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The Quarantine Journals.

Thoughts on Social Distancing and the Coronavirus Pandemic – Part I

just me and my dog wandering the night streets

like Will Smith in I am Legend...

In the meantime, “Murder Hornets” have invaded the US.

I’m guessing the biblical locusts can’t be that far behind…

Art & Words by Fanitsa Petrou

Remember those diaries we used to keep as kids? Those of us who were lucky to have been born in the late 60s, early 70s, in the time before the “shift”. Before screens started sucking up everything around us, back when we were allowed to live unrecorded lives, have innocent secrets we were not meant to publicise, photos we would never share with strangers, habits we were not meant to advertise. Words and thoughts, which were meant to be for us. A sense of self, that was not formed by likes and followers.

We would usually receive them as Xmas gifts, from clueless aunts who thought we needed even more reasons to be introvert and unhealthily focused on every minute detail of the things that hurt us. They usually had tiny, flimsy keys (that were obviously supposed to protect our privacy from tiny little elves), and ponies with rainbow manes on the cover. And if not ponies, then drawings of girls with huge eyes and ponytails that came down to their knees, who were holding flowers while having pensive thoughts – no doubt – about boys.

We would be vigilant at first, choosing quiet corners, writing furiously, hand capped over the page protecting our secrets from thoughtless adults and nosey siblings, but by the third week of January, we would predictably get bored with them and give them up. Because let’s face it, how many times can you begin each entry with “Dear diary, I hate my life!”? Usually on account of not being Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face, living in a bookstore (this alone could do it!) and being discovered by (a preferably younger) Fred Astaire (even as kids we could recognise the ridiculousness of that mismatch) who would take us to Paris to meet existential philosophers and be photographed at Champs-Élysées, holding balloons and pigeons. Or to be more precise, to be the one who came up with the idea… (Which might mean the “Think Pink!” lady! was the dream, not Audrey Hepburn…)

Well it’s been decades (four to be exact), and here I am again attempting to keep an isolation journal of sorts, marking time on a hypothetical prison wall, as it were. I got another one as a gift. I’m actually not kidding. It’s a leather bound notebook actually. It’s hand-stitched, and has markings and seals and yellowish – no doubt recycled – pages, and a smell… Tree-free and acid free I was told – never mind about the water buffalo that had to offer it’s skin. It even has a crystal in the middle (amber? citrine?) like something out of Harry Potter. The “memoriae stone” or something like that… One of the most beautiful gifts I have ever received! (Thank you A.) Writing longhand in it, makes me feel like one of those female explorers who were crossing the Sahara on camels, stopping at Cairo for tea, and writing nostalgic prose about sunsets on the Serengeti. Now I wish I was wearing a riding culotte, or at the very least, a safari jacket. Or that I had something more romantic to write about, involving the beduins’s song rising in the night, and not the purchase of toilet paper…

January 1

I don’t know why, but 2020 just feels lucky, you know?! Yes sir! 2020 is going to be spectacular! I feel it in my bones! Something great this way comes! I’m never wrong about these things!

January 7

News of a new mysterious decease is being reported. People in far away lands (China, then Thailand) getting sick, leaving scientists perplexed, and the rest of us feeling mildly interested, sad, but still safe, you know? Talks of bats and snakes being eaten in weird meat bazaars being the cause of it add an exotic touch, and the vague certainty that this won’t affect us. This sort of thing doesn’t happen here. This has nothing to do with us, we tell ourselves. This is still going to be a great GREAT year! No doubt about that one. Plus the mean thought: Meat eaters. What do you expect?

January 15

The mysterious virus had made its way to Europe, Australia, the USA. In pharmacies, people begin to casually ask about masks. In the week that follows, they will be less coy, less eager to prove they are not really scared, less self-conscious about how they will look if they buy whole boxes of them.

The city of Wuhan, the city of patient 0, is mentioned daily in the news, and gradually so are the numbers of confirmed cases in Asia, Australia, France, America.

January 23

58 millions living in four cities in China are quarantined. We are still surprised by this news; not quite believing it might affect us. This is after all our year!

I start a new illustration with Frida Kahlo wearing a mask.

What is it about her that fascinates all artists? We all love creating portraits of hers (God knows I have created my share!) Those eyebrows, those flower crowns, that hair, those skull earrings, those clothes, those shawls. That defiant stare. That fragility! It’s like one of us has created her in our minds… No wonder we all love painting her… She is still being rediscovered by generations of artists who are keeping her memory alive.

