Australians are just beginning to emerge from isolation, and everyone has a story to tell.
Perhaps we've learnt a few lessons along the way – life-changing or not – but, in the wake of a global pandemic, the way we think and behave is likely to be different than before.
Actor Ray Meagher has taken the time in his stride and come to a realisation: "Retirement isn't so frightening," he tells TV WEEK over the phone.
Before Home And Away fans are too worried, Ray, 75, adds that it won't happen anytime soon. And in our bid to keep the TV legend on our screens, we hint that the busy actor has never been one to yearn for the quiet life.
"Yours was a statement, not a question," Ray responds with a laugh.
"But I don't see myself retiring either. The day will come at some point. Although, in the weeks of downtime, I was able to read more books, which I thoroughly enjoyed – I usually only read scripts!"
Summer Bay stalwart Alf Stewart – Ray's alter-ego – is now finally back where he belongs after a long stint away from the Channel Seven studios. Home And Away has recommenced production after shutting down as part of the COVID-19 precautions.
Ray is well aware of his good fortune in being able to return to work as many others face an uphill battle.
"I feel unbelievably privileged that we're back in business," he says. "Plenty of other people haven't been able to return to work, so I feel lucky.
"[Walking into the studios], I didn't see everyone. Most of my days are with a handful of the cast and crew. But I immediately noticed how bloody well-rested everyone looked! [Laughs] I do hope this time makes people who may have taken the job for granted appreciate it a bit more and realise how lucky they are."
In a reflective conversation, Ray looks back on the TV WEEK Gold Logie Award win he calls a "shock", and how a crossroads moment could have meant he didn't became an actor at all.
WATCH: Ray pays tribute to late Home and Away co-star Cornelia Frances in 2018 TV WEEK Logie Awards acceptance speech. Story continues...
Let's rewind the clock to 2010. You're nominated for the TV WEEK Gold Logie for Most Popular Personality on TV and are up against the best in the industry. Do you remember how you felt that night?
To be honest, I still can't believe it [his win] happened. Look at the line-up of nominees that year: Rebecca Gibney, who'd won the previous year and Packed To The Rafters was hugely successful – I thought she was a shoo-in; Shaun Micallef, who has done an amazing job at the ABC; Rove McManus, who has won it multiple times before; Wil Anderson and Adam Hills. Then, if I had no chance before, my colleague Esther Anderson was also nominated, which split the Home And Away vote. I didn't give myself any chance all.
And then [host] Bert Newton called out your name. Did it take a few moments to sink in?
It did – and just long enough for [Home And Away co-stars] Emily Symons or Ada Nicodemou to tip a glass of water or wine on me as they reached across to say congratulations. I'm not sure which of them was guilty – neither has ever owned up! As I stood up, I was trying to wipe the liquid from my thigh. I said to Bert, "It looks like the old man is incontinent." [Laughs]
But your win was no fluke – in 2018, you also won the Silver Logie Award for Most Popular Actor. Do the wins cement your appreciation for the show and your fans?
It's flattering to win, but it's really all about the show. Home And Away has been a huge success. There are probably another 10 or 20 blokes who could have played the role; it's about the show and character, not the individual actor.
Did winning change anything for you personally or professionally?
There's a bit of buzz and excitement upon winning, but I still woke up the next day and had a pulse, thank God. Then I went to work and just got on with it. What I love, in retrospect, is that I don't think I asked anyone to vote for me. Whereas in subsequent years… do you know where I'm going with this? [Laughs] Social media [for use in campaigning] has changed things, which is a bit of a shame. But I'm an old fogey who doesn't use it at all.
Did you watch the Logies on TV before your started attending the awards?
You're asking me to rewind the clock quite a way there! But I certainly did – I had 20 years in the business before Home And Away, so I tuned in to see if my mates won. I met a lot of people along the way and did a lot of films early on in my career, so I always watched it. The TV WEEK Logie Awards is like an actor's Anzac Day – you all get together, have a few drinks and share stories about each other. It's a wonderful meeting place to celebrate the industry and catch up with former colleagues.
There was a time when you could have become a professional rugby player, not an actor. Life could have been vastly different…
After attending school [at Marist College Ashgrove in Brisbane], I played first-grade rugby union for eight or nine years and I also played as a five-eighth for the Queensland Reds. I trialled for the Wallabies tour in 1968 or 1969, so I kind of knew what that path looked like, even though I wasn't good enough to get on the bus, so to speak.
You came close, though.
Yes, but rugby was a very different game in those days. Even if you did get on the bus, you couldn't have made a living out of it. It can be a very short career, especially if you get an injury. To be honest, I don't know what I would have done if I wasn't an actor. I've been lucky enough to keep the lights turned on and pay the rent, so I feel blessed I've done this and have been able to continue doing it. It's wonderful.