Corona Diaries IV – 28, 29 March

28

They tell me it’s the weekend.

My mum does more gardening – weeding today. The one teasel she let grow last year has resulted in baby teasels all over the garden, between the paving stones, in plant pots, on the roof. Well, not on the roof, but I wouldn’t be surprised. She talks about how well adapted they are. The juveniles have wide leaves which cling to the ground in a large area around their roots, smothering everything, but thankfully their roots don’t go too deep, so they’re easy to remove. I imagine a situation where planetary gardeners have a similar reaction to humans. “Oh god, look at the humans. They’re absolutely everywhere.

Across the garden we have a good level of biodiversity, inclusing rosemary, nettles, speedwell and vetch. I love plant names – I put aside Speedwell and Vetch as the name for an apothecary in my future fantasy classic. The height at which dad’s lawnmower cuts has resulted in a pairing between one form of grass, and one form of moss, the combination covering the entire lawn. They are lovely and soft on my bare feet.

After lunch we play an escape game in a box. It comes with a tense backing track, which I play. The ambient level of tension, which was already high, grows higher over the nearly two hours it takes us to reach the end of the first part. In retrospect, pretending to be even more cooped up and unable to escape without solving difficult puzzles probably isn’t the best way to relax when under lockdown.

I talk to my friend about how to solve the problem of modernising Bonjour Tristesse. She says that the existence of phones would make some of the events of the plot hard to believe. I always thought this to be a lame excuse that a certain kind of writer would give, who laments the existence of phones as a hurdle hard to overcome. I still stick by that, but updating an older novel certainly bumps up against this problem. She says, these days, why would you ever wait on a train platform for 15 minutes after the train came in? You’d just call someone. We come up with an elegant solution, a little bit cheeky. Since the book is about a couple of misfits on holiday, most of the issues can be solved by having one of them suggest that they leave their phones in Paris, to better enjoy their two months away. “Cécile strikes me as the kind of person who would be annoyed by social media” says my friend. I think placing her in a modern context is really interesting, it highlights just how things have changed.

I pull a muscle in my back whilst skipping. Pathetic. Later at night I develop a small cough and the potential materialisation of the virus out of the imaginary means I don’t sleep very well. I do have minor hypochondriacal tendencies. But there are any number of things it could be – I got out the steamer today to steam some buns, and we hadn’t used it in about ten years – when it was on, it smelled a bit weird. I breathed a lot of that in, plus it’s the beginning of spring, when I start to get affected by all the trees getting too excited and rudely spraying pollen all over the place.

Skipping rope skips: 200 (2×100)

29

Further restrictions on gatherings – now only two people should be together in public at any one time.

Sore throat in the morning indicates that it was pollen. When I come down in the morning, I can see that it’s lightly snowing, but that soon passes.

Today the TV portal arrived which is a late mother’s day gift for Grandma. It allows her to call us and see us on the TV. Basically, it turns her TV into the viewscreen out of 1984. This is the second time I’ve thought of 1984 in the past few days. It’s like things appear out of the book, but changed in a positive way. This dongle is going to make calling us a lot easier to deal with for Grandma. Of course it’s facebook so there is a dark side in that it’ll probably scan her home for products and then start advertising her similar things. The other reference was the mass clap for the NHS. It was like an eight minutes of hate, but of love.

Grandma asks us whether she could get a methodist service on youtube. It must be Sunday. WAIT! says my sister. DON’T SEARCH IT, I’ll look for you. Don’t want Grandma radicalising herself with an american evangelical service. In the end we find a quaint little methodist service for her, just the ticket. Church is such a constant part of her life, it’s a big lack when it’s gone. I hope their minister is ringing round everyone to give an edifying word or two.

My dad and sister head over to set up the dongle, but once they arrive, realise that they’ve left the remote here. I have to put down the LRB and drive across the city. It’s the weirdest drive through town I’ve ever had. All the shutters are down along the parades on the way in. And I get there a lot quicker than I thought, since there are so few cars. Everyone on the streets looks a bit out of place, essentially either standing around behaving oddly, doing an essential job, or jogging. So no different from normal, but there’s a lot less of them. I see an ambulance with its lights on passing in the distance. When I reach my sister, parked in a car park half way, I toss the remote out my open window and into hers. Then set off home. When I arrive home, I say to mum “It was really odd, there must have been less than a thousand cars” “A thousand, that’s loads!” “Well… there were two or three on each street” “That’s no where near a thousand” “Okay, there were somewhere between 100 and 400 cars”

We cook curries for tea.

Skipping rope skips: 0 (I tell myself that my back still hurts too much)

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