I have suffered an attack of Meh the past few days. I don’t know what it is but I had it once before, years ago.

It was the time I spent New Year’s Eve sober. Meh is characterised by general fatigue, listlessness and total loss of appetite. Last time I didn’t eat anything for almost a week, this time it seems to have lasted just a few days. I managed half a pizza today. Recovery has begun.

It’s a strange one. I don’t feel ill, I just don’t feel hungry nor indeed have the impetus to do much of anything.

At least this time it didn’t coincide with New Year. That New Year I drank one beer over the course of the entire evening and watched New Year TV sober. It’s seriously crap if you’re sober. It went downhill fast after 1999.

A dose of Meh comes at a bad time, I’m already way behind but I should be able to catch up quickly.

It’s not as if I’m going to be able to go anywhere…

The Mouse War

Living in the country, you get mice coming in every winter. Never fails. We’ve even had a shrew in the living room. Gloom Dog dealt with it.

We also get very high humidity in summer. Weeks of rain, saturated ground, then one warm sunny day and you can hardly breathe. It’s even worse outside than inside. For this reason, as well as the annual mice, anything that can be affected by humidity or mice is in plastic, glass or metal containers. Sugar, rice, flour, pasta, anything like that.

This year the little hairy bastards have been especially persistent. Every one we kill is instantly replaced. I’m really glad we don’t have a hoard of flour or pasta, nor a hoard of lovely nesting materials like toilet paper. We’d be overrun, as the hoarders will be soon. We have just enough to store safely.

This is the first year I’ve caught them running across the kitchen worktops. So this year, the Mouse War has gone nuclear. I have seven traps and eleven bait stations around the house. It’s a big house and we rarely use most of the upstairs rooms anyway – especially in winter because there’s no heating up there. All of them are now death traps.

The only food available to the mice (aside from the Death Blocks and Springy Head Smashers) is Gloom Dog’s dry food supply. Gloom Dog does not appreciate her food being stolen so she has stomped a few – and has become better at it since she’s realised she gets rewarded with bacon for every stomping. Since Gloom Dog has her nose in absolutely everything (painting skirting boards is a nightmare) all the Death Blocks have to be encased in the Boxes of Doom that only the mice can get into. Fortunately these are cheap, I bought one big one in Home Bargains and a pack of 10 smaller ones on Amazon. The Death Blocks are cheap too. I’m currently using Roshield which is working.

Gloom Dog has been ill recently. The vet has her on four medications at once so she’s now Stoner Dog. She’s a less effective mouser after she gets her daily dose of painkiller and then just lies around watching the rainbow dragons dance. She’s recovering though, she’ll be back on stomping duty soon.

I handle the Death Blocks with latex gloves on – one of many recent benefits of having all my lab stuff here now. I don’t know if mouse poison can be absorbed through skin and I’m not willing to chance it. This isn’t a suicide mission.

I know, there are humane mouse traps that let the hairy ninjas live but once you’ve seen one run out from behind the bread bin and dive behind the cooker, you can forget humane methods. These things have got to go.

In summer I have to find out where they get in. That won’t be easy, there is one hell of a perimeter around this place and parts of it have been losing mortar since the 1700s. I suspect the utility room, since it has the walls built in 1830 still as exposed stone on the inside. There are bound to be holes in there. They don’t need to be very big holes. If you can poke a pencil through, a mouse can get through.

I have considered offering my cousins a free holiday, the ones who are in the building trade. They’d have that room fully pointed and rendered in no time. Unfortunately they live in Wales, they are always busy, and travel is going to be restricted this summer. My mother had planned to visit next month for my 60th birthday but that’s out of the question now. I might not even be able to see my kids by then.

I was lucky to get to my father’s funeral which was very well attended. Funerals are now restricted to immediate family only and all the churches are closed. I read out a version of this at my dad’s funeral. It didn’t seem real until the curtains closed around the coffin at the crematorium. The only shaft of sunlight that whole day rested on the curtains as they closed. I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but my son built the casket for my father’s ashes. He learned his woodworking skills from my father so it was very fitting indeed.

