As the world of sport came grinding to a halt day-by-day last week, the festival of paddywhackery that is Cheltenham in March continued on its merry way - and wouldn't you just know it.
People all over the planet are falling sick, but in the parallel universe that is horse racing, they decided to keep fiddling while Rome was burning.
If any industry would be capable of saying 'Let them eat cake', it is this upstairs-downstairs demesne of money and manure. Like children who couldn't bear to have Christmas cancelled, they insisted on having their pleasure at all costs, except that these children are supposed to be adults.
They made a show of themselves at this dog and pony show. The coverage on live television included social butterflies with microphones flaunting Champagne, fashion, diamond jewellery and luxury motor cars.
It was high-end racing's usual parade of expensive horse flesh, wealthy owners, affluent country types, various cash-flashers and hordes of roistering punters.
The latter had turned up to party and to back a few likely runners, but in reality they were all winners: first past the post in the supreme idiots' hurdle, the handicap chase for the tone deaf, the bumper for the wilfully oblivious, the Gold Cup for the gratuitously self-indulgent.
And of course, putting the Paddy into the whackery, reliably as ever, was the usual Irish stag party, slobbering and roaring and swilling porter in their annual performance of Mick Goes Mad in Cheltenham. Only this time, when Mick comes home from Cheltenham he'll be bringing Covid-19 back with him, the gormless clown that he is. And what then, when he wakes up from his holiday in denial, and his stupefying recklessness comes home to roost?
Medical professionals, public health specialists, scientists of this sphere and ordinary citizens back in Ireland have been looking on aghast at this circus of fools and horses. They are frightened by the havoc it might wreak among people, the economy and the health service.
Even in non-emergency times most of us aware that one of the more germ-laden hazards of modern life is the money in your pocket; the fivers, tenners and twenties that are touched by multiple hands in everyday commerce. Even in the era of the plastic card, one can only imagine the levels of bacteria borne on the thousands of bank notes that came and went out of bookies' satchels last week, over the counters of bars and restaurants and shops and fast food joints.
And the top brass at Cheltenham apparently felt that setting up a few hand-sanitizer stations here and there would go a long way towards covering themselves from allegations of negligence on a grand scale. They also emphasised repeatedly that the British Government had not asked them to cancel the Festival - so therefore it was okay to go ahead with it.
Some 60,000 people were packed into the venue each day. Melanie Finn was an eyewitness to the viral carnage on the ground. A journalist with the Irish Independent, she left after the second day's racing, unwilling to take any further risks with her health.
On Friday she published her account. "As the first race beckons on day two, one punter strolls over to the Tote and rummages in a grubby box of bookies' pens as they fill out their slip. Once the race starts, several of them put down their pints and wander over to the big screen to watch it. When they come back, they pick up the nearest glass and begin enthusiastically drinking again, heedless to which vessel they've picked up. Ask any of them about concerns over Coronavirus and you're met with a blank, confused stare as they studiously ponder who has brought the party pooper. 'No, not at all,' said one man before his wife added she hadn't actually seen many people washing their hands or using disinfectant. 'You're probably better off dipping them in a pint of Guinness,' he added. I overheard another man remarking how 'alcohol kills the Coronavirus: drink as many pints as possible'. It was like the last day of the Roman Empire as all care and attention was abandoned for the thrill of a day's racing. This did not alter despite the WHO declaring it a pandemic on Wednesday."
Meanwhile, on ITV and its partner channel in Ireland, Virgin Media One, the outside world did not exist during their daily broadcasts from the track. They were all in happy valley, cocooned inside their own infantile bubble, determined to pretend that nothing was wrong. AP McCoy and Ruby Walsh, the retired master jockeys, are fond of their straight-talking reputations as pundits these days. But they too were playing the game. Nothing to see here, only great horses and great trainers and great jockeys, etc etc etc.
But there was one thing galloping faster than any of the nags on view, and that was the virus.
Walsh's painfully unfunny TV routines with Paddy Power, the blowhard bookmaker, have been running for a number of years now. Power wore out his welcome years ago; Walsh is in danger of doing the same if he keeps carrying on with this codology. Gambling addiction isn't funny but the bookmaker in question seems as oblivious to this reality as he was last week to the sickness stalking the human population.
Horse racing has been losing touch with the public for decades. It never looked more out of touch than it did in Cheltenham over the last five days.
Sunday Indo Sport