Man in the Middle 79: My Covid Diary

Man in the Middle is the fictional diary of a Boomer coping with the demands of an ageing mother with dementia, his millennial children and his own impending obsolescence. Bowed down by Brexit, Covid and self-pity, all he wants is more ‘me time’. Will he succeed? Or is he destined to be stuck forever in No Man’s Land in the war between the generations?

If you’d like to begin at the beginning and missed the first instalment, you can read No. 1: The Letter here

No 79: My Covid Diary

Ground Zero

I realised something was wrong at about 2am. Normally, I just sleepwalk to the loo for an early morning pee. Mainly, this is uneventful.

But this morning, I woke with my joints aching and shaking involuntarily like a Mexican Jumping Bean after a heavy night out, downing shots of mezcal.

Even though I was wearing Santa Claus woollen pyjamas and socks, I was freezing. If I don’t get warm again soon, I thought, I’ll die of hypothermia and my wife will wake up next to a stone-cold yule log of a former husband.

I got up, turned the central heating on and the thermostat up to Climate Armageddon and returned to my bed.

‘What’s the matter?’ asked my wife, roused by all my huffing.

I held out my arms.

‘I can’t control my arms from shaking,’ I said.

‘It’s too late for jokes,’ said my wife.

‘Seriously. Either I’ve been possessed by the spirit of a Body Popping dancer or I’ve got Covid,’ I replied, rolled back under the duvet and slept for most of the next 24 hours.

Day 2

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Tea.

Day 3

Zzzzzzzzzzzz. Tea. Soup x 2. Clean teeth.

Day 4

Tea. Toast. Sausage sandwich at lunch. Watch Dog Soldiers on C4 (laughably bad). Advised to bathe by wife. Requires too much energy. Explain I fear drowning and clean teeth to show goodwill and commitment to household hygiene instead.

Day 5

Tea. Toast. Chicken salad. Soup. Attempt to read a book, but immediately fall asleep. Watch entire series of Shetland on BBC I Player in one sitting (nice place, quality woollens). Agree to wash AND clean teeth.

Day 6

Tea. Toast. M&S prawn sarnie and cheesy wotsits. Watch The Awakening (v.good). Craving for take away curry. Wife agrees as long as I commit to a daily bath, teeth washing and opening a bedroom window. Curry = excellent, few spillages. All agree it was time sheets got washed anyway.

Day 7

Tea. Toast. Sushi for lunch. Think a bit. I now know why Netflix will win the content war. Nothing new to watch on I-Player or Amazon Prime after only four days of intense goggling. Read newspaper. Boris Johnson lying again. Wonder if mother will be able to come out of her nursing home for Christmas Day.

Day 8

The bedroom door creaks opens and wakes me up. Through one tired eye, I can see my wife in the doorway. She’s smiling broadly, as if she’s got good news.

Praise be, I think. We’ve finally won the Lotto Roll Over after years of trying. Why else would she look so happy this early in the morning?

‘We’ve won the Lotto, haven’t we?’

‘Not yet,’ she replies.

‘Oh God, that’s so unfair,’ I say.

‘What’s unfair about not winning the Lotto?’

‘Twenty years of hard graft week in week out, gambling in support of charitable causes and nothing in return. That’s what’s unfair. We’ve never even won enough to buy a packet of crisps.’

‘It’s not about the winning,’ she asks.

Not about the winning? I close my open eye and lean back into my pillow. What sort of an attitude is that?

‘Can you imagine the value of all those £10 flutters on the Lotto, if we had invested them in an equity index tracker instead?’

‘Not really,’ says my wife.

The smile is sliding down her face like rain off a window.

‘How are you feeling?’ she asks.

‘My head is full of cold porridge and my joints ache like a chicken’s egg about to hatch. But don’t worry. I’ll be alright here poaching in my own sweat. You get on with your life.’

Unconsciously, my inner Benedict Cumberbatch delivers the last sentence in a faltering, faint voice and makes a noise like a little pony whinnying for good measure.

‘Ah,’ says my wife. ‘You’re definitely getting better. Your self-pity has returned.’

Day 9

My wife is taking away my breakfast plate, which is smeared with tomato sauce and mustard, like a Kandinsky painting. Apart from the sauces the plate is clean and clear of anything edible. I’ve just downed a full English breakfast and feel So Money Super Market. Covid is in retreat.

‘I don’t know what I’d do without you,’ I say.

‘Lose weight?’ she replies.

‘I just want you to know I appreciate everything you and the kids have done to support me in my fight against this terrible virus.’

She makes a choking sound, as if something has stuck in her throat.

‘We’ve learnt a lot over the last week, for sure,’ she says.

‘The fulfilment which comes with kindness? ’ I suggest.

‘More, what it’s like to be Jacob Rees Moggs’ nanny. Or run Room Service at the Savoy.’

‘You’ll be glad to hear then that I’ve used this week in bed to think hard about our future. Undistracted by Matt Hancock’s makeover and his newly pert buttocks, I’ve been tackling the Big Issues. I think I’ve found a cure for capitalism and created a new manifesto for mankind.

‘Oh God,’ she says. ‘Not now. Save it later when I can have a drink.’

I’m a little dispirited by this reaction. But, luckily, moments later, my daughter pops her head into the bedroom. She’s dressed in her running gear and wearing a purplish bandana.

I wonder if she sleeps in running gear. Each night she and her brother come back late from their responsible jobs and go running. Not to the pub to drown their sorrows at the ghastly legacy bequeathed them by the Boomers or to drown out the pain of their day at work, like my father did. But to stay fit. Or something like that.

‘Howdy Old Paps, how yer feeling?’

Often, my daughter and I talk to each other as if we were characters in Little House on the Prairie. Don’t ask why. But today, I’m not up to the game.

‘I’ve found a cure for capitalism.’

‘Ohhhhhh,’ she says. ‘Interesting.’

‘And rewritten the ten commandments,’ I say.

‘Good going for just one week,’ she says.

‘That’s what I thought,’ I reply. ‘Do you want to hear my new version of the commandments?’

She looks at her watch.

‘Umm. Actually, I’ve arranged to meet a friend for a run and I’m late,’ she replies and swifter than Usain Bolt she’s gone.

‘It’s genuinely new and fresh thinking,’ I shout after her. ‘You’ll never heard anything like it before in your life.’

‘That’s what worries me,’ she shouts back as her Nike’s carry her down the stairs and away into her own future.

Read more blogs by James Thellusson

Read the next in the series – Man in the Middle 80: New Year Dreams

Read the previous one – Man in the Middle 78: Becoming a detectorist

See all James’s Man in the Middle blogs here

Read more on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: Chiswick Calendar News & Features

See also: Chiswick Calendar Blogs & Podcasts

Support The Chiswick Calendar

The Chiswick Calendar CIC is a community resource. Please support us by buying us the equivalent of a monthly cup of coffee (or more, if you insist). Click here to support us.

We publish a weekly newsletter and update the website with local news and information daily. We are editorially independent.

To subscribe to the weekly newsletter, go here.