Monday, April 27

Making my way peaceably uphill back to the flat I was almost flattened by a tearaway cyclist. I turned and shook my fist and shouted expletives in French the poor youth may have been too young to understand. Or is my naivety greater than his ignorance? When I was a boy (yawn, yawn) we had something called the Cycling Proficiency Test. Mr Plod would come to the school and we all lined up in the playground with our shiny Raleighs or whatever else we had, and he would inspect the bikes and then us.

We would cycle round the playground in wobbly circles and when that was passable we would be taught to put out our right arms if we were about to turn right and our left arms if we were about to turn left. I seem to remember we did it in a small flock.

A few weeks later, once we had learned how to stop at an imaginary chalk-scrawled zebra crossing to allow an imaginary old lady to cross, our bikes would be once again inspected for working lights, front and back. Then the big day would come and with the headmaster looking on and smoking his pipe the sergeant would put us through the Test. We all passed and we were all given a Cycling Proficiency Certificate. It was, I recall, predominantly green. I kept it for many years until my mother gave my bike away for no good reason when I was away at university.

Tuesday, April 28

I have been spending a lot of time in lockdown reading, as well as reminiscing about events of 62 years ago. I’ve been working through Ken Follett’s historical trilogy that starts with the Fall of Giants. It stopped me walking in tight circles around the flat talking to myself. For a while. I was three-quarters of the way through Winter of the World – nothing workaday about the titles he chooses – when I’d had enough of summary executions in the snow and couldn’t take any more. The book lies where I left it. Not even his depiction of a sexual act every thirty-five pages could keep up my interest. The three large volumes – never mind the quality, feel the width – will come in useful keeping the door open, or closed. The third one is called Edge of Eternity, since you ask.

Wednesday, April 29

My oldest son’s birthday. I caught him going to the shops in Wellingborough. Why Wellingborough, you may ask. That’s where he lives. As he was out of the house he could tell me how coronavirus has hit his partner’s family. Her stepmother died from it and then her father tried to kill himself. It’s all very sobering and depressing and the other side of that is that we’re so lucky when we don’t have to deal with that up close. Suddenly lockdown in Monaco seems a glorious alternative.

Thursday, April 30

I see that car rental company Europcar is going to be bailed out at a cost of 200 million euros. This makes me very angry because 18 years ago the company claimed I’d damaged the bottom of their car and would have to pay 250 pounds to have it repaired. I had travelled back to UK with my young family and we were counting every penny. It was an insult – of course we couldn’t see under the car and they already had our card details – and it hurt us in the pocket. It was a scam being played out on many clients at the time and I’ve never forgiven them.

Friday, May 1

I am young enough to have a mother-in-law and today it’s her birthday. ‘Happy Birthday.’

Saturday, May 2

I have reached the age where everything used to be close to perfect when I was very young, and now it’s all gone to pot. The news reinforces this, of course. Now, instead of being helpful, Mr Plod is usually just a nuisance. On the border of Monaco and France, in Moneghetti, a couple live on the border itself. Monsieur is French and Madame is Monegasque. So far, he has been fined twice by the Monegasques – with no good reason – while she has been fined twice by the French police. Their transgression is to have left the front door of their home to reach their car. Of the half dozen paces they have to walk, three are in one country, three in the other. The police lie in wait. I know this because local French daily Monaco Matin reported it, so it must be true. On a serious note, where would we be without journalists?

Sunday, May 3

Helen the hydrangea has new shoots on the last day of lockdown. What a relief. Not only has it been difficult living alone, my wife and children and dog so far away, but also very problematic to come up with any ideas about what to write. I’ve made it all up.

Fortunately, this is the last instalment of Jeff’s Coronavirus Diary.

The publishers would like to point out that any views epressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not represent those of the editor or publishers