I now have several friends who have caught the virus. Some barely noticed; some nearly died. In the latter category is Nicholas Coleridge, doyen of the world of glossy magazines. He was taken to hospital in Worcester delirious (‘I got loonier and loonier’) and stayed for 12 days. A doctor gravely warned his wife Georgia, who also had it, of ‘the possibility of his demise’. The worst aspects, he tells me, are its speed, feeling very hot or very cold, and that ‘something invasive and dirty is finding its way into all parts of your body’. There is also the fear that it lingers. Nick received excellent medical treatment, and a lovely letter from the Prince of Wales. His oddest hospital experience was that when he asked nurses for a jigsaw puzzle, no one knew what that was.
Another friend, Prue Penn, has the illness as I write. Although she is 93, she loves life; so when she texted me last week and said ‘I think I have had enough’, I felt chilled. Yet the fact she was still texting gave some hope. Prue enjoys playing me off against the writer William Shawcross as we compete for her favour, so I was encouraged to receive a further text which said: ‘Shawcross is on the Today prog tomorrow. Will you shoot him down?’ Her current self-assessment, almost a fortnight in, is that she feels ‘bloody awful and bloody tired’. On Sunday night, Prue watched the woman who has been her friend all her life broadcast to the nation from Windsor Castle. She remembers hearing her first broadcast 80 years ago, with Princess Margaret at her side, directed at children separated from their parents by war. I think the broadcasts helped her then and help her now.
This article is an extract from Charles Moore's Spectator Notes, available in this week's magazine.