So, I am engaged in a war on the mice. Not a war on the Chinese virus (Oh yes it is) because self isolation is no issue for someone who hasn’t even bothered to get dressed for the last few days. The mice, for me, are a more pressing concern right now.

Also the eleventh Underdog Anthology. It is going to be delayed but it is going ahead. As it’s all online there are no contamination issues. Payments will be PayPal or bank transfer. I’m uninfected but I’m not sending cheques because that would force people to go to the bank which will be full of potential plague carriers. Bank branches are likely to be closed soon anyway. Within the UK I can get Amazon to send books directly to those who prefer to be paid that way.

Gradually, life is getting back up to speed. Although I might yet have to spend a night in the kitchen on a swivel chair, holding a crossbow, if the poison doesn’t get the little buggers.

The gospel according to Boris

So, our tousle-haired ruffian Prime Monster has given advice. It’s not compulsory, not yet, but some of it inevitably will become so.

Despite the frothing, hysterical demands from some that ‘The Government Must Do Something’, it seems to me he’s gone about this the right way.

This is not China. The people here are not conditioned to do as they are told by government. Most of us delight in doing exactly the opposite, and there is nothing the UK government can do about it… yet. Do these foaming loons really want Boris to turn this place into a China lookalike, where any deviation is punished and any criticism of the government results in disappearance? That’s what they are demanding after all. And yet, they’d be first!

Let’s have a cup of tea, chill, and look at it calmly.

There is much muttering about ‘oh it’s only flu’ and ‘flu kills many more so what’s the problem?’ and even some who don’t believe the virus exists at all. The truth is, it’s a new virus and the facts of it are not fully pinned down yet. I’ve retired from a microbiology career and I know it can take a long time to work out what a new species is capable of. When it’s a nasty one like this one all the stops are out but you still can’t fix it overnight.

It’s related to flu but it’s not plain old flu. It hasn’t killed as many as flu yet because it’s still in its first year. The symptoms look a lot like flu so some of those flu deaths could be this virus. China admitted to it in December but it had been around for a few months before that so it was already spreading around the world. Many people reported a bad flu over Christmas (my brother and his wife had it but they spend a lot more time with people than I do) which could well have been a first wave of this virus.

The big problem with this one is not the death rate. It’s higher than flu, but it’s still not the big problem. The issue is spread. You could be spreading the thing for anything up to two weeks before you even know you have it. That will cause a very rapid spike in infections and a massive surge in cases pretty much overnight. 80% of those cases only need to drink lots of fluids and lie around going ‘urgh’ for a while, but a high percentage will need hospitalisation. Higher than flu, and that already stretches the NHS. Remember, there are other diseases too.

With flu, only a small percentage need to go to hospital and it’s spread out over the winter. The new kid on the block is far more contagious than flu and sends a higher percentage to hospital. As we have seen in other countries, that spike can rapidly overwhelm the health service leading to doctors having to make horrible decisions over who would benefit from treatment and who they should just let die.

If you’re wondering how doctors sleep at night after making those decisions… they don’t.

So the advice is to avoid large gatherings, avoid interactions with people, only go out when it’s really necessary and generally become… me. I’ve been doing this most of my life. It’s great, you don’t even need to get dressed most days.

There are calls to shut all the schools. This is a good idea and a terrible idea. Children don’t seem to get this too bad but they can spread it. So one infected kid can, over the course of a few days, infect most of a school before that first kid even coughs. All those kids will take it home. Close the schools!

But wait. If the schools are closed, the parents have to stay home to look after them. Those parents include doctors, nurses, policemen, postmen, delivery drivers, shop staff… if every parent has to stop work because the schools are closed, where will you panic buy your toilet paper? Who will you turn to when the magic toilet paper cure doesn’t work? When the ferals come for your toilet paper hoard, who will you call?

Closing schools will happen but do it too soon and the whole country will fall apart.

Total lockdown? That’s been demanded. The Italians tried it and the death rate soared to 9%. If you’ve seen ‘Watchmen’ you’ll recall the scene in prison where Rorschach shouts ‘None of you seem to understand. I’m not locked in here with you. You’re locked in here with me’. Lockdown gives the virus a captive food supply. Nevertheless it will have to happen eventually.

