I don’t do topical subjects very often, but as the UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer said today… “These are unprecedented times.”

Which calls for unprecedented measures.

So, today I’m going to talk about the two horrifying pandemics that have embraced the globe.

Pandemic #1 – COVID-19

Or the Coronavirus to those who don’t think of themselves as some sort of scientist.

I’m not going to go into great detail here about the virus, its origins, or what the countries of the world are doing to try to curb it. What I am going to do is talk about how I feel about it.

I’m a self-confessed nerd and I love movies. I don’t often do horror movies, they’re generally not my bag, but I do love a good zombie movie…and I ADOREShaun of the Dead’. It is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of my favourite movies of all-time.

Quick aside: I was always a HUGE fan of the UK TV show ‘Spaced’. If you’ve ever seen ‘Shaun of the Dead’ or any of the other films in the ‘Three Flavours Trilogy(sometimes known as the ‘Cornetto Trilogy’‘Hot Fuzz’ and ‘The World’s End’ being the other two) and you enjoyed them, then you’d probably love ‘Spaced’. It’s Simon Pegg and Nick Frost before they were famous. And you’ll instantly recognise Edgar Wright’s direction style and sense of humour. Go check it out!

Anyway, I was re-watching Shaun tonight – for the umpteenth time – and I was struck by the eerie similarities at the start of the film to our current situation.

Now, I’m not REALLY giving anything away in regards to this 16-year-old movie…we all know it’s a zombie movie. And like all zombie movies, there is a trigger event for the horde that will plague Shaun in his efforts for a quiet night in at the pub. There’s an allusion to a meteor or something crashing into the UK, and then a virus that spreads. People get ill and then finally turn. 

The early scenes are witness to deserted streets (except, obviously, for the undead), people looking dreadfully ill and coughing on the bus, while the news broadcasts government advice to ‘stay in your homes’. When you watch it today, under the current government restrictions on social interaction, it plays eerily familiar. 

The truly weird thing about the movie is that prior to watching it I was treating this current pandemic crisis kind of like Shaun himself…

…waiting for it all to blow over.

But after watching it, I can’t help but have this weird ‘end of the world’ kind of feeling.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we’re heading for an apocalypse. These things happen in movies, not real life. But that said, this is probably the closest that our generation is ever going to get to actually FEELING like we’re in some sort of apocalyptic movie. 

We’re sitting in our homes worried about our jobs and our financial situations moving forward as we watch stock prices tumble, society grind to a halt, and our health services being pushed to breaking point. All while our governments are scrambling trying to find a solution to get us all through this. 

It is kind of scary when you think about it in those terms.

But Coronavirus is NOT going to turn us into ‘the mobile deceased ’. And for all its mortality rate, it’s not going to be the downfall of the human race. We will get through this and come out the other side. 

One thing feels certain, though…the next few months are going to have a MASSIVE impact on society and change the world as we know it. 

We’re going to see a shift in how society works. We may very well see companies go out of business, or be bought out by bigger companies in order to rescue them. Our countries are going to be paying off the debt of the financial rescue packages for decades to come, in all likelihood. Even simple things, like the fact that movie studios are releasing movies to video-on-demand services rather than into theatres. It will change the way we do things. 

It’ll take a while for life to settle down into the new normalcy, but it will happen.

Come summertime, the sun will shine, sport will return and we’ll be allowed to go back out and enjoy our lives. Theatres, concerts, restaurants, bars and pubs will reopen and we’ll revel joyously in finally getting our lives back.

And, furthermore, there will be toilet paper enough for everyone.

Which brings me to…

Pandemic #2 – BOGPAP-20

For the unscientific, this is otherwise known as Toilet Paper Madness.

The truly bizarre toilet-paper buying compulsion that’s followed in Coronavirus’s wake. 

Bizarre almost feels like too benign a word for it.

I totally understand the urge to panic buy. But, honestly, buy things that make sense. 

