A Journal of the Plague Year 2020

Wednesday 18th March

Today I woke to the same routine these past few weeks, increasingly set every time I opened my eyes and reached for laptop or phone. Then to scroll bleary-eyed through the news of ratcheting tension, emblazoned in headlines on school closures, lockdowns, crashing markets, panic buying and ghastly figures updated every hour. They say the higher a death toll gets the less people can conceive it, the scale of destruction getting more abstracted the worse it is. I don’t think it applies here, in this instance where we’ve tracked the gradual rise into exponential reaches that double every three days. The lists of countries multiplying alongside, the imagined scenarios fueling a sense of global doom.

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At one point last night, after watching a mindless action movie on Netflix (Pacific Rim II, lurid, banal, unlikely to have a third) I stopped and my ebullience suddenly ebbed. Was this the end of times, was I unlucky enough to be living now? A once in a lifetime experience they say. But then we should remember that millions have had this same clouded prospect, not just clouded but tornadic – Syria, Iraq, Yemen, DPR Congo, Libya, South Sudan as society was whipped away around them. These conflicts prove just as abstracted to this day, when we are a mere spa break in comparison of worry and anguish, and the uncontrollable, unaided death of your loved ones.

sLIS2017003D | Aleppo After the Fall

My partner A is now out of work as of yesterday, my flatmate J awaiting his fate in an announcement today, where he works as head of silverware in a West London auction house. We drafted a letter to the agency about our situation and their avenues of support available for us not being able to pay the rent in these trying times (yes we used that phrase, at J’s historicist suggestion). They must be inundated. Then it was the phone call home, that phone call I’d been dreading all day, to find out the situation with The Family. Mum, 77 and still working in a factory, in part to support my sister (long story, do ask) may be quarantined as high risk for up to 4 months according to the government advice, or should I say, hint of what is soon to be imposed. My other sister in the process of moving back to the UK from the Netherlands, and possibly also out of work. Well, that escalated quickly. Almost overnight faced with the prospect of four grown dependents plus myself on the one wage.

Thankfully, although the Natural History Museum closed its doors yesterday for the foreseeable next two months, I will still be paid. Turns out so will Mum, and my sister in the Netherlands. She started her own company in science writing (I’ll just namedrop Atria Communications here) and is working with the disease experts, and now mobile. The acronym WFH has become suddenly relevant and widespread -though commonly misread as WTF, it correctly shares the same impact of the word. So down from a possible four to just a plus one. I should be very, very thankful, I’m lucky enough to be waged with the government, and my mother and sister are in the science sector.

Most people I know are not so lucky, living from paycheck to paycheck, often abroad from their homelands and familial support. It’s stark how very quickly the gig economy has been so exposed to economic ruin, not to mention the fragility of property bubbles and rental market. Notably in London where no one working, middle or even upper-middle class can realistically afford to own a property, unless you like converting a walk-in closet, complete with a shower under your bunk bed that dribbles onto the toilet. Or a bed-in-shed in Slough, one in a rash of tens of thousands now hidden throughout London’s leafy suburbia of illegally built, money-making favelas. Thus a vast proportion rent their abode, and a vast proportion are now looking at homelessness. How did it come to this?

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I saw four homeless people today, three I suspected of being the variety who beg but find sheltered accommodation at night (appearing well fed, dressed, clean, I know a roster of them), but one who was genuinely sleeping in a streetside alcove, wreathed in soiled camping gear. I have no idea what will happen to these people. I also saw the very old, frail, and the heavily disabled, all of them on their own, clutching empty bags on the way to the shops, and the circus that awaited them. Yesterday a woman in a wheelchair blocked everyone from getting baskets as she tried to get her goods into one (she was buying a large houseplant, I have no idea what for), but I almost caved right there and cried. I helped her out, but later heard others asking her if she was okay. Thankfully there’s still that. The mood was tense, every face deeply serious from staff to shoppers alike, but no one busting out into arguments, slappy fights or racing down the aisles, nor complaining about the epic queuing or emptied shelves.

The people are panic buying -game theory really, if one person does it everyone else has to, or they’ll lose out. Then we complain about everyone else, like how we moan about the traffic while sitting in it ourselves, or how the lovely tourist sites are overrun with tourists these days, as if we have a privilege to experience it over any given member of that yappy, sportswear-laden tour. These days is a potion of concern, for ourselves, our families and the disadvantaged, in an uneasy mix of conflicting priorities, as we go for that last toilet roll, as we see the pensioner standing destitute behind us.

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The UK government, to much fanfare, had recently announced it was following an experimental policy of mitigation rather than extending the containment stage. Hence why, in contrast to our European neighbours, there has been no lockdown, not of schools, of pubs, of gatherings, of farming festivals and horse racing stadia, of incoming visitors, or people in general when it could have made a difference. Despite that China already provided an MO in the form of Hubei Province, roughly the same size and population of the UK, that has proven to work, where we can learn from their open-sourced mistakes and successes. However one of these scenarios also happens to be cheaper on the economy – for all the talk on  ‘sombrero flattening’ no measures have been taken to effectively do so, as yet:

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The proven path so far is lockdown, infrastructure to feed that lockdown, ICU’s, and draft hospitals, with strict quarantining (where the staff get suited up 2 or 3x over, and no object entering those wards can ever leave again, hence why many healthcare workers had to buy new phones to discard later). It saved China, but took out two months of its economy. Britain seems to have tried to have its cake and eat it in contrast to the rest -to let the infection move through the populace while the elderly would be housed away, thus saving the bedspace. However, the Imperial College yesterday released its models on what this would result in, to both the UK and US govts it advises, alongside publishing it to the press. Over 200,000 dead and a healthcare system overrun to the scale of 8x over, and possibly 10x that for the States. This is why the government is about-facing to change tack once again, and why a lockdown is likely to be imminent.

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I cashed in an electronics voucher today, £100 worth, to buy an upgraded phone I didn’t really need, but in order to save my purchase should that company tank during the lockdown. Everyone in there was doing the same. The three workers were gloved up to the max, and wiping down everything passing over the counter, while thrash metal played apocalyptically. A young Spanish guy bought the phone I wanted, his old phone recently kaput and having little choice but to buy a new one before his replacement could be sent (if ever it would reach him), in a time when he could contact family, and where communication would be the last link that cannot, should not fail, no matter what.

Trying times indeed. I often think of what is important to me in life, often. Everyone is saying it’s like a film. Yet this is not so much a Hollywood disaster with gung ho renegades, rousing speeches and wavering flags in the background, to fistpumping and flowering explosions  -rather it’s more a surrealist study in existentialism. The world is increasingly looking black and white, and poignant. I’m not looking forward to an increase in pace, though admittedly holding out for a Deus ex Machina (my First World privilege right there) to throw some contrived lifeline. We can but hope, to Keep Calm And Carry On.

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Just try not to remember that the phrase was dreamt up by a wartime government facing imminent invasion and, unknown to them, the planned execution of the entire adult male population. Thankfully that never transpired, and if we keep our heads level and remember we’re not facing Mad Max or alien armies here -and at worse 3% mostly will succumb at or beyond their given life expectancy anyway -we can get through this together. Game theory once again applies: help out your neighbour or stranger, and the same will likely happen to you or your loved ones wherever they may be. But know this, we’re in this together whether we like it or not. There will be forces, currently garish in the press pointing fingers between countries, races, candidates, exacerbating desperation in desperate times, but we need to collectively fight from the same ground against a common enemy. Hand washing, WFH, WTF, losing support networks, social distancing yet looking after those in need have all already united us in a collective experience, we just don’t need more rule and divide. And neither should we enable the pathologically inclined who do so -those on the sociopathic spectrum in power or with a podium, cannot help it, bless em. We however can. Don’t feed those clicks.

In short, we have enough on our plate for going political or divided right now (if we must, we can enjoy all that later). By all means, exert your pressure, demand, let your voices be heard when things are found wanting, but do the finger-pointing later. Let’s just get through the damn day.

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Last Entry

New Year’s Day 2021

Personally when I look back on the year it can boil down to how Hollywood sells every flick, as dictated by the screenwriter’s bible. The formula of each film no matter what the book is, whether it’s the Bible or Moby Dick or the Avengers, which might as well be the same story in different costumes. You know there’s a film out there in all this; money just has to be made.

Stage 1: Premise of struggle

The outlook on the disease in the depths of winter. The world on tiptoe, the unfolding horror. Will we survive? Shelves at the supermarket start to empty.

Stage 2: Incitement

The disgusting, uncivilised practices of the evil Chinese, The Party hellbent on a cover up. The equally disfiguring racism, spitting and snarling on the streets, from the tweets, in the news. Online calls for war. Trump as lightning flashes in the background.

