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Meant to be our first real Christmas in two years: parties, weddings, everything. Anything but sitting at home or walking the same five kilometres of footpaths we’ve known so well we even have names for the cracks.
We’ve booked actual holidays beside the seaside. By air. By boat. We had COVID beaten. Remember that brief, free, moment between Barbecue Guy and Limo Driver? Yeah, felt so so good.
This would be our time to glow, smeared with sunscreen, sociable spritzes in hand. Kisses on both cheeks and so many hugs. Sitting in backyards of friends we hadn’t seen except for scratchy picnics and even then the older kids couldn’t come. But by Tuesday, I knew my dreams of next-to-normal were over. First Liz did it. Then others. Chris, Wendy, Helen. Then I did it myself.
Rather than put guests at risk of iso at Christmas, hosts are calling off their parties.Credit:istock
After a year of hearing about the Great Resignation, December brings us the Great Cancellation. It’s the absolutely normal response to soaring COVID rates. We are doing what our political leaders won’t mandate. We are embodying personal responsibility like there is no tomorrow in order to get a better tomorrow, but we are so bloody sad about it.
Yes, we are cancelling all we’ve planned for months because we don’t want to spread COVID or catch it. We do not want to spend Christmas in quarantine or, so help me god, New Year in iso. And we have good role models. Liz, or more respectfully, the Queen, made the call for so many of us. She decided to cancel her pre-Christmas lunch with the fam as a precaution.
“While there is regret that it is cancelled, there is a belief it is the right thing to do for all,” says a Buckingham Palace source.
Friends Chris and Wendy wrote this week, postponing their legendary Friday before Christmas party for the second time in two years: “If there were even one case everyone here would become a close contact and therefore forced into isolation over Xmas, let alone prevented from making long-awaited trips to loved ones interstate.”
A lovely farewell to an old colleague, planned for a rooftop bar, cancelled too. The word is it’s postponed to post-COVID, but I can’t see that far ahead. An extended family party we’d planned for last year was cancelled. Now that replacement for that looks like it won’t go ahead either. One of our lovely cousins texted on Saturday morning asking if we could have it outside. Others have said how wary they are of coming at all.
Our local Italian restaurant has been packed for weeks, even on school nights. Last Friday, at peak hour pork out, it was about half full as patrons cancelled on the day. Hard to think of another way to respond to thousands of cases and rising. Bill and Toni’s, another old Italian favourite, had cancellations on Friday – fortunately for them, regulars filled the gaps. Other venues too. Cancellations of entire events or changing plans to smaller, to safer. Me too.
My way of coping with COVID was to plan my fantasy holiday. Look, a small fantasy. There is absolutely no way I am getting onto a plane for hours at a time (particularly for maskless meal times) and ending up sick somewhere with no Medicare. No. My goal was Tasmania: long bird walks, long big lunches and long long sleeps. Salmon farming excepted, Tasmania is pristine one day, perfect the next and the first place I ever kayaked. It was bliss (surprising for someone who is frightened of both boats and unregulated water). I have spent six months scouring the local papers, asking Tasmanian friends where we should eat, markets, MONA and beyond, blessed Bruny and other assorted islands.
Will I have to cancel fantasy fortnight? Today I’m so gloomy, I feel there is no choice. Bad enough if COVID comes to me, terrible if I caused it to happen to someone else. And I couldn’t live with myself if I took omniopotent Omicron over the sea to the land of big blue skies.
Jenna Price is a visiting fellow at the Australian National University.
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