Seriously, am I allowed to give myself a pat on the back?
Since the Bangkok lock down was announced several weeks ago, followed by the introduction of a night-time curfew, I think I've been what the Thai government would describe as 'a model citizen'. Apart from a five-minute stroll to the nearest post-box and a solitary foray to 7-11 when my wife's back was turned, I haven't ventured out in daylight (we're not counting time spent pottering around in the garden of course)
Embracing the change
When the restrictions were first announced, the idea of being under house arrest for an indefinite period of time filled me with dread. Like millions of others around the world, I wondered how I would possibly cope. Then I realized that I don't actually go out much anyway, apart from to my thrice weekly gym sessions, the odd football match and to do a bit of weekend shopping. Steel yourself, Phil. You can do this!
As the days wore on, I actually began to relish my new lifestyle. Many others on social media said the same thing. Like me, people started to appreciate the much slower pace of life and not having to worry about making decisions or sticking to rigid schedules. Life became all about just filling the daytime hours.
I plowed my way through several Netflix series. I worked up a healthy sweat trying to follow Joe Wicks, the fitness guru, on some of his YouTube workouts and I Skyped my family in the UK for longer-than-usual chats .
I cleaned the house from top to bottom, embraced home cooking once again and found time to do all those niggly jobs that I'd been putting off for months (the kitchen cupboards have never looked so spotlessly clean and organised)
And I finally got to grips with online food delivery. Using the Grab app, I ordered freshly cooked meals from Foodland and the Tesco Lotus website for all my dry goods. No more steering carts up and down narrow aisles and tut-tutting at dozy shoppers getting in my way. No more having to handle the goods at checkout, then hurriedly packing them into bags, only to unpack them all yet again when you get home. It was wonderful! Listen, I know you guys have been doing this for years already but I've just been slow to latch on!
The night-time curfew didn't bother me either. Frankly, you can close what entertainment venues you like between the hours of 10 pm and 4 am because I'm generally tucked up in bed with a good book by then. Occasionally I would glance out of the bedroom window at deserted streets, devoid of revving engines and boy racers, and marvel at the peace and quiet.
Then came the nationwide alcohol ban. And as Bangkok expats stormed the supermarket booze sections, proclaiming the end of the world was nigh and filling up their trolleys with teetering piles of anything that contained alcohol, I stood on the sidelines perplexed. I'm not really much of a drinker you see.
Whose with me?
But however you choose to live your life under lock and key doesn't matter to me - we are all in this together! We are all part of the war effort, the war against the terrible coronavirus.
Except are we?
Fast forward to the present and the lines are becoming strangely and increasingly blurred.
Last Sunday, hidden behind masks and doused in anti-bacterial gel, my wife and I drove through our Samut Prakan neighborhood to drop off and collect our laundry. But what was going on? The roadside fresh markets were heaving as locals stood shoulder to shoulder, grubby masks drooping beneath their chins as they sifted through chicken portions. Small groups of male friends sat on stools outside closed bars. There might not be any beer to drink but that wasn't going to stop them gathering for a chat. Were these just hundreds of people who didn't get the memo?
The UK media is referring to it as 'lock down fatigue'. Basically, people are willing to toe the government line and lock themselves away at home for a week or two but any longer than that and frankly, you're taking the piss. If I want to cycle around a park, talk to a neighbor over the garden fence or help a mate with some car repairs, I will jolly well do it!
The following day, with my wife safely at work, I sneaked out to the nearest 7-11 because I genuinely needed washing-up liquid (oh, the life of the house husband!) and that meant having to walk down what is usually one of the busiest sois in the hood. Although never a customer, I was curious to see if the barber's shop had re-opened and in turn, defied the emergency decree (barbers shops and beauty salons have been classed as 'medium-risk' businesses by the government and they are not allowed to open until the government says so)
I'm pleased to report that the barber's shop was in darkness. A cardboard sign saying 'closed until further notice' had been taped to the shutter.
But every other bugger was open! All those businesses and footpath vendors that I'm sure have been classed as 'non-essential' and therefore ordered to remain closed - the gold shop, the florist, the shoe repairer, the key cutter, the deep fried chicken guy - where do you start? It was just another normal day. And a thought crossed my mind - 'am I the only one still doing this lock down thing? Is the world secretly laughing at me?
Later that evening, my wife came at it from the Thai cultural angle. "The low rate of daily new infections is the main issue", she said, "Thais are looking at these figures and thinking they are safe to do what they want. And the majority of Thais will always do what they want if there isn't a policeman or a soldier behind them with a gun or a big stick"
Fair enough, but it feels like we're in a limbo period. We know it's for our own good but the lock down is beginning to feel like an over-reaction. If we're going to openly flout the rules, then let's make a good job of it! Open up the gyms and the shopping malls. To Hell with it, let's re-start the Thai football season as well!