January 30

New cases are confirmed in Canada, Germany, India, the Philippines, Vietnam, Japan, Singapore, Russia, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia, the US, the UAE. The tally of deaths shocks us daily. This is getting serious. This is now real!

March 1

I decline an invitation to a dinner party, on account that I would rather stay home… Dinner parties still take place, yes. And I still hate them. Especially this kind: a room full of accountants and bankers – my basic nightmare – who think there is only one way of doing things: theirs. Me, being the hostess’s attempt at proving to them that she is open-minded really, and “cool”: “Look everyone I invited an artist!” (as in a three-eyed alien who speaks in tongues) The entire room cornering me, giving me those looks that are a strange mix of envy and utter contempt, asking me in total disbelief “and you make money out of this?”

March 3

I start a new painting. Another Fantasy Art piece (An Art Nouveau inspired Mermaid, titled Mermaid Dreams” – Because that is what the world needs during a pandemic: mermaid art…

I decide that I will record the process. Be one with the times for once. Betray my principles and break the fourth wall… (Being an artist is no longer enough. You have to be watched being one, as well…)

March 7

China’s Health Commission reports that there are at least 80,651 confirmed cases in China!

March 9

The first local confirmed case. The shadow is approaching our doorstep. In the meantime, Iran releases 70,000 prisoners because of the coronavirus outbreak in the country! Wow!

March 10

Much like people in WWII movies, we now can’t leave home unless we have a permit and identification papers. So retro. So scary! You are half expecting to hear the policemen (who are suddenly patrolling the streets) to bark at you “Ihre papiere, bitte”

March 11

The World Health Organization declares that it considers the coronavirus outbreak to be a pandemic. (Yethink?!).

March 15

“Mermaid Dreams” is finished. I post an Art process video on Youtube. It gets no views. Am I supposed to let anyone know that it's out there? I haven't a clue. The fourth wall is safely up… Not even a crack…

March 17

As I’m searching through old paintings, I come across two, which are meant to offer a theoretical glimpse into the future. They both depict mask-wearing people. They were both made in 1999… (otherwise known as “my last good year” before I was apparently cursed by a gypsy)

March 18

I start a series of designs inspired by what is happening around us.

March 21

Europe is now the epicentre of the pandemic. Italy is mourning 4,825 deaths! We hear stories about doctors being forced to make tough decisions: Who gets the ventilator? Who gets to live? Who dies? It has come to that…

The first death is reported here, and a curfew is imposed. The irrational, selfish thought: like they couldn’t do this on th 1st of the month? What a brilliant excuse it would be for declining that dinner party thing! “I’m so sorry, the government says I shouldn’t! It kills me, as there’s nothing that I want more than spend 4 hours with a group of people who bore me to the point of tears and cause me to have dark thoughts about the future of humanity, but there you go. It’s forbidden.”

March 23

Time to follow the global trend and stock up on toilet paper. And tea. And biscuits. The apocalypse won’t find us unprepared…

March 24

The lockout measures become even more restricting, after a bunch of idiots were discovered by the police having a bingo block party. (I kid you not!) Now we are only allowed to go out once a day, and each time we do, we need to let the government know via text! Much like when women are dealing with a jealous and unreasonable husband: we are being infantilized for our “own protection”.

March 29

New cases are recorded daily. Time to stop pretending this is not serious and invest in some masks. Pharmacist says they are out of stock. It pays to panic early.

March 30

After going to three pharmacies, I was finally able to buy two disposable masks. Two!They are rationed like sugar during wars… Thank goodness for the countless scarves I have bought (and designed!) over the years. I knew there was a reason. Floral is the new black.

March 31

We are now banned from leaving our home after 9.00 in the evening and until 6.00 in the morning. Which prompts the question: where the hell would I go after 9.00? And also: why??

April 2

Going to the supermarket feels like you are suddenly on the set of a dystopian movie. People in masks, blurry eyed tellers hidden behind glass windows, whole sections full of now unreachable to you goods being cut off by yellow police tape.

Who would have thought that in the face of an apocalypses, we would all be united in our belief that our most precious commodity is toilet paper?

Upon returning home I spend an hour and half sanitising every single item. Maybe death by coronavirus is preferable to this?

April 3

Feeling dizzy and tired. It could be the guy who coughed on me at the supermarket the other day, has given me the coronavirus. Or possibly the bubonic plaque. Or it could be the fact that I haven’t slept in days and have eaten my weight in biscuits.

