While my concept of time in isolation has blurred into a psychedelic haze, all I know for sure is that there are now just three days of the week: yesterday, today and tomorrow.
I still have daylight and darkness as an aide memoire so it’s easy enough to mark the point at which yesterday segues into today. That aside this is the era of endless day where nothing much changes.
Marigold asked me (sounds better than ‘ordered’) to take the mat from inside the front door outside and shake it. I did so and about three feeble dust grains dropped almost apologetically to the ground. Nobody comes and goes any more. Nobody traipsing in half a pound of dust and muck at every entry is some consolation I suppose.
As must be evident by now, according to those wise bods who write newspaper columns and talk to us from television screens all ‘over-70s’ are frail, feeble minded, vulnerable creatures with creaking hips and gigantic hearing aids. If they happen to be male better add they will have big ears with sprouting hairs and enough nasal hair to stuff a single mattress. Oh, hang on, the hairy ears and noses bit does strike a chord.
I’m getting weekly calls from my local council to check if I’m still alive. It may be the onset of paranoia, but it’s hard to shake the impression I get that the council’s representative sounds a tad miffed when I somehow manage to pick up the phone. Is there a quota system? Perhaps a target that has to be met? I feel I should be apologising for spoiling the anticipated mortality figures.
Although I have ‘health related conditions’ that seemingly elevate me into a high risk group, I don’t feel remotely ‘vulnerable.’ Yesterday wasn’t a good day, but in general I feel fitter than I have for years.
Doctors? They know nothing.
The first letter from the NHS told me my ‘underlying conditions’ made me especially vulnerable to Covid-19 – and infection would result in very serious illness with a strong likelihood of death. To stand even a slim chance of survival I must immediately go into complete isolation for 12 weeks.
‘Well,’ said Marigold in her Florence Nightingale voice, ‘that’s you told, oh sickly one. Go and hide in the wardrobe for 12 weeks and try not to make a racket.’
It turns out the reality of isolation is no problem at all. I have now had three letters from the NHS/Government each more scary than the last. ‘How are you still able to even get out of bed in the morning?’ Marigold asked after reading the third letter.
We haven’t seen a recognisable human for almost three months. People drop boxes or letters on the mat, bang on the door and run off like naughty schoolboys, but even they are masked, gloved and look like extras from a remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Yesterday not a good day? Oh yes, but just one of those occasional energy sapped days from ‘doing too much’ the day before. I am somewhat mollified by reading in an email from a friend whose legendary (frequently self proclaimed) fitness is widely known that he has the occasional ‘off day’ as well.
I woke up yesterday feeling more weary than when I went to bed the previous evening. My ever so annoyingly ‘smart’ watch recorded my ‘deep sleep’ as zero -not unusual - ‘light sleep’ as 48 minutes and REM (Rapid Eye Movement) as 5 hours and 53 minutes.
Good grief, no wonder I woke up knackered; my eyes go disco dancing every night.
I said to Marigold, ‘I have written off today completely. Let me know when it’s tomorrow.’ Marigold says I am in terminal decline. I think she recognises the symptoms from when the guppies died in a fish tank she was supposedly looking after.
I’d better keep her away from the well meaning ‘better see if the vulnerable brigade are still above ground’ people from the Council next time they ring up. Making assumptions based on mere age is ridiculous and those one-dimensional definitions of the ‘at risk’ generation, even in this one size fits all Covid-90 context are more ridiculous still.
As if we haven’t enough to fret about, does anyone else suffer from Internet related malady or is it just me?
‘Password is incorrect’ is the message on the screen when logging on to same web site I log onto every single day.
Okay, fat finger syndrome I say to myself and type it again.
‘Password is incorrect.’
Double check, no, it’s the same one I used yesterday and the day before. I try again
‘Password is incorrect.’
Reset password - quite a laborious procedure involving typing in a number sent to my mobile phone, which as usual took five minutes to locate and proving three times I am not a robot by identifying traffic lights and fire hydrants on fuzzy photographs and typing in letters and numbers designed to be deliberately unidentifiable.
