OPINION: My experience of the Covid swab test

Paul Barnes has had the Covid swab test. Picture: Getty Images

Paul Barnes has had the Covid swab test. Picture: Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Paul Barnes had been dreading the Covid swab test

We’d been smitten by the first frost of the season. It was a really hard one with fern patterns on the windows inside and out. It shouldn’t really have taken us by as much of a surprise as it did, what with all the gadgetry we’ve got and the incessant forecasts on radio and telly. My neighbour, the one-time naval man, was kicking himself for taking his eye off the meteorological ball and not wrapping his more tender plants in some winter warmers. So he’d nobody to blame but himself, but that didn’t stop him exercising some choice naval oaths.

Fortunately, the richness of his naval vocabulary didn’t seem to have any effect on his driving that day. It never does. He’s one of those people who can always find something to test his swearing. It’s not always genuine anger; it’s just a kind of hobby and he’s careful when he uses it, never in front of a lady for instance, and he’s very restrained when it comes to young people. The irony is that their language is likely to be more colourful, obscene and offensive than his.

The day’s news was making him more grumpy than usual and the biting cold was no help. He was giving me a lift to the Covid swab centre on a wind-swept hillside at Colney just outside Norwich. I’d got a special dispensation on account of a procedure I was due to have for a wonky leg so it meant I could jump the queue.

“Fisher women!” That’s my neighbour again. “Fish are what?” I asked him. He was ahead of me when it came to reading papers and he’d heard the news (on the BBC Home Service as he still insists on calling it; in his mind the news is probably still read by Alvar Lidell and Frank Phillips). Apparently, the phrase fishermen is now deemed sexist and this new “fisherpeople” label suddenly sprang from the wireless set like a wet herring just as my neighbour was listening to the Today programme. He nearly choked on his toast and marmalade, which would have been a waste of the finest Frank Cooper’s Oxford. We’d allowed plenty of time to get to the swab testing place, having heard of long queues lined up outside. We were in luck; the queue had melted away and there were two beaming young swab-takers, a boy and a girl, both masked and gowned but their cheerful manner shone through. The bit I’d been dreading was when the tonsils were tickled and my throat was harvested for any virus that might be lurking there. It was the thought of the gag-reflex that unnerved me, yet in the end I had nothing to fear. The girl caressed my throat with the tenderest of touches, so tender that I hardly felt it. I was almost tempted to fling aside my protective pinny and rush forth to tell incoming customers that there was nothing to it, in short it was a piece of cake (who says that any more?).


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It was my neighbour who restrained me, but he did remind me of events in the past that would have prompted a bit of a song and dance at the time.

We still remember when bus conductresses were elbowed out by bus conductors. Even worse was when actresses were cast aside to become plain old actors like the rest of the company. Thereafter nobody knew what was what. Sadly, nobody seemed to care much, except old buffers like my neighbour and me.

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