Mr Roger Balls, a retired resident of our shores, shares his experiences and observations about life in quarantine during the Covid-19 crisis.
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Day 1 – Tuesday
So, Boris (Bodge) Johnson has announced to the UK that we have to stay indoors all day, every day except for necessities and emergencies. As Mrs Balls (aka Senior Management) and I rarely go out except for the above, this will make little difference to us. In fact, I’m looking forward to becoming a regular pilot light and not going out at all, if I can help it.
The catalyst for this directive was the total bunch of morons who convinced themselves that Covid-19 would be at home visiting its mother on Sunday so it would be safe to go out. Millions of them, milling about, coughing, sneezing and farting their collective way around the country. I know they only represent a small amount of the entire British public, but they were enough to make things worse for us all.
Day 3 – Thursday
I don’t intend to make daily entries for this diary, so don’t expect it. I imagine you’ll probably be grateful for the brevity. I mean, who wants to listen to the ramblings of a fifty-something (not vanity, I just can’t remember) trying to work out where he left the fizzy vitamins. As it happens, their exact location was made clear to me when I saw the dog coming out from under the bed, foaming at the mouth. I thought the little sod had got purple rabies or something. After half an hour chasing the bloody creature round the house (much to the amusement of Senior Management) I finally prised the tube from his jaws, all chewed up and bubbling, only to discover he’d eaten the last three.
Well, at least he won’t get scurvy.
Day 4 – Friday
An amazing discovery! When you give multivitamins to a dog, they get the shits. This cheering revelation was made apparent when I opened the back door this morning for a breath of fresh air. I’d barely got the door ajar when young Sammy (for ‘tis his name) shot past in a flurry of feet and fur. He just made it to the edge of the lawn when, – well, have you ever seen one of those videos where someone drops some mints into a bottle of cola? Bit like that, only more gooey. Good job the fizzy had gone out of them or the little fella would have probably launched himself over the fence. I did feel sorry for the poor lad. I must have stood there for five minutes absolutely pissing myself with sympathy.
Fortunately the lawn in question is actually Astroturf, which means it’s washable. After a bit of scraping and wiping, followed by a good hosing down, everything was back to normal. The lawn came up alright, too.
Later on we took our lives in our hands and went to Sainsbury’s for much-needed supplies. Unlike the morons (see above) we have not stockpiled on everything in preparation for some apocalypse. The shelves were not as empty as we expected but bugger me if you just cannot get hold of any mayonnaise. I mean, mayonnaise? It’s not as if it cures anything, and you certainly can’t wipe your backside with it, so why mayonnaise? Mind you, there weren’t any eggs either, so maybe that’s a clue.
Day 5 – Saturday
Actually this is starting to get a bit daily, isn’t it? That isn’t because I’m not finding myself things to do. Far from it. Today, for instance I discovered an out-of-date packet of bread mix in the cupboard. It was only about six months out so I figured that with the addition of some yeast it might stand a chance. Thusly did I mix and beat, knead and stretch, watch and wait, while some basic chemistry did its stuff. After about an hour it had risen (hallelujah – let joy be unconfined etc.) and was looking quite promising. I promptly cast it into the fires at 200 degrees C and waited the requisite fifteen minutes. And do you know what? It wasn’t half bad. Even the dog liked it, which is always a good sign in my opinion. Might clog him up a bit, too, which would be handy.
Day 6 – Sunday
Took Sammy out for a walk tonight. Deliberately left it late so no-one would be around. We found ourselves walking through the churchyard as the clock struck midnight. Wonderfully peaceful. Sammy busied himself piddling on all the gravestones with impunity. I told him “If a fleshless bony hand reaches up and grabs you by the arse, you’re on your own mate. I’m off!”. This had little effect. He just wagged his tail and pissed all over Henry Bagshaw (1869 – 1933 dearly missed etc.). This epitaph got me thinking about all the flowery language we see on old gravestones. What would happen if we were a bit more honest or forthright with our platitudes? We might see something like “Albert Grondling (1911 – 1987) Buried with his beloved bottle” or “Bob Sproggins (1899 – 1974) Should be toasting nicely down there by now”. It would be a lot more entertaining than “Sleeping with the Angels”. Made me wonder what might go on my headstone. Probably not allowed to print stuff like that.
