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True friendship

  • 04 February 2021
Earlier this year I did a very post-COVIDY thing; I caught up with some old mates to have a drink and a bite and shoot some pool. We started at our shallow end conversationally, as we always do, one-upping the next bloke and BS-ing away. But we ended up with some deep dives into verities.

It was hardly an earth-shattering event, true. But at a time when we are still seeing lockdowns and hotspots, it gave me a chance to celebrate being alive with two people I hadn’t physically seen in some time and to call on their friendship in a heartfelt chat.

Just getting out of the house still feels like a privilege after Melbourne’s lockdowns. The COVID-19 pall has been lifting, albeit more quickly in some locales than others, and possibly at different levels among some demographics.

The fellas I caught up with are in their early 50s like me. All three of us are parents, we’ve all been adversely impacted by COVID-19, and prior to that we’ve shared the usual rough and tumble dynamics of male friendships and bridal party affiliations. We have been in and out of each other’s good books, hard conversations, interpersonal dynamics and orbits. We’ve been through a lot as mates. COVID-wise, though, that affinity has been at a remove.

Still, all things considered, I believe my peer group has it easier than others. Kids Helpline and the Australian Human Rights Commission co-authored a report about COVID-19’s impact on children and young people, based on 2,567 contacts to the Kids Helpline between January and April 2020.

The concerns raised by the callers, aged from ‘5 to 25 years’, centred around mental health concerns resulting from COVID-19, social isolation, impacts on family life and education, and ‘changes to plans and usual activities’ (I read that as birthdays, parties, sports club bouts, dates, holidays, weddings, funerals — the stuff of life).

'The hardest conversations I have had with friends have been when conventional tropes, platitudes and easy answers have been dismissed and vulnerable truths have been painfully shared.'

Perhaps COVID-19 is impacting my age group more moderately also than it has older generations. Research last month on The Conversation noted the social malaise that energy poverty had brought to bear on older Aussies, trapped like most of us in their homes because of the pandemic.

The researchers state that ‘lockdowns caused their energy consumption and bills to swell 15-50 per cent