My parents had WWII. We had to survive conscription and ABBA but the current generation had it easy until Covid came along and they had to be in isolation with their parents for 21 days to start with. Given the state of my lungs, I went into self-imposed isolation 2 weeks before everyone else.
Since all restrictions were finally lifted after 2 years and 3 months on Wednesday night, 22 June, it is worthwhile to revisit that brave new world that we entered in late March 2020. Not only were we under assault by the virus, but it allowed fascist nannies like Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to rule by fiat.
I decided to start a diary so that if I didn’t survive, it would at least remain as a small pimple on the arse of the human record.
(The early self-isolation is true, the rest is whimsy)
To relive those days, read on.
Day 0, Sat 14 March 2020
I’ve decided to practice isolation. I reckon if I practice long and hard enough I might get good at it. It should be a doddle. After all, it’s not like trying to be a soccer star where you have to start to practice kicking when you’re in your mother’s womb. Even if you do and you carry on kicking, starting with the dog, you might be just about to break through to the major leagues when you blow your knee and that’s it for your career. If you were American and you actually suffered from bone spurs, you could switch career paths and go on to become President without practicing at all. Alternatively, you could become a private eye if American detective thrillers are anything to go by. Just about every American story that I read about a private dick is an ex-football or baseball player who has bust their knee. Of course, there’s also the ex-alcoholic bit with the ex-wives and so on.
What drives me to this decision is that the insides of my lungs are like the Somme battlefield – pretty lifeless and full of dead Germ(an)s – ha, ha. After a lifetime of self-inflicted gas attacks, my alveoli, which my lung specialist said should look like healthy trees, are shot just like Delville Wood. Oh well that put paid to running the Comrades. Another dream gone up in flames.
I have gestated long enough on this problem and have decided to announce to the world that I’m going into isolation after one last hoorah. It’s my birthday and I’m having friends and family around to celebrate – well actually just Paul and Marina and my two ex’s plus our kids. They all arrive and everyone tells me how good I am looking for 73. Hmmph! I magnanimously let that one slide past. It’s a small discrepancy and a mistake easily made. I resolve not to let that spoil my special day, although my face must have turned into a rictus when Pat presents me with a bottle of liquor shaped like a Rhino horn. A bit of a pointed comment methinks.
I accidentally flambéed the steaks when I went for a pee and then cooked them to the consistency of a verlepte hiking boot in the roasting dish keeping them warm while waiting for my first ex, Pat, to arrive one hour late. Nonetheless, the meal is moderately successful thanks to post marinading the steak by consuming a lot of wine and my brilliant repartee. I try to tell a joke about an egg, a chicken and people and getting laid but I think I got it mixed up.
Note 1 to self: Don’t drink so much wine at parties.
Note 2 to self: Don’t tell complicated jokes when you’re drunk.
Note 3 to self: Get sharper steak knives.
Note 4 to self: Use isolation productively by signing up for DIY personality improvement classes.
While everyone is involved in a bit of introspection wondering if their digestive capability is up to it, I make my announcement about my impending self-inflected isolation. The response is underwhelming. Eventually, Paul ventures to say, “And what’s new, my good man?” I suppose he has a point. I have so few friends left since retiring 13 years ago that I’ve even taken to phoning my brother in Joburg. I always hope that he won’t talk about his running and he always hopes that I’ll ask him about it. We normally settle for neutral territory and talk about Trump, the latest corruption scandals and other such uplifting topics. It’s always a relief when the WhatsApp connection eventually gives up the ghost out of boredom and, by unwritten mutual consent, we both don’t re-establish the connection.
Day 1, Sunday 15 March 2020
7:00 I wake up feeling wonderful. I have no sore throat or high temperature. Isolation is working. Oooh, it’s so wonderful to be alive in these exciting times. After checking that the passage is clear, I rush to the bathroom. I brush my teeth and inspect my tongue. Nope, all fine. Just to be sure I go closer to the mirror and squint at it while I make shapes, particularly that stupid one that they made me do in speech therapy classes in Std 3. You know, the one where you stick your tongue out, roll it up and make it look like a dog’s … I think I’ll stop there. What a funny thing to be sticking into someone else’s mouth. I think I’ll stop that thought as well.
That reminds me. Just in case, I check for genital warts. Thank god – all clear. Why I still have to check is a mystery – it’s habit I suppose.
7:10 Ah no! I’ve waited three months already and they’ve gone and cancelled the Australian Formula 1 Grand Prix. What am I to do? It seems that the rest of the season will be seriously disrupted. If I’m lucky I’ll only have to wait another three months. I think I’ll go back to bed, lie back and think of England … and the Grand Prix’s of Italy and Spain and China and whatever else.
Ag shame! My heart goes out to America and how unlucky they are. They’ve got the virus and Trump – a double whammy. Britain might have that buffoon, Boris, but at least he has a bigger vocabulary with which to be stupid with and his pallid skin is completely natural.