Day 8 – Tuesday
Had another go at baking bread using another out-of-date bread mix. More yeast this time and a better rise. Woo-Hoo! I might actually get good at this. Every time I watch Bake-Off I want to get in the kitchen and make some bread. Staff of life. Man-cooking. Actually I do all the cooking in our house. Always loved doing it. Baking, however, has never been one of my great skills. Hence my fascination with bread. As usual Sammydog was very supportive of my efforts. I think he likes the chewiness.
The news has been full of reports about the need for ventilators for CV-19 patients. I never doubted the seriousness of this disease, but the enormity of the problems it is causing is now becoming clear. I saw that Dyson are making ventilators now, which got me thinking – are they adapting their vacuum cleaner technology to make them? From that, I wondered if I could modify our hoover to blow instead of suck, thus creating our own CPAP machine. I put this to Senior Management whose levitating eyebrows immediately betrayed her lack of confidence. She’s right. Knowing my technical skills, it would probably go horribly wrong and the last thing I would ever see would be my own lungs whizzing round in a bagless vortex. Oh, well.
Day 9 – Wednesday
I spent all evening really fancying a drink. Just a little something to sip and soothe. We don’t keep much alcohol in the house as a rule as it gets drunk. Along with me, usually. Undeterred however, I decided to have a rummage in the back of the cupboard. Behind the old tins of borlotti beans and fish stock cubes I located a bottle. Aha! I thought: This could be my salvation. Using my finely-honed Indiana Jones skills, I carefully retrieved it without disturbing anything. The label had something written in Russian or Polish and a picture of a plum on it. Just the stuff, by the look of it. I unscrewed the top and took an enthusiastic swig.
There’s a reason why bottles of booze get left at the back of the cupboard and, believe me, it’s not because they’re in any way special. Different, perhaps. Dangerous, even. But not special. It turns out that this stuff was in the back of the cupboard because, just like the Corona virus, you really shouldn’t put it anywhere near your face.
As I slid down the cupboard I could feel my features turning purple. My eyes were watering and tears were streaming down my cheeks. This was nothing compared to the chemical warfare going on in my throat. I took another look at the label to see if it mentioned battery acid. I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t see anything. After a few minutes the blurriness began to clear and I make out the shape of the dog sitting next to me, tail wagging. ‘You’re bloody enjoying this, aren’t you’ I thought, actual speech not being possible.
After a while I recovered and picked myself up off the floor. Carefully returning the bottle to its hiding place, I resolved to keep this to myself. If Mrs B asks why I look like this I’ll tell her I got a bit jiggy with the horseradish or something. Honestly, the police could spray this on rioters. Imagine water-cannons filled with Russian plum death-juice, dissolving unruly citizens by the hundred. Maybe I’ll take it to the shops with me and use it to scare off anyone who comes too near. In the meantime I think I’ll just go and put the kettle on and drink some boiling water.
Day 11 – Friday
Went shopping yesterday morning. Lidl first. No quantity restrictions although they were limiting the number of shoppers to 30. Not a bad day to wait outside, so it was ok. We stocked up and then went to Sainsbury’s where they were only allowing one adult per household in the store. So I waited in the car. But… both shops had Hellmann’s Mayonnaise!! Joy beyond measure! Ecstasy beyond explainability (I think that’s a word). The sacred sauce is back in the fridge where we have constructed a small shrine of tomatoes, cucumber, eggs and tins of tuna, and devotions are being made twice daily. All will be well, now.
The only other issue we have is cream cheese. Mrs B has a passion for this and Sainsbury’s own brand is her favourite. However, at present they only allow you to buy three tubs at a time, so she’s having to be careful with it. Thusly, I have ordered some sachets of mesophilic culture from Amazon and, when they arrive, I shall have a go at making some. This should be sometime next week, so we’ll see how it goes.
I watched a short video about testing for CV-19. Apparently, the only country which engaged in a massive testing programme weeks ago is South Korea. They tested, traced and isolated anyone with, or connected to, an infection. As a result, where every other country has had exponential death rates, South Korea’s has been a virtual flatline near the bottom of the chart. They appear to have managed it very well. Makes me wonder if they knew this was coming? Hmmnn.