Stage 3: A brave new world

The building of field hospitals, mass graves, food handouts, panic buying, bog roll bandits, flights grounding, markets crashing, borders closing… lockdowns, country after country. Clap for heroes.

Stage 4: Almost a kiss moment

A grey world -everyone miserably WFH or furloughed or with universal credit or protesting with BLM, and allowed to go out once for exercise (and maybe hang out in the park all day with some mates and lots of beer). Wait. Is this… is this… enjoyable? Is this… life? Flowering.

Stage 5: Midpoint

Watching the sun set on another balmy day, walking home alone thinking on things, news, life, family, love, boredom. Noticing that weird dog, carrying a man’s hand in its jaws. Thinking nothing more of it. Then Back To Werkkk FML. Back to life, back to reality.

Stage 6: Point of no return

Shit, autumn! Oh look, it’s lockdown again. Did someone say new strain? Deaths, starting again, Trump starting again, more lightning.

Stage 7: The twist.

Biden just won. Vaccine is announced.

Stage 8: Climax

It’s Christmas! It’s New Year! It’s Love Lies Bleeding! It’s Death All Around! It’s worse. It’s a terrible new mutation, zombies n everything. Bodies through the roof.

Stage 9: Resolution

Vaccines. Vaccines by the millions. Vaccine vaccine vaccine. Biden blesses everyone. Oh, and in other news, back to work tomorrow.

We are of course not at stage 9 yet, but in Hollywood years, that’s how it ends. Finishing on a sunset and people walking as the camera rises to take a vista of the world being normal again, someone selling balloons, possibly doves taking flight.

I look back on the first day I started the blog. At a moment just after watching some enjoyable film and feeling blissful (rare for me). Then suddenly the jolt of memory, of the here and now, the realisation. Would this be it -the end of days? Was I unlucky enough to be one of the people born to see it? Imagining the breakdown of society, the journeying across unforgiving lands for loved ones. Then that first trip out to the supermarket in a silent world, watching every handle, holding every breath and wishing for PPI. Each street windswept, each infrequent face grim, nearly bursting into tears when passing the more vulnerable -homeless, disabled, the very old and alone, clutching their bags.

The world had become that surreal mix of fantasy and history playing out, filmic even -relationships changed, objects looked different. Even the light itself either flickering doom from a screen, or corroding everything with the threat of infection, whistling at the windows. So strange to look at our former lives now alien and distant only a few weeks before -nothing had been set up for this: infrastructure, money, careers, priorities, regimens, lifeplans that no longer made sense.

Then slowly, the relinquishing of the doom when realising shit was still holding together, the decision helping greatly -and gratefully – that the museum was furloughing us. Enough to keep myself and A, now without work and no access to universal credit, housed and fed. To still be able to send money back to family. That the food shops still opened, that no one was busting out into barricades and Mad Max. This, the slinking into the new normal. The first foray into empty streets and shops, and looking for a life without shopping, that first clapathon, that addiction to screens.

In turn hit with the sunniest month the UK ever recorded, in May. And segueing into a summer of picnics and hanging out, night walks by the river -I’m positive many people will have fond memories, especially those growing into adulthood (before more shit comes their way), clogging up the trees with guitars, boomboxes and blankets. Not just them but the cross-fitters tearing up the bridleways with gurus doing yoga to swaying flowers, the families under leafy bough and everyone drinking up the streets. It was interesting to see how zones started manifesting themselves in the local Common -society as usual self segregating: the teenagers by the copse, the picnickers and partiers on the lawn, the sporty and fit slap bang in the middle. The new gay village decamped from Clapham High Street to the fountains, while the loners and tokers on darkened benches, watched a dying sun. And what a sky-stunned summer it was.

It is a decision one perhaps doesn’t consciously make, but happens one day: to stop caring. To delineate that line between your bubble and so many others. Despite the times, the virus deaths (albeit lowered to all time lows) it was a reflection of society as it’s always functioned -tutting at headlines or momentarily sad on others’ tragedy. Only when it does effect our own do we put our everyday things down, and redress those priorities furnishing our lives amidst the competition. But I mean, what is one to do? Stay in, close the curtains and spend your days grieving for no one you knew, to no avail? Do we have enough on our plates to not do so? Maybe we shouldn’t beat ourselves up, because we imagine others will if we won’t.

The NHS filled an estimated 500,000 positions for volunteers within a day after a call to arms (and 3 million in total). As it turns out they were barely needed if at all, as the health system managed to stay below capacity, and even the giant new Nightingale Hospital only ever saw a handful of patients. But I do wonder, how many of us would ever have turned up? I’m sure at the start of the crisis yes, but by the unofficial, unmissable, once-in-a-lifetime summer of love, perhaps not so much. Now, with the number of sick climbing stratospheric, it may well still come to pass.

And I know so many people where that experience was not the same. People genuinely grieving for loved ones, or destitute from lost employment, hounded by anxieties on top of the usual. Mental health has most definitely come to the fore as an issue, with many still alone and coping. It was not all fun and games all summer, in crisis after crisis. It’s said suicide increases in the sunniest days, as everyone else gives the impression of having so much glorious fucking fun; likewise Christmas.

Normality returned by August and September, vanquishing those heady days. I can’t say much about Autumn, a return to work that’s so catastrophically small-minded in every way possible I’d rather just, not. Nothing happens there but my depression, their judgement and our competition. Hell is other people.

Everyone pretending to worry and look crestfallen when announced we were again entering closure for lockdown, but inside jubilant as butterflies on pills, heading out.

Not just one lockdown but two to follow up, after a few weeks respite in between. Fast forward to now and it’s cold again. Everything’s falling apart. The lightbulb’s gone in the hall, the ones in the kitchen flicker interminably to the point of seizure -you literally can’t switch them off due to the buggered switch, and they burn all day, all night like a bad, bad disco. The heating’s shit and hugely expensive, stuck with old fashioned heaters that do nothing but spout bills and accidents -the one in the lounge also has the switch stuck (melted inside -no really), and the room’s now sealed off a tomb so cold you can see your breath. I lie in bed all day freezing.

I fucking hate London sometimes, beautiful and cosmopolitan as it is, yet how uber capitalist beneath. Like exclusive islets and vicious undercurrents in an outwardly inclusive, celebrated river that is the landing port of hope to so many. If you’re not rich you suffer for it -outside a world entire to the domestic, and the four corners one affords to call their own. Whenever things break down I’m reminded how poor we are, after decades trying to get on the first rung, any rung. In all this -we planned our lives wrong. I know I moaned a lot, but the poverty I didn’t really touch on. Thankful at least to have a wage.

Xmas has come and gone, lovely as always despite starkness without the clan, as has New Year -fizzle pop of no parties across the board, though everyone did some secret fireworks shopping it seems. Missed the family all year, now jobless and watching tv in their furnished prison I send parcels to in a hope it’ll relieve their imagined drudge. There is a level of pain one feels on behalf of another, amplified by worry and the inability to ever really know what they’re feeling or how they’re really doing. The disconnect of our separate bodies and minds that is this dimension, exacerbated aptly by social distancing. Miss A too, who lives in the kitchen now (even with the schizolights). But stop. Stop.

Still alive, it always helps. My motto to die for. It’s not all bad, and it’s not all been bad. It’s been quite the experience of life, and all that life can afford, equally wonderful and shit, to finish that damn quote by Samuel Johnson. And Karen eat your heart out -live, laugh and love, so much fucking love.

I do miss this city. It’ll be back.

I think it’s time to bid adieu. Things will go back to normal this coming new year, new you. Even if it is back to the same old same old, at least people all around aren’t dying for it. I look at the stats at the mo, the new strains viciously seeing infection rates treble despite the lockdown and only the other day near 1,000 deaths in the country, a shade shy from the 24hr record in April.

But the glimmer is in the vaccines now rolling out, slowly for some faster for others, but enough to innoculate the world. Just how fast for us on this small, forgotten island with the deadliest strains? Though at least less likely to take all of humanity down across the waters -that continent now ever more foreign as of New Year’s. We’re no longer in the EU.

The year will be a turning point likely too, for capitalism, for globalisation, for universal basic income, for working from home, for retail, for office, for tourism, for socialising and entertainment, for mental health awareness, for social justice, for faith -or the fall from it. For the changing face of our world, its new icons and the breathless rise of computing and streaming and social media and AI into our lives. For race, for politics, for borders and economies. Entire regional blocs have changed, wars have been fought, societies heaved. And through all that, I think the main thing this year has taught -you gotta love people, even the slightly shit ones, as we’re all we really have. Each other.

Oh and books. And horror flicks. And noodles. And trifle. And blankets. And werewolves. And staring out the window watching pigeons. Perhaps naming them. If you got no one just fucking enjoy that fact, and yourself. Another thing I’ve learned this year, make the most of it -everything really’s an opportunity, tobogganing through shit and sparkles, and we’re on the fucking ride anyway.

