A Journal of the Plague Year Day 14

March 31st 2020

The house got a deep clean today. All furniture polished, floors stripped, fabric waterboarded and rugs publicly whipped. The recycling bins are now twice as full as they can take, tottering like Stonehenge due to imaginary collection days -First World problems again, ah how we’ve missed you.

Although a little disconcerting. Are we ever going to see binmen again? Is it a sign of things to come? It starts with a lack of attention to recycling categories and ends in shooting crazed Mad Max grannies from the roof of a local mall.

The govt issued a missive quickly mentioning something about power outages mid-cough, and that we should maybe expect them [/cough]. The minute the internet goes down there’ll be rioting I’m sure. People running into Dixons and trying to grab all router shaped boxes, fusilli phone cords, then eyeing up radios and satellite dishes, like any 80’s disaster movie when they need a looting scene (smashed plate glass, carnival atmosphere, Black dude with shades nodding to a ghetto blaster).

28 Days Later (2003) Directed by Danny Boyle Shown: Cillian Murphy

People are getting fed up of queueing to get into the supermarkets, like exclusive clubs for tracksuited, standoffish couch potatoes, leaning on their trolleys. No one bothers dressing up anymore, which is unlike London, where putting on the lippy to take the rubbish out is a thing in certain circles. And once inside, the exclusivity demands attention -make sure to browse leisurely, maybe take a few selfies with the bogroll, smell every brand of air freshener and try on all the XXL cardies. While the people outside are now heckling NHS staff who get to skip the lines, as was done in Liverpool to a crying nurse after her 13 hr shift. They’re also liable to share fake news that kids will be banned from Asda (dear heaven of God), and that early hour for the aged is game for anyone sporting a sudden limp, or Jim Carrey style impersonation of a chimpanzee. One week in and people are starting to lose their shit.

Business Leaders Converge In Sun Valley, Idaho For Allen And Company Annual Meeting

So the news is Europe has a new dictatorship a la Hungary, approving Viktor Orban’s new emergency grip over power worse than the Communist dictatorship, but in a much more Far Right kinda way, including 8 years prison for being an upstart, and hot on the heels of his previous gem making it an offence to help undocumented migrants. Meanwhile India (the new name for the country is Meanwhile India, it’s reached that stage of geopolitical power where you can’t keep ignoring it, despite most of the people in the world being them) has seen its online youth organise mass food and cash handouts to the millions of migrant workers, many trapped between states and attempting treks of hundreds of km. Although the govt offers free food, shelter and cash, it’s harder to come by on the road.

In the US things are hitting the part of the curve that climbs exponentially, infections in line with the politicking, which is reaching ear screeching levels between left and right as hospitals take the strain, and the long-suffering populace battles through the confusion, pistols at the ready. An aircraft carrier, now stranded in Guam is radio’ing for help as its 4,000 sailors get cosy with corona.

Over 900 died in Spain today, beating Italy for the first time, as it did China’s amount of infected. East Asia is now locking down the air routes, and closing all borders as reinfection stalks the recovery, several provinces in China, reentering lockdown. While the US is offering Venezuela a lifting of sanctions so it can get access to the lifesaving meds and equipment it could easily afford – just so long as they get rid of Maduro hold new elections, and thus give US access to the world’s largest oil reserves, which sounds suspiciously like a mega ransom to me, and a country using death threats as an opportunity. Shocker! People are already massing at the Colombian border, now closed.

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Oh and the stock markets have fared their worst since 1987 in this quarter, the Dow Jones down by 23% and FTSE 100 by 25%. Meanwhile, India is attempting a herculean task: to trace tens of thousands of people at risk of infection from a ‘super-carrier’, a 70 y.o. preacher returning from Italy, now deceased who flouted govt advice and attended a local festival back before they were banned. 550 came into direct contact with him, which has led to 40,000 people in 21 villages now quarantined. I mean seriously, one righteous fucker in the mix and the entire district now feeds through hamster nozzles.

A 13 year old boy in Brixton with no underlying conditions has just died, making him the youngest in the country, but not unheard of. Apparently 1 in 30,000 infections in his age group will succumb. The kid was born in 2007 for Chrissakes. He would have been a 5 year old, just starting to learn football by the time of the 2012 Olympics in his home city.

He started showing symptoms on Thursday, and was rushed to hospital for breathing problems. By Friday he was on a ventilator, then an induced coma, and died in the early hours of Monday morning, just 4 days after his first symptoms. So contagious is C-19 his family weren’t allowed to be with him in his final moments. His name was Ismail Abdulwahab.

A 19 year old died on the same day, once again with no underlying health conditions and ‘very healthy’ succumbing just 30 minutes after being taken to hospital -once again after a few days of symptoms, and only a few hours after his condition worsened. Post mortem was fulminant (meaning sudden, explosive and severe) pneumonia. His name was Luca di Nicola.

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According to data from China the young may be more protected normally because of differences in immune systems -newer, fresher, more likely to overcompensate perhaps (although this shouldn’t really change things with this infection). Older people, who’ve had more experience with other coronaviruses react with a time-worn attack plan, but this version is different from the others, and may be affecting the reaction negatively, making the immune system attack the body alongside.

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Oh, and facemasks. All that official, widely spread malarkey about them being ineffective was meant to be a salve to reserve them for essential workers, but those absolute gems of community who choose to stockpile everything then sell them off eBay got them anyway. While China had been telling people to wear them from the start as precaution, arguing it was airborne back from Feb 8th (something quite hard to prove but that a Shanghai team were convinced). Infection rates can be up to halved using them appropriately. Ah well, shucks. It didn’t help either that when accepting Chinese masks (and test kits) up to 70% of them were ineffective, thanks to some eminently dodgy new companies in Shenzhen, which are now under investigation, not just for jeopardising foreign contingency plans, but China’s too.

People, govts are inept and predatory, and society burns far too quickly. Design by committee, so endemic among democracies and First world individualism -stage villain for wrongly signposted ways, diabolical bureaucracy, stolen misallocated funds, confusing media campaigns and bad graphic design -is now proving deadly.