Now I wish I have vacuumed. If I die during the night, the ambulance people will be faced with a serious accumulation of dust bunnies, should they feel the urge to look underneath the bed. My mum was right all along. Always be prepared. In case you die.

Random thought: do celebrities and billionaires force their staff to be locked with them during the quarantine? Like Egyptian Pharaohs taking their slaves into the grave with them in order to serve them in the afterlife? I bet they do. I can’t imagine any of them doing laundry or scrapping the dog’s vomit from the carpet… I bet they keep them locked up with them, so that they will be kept in a constant supply of superfood smoothies and insanely complicated Keto salmon dishes.

April 4

16 new confirmed cases, all people working at a bakery chain. I have now stopped buying bread.

April 5

Introverts are finally taking their revenge: extroverts are having a tough time as are unprepared (and possibly unable) to sit still for five minutes and be alone with their own thoughts… Nobody laughing at their jokes, nobody urging them on, nobody praising them, nobody becoming the mirror on which their self is reflected… Must be tough.

Yes, this is easy for me. I was social distancing long before it was cool. In fact I’m a fucking pro! What does it say about you when a quarantine is imposed, and your life is not dramatically changed? Or that you can’t help but think “this lockdown business is not half bad” on account of now being certain that everybody else is also at their home and not attempting to come to yours uninvited and unannounced. Were ever more scary words uttered via a mobile phone, than “guessed where I am now?” followed by a knock on the door? How difficult is it for people to get it that you work from home? When did I ever randomly dropped by their office, the bank, the classroom, the shop in which they work, expecting to be fed cake and proceeded to talk for four hours and a half about my ex? How come I’m supposed to get it, that this is not right, but they never do?

Say what you want about the corona virus. It at least saved us from the random“pop-ins”.

April 6

The fact that going out for purposes of exercise or for walking your dog are two of the few things we are still allowed to do, has turned people into athletes all of a sudden. Is it because gyms are now closed? It could explain it. Or maybe it’s just cabin fever that turned all these people into marathon runners and dog lovers. The streets are suddenly full of joggers, bicycle riders, roller skaters, dog walkers. Where were all these people before the lockout, you wonder. And more importantly: where were all these dogs peeing for all this time? Are they borrowed? Are these the same 10 dogs? Do these people take turns taking them on walks?

It’ s young people mostly, in their 20s, early 30s. In trendy gym get-ups, proper running gear, gadgets and no doubt, apps, that record every step (because did they really run if you don’t know how many steps they took?). Everywhere you go, they are coming at you from every street, like shiny, robust zombies. It took them a couple of days to discover this new obsession mind you (or for the Amazon packages with the running gear to arrive, possibly). In the first days of the lockout, the streets were eerie, empty, deserted. No cars or pedestrians, just me and my dog wandering the night streets like Will Smith in I am Legend. Finally feeling free to sing out loud as I’m walking. I want to pretend I was singing along some obscure band, or at least something properly cool, like early David Bowie or Cult, but sadly it’s mostly showtunes, Billy Joel and Abba. Yes. Abba. Shut up! That’s the soundtrack of my happy place… Give it a go before you laugh at it… ) while thinking guiltily that this new isolation business is a delight! Oh, I could get used to this. In fact I’m loving it! No waiting at the traffic lights, no other dogs barking at yours, no creepy strangers scaring you in the park. (A night street without men feels suddenly safe! Who knew it was possible to feel that in one’s lifetime?) It didn’t last long. The hordes of young joggers have descended upon us. All of them mask-less / scarf-less mind you.

Everywhere you go it’s the same. People over a certain age use masks, scarves over their mouths, gloves, sanitizers. They keep their distance, they take precautions. They got the message. They know what’s all about. They get it that this is not just another thing to add on Instagram. This can actually kill them. They are shameless in their desire to be protected by the possibility of an agonising death. Middle aged people are additionally aware that if they get sick, their parents might too, and it might end badly… Most young people, just because they are mostly immune to this fresh hell, just don’t give a damn. The fact that they could be asymptomatic carriers of the decease which they could pass on to older people, their parents and grandparents for example (not to mention every older stranger they meet) who might get sick and die, doesn’t seem to affect them much. Death lurks out there. But not for them. (A definition of youth if I ever saw one. But also of old age… That’s how we are all defined and by which we measure things: by our proximity to death) So they don’t bother with masks, gloves, the like… And they look at you (the mask wearing, careful, sanitising, you) condescendingly, with that mix of arrogance, contempt and amusement. If at all, given that you become invisible to them the minute you turn 45. That’s the thing about youth. It makes you fearless. And a little bit heartless…

