My Corona [Substack]

 

Photo by Jake Bradley on Unsplash

American friends asked me to write a few words about my experience of the coronavirus crisis.

It seems like everyone has their own ‘My Corona’ story to tell. They’re determined to tell it even though most of them are fine.

I don’t want to add to the noise but I can’t get ‘My Corona’ — sung to the words of ‘My Sharona’ — out of my head so here we are.

I don’t mind people sharing their personal stories online; I’ve read and benefited from many. But I’m sick of clickbait articles that try to scam people’s attention when they’re scared.

As an antidote to that I’ve decided to tell you my Corona story using song lyrics as headings. Lest you take life too seriously.

I have to warn you, though — this song is filthy — so wash your hands when you’re done.

Ooh, my little pretty one, my pretty one

A lot of people are worried about the Corona Virus.

Symptoms include the inexplicable urge to drink bottles of piss-weak beer with wedges of lime stuck in the top.

Too soon?

They say we should stay indoors, avoid social contact and non-essential travel.

It feels like I’ve been preparing for this my whole life.

Thank you, I’ll be here all week.

As will you be.

When you gonna give me some time, Corona

A lot of my American friends ask how I am thanks to the Coronavirus.

None of my English friends ask, of course, because that’s not how we do things up north.

I’m not the best person to ask about how things are in the UK.

I come from West Yorkshire in the North of England. The apocalypse could happen here and you wouldn’t be able to tell.

How do I mean? As usual I’m half-joking but the expression “It’s grim up north” exists for a reason.

We subsist on a steady diet of tea and disappointment.

I don’t think America is ready for blunt Yorkshire sarcasm. It doesn’t translate very well.

Much like trying to skim pebbles on the water my humour rarely makes it across the pond.

Ooh, you make my motor run, my motor run

This pandemic is serious, godawful, and people need to take appropriate action.

But thoughts and prayers won’t cut it and holding a pity party isn’t going to help.

As we say in Yorkshire: “There’s no use mithering about it.”

Mither means to bother people or moan and make a fuss about something.

Life’s hard enough as it is. Bad things happen all the time. You need to get on with it so stop pissing and moaning.

The difference in attitude between the UK and US is striking.

So much so that I keep meaning to teach Americans the true meaning of the phrase: “There’s no use mithering about it.”

To someone from Yorkshire it looks like Americans do nothing but mither about things.

Gun it coming off of the line, Corona

You are aware that this thing started in China, right?

And that the death toll in Italy has overtaken that of China?

So how is it all about you, America?

This is a global pandemic — it affects everyone. Viruses don’t discriminate.

I’d never tell you to not share your personal experience. But please, for the love of god, show some perspective.

You’re not on a journey of self-discovery. This pandemic is not about you. You’re not a unique and special snowflake.

Millions of people are going to die.

Most of you are going to be fine.

Never gonna stop, give it up, such a dirty mind

Don’t get me wrong, I take the crisis at face value.

I’m not some shiny happy millennial who wants to show the world how boss they are by taking gratuitous selfies.

You know the sort of thing. Look at me going about my daily life and not letting the zombie apocalypse get me down.

Nor are millennials the only ones with a cavalier attitude.

Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, and Gen Z might as well get lumped together as Generation Why Not or Generation Why Bother.

Food banks have closed due to the coronavirus crisis. Yet people have the audacity to pimp their unnecessary shopping haul on social media.

There’s no need to post pictures of your fully-stocked cupboards on Facebook. This is an actual thing people are doing. No doubt they hope it will go viral.

Hashtag toilet paper for days. Hashtag apocalyptic thoughts. Hashtag end times fun.

I always get it up for the touch of the younger kind

I’m sick to the back teeth of people’s blatant attempts to cash in on the crisis.

You see, I’d never punch down and mock the afflicted.

Nor would I churn out the same old crap as always but pretend to make it about a global crisis to get clicks.

stares pointedly at you

For example the typical content on Medium was piss-poor productivity and self-help articles.

Now it’s Coronavirus themed piss-poor productivity and self-help articles.

Well, at least you tried.

My, my, my, aye-aye, whoa!

I used to write a lot on Medium but have pretty much stopped.

This is due in part to circumstances beyond the looming zombie apocalypse.

But for me the biggest stressor is seeing the glut of writing on here about the coronavirus crisis.

It’s cynical, disingenuous, and off-putting.

I mean the biggest stressor when trying to write, of course, not in comparison to a global pandemic.

People are already scared. You’re playing on their fears.

