Monday 16 March 2020

Journal of the Plague Year 2020 (Entry Three: A Guilty Sigh)

Entry Three: A Guilty Sigh

The week that containment spread throughout Europe started fairly low key with a general low grumbling noise about virus and shut-downs but all this in some vague future. 

Coming into Samuel Johnson’s House for my volunteering session, the trains were as busy as they usually are and although the first conversation was about coronavirus, the rest of the day was no different from other weeks. Plenty of people came in to see the museum and although they weren’t as chatty as I’d have liked, that had nothing to do with the virus.

Going into Tescos and there was no sign of panic-buying (or even panick-buying as Twitter had it). It could be that I eat my main meals at work and only pop into the small shops for top ups, but none of them seemed any emptier than usual.

A friend of mine was chatted up in a strange way. A man pretended to cough on her and then told her that she didn’t need to worry as black people can’t catch corona. I can’t say she seemed too pleased with this chatting up techniques but seeing as other first lines have included, “let me lick your arsehole” and “it won’t suck itself”, it matched the general levels of Harlesden Romance.

At school, the children have take to playing coronavirus it, they chase each other, pretend to cough and then their hands represent spray and if you’re touched, you’re it. It’s impressive how they fit the real world into their games - during the 2011 riots, they played cops and looters.

On Tuesday, I went to my usual Dr Johnson's House Reading Circle. There were half the numbers than usual, though this was claimed to be due to other commitments and not virus worries. It turned out very well in the end, poems are nicer in a small group and there was twice as much wine to go around.

On Wednesday, Cobra met to discuss moving the phase of governmental response from containment t delaying, a stage that might include shutting schools. I was under the impression that we were already in delaying but must of been wrong. It was a ticklish moment when a guilty sigh rippled through the staff room when it was declared we wouldn’t move up a stage yet. It was a sigh encapsulating worry, irritation, a longing for some bonus days off and a guilt about what those days off would represent.

In Italy, the entire country went into lockdown. There have been regular heartwarming scenes of streets and estates singing together. Partly I am heartwarmed but partly I am horrorstruck.How annoying I would find it if I were at home self-isolating and all these noisy people forced their rubbish music at me. There was one video where two separate people in a tower block had squeezeboxes, that's against the Geneva Convention, isn't it?.

The same guilty sigh sped around the school the next day when Cobra met again to decide we would move to the delaying phase but that they wouldn’t actually implement anything. The advice being to stay in with a cough and to wash hands as often as feasible. On this day Ireland declared a two month shut down of schools, the next day every other country in Europe declared it would shut its schools also. Have to admit I felt a little left out, as on the same day this was announced, the school held a practise offsted with inspectors they paid to come. 

Indeed, as the week went on, it seemed a personal affront to keep the school’s open, like there was someone somewhere who really wants me to get it. The conspiracies online suggest that this might actually be the case, that the government want people like me to get it and get over it to provide a buffer should it come again. Ours seems the only government trying this particular method of dealing with the virus.

Will it work?

I’m not convinced.

Entry One: A Cough in a Box (22.2.20 - 28.2.20)
(Coronavirus is a rumble among other stories but silly stories start early.)

Entry Two: Eat More Garlic (29.2.20 - 6.3.20) 
(A song and a wash, rising paranoia.)

Entry Three: A Guilty Sigh (7.3.20-13.3.20) 

(Confusion at school, a new variation on 'it' and a new chat up line.)

Entry Four: A Week as Schrödinger's cat (14.3.20-20.3.20) 

(A week at school where it's open, closed then repurposed as something else.)

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