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 Week 3

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 possibly be more windswept.

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Today has been one of learning, 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 hrs, 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, 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.

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The 1918 Spanish Flu that killed 100 million came from a Kansas 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 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 studded with ornateness straight out of a storybook -the closest to an Alpine city you’ll get. The 1.5 million inhabitants share convergent evolution of architecture similar to fairytale Europe – multi-storeyed, decorated wooden houses with steep sided rooves to slide off the snow, plus a plethora of the aforementioned houseboats. These 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. It’s an ode to Nietsche’s genealogy of morality, with an edge-of-seat climax of a rape victim eating a meal of nails, or the bit where the guy wanks off with a 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, if you’d stayed awake. 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 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 one camp 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 democracy be proud of ignorance, and believe it equal to knowledge, usurping 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.

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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 marks on our arse start 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, and why so 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. Others posit the country’s high end healthcare has always kept the populace artificially alive beyond their natural end, and now overrun the disease is all it takes to finish the job. Some 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 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 ransacking it 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, celebrating a now 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 era, 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. As that was all to it.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 10

Friday 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 within a couple of weeks, regardless of the skyrocketing cases, the swamped hospitals and healthcare workers succumbing alongside. 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, 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 believes it a daily thing we get to cheer the healthcare workers and frontliners. No one joined in, and she ended as if 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 -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 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 such a busy station, so my radius is quite a catchment. 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 no one 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. As opposed to 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, spotless 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 corner store), then it was the trundle through Lidl, which had restocked itself post-panic buying. Though of course bogroll and cleaning products is still mythical. Paracetamol was found, in a heavenly 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 money related, has occupied a worrisome purgatory of loss.

Yesterday’s film was The Lighthouse, starring that good looking Cedric-from-Harry-Potter. Plus the vampiric looking Willem Defoe, now haggard in a strikingly accurate 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 lug lurches between hate and love, sometimes within seconds, as they increasingly deteriorate into alcoholism. 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-jinx of hi-fiving US spies acceptably murdering foreign subjects, notably the typical Hollywood East Europeans, casually evil (you can just tell as they sit in awkward, unshaven dourness on intercity train journeys). Then 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.

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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 and that hints at a lovey-dovey, swimming-with-dolphins-while-partially-dressed sprituality as well as sciencey, cerebral prowess. If I was an Orange County gal wanting a few million more hits on social media but also indicate I’m more than a candle-lit face, I’d lay out my paperwork next to stroking a dolphin.

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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 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 lamped with pressing personality disorders or opposing political views, who aren’t say a lion pride holed up with 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 enjoy it? If there was no global crisis, would I even be writing, or you good friend, reading?

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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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source

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.

People stand apart in a line to receive free food being distributed on a street during a 21-day nationwide lockdown to limit the spreading of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in New Delhi

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 certain states, although the government is bailing out free grain, dairy, unemployment benefit and hard cash for those without bank accounts. Those 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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Bangalore India’s most livable metro

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Mumbai’s biggest slum, Dharavi

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 with a bloodied stump.

On that slightly jarring note, all that is also out the window. J, an occasional user of hook up apps, 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.

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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 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, to grace 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 neither 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. 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 statues over us, who’ve long been rubbing our noses in their feeds and plinths of enablers. The rich are portrayed as the emotionally asinine, the greedy and cold, but are we not following the same time-worn paths 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 canapés. 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.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 7

Tuesday, 24th March 2020

Lockdown. As of last night, PM Boris Johnson came on to let us know that we’re no longer allowed out other than one exercise (type) a day, to go shopping (only food, pet stores and pharmacies) or to work (essential workers, or if you ‘absolutely have to’). The Telegraph of course emblazoned its headline this morning as ‘The End of Freedom’.

We’ll get fined otherwise, and if we hang out in groups of more than 2 it’ll get broken up, similar to the days of Thatcherism where more than 8 people around a radio constituted an illegal rave. I don’t however see myself joining a Reclaim the Streets brigade.

