Samuel Pepys: April 28, 1661
Down the River to visit the victualling ships, where I find all out of order. And come home to dinner, and then to write a letter to the Duke of Albemarle about the victualling ships; and carried it myself to the council chamber, where it was read; and when they rise, my Lord Chancellor, passing by, stroked me on the head, and told me that the Board had read my letter and taken order for the punishing of the watermen for not appearing on board the ships. And so did the King afterward, who doth know me so well, that he never sees me but he speaks to me about our Navy business.
April 28, 2020
Yesterday I went to the Blood Bank in Geelong and donated my usual 470 ml of good O- blood. I am so grateful that I don’t have any physical illnesses; that I didn’t spend any of the mad cow years in the UK; and that I’m not a sexually-active gay man. Whatever else is going on in my life, no matter how useless and unnecessary I feel, every three months I can give away some of my universal donor blood and contribute to saving lives.
I am feeling quite useless at the moment. I am in conversation with the Joint Nominating Committees of three ministerial placements and I am not getting positive vibes from any of them. One of the three conversations definitely went well; when I finished the Zoom meeting I told my mother that it had been very positive and she said that she could tell from the sound of my voice. She can’t hear the words from the lounge-room, but she can hear the tone. But I haven’t yet officially heard back from them, and I have been told that my sexuality may be an issue and that the JNC wants to confer with the Church Council before deciding whether or not to talk to me again. One of the other JNCs is a chaplaincy position for which my sexuality would presumably not be a concern, but that process is a bit of a mess.
I’m finding it harder to hold on to my belief that I am a gifted minister the longer I am unemployed. Apparently there is a shortage of ministers in the Uniting Church; the congregation where I am currently doing Supply has been told that it may take a while for them to be able to call a new minister, and a friend has told me that in another Presbytery there are twenty vacancies. And yet no placement seems to want me. If it’s not the sexuality, it’s the mental illness; I am starting to save the rejection emails just to remind myself that most of them don’t say anything about my lack of skills or gifts. But maybe I’m a victim of the Dunning-Kruger effect.
Anyway, the Blood Bank. Much as usual, except that my temperature was taken at reception. Every surface was sanitised after touching; the inside of the blood pressure cuff; the desk on which I leaned my arm for the haemoglobin finger prick. The questionnaire was filled out on a tablet which was then left on a table; no direct handover. There was no hot food in the recovery area because there were no volunteers working, and I was told that I could only stay in recovery for 15 to 20 minutes at the most. But apart from that, everything was as normal. I drank several litres of water in the morning, and the actual donation was completed in just over six minutes.
It’s funny how much pride I take in things that really have very little to do with me. I had no say in my blood type, yet I take pride in being a universal donor. After years of it being hard for a phlebotomist to get the needle into my small, deep veins, and of it taking forever for the blood to flow, I am pleased with myself for being able to mitigate that by drinking six litres of water in the 24 hours before a donation. And my access to clean drinking water is, again, absolutely nothing to do with me. But, as I said, at the moment I need something in which to take pride.
We are starting to talk in Australian about reducing the severity of some of the lockdown conditions. The two big issues at the moment are schools and the government’s COVID tracing app. The federal government wants the schools to return to teaching students onsite, rather than remotely, and the states and teachers’ unions are wondering why it is okay for children to gather at school, when they still can’t gather at parks or on sporting fields, and why it is okay for them to spend time with teachers but not with their own grandparents. In one way it doesn’t matter; schools are a state responsibility and no matter what the federal government says the decision is up to the states. But it seems to have started a culture war, with the execrable Dutton claiming that schools would be open if state ALP governments weren’t in thrall to teachers’ unions, and the conservative commentariat condemning those arguing against the opening of campuses as indifferent to the plight of under-resourced families. I hope that the conservatives remain committed to these under-resourced students when they do return to school and reallocate money from ridiculously wealthy private schools to impoverished public schools. Yeah, right.
Then there’s the tracing app, which uses Bluetooth to record whenever people are within 1.5 metres of each other for more than 15 minutes, so that they can be notified if someone is later diagnosed with COVID19. Not a problem, except that I do not trust this government with any of my data. The past decade has seen story after story about the government misusing access to data, from #Robodebt to local councils accessing metadata to track down people with outstanding parking fines. If I have a choice between giving the government access to my movements, and not doing that, I am always doing to choose the latter. It doesn’t help that some people who should know better are arguing that those of us who don’t download the app don’t care about the unemployed. I discovered over the past week that because I am doing Supply ministry I am a ‘casual’ and so not eligible for any JobKeeper support. I’m still not downloading.But, dear God, how I want this lockdown to be over. I thought I was sympathetic enough to people in prison and immigration detention, and to those like the Palestinians behind the ‘Separation Wall’ who can’t travel freely. I wasn’t. I had no idea how hard it was to have one’s movements restricted. And this despite the fact that I am living in a house with a garden with only one other person, and that I am within walking distance of a beach. I would kill to be able to sit down in a cafe with my coffee and a book. Or be able to linger at the beach, rather than only run through it. And I hate what these restrictions are doing to me. I want to dob other people in! A few days ago, while I was running, I saw two older women settle in for morning coffee in a park. They were there when I first ran by them; they were still there when I ran back twenty minutes later. And I SO wanted to report them. I even took their photo, although I knew I wasn’t going to report. But after all the ‘selfish young people’ articles about those on beaches, and the photographers taking shots with particular lenses to misrepresent crowding in public places, and Osman Faruqi at The Saturday Paper reporting on who police are actually fining, the only people I have seen ‘flouting social distancing laws’ have been older, white, and upper middle-class. (Which might be because I am currently living with my mother in an older, white, middle-class suburb.) I don’t want to be the sort of person who dobs other people in (unless they’re a colleague in ministry because all ministers need to make up for the centuries in which clergy covered up for each other).
I want this lockdown to be over!