This I’m sure will be the Autumn/Winter look by next year, or possibly Friday.

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On the home front, it’s been everyone in the house. Strumming from room to room and scrolling, then the cleaning blitz before more of the same. An occasional Netflix session, a phone call here and there, and endless tappety on the laptop. I mean the internet is hard to compete with. Tell a time traveler from the 1950s about this day and age, and the most confusing thing will be the fact you have a rectangle in your pocket that holds all the information in the world, but you use to look at kittens.

I mean just look at the options, for the uninitiated, the unmotivated, the un-arsed. The ones who don’t wake up in a ray of light, bursting with energy (seriously who TF does that?). Who don’t have a home gym/ yoga session to throw themselves into with Joe Wicks. Who don’t cook well, recipe books n everything. Who don’t have gurning, sun flared children for countless hours of fun and board games and reading re-mortgaging leaflets.

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Choosing the Perfect Family Home

Life has become smaller, noticing the littler eddies in this leaking tap of existence. The new toothpaste is leaving bright blue detritus in the sink, like tiny, stubborn anemones. J has put a battery into one of his antique clocks in the living room, and it ticks infernally (every half second) like a time bomb. A sleeps with his earphones now, and iPhone hugged, like a warm, fascist teddy bear. I’ve stopped changing T-shirts, day and night for about 2 days a pop, and stopped caring. I need to cut my toenails. It’s all starting to drift; I’m going to have to unplug. With nothing to report but the reports. Horror films or award winning docudramas are becoming daytime TV, and Oscar worthy screen matinees are background to the sucking glow of the internet. That’s literally it for life right now, internet and films, food in between (baked beans on rice, nuff’ said).

Things I saw today (read: sat through): Mercy Black (banal, cliché-ridden, unscary), that Rome docuseries (Caligula the Utter Cvnt and his licentious siblings), Tiger King (Florida Man strikes again, a sign of what happens when you lack history and culture in your life), and 1917, which I did perk my head up and watch. Heartstopping and heartrending in equal measure, shot in one glorious take -you can see why it was Oscar nominated, though a little harsh on Jerry, who is as likely to murder you as look at you, even when you save him from burning plane wrecks.

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My good friend in Germany is facing trouble in a lockdown, and dreading time with the kid who’ll drive her barmy (14 y.o, that age). She still works in social services, although unreasonably so, providing leisure and sporty options to refugees, which no one really feels is frontline nor essential anymore, including the refugees. She’s also asking about any conspiracy theories I’ve heard (none so far other than a fudging of infection stats) but I do wonder. As of yesterday the UK govt started counting the people who’d died outside hospitals and the tally jumped by a quarter. In Germany they only test the living, which may account for why their survival rates are seemingly the highest in the world.

 

Sweden meanwhile marches on apparently oblivious, throwing caution to the wind as cinemas (though Indy films only, given the dearth of blockbusters, now delayed), schools, shop, cafés and bars still go strong, with citizens picnicking and BBQing on the beaches, parks and beauty spots, dazzling smiles unsheathed. Public gatherings are limited to 50 (down from 500 on Friday), and those over 70 advised to avoid social contact. There is an uneasy sitting between public trust in the experts, and the unfolding horror everywhere else, even just across the Oresund link where Denmark has been in lockdown for nearly a month. It’s the biggest gamble the country’s taken since WWII, back when they were twiddling over whether to let the Nazis through on one side and the fleeing Jews on the other -or why not both at the same time? Sweden is attempting once again, to have its cake and eat it. In a lovely Drottninggatan bistrot with beer and some pals.

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Does life go on if the disaster unfolding, with thousands of dead, goes unseen? Is it normal? What impact on a complicit society will it have -and should ignoring the fate of others ever become cultural? Is it even a new normal? as that has long been the M.O. for much of the Western world in regards to the indentured billions of the Global South supporting our lifestyles the past few hundred years.

Sweden may be the one experiment that all our governments have wondered about.

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Likewise Trump, like a stuck record on his daily Old Tyme Medicine Show introduced a pillow company CEO (who will now start making masks) at the daily press briefing, who then went on to beseech the nation to read the Bible, as well as castigate it for taking the good book out of the curriculum.

“God gave us grace on Nov. 8, 2016, to change the course we were on,” ( referring to the day Trump was elected). “God had been taken out of our schools and lives. A nation had turned its back on God.”

Indeed, God help us all.

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Does March ever fucking end?

Yesterday

 

 

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 13

Monday 30th March 2020

 

Well, I came across this today, that’s doing the rounds on social media. Very heartwarming, and oh so together in our time of collective need. I’ll add a lovely little transcript below.

 

I can’t wait for a year’s time when all of this is a distant memory. And there’ll be a corona baby boom because all the lovers were loving. And there was a rise in small businesses because all the entrepreneurs had a moment of stillness and creativity.

And all the children remember nothing but a time when all the mums and dads were at home drawing and playing ballgames. And be the time we all got to stop and be present.

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We will remember the time when health was the first priority. And we learned new ways to use fresh produce to feed our families. We will remember the laughter and fun on Tick Tock, Facetiming with our friends and family each day.

Date nights in the house and home P.E. workouts with Joe Wicks. A time when our real heroes in the NHS urged us to stay at home for the greater good. And our country showing us hope by turning Wembley and the Angel of the North blue.

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And we were all forced to think outside the box and dream of new things and reinvent old ways. And for once even amongst the chaos there was community. There was a global rise in togetherness. And as the streets were quiet our homes were bustling with love and laughter.

That time is coming soon, just like any other crisis before it. This will all be a distant memory. Things we’ll listen to our children discuss in the classroom that we share with our grandchildren.

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So to you: I know it’s unsettling, but focus on the silver lining. We’re all in this together. And there’s so much beauty to see.

 

Ah bliss, what happy memories. How we’ve all misconstrued this time together as a global catastrophe, when we coulda just framed it as the middle class Western staycay it really is! Yes, laughter and fun on social media, online workouts with hot C-list celebs, our homes ‘bustling’ with love and laughter. No Indian states to cross, no windowless Jo’burg shacks to stand in, no queueing outside US gun shops, no anti-Asian racism, no decision on which Italian patient to let die, no Iranian mass graves to dig, no parents or grandparents to watch succumb, from afar.

