it’s a kind of meditation for me… I listen to music… and my mind wanders.
Oh, how times have changed. Hubby and I have long enjoyed our Friday night date nights, which we simply call Friday night dinner. The premise is simple, every Friday night we go out to dinner.
During the first Covid lockdown back in March of last year, although at some point there were restaurants open for takeaway, we didn’t often take advantage of it. We had a well-defined shopping schedule, and a regular fruit and veggie delivery, which usually meant we had something that needed to be cooked up most nights. And hey, back then we were excited about cooking. When everything opens up again, we’ll go out multiple times a week, we promised ourselves. And for the most part we did just that. Friday night dinner, Sunday night kebab, Tuesday night pizza – it was all on the table… literally. But when lockdown hit again, we decided that Friday night dinner was no longer something we were willing to forego. This time around restaurants had refined their procedures, so although our pick of takeaway is small, since we live in a small town, it’s definitely not non-existent.
On a Friday night I’d always enjoyed getting a little bit dressed up, putting on some perfume, and going out for dinner, be that for a schnitzel or a more upmarket option. Some days, especially in the winter, it felt arduous to change out of comfy tracksuit pants and into something a bit nicer – but it was always worth it.
But I have to say… Friday night dinner at home is the best of both worlds. And because many restaurants that never did takeaway before are still open, the options aren’t limited to pizza or Chinese. These days I don’t feel any pressure to dress up at all. Sure, I could. Probably, I should. But mostly, I don’t. There’s no putting on of coats or assessing the outside temperature to see what I should wear. Hubby simply leaves the house just before six, and I warm the plates and set the table, before sitting down to dinner with a nice bottle of wine from the cellar.
I could definitely get used to this. In fact I have. I probably shouldn’t. Instead I should be excited about when we can go out again. When I can dress up and sit in a restaurant with other people and wait for my food to come while my tummy growls. I do miss someone bringing me bread.
There are just so many advantages to home Friday night dinners. I can study the menu well in advance, and I do. From about Wednesday on I’m scouring social media to get a taste of what’s going on for the weekend. I check out the daily lunch menus even though usually I have no intention of going out for lunch. I just get carried away readings menus. When I eat at a restaurant, I generally finish what’s on my plate. Unless there’s a schnitzel or something that’s easy to take home, it just gets eaten because well… it’s delicious and you don’t want to leave it. It’ll go to waste and you’ve already paid for it. At home, there is no such pressure. If we order a big chunk of roast meat, most of the time it serves us for two meals. And if not quite two, then at least a lovely snack for the following day.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m going to be happy when the world goes back to normal. It’s upsetting that not all restaurants are able to take advantage of the take away option. For some it’s not feasible and there’s not enough demand. But while this Friday night date night at home is on, I’m going to thoroughly enjoy myself, in my tracksuit pants, with or without washed hair.
Stuck in the middle of a long, cold winter of lockdown (one of the few full winter’s I’ve endured in Austria since arriving), one of my friends (a big thank you goes out to Larry) made a plan to get some of my other Aussie mates together for an online event to help brighten it a little. She’d told me that she was organising something but I didn’t find out it was cocktail making until a few days before.
If you’re one of the unlucky ones that has endured Covid, or any other kind of ailment in the last year, then I hope you’re doing ok. But for the rest of us, is anyone else out there feeling weird that they haven’t been sick?
I returned to work this week after more than three weeks off. I don’t think I’ve had this much time off with no ‘real goal’ in mind ever – except perhaps when I was unemployed. In the midst of lockdown (only essential shops open, restaurants takeaway only, restrictions on visiting people), there was nowhere to travel, no one to catch up with and being winter, very little to do.
I thought it would drag. But all of a sudden, it was over and I was back to work.
They allowed us out of lockdown for December 24 and 25 so Christmas could be celebrated in a semi-normal way. There were limitations on how many people you could see at one time, but since my family here is on the small side anyway, we spent Christmas pretty much in the same was as always: Covid test in the morning, gathering in the early afternoon, singing Silent Night, opening presents and eating together. Oh… wait… the Covid test, that was something new for this year.