I belong to a few Writing Groups on the internet. One of my writing friends, Audrey Alice Ruhland, from the Women Who Sail Who Write WWSWW has suggested we should write letters similar to the parody written by Nick Farriella:

This Side of Paradise: A Letter from F. Scott Fitzgerald, Quarantined in the South of France,”

Audrey’s letter can be found here.

Dear Helga

As you are aware, life, as we know it, has changed dramatically in the past few weeks. I write you this letter to give you an update on what life is like in Tasmania. I do hope you are managing well in the UK. Social Media images are alarming at this time.

The World Health Organisation has said the COVID-19 pandemic is accelerating, with more than 350,000 cases now recorded.

In Tasmania we currently have 28 cases to date that are all are directly linked to overseas travel or cruise ships, or to people who have travelled overseas. In a statement, Scott McKeown, acting director of Public Health, has said “no evidence of community transmission in Tasmania”.

Currently, we are all advised to Self Isolate, maintain the recommended distance apart and wash your hands and not touch your face. The ‘not touching your face’ bit is really hard for me as I suffer from hayfever and always have itchy eyes!

Our Tasmanian Premier, Peter Gutwein said: 

“It is important that people follow the rules. If you have been asked to self-isolate, to quarantine, then you must do that … you cannot go to the shop, you cannot have friends around, you cannot go to a place of worship,” he said.

We are doing a good job, but we need to do a better job. This is serious.”

Mr Gutwein said people who were instructed to go into quarantine “must stay in self-isolation”, adding that people who “flout the rules” would face the “full brunt of the law against you”.

I wonder if this will be enough. 

We are self-isolating in our home in George Town. We have the usual provisions onboard SV Nichola, and our house is well provisioned too.

I have been astonished at the panic buying, especially of things like toilet paper. Living aboard Nichola for four years has taught us to always maintain a good supply of water, dry and tinned staples. Oh, and toilet paper.

Currently, we are living with Ken’s mother, Elve, who is 87. Our sailing has been put on hold indefinitely because of the pandemic.

The COVID-19 virus has put a stop to our plan to deliver a friend’s yacht to New Caledonia in May. We were looking forward to visiting New Caledonia again, especially in the knowledge that this time we would be shown around by the locals. We had arranged to fly back to Brisbane, from there we were to collect a car we have there and to take a leisurely drive with it back down to Tasmania. We were looking forward to calling in on friends and family on our drive home.

My Facebook memories showed a post I did four years ago when we began our sailing on Nichola. How fortunate we are that we did go then and didn’t wait until we had enough money to buy a bigger better boat!

Elve’s biweekly swimming exercise classes, Senior Citizens Club meetings, bingo and crib get-togethers have all stopped. Her doctor’s appointment was via telephone.

Her husband is in a care facility with Alzheimer’s, and visits are stressful at the best of times, without the added need to be mindful of not touching the railing along the passageway, and using hand solution after touching the keypad to open the door to exit the facility. We do not know how long before visiting is no longer allowed.

This week when she began questioning the point of living if she couldn’t do what she usually did, we got out all her old photographs and have started planning a Photo Memory Book for her. Our days are now filled with laughter as she shares fun memories with me that we want to include in her book.

Ken, has been working in our garden and declared war on all the weeds in our grass lawn. Consequently, our lawn is immaculate, and the garden is a beauty to behold.

Ken climbs up into apple trees and throws them down to me

We have continued our foraging for blackberries and apples as this does not require us to get close to anyone, nor is there a chance of picking up COVID-19 virus spores.

We have begun making apple cider with the apples. We will either have nice tasting cider or will never need to buy vinegar again in our lifetime…

On Social Media, I saw that people are now panic buying at bottle shops in Australia. It is nice to know we have our own little supply of cider ‘on the go’, in the event that the bottle shops run dry!

We have frozen blackberries and eat fresh ones with yoghurt

We have flavoured one of the batches with blackberries, the colour is beautiful and hopefully, it tastes as good as it looks. Our freezer is full of frozen apple and blackberries ready to pop into pies or make crumble with. Ken has made two batches of blackberry jam.

Elve has made delicious tomato sauce from this year’s crop.

Saffron Milk Cap – Pine Mushroom (Lactarius deliciosus)

When we were picking apples the other day, we met a young man with his wife and two young children in the car. The man was crossing the road to pick apples from the tree where we had just filled a bucket load. We got chatting, keeping a ‘safe distance’ apart and he asked if we liked mushrooms. We often pick wild mushrooms and so were interested to learn about the Saffron Cup Mushrooms he had collected from a local pine forest nearby.  Saffron Milk Cap – Pine Mushroom (Lactarius deliciosus).

It was fun to forage for something different and we were delighted to find more mushrooms than we needed with comparative ease. Delicious mushrooms have also been added to our freezer. To be sure we will not starve.

Visitors are few but we have this reminder by the door

So far all cases of COVID-19 have been people who have come into Tasmania. Of course, we hope this continues and now that the state is closed to more visitors we may be lucky. However, there is always the risk of someone spreading the virus unknowingly and so we must remain vigilant. We have set up a handwashing station and hope this reminds people, the few that do actually come to our door, to be careful. I read that paper towels are probably better than cotton ones and so, being mindful that paper towel supply is finite, I have placed ‘single-use’ face washers for people to dry their hands. After using the face washer to dry your hands they go directly into the washing machine.

My heart goes out to the many have lost their jobs as businesses are shut down because of the pandemic. Uncertainty is palpable, daily news updates are helping to keep fears under control, at the moment.

Everyone is in new, uncharted territory. I recall the civil war we both lived through in Africa and hope the people of the world are as resilient as we were during those hard times.

In fact, recalling those times has reminded me of the resourcefulness, the kindness towards others and many more of those amazingly positive things that shone through those terrible times. I feel sure many positives will shine through again with this pandemic.

Thinking of you on the other side of the world and hoping you are safe and keeping your hands clean!

Love, as always,