When prompted to do so I type in my old ‘unrecognised’ previous password Message on screen ‘Cannot use same password as previous password’
Throw iPad at the wall and go in search of ‘The Peoples’ Valium’ - Midget Gems – to calm down.
Incidentally, the chief virtue of a land line phone in our disorganised home environment is its ability to locate a missing mobile phone. This saves time and avoids the blame culture of, ‘well you had it last.’
Floccinaucinihilipilification. Now there’s an icebreaker at parties or a chat up line for nerds. No charge for this service. It’s a word I shall never actually speak in a conversation and, hopefully, never write again. I came across it recently as an example of one of the longest words in the English language. Big deal I thought at the time and almost didn’t bother to find out its meaning. If you are so desperate as not being able to sleep tonight without this information I can reveal it means the estimation of something as valueless.
About as valueless as the word itself then.
On our US road trip, (yes, we used to actually travel at some time in the dim and distant past), we came across quite a lot of Mormons. Every single one being polite, respectable and friendly to us ‘foreigners’ with our strange customs and funny way of talking.
From the conversations we had, discounting the subject of their impressively restrictive underwear which so fascinated Marigold, it was the manner in which they prepared for possible social problems that stood out. In particular the laying up of food stocks which we’ve thought about quite a lot recently.
When the pandemic struck we were pathetically behind the times. Many eminently sensible folk insisted those people rumoured to be stripping the supermarket shelves were a media invention. Others thought it was a temporary phase and everything would be back to normal in a week or so.
We ended up without a plan of campaign – food buying having become like military manoeuvres by the time we cottoned on – and our only response when friends got in touch to gleefully report their ownership of enough Andrex to last a family with incurable incontinence a hundred years was to mutter ‘we’re very short of storage space.’
One evening Marigold said to me, ‘for the first time ever I just wanted us to be Mormons.’
Mormons have three types of storage. The first is a 72-hour kit. This portable storage has what they might need to take with them if they have to evacuate suddenly and need to care for themselves for 72 hours. This includes food, hygiene materials, blankets and pillows, scriptures, and other necessities. This is the ‘bug out bag’ kept easily to hand if (unspecified) disaster strikes.
Then there’s the minimum three-month supply of everything a person needs to survive for three months. It often includes the most common foods, cleaning and hygiene materials, pet food, and anything else that would be useful in helping a family exist if unable to go out shopping for three months.
The aspect of the Mormon lifestyle that I’ve thought about a lot recently though is their long term planning; laying in enough food and supplies to survive just about any catastrophic event. Such as a pandemic. The system is the complete opposite of panic buying as it’s built up gradually, week by week, over a period of time without disrupting supermarket supplies and can be carefully planned. The stored supplies contain everything a family would need to survive for a long period of time if no other foods were available.
Many families we spoke to had stored up a full year’s worth of food and supplies. ‘Where do you put it all?’ asked Marigold. That question must have arisen in so many U.K. households recently as they try to arrange a safe walking route through their teetering stacks of toilet rolls and pasta mountains.
Every disaster is an opportunity for some and Covid-19 is no exception. Among the advertisers pestering me to increase the size of my manhood (thanks but no thanks) or invest in Bitcoin as ‘it’s value will only rise unless something goes wrong’ – hardly an enticing pitch – I came across a reference to the UK Preppers Guide who have all the answers in regard to ‘Survival, Bushcraft and Prepping.’
They continue with, ‘How do you prepare and could you survive a doomsday disaster? Are you ready for when the SHTF.?’
Well, if the S really does HTF, if it hasn’t already, I fear I shall be woefully unprepared.
As for U.K. Preppers – ‘…when the SHTF.?’ You don’t need the full stop as well as the question mark, either will suffice.
Well, maybe but I have lots of free time lately. Just don’t get me started on the excruciating misuse of apostrophes!