At a time when spousal and child abuse levels are skyrocketing, when the internet is saturated with finger-pointing, hate speech and pandemic politicking, when state after state is refusing to help its neighbour, and near a thousand people a day are dying in Italy alone, this may well be all that’s needed. Ah what a breath of fresh air! Let’s sweep it under a lovely chenille rug, all cuddly and warm, the betrayed social contracts, economic exploitation, global posturing, political corruption and massive societal cracks that had always lain beneath, all gone! No matter that the chintz-happy carpet’s now scraping the ceiling.

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Maybe they should do one for the Syrians about long distance hiking, timeless desert vistas, dieting opportunities, natural tans and the great outdoors with daytime fireworks. And the lucky 5% who can afford the average $20,000 for a Mediterranean cruise + tour package after, discovering new cultures and selfie ops across Europe. Whilst playing British bulldog with the authorities and organised crime to the tune of 10,000 missing kids by 2016 alone.

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Or the hale, healthy spirit of togetherness that is the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border right now, where millions of happy hikers are about to embark on a historic reenactment exercise, in memoriam to the holocaust trails of Partition.

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https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/nishitajha/india-coronavirus-lockdown-migrant-workers

As a random snapshot of our socially distant spirit today, word is the EU may dismantle from sheer selfishness given how moot it’s suddenly become: so-designed for precisely these scenarios yet refusing to help when presented. Given that Germany and Netherlands have blocked a rescue package (claiming the Southern states too greasy, too profligate with their spending and can’t be trusted, as they die in their thousands), Italy may well bow out, taking along Spain and Greece.

Retail may collapse en masse around the world, as does the gig economy, a Great Depression, mass unemployment, extremism and instability, while Russia and China look to make headway using the crisis. And the US, like a beauty contestant trapped under a beaching, floundering Trump, made ballast by big business and an army of enablers, don’t even get me started.

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We may all be in this together, but you don’t get to see ‘so much beauty’ by sticking your M&S tote carrying, Sky-subscribing, Hollyoaks-watching, window-twitching, wife-swapping, Mail-reading, Chelsea-supporting, Starbucks-swilling, picnic-making fucking head in the sand, after you took your fam in the 4 wheeler to Dover, against the govt advice. Yeah bring a flippy kite and pretend you’re exercising you highly entitled VIPs.

Now is a chance to change in this reset button, to fight for your livelihoods and your kids’, not believe this is all just another global funnel of experience upon you – just you -to temporarily waylay your Godgiven lifestyle. Yes, how ‘unsettling’ it’s all been. The fact the insecurity and destitution we live in now, is what billions live through as a norm all their lives to supplement and supplicate you. And it doesn’t have to be like that and never did, and we can change it together.

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The earnest, beseeching Geordie accent (voice o the workin people, aye!), brimming with righteousness (imagine her as a proud, overworked nurse) grates to say the least. I think that’s what got me most, the way they picked her and their idea as to what she should embody. Swear to God, they’re targetting people who don’t read.

Someone commented after the vid: ‘Everybody doing their part to help the greater good. I cannot think of anything more British’.

How apt, the white picket walls already outlined as the rest of the batshit diseased battle it out beyond (and on that note the most charitable populace happens to be the Iraqis). Play this to the Syrians, Venezuelans or Iranians, who are fucked to the nth degree without ICUs, masks, scrubs, sanitisers or meds thanks to our sanctions, let alone a billion sub-Saharan Africans and claim we’re in it together, for the greater good. That Joe Wicks puttering about in his pistachio sitting room and denizen to a better you, will lift their spirits.

They could at least have used better examples, rather than the usual offerings catering to our self-serving, facile narcissism, borders drawn.

Gwaaan, pay it forward. I dare ya:

 

 

In short, it is an embodiment of everything that is wrong with our world. That Toon nurse satanic, probably poisoning babies. It’s just too much of a cliché that we mollycoddled Westerners get blindsided to everything, everyone else, even in this circus of shit on our doorsteps, busy laying our scented candles in a trail to the vast sucking arsehole that’s become the bathroom.

Bah fuckin humbug.

Ok, sorry. Really need to get out more. Rant over.

And in other news…

Let’s get closer to home. And breathe.

Yes, people need support. People need a lift, in a time when we’re under house arrest. We need something to look forward to. Even if it is an idiotically entitled video, though a coupla kittens playing with a giant Malteser of shite would have had a greater impact, sensitivity and societal brainwork. Imagine their little mittens all pat pat patting it, trying to get it through the cat flap, that little, little gaawjus little tail, rubbing their lickle fat faces in it! Ah, togetherness.

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On that note, last night was a true, slightly jarring respite.

Thanks to watching Beauty and the Beast (live action version) with an ecstatic J, who has a big thing about objects coming to life and being invested, similar to his antiques work and art degree and everything ever (the fab scene where the operatic armoire jumps off a balcony to battle bad’uns being the best thing that’s ever happened). Doing our best to ignore the dodgy CGI for Beast and Emma Whatserface’s constant earnestness, but the singing and dancing and the fact it was candlelit elevated it into every tealight-burning vigil for world peace. I even took a snap, to show my grandkids one day.

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So yes, thoroughly enjoyed that, cosying up on the sofa like a giant fat dormouse, while cuddling my M&S tote. Flipping channels on Sky Box Bundle Badass News, on the way to catch my Hollyoaks Xmas Special 2004 re-run, I heard 25 million people will fall back into poverty (classed as surviving on less than a fiver a day) in China alone after this month, and that India is now seeing a humanitarian crisis the largest the world will likely ever see again, stories with less hits than the shocking issue that millions of garden centre plants will have to be binned across our great and beautiful land.

Thank you Simon Jack, business editor for the BBC:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-52098436

I hear the Little Mermaid’s next. Can’t wait!

So hey, that’s the way things are. Let’s be together, or maybe let’s not and say we did.

