Chocolate biscuits and pandemics

DID I really sleep until 2.30 pm? Ridiculous! But that’s what happened when I pitted myself against my computer’s Scrabble board. When I glanced up at the clock it was five am, and the stats showed I was losing many more games than winning.
This, I reckon, is because the software recently updated itself, and in so doing began using words that aren’t English. ‘Nkosi’, the Zulu word for king, is one, but when I use the same word in Spanish – ‘rey’ – the computer says no.

In normal times I’d never spend five hours playing computer games, but there’s nothing remotely normal about being quarantined. So days and nights seem to have more hours in them that I know what to do with. The recently-opened convenience store near our apartment offers some relief, but at the same time, it’s doing my waistline no favours. Never have I bought so many chocolate biscuits to nibble while staring at the TV screen.

Last night I got through two packets watching people panic buying in supermarkets while trying hard to keep their distance from one another. Grave voices were saying ‘wash your hands frequently, don’t touch your face, don’t go out unless you really have to and we’re working as hard as possible to find a cure for a virus that we think originated from bats in China.’

Was I watching the news? No! On the screen was a movie made in 2011. The plot of ‘Contagion’ is uncannily like the current situation. When I first saw it I rated it highly but never imagining how prescient it would turn out to be. The plot departs from the reality of COVID-19 in only one respect: the people advising social distancing and speaking about the efforts to find effective treatments and a vaccine are eminent scientists, not politicians. In the movie the President of the US is not seen; he’s holed up in a bunker.

If only the same could be said of the muppet Donald Trump. In a few sentences in a recent White House briefing, he succeeded in flatly contradicting Anthony S Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and insulting an NBC News correspondent, Peter Alexander, calling him a “very bad reporter”.

Worst, Trump suggested that, because he’s ‘a very smart guy’, he had a ‘good feeling’ that a malaria drug would cure Coronavirus. This, said Fauci, was baloney.
Much as I detest Boris Johnson, to his credit he hands over the microphone at his briefings to people who actually know what they are talking about.

Why, in the midst of a pandemic, would I want to watch a movie about a pandemic? I’d forgotten I had ‘Contagion’ until I read an article saying COVID-19 had greatly boosted demand for virus movies. And the Techradar website published a list of the ten best pandemic movies ever made.

‘Contagion’ tops the list and I own three others –  ‘Twelve Monkeys’ (1995), ’28 Weeks Later’ (2007), and ‘Outbreak’ (1995).
I intend watching the last three again. But without the chocolate biccies. Fear of adding inches to my waistline exceeds my fear of COVID-19.

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Barry Duke


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