In response to expressions of sheer disbelief from those fortunate people who don’t get to meet me in person very often, yes I really do read ‘weird books written by dead people’ on a regular basis. In particular, as I mentioned in the last blog post, I possess ‘analogue’ versions of the works of Pliny the Elder and Samuel Pepys – what we used to call ‘books’ in the olden days – but even for a fairly recently deconstructed Luddite it’s much easier to read Pliny on a Kindle. Digital versions of two thousand year old books are free as authors’ copyright issues are never going to be a hindrance.
Human remains recently found near Pompeii can be directly attributed to Pliny the Elder according to unimpeachable scientific data. The cranium really does belong to the Roman admiral who died leading a rescue mission after Vesuvius erupted, even if the provenance of the jaw found nearby is less certain.
Gaius Plinius Secundus, usually called Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, a naturalist and natural philosopher, a naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and a close personal friend of the Emperor Vespasian.
Vespasian? Nowhere near as important as the group who ruled Rome during his lifetime. We all know of his predecessors, Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero, but Vespasianus was a notable soldier in his own right. In his early career he played a major part in establishing Roman rule in Britain and as Emperor began the construction of The Colosseum.
Pliny, as his friends will almost certainly not have called him wrote Naturalis Historia, which became the accepted model for all future encyclopedias and markedly improves the scholastic tone of my bookshelves.
Yes, to a casual observer it may seem obvious I prefer Lee Child, but I can only plead the availability of a greater body of work from Mister Child when set against an author who inconveniently died two thousand years ago.
In my browsing I rediscovered several quotes by Pliny which have stood the test of time.
‘Home is where the heart is.’
‘The only certainty is that nothing is certain.’
‘Bears when first born are shapeless masses of white flesh a little larger than mice, their claws alone being prominent. The mother then licks them gradually into shape.’
‘Our youth and manhood are due to our country, but our declining years are due to ourselves.’
Addito salis grano - With a grain (or pinch) of salt.’
I’m not fixated on Pliny the Elder. Pliny the Younger was a pretty perspicacious chap as well. His remark ‘Fortes fortuna iuvat - Fortune favours the brave’ – to his uncle during the eruption of Mount Vesuvius was the catalyst for Pliny the Elder to set off with his fleet to investigate in the hope of helping a friend. As a consequence Old Uncle Pliny lost his life when sailing too close to shore during the apocalyptic height of the eruption.
Parkinson's Law accurately describes the manner in which work always increases to fill the time available for finishing it. So, why bother? Young Pliny agrees with me on this subject. ‘That indolent but agreeable condition of doing nothing’ is a phrase attributed to Pliny the Younger. Doing very little whilst giving the appearance of being busy is my own modified version and has stood me in good stead for most of this lockdown period.
Some would doubtless venture to suggest I have applied this system for rather longer than the last two or three months.
Good news from the Front. We’re getting supermarket deliveries now. Today’s has been our second after a major battle to get anyone to acknowledge out there in the real world that we even exist. We got what we asked for, minus the items that seem to have universally vanished from shelves; just now it’s flour, but before that it was pasta and toilet rolls.
We’re not bothered by that or ‘substitutes’ being supplied for two or three other things we wanted. All in all a very efficient process. Where’s the fun in that?
Our local fruit and veg man has been delivering to us for a while. It’s not regular, not remotely efficient, but he gives us what a supermarket will try hard never to include in a home delivery – the gift of randomness. If we ask for parsnips, he may have bushels of them when we ring in our order but none at all when the actual order goes on the van.
So, ‘no parsnips, I’ll send them some satsumas instead’. No need for the customer to be disappointed at the sudden emergence of parsnips on the endangered species list. Here’s my imagined version of the thought processes of our greengrocer.
‘I bet they like a satsuma of an evening. I always think when she rings in the order, that Marigold sounds like someone who enjoys a satsuma. Maybe even two. I’ll chuck a coconut in as well. They didn’t ask for one, but I just noticed there’s two broken eggs in that box so I’ll put in a coconut to make up for them.’
A supermarket would just replace the broken eggs.