You aren’t helping anyone but yourself.

Never gonna stop? Give it up. Write about something else.

M-m-m-my Corona

I worry about my elderly parents who act like nothing’s happening.

They don’t seem to get what all the fuss is about.

A typical conversation with my Mam (as we say in Yorkshire) goes like this:

Me: What are you doing?

Mam: I’m trying to hug you.

Me: Get back!

Mam: But —

Me: I have a stick and I’m not afraid to use it!

Come a little closer, huh, a-will ya, huh?

There’s also a lot of stupidity and misinformation doing the rounds.

Dad said he thinks Corona virus is a strain of the flu based on what someone said on the news.

I told him that isn’t correct which led to a blazing row.

Ok, it led to him shouting at me because I disagree with him.

He thinks that because I get my information from the internet I’m a conspiracy nut or hypochondriac.

Whereas he gets his news from the TV and thus knows everything.

He acts like I’m a health risk to him but in truth it’s the other way around.

Close enough to look in my eyes, Corona

The one ray of sunshine for me in all this is that I get to Skype more often with my brother who lives in Greece.

We haven’t seen each other in person in about a decade.

He had to cancel his daughter’s birthday party but so far everyone is safe and well.

Our conversations are a mash-up of bad jokes and gibberish that no-one understands.

Leave us alone in a room together for five minutes and by the time you come back we’ll be talking in film quotes.

We’re like Furbies but for out-of-date cultural references.

Keeping it a mystery, it gets to me

A typical conversation with my brother goes like this:

Me: So what you’re saying is “Don’t tell them where you buried the bodies.”

Brother: That’s weird.

Me: That’s not the message I’m supposed to take away from all this?

Brother: No. The lesson is “I love you the most. That’s why I’m going to kill you last.”

Me: Ok. That’s better. I’m going for a walk.

Running down the length of my thighs, Corona

So how am I prepping for the Coronavirus crisis?

I didn’t try to hoard enough supplies to see me through a nuclear winter despite being a natural hoarder.

I did buy a litre bottle of whisky. Because fuck you.

It was on sale and a hot toddy made with Rooibos tea, whisky and honey is the best thing ever in the history of all things.

I like to think that humans are carbohydrate based lifeforms. That doesn’t mean it’s ok to buy up all the bread and pasta.

Spare a thought for the nurse who is unable to buy food after her shift because of your panic-buying.

I know that you entertain some sort of lame survivalist fantasy. But when the shit hits the fan no amount of toilet paper will help you.

Never gonna stop, give it up, such a dirty mind

I don’t use hand sanitiser.

Not because I know it’s ineffective and leaves the virus on your hands. It’s because that stuff is the spawn of Satan and everything about it is evil and wrong.

I do wash my hands with soap and water like a gentleman though.

I try to stay healthy. I go for regular walks. I avoid crowds.

By this I mean people in general and the elderly or vulnerable in particular. It’s for the sake of their health as much as mine.

Social distancing is easy for me. Avoiding people is one of my core competencies. I’ve done it for most of my life.

I mean healthy social distancing, not rampant misanthropy, which makes a nice change.

I try to be productive. That hasn’t stopped me from watching too many cartoons and stand-up comedy specials.

I always get it up for the touch of the younger kind

I get my information from reliable and trusted online sources including the WHO, CDC, and NHS.

There’s nothing wrong with getting some of your information from major news outlets. I just can’t take the typical news cycle of constant fear and dread.

It’s a safe bet that at some point lots of people will get COVID-19 and most of them will make a full recovery.

COVID-19 is new but coronaviruses are as old as dirt.

This virus will affect everyone on the planet — including those it doesn’t infect. If you ask me, I’d say we brought it on ourselves.

We’ve stripped the planet of its natural resources. We live in ways that are unsustainable and make outbreaks like this more likely.

Our farming and agricultural practices, including how we treat animals, opened the door.

Zoonosis. Cross-species transmission. COVID-19. Did someone leave Pandora’s box lying around?

My, my, my, aye-aye, whoa!

I wash my hands a lot. I sit alone with my laptop and drink tea.

No change there, then.

I plan to write, then I have a nap, and sometimes I scribble down a few words.

Social distancing? Oh is that what I’ve been doing all these years? Ok then.

I make my bed, clean up, and even tidy my desk. No, you don’t understand. Shit just got real.

I intend to go for a walk but instead I fall asleep. I do get up several times to go to the toilet. That’s kind of a walk, right?

I wake with a cough, runny nose, and the sniffles. I’m convinced that I’m a little feverish.