TOPSHOT-BRITAIN-HEALTH-VIRUS

It’s not so much that the lockdown is now in place, but why it took so long, given the track record of not acting quickly enough in Italy and Wuhan, alongside the proven benefits that South Korea, Singapore and the rest of China managed to pull off (for the time being -reinfection is still a fear, albeit with standard testing at every corner). Opinion posits this late joining to the party has been BoJo’s long championing of personal liberties; he famously wrote in his former Telegraph column that the ban on public smoking was akin to killing Iraqis to free them.

Well after the droves of people witnessed across the country’s parks and beauty spots over the sunny weekend, he had to bite the bullet. It sounds like in the West that’s exactly what is needed in order to keep the population indoors: guns, with the army having to be called in across the continent – Italy alone has had hundreds of thousands of people fined already. The army helicopters did a flypast over our estate last night, spotting some chinooks out of the eight before we stopped counting.

As mentioned before, us Brits are a libertine bunch, a bit too entitled since the days of Empire, and in contrast to a Germany where the death toll per capita is lower than its neighbours, perhaps due to a more heedful populace in a regimented Germanic stereotype. Albeit Austria -more specifically the apres-Ski resort of Ischgl -has now been pinpointed as a main source for infecting much of Mitteleuropa, notably a majority of the spreader Germans and Danes and as far away as Iceland. All thanks to a sick barman (who blew whistles to clear the drunken droves engaging in body fluid beer pong), and an ensuing cover-up, the management and council in cahoots. Austria had consistently denied the link until it became too obvious, with hundreds of patients sharing that same hand-warming, shoulder-rubbing vector-point.

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The US too appears ever hassled, with its right to bear arms in a similar cultural quandary as the UK, whereby it’s populace may now prove to be its own worst enemy. It’s one thing to have 165 million people left with a month’s worth of money before facing homelessness and destitution, as the current fiscal roll out is promising, it’s another to give them guns to go with their desperation. The Stateside press is fervent with calls to take out Nancy Pelosi, who undid the emergency draft of economic measures after noticing it did nothing for the common man and a lot for uncommon, big business. Predictably so -barging into DC and plonking down her 1,400 page amendment as a rebuttal to much more rebuttal. Going by what the Republicans had intended your average white collar worker would get $1200 a head, while blue collar families $600, as a random example.

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Meanwhile the Democrats took the opportunity to attempt a sea change in policy to come with the draft, from affirmative action rolled out into the corporate echelons to gender/ minority equity in the payscale, from halving greenhouse gases to increased union power, freer healthcare to free internet. This has of course stymied the fast-tracked path of the bailout, as businesses continue to fold and a large chunk of the population waits in limbo, attack rifles readied.

The fact that for most Americans keeping yourself in work is vital to paying for your healthcare, has become a vicious Catch 22 in these climes, whereby even the threat of illness negates work which in turn negates any chance of proper treatment, or will further indebt you for decades. This is what Obamacare, increasingly indentured, attempted to bypass. It seems the end is nigh for the American Dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, even if that entailed for some, the white picket fencing off from community and a God-given right to bear arms. And it has come not in the shape of the Red Scare, foreign attack, immigrant takeover, economic overshadowing, nuclear war or a Hollywood alien race, but a mere virus exposing the flaws in every society so far. Plus a global, capitalist system utterly reliant on unceasing spending, no matter whether you’re in Louisiana or Lusaka.

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The fact Trump is now seeking to reinstate this system to the tune of untold dying is a sign of our times, and the monster we’ve nurtured, whereby dollars > death. The House Senate is now looking to shorten lockdowns, if even have them in place, which isn’t exactly democratic in any way given the commercial lobbying (read: corruption) and the lack of people voting on their own fates.

