DAY 7 Saturday 21st March 2020
627 die in a single day in Italy, the biggest rise so far, where BC now means before Coronavirus. UK 177 deaths were reported last night.
Pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants have ‘closed indefinitely.’ Even Toni & Guy have put down their scissors.
We used to hear about competitive international school league tables, now we have nations competing on the epidemiology scale; the Chinese premier boasted about the number of infections in Wuhan remaining static, Putin is gloating about Russia containing the virus better than anyone else. He says they have more beds available in their health-care system than any other nation. The doomy voice of John Simpson burbling up like some deep-sea God, adding that only half of Russian hospitals even have running water and their intensive care wards have less than half the beds available.
The world’s press seems to be hanging around the village of Eyham in Derbyshire, which cannot be healthy for them!
Warnings about possible looting and rioting in London.
Women at 7.30am by a neighbour,70, phoning to tell me: ‘I am dressed, make up on, ready to go,’ meaning to Sainsbury’s, hoping to use their early window opened for the elderly, and I think hunting for loo rolls.
I have never known her get up before 10am and she usually seems to drag around in a haze until about lunch time. Not just her character has changed; her neighbour, a Cockney woman in her eighties who hardly gets out of bed at all and now insists that her family, wearing gloves, bring all her meals up to her room and put the tray down outside her door, now listens to BBC Radio 4 for the first time, all day.
She keeps saying, ‘I wish I had done this before. I am learning so much I didn’t know!’
My neighbour worries that she is turning into an intellectual. I just hope she won’t be getting out of bed one day a Bolshevik.
My adventurous neighbour offers to shop for me. I needed some eggs. None available locally yesterday. She says she will look, but sounds cautious.
‘They might not let me have two boxes,’ she says. She likes a boiled egg for breakfast every day.
A friend in Chicago, which has gone into lock-down today, says the same mania for toilet paper has broken out there. She kindly sent me an image of a waggish florist in Arkansas who is selling a loo roll bouquet for the same price as 12 premium roses.
I am just coming to the end of a roll I bought about three weeks ago. Watch the last sheet go down the pan with some trepidation as if I have been extravagant.
Didn’t wake from a good sleep, I was listening to A Case for Paul Temple, a 1946 crime serial, on BBC Radio 4 Extra, a remarkably violent old series. Dreamed that I was in my car hurtling over a cliff. My neighbour tells me later that he is having strange dreams too, which linger into the day although he didn’t used to remember them after getting up.
Also woke up with the rather unexpected thought: Where is Greta?
I never usually think about her, it must be due to a Private Eye Magazine look alike photo, mixing her up with an actual Swede with eyes and glasses stuck on.
Has she said anything about this current chaos, which is totally due to man’s wilful destruction of the environment and wildlife habitats? Perhaps the issue of ‘race’ trumps the issue of planet survival, as people on the Left refuse to criticise the Chinese. Apparently, she’s ordered all her supporters to go on line, and she has gone back to school. I never realised I would miss her.
At breakfast a slight nagging worry about those eggs. Don’t let me to have one of my remaining two, in case she can’t get them.
Last night I was supposed to go to a private view of work by the painter George Bissill. I wrote a piece about him for the Oxford Times, which will now not appear. Today I was going to hand in 2 paintings for consideration for the Oxford Art Society show due to start on March 28th, newly framed at great expense, dashing up to a framer in Abingdon to get it done in time. I was going to deliver them at 10am to the Kendrew Barn Gallery, St John’s College, Oxford, then rush off to Stanton Harcourt Village Hall for a day of drawing ballet dancers – instead I will be sitting here writing and thinking about loo rolls.
My friend returns looking triumphant. The window for old folk as they used to be called old folk was open although lots of younger people were also pouring through it, and she came back with loo rolls, a chicken, and eggs for both of us. Some shoppers were wearing plastic gloves. Did anyone ask her age before giving out the loo rolls?
‘No, they didn’t,’ she said, looking suddenly crest-fallen.
4pm: Venture out for a walk up to Iffley Village and round past the lock and along the river. Pass a friend’s house and call to her through the window. She suggests an excursion and picnic on Wednesday, going in separate cars. She also tells me that there are ways of getting by without loo paper and she doesn’t use it. She manages with water in a glass. She told me to look at demonstrations on YouTube.
The strange conversations we now have. Meet three other friends along the way, all delighted to see each other as if we hadn’t met for weeks. There is a special fervour in seeing anyone you know, everyone is best friends, but we all keep our distance. Young people however alarmingly seem to be still around in clusters and standing shoulder to shoulder in shops. Perhaps they think the crisis doesn’t really apply them, or even see it as a potential solution to the generation wars which broke out over Brexit? I’m glad I can’t hear some of their radical, private conversations. I remember years ago some pop singer saying that racism in the UK will vanish once the old people are dead.The last time I walked along the lock, about three weeks ago, I’d never heard of the big C and life was balmy rather than barmy.
7pm. 233 now dead from the virus in the UK. 53 in the last 24 hours.