The lockdown diaries: Melburnians share their experiences of lockdown

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By Karl Richmond, actor

I’m submitting my first entry at 2am. The deadline for our diary entries is 11am, but I haven’t been able to get out of bed before 11:30am since lockdown began, and that’s with the help of my four-time lockdown buddy and housemate Nic, who’s no longer around.

He’s not dead, just at work. I’m afraid I’ll sleep through the deadline so here we are at 2am.

Up at night is part of the lockdown routine.Credit:Karl Richmond

I’ve gone for a midnight walk to clear my mind. Beats lying in bed for hours daydreaming about tomorrow’s numbers being minus-1000 and the government announcing a free statewide holiday to Bali.

I think the first week of a lockdown is the hardest, I’m glad it’s over. That and the first of June marks the death of a loved one, nine years ago. It’s never a good week, made harder by lockdown. Miss you James.

If there is anything your death has taught me, it’s to be grateful for whatever time we get, no matter the circumstances. That and the world goes on with or without you. So, lockdown week two. I’m with you. Let’s do this.


By Paul Birthisel, cafe owner

Another week of lockdown… when I volunteered for this diary I had a few ideas about what I might put down for my first entry. To try and convey our lockdown experience and share some of the lows but also those little things that make us smile on a hard day.

The fragility of the financial state of my business, managing next week’s orders, trying to give staff shift hours if possible, trying to find the right balance with customers to be upbeat but also portraying how things are hitting us during lockdown, trying to find our feet in a takeaway only world.

Trying to manage what we can in a time that we have no control over the environment we operate in.

These all went out the window yesterday evening when we had to make an unplanned trip to the children’s hospital, my youngest daughter was unwell and all those issues I was facing along with the state as a collective just melted away. My worry was placed elsewhere for the night but I still had no control.

All the above matters little compared to the health of those we love.


By Angela Pope, teacher

Eight days into season four of ‘Lockdown: Melbourne’ teaching 23 year 1 and 2 students, and as my husband works in the study, he still hears the same phrases:

  • “Mute your mic.”
  • “Are there any questions about the task?…..hmmm, I am not sure your sister farting is relevant, but thanks for sharing.”
  • “You can show your cat when you have answered this question.”
  • “Are you still there?………Oh you have gone to the toilet. I am happy to wait.”
  • “Josephine (pseudonym), your toastie looks delicious. How about you finish it after the meet.”
  • “You’re right, safety doesn’t take a holiday but you can take your helmet off now.”
  • “I hear the Minecraft music, is someone playing?”
  • “Is that Chris (my husband)? What is he doing? Can we say hello?”
  • “We love the tour of your house. Can you find one place to sit, we’re getting a little seasick!”

These phrases will continue to entertain us, although hopefully only for another five school days.

A shout out to the teachers having the same experiences, enjoy the lighter moments!


By Michelle Topple, nurse

Started work early today fortified by a coffee from my favourite barista. I’m currently working across Infection Control and ICU (that I manage) so my day was about both areas.

This is my view each morning as I walk across the bridge, suck in the fresh air and enter the hospital to start my day.

The view on the way to work for Michelle ToppleCredit:Michelle Topple

I spent time on Thursday reviewing the care plan for a newly admitted patient with suspected COVID with their treating team.

Then visited one of our wards to chat with the nurses about the COVID and flu vaccination campaigns and PPE requirements as this is currently a moving feast with guidelines changing to keep pace with the COVID spread.

Lunch was ‘al desko’ while I worked through my seemingly bottomless email inbox. The afternoon was a blur of virtual meetings before I headed home to dinner, emails and the couch.

The highlight of my day was visiting Norma in the print room to pick up some Infection Control posters – her dry sense of humour is guaranteed to make you smile on even the toughest days.


By Kali, kid

Today I found out our school camp to Valley Homestead in Ovens – which is the best camp in the whole entire school – has been postponed to next term. I’m really annoyed because we didn’t have a camp last year because of COVID and now I have to wait another eight weeks.

My sister Catherine was dancing around and shoving her fingers in my face. She was ignoring my Yia Yia who was telling her to get off the iPad and sit down and stop being annoying.

Making scones for Girl Guides.Credit:Kali

We didn’t have any lunch at home so we walked to Under the Sea fish and chip shop in Yarraville. We never normally have fish and chips for lunch. We also bought cream and eggs to make scones for girl guides because we had to make an English food. I got some of the scone dough on my hands and started eating it.

Girl guides over Zoom is kind of annoying because I have a friendship group of four, but I can’t just speak to them, I have to speak to everyone. We couldn’t do Our Cabana World Centre, which involves wearing a costume, having a game and making a food.

Catherine and I are making an 884-piece puzzle of a tiger. Catherine was pretending I was her mother and saying: “I can’t find piece 84”. So she was still being annoying.

The good thing was I wrote a really awesome snapshot about Cedar Glen, a farm stay in Queensland. We were supposed to go last year but it was cancelled because of COVID.

Doing a puzzle with my sister.Credit:Kali



About our diarists

Michelle Topple – Michelle is an ICU nurse, a daughter, a sister, a partner, an aunty and a friend who is a keen snowboarder, wanna-be surfer and the ultimate slow runner!

Karl Richmond – Ko Hongoeka te marae Ko Ngāti Toa Rangatira te Iwi, Ko Karl Orlando Richmond tōku ingoa. Karl stars in MTC’s production of The Lifespan of a Fact, returning to the stage after lockdown. 

Paul Birthisel – Paul runs the Meet Me There cafe in Hawthorn

Angela Pope – Angela is a primary school teacher in Melbourne’s north east. She has 16 years of experience and is expecting her first baby in September.

Kali – Middle sister who always feels hard done by.  Loves eating her grandmother’s Greek desserts (especially yalaktombouriko) and going on scary rides apart from the REALLY scary rides like Pharaoh’s Curse at Luna Park

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