Sam Leith Sam Leith

There’s no sign of apocalypse in East Finchley – yet

I was mansplaining to my wife earlier this week about why we ought to be very, very concerned by the coronavirus. It wasn’t the prospect of one person in 50 dying, I said — or not just that. It was more, I said sagely, the knock-on effects. You know, if everyone self-isolates, you’re only about two missed Ocado deliveries away from starvation, looting, cannibalism etc.

‘You’re always catastrophising,’ said my wife. ‘You were like this about Trump. And Brexit. I think it’s because you spend too much time reading the news.’

‘But Trump is very bad,’ I said, because he is. ‘He could start a war.’

‘He hasn’t started a war.’

Slightly to my disappointment, Budgens had floor-to-ceiling reasonably priced hand sanitiser

‘He hasn’t yet,’ I said sulkily, before attempting to undo her deft change of subject. Coronavirus, I said. This, I mean, this could be the big one. Think of the damage to the economy. Yes, I know I said that about Brexit but that hasn’t happened yet, and — no, obviously a cut in interest rates would be kind of a good thing given the mortgage but, look, I’ve just been to Budgens, and…

Well, I had just been to Budgens and slightly to my disappointment it was floor-to-ceiling reasonably priced hand sanitiser and a very bountiful supply of Andrex three-ply. It didn’t look like the apocalypse in East Finchley. It didn’t feel like the End of Days. But then again, I warned/consoled myself, the End of Days doesn’t feel like the End of Days until it is. As Hemingway wrote, you go broke two ways: gradually then suddenly.

The first you know of the Four Horsemen is a distant clip-clop clip-clop. You think, perhaps, gosh, I wonder if some nice old-style rag-and-bone men are coming down the street.

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