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Corona Diaries – locusts, laxatives and cracking good reads

March 19, 2020

My beloved has been out shopping today, not once but twice. Not to stockpile, you understand, just to make sure we have enough essentials to keep us going for a while. By essentials, I don’t mean loo paper, though she did manage to secure an eight-pack today. I’m talking about really boring stuff. Paracetamol, light bulbs, plasters, washing powder, that kind of thing. In the process she comes back with wonderful stuff like a kilo of mussels, which we shall eat tonight.

Just as the virus cases have skyrocketed over the past week, so have the supermarket shelves cleared. At 7am this morning, there were long queues waiting for Morrisons to open. 7am, for goodness sake! I can’t remember what she was hoping to secure at that godly hour, but clearly the rest of our town had similar ideas. Just like Christmas Eve, she said. Locusts don’t celebrate Christmas, I replied.

That said, the panic buying in the UK is clearly selective. She reports an abundance of condoms and pregnancy test kits in the store. Which suggests that people are rutting with abandon and not bothered about the consequences. I wonder how supplies of Viagra are holding up.

Rutting apart, most of us are no doubt thinking how we will fill our isolated days. I have no worries on that score, thanks to a pretty decent stockpile of books. In case you need a few suggestions, here’s my reading list. Even if you don’t share my love of history, you might find a nugget or two nestling within this lot:

The Mirror and the Light: Hilary Mantel. In which Thomas Cromwell finally gets his turn.

The Histories: Herodotus, trans. Tom Holland. Collected works of the West’s first historian, translated by one of my favourite modern historians.

The Red Famine: Anne Applebaum. The story of the Ukrainian famine, orchestrated by Stalin.

Invisible Romans: Robert Knapp. How the other half lived in ancient Rome.

The Tattooist of Auschwitz: Heather Morris. My first novel set in Auschwitz.

The Fifth Risk: Michael Lewis. How Trump is dismantling government.

The Science of Storytelling: Will Storr. An anatomy of stories.

Pale Rider: Laura Spinney. Given where we are now, I couldn’t resist this account of the 1918-20 pandemic.

Black Wave: Kim Ghattas: chronicle of the rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and its many consequences.

A Curious History of Sex: Kate Lister. I’m hoping it does what it says on the tin.

The Last Day: Andrew Hunter Murray. Dystopian thriller.

Nathaniel’s Nutmeg: Giles Milton. Account of competition between the English and the Dutch in the East Indies.

Tidelands: Phillipa Gregory. Historical yarn set in the English Civil War.

Venus and Aphrodite: Bettany Hughes. Meditation on the Goddess of Love.

Arabs: Tim Mackintosh-Smith. History of my favourite people.

Why, you might wonder, do I buy so many books? Because their subjects are so fiendishly interesting. And you never know when a pandemic is lurking around the corner.

Back on the subject that keeps on unfolding – loo paper. I’ve come up with another cunning trick to cut down on excessive usage and eke out supplies a little longer. Regular doses of Immodium. One sure way of ensuring that your bowel movements are kept to a minimum. Once every couple of days would be pretty good. There is of course the possibly that if things went awry you could end up exploding after a few days. But you could always ward off that possibility with a well-timed laxative. The colonic equivalent of uppers and downers. On reflection, perhaps not such a good idea, though at least if you’re caught short you would suffer the consequences in your own home.

More thinking on a lock-down. I worry about our two-year-old grandson if he has to spend a few months cooped up at home. The twos are an age when kids learn the art of socialisation, not only with adults, but especially with other kids. What will be the effect of missing his swimming, playgroup and visits to the park playground? Hopefully he’ll catch up, but you do wonder. Then the realist kicks in. He’ll adapt. Kids do.

On the physical health front, we make the assumption that fruit and veg from overseas will miraculously continue to appear on the supermarket shelves. But if supply chains are disrupted, we should keep an eye on our consumption of vitamin C. So expect our public-spirited locusts to start stockpiling cartons of orange juice.

Meanwhile, keep doing the right thing. Every day without symptoms is a victory.

From → Books, Social, UK

  1. Hilary Mantel’s style should be enough to stop the runs. She’s so clotted.
    It is strange that her books turn into good television, particularly with Mark Rylance bringing Mr. C alive.

    • I love her stuff. Have done since she wrote one of her early novels about Jeddah, where she and I both lived (though we never met). Incidentally, her husband was a contract technical author. I supplied him to IBM for a while.

  2. deborah moggio permalink

    no fair! our libraries are closed.

  3. I tried to like but it won’t let me. Suggestions for your household, Steve:

    Plasters – if these have become essentials, stop using the Samurai sword for your Kendo practice and go back to the wooden stick.

    Immodium – be seriously careful with this or you might end of “full of shit” like the Prime Minister. Even laxatives won’t cure HIM!

    Tablets – We have taken to Vitamin Supplements for Seniors – Nurse Debbie approves – (I was 59 yesterday) and 6-year-old Pattaya Black Ants tablets – Nurse Debbie does not approve – as a tightwad alternative to Viagra. My wad remains tight, but copious….(ahem).

    May your wad remain so as well… Andrew

    • Pattaya Black Ant tablets – fascinating. I’ve forgotten what my wad looks like! Thanks Andrew.

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