For as a great poet once said:

Down here all the fish is happy
As off through the waves they roll
The fish on the land ain’t happy
They sad ’cause they in their bowl
But fish in the bowl is lucky
They in for a worser fate
One day when the boss get hungry
Guess who’s gon’ be on the plate?
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Yesterday

Tomorrow

 

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 12

Sunday 29th March 2020

March being in Spring is a myth, certainly in the UK. Okay there’s a little more light, and the flowers, uninformed, may start to bloom (the stupid varieties like the tree outside, sporadically attempting blossom since January). But dearie me it’s cold still, and grey, and windy, a constant noise that sings of contagion outside. If anything March is the coldest month, as you look outside and think it warm and Spring-like, then freeze in wind and shadow, wishing you’d packed the furs. As opposed to when it’s an ice storm and you sensibly don more than a tank top. In reality ‘winter is coming’ should be taken up in September, and only relinquished in May, 8-9 months later. Tomorrow they’re changing the clocks, for mainland Europe it’ll be the last time, for Britain we will as always attempt to go it alone, miserably.

Things cannot be possibly more windswept.

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Today has been one of learning for the house somewhat, A has been watching the free ballets from the Bolshoi, now streamed live at 7pm Moscow time -this week’s offering being Sleeping Beauty. The way he sold it was the world’s bestest dancers for 2 and a half hours, who trained and competed every muscle and sinew all their lives, to culminate in a show that’s spent thousands of manhours to prepare and would cost hundreds of squid a head -the least we could do was watch. And sure enough, the exquisite finesse, non-dreary, uplifting music, extravagant costumes and stage were breathtaking. But could we? A lasted about 20 mins, I for 20 seconds. Sorry.

I’m sure if I’d paid the ticket and was there in person I’d be edge-of-the-seat-rapt, my little eyeglasses swivelling like the Neighbourhood Watch in Windsor. But in this day and age of the half-second attention span, the scroll that never stops, the swipe like a tennis game, it’s a lot to ask for. No explosions, dinosaurs, likes or whooping. Culture appears wasted on us.

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J and I lunched through the bite-sized 15 min segs (far more consumer friendly) of the Netflix Explained series, taking in subjects such as diamonds (totally not their worth), billionaires (off with their heads!), animal intelligence (a human-imposed hierarchy whereby we believe they don’t have souls so we get to eat them), and the latest bestseller, pandemics, complete with worldwide authority on the subject, Bill Gates (China, not again). The Guardian has run an article pinpointing the correlation of our recent pandemics and scares with the rise of industrial scaled farming, whereby pigs in Mexico, fowl in China, cows in the UK, and camels in the Middle East, brought up in vast numbers in close proximity are now infecting cross-species, notably us. The 1918 Spanish Flu that killed 100 million came from a pig infected with bird flu and human flu simultaneously, as DNA has sternly pointed out a century later. And not only has modern farming priced out the smaller landholders, it’s also forced them into wildlife hunting (or farming) as seen in China and Africa, where the last homestead on the left, just outside the jungle, is baiting what comes out of it. This is especially worrisome in the Global South due to the higher temperatures, which make them deadlier to humans. One of the main reasons bats are such a vector is that the newly transferable viruses are especially resilient to surviving the cooking of a human fever, thanks to the high body temperatures in the daily life of a furry, flying, madly flapping mouse that covers hundreds of sq km of microbial gardening each night. We really shouldn’t get near the fuckers.

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I’ve also been reading, today my usual collection of Lonely Planet/ Rough Guide travel books from the comfort of an armchair. These guides provide a convenient summarisation of all the best of a given country, culture and cuisine can offer, though of course now they can be shelved under the SF and Fantasy sections, possibly Mythology. India is the current tome, reading up on the carved lakehouses of Srinagar, rife with touts and scams, though ornate gems in a place straight out of a storybook mountainscape, the closest to an Alpine city you’ll get. The 1.5 million inhabitants share a convergent evolution of architecture similar to fairytale Europe – multi-storeyed, ornate wooden houses with steep sided rooves to slide off the snow, plus a plethora of the aforementioned houseboats, which are graded between the floating palaces replete with chandeliers and centuries old chintz to the cobbled-together pirate ships redolent of sleaze. Oh and I remember from a friend who spent a time out there on his way into Pakistan, that weed grows everywhere like, well a weed.

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A is now looking up on the birth of the Renaissance on his tablet, alongside what I glimpsed as the wiki page on Kandinsky, J making notes on the tax breaks in Jersey, alongside the science of the unseen worth of an object. I think we’ve reached that episode of Groundhog Day where we start to improve ourselves for wont of anything to do. We may want to write a treatise on nihilism soon, after that arthouse Italian flick on Nietsche’s genealogy of morality and its edge-of-seat climax when that rape victim (having eaten a meal with nails) looks at the screen and burps, or the bit where the guy is wanking off using a victim’s severed hand. There really is a whole genre of horror arthouse in the 1970s I had no idea about, a bit like Swan Lake’s little-known Human Centipede seg. It’s called Salo, 120 Days of Sodom btw, if you fancy something to watch over tea, directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini, whom Maria Callas was so inspired by she became his stalker, trying desperately to convert him off from 15 year old boys.

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This morning I’d gotten a pretty miserable start, scrolling through the news and getting into arguments, as everyone knows bickering over say, Britain’s shocking roles in the 1907 Constitutional Revolution of Iran plus a sideshow on your ‘horrible pathogens and pangolin stews’ will set you up grand for the rest of the day. They say when you argue with idiots noone can tell you apart. I’ll need that tattooed on my hands as reminder, helpful before I type, punch or press the trigger. Why are right wingers just so toxic, and frankly underhandedly supremacist, in the racist-we-hate-darkies-and-Jewslims-T-shirt-wearing kind of way, in the you-deserve-to-die-because-you-can’t-afford-healthcare-kinda-way?

