Diary of the Chinese Pestilence

The Summer Edition of the Salisbury Review is out now..

Day 15   April 1st        The Chinese Virus is affecting the Brains of Old Ladies.

Hospital death toll up by 563 to 2,352 – 31% up on yesterday.

The original plan for today was a portrait group this afternoon, and the first of a series of ‘2020 Climate Change Seminars,’ tonight in the local church hall, under such headings as, ‘Climate Change and the Bible’ involving local chapters of Friends of the Earth and possibly Extinction Rebellion.

Well those plans are in the bin. Perhaps we could hold an on line Zoom meeting instead, called ‘Where is Greta Thunberg?’

 Also junked, a message from the vicar that he wishes to discuss with the Parish Council his intention to publish 54 of his ‘best sermons,’ but I’m too busy to worry about missing these joys, fully occupied with the internet. Everyone is the same; ‘Do you use ‘Drop Box?’ Oh, you should,’ ‘Have you tried Google Hang Out yet?’ ‘How can you manage without WhatsApp?’ elderly women ask me, who previously only ever used pen and ink.

I spent hours on Saturday trying to upload images on to Instagram. All my painter friends once boastfully incompetent on line, said this is easy to do, but I already had an old account, at an ancient e mail address with old password. The sort of situation which consigns days to oblivion. I hadn’t had so much trouble since the night before, when I tried to join a street session on Zoom the video conferencing app, which has replaced Skype. Everyone seems to be on it; its virtues being more local faces on screen uttering more platitudes about the current situation, and it’s fiddlier.

 To get hold of the old password and close down one of the previous accounts I had to get the help of my ‘computer man,’ now fully employed from his home, working remotely inside people’s systems in their homes.  

‘I know people who’ve set up two Facebook accounts without realising it,’ he said aghast. That was the old days when older women were daft and didn’t need to bother with social media.

He couldn’t sort out my problem in under an hour as the ‘pass-word reset’ wasn’t working properly because, he said, so many people were on the system. Having fixed that I still didn’t know how to send an image. YouTube videos were as clear as mud, so he set up an Instagram account of his own to help me. The process of sending is of course simple, but only when you have a grandson to tell you how to do it.

I will pay his fee with my new on line current account, I hope. I always enjoyed going into the bank until it became lethal, but the way things are going I’m most  likely to send him a cheque; once he’d gone the photos once again refused to send and the Instagram icon wouldn’t open.

I took a break from this plethora on line to visit the scarcity in the shops, stopping off for petrol.  Like many women I’m uneasy in garages and was slightly jolted to see some of the pumps not working. Jolted again to find the shop closed with a barricade by the door, and a message to us the, ‘night window.’

I was told to swipe my points card which took a bit of time and frustration from the man on the other side of the window, to find the groove on the right. The amount I could swipe had not been increased as it has in some shops, so that took two goes.

‘We learn something every day these days, don’t we?’ I suggested and he looked rather pleased at the idea. Got home to the now familiar rituals; put on clean gloves to unpack the shopping, wash hands, iron the newspaper, stare at the empty loo roll holder with trepidation.

I took some organic milk to a neighbour aged seventy, who is staying in,  spending her time trying to set up a new iPad, make an on-line shopping list without losing the order at the last moment  as she presses ‘Pay,’ fathom out Zoom for her next book group, and face an online veterinary consultation.

Her cat Ted has a lump on his leg. She’d been trying to photograph his wound but he wasn’t allowing it. She was thinking about carrying him to the iPad to be photograph. Being highly technical I suggested that taking the iPad to the cat would be more likely to avoid him disappear through his cat flap. She then found the vet uses ‘another thingy like Zoom,’ which she couldn’t set up without buying a new mobile.

On line shopping has increased from seven to twenty percent in the last three weeks. Zoom is now in every living room, used by families, friends, streets, clubs and societies. Globally, 2,000 institutions including financial services companies, government agencies, universities, and healthcare practices are Zooming, including Boris, who recently tweeted a picture of himself chairing a Cabinet meeting using it. He has employees, flunkies and a mistress to help him, a great many women, myself included do not.

‘I’ve spent all day trying to use these things on the computer,’ my friend said as I put the milk down and retreated. ‘Do you think we’ll ever manage to do it?’  

It’s going to take some time, but wayward Chinese eating habits have inadvertently destroyed the UOW-V (Useless Old Woman Virus) which afflicts many middle-class women over the age of forty. My question is, will there ever be a chance in future not to do it?

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