In the opening of Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year he sets the scene in London in 1665 “in Long Acre, or rather at the upper end of Drury Lane,” and it is striking how he focuses on the discourse of local people as they gradually learn about the first two deaths of the bubonic plague. There is also an important historical comment about the media: “We had no such thing as printed newspapers in those days to spread rumours and reports of things, and to improve them by the invention of men.”
What would Defoe make of the British press three hundred and fifty years later? A press which magically transformed the man who was the biggest liar in Fleet Street into the ‘statesman’ who will save the nation from coronavirus? (On that subject, if you just read one article from the weekend’s press, please read Nick Cohen in The Guardian )
While my blog today is addressed to the usual readers – and hopefully with wider appeal – I mainly have one reader in mind today: Alys in north Wales. Following the irresponsible government advice, she has still been travelling from a quiet rural place of safety into a potentially lethal city environment to attend university classes, happy with the assurance that everything is fine as long as you are washing your hands from time to time! Madness!
My appeal to Alys can be summed up simply. Cease heeding this UK exceptionalist madness immediately and start following what all citizens are now doing in Spain and Italy. Stay at home: self-isolate now! You are days away from seeing the exponential growth of dead victims that we are seeing here. “The angel of death has been abroad throughout the land, you may almost hear the beating of his wings,” in Nick Cohen’s words from that Guardian piece I mentioned above.
The alternative voices in the UK are the ones to listen to now – just as with the Brexit madness – because the liars and the cheats do not suddenly become a reliable authority just because they happen to have found themselves running the country. The self-imposed Brexit crisis has simply become a medical one! Listen to the advice from European governments, or listen to reliable alternative voices in the UK, like the excellent Dr John Campbell on YouTube who is now being followed all over the world and is scathing about the UK government’s lack of proactivity in the present crisis.
The evil genius of the Brexit madmen running the UK now is that they have convinced nearly everyone, even the most hardened sceptics and remainers, that Britain is the exception and doesn’t need to follow World Health Authority recommended procedures, nor observe the wise decisions being made by responsible European nations facing the same virus. I can only appeal to Alys and others in the UK to please watch and do what we are now doing in Spain, as we try to avoid the calamity. In the end, to put it crudely, if you follow the advice from Downing Street, you can only look forward to a bigger bonfire of the body bags. Self-isolate now. Do not delay a minute longer.
As we all watched the Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez deliver his sombre address to the nation – following 7-hour cabinet meeting in Madrid to agree the detail of the State of Alarm – there was a growing sense of national duty in the part we all have to play. Immediately after Sanchez finished his announcement, a friend sent me a Whatsapp: “Can you imagine Johnson standing up and delivering authority and clarity on that scale?” Quite. How fortunate we are in Spain to have such leadership.
Then I thought immediately of Alys in the UK, living under the most ideologically partisan regime in western Europe. So, while I felt reassured that Spain is being well led and the crisis managed with confidence and authority, I suddenly felt afraid for my daughter whose safety is subject to the dictates of the charlatan in Downing Street; the man who has been telling the nation for the past several years not to trust experts but to simply believe in his populist nonsense.
So I tried to phone Alys to see if she was still just following the irresponsible advice to just wash your hands and carry on life as normal, and everything will be fine. I couldn’t get through on the phone – probably a poor connection as usual here in the valley – and I suddenly sensed the chasm had widened even more. The long-dreaded Brexit separation had now become a pandemic separation. And all travel between UK and Spain had stopped.
So here I am, self-isolating in El Parral, probably one of the safest places imaginable (if I don’t go out!) and yet my daughter – whose help in the purchasing of this place made it all possible – cannot benefit from it even if she wanted to travel. She is now being put in danger by stupid advice from the very same selfish immoral clown whose Brexit project has thrown all our plans into chaos for four years! The man whose mad anti-Europe project throws all our lives into chaos and ends up driving an English father to seek Spanish nationality while his daughter becomes Irish!
