But what do do about masks? Gloves? Should we wear them? Do they give a false sense of security so actually endanger us?
I've put some links to advice here, but it all got me remembering a wonderful book I read while working on my MA (I have NO idea why or how it could even have been tangentally relevant - but that's what I loved about doing the MA -
I had time to read anything I wanted).
Anyway, this book was The Civilizing Process
by Norbert Elias.
I read sections of this book again last week and wanted to share. The level of detail with which advice is given on intimate bodily functions is surprising - to say the least!
From Galateo, by Delie Casa
Moreover, it does not benefit a modest honourable man to prepare to relieve nature in the presense of other people... similarly he will not wash his hands on returning to decent society from private places, as the reason for his washing will arouse disagreeable thoughts in people.
Let not thy privy members be
layd open to be view'd,
it is most shameful and abhord,
detestable and rude.
Retaine not urine nor the winde
which doth thy body vex
so it be done with secrerie
let that not thee perplex.
So, thirteenth century advice from Bonvesin de la Riva, in (De la zinquanta cortexie da tavola) includes:
When you blow your nose or cough, turn around so that nothing falls on the table.
It is unseemly to blow your nose into the tablecloth.
Dishes of meat were generally brought to the table, usually everyone cut themselves a piece and took it in their hand or put it on a plate or slice of bread, then passed it on. Stews or soup however meant that in many cases, people took a mounthfull then passed on the bowl AND the spoon.
A whole raft of manners were needed to cope with this situation. Tannhauser's thirteenth century poem says:
A number of people gnaw a bone and then put it back in the dish - this is a serious offence.
A morsel that has been tasted should not be returned to the dish
And from De civilitate morum puerilium by Erasmus of Rotterdam in 1530:
If you are offereed something liquid, taste it and return the spoon, but first wipe it on your serviette.
You should not search through the whole dish as epicures are wont to do, but take what happens to be in front of you
Well, it's when you read these extracts that you appreciate Elias's comment on communal eating: "this necessitated special precepts at table - politeness required that one blow one's nose with the left hand if one took meat in the right." We still have the expression today, 'cack-handed' - to mean awkwardly done / done as if with the left hand. The left hand was the 'cack hand' (from the Latin cacare or the French caque) - the hand used for (as modern dictionaries more sensitively phrase it) 'ablutions'.
So, thinking about that, I've taken a Medieval approach to my shopping - I go with a 'clean hand' and a 'cack hand'. Somtimes I put a disposable glove on the cack hand - if only to remind myself of my method AND to stop me touching my face - but usually I don't bother.
So setting out, I leave my hand bag, phone, purse etc at home or in the car. I put my paper list and credit card in my clean-hand pocket. When I arrive at the grocery, it's basket (or trolly handle) in the cack hand: list in the clean hand.
I park the trolly or set down the basket when I come to what I need. Then I open any refrigerator doors/touch handles, take my item and put it in the basket/trolly with my cack-hand, pick up the basket with the cack-hand and continue onwards until I come to the till.
Clean hand in pocket (out of the way), I use my cack-hand to place all the items from the basket onto the belt/counter. If I can, I also place them in my shopping bag with my cack hand (it helps if you have a bag that sits square).
I take my creadit card out of my pocket with my clean hand, tap it and put it back in my pocket.
Then off I go. If I'm wearing a glove, I remove it carefully and put it inside out in my cack-hand pocket - recently I've not bothered (see below).
Once home, I go straight to the bathroom (having left the door open so I don't have to touch the handle) and wash my hands. Then I put away the shopping. Then I wash my hands again.
So, I'm quite serious about this for a few reasons...
First, I understand that the virus has to get from inside an infected person to inside me. It's all about person-to-person transfer and it has to get inside via my mouth, eyes or nose - it can't get in through my skin which is actually an amazing barrier. The virus is not really in the air except in the few feet in front of an infected person - so keeping physical distance and reducing the time spent near others is the most important thing.
After that, everything else is just an extra precaution.
Generally, surfaces have only tiny traces and not enough to infect me (someone would have to be infected, then cough all over a surface and then I would have to lick it for me to pick it up from a surface). But the viral load may build on some surfaces like the handle to the fridge. It can't get in through the skin in my hands (skin is AMAZING) but I do need to try not to touch the handle and then my face.
So most of this is about keeping me super conscious so I don't touch my face thereby getting any trace I pick up near my mouth.
You see, I see ladies with gloves and masks get to the till then rooting around inside their handbags (with their gloves) for their wallet. I see them get the wallet out and then take out a credit card, pay and return the credit card to the wallet with the gloved hand. Then they put the wallet back into the bag - next to their lipstick/sanitiser/hand cream and PHONE... all the time feeling super secure because they are wearing gloves...
I see men (being the brave hunter-gatherers) wandering around with gloves on, then pulling out their phones, putting them TO THEIR FACES to check with their wives and girlfriends which brand of xxx they meant... putting the phones back in their pockets (for later!) but feeling OK because they are wearing gloves.
It makes me want to scream!
So take the Medieval approach I prithee, cack-hand/clean hand... with my apologies to my left-handed friends.
P.S. I am trying to use this time to update my website and especially to copy articles I've written for others and group them so they are easily accessible. At the moment it's chaotic, but do come back another time when it's all slick and wonderful and working and have a browse. (You'll have to refresh the page - I did not know that!)