Do it too soon though and you’ll have people looking around thinking ‘This is silly. Nothing is happening.’ Then they’ll break quarantine. The neighbours will see them break quarantine and think ‘Oh, it must be okay then’ and that is the end of the lockdown. You cannot have a lockdown too early or nobody will accept it. I repeat, this is not China. We do not simply do as we are told without a clear and visible reason.

Quarantining the over 70s. That is like herding cats. My mother is 78 and has been checking her flight to Aberdeen in April is still okay. That generation were born into and grew up through the second world war and aren’t scared of things they can see, never mind those they can’t. They grew up through the nasty flu pandemic of 1957 and are still here. They came through Harold Wilson unscathed, the three day week, the power cuts, the Winter of Discontent… you are not going to scare them into staying at home because of a virus.

At the other end are the Indestructibles, brought up to believe that everyone wins and nobody should ever be hurt, not even their feelings. They do not believe the measures they demand will apply to them, why would they think a virus applies to them? You see them online all the time, delighting in the death of the old through this new virus. They will not observe quarantine, they think they can spread it unharmed and kill off all the old people they disagree with. They will never accept that it can kill them too.

It does kill off the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions mostly, but those are averages. Recently an 84-year-old woman successfully recovered from infection and 30-year-olds have died of it. Pre-existing does not mean pre-diagnosed. You can have a heart condition in your twenties and you, nor anyone else, will know about it until your autopsy. Don’t laugh at this virus. It’s laughing at you.

All the measures Boris outlined are, for now, voluntary. He will need to force pub and restaraunt closures soon and ban all large gatherings such as sporting events and concerts. Here, the GP surgeries have closed and there is more to come. The suggestions will become rules. Because you won’t do it otherwise. Those measures… will they ever be reversed?

And so the no-physical-contact world of Panoptica becomes reality. I am up to 17 chapters on that one. I promised a chapter a week and we are about 12 weeks into the year so I’m taking that as a success so far, despite personal mitigating circumstances.. Those reading it will have noticed that the authorities need no permission to enter your home, they just come right in. That’s now being proposed in the real world.

I have to get back into working. My father’s ghost will be poking me in the back with his stick otherwise, he never had an idle day in his life. Even after two strokes. His funeral was epic though, there were people sat in the choir stalls because the church was full.

Best quote of the dark day was when the undertaker asked how many pall bearers we had. Four. My cousins. The undertaker said that for a man of my father’s size (he wasn’t fat) they usually used six. My brother just said. ‘You wait until you see them.’

They did a fantastic job. And they are all gentle giants.

Aye. We’re doomed.

Dooomed I tell ye.

Coronavirus is an interesting thing. Many people say it’s just flu. Some American idiot called Rush Limburger thinks it’s just like the common cold because it has a 98% survival rate. I rather suspect the common cold’s survival rate is tapping on 100%, you know.

Flu kills less than one percent of those it infects. It’s still a lot because it infects an enormous number every year. The new coronavirus has a kill rate somewhere between 2% (China’s claim) and 16% (Iran’s claim). It’s not as bad as Ebola. Get that and you have 50% chance of not melting into a bloody puddle. Coronavirus is not good either, it is killing people.

Coronavirus is not new. They’ve been around for ages. This variant is new, so new that absolutely nobody on the planet has any kind of natural immunity. The idea that it is a bioweapon is gaining ground. I think it might be but I don’t think it was deliberately released. It is a mutation that just happens to have the hallmarks of the ideal bioweapon and while it could have arisen by chance, I suspect it escaped containment.

How? I’ve visited China’s research facilities in the 1990s. The smoking area was in the cylinder store, one staff member was smoking while leaning on a hydrogen cylinder. They don’t give a shit about health and safety. I would not be at all surprised if staff in full hazmat suits called in a cleaner to clear up a spill, and the cleaner came in with a mop and an apron while smoking a fag.

Containment and safety, they really don’t get it. Look up YouTube videos of their bamboo scaffolding being put up. They do not care.

Giving the Chinese a level 4 containment facility was a very bad idea. This was bound to happen, sooner or later.

