Island Life by David Slack


Bring Out Your Dad

Relentless optimist that I am, I see this looming national quarantine as a teachable moment. Maybe we could all do with staying home a little more, honing our survival skills. I have been joking about it: Forced to stay inside, with nothing but a computer to look at. What will I do all day?

At times like this I wonder: "What would Garth George say?" I believe that between hoarse coughs he would remind us that in sunnier times a man was the daily breadwinner, and a woman knew her sacred place was at home, bouncing babies on her knees. I wonder: in those conditions would infection have travelled more slowly? Did folk exchange germs less? Or did a virus merely arrive home at ten past six wrapped in fumes of Brylcreem, tap beer and Pall Mall?

Mary-Margaret asked us last night what it would be like if everything closed down. I told her they had closed the schools for many months in the 1950s. There was a polio epidemic. "Did you have to stay at home?" she asked. No, I told her, I wasn't alive in the 1950s. It was mischief on my part to say "I" and not "we". Karren is the older of us. I may have heard a slight coolness in her tone as she added that she, too, was not affected.

Mary-Margaret wanted to know: What would it be like if all the schools closed - or if they should open and close repeatedly? I said: "let's ask the Internet", and found that I was out by a decade.

The Polio Epidemic of 1947 forced the closure of all North Island schools for over four months.

We learned that an epidemic of rewha-rewha (possibly influenza) killed 60% of the Māori population in the southern North Island in 1790.

Mary-Margaret will be able to get plenty of recollection from her Gran about one but little about the other.

We also learned that

The disease was very well publicised during the polio epidemics of the 1950s, with extensive media coverage of any scientific advancements that might lead to a cure. Thus, the scientists working on polio became some of the most famous of the century

Right on cue, this morning's paper has the word 'VACCINE' in large type. Let's hope we have a famous scientist soon. In the meantime, Karren is replenishing stocks of paracetemol and face masks, and making an appointment for a flu shot for our daughter. I am training for the days ahead by spending long hours in front of my computer.

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