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My coronavirus lockdown: I invited my pressure cooker to my birthday lunch

"South Africa has banned people from flying in from the UK, US and a lot of Europe, but Boris keeps saying he’s 'following scientific advice'"

16 March 2020 - 13:59 By Jacqui Venter
Jacqui Venter is writing about her lockdown in a flat in Soho, London.
Jacqui Venter is writing about her lockdown in a flat in Soho, London.
Image: Supplied

Jacqui Venter, 46, is a South African digital product manager living in London. As the coronavirus infection rate spirals in the UK, she has caught the flu and has been instructed by her doctor to self-isolate in case she has Covid-19.

The only problem is that she lives in a tiny studio flat in Soho, a very vibrant part of town. Now she has #FOMO in Soho.

Isolation makes people do strange things. Today, on my second day of lockdown, I invited my pressure cooker to my birthday lunch. 

I set the “table” (an Ikea footstool for short people) and took out a special, Christmas-printed serviette that I picked out at the January sales last year. It would have been rude of me to leave the chef in the kitchen, especially since he had done all the hard work for my birthday dinner. I wasn’t raised that way. As it was, I found it difficult to sit comfortably and drink gin while he worked. I kept asking him: “Give me a job to do, dude.” I did notice that he must have been very critical of his work because he didn’t touch his meal, which I thought was divine. Beef stroganoff with creme fraiche and far too many chestnut mushrooms - just the way I like it. How could he have known?

I’ll admit, I was tired. At 4am I awoke to a deafening crash of cinematic genres. The Exorcist had smashed into Event Horizon. You see, in Event Horizon, a spaceship goes through the time barrier and returns from hell with a bad attitude. There is a lot of screaming with people thrashing around naked. In The Exorcist, hell is flung out of a little girl and she vomits a lot. What I heard at 4am, beneath my window, in a pedestrian-only street, was the shrieking of a freshly possessed reveller followed by the subsequent exorcism of her demonic stomach contents. Sheer audible agony at a deafening volume. “Trayceee! Wait for meee! Urgh urgh.”

While Cyril Ramaphosa announces closing schools and stopping more than 100 jollers getting together at any one time, Boris Johnson is quarantining the septuagenarians.

This could only signify that we have gone up a full notch in the existing apocalyptic party scene in Soho, and that the virus is fuelling its flames (as well as the Flaming Zombies its bartenders are serving). Dia de los muertos (day of the dead) be damned; this is a whole new level of psychosis.

Our mystical, shamanic, epidemiologist, Boris Johnson (British prime minister), is also lost in his own psychotic delusion. While President Cyril Ramaphosa announces closing schools and stopping more than 100 jollers getting together at any one time, Johnson is quarantining the septuagenarians. Corralling them into their living rooms to stare at television sets before their time. 

SA has banned people from flying in from the UK, US and a lot of Europe, but Boris keeps saying he’s “following scientific advice”. Bearing in mind there are scientists out there who cook meth, I’m not sure who he is talking to. And what do they know about aeroplanes?

That said, international tourists keep coming into the West End of London to watch plays, sing along to musicals and throw their names away.

The cocktail bar I live above is feeding on these glassy-eyed heroes who bloody well booked their holidays months ago and are not going to be daunted by a silly little global pandemic. The proprietor plies them with cheap booze and plays Europop at full blast until long after his licence allows him. Because of my isolation, I was sadly unable to go downstairs at 4am armed with two middle fingers and a box of eggs. I had to listen to it and weep bitterly as the auto-tuning stained my soul.

Speaking of audible bitter pills, the very petite Greek woman who lives upstairs is evidently in her own private circle of hell.

She is running a marathon around her even tinier studio flat. I suspect that she is - herself - possessed and that she may be channelling an ancient, malevolent, athletic spirit that strongly opposes the inevitability of the Olympic torch being welcomed so tepidly in Tokyo. Imagine the famine of fanfare, the truancy of togas, the lack of leather sandals. The weight of the burden is bearing down on to her wooden floor, then on to my low ceiling. I am unable to go upstairs and exorcise the spirit myself with love, mercy, and a fly swatter. So I must sit here, shuffling around an unmade bed like a dog trying to get comfortable.

I am actually looking forward to my virtual working arrangement tomorrow. For the sheer company, if nothing else. I will wear a top hat and a heavy metal T-shirt with no pants, unless the pressure cooker tells me otherwise.


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