It’s been a Funny Old Week….

Afie’s Coronavirus diary 15th – 22nd March 2020

Sunday 15th March

I wake up in Staffordshire after the previous night’s tour show in Leek. As the Coronavirus is continuing to spread the official Government advice is to ‘wash your hands, stay at home if you have symptoms or you’re aged 70+’. That means if things get really desperate we can’t even bring in Dad’s Army as they’ll all be self-isolating!

I drive to Nottingham and begin that evening’s tour show with a very silly gag: ‘Thanks for coming out for the last time in 2020’ – it was such a ridiculous thing to say that everyone laughed…how little did we all know what was coming?

Monday 16th March

Travelled onward to Lincoln for that evening’s corporate engagement. When I arrived at the hotel it was pretty lively, in fact I only just managed to grab the last parking space. There was sunshine, shoppers, and a buzz around the city. Although I did notice people were waddling about with bags crammed full and shelves starting to empty.

I was instantly drawn in to the herd hoarding mentality and made the decision to panic buy! And let me give a belated apology to those behind me in the Greggs queue – I now realise that two sausage rolls and a steak bake was just plain greedy!

As I relaxed in my hotel room I was too wrapped up in the adrenalin rollercoaster that is back-to-back Tipping Point followed by the Chase, to bother with the news, and so, when I turned up for pre-dinner drinks at the corporate function I was surprised to hear everyone panic gossiping about the Boris Johnson Coronavirus briefing.  

I was overhearing snippets such as ‘everyone should stop all unnecessary travel’. During dinner I learned he’d also suggested that we ‘avoid pubs, clubs and theatres and work from home where possible’. I have it on very good authority that if you’re married to a comedian the very last thing you want is for them to work from home!

As soon as my hilarious after-dinner speech was done I said my goodbyes and went back to my room, washed my hands, opened up my laptop and began to soak up the life-changing news. Social media was full of outrageous tales of greed and panic buying….

Forty eight hours ago we were a society that discretely followed the Asda staff person around the store tasked with sticking on the ‘whoops!’ labels…and now…we’re hunting in salivating rabid packs threatening Edna at the deli if she doesn’t throw you a bag of off-cuts!

Tuesday 17th March

I awake and switch on the telly to see the world was changing before my very eyes and things we took for granted were now beyond our reach. They’d even suspended EastEnders filming after the Coronavirus had refused to work with Phil Mitchell.

There were tales of doom, gloom and bankruptcy. On a personal level, cancelled gig emails started to fill my inbox – everything I had in my diary for the next few weeks had suddenly disappeared. I make my essential journey home to begin my new life of isolation.

The day’s Coronavirus briefing sees Boris introduce the new Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, who gives an impressive assured performance – promises of tax breaks, grants and loans. In response people say ‘thank you’…for about half an hour and then immediately go for the jugular and say ‘that’s not enough’. They were right it wasn’t…

Wednesday 18th March

I catch a bit of Trump announcing he’s got Coronavirus completely under control. I’m starting to think that man may have a complex relationship with the truth.

The police are given emergency powers to detain infected people. This seems to cause a ‘police state’ stir on social media but I for one don’t believe the cops will be driving around throwing the elderly and vulnerable in the back of van if they look a bit ‘peaky’ – as they will probably be a smidgen busy doing other stuff. And in my policing experience bringing those infected with deadly viruses back to the nick doesn’t make you very popular!

At Boris’s teatime briefing everyone was hoping that the Chancellor would turn up again with further cash promises but instead Boris appeared with the two medical honchos and announces that it’s time for the schools to close.  

Not for everyone. Schools will remain open for children of the following key workers: police, NHS and toilet paper makers.

There follows an instant social media panic and Mom’s being interviewed on TV, worried that their sixth-form child genius (who’s been an idle bastard for the first eleven years), will not now be getting his well-earned university place.

I put out on social media the fib that the Government have just announced that GCSE and A-level students will be awarded grades using an ‘honesty box’ system where students will be asked ‘what do you think you would’ve got?’ I’m sorry to say that some people believed I was actually telling the truth!

Okay, my bad for fibbing but that particular piece of fake news is the equivalent of me saying that Elvis Presley has just ridden into Westminster on the back of the Loch Ness Monster bringing five magic beans that are the antidote for Coronavirus! Although Boris would probably try one just in case…

Thursday 19th March

The Queen steps in and tells the commoners to ‘calm down calm down’ – you tell ‘em Ma’am!

