Apart Together: Postcards from the Island

Marcel Proust, Literary Poster Great Writers Series

Apart Together: Postcards from the Island

On Saturday 14 March I woke up with a sore throat, slight temperature and a runny nose. I decided to self-isolate after calling the Ministry of Health Covid-19 helpline. I had flown back from Hobart via Melbourne on Wednesday 11 March. The advice was that I was unlikely to have Covid-19 as I didn’t meet the criteria of a high temperature/fever or at risk association, but that I should self-isolate.
I planned to remain in self isolation for the full 14 days.
In the meantime like most people I was getting a daily update from ODT online, ABCNews, the TV and radio news. I realised that I was starting to obsess about what would ordinarily seem like a slight cold, something I would usually try and ignore, soldiering on to work and with my regime of dog walking and cycling commute.

So, I got our team together (remotely on ZOOM) to talk about things we could do if we all had to go into extended self-isolation regimes.

We thought maybe we should try and set up some programmes that might help people cope better and even create some moments of levity during these coming days. We did a bit of research and brainstorming as well. We found out that William Shakespeare wrote some of his most famous plays while in self-isolation during the worst times of the Plague: King Lear, Macbeth, and Antony and Cleopatra.

Maybe self- isolation can be a force for positive thinking and even creativity. In a world where we are always busy busy busy, now some of us might have time to reflect, even to get bored - boredom being one of the greatest motivators of creative thinking..

We might try out a few different ideas over the next months, but here is our first programme. We have taken our idea from the traditional meme of isolation: the castaway on a desert island.

Q. WHAT THREE THINGS WOULD YOU TAKE ON A DESERT ISLAND? Choose one artwork, one book, one album of music.

Okay I take the plunge and share mine.

Artwork -One of Burns Pollock’s recent sketches. They are intricate, beautifully wrought and slightly inscrutable. I could gaze at them for hours trying to find the beginning and the end – they remind me a lot of an Escher drawing.

Music - Its a tough toss up between Nick Cave's "Ghosteen", and Bach's "Six Cello Suites". Okay I reluctantly take just the Bach.

Book - Marcel Proust’s "In Search of Lost Time". I have one volume and never managed to read it. Come to think of it I am pretty sure it would be a challenge even on a desert island. By the way in case you didn’t know Proust spent a lot of time (years) in bed in a form of self-isolation. His book is about 3,500 pages long and runs to seven volumes. I am sure he would have plenty to say about the current situation. Okay, I admit I wouldn’t read this. It would probably be more fun to read Alain De Botton’s book "How Proust can change your life", but while very thoughtful it’s a slim volume. Instead I will take my latest acquisition - Robert Macfarlane's "Underland".

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Jane Macknight