It is far better to be alone than in bad company," the first US President, George Washington, famously advised.
And right now, among the worst company you can keep is coronavirus. To prevent the disease from spreading, we're being told to stop keeping company with each other.
Our lives as social animals feel like they are being sealed and boxed away. Our world is shrinking by the day. Here we are, stuck in an extraordinary moment in history and unable to share it. Social distancing has pushed us into "me" time we may not have wanted.
But we Hunter residents can at least share thoughts on how to avoid cabin fever.
Being alone doesn't mean we have to be lonely. We can keep the best of company, hanging out with some fine writers and musicians, actors and film-makers.
The interview subjects for this story have revealed what they would be watching, listening to and reading, as we live through these interesting times. They were also asked about their coping strategy for the impacts of coronavirus, and to finish this sentence: "When I have time at home, I...".
So as you read this, ask yourself, "What would my answers be?"
How are you making the most of your time?
JAMES DRINKWATER. Artist
Through the dramatic abstract paintings he creates, James Drinkwater has offered viewers of his work an escape route for the soul.
Now, in this age of COVID-19, life imitates art for Drinkwater. He and his family have escaped, packing up their campervan and heading to Myall Lakes.
"I don't want to be too connected," the artist says. "I've spent my life in some sort of ignorant bliss, looking into rock pools, and trying to offer respite for people rather than add to the horror."
Drinkwater says he was keen to escape the "anxiety" stirred up by coronavirus as much as avoiding the disease itself.
In his family's temporary lakeside home, Drinkwater has been drawing, as well as enjoying the simple pleasures of watching his two children swim and listening to the sounds of nature. But he did offer these suggestions for getting away from it all, via the imagination.
Drinkwater would read the novel Thomas the Obscure, by Maurice Blanchot: "It's a very poetic and abstract piece of literature. It's a wonderful distraction."
The music he would listen to is John Lennon's Isolation, which includes the lyrics, "We're afraid to be alone/Everybody got to have a home".
"He sang it like 50 years ago, but it's so relevant," Drinkwater says. "We listened to it around the campfire the other night.
For viewing, "I'd be digging back into some classic cinema at this time", and he nominates an Italian film, The Great Beauty.
Not that James Drinkwater is looking at a screen right now; he's appreciating where he is: "Just having your loved ones around you, and returning to the stars."
KAY FRASER. Lake Macquarie Mayor
She may preside over council meetings and official functions, but at home, Kay Fraser likes to dance and jive, having the time of her life - to the songs of ABBA.
"Anything from the '60s to '70s, like the Beatles or ABBA" is what Cr Fraser would listen to, pointing out it is "great music" you can dance to, "as well as make you feel good". Her favourite ABBA song, by the way, is Dancing Queen.
"The movie or series I would watch is a murder mystery, police shows like The Killing, or the Handmaid's Tale," Cr Fraser says. "I enjoy the suspense and the forensic investigation involved in solving the mystery."
When she is at home, Cr Fraser likes to read and "spend time out the back in the gazebo relaxing with my family". As for reading material, she has dived into the Rosie trilogy, by Australian novelist Graeme Simsion.
"I've just started the first one, and it's a great read, funny and different."
The mayor's coronavirus coping strategy is to take her dog, Archie, for a walk each morning, usually around Croudace Bay.
BARRY MAITLAND. Author
He creates worlds on the page and conjures up beautifully resolved endings, but as Barry Maitland waits to see how the coronavirus saga plays out, the acclaimed writer is doing plenty of reading.
"I'm working my way through all of William Boyd's novels again, including the ones I missed," he says. "My favourites are Brazzaville Beach and The Blue Afternoon. He's quirky, original, and a beautiful writer. When I get through that I'll tackle Hilary Mantel's new one, The Mirror and the Light.
His viewing choices are Gold Digger on SBS and Unbelievable on Netflix: "Both compulsive dramas about ordinary people faced with a terrible dilemma".
As for music, "anything by Ennio Morricone, preferably played by Yo-Yo Ma on cello. Start with the sound track for The Mission".
Now that he has time at home, "I follow Michelangelo's advice, when asked by a budding student , 'disegno, e disegno, e disegno'. Or, in my case, 'write, and write, and write'."
