Locked down can feel a lot like locked up, writes Allan Ramsay, as a birthday looms for someone else inside his bubble.

I finally got a grip (of sorts) and got around to counting – I’d been too scared before. Four weeks and four days ,or just plain thirty two days if you like, or 768 hours or 46080 minutes, give or take a few.

Those inside our jails call it doing time. And now, just like tattoos, their minority activity has been taken over by the majority and we’re all doing it. As in Paremoremo and elsewhere, some are doing it easy and some are doing it hard – rogue surfers, hunters and health ministers take a bow.

On matters unrelated to Covid-19, our other common cause with those sentenced to remain inside is that we’re being locked up for a crime we didn’t commit … the favourite and usually untrue lament of the incarcerated.

Like them, we’ve all got a parole of sorts and, if we tick the “good behaviour” box, a final release date on our records too. I’ve heard that old lags say the best way to deal with it – time, that is – is not to think about it. Hence my earlier reluctance to focus on the clock. It’s also possible I’ve watched The Shawshank Redemption more than is really healthy for any grownup.

It seems hugely ungrateful to compare our situation in the Pelorus Sound with a prison, but I guess the irritation that is sitting and nagging in the back of the collective Kiwi mind, from Cape Reinga to Rakiura, is the loss of free will. Having a landscape in your face that screams the words “freedom” and “roam” and then being denied those things brings its own internal walls and sense of time wasted.

Now I think of time as both a friend and an enemy. We’ve been urged to use these virus days for re-focusing on what we have got, to be kind, to re-discover our families and relationships and ourselves. This is friendly, kind and beneficial advice. But it does raise the question (actually it gets down on its knees and screams in our faces) of what the bloody hell we thought we were doing with our allotted time on the planet before March 25, 2020.

We can only answer for ourselves. There were, back in the olden times, which was the last time I was inside a bookshop, seemingly thousands of books and magazines offering answers that very question, and supplying a handy remedy – meditation, yoga, diet, voting National, more sex, less sex, a new spouse, renovating the current one … the list was endless.

Perhaps now, after four weeks or more of enforced proximity to our families or friends or ourselves, we won’t need to visit the self-help section anymore. Oops, there goes another industry down the Covid-19 plug hole.

But if by now you haven’t realised, that the virus-time that contracts and expands 12 times a day depending on your mood is also your enemy, then you haven’t been paying attention (or possibly not obeying the rules). Sometimes it’s like a wet Sunday afternoon in July in Invercargill, the kind that can stretch all the way down to Antarctica and back again. Twice.

Joe prepares to celebrate a birthday inside his bubble. Photo: Allan Ramsay

For one of us three here in our Pelorus bubble time has been worse than that. Next week Joe’s going to mark some of his time by having a birthday. There will have been quite a few virus birthdays nationwide by now, but this is not just any birthday – it’s his 25th birthday. It’s a well-known scientific fact that time moves way more slowly the younger you are, no matter what the big and little hands say on the clock.

Time, like a criminal, is stealing itself away from Joe. He wants beer, his mates, staying up all night, loud and awful music (apparently called “the doof”) and dancing. I suspect that after all this time spent hanging around and loitering without intent, some female company would be appreciated too.

What he’s got is his mum and some wrinkled, dusty, smelly old hanger-on burping quietly in the corner . Wish Joe a Happy Birthday everyone!

* Made with the support of NZ on Air *

Allan Ramsay recently returned from a long exile in London where he worked for several newspapers. He is self-isolating near Havelock.

Leave a comment