Saturday 11 April 2020 (Easter Saturday)
So how is everyone? Let’s start with V who left for Mumbai on 14 March, planning to return on 29 March. That didn’t happen, so she is now locked down with her two sisters and brother in a small hot flat, attempting to carry on with her job, although her internet connection is too poor to get much done.
V is desperate to get back to St John’s Wood. “We keep hearing rumours about repatriation flights but it turns out most of them are fake news”. It looks as if the UK Government is only interested in British Citizens, not people like V who have a permanent right to remain.
“How are you all getting on?” I asked. “You said you wanted to spend time with your family, but would kill them after a few days”. “Yes and yes”, V replied.
Young A has done better on the repatriation front. He was stuck in a tiny shared flat in London with a professional violinist. “I hadn’t realised how much musicians practice the same thing over and over again”, he commented. His father insisted he returned home to the West of Ireland, and sent a plane ticket. Last Sunday he actually made it. He was one of 10 passengers on a jumbo jet that landed in a deserted Dublin airport, from where his brother drove him home.
Meanwhile J has been coping by googling kittens – and found “the most adorable pair of brothers” to buy from a kitten breeder in Birmingham. I had assumed that the kittens would never arrive, but J classified them as “essential”. She found a friend to pick them up, and on Tuesday the Whatsapp group was full of kitten pictures. Then on Wednesday, meltdown: one kitten wasn’t eating and one had problems breathing. On Thursday, J missed the team meeting because she was at the vets. “It was like a doctor giving a diagnosis with a bad news face”. The vet reckons the kittens have congenital defects: it would be touch and go for the next two weeks. “I will give them the best care I can”, J declared.
I phoned yesterday at 4pm and J was having lunch. “I’ve been a full time carer. I’m blending their food, and feeding pellets one at a time, But they seem to be doing better. One has done a poo and I’ve never been so proud”.
I rang M who is still upset about the collapse of her son’s business. I spent time googling Government help, and her son falls right through the many holes. “They spend their whole lives on the phone to the bank, not getting through. I don’t think they go out at all. I’ve been taking them food, which I not how it’s meant to work”, said M.
Meanwhile, K snorted at the idea that she should stay indoors, when she is a young, healthy 72. “I have my old ladies to look after”. Both D and I were a little shocked that she had made a home visit to sort out an old lady’s phone.
But everyone has something – something that is essential to them if not to the rest of the country. J has her kittens; A his family in Ireland; K her feeling of usefulness to old ladies. Tom and I have skating and Mike has his long runs in the woods (reached by stepping over the fence from a layby). V described a car journey with her brother to pick up a bottle of vodka, cutting through Mumbai backstreets to dodge the police roadblocks. My resolution for the week is not to judge.
Yesterday, we went for another skate through the Spring heat haze to Bushey Park. The horse chestnuts were almost in full leaf – with leaves resembling a 1950 prom queen. The hornbeams were bright, light, full of promise. A really beautiful day.
[You might have noticed that my beloved always notices all the trees and flowers. I’m more an animal person myself. Here (taken on the same ride) is what she didn’t think to mention.]
Sunday 12 April 2020 (Easter Day)
Hearing that Boris Johnson is in intensive care has been deeply disconcerting. I woke at 3 in the morning a couple of nights running. Not that I actually believed that there was a grown up in charge of the system, but I still clung to the illusion. And it was made worse by the propaganda that went with it. I never again want to hear that the Prime Minister is “in good spirits”. Aren’t people in intensive care allowed to be scared and distressed and disoriented? Do we have to be “in good spirits” all the time? Perhaps allowing yourself to feel what you feel aids recovery.
It also led to the frightening prospect that Johnson might die and we would be plunged into another Tory leadership election, with all candidates vowing to be more Johnsonian than Johnson.
There is clearly no science behind what we are doing. All the numbers are deeply flawed – though I’m ashamed to find that “Italy coronavirus deaths” is in the top 3 of my most googled search terms. We don’t know what we are doing or how it will end. So for now we are (more or less) following the rules and switching off our critical faculties.
I coloured in the first of my Harry Potter pictures, feeling guilty about wasting time. I then realised there was no reason to feel guilty – a eureka moment. Right now, putting myself in suspended animation and quietly colouring in is all that’s expected of me.
Good news – my sense of smell is returning, very faintly. Tom found me (suspiciously) with my nose in the Nutella jar. “I’m just smelling it,” I explained. I can now smell chocolate and also, just about, coffee – though the base notes predominate over the top, fruity ones.