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The Summer of the Phoney Corona War

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As I sit here and watch the cascading news stories of the Corona virus mayhem racing across Europe, I can’t but feel a sharp flashback to that other summer many years ago when England anxiously waited for the phoney war to come to an end.

During that glorious summer of 1939, while the world stood still, life went on in the UK.

Football was still being played. Crowds attended the horse-racing. Pubs and theatres were packed with happy shiny people while across the pond the Nazis where chewing up Poland and Czechoslovakia.

But never mind they will never come here.

People had lives and futures ahead of them. That all came crashing down as the war pounded that future into dust.

When it broke out in China, we all laughed at the total absurdity of the meat market as shown on TV.

Fucking live Bats! What the fuck!!! They eat chopped-up dogs?

It’s a wonder they never caught something. And then they did.

And it started spreading.

But hey, it was in faraway China-land, a place we never heard of.


Where the fuck is Wuhan? Could you even find it on the map?

A city as big as London we were told.

I’ve been to London. London is one big motherfucker of a city.

They were locking it down. A city the size of London getting locked down!

Only in China we said, as we laughed. It could never happen here.

But still, as one talking TV head said, “It’s just flu. You get sick, you get better. What’s the big deal?”

The deaths kept raking up in China. But still no real sign it would ever come to England’s green and pleasant land.

Then boom, it was everywhere.

I’ve always wanted to sail on a cruise ship. Live like a Hollywood star for a week or two.

Not anymore.

The cruise ships on TV looked like the old coffin ships that sailed from Ireland during the famine. Packed with desperate and dying people.

Nobody wants to be trapped on a floating metal coffin that cannot even dock.

As every country they tried to land their sick passengers said, “Fuck off, we have no room at the Inn.”

It’s not the end of the world, we’re being told. But it feels like it.

The Italian Mayor from Bergamo is on TV, looking like he will have a heart attack, as he pleaded with the people to stay at home.

The health system is collapsing in Italy as they go to a total lockdown.

It’s not the flu, it’s much worse. It’s killing of the old people.

Like some Biblical scourge. And yes I have heard about the plague of locusts that’s eating its way through Africa. A hard rain is gonna fall and all that Jazz.

The worst effect of the corona virus is that it is making everybody sick at the same time with visions of the Spanish Flu hovering over everything.

There have been riots in the Italian prisons, as law and order starts to break down.

China has been successful in holding down the virus by testing everybody and then quarantining the ones they believe are the carriers.

If they can isolate the carriers and the people the carriers have infected, they can get ahead of the virus firestorm.

This never happened in Italy.

And so the centre cannot hold, as we drink our beer in Weatherspoon’s in the UK and await the shit storm to come rolling right over us.

The Cheltenham horse-racing festival is in full swing, 250000 all singing all dancing, all drinking Irish and English fans, having the time of their lives.

Just one or two corona carriers among them and we’re all fucked.

They will spread to the wind, after the last race and the corona national lottery will begin.

I love Formula One racing. But it is utter madness to continue a round the world championship in this crazy virus environment. They will spread it to places it will have never gone.

Denmark is in Lockdown. But here in the UK, life, “Ob la di, ob-la-da, life goes on.”

Land of Churchill. Land of the stiff upper lip. Fight them on the beaches, we shall never surrender.

Waiting on that sickly Corona sound. The dry cough. The aching limbs. The head pains. The lack of toilet rolls.

It will pass like all things. I’m sure the Jews in Auschwitz said this every day. And some indeed survived to tell the tale.

Soldiers at the battle of the Somme also knew it would pass. The slaughter would stop one day. With or without them.

We will all get sick. That is a certainty. And most of us will survive.

But will it be in a world without Uber drivers and Deliveroo guys as the Gig economy collapses from within.

Who’s gonna drive you home, tonight.”

There is always an upside. The UK will be a cleaner place as they finally learn to wash their hand after having a shit.

Of course we will learn nothing from this moment in the Antiseptic Spotlight.

We all loved those post-apocalyptic horror television shows. And now we’re starring in one. Isn’t life a complete and utter bitch?

But this is one TV show we don’t want to get picked up for a second season.

One year is enough. We all just want to stay alive.

Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive,” as one toothy pop star once said.

I’ll always remember this as the phoney war. As we wait for the big corona invasion that is inevitable. No chance of Boris coming back from Munich, waving a white roll of toilet paper in the air and saying, “The Corona is not coming. They have decided to go away.”

Oh how we would have cheered!

“VOC day – Victory over Corona Day.”

VOC them all,” we would have shouted as we marched in triumph towards Trafalgar Square. Carrying Boris on our shoulders.

Hurray for Boris, Hurray for Brexit.

Let’s keep that, Johnny Foreigner Corona Virus in Europe, where it belongs.

What sort of a name is Corona anyway? Sounds pretty damn foreign to me.”

“Waiting for Godot,” is a famous play by Samuel Beckett. And it just about sums up the UK population as we await our fate.

That summer of 1939 as time stood still and English men and women felt immortal, resonates down all the years.

 Nobody seems to mention God anymore. Most of us believing he has fucked off somewhere on a more important mission.

I believe I don’t need him. I am the captain of my soul.

Everything will change as the French are fond of saying and everything will remain the same. Sort of.

We’ll take the hit and move on. But I will remember this time and so should you. But most of all, remember to wash your hands.








Frank Sonderborg (UK)

Frank Sonderborg was born in Ireland, lives in the UK and does his best to write interesting stories. His short stories have appeared in various UK & USA publications. And is currently working on a fiction book about the Irish War of Independence.

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