Hunter identities reveal what they’re doing with their time as coronavirus hits home

ESCAPE: Artist James Drinkwater at Myall Lakes. Picture: Supplied

 ESCAPE: Artist James Drinkwater at Myall Lakes. Picture: Supplied

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?


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.”