All right children, move in close.  Granddad’s goin’ to tell you a story.
(Oh no!  Not another aimless wander through the cobwebs of his addled brain!)

It was way back in 2020 – before most of you were even a glint in your mother’s eye.

(Beam Me Up, Scotty – there’s no intelligent life down here!)

The year didn’t start out all that badly and we’d heard there was another kind of flu in Wuhan (which was something or somewhere we’d never heard of) in China but Beijing said it was all just a rumour.  They even nabbed the culprit who’d been spreading the rumour and threw him in the slammer.  We all went back to watching the cricket and Big Orange (that’s what we all ended calling the then President of the USA) said he was in charge and everything was beautiful, his wall was being built, it was also beautiful and he was Making America Great Again, just as he promised.

Granddad, why did you believe the Chinese President and Big Orange?

Well, you have to understand the times.  In those days China was a closed shop.  If they thought you were going to say bad things about them, they wouldn’t let you in or if they did and you did, they’d throw you in prison on any number of weird charges and there was little (if anything) our Government could do.  All the while, the default setting of Big Orange was lying anyway!  The New York Times (a very respected newspaper at the time) tried to keep track of the number of lies (or “alternative facts” as he liked to say) he told but when (according to them) the number topped five figures nobody believed them!  It seemed in America, lying had become the new normal and most of the population just switched off.

That’s weird, grandad.  Are you sure you’ve got the story right?

Check it out, yourself.  Then the flu – that didn’t exist, according to China – began breaking out all over the world.  It seemed it began in a Wuhan  wet market  and these are everywhere in Asia.  No health rules – that we’d recognise – seem to apply in them and all manner of birds and animals are butchered and sold.  The new strain of flu seemed to have crossed from these animals – possibly bats – and then came the Chinese New Year!  This saw lots of folk going back to and also across China to visit relatives and that period falls at the end of January.  Because there was a global economy at the time, it meant lots of people were travelling everywhere and the new disease went with some of them.  The fellow who had blown the whistle in China turned out to be a doctor and before we could even learn his name, he’d caught it and died!  It had also been given a name:  COVID-19.

That was a good thing wasn’t it, granddad?

Well, I suppose so.  It certainly gave the doctors something to write on the Death Certificates! That’s better than what happened back in the 19th century.  When somebody died then and it couldn’t be explained, they just wrote:  Died From A Visitation Of God.

Grandad, don’t be silly.  How many deaths did it cause anyway?

I can tell you this, you kids need to do a lot more reading.  Around mid April, 2020 in the USA there’d been over 849,000 cases and over 47,500 deaths.  Worldwide (at the same time) there was over 2½ million cases and over 183,000 deaths!

So what else happened, granddad?

Well, here in Oz we closed our borders and only Australian citizens were allowed to come in!

Are you for real, granddad?  Nobody was allowed in?

Nobody.  No uni students, sporting teams or non-Australian passengers on any aircraft flights.  In fact, some of the photos of the time show empty and idle jet aircraft parked on tarmacs (especially Alice Springs because of its dry climate) and Virgin Airlines went to the wall.  There was no football of any kind either.

Now we know you’re being silly, granddad!  They’d never stop football.

They did and they postponed the Tokyo Olympics to 2021 as well.  Check that out!  There was a silver lining though, there was no basketball either!  All that was on TV were endless re-runs of past football grand finals of ARL and Oz Rules.  The only sports that were allowed to continue were horse and dog racing, though nobody was allowed to go to the courses and watch and the prize money was reduced.  Golf could still be played in some States but not in others.

Granddad, you’re being silly again.  That doesn’t even make sense!

I didn’t say it made any sense.  My brother-in-law in Victoria was very upset because he couldn’t play but here in NSW, we could.  We had lots of restrictions on us, of course.  Only two players at a time were allowed down the fairways, only one to a cart, we weren’t allowed to touch the flag sticks and, as there were no rakes in the bunkers, they were all classed as GUR (Ground Under Repair) so we simply picked the balls out and played the next shot from the nearby grass!  Oh, and all the schools were closed.

Finally, something that makes sense, granddad!

Lots of businesses had closed as well but parents, with help from schools via computers and their web sites, assumed the role of teachers and studies went on.

How did that go, granddad?

Not that well in the end.  Your great aunt related she’d been forced to expel her two kids and then the Education Department fined her for drinking on the job!


Talk at you next month,

Hillside Critic

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