The Corona Diaries: “When you play the game of Pandemic…”

… you win or you die. There is no middle ground.” Yeah, well, shut up, Cersei.

Remember that global pandemic? In so many places, people act as if it’s a thing of the past, but at the same time numbers have been spiking again – just the cases were much more manageable, both individually and in sum. So many people who hadn’t yet contracted the virus were getting ill, and even some that had been ill already.

My wife and I had thus far been spared by COVID-19, but almost two weeks ago she started feeling under the weather – and the next morning, BOOM. Two purple lines. A fairly high fever, coughing, and man, was she tired. The weird thing is that, if anything, I should have been the one to catch it and pass it on to her, because I am out of the flat and among people more often – but no, she was positive before me, and a couple of days later I joined the club as well.

Neither of us can say that we were hit particularly hard (provided that we get rid of the remaining, persistent symptoms and none linger in the long term), but we were definitely out for the count, and I realised how easy it was to be too tired to watch stuff. There were evenings where I couldn’t even manage a 40-minute series, so instead we watched some shorter things. One of the series we started watching over the summer is Barry, thanks to a Sky Show subscription, and after all the superlatives thrown at the series by the critics I was a bit apprehensive. Comedy is a tricky thing for me, and more often than not I don’t find them particularly funny. Barry, however, is very funny, but it also works on all the other levels: it is grim, poignant, absurd, astute, and endlessly inventive. And what is more important when you’re really knackered due to some stupid virus: its individual episodes are only half an hour long. It’s pretty much the definition of a win-win scenario. And, thankfully, I wasn’t so ill that I couldn’t follow the individual episodes. The only disadvantage of having to watch shorter stuff: we’re almost at the end of the second season of Barry and only have one more season to go. Time to look for some other things to watch that are only half an hour long, because you never know what autumn and winter will bring in terms of viruses and bacteria!

While we’re talking about pandemics, though: we also managed to fit in some quality time with friends from abroad (including a certain Alan), during which we continued with a game of Pandemic Legacy Season 1. I’d played through the game with my wife in 2021, but we thought we wanted to experience the game with our friends – and it is amazing how different the game feels with four players compared to two. Its rhythm changes, since each player gets half as many moves, as do the various strategies, as the different characters you can choose to play open up a whole range of possibilities. And, seeing how the legacy means that certain in-game events carry over from one game to the next, our crisis-shaken world that we’re trying to save with our friends is looking very different from the world we just about managed to save in 2021. Sadly, both Riyadh and Mumbai have fallen, and much of Central Asia isn’t in particularly good shape. I would say that we did our very best to keep things under control, but I definitely do feel a bit bad for not managing better.

Anyway: I hope that this will really turn out to be the final Corona Diary – even if I had already hoped so earlier this year. We’ll see what the longer, colder days bring. To end with the same kind of hackneyed reference as I started: winter is coming… though after this year’s hot, dry summer I’m not sure I quite believe it.

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