melanie walker and twins
Melanie Walker and her twin daughters. Photo: Shaun O'Shea

So in my little housely enclave, I’ve been thinking about what my thoughts are IRO the lockdown, about the changes around the world, about freedom, and how it’s – if at all – changed much in my life… Here’s what I’ve come up with!… writes well known South African radio and TV personality Melanie Walker.

SO… We’re all in this together.

What does that actually mean? Sure, we’re (mostly) all locked down, but as I’m sure many who follow the news here in South Africa will be all too aware of, is the disparity in levels of lockdown. And I don’t mean the Government levels, such as where we are now – on Level 4.

For me, to be honest, life hasn’t altered that much, (yeah, people are sometimes surprised to find out that I’m an ‘extroverted introvert’, preferring mostly to have as little contact with people other than when entirely necessary!) other than the realisation that while we were all stressing about being told what to do and not being able to leave our houses, Winter Has Come.

And the realisation that being a freelancer and having no paying work, I have no income. That at 7pm every evening, we grab pots and pans and musical instruments and hit the pavement outside our house and make a noise, not just to show solidarity with the healthcare and essential services workers, as is happening around the world, but also to remind ourselves that there are other people Out There. And that I’m whisky deprived!

We still get up at roughly the same time in the morning so that my twins can get online and do their classes. Hit the computer to see if there’s anything that needs to be written/rewritten. Get onto Zoom to teach pilates classes four times a week – apparently it’s just as good for all my regulars who join the meeting as being in class at the gym.

And now that we’re at level 4 – the biggest change and relief for me is to hit the streets for my regular twice weekly walk. Unfortunately not my usual route as all public park areas are still off limits, so I’m missing out on watching the duck-ducks on the Spruit growing.

The major difference is, other than not actually going to places to do the things we do, like school and gym, the ‘production’ of going out. Yeah, even a simple decision as to which day we’ll go to the shops – a big outing way hey!

Frankly, the stress of wearing a mask and sanitising and worrying about getting the contaminant on your feet and having to continually think about which hand touched what – I’d rather stay home as much as possible – and not have to put the car battery on trickle charge at least three hours beforehand as, with the lack of driving, it keeps going flat.

Other than a couple of small niggles, I have few complaints. Unlike others.

So many people complaining that they can’t go out and run or cycle, or can’t exercise while wearing a mask. Or can’t get hot chicken (although that, like so many of the other rules-without-reason is valid as far as I’m concerned, as the lack of convenience food for those who were working all day was a worry).

The ‘curtain-twitchers’ tattling on those who aren’t abiding by the ‘rules’, others who are genuinely confused or surprised at people not wearing masks in public when they really should be, and those who feel it’s fine to bully the other groups for saying anything about it, usually comprising the people who don’t want to abide by the ‘rules’!

Sure, the first should be directed immediately to the Gestapo app, but the second would hopefully make people who read the comments think about it. And the third lot – well, let’s just say their ‘privilege’ may be the thing that gets them in the end.

But that seems to be mainly the domain of the middle class. And just as they posture and postulate and post ad nauseum about the deprivation they’re feeling, there are just as many people ridiculing them for being so middle-class, so entitled – all the usual things that get thrown at people who are used to having the creature comforts they have worked for.

My biggest complaint is the self-centredness that so many have shown, moaning about how the people in the townships, the people in the poorer areas, the people who are less fortunate than they are, aren’t observing social distancing, aren’t wearing masks, aren’t this, aren’t that.

No matter how many times people point out to others that a vast majority of our population don’t have space, space for privacy, for walking outside in their gardens, or headspace to see past the immediate privations this lockdown has brought, so many just don’t really get it.

Over the past weeks, my heart has been broken so many times by the visuals, by the stories and by the thought of what so many people are going through, and the distress that I can’t do more to help. (And on this note, thank goodness for organisations like Gift of the Givers and Operation SA – and all those other wonderful non-governmental agencies and NGOs that Get Things Done! As well as the local groups that have been set up, as in our neighbourhood, spearheaded by security companies, residents’ associations and the like, to give food to those Homeless who haven’t gone to the overcrowded shelters, but are remaining ‘locked down on site’ in our area. It’s fabulous to see just how many people in your street are happy and willing to give – to overgive – to ease the plight of the less fortunate.)

What this has brought to light for me is the realisation that in SA, we CAN’T all be in this together.

This lockdown has shown up just how impossible it seems for Us to Get Along. In a society that is all too often polarised based on the colour of your skin, the warground that social media channels has now become shows up just how badly not just government, but also our people are handling True Democracy in our Rainbow Nation.

But some of us live in hope. And thus stay off social media so we don’t have to see how badly people are behaving, which is just depressing.

I can’t wait to have ‘freedom’ again. But this doesn’t for me relate to the freedom to go out anywhere I want, to be with who I want, to not to be told what I can and can’t do.

It’s the innate understanding that I could if I want to, but choose not to.

And when lockdown ends? What will my ‘new normal’ be?

Pretty much the same as it has been during lockdown – just with whisky!

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I’m one of those odd people who, despite travelling the world, hasn’t actually moved all that far. I’m living in the house I pretty much grew up in and doubt that I’ll ever really leave it! Like most people who live in ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’, I have a love/hate relationship with the city. The thing I hate the most are the obnoxious drivers who litter our road, so if you’re ever in my hood and you’re confronted with a blonde who stops to point out you're in the wrong, steer clear.… I love that we have so many trees (and if one more person points out that, hey, like, shoo wow, we have the largest man-made forest in the world here, I’ll throw up on myself!) and that so many people are getting into the groove and getting not only indigenous but endemic – after all, I’m a serious gardener…