Interrupted Midjourney…

Writing :


2 weeks ago to the day I had been taking a deep dive into the world of “AI Art” thanks to “Midjourney”, a subscription-based online AI (for “Artificial Intelligence”) art generator that builds images from text prompts – an early result is the featured image of this post – having seen interesting results online, before my investigations were rudely interrupted by a bout of COVID.

For various reasons over the past two years I have been “shielding” through a combination of living with or being in proximity to, vulnerable family members, along with my own health issues and had managed to dodge the bullet through a combination of reducing travel into London to the absolutely necessary, such as the odd teaching assignment, and the usual safeguards like masks, which I will continue to use for the foreseeable future.

Ironically, the moment came where I had agreed to meet friends in town for a concert and although I was nervous, a part of me felt slightly more reassured due to being fully vaccinated, though I had yet to get the Spring booster. In addition, before leaving, I was visited by other family members at home, all of whom had tested negative for the virus.

To say that the shock of seeing a positive result on the following Monday was profound, would be a massive understatement and imagine my horror when I discovered that my 89 year old mother, with whom I live, also tested positive. Inwardly I did wonder about the wisdom of travelling into London on a particularly hot Saturday when the Tube was rammed with people and young adults out on the town, most of whom had long since dropped mask-wearing.

Kings Cross Station in particular was a boiling hell of shuffling passengers shoulder to shoulder with each other and filling the concourses and blocking escalators.

Taking into account my various health issues and, I admit, a streak of cowardice and frankly, terror, I had been very careful about anything that might have been a result of infection, with many trips to A&E throughout the pandemic, whereas my mother, for example, appeared less concerned – she is after all quite robust despite her own chronic health issues.

I knew it was only a matter of time before I would get infected – the inevitability of that fact brought with it the uncertainty of exactly when and under what circumstances.

The first week of the infection was marked by 2 days of fever and self-isolation in my upstairs bedroom, preceded by a headache and a mild sore throat, the latter being the reason for initially testing myself, though by now a Lateral Flow Test was routine if I travelled further afield than home.

The remaining days of the week up to the following weekend felt like a gradual improvement with some concern about the phlegmy, chesty cough I had developed and the characteristic fatigue, which was worse for the first 2-3 days and by mid-week, I was up on my feet and moving around with a mask on – until that is, I discovered that my mother was also COVID positive.

My memory of that first week is now curiously tinged with a sense of nostalgia – I whiled away the dragging hours on my Mac laptop by reading books I had downloaded into my library via iTunes – for some reason I fell upon the supernatural stories of Arthur Machen, prompted by my sister who suggested “The Novel of The White Powder” since it concerns a man who locks himself in his room and is gradually transformed into something unspeakably horrible after taking the mysterious white powder of the title. Not all Machen’s short stories are of the horror genre, some detail his recollections of his youth exploring his native Welsh countryside for it’s mysteries and are a welcome relief from his more terrifying stories such as “The Great God Pan”, which I had started but couldn’t bring myself to finish since its’ imagery is too disturbing.

This led me to Machen’s translated anthology of books based on the life of Giacomo Casanova, which on the face of it seemed spicy given the author’s reputation as a serial womaniser but in fact there is actually very little detail of an obvious erotic nature, making me wonder if this was a case of a later embroidering of his writing in order to sensationalise it and to boost it’s popularity for the benefit of publishers.

By the following Sunday I felt that I was over the worst but then I had a creeping feeling that this was just the virus playing with me and on the following Monday what had started as a bad chest cold suddenly took a turn into an infection that required urgent medical attention – a trip to A&E and a fluid / antibiotic drip and then being discharged feeling a lot better but with a 5 day course of a strong antibiotic.

I’ve said it before, and knowing most healthy people’s desire to give hospitals a wide berth if at all possible, but in many ways they are the safest place to be during a pandemic and I have been there several times over the past 2 years for various reasons. My nearest hospital had risen to the challenge since my last visit and adapted the existing A&E facility with sealed, air conditioned rooms for 2-3 beds maximum and most of the patients had Covid – a little unnerving, but then if you’ve got it, it’s not likely to get worse if you are in proximity with other people who have it too – the main concern is for the staff. I was even allowed to remove my mask to allow me to breathe more easily.

If being bunged up and phlegmy was bad enough, the antibiotics added another layer of discomfort in the form of even more phlegm and coughing my guts out while simultaneously trying to keep myself sufficiently hydrated throughout the day, as the medication felt as if it was drying out my lungs.

The week that followed was a rollercoaster of good days and bad days – no, a better analogy would be one of those “Wurlitzer” fairground rides where the carnies will swing you around faster and faster in direct proportion to your screams – fun to begin with and then you just want to get off, but then you have no idea when the torture will end and you begin to entertain thoughts about being hurled to your death as the ride reaches a crescendo.

By the Saturday the LFT was showing a fainter “T” line that suggested that the virus was on the way out, but any relief was short-lived as the last dose of the antibiotic made me feel worse for the duration of the weekend.

Overall, thanks in large part to being vaccinated, the infection, for me, was on the same level as a bad summer cold with added chest infection – I’ve had worse on two previous occasions, once in the 80’s and then in the 90’s, in the latter case, I had been administered antibiotics of such a size and colour that it made me wonder if the locum GP was a part-time horse veterinarian, and they made feel extremely ill for a few days.

One thing is clear, which is that my mother’s reaction to the virus in spite of her age appears to have been less severe and suggests the efficacy of having a booster vaccination on a regular basis, like the seasonal flu and pneumonia jabs.

Ravi Swami, 2022