They are of course the same people who will pontificate for hours on social media about the melting of polar ice caps, who will organise fundraisers (public and publicized it goes without saying) that ask people to sponsor their every haircut, and every single cupcake they bake, or else set up businesses that have “social impact” angles: with each wooden bow tie (don’t get me started), with each “bespoken” backpack, with each made-out-of-reclaimed-wood bedside table you buy, with each “I-have-just-invented-the-steam-machine- beard” you trim, you rescue a kitten, you plant a tree, you save a dolphin, a baby elephant, the Earth, the universe, or else a trans individual gets a tiara. So when you buy what they are selling, you are not simply giving them your money but also praise! Sweet, life-giving, public, precious, PRECIOUS! praise! (Don’t kid yourselves kids, that’s what is really about. That’s your crack. Because when your own comfort is on the line, or when the good you do is likely to go unnoticed you are not as eager to “give” are you?)

“How about saving your parents and grandparents from a pandemic?” you want to shout to them as they are wandering maskless, gloveless, footloose and fancy free in supermarket aisles, breathing into your face, leaning on you to reach their organic oatmeals, their obscure beer brands, their super-food idiocies… “How about rescuing senior citizens and middle aged women this month? How about making THEM you new mission? If this madness continues, they are about to be extinct too… Give it a rest on the dolphins for a day, and wear a damn mask for the sake of those you have given you life, you thoughtless, self-delusional, narcissistic, self- congratulating fools”!

What if there was an app sending some kind of message on social media (a balloon emoticon, the sound of clapping, the cheering of adoring crowds, or better still the promise of a thousand Likes and a horde of followers?) each time they don’t cough on you, each time they wear a mask when they step out? I bet they would jump on it.

Next time I see any one of them approaching me dangerously close, I swear I will start singing to them: “…Waterloo – I was defeated, you won the war / Waterloo – Promise to love you for ever more/ Wooooaaaaaaterloo – Finally facing my Waterloo…” If that doesn’t put the fear of God into them, I don’t know what will…

April 7

I’m quite proud of myself for not going full shut-in mode, and resisting the urge to stay in my PJs all day long. Not to say I’m not tempted…

People are getting dressed to take the garbage out (and of course taking videos of themselves and posting them on social media) It’s actually starting to make a little sense… (While just a week ago seemed ludicrous)

Women all over the world are discovering the joys of not giving a damn about their looks, as they are now working from home (Unless they are married of course. No off days allowed if they are… Gotta keep that man interested, they have been told. (Nobody told men the same, it goes without saying) Though they are not thinking this through. Where is he gonna go?)

This is how men exist in the world I guess. They wake up, have a shower (if at all), eat their prepared by a woman breakfast (a mother, a wife, a girlfriend, a daughter, a sister, a maid), put on a freshly ironed shirt (freshly ironed by one of the above) and off they go to work, ready to conquer the world. While women are getting up 2 hours earlier at the very least, getting everybody ready and fed, and on top of that, doing their hair and make up, balancing on high heels, trying outfit after outfit, always searching for that elusive one that won’ t make them feel invisible, unimportant, undesirable, unacceptable and 10 different kinds of inadequate (too fat, too thin, too short, too tall, too slutty, too serious, too unfit, too fit, too sexy, too unsexy, and (regardless of their age) always not young enough, and generally speaking too anything other than what men decide they should be, at any given moment in time…) Already defeated by their day, before it even begins… Because being accomplished, intelligent, well educated, hard working, good at their job, is never really enough, is it?

“Why does it take you so long to get ready?” we are being asked by the men in our life. “Look at me. I’m ready in 5 minutes” they tell us smugly. Oblivious to the fact that they don’t live in the same hostile world… (Or that they are the ones who made it that way)

April 8

I begin work on another illustration. A companion piece for the “Mermaid Dreams” one. This one is titled “The Mermaid – La Sirène Given that it is part of a set of two, I decide to record the process of this one as well.

Listening to “The Dickens Collection” e-books (Cds to be exact) while I’m working. Started with Great Expectations. It never gets old…

April 9

My eyebrows are so thick by now, I could be mistaken for an Instagram influencer… An older, fatter one obviously. Inclusivity, anyone?

April 10

The UK announced its worst single-day death toll with a further 980 people who had contracted coronavirus losing their lives in the span of 24 hours!

April 11

Confirmed cases in the US reach 519,000 and the death toll of 20,071, is surpassing Italy’s toll of 19,468!!

