I’m continuing with the serialisation of my wife’s journal, reminding us of the last two extraordinary years as we already begin to forget it.

After last week’s introduction to the year, with the optimism of New Year’s Eve and plans for the months ahead, we move on to exactly two years ago. Things are beginning to look rather different. For the first time, we see mention of coronavirus. Less than a week later, it’s the main thing being discussed.

Friday 28 February 2020 [Dates are the dates T writes on. The events described are in the days just before that]

Well – 7 Exeter weeks done. [She works two days a week lecturing at Exeter University.] Turned up – on time – did all that was asked. And 4 weeks to go. Will our intrepid traveller brave storms, floods, strikes and plague to complete the course? [Previous entries had discussed storms, floods and strikes, but this is the first mention of plague]. It’s looking dodgy. The question of the day: should I buy (cheap) tickets to Exeter for the last 2 weeks of March, or will the University close, in the grip of world panic?

I had a meeting with DfT officials yesterday. I was expecting them to gossip about Covid-19 turning up at a [meeting they had all been at] in Westminster. Would everyone moan about tracing and testing DfT staff? In fact, coronavirus wasn’t mentioned – mainly because everyone looked so ill. [X] and [Y] were at home, and took part by Skype, looking terrible. [Z], sitting next to me, coughed and spluttered her way through the meeting. Referring to Covid-19 seemed indiscrete in the circumstances.

J returned from Japan, looking happy and healthy and bouncy. Had a great time. Her family in Milan has worried about her going to Japan, but in fact coronavirus turned up at their door. J said a lot about the Italian Government exploiting the outbreak for their own ends.

It struck me that people find coronavirus where they look for it. The Japanese don’t believe they will suffer the same fate as Wuhan because they see themselves as “much cleaner”. J described, in awed tones, the array of buttons in Japanese loos. But the Koreans always suspected Christian sects – and found disease. The Italians are restricting 6 small Lombardy towns, because they can. And not looking too hard at Milan, which is more difficult.

My decision for Thursday was whether to trust the world, and leave my civil service computer at work, ready for when I appear next Wednesday. Or should I lug the laptop home, just in case the MOJ building closes, and the tube stops, and we all have to work from home? In the end I brought the laptop home.

Tuesday 3 March 2020:

To our astonishment, Sunday was dry and we went to Hyde Park for a skate. [We do a lot of street skating.] The wild flower areas now run to daisies and violets. We skated in various squiggles around Chelsea.

The last normal Sunday

So how was everyone? Studiously unworried about the virus. P said a lot about how she wasn’t worried about dying. And no-one was too concerned about future restrictions on their movements. Seemed to think that not going into work was OK.

So that was two years ago. Join us next week to see how things developed.

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