August 13, 2020
At home

Expats at home – South Australians chat from Victoria

We track down some South Australians living interstate through the COVID-19 crisis. Here are their lockdown stories.

Ian and Gill McDougall

Ian McDougall

Ian on a masked stroll.

Where do you live?
We live in the leafy beachside suburb of Elwood, which is right next to St Kilda, about 9km from Melbourne’s CBD. The area is quite secluded, wedged between the main south highway and the bay, a bit of a village with a great shopping and cafe strip. It’s quite urban, with a mix of 1930s and 1960s flats, but also upmarket townhouses and modern apartments. And in the middle is a pretty canal, built in the 1920s, with ducks and egrets, that curves down to the waterfront park and a couple of nice beaches, perfect for ISO walks. Actually, nothing like Gawler, where (my wife) Gill and I come from.

What’s the feeling like there at the moment?
As you know, Melbourne is in Stage 4 lockdown and it is hitting everyone quite hard. We think people have become both angry and disappointed; we did the original restrictions in April (and slowing down wasn’t that bad back then) but now do we have to do it all again? Just Victorians? There is also frustration at people who are bucking the rules – a feeling that those who are not wearing masks or driving outside their suburb to “get fresh air” are selfish idiots. Generally, people want to believe that the authorities are taking the right steps and are complying. But there is anxiety and we are all a bit over Zoom catch-ups. There is a lot of talk about the future and the changes to the way we work and socialise brought about by these tough times. On the positive side, there is also a sense that simpler, home-based, and family-focused lifestyles might be good, a slower pace, and this might become more the new norm.

How have you had to adapt?
We are both home together all the time, whereas once I was at work a lot. As an architect, I have the good luck of being able to work online. This takes up the day, with sometimes loud Zoom discussions resonating through the front part of the house. Gill, who is retired and once had the run of the place, has had to retreat to her studio at the other end of the house!

We can’t go out other than one person, once a day, to do any shopping. So even a pleasant outing together to the shops is banned. We have tried not to shop every day since being in the at-risk age group, we have limited our community contact. We are also restricted to an hour a day to go for a walk, two people only – so no chat and walk with friends. The only socialisation is online. And every time we leave the house we have to put on our masks, making sure our glasses don’t steam up.

We have had to adapt our lives from being travelling, theatre-going, restaurant frequenters to the retired life of our parents – they didn’t travel, focused their day on what’s yummy for dinner, gardening and home maintenance.

We miss having a backyard drink with our friends, but the biggest loss is not being able to see our family. We cannot travel to New York to see our son and we can’t even drive to visit our daughter, her husband, and our beautiful grandchildren. Only FaceTime. It’s not the same.

How have you been spending your time?
Did I mention we can’t leave home? Gill is closeted away in her studio now making lots of ceramic sculptures that are filling up our courtyard. She is also baking sourdough, knitting, doing jigsaw puzzles, gardening, reading and watching endless TV series (she recommends The Great). In her spare time, she is giving FaceTime lessons to our granddaughter in her first year at school (for her, so far there has been more at-home schooling than at-the-school). And she sewed eight masks for us.

For me, my transition to retirement has returned to full-time work from home. To relax, I bought a new guitar and have resumed an old love of playing music. There is watching TV series with Gill. And there is the new skill of cocktail making for the five o’clock home happy hour. And cooking something yummy for dinner and home maintenance. I’ve turned into my dad, only more egg-shaped.

We are so looking forward to a time when things open up and all the family can get together and go on the holiday we have booked in Robe at New Year.


Ryan Smith

Ryan at home in South Yarra.

Where in Vic do you live?
South Yarra – one of the inner suburbs of Melbourne, about 10 minutes out of the CBD.

What’s the feeling there at the moment?
I think there’s a lot of fear from the uncertainty – and frustration that comes from that. It will still be a little while before we see any results from this new phase of lockdown so everything feels like it’s on “pauseæ, but I think most people are trying to make the most out of the situation and continue on.

What do you do for work/study? How have you had to adapt to continue to do that?
In November last year, I stepped away from a 15-year career in retail and brand management to study Event Management in 2020. While our teachers have truly gone above and beyond to adapt the course to online learning, COVID ruined all the plans they had for hands-on experience at events and companies to help us make connections and learn skills. It’s made me really think further about the next steps in my career, and how I can bring my past experience into this new industry.

How have you been spending your time away from work/study?
Finding creative ways to stay connected with friends and family has been important – from Facetime/Zoom coffee time to playing some online games with friends. But I’m thankful that my wife and I live in a beautiful old house with a yard for us and our dog to enjoy – we’ve been enjoying drinks outside with our feet up more often than usual, which is more than a lot of other people get to do!

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