April 12

I am rewatching random Monk episodes, and suddenly everything he does, looks like a sign of sanity. Clearly, a man ahead of his time. I decide to create a few designs on that.

Of course Monk leads to Sherlock, Sherlock leads to The Mentalist (intelligent, damaged, emotionally unavailable men, hello? And when they even look like Simon Baker? Oh boy!) and The Mentalist leads to the funny version of all of the above: Psych. (So brilliant and silly! And just what the doctor ordered to lift the spirits. One of the very few shows that are actually laugh out loud kind of funny, but not grass and which you can watch with your kids). And then Psych leads of course all my usual go-tos when I need a little cheering up: Black Books (the “Grapes of Wrath”episode), the IT-crowd (The “Moss and the German” episode), Hyperdrive (the “Hello Queppu” episode) and inevitably “Up the Women” (all episodes) and my latest obsession, “Derry Girls” Thank goodness I can watch while I’m working…

April 13

My married friends are starting to show signs of, well… honesty: (That’s the thing about pandemics and the collapse of societal norms: they force you to face reality) They are suddenly less eager to sell the “my hubby is the best!” agenda and are slowly entering the “if-I-spend-another-minute-with-him-this-will-turn-into-a-murder-suicide” phase. On a similar note, not many women are posting photos with their husband with #feelingblessed hastags these days. Poor married women. They live in constant fear each time their husband (and his dick) leaves the home, and then again the idea of him being at home all the time is excruciating…

As their husbands are playing video games or watching old soccer matches, surrounded by beer cans and a bad smell, or else spending half a day locked in the bathroom masturbating angrily, women are still expected to keep a clean house, a well groomed self and a smile on their face. Between cooking and doing laundry and having meetings with clients on Zoom, and homeschooling their – by now feral kids – and bragging a little bit on facebook (old habits die hard), and trying to keep their sanity intact, and their roots from showing, they are daily falling apart. And they are the lucky ones. Countless other married women out there are faced with the constant threat of violence as they are now forced to live 24/7 with their abuser. In the UK alone the number of domestic killings has doubled during this time! Women and children are in desperate need of help, and are now living in a world that denies them that right even more than it did before.

(Pre-emptively: yes, yes #notallmen and NO! I m not talking about #yourhusband, who is obviously nothing like that, given that he is a puppy-loving, diaper changing, lullaby-singing, love-letters writing, lazania-making fireman with spectacular abs, who builds houses, have fists fights for you, and reads poetry while washing the dishes, fixing your car (and then detailing it), giving you foot massages and massive orgasms, while telling you have lost weight. Not to mention, whenever other men are sharing sexist “locker room” jokes, he never -EVER- laughs or agrees with them. No sir! And whenever they are saying anything remotely bad about women in general, he takes it as a personal attack on you – SPECIFICALLY – and rushes to put them in their place with a whollot of how-dare-yous and #notallwomen and #notmywife hash-tagging.

April 14

Friends on the phone, talk of little else than the number of deaths, the number of confirmed cases, their cabin fever.

Time for a little comfort-viewing. Time to escape to Stars Hollow. Time to re-watch a little Gilmore Girls. Fourth season it is. Luke can see her face. (About time too)

April 17

The weather is getting warmer and my dog’s coat longer. All the dog grooming places are of course closed, so I have no other option than do it myself with a pair of scissors… It takes me two and half hours and it is not perfect, and the whole process makes me realise I should be tipping the groomer more… Plus my dog is not thrilled. Whenever I was picking her up from the grooming place, she would run to me, and jump up and down, as if to thank me for saving her from the mean lady who was torturing her by cutting her hair… Now I was the mean lady who was torturing her by cutting her hair… Poor baby.

April 16

Life without bread is not worth living. Which explains why all those carb-phobics, are so miserable and angry all the time.

April 19

“The Mermaid – La Sirène is done. I thought it would be too distracting taking a video of the whole process (which means days of it) Taking 83 photos that produced a 7 seconds slide show was no fun either…

I post it on Youtube, as well (see here). How do people get views? A mystery to me. (The fourth wall has nothing to fear…)

Art process video here: Anyone who cares to see it must imagine it with “Flightless Birds (Iron & Wine) playing in the background….

April 18

Baking now. Life makes sense all of a sudden. Is there anything more comforting than freshly baked sourdough bread with sesame seeds? That smell is like a blanket that covers me. My grandmother’s recipe. A family secret – which my mother reveals every chance she gets.