Yesterday we watched Doomsday Preppers straight after BoJo’s speech, which wasn’t the best choice in hindsight. I ended up yelling at the screen after having every button pressed repeatedly in seeing grown men (all terse, overweight and suburban) bring up their kids and inveigle other families and long-suffering wives into a life of unputdownable threat and big boys’ army games. Which got me triggered, so to speak. Watching white-socked wannabees bowling round pristine lawns armed with uzis and a well-tended fear of cityfolk, or the sweaty ranch-owning narcissist who puts his kids in life-or-death scenarios as per norm, in preparation for a terrorist takeover. His hiring of local law enforcers -constructively nurturing more trigger happiness -to stage a shouty ransoming of family members, guns to heads was especially revealing. All in aid of seeing what the 7 year old would do (he caved and put the shotgun down, bless his little warm, living hands).

I honestly think there is an unsaid link between our sociopathy spectrum levels with a hangover from our predatory evolution. That those on the far right have been shown to share nightmares of being hunted, hounded by constant threat (darkies chasing them with machetes, feminazis throwing tampons, trees getting hugged) -and that we ourselves demonstrate when put in the corner. When forced to defend our loved ones the last feelings of empathy or concern for the Other (side) goes well out the reinforced window. It’s a certain mix of cold disregard with wheedling attention and premonition that is a pathological condition methinks, and the series is making the most of it. I was shocked to find it was from the National Geographic, though of course majority stakes went to Rupert Murdoch a few years ago, and the channel’s always been in bed with Fox since 2001.

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Anyhoo they must be loving life right now. So I am not convinced this world deserves us, and that we deserve the world, regardless of how glossy a cover it makes and how, like most relationships in life, we pretend to care and support each other.

More commuting horrors of the tube were snapped this morning – but before we tut our middle class tongues, look again at the pics and note this is just the normal 5-7am rush hour for the poor as it is every day – construction crews, supermarket shelvers, carers, caterers, cleaners, transportation workers who have to come in from far to service the centre. Take away their trains and frequencies and it can only get worse -it’s a telling sign that somewhere like Denmark puts on more trains to enable social distancing, and we do the opposite to systemise it. Is that plain stupidity or just the usual punishing of the poor, at best callous, at worst intentional?

These people are not wilfully there, they are not congregating at sunrise for a latte in the park. They are trying to survive, and running a new gauntlet to do so; choice being a luxury we may have and they do not.

In short this is more a picture of desperation than disregard.

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There is always an underlying economy beneath our everyday, the background workers shunted into fruit picking, manual labour, cleaning and human exploitation from nail bars to prostitutes to garage workers to sweatshop droves in territories beyond. The fact most Londoners have no idea there is a peak travel time at dawn, where it’s standing room only on buses and trains, so long as you live out in Zones 4-9, and are up early enough to witness it, perhaps when catching our flights to more aspirational destinations.

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You can actually work out how many slaves work for you here; take note that by namedropping you live in London you actually entail more indentured labour than if you opted for Dubai, pariah of a vast underclass behind the steel and glass, just less hidden. This appears to be our question in these days of our lives, do we look out for that unseen economy? Do we worry for and change habits for the untold numbers at the edges of society, the shadows in our peripherals, blocking the sun? The old, the sick, the alone, the homeless, the vulnerable who will be dying soon in forgotten wards and warehouses across the country in the next few weeks.

Italy has seen a fall in deaths again today, though still in the hundreds. It may be over the worst, though Spain looks soon to take that mantle. The UK waits in the wings, and a judgement on what our policy of half-arsed mitigation has sown. When push comes to shove, and for all our navel-gazing entreaties, how much will we look out for others, or take up arms against them? There’s a lot to be said about being alone in a crowd.

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In other news J, who was a photographer and artist in another life has had his image on valuable items, for an upcoming auction (online of course) added to the Chiswick house feed where he works. Very apt, and a sign of the times. When I saw it, jaw-dropped, I did actually ask where he got them from. What is it that we hold dear, no really?

