Normally, I am a blood donor but, I was in hospital for a week in May with a high calcium level and a very low kidney function.
I am still not quite back to normal levels and the doctors still do not know the cause of the problem despite endless X-rays, scans, blood tests et al.
So, last time I was due to give blood, I checked and was turned down and told I could not safely donate until I had finished being an out-patient at my local hospital.
My blood is Group O+ which is, I think, the most common type.
I asked the Blood Donation person on the phone: “I’ve got dead common blood. Why are you phoning me – because people aren’t giving as much blood during the pandemic?”
And this, indeed, turned out to be the reason.
I was told there were fewer donors than normal because of the coronavirus pandemic and – also because of the pandemic – some of the smaller donor centres (hired for the day) have either closed-down permanently or are currently shut because of the ongoing lockdown provisions.
Blood donations have lowered to the extent that they are now phoning up existing donors to encourage them to give blood soon.
England is in a coronavirus total shutdown at the moment. It started on 5th November and continues until at least 2nd December.
This means all non-essential shops and retail premises are closed. So food shops remain open but all pubs are closed because large numbers of people congregating inside a pub, breathing on each other and getting drunk is clearly a bad idea.
But not all pubs are closed…
The last lockdown has encouraged some commendable creative thinking during this one.
My local pub in Hertfordshire has invested in polystyrene food containers and has reinvented itself as a hot meal takeaway.
A wine bar I know in East London has erected a tent outside and is doing – I think – takeaway hot dogs, burgers etc. At any rate, there’s a lot of sizzling and smoke going on there.
And a pub in trendy NW London has re-invented itself as rentable office space – You can rent a table and work from your local pub round the corner in a socially-distanced setting with WiFi and all the benefits of an office (but without any drinks being served).
In this COVID-19 era, the protocol on non-rush hour London trains seems to be that everyone sits on alternate seats, leaving a gap between each person.
MONDAY 5th OCTOBER
Meanwhile, Thameslink trains are dependable for their undependability. When I arrived at Elstree station at 1358 today for the 1401 train, the indicator board proclaimed that the next train was the 0931 tomorrow morning, expected to arrive at 0939.
After travelling by Thameslink, President Trump’s overdramatic exit from hospital in Washington and overdramatic arrival back at the White House after his COVID infection seemed less surreal.
One online reaction to President Trump catching the coronavirus…
TUESDAY 6th OCTOBER
I was talking with someone who used to work in the London Docks who told me that the nickname for the police there used to be “the cabbage”. Neither he nor I could think of any explanation for this.
Apparently Barrie Keefe wrote a (so-far un-made) sequel to The Long Good Friday, centred on the tiny but essential character played by Pierce Brosnan in the original movie.
Keefe once told someone that Brosnan had no lines in the original film: he never spoke. The other person disagreed. Keefe (who, remember, wrote the movie) watched the film again and, sure enough, Pierce Brosnan (in the swimming pool scene) does say “Hi!”
“That’s actors for you,” Barrie Keefe responded.
I was working at ATV (who commissioned the movie for the ITV Network via their ITC/Black Lion companies) when ATV/ITC boss Lew Grade refused to screen it because he was outraged by the ending. It had been commissioned by Charles Denton, who was both Programme Controller at ATV and Managing Director of Black Lion, presumably without Grade ever reading the script.
I think the scene in which someone is crucified on a wooden floor in London must have been inspired by Arthur Thompson‘s penchant for doing that in Glasgow. My ex-London docker told me that the scene in which a widow steps out of a car to spit at a criminal was based on a real incident though, in reality, the man apparently just legged it sharpish.
If you have seen the movie, there is a clip on YouTube of Pierce Brosnan talking about The Long Good Friday but – BEWARE – there are major, major plot spoilers in it.
WEDNESDAY 7th OCTOBER
I was talking to someone who plays the online game Words With Friends with strangers.
Playing with scammers who have only a loose grasp of English
Apparently this has attracted scammers who bombard her with messages of a romantic nature – usually in broken English – Many of them, for some totally unknown and incomprehensible reason, claim to be estate agents (that’s a realtor or real estate agent if you live in the US).
I can only assume there is a school for scammers which provides a template suggesting would-be scammers masquerade as estate agents.
THURSDAY 8th OCTOBER
Is this the shape of bomb disposal technicians to come in the near future?
The UK Chancellor of the Exchequer has suggested that, because of the COVID-19 crisis and its effects on jobs, people should think of switching careers.