Why does a side so conspiratorially side with every issue presented? Why do hundreds of millions of female Trump voters denounce the right of choice, or their whole aged demographic wake up one day and feel free healthcare an assault on their freedom, and those outdoorsy voters in rural communities think saving the planet a sudden traitorous conspiracy, ready to shoot Pee Pee the Panda in her face as it’s her fault she can’t shag? Does political chauvinism so overshadow personal choice? How can people be proud of their ignorance, and believe it usurps knowledge, or even the act of learning /enlightenment itself? Once again, arguing with such superstition makes you as ridiculous.

 

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I can see The Right issuing a new edict on say, the colour orange, or say, the act of stapling an envelope being a sign of tree huggin’, lefty, Commie-courting, gun-hatin’, minority-lovin feminazism, and that gold (especially the General Motors variety) and saliva (specifically the C-19 impervious variety) is of the great and good.

Imagine the Great Orange Dolphin that is POTUS, quietly closing the Press Room doors then leaping (backflip) into a bubbling jacuzzi-vat of poppers. He knew from the start evil Orange was the new Black. Yes. He’s never had that colour touch him. No. Tweeting vids of himself licking jiffy bags suggestively, to a chorus of congratulatory shares and an army of forum posting, flag waving, sign posting supporters. Hundreds of millions of them, claiming how orange was written in the Bible as the colour of the damned, how staplers were spotted trying to kill a Bald Eagle, and were first invented in Eye-ran.

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I fell asleep again after a few hours of that, awoke again nearly at 3pm. Lunch at 7. Says it all, when losing track of time is losing grasp of society, when obsession isn’t countered nor measured against. J has fallen asleep on the sofa for most of the afternoon; his spirit animal being the panda for sleeping so much, and his room rumoured to be an armoire of the stuffed variety. Just as mine is currently the sloth, if sloths were antsy (covered in ants perhaps). I feel animals are getting their own back, unintentionally. Or Mother Nature’s real; I imagine like Queen Latifah with lightning.

 

In another world, and one that glowers outside there is a global disaster unfolding. My daily reminder, that is becoming a cliché in this diary. I honestly feel guilty, and callous if I don’t mention the fact, like people taking selfies on a vista as others go over the edge. The world is becoming small again, from the confines of the flat, the four walls that face off that there is anything remotely relevant outside, and so winningly concrete in their obliteration. For a while now it had been the opposite -a haphazard existence of inside looking out. As if the small box rooms are extensions of the self -similar to driving, when the car becomes a body navigating on a broader perspective. But this time on a vast global exterior, projected into our tiny living rooms of live feeds, climbing counters and horrifying headlines from further and further afield, yet closer and closer to home. We’ve not opened the windows today, the only reminder being the howl from outside.

Perhaps we are as blind as those Trump voters, sticking our heads in the sands against personal stance (and which us lefties are just as guilty), and hoping for the best while the target mark on our arse starts to glow. What exactly happened to my community spirit a few days before, ebullient in giving, that’s now decayed into a bed-tied existence with more scrolling? Perhaps for another day, for another to care about.

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In South Africa the flagrant disregard for the quarantine in some parts is seeing the army enter Jo’burg townships, where the poor would effectively be imprisoned in single room shacks for months otherwise, and why many ignore the curfews. Where desperation and situation make a breeding ground for social unrest as well as infection. We, who have a choice of rooms, of outlets and viewpoints, yet blinkered in our existence are not that different after all, even if we are staying inside. Try sitting in your bathroom for two months and see if your stance changes, if your extensions of concern pervade beyond the walls or your body does the talking (and walking). Anyhoo, I’d choose the bedroom, chained as I am right now. Can’t even be arsed to make dinner.

Sometimes there’s nothing more to say, things are as is. It’s cold, it’s remedial, and people outside are dying, as they’ve always done.

 

Yesterday

Tomorrow

 

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 11

Saturday, 28th March

 

Another Bad one.

Wind blowing, grey skies, disaster.

  1. Burnt the lunch, smoke billowing, flat stinking. Pan a write off.
  2. Opened the windows, the blinds came out of socket and the frame collapsed.
  3. Cannot write, stuck on the book that I’ve rewritten into a corner with. Never, ever, ever turn round and try and change tense. Easier if you start from scratch again. I’m just 80,000 words too late.
  4. Lost my wallet. Searched the whole house, emptied every drawer, bag and pocket, stripped the sofa, wardrobe and bed, then did it again. Canceled cards.
  5. Went shopping with borrowed cash, took some pics. New phone won’t synch them no matter what.

In other news, thousands of people are dying outside. Italy has surpassed the 10,000 mark in deaths, over 3x that of China, while Spain is now at 5,700, tombstones whose shadows still loom. Some are saying Italy’s high rate is due to the skewing in the demographics, with one of the world’s most aged societies, while others posit the country’s high end healthcare has artificially kept the populace alive beyond their natural end, and now overrun the disease is all it takes to finish the job. Other sources point toward the testing regimen, or lack of one, and that many, many more are unknowingly infected. Thus the death toll -currently at 10% -seems higher than it is. That virulence is docile.

Coupled with the horror is increasing public unrest, where people holed up for too long and out of pocket (3 weeks and counting) are now breaking into shops for goods. China too witnessed a riot, where hundreds of Hubeians massed at the border with Jiangxi were delayed as both sides argued over who was to do the checkpoint testing (China operates an automated health app for every citizen phone), till police cars were being set upon and overturned. China averages about 200,000 ‘mass incidents’ annually, or about 550 per day as a norm (down from 5x that number in 2007). Either way, it looks like two months is approaching the limit for an authoritarian state, and half that for a libertine one. It remains to be seen what plays out in a US lockdown.

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In India the world’s largest, most encompassing lockdown is now threatened by millions of migrant workers. Although shelter is being provided in the stations and public buildings, alongside free food, a large percentage are still desperate to return home, some embarking on foot for journeys of hundreds of miles. The need of home, of food, of employment, money and semblances of normality is something humanity shares as the world starts to fracture without commercial life. We’ve designed all our societies around this.

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Outside I witnessed my first major queues -Asda looked like a 40 minute ordeal, snaking around the car park, while the giant Boots warehouse was either overtly spreading out its custom, or there were far too many of the sick looking for medication. Even Whole Foods had ten people waiting outside, while Lidl operated no outside queueing, and was moderately busy once in. The streets were the same gunslinging noons, the few pedestrians silhouetted into blankness in the sun. The former shops appeared surreal as reminders of a bygone era.

