Journal of the Plague Years (Days 4-10)

Day 4 — Evening

No flour at middle class supermarket. I meet the won’t be put off student in person and we talk through her work. I hang around until four, but the Skyping student postpones to Monday. Heigho.

I get home for a lie down, prepare food and fall asleep during Front Row. I doze off and on through some programme, possibly, too tired to put it out of its misery. I get up to brush my teeth and fall asleep at 10pm.

Day 5

I’ve decided to do no work this weekend and to try not to go out. I woke after nine hours of sleep, a rarity, but I can still doze. And listen to podcasts. And catch up on MotherFatherSon, a daft melodrama about a not-Murdoch press tycoon and his coke fiend BDSM loving son recovering from a stroke. It’s from the guy who wrote London Spy, which began well but descended into daftness after the entirely predictable death of the hero’s best friend and ended with an entirely unlikely team up between hero and villain. This has its moments, a number of roles for women, diversity in the secondary cast, and Helen McRory gets more to do in each episode than she does in most series of Pesky Builders. It’s an unfortunate coincidence that this shares a populist female political leader theme with Years and Years, which

Day 6

I woke at 4am, predictably, but manage to doze through the morning. More podcasts, more catch up tv. Rather than getting dressed, I move between duvet and dressing gown.

A bath in the evening and in bed again for ten. I figure the news can hear itself and listen to an old episode on Chain Reaction, the one with Roy Hudd.

Sleep doesn’t come. Bit of a headache, cough, stomach churning. Have I moved my bowels this weekend or are they where they normally are?

Oh shit, I’ve got it.

Hits on button for radio.

Day 7

Midnight News.

Thinking Allowed.

I think I sleep through the story and hear the Shipping Forecast. Were you up for Gibraltar Point to North Foreland?

I have a sleep quota, every time I sleep in I get another broken night.

I make it through to eight, with increasingly vivid dreams, and it’s nearly ten before I get up and dressed. Those symptoms seem to have gone.

Right: laptop. Gets out it out of rucksack, looks for power lead.


Oh, there it is.

It had taken ten minutes to boot up on campus, but it’s ready by the time I have a coffee to hand. Get it talking to WiFi, which asks for something that isn’t a password but takes the password on second go. Deal with student queries, try to rearrange the postgraduate appointments, switch to iPad for Skype.

I had a MacBook for years, and I’d adjusted to that, trying to avoid the PC at work. It died and I got a new one, but I still need to set it up. When using the Macs in the Daphne O’Ram, I keep hitting the wrong keys as if it is a PC. This is a PC, but I keep hitting the page down instead of scrolling down. And haven’t quite got the knack of the trackpad. Aargh.

Lockdown is announced.

The galleries have been closing one by one and the final ones follow suit. Crowds had congregated at Whitstable over the weekend. Idiots. I have six trips planned between now and early July, and three are certainly off.

Ah, that viva. Four are off.

I read a PhD in bed on the iPad. Later I finish the Rembrandt biography.

Day 8

There’s a knock at the door. A gardener and a builder. Is this my car? Can I move it. No and no, and I don’t know whose it is. Some social distancing, please.

A day at the keyboard. Writing a lecture in the morning — I tried to reuse a colleague’s but it isn’t actually relevant to the topic. Bah. Then reading through the PhD again and commenting again. I turn the show all characters function on so I’m clear where stray spaces are. Stupidly I work til ten.

Found, one stamina.

Day 9

The veg box comes and there’s an awkward dance on the doorstep, as we maintain distance. I’ve considered cancelling, since I’m never quite using it up, but I’m glad I haven’t. First conversation since Friday, aside from phone call to Mum.

I find a postgrad on Skype, and we chat, ahead of schedule, for half an hour. He’s living with family and they are sharing two computers. It’s not enough. The library has closed for the duration, so he can’t borrow one there. Even if he could.

Then Skype final review for a PhD student.

Two hours later and I need a siesta. At least those symptoms have gone, but I’m bloody cold. Sitting too long with the heating off.

After too long, back to commenting on the thesis and an email that the proofs for Extrapolation have come.

Perfect timing. Not.

Day 10

The days are beginning to merge. Much puttering on the computer. I hates the trackpad, I hates it do. And its tendency to right click if you don’t hit the sweet spot. Or to send emails early.

I have spent a week indoors. Time to leave the house.

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