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John Rogers, @durbinlewis

“Right now in today’s world our perception of value might have shifted somewhat since 1766, when Sir Thomas Broughton and Mary Wicker had their coat of arms engraved upon this soup tureen as part of their marriage silver. Nevertheless the timeless quality of the silver sold through the Wakelin partnerships continues to captivate collectors and aesthetes alike.

Lot 580 on the 25th March Silver & Objects of Vertu auction

Just saw two of our neighbours from the window, coming up with their shopping (Sainsbury’s looks like), and proving life can be normalised despite. The sun is out and it almost looks a vision of lost mundanity, with their produce and smiles and nice clothing, all satisfaction arising in a time of want. They’ve even managed to find loo roll.

The stairs, that’s where we’ll get them.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 6

Monday, 23rd March 2020

Okay, today’s been tough. As in tough being stuck indoors. So not that tough given the mf shitcake the world is baking right now. But let’s forget perspective and ethics and scale and any later claims to hairblowing heroism, I’m feeling it’s tough, being in bed. Still in my PJ’s, writing the book for 5 hrs, break for a pot noodle, then admin for another 3hrs and counting, and writing now the blog. I imagine weeerrkk today will account for about 11hrs when I’m done with this. Don’t mind it so much but when it involves claiming travel insurance, a new all-day, family affair, it’s gonna be a memorable one.

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I don’t know anyone who can conceivably enjoy or enable into existence the process of filling out jargon-heavy forms, ringing up multiple call centres, midway discovering other refunds not fulfilled or double charging, then extracting a range of evidence, phone and bank records, screenshots and converting it all to PDF while trying to annotate using counter-intuitive tools. Our collective societies should be designed around never having to do this. A is doing a big chunk of the werk, but in his roundabout way, operative word roundabout. I dream of the day we can talk to an operating system, perhaps pleasingly named Berty, or Sharon, and get them to fill out, fact-check, source and send the form within milliseconds, trawling through our emails, creating attachments and communicating with other OS’s in multiple bureaucratic pigeonholes. She’d only have to ask if you wanted to claim, and all you’d have to say is yes Shazza, yes.

Throughout this time the smell’s getting to me. That pungent burnt aroma it appears only I can still savour, reeking at a low level throughout the flat two days later -not so much cardboard/ woodsmoke, more dead fish, giving me a headache, a gnawing gut feeling and a lack of appetite. It does make me wonder what Francomanca puts into its boxes. I found out how to fully open the 2 metre high windows yesterday after fiddling with the brackets, they swing dangerously out and I’ve entreatied the housemates not to trampoline.

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The fact I’m already moaning about the little things in life is an indicator methinks. This is the new normal. People are dying, and I’m inside, oblivious. When UK reaches the state of Italy I will be singing a different tune, nearer to the first blog post, what only 5 days ago, so full of doom and gloom, and now look at me, complaining about paperwork. Do I have to acknowledge disaster every day? Do I have the altruism to even look?

The news is full of snaps of heaving beaches and national parks; places such as Snowdonia and the Peak District recording their busiest days in living memory, where parking space so ran out miles of empty cars appropriated the country lanes. London parks are now threatening closure until we behave. And stop effectively killing each other – a viral load indeed.

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Brighton:

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A similar story played out in so-called lockdown states in the US, notably squawky Californian beaches and buzzing Floridian boat parties, tied up to swap fluids. The tube lines and trains in London also suffered a rush hour, in part thanks to the enlightened choice of cutting down so many services and stations the groundlings that still travel have to cram onto the next available shuttles, making social distancing a Hawkins-esque abstract, a bit like how they claim learning algebra will help you in life. The govt maintains that only essential workers should use the trains, and is discussing full stay-at-home-or-we’ll-shoot-you lockdown, by all counts the only thing that may work on us Brits. Especially when that once in a lifetime opportunity presents itself in the sky of a golden glowing ball.

