It's been six months since I suspect I caught coronavirus. I don't know I did, I'm not stupid enough to assume, but all the clues were there. It's also not a conclusion I jumped to at the time, more something I've concluded later, and only because I'm the kind of person who keeps a diary.
Saturday 18th April: At 4pm a bit of a headache arrives, which is probably nothing isn't it. Isn't it? Sunday 19th April: Hmm, my headache is back (on the right hand side), hmm. No other obvious signs.
Headaches were not on the list of coronavirus symptoms to look out for. They might be now but they weren't then.
The headache continued, intermittently. It was annoying but nothing debilitating.
Monday 20th April: Woke up at half three, half five, half six and seven o'clock. It's my headache, which I'm increasingly convinced may be toothache of a kind in a wisdom tooth. Hardly horrific but annoying enough. Hopefully it's only temporary.
Tuesday 21st April (am): Again not the greatest sleep. Upper gum nagging a bit. But hey, I'm fine probably, it's just mouth things.
I'm not prone to toothache so this was unusual. I'm also not prone to headaches, which is a blessing, indeed I've never reached for a paracetamol in my life. I knew something wasn't normal, wasn't right. But there was still absolutely nothing conclusive here.
Then came the Wagon Wheel incident.
Tuesday 21st April (pm): Unwrap a Wagon Wheel and hang on, it doesn't taste of anything! Oddly bland. Losing sense of taste is a virus symptom, ulp? A Polo mint tastes absolutely fine though, so I haven't lost it.
The Wagon Wheel was an instant concern but the Polo mint was an immediate relief. If I could taste the Polo mint then I hadn't lost my sense of taste. Later in the day I confirmed that chicken pie and vegetables tasted perfectly normal but strawberry yoghurt tasted oddly bland too. I appeared to have lost my ability to taste sweet things.
Obviously what I did at this point was consult Google. I searched and searched to try to discover if a change in sense of taste was a Covid symptom but found nothing suggestive or conclusive. Loss of smell (anosmia) yes, loss of taste (ageusia) yes, but change of taste (hypogeusia) no. I also searched specifically for in inability to taste sweet things, but nothing came up. This was a relief.
We now know differently, that a change in your sense of taste is a good indicator that you might have the virus. But this wasn't the case back in April, indeed it'd be another four weeks before 'change in smell or taste' would be added to the list of symptoms which triggered self-isolation.
I wasn't feeling great that particular Tuesday - I had an intermittent headache, I'd lost some of my sense of taste and I felt a bit tired. But six months ago it was all about coughs and fevers and I didn't have a cough and I didn't have a fever so I didn't worry. Instead I went to bed early.
Tuesday 21st April (pm): Might wind down early tonight. Nothing that ticks boxes, but lacking oomph. Maybe sleep'll help. Wednesday 22nd April (am): Blimey, that worked. A decent long uninterrupted sleep, and that toothy headache and slightly wasted feeling has gone too. Excellent.
And then I carried on with my life. Wagon Wheels still weren't especially tasty and Mint Cornettos lacked a punch, so something hadn't been fixed, but the headaches were gone and no other official symptoms came along either.
Six months later the headaches and the change in taste look like a big giveaway, but April was a different era and they didn't then. You couldn't even get yourself tested, it'd be another four weeks before the government afforded its citizens that possibility.
If I did indeed catch coronavirus in mid-April then it'd be interesting to know how and where. Thankfully my diary allows me to check back and look for likely candidates.
Friday 10th April: Went for a 2 mile walk. Kept away from everybody. Met nobody. Saturday 11th April: Went for a 4 mile walk. Kept away from everybody. Met nobody. Sunday 12th April (Easter Day): Sunny and 25°C outside. Stayed in all day. Monday 13th April: Went for a 4 mile walk. Kept away from everybody. Met nobody. Tuesday 14th April: Went for a 4 mile walk. Kept away from everybody. Met nobody. Wednesday 15th April: Went to Tesco. Bit of a free-for-all inside. Thursday 16th April: Went for a 4 mile walk. The 'bin' incident. Friday 17th April: Stayed in all day.
My first symptoms were either on the 18th or the 21st, depending, which means I should look for potential exposure during the previous week. Most of the time I was alone indoors. Five times I went out for a walk and tried very hard - I think successfully - to keep away from people. I touched nothing. Which points the finger of suspicion at either the supermarket or the 'bin' incident.
My local supermarket had got its act together by mid-April with one way systems and screens at the tills. Instead it was the other customers you had to be careful of, lingering mid-aisle and walking the wrong way past the yoghurts. I could have caught it from them (although I spent no more than two seconds alongside any of them) or from the trolley handle (although I washed my hands vigorously afterwards) or simply by sharing an indoor space with other people (although there weren't many around at eight in the morning).
The 'bin' incident occurred because I attempted to be public spirited. The binmen had left a big metal bin on the pavement so I stopped and tried to move it out of the way. Unfortunately it was very heavy so a random lady decided to walk over and help me out, even though my inner voice was screaming "no ffs go away". We couldn't move it between us either, but only confirmed this after a minute of close-up breathing and I wonder if I caught it off her.
I can also look back now and see if I might have infected anyone else while I was (potentially) contagious.
Friday 17th April: Stayed in all day. Saturday 18th April: Went for a 4 mile walk. [Headache] Sunday 19th April: Stayed in all day. Monday 20th April: Went for a 4 mile walk. Tuesday 21st April: Stayed in all day. [Loss of Taste] Wednesday 22nd April: Went for a 3 mile walk. Went to the chemist. Thursday 23rd April: Went for a 4 mile walk. Friday 24th April: Went to Tesco. Less of a free-for-all inside. Saturday 25th April: Went for a 4 mile walk. Sunday 26th April: Stayed in all day. Monday 27th April: Went for a 4 mile walk. Tuesday 28th April: Stayed in all day. Wednesday 29th April: Went for a 4 mile walk. Thursday 30th April: Went for a 2 mile walk.
Hopefully not, then. Most days I either stayed in or went for a defiantly anti-social walk. I was still staying firmly inside my mile-wide lockdown box at this point, so hardly spreading myself around East London. As for my trip to the chemist the shop was empty apart from the lady at the counter and she was behind a screen. Which just leaves my trip to the supermarket... where I was trying my hardest not to get close to anyone, but I guess if I could have caught it there the previous week then I could also have passed it on again.
These days if you exhibit a change in your sense of taste you have to self-isolate for 10 days, but that wasn't the case in mid-April and I only stayed indoors for three. Indeed it's all too easy to apply current rules to past situations and beat yourself up over it, whereas six months ago the official list of symptoms was shorter, the rules were different, face coverings weren't important and I couldn't have got a test anyway.
I haven't allowed my self-diagnosis to amend my behaviour. I haven't resumed normal activities convinced that I'm immune because I doubt I am. I don't swan around thinking "yay I've had it I won't get it again" because I might be wrong. I confess it has taken the edge off worrying somewhat, but I still keep my distance just in case.
It's also been a wake-up-call. I thought I was behaving angelically back in April by avoiding other people and social situations as far as possible, whereas it looks like one trip to the supermarket or a brief grapple with a bin is all it takes. You only have to be unlucky once.
Tuesday 2nd June: Still not enjoying apple pie and custard as much as I should, six weeks on. Friday 5th June: A slice of apple pie with custard suddenly tastes normal again, so that's a relief.
In conclusion I suspect I caught the virus, I can't be certain where and I don't think I passed it on.