troubling week in the life of Sydney Town. Every day we look to what is happening south of the Murray with the COVID crisis, and see a second wave that looks suspiciously like the one we saw in the Poseidon Adventure, wondering if it will indeed crash on our shores too. So far, the results have been nothing less than remarkable. While their rate of new infections has been in the 300s and 400s daily, in NSW we have kept it to somewhere between a mere handful, and four hands at most. Can that last? Perhaps, if we work towards it.

Masks should be part of the solution if things get worse in Sydney.
Masks should be part of the solution if things get worse in Sydney.CREDIT:GETTY

But if that second wave does hit, can I make a plea for the bleeding obvious, and suggest we avoid the palava that Victoria is going through right now when it comes to masks?

Let’s just make them mandatory early, and get on with it. Yes, the likes of Alan Jones will scream loudly and carry on about “alarmism”, “infringement of rights” and all the rest, but that is just a beautiful bonus. Let’s just, as a population, accept the stark staring facts.

1. The coronavirus is deadly serious.

2. No one wants to go back into full lockdown.

3. The mild hassle of wearing masks diminishes the rate of infection, and makes it possible for life to go on in rough resemblance to the way it was.

Any questions?

Yes, yes, yes, I know, but I am ignoring the squawking and flying feathers in the corner as being too tedious to engage with. All that carry-on does nothing to help and only hinders. Ditto all the nutters who carry on against masks – I am looking at you, Pete Evans – refusing to wear them as if they were a communist conspiracy.

Adam Hills put it brilliantly this week, in a tweet: “Imagine being one of the pricks in WW2 London that refused to turn your lights out at night, in order to stop planes bombing your house, because you didn’t want to be told what to do by the government.”

And that’s you, too, Alan. It is time to turn our lights out, or it will be lights off for too many.

Hatching and dispatching

Speaking of which, is Sydney in for a baby boom, nine-months post-Pause? I am, anecdotally at least, informed that is the precisely the case with maternity beds in the New Year rapidly being booked out. And it stands to reason, surely? With partners thrown together more than ever in their time together; with other possibilities of entertainment that involved going out at an all time low, it makes sense that the all-time favourite form of entertainment through the ages was also at an all-time high – and came complete with an inevitable consequence, even in the age of birth control?

Beds in Sydney maternity wards are already being booked.
Beds in Sydney maternity wards are already being booked.CREDIT:NOT FOR SYNDICATION

Such a thing if it does indeed occur, has a long history. The most famous example in history was the “New York Blackout”, where it was famously claimed by The New York Times that nine months after a sudden blackout on the early evening of Tuesday, November 9, 1965 kept most of the Big Apple unexpectedly home for the night – with no possibility of going out and no TV or radio – one thing lead to another, and the surge was marked. It was, after all, an early-to-bed night for everyone and, with the means of birth control also sometimes difficult to find in the pitch black. There was a 17 per cent surge in births of “blackout babies” the following August.

Other data points to another likely thing when this is all over. When Hurricane Hugo completely smashed the south-eastern US in September 1989, wiping out much of the infrastructure, and placing couples together more than ever, within a year there were spikes in three things: births, marriages, and . . . divorces.

In that case it wasn’t just the fact people were thrown together that made the difference, it was, to quote one academic study, that the “life-threatening event motivated people to take significant action in their close relationships that altered their life course”.

I predict the same for Sydney. Look at most of the relationships around you, that you know well enough to understand something of their whys and wherefores. Most of the ones I know are either markedly weaker or stronger, and just about all are different.

Me? Thanks for asking. But I’m not saying. None of your busin… Sorry, just a moment. Yess, my petalllll! Coming now, darling!

We’ll talk later.

Zoom and doom

No, the Australian magazine industry is not totally finished, but gee its close. Tuesday’s announcement from Bauer magazines was something between the death knell and the death knock.

“What lingers most,” one of the sacked journalists tells me, “is the manner of the execution. After 11 weeks on hold without pay and no access to Jobkeeper, the staff of eight magazines received a text from Bauer early Tuesday morning alerting us to a Zoom update address at 9:30 am from the CEO, who announced none of the mags would be reinstated. No advance notice to the editors. Game over. Our Bauer days consisted of being stood down on Day One and then, months later, axed. The boys think it ironic that Australia’s highest profile health mag is among those magazines being ditched in a pandemic.”

This is how it ends. Not with a bang, not even a whimper. Just Zoom, and goodbye.



Peter FitzSimons is a journalist and columnist with The Sydney Morning Herald.