Thanks so much for being with mine for a bit.

Again, love. Lots of it. x

Now there’s a funny noise outside, barking. I think it’s a fox.

Yesterday

Lockdown 1

Lockdown 2

Lockdown 3

A Journal of the Plague Year 3.0 Day 15

31st December 2020

Happy New Year! Have been putting this off for a while. How to sum up such a year? The end of days indeed.

In a nutshell, we have over the months become experts in a new lexicon, and self professed mini-scientists in the making. This pretty much exemplifies how much we collectively as a species have gone through. Dictionary.com interestingly enough made pandemic the word of the year. Oh why, pray fucking tell? Well, let me light you the way, down a magical mystery path.

Coronavirus – a family of respiratory viruses that are studded by a crown-like (hence corona) surface, that attaches to other cells. They include in their bosom buddies the common cold and flu.

Corona – the bestselling beer that nearly went bust a month into the pandemic. No, really. Never underestimate the stupidity of humanity.

Covid-19 – the name of the beast, dubbed in the month it was found. Coronavirus December 2019. It’s killing millions of people.

Asymptomatic – not having the obvious symptoms of the disease despite having it.

Anti-vaxxers – nutters who don’t believe in vaccinations or see it as a threat. Unbeknownst to us it’s really an injection of microbots that will further enslave us to our reptilian overlords, such as Bill Gates and Hillary Clinton. The virus btw was started by 5G, a world changing spell sent out by dalek towers stationed surreptitiously throughout our towns and cities.

Anti-maskers – sociopaths. The stupid.

Antibody test – testing to see whether you have remnants of the disease after overcoming it.

Antigen test – to see whether you currently have it.

Bat soup – apparent evidence China’s cultural practices spread the virus, from a meme in which a Chinese presenter eats bat soup. It was the national dish of Palau in Micronesia, from a travel vlog filmed three years earlier -not a Chinese delicacy. She said it tasted like chicken.

Bleach – Leader of the free world, President Trump’s miracle cure to flush out the plague from your veins, that he worked out live on teevee. Something the world’s top scientists, and everyone else on the planet had never thought about and was lying undiscovered in everyone’s home! People died taking it. Really stupid people.

DNA – the building blocks of life. Like really, really tiny lego.

Genes, genotypes, alleles, epialleles, epigenetics, phenotypes, chromosomes, base-pairs, diploids, heterozygotes, single nucleitide polymorphism -erm, new types of Pokemon.

Epidemic – a major localised disease infecting large amounts of people

Endemic – something we’re stuck with like, all the time. Like Elsa from Frozen.

Pandemic – a disease that circulates globally. The Daily Mail.

Human to human – a transmission type that means we’re fucked.

Doomscrolling – reading through depressing news.

Face mask – the must-have look of 2020.

Flattening the curve – keeping infections spread out over a steady period -and low enough for a health system to accommodate. Aka sombrero flattening.

Frontline workers – came to mean those still working through the pandemic, at risk of their own lives to keep society functioning. From doctors and nurses, pharmacists and police, to supermarket workers and rubbish collectors.

Herd immunity – whereby so many people within a given population have had the sickness and thus have a certain level of immunity, it spreads less due to a lack of hosts. It then becomes a more low lying threat, similar to flu.

Hydroxychloroquine – the malaria medication suggested as a cure in the early days, touted by President Trump and bought up in its entirety by the US govt. Before they found out morbidity actually rose after taking it, and several people had poisoned themselves too.

ICU – Intensive Care Unit. Big, bulky, expensive equipment and machine needed to save lives. We don’t have enough to cope with a full blown pandemic, anywhere. For a while, along with PPE, they traded as a currency between nations, with some even robbing from each other.

Intubation – the bit where the ICUs are breathing for you, via tubes inserted into your nose and lungs. It marks a serious stage of an illness.

Lockdown – when everyone supports Netflix.

Pangolin – the cute scaly animal that rolls up, and that genomic sequencers found a 99% match for in the virus DNA. In short at some point it passed via bat to pangolin.

Panic buying – the communal spirit in Asda, any day of the week, any time of the year, any year.

Patient Zero – the first person to get the infection.

PPE – Personal Protective Equipment -stuff that keeps you more protected from infection, eg. masks, gloves, sanitiser, goggles.

Rona – our loveable, affectionate name for the infection that’s fucking the world.

Quarantine – a quick GOT re-run.

Racism – the inherent way humans see each other, with kneejerk distrust and superiority, especially when things go wrong, someone feels threatened, competitive or with low self-esteem.

R number – the rate at which the disease spreads. If it’s R1 an infected person on average infects 1 other person. If it’s higher than that (eg R1.3) the number of infected will rise for longer, and spread further. If it’s say R2, expect the number of infections to double (and without measures, start to climb exponentially, doubling again). The R number can chart the rise and fall and rise again of an epidemic.

Second wave – the second uptick in infections, as seen in previous pandemics, following a lull.

Shelter in place – the initial non-panicky, polite way NYC and California advised their citizenry to stay the fuck home, lock down, the shit’s hit the fan.

Social distancing – keeping apart at all times, say 1-2 metres as per government guidelines to lower the risk of infection. Please note: humans are not to be trusted -in the pic below they’re wallowing in the novelty by still trying to touch each other.

Super spreading / super spreaders – events or individuals that can infect mass amounts of stupid people.

Support bubble – another household or individual we’re allowed to mingle with indoors.

Toilet roll – the new gold. In times of need it’s the last paper-thin membrane remaining before revolution and the breakdown of civilisation.

Travel restrictions – where, when and who can travel to where, when and who. It’s complicated. Or sometimes not -just giant sharpened shutters come slamming down against all, for all.

Vaccine – the cure-all injected in doses, to make you impervious to the illness. Like Ironman. It doesn’t always work, can entail unwieldy storage and roll-outs, and there’s increasing distrust in them for no good reason other than we keep seeing zombie flicks where it all started from vaccines.

Vitamin C, D and I think E – homespun attempts at vaccines before vaccines could come out.

Astro-Zeneca-Oxford, Janssens, Moderna, Novovax, Pfizer, Sinopharm, Sinovac, Sputnik V – names of some of the most popularised vaccine types, often named after their big pharma company, of which 200 are under development.

Vectors/ vector points – areas where the disease more readily spreads. Children.

Ventilator – the medical machine helping people breathe.

WFH – working from home. Some fucker checks up that you do, periodically.

WTF – most of the world in March

Wuhan – a big fucking city in China. 18 million people live there, it’s by a river.

Zoom – our new communication tool, allowing everyone to wfh or socialise.

Only Fans – our new communication tool, allowing everyone to wfh or socialise.

Body Mullet – being presentable for the cam: nice top, nothing underneath. See above.

Zoonotic – an animal to human transmission that defines the type of disease.

This is not to say that other shit didn’t happen round the world. It’s been quite a year.

  • Iranian Gen. Souleimani is assassinated by a U.S. drone strike
  • UK leaves the EU
  • The oil price falls by 30% after failure of the OPEC Deal
  • Tokyo Summer Olympics postponed till 2021
  • Black Lives Matter protests take hold round the world following the police killing of George Floyd
  • Space X executes its first manned flight
  • The first manned hyperloop is performed
  • Constitutional referendum in Russia nullifies the previous terms of Vladimir Putin
  • 2,500 tons of ammonia detonates in Beirut -the world’s largest non-nuclear blast -killing over 200 and making one third of the city homeless. Massive structural, economic, societal and geopolitical damage in an instant
  • Belarus presidential elections deemed fraudulent, spark massive months-long civil unrest
  • Russian opposition leader Navalny allegedly poisoned by Putin’s agents
  • Japan’s Prime Minister Abe Shinzo retires due to ill health, ending an era of economic growth known as Abenomics
  • China rolls out the Security Laws into Hong Kong, effectively curbing the territory’s freedom of speech
  • With Turkey’s aid Azerbaijan reclaims parts of Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenia
  • Democrat Joe Biden defeats Republican Donald Trump in the US presidential election
  • Thailand protests the unassailable power and economic hegemony of the Royal Family
  • Ethiopia enters civil war in the Tigray region
  • Large scale bushfires lay waste to swathes of Australia, Brazil, Russia, Ukraine and the US

So yeah, happy new year. If anything we should all give ourselves a pat on the back we got through it, as it’s increasingly obvious how pants people are to each other given a chance. What we point a gun at, who we vote for, what we throw our cash at, and our pity. I’m going to try very, very hard not to sound like the Christmas Grinch now and still wish every fucker out there a lovely, restful period from all the slaying and bitching.