Day 12 – Saturday
So. Bodge has got it. The Health Secretary has got it. And Michael Gove is giving briefings at the lectern. What I don’t understand is that, given all the insistence that we plebs stay well away from each other, the politicians all think it’s ok to huddle in a chamber barely a fart’s width away from each other. I can’t think of a better way to spread it. Mind you, it might thin the idiots out a bit, a sort of political Darwinism, if you like.
Same for Charles. I could picture him hanging around outside his Mother’s bedroom, coughing a lot. Much more subtle than all that medaeval cloak and dagger stuff.
In an attempt to stay fit and learn a new hobby I have taken up twerking. At least, that’s what I’ve told Senior Management. I fear she has any number plans for me during this period of isolation, none of which involve me sitting down and putting my feet up. In order to to research the technique I have to watch any number of R’n’B videos, something I’ve never done before. Mrs Balls keep giving me dubious looks. “Oh, ye of little faith”. I wonder if there are any twerking championships for middle-aged men? I could start a new craze.
Day 13 – Sunday
Bread making Day – and probably my best bake yet! For some reason the dog goes mad for my bread. I don’t know what it is. Maybe the smell of the yeast? Also, my experiment with making cream cheese has been a modest success. At least, it isn’t disgusting (it actually tastes about right) and it looks the way it should. I think further experiments are on the way.
Just before this lockdown started we signed up with Netflix. Foresight or what? We already had Amazon prime so with the two we can sit on the sofa all day long (all night, if truth be told) and binge watch everything. I’m particularly chuffed because Netflix has the entire series of ‘Still Game’ and ‘Death in Paradise’. Brilliant. Yours truly is a happy bear. Life is good.
Day 14 – Monday
Apparently twerking is not good for middle-aged men with sciatica. This was the devastating news I delivered to Mrs B this morning just as she was about to suggest we do some work in the garden. With an appropriate smattering of groans and muscle spasms I convinced her that I was totally unfit for purpose and was relegated to the sofa with the remote control (Hooray! etc). My beloved did point out that there was no need to watch any more R’n’B videos but that’s ok. They were bloody awful anyway. No wonder young people are pissed off all the time if they have to listen to that.
I spent this morning with my Duran Duran videos instead. Proper music.
Bodge is in hospital. If the Prime Minister dies we’re in serious doo-doo. Not specifically because it’s Boris (I certainly don’t wish the man any ill), but because we don’t need a power struggle in the middle of all this. I’ve also just read (on the BBC website) that a tiger in a zoo has caught corona virus from its human keeper. This is not good.
On another note, I just read something about the Great London Smog of 1952 which killed 12,000 people in five days. This is what led to the Clean Air Acts. Funny how quickly we forget about these things.
Day 15 – Tuesday
I have been discovered. All is lost! Yesterday afternoon, overcome with youthful exuberance, I was grooving to Duran Duran. Unfortunately, Senior Management walked in halfway through ‘Rio’ to see what all the noise was about. I stopped ‘mid-groove’ before gripping my waist and going “Oooooowwwwwww”. I tried to tell her that I was doing some gentle stretching exercises to accelerate my recovery. My words were met with the raised eyebrow of disbelief followed by the beckoning finger of retribution.
I followed her into the garden where the finger straightened into the pointer of instruction. “Weed” she said. Not sure if this was a noun or a verb, I opted for the latter, fell to my knees and started whittling at the soil. While I worked, Sammy danced and frolicked around the garden, moves he had clearly learned from me. I wondered if he was to blame for my downfall. I doubt it. I probably shouldn’t have been singing so loud. Still, he seems to like Duran Duran. Never a bad sign.
Fortunately, the wonderful Mrs B has seen the funny side (she always does, bless her) and, shortly after midnight told me I had done enough. “I knew you were talking complete bollocks right from the start”, she said, handing me a much-needed cuppa. “What? How?” I asked. After all, I thought I’d been quite convincing.
“Your lips were moving” she replied.
