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Corona Diaries: breaking out

May 15, 2020

A new dawn awaits. On Saturday I will be out on the golf course for the first time in eight weeks. It will also be the first time I’ve driven my car since February. I normally play golf three days a week, and I shall start doing that again now that Boris says I can. Or doesn’t say I can’t.

My beloved expects me to be fibrillating with excitement at the prospect of my first real foray into the world outside our home beyond the regular walk around town. She’s a bit disappointed when I say I’m not, and that actually I haven’t really missed golf too much.

The reason I’m not jumping for joy is that I’m well on my way to becoming institutionalised. Lockdown with one other person in a largish house with a decent-sized garden under the sunny skies of the past couple of months has hardly been a penance. We’ve settled into a routine in which we give each other plenty of space. Plenty of us-time too.

There’s comfort in an ordered life that’s well-known to people who’ve been in hospitals, prison and boarding schools. I’ve experienced two out of three. The difference, of course, is that it’s our routine, not something imposed on us.

On typical day I’ll be up early browsing and writing, fortified by plenty of coffee, followed by breakfast mid-morning, daily chores, a book, a nap, a walk round town, more boring stuff, a cross-trainer session and dinner. Then a bit more browsing, a bit more writing, some telly, another book and sleep.

You may have noticed that we do without lunch. Two meals a day is our way of avoiding turning into pumpkins.

I make the odd phone call to friends and relatives. We say hello to our grandson every day. No tedious Zoom meetings because I have no reason to chat with 20 people all at once, thank God.

And that’s more or less that, unless we have a squirrel emergency or some other unscheduled event. It’s a bit like living in one of those well-appointed prisons where the Mafia used to hang out in Italy. Not very exciting, hardly worth writing about and certainly not worth complaining about.

Except that it’s only now that the routine is about to be broken that I realise how institutionalised I’ve become. The reason I have mixed feelings about breaking out is that I don’t feel anything has changed. Hundreds of people are still dying every day. The consequences of catching the virus are still potentially dire.

When the pandemic started, I resolved to write off this year. No foreign travel, largely housebound, largely isolated. I told myself that if that’s what it takes to have a decent chance of staying alive until there’s a vaccine or effective anti-viral drugs, then so be it.

I’m lucky. I don’t have an employer urging me back to work, asking me to risk infection in a bus, train or tube. I’m not worrying about running out of money, especially now when our only expenditure is on food and normal household bills. I feel almost guilty writing this when I know so many people are living through really stressful times – no money, no job, uncertain future.

Every day you read optimistic stuff about game changers. The latest is that an antibody test that appears to be 100% reliable has been approved for use in the UK. The Oxford vaccine seems to be doing well in trials. Great, so we’ll soon find out whether 5% or 50% of the population has been infected. And at some stage, many months ahead, maybe we’ll get the chance to have a jab that gives us immunity for a while.

All fine and dandy, except that in the meanwhile the virus is still out there, no less virulent and no less deadly than before. So if it hasn’t changed, why should I?

Then I say to myself: What the hell? You’re in your sixties. You could die at any time from a stoke or a heart attack. Maybe you have some cancer you don’t know about that will end up killing you. The older you get, the riskier life becomes. For God’s sake, you’ve been living with risk all your life. What’s different now?

And I reply yes, you may be right. Perhaps the difference is in the magnitude of the risk, or at least what appears to be the magnitude. Maybe if every day we were regaled with the horror of living after a stroke, hardly able to speak let alone lift a cup of coffee to our lips, or if we saw endless videos of people in the terminal stages of cancer, the stuff that we’re seeing and reading about the effects of the coronavirus would not seem so pitifully awful.

And then I see the sun coming up, the flowers blooming and some infernal machine doing its horticultural thing and deafening everyone within half a mile, Down the road our neighbours are strapping the brandy barrels on their St Bernards, and I say to myself this is not all about you. Remove your head from your backside and live your bloody life.