I find myself thinking of my grandmother a lot lately. How my grandfather (who was considered by ALL to be a “good and decent man”) used to shush her on a regular basis, for no other reason than talking while being female… That’s the very thing that turned me into a feminist (at eleven), I think. She never objected. Or thought she deserved better I imagine. Much like most women of her generation (and the women of every generation that preceded hers) she resigned herself to her reality. Domesticity and marriage were her prison, and her only option. Fear and gratitude the keys that kept that cell door locked.

I sent her a mental hug with my baking. I cry for her, as I’m grinding spices.

“She was happy”, my mother would say if she saw me. “In a way that we are not” is what she would mean. Because we had the audacity to imagine a world that would actually allow us to be… And she didn’t have the luxury of that. So she mistook her devaluation as happiness…

April 19

Easter day. The Church announces that no one is allowed to go to Mass. “You don’t need a church to pray!” we are being told. And just like that they dismantle their two thousand year old constructions! “The Church is but a building.” they add. Wow! How New Age-y of them! After they have been trying for 1700+ years to keep people in their grasp, (and perpetually eager to pay for the exclusive privilege), assuring them that it is ONLY “within Church”and ONLY through it’s apotropaic sacraments that they can find “salvation”, now they admit it is not necessarily the case! “No need to take Holy Communion, either” they now tell us. Yeah. We know.

Thankfully, not many people object to that. Because thankfully, there are not that many religious nuts here (here, being Cyprus) That is I think, because the local Church does not allow a lot of sermon making, unlike Evangelical (and evangelical-like) Churches. Because of that, the ambition of individual priests is therefore not encouraged: priests are not there to offer their personal interpretations of the dogma or gain new disciples, (and by that become “stars” of this show in manner of evangelical manic preachers – or self-help gurus), but in order to perform the age-old rituals in the exact same way as they were being performed for hundreds of years – this is an old world after all… And on top of that, to do it in a version of a language that no one speaks any more. Which means you go there (once every decade or so) and despite making an effort initially, you can’t help but space out in five minutes tops. The smoke from the incense, the flickering light of the candles, and the endless chanting in a language that is vaguely familiar, which you cannot fully comprehend, defeat your every time, and you find yourself making your grocery list in your head, thinking about anything other than “the nature of the Divine”. Not exactly the breeding ground of zealots, you understand… (Or atheists for that matter) Not that we don’t have them. But it takes a personal effort to become one. It takes a specific need to delve into the misogyny, and the barbaric bloodshed of the scriptures on your own time… That is why the idea of people randomly bringing up Jesus in casual conversations, or athletes, celebrities or even politicians (or anyone!) praying PUBLICLY! is utterly shocking to us, and seen as frankly a little bit ridiculous (and Middle Age-y)…

That’s how you get rid of religiosity in fact: make worship in a dead – or barely breathing- language, and keep the show out of it: stop priests from attempting to widen their congregation with fiery sermon making activities and catchy R ‘n’ B tunes! The way the Church of England is doing things (well in British TV dramas certainly) looks OK too: gentle and slightly apathetic gay men in cardigans, giving lukewarm sermons in which they probably don’t believe, boring psalms that makes you wish you were dead, followed by a nice tea. Yes, a good cure for religiosity.

Talking about zealots: I suddenly remember a letter that was doing the rounds on facebook about a year or two ago, that was presumably written by the monks of Mount Athos (a whole community of monasteries in northeastern Greece). It was written as a kind of warning about “tough times” that were supposedly ahead of us, and it advised that we keep six month’s worth of supplies in our pantries because access to supplies would be difficult… “Plant a herb garden and stock up on lentils” was the exact wording. (Granted, they do love their lentils… Not to mention The End of Days scenarios…) We have discarded it of course, and mentally filed it under the “more end-of-days-crap-uttered-by-religious-fanatics” folder. In retrospect, we can’t help but think: did they actually get it right this time? OMG!

April 21

The US President Donald Trump is trying to distract his people from noticing how his delayed response has caused the loss of so many lives, by playing the “lets-blame-the-immigrant-again” game, which in “the land of the free” where EVERY ONE is exactly that (an immigrant – unless they are Native Americans that is) is becoming increasingly more popular than Friday Night football: he announces on Twitter that he “will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States”. Typical…

April 22

Confirmed cases worldwide surpassed 2.5 million, and the head of the WHO announced that the “virus will be with us for a long time”.

