Monday 24 March – Brisbane, Australia
With all states having shut their borders, non-essential services are rapidly being closed across the country: cafes, restaurants, pubs, cinemas, parks and beaches.
My days have been daily trips to the Woolies and Coles supermarkets to buy supplies for the household with my nephew (there’s now 8 of us – three adults and 5 kids). I play a new game called ‘let’s manage expectations while checking numerous aisles for ‘essentials’. It’s a sobering game, even at 10am in the morning as I push a small trolley past shelves that once carried packets of rice, pasta and flour, now barren. As a tease, I glide down the toiletries section looking for random bottles (any bottles) of sanitiser. I live in hope that some shoppers got lost looking for bleach in the cleaning products aisle to make their own hand sanitising solutions.
In southern states, like the UK, you can buy alcohol inside the supermarkets. Here in Queensland, that’s not the case. Somewhere in our past, some government official thought it was a good idea to keep alcohol and food separate – maybe that says a lot about Queenslanders.
We have liquor barns, drive-throughs and grog shops. They don’t trust Queenslanders to shop for groceries and alcohol at the same time but it’s OK for them to drive over the liquor barn and fill the car, or cruise into the local pub drive-through and stock up. Essentially: we don’t trust you to fill your trolley with more alcohol than groceries but we’re OK that you buy as much alcohol as you can comfortably fit into your car. The famous Aussie ‘Ute’ (utility truck) isn’t just for farmers you know!
In Queensland, we do slabs (cartons of 24 bottles or cans) of beer. None of this ‘grab a couple of cans from the alcohol aisles’ rubbish. When I worked in central Queensland as an apprentice you could pay for odd jobs – between the trades – with ‘slabs’ of beer. For example, mend a broken cable on a chippy’s (carpenter) drill or electric saw that’d be half a slab. If a plumber digs a short trench with his backhoe (tractor) for some cabling, 2 slabs. Slabs were currency. Welcome to the Sunshine State.
Concerned that alcohol outlets may be included in the ‘non-essentials’ listings to be closed here in Brisbane, I borrowed my nephews ute and headed to Dan Murphy’s, one of the local liquor barns to stock up on a few supplies. And then do some grocery shopping and the daily loo roll lottery.
As I entered the front door a member of staff said: “G’day, can I get you to read this”, pointing at a sign. There were now limits on the amount of alcohol you could buy. Wow, this was getting serious. The sign informed me that each customer was now limited to only 3 cartons of beer and only 18 bottles of wine. Not the ‘and’, you could buy beer AND wine.
“Won’t be enough,” I thought, “not with five kids in the household. And they’re not getting any!”