Diary… Panic sweeps the streets of Britain, and other stories…


Virus uncertainty spawns siege mentality…


Friday 13 March, London

📌 The Prime Minister obviously doesn’t want us to believe we are in the jaws of some kind of kind of emergency.

His failure to act decisively, as other national leaders have, was criticised heavily in yesterday’s Guardian and in other media outlets.

He made an alarming statement asking families to expect the worst, but made no attempt to deal with the real fears citizens face. Confusion is everywhere. No one knows what to do for the best and all the Prime Minister can say is, “Don’t go on cruises.”

That might all be about to change. The sense of real emergency now is high, even if much of it is imagined. That doesn’t make it any less real. But falling into line with the rest of the world is not in the DNA of this government.

📌 It might seem perverse, but my response to all this was to open Daniel Defoe’s ‘A Journal of the Plague Year’, from 1665.

The less-than pithy subtitle declares its purpose up front: “being observations or memorials of the most remarkable occurrences, as well public as private, which happened in London during the last great visitation in 1665. Written by a Citizen who continued all the while in London.”

In it he describes the hysteria which, at its worst, saw some of those infected descending into a murderous mania, terrorising non-infected citizens in crazed attacks.

The introduction also includes the following sentence: “We had no such thing as printed newspapers in those days to spread rumours and reports of things…”

📌 Right on cue there’s an article in The Conversation about how the elbow bump has taken over from the handshake as a form of greeting.

📌 The elbow bump is one of the first obvious examples of what’s now called “social distancing”. More will undoubtedly follow, and more expressions added to the lexicon of Coronavirus.

We will have plenty of time to study them when we are “self isolating”.

📌 There was a health expert on the radio this morning slamming the government’s “cowardly” response to Coronavirus.

In particular he spoke about Northern Ireland and said that with the Republic in lockdown, the Six Counties in the north (still part of Britain) must follow, since containment and control is not possible otherwise.

📌 This morning on Zoe Ball’s radio show, two members of what I used to call the “most irritating band in the world” turned up to perform their most irritating song, ‘Rotterdam’.

The big news is that on reluctantly hearing them, I found something I liked about this tedious song. The discovery came by counting syllables. This is a habit I picked up in the period immediately after my stroke reading Shakespeare and poetry.

The chorus of ‘Rotterdam’ is a useful study in how small numbers of syllables can work well together.

This could be Rotterdam (3) or anywhere (3), Liverpool (3) or Rome (1); Coz Rotterdam (3) is anywhere (3), anywhere (3) alone (2)… Anywhere (3) alone (2).

📌 To the Natural History Museum for one of the best annual treats in the calendar, the ‘Wildlife Photographer of the Year’ show. It was a Christmas present for my wife’s sister and her husband, who travelled to join us from Wallingford in Oxfordshire despite the Coronavirus panic.

The exhibition is always inspiring and humbling. This year’s made me (more than ever) want to pick up my camera and get out there.

My favourite photograph was the spooky image of a twilight reflection on a distant lake through the jagged hole of a smashed window. In the bottom righthand corner of the window pane is the shadow of a rat.

Ratty, bottom, right…

Another favourite was the photograph voted the ‘People’s Favourite’, also featuring vermin. It shows two rodents (I think they’re mice) seemingly involved in a fist fight on the platform of a London tube station.

Rucking rodents…

📌 Then it was on to the V&A, where the jewellery room and the shop proved the big attractions. We did also see an elm tree painting by Constable, but it was disappointingly small.

The V&A jewellery room and the shop were popular…

Pop Quiz… Name that Tune
“And if I’m feeling good to you and you’re feeling good to me
There ain’t nothing we can’t do or say
Feeling good, feeling fine
Oh, baby, let the music play

TITLE …………………………..

ARTIST …………………………

📝 Read yesterday’s diary.

🎧 Pop Quiz awswer here.

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