My diminutive writer/composer/comedy chum Ariane Sherine (her physical stature is relevant) took the government’s online Careers Advice Test on a whim and it suggested she should become an army officer, a bodyguard or a bomb disposal technician.
Her reaction: “This is clearly not the perfect career for someone with clinical anxiety and paranoia who gets freaked out by sudden loud noises!”
Inspired by this, I tried the Careers Advice Test myself. It suggested I could or should become a boxer, a jockey, a hairdressing salon manager, a Member of Parliament or a TV/film producer…
The government site, which also handles Track & Trace for the COVID-19 outbreak, may need some urgent attention.
FRIDAY 9th OCTOBER
An odd day.
I went into the Tesco store in Borehamwood where, among the free books, were copies of Rolf Harris‘ True Animal Tales and the violent Mafia memoir I Heard You Paint Houses (filmed by Martin Scorsese as The Irishman). I am not sure what this says about the reading or social habits of Tesco’s customers in Borehamwood.
“I am not sure what this says about the social habits of Tesco’s customers in Borehamwood.”
Later, I went into the Tesco store in Leytonstone and found the stand-up urinals in the Gents toilets each had an orange plastic insert bearing the word P-WAVE. I would like to have been at the branding meeting where they brainstormed ideas for the name and colour of this product.
SATURDAY 10th OCTOBER
Anthony Irvine, the ever-inventive act formerly known as The Iceman emailed me, without explanation, an image of his latest painting.
I have no explanation. He had no explanation. I am open to offers…
But the sky today hinted that God takes cocaine. This could explain a lot about the last week and the current year.
In response to my blog yesterday about the coronavirus outbreak, someone I know – a very level-headed chap – sent me these three pieces, which I post without comment…
(Photograph by Roman Kraft via UnSplash)
I have been a community first responder (CFR) for some years. This is an unpaid role where we attend all sorts of medical emergencies – we use first aid equipment, defibrillators and oxygen.
As the coronavirus situation became more widespread, the calls we could be sent became more restricted as the threat level increased. No being sent breathing difficulties or anything that could be COVID-19 related. Preparations were ramped up within the NHS.
More call handlers were required for 111, more admin staff.
We were asked: “Would we help?” Two days training AND pay.
We, of course, said: “Sure, whatever you need.” Didn’t ask what rate. I’d do it for free.
A week later, the call for help changed: “We may need 999 operators and dispatchers. Can you help?”
“Of course. Whatever you need.”
Now, these 999 operators and dispatchers, as new recruits, normally get 12 weeks training in a classroom and then close supervision before being unleashed. This is intense and skilled work.
Last week, I got 8 hours training and I am now on standby for when COVID-19 illness or isolation reduces the current team to below minimum levels.
When the call comes, I shall drive 70 miles, each way, to my call centre. During my shift – which may be nights or weekends – I will get an unpaid half-hour meal break. I will, of course, pay tax and National Insurance on my wages.
My hourly rate? £9.17p
(Photograph by Antoine Dautry via UnSplash)
In a previous life, I was involved in pandemic planning for national government.
The published loss rate (ie death rate) was based upon 1% of the total population. We actually pre-planned for 2.5%.
This % loss was based upon the group most affected.
The 1918/21 flu targeted 18-30 year-olds.
In 1958/60 – children.
And normal flus target the old and sick.
We did an Impact Assessment and, as required for any plans, a Cost Benefit Analysis.
If it hits children (who are 25% of the population) we lose 10% of the kids. Very sad, but we’ve not spent much on them. They are replaceable AND we get smaller class sizes.
If it hits working adults (who are 50% of the population) we lose 5% of the potential workforce. Very sad; we have wasted money educating them, but we keep their pension pots, they will be replaced soon AND unemployment goes through the floor. We pay less Social Security benefits and get more tax revenue.
If it hits Old Age Pensioners and the vulnerable (25% of the population), we have a 10% loss rate of grannies, grandads and the permanently sick. Very sad, but they were going to die soon anyway. Do the maths… up to 10 years x 1.6 million x weekly pension savings, care savings, savings on hospital costs, bus passes, free TV licences, etc etc. PLUS… all those homes are freed-up.
Two years or so after we completed our planning, they accidentally purchased the wrong flu vaccine as the wrong seasonal flu hit us.
There were 60,000 excess deaths of the old and vulnerable.
(Photograph by Engin Akyurt via UnSplash)
People at the moment are hoarding because they are short-sighted chimps and self-obsessed.
I currently do my shop once a week and buy what I need for the week. Supported by an online shop with delivery.
