My fourteen days of mild discomfort

Today, Saturday, I woke up for the first time in 15 days without a sore throat, a feeling that there was some obstruction down there, making it difficult to swallow.

I felt rough on the first weekend, and ran through an NHS questionnaire thing. One of the questions was, Are you drooling?

And what if I am? Does one drool when one is awake? What is the force behind this question? Because, I confess, I have been drooling while I sleep, moreso than usual. Is that because of the lump in my throat? Anyway, I answered in the negative, and have been wondering ever since if that was the answer I ought to have given. I wasn’t awake drooling, you see. I wasn’t drooling right then, as I was running through the questionnaire.

I took the Monday off, feeling properly ill, aching all over. Temperature seemed normal. A cough developed, but it was not a dry cough. I would have taken Tuesday and possibly also Wednesday off, but I got a text: it was only bloody Ofsted. So I felt obligated to attend.

The rest of that week was hard, and then this week not quite so hard, but still awkward, with occasional coughing fits and streaming eyes, and a voice not working properly. My voice, as a teacher, is my superpower. Not in terms of being a shouty teacher, but in terms of reading aloud and he do the police in different voices. And my throat was sore, and it felt as if it was just not ever getting better.

All of which leads me to ponder the brutality of the particular virus I had, which seemed more virulent than the usual winter cold. Or am I just getting older and more susceptible? Say it ain’t so. And I compare this to the virus that’s in the news, the one causing Boris Johnson to appear actually statesmanlike and not really at all like Trump, for whom this has been business as usual.

The Americans I follow on Twitter all appear to be obsessed with testing. This interests me. It seems to be a politically motivated complaint, one to beat The Donald with. And god knows there are enough things to beat him with. But never forget, when he says he “takes no responsibility” and all right-thinking people are appalled, his supporters are all nodding their heads and saying, too right. I’m also detecting a little bit of racism in the comparisons with, say, South Korea, as if the number of tests per capita that inferior foreigners were able to do somehow brought shame on America, which ought to be doing better than anyone. The truth is that, as far as healthcare and welfare for working class people is concerned, the United States has always been a banana republic.

But this testing thing. Why obsess about testing? If you show viral symptoms, if you are ill, and unless your life is threatened, what difference does being tested make? To become a statistic? Is it because there are people who, if they tested negative for Covid-19, would then just go to work? Even though they have flu-like symptoms? Because you should still be staying home from work and not giving people the, you know, flu. I think underneath that is a sign of just what a terrible country the United States is. Because it’s not a place you can have a few days off sick unless you can point to a test that says you have this new panic virus, which is the only possible justification for staying at home.

I never thought I’d say this, but the British response, in all of Europe, seems (on the surface) the most rational. People are going to catch it, so we just need to control the rate at which it happens. And the thinking seems to be that, unless you are elderly or with a compromised immune system, the symptoms are mild. So there are risks, but there are also risks in shutting everything down now and re-opening, say, 30 days later, and it all kicks off again. Of course, with these particular people in charge, you can never quite trust what you’re reading and hearing, but my experience on the ground, in a school, seems to indicate that it’s not really that bad at the moment. Which is not to say that someone hasn’t made a callous calculation that, say, 400,000 deaths is acceptable. Half a percent of the population. So if you know 200 people, one of them might die? Is it possible to avoid that?

I’m still not sure, deep down, whether this thing hasn’t been circulating for ages. I had full classes for most of this week. I mean, there’s usually one or two kids off, but this week was notable for days when I had a full house, more often than not. Which was not the case just before half-term, when there was a week when whole rows of desks were empty, people going down like flies with some kind of winter virus. So were they coronavirusing back then? We’ll never know without testing, and so we just shrug our shoulders and carry on. But it seems weird that the conversation this week was all about whether they’d close the schools, with all the classes full and most people seemingly fine, when no such conversation was taking place a month ago when I was seeing classes with five or six empty desks.

Anyway, keep your chins up, and if you cough, try to cough on a Tory.

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