Arriving at a lunch last week, my host introduced me to the other guests as ‘a coronavirus denier’.
This was because I had been to a party a few nights before along with several people who had recently spent time in Milan – an activity he regarded as being on a par with visiting a plague pit.
That was another age though. Now there are no parties to go to – they are being cancelled by the hour.
‘Coronavirus denier’: As other shoppers stocked up on supplies Alexandra Shulman went to a party with a number of people from Milan
How we should go about daily life is provoking the same passionate views as Brexit.
Ironically, many heated Brexit discussions were around the effect it might have on the younger generation.
This time around it is they who are worried about the threat to their parents and grandparents.
Yesterday, I rang my mum, who lives alone, to check that she had some supplies should she need them. ‘What kind of supplies?’ she asked.
Well, maybe some olive oil (she makes a mean salad dressing), some biscuits, some…
I couldn’t actually think what to suggest to someone who has always relied on buying fresh food daily. ‘Oh, I see,’ she answered. ‘Don’t worry. I’ve bought an extra loo roll.’
Another approach is that of my brother, 57, who thinks we should be mimicking the idea of chickenpox parties for kids – the aim is to contract the virus now so that we can get it over and done with and then be able to look after others.
I suppose that’s a jauntier approach to herd immunity.
Working out what constitutes behaving sensibly is difficult when the information we are given changes daily, hourly even.
Do we continue going to the cinema – if you do, I heartily recommend Military Wives as a simultaneously brisk and trembling upper-lip treat.
Should we cancel theatre tickets? Is a trip to the local Indian for dinner a bad idea?
I’m currently, possibly ludicrously optimistically, planning a party for late April.
As I made a preparation list (Pink wine? How many coat rails?) I could, of course, see the Mary Celeste sailing alongside, but right now I don’t want to give in to the thought that it won’t take place.
Time enough for that when it has to happen.
What’s certainly true is that the virus is providing wonderful excuses for people to avoid doing what they don’t particularly want to do. Go to the gym?
With all those changing-room germs? You must be joking. Dropping out of social arrangements you never wanted to agree to in the first place is a no-brainer.
Unwelcome meetings have never been easier to cancel.
The only problem is the result of being stuck with ourselves day in, day out, is likely to prove far more unpleasant and more tedious than any of the things we previously thought we’d rather not have to do.
The star of my book is… a gurgling tum
Last week, I spent many hours alone in a basement room.
Not on a dry run for self-isolation but recording an audio version of my new book, which comes out next month.
When I came up for air, I explained to the head producer, Nicholas Jones, that I find my mind drifting when I listen to a book in a way that I don’t when I read, or ‘eye-read’ as it is termed.
He was extremely gracious about my lack of diplomacy over his chosen area of work, and explained that I was listening the wrong way.
If I listened the right way, I would find my mind even more deeply engaged because it has the space to conjure up images that accompany the narrative – like watching a film but where you could choose the colour of the curtains.
Be that as it may, as a narrator I have a long way to go until I’m any competition for Stephen Fry, no matter what way you listen to me.
The sensitive microphone picked up my weirdly gurgling stomach, and every time I came across yet another repeated adjective in my text, I ground to a horrified halt.
When 36-24-36 girls were family favourites
Protester: Keira Knightley as Sally Alexander in new movie Misbehaviour
Misbehaviour is a rattlingly good film about the 1970 Miss World contest being disrupted by a group of female protesters.
Viewing it through our contemporary mindset is a curious experience for those of us who well remember what a treat it was to gather as a family to watch the candidates parade in their swimming costumes to the incantation of their vital statistics – 36, 24, 36.
At the time, it didn’t seem remotely misogynistic or sexist – or if it did, no one in my family seemed to mind.
The women’s groups which hijacked the proceedings came from different parts of London.
A friend of ours hung out with what he calls the Belgravia wing that included Sally Alexander, played in the film by Keira Knightley. What japes.
He remembers being sent to the Markham Pharmacy, the famous Chelsea chemist, to buy vaginal deodorants to put into the makeshift bombs they were constructing.
One of the girls bought a large number of white mice with the aim of letting them loose on the stage of the Albert Hall, but when she got them home, she was so traumatised by the sight of them in captivity that she just let them loose to run around Kings Road instead.
The Rishi factor: is he just TOO clever?
New Chancellor: Rishi Sunak has faced the challenge of setting out his first Budget within weeks of taking on the role
I’ve finally taken to reading Trollope. In the first of the Palliser series, there is a discussion about whether Plantagenet Palliser is bright enough to become a future Chancellor.
‘I don’t know that we want brightness,’ says the questioner.
‘A bright financier is the most dangerous man in the world.’
Where does that place Oxford and Stanford Business School graduate Rishi Sunak, our Chancellor for just four weeks, and his giveaway Budget in the headwinds of a worldwide crisis?
The end is nigh – so I got my nails painted
Trivia has never seemed more important.
As the news is relentlessly bleak, I’m putting my faith in the self-indulgence of a manicure.
Certainties may have become less certain but at least I can be sure that I have pretty pink nails – and that can count for quite a lot.