That said, with my background, I had seen this coming and stocked up way before the rush in January and February with some rather nice frozen ready meals, frozen vegetables and canned stuff. The wife has noted my cooking has improved dramatically.
I have ample stocks of hand sanitiser, nitrile gloves and toilet paper. That last item is almost a no-need, though, as I benefit from a top of-the-range Geberit Mera bottom washer/dryer. People (who haven’t got one) laughed at the expense when I purchased and fitted it two years ago.
My home is also rigged-up for my standby generator and I have stocks of petrol (in cans and in the wife’s car) for one month of limited usage, along with a wood burner.
The country is two meals away from anarchy…
Indeed, when the power goes off, people will be using their ill-gotten toilet roll stashes in the dark and wondering how long their frozen food will last and can it be eaten cold?
The shops will not open as lighting and tills won’t work. Cash or barter will be the only currency – the former in short supply as the hole-in-the-wall cash machines cease to operate.
The mobile and landline phone systems will crash within 24 hours as their batteries drain. WiFi and TV stops immediately. The few who have old FM radios will get news telling them to flee to the hills, but they can’t re-fuel their cars as the underground tanks won’t pump.
Essential services that maintained their standby generators are good for seven days but need to protect their own assets. Their staff fail to turn up for work, though, as they are sick or self-isolating or, more likely, just protecting their family from gangs of feral youths and adults who roam the streets looking for places to loot.
We are advised to wash our hands for at least 20 seconds (Photo by Nathan Dumlao via UnSplash)
SUNDAY 29th MARCH
I woke at around 0530 this morning. I live with my grandfather. He had been out late last night and upstairs, from my bed, I could hear him opening the front door downstairs, then coming up the creaking wooden stairs. Then I woke up. There was a strong wind outside making creepy noises. My grandfather died in the 1970s.
Most supermarkets now have an hour at the beginning or end of the day set aside for older people and/or people in vulnerable categories and/or NHS staff. I was in the local Iceland store this afternoon and got talking to a man at a safe distance across a frozen food cabinet. He told me he lives in Pimlico and, last week, someone was mugged in Pimlico and their NHS pass was stolen. Apparently true. Just the NHS pass.
MONDAY 30th MARCH
Yesterday afternoon, I had a FaceTime chat with a friend’s 8-year-old daughter. It lasted 1 hour 19 minutes and she is the most sensible person I have talked to since the coronavirus crisis started. Facebook and Twitter are awash with self-pity and paranoia.
The number of known UK deaths from COVID-19 was announced today as 1,408.
Things perked up later when the extraordinarily talented Romanian entertainer Dragos Mostenescu posted the first in a series of videos about his family and being self-isolated by the coronavirus crisis.
TUESDAY 31st MARCH
In the current coronavirus crisis, we are told only to contact our GP (local doctor) in a real emergency.
Most things in life depend on your viewpoint. Take this online posting from an Online COVID-19 Mutual Aid Group in an expensive area of London:
Hello, my wife and I have been asked by our GP to self-isolate as we are showing symptoms of a viral infection. Our problem is we do not know any neighbours being newish to the zone who can shop for us and we require dog food. Our dog has IBS – Irritable Bowel Syndrome – so she can only eat pasta and veg (broccoli, cauliflower & sprouts). If anybody can help with this plea we would welcome your contact. Many thanks.
The reaction of the person who told me was: “Honestly! People!So well connected they’ve actually seen their GP! Human beings can’t get pasta to eat let alone dogs! Middle Class entitled First World problems! Give the dog some bloody dog food, not vegan muck and it’ll soon feel better…”
A website satire not too far from reality
That reaction seems pretty reasonable to me. But, seen from the point of view of the isolated couple in a new neighbourhood, caring about their dog, their plea is not unreasonable either.
This might not be a total fantasy. Many years ago, a friend with a friend who worked in the A&E Department of a hospital told me Saturday nights had a high incidence of this type of thing including people misunderstanding the physical nature of fish…
Fish can only go one way…
You can stick a (small) fish head-first up your bottom but – remember they have scales – you cannot pull it out… Result… a visit to the local hospital’s A&E Department… And people think coronavirus is bad…
WEDNESDAY 1st APRIL
Back to reality today. A Junior Doctor in the NHS Tweeted: “Last night I certified far more deaths than I can ever remember doing in a single shift. The little things hit you: a book with a bookmark in, a watch still ticking, an unread text message from family.Pandemic medicine is hard.”
The number of daily coronavirus deaths in the UK in the last 24 hours has increased by 563.to 2,352.