I saw a claim that the virus only lasts 6 hours outside the body. Bollocks. China is cremating everyone who dies of it. If it cannot survive for any length of time without a living host then bodies can be buried. There are plague pits under London from the late 1600s that cannot be dug into even now. Yersinia pestis, the plague bacterium, could still be active down there. It’s remarkably persistent.

If you have one that dies in six hours it’s not a problem. You also wouldn’t have to sterilise cash, which is what China is doing now,

This is not the common cold and it’s not flu. Its individual virus particles now outnumber the people on this planet and probably the stars in the galaxy. You cannot guarantee immunity even if you survive it. Mutation into a new form is simply a numbers game, most mutations will die but you only need one – and this virus population is big enough to throw up a dozen viable new nasties at once. Even if you survived the first wave, you have no immunity to the next ones.

Its rate of spread makes flu look like a rank amateur. Its incubation period is unprecedented. You can be infected and spreading it for at least two weeks before you get sick, Nothing else does that. You get a Salmonella infection and you’re shitting through every orifice within twelve hours. Norovirus and you’re crapping water in 24. Nothing takes this long.

This thing is engineered. I really don’t think it was meant to be released. It is a perfect bioweapon. It kills maybe 5 to 10 percent of those it infects, it overloads healthcare, it shuts down transport, it causes fear in the population, it makes cities seal themselves off as in Italy now, it makes your opponents fearful of each other. One cough and you’re ostracised.

But it wasn’t meant to happen. I really don’t think it was deliberate. It was a blunder, which is why China is covering it up as well as they can. It doesn’t matter now anyway, it’s out and we have to deal with it. This spreads faster than any disease I have ever heard of (and my career as a microbiologist was all about infectious disease), it has an incubation period that is incredible and a rate of infection I have never seen.

If it had been a deliberate experiment they would have tried it on a small town somewhere and locked it down.

This thing probably won’t kill you but it’s best avoided if you can.

Home again

I have spent the weekend in Wales, well, Friday to Monday so a long weekend. I feel better for it and I think my mother and my brother does too. I met a few of the family, there are far too many to meet in a few days. I expect there will be many of them at the funeral in March. I think it really hit home when I got there, and for the first time ever, my father wasn’t there. It’ll never feel quite the same.

I took the plane for this trip. I’ll drive down in March because that gives more flexibility over coming back and also it’s a lot cheaper than flying. CStM will come along, as will Gloom Dog. The remaining Fat Hamster will go into pet storage here, hopefully the pet storage facility can be a little flexible over the return date just in case. It’s not holiday season so I hope it will be okay.

Gloom Dog will go into pet storage in Wales for the few days around the funeral. There will be so many new people she might bark herself to death otherwise. I just hope she doesn’t come back barking in a Welsh accent or the Scottish wildlife will have no idea what she’s on about. Not that they pay much attention anyway.

Anyway. It was a short trip so I was able to check in online both ways before I even left the house. Brilliant, I thought, this is going to go smoothly for once.

I arrived at Aberdeen and tried to check in. Too early, apparently they can only check in luggage after a certain time. Okay. I had a couple of double espressos and a few smokes and tried again. I presented my already-checked-in printed boarding pass. I had selected seat 15F.

The check-in wench looked puzzled. This plane only had 14 rows. I was booked in on the tailplane. I didn’t want to sit there, it would be a bit draughty. It seems they changed the aircraft after I booked in a few days earlier and I was reallocated a seat. Meh, I got a seat, it was okay. I did my smoking before security, and good thing too. The ‘smoking area’ after security in Aberdeen costs a pound to get into and no cash, you have to use a credit or debit card. Given the SNP’s propensity for lists of undesirables, I refuse to use it.

This was Friday night in high winds and they put on a smaller aircraft. During the ‘what to do to comfort yourself if the plane is about to go into the ground like a high speed exploding lawn dart’ speech, there was a lot of emphasis on ‘brace position’. When we took off it became apparent why they really needed us to know this. Taking off was… wobbly. We got airborne, and soon found out the pilot thought he was in a damn Spitfire. A left turn had me looking directly down at the ground. This was the point I thought I might have been better with an aisle seat. Especially when the reflection of the seat back looked like a hooded figure looking over my shoulder. I thought ‘If I die on this flight, my mother will kill me’.

