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10 June 2020

My laptop battery is, apparently, “a wreck”. Strangely, that’s how I’m feeling too

“Get a coronavirus test,” everyone tells me. But as getting a test involves getting out of bed, I am happy to sit this one out.

By Nicholas Lezard

I know there are other things going on in the world at the moment but what you’re all dying to hear is the latest news on the state of my laptop.

Well, it came back – the Laptop Chap in Brighton was as good as his word – but then it got sick again. Hardly surprising given the punishment it receives. The Laptop Chap showed me a photo he’d taken of the inside of it. It was quite spectacular. It was as if it had become the abode of mice, and not particularly tidy mice at that. I had no idea that such a small space could contain such an amount of mess. I tried to describe it to my daughter.

“I imagine,” she said, “it’s like one of those pictures of the insides of your lungs that they show you to make you realise what smoking does to them.” I am reminded of the Tom Waits song “The Piano Has Been Drinking”, an excellent example of wishful transference: the computer has been smoking. And doing all kinds of other, even more unmentionable things, too, it would appear.

Meanwhile, I wonder what is going on under the bonnet in my own body. The past two days have been spent more or less entirely in bed, and feeling most peculiar. If I didn’t know any better I’d say I was suffering from the menopause. I ask myself: are these the same hot sweats and flushes I used to get in the morning, or are they a different, more sinister kind of hot flush? At certain points I am able to wipe the sweat off my forehead like a windscreen wiper in a downpour. I am not coughing that much – in a strange way, the lungs feel clearer than they have for a while – but when I do, I feel like I am going to pass out, as if I had taken too much amyl nitrite. 

I am kind of relieved that the laptop is still poorly and back with the Laptop Chap (the issue now is the battery, which is, in his words, “a wreck”, and may become a fire hazard, and we don’t want that) so I don’t have to walk a mile downhill there and a mile uphill on the way back. A look at Google Maps tells me it’s a climb of 207 feet, but I can assure you it feels like more than that, and in the warm weather we were having last week that was punishing.

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What I am being punished for I am uncertain. I have a dim memory that I am the same age my father was when he had his first heart attack. Family legend holds that it happened while he was travelling with my mother and he still gallantly insisted on carrying her luggage through customs. The more I think about this the more unlikely it seems, and for some reason or other I am reluctant to ask her. “Mum, how old was Dad when he had his first heart attack?” No, that’s not a question I feel like asking at present.

Still, my symptoms persist. My friend D–, the one I stayed with in New York in January, thinks she might have come down with coronavirus while I was there, and that maybe I picked it up then, but can symptoms persist so long? And what, indeed, are these symptoms of? 

“Get a test,” everyone tells me – apart from one person, whose opinion I respect very much – but as getting a test involves getting out of bed, I am happy to sit this one out. Again, I ask: is this the same indolence, or one born of the virus? Or is it a news-based debility, a reaction to the terrible events that are taking place? (I can’t be too specific. This column is written a week before you get to read it, and even though we are still theoretically in stasis, the news cycle seems to spin at dizzying speed. By the time you read this there will doubtless be more outrages, and I have a strong suspicion that 2020 has by no means finished with us yet. I am thinking of making a small accumulator bet on an alien invasion, the eruption of the supervolcano beneath Yellowstone Park, and the imposition of martial law in the UK and US.)

Meanwhile, at least, thanks to the continued generosity of my neighbours, I can write this column from my bed, using a laptop that isn’t actually senile; for the past year or two I haven’t been able to do this. But having to sit at a desk in order to use it was the last example of anything I did that involved even a shred of self-discipline. Even going outside to top up my rather fetching tan and vitamin D levels has been a chore, so it is something of a relief that the sun (as I write) is hidden behind cloud. 

I am reaching depths of inaction that not even Oblomov dreamed of. Well come on. Look at the state of things. What’s the point of doing anything, when you can lie in bed all day and watch Bringing Up Baby on BBC iPlayer? 

This article appears in the 10 Jun 2020 issue of the New Statesman, A world in revolt