Looks like you’ll have to enjoy the zombie apocalypse without me.

M-m-m-my Corona

You never know how you’ll react to a crisis until it happens.

I’m worried due to personal health risks. Then again I’m surprised how sanguine I’m being about it.

Health wise I’m in an at risk category but my heart still goes out to people who are in a far worse situation than me.

I’m far more concerned about the health risk posed to the elderly and vulnerable, my parents, and friends.

I also think that the general public has a tendency to overreact to the wrong things.

They do stupid things that won’t help and behave in selfish ways that put the elderly and vulnerable more at risk.

M-m-m-my Corona

What’s it like in England right now? I get asked that a lot.

“We’re fine. We’re all fine here, now, thank you. How are you?”

People act like the sky is falling and the only way to protect themselves is to buy toilet paper.

Other than that it’s business as usual.

I live in a town, not a major city, so in general people are trying to go about their everyday lives.

There was a rugby match on the other day. The rugby grounds aren’t all that far from where I live.

I walked past on one of my regular walks. The stands were full of people.

Make of that what you will.

When you gonna give to me, a gift to me

Self-isolation isn’t hard, you big babies.

Don’t expect someone to hold your hand even if you’re prepared to wash it first.

If I could I’d live in splendid isolation like Warren Zevon sang about Georgia O’Keeffe.

For once us introverts have an advantage. It’s the extroverts who are screwed.

Someone asked on Twitter what everyone’s Coronavirus social distancing survival kit was.

What’s yours look like?

Mine’s Twitter, tea, and a metre ruler to poke anyone who gets too close.

I also try to get some writing done.

Is it just a matter of time, Corona?

People: Social distancing and self-isolation —

Me: Check!

People: We were going to say that they’re hard.

Me: Nope.

People: But how can you cope with being by yourself all the time?

Me: I can go for a month without any contact before I get a little strange and start to climb the walls.

People: Don’t you miss us?

Me: When? I’m busy.

Is it d-d-destiny, d-destiny

Spare a thought for other people.

About 150,000 people die every day worldwide — two-thirds from age-related causes. This pandemic is a drop in the ocean.

The NHS is doing everything it can but is on its knees and needs your support.

A relative of mine has skin cancer. Their treatment is being delayed by the coronavirus crisis.

Do you see now why privatised healthcare and cuts to the NHS are a bad idea?

Do you see why universal healthcare and universal basic income are a good idea?

These basic human rights make the lives of everyone better and everyone includes you.

Do you get it yet?

Or is it just a game in my mind, Corona?

Remember to buy all the toilet paper — for some reason people seem to think that it renders them immortal.

I don’t know what it’s made of these days but it must give y’all superpowers or something.

Kind of puts slogans like “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin” in a different light now, doesn’t it?

People are weird. That’s all I’m saying.

They’re idiots.

I’ve nothing to say on the subject except that they’re stupid, ignorant, and wrong.

They need to stop stocking up on toilet paper and start caring about each other.

Never gonna stop, give it up, such a dirty mind

I’ve zero sympathy for the mob.

I’d never wish anything bad upon anyone.

But in my little black heart of hearts I have to admit that I’m tempted.

It would be poetic justice if people who shoved each other out of the way in supermarkets came down with the virus.

The diagnosis? They got it as a direct result of being terrible people.

There’s more than enough to go round but that’s not how these people play the game.

The best survival strategy is to take care of each other.

Even if you do have to maintain a respectful distance and avoid physical contact for a while.

I always get it up for the touch of the younger kind

Repeat after me:

We’ve got to share the planet.

There’s no need to buy up all the toilet paper and hand sanitiser.

You can wash your arse with soap and water.

You can wash your hands with soap and water.

Soap and water is actually the best solution in both cases.

There’s no need to panic-buy food.

There’s no need to panic in general.

My, my, my, aye-aye, whoa!

How’s it going with you? I trust that you’re all safe and well.

I meant to check in with you and see how you were doing. Then the zombie apocalypse happened.

Apparently.

I hope that you spend this time well. Be that writing your book, spending time with your family, or knitting sock zombies.

It’s not so bad that you have to sit alone with your thoughts.

Use this time to create something or connect with other people.

Or drink whisky sat at home in your underwear, watch cartoons, and question your life choices.

I won’t judge you.

M-m-m-m-m-m-m-my, my, my, aye-aye, whoa!

I decided that if the world is going to end then I need to watch every episode of Adventure Time.

Please don’t tell me what happens but have you seen it?

