9th March

Hmm not sure what I was thinking with the whole ‘cautiously optimistic outlook’ outlined in my February post. I mean wtf? My Corona Radar was WAY OFF. Perhaps the fact that it was short month that concluded with a big family event rendered me incapable of reading the writing on the wall. Today, with freefalling stock markets, the closure of Italy (!), BA flights grounded, multiple business headquarters closing, including Facebook’s, and the domino-like cancellation of Easter holiday plans I’m not feeling optimistic, even a tiny bit. My wait-and-see mentality has given way to a sober realisation that we are on a flaming trajectory into the unknown.  In 2020 we’ve emerged from bushfires, segued into floods and have now leapfrogged into an episode of The Twilight Zone. From a family perspective, restricted travel bans mean that this will be the most time our family has spent together in years. I’m not used to the absence of jet lag.

10th March

Will the planet may thank us? Less air travel, less carbon emissions, nature given a chance to do its thing. Will there be increased empathy? Will people reach out to stay in touch? Will there be an understanding of what isolation is and how this cloistered existence is an ordinary way of life for many? Londoners are hunkering down with jigsaw puzzles, biscuits and endless cups of tea.

In an Orwellian development, a ‘Unit To Combat Disinformation’ has been established. This runs contrary to Trump’s America where Covid 19 is Fake News.  With the stock markets in free fall, Trump’s bragging rights may soon come to an end. How will a country with no public health infrastructure cope? I don’t want to see!

As they threaten that the crisis will worsen here over the coming days and peak in the coming weeks the only hoarding I’m indulging in is the accumulation of books, Bon Soy and coffee.  Lots of coffee.

11th March

I wonder what the Unit of Disinformation make of the suggestion that drinking bleach is a possible cure for Covid 19. Bleach your cough away today, hey hey! Today I sent Tom to school despite him complaining that his snuffy nose should keep him at home. He’s trying to rort the system. Snuffy noses aren’t a symptom are they? When I asked him to tell me what he’d do if he sneezed at school he muttered “catch it bin it kill it” into his freshly squeezed orange juice. As opposed to ‘see it say it sorted’ or ‘run, hide, tell’. Today it was revealed that the Health Minister has tested positive for Coronavirus and that she was recently at a function at Number 10 Downing Street where she may have coughed on a canape.

11th March

I feel guilty about being flippant!!! The Health Minister lives at home with her 84-year-old mother. THIS IS NO JOKE. Thank goodness her mother is made of tough stuff apparently, she’s doing the vacuuming while her daughter rests on the sofa. They are both unwell but surviving the virus.

Today a chill wind blows and the temperature has plummeted like the stock market. I’m no expert on macroeconomics but even a fool can see that only calamity lies ahead. While walking the dog, every single earful of snatched conversation is Coronavirus-centric. 

“I’m going to draw the Coronavirus and you know what it’s going to look like? You!”

“…if they close the school tomorrow, I’m just not gonna cope…”

 “…are you cancelling your Marbella trip? I think we’ll still go, right?“

“…he should have acted sooner,”

“…keeping him home from school tomorrow…”

 “it’s just the flu, what a lot of fuss about nothing.”

12th March

 WHO declares a pandemic. 

Dinner and theatre and holiday bookings continued to be cancelled. Trying to secure a slot for grocery home delivery is becoming harder and harder, with restrictions on certain items. I aim to cook more and so have organised lots of raw materials to be sent this coming Monday at 11.30 am. Look out Gwyneth. I have an Ocado delivery!

Is Trump cuckoo? Days ago, he was dismissing the virus as less than flu, now he is closing borders to Europe and accusing them of indecisiveness!   Will the virus prove to be his undoing? Weinstein was jailed for 23 years so perhaps miracles are possible.

Friday 13th 

A little bird told me that all schools would be closed today but the little bird must have been Irish, where they have actually imposed lockdown (but not in Northern Ireland). The kids continue to dutifully go off to school here and so life goes on with part normality part panic- buying mania. I’m keeping my faith in the Government response. I imagine the combined minds of the nation’s experts in the COBR meeting, debating over whether closing schools will lead to more illness when kids are looked after by vulnerable grandparents. They’re not in the position of the Chinese government, who were able to separate family members and put citizens under virtual house arrest in order to stifle the outbreak. 