Firstly, there’s a video doing the rounds on Facebook from a user called ‘Sarcastic Mommy’. It’s kind of hilarious and explains my feelings of bewilderment succinctly on the topic. It features a guy who has done the toilet paper maths for someone buying 4 (yes FOUR) multipacks 30 rolls of toilet paper from Costco. It’s very funny! (I can’t link it here, but see if you can go find it! It’s worth a quick watch.). 

I’m going to run with his premise and base it on the stash of toilet roll here at Ford Manor. Before this crisis, we went to do our regular monthly shop and bought a multipack of Andrex from ASDA. This was prior to the panic buying and there was a huge pile of them on special offer. So, we have 24 toilet rolls in our house currently. (We had a few left from the prior pack and we have literally opened the 24 pack today!)

So, our maths…

It contains 24 rolls

According to Google, each roll has 200 sheets of paper

That is 4,800 sheets total

In the video, he estimates 20 sheets used per ‘poop‘. so I’ll roll with that.

Which equals 240 PPP (that’s Poops Per Pack for the uneducated!)

Now, let’s say wifey and I have 2 poops each per day (total of 4)

That stash would last us 60 days

That’s 2 months – give or take

In conclusion: I think we’re good for toilet paper. 

And even if we weren’t – and bear with me here because this is going to get a little gross – do we really need it? I mean like ‘panic-shopping’ NEED it?

Because a large proportion of the world wouldn’t. They have this thing…

Mystical bottom washing device…

It’s called a ‘bidet’, and it’s prevalent all over much of Europe and the Islamic countries. It’s the great social divide that NO ONE talks about. Wash or Wipe!

For some reason, culturally, many of the western nations shun the practice purely (I assume) on the premise that it is somehow undignified or embarrassing. But honestly, if I run out of things to wipe my arse with, it’s not the end of the world. I CAN wash it clean.

So, why is it that the world has gone nutso buying all the toilet paper the world can produce?

And here’s the REALLY bizarre thing to me…this is NOT a localised phenomenon.

If it was just the Americans, I’d giggle and assume it’s the crazy ‘Doomsday Prepper’ brigade. If it was just us Brits, then I’d chuckle and assume it was some eccentric national quirk. But it’s not just one nation… EVERYONE is doing it. We’re seeing toilet paper riots in shops all over the world.

I’d understand more if it was food, or bottled water. Or petrol (gasoline to you, American reader) or something else that could be hugely important during an apocalypse…but toilet paper?

For God’s sake, our ancestors used to wipe their arses with leaves!

I kid you not…it’s all written on this website called ‘ToiletPaperHistory.net

I’ve copied it here for your convenience:

What did people use before toilet paper was invented?

Before the advent of modern toilet paper many different materials were used for the same purposes. Different materials were used depending upon the country, weather conditions, social customs and status.

People used leaves, grass, ferns, corn cobs, maize, fruit skins, seashells, stone, sand, moss, snow and water. The simplest way was physical use of one’s hand. Wealthy people usually used wool, lace or hemp.

  • Romans were the cleanest. Wealthy used wool and rosewater and others used sponge attached to a wooden stick, soaked in a bucket of salt water.
  • The Greeks would use clay.
  • In Coastal Regions, mussel shells were used (and sometimes coconut husk).
  • Europeans used hands (but they also used fountains with the luxury of warm water).
  • People from Islamic cultures used their left hand with little water (they are still doing that today). This is why it is offensive to greet someone with your left hand.
  • The Eskimos would use moss or snow.
  • The Vikings used wool.
  • The Colonial Americans used the core center cobs from shelled ears of corn.
  • The Mayans used corn cobs.
  • The French invented the first bidet (of course without modern plumbing).
  • The Chinese invented the first toilet paper as we know it in the 14th Century.
  • Later people used pages from  books, newspapers, catalogs, etc.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking forward to wiping my dainty sphincter on a corn cob…but this list demonstrates the options that we have when the paper runs out. 

So, please…if you’re reading this and are panic buying – STOP IT

If worst comes to worst, you can wash your arse, or use a corn cob.