A friend who lives in central London, who was ill for a week or more and is just-about getting over it emailed me:
I have definitely had it, John. Without a doubt. All the symptoms – fever for the first week, complete loss of taste/smell, dry cough, aching all over. The GP more or less confirmed it on the phone. The fever comes back sporadically. But the worst thing is not having a working nose.
I’m sure I got it on March 8th when I went to an event with my two girlfriends who also got ill at the same time as me. One is now in hospital.
There is no guarantee that one can’t get it again but the hope is that, like with other viral illnesses, I will have immunity. If there were an antibody test, I would take it.
No masking the truth… (Photograph by Ashkan Forouzani via UnSplash)
The medical people are definitely mentioning the effect on taste and smell, certainly in the things I read and my and my friend’s GPs both said that’s the clincher. It is quite different from losing your sense of smell with a cold. It is just total. If you gave me two slices of bread, one spread with Marmite and the other with Nutella, I could not taste the difference.
Smell is a useful sense – I am only now realising how much I rely on it. I can’t smell whether food has gone off, whether something is burning in the oven, whether a tee-shirt needs washing. With food I never used to throw things out on the Best By or Use By date – if it smelled OK, I would eat it. Now, not so confident.
I am fine now except nose and the odd night fever. I think once over it, one is over it. It takes a couple of weeks. If you get lung complications like my friend (and another friend who is so weak he can’t get from bed to loo and hasn’t eaten for ten days) it’s fucking horrible, but I didn’t thankfully.
My cousin only has loss of smell but the two people who work for him also got it (at the same trade fair) – both young. One got a light dose like me; the other (53 years old and a fit runner) floored by it.
One can see that if one is old or infirm, this would see you off. Some friends who are Junior Doctors are very frightened of it as they’ve seen so many people with it.
Martin Soan practises his planned ascent of Mount Everest
THURSDAY 2nd APRIL
I am desolate.
Comic Martin Soan had planned an ascent of Mount Everest tomorrow. Now he has called it off. Only a week after he called off a concert at the Albert Hall.
These are the facts you pick up when you are isolated in your home and only allowed out very occasionally.
“I am quite happy it’s low, but have no idea why”
FRIDAY 3rd APRIL
There are 3,605 confirmed coronavirus deaths in the UK now: 684 in the last 24 hours.
The normal resting heart rate for adults over the age of 10 years, including older adults, is between 60 and 100 beats per minute (bpm). Highly trained athletes may have a resting heart rate below 60 bpm, sometimes reaching 40 bpm.
My resting heart rate (according to my Apple Watch) is in the low 50s – around 53/53/54. I am no athlete.
I am quite happy it is low but have no idea why.
SATURDAY 4th APRIL
On Wednesday, my friend in Central London had mentioned another friend who was so weak “he can’t get from bed to loo and hasn’t eaten for ten days”. He was admitted to hospital last night, diagnosed with COVID-19 related double viral pneumonia.
Another friend who lives in rural tranquillity in Sussex tells me she has heard tales (by telephone) in the village about joggers hassling walkers, spitting and coughing near people etc etc.
I had to tell her that Borehamwood, where I live – administratively in Hertfordshire but really on the edge of London – has always seemed to me to be surprisingly not anti-social.
Borehamwood – “It is really culturally an Essex town”
It is awash with secondary schools and Yoofs and it is really culturally an Essex town, but there is almost no graffiti. I think the aspiring anarchists must go somewhere else to be anti-social… Not something they can do at the moment, so I dunno where they are. There is no particular sign of Yoofs on the streets.
All I can imagine is that they are staying at home snorting cocaine or shooting-up heroin – both allegedly normally available in town – but this lockdown must surely have screwed the coke, crack and smack distribution system and it sure as hell must have put burglars out of work – everyone is always at home now…
These are grim times for the crime biz…
But the good news is my friend who had lost her sense of taste and smell reports back: “I had smoked salmon for lunch today. And it tasted fishy!!!!!!
In yesterday’s blog, I chatted with Northern Irish born musical performer Kevin McGearyabout how and why he started writing Chinese-language songs. This is Part 2 of that conversation…
JOHN: Are you worried one night there is going to be a knock on your door and a Chinese man will be saying: “We have been reading and listening to your work in Beijing…”?
KEVIN: If it happens, it happens. Isn’t there an old expression: If you’re gonna tell the truth to people, you’d damn well make ‘em laugh, otherwise they will kill you? Fortunately most people find my lyrics funny, so they don’t get that offended.
