Monday started with me opening my bedroom windows to let what little light there is come through, only to find two workmen on my balcony looking surprised that anyone lived in the building. Since my shooing gestures weren’t understood, I had to step outside, putting myself inside the regulatory two metres, to tell them to ‘get off my land’. As they weren’t even wearing masks, I now am worried they could have been carrying Covid. My landlord is carrying out external redecorations. Is this truly ‘essential’ work? I asked. When so many are not allowed to work at all, and have to isolate at home, must I be subjected to scaffolding outside my windows, like prison bars, and workmen trampling all over the place, using hammer drills, shouting and generally making life miserable? It reminds me of the old joke in the days when the binmen used to collect your garbage. They rang the bell of a particularly harassed lady and demanded ‘Garbage!’, to which she replied: ‘Sure, send it up.’
‘Behave!’ ‘Follow the rules!’ ‘Obey!’ ‘Stick to the guidelines!’ These words strike anarchy into my heart. I’m not a robot. I’m a freedom-loving social being, and being forced to stay at home month after month is torture. Nevertheless, I obey. And the threats! ‘Stay at home, or you’ll die’, ‘Keep away from other people or you’ll be fined’, ‘It’s going to get tougher and tougher’, screeches the PM as Mssrs ‘Doom’ and ‘Gloom’ nod in agreement. Now that we’re allowed out only to buy food and to exercise once a day, most people are at the ends of their tethers. Therefore there’s no question in my mind that the only way out of this catastrophe is to get vaccinated. I spent weeks of envious anxiety, reading daily reports of various names getting vaccinated: Sir Ian McKellen, Marty Wilde, Dame Joan Bakewell, Prue Leith, Lionel Blair, Dame Esther Rantzen, along with more than hundreds of thousands of others. I found it incredibly worrying that so-called anti-vaxxers seem to be filling many vulnerable people’s minds with fake news and misinformation.
Ever since the beginning of this ghastly plague, I’ve wanted the shot. So when my NHS surgery finally called me up, I didn’t give it another thought, and raced over to get it. As a little girl, I was first in the queue at my school to receive the mandatory DPT vaccine. My needle-phobic mother had a fit when I told her, so sadly I too developed an abnormal fear of needles for many years. However, having read more and more about the preventative properties of vaccines, I now dutifully take the flu shot every October, the pneumonia shot when advised and, since I’ve seen first hand the crippling pain it can inflict on people, I also took the shingles shot.
My GP, Ammara Hughes, chatted to me gaily as Raj Gill, the physician associate, bustled around in the background. Before I knew it, I felt a small scratch in my arm and he announced: ‘It’s done!’ ‘Really?’ I exclaimed, greatly surprised. It was seamless and painless.
I loathe these endless lockdowns. I had to lock down with the rest of the country in March and had to quarantine twice later in the year, after returning from France and Spain for work. During both those personal quarantine periods, the rest of London was wide open, so I had to stay in while my friends were going shopping and to restaurants. I relived my childhood misery when I had to stay indoors with the flu while all my friends played outdoors.
As soon as I finished my last quarantine in November, I rushed out to lunch and dinner at my favourite restaurants. They were all exceptionally careful. The staff were muzzled, as were customers when heading to and from their tables. The tables were a good three metres from each other and in some places plastic dividers had been erected between tables. This caused merry confusion on one occasion when someone at the opposite table kept tapping the divider and pointing down at the banquette. ‘What do you think she’s trying to say?’ I asked Percy. ‘Don’t worry, probably some drunken fan trying to make a lewd remark,’ he replied. However, after the second of these interventions, I found to my embarrassment that they were trying to say that my heavy coat, upon which I was sitting to protect me from the outdoor chill, had oozed under the divider on to their seat, warming not only my derrière, but also theirs.