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My Coronavirus Diary


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.

Friday March 20: Spring Equinox or The First Day of Spring! 

On a rare visit to my garden – I’m too distracted to go out there much – I notice a lot of brightly coloured bulbs coming up, which seems a bit tactless of them. 

Ten thousand now dead from coronavirus worldwide. In the 1660s people picked up plague rumours from Marseilles and Amsterdam, now we are tuned into the frantic misery of the whole world. 

In UK national rail has been reduced apart from commuter lines; no change there then.

‘Health Walks’ and ‘Silver Joggers’ have been cancelled. Lone walks are still permissible. 

Email appears asking me not to use the London Tube unless I absolutely have to. Who, apart from masochists, pickpockets, perverts and social scientists, would ever do that anyway? 

Huge struggle to find a vaccine going or a test which will show who has had the infection and become immune, allowing them to return to normal life.  

How long before we forget what normal life was? The government announces that ‘social distancing’, eschewing each other, might have to last for at least a year. My two cats, Celia and Conrad, seem to know something is up, watching me in a rather subdued way from their place on top of the fridge, picking the feeling up from me of course.

I know something is ‘up’ as I have slightly lost my appetite. Most unusual – even in the midst of chemotherapy in 2010 I could eat like a trooper, or is it Trojan? A friend appeared on Monday with a frozen haggis as she was desperately clearing out her small freezer to make room for essentials. I ate half of it yesterday, delicious with fresh carrots, sweet potato and parsnips. The hoarders don’t seem to want fruit and veg. I intended to fry the rest for breakfast today, but it’s languishing in the fridge with a lot of other food which I was anxious to buy and now don’t really want. 

I haven’t seen that neighbour since then. I called twice and she didn’t answer the door or phone. I was really worried that she had gone on some kind of serious lockdown and maybe we wouldn’t meet again for months, but she told me today that the problem was the battery in her doorbell. She told me this standing in her doorway while I remained the statutory six feet away on the road. 

She also said that Currys in Botley, Oxford, have sold out of chest freezers. Chilling indeed, feel as cold as Defoe when he heard a woman screaming ‘Oh Death!’ from a window above. That explains all the missing bread. All that energy going into hoarding by people I hope I will never meet. But how can I know who they are, any more than I can see who is infected?

I am now about to take a risk that could ruin my day and lead to tears and screams which might alarm anyone near my windows: setting up online banking. I used to do it but got so sick of passwords not working that I got quite phobic about it and started trailing into town to the bank, even at short notice. This method is obviously more sensible – I’ve known that for ages, I never thought it would also become physically safer.  

9.45am: I wonder how long this is going to take?

10.05am: Done it! Emergency has a remarkably good effect on the brain, once you get over the shock of being in that situation. 

My elation quickly replaced by fury with BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour blaming white men for the virus because they say they do not ‘perceive risk’ as quickly as women and men from ethnic minorities. They usually discount all gender differences, and why are they worrying about gender at this time? Immediate answer from Jane Garvey, the presenter, who tells listeners, ‘The issue has never been more important.’ 

No mention of the Chinese Communist leaders who allowed all this to happen and are all men. It seems that our war against the virus will be on several fronts, as our ‘culture wars’ continue unabated. 

Risk my life going to the PO/Co-op again and stand in a long line, all spaced out. No bread, eggs or meat available. If a delivery comes in it instantly vanishes. The manageress looks exhausted and cynical.

Agent calls to say she has found a possible tenant for my London flat, a Kurdish driver of luxury cars, who takes people to and from the airport and sometimes works for Uber, i.e. part of a dying if not dead profession likely to become unemployed at any moment. However, he does private work for ‘businessmen’, and has some savings. As London is going into lock-down he is our only option, apart from leaving the flat empty. Agent says she may put her own tenants on some kind of special measures so that they pay only what they can afford for a few months. 

As she says, ‘It’s all gone mad. Maybe we’ve been lied to’ – she means things are worse than the govt admits – ‘In Spain the food is running out.’

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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