JOHN: You have a following in China?
KEVIN: I have fans, because the vast majority of pop songs there are just love songs or patriotic songs. My style is so different: just a massive slap in the face to the idea of being populist; so some people really dig it… You know the theory of The Second Dancer?
KEVIN: When you just start dancing in the middle of the street, people think you’re a madman. But, if someone joins you, then you’re a bit of a flash mob.
I had been writing songs in Chinese for over three years by the time I got my Second Dancer – Jennie Li who was an opera singer, a Mandarin-teacher and an academic. When the China Daily were researching their articleabout me, they interviewed her.
Another person who really liked my songs was a literary translator called Bruce Humes,who loved the satire.
I don’t often get a chance to perform my Chinese songs in public now, because I live in Manchester and there aren’t many Chinese people who come to English-language comedy club nights.
JOHN: You sing your English language songs at the clubs?
KEVIN: I’m going to dust off, revisit and rewrite some old songs from the back catalogue to provide the backbone for a new album. In the meantime, with all this coronavirus solitude, I’m going to step aside from comedy music for a bit and record an album of film soundtracks… The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, The Magnificent Seven, Once Upon a Time in The West, Rocky, The Great Escape.
JOHN: In one music video, you seem to be wearing a cowboy shirt.
KEVIN: The song was called I Hate Hunan The Least. When a foreigner wants to become famous for writing Chinese songs, they will usually cover a Chinese love song or sing a Red song – something glorifying China or the Communist Pary. So I thought I would turn the idea on its head… I Hate Hunan The Least mentions every province and then the chorus is I Hate Hunan The Least – just to subvert all those suck-ups who try to endear themselves to the Chinese people.
JOHN: I seem to remember the Chinese, when I was there, had a rather worrying love of Country & Western songs.
KEVIN: Yeah, John Denver is huge there… Patsy Cline…
JOHN: Dolly Parton?
KEVIN: Yes, Dolly. She’s big.
JOHN: Yes… but there seems to be something about the Chinese accent that makes it good for Country & Western.
Are you regionally popular in China – popular in one bit but not another?
KEVIN: I don’t know.
JOHN: You are still persona grata? You could still go back to China?
KEVIN: Oh definitely.
JOHN: You should do a tour.
KEVIN: Well, to get a visa to tour is… In the mid-2000s, Björk ruined it for a lot of people because she gave a concert in Shanghai and, at the end of one of her songs, she shouted: “Free Tibet!”… So now they are very strict about who they will allow to perform.
JOHN: I was at a concert in Chongqing in the 1980s which had lots of musical acts and, if they liked the act, the audience clapped. If not, total silence. Did you ever perform to large audiences in China?
KEVIN: Yes, but not my comedy songs. I was invited to play Chinese-language songs in large halls to a family audience as a sort-of token Westerner – the sheer novelty of having a foreigner sing in their language. I would play whatever was in the Chinese charts at the time.
JOHN: And the clapping?
KEVIN: Yes. I think they were genuinely enthusiastic – and they would throw flowers as well.
JOHN: How did you get your head round the different tone structures of Chinese songs?
KEVIN: As a teenager, most of my musical heroes were the 1990s Britpop acts like Pulp and Blur, so it took a while to grasp… the Chinese put a really strong emphasis on melody. The melodic steps are qi-cheng-zhuan-he （起承转合）- wise-step-spin-unite.
So bands like Radiohead or the Manic Street Preachers would never be that popular in China because they don’t follow this strict melodic structure. But something like The Carpenters – they are really good with this melodic structure.
It’s very important to gain mastery of that four-step melody before you write songs in Chinese.
“It’s very important to gain mastery of that four-step melody”
JOHN: So is Country & Western structured in a Chinese way?
KEVIN: It is, because the melodies tend not to be very subversive.
JOHN: What is a subversive melody?
KEVIN: Most things by Radiohead. A lot of Leonard Cohen stuff. Bob Dylan isn’t popular there at all because, well, he can’t really sing, for a start.
JOHN: I suppose Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan and Radiohead share a drone sound. But why is Country & Western more attuned to their tastes?
KEVIN: I think it’s just the simplicity, the universality. I would not say Country & Western is particularly Chinese-friendly; it just has that universality to it. A purity.
JOHN: Who were the big Western musical heroes when you were there?
KEVIN: Kenny G, the saxophonist, is massive. Boy bands like the Backstreet Boys are really popular, even among 20-something guys. Justin Bieber.