Still terrible news from Italy, but marginally better as a slight dip has been seen in infections and deaths these past 24 hrs, the latter down from over 800 to 600. India has enacted a lockdown now of 80 cities and over 100 million people, the largest in history alongside China’s -the subcontinent has been especially vigilant for months, and can be praised for their far-reaching measures knowing full well the disastrous possibilities in the world’s densest tracts of humanity, even with their much earlier lockdowns, public transport and interstate travel bans, rail cancellations and events and business closures.

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However, for all its foresight the Indian govt can only hold so much at bay, with such a vast undertaking. Some states alone have 200 million people in them.  And when Indians and Africans start dying in their far greater droves, will we even care by then?

The US continues to squabble over a blame game, alongside ineffectual handling of preventative measures. Opinion pieces in CNN and the New York Times are now making the connection (alongside Dr. Anthony Fauci, the main health advisor to the regime) that an administration compromised by so pointing the finger is misdirecting its resources, possibly wilfully so. Fauci maintained in yesterday’s interview with CNN, that he can’t exactly jump in front of the microphone and take it away whenever POTUS makes another sweepingly inaccurate statement. Trump’s deployment of a line of appropriated human props in the background of his public appearances are surely starting to reveal the holes rather than cover them, by the fact many of them appear to have thought processing.

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Japan is mulling over whether to postpone or possibly cancel the Olympics (its legally binding agreement when accepting the flame was to hold it in 2020, this year only). Norway and Canada are already out. The nation’s torch relay has been heavily edited already and similar hisses are being sounded across many nations to follow suit. More shockingly, Eurovision has been canceled.

Having scrolled through a few million comments last night on the Internatz, it appears people are settling into the routine, while many others are reaching the point of cabin fever/ bankruptcy/ withdrawal and asking in their non-drug hazed clouds, whether it’d be better to just get on with normal life and let the millions die. It’s reached that. The moral question on an indentured life in the name of the living. And we’re barely at the shit>X<fan moment. The global economy is now set for a depression, the Asian nations months ahead, whose lockdowns and infection levels were steadfastly clearing, are now facing reinfection as numbers climb from returnees stepping off Western flights.

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Last night I had a sore throat, so quickly used the throat spray thing everyone says got invented in Sweden a few years back, and that halts many colds in their tracks. Despite it being anti-bac rather than anything anti-viral. Had to use it again today, and A admitted the same, but thinking it’s just the dry air from being indoors for so long. Here’s to hoping.

Last night’s matinee was Onward, Pixar’s latest which has a fantastic premise (blue elves, centaurs, trolls and assorted storybook creatures transposed into today’s evolved existence, of suburban drives, class politics, and that time-worn Disney adage, the magic of unbridled capitalism), along with lovely visuals and two likable protagonists. However, how very quickly does it wear off, how very quickly do we realise how unexotic our everyday is, even when populated by pet dragons, cop centaurs and chimeral restaurateurs. And there’s only so far you can push the same meme of juxtaposing fable with reality- although they definitely should have had more on the feral unicorns. A very human story, almost boringly so. Plus a rather bizarre insertion of a half body dad (don’t ask). I generally felt they missed a trick somewhat, peppered with way too much Deux Ex and dreamed up situational comedy written by several competing writers without a producer. It is too deeply unmagical, too accurate to our lives to suspend disbelief.

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Next up is the BAFTA winning documentary For Sama. In this day and age, dare I watch it? The struggle of a filmmaker, newly pregnant, who is forced to stay in Aleppo, the world’s oldest city and former UNESCO World Heritage Site as it’s bombed out of existence (her partner a frontline medic). The ethical dilemma of bringing a new life into such a world throughout. It is perhaps too close for home now, no longer viewed from the pity generating, door slamming safeties of mollycoddled privilege, in the continent next door.