I’m in need of some moral support here.

It’s supposed to be a kid’s cartoon but is one of the most profound pieces of art ever created.

I got to around Season 4 or 5 but my heart couldn’t take the prospect of it ending so I stopped watching.

We can watch it together so long as you promise not to talk whilst it’s on.

No spoilers, please — I’m British.

M-m-m-my Corona

I often think that people are terrible. I also often think that people are kind.

For every time someone confirms one position someone else confirms the other. Sometimes they’re even the same person.

I decided that on balance most people are kind most of the time.

This situation is going to bring out the best in some people and the worst in others.

Try to show consideration for everyone and act like a human being.

There’s as many beautiful examples of positive behaviour out there if you look for them.

Even better — behave like that yourself.

M-m-m-my Corona

I love people’s complete incredulity when they discover that you don’t see the world the way they do.

Or, even worse, that you don’t do things the way that they do them.

We don’t do tea and sympathy in Yorkshire, or sympathy, only tea. Which is even better if you think about it.

Disconnect from the news for at least an hour. Turn off your phone.

It’s a beautiful day. The sun’s shining, the trees are swaying, and the birds are singing.

The sky isn’t falling. You don’t need to buy toilet paper.

Take a deep breath, have a cup of tea, and go for a walk.

I’m just putting that out there.

M-m-m-my Corona

People say that the sky is falling. The sky isn’t falling. They just want to sell you an umbrella.

Stay positive. Drink tea.

That’s a great philosophy for life, right there, don’t you think?

Here’s an alternative: Life is meaningless. Do whatever you want.

That sounds like something I’d say. Also something that a teenage brat might say. So, you know, same difference.

Great minds think alike. As do average ones.

In the end it all amounts to the same thing:

Try to have fun in the zombie apocalypse.

M-m-m-my Corona

Life makes sense if you get that the universe has a warped sense of humour and wants to kill you for shits and giggles.

Now would be a great time to invest in the stock market if you have the money.

Or wait a little longer until the collapse of society seems inevitable and then jump in.

I’m talking bankers and stockbrokers crying in the streets here.

If the economy recovers, you win, and if not it’s the end of days so you have much bigger things to worry about.

I am available as a motivational speaker by the way.

Ooooooo-ohhh, my Corona

I’ve a confession to make. I left it to the end so that most people will have stopped reading.

I only want to share it with you if you read this far. Are you ready?

I’m worried that if I get COVID-19 there’s a good chance it will kill me.

I’m in my early 40s but due to debilitating illness I’m in a higher risk category than I otherwise would be.

This includes autoimmune problems, respiratory difficulties, and chronic pain.

I’m terrified. Scared shitless in fact. I’m not coping very well.

I’m not ok — and that’s ok.

Goodnight, everybody.

Ooooooo-ohhh, my Corona

I’ve suffered from Hidradenitis Suppurativa for over 20 years and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

It’s a chronic inflammatory skin condition and autoimmune disease without a known cure.

I’d sell my soul to any god, goddess, demon or angel that rid me of it. But don’t you dare give me your sympathy — I don’t need that at all.

As for what I did to anger the gods in the first place to end up cursed? No doubt there’s a long list somewhere.

I also have severe sleep apnea. That’s a sleep disorder which causes me to stop breathing when I’m asleep.

Someone with this condition is three times more likely to die prematurely of any cause. Meep!

That said, it also makes me snore like Donald Duck so it’s not all bad.

I’m made of stern stuff, I have the constitution of an elephant, and I’m as stubborn as all get out. So all will be well.

Ooooooo-ohhh, my Corona

Are you seeking a friend for the end of the world? I’ll Skype with anyone that wants to talk.

If you need some company I’m happy to spend time with you. Let’s hang out together.

If I’m sat by myself with my laptop I may as well do something productive that helps other people.

I’ve already done this with lots of people around the world. This has included readers, Twitter friends, Patreon supporters, and subscribers to my newsletter.

There’s no catch. I’m not selling anything. It’s good to have friends in a zombie apocalypse is all. We usually chat about writing or plans for world domination.

Message me if you want to talk. I promise not to sneeze on you.

I’m not a jerk in real life — I just play one on the internet. I’m much nicer in real life, I promise.

Stay safe, everyone.


This was written several months ago at the start of the lockdown. It was automatically curation-blocked by Medium so hardly anyone got to read it. Here it is for posterity. Please let me know if you would like to receive more complete articles from me directly in your inbox. Sign up for a paid subscription to receive everything including secret and private posts.