April 24

Donald Trump has taken the habit of offering daily coronavirus briefings to the press. And what a delight and constant source of hilarity they are! Among other things, he suggests that scientists should test whether disinfectants, such as bleach, could be ingested to fight the coronavirus! Yep.

Trump has managed the impossible, and we have to give him that: he managed to make every other greedy, narcissistic, inarticulate, megalomaniacal, morally bankrupt, ill-informed and intellectually challenged, misogynist politician of every other country in the world, look good by comparison. And that’s his real legacy: each time our politicians fail us (and they do!), the thought “Well at least he is not Trump”, is somehow a comforting one… And now we can also say about each one of them: Well, at least he hasn’t told us to drink bleach yet”

April 27

Worldwide, the number of people confirmed to have been infected, rises to more than three million, with some 209,000 deaths and 885,000 recoveries.

April 29

I decide to take a few hours off work and do something about the state of the living room bookcases. For months I have been “losing” books (which is to say, I was looking for them and couldn’t remember where I’ve put them) I take everything down and spent hours sitting on the floor sorting them out. I discover that I have 3 copies of “How to Suppress Women’s Writing”, two copies of “Henderson the Rain King” (Oh my God it’s been years since I’ve reread that one! I wonder if it’s still good. So very few things are, once revisited…), 3 copies of Jane Eyre , 2 copies of To Kill A Mocking Bird. (Which might mean these are my favourites, since I tend to return to them periodically) How it happens, is I sometimes buy them as gifts, but when I’m looking for my own copy to reread them, or check on something, I can’t find them, so I reorder them, or go to the ones I’ve bought for gifts… Five minutes in, I forget they are not “mine” and I start underlining stuff or writing in the margins, which means now I can’t gift them… And then I loose those copies too… This madness has to stop. Plus I need a system of some kind. You can’t have your Ancient Mystery Cults fraternising with your female Irish crime fiction writers (my latest obsession. Forget about Nordic Noir. These ladies have all the goods!) It takes me hours, and it is still kind of mess (to the untrained eye), but there is a system now. I think.

May 1

I go to the bank, armed with mask and gloves. When the button thing that opens the automatic door does not do that, I assume it must be for safety reasons. I guess there are many people in and they don’t want us to be crowded… I keep on pressing for 5 minutes, before I realise that today is a holiday and they are closed… (Days blend into one another is what I’m saying…)

May 2

Public transport in the UK may require temperature checks, they say. God help all the menopausal women. They will all be considered as suspect… (Not all shvitzing is corona related…)

May 3

Journalists and politicians are now giving us news briefings from home. Men (and it’s mostly men) in progressively more unkept hairdos, are offering their versions of the new world from their living rooms, studies, basements, crawl spaces. All of them standing in front of massive bookcases, obviously trying to convince us that they have not been spending their days watching old golf tournaments (the boomers), checking Twitter and facebook while re-watching old TV shows (the generation X-ers), binge-watching Tiger King (the millennials), watching prank videos on Youtube (the generation Z-ers) or watching women being tortured and raped on Pornhub (all of them). Oh No! They are great readers! They have been spending their lockdown being immersed in James Joyce or leafing through heavy tomes on legal theory, while smoking pipes…

American Late Night hosts are even using their kids and dogs in order to keep us interested. And let’s face it, it works. Especially in the case of Jimmy Fallon, whose inability to keep a straight face (and when did he ever?) or keep himself from melting whenever his daughters are doing anything cute (like walking all over him. Figuratively AND literally!) It’s quite endearing. Even though they are all talking about the same events, and are often led inevitably to the same jokes, not all late night hosts are create equal… Seth Mayers, is still the best among the bunch. His comedy having unexpected layers and complexities untouched by the rest of them. Though, enough with the “Thornbirds” book jokes already! And what’s his hurry? Why is he reading so fast? Someone ought to remind him of the comedic power of a well timed pause. Or breathing. Jimmy Kimmel is the one you won’t go looking for, but once you happen upon him (usually because you’ve watched everyone else), you will go “OK, he is not bad”. Plus his hatred of Trump? Always entertaining! And those kiddies of his? Adorable! John Oliver?You’ve got to give it to him for his choices (his effort to show to Americans that there’s a whole world out there, alone!) but he tries a bit too hard on the funny bits, doesn’t he? And how interesting is it, that he still looks exactly like he did before the quarantine, wearing a suit and tie, sitting before a black wall, being the typical Brit, telling us in a number of ways “there’s no way I’m gonna let you in (my home or my soul) in any way, shape or form”? Trevor Noah on the other hand, who, yes, is no Jon Stewart (and then again, who is?) is pulling a Benjamin Button and seems to be ageing in reverse (unlike Seth Mayers who is ageing before our very eyes), turning into a cutie-pie / collage kid before our very eyes, what with that little beard of his, the growing micro-afro and the hoodies. (Funny how when young men wear suits and ties they look like assholes, while with older men it’s the opposite: when they wear hoodies and sneakers they look like assholes…) Stephen Golbert on the other hand, (who, yes happens to be very funny and spot on) is finally getting his chance to show us a close up of his whitey-tighties. A kind of censored dick pic I guess… How long has he been waiting for that chance I wonder? It was to be expected. He does always inject his comedy with creepy, dark, sexual references. (of the repressed variety) Plus the Catholicism. It was inevitable… Though he keeps it mostly clean while doing the show from home – namely, in the proximity of his wife… Bill Maher on the other hand, is making his show from his home as well, and he is actually adding a laugh track at the end of each punchline (wow!) and waits until the laugh subsides before he speaks again… And yes, he is still finding ways to refer to the cancelation of his “Politically Incorrect Show”. (It’ s been 18 years or so. You are doing fine! Let it go! It’s time.)