So I set about redesigning the government’s new slogans, and come up with:

It’s not over. Stay apart. Be sensible.

Or perhaps, on a more spiritual level:

Don’t be afraid. Love your neighbour. Love life

And with that, I toddle off to clean the golf clubs in readiness for my own little Great Escape.

From → Social, Sport, UK

  1. Margaret Richardson permalink

    Wonderful Steve, I just love the garden. Looking very neat. Hopefully I’ll be able to enjoy it on a visit again sometime in the future. In the meantime continue to enjoy being semi-institutionalised and of course the golf. M 😊

    • Yes, women leaders have come out of this pretty well, as in Merkel, Ardern, even our own Nicola Sturgeon. How would Hillary have don, I wonder.

  2. deborah a moggio permalink

    I’m sorry to say that I think Hillary would have outmanned the men. That was the road to success in the U.S. for women. Still is, come to think of it.


    • Not sure what to think about that!

      • deborah a moggio permalink

        want to leave it there or discuss it?

      • No, tell me more. Which woman would you like to see instead of/standing with Biden? I have a few thoughts. but I’d like to hear yours, since you have skin in the game!

      • deborah a moggio permalink

        None of the women normally mentioned excite my imagination.
        I would not like to see Kamala Harris. Elizabeth Warren is the one I would think of as most likely to hit the ground running if she had to take over, and the most likely to give Biden grounding if she were VP and he was doing his usual foot in mouth routine. However, she could fulfill the latter role without being V.P. and the more women he has around him the better.
        Klobuchar would seem a good prospect, but the tales of her being (to put it as I did before) too male in her relationship to her staff leaves her open to the kind of hatchet job that Hillary faced.
        Tammy Duckworth has recently been in the news. I don’t know enough about her to know yet, but she is interesting and would seem to be positioned to attract an audience and support from areas that none of the above are likely to draw in in numbers.
        I don’t think Michelle Obama would consider taking the position.
        I could make a list of attributes I’d like to start from, but what the hell good would that do? There is such a gulf between the ideal and the real.

        The first one I wanted was your supreme court justice. Right now, I’d like KK Shailaja of Kerala, India.
        There are a couple of other women I would settle for.

      • Interesting. I’d support you on Warren. Does Gretchen Whitmer not come into the equation? S

      • deborah a moggio permalink

        Whitmer has enough on her plate now. She would harm herself if she walked away from the governorship. Since this pandemic will not be set to rest for at LEAST a year and a half, and more probably more, if she quit to run, that would leave a mess behind her that would certainly blow up before the election.
        One thing to remember is that the electorate here can turn on a dime. You think the elected officials change position often? Yes, but they do so for reasons… all of them self-interest.
        The electorate, uneducated and unthinking, (they only “feel”, they don’t “think”) can swap positions while walking their ballot to the post box.

        Unless he dropped dead or had a major stroke, Biden not only wouldn’t, the top of the party wouldn’t let him.

        P.S. Add Stacey Abrams to the list of “could be”s.

      • deborah a moggio permalink

        As for replacing him at the convention, can no longer happen.

      • Unless he makes the decision.

  3. Andrew Robinson permalink

    Take care at the 19th hole, Steve, and beware of potters!

    We have just this minute decided to open our beachside rental on 4th July and stay here (60 metres from home) until then. We came here on Friday 20th March and have slotted nicely into the routine at the house where we brought out children up.

    Here isn’t as nice as your garden but it’s south-facing and the chances of sun in June are better than at Wimbledon, Weybridge or Weston-Super-Mare.

    Little chance of bookings in June with France imposing a 100km “au vol d’oiseau” ball and chain on brown passport holders such as us. So LET’S ENJOY IT while it lasts !

    STAY AT HOME (almost)
    – ENJOY IT

    I have a new skill !

    FORE !

    • Your place sounds interesting. Where is it? We might want to rent it one day when we’re out of le merde. Re face-to-face, have you ever trained Saudi women? I have. A different kind of social distancing, but quite fun.

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