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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Nous Sommes En Guerre; We Are At War, I start a daily diary, Quote from Charles Dickens

"Nous Sommes En Guerre" (We Are At War). President Macron, March 16th 2020

Macron used this expression at least five times during his speech to the nation on Monday March 16th, when he announced a full national lockdown.  To leave your home, you need to download and complete a form, 'une attestation', and it is being enforced be the police.

It was during the month of March that I first realised that we are at war. The enemy is a virus called covid-19, widely referred to as corona virus. I won't give it the honour of being written with a capital letter.  Despite the medical knowledge, resources and technology we have at our disposal in the 21st century, it looks as if the virus may win. As I write, it has already killed 31,000 people globally and the final number will be far far higher. In the UK and in France, it is just starting to kill us.

In China where it all started, tens of millions of people were in lockdown for weeks. Now they are starting to let people out but it remains to be seen if there will be a resurgence. In Europe, now the epicentre off the pandemic, whole countries are in lockdown, hospitals can't cope and there is worse to come.

Exceptionally, because of the extreme nature of this pandemic, I am keeping a short daily diary:

21st March Saturday

Feeling increasingly anxious now as I watch the death curve in the UK rise rapidly, mirroring what happened in Italy a week or two back. And still the government fails to act and legislate on people staying at home. Parks, high streets and public places are still teaming with people by all accounts. This is a huge stick of dynamite with a long lit fuse. The government is not acting to put it out. It makes me sick to think that thousands of people around me will soon be dying when we could have avoided the worst by acting like Singapore, Hong Kong and others. We watched it roll out in China and instead of learning the lessons and acting we have done too little too late. It's very sickening. The government was too busy on Brexit to bother.

23rd March Monday

Yesterday was Mother's Day and the usual get-together was replaced by a number of WhatsApp video calls. Even my 86 year old mother has just bought a smartphone and is using WhatsApp. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. The message about self isolating, and social distancing is certainly getting through to some people. But others are just behaving as if what we saw in China and what we are seeing all over Europe couldn't possibly happen here. What a tragedy. Much of the dying that is about to descend upon us could have been avoided if people were less stupid, less selfish. This morning we are participating in our second online yoga class. All of our classes have shut down and moved online using Zoom. It's not as good but it's a whole lot better than nothing.

24th March Tuesday - lockdown day 1

Last night, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, finally implemented lockdown across the country, announced during a sombre live TV announcement interrupting programmes at 20.30. Apart from essential workers (Medical, Food, Utilities, etc) we are only allowed to go out to make essential purchases and once a day to exercise and not in groups larger than two people, excluding anyone you are living with. This is a final attempt to delay the onset of the virus so that health services can cope better with a flatter, longer curve rather than a huge peak over the next two weeks. They know they are going to struggle regardless and that the numbers of deaths is about to ramp up exponentially. It's very calm outside, the sun's shining and everyone is locked away indoors. It's surreal, uncomfortable, frustrating, stressful and quietly calm all at the same time. And this is just the start...

25th March Wednesday - lockdown day 2

Our new washing machine was due to be delivered today but has now been cancelled. Our old one broke last week so we are now back to washing clothes by hand like our great grand-parents did before. The sheets should be fun! Held my first illegal gathering today. I am co-ordinating food deliveries for the 15 houses in the street where we live. I place a single order (on behalf of everyone) and make a single payment to the suppliers who then deliver to my garage. Everyone then comes to collect their orders. At one point, in everyone's enthusiasm to get their newly arrived food package, there were 4 of us - all keeping at least 2 metres apart - near my garage. The new lockdown regulations prevent more that two people meeting unless they live together. We have started with fruit and veg and I am looking to extend that.

26th March Thursday - lockdown day 3

We went out into the dark cold night on our doorstep at 8pm and joined millions across the country clapping to say thank you to the carers, people looking after the sick. Over 500 people have now died from covid-19 in the UK. Hospitals are still coping and gearing up for the expected onslaught in the next week or two. One London hospital is already referring to a 'tsunami' of patients in intensive care. The Excel centre in London is being rapidly re-deployed into a huge 4,000 bed NHS hospital with its own morgue. It's called the Nightingale Centre and phase one opens next week with 500 beds and ventilators. Similar arrangements are being made in Birmingham and Manchester exhibition centres.

27th March Friday - lockdown day 4

Deaths reach 750 in UK and 2,000 in France and we are going to see the daily death rate rising exponentially now. It's still hard to believe this is actually happening.  Went to the supermarket yesterday afternoon. Waitrose had people queueing outside to get in, standing well apart. We left and went to the local Co-op, my wife dashed in and bought a couple of items and left fast. Not worth the risk. 

28th March Saturday - lockdown day 5

Starting to read more books :) Finally gave in and ordered masks and gloves, due to be delivered by next weekend. They may give me the courage I need to venture into a supermarket when I am finally forced to do so.

29th March Sunday - lockdown day 6

For the first time I can remember in decades, I chose not to go out to buy The Sunday Times. I am reading the papers online instead. It's not such a good experience but it's a tiny price to pay for staying safe and avoiding unnecessary contact. Besides, there's no shortage of news coverage at the moment...

I learned a new word today: Hamsterkauf. It's a German word meaning panic-buying and it's derived from the hamster who over-stuffs his mouth and cheeks with food when it's available, just in case it becomes hard to get later on.

30th March Monday - lockdown day 7

An astrophysicist in Australia had to be admitted to hospital after getting two magnets stuck up his nose while trying to invent a device to warn people to stop touching their face. The Guardian. Prime Minister, Senior Advisor Dominic Cummings and the Health Minister, Matt Hancock have all got CV19. Daily deaths in Italy and Spain reaching 1,000. People finding new ways to keep in touch and live and work at home. New video based learning and exercise shows popping up everywhere. Houseparty and similar apps having a huge surge.

31st March Tuesday - lockdown day 8

Starting to get used to our new way of life. Slowing down, plenty of time to do things. It certainly feels like war time. Food is difficult to get hold of either at all or without queueing; we stay indoors, we don't talk much to people outside. We are careful to use stuff in short supply sparingly, such as toilet paper, tissues, sanitiser and soaps, milk and other perishables. The food items aren't in short supply, it's just we don't want to risk going out to buy them too often so we use them more sparingly. Most supermarkets have a queue system where they limit the number of people in-store to reduce contact distances and you have to queue at least tow metres from the other people. Not much fun. It was minus 2 when I got up this morning.

1st April Wednesday - lockdown day 9

Yesterday's stats were 1,801 deaths in the UK and 3,024 in France. We are at the point where it is likely to really start to accelerate. April is going to be a grim month.

It has been scarcely 10 days since the lockdown began in the UK. How life has changed for everyone in those few days. 

I am extending our weekly street food deliveries from fruit and veg to include meat, eggs and bread.

Quote for the month

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way...

Hard Times by Charles Dickens 1854

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