Gayle Beveridge is a past winner of the Boroondara Literary Awards and her work has appeared in Award Winning Australian Writing. Gayle is passionate about family, writing, photography, and with Victoria’s beautiful Bass Coast which she now calls home.
Published September 3rd 2021
Clever ways to get together during lockdown
People the world over are experiencing or have experienced lockdowns to combat COVID, not least of all Melbourne. The challenge posed is how do we keep people safely connected during lockdowns. People are social creatures, hungry for personal interaction. Online platforms like Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, WebEx, Nextdoor and Google Meet have all made it easier for families and groups to interact online in real-time and that's great, but they're not for everybody. This list offers both on and offline options.
1. Virtual Happy Hour. Lockdown means you won't be going to the local for happy hour after work, but it doesn't mean you can't have a virtual happy hour. Get your friends together on Zoom or your virtual platform of choice, get comfortable at home, break out the snacks, and pour the drinks. All that's left then is great conversation.
There are some clear advantages to this. Nobody has to drive home, so enjoy the drinks. Unlike the pub, there are no other patrons to be mindful of so your conversations are just yours and there won't be any complaints about the noise should you get a bit carried away.
Have a virtual happy hour with friends - Image from Pixabay
2. Notes in Neighbours' Letterboxes. Finding a handwritten note, drawing or card in the letterbox not only gives a person a lovely surprise, it tells them you cared enough about them to take some time. They feel they are more valued. A friend told me a story of going to her letterbox and finding a handwritten note from the young child who lived across the road, saying they hoped she was feeling happy, and in finding it, she did feel happy. So happy, in fact, that she returned a letter of her own. Then there is the bonus that a handwritten letter or card can be held and felt. It can be turned over in your hand, or clutched to your heart. It is so much more tangible than a text or email on screen.
Drop on letter, a card or a drawing in your neighbour's letterbox - Image from Pixabay
It is for all these reasons that calls went out as the pandemic began for people to write to residents of aged care homes. Restrictions for their protection meant that even those who previously had regular visitors may now be feeling isolated and alone.
You might like to pop this in letterboxes as you go for your exercise or mail it in a post box. Click here to find your nearest post office or post box.
Put a drawing, homemade card or letter in a Neighbour's letterbox - Image from Pixabay
3. Start a Connection Trend. Being part of something bigger than themselves can help people to feel they are still part of a community. We have already seen some interesting responses to this in past lockdowns.
Perhaps the most well-known of these was The Great Bear Hunt. People across the world put a teddy bear in a street-facing window. This gave homeschooling children a chance to feel they were doing something positive and brought a smile to the faces of passers-by as they kept an eye out for the teddies. There was even a Facebook Group called We're Going On A Bear Hunt Australia where thousands of people reported their bear sightings.
The Great Bear Hunt and Hug Hearts - Image complied from cleanpng.com vector graphics
To coincide with Neighbourhood House week during August 2020, when Victoria was in lockdown, my local Community House coordinated a community art project. People all over town put coloured cut-outs of hearts in their windows, hung them on their trees, and strung them across the front of their houses as messages of solidarity and caring. This was particularly embraced by the children. Some chalked hearts on their driveways and paths, others sent photos to the Community House for their Facebook page. Some wrote messages like 'And the people came together as the world stood still.'
You would be surprised how quickly people hop on board with these types of community projects. Put your thinking cap on, you might be the next person to offer virtual hugs in this way.
4. Put on your own restaurant-style dinner and have an in-home dinner date. You may not be able to go out for a restaurant meal, but you can create your own fine dining experience at home. Turn off the television. Make your own meal or better still, order in and support a local business, for many of whom takeaway meals may be the only business they can do during lockdown. Put on a table cloth, or if you don't have one, you could use a folded sheet. Set the table. Get out your best crockery and cutlery. If you have flowers in the garden, make a small table centrepiece. Plate up, no eating from the takeaway box. Open a bottle of wine, or beer, or soft drink. Toast to your good health, to togetherness, and pretend you are at the best restaurant in town because right now, that's exactly what it is.
Set the table and make the meal at home special - Image from Pixabay
5. Exercise with a Friend. If it's permitted under COVID restrictions, exercise with a friend or a member of your household. A walk, a jog, or a bike ride, enjoyed with somebody else, always seem to pass more quickly and feel more satisfying and, of course, it combats loneliness. You are also more likely to go out and exercise if you have arranged to meet with a friend. Friends are great motivators. In Victoria, it is generally permissible in lockdown to exercise with one other person not from your household. Remember to socially distance and to wear your mask where it is required by your jurisdiction.
