Since we are told that the worst will be upon us in the next twelve weeks, that this may well last six and even as much as twelve months, I have decided I need a project to settle down to every morning. Since, alas, the longer fiction I so much crave to be at work on is still very nebulous, I have decided to use the alphabet to trigger memories and thoughts and try and write a memory or thought every day; and I have decided to preface each session with a brief ‘coronavirus diary’, of which this is the first and necessarily the longest instalment. Longest just because it is the first and I need to bring myself up to date, so to speak.
Who would have guessed, as the parliamentary Brexit saga dragged to its painful and horrible conclusion in the last quarter of 2019, ending with the nightmare of an eighty-seat Conservative majority and the certainty that we would leave the EU and that we would have five years at least of a bragging and reckless government slowly turning the country into an English version of Hungary and Poland (gradual erosion of any opposition, be it in the media, the judiciary or the universities) – who would have guessed that in the last week we have become a kind of Leninist country, with the state in effect employing the workers to keep things running? Johnson and the Tories, who crushed the opposition and cowed and uplifted the country, depending on your point of view, with a vision of heroic Britain at war with Europe and going it alone, now find themselves in effect presiding over a country at war – but not with Europe or with any visible enemy, but with a virus that is rapidly spreading world-wide and promises to decimate the planet in a way not seen in peace-time since the great Spanish flu pandemic of 1918–26. It is likely to be with us for a long time to come, though in eighteen months or so there is a chance that a vaccine will have been developed and put into general circulation. But how effective will it be? We have seen with the common flu vaccines that they often don’t