Despite the fact London’s usual fireworks extravaganza has been cancelled, the night is alive with a good zillion going off anyway. If ever you get a chance to hang out in a tower block on the night, try and get to the top and see the horizons light up. The neighbourhood’s been booming for a good half hour with people shouting out Happy New Year! and waving from lighted windows, which by British cultural tradition caused us to freeze, then pretend not to have seen them. Some bright spark lit the local skies up with an inordinately expensive display (including the shimmery waterfall ones that last for ages), our cue to feel all cosy and light.

This is the toned down, lightshow version from the usual fireworks A-bomb around the London Eye, for what it’s worth. Tomorrow will be the last blog entry for 2020. Joy to the world, fuckers.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year 3.0 Day 14

30th December 2020

Okay I have no idea what to talk about, call it writer’s block if you will.

I could run through the derisory dregs that today has been, but why would anyone be interested in the fact someone stayed in bed all day watching a computer?

I could go on about what I encountered on my trip to Lidl, a tense safari into the anthropological phenomenon that is grocery shopping and capitalism.

I could moan about the past and the future, both as elegantly clouded as the inland sea of Japan on August 6th, 1945.

I could fire off reports gleaned from today’s headlines, though likely we would all have doomscrolled through that already, and seen the proclamations on social media.

I could decry social media and screentime, like the grumpy old fart I am become.

Perhaps I should have a spinny thingy, to pick my subject each day. Just 2020 has turned too repetitive. Might instead be time for pizza.

For the new year that beckons, I will choose to finish on a high note (okay, not too high we don’t wanna be Disney about it all), plus some random shit. I mean, wtf is there to this world?

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…So to start:

  1. Your cat can run faster than Usain Bolt (who runs at 34ft/ 10.3m a second) -30 mph versus 27.8 mph. Bear that in mind next time Mr Tiggles goes for the kitty bowl. Put it 100m away and time the little fucker if he gets it in 10 seconds.

2. -But humans can jump further than horses -8.95m versus 6.1m. Yes, Mike Powell (US) jumped nearly 30 ft. The triple jump record is 18.3m or 60ft by Jonathan Edwards (UK).

Phillips Idowu:

3. Cats are lactose intolerant, kittens aren’t

4. In 1919 the Toffee Apple Tsunami killed 21 and injured 150 when a 25ft wave of molasses washed away a Boston district. Yes, people drowned in treacle (told you it’d get dark). Thousands of Bostonians came to inspect the damage, walking bizarre through coated city blocks, then took their gooey footprints across the city. It was said you could work out everyone’s goings on.

5. An anaconda can be 90cm thick

6. The Titanoboa from prehistoric Colombia (of the Thankfuckitsgonic era), was twice as long -at 65ft. The one below’s eating a crocodile/ dinosaur.

7. When Tangled was released in 2010 it was the world’s second most expensive film (after Pirates of the Caribbean: World’s End), at $260 million. It cost more than Titanic, or Avatar.

8. Tianjin West is the second largest train station in Tianjin

9. If the sun was a football, the Earth would be 2mm speck -25 metres/ 82 feet away (look at the image below then scroll left for the length of a skyscraper to see the sun). As for the moon, it would take a commercial jetliner cruising at 450mph 5 weeks nonstop to reach it. Or half a swipe:

10. The Earth once had three moons, though not at the same time. Two crashed into each other to form the one we see today, which is why the side that faces us is smooth as a baby’s arse (plains known as ‘marias‘), and the ‘dark’ side -or the side that always faces away from us (as it has days and nights as per norm) is craggy and 1.2 miles higher.

11. The other ‘moon’ was a planet about the size of Mars, named Theia, that crashed into Earth 4.5 billion years ago wiping out any life. It turned everything into molten lava for 100 million years as debris slowly crashed back -one of which never did and gave us the moon we see today. This little ball spinning round us keeps us in check, the perfect size to keep our orbit in the ‘Goldilocks zone’ -not too hot, not too cold -for complex life to evolve. Lose the Moon and we’ll freeze to death every winter and ignite every summer.

12. Crocodiles aren’t dinosaurs, but they predate most of them by over 100 million years.

13. Frankenstein’s monster was a vegan: “My food is not that of man; I do not destroy the lamb and the kid to glut my appetite; acorns and berries afford me sufficient nourishment.” This is why he is sad.

14. The worst fireworks accident killed 300 (and some say as high as 800). It happened during the 1770 marriage of Marie Antoinette to Louis XIV, and deemed presciently unlucky.

15. On 2nd March 1657, a kimono inherited by three teenage girls -each haunted by a ‘beautiful shadow’ and dying shortly after (the original made by a courtesan copying the designs on a handsome visitor) was burned in exorcism. Midway through a sudden wind flared, setting light to 70% of Tokyo and destroying 500 temples, shrines, and palaces and 3,000 shops -killing 100,000. It was dubbed the Long Sleeves Fire.

16. The first modern warfare was in 1274 when the Mongols invaded Japan, employing Chinese gunpowder weapons: bombs, mines, grenades, flamethrowers and ‘fire lances’ (prototypes to the first guns), plus mechanised crossbows and Korean hwacha that fired 200 arrows at a time. Armed with Chinese armadas, Korean turtle ships and Mongol galleons they set sail with 900 ships, decorating them with the crucified bodies of courtier women. However a typhoon blew in after the first island, and their fleet was dashed.

17. In 1281 the Mongols tried again with a whopping 4,300 ships and 140,000 troops. They were beaten back with a new coastline wall and small attacks in which Japanese marauders would board vessels in the dead of night and leave with all their heads. -A second typhoon blew in a few days after the Emperor held a ceremony to swap his life for the nation’s, the storm creating the world’s largest underwater graveyeard -it would forever be known as the ‘divine wind’ aka kamikaze.

18. The temperature record for the UK -the same latitude as northern Canada or Siberia -is higher than Singapore’s (90 miles from the Equator).

19. Avocado means testicle in Aztec. Guacamole mean’s testicle sauce.

20. Before WWI children could be mailed. This annoyed the postmen.

21. The world’s tallest child for his age is Karan Singh at 6ft 6 (2 metres). He’s 8 years old.

Though no brainer as to why. Dad is 6ft 8 and mum 7 ft 2.

22. The biggest goldfish caught was 38lbs and may have been a century old, released into a US lake 😦

23. The record for an animal living without its head was Miracle Mike, a chicken that survived for one and a half years. He was fed with a pipette and would wander about attempting to cluck, peck at things and crow -producing a gurgling sound instead. At 25c a ticket he was soon earning his owner the equivalent of $50,000 a month. Mike finally died in a Vegas hotel room in 1947, after choking on a kernel of sweetcorn dropped down his neck.

24. During the filming of The Mummy (1999), Brendan Fraser nearly died during a hanging scene. Rachel Weisz said he stopped moving and breathing and had to be resuscitated.

25. Prepping for Bridget Jones’s Diary Renee Zellwegger gained several pounds and went undercover to work in a London publishing office for a month. No one recognised her and found it odd she had a framed photo of Jim Carrey on her desk -her real time boyfriend.

26. The clock on top of the Abraj al Bait in Meccah (the world’s third tallest building, and biggest skscraper) is as tall as St Stephen’s Tower aka Big Ben.

27. The world’s largest organism is a forest of Quaking Aspen in Utah, USA. Their interconnected root system makes it a single organism -called Pando, who has survived in one form or other for 14,000 years, with some estimates as high as a million. Note how all the trees are the same height:

28. Another competitor is a honey fungus colony in Oregon, believed to be 2,400 years old and weighing 605 tons. Mostly underground it covers nearly 9 sq km.

29. The oldest animal in the world was an Ocean Quahog, who was born in 1499, was 502 years old and named Ming, after the Chinese Dynasty at that time. Caught in Iceland they worked out how old it was from -similar to a tree -counting the rings in its shell. They did this by cutting it in half 😦

30. In 2016 they caught something older. A Greenland Shark measured at 512 years old, by carbon dating crystals in her eyes. Noone is sure how these zombie fish (bigger than Great Whites) catch anything at all, being supremely slow and spooky. They’re all infected with an eye parasite making them blind too -it’s thought they sneak up on sleeping seals. Our record breaker was killed as bycatch -byword for the billions needlessly killed when dredging for certain species, e.g. prawns. She, along with 28 others, was one of them 😦

31. This creosote bush in the Mojave desert in the US is believed to be 11,700 years old -multiple times older than any Giant Seqouia or bristlecone pine. It only grows at a few cm a year, in a ring that incrementally gets wider.

32. Humans have 21 confirmed senses, and 33 debatable ones. They include balance, pain, awareness of one’s body, temperature, hunger, thirst, vomiting, itching, acceleration and air pressure. The questionable ones include telepathy and the ability to find chocolate.

