Corona Diary, Day 3

Wednesday, 18 March

The third day of my self-imposed Corona isolation.

A brief moment of euphoria yesterday when I finished the real estate company’s annual report that I’d been working on with my younger son. 150 pages to be done in nine days so there’s not been a lot of time over for hobby activities. But now it’s done and I could concentrate on drawing up a plan of what I want to achieve in the next nine days.

I started on my planned activities by vacuuming more bookshelves. The flat is, to say the least, book-laden and I need to improve the quality of the air (less dust) if I’m to spend more time here. My plan is to clean three shelves a day until I’ve worked my way round and then carry on with a regular one shelf a day (a bit like the perpetual painting programme on some bridges). All went well except that I tripped over a cable causing irreparable damage to a USB connection that put the printer out of action.

Simple problems but more complicated to work out how to solve without compromising isolation.

It’s been a drag not to be able to do things I very much wanted to do like going to a grandchild’s birthday party and a planned visit to Berlin. And it will almost certainly get worse before it gets better. But at the same time, I feel almost exhilarated by having to work out how best to play a difficult hand.

Reluctantly, I decided that I needed to go to town today to collect my post (which is at least on the outskirts of the centre). I didn’t want to use the bus so I started walking. Raining a bit so I think about how ironic it would be if I got non-viral pneumonia. I’m wearing my mask that I got for Kolkata and probably look a bit spooky. There are not many people around and the buses that pass me are almost empty. It’s a bit like being in a sci-fi story. A familiar environment that looks as it usually does at first sight and then you discover that it’s not quite right.

I get to Heidenstams torg at the same time as another empty bus and decide to hop on for a couple of stops to get past the building works, getting off at the mosque where more people are waiting to board.

The bus drivers are not checking tickets but letting people on only through the back doors. I walk the rest of the way and get my heap of post without problems.

Walking back, I pass the cycle shop, see through the window that they have some suitable cycles and that it’s empty. I went in, keeping the sole attendant at a safe distance and chose a cycle, a lock and a helmet. Unfortunately, the one problem with my facial mask is that it makes my glasses steam up so that I couldn’t see properly. And I didn’t want to move my hands to my face to do anything about it. The result is that the bicycle I bought is very fine, exactly as I wanted and a rather striking Victorian puce colour. The lock which I grabbed through the mist is far too sophisticated. The kind of lock where you would need a nuclear weapon to break it. It took time to get it out of the packet (I’m out of the shop by then) and even more time to lock the cycle). The all-size helmet promised by the attendant, who did a good job of convincing me that he wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, proves not to be all-size or perhaps only all-size for long thin Swedish heads not the squarer West European variety like mine. But I didn’t want to go back.

I locked the bike and went to look at Kjells which was also almost empty and went in to solve my cable problem. I thought about getting someone to deliver it but then thought that there was far more chance of a gig-economy courier going to work when not 100% than a Kjell’s attendant, apart from the hassle of trying to make sure the courier could deliver it home.

These problems solved, I tackled the journey home. The saddle of my new bike was too high, I had a heavy bag of post which I had to hang on one handlebar disrupting my balance and my glasses steamed up so that I couldn’t see where I was going in any detail. I decided to push the bike for a while until I got out of the centre and to a place where there was less traffic and visibility was less of an issue. But then I found a way of removing my mask without pawing my face, got used to the bike and even overtook another cyclist (admittedly almost stopped but it’s worth perhaps a half point).

An ambulance drove past me and I wondered whether it had been called to pick me up who’d fallen off his bike ahead (after all, the times are out of joint just now).

But I got home without incident, rather satisfied with myself. After that complicated decontamination. My idea of trying to keep my hands clean and just my gloves potentially contaminated didn’t work, at least not completely – you can’t, for example, press number pads for credit card purchases with gloves on (maybe thinner inner gloves would work). This isn’t a problem when out but gets complicated when you get home and want to disrobe without potentially contaminating the flat so I engaged in a frenzy of running to the bathroom to wash my hands, then cleaning handles, wallets and phone with soapy water and running back to the bathroom to wash my hands again.

It’s pretty obvious that it’s much easier if you are strict about social distancing and don’t, for example, get involved in purchasing situations.

I’m going to have Anglia’s post forwarded to my home address and hopefully won’t have to buy anything in future.

And now for a few intellectual activities…

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