DAY ZERO. Not sure when shit got real, but today feels like a solid contender. The sense of millions of tiny mind-keys turning in sync. Click. Locked into the news cycle. Yesterday social media was full of posts that began “I’m no epidemiologist … ” followed by some amateur’s log-lined horrorvision. Today there are substantially more that begin “I am an epidemiologist … ” followed by threaded, detailed forecasts. These are much worse, and require no emoji intensifiers.
I feel seen by Covid-19. I’m old, immuno-suppressed and have a chronic respiratory condition. A scalene triangle of fuck. If this was a disaster movie I’d be the third to go. First the scared neurotic guy, then the asshole offering the hospital porter 150 grand for a ventilator, then me. Oh wait, unless I’m also the scared neurotic …
ACTUALLY DAY ZERO. Forget yesterday’s real shit, today’s is in ultra-HD, streaming live from Basildon Asda where it’s gone full Day of the Locust in the paper goods aisle. Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first panic into cage-fighting for toilet paper. If at any point in the future a virus manages to take out the entire human race, our galactic library avatar will be a grainy slo-mo gif of meaty tattooed survivalists pawing angrily at a ziggurat of own-brand quilted.
What a squandered utopian future this would have seemed to us in our grim mid-20th century outhouses. We went through all this – the Bronco Years, the dark Age of Izal – to achieve indoor bathroom softness and for what? You maniacs. You blew it up. Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!
FEELS LIKE SUNDAY? We live in a live-action version of Wallace and Gromit reality – a terraced house in the middle of a northern street. It quickly sorts itself into who’s up for fetching anything and who needs anything fetching. Harry Next Door – artificial hips, an anthology of ills and pills – is philosophical, humming The Streets of Laredo. “If you die,” he says cheerfully, over the hedge, “you die.” The ultimate social distancing strategy.
Facsimiles of “people” appear in the news – hoarding carpetbaggers overseeing, as usual, the orderly transfer of wealth from us to them. Gurning conker Richard Branson. Oily arse-wart Philip Green. Smirking shitbin Mike Ashley. Startled wanker Tim Martin. These are demonstrably the worst of us, the dregs of us, risen to the top. Will there be a Reckoning after all this? Perhaps we’ll choose to hang on to this rickety emergency socialism and exact revenge. Branson Green Ashley Martin & Associates, stripped to their pants in a televised show trial. No. We are better than this. I have some much more imaginative suggestions, which I’ll keep to myself for now.
Meanwhile, Juliet Across The Alley brings us a bag of shopping from the Bosch hellscape that was formerly our local supermarket. Fruit, veg, a fancy loaf. Unpacking it feels like Christmas morning, but much more emotional. Our son’s best friend at school, whom we haven’t seen in years, keeps leaving stuff on our step. As always when it counts, actual people are lovely. Humanity is beautiful. Why do we relentlessly ignore this? Humanity is an idiot.
SATURDAY. We have four grandchildren. Two in South Korea and two just 10 minutes’ drive away. We have to Skype them all now. The K-Fam have been virtually confined to their apartment for months. But people over there started taking it very seriously very quickly. In Seoul there were paramedics in PPE kits fever-gunning shoppers, testing in those seven-minute scanning kiosks. In Lancashire, people are just saying “you all right?” to one another.
TUESDAY. The first casualty of war may be truth, but the first casualty of a pandemic is time. Pretty sure it is Tuesday, though it could be Monday. I feel simultaneously immobilised by dread and electrified by adrenalin: adredalin.
Yeah, What Day Is It is way down the list, below Pilchard Expiry Dates, Theoretical Gardening and Shirt Rotation. God, these New Times really muddle bad thoughts into the brain, don’t they? My mind’s a paranoia mojito. I’m sort of nodding along with current events as if I actually understand, but really I can’t process the maths. Cases tested times infection rate as a curved percentage of SHUT UP. This is worse than 1971, when they brought in decimalisation and all our bobs and tanners went up the pictures.
In the afternoon I get a text from the NHS Coronavirus Service. I am now designated “extremely vulnerable” and must stay in my house like some fucking Victorian novelist for 12 WEEKS. Obviously I can’t wait to tell my mates on Twitter and show off. Finally, I’m a Shielded Person of Significance. Within two minutes someone in my feed is confident that the text is a scam. “How?” you ask. “Ah,” they say, cluelessly.
TUESDAY. So, yesterday WAS Monday. I get a text with advice on how to distance myself from my wife. NHS, mate, we’ve been living under the same roof for 47 years. I think we know how to self-isolate by now.
• Ian Martin is a comedy writer. His television credits include The Thick of It, Veep and Time Trumpet. His book The Coalition Chronicles is published by Faber & Faber