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Aleppo was of course Syria’s biggest city (more so than its capital Damascus) and spending no less than 8,000 years as the same continuously inhabited settlement, while we were largely still looking for caves and handy-sized rocks, and mammoths still roamed. At its centre a vast citadel that would be the world’s largest castle if ever we decided to call it one, surrounded by ancient medinas, bazaars, churches (yes, churches) and mosques:

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Now gone

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It is a harbinger, that we have been here before. If another country offered shelter, on the doorstep, would we go? Could we afford the liquidity of an average $20,000 fee, and risk that seafaring, lorry-hiding, continent crossing journey? From a war with an estimated 700 sides, where half a million have died violently or from starvation. It brings it home, context, scale, memory. When society crumbles where do we turn?

There’s a lessening pool of what can suspend disbelief, of options in escapism. But we should at least be thankful we still, right now, have the choice.

Need to open the windows again. Then Netflix, then pie.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Week 2

Sunday 22nd March 2020

The sun is out. People are on the streets, and in the parks, basking like how you’d expect in a perfectly normal day on Planet Earth in the early 21st century, and in groups too. From the older lady I spied statuesque in the carpark, soaking up her Sunny D, to the gaggles of teenagers manning street corners and park benches, impervious to care and often reason. A who has been going for a normally lonesome walk every day due to anxiety, reported on the sudden herds. No wonder the govt has had to close down pubs and cafes, throwing heed and germs to the wind appears endemic.

In short, it looked like a quiet Sunday morning. The only difference being the distinct lessening of the traffic.

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I do think there is a libertine element still in London, a mix of Britons never ever being slaves (well, except under the Romans, and Picts, and Saxons, and Vikings, and Normans), and the anything-goes culture of a cosmopolis. On the one hand it lifted my spirits, seeing this semblance of normality, and a reminder that perhaps there is a focus beyond the infectious headlines, on another heavily gloved mit I felt uneasy about the varying options in contagion. A few of the food shops and small supermarkets operated short queues to get in (gone within 5 minutes) akin to exclusive, chichi nightspots albeit dampened by the homeless man sprawled at the entrance, sleeping it off to a sign asking for a hostel room. I’ve heard the homeless will be housed in the emptied hotels, and the Mayor will pay for it. I hope this transpires, that It Is For Real, as few people would notice, or care so much right now.

I managed to buy some face masks from a corner store, the owner having a veritable pile of them for £2.10 a pop at the till (highly suspicious, I’m never lucky). I bought 3, vowing to post them to The Fam. Along with the usual smattering of crisps, a tinned curry and packet of mystery milk, possibly camel. In the small Sainsbury’s opposite it looked normally stocked (read: amazingly stocked), I even got two packets of fresh pasta, which I may build a bidding website for. I can imagine the Die Hard style trials and tribulations an army of unsung transporter heroes must have had to make to get it there, involving car chases, gunsights and terse video calls on zoom.

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Just outside our estate there’s an unofficial corner (read: cul-de-sac) where people leave junk to be collected by the council, or just leave junk. Tawdry closets, mangled sofas, desperately dated drawers, that kinda thing. Today’s offerings were a brand new leather and gilt armchair and a spotless new mattress, glinting in the sun. I’m wondering if anyone will grab them if ever, with the idea of contamination now imbedded as a poo stain, or murder scene. The last time this happened I moved two new chairs to sit them outside the charity shop a whole 20 yards further, but today even I was worried to touch them. I went down again to snap a pic and the chair had been taken, bless. Noticing a bargain is the last stand in functioning society.

There was suddenly something deeply inviting about the bed, in the sun.

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The air feels fresh. I made the mistake of wearing my shoes inside, twice now on the same day, when before I’d warned others about taking them off, the pavements being quite the vector for anything coming out of the human body, and absorbed when wet. I even put it as a Facebook post, like how grannies do the same on some kitten charity or the latest scam you must pass on to all otherwise it means you hate them and want them robbed.