Barry Maitland's coping strategy is to follow the advice of Corporal Jones in the classic TV series, Dad's Army: "Don't panic!"
"Instead bury yourself in a good book," offers the novelist.
"Better than a TV movie where you're still surrounded by the same old four walls, a book let's you escape to far, far away."
KATE WASHINGTON. Port Stephens MP
For Kate Washington, her choices are about spending time with her family as well as making time for herself.
Washington nominates comedian Josh Thomas' series Please Like Me as her viewing choice.
"I love watching it with my three teenagers, it's delightful in all of its awkward, vulnerable honesty," she says.
For music, the state MP says her song of choice would be Meg Mac's Roll Up Your Sleeves: "Just take a listen, and you'll understand why! It's uplifting with an important message for these challenging times.
"I'm also hoping to be listening to my daughter practising violin - she plays beautifully! - even though her exams are likely to have been postponed."
With books, the politician has just finished Delia Owen's "mesmerising" Where the Crawdads Sing: "I highly recommend it to anyone seeking to be transported to a very different time and place."
"When I have time at home, I love cooking with my kids (it's a great time for a chat and a laugh), reading, and restoring order to our vege patch (I'm determined not to surrender it to the chooks and dogs)."
Kate Washington's coping strategy is to stay fit and healthy: "I jog or walk each morning (actually, my kids say I 'jalk'), so I can support as many people in my community through this desperately difficult time.
"The more I can help others, the better I'm going to cope."
MICHAEL HAGAN. Newcastle Knights legend
As a rugby league player and coach, Michael Hagan helped create some of the proudest moments in Newcastle's sporting history. He was the Knights' premiership-winning coach in 2001.
But right now, there is no NRL to watch, with the season suspended. So what does Michael Hagan watch instead?
"I normally focus on old comedies or thrillers," he says. Something About Mary, The Commuter, and [TV series] Seinfeld, Designated Survivor. Gotta keep your sense of humour, and gotta keep your brain working!"
With his choice of music, Hagan concedes he is "stuck in the eighties a bit", with his Spotify selection loaded with a mix of Simple Minds, Cold Chisel, Police, and the Killers - "all easy to listen to". He is also an avid MMM listener, and "I'm not saying that because I call footy games for them either!!"
For books, Hagan says, "I don't read enough, but I have read a fair bit of James Patterson since Christmas. I also like John Grisham. Both keep you guessing until the end. A bit of intrigue."
To cope with the coronvirus-related changes, Michael Hagan is maintaining a routine, including walking each morning, checking in on family and friends, practising yoga for mental health, and "keeping up with the news".
When he has time at home, Hagan confesses, "I avoid the garden and tend to spend too much time watching sport (until now)".
SISTER DIANA SANTLEBEN. Refugee Advocate
Some may avoid the garden; others find solace in it.
"When I have time at home, I am getting into the garden weeding and giving more time to prayer and reflection," says Sister Diana Santleben. "I look on this as a time for renewal."
The 2017 Newcastle Citizen of the Year and founder of Zara's House for refugee women and children has been watching Stateless, a drama series revolving around an immigration detention centre.
"Australia has been so careless about respecting the rights of those who came to us for protection," Sister Di says. "Maybe this virus will be a wake-up call. All of us belong to the one human family. We rise or we fall together."
With the events of the day "churning away in my head", Sister Di has been tuning into the music on ABC Classic during the dark hours: "Even if I wake during the night, I am lulled back to sleep."
For reading, Sister Di recommends a book she recently finished, The Last Day, by Andrew Hunter Murray: "If a contemporary political thriller or scary science fiction is your taste this is for you."
In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, Sister Di admits she is afraid.
"I own the fear," she says. "I am, however, not facing the loss of my job or income. I meet friendly faces in my street and neighbourhood shops.
"I'm proud of the efforts of the Newcastle people to think positively. As one very old lady said to me as we waited in a queue, 'I'm not worried. I have two phone books at home!'."
GREG BRYCE, musician
HE has been at the forefront of Newcastle's music scene since the 1970s. He plays about 200 gigs a year. But overnight, that all changed for Greg Bryce. His voice and guitar were silenced, and his livelihood brought to a halt, by the coronavirus-related restrictions.
