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Corona Diaries – snake oil, man projects and waiting for the viruspolizei

March 22, 2020

Lots of interesting stuff in the Sunday newspapers, as well as the online cloaca maxima. I shan’t comment on all the doom and gloom stuff. You can find that yourselves easily enough.

First off, what a joy to hear foxes copulating at night, disturbed only by the barking of jealous dogs. Then in the morning, not a plane in the sky or car on the road, leaving the soundscape to the birds, who must be astonished to have a blank canvas on which to paint their musical portraits.

In the Sunday Times, Matt Rudd comments on the efforts of people to provide appropriate backgrounds for their online communications. There’s a picture of Ben Fogle in front of a colour-coordinated bookshelf. One row of red, followed by blue, green and yellow. This strikes me as rather a daft idea, unless you have a brain that categorises things by colour, as in Hilary Mantel, green, Albert Einstein, purple, Donald Trump, a sickly orange.

Which brings me to the President, without whom no blog post about COVID-19 would be complete. He’s tweeting with an excitement he rarely summons (other than when he’s boasting about the stock market) about the benefits of chloroquinine in mitigating the virus, despite the advice of one his most eminent advisors that it’s not approved for use by the Food and Drug Administration, even though Trump says it is. From this one can only assume that the president’s son-on-law has invested in a company making tonic water. Expect large numbers of Americans to expire from gin poisoning before long.

Then there’s the Harley Street doctor who has reaped £2.5 million from private coronavirus tests in one week. He’s done this by applying a massive mark-up on a test available direct from the supplier. Goes to show that there’s no limit to human ingenuity in exploiting a bad situation, and no end to gullible punters with more money than sense. I mean, if the test comes back negative, what do you do – test yourself every week for 500 quid a shot? When this is all over, I will definitely reinvent myself as a snake-oil salesman.

Next up, we are being encouraged to decide whether or not we wish to be resuscitated in the event of our catching the virus. Sensible enough when directed at care home patients who spend much of their time staring into space. But as the death toll rises, if some official starts making such noises in the direction of the not-so-elderly, my response will be go stuff yourself, I bloody well do want to be resuscitated. I’ve never had a tattoo, but I’m seriously considering having RESUSCITATE tattooed across the bit where they put the ECG stickers.

Isn’t it amazing how easily how new acronyms enter the language, and how everybody who uses one assumes that you understand what they mean? In this case, I’m talking about PPE, which stands for Personal Protection Equipment. In other words, all the masks, gowns and other stuff health workers use to keep themselves from being infected, and which fashion models use when they’re flying to exotic places. Given the shortage of such kit, I’m surprised people are venturing out wearing latex gloves and face masks when they go to Tesco, where they face disapproving looks that say how dare you wear that stuff when the NHS is running short? But people can be pretty hard nosed when it comes to self-preservation.

I fully expect to see a crop of other new acronyms to emerge in the coming months. Such as NWH (now wash your hands) and SOGs (selfish old gits). Further suggestions welcome.

Meanwhile, as we languish in isolation with only Carrie Mathison for company, I’m doing a bit of planning on constructive things to do at home. Plans are great, aren’t they? You make them down to the last detail, and if you screw up, you look around for someone else to blame. A bit like government IT projects, actually.

I have three projects under development. The first one is to sort out the books. By which I mean that we have shelf after shelf of books which, despite my dogged delusion otherwise, I have to admit I will never read again. It’s time for a purge.

But what to do with the purged volumes, of which I’ve set a target of five hundred? Take them to the charity shop? Maybe. Sell them to an independent bookseller? I’m not sure there are many left, at least not in our neighbourhood. Crate them up ready for disposal after the pandemic is over? That would be my preference, but not easy when the garage and much of the rest of the house are jam-packed with our children’s detritus. (They are of the opinion that since we live in a relatively large house it’s their right to use it as a warehouse.)

Alternatively, as I’ve hinted before, put them in the garden shed and keep them in case we have a hard winter and no means to stay warm, as in The Day After Tomorrow, when the huddled survivors of the big freeze survive by burning the contents of the New York Central Library.

Then there are the CDs. Hundreds, lining my study. Given that I’ve digitised most of them, why keep them there? Because they look nice, and because I want my kids to have them when I’m gone, even thought they might not be too enthralled with 10CC and The Incredible String Band. But they’re totally jumbled up, which means I can’t find anything without loads of searching. So I’m going to do a man project. Sort them all by genre and then by alphabetical order.

Third project: purge the kitchen. How was it that we managed to accumulate enough pots, pans and cutlery to start a restaurant? Do we really need fifteen pots, ten metal trays, twenty mugs and countless knives, forks and spoons? That’s not including more stuff stashed away in the garage.

That one’s going to take a bit of thinking, especially as I will need the uxorial sign-off – she who against all logic can always find a reason to keep something. Marie Kondo she is not.

Next, the plight of the self-employed. This one is close to home. Last week, one of my daughters went from a decent income stream to very little in 24 hours. Apparently there are up to four million people like her. I appreciate that providing support to the self-employed is not a straightforward as subsidising the jobs of employees, and I also appreciate the amount of work the government has had to do to finalise the current support measures.

But it should not be beyond the wit of the mandarins to come up with a plan to help these people that goes beyond the current plan to offer a small increase on Universal Credit. These people pay their taxes and national insurance contributions just like employees. They are the twitch muscles of the economy – they can ramp up very quickly. Equally, if their businesses are allowed to die, a huge financial hole opens up that will be difficult to fill. Try harder, Rishi Sunak.

Lastly, I’m not in the least surprised at hints that the British government is about to bring in the viruspolizei to keep people in their homes. I went through town on an errand yesterday, and was somewhat gobsmacked at the number of people in their cars and on the streets. It reminded me of the old wartime question: “don’t you know there’s a war on?”

Finally, this afternoon my wife took a walk through the park. Since it was a nice day, the place was full of people. Three-generation family groups, teenagers playing football, kids in the playground. So no, I’m not sure people are taking the emergency seriously. Perhaps we need a few electronic signs about showing yesterday’s death toll and the death toll from the day before. That might concentrate the mind. We are not immortal, and we are not immune, even in Surrey.

More soon.

From → Books, Music, Social, UK, USA

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