Also sat through an online tutorial, about how the virus is covered in fat, acting a bit like an oil droplet which won’t come off with just water, but needs regular soap or handwash to break it down, and 20 seconds worth. Alongside a vid of how to wash, a short from China showing the bits you’ll likely miss using dye. I did it properly when coming home from my little sojourn, but popping out just now I halved the time. There’s a lot to be said about my enthusiasm for a cause when having relaxed just the teeniest bit, and the saddening studies on how punishment motivates people more than a prize. Or laziness, just sheer I cannot-be-arsed-right-nowness. Those idiots laughing slow mo in the park, that could be me.

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I’ve not looked at the news today, though I did sink to trawling through a news forum. Once again there’s a lot of back and forth about Trump and China being in the sights for global blame. I did get involved, mentioning how China’s localised cover-up was not so much to blame (having informed the World Health Organisation -WHO – a full two weeks before ever castigating Dr Li Wenliang and his private Wechat group).

What we can definitely shake a stick at China for is the fact it hadn’t quarantined the infections believing them only animal > human for nearly a month. The WHO is still haunted by a tweet on Jan 14th maintaining that no evidence had yet to be found of human to human infection. Likely from now on it’ll have to change procedure that any new disease be treated as human > human rather than waiting for a patient to turn up without any contact with wildlife, markets, handlers or farmers (about 3 or 4 new human viruses are discovered every year from animals, but don’t require lockdowns). Also Trump and his cronies insistence to call it a Chinese disease points towards a political tool, perhaps to dive from the spotlight accusing him of gross mismanagement, perhaps in reply to the equally idiotic Chinese General hinting it was all a US spy infection, planted during their joint Hubei exercises.

Imagine Trump diving. Like a fat dolphin, squeak-screaming under the kitchen table and toppling no end of shit.

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There are other diseases out there with place names such as Spanish Flu (rather unfairly Spain was just the country not under media lockdown during WWI and openly spread the word, it originally came from a pig farm in Kansas). Or West Nile Virus, itself a branch of Japanese Encephalitis. However all these were named from the 1930s backwards, or centuries before, and the practice has died out -we don’t call HIV the African disease, nor the Los Angeles Disease, where it was formally identified. To do again in this day and age is courting xenophobia, as if East Asians or anyone who looks like them don’t have enough to deal with right now in a surge of viral racism.

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This ends today’s public announcement. I’m weaning myself off the pollyticks. Really I am, promise. That was only two paragraphs; It really does help when you avoid the screaming headlines. I have no global update to post today.

Mum rang yesterday, she opted to take leave from work, the proud firm of Keeler Ltd, provider of opthalmic equipment round the world and so far protected by being in the private health sector. They’re doing the honourable thing and keeping her on the payroll till it all blows over. She joked with the HR woman’s noncommital gestures -that if they had suggested a course of action (stay away /don’t stay away) and Mum subsequently popped her clogs they’d become liable. I told her not to be mean, that the nice HR lady was doing her job, but Mum maintains the woman found it funny. I can imagine that pained, whooping laugh and beseeching niceties while they stood metres apart.

But joking aside, they are a fantastic, refreshingly humane company that consciously chose not to outsource to a sweatshop in the Global South back in the day, and I beseech the world to each buy a retinal scanner when all this is over.

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At 77, with multiple health issues, she’s high risk and may have to be cocooned away for quite a sentence – 4 months to next year even according to the official hints. Enough to get cabin fever and drive herself and my sister up the tiny cramped walls of the ’60s terrace, stuffed to the eaves with things hoarders hoard. Before she seemed calm, and was going to keep working until I persuaded her otherwise (there’s a legendary 83 y.o. lady who vows to carry on on the factory floor, now laid out so worktables occupy separated rows from each other); she’s now a little more fearful, having seen the numbers in town rise from 2 to 20 almost overnight. That a doctor in the next town over was caught with the disease while treating patients. The fact there may be 20x more infected than officially tested for round the country, it all really hit home, her home.

I felt distant, in every way, and wonder when I’ll next see her.