 

 

The day was tough, harried by self doubt and technicalities, plus the usual burden of tasks and worries. Worries for others, for the outside world, for the endless bureaucracy of the 21st century. From composing claims from multiple email channels, to synching devices and wifi coverage, from aligning margins to uploading data on a compromised OS. Bypassing card payments to future-proofing replacement deliveries, via securitised codes. I see visions of a different time, when people spent time, slow time  with each other, talking without devices, looking without lenses. When was the last time a sitting room was used for two people to just sit?

Attempted to watch Hitchcock’s The Birds, a vision of pastel suspense and porcelain beauty so far removed, where all of that was evident. In the way people talked and interacted, smoking in the sun or across from coffee tables, chatting at communal bars or intimating at counter tops. All so civic, and civilised, before the impending doom. I would have enjoyed more the growing, brooding skies as the feathered furies began to roost menacingly, but the streaming kept pausing, probably due to the high traffic. I do wonder without streaming services what our society would do -mass incarceration leading to meditative insight, or bag of bats madness. I imagine the latter. It’s practically a public service, a lifeline involving frontline staffing and emergency powers. Thank god we don’t have guns.

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The Birds was preceded by Michael Moores new docudrama, Fahrenheit 11/9 (not to be confused with 9/11), on the rise of Trumpist demagogues and the complicit failures of the Democrat demigods, notably a jawdropping skit of an Obama speech, in which he drinks the toxic tapwater from Flint, Michigan (Moore’s hometown poisoned by lead, as befitting of their corrupt senator), to the horror of the townsfolk. How the scales fall from our eyes.

Film tonight ended with Groundhog Day. Nuff said.

Yesterday

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A Journal of the Plague Year Day 10

27th March 2020

Italy today recorded it’s highest death toll, over 900. While the US is now the epicentre of global spread, with the most verified infections. Trump continues to make his frankly sociopathic gestures towards reopening all for business within a couple of weeks, regardless of the skyrocketing cases, the swamped hospitals and healthcare workers succumbing alongside due to lack of protection. The UK Prime Minister tested positive today, as did the Health Minister and Chief Medical officer.

I’ve been inside, gloomed and doomed, writing. Cowed with doubt.

10 hours on the same arm-clawing application, correcting the same chapter, rewriting the same damned passages while my spider’s mind changes and changes back again, changes and changes back again. The technical web of the English language with its four flowing versions of present tense, operative word: tense. Present indefinite, present perfect, present progressive, present perfect progressive/ continuous. I feel a box, tightly wound. In my PJs, in bed, everything I said I wouldn’t be.

Smelly, lethargic yet brain hammering, a drop out from society. Watching telly makes me feel slovenly, the comedies empty farce and lurid, of a different time. Reading an unwelcome reminder.

And outside still it rages, despite the normality of it all, the new normal of windswept sunshine and disparate shadows, where culture comes from a screen, a scroll, a supermarket aisle. Life feels plasticised and time drifts fucking unendingly.

There are good days and bad days, dark souvenirs of one’s past and a clouded future that absorb into skin, and anoint the air like a poison, not dissimilar from our everyday gauntlet outside. My clothes have started to smell today, having not changed the jumper since ever, while outside a strong, unending wind buffets the window frames, like a reminder of a raging outside.

But then something that’s just made me smile. Some crazee laydee’s just started whooping and clapping. It’s 8pm and I’m thinking she got the day wrong, or thinks it a daily thing we get to cheer the healthcare workers and essential frontliners. Noone joined in, she ended like she was slow clapping a bad act. Into the dark, like a lone light on an empty train, going into the mists of mystery, on the mountain of solitude, in an atmosphere of yearning, in a pool of pooling. And a shooting star falls. And a child cries. And a loon calls. In the rain. As a tear makes a shining path. And a whale fucking flippers.

I am not a writer. Will never be one.

Britain is dour, winningly so. It’s not America’s Got Talent. It’s not a stadium filled for a one-man show and a 30 minute build up. It’s not an MV with a pompous 5 minute intro. It’s a bunch of people with a glass of wine and a telly. And tells it how it is. We are far too realistic, which they claim is pessimism.

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27th March 2020.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 9

Thursday 26th March 2020

 

A few minutes ago they started yelling. I thought it was a party, the clapping alongside, and when I went to the window another woman in the old folk’s home opposite was doing the same. We ignored each other (thank God).

The shouting rose, and rose, till I was running to the kitchen for a better view from the tower block. By then it had risen to crescendo with an army of car horns you could hear reverberating across the city; every window in the block opposite had people doing the same, all 24 floors of them standing in silhouette, backlit, most of them alone.

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I found out from J it had been organised on social media which I’ve avoided for days now -that at 8pm tonight there would be applause for the frontline workers, the essential services from healthcare to police, soldiers to postmen. It was quite the sight, especially knowing it was nationwide too. We watched in wonder.

This was of course started in Wuhan where the first lockdown was, from sporadic yells of people trapped indoors for so long, that evolved into balcony bellowing and cheering, encouraging others to keep going. In Italy the same, cheering for emergency vehicles and police vans. It’s times like this we learn the power of community, and the value of spirit in trials of hardship. The NHS has now filled its 450,000 volunteer positions within less than a day.

Italy is hard come by, it’s toll climbed again, bucking the trend of a decline seen in the last 3 days, with over 700 succumbing last night. Rumours are Italy is not just handicapped by the older populace, but the strain is more virulent. News too, that the US will likely overtake both Italy in China within the next 24 hrs, and will become the new global epicentre for the pandemic.

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Today I applied for Tesco jobs, inspired by a colleague now out of work and asking for a reference. I’m only applying for branches that will be reachable, with minimal commuting and thus exposure -it helps that I live next to the world’s busiest train station, so my radius is quite encompassing. There were literally 8 pages of positions for the company alone, all asking for immediate work on a temporary basis.

