Idle Scribble, March 30 2020
The Corona Chronicles 1
The Scribbler pens this Idle Scribble in a somewhat stunned condition; overwhelmed, pummelled and knocked sideways by the sheer speed of events unfolding across the globe. Events observed largely through the telescope of the Internet, and so terrifying is much of what I see that I sometimes feel I could be looking through the wrong end of it. From my sixth floor balcony in ‘Sea View 2’ – no I’m not in Bognor, it’s actually View Talay (lit: sea or ocean) in Chom Thian, the view remains reassuring.
For the time being the form of semi self-isolation I impose on myself is tolerable and easy enough to maintain. View Talay’s swimming pool remains open although many other condominiums in the resort have closed theirs. The two restaurants and two shops are still doing business although with a rather limited stock. As we leave and re-enter the building all now have their temperature scanned by security staff. Only four passengers at a time are permitted in the lifts, all must wear a mask and face outwards – a new ‘elevator etiquette’!
Coast v country in the time of Corona…
On the whole, however, I would prefer to be sitting this out at my up-country home but by the time I had completed all the formalities for renting the condo there was just too much risk to making a journey that involved a two hour bus journey to Bangkok, two subway rides across the capital and then a ten hour overnight train trip to Sisaket. I would have been more or less asking for it. And the thought of possibly being the one to bring the virus into Ban Somboon village is too dreadful to contemplate.
A battle of the bums…
A couple of fundamental, as well as moderately amusing, culture clashes between here and the land of my birth, or maybe more accurately the western world, have become startlingly apparent.
As the ripples of panic penetrated through the aisles of Tesco, Asda et al an apparent obsession with lavatory paper emerged from the darker depths of the Brit psyche. It seemingly wiped all else off the front pages. So dominant were stories of looted loo roles that one began to wonder what Dr Freud might have said about it. All that potty training, too early and too much maybe? Brits have long tended to be a bit anal!
Not so here where the ‘bum gun’, infinitely more efficient and hygienic – and may I say ‘green’, is a fundamental sanitary arrangement. Roles of absorbent paper have a quite different function. They belong on the table for wiping mouths rather than fundaments, as well as for mopping up spilled beer.
To mask or not to mask…
Surgical face masks, another high profile area where cultures have clashed. The wearing of these items has never been deemed unusual in South East Asia. Now NOT wearing one is certainly deemed unusual, if not straight out anti-social. And now it seems even sweaty, unwashed and often smelly farang (yes, when you’ve learned a little Thai you can sometimes hear that!) are becoming suitably house-trained and donning the mask. Yes, I know there is some controversy over the how effective these items actually are. But surely even if they are only one tenth of one percent effective they are worth using? Years ago it was only surgeons, nowadays most medical staff, dentists etc habitually use them. So why not?
BoJo, solitary and shunned…
As the bard might have written, “Alas poor Bojo! I knew him well (Horatio) : a fellow of infinite jest…”
Aropos masks, maybe if BoJo had masked up he would not now be sitting solitary and shunned in his lonely Downing Street garret. Some hapless minion apparently leaving his meals on a tray outside his door before hastily scuttling back below stairs.
Hubris? Just three months ago he was on top of the world swept into Nr 10 on a wave of Brexit delusion; all that is now crumbling to Covid dust. ‘Get Brexit Done!’ Get what done? Oh yes, I seem to vaguely remember, but it really doesn’t matter now.
In his isolation Boris might draw comfort from Michel Montaigne’s essay ‘On Solitude’. “Among other gratifications give up the one which comes from other people’s approval.” “It is a vile ambition in one’s retreat to want to extract glory from one’s idleness.”
For one’s self-isolation I can highly recommend old Montaigne’s essays for both entertaining and enlightening reading.
Pip, pip for now
The Idle Scribbler. Aka Tony L