No use datelining any more, I’m here for the duration. Even the ski lifts have been ordered to close: chiuso, geschlossen, fermé. The only way to ski now is the old-fashioned way, à la Hemingway: climb up with skins, peel them off, and enjoy the one and only run of the day. Not only is the climbing beneficial to one’s health, it’s also the only thing that’s free in good old Helvetia. Mind you, if too many people do it the Swiss will start charging for it. But for the moment, no one’s doing it as the snow has gone the way of women and children first in a sinking Saudi ship.
This is also enforced family time. The mother of my children and my son are feeling a tiny bit paranoid, and seeing virus spreaders everywhere. I was given hell for going to the next-door village, Saanen, and getting a military haircut, then stopping at the kiosk amid 50 Chinese Rosey schoolgirls and buying a newspaper. ‘They’re locked up in school. They haven’t been to China,’ I said. ‘Their parents visit all the time,’ came the response. Funny that, eight years ago, when Mers — or camel flu — hit us, the school was flush with Saudis with very bad manners. The Chinese are cold fish, but they don’t bother people. They ignore you. In fact, it’s very easy to deal with enforced family life. I actually like talking to the mother of my children and my son; live long enough, as they say, and you learn things.
Such as what my friend Bob Geldof said last week about the internet. It has, he said, turned the world into an individualistic one, with solipsism having replaced dialogue and thought, not to mention altruism. Bob is avery good guy, although his politics are not exactly mine. I haven’t spoken to him lately and I wonder what he thinks of the 23-year sentence dished out to Weinstein. Perhaps the judge should have given Harvey the death sentence; that would have been a cinematic climax worthy of a Hollywood weepy. And it would not have made any difference. Twenty-three years in the slammer for an overweight 68-year-old with a lousy ticker is tantamount to a death sentence, so why not go the full Hollywood and grab an even bigger headline.
Never mind. Now everyone thinks they’re under a death sentence from the virus and it’s doing wonders for family reunions and household solidarity. Divorce rates are bound to explode once this is over as couples get ill at the constant sight of each other. When the Greek colonels pulled their coup on 21 April 1967, they discovered that the country’s richest banker had been financing the then illegal commies. They ordered him to be held under house arrest — but in the house he had long abandoned, along with his wife, to go and live with his mistress. People in the know, and they were many, believed it to be a cruel and unusual punishment. I thought the colonels showed a sense of humour.
The enforced isolation comes easy to me. Remember that 36 years ago I isolated myself in a 13 by 7-foot cell for four months while doing research for a prison book, Nothing to Declare, the third bestselling book in the history of publishing after the Bible and Mein Kampf. Mind you, boredom is to be feared more than the virus chez moi, because at 83 years of age there are no pleasant surprises to look forward to. I walk along the mountain roads for hours, exercise on my terrace while the cows look down at me unimpressed, hit the makiwara every other day — 25 punches each arm, ten kicks each leg — then eat with the family and jokingly propose going out to the now shut-tight nightclubs and bars of the area.
Reading, needless to say, is the great lifesaver. I do not use social media, so books are my salvation. Television is unwatchable, full of sci-fi rubbish and superhero garbage. How people can enjoy watching such trash is beyond me. If I ruled Sky or the BBC, I would order only golden oldies — black-and-white films where men wore double-breasted suits and hats and women slinky décolleté dresses. At least it would show our present braindead youth how sweet life was when people had manners.
One of the hardest things to accomplish is to create social trust among diverse people with different cultural backgrounds. I speak on the telephone with people all over the world and you’d be amazed at the theories some of them have about this pneumonia virus. Some think it happens when diversity is forced on nations by the so-called globalist elite who have never met an average person in their miserable lives. The peasants here in the Bernese Oberland reckon the foreigners are to blame. We the foreigners believe the Chinese are the guilty party. The EU bureaucrats have yet again been caught unaware of the danger and are scrambling to stop migrants from Turkey. (How that will stop the virus is known only to Brussels.)
In the meantime, the virus is spreading and the only ones who seem to have got it right are the Brits and Boris. Yippee!