To find out what the COVID restrictions are in your state through the Australian Government COVID-19 Restriction Checker > Sport and Recreation > Your State. Click here to go the restriction checker.
Walk with a Friend - Image composition from Pixabay and cleanpng
6. Ring a Friend–Don't be a Stranger. A lockdown stops you from meeting up with friends but don't let that make you a stranger. Make a point of regularly ringing a friend or a family member. An ad hoc phone call can be a lovely surprise and perk up somebody's day. Setting a regular time to call gives your friends and loved ones something to look forward to. You never know who might be sitting home alone wishfully hoping for some contact.
You might hold back wondering what you can talk about when none of you are out and about. Think of different questions to ask. Perhaps something like, what's the earliest thing you remember? Or do you remember when..? Talk about something, other than COVID, that has been in the news. If they are an avid reader? Ask them about the book they are reading. Are they a keen gardener? Ask them what is flowering in the garden, or what veggies have they planted. Ask them what projects they have done around the home. Maybe even read a story over the phone.
Call a friend and kick loneliness to the curb - Images from Pixabay
7. Have a Socially Distanced Conversation Over the Fence. Magging over the back fence has long been an Aussie tradition. For those of you who aren't familiar with the terminology, magging is Aussie slang for 'chattering incessantly.' Lockdown doesn't put an end to this. You will, after all, still be at home. Do remember though, to remain socially distanced, as you stand by or lean on the fence. Why not ring your neighbour and arrange a time to come to the fence.
Of course, you could take a load off and put a chair on the lawn if you have a short fence or no fence at all. You might have a cuppa and a bickie while you call your news and natter from your yard to theirs.
Have a socially distanced chat across the fence - Image composed from cleanpng clipart
8. Start an Online Group. Why not start your own online group with your family, with your friends, your neighbours or people with similar interests? Start a book club, a regular chat session, or maybe an online gardening chat group. What about a discussion group, perhaps one about local news or local history? Online groups can strengthen social connections and reduce feelings of isolation. You might want to start online meetups during lockdown for groups that normally meet face to face. This allows your group to maintain a continuity and lessens the possibility of it petering away while you wait for lockdown to end.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a huge uptick in families, communities and interest groups using conferencing platforms. Originally designed for business, there are a number of these available for personal use. Zoom seems to be a rather popular option and has a generous free plan which allows up to 100 participants. In their August 2021 review–The Best Video Conferencing Software for 2021–PC Mag Australian said, "Zoom remains one of the best video calling apps you'll find." Click here to read the full review.
9. Don't Forget to Offer a Smile and a Wave. While you are out, either for essential shopping or exercise, lift someone's spirits with a smile, a wave or a hello called as you walk past. When you're masked up, give a little nod with your smile or tip your hat if you're wearing one; your demeanour and your eyes will say it all. This is not just something you do for someone else, but it has its rewards for you too. Ron Gutman, author of 'Smile: The Astonishing Powers of a Simple Act,' said in his TED talk 'The Hidden Power of Smiling' "British researchers found that one smile can generate the same level of brain stimulation as up to 2,000 bars of chocolate."
Give a nod and a smile as you pass by - Image composite from Pixabay and cleanpng
10. Balcony Singing and Music from The Yard. Throughout history, music has brought people together, and it continues to do so. The Italians embraced this with gusto when the pandemic hit and videos of their balcony singing and music playing not only became known the world over but quickly spread to other European countries. Some sang or played for their neighbours, some used social media to coordinate their efforts and sang together. Some played musical instruments, while others tapped out beats on whatever they had; they banged on pots and pans or clapped their hands.
11. Join an Interactive Virtual Class or Activity. Check with your local council or community centre. They may be running virtual classes or activities. During last year's lockdown, the Inverloch Community House set up an e-book club. The local library came on board through their digital portal and meetings were conducted in Zoom. Between lockdowns, this club has met in person but easily swaps back to virtual meetings when required. The Pilates classes also moved to Zoom and the local writing group, The Bass Coast Writers, recorded their weekly writings, news and members' comments on YouTube to share.
Join an interactive virtual class - Composite of images from Pixabay
Other Things to Keep You Busy During Lockdown. Connecting with each other is so important. I hope this list has given you some ideas to make your day a little less isolated and a little less lonely. But, particularly for those of you who are not engaged in work or schooling, there will be many hours to fill at home during a lockdown and I invite you to click on any of the following articles for ideas and inspiration.
Thanks for the article Gayle. I particularly liked the idea of putting notes in neighbours' letterboxes. I also love sending and receiving cards via the postal system. Sometimes the thought of writing a letter is too much for people, but a simple card is wonderful to send and receive.