We’re now living in a world of cancellations. Grand Prix-cancelled, the NSW Royal Easter Show- shut down, Disney Land California- closed. No Arsenal game on offer last night after the team coach tested positive to the virus. Our local NHS GP just sent a text asking patients, well…telling them, more like, not to come in. Our GP is closed? The more I dwell on the wider implications for the community the more worried I become. I’m concerned for my friend who is undergoing cancer treatment leaving her with a weakened immune system, for the elderly, for those reliant on charity.

14th March

 My mother-in-law reckons she already had Covid 19, having visited China in December. I remember she did come back with a helluva cough but was Corona even invented back then or was it just a glimmer in the eye of a bat? We have decided to hold her birthday party at home and have otherwise forbidden her to go out, even if she does think she’s immune due to her early-adopter status!

This morning the Heath was abundant with dogs of all shapes and sizes, oblivious to the chaos, fear and a global economy poised to tumble.

For now, to quote the PM’s health advisers “wash your hands and we will get through this.”

15th March

London has bounded into the next phase beyond Containment which has not worked.  Are we in Mitigation? Bars, restaurants, large gatherings, mass events such as the London Marathon and Glastonbury have been postponed, some indefinitely. Edie and I won’t be seeing “Waitress” in the West End this week after all. Restaurants are still open and Anthony and I decide to go out to celebrate our wedding anniversary. The restaurant is half empty.

16th March

The morning of my long-awaited grocery delivery and I receive an email casually informing me that they WON’T BE COMING.  Just like that. Sorry, your delivery is cancelled due to overwhelming demand, but here’s a voucher for your next home delivery (good luck organising that). I go online to make use of this voucher and am a little shocked to read the words “you are 2875th in the queue and this wait will take over 2 hours…” But then everything is wave after wave of shocks these days. In the back of my tiny mind I’m weighing up a potential family scenario. If all five of us became infected that would mean self-isolation for 14 days with no possibility of going out and no possibility of home delivery. Each online supermarket platform I try is overwhelmed.

So, with online shopping out and while we’re in good health, I gather up my shopping bags and hit up a few grocery stores on foot. Not panic buying, but getting enough to see us through a few weeks in case we can’t leave the house. For example, we have no paper towels.  Three supermarkets I visit have nothing along the lines of cleaning products let alone paper towels. You can forget toilet paper. The shelves have been swept clean of this prized item days ago. It appears the public have gone mad panic buying. There’s no pasta or rice of any description. I get what I can to go on with; yoghurt, milk, porridge, fruit and vegetables in lieu of long-life stuff.

  Aside from our heroic NHS workers, the local champions I spy in the crisis are the shelf stackers. And lo, blessed are the independent grocers who I discover have tins of beans and coconut water and kitchen paper, all things we’d run low on.  Deliveroo riders are angels and pharmacists seem saintly, calmly rationing paracetamol and dealing with the requests of their frail elderly customers, tremulous but determined in the chemist queue.

 I witness a savage argument in a supermarket when someone misreads a Quickshopper transaction as a queue- jumping misdemeanour. The accused is a man of colour and it quickly spirals into a heated racial dispute.  Elsewhere, a school parent is pasta- shamed in the Italian grocer, when she attempts to purchase 2 packets of spaghetti

At this stage I still don’t personally know anyone with the virus.

17th March

The kids have their annual dental check-up scheduled this week. Dentists are not yet closed and I call their receptionist who says they’re still operating. Tom now has a cough. Did the snuffly nose have something to do with it?  I can imagine the dentist would have PPE but what about the dental hygienist?  I postpone all three appointments till the end of the following week.

We walk to the Heath but it definitely feels a bit more like we’re in a science fiction novel. Most people are now social distancing. Exercising in the park feels a bit weird and… inappropriate somehow? Italy’s situation is dire. Schools are still operating here but more and more people I know are keeping their kids at home. As the week goes on an increasing number of teachers and are absent. 

18th March 

It’s a half day so the remaining teachers can get to grips with online learning platforms in case we need if we go into lockdown before the school holidays. Jack tells me that there were only 9 remaining students in his class. Edie tells me that the kids who went to a party we forbade her go to on Saturday night are all unwell. I can hear one of them coughing on a continuous loop via her Snapchat feed.

Each night we tune into the news at 6pm, our nightly horror show of baffling statistics and ever extreme safety measures. 

