As Gladys Berejiklian and Dr Kerry Chant issued their COVID-19 Christmas rules on Wednesday, my mate Paul uttered words I’ll never forget. “Do you know what this Avalon cluster reminds me of, Steve?” he said, as we struggled to finish the final coat of paint on my reno.
“No, Paul. Pray tell me. What does this Avalon cluster remind you of?”
“The siege of Stalingrad … but with sunshine.”

Paul’s wife attests that if he ever auditions for Mastermind, his specialist subject will be “Obscure things you never needed to know about WWII”. However, Paul’s observation was apposite: even if 2 million died or were injured in the winter of 1942-3, and the Avalon cluster currently stands at just 108 infected (most of whom do not require hospital treatment let alone intensive care).

A sign on Avalon Beach asking the public not to congregate on the beach due to the COVID outbreak.

A sign on Avalon Beach asking the public not to congregate on the beach due to the COVID outbreak.Credit:James Brickwood

Critical of borders imposed by Labor premiers, Gladys had just divided Sydney’s northern beaches – turning the Insular Peninsula into the Divided Peninsula. Our Glad (and hasn’t it been noticeable how female leaders have dealt with COVID so much better than male counterparts?) found herself in a brain-twister. In essence, “the southern northern beaches” – from Manly to the Narrabeen lagoon – were the nice kids. Those on “the northern northern beaches” were the naughty kids.

At first we naughty kids were affronted. Suddenly, it has become a crime to listen to a band at the RSL, down a schooner at the Avalon Bowlo, or attend a pensioners matinee at the cinema (where a choc top costs more than the subtitled movie). My sons call the bridge over Narrabeen lagoon “the Pelican Bridge” because pelicans perch on the overhead light poles to spot breakfast. “How did the Pelican Bridge become Checkpoint Charlie?” my younger son said. “Is this like the start of the Cold War?” The other main border crossing is the Bahai Temple. “Border at the Bahai Temple” might sound like a Graham Greene novel, but it’s not as dramatic as it sounds. I drove there on Christmas Eve, feeling like a foreign correspondent in a war zone, just because I could. In reality, everything seemed normal. No border crossings, no Stasi armed guards.

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