The Corona Chronicles: a tale of non-domestic bliss – part two

Allison Pearson

The Corona Chronicles is published on Mondays and Fridays every week on To read Part One, click here


THURSDAYDay 10 of Isolation

In 1996, my brother was put into a medically induced coma after his MGB hit a lorry coming out of a farm track on a long, perfectly straight road in Lincolnshire. Jonny always did drive as if he had wings. To be fair, he was training to be an RAF pilot at the time. The doctors explained to my terrified parents that the coma was actually a good thing; it would give the brain time to heal without the body deciding to do its own triage and shutting off blood flow to the damaged parts. It was such a harrowing period that I’d successfully repressed it until I got a text from Jonny this morning.     

“Hey, Caz, don’t worry. Look at this lockdown as the whole country being put into an induced coma until we’re well enough to function again. Spoke to the Aged Ps last night. Told them to stay inside but Mum is struggling to stop Dad going walkabout. Poor old bugger keeps forgetting they’re self-isolating. Mum so grateful you sent meals. Says they need milk? Flying over you later today with PPE supplies, will drop some masks in the garden if you’re lucky. Look up at the sky! Love you, J x”

To my certain knowledge, my daredevil baby brother has never  told me he loves me. If I was worried before, now I’m terrified. Biting sarcasm is more Jonny’s and my sibling mode. I guess a crisis will do that to you, won’t it? It makes us see how certain relationships we never give a second thought to nurture and sustain us. And how some don’t.


Corona chronicles - 01

“CARRIE?” Robert is yelling from the top of the house.

Damn. Just leaving for my super-exciting, hotly-anticipated date at the supermarket. Funny how, after ten days in captivity, a trip to Tesco suddenly acquires the tantalising allure of a Marrakech kasbah.  

“Carrie? We’ve got to do something about the books on these shelves.”

“What do you mean?” If I stand at the bottom of the stairs and look up two floors, I can just about glimpse my husband through the picket fence of bannisters.

“I’ve got a team meeting on Zoom this morning,” he says, “and it looks bloody awful having all your chick-lit garbage behind me.”

“It’s not garbage. There’s Margaret Atwood and Hilary Man-...”    

“Yeah, but I need something that shouts CEO. Not vagina novels.”

“Robert, that’s so unfair.”

“Darling, I’m sorry, but you’ve got four books on the menopause and a hardback of Jilly Cooper’s Riders. What sort of impression is that going to give the sales force?”

Honestly. Not only has my WFH (working from home) husband commandeered my attic office, the ungrateful B never stops finding fault with it.  

“Where did we put that photo of my father in uniform? Where do we keep all the big reference books?”

(Please observe the use of the marital “we”. It doesn’t actually mean we. It means “me”, the wife who has so little to occupy her time yet has mysteriously failed to ensure that everything Sir requires is ready before he even knows that he needs it.)

Robert hasn’t finished: “And what did we do with that three-volume biography of Margaret Thatcher?”

“Isn’t that technically a vagina book?”

“Sorry, what did you say? ISABEL! Stop playing that violin, I can’t hear your mother speak. What?”  

“I said I’ll just get some manly books and pictures and bring them right up, darling.”

Reluctantly, I can see Robert has a point. Before Covid (BC), our private space was private. Now, with so many companies video conferencing, private has become public for the first time and people are fascinated by their colleagues’ books and artwork. Glimpses of a hidden life. They pretend to be focused on the finer points of moving above-the-line marketing into digital while furtively craning their necks to scan the titles and photographs behind the boss’s head. I found myself doing it during Prince Charles’s statement to the nation. I swear I spotted a Dick Francis to the right of his ear, amidst the vellum. Bet you anything Camilla has Riders in hardback too.

There’s just one problem. All the books that would make Robert look like Bill Gates are on the shelves in the sitting room, where Chloe and her boyfriend Paolo are self-isolating. Just to introduce another degree of difficulty to our Lockdown Logistical Lotto, Chlo and “that Italian”, as Robert calls him, were skiing in Cortina two weeks ago so they have to keep a two-metre distance from the rest of us. In the same house.

Nightmare? You’re telling me, but Boris says it’s in the national interest and I do everything Boris and Professor Chris Whitty tell me. (Both of them being off sick at the same time and missing the 5pm press conferences has been like having jittery supply teachers during an exam period. Desperately unsettling. Seldom has “Get well soon” felt so urgent.)


Corona chronicles - 03

Gently knock on door and creep into sitting room. Chloe and Paolo are a drowsy tangle of limbs on the sofa. With his heavy-lidded eyes and peregrine-falcon profile, the boyfriend looks like a soldier in a Piero della Francesca painting with Chloe a golden, pre-Raphaelite maiden beside him. You know those moments when the sheer beauty of youth fills you with what you mistake for envy, but is actually gratitude? That.

Chloe opens her eyes and gives a baffled smile. “Mum?”  

“Just getting some books so Daddy’s colleagues don’t think he’s a menopausal feminist. Go back to sleep, my love.”

I haven’t been able to hug her since she came home. Not being able to touch your child or breathe the same air as your parents. How long can we put up with this?         


Corona chronicles - 02

Clap for Carers. Izzy and I are in the front garden noisily banging saucepans, even Harry’s stopped sulking and is pounding his hands together. Chloe and Paolo are waving a blue scarf  at the window. Next door, Dennis is parping the rubber bulb of a vintage car horn he’s had since his days as a black-cab driver. Ellen leans on him to keep her balance. Yesterday, the hospital told her that they’re considering cancelling palliative care. Chemo might soon be reserved now for those they think will survive. When I said that can’t be right, Ellen replied in that wonderful rasping cackle of hers: “I’m 79, Carrie love. Got secondaries on me secondaries. That Corona means doctors got to make hard choices. You can’t blame ‘em.”     

Behind us on the doorstep, Robert provides a sardonic commentary: “Dear God, what is this, North Korea with compulsory celebration of the all-powerful state?”

“Dad, you need to change your thinking,” Izzy shouts above the din, “if you get the virus, doctors and nurses will save you too.”  

I thought I’d be too embarrassed. But once I started banging my saucepan, I knew it was the right thing to do. From all the doors and all the gardens and all the windows came the noise, swelling to a joyous, defiant cacophony. It was for the NHS, of course it was. But it was also for us, for each and every one of us. The clapping and the drumming said, “We’re doing it, it’s hard, but keep going, we’ve got to keep going.”

Suddenly, the people around me look up. There’s a plane directly overhead, a big-winged beast making a deep droning. A wartime sound. My brother?  Jonny’s text said it’ll be OK, the country’s just been put into an induced coma until it’s safe for her to function normally again. I wave at the plane, at Jonny. What a party we’ll have when we come out of our coma, a hundred New Year’s Eves rolled into one.

The Corona Chronicles is published on Mondays and Fridays every week on