7:15 Read all the crappy news from around the world and stretched it out by even keeping up with the Kardashians. Like the old school newspapers, eventually you get to the comic section. For me this is the Huffington Post which gleefully relates all the amazingly stupid things that Trump has managed to do in the last 24 hours.
8:00 Played Solitaire on my computer. Don’t do so well, so I switch to playing Hearts. I am still losing. I think the computer is cheating just like Trump and his taxes. Maybe it’s infected with a virus. I give up in disgust.
9:00 Shit. I’ve run out of things to do already. It’s going to be a long isolation.
Day 6, Fri 20 March 2020
I’ve just got a message that Marina’s smart phone has become infected with a Chinese virus. It has gone on the blink and is infecting all her contacts. It doesn’t worry me as my phone is also in isolation with me. I kiss my phone as I’m allowed to since we’re in the same bubble and because we’re both happy to be alive. Suddenly I feel very lonely. Her phone’s virus infected all her friends but me. Hmmm, I must think about that a bit.
Out of boredom, I compose an email for my friends:
To: Myfriends(a short list)
Subject: A New Pandemic
Do you feel like you’re an outsider … again?
Do you feel like you’re the only one going to work, carrying the country on your shoulders?
Do you feel perfectly healthy with no one fussing over you?
Do you resent doing favours for friends who can’t get out?
Do you miss not being a victim?
Do you miss not having anything personal to say on WhatsApp that your friends might be interested in?
You are suffering from FOMO-2020, Fear Of Missing Out. It’s a malady that sneaks up on you and is related to Covid-19.
You’re in luck – there is an immediate cure. Go visit your infected friends and get yourself infected. The sooner you do that, the sooner you can join them. You can then party together and kiss and … and watch all those silly sods going to work and who have no one to drink with or talk to.
Visit an infected friend at least once a day and give them a lovely Italian greeting with a few French kisses thrown in to prove that you’re not biased against Italians. A change in your condition will be noticed in a few days but continue the treatment a bit longer to make sure particularly if the person is attractive.
Signs that the treatment is effective:
You will soon notice chapped lips combined with a sore throat.
Shortness of breath is a known side effect but will slowly disappear over 14 days. Tightness of the chest and other body parts is sometimes observed.
Good luck and enjoy isolation with your friends.
If I don’t see you through the week, I’ll see you through the window.
I decide not to send it, instead I trash it because they’re not isolated and won’t understand what I feel.
Day 7, Sat 21 March 2020
Today I made a resolution. I want to make some money out of this crisis; after all, for every loser there’s got to be a winner. I have decided to write a song. I know I can’t sing and I’m not going to practice singing but I like The Sound of Music. Anyway, it’s easier than writing poetry which only long dead guys seem to be good at. And I don’t aim to be dead for a long time. That’s why I’m practicing isolation – Duh.
Since I’m not very original, I write a new version of Tom Jones’ Delilah called Corona:
I saw his lamp on the night that he passed by my window
I saw the gleaming shadow of his scythe on my blind
He was the Reaper
As he received me I gasped and went out of my mind
My my my Delilah
Why why why Corona
I could see, that germ was no good for me
But I was caught when you let me kiss you for free
At break of day when he shuffled away I was panting
I crossed the street to his house and he opened the door
He stood there laughing
I saw the scythe in his hand and I breathed no more
My my my Delilah
Why why why Corona
So before the hearse arrives at the door
Forgive me ma that I just didn’t listen before
Day 8, Sun 22 March 2020
I read today that Nigella Lawson is eating 250gr of chocolate a day and rising to cope with isolation. I hope she doesn’t mean that her weight is rising. I might just have to pull her picture down. Hey, if I sent her a selfie of me eating a naked bar of choccie, will she like me? Damn, that’s one of the things that I didn’t stock up on.
Things to do during lockdown:
Grow my hair long, well those bits that I can
Learn to play the guitar
Practice sleeping in order to relax
Practice relaxing in order to sleep
Start a bucket list in case I survive
I dig out my old WWII gas mask as they tell me that the facemasks in my workshop are not up to snuff.
Today I ordered an extra strength Hazmat suit from Takealot for those times when I need to go out.
Later, I read that the supermarket shelves in Britain have been cleared out of toilet paper, including 1-ply. Determined not to be caught short, so to speak, I place another order with Takealot for 144 2-ply rolls on special.
I think of more songs to mangle. Inspiration: Germ Free sung to the tune of Born Free. I’ll put that in my back pocket for when I’m famous with Corona. I don’t want to be accused of being a one-hit wonder. Anyway, I can’t think of good words yet.
Day 9, Mon 23 March 2020
Credit card doesn’t want to work on certain online courses and purchases. Phone the bank but they tell me that I must come in to sort it out during their special pensioners’ hour.