And, if you aren’t panic buying and are struggling to find toilet paper because the people above have panic-bought it all, then rest assured that you could try instead to source yourselves some coconut husks or mussel shells.

Come on, people. Please. Act civilised, for goodness sake.

Sorry about that…

I took quite the detour, didn’t I?

Look, I called this blog post ‘The Isolated Writer’ for a reason.

This current crisis has me working from home, which has been a boon for my writing. I no longer have to do the 40 mile commute to work in the morning, which is a godsend. I can roll out of bed at 8:50 and be working by 9:00. Then at 17:00, I can clock off and get straight down to writing. It’s been a productive week thus far.

I’ve got blog posts prepped (such as this one), I’ve written a nice chunk of book 2 of the Songbird series, I’ve gone through this website and overhauled the graphics and checked through much of the content for silly grammar and spelling mistakes. AND, you may have noticed, I have a new little logo.

Where many are hating this isolation, I’m kinda loving it. 

I’ve always had hermit tendencies, and this current situation plays directly into them. I’m happy in my own company, doing my own thing. Just me, my laptop and a movie playing in the background. I’m sure that in a week or so I may start craving human interaction more personal than the Skype calls I have with my work colleagues during the working day, but for now I’m fine. 

More than fine, actually. 

I’m writing. And that IS my happy place.

To everyone reading this, I hope you are all safe and sound. Stay isolated. Stay strong.

We will ALL of us get through this. 

Love & Books

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  1. Jackie

    Oh my gosh, Jon, you are too funny! I seriously don’t understand why so many people are hoarding toilet paper, either. It’s not like you can avoid getting the virus by having 200 rolls of toilet paper at home. It would make more sense to hoard hand sanitizer, soap, or food. Though to be fair, canned goods and pasta have been in short supply in many stores in the US. How’s the supply over where you are?

    In all seriousness, though, I hope you are staying safe and doing well.

    • Jon Ford

      Much the same in the UK.
      Not toilet paper to be found. Hand sanitizer etc is gone. Eggs, pasta, pasta sauces all gone.
      As we’re typical Brits there’s also a shortage of teabags!

      And weirdly, at least at our local supermarket, dishwasher tablets?!

      We’re all good here though in our isolation bubble. Hope you’re safe too! X

    • DesireeS

      It’s crazy isn’t it? I didn’t have to run out and buy toilet paper because I am a “couponer”, which means I have several packages! What I hate to see is people buying all the toilet paper and then selling it for 10 times the price. It’s a sad world we live in.
      I’m in NY, upstate though. Being in NY is crazy scary! I’ve just heard that our Governor wants to start moving the “infected” patients from downstate (NYC) to upstate. That is very scary to me.
      I’m not lucky enough to be working from home, I’m essential. Stay safe everyone, and for God’s sake, quit hoarding the toilet paper.

      • Jon Ford

        I’ve been reading and watching the reports out of NY. It’s crazy what’s happening there! Stay safe Desirees!

  2. Olga

    Yeah indeed the time I spent at home has fastened my progress of the pieces of stories I was trying to write. On one hand, online schooling (as I am a student) is frustrating when it comes to the switch of assessment methods, but on the other hand I can just work on my own pace.

    • Jon Ford

      I think there’s a lot of adjustments that we as a society need to wrap our heads around in these trying times. I’m trying to make the best of what’s happening, and that fortunately means I have plenty of time for writing!
      I’m sure you’l get to grips with the new assessment methods. 🙂

  3. RaeY

    Wow! I’ve never learned so much about life before toilet paper! Very interesting and I’m glad to say that I live when we do have toilet paper. I finally found some in our local store on Sunday. I had been looking for weeks! No Lysol though! Stay safe everyone!

    It’s awesome that you are finding working at home so easy. I’m struggling! I’m bored. I need to work on my blogs more.

    • KarieS

      I have to admit that I laughed a lot reading this blog post. So much information about toilet paper, the lack of toilet paper and what people used before toilet paper! A great post though because we all need more laughter.

      I too was getting a little bored being stuck at home. I decided to write, read more, and redesign my house! Wish me luck!