 20th Friday

 Friday evening and Boris announces that all schools will now close ‘until further notice’. Students are thrown into chaos and upheaval when it becomes clear that GCSEs and A Levels will no longer take place.  At all. Just like that these milestones evaporate into thin air. Edie is between GCSE and A level year so she is not affected as dramatically as those in the year above and below who are one minute crying, next minute exultant. Edie’s exams will go ahead in April (at home?) so she will need to study throughout the Easter non- holiday.

I can’t believe that it was merely weeks ago we were still considering going to Japan. That we had planned for my mother and father-in-law to stay with us to celebrate her birthday! Now we understand we may not see them face to face for 12 weeks!

I attempt to get an online delivery order and give up when I’m informed that the wait is over 6 hours and that I’m 27 thousand and something in the queue. 

Sunday 22nd Mothering Sunday

A clear day and the hordes decide to go on Mother’s Day walks in the Spring sunshine, congregating in car parks, having picnics and generally being in close proximity to one another. The government response is swift. Stop it. From now on stay indoors. Stay home, save lives, protect the NHS. The advice seems to be duly digested and London’s metropolis becomes a ghost town, a few rubberneckers out with selfie sticks capturing this rare moment are moved on by police. Every night we watch the news at 6pm with a kind of grim sense of awe. I need to stop myself constantly checking my newsfeed on the phone. I feel thoroughly overwhelmed and have lost my sense of humour. Is this a symptom of the virus? I feel as though mine has been swallowed by a pangolin.

Monday 23rd

Some of our family unit appear to be slightly unwell. Unable to obtain tests or visit the GP we are unsure if the symptoms fit Covid 19 and keep second guessing them.

“He coughed, but he’s also sneezing. That’s not part of it is it?”

“She has a headache but no fever…”

“I feel unwell but maybe it’s just seasonal flu…”

“In the time of a ‘global pandemic’, you have flu? What are the odds!”

“That’s a tautology by the way. And yes, it’s possible isn’t it?”

As I grimly predicted (it’s not like me to get things right! Remember how off my radar was last month?) we now all have sort-of-symptoms but can’t be sure, so we need to get grocery items delivered. The question is how. On the advice of a friend, at home (obviously) recovering from Corona, I begin to hit up some farmer’s websites. Some offer delivery of fruit and vegetable boxes, but it appears many of these more niche sites are now currently overwhelmed by demand as well and have gone into meltdown. Cleverer people than I thought of this first! I find one organic farm called Pale Green Dot, who, hallelujah, send an email confirming that they will deliver a farm box ‘within days’. I have no idea about obtaining cleaning products, loo roll and paper towels we’ll just have to wait till everyone is well. Will Deliveroo start bringing these sorts of basics?

24th March

Anthony’s birthday. Grim. Amazon delivery brings the board games we ordered last week that will serve well as birthday presents. I get a nice candle delivered but we can’t smell it.

Online learning seems to be working. The kids are all in their bedrooms ‘learning’ but I can hear House Party chats running concurrently. The new normal is preparing each meal from scratch then clearing it up. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. Dishwasher on. Dishwasher off. On a positive note, we are all sitting together at meal times with phones off…complaining about the food!

29th March

Oh Veganuary! What a distant memory you seem. And Brexit…why on earth was I obsessed with you, you’re nothing but a boring innocuous uncle in an otherwise terrifying apocalyptic landscape of despair. 

One family conversation today runs…

“What’s for dinner mum?”

“I found a chicken.” 

“Jesus. Where?”

“It was the last one on the shelf at M and S before the lockdown. Just sitting there on an empty shelf, it was. But there’s nothing wrong with it. The expiry was…well, let’s say it’s today, so I’ll cook it tonight.”

“You’re going to poison us.”

“Hey, I gave you 6-month-old meat I’d defrosted two nights ago. You said it tasted fine.”

“Oh God, no wonder I’ve got the shits and a headache.”

“Well, that’s not my cooking, it might just be that virus that’s going round.  Heard of it? “

“Ha ha”

“Anyway, we’ve gotta use everything we have in the fridge and think creatively.”

“Oh God. Please tell me you’re not going to make that ‘leftover pie’ again.”

“But we used up everything in that pie…”

“That pie will haunt me for our entire lockdown.”

A news report today says this situation could go on for as long as 12 months. I think I may run out of creative cooking ideas by then but just maybe I’ll become a whiz. In fact, I’m dusting off my ancient Thermomix . As soon as this headache and the tight feeling in my chest subsides I’ll get back into the cooking. Now to find some ingredients online…