Oh no, disastrous news. I have just heard that the Azerbaijan Grand Prix (6 June) has been cancelled. It’s been less than 2 weeks since missing the first Grand Prix and already I’m having withdrawal symptoms. Every time my right foot starts twitching and my palms sweating, I get into my car in the driveway and rev the engine until the symptoms disappear. Now I’ve got to wait another two and a half months until I can get my F1 fix again.
Listened to Squirrel on the TV. Yikes, we’ve just been grounded for 21 days like naughty teenagers. Dr Grinch says we can’t buy smokes and drink in case we infect each other when we share zoll or each other when we get drunk and can’t keep our socialist distance with the opposite sex, or same sex for that matter. Being staunchly religious, she must have gone to bed a happy little fascist Grinch. At a stroke, she has killed smoking, drunkedness and illicit sex (in her narrow terms).
I’ve lost my uniqueness. Suddenly it’s not fun anymore.
Day 10, Tues 24 March 2020
Police arrive at the gate. I shout at them from the window. They tell me that they are going to arrest me the next time I rev the engine for breach of the peace. After much gesticulating, they drive off in a huff because their police van has broken down.
Note to self: Mouth the revving sounds. (It’s a skill learnt as a boy and stays with males until they die along with a range of explosive and farting sounds, especially that long drawn out one that gets people worried.)
I decided to take this self-improvement stuff seriously and sign up for an online interactive body positivity class. I’m hoping for Jane Fonda type workouts – relatively gentle and not advanced Arnold Schwar-zenegger stuff. Also as a bonus, there should be some nice like women with Brazilian butt lifts in Lycra.
Day 11, Wed 25 March 2020
Courier arrives with a box and dumps it outside the gate. I appear wearing the WWII gas mask and lugging a 2lt bottle of bleach that was on special to sanitise the pen and clipboard. He runs away in fright. I check that no one is in the road and quickly nip outside to pick up the box.
The anticipation – is it the hazmat suit or did the loo rolls sneak past in the logistics chain? These are small issues but without cogitating on them like a cow chewing the cud, I would have to slit my wrists and spray paint my bedroom walls with my blood in exciting splatter patterns to relieve the boredom of isolation.
I excitedly carry the box back to the house but the dogs won’t allow me back inside until I take the mask off. The dogs and I eventually call a truce and we mentally sign an unsatisfactory peace treaty. I rip open the box and there it is – my hazmat suit in all its dayglo glory. I caress its rubber fabric gently and realise that I could probably withstand a nearby nuclear explosion with it.
Note to self: Don’t order extra strong protection next time.
Undaunted, I struggle into it. With the wheezing mechanical ventilator sounding like an emphysemic lion, the cats catch a hissy fit and their hair stands on end just like when I tested my taser on them. The dogs, bless them, whimper and dash off to hide in dark spaces, quivering. I clump around for the next hour to get used to it.
Note to self: Rig up a bottle for peeing inside the suit for those long excursions.
I denude my cupboard of doggie treats just to make friends with the dogs again.
Note to self: Wear hazmat suit sparingly around the house.
Day 12, Thurs 26 March 2020
I am banned from the body positivity zoom class and they give me a refund. It wasn’t a Jane Fonda type session, but rather a bunch of people sitting talking about their ‘beautiful’ bloated bodies. They are offended after I make acerbic comments about their white wibbly wobbly bits.
Note to self: Find an online dictionary that explains all these weird modern terms like body positivity.
Day 13, Fri 27 March 2020
The courier delivers my 144 rolls of loo paper. It’s a different courier driver this time but the result is the same.
Anticipating this storage crisis, I had constructed a platform that I suspended from the roof beams in the garage with garden twine. I didn’t have a sheet of wood so, like Mnr Boontjie, I made a plan and used the interleading door to the garage. Unfortunately, while stuffing the packages out of sight up there, I rip the packaging on the door handle that I forgot to take off. While I was tugging it to get it free, I accidentally pulled the door out of the sling and it fell, just missing the dogs.
Go online and order more doggie treats.
Day 14, Sat 28 March 2020
Phone the bank to find out when pensioner’s hour is. I proudly arrive at the bank in my brand-new hazmat suit. The security officer refuses to let me in on the grounds that I might scare the little old ladies. I explained that they would get used to it just like my dogs, sort of. In any case, I’ve got doggie treats for them too. Our argument struggled along as, between my suit and his mask, we could barely understand each other. Anyway, it didn’t cut any ice with him as I could also be a demented bank robber or terrorist taking advantage of the Covid scare.
I resist the urge to pee into my bottle, take it out and pour it over his head as he started caressing the well-worn handle of his baton. I retreated when I noted that it already had a few fresh notches cut into it. Covid is hell on security guards.
