Monthly Archives: March 2020

The corona-virus diaries: siege day X

Prologue: If you are reading this, then thank Gawd there have been some survivors.

We have been trapped, nay, besieged by the invisible scourge in our warm and cosy house with adequate food and drink now for several hours. According to all media outlets Donald Trump has shut down America putting all the airlines out of business, Europe is in chaos (or it should be), the owners of the stock markets are making a fortune by charging per trade, PM Johnson may be putting his dog up for adoption, Italy has snapped off the continent and is adrift in the Med’.

In other words, it’s bad. Real bad.

By which I mean – obvs – we don’t know anyone who is ill. Annnd no, we don’t know anyone who knows anyone who’s ill either. There was a report of someone in a town somewhere in this county, or it could be another county, who knew someone who got ill but they’re better now. Or dead.

It’s not terribly clear.

07.00 Doom. Today on Radio 4 is never a light way to awaken but Jeez-Loooouise it’s not looking good.


07.29 Put bins out. Birds were singing. Out of desperation? What is it they know that we don’t?

08.44 Looked up definition of pandemic.

10.41 Currently too frightened to go outdoors. Sure the sky looks blue, but it might fall in at any moment. No one on the telly/radio has said that it will, but their tone of voice… the coverage given to disease… it can only be a matter of time before the actual sky actually caves in.

And I want to be safe indoors when it does.

12.07 Counted the toilet rolls.

12.08 Recounted. Then did man maths estimating how long our 8 rolls (quilted) will last. It’s not looking good. (BTW: the girls use way more sheets than the boys. It’s leading to tension.)

12.11 Recounted. Situation nominal. Fretted.

13.02 HAVE YOU HEARD THE NEWS?!!? Jaysus wept: the (so called) expert they had on refused to commit to micro-specifics in fields which are adjacent to his speciality. That is terrible. Why can’t he make accurate predictions based on incomplete information, pure speculation, what-ifs and media hype? What is he hiding? Why are they – the shadowy cabal – withholding information from us? When will the schools close? When will they reopen?

13.06 Made a cup of tea. I tried not to notice that we are running dangerously low on Manchengo and elderflower cordial. God help us all.

13.10 Made rash decisions about the future based on my biased impression of what the actual personal risks are. Heightened sense of panic. Irrational thought coming to the fore. Retrenching into a binary viewpoint. Not with me? Then you are against me. Distrust of funny looking people feels good, makes sense. Believing what is said to me via Social Media, clicking on viral memes and sharing because they support my new belief structures. Have stopped fact checking because, y’know, what’s the point?

Oh, wait. No. No, that was Brexit.

13.11 Panic anyway. Why? Well it just seemed like the right thing to do.

13.13 Ugly cried into a “Keep Calm & Carry On” tea towel. Didn’t find it in the least bit ironic.

13.22 Why can’t Boris come on the telly and quote Churchill? WHhhhhhyy?

13.24 Popped on a spot of Netflix

18.57 Paused Season 2, Episode 5 because I was busting for a wazz. Counted toilet rolls. Did we have 7 or 8 earlier?

19.43 Cheeky Fish Finger sandwich for tea!

20.00 Went to the pub. Had drinks with fellow locals in an enclosed space. Fred told us all about his lush family skiing holiday to Italy but asked us not to tell the school as he doesn’t want the little ‘un to be turned away. Brian’s Asian cruise didn’t seem like much fun neither. Had complimentary crisps from a communal bowl. Told everyone I was already self-isolated. Walked home.

22.30 Nigel Farage not on the Newsnight pundit gallery. Some “experts” instead. Switched off in disgust.

22.58 Ordered toilet roll via Amazon Prime sat on the bog! At least you can rely on them. Cusheen Quilted Luxury Lavender Scented 3 Ply Toilet Tissue Paper Rolls – 60 Rolls for £24.99. Result! Didn’t bother recounting current stock.

23.01 Lights out. Just about made it. But then, what if tomorrow never comes? It can only be a matter of time before something bad happens.

I blame that Jeremy Corbyn.

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Waitrose-ageddon: out of bog roll.

Those who grew up during the cold war lived with the constant fear of Armageddon. A four minute warning and then we’d all be toast. Ah, such simple times…

My favourite musical take on this is from the 1982 album “The Nightfly” (by Steely Dan stalwart Donald Fagen). He was writing about the growing up in the 60s when you might well have a fallout shelter buried in your back-yard. The track “New Frontier” is by turns sarcastic, sentimental, nostalgic, ironic and – these days, lyrically – a little creepy. (The video is a classic period piece, with the final minute giving the whole thing a “what if?” dreamlike quality. It’s title harks to the John F Kennedy speech from 1960.)

So I have this light, funky, foot tapping ear-worm to accompany any thoughts of civilisation obliterating itself. In March Twenty-Twenty with Covid-19 stalking the land, I heartily recommend a smooth, breezy, head-nodding soundtrack of ’80s yacht’ to make it all a bit more bearable.

Shopping today in England’s middle-class retail haven – Waitrose, Marlborough, Wiltshire, during office hours – the tonic of soothing choons would have made life so much better.

(Obvs they’ve run out of bog roll, hand sanitizer, flour and pasta. No self-isolation/nuclear winter/ends of days would be complete without these staples am-I-rite?)

Humming my way round the aisles I was struck by a) the Boomer demographic b) the tense, hushed atmosphere and – possibly a compunded factor of aXb – c) how effing miserable everyone was.

Let’s be frank, Boomer shoppers of Waitrose: you’ve already won at life.