There were more mentions of brace position on the way into Bristol. The landing was equally wobbly but the Spitfire pilot got us down in one piece. So kudos to him/her/it.

Coming back Monday, it was much calmer. This time check in went a bit better. Although I did enter the airport near check-in desk 1 and saw the flight to Aberdeen listed at check-in desk 37. Sigh. Well, at least this time there really was a Row 15. Oh, and the way into security is back at check-in desk 1 but the outside smoking area (sealed from the eyes of the offended but with no roof of any kind) is past check-in 40. Airports hate smokers. They do like to profit from us though.

Only three flights left from Bristol on that Monday evening. The other two flights were delayed, by over an hour. The Aberdeen flight’s gate wasn’t going to be listed until 19:05, with boarding at 19:30. I hit the espressos again. Oh and they claimed there was a smoking area after security. Well I couldn’t find it so can’t comment on it.

After 19:05 the screen changed to ‘gate will be displayed shortly’. Okay, I was ready for a delay but there wasn’t one. We’re all at gate 1, where the screens and shops are. At 19:25, five minutes to boarding, the gate came up.

Gate 33.

By the time we all arrived, boarding had started. Straight through. Now, remember there were only three flights that evening so why send us to almost the furthest gate they could find? I suspect bored air traffic controllers deciding to boost our exercise regimes. Especially because the gate put us on a bus to take us to the aircraft. They could have done that from any gate.

It was amusing to watch passengers standing at the doors as soon as the bus reached the aircraft. I remained seated. It was obvious they only planned to open one set of doors since there was only one staircase into the plane. My seat, like everyone else’s, was allocated. It really doesn’t matter when you get on and the plane isn’t going anywhere until everyone is seated so being in the way just inconveniences yourself. I’m in no hurry.

The flight back arrived early and this felt like a good thing until we had to wait to get to our gate. It wasn’t ready. It was, of course, almost the furthest from the terminal but hey, I had to wait for a bag to come through so no need to rush.

Then the drive home. In snow, the first real snow we’ve seen this year. Scotland must be the only country that can put mega-puddles halfway up hills and none in the dips. And given the crappy state of Scotland’s roads, you can never be sure if a puddle is splash-deep or axle-deep. It’s best to avoid them all. Scotland, the inventor of tarmac, can’t seem to keep the roads covered in it.

I made it. I’m home for a couple of weeks then we have to drive down to Wales for my father’s funeral. It is going to have a lot of people at it, he was a very popular man and well loved even though he seemed to be a grumpy old bugger most of the time. I aspire to that level of grumpiness. I’m working on it.

Father is going to be cremated. His ashes will be buried in a box, which my son is making. Dad would approve, since he taught my son most of the woodworking he knows. As for me, I’ll be reading that blog post at the funeral at my mother’s request. It will probably be embellished, since he only spanked my brother and myself once in our lives and that was when sibling rivalry turned into bloodshed.

We weren’t punished when we fought with battle axe and morningstar (I still have the battleaxe with the scars in the handle). It was the time my brother slammed my head in the door and made my earlobe bleed profusely that did it. There was so much red, I think it made Dad panic.

I think it was the only time he ever spanked us. Since he worked the coal face in the mines, he never needed to hit us. He just had to look as though he might and we’d give in. It’s hereditary. I’ve never been down a mine but I have terrified people by looking at them. Although, people weren’t as easily terrified in his day.

Well, the limbo continues. Nothing can progress yet, not untill after the autopsy.

Ninja Mouse

So, Boris has achieved sort-of Brexit. It’s a good start but now he has to negotiate a trade deal with the EU. The EU don’t want a trade deal, they want a total surrender. If Boris has any sense at all he’ll say ‘Okay, we’re off, let us know when you want to talk about an actual sensible deal’. and that would mean almost all EU countries giving the EU parliament some serious grief.

Is he that sensible? Well, he wants to press on with a single train line that will cost more than I.K. Brunel’s total budget for the Great Western Railway in real terms. He wants to build a 20-mile bridge between Ireland and Scotland and at the same time wants to ban us plebs from having cars. So what’s the bridge for, eh? A UK version of PyongYang’s grand hotel?