33. The world record for burpees was set by Stephanie Tennessen, at 716 in an hour. The previous record was also by a woman, at 709. Other records set by women over men are in the ultra marathon: Lizzy Hawker from the UK ran 320km through the Himalayas -from Everest Base Camp -and broke the record twice. Also free diving -Tanya Streeter from the US, diving to 160m/ 525ft, and Şahika Ercümen from Turkey, who hit 122m/ 400ft in the variable weight category.

34. Humans give off a tiny amount of visible light. We glow -though it’s mostly invisible to us.

35. By 2100 Lagos, Kinshasa or Dar Es Salaam will be the world’s largest singular cities, each nearing 80-90 million. Kabul and Niamey will have ballooned to over 50 million. The small country of Malawi will have its sleepy cities of Lilongwe and Blantyre (pictured below) each over 40 million.

36. London normally averages less rainfall than Tel Aviv, Melbourne and Mexico City. It has half the rainfall of NYC, and in summer the grass dies en masse. Every 20 years the city undergoes a 10 year drought (summat to do with the Gulf Flow) where technically it falls into semi-arid territory. It’s also hardly every foggy (which was a 19th and early 20th century thang, and was really killer smog).

But it is overcast, about 13 months of the year. Whenever the sun does come out UFO reports roll in and small children cry and run away.

Bonus – Wanda Marie Johnson was born on 15th of June 1953, eldest sister of two sisters and one brother. Wanda Marie Johnson was also born on 15th of June 1953, eldest sister of two sisters and one brother.

Both of the Wandas were former residents of the District of Columbia before moving to Prince Georges County in 1975, where they both became mothers of two children, attended to at the Howard Clinic and born at the Howard University Hospital.

They both owned 1977 two door Ford Grenadas – the eleven digit serial numbers of which were identical other than the last three. Their Social Security numbers had the same first four digits, and the following two, although transposed, were the same. They only discovered each other after a catalogue of mix ups at the hospital, paying bills, getting calls from strangers and the motor dept insisting one of them wear her nonexistent glasses for driving. They also resembled each other, though one outgoing, the other shy.

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Okay, now you see what I’ve been doing with my time. Welcome to my world; I might as well be clickbait.

Tomorrow, New Year’s Eve.

To finish off, some random pics of Honduran White bats. Enjoy.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Year 3.0 Day 13

29th December 2020

Changed my clothes today (really, put some on rather than just gliding round in the bathrobe all day). Cut my hair, had a shave, showered and doused my locks in a panoply of product -water, paste, hat for half an hour, paste some more, gel, hairspray, water, in that order to get it to fall right. Welcome to Asian hair, which if it isn’t long stands up like a straight ‘fro or colludes into becoming a bowlcut when you’re not looking. Even cut my toenails and removed errant hairs that sprout at randomised places around the face (eg forehead, side of nose, ear lobe) that if left unattended will start reproducing. It’s annoying I can’t get enough manly stubble on the jawline but have to shave my cheekbones. There’s a global secret out there, we’re all freaks.

I am rejoining the world. I’m wondering if there’ll be burning wrecks outside and zombie streetkids -the UK healthcare system is a shade away from full capacity at the mo. Deaths are 6.6% higher in this last week (while in Germany it’s 21%), a sign of the new variants at work. What has been happening out there, while I’ve been gone?

Well… it all started when a lawyer in Shanghai travelled to Wuhan.

Yes, China has been at it again, busy jailing reporter/ blogger Zhang Zhan for 4 years, for her reportage of the new disease, and overflowing hospitals. The CCP is like that kid who innocently opened the door to the zombies, and has now been caught rewiring the security cams. Now it’s been very convenient to scapegoat a highly unpopular dictatorship for the virus -it fits with our civilisational narrative -but China is not entirely to blame for the infection. Though now it’s obvious the country isn’t doing itself any favours by further shooting itself in the foot, publicly, while still prancing about as stage villain to an audience of billions.

I will again remind in summary all our recent global goings on.

As acknowledged, the virus was first detected in South America and Europe 3-9 months before it hit Wuhan (likely in a less infectious format), notably as early as March 2019 in Barcelona, and following on in Buenos Aires, Florianopolis (Brazil), Barcelona again, Paris and London, Milan and Turin by November and December, according to sewage sampling done this summer, and coordinated by Oxford University. China’s patient zero was also in November, traced to the countryside around the city (and incidentally site of the World Army Games the month before). It took till December for it to spread to Wuhan, via a site where rural and urban folk meet -a farmer’s market.

China’s mistake was to treat it as a purely animal > human zoonotic disease, that could only be passed from beast to man. We get about three new types each year somewhere in the world, and they don’t warrant lockdowns other than the closure of the spreader site and track and trace of the attendants. As per policy, the authorities shut down the market and formally alerted the WHO on New Year’s Eve, only two days after it was first detected in a Chinese lab as a new strain of pneumonia. It also released the genetic profile to open source, public forum before a second death anywhere in the world. So far, so not guilty.

However, when evidence was increasing that it was human>human, with multiple doctors flagging the fact patients were coming in without any contact with the market or countryside, still nothing was acted on. A ‘super-spreader’ event was even allowed to continue by the mayor, a big city convention that many Chinese consider let it into neighbouring provinces.

China’s second mistake was following WHO advice (after presenting the evidence) that more was needed to confirm it was human > human. It took three whole weeks for the green light, or should I say red light.

The third mistake happened at a low level, but was by far the most damning in the eyes of the world: at about this time, well after it had already been officially documented and released to netizens and the press, the local police reprimanded Dr Li Wenliang. They’d taken a shine against his chatgroup about the disease, fining him for fearmongering and making him sign a statement -his treatment in turn started to spread like wildfire across China’s social media.

In short the local authorities did not conform to the provincial or state authorities dealing with an epidemic, who’d learned the hard way that cover ups could never be effective. They only resulted in shame, more infections, public investigations and reforms, as happened after SARS. Following public furore state missives swiftly followed up that any attempts at cover up would be ‘nailed to a post of shame for all of history’, and the police made to apologise to the doctor. But too late, the narrative was already on the wall, not just in China but the world. Li’s death from the disease only magnified him into a martyr for the cause, for free speech too.

So these mistakes are no different to many that have played out across the world, given the fact they had even more warning and knew the coming severity, plus gifted an M.O. on how to deal with it from China and Asia. But putting all that into context the Party, now jailing a citizen journalist for four fucking years, hasn’t appeared to have learned its lesson. Actually many Wuhanese critics ultimately disappeared for weeks at a time, reappearing to suddenly amend their blogs and acknowledge the govt were, yes, trying very hard and doing very well. Zhang Zhan has been on hunger strike since June; her lawyers are trying to persuade her to appeal.

It appears pattern recognition may not be the strongest aspect of China’s PR machine, or maybe it doesn’t give a flying fuck any more. The ‘wolf warrior diplomats’ (named after China’s dire bestselling, nationalistic film) that have worryingly been infiltrating China’s foreign policy admin -in response to Trump’s sabre-rattling since 2016 -are just stretching their muscle. For long China’s foreign envoys smiled politely whenever an awkward question was raised, noting how pretty the flower arrangements were -then sprinting for the door and overturning all manner of vases n shit. Nowadays they launch Twitter wars with Trump and activists on either side of the spectrum, or even peddle conspiracy theories online (hinting C-19 was deliberately spread by US soldiers in the Army Games).

However, in better news the original wolf warrior Liu Xiaoming, who also happened to be the UK ambassador, just resigned two years before the end of his tenure. Infamous for his defence of Xinjianger ‘reeducation camps’ (really, they’re just colleges for vocational studies and puppy breeding and happiness), Hong Kong democracy blitzing (look at your own record, monster), and congratulating Britain on Brexit (hi five, new puppet!), he has marked his position throughout with many a memorable headline.

Hopefully it’s an end to his droning, and this phase of global repositioning, inline with the coming exit of Trumpist demagogue. Hopefully also a sign of things to come, not just in the public face, but in genuine reforms behind the state facade, as infamously there are several competing lobbies beneath the smile. It appears both sides have scored wins against each other.

Honestly though, we have enough on our plates -CCP, please, just get with the programme, if not for our sake (collectively, the world), but yours. Many thanks in advance.

Free Zhang Zhan.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year 3.0 Day 12

28th December 2020

Did fuckall all day. Stayed in bed, watching Youtube. Hangover blues, post Christmas. The world can burn.

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…Here are some more acceptable displays of people having fantastic lives.

“After dinner we like to have a quick round of polo.”

“Then look at our investment portfolio together. Or maybe some poor people”

“In Sweden we sit at tables and chairs to eat, and use cutlery.”

“Live. Laugh. Love.”