Your property has seen mahousive inflation making you seriously asset rich. Your pension is bullet-proof-gold-plated-final-salary. You retired in your late ’50s and play golf. You turned up today in a new SUV that barely fits in the car park. You can buy all the  Manchengo you can eat – yes, for both houses, perhaps paired with a young Rioja? And then they give you a free coffee to walk round with. The very least you can do is crack a bleedin’ smile?!

Apparently – my sources tell me – peak insanity was achieved by one shopper who browsed the store resplendent in blue surgical latex gloves. A wise precaution to be sure to ward off COVID-19 germs lurking under every fair-trade-jar of marinaded artichokes. After all, you never know who might have fondled that stem of organic, free range broccoli. Why a poor person might have pushed that shallow depth top-up-shop trolley just before you. Heaven knows what grubby mitts might have caressed the artisan ancient-grain-sour-doughs moments ahead of you.

Then having run the arduous gauntlet of the cheese counter, what better way to reflect and catch a breath than with a coffee and pastry in the cafe?

It was noted that self-same shopper sat down with their tray of loveliness and proceeded to feed themselves a danish without taking those rather obvious gloves off.

[I’ll just let that sink in for a moment.]

The world – as I’ve said before – has truly gone mad.

At least a nuclear war had rules of engagement. None of this creeping, uncertain infection nonsense.

Another shopper tore a strip of the hard pressed staff because one of them had the temerity to touch their shopping! With their actual detty Waitrose hands. Quick! Jetwash the store, dive into the emergency pool of hand sanitizer, quarantine the Chablis, get Pritti Patel on speed dial.

If the world as we know it is about to end, oh Boomer shoppers of Waitrose, here are some tips.

  • Smile
  • Smile at other people
  • Smile and be nice to the staff
  • Buy your favourite comestibles and go to your lovely home. Once there make self-isolation a comfortable prison
  • Stop reading the Daily Bloody Mail – that’s like why you’re sodding miserable despite your wealth
  • If you are phobic of others, learn to shop online (but do smile at the delivery driver through your bi-fold doors as you turn on the remote sprinkler system to wash him and the shopping).
  • #bekind

Happy Armageddon everybody!

Message ends

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New phraseology needed: apply without.

“The world has gone mad!”

A refrain oft heard and – I confess – deployed by yours truly over the years. Context? Usually as a verbal line being drawn under a comment (so the conversation can continue). Perhaps accompanied by a smiling, out-loud-eye-roll – as if to concur – with a subtext of “but what’s to be done eh?” Served with a dash of “shall we move on?” Maybe with a good humoured “c’est la vie” adjunct before we proceed vibe.

Only the context has shifted. I’ve started to use it more literally. In doing so am noticing if you use it frequently it sort of devalues. Moreover, overuse sees a loss of potency: no longer does it serve as a deathly serious query to the lurking danger in the collective state of mind.

Perhaps I’ve been asleep at the wheel? Perhaps it’s auld age? Cynicism? World weariness? Perhaps the world was only dicking around previously, but now…

Now the world really has got its shizzle together, howled at the moon, put its underpants on its head and gone completely, certifiably, bat-shit crazy.

I am – of course, what other subject is there – referring to ________________________*.

[*Fill in the blank as appropriate.]

Well, go on.

Fill in the blank.

You see part of the lunacy is that there are legion topics to choose from. Watching the BBC 10 o’clock news on 2nd March 2020 with teenage offspring was so very depressing. Handsome Huw anchored with gravitas a collection of stories that had us physically go out to the garden and check that the sky had not fallen in.

(It hadn’t BTW.)

Here are some ballpark suggestions to get you going on filling in the blank:

Trump Boris Brexit Patel Erdogan Putin Bloomberg Weinstein Musk Bezos.

Hackers Virus Big-Data ID-theft Blackout Amazon Google Big-Brother AI Bots

Immigration Migration Hunger Poverty Genital-mutilation Oppression 

Identity-politics Trans-rights Gender-Fluidity Non-binary Misogyny #MeToo

EU Russia China Syrian Yemen USofA Hungary Turkey India

And in the last few weeks? Covid19 aka Coronavirus.

The latter is baking my noodles on a daily basis as organisations procrastinate then react – over-react IMHO – by adoption of blanket/draconian/absolute/binary plans regarding “travel”. The quotation marks are for the implications that the term brings. International transit, visiting offices, gatherings of groups of people, going to work, going to the shops.

These “isolate and travel not” policies are as leaky as the respirator (face) masks that are being mis-worn across the globe: they are symbolic rather than effective.

Perhaps I will be eating humble pie in the coming weeks. (Alone, in an isolation unit, served through a air-lock-slot by a hazmat suit wearing goon who mutters “@r$h0le” through his respirator.) Yet at this early (?) stage in proceedings 1) the containment horse has already well and truly bolted, 2) the illness appears less aggressive/harmful/hazardous than the level of reaction suggests and 3) governmental advice/guidelines massively inept. Corporations are knee-jerking with absolutist policy decisions: nobody move! It seems common sense has deserted us. Sadly, the following photo of the Pence-led US team praying for a resolution sums in up. (The gutter-language caption from Twitter is courtesy David Baddiel and nails it for me.)

pence team praying

Twitter nails it

Ordinarily, we might say “nothing to see here, go back to your lives” only this outbreak is going to ruin lives through economics, not disease. An albeit imperfect parallel here is the San Francisco earthquake of 2006 . Where the 15 seconds of shakes were tragic, the [ahem] after-shock was in some ways more damaging. Namely: many of the businesses that went bust were not earthquake damaged but cash-flow starved as they were unable to trade during the aftermath. People died that day and lives were wrecked long after.

We appear not to have learned from past calamities.

“The world has gone mad.”

For want of a better term.

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