Thursday, October 22, 2020
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My Coronavirus Diary

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Jane Kelly has been keeping an occasional coronavirus diary which we are catching up on today and will be bringing to you at regular intervals.

Sunday, March 21, 2020 (Mothers’ Day)

DEATH toll in Italy increases by 651 to 5,476 – their worst day so far. Five thousand in the UK infected, 233 dead.

Andrew Marr has just said on his BBC1 programme: ‘The virus isn’t trying to kill us. It is just trying to do what all living things do, reproduce.’ 

Is that the most relativist comment in the history of the BBC, the apogee of liberalism? 
 

Good Day! First Sunday of the crisis. I no longer have a mother; I wish I did, as I would love to hear her comments on the current situation. I liked hearing her comments on the Blitz. She once pointed out accusingly: ‘You would not have liked it.’ 

Enjoy my breakfast egg, so hard-won, listening to the BBC Radio 4 Sunday Service, although I never usually bother with it, preferring old comedies on BBC Radio 4 Extra. Not today, even find the thin choral singing quite uplifting. 

Time is spent worrying unexpectedly about loo rolls, lamb mince, and getting in touch with people again sometimes after years of estrangement. Last night, perhaps unwisely, I sent a Facebook message to a man whom I looked after when he was a young boy in Italy.

I was perhaps Europe’s worst au pair and there was a lot of competition. He didn’t get looked after much at all, as I had no intention, as a free-thinking, feminist university student, of doing any domestic chores at all.

I remember his mother showing me some of his clothes to iron. I was aghast and never did it. I was never going to be La Ragazza, the girl about the house. 

Aged 19, I saw my role as eating wonderful Italian home cooking. I put on half a stone, enjoying regular sightseeing, with packed lunch provided, and – most importantly – putting the family right about the Italian government. I was probably the first pestilence they encountered. After I was thrown out, with much shouting and arm-waving, I took refuge with another unhappy au pair in Florence, then went home.

Years later, I discovered that lots of English girls were moving around Europe wrecking the family life of Italian, Spanish and French families without a second thought, often moving from family to family, leaving a trail of tears and destruction behind without any regret. 

I’ve felt guilty since and wonder how that Italian family are getting on now. This is a time for atonement and consoling. 

Friends have suggested an expedition on Wednesday to Wittenham Clumps, the local Iron Age barrows topped with the oldest beech trees in England. Formerly in Berkshire, they used to be called the Berkshire Bubs and Mother Dunch’s Buttocks. A magical place much painted by Paul Nash, and by me.

The plan is to go in separate cars, take a picnic, all walk about separately and have lunch on separate clumps. Not sure about this now. Things seemed to get more serious last night when Boris announced the thing we all dread, that the NHS could be overwhelmed, as in Italy, where no one is allowed out at all, even to walk alone, if people do not heed advice on social distancing.

Apparently yesterday scores of people were scrambling up Mount Snowdon, the coastal holiday resorts were packed and people have started migrating en masse to the Highlands of Scotland. The SNP government, which until recently was virtue-signalling its eagerness to embrace mass migration, is infuriated. Like all control freaks, they don’t welcome sudden change, and the newcomers include some posh Sassenachs. 

Flight was always associated with plague. I felt an ancient tug of grief when the Queen left London last week. As Daniel Defoe decided to stay in plague-hit London in 1665 and try to continue with his business as a tanner, he commented: ‘The richer sort of people, especially the Nobility and Gentry, throng’d out of town, with their families and servants, in White-Chapel nothing was to be seen but Waggons and Carts, with Goods, women, servants, children & coaches fill’d with people of the better sort.’ 

The cats seem happier, as they’ve noticed, like many of us, that the sun is out shining quite brightly. 3pm: Try sit outside reading, but too worried about doing the shopping for my neighbour Doreen tomorrow. Not sure what horrors of hoarding I am expecting to witness, but I have a sense of dread.

To head it off a bit, have a mooch about the local Co-op; plenty of fresh veg. Buy a cauliflower with a view to making a cheese sauce, only later remember that flour is running out and I didn’t check their supplies.

They’ve got no pasta sauces, I’ve probably seen the last of those for the duration, no loo paper – but kitchen roll, which could be used instead; no cleaning materials, and sadly none of the tinned rice pudding that Doreen likes. Can people really be stockpiling that?

They have got cider, cat food and chocolate, three great essentials. The Asian shop next door had aubergines. Waiting to pay, two angelic-looking little girls aged about ten and six, with petal-pale skin and blonde curls came up and stood right next to me. 

‘Please keep your distance,’ I said, gazing down into their scared, puzzled faces. They had no idea what I was talking about.

This diary appears on the Salisbury Review website.

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Jane Kelly
Jane Kelly
Jane Kelly was a journalist with the Daily Mail for fifteen years. She now writes for the Spectator and the Salisbury Review.

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