“Sometimes for a laugh we like to turn up at premiere events and pretend we’re celebrities”

“As do we”

“Our interests include travelling…

My favourite quote is to add life to your days not days to your life

“Dance like no one’s watching. Especially a photographer.”

“I start every day as if it’s my last. Which is why I blow up 37 balloons and carry them around. Carpe diem.”

“Every day is a mountain and I live on top of it

“That just got out of bed look”

“I live for the burn”

“You are what you eat”

That’s why I only do WholeFoods. They really are the best. And you’re worth it.

“That’s why I don’t have a tv”

“Heaven is a place on earth”

“We’re really just the same as everybody else”

“No, really”

“I live for the kids”

“We made it”

“We called our home, Dream Achieved”

We called ours Casa Siesta coz it’s in Alicante, then voted for Brexit.

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Then create a POS, market it with a jazzy celeb and add a 300% markup. Then reinvest. Simples.”

“No pain, no gain”

“All you gotta do is win at life.”

“Know yourself. Learn yourself”

“Fortune favours the brave. And who can afford the shares”

“And the world is your oyster”

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Bunch of gurning kite flyers. Pandafucks. Mumlickers.

I’m not jealous, no. Just saying, it’s for situations like this we have cancer in the world.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year 3.0 Week 3

27th December 2020

So did a spot of shopping to get out the house, picking up most of Tesco’s reduced section (surprisingly not a lot of ex-Xmas stuff) then stopping off at a Somali place to get take out. As with many African joints there’s no menu, you kinda negotiate with the cook what you wanna -I settled on some spiced rice and lamb shoulder, reminding me a lot of biryani but with Arabian spices and a salad. Plus some lemony-yoghurty-chilli dip which was super spicy and amazing. So good, huge portions too (which I’m thinking may be a sign of quality, insofar that the cook genuinely believes it deserves that demand, and that people always finished their plates) -I need to do it again. In terms of Somali cuisine I’ve only ever had the gorgeous looking xalwa (halva) before, which is a jelly-like mix of sugar, cornstarch and spices, and astringently sweet. You literally feel the buttery goodness clamping onto your frame as you move, becoming that same wobbly blancmange. This the posterchild for You Are What You Eat.

I realise their fare is more redolent of the Middle East than East Africa, though it does have a heavy influence from Ethiopia too, in its injera and stews, not to mention Indian (chai, chapattis, samosas), Persian (pilaf, baklava), and even Italian (pasta, coffee and cream). The restaurant is Safari on Falcon Rd -when I signed the book for track and trace (at 3pm) only one other customer had made it that day; Somali food deserves a higher profile and I hope she survives.

After my favourite past-time – a TV dinner, was out like a light in a glorious food coma, before D came round from the other side of Clapham. Well, someone’s gotta finish off all that Crimbo alcohol, and be merry and light. Made it through half a bottle of sloe gin, while D settled for his usual vodka + flavoured water (he can’t do fizzy stuff due to some dodgy ailment). All necked while we watched a steady stream of MVs -Eighties, Nineties, Noughties with occasional forays into Abba and what on earth is number 1 these days. We couldn’t think of a single chart topper that we knew this year, or the past 3 years, even if it was the million $ question on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Anyone noticed how Miley Cyrus nowabouts (or at least in Midnight Sky) looks and sounds like Lulu?

My one ban was on the nefarious coven that is the Spice Girls, as D plays them every damn time until they become that dimwit zigazigah nipping at your earlobes, telling us what they want what they weally weally want. He settled on substituting them with the Coors, who apparently all died in a horrific bicycle smash (three four seater) in Belgium in 2002. A actually wanted another stab at the board game Dixit blessim (who knew someone actually likes it -apparently it won game of the year back in 1994) -while D is fucking terrible at playing and has as much fun as a pedo in an old folk’s home. Give him the random phrase of say, ‘I’m not in Kansas anymore‘, or ‘AI takeover‘ and he’ll not really know what to do, and match it to a card of an elephant holding a flower, or someone playing tennis with a cat. Still, he won.

We finished off on Disney sing-a-longs, pissed as newts by then and sounding like them too. Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Little Mermaid, Pocahontas, Moana and -I hang my head in shame -belting it out with Elsa on that fucking hill to die on, while she crafts homicidal chandeliers. My nemesis. Might just jump out the window in the cold light of day.

Not many people know this but Let It Go was written for a schizophrenic who went on to kill several people and a cat in a New Jersey (and why Demi Levato was first choice).

So what on earth do the kids these days listen to? What is the equivalent of the Spice Girls or Backstreet Boyz or Madonna? Kool n the Gang? What exactly is imprinting on young febrile minds as we speak, that will last till their dying day?

So after doing a spot of research, of course we’d heard of Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, Ariana Grande, Drake, Taylor Swift, though pushing it a bit with The Weeknd, BTS, Blackpink, Halsey blah-de-blah. But who on earth are Bad Bunny, Juice WRLD, Roddy Rich, Lil Uzi Vert? Garnering hundreds of millions of fans across the world and getting themselves plastered over the cover of Rolling Stone at the age of fifteen. There’s a lot of flow, a bitta drill and quite the sideline in Latin rappers with Caribbean tinge, who dare I say, it sound a bit same-y. There’s a thing now: an understated backbeat, crazy styling and self-penned lyrics over vocal talent (‘lyrical lemonade’), which is fab. I wonder if the rappers of early 80’s Compton ever realised that near 40 years later the kids of White America, the kids of the world, and the global music industry would be following suit.

Frankly it’s gone on far too long that only people with good vocal range and who look great doing it are allowed into the halls of fame, while the rest of the talent become songwriters for other people or give up and spend the rest of their days serving fast food and living out their car. As Lizzo -classical flutist, competition winning free-style rapper, gospel vocalist and icon to body diversity even before she was famous, came one week from doing. Hmm maybe Lizzo isn’t such a good example, she can do just about any fucking thing par excellence, while riding a bike (unlike the Coors, RIP 😦 ).

So quite refreshing that talent scouts now have a new recipe to look out for, but so very new to us after decades of the ol’ tried and tested -that a teenager who druggedly whispers her songs is currently the world’s bestselling artist. And the hook now lies in a certain choice line or two that rides a flow to your brain rather than some ohrwurm that will haunt your days. We’re just not kool anymore.

In my mind’s eye I’ve just turned up at the back of the bus, through a haze of weed, to nestle myself among the teenagers, head nodding, shades down, braids up. But then… my walkman falls out, the cord detaches and Lulu and Take That blare out without my noticing. Oh, the abject shaaaame, don’t you no blame.

No film for us -it was originally intended to be movie nite, but it became much more enjoyable without. Near the end we were smoking in the living room, blitzing a Quality Street and painkillers, and rocking to a heady mix of Guns n Roses with Adele, in a chilled way, in a good way. Kool n the Gang again -just to Someone Like You crooning it out across the airwaves. We’re showing our age methinks but duuude, what can you do?

D finally got an Uber at 2 or 3 something, disappearing into the night. Which was one of them better ones. Good goobley god, it’s nearly New Year’s.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year 3.0 Day 10

26th December 2020

Why is Boxing Day so called? Do we unbox stuff, hit each other? Or it alludes to the fact we just lie all day watching the box, sprinkled in food and wrappers, and drool. I can’t even remember what I watched.

An entire day appears to have slipped by in the stream. Maybe I did some exercise, entertained the Queen. Maybe I murdered some people in alleyways, trance-like. Might explain all that blood.

It is a little disconcerting. They say add life to your days not days to your life (right up there with Life Laugh Love, Karen), but have I not done anything noteworthy at all? Ah yes, I remember. In the morning I sent an excerpt of The Book to an agent, working for a few hours on the email and intro. This gave me carte blanche to do absolute sweet FA for the rest of the day, imbedded into sofa, mesmerised by a screen. We now have a modern allergy to boredom, even for a few seconds.

I imagine I watched a few shitty episodes of something on Netflix -my list on there I’ve realised is entirely devoted to Films I’ll Maybe Watch But Not Right Now, the kind of bargain basement shit you’d find at the bottom of the DVD pile back in the day, or in the Pound shop. Mediocre movies from 15 years ago, rom-coms that no one ever saw, some flick Someone Now Famous Wished They’d Never Done, a documentary on Something Or Other Interesting That Happened But We Can Dilute Into Numbness By Dragging Out Into A 3 Hour Epic Or Entire Season.

