A Journal of the Chinese Pest.

Passing through Token-House Yard, Lothbury, of a sudden a casement violently opened just over my head and a woman gave three frightful skreetches, and then cry’d, Oh! Death, Death, Death! Which struck me with Horror and a Chilness, in my very Blood.’

Daniel Defoe, A Journal of the Plague Year, 1665.

Day One. 16th March 2020

To London at the request of the agent who looks after my flat there.  Walk up to the bus station in town as I usually do, enjoying the views of Oxford, and going to the terminus is the best way to make sure of getting a seat with a table avoiding queueing on the pavement in the High Street where there is often an unruly scrum of pensioners, students and locals when the bus arrives.

Today there are only three of us on the bus. I sit up the front so that I am not facing anyone. As we hit the motorway the driver says no one wants to go by bus anymore, people are taking their cars instead, but the road looks quiet compared to the usual Monday morning. Feels like being on a ship of the doomed as we approach the Hoover Building and there’s still hardly any traffic.

My flat has just been decorated and looks stunningly pristine with the most hygienic, virus free loo in London as no one has used it yet. Our minds are constantly thinking about infection.  As I leave, give lovely agent a £100 tip for all her hard work, she puts her arms around me, then we both pull back. We’ve never embraced before and this is not the time to start.

Meet a friend for lunch who wants to visit a café on the Uxbridge Rd. I ‘m reluctant as it’s crowded with local youth seated at cheap lacquered tables all shoved together, but the proprietor comes out and practically drags us in, accompanied by a fat waitress.  As they cram us in a youth sneezes near me and his friend laughs as I swerve out of the way. While we eat tepid beans on toast the young woman wearing a very small, dirty apron keeps wiping the tables with a strong- smelling fluid.

My friend describes her anxiety at suddenly finding herself ordered to stay indoors because she’s seventy, and how she’ll deal with months of enforced claustrophobia, but I’m distracted by a huge TV behind her head showing  a succession of important looking people telling us our future, none of it good, as they say we are facing, ‘an Italian situation.’

She says people over seventy are going to be fined £1,000 if they dare to step outside. Nonsense, I tell her, who’s going to enforce such a thing, when did you last see a policeman?

Get home at 4pm. Have  the prescribed wash singing Happy Birthday twice  but wonder all the time if I have brought Ortho Corona Virinae, in the family Coronaviridae, order Nidovirales, and realm Riboviria, back with me, and if so, where did I catch it?  Wash all the clothes I have worn during the day,  taking particular care over my old red velvet gloves which have never been washed before.  Disappear under the duvet which feels great, but will it feel so good in three months’ time?

Previous diaries

Day 2. Day 3. Day 4. Day 5.

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6 Comments on A Journal of the Chinese Pest.

  1. Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year was fiction, though it’s hard to believe it reading it.
    It’s amusing to see the desperate efforts of the pigmies to keep in the news. Kim of Korea still firing his stupid missiles. Tossers from the eco freak show whining about their obsession being neglected. Might be the end for all that – we’re experiencing life as they would have us live it and we don’t like it.

    I’m in the oldie vulnerable group, 76 with a couple of underlyings. Have switched to shopping at the 7/11 and a petrol station where no one seems to have thought of shelf-stripping. Every time a 44 tonne Sainsbury wagon thunders past my house I smile now. There’s a lot to be said for plastic-wrapped, factory-sealed processed food after all. To hell with fresh food markets and healthy eating!

    • Well Defoe was 5 during the Gt Plague but his work is an amazing piece of journalism collating recollections and facts from that terrible time, also providing a topographical index, maps & documents from contemporary London. As Anthony Burgess said it’s ‘The most reliable and comprehensive account of the Great Plague we have.’

  2. I’ll say ONE thing for the corona virus epidemic. It shows how petty and obsessive, how self-centered an foolish, the “woke” are.

    It shows how meaningless their obsession with things like “the silenced voices obese lesbians of color in the racist patriarchy” really is. Suddenly, for example, nobody seems to be bothered that coronavirus statistics are divided into men and women without mentioning the other 57 (or whatever) genders, and the *hell* with your pronouns. The cult of St. Greta of Thunberg is also on temporary hiatus. Lef’s hope she passed her sell-by date.

    People might – oh horrors – actually wake up to the fact that the real reason people in the past were so *racist* and *sexist* and was not their inherent perversity, before the age of the woke dawned. It is simply that in the past, when such crises as the current corona virus were very common, nobody had time to bothered with the cruel fare of colored trans gays (or whomever) – for the simple reason it is of no importance.

  3. I thought the main danger was the possibility of mutation, but a government advisor said that when this kind of virus does mutate it tends to become less dangerous. All of the people who have died in the UK had pre-existing conditions and the average age of the people who have died in Italy is apparently 81.
    Of course this isn’t great news, but it does seem that the response to the virus is a tad extreme. China must be delighted by the effect it’s having on Western economies.

    • I am so glad you enjoy it! I find it very exciting trying to write it each day, but who knows what we will be feeling/doing in a few weeks time. I realise it could all turn much darker.