COVID Isolation Diary, Day 4

Finally, after grey damp days, the sun has come out. With sunshine's alchemy - or perhaps just a pavlovian reflex - my spirits lift. Spirits buoyed too by neighbours and friends calling with offers to do emergency shopping for me. Also my perpetual washing-day is easier, I can peg the sheets out on our clothesline.

Which triggers a childhood memory, and a question. Before dryers, before even Hills Hoists, there were clotheslines. They practically defined domestic labour in settler-colonial Australia, strung across an infinite number of backyards, swaying in the breeze. But a clothesline always sagged. So it always needed a prop, with a fork at the end. And the prop (at least in my neighbourhood) always seemed to be a rough-cut ti-tree branch, with the bark coming off in strips. Why? Did the bourgeoisie have sweet-smelling sandalwood props for their clotheslines? Did the Queen have a golden prop?

I've finished the leftovers and have begun cooking what I call Cuisine Corona, based on the tins in the cupboard. My first effort was based on a recipe kindly e-mailed by a friend in the local community choir - we have suspended rehearsals because of the epidemic. It's a chickpea curry, minus the curry and the chickpeas, but with butter-beans and approximate salsa napoletana, topped off with paprika. Unmissable!

I have tried to follow the COVID hygiene rules, especially about washing hands frequently. While I was travelling, I often washed them with an alcohol-based sanitising fluid. But I have stopped that. The alcohol not only rubbed off viruses, it was also rubbing off my skin. Eight or ten small lesions appeared on the back of my hands. (My skin is thinner than it used to be, from ageing, and from long-term steroid medication for my asthma.) Other people too might need to watch out for this problem.  All my alcohol in future will be taken internally.

This morning in the kitchen I had the radio tuned to ABC Classic, but I was not paying much attention. Then a few chords made me sit up. Marlboro cigarettes! No! It was the soundtrack from The Magnificent Seven, the Hollywood remake of Kurosawa's Seven Samurai. But yes! The owners of the Marlboro brand, Philip Morris & Co., had bought the movie theme. With amazing success. The image of cigarette-smoking cowpunchers riding into the western landscape as those chords played, is burnt into my brain, and probably every brain in the Anglosphere that was alive in the 1960s. It made mountains of dollars for the corporation. Probably caused more fatalities than the Black Death.

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