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Love in the Time of Coronavirus.

This is day one of my blog, Love in the Time of Coronavirus. I confess I shamelessly stole this title from my daughter Sarah’s blog. Too good a title to resist and anyway it is a compliment, Sarah. Sort of. 

Don’t panic!

As the news filtered through this morning of more draconian measures from the government including house arrest for vulnerable groups, in particular the over 70s, i.e. us, Mary and I engaged in the frantic panic buying of a bread making machine. It seemed impossible we could live even a day without fresh bread. This trumped loo paper in our estimation. I know, I know, man cannot live by bread alone, but a warm loaf of Sourdough is something to die for. Well perhaps not. 

I got to the Coop in Summertown early with instructions to buy bread flour and dried yeast by the bucketload only to find these inessential items had been stripped from the shelves. A bit of a blow that. I bought the Guardian from my friend Sean, whose name is not actually Sean as he is from Iran. But it says that on his badge and he answers to it. He and I were both unshaven and rather haggard. I confessed to waking in the middle of night worrying. What about, he asked? The End of the World, I answered. A slight smile flitted briefly on his careworn face. I worry more about home, he said sadly. About Iran. I sympathised and told him about the bread maker and the absence of flour and yeast. I suspect he didn’t think they were quite of the same order but was too polite to say so. We parted wondering whether we would meet again in this life or the next. 

I returned home to find Mary about to confirm an online Waitrose delivery slot for the 5th April, the earliest she could get, when the site crashed. Too many people panic buying. Ridiculous. We were just being prudent. So, no flour or yeast from Waitrose. Or Ocado. Or Sainsburys. Or M & S. Or Tesco’s. Later, I phoned my sister, who is 86, has a broken collarbone, and lives on her own, not even a cat or a dog for company. She told me that her daughter-in-law, Emma, had been brilliant and got her fresh fruit and veg deliveries from Abel and Cole. I hurriedly conveyed this to Mary who got online [hooray!], chose a small basket of veg and fruit, placed it in the large basket so to speak but was then told that Abel or Cole or both that he, she or they could not for the moment register any new accounts. Maybe we should have gone for a larger basket, but I suspect that wasn’t the problem.

An email from my good friend, Bahram. He and Jean had been thwarted from driving to their lovely French house near Marmande – the tomato capital of Europe no less. I told him it was reckless to drive there but that was really because I envied him. Anyway, he was done over by M. Macron who forbade all inessential travel. Those who transgress will be punished. Nous sommes en guerre, Macron declared solemnly to camera. Shades of 1789 and Madame Guillotine. 

Opinions differ about our government’s strategy of letting the virus run its course among hoi polloi and protecting the vulnerable and the rich. For the few, not the many, you might say. Unfortunate that the Principal Scientific Advisor used the phrase ‘herd immunity’. The airwaves are rife with scientists arguing fiercely for and against this notion. Plus ça change. When do scientists ever agree? Never a good idea to compare the people with a herd of wildebeest though. I have nothing but admiration for the two advisors. Tall, besuited, ramrod straight, they stand like two legionnaires either side of our dishevelled, crumpled PM tightly gripping the rostrum, eyes shifting to and fro, wanting to be anywhere but where he finds himself. Being king of the world turns out not to be the fun job after all. He is more equipped for the Fool than Lear. 

My friend Angela and my son-in-law Howard sent me a link to an Imperial College paper on the modelling of different strategies for coping with the virus.[1] I have to read bits – paragraphs, sentences, words – more than once and even then I find the meaning slipping like water through my fingers. It vindicates the government’s strategy it seems though the truth is that nobody knows. So, we need distractions and here is my first antidote to despair.

Antidote No. 1

The Vessel with the Pestle. The incomparable Danny Kaye in The Court Jester. Watch the whole film. It is a joy.

[1] https://www.imperial.ac.uk/media/imperial-college/medicine/sph/ide/gida-fellowships/Imperial-College-COVID19-NPI-modelling-16-03-2020.pdf