Christina Berkman

What has this second wave been like for you?

Quiet, but I live with my daughter Tessa and have a bedroom window that looks out on to the street. There’s less car traffic and a lot more foot traffic and I can watch people all day long, which is really quite interesting. So I do like that.

What has got you through this period?

I’ve been doing paintings and collages and drawings. During this time I’m trying to not paint ‘dark’ pictures and paint happier paintings in bright colours. I’m drawing on my memory for that. For example, the last painting I did was of the Hare Krishnas dancing and drumming in the street with all those bright reds and oranges and yellows. I used to be friendly with quite a group of them. I also go through my drawers and find old drawings – I rely upon chance. That’s always been a touchstone for me – chance has to play a big part. I found another drawing, one of my ex-husband lying on the grass in St. Kilda. It must have been fifty years ago – it was just amazing to find a drawing that old. So I thought, I can use that too. It stirred up happy times.

I’m also reading books. I prefer books rather than all the other time-wasting media that’s out there – and you’re much more in control of the process. I’m trying to read authors I haven’t read before, like Tony Birch and Kim Scott, both of Aboriginal ancestry. I read a Ruth Park trilogy, which was great and I’m also reading about birds. Interestingly, I’ve never been dive-bombed by birds in spring, like some people have – isn’t that funny? They must realise I’m a friend. 

I go shopping with Tessa and we take turns cooking and enjoying the latest things that are in season. Like today I’m eating asparagus, which is something that I didn’t have as a child living in Queensland. That’s also the joy of the Vic Market. I just hop on the 58 tram and I’m there.

The other day I took a tram to St. Kilda to see the sea – things that are a little bit different. I used to go to the country a lot and I can’t do that now. So I’m trying to vary my everyday life a little bit and get out of the routine.

What have you learned during this time?

I think I’ve grown a little more patient. 

What are you looking forward to on the other side of this?

Going back to the bush, for a start. I share a property with friends just outside Castlemaine. We meet a couple of times a year and talk about land business and have a drink and a meal – it’s so pleasant. I miss that. And I miss going there and being on my own, because it’s a big block and it’s bush. You walk around and always find something different and, as the seasons change, there’s always something in flower, different animals etc. The Box Ironbark bushland is always so interesting and peaceful.

Are there any changes you’d like to see in the world or society coming out of this period? 

I’d like to see us go back to nationalising all the things that have been privatised: the banks, the Post Office, Aged Care, public transport, utilities etc. – but that’s a big ask! Perhaps a more Scandinavian-type society, with less difference between the rich and the poor.

Peter McKinnon, 1/10/2020

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