The Utrecht-based writer Anne Eekhout is writing special mini-columns about life in times of coronavirus for Thuisagenda Utrecht. We’ve translated them in English for the Home Agenda of MAG Utrecht. 

I’m from a generation that was brought up thinking that exposure to dirt boosts your immune system. It was part of a whole theory. This theory also said that you shouldn’t keep your coat on indoors for more than a minute, because this would render it useless outside. The seasonal viruses would get into the house through the lining. And the bars of soap we used to wash our hands lasted for years and developed brown cracks. You had to front it out with bacteria and viruses, because that would put them off choosing you as a host for their orgy. I suppose it might have been a fable invented by our mothers who weren’t emancipated enough to leave half of the housework for their husbands, but had all the same discovered that cooking and cleaning didn’t bring them the life-long fulfilment they’d imagined. Anyway, I’ve never been a great fan of hygiene.

Enter corona. I had to change a lot of my ways. Even I, as a notorious slob, gradually appreciated the gravity of the situation. But now I’m worried about easing the restrictions. People’s attitudes seem to be easing just as quickly. The packed trains heading for Zandvoort illicit the type of jokes that get removed from Twitter but which you can tell your sister, and in the supermarkets, people have resumed the tradition of kissing each other in passing. I’m no better. Until recently, I did my utmost to press the button for the pelican crossing with my elbow, but now I’ve just gone back to using my tongue. God help us.

Anne Eekhout lives in Utrecht and published her first book Dogma in 2014. It was nominated for the Bronzen Uil, an award presented to the best Dutch debut novel, and appeared on the longlist for the AKO Literature Prize. Her second novel entitled Op een nacht (2016), earned her a nomination for the BNG Bank literature prize. Her third book was published last year: Nicolas en de verdwijning van de wereld.

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