I’ve made some noises in the way of volunteering, though A says the NHS needs noone any more, and my working is volunteering enough to support my dependents. I’ve offered by CV building and job application services to some of my colleagues who don’t have as good English skills, my first foray into putting my money where my mouthpiece is, rather than endlessly writing about community spirit while popping out to forage, avoiding all contact and coming back with having done anything but purchase goods.

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The streets were sunny, and mostly quiet, though occasionally a bottleneck of a whole 7 people would clog up certain crossroads and shop awnings. I posted off my collection of masks to The Fam (they’d run out entirely of envelopes so had to bop over to the last open corner store), then it was the trundle through Lidl, which had restocked itself post-panic buying. Though of course bogroll and cleaning products were still mythical. Paracetamol was found, like El Dorado in a ray of light.

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A has spent a good few hours on the phone trying to get through to BA (who had charged him twice for a fictional flight), and the jobcentre, neither of which were ultimately reachable. We’ll try again tomorrow. Apparently they’ve been inundated with hundreds of thousands of calls, the latter likely in the millions, so cannot even accept new ones. It’s all left to a Tweet to do the talking, and like everything, everything money related, has occupied a worrisome purgatory of loss.

Yesterday’s film was The Lighthouse, starring that good looking Cedric-from-Happy-Plopper-and-Paul-Daniel’s-Wife-Debbie-McEgg. Him. Plus the vampiric looking Willem Defoe, now haggard in a strikingly accurate 19th Century rendition of a grizzly Newfoundland seadog (they have a similar accent to the Irish), salt o the shanty-shaking blarney sea. An aria in solitude and madness, and how very close to home. The relationship between salty sea master and monosyllabic hired lugger lurches between hate and love, sometimes within seconds, as they increasingly deteriorate into alcoholism and entertaining past demons through their solitude, sometimes to memories of murder, or visions of mermaids and sea monsters (tentacles and all). Heads in lobster baskets, dripping jizz, that kinda thing. All very black and white, shot on a 5:4 format redolent of silent films, for which a great deal of this brooding study is.

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A lonely island (a rocky New England shore), a haunted past and present, a backbreaking, mindbreaking roster, littered with secrets and intrigue, notably the semi-mythical light in the house itself, like a glowing gemstone. It doesn’t end well. Perhaps neither for us.

The performances of these actors are astounding, studded with rambling monologues that become increasingly poetic, ad hoc craziness and a certain sexual tension. I was glued to it. I wouldn’t call it enjoyable, but is one to savour, rather like a storm. Bat down the hatches; the city is once again, unearthly silent at 8:55pm.

Today’s offering was Gemini Man, starring Will Smith and Will Smith as himself, clone wise, and thirty years younger. From the start, the predictable hi-jinxing of hi-fiving US spies acceptably murdering foreign subjects, (the typical Hollywood East Europeans, casually evil -you can just tell as they sit in awkward, unshaven dourness on intercity train journeys) and the usual ludicrous examples of American heroism (pinpointing a single passenger on a packed HSR from a couple of miles away, dodging hundreds of bullets hippo-sprayed by trained marksmen). Oh and a British villain, of the craggy fifty-something suit and tie variety. Plus one of the spies is female, brilliant and beautiful (ssshhhooocker!) erm and at uni, where she’s studying Marine Biology, like most American students do. Will Smith Jnr is sometimes quite accurate, other times a cringey CGI mould, gurning over a plasticised trajectory, as are the fightscenes, the kind where they speed things up a little too much and it looks like Tekken. Oh Ang Lee, master of suggestion and cinematography, where did it go wrong? I mean Hulk shoulda been a lesson.

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But hey, worth the respite. Nothing like a bitta mindlessness and killing to get you not thinking about the mindlessness and killing. Dinner has deteriorated – cold rice, soya sauce + sesame oil, and hammy garlic sausage slices. Took a whole 40 seconds to prepare, and about the same time to consume in front of the box, eating and watching baloney. Must try harder.

I don’t know what isolation does to people, but the message is clear from Hollywood so far, put any two people together and they will compete, and make life Sartreanly hellish for each other. I do wonder if there will ever be a film without the struggle, about say two people being plonked on an island and just getting along. No giant apes, no sharks, no killing piggy. No bloody social stereotyping. The Netflix reality series, ‘Terrace House‘ does just that, whereby they get a bunch of Tokyoites from disparate backgrounds into a household, who aren’t lugged with pressing personality disorders or diametrically opposing political views, who aren’t say a lion pride holed up with some sassy zebras. And hey presto! They chat, show their fears, their heart, and fall in love at their own pace. Not Love Island, not Big Brother (of whom the German and Brazilian editions only found out about the pandemic a few days ago).

If I wrote a book where Once Upon a Time They Lived Happily Ever After would anyone even pick it up, let alone actually enjoy it? If there was no global crisis, would I even be writing?

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Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 8

Wednesday 25th March 2020

 

Day 2 of the lockdown and the fridge is already looking depleted. It’s sunny outside and the world seems beckoning. Unbeknownst to most there is another worldly drama playing across the seas, that many just aren’t interested enough to click on, and the fact one third of the global population is now in lockdown. India has just entered a nationwide homestay as of last night  -the world’s largest social undertaking in history, over nearly 1.4 billion citizens.

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https://www.vox.com/2020/3/24/21190868/coronavirus-india-modi-lockdown-kashmir

The lack of warning meant panic buying across the country, even in small villages (giving adequate warning means hundreds of millions will head to their hometowns, thus largely negating the effect of what a lockdown is meant to instill, as seen in the droves of students who fanned out from Lombardy and spread the virus across Italy when word got leaked). Narendra Modi’s govt has sanctioned some of the most timely and forward thinking measures long before other countries cottoned on, including the preemptive closures of its railways, highways, 80 of its most major cities and early banning of gatherings, events and religious services. Indians today are waking up to a few shops open, a few vendors, and spraypainted rings on the ground, where people will have to queue 2 metres apart when buying. Also already complaints about overly overt policing, insofar as essential workers are being hassled trying to reach their workplace and food startups are dumping their inventories as delivery trucks are forced to turn round. Many more fear sheer starvation, and a distinct lack of healthcare options in many states, although the government is bailing out free grain, dairy, unemployment benefit and hard cash hand-outs for those without bank accounts. Those who live in slums are also mentioning social distancing is all but impossible, where nearly one fifth of urbanites live, many of whom opted to stay despite free housing on the outskirts (some slums generate over a $1 billion annually from sheer entrepeneurship). In contrast to some southern cities where quality of life is on European levels, others in the north are still entrenched in the Third World.

