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The hollow streets The hollow streets
by Nikos Laios
2021-07-15 07:45:45
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I walk the empty hollow streets of Sydney under a scrolling grey Coronavirus sky, it’s July and this winter is cold and biting. The old colonial sandstone buildings lining the harbour are wet and heavy, having soaked in a drenching through their pores. Crumpled leaves scrape down the road towards the Opera House, and the scraping sounds echo down the street, and there’s hardly anyone around. The streets are empty, the boulevards are empty, the malls are empty, the bars are closed, the gyms are closed, everything is closed except the supermarkets for essential shopping as Sydney battles through this latest Delta strain of the virus. I imagine this is how the old western towns in America must have been like when the all died off during the late nineteenth century.

holl00001_400The Coronavirus has been like a tidal wave surging back and forth over the capitals around the world since it was released from China. Should we call it the China virus? No, that wouldn’t be fair really, that would be blaming a whole people for the inexcusable failings of a fascist Chinese communist dictatorial regime bent on regional hegemony, and flaunting the norms of international civility. China has hardly any friends these days, but as I walk the empty hollow streets of Sydney, does it really matter? And who now remembers the Spanish flue? The Black Death? Or the plague of ancient Athens? No one, but we’re all living though this one now, and nothing will ever be the same again for quite a long while.

Here in Sydney, one is allowed to leave one’s home for exercise within a 10 kilometre radius of one’s home, and running is a passion of mine having been an athlete in my younger years. Besides leaving home for shopping for essentials, going out for a run around the north shore of Sydney harbour is such a release. I feel like I sprout wings when I run, Nikes slapping the pavement with the wind in my hair and the aroma of the wet trees and grass and my lungs filled with cool air. I live in North Sydney which is right near the harbour, and I usually run routes down to the harbour foreshore, and sometimes I’ll run across the Sydney harbour bridge, across to the other side to the Opera House and then run back home. But when I’m not running, coronavirus lockdown in my apartment is fine with me. Being a poet and an artist, solitude is my best friend when it comes to my creativity, that and my book and wine collection, listening to jazz and old Greek love songs, watching old movies. Plus my day job allows me to work mostly from home.

Economically, Australia is truly blessed, employment levels have risen back to pre-pandemic levels and Australia has also recorded the highest GDP growth in the last quarter of any developed nation. But even with Australia’s economic success, many small businesses are still in danger of failing due to the threat posed by the pandemic and the frequent lockdowns imposed by the various state governments here. One can only imagine the economic carnage that is occurring around the world at the moment in comparison. Yet even with the relative economic security that has cushioned Australia - and we are truly fortunate - yet something is still missing, not just in Australia, but around the world, something indefinable. Is it a sense of innocence? …Maybe.

Many things have lost their meaning, and materialistic consumption has lost its meaning most of all. The expensive suits, designer ten thousand dollar watches, sports cars, holidays, chic bars and restaurants; they have all lost their meaning along with social rituals, these things all ring hollow now in the shadow of these Coronavirus times. I like many others have many suits, I collect watches, but who shall we wear our suits and expensive watches for? And how frivolous are holiday vacation trips in this current environment?

I think that out of all the things we in the West have been spoilt rotten with, annual vacation trips around the world are the most frivolous things of all. We have a sense of entitlement when it comes to our annual vacation trips, which have become such an important part of western societies and which were popularised during the prosperous post World War Two period. Where during this pandemic, people feel so entitled that they’ll even be prepared to endanger themselves and others just to go away for a holiday trip.

I’ve seen it all, and done it all, travelled the world many times over and been to many countries. I have lived richly and deeply and as a writer, poet, thinker and artist, I have learned that the most fascinating and gratifying journey that one can make is within oneself, the inner journey of the self. So this Coronavirus lockdown suits me down to the ground. Yet I do miss people, I miss the babble of voices in cafes, the laughter and philosophical discussions of my small circle of Bohemian friends, family, the spontaneous amorous adventures during the night. Walking the empty streets of Sydney harbour, one realises that without people, all these beautiful sandstone, granite, steel and glass structures and facades that we have constructed ring hollow, they have no meaning and they are hollow because they have no people, they are not filled with the warmth of humanity.

I look back to my boyhood years on the highlands of Epirus Greece, and the winters spent with family around the crackling fireplace roasting chestnuts and listening to the grandmother’s stories, and realise now that as advanced as human civilisations have become, that primitive tribal need to share stories around the hearth is primal.

That our human family makes life possible, makes life worth living, our sense of community, and that’s what we miss the most I think during these pandemic times.

The lesson to be learned from this Coronavirus pandemic is that in the end, we really do not need much at all to rebuild our societies and civilisations. Here, the famous Greek poet Odysseus Elytis said it the best when he said of Greece for example; “If you deconstruct Greece, you will in the end see an olive tree, a grapevine, and a boat remain. That is, with as much, you reconstruct her”. Where the basics to rebuild societies are there, but the most important components are people and communities, for without these, our civilisations would not exist. Where in the meantime, we will all have to be just a little patient as we battle this terrible pandemic and hope to return to some semblance of normality.

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All photographs, including the cover from Nikos Laios

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Don't miss Nikos Laios NEW eBook
The Silent Symphony
A collection of poems and paintings,
you can download for FREE, HERE!

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Also check Nikos Laios' EBOOK
Ida & Her Magic Camera
is online now and you can download for FREE HERE!
 
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Scott2021-07-22 01:28:06
Great effort capturing the feel of Sydney at present and it is likely similar to most cities around the world. I think the culture is not necessarily gone or missing but merely distributed across the wider suburban area and it will find its way back when it is ready.


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