Preparing for a Lockdown

Today is the day for the awakening of insects and traditionally signals the revival of all forms of life, including bacteria and viruses, one supposes. I think most people like me would have woken up this morning to a foggy day which was not exactly comfy. Fortuitously, the sun crept up later and lifted the fog. Friends and friends of friends had been very caring and mindful of our well being and had bought and brought us antigen rapid test kits. After breakfast, Su decided to take two dozen kits to her parents, but for good measure, would have both of us self-tested before we set off. We studied the instructions carefully and duly took the tests which proved negative for both of us. No drama; and off we set off to Su’s parents’ place where Su supervised her mother taking the test before we left. The test proved negative.

The authorities had been saying for a while that mandatory testing would be introduced for everyone in March. With swift and direct orders from the President of China to give top priorities to contain the pandemic in Hong Kong, I had been mentally preparing for the scheme to start this week. Well, the latest rumours are that it won’t start before 17 March and possibly later. But we have already been notified officially that the stringent social distancing rules would continue until 20 April at least, by which time we would have been virtually in lockdown mode for four and a half months, with no meetings at Zetland Hall, no Mass at Ricci Hall, no going to gyms at CCC or KCC, no dining out, no lunches with strangers, and so on, which effectively means no social life. Now, I couldn’t even exercise or jog in the Park at Mei Foo without wearing a mask, which is rather inconvenient.

Last week, a young friend had offered to help me upgrade my IT capacities at home. Now, he lives in Mei Foo with his young family – three kids – and his mother. As a precaution, he conducted rapid self-tests for the whole family an hour before he was to come over. Everyone in the family, except him and his 11-month old daughter, were tested positive. He called to cancel the trip, with apologies, and in the same breath thanked me for having triggered the tests. His daughter had also been infected since, after taking the pacifier used by her already infected brother. Meanwhile, we found out that Su’s friendly fishmonger at the wet market was infected, as was a security guard in our block, which in turn means that I had to re-schedule an appointment at the dental clinic next week. At the rate the pandemic is spreading, one can never be too cautious.

I have been thinking since mid-February how I could spend my extra time at home more gainfully in the next two months, apart from eating and drinking well, sleeping more than usual, reading up more and having more exercises. The thought of planning for a sequel of my first memoir came to mind. I had mentally set the publication date for not later than January 2026, or five years after my first was published. I began to think what I would write about and the format. Should I stick with the last one, or should I put photos in it, as some friends had already suggested. I was also minded to do one with no chapter titles and to string along a collection of chapters headed simply by a number for each, with contents that would not necessarily follow chronologically, as Mark Twain had done for his autobiography, embargoed for a century after his death. But I don’t exactly fancy doing that, I mean, having it embargoed for a century. Besides, the format was probably not decided by him, but by the publishers.

A thought cropped up last week which resulted in us making a trip to our storage at Tai Wo Hau: we thought we needed to prepare for being interned if we were found positive during mandatory testing. We collected two suitcases and two sleeping bags, and in the meantime, picked up some books and accessories of my camera which were long forgotten. Then something else happened. The manager of our storage dropped in, unexpectedly, and asked us to look at a huge collection of books, mainly children books, mostly in hard covers, and almost brand new or untouched. He was aware that we are book lovers and had been waiting to share the find with us, which he had collected from a client who had hired him for relocation. He said that If he had not run into us, he would sell the entire lot for waste paper. Su loved the collection. She was thinking of our godchildren. To cut the long story short, we made another trip to the storage to go through the collection and in the end culled four cartons – each measuring about 10 cubic feet – of trophies that Su thinks would be suitable for our godchildren. Su also arranged for the boxes to be moved to their place at Pokfulam at a rather reasonable price.

Developments last week on the spread of the pandemic are indeed disturbing. For a time, one wonders which was more distressful – the growing numbers infected and the death toll or what was happening in Ukraine. While Ukraine was somewhat far away and the conflict there obviously precipitated by humans and nations, one can’t really take a definitive view on the current situation of the pandemic in Hong Kong – was it all Nature’s doing or had it been somewhat aided and abetted by humans. At such times, as I have said elsewhere, the best any mortal can do is to do his or her own thing as best as he or she could, practise mindfulness, stay safe, remain calm and collected, and be prepared for the unknown. In the meantime, there are so many things one can do with the extra time.

I hope to talk to you again later.

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