Thursday 12 March 2020

Blogpost in a Plague Year

Before my trip to Poland there were at least 16 women in my barre class. This Tuesday there were seven. Today there were five. The teachers clean the whole club between classes.

"That way twenty people touch everything instead of a hundred," one said. 

She thinks we are all going to get the coronavirus anyway. We better not all get it anyway. It's horrible for the elderly and those with "underlying conditions." My husband might still have an "underlying condition", and I read somewhere that people with cancer should not expect to be intubated. I saw my husband intubated, and it was horrible for him. Thankfully he can't remember.

Before we went to Poland I bought a family pack of toilet paper and as many tinned goods as I could carry, in case there was panic-buying while we were away. There was no panic-buying, and last week there was even still hand-sanitiser in the stores. I bought two pocket-sized plastic bottles of it. 

Yesterday B.A. came home from a class he taught to say that someone had seen him hand-sanitising and exclaimed, "Where did you get it?" So today I went to the local Boots, and sure enough, there was none on the shelves. The young lady behind the counter told me that there will be some available at 9 AM tomorrow---"And by 9:05 it will all be gone." 

The advice from the government is that hand-washing with soap and water for 20 minutes seconds is better than hand sanitiser anyway. I've been using it every time I've alighted from a bus. I use the bus to go to the health club and to Italian class and, with B.A., to church.  I'm not nervous about the club, Italian class or church, but I am nervous about the bus. 

Before I got on the bus to Boots and home, I went to a Sicilian pastry shop and bought some cannoli. B.A. and I celebrate St. Joseph's Day with some fanfare, but it occurred to me this morning that the pastry shops might be closed by March 19. Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we---will be under quarantine?

How mediaeval it is to actually ponder sudden death from an invisible disease that we or other people all around us may be harbouring unawares.  

Anyway, we wash our hands, and I've washed the doorhandles, and we have our little bottles of hand sanitiser. We won't receive Holy Communion on our hands (not really a germ-free option, anyway), so we probably won't receive at all at Sunday Masses until Easter, if the proper method is banned. We have holy water at home--the extra-strength, FSSP version. 

B.A.'s mum works in a retirement home in Dundee, but it's on "lockdown" she texted. We're not sure if that means she can't get out or she can't get in. 

My mum's April walking tour of Provence has been cancelled. She can come here, if she likes, but I'm starting to think that might not be a good idea. She might be trapped here. She might be at the bottom of the NHS treatment list.   

I read about the spread of coronavirus as soon as I get up and about an hour before I go to bed.  I wrote three articles about coronavirus yesterday. 

I'm worried about my sister-in-law, the doctor. I'm worried about my dad. 

"Stay away from young people," I told him.

I think about how lovely it is to breathe deeply and easily.

Update: An alternative to the "Happy Birthday" handwashing song, sure to be familiar to everyone my age:



  1. Wash your hands for 2 minutes, not 20! And take your watch off while doing it. For alcogel fill a bottle a third with surgical spirits/ 60% alcohol vodka or rubbing alcohol, the rest aloe vera gel for consistency and tea tree oil for the smellies (as per Good Housekeeping). Can you wear gloves on the bus and wash them on 90 degrees, cheap old woolly ones? Sinéad.