This is the fourth week of this journal. (Last week’s is HERE.) Two years ago there was still officially nothing to worry about, but the country was closing down anyway. If you vaguely remember the government offering any kind of leadership, read this and think again.
I’m pleased that at least some people are reading this so we’re going to keep going with it, but I do want to blog about other things as well. Next week the Journal will be posted on Thursday with a regular blog on Friday. This week I’m running two blogs today: this one and a special post for International Women’s Week. Yes, you read that right: two blog posts! I hope your hearts can stand the excitement.
Saturday 14 March 2020
It seems that Friday 13 March was the day Britain ignored Government advice and closed down.
After I finished writing my diary yesterday, I checked my emails. One from the [Exeter course leader] proposing to cancel the Constitutional and Administrative Law seminars on Monday. What did I think? I thought it was a bad idea. The students still have stuff (notably essays) they need help with. Got a reply saying the consensus was to cancel. Then a phone call from P. I led off about snowflakes and panics and how we should keep calm and carry on. P sort of agreed but my puny efforts could not swim against the strong current to “move online”. We agreed to replace the lecture with a video from last year. I cancelled my AirBnB booking while I still could.
The trip to Chamonix is looking dead dodgy – but we packed anyhow, as if the act of packing would make it more likely.
Wednesday 18 March 2020
I’ve just spent two days in bed, with a temperate and a cough. Am confined to the spare room.
On Saturday I did wonder if I was getting sick: a bit like a mild cold. I went to the Chemist with itchy eyes, and was told it was nothing. On Sunday I decided not to go out. Phoned Mike, who had just run an ultra marathon in 6 hours 15 mins. Feeling very pleased with himself.
On Monday after lunch, I said I was tired. I thought I would go to bed. And my vague throat cough was getting deeper. Tom threw me the thermometer: 99.9. I went to bed – quite relaxed and happy – tired and warm. Occasionally, I turned on the radio to hear that stuff had closed. And then Johnson, following rather than leading, telling people not to go to pubs and clubs.
On Monday night, Tom brought me tomato soup in a mug and a rice cake with peanut butter. We watched The Good Place. I stayed in bed, Tom sat in the green camping chair on the other side of the room, and set up the screen between us (thank you Chromecast).
On Tuesday I was pleasantly out of the world. Less pleasant for Tom, who not only has to play fetch and carry, but railed against the reality that I might actually have the disease. “It says here you need a persistent cough and a temperature over 100. You don’t meet the criteria.”
I took my temperature again – exactly 100.
“But it says over 100.”
Later I took my temperature once more: 100.4. Tom said nothing.
“It makes no sense”, Tom resumed, “I’m not even allowed to go to the shops. What are we going to do for bread and milk? Look at all those kids coming home from school. If they haven’t shut the schools, they can’t be serious.”
Phoned Mike. “How are you?” I asked him. “Terrible. I’ve just has a rant from Tom for 45 minutes, mainly on the subject of bread and milk.”
Thursday 19 March 2020
On Wednesday, I woke up as normal. The thermometer confirmed what I already knew: 98.6. Talked briefly about whether I could go downstairs. For now, though I settled for a small table and chair in the spare room. Out of the 75 students I had emailed, four had sent me their essay plans. Before I lead off abut lazy students, though, I should mention an email from the University. “In light of the disruption, there wouldn’t be any online teaching this week”.
I emailed back comments on the four plans I’d been sent. And then felt a little tired. So went back to bed, where I scrolled through the Guardian live feed (stuff closing). And listened to the Government announcement (schools closing).
I’m looking out the window at wet roads on a grey March day: 3 cars; an empty bus; runners; dog walkers; a mother with 2 kids on a scooter. And now nothing. No people. Eerie. Yesterday I noticed planes. So far, this morning I haven’t seen one.
Friday 20 March 2020 (still in spare room, for day 5 out of 7 isolation)
On Thursday I groped, blinking, into a world of working from home, turning on my work computer. The first thing I realised is that people aren’t working. They have managed mushy emails about how much they care, cancelling things. But positive stuff for the future? Oh, come on. Life is falling apart here. Though I did get one more essay plan: 5 out of 75.
There was an email chain about cancelling a reunion party on 31 March (and reorganising it for 29 September in a London pub – now there’s an act of faith). Otherwise it was jokes and memes and silly videos: muppets and puppet hands eating cars etc.
I phoned J who was in a terrible state over the news from Italy. The young runner in intensive care. The dead nurse. People dying alone. No funerals. She is worried sick about her parents – in their 80s in Milan, with no chance she could see them if they got sick.
Partly to distract J, I brought the subject around to work. Also awful. No one was doing any. The meeting she had prepared for had been a disaster. The technology hadn’t worked. “Here’s a suggestion,” I said off the top of my head. “If they extended my contract for a month, I could get stuck in”. Though when I thought of it, it didn’t seem an easy sell. My work isn’t a national priority right now. Today, to my utter surprise, a chain of emails, agreeing to extend my contract – I just needed to email back, agreeing.
Thursday night I slept badly, overwhelmed by the scale of the change. At 6am I fell heavily asleep until 9am. When J rang at 10am I was still in bed, eating breakfast. “There is a skype meeting at 11am,” she said. “You need to join us”. Looking around our shabby spare room, with its piles of clothes and computer leads, and general debris of the sick room, I decided my colleagues weren’t going to see any of it. I found an old sock and placed it over the camera, just in case.
My boss had been given a bollocking because he had failed to check whether I had the virus. Apparently, he should have submitted figures to the MOJ about it. Which makes no sense. What the Government should be doing is building a database of who has it. I could easily go online and fill in my age, location and symptoms, so all those clever epidemiologists could track who has it. But that is not happening. So why would MOJ figures help?
My time sense is getting all mushed, as formless days blur into a formless future. It’s one week after I was in Waterstone’s café, planning to go to Exeter and packing for skiing. And less than two weeks since the England v Wales match. That now seems prehistoric.