Anything recent that Netflix assures us is fantastic because it funded it, but is really a lacklustre bore-a-thon on human existentialism (the cheapest way to tell a story) packaged into something newfangled or woke/ unwoke. Say a beauty pageant (perhaps for drag queens), or a fat farm, or a gay conversion centre, with a laugh-an-hour at the whole situation, till it gets tired, fast. Why is Americana so formulaic? Anything that does vaguely work (thank you Sundance) is suddenly approached by the Hollywood bigwigs, thrown millions at and the premise beaten to death in a thousand different formats and merch. The Funny Spy. The Angsty Adult. The Revenge of the Angsty Adult. The Cool Mom, The Flabby Dad. The Ethnic Love Story. The Cartoon Creature, Lost. The Funny Guy And His Loveable Neurodiverse Sidekick. The Autistic Kid. The Cursed House. The Innocent Abroad and Their Funny Romance. The Man and Woman Who Start to Warm to Each Other After Contrived Melodrama. Female Struggle But Ultimately Bonding – Girl Friends! It’s all so 2020, or should I say 2017 and counting.

And has anyone seen the description blurbs when you click on a film? So mindlessly cryptic, anodyne and asinine in such a tired formula they’re likely a bot. Or a field of indentured copywriters who might as well be one, clamped under a grate so strict they get electrocuted if they stray. Their mindless recipe for tapwater tries to entice you it’s absinthe -for Schindler’s List they’d put down:

A man on a mission. A people in chains. Their struggle to redeem themselves in a black and white world -but can they outwit these dark forces?

For The Little Mermaid:

A girl seeking a dream. A crab dodging the pot. A man entranced. But can legs save her from destiny?

For Trainspotting:

A youth on the edge. A baby on the ceiling. Scotland will never look the same.

Hit me with something new. The problem with US movies, or series, is that there is so much money to be made. And canyer blame them? Find an ounce of creativity, humour and a refreshing take on something, and sell, sell, sell. You’ll make fortunes overnight, while the iron’s hot. Copy that format till it sticks, you can’t go wrong (because by the time you do -you’ll be rich).

Of course the current dearth of creativity is due to the fact for the last year nothing’s been filmed by any studio due to the infectiousness of a crew, and that everything that was due to be released is reluctant to show until cinemas get back to normal. If anything this year has marked the speeding up of the big screen being replaced by home streaming.

Tried watching some Chinese films, now the world’s biggest market, and what is taking over the Hollywood machine. Our new worldly saviour perhaps. They too have an army of writers, grade A actors, ginormous budgets, special FX and a world of history and tales to draw on. Perhaps this is the new wave? Up n coming, that’s turned around in less than a decade to become a behemoth of creativity. It’s ripe for discovery to say the least.

Well, to put it bluntly… Hell no.

Almost every flick is unwatchable. China appears still at the corny end of the spectrum when catering to vast audiences -watch as heroic boy band members save small, stupid children (separated by perhaps following a balloon/ doll/ puppy amidst all the guns-ablazing chaos) from alien bombs, or evil, foreign militia. Female assassins ward off dozens of arrows with a spinning blade… while flying. Buildings/ mountains/ glaciers collapse milliseconds behind the fleeing troupe. Some background sidekick dies -their last breaths given to profess their love of girlfriend/ family/ motherland/ Earth before detonating the key explosion on the baddies. It is an industry conspicuously playing to its own domestic market, and pretty much unsellable outside, unlike say Bollywood or the Korean New Wave, or Iranian arthouse.

You’d literally walk out in a cinema midway, perhaps vom a bit in the popcorn. I don’t think the Chinese mass market has yet reached the level of jaded in the West, to not still be entranced by the stilling waters of Rambo or fucksuit Ironman. As always the smaller productions, and the ones focused on the human story are far more appealing: crime dramas, coming-of-age epics, gothic horrors and modern angst, that win the usual awards. Avoid however the romance and ‘comedies’, and anything approaching swashbuckling adventure -still at slapstick and catering to people who walk into traffic because they’re munching on something.

Historic dramas can go either way -studies of the person behind the mask (usually a villain reaccommodated, or a new feminist perspective), or a dirge of predictable, big budget battlescenes that plays out similar to the blockbusters, whereby you can replace the aliens with Mongols or colonial White people, or the Japanese. Backdrops became such spectacle, with ever more epic budgets and fantastical storylines that China even introduced a law against inaccurately portraying history.

And it goes to show that when the City of Life and Death premiered in 2007, an award-winning biopic on several lives during the Rape of Nanjing either side of the massacre (of hundreds of thousands of civilians during WWII), the director received death threats for his sensitive portrayal of a Japanese soldier, equally horrorstruck and caught up in the maelstrom.

In short Chinese films sell their own version of the Chinese Dream in every move and nuance, just like they do Stateside. This time it’s all about importance of community above individuality, nationhood over life (or even family), of endless sacrifice for the greater good. It’s nauseating. China, please move on. Nationalism is a notoriously tricky device for The Party -handy when it needs to seal over divisions in the 180 ethnic groups, or when a foreign embassy du jour needs a demo or two over some policy atrocity (like acknowledging the Dalai Lama/ Taiwan). But all butterfingers and screaming when it gets out of hand, and people start setting buses on fire.

One good flick I saw recently was Wild Goose Lake, featuring A-lister Hu Ge (back when he was the best paid actor in the world and commanding $60 million salaries), but in a break from form, cast in an arthouse crime-a-rama that was apparently the runner up to last year’s Palme D’Or in Cannes (that went to Parasite). Hu plays a criminal on the run, who teams up with a prostitute on the lakes of you-guessed-it, Wuhan, and tries to get the ransom on his head as high as possible in order to save his wife from going down with him (it’s complicated and subtle, but you get the gist after a while). The bit where the moped suspect gets his head ripped off, the chase in the zoo as the animals watch creepily, and where Liu Aiai spits out Hu’s jizz over the side of the boat, is frankly, quite memorable, and unexpected to say the least.

Sorry about the spoilers, but it’s not like anyone’s ever gonna watch it, really.

Okay, enough enjoyable bitching. The telly is now a god-given right to our quality of life right now in lockdown. Having exhausted the formulae, we demand our manifesto for better. Newer. More. Culture needs to move on, as given this year, demand definitely has, with an aching gap in the market. Potatoes of the world unite!

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A Journal of the Plague Year 3.0 Day 9

Christmas Day 2020

It’s Christmas. It’s motherflipping Christmas. Jumped out of bed to body pop, like a freak. Tidied the place up, made myself presentable, put on the Christmas Dino jumper.

My presents came in emails this year -how times have changed. No less than six books on my wishlist now for the Kindle (thankyou C), plus vouchers from Mum and other sis, C2 xx. Sat A down for his unwrapping -Korres cologne, the new Information Is Beautiful book, some horror novels sent by a friend in Hungary (You and Hidden Bodies that’s now a Netflix series -totally not his thang, I’ll inherit them instead), and a can of expensive Spanish olive oil, that’s the best he’s ever had apparently (the Brindisa Arbequina).

I got all nervous trying to prep my first Xmas dinner, though in reality A did everything, while I was Ambassador’s wife and master of ceremonies. D came over just after 1, and we began drinking and prepping and drinking some more, though in retrospect I kept it light, only getting through about a third of a bottle of rum, and D getting in his gin n tonics. The sloe gin, beer and mulled wine sachets were left forlorn the rest of the day -with literally no space to intake them. We’d be like giant squashed slugs, steeped in alcohol by then.

A big fireplace burned on screen with the dregs of Christmas past playing, and we each sporadically did video calls to family -D retiring to the bedroom for privacy, then returning immediately to get a Santa hat and a scowl. He slam’s the door again, then a few seconds later it’s a “Ho Ho Ho”, which got us spitting our drinks out. Goodness, the day was stacked. Ginormous fucking lunch:

Black forest mince pies with cream

Amouse bouche: jackfruit and mushroom bao

Starter: artichoke crumble and sourdough.

…at this point we got stuffed and had to take a break. Then ploughed on:

Main: salmon en croute with white sauce, the world’s best roast potatoes, fried sugar kale and mushrooms, gravy.

Another fucking break…

Dessert: salted caramel and gold mince pies with cream

Dessert 2: Chocolate ganache cake

We didn’t do an Xmas Pudding -why would anyone ever do that to themselves?

OMG. Needed a Roman vomitorium to fit it all in, plus the booze. The pigs in blankets, stuffing, smoked salmon, and bresaola never saw the light of day. Then we all went on a walk to burn about a tenth of it off, meeting up with An for a long traipse round Wandsworth and the Common. Some out of towners -complete, utter strangers -wished us a merry Christmas, so we knifed them.

Missed a video call with fam, but made one to sis when I got in. Other sis and Mum didn’t pick up, so will try again later or tomorrow (rang them earlier in the morning already). Genuinely needed a rota today; I get why traditionally the housewives of the world needed a vat of sherry to go with their all day workathon that everyone else enjoyed, putting their feet up in front of the telly and popping in to nick a sausage. And thank sweet St Fuck for the invention of a dishwasher. We worked that fucker.

