Here’s looking at you, Boris – thanks to the NHS, not in a ventilator

In his third coronavirus diary, actor, scriptwriter, raconteur and mild asthmatic George Layton finds solace in the good health of others

Monday 6th April

I’m staring out of the window. It’s been raining, and now it’s dank and depressing, especially after that beautiful tinged with sadness Sunday.

The news is not good.  Our Prime Minister is in intensive care. Whatever your politics, whatever you might think of him, he’s a father and a father to be and one has to feel for him and his family. Boris has become another statistic of this Covid 19 horror show.

But when one can put a face to that statistic, it becomes a reality – as I experienced a few days ago.  

Until last week, all incidents of coronavirus were just reported numbers; I didn’t actually know anybody who had been affected. Now two friends are on ventilators, one in intensive care and a third friend has died.

What about those two ladies who led by example?  Royalist or not, the Queen was magnificent, delivering an historic, inspiring address to the nation.

And the other lady? Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer, who also led by example. Do as I say but not as I do. I feel sorry for her; she is clearly a talented woman. But she had to fall on her sword.

Let’s hope that she gave it a good wipe-down with sanitising gel first.


Tuesday

I’ve been watching Sir David Lidington on TV again wearing another of his fabulous tops! The guy is one cool dude, a male model for the older man. 

Come on Sir Dave, spill the beans: where do you get them? Are they available online? This is the time for you to share with a vulnerable over-70. 


Wednesday

I have a friend who is nearly 95.  He lives alone and we speak every day, especially important during this Covid 19 crisis.

I repeatedly tell him about the importance of lockdown and I have his permission to share today’s strained telephone conversation. To protect the guilty, I’ll call him Henry.

Henry is as sharp as a needle. Healthy, witty, erudite, well read and highly intelligent – which is why I am reeling from today’s exchange:

Henry: (picking up receiver) Hello…

George: Hi Henry, it’s your daily call.

Henry: Lovely! You are kind.

George: How’s things?

Henry: Fine. I’ve just got back from Waitrose.

Pause. I am gob smacked, remembering yesterday’s conversation.

George: Henry – we talked about this yesterday! You’ve got several people who’ll do your shopping for you.

Henry: But I like to choose my own things.  

I close my eyes in disbelief

Henry: And there were lots of other people shopping there.

George (exasperated): That’s why you shouldn’t go Henry, it’s a f****** virus!

Henry: Why are they allowed to go?

I am stunned. Is this the erudite, highly intelligent man referred to above? Is there any point saying that perhaps they had nobody to shop for them? Or telling him that he can pass on the virus even if he doesn’t have symptoms?

Henry (proud of himself): And I took an Addison Lee both ways.

George (yelling at an old man): That’s how you could catch coronavirus – you don’t know who’s been in the car before you!

Henry: Oh no. They’re a very reputable company.

I know when I’m beaten.

George (wearily): I’ll call you tomorrow, Henry…



Thursday

Called Henry – not in!  Surely his larder isn’t bare already?

If Covid 19 doesn’t drive me to an early grave – can I say that at my age? 

Anyway, if Covid 19 doesn’t hasten my demise, trying to book an online home delivery slot from any supermarket will.  

“Call customer service,” a friend advises me on the ’phone. “Tell them your age and they’ll register you in the vulnerable category. Tell them you’ve got asthma.”

“I have got asthma!”

‘Even better, worked a treat for me.’

I’ve known this guy for 30 years.

“You haven’t got asthma!”

“Came on just after coronavirus started. Stress, I reckon. Must go.”

I telephone Sainsbury’s customer services. I’ve been hanging on for an hour and eleven minutes. My chest is tight. I’m having difficulty breathing. Must be stress. Where’s my inhaler?

Then I remember it’s a free 0800 number and I feel better.


Friday

Good news: Boris is out of intensive care.  

Wherever you are on the political spectrum, there has been a national will for our Prime Minister to get better.  Speaking personally, it felt good.

And of course today there’s Jenrick-gate. Tricky one this. I’d drive 40 miles to take medicine and food to my elderly parents if they couldn’t get someone closer to help.  

And who can blame Robert Jenrick for travelling 150 miles to his ’primary home’ to be with his family?   

But when you’ve been on television in a ministerial capacity urging the public to save lives by remaining in their properties even if tempted to see loved ones…

And you have a second home in London… 

As I say, it’s a tricky one. 


Saturday  

Two words:  JAMES McAVOY!

This week James McAvoy donated £275,000.00 to the NHS.  

Not only a brilliant actor – a wonderful human being.

Hello, latest on Jenrick-gate: It would appear that his three children go to school in London and his wife works in Canary Wharf. It’ll be interesting to see how this pans out… 

If he has to go the way of the Scottish Medical Officer, I reckon Amazon’s going to make a killing in swords to fall on.  Oops – sometimes even I can’t believe the way I put things.

Sunday

Easter Sunday and as I look out of the window this is a first for a bank holiday: “Oh no, look at the weather – it’s bloody well not raining!”

This is going to be a test for lockdown.

I’m in the kitchen listening to The Archers. I’m a dipper-in of The Archers, I never quite know who’s who. I’m not even sure if it’s still ‘An Everyday Story of Country Folk’ but I’m enjoying it as I dunk my ginger nut.

No mention of coronavirus, Covid 19 or lockdown, I note, which must suspend belief for those listeners for whom Ambridge, Borchester and Penny Hassett are as real as London, Manchester and Birmingham.

Of course, episodes are recorded weeks in advance but the producers are clever. If a real-life event occurs on the day of transmission, a quick rewrite and it’s neatly incorporated into that evening’s episode. 

But how can they incorporate coronavirus and social distancing when they’re all popping into each other’s houses and jostling for another pint at The Bull? 

You can hardly have Eddie Grundy slipping in a line like, “Hello David, what about this coronavirus then?”

“Shocking Eddie, how are you coping?”

“Terrible, I’m off down The Bull to cheer myself up!”

However, I have the solution…

Eddie: Hello David, what about this coronavirus down in that there London then?

David: Not just London, Eddie. It’s everywhere. It’s a pandemic!

Eddie: No good using those big words with me, David, but what I don’t understand is why it’s not hit Ambridge?

David: You raise an interesting point, Eddie.

Eddie (incredulous): Do I, David?

David: You do, Eddie. There’s a place in London called The Vale of Health. Do you know why, Eddie?

Eddie: Give us a clue, David. 

David: Because it was the only place in London that was safe from the Black death of 1665. I think the same thing’s happened in Ambridge. It’s a modern day miracle!

Eddie: Lovely, David. Let’s go down The Bull and celebrate with a pint of Shires…