JOHN: You must have this schizophrenic creativity to do a Western album AND a Chinese musical album…
KEVIN: There’s one song where the lyric is basically Tell Me The Truth About Love by WH Auden, slightly changed, and there is an English version and a Chinese versionof that.
Some of my Chinese songs are melodies that have been kicking around in my head since I was a teenager – ones I never quite found the right English lyric for.
I have been writing songs in English since I was 14 and I’m very aware of the figures whose footsteps I’m trying to follow in – Paul Simon and Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen. But I think one of my big strengths as a Chinese-language songwriter is that, aside from going to karaoke, I was largely pretty ignorant of whose footsteps I was following in. So I had that freedom to explore and generally be unaware of what rules I might be breaking.
JOHN: Might you go back to China?
KEVIN: I was seventeen when 9/11 happened, and twenty-four when the Global Financial Crisis toppled the economic superiority of the West, but this is the first time – the coronavirus pandemic – I have been so directly affected by an international upheaval.
The virus originated in China, but that country appears to be over the worst of it while Europe and North America could be six months away from starting to revive their industry. During the inevitable recession, I may consider returning to East Asia to ride out the lean years.
THERE IS A TRAILER ON YOUTUBE FOR KEVIN’S ENGLISH-LANGUAGE ALBUM …
AND THERE IS A TOTALLY UNEDITED AUDIO VERSION OF MY CHAT WITH KEVIN ON THE PODBEAN WEBSITE HERE. IT RUNS 42 MINUTES.
Teddy bears now think humans are a dangerous virus… (Photograph by Daniele Levis Pelusi via UnSplash)
MONDAY 23rd MARCH
I woke up with the same very slightly hard-edged cough I had last night but it was, again, difficult to know if this was real or a slight variation on my normal lifelong dry cough…
I emailed a comedian to see if they were OK and got this reply:
“Yes I am OK, John. But it’s a war crime against humanity. It’s phycological warfare.
to distance humans from each other
the fear is a virus
take away the self-employed sector of society and devalue them in one fell swoop
force everyone on to Universal Credit
the scrap heap of society
using war language like front line
next up forced vaccines and 5g
It does feel like we’re fucked.
This is crime against humanity.
Someone else (not a comedian) told me that her spiritual advisor had told her the whole coronavirus thing had been a purge by the spirits. They had decided to wipe out Mankind but had changed their collective mind. Now it is pretty-much over because the spaceships which were seen over Goa at the weekend and over Peru the previous week have gone away.
In the evening I went out for a one-hour walk – the government says we are allowed out once a day for exercise. When I got back home, I was a bit light-headed and had – I think – the tiniest hint of little headaches, but I could have just been imagining it.
TUESDAY 24th MARCH
We are supposed to keep 6 feet or 2 metres apart, unless we are living together. Thank heavens UK social distancing rules do not apply if you share a household…
A comedy performer has posted on his Facebook page:
I called it yesterday: Pandemic Panic gonna be over by April 6th. Only 28 people died in the UK yesterday.
Around teatime, again, I went out for a one-hour walk. And, when I got back home, I was very slightly light-headed and ever-so-slightly woozy but, again, I could have just been imagining it.
WEDNESDAY 25th MARCH
I feel back to normal today.
The comedy performer who posted on his Facebook page yesterday that the coronavirus outbreak and ‘panic’ would all be over by April 6th today posted:
“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.” (HL Mencken)
Conspiracy theories are sometimes – for some people – easier to understand than reality. And so they are strangely comforting. Because we have all seen the twists in Hollywood movies where the government turns out to be the ultimate ‘baddie’. The devil and plot explanation you know is better than the devil and plot development you don’t know and can’t predict.
Prince Charles has announced he has tested positive for COVID-19 and will self-isolate for 7 days.
My chum Janey Godley, the much-lauded Queen of Scottish Comedy and nemesis of faux President Donald Trump, posted this on her Instagram, headed: Day four of self-isolation.
The bad news (for them) may be that her husband, daughter and dog all have to self-isolate with her
When I do my daily walk to get exercise in Borehamwood, everyone is very polite and keeps their distance. If you see someone coming towards you on the pavement, one of you moves to one edge of the pavement – or sometimes into the road (which is mostly devoid of traffic) and the other person moves to the other side of the pavement. Sometimes, the two people acknowledge each other with a smile or a nod of the head to say Thankyou. It feels like I have been transported back to an Agatha Christie novel set in a 1930s English village… and the killer is still on the loose.
