John’s UK Coronavirus Diary – No 14 – hopeless eyes in the Tuol Sleng photos



Performer and academic Giacinto Palmieri found this online:

When I woke up or maybe when I was half-awake/semi-conscious overnight – it’s difficult to tell the difference at the moment – I had a slight but definite sore throat and sickly feeling at the bottom of my throat. The slight soreness moved down into my chest. And then into my stomach – but that was maybe connected to constipation. Perhaps too much information there. It lasted maybe an hour or 90 minutes.

I did not take paracetamol. I have always been overly-affected by a line in the movie Rosemary’s Baby when Rosemary – pregnant with the Devil’s child – is told by a friend: “Pain is a sign that something is wrong, Rosemary.”

If my body is telling my brain there is a problem somewhere, I want to know exactly where and exactly how strong that pain is, though it is unlikely I will ever be impregnated by Satan.

I reported my very slight symptoms one day earlier this week to the COVID-19 Sympton Tracer app run by King’s College London, Guy’s & St Thames’ Hospitals and others. They are sending me a home test kit. With a car I could have gone to a test centre. I was surprised they are sending me a test because my possible symptoms are very mild. Maybe they responded because, although I am not in a vital group 0r over 70, I am knocking-on a bit and count as a tad old.

I slept almost all of the day.

I went out to buy food at Aldis – a total of 16 minutes.

I was OK but, carrying two heavy bags back, I was slightly wobbly on my feet.

In the last 24 hours, coronavirus-related deaths in the UK have risen by 627, bringing the total to 32,692.


Very tired. I just wanted to sleep in bed all day and had a totally dry mouth when there.

Romanian entertainer Dragos Mostenescu, on the other hand, was just going mad with boredom, his musical children and active animals in self-isolation…

In the evening, I had a FaceTime chat with the singular Kunt and the Gang. Always a cleansing of the mind.


I slept most of the day and had a totally bone dry mouth when in bed. Needed to drink and wee a lot. A strange and possibly not pleasant to envisage combination.

I got a call mid-afternoon when I was stone cold fast asleep. There then followed a 14-minute monologue with me occasionally mumbling a “Yes” and a “Mmm…” of encouragement.

The next time I woke up, several hours later, for totally inexplicable reasons, I was thinking vividly about Bergen Belsen, The Killing Fields and  Rutger Hauer’s final death speech in Bladerunner.

When I was about 10 or 11, I saw on television the film taken of the liberation of Belsen which, I hope, is the worst thing I will ever see in my life.

As the camera moved along a path there was, on the right, a large pile of skeletons… Just the bones… And then one of the skeletons slowly got up and staggered to its feet; a skeleton with almost nothing between its bones, somehow still alive. The camera kept moving and the shuffling, staggering skeleton went out of view as the camera progressed to other horrors.

The killing fields at Choeung Ek – not as horrific as the hopeless eyes in the photographs at S21’s Tuol Sleng

When I went to The Killing Fields years later, outside Phnom Penh, in 1989, they were not as horrific. What was horrific in Phnom Penh itself was going to the S21 Interrogation Centre at Tuol Sleng. Before the Khmer Rouge arrived in 1975, the building had been the Girls’ High School.

The entrance room had a map of Kampuchea made of human skulls. But what was really horrifying was that (I think) three walls of one room were totally covered from ceiling to floor with B&W passport-type headshots of people who had been interrogated… and they all had that same empty look in their blankly-staring eyes. They all knew they would soon be taken on trucks to the killing fields outside Phnom Penh and there they would be slaughtered, one-by-one, with hits on the back of the skull by farming implements – a spade, a fork, whatever.

After thinking of Belsen and Rutger Hauer’s final death speech and the faces at Tuol Sleng and a bit of crying, I went back to sleep.

I woke up to read a Tweet posted by Ariane Sherine. She had given her 9-year-old daughter a fairly complicated maths question. Ariane wrote:

After a moment of confusion, she’s done it and done it correctly, though while concurrently yelling ‘I HATE MATHS!’ 🤣

I commented: I’m with the kid! 

It had just struck me that maths is a dull chore to Ariane’s daughter (and to me) because the correct result is always correct and always pre-exists. It is a chore finding the route to a pre-existent end… With writing or drawing (both of which the daughter is very, very good at), her newly-9-year-old creative imagination creates a unique end result. She is creating her own unique result.

Then I had an iMessage with my friend in Central London whose friend is in an Intensive Care Unit with serious coronavirus:

SHE: I haven’t tasted anything for 7 weeks. Yes still. No taste.

ME: I am forcing myself to get up. I have to wash clothes, bedclothes, bathe myself, shave… but all I really want to do is sleep,

The COVID-19 Symptom Study app

Do you report daily to the COVID-19 app?

The COVID-19 app bloke from Kings College was on BBC News earlier saying they had figured out 14 symptoms (not just the government’s) 3 and that included the taste/smell from their 3million+ app users

SHE: I doubt I still have active virus, John. I lost my smell and had 2 weeks of fever mid-March. My friend tested positive on April 3 when he went into hospital. But is now negative. So I would be too. I’m still shit scared of getting it again though – There’s no guarantee one can’t.

The test they are sending you for whether you have the virus doesn’t identify antibodies. Antibodies are not made fully until 28 days after infection. Roche has developed an antibody test which has been in the news the last few days and will be rolled out in the UK. But it is not the same as the test you will be sent to ascertain whether you have the active virus.

ME: When I donated blood the other week, they specifically said they tested for antibodies but not the virus itself. The blood I donated has been used but no feedback on antibodies.

In the last 24 hours, an extra 384 coronavirus-related deaths in the UK. Total now 33,998 death.


Exhausted… dry mouth

UK deaths up 468 in last 24 hours; now 34,466.

I went to sleep around 1930 last night and woke up round 2130. When I stood up, my sense of balance was all-over-the-place.

I lay down for about 20 minutes. When I stood up again, I was fine.

No idea why. It was like watching myself in an abstract way, from a distance.

Apparently, the average heart rate is between 60-100 bpm but, according to my Apple Watch, I am normally (in resting mode) around the 51/53/53 region.

Today I am around 47 bpm. 

No idea why.


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