My taste in videos BTW, tells YouTube (aka Google ads) that I’m an arthritic, male, British ex-pat, in the market for a casket, a funeral home and a will…True story!

May 4

Star wars day. Geeks everywhere unite, and yes: May the 4th be with you too…

There’s a lot of talk everywhere about the need to transform “travel behaviour” when the quarantine is over: meaning avoid taking public transportations, or cars even. It is suggested we all consider bicycles. Well, isn’t that interesting?!

Watching American Idol on Youtube. (That Jonny West kid BTW? Oh my God!) Each contestant singing from their own home… All the show now looks like a series of YouTubers doing covers from their bedroom. (Which is where global culture is heading anyway…)

Why is that we care more about Idol and the British X-factor than The Voice? Even though The Voice is the kindest show ever, and that blind audition gimmick doesn’t get old, nobody really remembers who won or when, for some reason. And nobody does make it big once they win either… Must be because contestants are being given more chances to make it. Once they leave, they can return, what with the stealing and the re-stealing and so forth: by the third or fourth time they are “saved” you just don’t give a damn anymore… But you are rooting for the kids on idol and X-factor, because they only get one chance – much like in life… You want them to make it, despite the tough competition, and the (in the case of X-factor at least) cruel words which are turning them into underdogs before your very eyes… That young guy who won last year’s X-factor? When he cried at that audition? Oh my God! I wanted to adopt him!

On a completely different note: I have finished writing two more articles on the Pandemic: One about the Upside of the quarantine: “Glass Full” and one about the Downside: “Glass Empty”

May 5

Between the 18th of March and today, I have created quite a lot of designs inspired by what we are all going through. Upon looking at them again, I notice that they seem to form a pattern not unlike the 5 stages of grief – 1. Denial, 2. Anger, 3. Bargaining, 4. Depression, 5. Acceptance) I have a feeling that they are on rotation though, and stage 1 will follow stage 5 soon enough. Realising it, might mean I’m on stage 4 again…

Some countries are slowly emerging out of the quarantine, gradually relaxing the lockdown measures. But the concern about the impact the shutdown will have on the global economy is universal. Donald Trump, is anything but worried though, who in an effort to push Americans to go back to work, has assured them (with the certainty of a rich, white dude who never did have a job, or the necessity of one): “you gonna have your job, or you’ll get another job, of you will get a better job where you make more money, frankly, and I think that’s gonna happen” (He is obviously permanently on stage 1 this one….)

Only 16 people have died here so far. 16 too many, sure, but obviously considerably less than what we feared. And it proves that testing, masks and early lockdowns – despite the hordes of joggers, DO work! (Note: see Chart recording how the coronavirus pandemic has affected 212 countries and territories around the world)

May 6

Globally, as of today there are 3,671,383 confirmed cases, and 253,216 total deaths! My bones had it all wrong… 2020 is crap. But – to borrow the line that goes around a lot these days – “hindsight is 20/20”….

In the meantime, “Murder Hornets” have invaded the US. I’m guessing the biblical locusts can’t be that far behind…


Published on May 6, 2020. The Quarantine JournalsThoughts on Social Distancing and the Coronavirus Pandemic – Part I –Art & Words Copyright © Fanitsa Petrou. All Rights Reserved.

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Art & Words By Fanitsa Petrou

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