Other views are available. Someone I know of Indian origin posted:
Walking down the street and having old white people cross the road when they see me… Now I know how my dad felt when he came to the UK in the 1960s. No Blacks, no dogs, no virus.
Two metres is the distance we are supposed to stay away from strangers during this coronavirus outbreak… I only understand feet and inches, so I have no idea what 2 metres is.
But I heard a useful explanation on BBC News today. If you imagine the body of an average-sized dead man lying between you and the other person… that is about it.
That I can imagine.
THURSDAY 26th MARCH
Who knew communes still existed? (Photo by Elias Arias via UnSplash)
Someone I know lives in a commune in North London. Who knew such things still existed? He tells me:
There was a minor drama in my house yesterday… The conspiracy theorists who live here actually went to the local hospital to prove that there was no such thing as coronavirus. They went to the chest unit!
When they got back, they talked loudly about it in the garden – about how the doctors weren’t wearing masks. They talked very loudly so everyone could hear because they thought then everyone would realise it wasn’t happening and it is just a conspiracy.
You can imagine the response. Everyone else started freaking out… I’m surprised they weren’t lynched.
I am going to have to try to talk to them again. But it’s really stressing me out because I’ve tried before and now they hate me because I don’t agree with them because that’s how groups work.
A little later, I got an update:
I feel better. I started shouting at the conspiracy theorists about fuck knows what and now I feel better. I had kinda let them chat before because I don’t want to be right about everything, but I had to say something now they’re running around hospitals and are trying to organise a flash mob of young people to meet outside Parliament to defy the ban (and no doubt give each other corona that will kill their grandparents).
I spilt oats on the floor during the row in the kitchen, but not milk – and there’s no use crying over spilt oats.
FRIDAY 27th MARCH
Yesterday, 181 people with coronavirus died in the UK.
Boris Johnson made his health announcement via Twitter
Today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced they had tested positive for coronavirus and each would self-isolate for seven days.
And I found a message in the spam folder of my email account. It started:
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SATURDAY 28th MARCH
Nick Adderley of the very under-pressure Northants Police
We are allowed to go out only once a day to exercise and you are allowed to travel in to work if your job is deemed essential, but anarchy appears to have broken out in Northamptonshire.
The BBC reports Nick Adderley of Northamptonshire Police saying that the force’s control room has had “dozens and dozens” of calls about people ignoring the order to ‘self-isolate’.
“We are getting calls,” Nick Adderley says, “from people who say ‘I think my neighbour is going out on a second run – I want you to come and arrest them’. We would not want to discourage people from making us aware, but we have to set expectations. We won’t have police officers crashing through garden fences to check the ID of everyone who is there to see whether they live at the house or whether they should be self-isolating… If people think we will be descending on these houses with blue lights, then we won’t.”
Superintendent Ash Tuckley, who leads the control room, says other queries have included someone asking if it was illegal NOT to cough into a tissue and a man who asked: “My wife doesn’t think her job is essential but I do and she’s working from home. Is there anything I can do?”
260 people with coronavirus died yesterday in the UK. The victims were aged 33 to 100 with at least 13 of them being healthy adults with no other underlying health problems.
Echoing what was said around a couple of weeks ago, at the beginning of the outbreak, the medical director of NHS England, today said if the number of deaths can be kept below 20,000 the government will have done well.
I thought stockpiling toilet rolls was bizarre enough… But now my local Lidl supermarket has had an outbreak of what appears to be panic buying of bread and eggs… I can only assume this is caused by people who were unable to join in the earlier mass panic buying of toilet rolls trying to bring on constipation by over-eating bread and eggs, thus negating the short-term requirement for the toilet rolls they do not have.
SUNDAY 15th MARCH
Someone has shared a story about a Hindu cow urine drinking party – “Dozens of Hindu activists in India hosted a cow urine-drinking party. Some members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party have claimed that cow urine and dung can prevent and cure COVID-19”.
This is a new twist on an old story.
Moraji Desai, the Indian Prime Minister 1977-1979 used to drink his own urine. He said ‘urine therapy’ was the perfect medical solution for the millions of Indians who could not afford medical treatment.He also attributed his longevity to drinking his own urine – which he called “the water of life”.
I remember English actress Sarah Miles, who was on The Last Resort With Jonathan Ross TV chat show when I was a researcher, likewise drank her own urine, though thankfully or sadly (depending on your viewpoint) not on the show. She seemed a lovely, gentle, very vulnerable person. From memory, I think she used to drink a pint of urine every morning.