Day 17 – Thursday
I was going to go out for supplies today but my knee is aching. I suspect it has become a casualty of the gardening but I’m not sure. We have enough for a few days so the shopping can wait.
Little jobs seem to keep appearing from nowhere. I had no idea there was so much wrong with the bloody house. So far I have fixed a leaky tap (the sort of job I dread but no disaster so far), patched up some chipped paintwork on the stairs, checked the shower for leaks and applied flea powder liberally to the dog. He hasn’t got fleas but we like to be sure. He immediately shook himself and disappeared in a miasma of dust. Probably should have done it outside.
Day 19 – Saturday
This knee business is getting worse. I can hardly move with it. I get attacks of gout occasionally but never in the knee, so this is something new my ageing body has visited upon me. I wouldn’t mind but I had a couple of toenails removed about a month ago and I need to bend my leg to dress them. It was while I was pondering this conundrum that I was hobbling about, lost my balance, drove the little toe of my good foot/leg into the bedpost and tore the nail off. Expletives have been deleted, dear reader, to save your blushes (and save me from prosecution by whoever at GCHQ reads this drivel). So now I’m a right mess. I have toes bandaged on both feet,
Day 21 – Monday
My inability to move around has led me to make the most of my surroundings. To this end I have been using my time to familiarize myself with everyday objects. Things I might usually take for granted or not even acknowledge but which surround me all the time. For example, how many of you have ever had a good look at your TV remote control? The shape, texture, and springiness of the buttons? I’ve also discovered that, when you take one to bits, and then put it back together again, it stops working. Amazing! I may be in trouble now.
Day 22 – Tuesday
I have hidden the TV remote. Most of yesterday was spent trying to convince the dog to have a good chew of it so I could blame it’s failure to function on him. Even the liberal application of marmite wasn’t enough to tempt him so I wiped it clean and stuffed it down the back of the sofa. Of course I have this bad knee so it was Mrs B who had to get up and down all evening changing channels. I did my best to look innocent regarding it’s disappearance but I’m not sure it’s working.
Day 23 – Wednesday
I was confronted by Mrs B this morning during breakfast. “Any idea why the batteries were taken out of the TV remote, Roger?” Batteries? Batteries! So that’s why it didn’t work. Bugger! Mrs B, however, wanted explanations and admitting that I was a twat wasn’t going to tell her anything she didn’t already know. This called for some rapid on-the-feet thinking. “Er – oh, yes, That might have been me. I needed them for the, er, other thing”. I grinned unconvincingly.
“And was this before or after you smeared it with Marmite? Were you intending to have it for breakfast?” An inquisitorial eyebrow was raised in my direction. I felt myself starting to buckle. Resolve, Roger, I told myself. Man up. Show some conviction.
“Actually, no, my love. The remote had started playing up so I was trying to swap the batteries. While I was doing this I dropped my toast on it, hence the marmite. As for how it got down the sofa I have no idea. I can only assume that while I was clean-“
“Shut up, Roger.” The eyebrows were re-united in a laser stare. “You were trying to feed it to the dog, weren’t you?”
How does she know? Did the dog tell her? I spent the rest of the morning de-Marmiting the remote, which worked perfectly once I put the batteries back in.
Day 24 – Thursday
I have restricted myself to less destructive ways of entertaining myself. The pattern in the kitchen wallpaper repeats itself diagonally every twenty-seven inches. I have not yet been reduced to counting the holes in the colander.
Day 25 – Friday
There are exactly 233 holes in our colander. I can’t seem to find my will to live anywhere. It isn’t down the back of the sofa – I checked.
Day 32 – Friday
The more observant of you will have noticed that I have missed a few days. This is because my knee has been so painful I couldn’t even sit at my computer. Mrs Balls has been exceptionally kind and understanding and allowed me to only undertake light duties such a scrubbing floors and cleaning drains. No, seriously, she’s been looking after me, bless her.