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https://qz.com/india/1047419/bangalore-turns-bengaluru-the-birth-life-and-descent-into-dystopia-of-indias-most-liveable-metro/

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https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/mumbais-biggest-slum-dharavi-bustling-micro-econom/

Take all this into account and imagine the scale of the undertaking, of the shared experience. Uttar Pradesh State alone accounts for 200 million people, where some rural areas report one ICU for 3 million. Take the counties of our own green and pleasant land, one of the world’s densest despite, where 50 million people fit into an area the size of Maine, or Sri Lanka.  Think of Cambridgeshire, Devon, Yorkshire. Well if you divided India into similar sized catchments, there’d still be 2,452 of them. If you gave them first names, like say, Bill and Ted, you’d have a problem dubbing them all without heading into Chardonnay-Lou-Lou, or Gugu-Mbatha territory. If every second was half a million people -in short an instant city you’d have to police, feed, shelter, wage and nurse for 3 weeks for, you’d be sitting there for over 40 minutes. If you counted every Indian person sitting under lockdown right now, swiping right for each of their smiley profile pics -let’s say a second for each -you’d be there for 44 years, and your arm would have eroded away back in 2050.

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Premise of a horror movie satire if ever I saw one, a Tindr/Grindr fanatic chained to feverish possibilities. On that slightly jarring note, all that is also out the window. J, an occasional user, has mentioned how traffic is down, yet people are still up for social undistancing, and swapping body fluids, albeit some are more cooperatively marking meet-ups as future red letter days, on their fireman calendar. A Facebook friend has taken screenshots of his great one-liners du jour, ‘hey, lets get coughey together’, ‘Babe, I’ll take your breath away’. We kinda need that humour in our everyday I feel, despite acknowledging what is going on abroad, in town, right next door. Let’s not forget to help out in our blinkered isolation, and barricades of personal prioritising.

250,000 have so far volunteered to help at least a single day when the NHS called out. China, South Korea, Cuba and Russia are now sending testing kits, masks, medical teams and ICU’s across the world, including to the US. New Yorkers are setting up their own mask factories at home. When Texas refused to instate a lockdown, each of its 254 counties ordered their own. Iran has freed 130,000 non-violent prisoners, including political ones, amid an army of hundreds of thousands of volunteers disinfecting the streets and helping in the hospitals. In Italy 8,000 doctors have volunteered – 5x more than the state had sought, and despite nearly 10% of C-19 cases -over 5,000 -being healthcare workers.

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In other news Prince Charles just checked in as positive. Along the lines of global, candle-burning vigils for Tom Hanks and his wife, oh and Linda Lusardi, plus the world-igniting excerpts from Madonna on how great an equaliser the disease is. Poor Charles, even A is worried about the Queen who he’s not a fan of and is not a subject to, but I’ve assuaged him that her London pad has 660 rooms to distance herself in, and her current hidey-hole in the country over a thousand.

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It’s not like I hate them. I just don’t have enough tealights to care that much if they got ill, and definitely not more than anyone else. Like a neighbour’s pet on its way to the vets, claiming that oh, they had a good run. And one littered with racehorses, yachts, gala balls, servers and corporate sponsorship.

 

Yesterday’s film was Knives Out. A timely, nail biting study on an odorous family fighting over a huge inheritance, with a murder thrown in. High camp and intrigue, and ticking off our boxes on getting our back on the class divide, our hero the servant girl /nurse, while James Bond does a ham act in so deep a Southern drawl you’ll need subtitles. The comeuppance for any Hollywood villain is always one to be savoured, but so delicious is this turning of tables I do question as to what so spices it so. The idea of fairness, of equalising the curve, and setting right from wrong. Coupled with a superiority of emotional intelligence (EQ), and I think a dash of mob mentality where we the manky droves take down the exalted statues lording over us, who’ve long been rubbing our pug noses in their feeds and plinths of enablers. The rich are portrayed as the emotionally asinine, the greedy, the shallow, the judgmental and cold, but are we not following the same time-worn paths in doing the same when their time comes, if ever it does, at our hand? If our current climes are so great a leveller why are we still clicking on those stories? And still denigrating them?

And on that pressing social subject, what is inheritance tax these days?

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Am watching The Platform on Netflix, a Basque horror and thinly veiled lesson on society, in which people lured from a nightmare job interview enter varying stages of survival – the rich at top enjoying a table of luxury, while 250 levels beneath they fight over the slowly decreasing spread as it makes it’s journey downwards. At the bottom they murder and cannibalise, at the top a fascist restaurant punishes the staff if a hair is found out of place, notably in the canapes. In between people fight, kill, hallucinate and gorge on intrigue to climb upwards, alongside the question as to whether they alone are responsible for their crimes or it’s the greed of those above, or the system entire, or their administrators. Some inmates attempt to civilise their wants, picking only a few titbits off, only to watch others stuffing their faces on the floor below, stripping the displays, breaking china and stepping on gateaux, as seen in contemporary scenes over supermarket bogroll.

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That is until someone pleas to instill a portion rationing and spread the word, to which all ignore. Only when another threatens to shit in the plates does it work, and all get equally fed, bottom downwards anyway. Thus from anarchy / capitalism is borne fascism/ communism, positive feedom and negative freedom, each one diametrically opposed yet sharing similar values.

Solidarity or shit. This has got to be one of the most apt films of our time, and hopefully not a snapshot of 2020. The bit where the nice lady suddenly shat on the face of the social climber, well I’m not looking forward to that.

I’d mention something about eating flatmates too, but right now that would just be bad taste.

 

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