Escapism proves hard to find for Jono Hornby. The diarist muses on communal living with “bloody academics” and journalists and how even at a family birthday celebration, subjects like social justice and agrarian reform can make an entrance.

Some days I find a degree of catharsis in the small daily chores that I would normally resent. Washing the dishes can be a useful distraction and cooking dinner is often the highlight of the day. On other days I can’t be bothered and so and I lean on my family to fill the gaps; a benefit of communal living that I’m particularly grateful for at the moment.

Pajama pants have become my personal uniform and on the off chance that I make my bed, it’s an achievement. I had hoped to keep this as a daily diary, but I’ve become very aware of my rhythms and reactions to reality. Sometimes reflection is a mammoth task that I’m just not willing to engage with.

While the news has taken a back seat in my daily life, information still seems to creep through. Even as I sit here writing I can hear my dad discussing leads with the Natal Witness media team. I guess resistance is futile, especially when you’re locked down with a family of academics and journalists.


I caught a glimpse of an article headline on FB, “Social distancing is a middle class luxury In India as they attempt to lock down a population of 1.339 billion people.”

The first case of Covid-19 has been confirmed in Khayelitsha, and so the roller-coaster climbs slowly upwards. Hold on tight folks, it’s about to get bumpy.

I’m struck, as always, by the inequality of South Africa and how this crisis is highlighting the chasm between our parallel worlds. The middle class mutters about weight gain and boredom are starting to feel distasteful and light-hearted humour has lost its zing.

Everyone has their battles I suppose. I do feel like some deep introspection is in order though. Ubuntu is a nice word to throw around when it’s hypothetical. How do we bridge this gap? Where can civil society step in to create connection points? How willing will people be to part with finances when the future feels so fluid and uncertain?

Like most people, I’ve got more questions than answers.

Shifting reality

Today is my mom’s birthday and the slow pace of home life feels fundamentally at odds with the rate of change that society is experiencing. “It’s like the tectonic plates that frame reality are shifting beneath our feet,” as she puts it.

That being said, birthdays are a time for some much needed escapism. We’ll have a braai, drink beer and listen to music on the stoep. Lekker neh!?

Knowing my family though, conversation will inevitably lean toward geopolitics, social injustice and agrarian reform or something in that frame. You know, some light conversation to lift the spirits. Bloody academics.

I’m conflicted as to how honest I should be with this diary. Where is the line between public reflection and personal introspection? It’s hard to be truly honest when my personal world feels like it’s crashing down around me.

Digital soliloquies

I suppose it’s the same as any conversation in that we open up as much as it feels comfortable. We are social animals after all and If I can’t have physical connection, then I’ll settle with digital soliloquies and video chats.

Putting my thoughts out into the world feels like therapy in a way. There’s a relief in letting them free, and right now I’m happy to watch them go. In fact, they can piss right off and let me muddle through my day. The struggle is real. Over and out.

Communal lving during lockdown in South Africa. Young man scans the newspaper.
BANNER IMAGE: Jono Hornby read the paper. He says that news has taken a back seat in his daily life, but “information still seems to creep through”.


Now read… Sense and sensibility – how Horby strugles to make sense of “this bizarre episode of reality”


Click on image below to read more stories in our series of Coronavirus Chronicles