Observations from a shut-in


October 2020

I'm driving down Johnston Street toward the library in Carlton. I've missed the library more than almost anything. I may never go back to shopping in the supermarket, standing in queues at the post office, topping up my Miki at the Tatts kiosk but going to the library is sacrosanct.

I pass the Bendigo Hotel. There's a new Thai place opening across the road. Someone is out front cleaning the windows. A moment later I see the Tote. On the blackboard wall where gigs are normally listed, there's a sign saying: 'Stop Deaths in Custody'. Next, on the same side of the road I look out for the Keith Haring mural. I love this drive.

On the corner of Smith Street I notice the Birmingham Hotel has been painted. In fact many buildings look like they've emerged from a tidy up—an architectural spa treatment. Fresh paint, clean windows, new signage. Meanwhile, many people look in need of a hair cut and 'paint' job.

Just past Smith Street, on my right, some scaffolding is down and a new ALDI looks set to open. I whiz past Gore Street. I lived there when I was about two, in one room of a boarding house (share house?) with my parents.

Napier, Brunswick, Nicholson, then Drummond, Lygon—a tour of Melbourne's best.

There are lots of people around. I've never had so much trouble finding a parking spot near the library on a weekday morning. I turn up Cardigan Street and back around and get a 5 minute park right outside. I put on my mask, which I've matched to my shoes. Lipstick has become redundant, so I've applied a little mascara, something I haven't worn for at least a decade, outside of weddings and special occasions.

Two women drink take-away coffees on the low brick fence outside. Masks down, naturally. A group of students walk past, masks up. Phew. I'm fearful that many Melburnians think the pandemic is all but over. I know we need to stay vigilant, at least until there's a vaccine.

There's hand sanitiser by the door. Then just inside on a long table, my books are waiting for me—wrapped in brown paper, my name handwritten in thick black texta—old school.

I love libraries.