Note to self: Take a Valium before going out in my hazmat suit.
I come home deflated. I feel like a rumpled version of Gru’s Minions – pretty innocent but just not as cute. I also don’t speak with a chuckly voice. Ok, ok. So I’m just a weird old guy in a hazmat suit.
I read a report about a Covid denialist Pastor in the US (where else?) who claimed that the pandemic was just ‘mass hysteria’. I wonder if he still thought it was hysterical as he lay dying of double pneumonia due to the virus.
Christ, I’d be lucky to only die of double pneumonia. With my lungs I’d probably get triple pneumonia.
Day 15, Sun 29 Mar 2020
Morning: Yippee. Complete silence from the Evangelicals across the road with their congregation of none.
Afternoon: Another Yippee. The Ice Cream van that plays Chariots of Fire on an endless loop loudly through screeching Tannoy speakers does not darken the neighbourhood.
Day 16, Mon 30 Mar 2020
Yay. I sleep late. No dogs to wake me up, barking at the bin pickers in the street outside.
I go outside with my gas mask on – utter and complete silence. I feel like Adam in the Garden of Eden. Well, just from the silence and clean air angle. My garden is still a tip. It’s not green and lush like the biblical portrayals that I was indoctrinated with as a child and there’s no fecund Eve to grace it and to tempt me.
Note to self: Since song writing is not my bag, take up gardening.
I have slowly come to the realisation that the Mistress Boredom has many willing servants and even idiot savants to carry out her devilish deeds. In the following case, it was an astrophysicist, Dr Daniel Readon. He decided to invent something that would warn a person when they tried to touch their face but without the electric shocks needed to establish Pavlovian behaviour quicker. He based his invention on powerful neodymium button magnets and electric circuits. He got bored with his lack of success and since the little button magnets seemed to fit nicely in his nose, he tried it. Before he could say Darwin Award, they took up residence in his nose, tightly clamping his septum between them. His initial attempts at DIY stuff should have been a warning. They weren’t. His DIY errant magnet rescue mission ended in abject failure. In trying to cancel out the magnetism of one of the magnets with others, they slipped and he presented himself at casualty with three magnets in the left nostril and one in the right. There he adenoidally denied that there were more magnets involved in the unseemly ménage à trois+ up his doose.
I think also that he should be banned from being anywhere near sex toys and objects.
Day 17, Wed 1 April 2020
Oh no. I have just found out that one of my favourite page 3 pinup girls from my puberty years, the pneumatic Samantha Fox, is a lesbian. Another aspiration lies in ruins. Is life worth living or was that an April Fool’s joke that I read?
One thing that isolation has done is to give me time to consider life more deeply.
No more post box overstuffed with special offers, in triplicate most times. Or estate agents offering to buy, sell or value my house.
No more beggars at the gate.
Having given up cigarettes, I can gloat at my friends and pretend to commiserate.
Didn’t lay down enough alcohol. Broached Pat’s Rhino liquor in desperation. Researching pineapple beer recipes.
Research poison potential of homebrew. Decide to take the chance. Needs must and all that. Better to be killed by one’s own hand than the ‘China virus’. Dulce et decorum est/Pro ipse mori.
Note to self: Don’t try to write poetry especially when it’s in Latin.
Another note to self: Try the homebrew out on the dogs first.
Yet another note to self: Have doggie treats handy for if they survive.
Not only do we have Trump to provide light entertainment of the just-gotta-shake-your-head variety, but he has been joined by half of America.
Points to Ponder
That dwarf clown, Mbalula, must be happy with the lockdown as the pressure is off to get PRASA running.
I wonder what the taxi drivers are going to do now for passengers – kidnap them?
The SAA business rescuers have got their decision made for them – there is no airline to save anymore.
The pensions funds that were actuarially underwater must be happy, but life insurance funds and Medical Aids must be quivering.
Name next dog Covid ‘cos then I could banish it from my house if I wanted to.
The pressure must be off Boeing with their grounded 737 Max.
Ferrari F1 must be happy.
If I do gender reassignment and take loads of female hormones:
– Will my bald spot disappear?
– Will I still find woman attractive?
– Will Samantha Fox find me attractive?
Day 18, Thurs 2 April
As can be seen from my dwindling entries I have lost my enthusiasm for the whole affair and feel quite fatalistic. Let the chips lie where they fall. I have packed away my hazmat suit and gasmask to the dogs’ relief. Like Scott of the Antarctic, this will be my last entry and am hunkering down in bed with The End by the Doors playing solemnly in the background. I printed out a beautiful picture of a sunset to replace the Samantha Fox poster and have surrounded myself with all the things I love – an Airfix aeroplane model and a Dinky toy from my youth, other momentos, photo albums and the dogs (with their treats of course). In an isolation daze, I sit on my bed like Charlton Heston in Soylent Green, and wait for rapture.