So, goodbye to the quiet retirement I had been hoping for in a peaceful valley in Spain, as we all face one new madness piled upon another. The least I can do now, here in self-isolation in El Parral, is provide some encouragement for all who choose to self-isolate, and for the millions who are now subject to isolation by law, as in Italy and Spain. And Alys, there is only one instruction here: SELF-ISOLATE NOW. Ignore the advice of Downing Street that it is “not necessary”! (Such criminally reckless advice will perhaps one day be the subject for a judicial inquiry or a trial, hopefully both.) So, my plea to Alys could not be simpler. There is NO meeting to go to at the university next week that is more important than your life. It really is that simple.
Our fellow citizens self-isolating at home in Spain are setting the correct example. UK citizens are being misled by political opportunists. We have a duty to share this and tell UK citizens how to do this thing. Please become proactive and take control of your own safety!
Share this blog post and the next ones with your friends. Please follow the national plan in Spain and save lives. We must settle in for the long haul. For a complete summary of the emergency decree we are living under here in Spain please see the English version linked below, as published in El País 
 Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year can be found in the online Gutenberg text here: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/376/376-h/376-h.htm
 Nick Cohen, The Guardian, 14/03/2020: The great divide is between the well and the sick – as we’re all learning” https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/mar/14/coronavirus-in-an-era-of-the-well-and-unwell-we-turn-to-the-state-and-find-it-lacking
 Doctor John Campbell in the UK has an informative and regular daily video on You Tube which now has a worldwide following. His daily “surgery” is what UK citizens need, not the bluster coming from Downing Street “political advisers” who are going to kill a large swathe of the UK population if you listen to them!
 The decree approved by the government on Saturday has immediately locked down the country, limiting the movement of citizens across the entire territory. The measures in place are explained in English in El País. https://english.elpais.com/society/2020-03-15/spains-state-of-alarm-the-key-measures-that-are-now-in-place.html
6 thoughts on “Journal of the Virus Year: Chapter 2”
Good morning once again Gareth, thank you for your commitment! I’ve been self isolating myself actually for the last 14 days +. I am able to go out into our local woods behind my house now and again to get a fresh nose and to smell the wild flowers growing out there. Stay safe and I hope that Alys takes your heed.
Great post. Thanks.
Loadsa questions from the non-spanish residents over my way. I gave up at, ‘…so am i allowed to take out the rubbish?’. Anyway, a selection of the more relevant ones, with answers, are at the -ever growing- Q & A:
Great stuff, Steve. As I mentioned to you earlier, I’ll be putting links in the sidebar to other blogs around Europe (starting with Martine in Italy (also with four donkeys….) and we can start building up a community of people in lock down. Rubí will be writing tomorrow’s Tuesday blog and I understand she is going to focus on donkey health & safety issues, starting with a general distrust of the Chinese. (As you would, if you were a donkey.) But not at all edging towards racism because she is a donkey, therefore by definition cannot be racist, sexist or LGBTQXRi-phobic.
(1) Indeed the Defoe is a very valuable document in terms of the media commentary, and I never spotted that when I first read it. A bit like Hugo’s “Notre Dame de Paris” in that respect, where the role of the printing press becomes part of the story itself. (2) I forgot your association with the place. Of course. Alys may remember you commented on that before I think, or maybe it was in an email to me. I forget. Thanks for your comments. Rubí Tuesday tomorrow.
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Well done Gareth. I wonder how many people in the UK will take note. We are self isolating but will have to go out to get essentials. Will make one quick trip – probably on Wednesday
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Hello Mister Frank, this is Rubí donkey.
On Tuesdays I’m in charge of the blog and I will be writing later this morning my Rubí Tuesday blog called “How to Disinfect your Peasant”.
I think that is your first ever comment on the equusasinus.net blog. Welcome to the comment section! Will you be doing normal shopping or do you just buy beer and carrots, like our Peasant?