      • Jon Ford

        GOOD LUCK!!

        I have to admit to being a little quieter on here than usual this week as we’ve been decorating at home. Painting a HUGE Route 66 mural on one of our walls in the spare room.
        I may do a blog post about it at some point!

        • KarieS

          How did the mural turn out? I bought the paint for the spare room (computer room). I decided on a pale yellow, to brighten the room and mood.
          I decided to start taking college courses (online), to finish another degree. I’m sure I’ll need some brightening every day in there. Call me crazy for sure!

          • Jon Ford

            It’s not quite finished yet, but close!

            Here’s a link to the image of the Wall in question (fingers crossed this works! You may have to C&P to take a look at it!)


            I think it’s been a good way to keep busy during the lock down. I’d love to start a College degree though! What are you studying?

          • KarieS

            The link worked and it looks great! Have you gotten anymore finished?
            I’m an accountant but I’m taking classes in computers! It’s hard but fun!

  4. Theodora

    The corona thing is frustrating indeed but I hope everything is fine for everyone here. Still somehow can’t believe it’s happening, like in this global scale. Though in a way I actually came up with a story idea that’s inspired by corona. Don’t know if I will write that story but it’s actually interesting that corona gave me some inspiration.

    • Jon Ford

      i have a friend who had started to write a book regarding a virus and it’s impact. It was a kinda sci-fi story, but she’s now reluctant to write it because of what’s going on with Corona right now.
      A story is a story though, and stories have been written in the past which bear a striking resemblance to the current situation, and they’ll be written again. Write your story! 🙂

    • Jon Ford

      Interestingly, this whole quarantine malarky has given me some real insights into parts of my own book. Like research in an odd way. Later on in my series, there will be a plague/virus issue…and now I have a good idea how that would play out in real life as a global pandemic.

      I think Corona will inspire quite a lot of creativity in a weird way.

  5. Simon

    As an introvert, I’m enjoying my time away from people for the most part. I have been able to get more done, too, without having to make my daily commute. I wonder how long we will be content with our new normal?

    Do you think things will ever go back to the way they were before? When all of this is said and done, will theaters reopen? Will people be interested in going back to the way things were before the pandemic?

    • Jon Ford

      Oddly, just the yesterday I was saying to my wife that I was REALLY hankering for a trip to the cinema. I love movies, and watching them on the big screen was something I always really enjoyed. I have a fairly big TV, but it’s not the same.
      As much as I love this peace and quiet we’re getting, and the fact that the planet is having a breather ecologically, society will return to normal sooner or later I’m sure.
      It’s horrible that we’ve had to suffer so much death, heartache and pain to learn lessons about how we should care for each other, our planet and focus on more important things in life. AS much as I’m sure things will return to the status quo when this is over, I do hope that we learn some lessons from all this as a race.

      • Jim H

        I doubt The Powers That Be will learn anything from this Jon. This economic machine is too big for us to stop. Picture a runaway train doing 150 with no brakes downhill. Mother Nature has to do it for us at this point. I do hope that they will be proactive enough to stock up on the medical necessities, so we have what we need when this happens again.

        And sorry, but if we go back to business as usual, another virus will “make itself” and this will all happen again.

  6. Robert P

    All this isolation that everyone else is doing (I work in an essential field, so no rest or the wicked 🙂 ) puts me in the mindset of wondering what it would be like if things DIDN’T get back to normal on a social level. The economic side of things won’t get back to normal for at least a few years in my opinion.

    But what if it never did? How would we acclimate? What kind of changes would we have to make just to survive? What would the brave new world look like? Apocalyptic? Using vacant buildings for purposes we never thought we would?

    And then I go to the store, look at the paper goods aisle and I’m jolted back into reality.

    This whole thing is just a strange ride Jon.

    • PatricS

      What a world we live in! I wonder too if this world will go back to “normal” or will it be a “new normal”. I live in New York and I’m not sure our Governor will ever let us open back up! I’m essential too so I’m going every day. It’s to work and home, a boring life.

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