The pleasures of slovenliness

As Melbourne emerges at last into freedom from lockdown, Barney Zwartz finds himself in need of an adjustment period.

As Melburnians emerge, shaggy and hollow-eyed from 18 months of lockdown and blink at the spring sunshine, it is not an unalloyed blessing for all. Some of us have acquired deeply inculcated habits of slovenliness through this period and, dear reader, I confess I am one. I have lived in my study, the kitchen, and the large native reserve 50 metres away at the end of my street (walking the dogs).

The other day I thought I should put on a shirt with a collar for a Zoom meeting, and was amazed at how constricted I felt. It was just the fact of something around my neck – it wasn’t really a noose. The piles of books, papers and CDs in the study have been getting out of hand for decades; in the pandemic they have gone beyond redemption.

My wife has gently suggested it might be time for self-respect to return; she was unimpressed by my mentioning that the glorious Sun King, Louis XIV of France, lived to 77 and bathed only three times in his life. So when hairdressers were allowed to open several days ago, I drove past mine and a queue that would take hours. I cunningly came back at the end of lunchtime, and it had dropped to six. After a mere 75 minutes, I was watching the straggly locks that had so irritated me for months dropping to the floor and my beard trimmed to the lowest clipper level. Something resembling a face emerged – a huge relief to me but, alas, a burden to the rest of the world unlucky enough to look upon it.

Tonight at 6 Melbourne opens up properly. Perhaps its inhabitants might be grateful that we must continue to wear masks, indoors at least. And remember, God looks on the inside.