MONDAY 16th MARCH
What is it with the lack of eggs in Lidl? Is there panic buying of eggs or have the hens gone into self-isolation?
Is a plague of frogs next? (Photo by Gary Tresize via UnSplash)
The coronavirus is killing off the oldest people… in other words, the first-born… On past documented evidence, I suspect self-isolation may trigger an outbreak of boils, then there will be a plague of frogs and then the locusts will arrive…
In the US, President Trump urges Americans to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people… Is it merely coincidence that this is less than the number required to form a jury…?
TUESDAY 17th MARCH
I have had a dry, irritating-to-others, cough throughout my life. My father had a similar cough throughout his life and he died at 82 (not from the cough). The benefit of this now is that, if I clear my throat in a supermarket aisle, people part before me like the Red Sea before the Israelites.
Facebook has gone mad. I posted a jokey post from the New Yorker about wrestling without an audience being like avant-garde theatre. This apparently breaches Facebook’s community standards and, as such, it has been removed and flagged as fraud… The explanation, apparently is that this is a result of the coronavirus because Facebook is starting to rely on machines, not humans, to check posts.
Not even a single grain of sugar was left in Lidl
WEDNESDAY 18th MARCH
Mystifyingly, there has now been panic buying in the Lidl sugar section in Borehamwood. The Lidl middle aisle still has plenty of grass seed, children’s socks and post-war Russian rocket launchers, but there is not a grain of sugar anywhere…
McDonald’s at Highbury Corner in London is serving only take-aways, no eat-in meals; and my local Costa, from tomorrow, is not accepting their plastic loyalty cards – only via the app – because staff are not allowed to touch strangers’ plastic cards.
Last night, I saw what may have been one of the last comedy shows in London – performed flawlessly by the staggeringly-multi-talented Dragos Mostenescu. I would not normally quote from shows directly, but he started with… “I used to cover the sound of my farts by coughing, but now I am covering the sound of my coughs with farts…”
“Not the arse!” (Photo by Erik Mclean via UnSplash)
THURSDAY 19th MARCH
I have just come back from the local shopping centre where a little old lady was tottering along. As she passed, she glared at me and said unnecessarily loudly in a voice straight out of the EastEnders TV soap: “It’s the face that matters, not the arse! Why are they buying toilet rolls?”
I had not bought and was not going to buy toilet rolls, but I had to admit she had a point…
It turns out that, nowadays, Lincolnshire is the new Wild West even though it is in East England – Mad inventor John Ward told me that thieves had broken into Gosberton Baptist Church, Spalding, and succeeded in stealing toilet rolls.
FRIDAY 20th MARCH
Normally a very rare sight (Photograph by Alex Nevin-Tylee)
In good news, Thameslink are running regular trains. This is odd as they were not doing that before the coronavirus outbreak…
A friend explains the strange lack of sugar on the shelves in Lidl and elsewhere. She says there is also a shortage of flour. Presumably people, she says, are doing home baking. There is not, of course, an ACTUAL shortage of sugar and flour… people are just buying it faster than the supermarkets can re-stock and re-fill the shelves.
An arts journalist (not a news journalist) emailed me: “Well, I still think that it is all being blown out of all proportion, I DO NOT trust anyone in power anywhere to do stuff that is not VERY BAD while we are all locked in our houses quivering. This IS political. Make no mistake. It is political.”
SATURDAY 21st MARCH
Someone told me I am old fashioned… but I think all avenues should be explored in this crisis.
Leeches have long been used (Photo by GlebK via Wikipedia)
I already have paracetamol tablets but, for safety, I looked for leeches in Lidl today. Nothing. Panic buying has emptied random shelves. No bread, eggs or leeches. The world has gone mad. I have had to go online where, it transpires, medical leeches are available.
The John Lewis department stores are temporarily closing from Monday. We are entering a new Dark Ages. John Lewis closing? This is like the fall of Constantinople…
SUNDAY 22nd MARCH
My English friend Sandy, who lives in Milan with her husband, has had some admirable lateral coronavirus thinking…
“My job today,” she says, “is to try and make some face-masks using filter material meant for vacuum cleaners (same principle and we have a box of them). Ready for next time we have to go out.”
Unfortunately, a Facebook Friend then told me: “Some vacuum cleaners’ filters contain fibreglass… something you do not want in your lungs, especially now.”
I had tiny, almost imperceptible headaches in the afternoon. I was not sure if I might be imagining them. In the evening, I had a very slightly hard-edged cough but it was, again, difficult to know if this was real or only a slight variation on my normal lifelong dry cough…