I see in the news today that Donald Trump has suggested that people inject disinfectant to help kill the virus. He also recommended that people might try drinking (or maybe only gargling) with bleach after he heard that the virus takes up residence in the throat and airways. I’m blown away on so many levels:
• Many Americans still think he’s a great leader
• There might be enough of them to get him elected again
• There is a serious problem with democracy in America
There is a saying that a government will only educate it’s people enough to believe what they are told and not enough for them to question it. America is reaping the rewards of this. And now the State of Missouri is suing China. This will be interesting when half the world gets the same idea and sues America for umpteen invasions, bad food, consumerism, the Hollywood bullshit machine and God knows what else. Still, at least they have a very clever President. He said so, didn’t he?
Mind you, there is a kind of Darwinian poetry to all this. If all his supporters take him at his word and start glugging the Domestos, then the problem becomes self-limiting. But how do you get fifty-million rednecks to drink poison? I hear you ask. Just one word: Jonestown.
Day 33 – Saturday
Oh, so now the orange one says he was being sarcastic about the bleach and sunlight. Yes, when thousands of your people are dying, and millions of others are going bankrupt, what should the responsible President do? That’s right. Take the piss. Be sarcastic. Laugh at them. Christ, you could forgive Boris almost anything in the light of this. I saw the video of one of Trump’s medical advisors visibly squirming in her seat while he was going on about this, wishing to Christ she was working in a Brooklyn A&E department instead.
Day 36 – Tuesday
The US Department of Defence has finally admitted UFO’s exist! Amazing that, after all these decades, they have decided that the best time to do this is when the world is preoccupied with staying alive. “I know what, guys. Let’s release this one while the Prez is busy saying stupid stuff to the rednecks. That way, everyone will be distracted, and the idea of little green men coming to visit will just seem like part of the ‘New Normal’ we’re all going to live with”.
Well, it can’t get much bloody worse, can it? Whatever intelligent life there is out there must be pissing itself every time they tune in. Trump and his Dettol suppositories, Bodge and his corona virus mugger, and now in North Korea Kim Jong Fatboy has gone missing, presumed dead.
Day 38 – Thursday
We had a UFO today. In our house. No, really. I was making breakfast when next door’s cat decided to jump up on to the kitchen counter. Admittedly, Sammy had chased it into the house (no brains, that boy) and was intending to sink a fang or two into its backside, so it was less of a conscious decision and more of a bid for freedom. The loathsome animal clearly planned to exit via the kitchen window. However, on the way it landed on the handle of the frying pan, flicking the rather splendid ham and cheese omelette I had been making right across the room. It plopped onto the dog who, spooked by this alien landing, promptly ran back out into the garden, taking my bloody breakfast with him. By the time I got out there he’d shaken it off on to the grass and was happily tucking in. Senior Management arrived on the scene just in time to witness my exasperation on the patio. Sammy suffered no ill-effects – his fur is quite thick (much like the rest of him. I mean – chasing a cat indoors? Really?) so he wasn’t hurt. But as he is very greasy and smells like…, well, an omelette, he’s in for a serious bath in a minute. No such thing as a free breakfast, mate!
What? Oh, the UFO? Unexpected Flying Omelette. Geddit? UFO – Unexpected Flyi… Oh come on! It’s day 36. Give me a break. I haven’t had any breakfast, you know.
Day 39 – Friday
I’ve just had to sit here for five minutes working out which lockdown day we are on. The plot is well and truly lost. In fact, I’m not entirely sure I ever really had that much of a grip on it.
I went to Sainsbury’s today, sporting my new face mask. It’s a black one and I think it adds an air of mystery about me. I wanted to paint a grinning skull design on it, but Mrs B said it would just add an air of middle-aged prat in a mask.
I took my beloved’s comments on board and went shopping unadorned. When I arrived there was a queue as long as the shop. Nonetheless I was in and out in about an hour. No more for the foreseeable future as we will be trying to do our shopping online from now on. A delivery from ASDA went well last Monday although they did substitute some red potatoes with sweet potatoes, presumably because they’re the same colour. Otherwise it was all good.
Sammy has been washed and, as usual, ran around the house like a lunatic after his bath while Mrs B chased him with a towel. Why do baths excite dogs like this? Perhaps I should run around wet and naked after a shower (I wouldn’t try to imagine this too hard if I were you). Perhaps Mrs B would chase me with a towel. Hmmnn, no, it would probably be a slipper. Still, variety is the spice of life…!