I watch a TV press conference with the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Science Adviser. There’s a room full of journalists and someone coughing almost incessantly for at least 15 minutes and no one addresses this in any way – I found this almost surreal.

Everyone is waiting for the Boris briefing which is now getting the sort of viewing figures that Simon Cowell would chew his own arm off for -providing his veneers hold firm. Everyone is hoping to see the Chancellor flashing the cash but instead it’s the medical honchos again.

Boris is putting in his usual passionate performance and I’m sure he’s saying something really meaningful but the sound quality is so bad that it actually sounds like he’s talking through comb and tissue paper and no one seems to have the technical ability to sort it…

I was aware that there was a new number being thrown about ‘Twelve weeks – with careful planning we can crack it in twelve weeks’. Mate – how can you sort out the world’s deadliest virus when you’ve not even got the careful planning to sound-check the lectern mic!

Boris was still insincerely thanking everyone for their efforts, although he and the chemical brothers were informing that some people are being a bit naughty and they need to take social distancing more seriously. He was being a bit nicey nicey for my liking – I wanted him to throw in slightly stronger phrases like: ‘Try to think of others’ and ‘You’re killing innocent people you ***king morons!’

Fri 20th March

Some of the licencing sector decided to fight back and the Guardian ran with the story: ‘Tim Martin vows to keep his 867 branches of Wetherspoons open’.

I agree that Wetherspoons should stay open. In fact I think they should have one big lock-in with other like-minded individuals. CCTV coverage of this social experiment should be beamed into our homes daily until we open the doors in 3 months and see who’s left alive.

Mr Martin seems to know best and he is confident that ‘closing UK pubs will not stop coronavirus’. Perhaps it’s a well-known medical fact that Stella and reformed scampi makes the immune system invincible?

Boris seemed a tad upset with ‘nice but dim Tim’ and decided to go all alpha and announce that all pubs, clubs and theatres will close indefinitely, as soon as possible and in any case before midnight.

Boris Johnson 1 Tim Martin 0

At last the Chancellor makes a reappearance and offers to splash the cash for workers with the promise of up to 80% of wages paid direct by him. Okay, he still has to sort a deal for the self-employed but let’s face it – in one week he’s gone from ‘who the hell is that guy?’ to the most popular politician of the century.   

And as much as it pains me to praise a Tory – Boris does appear to be listening. Certainly in comparison to the last one – can you imagine Theresa May at the helm? She wouldn’t take advice from anyone and would’ve instantly been the self-appointed Coronavirus expert telling us to all ‘eat cakes while remaining strong and stable’

As I write this all my live work has been postponed for the coming months. I was a little concerned but now I’m pleased to announce that I’ve just landed a commission as gag writer for Michael Gove.

And as if things can’t get any worse the said news that country legend Kenny Rogers has died. My dad Big Alf was a massive fan and so I do hope he gets to see him perform live at the Heavenly Arena soon.

Saturday 21st

The press was full of pics of people having a ‘last hoorah’ in Wetherspoons. Because if you have to have soak up one last night of intelligent conversation, fine dining and culture, don’t look beyond Wetherspoons. In the history of capital punishment no death row prisoner when given the last meal option has ever said: ‘get me an early bird burger and a drink deal’.

After the news of theatres closing my solo tour has just come to an abrupt halt (dates currently being rescheduled). But never one to think of myself I decide to utilise my time and do my bit for the local community by visiting the addresses of elderly residents and shouting a gag through their letterbox.

It’s not like a normal Saturday – there is no sport. No wait – the Irish have dug-in and they’re having behind closed doors horse racing in Thurles. Seven races but no photo-finishes as the horses have to keep 2 metres apart.

After reading that there are plans to recall retired cops to help police the crisis I’ve began to watch Rambo re-runs to get me in the right frame of mind whilst waiting for the call.

After four days of isolation my hair has already started to grow!

I don’t wish to be all negative – there’s always a positive if you look hard enough. I’ve just traded my eldest son for a 12 pack of Andrex quilted so there’s still bargains to be had.

Speaking of bargains – I’ve also managed to pick up a Groupon for 3 months cheap gym membership…

In the meantime, after an emergency COBRA meeting the PM has taken advice from the Chief Medical Officer that laughter boosts the immune system and has ordered an urgent commission of ‘It’s A Fair Cop’ Series 5 to start next Friday March 27th at 11.30 am.  

Do have a listen, it’s been a funny old week and I think we all need a laugh …

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