However, the solo performer and leader of rock band DV8 hasn't allowed darkness to sneak into the silence. Instead, he is using the quiet positively.
For one thing, he is not planning to watch a screen, "except for some important news announcements from the government, or to look at something that's uplifting, because I want to keep my mind in a good condition".
"For me, that is taking time to pause and look at what my thoughts are doing. And then discriminating. Should I put into action what my thoughts are telling me, or should I let that go because it's not serving me or anyone else very well?
"I do like to meditate every day, and the process of meditation helps the mind relax into a calm space where I can make better choices.
"I've made myself a schedule, and I'll do happy yoga and meditate. Make time to play music and write new songs, and possibly do some recording. It's a great time to be creative."
It's also a good time to listen to music, "anything that's uplifting and positive, not something whiny and complaining".
When pushed to nominate one of his own songs, Bryce offers a tune by his band Hot Yogis, Crinkly-Eyed Smile, which he proceeds to sing - with some adjustments to the lyrics: "I'm feelin' happy that we can be together (remotely)!"
Bryce is also using this time to clean the house.
"And it's not the perfunctory cleaning of just doing the washing up and cleaning the bathroom and toilet, I'm talking about getting into those dark, dirty places where you haven't been for years," he says.
"This change is pushing all of us out of our comfort zone. And it's forcing us to look deeply into ourselves and how we live, and it's a time for making adjustments, and not sitting and being stuck in our old ways.
"It is a time to take stock. We have the time now. It's a time to step back and look at my life."
THE VERY REVEREND KATHERINE BOWYER. Anglican Dean of Newcastle
When the government announced places of worship had to close for now, the Very Reverend Katherine Bowyer had the task of shutting Christ Church Cathedral's doors. But for her, prayer continues.
"At a time when the normal structure and routine of my days is disrupted, it's even more important to pray Morning and Evening Prayer," Dean Bowyer says. "Even when I pray this alone, I know that I am praying with countless others at the same time. We might be physically distant at this time, but we can be spiritually close."
As a long-time "Trekkie" (Star Trek fan), Dean Bowyer is going to watch Star Trek: Picard, "because the themes of acceptance, inclusion, and, above all, seeking and serving the common good, are very important for me".
For music, during this time of year, in Lent, Dean Bowyer usually listens to Allegri's Miserere.
"But this Lent I have been listening to the soundtrack of Chess, as we were going to see it at the Civic Theatre," she says. "The music of Chess is catchy, fun, and clever."
The Bowyer household holds a lot of books. While the Bible and the Prayer Book are central in the library, Dean Bowyer is also reading the collected works of the Welsh poet and Anglican priest, R.S. Thomas.
When she has time at home, Katherine Bowyer rests.
"I am very aware of the temptation to be busy," she says. "There are times of extreme busyness - this is one of them - but years of silent retreats and reflection have helped me to learn that if I do not take time to rest, then I am, as St Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, 'a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal'."
NUATALI NELMES. Lord Mayor of Newcastle
In normal times, Nuatali Nelmes says she doesn't get much of a chance to watch movies and television, or to read for recreation.
However, in these most unusual times, Newcastle's Lord Mayor would recommend watching the 1988 absurd comedy, A Fish Called Wanda: "It's hilarious! Good cast and script."
Nuatali Nelmes has also been trying to watch the Apple TV series, The Morning Show, "so hopefully I will have time to finish that!".
For music, the Lord Mayor likes the Big Little Lies soundtrack and the songs of former One Direction heart-throb and reminted Renaissance man Harry Styles.
"When I have time at home, I normally do washing, sleep, or kid wrangle," she says. "However, with extended time at home, I expect I will be reading the years 7,10 and 12 syllabuses and trying to help my children with schooling."
The family is also planning to increase the frequency of its games night - "which is very competitive" - from weekly to daily.
"I'm still figuring out how I replace going to the gym everyday," Nelmes says. "We are considering family training up and down the driveway, and online yoga.
"My coping strategy for high pressure or stressful situations is also something that I apply in my daily life. Focus on what you can control or influence and make a difference. Don't waste energy fretting about what is not in your sphere of influence."
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