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Viral humour helps Europe deal with fear, boredom of lockdown

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London (AFP)

As European governments moved to lock down their countries to curb the spread of the coronavirus, citizens turned to gallows humour to deal with the anxiety and boredom of their virtual house arrests.

Some shared inspirational quotes, noting that William Shakespeare made the most of his time in quarantine to pen his most famous plays.

Others mocked their own failures to live up to their lofty plans.

"Day 4. 8am: Will use this time in isolation to do things I've always wanted! Maybe learn French? Or read all of Shakespeare? The possibilities are endless!" wrote Irish Twitter user @Michael1979 in his "quarantine diary".

"9pm: Going to bed. Tired after exhausting day of trying on different hats," he later updated.

Instead of encouraging others to use their downtime to explore their creative instincts, some urged caution.

"I know this time of self isolation is hard and scary for people but however bad you are feeling -- please, please don't consider starting your own podcast," wrote Irish user @nicolacoughlan in a tweet liked nearly 100,000 times.

- Footballers join in -

Celebrities also joined in, with Liverpool footballer James Milner playing on his "Mr Boring" reputation to give viral updates of his coping techniques.

The 34-year-old former England midfielder posted images of himself sorting his tea bags one by one as a response to team-mate Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's glamorous video of him dancing with pop star girlfriend Perrie Edwards on their stairs.

"Barrels of laughs here in Milner household as well -- rationing the tea bags for the week," he tweeted on Monday.

One widely shared joke focused on panic-buying, that has seen supermarkets stripped of long-life goods and cleaning products.

"ASDA: 2 hand sanitisers and a 4 pack of toilet rolls. TESCO: 1 hand sanitiser, 500g of rice and 4 pack of toilet rolls; WAITROSE: 1 lobster, 6 quails eggs and 100g of Foie Gras.

"ALDI: MIG welder, a pink sports bra, 2 trumpets and 1 wetsuit."

Those worried about not being able to exercise could try an "olive oil" treadmill by squirting the slippery substance onto the kitchen floor and using the worktop as a support, a video suggested.

Some speculated that locked-down couples might find other ways to keep fit.

"Prediction: There will be a minor baby boom in 9 months, and then one day in 2033, we shall witness the rise of THE QUARANTEENS," joked one much-shared tweet.

Russian football fans dealt with the outbreak with fatalism.

Zenit Saint Petersburg supporters held up a huge banner reading "we are all infected with football and will die for Zenit".

Fellow citizens mocked the Russian government, joking that "upon crossing Russia's borders any coronavirus becomes seasonal flu".

Another popular joke made light of fears over food shortages in the form of a lonely-hearts message.

"URGENT! A man with a supply of buckwheat groats and pasta seeks a woman with a supply of sugar and toilet paper," it read.

- Kids and cats -

Across the west, the younger generation made fun of their inability to deal with food rationing, including in @Michael1979's viral quarantine diary.

"Day 1: I have stocked up on enough non-perishable food and supplies to last me for months, maybe years.

"Day 1 + 45 minutes: I am in the supermarket because I wanted a Twix."

Inevitably, animals became an online focal point, with #QuarantineCats trending on Twitter as users posted their pets -- many of them dressed up -- to boost spirits.

Other videos showed the felines walking over laptops and playing with crucial cables as the reality of working from home set in for millions.

Those with young children faced similar problems. Twitter user Lindsey C wrote that the "biggest takeaway so far, my son's teacher needs a raise".

Others tweeted joke pictures of their children locked in cages or handcuffed, leaving them free to work undisturbed.

Even those without children or pets were having trouble adapting to working from home, with self-discipline a common problem.

"DAY 1: Crisp shirt, fresh jeans, Seize The Day!! DAY 2: Sweatpants, yesterday's underwear. DAY 3: Seriously questions value of showering and shaving. DAY 4: Takes first two conference calls from bed," joked quarantined user @SievertMike.

Through the uncertainty, humour was also used to try and bring some perspective to the strange new reality.

"Your grandparents were called to war. You're being called to sit on your couch. You can do this," @SaraJefry wrote on Twitter.

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