Oh yes, it’ll be a ban on car ownership. I couldn’t possibly afford an electric car that can get up the farm road here. Second hand? Forget it, the batteries will be worn out. In 15 years, all new UK cars will be electric. The price of fuel for the old cars will make Warren Buffet wince so they’ll be off the road too. The thing is, to replace every car in the UK with an electric one requires more cobalt for the batteries than exists on the planet. And that’s just for the UK. The rest of the world will have to stick with gas guzzlers which makes Boris’s virtue signal utterly pointless.

He also wants to get rid of gas central heating and replace all of that with electric too. And install 5G and smart this and that which will be always on, powered by part-time electricity from windmills and solar panels.

The powergrid takes a surge in the advertising break in Coronation Street. With all the stuff he wants to power with almost no reliable electricity, nobody is ever going to see the second half of any episode. We’ll be singing dirges by candlelight and partying like it’s 1599. We can keep warm around the fires burning the climate heretics.

Well I can use a bow, a scythe, brace and bit (remember those?), chisels, hand saws, and more non-powered things. I’d be fine.

Anyway I have much more important matters at hand. In the kitchen lives Ninja Mouse. This little bastard has ignored traps baited with commercial bait, dog dry food (he’s been stealing that), Nutella or peanut butter. He has twice escaped the dog who has quite a scorecard where mice are concerned. Especially since we started paying her in bacon and/or ham for every mouse caught. I have put down poison blocks, he is currently munching his way through the third one. The little swine is indestructible.

I have considered sitting in the kitchen all night with a swivel chair and a crossbow. Or maybe a borrowed shotgun.

I have resorted to the dog water bowl. It has caught three so far, in the living room. Dog has long hairy ears so the bowl is deep and narrow. Her ears fall on either side of it and don’t get wet. If a mouse gets in it can’t get out and drowns. We can’t give the bowl back to the dog anyway without disinfecting it so for now, it is (hopefully) going to be Ninja Mouse’s nemesis.

Every scrap of food is in plastic or metal containers. The only thing for the mouse to eat is the poison blocks. He’s thriving on them,

It’s going to come down to a sleepless night with the crossbow, I just know it. Then a day of filling holes.

Stupid Aerosols

Another one on coronavirus. Could get a bit technical but I’ll try not to.

The WHO, which has expended most of its energies lately in its War on Steam and Flavours, has decided the latest coronavirus outbreak is stabilising. It’s at the end of the article.

It is nowhere near stabilising. Someone who came from Singapore (it is not clear whether they visited Singapore or originated there and it really doesn’t matter any more) has infected twelve British people and more from other nationalities. It happened in a ski resort in Austria. The original infected person did not get sick until they returned to the UK.

This disease was classed with an R0 of 4. This means that an infected person will infect four others and it also indicates a disease that’s nearly impossible to control. This one patient infected twelve. Before showing any symptoms themselves. Taking it seriously yet? I am.

There are people out there blaming it all on any Chinese person they see. It’s far too late for that. Besides, I’m betting a very large proportion of ethnic Chinese in the west have never been to China. The Westerners who have been there on holiday or for business since last November are far more of a risk, especially since you’re all avoiding the wrong people. Well, those who came back within the last 14 days. Yes, Prince Andrew, that’s you too. Viruses care nothing for social standing, you know.

This little freak can survive up to five days on a damp smooth surface. Longer than cold or flu viruses. It can incubate for 14 days in a host, while shedding virus particles, before that host shows symptoms. It had been considered to be spread by contact but as the article linked above says, it can also spread by aerosol. Tiny floating bits of sneeze-water can carry it quite some distance and keep it viable.

My first thought on reading that was ‘Huh?’ Every other respiratory virus and bacterium does this. Why would they ever think this one wouldn’t? Of course it bloody does.

It’s why I thought the drivers on those buses were taking a great risk and why I was astounded that the case-on-a-plane prompted them to only look for the nearby-seated passengers. Of course it spreads in aerosols. Why wouldn’t it? And even if it was later found not to, why would you not assume that it could (since pretty much everything else does) and take appropriate precautions?