Post lunch was highlight of my life, the board game Dixit which I’d been building up for days, yet still the others I had to drag kicking and screaming into playing. They weren’t too impressed with a Nineties French game about trying to match art cards, but hey, when pissed everything’s fun and what can you do with a last minute Oxfam sweep before lockdown? Mariah played like a lounge singer throughout, occasionally falling off a piano or becoming gangsta drill suddenly, as my algorithm on Youtube’s fucked. Listen to one song and you’re 2012 Peckham Boyz for the rest of your days, popping up like Smith and Wesson between the Disney.

Xmas film was Cat in the Hat (trippy, fun and fab -it get’s that it’s based on a mindfuck for adult’s), then later Midnight Sky (what a downer), which is Netflix’s new offering, and a retelling of every space-y escapade as of late; Mr Clooney’s in danger of getting himself typecast as a ghostly astronaut, or an astronaut that know’s ghosts. Minor drama when a plug melted (how the fuck does that happen?) and the switch got jammed, but hey, we’re still alive. No one had dinner but me, which was the roast potatoes, veg and gravy then much later snacking on the last wad of crumbly salmon goodness like a chocolate bar. Filthy.

Twas a merry day. We need more of them. Christmas Two should be celebrated some time in July, so we can have Christmas cake on the beach, like they do in Australia.

To a better year. Can’t be hard, but let’s not jinx it. I know it’s been a tough one for many, but for some it’s a choreographed coming of age, one emblazoned with memories. I’ll always remember the teenagers hanging out in their summer of love, populating the parks and street corners with digital ghetto blasters, well into the night. The people, now cosying up with their loved ones in a bubble, the readers settling down for another good book. I’m not exactly gonna say ‘long may it last‘, but ‘long shall we make the most of any given situation’, and trill that on a 2020 card instead.

xxx

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A Journal of the Plague Year 3.0 Day 8

24th December 2020

So I’ve wrapped all my pressies and tidied, and retired the appropriate drinks in the fridge for the big day tomo. I have received some vouchers online, and a mysterious parcel in the post, literally collected from the concierge as he was shutting shop for the next few days (he reopened gawd bless him). D will come round in late morning for a late Xmas lunch, we decided on an afternoon meal otherwise we’d be blind drunk by dinner, throwing turkeys off the roof and baiting Santa or summink.

I’m not sure what the Xmas movie will be, maybe the new Netflix thing with George Clooney, and the meme of astronauts on a space station as killer debris tears it apart (from the trailer anyway). That was so impressively done in Gravity, then Interstellar they can’t miss the opportunity a third time it seems. My other option or course, is Elf.

Across the continent (so near yet now so far) it’s this that’s the big event, when carol singers go door to door for sweets and pressies get opened, plus the big meal before midnight. Over here magic only settles on the 25th, where we swan about looking at things in disbelief that they’re happening on The Day, so long built up to as Michael McIntyre has noticed. Look at those people driving their car, On Christmas Day. Look at that tree standing there, On Christmas Day. Ohmigod is that robin, a robin!¡dear jeezusjizz on Christmas Day.

D will be our plus one, allowed as a support bubble according to the rules as he lives alone. Other than prepping the big lunch, opening pressies, getting pissed and the Xmas movie, there’s also the board game I bought long, long ago at the start of Lockdown 2 in October and never used. Not to forget, the skype session with fam, that will likely drag on for over an hour. I’d better try and do that sober.

The news just in -good news or at least a semblance of it, is that we did reach a deal in the Brexit malarkey. I don’t know if that just means we sacrifice a dolphin on Charles de Gaulle’s birthday, or get to call Brussel sprouts Brummie cabbages from now on, but it’s better than No Deal No Entry, the bit in the gameshow where the losing contestants get doused in petrol and set alight. All in time with France reopenink the border innit in Kent. To EU nationals with a clean health card (dear lord, thank fuck), notably the 30,000 HGV drivers stuck on an impromptu caravan holiday in the Downs. Though at the rate of 45 minutes to two days processing per driver as they load em on, it’ll take 3 years to get them all out in time for Xmas 2024, if we still have boats by then, or you know, are alive after the famine. It’s likely thousands will spend Xmas day here, forlorn in their cabs with a view of some Margate verge.

So everything now done and dusted, A‘s having a nap, so I’m at a loss of what to do. I’ve forbidden myself to Youtube as it gets me down, angry, empty or weird. Same with forums and news sites, that makes my life smaller now rather than larger. And social media is an odious viper that needs treating with a stick.

I might have to read, by candle light and whatnot. It’s getting cold- below freezing tonight, and a blanket may be in order, plus a whispering frame of a fireplace on the box. Am very sorely tempted into sneaking another mince pie – a Black Forest version from Lidl with some spray on cream. And Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

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A Journal of the Plague Year 3.0 Day 7

23rd December 2020

I’m getting sucked into Youtube. When one is left to their own devices, say the high security wing, a desert island in the mid-Pacific, or Hatfield, one is also left out of touch to the stern, reprimanding eye of society. With only your personal algorithm, Gilbert, for company.

Gilbert knows your darkest desires, and fears, and will seek to entertain them. No one is stopping him as he crafts your very own echo chamber, personalised with wolfen smile. Gilbert has been known to create such clickfests, upping the drama after every vid ends, in order for you to start on the next one -notably, he’s been found to automatically assign more and more extreme content, for say someone interested in veganism, or animal rights, or immigration policies, or Islam; to anyone becoming a convert. He lights the way as a one stop shop for more and more righteousness, conspiracy theories, then portals to the dark web, for example seeking to avenge the millions of Muslims killed these past decades at Western hands when you were only looking up times for Isha, or shisha. As happened to Safiyya Shaikh, born Michelle Ramsden. She converted in 2007 after the kindness of a Muslim family of neighbours impressed her, but ended up wanting to bomb St Paul’s Cathedral.

This is what Youtube withdrawal looks like:

Well, I digress. So, Gilbert. Gilbert has recently been feeding me increasingly bizarre routes into personal headspace. He calls them ‘channels’, with vid after vid of similar content, and when he runs out, he posts the same ones again, till I cave. I am stuck on a roundabout with enticing options only in:

People Watching Eurovision For The First Time Avenue

The Serial Killing, 520 Year Old Floating Spookfest That Are Greenland Sharks Quay

Cruise Ships Leaving Tardy Passengers Behind While the Resident Sociopaths Heckle Them Harbour

Landslides Hill

And This Is Where It Starts To Get Dark Airport…

The Japan Tsunami of 2011 Vista

The Decline of America Close

Lovely Holiday Vids… To Recently Invaded by/ Enemies of the West Cul-de-sac

North Korea Amirite Boulevard

China Apologists (Don’t Mention Xinjiang or Tibet or Taiwan or Hong Kong or The Spratly’s) Freeway

What Happens When You Stand Out Vista

The last one so close to the bone to my own experiences from past to present to future, I see every month, will mar my day. I keep revisiting the damned issue on this blog; it keeps cropping up.

-That was just a woman on holiday (and they cut some of the instances out). I literally cannot watch it twice without wanting to punch a wall or face. I sat down with A the other week after another round of public abuse (the train guard right next to them, doing nothing), to have a chat about a long term plan in leaving ‘The West’. Can’t live with it any more, can’t live with myself living with it, despite all the love I have for the place and those here – and that I am a Briton and a Westerner through and through. I reached my limit many years back with the hypocrisy that indentures my life, my past, my pay, my prospects. My choice to show my face on a street or past a school or on public transport or in a pub, or even hang out digitally on a public app, that’s out of my control. The fact when I anglicise my name (as in give an entirely false one) in duplicate I’ll get a reply to only that one. I’ve tried so very hard to make myself presentable, in every aspect and box to tick over the years.

The worst is when people I confide in don’t really think it happens at this scale, to this frequency. That I may have misconstrued Ching Chong shouted across a crowd, from its term of endearment, or all that pattern of behaviour is a misreading each time; I’m playing the victim/ race card/ paranoia. And ah, it’s just a joke. They’re not really racist. But live in my shoes and after a few years, see if you’re as forgiving, when the joke is always on you, with a helping of public humiliation. See if it looks the same if a Black guy walks into a carriage and people start making tribal noises. They don’t (so much) as they’d be called out on it, rightfully so.

But breathe, reel it back. No more bitter pie -this entire last few paragraphs might as well have been penned by Gilbert himself.

Any further down these routes and I’ll go kamikaze at the local mall, or at least start booking Disney cruises -it’s fucking Xmas fer Chrissakes. Okay enough, time to lie down, and start a withdrawal plan to go and fucking buy presents or a life or something.

Will stare very, very hard at this image until I put the flamethrower down, and let’s just brush it under the giant gaudy rug.

Here ends today’s missive. Thanking you for listening to my shit x.

Everyone, everything, bunch of cunts, going to hell.

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