It’s not so much the virus that’s dangerous here, it’s the slapdash approach to it and the ridiculous coverups to quell public fears. Look, you need to be afraid of it, you need to avoid it or it becomes endemic.

However, this isn’t meant to be a scare story even though that’s pretty much what I do.

It will spread through aerosols, yes. Someone who shows no symptoms and who has no idea they are infected could spread it all over an auditorium. However…

It’s an RNA virus. Not a retrovirus like HIV. It doesn’t convert its RNA into DNA and hide in your cells for decades before emerging with an ‘Ah-ha! Gotcha!’. Its genetic code is RNA which is not as stable as DNA. It’s very susceptible to drying out and to UV light in particular. It’s also killed by bleach but then so is everything else, including you. So don’t try bleaching yourself.

I have seen panicked people on Twitter showing disinfectant bottles that list coronavirus as one of the things it kills. ‘How did they know about it before it appeared?’ Coronavirus is not new. This variant is new. And those disinfectants will kill this one too.

Okay, so, trying not to get into full technical lecturer mode… RNA is what DNA is transcribed into so the information in the DNA can be passed on to the ribosomes to make proteins. The DNA stays where it is. The RNA is a sort of temporary photocopy of the main blueprints and it’s not supposed to last long. It’s just sent to the ribosomes (the bits in the cell that make proteins) to tell them what to make. I’ll avoid all the mRNA and tRNA stuff out of uncharacteristic mercy.

DNA viruses use the cell’s own photocopier to send their information to the ribosomes. Retroviruses use an enzyme called ‘reverse transcriptase’ to turn their RNA into DNA then either hide in the host DNA or use the cell’s own photocopier like the DNA viruses.

Coronavirus is an RNA virus. It goes directly to the ribosomes and ignores the host DNA. The first thing it makes is an enzyme that buggers up the cell’s own photocopier so the virus gets full access to the ribosomes. Then it makes more copies of itself and a protein portal that sits in the host cell membrane to send those copies out into the world.

I hope you’ve followed this so far. Because of the way it works, it’s shedding new viruses before it infects enough of your own cells to make you sick. It’s not the only one doing this, it’s just unusual in that it can do this for 14 days before you fall over. None of the other coronaviruses have that much patience.

For those with a background in cell biology, microbiology or virology, here’s the technical stuff.

It is not invincible. If you can avoid catching a cold, you can avoid this too. It’s a little more difficult since you don’t know who will be the 14-day incubator and who will show symptoms faster. It is however, possible.

Okay. The aerosol is more of a risk indoors. Someone sneezes outdoors and even in still air (which we don’t have much of in the UK at the moment) it’s going to be seriously diluted in the atmosphere. It will be affected by air currents so small we can’t even feel them. It might go down to die in the dirt, it might be wafted high in the air to die in the stratosphere. There is still a risk of infection but that risk is far lower than it would be indoors.

At the moment, of course, if someone sneezed outside in the UK the virus would probably die in the air on the way to Denmark.

Indoors, well we brought this on ourselves. We have draughtproofed and hermetically sealed all our buildings now so we breathe in everything that is floating around, over and over. Those of us with fireplaces still will have the sneezed-out virus wafted up the chimney but fireplaces are becoming increasingly rare. Even frowned upon by those terrified of infection. Fire has kept humanity alive this far, we have abandoned it in recent years and it’s coming back to bite us. But that’s a different post.

Ultraviolet light will kill pretty much anything if the dose is high enough. RNA is far more susceptible to this than DNA so a coronavirus in sunlight will degrade pretty quickly. It’s an exponential decline and you only need one virus to infect but it does cut down the likely infection rate. You cannot use enough UV indoors to kill it or you’ll kill people too. You can include UV in your air filtration just as we use it in water supplies – well, mine at least. It works in small water supplies, it can’t deal with a whole town’s water supply because the water passes the UV too quickly.

Don’t go to large gatherings, ventilate your home, stay away from concentrations of people and you can avoid catching this thing. Whether someone is Chinese or has been to China in the last two weeks is no longer relevant. Pandora’s box is open, it’s all over the place now.

Those of us who have lived this way all along are feeling a bit smug right now. Especially smokers.

We’re happy to be excluded from society. We might end up as the only ones left.