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My daily structure is becoming less regimented, but still there. Rather than me sitting rod straight on the table tapping away, I’m on the sofa with Netflix in the background. Yesterday  we made the disastrous decision to watch The Leisure Seeker (pronounced Leezhur) starring Helen Mirren (Golden Globe award nominee for the part) and Donald Sutherland as an aged couple kidnapping their own camper van to enjoy a vacay to the umbrage of their kids. Was kind of expecting a delightful mix of Bad Grandpa and Dukes of Hazzard, but it was of course a timeless study on our slow and inexorable act of dying from a largely Italian arthouse team. Donald is a former arts and lit professor deteriorating with Alzheimer’s, liable to accuse his wife of polygamy as he is to burst into quote on Hemingway; Helen his long-suffering, perky Southern belle of a wife liable to chat endlessly to strangers as she is to take up shotguns. No spoilers here but turns out, she’s dying too. Oops, may have fudged that a bit.

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Like you were ever gonna see it.

At the end I felt like shooting myself in the gullet. In one scene they enter an old folks home and point an unloaded shotgun around at several members of the bedded community, then get told off about it and offered a price leaflet. If that happened here it’d be ten years just for possession, and the rest of the fucking story would just end there. Fin. And we would not have had to watch them die and pretend everything was absofuckinglutely fine behind those walls.

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The whole thing felt like a demise mere days from now, dripping slowly worries, fondness, memories and saying goodbye to a sacrament of decaying time -rather than an exercise savoured for your twilight years multiple decades in the future. I may have cried for an instant. Right now America’s Got Talent (AGT!) is playing in the background, by contrast. By very very fucking contrast. So full of cheering and trashy pizzazz I want to reach through the screen and slap everyone of the goobers with a brick. How can people be so very whoopingly supportive, so very worshipping of any given status quo? Does the studio director say jump and they fucking imbed their heads in the ceiling? While Nipplepants Cowell lords over them like an arsey, stuck up demigod, hovering from his red buttoned throne. How can people be so willing to submit to hierarchy, to appraise or condemn from their exalted, cup-holding audience seats? This series will date badly, to the point of becoming historical reference. Culture, society, economy.

I need to get out more. I think rather it was just a reminder of a simpler, freer time that pissed me off so much. History envy may be a thing now.

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What is happening out there? What is happening to my friends and family and everyone I’ve ever known, outside of re-run land where what we see is no longer there, and always Has Been? What is reality from a different lens?

A welcome respite is not really one, when that breath of fresh air is deepening a chasm. It’s not so much a list of cliches: living for the moment, putting off the inevitable and all that jazz, but that we can enjoy ourselves, the air, the sun, and others with social distancing. We need to learn now how to do it, not later, not too late. 800 people died today in Italy, and a week or two ago they too were sunning themselves on passegiata. Eight hundred.

J came home shortly after in a huff, wiping down the door handles on everything -a blindsided colleague of his had admitted his wife had the lergy, yet had come in 3x to work, plus met clients. Well I suppose, I’ll swap that guilt for the kitchen fire last night. J’s working again today, apparently before any auction the dept heads have to work an unpaid weekend, to put in the extra time and commitment. Illegal surely, but suddenly acceptable in these current climes. We wound down with two episodes of Drag Race, all bright colours to bitchiness which J is obsessed by, and is infecting us with. Sakura was kicked out last night, rather unfairly I may add, especially in comparison to that rather uninspired Emo-Minelli, who resembles a pretty slug.

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A car in the lot below has a bookshelf tied to its roof, liberally balancing an assortment of heavy boxes, houseplants, coat stands, bench tools and books on top. Looks like a tenant is moving with his father, back to the country where they can hold out longer, perhaps in a castle. It can’t end well, an opener for Final Destination if ever I saw one. Plus I know how it’ll end for the survivors.

I’m bored. As fuck. I took a picture of the flowers outside, just like little old ladies on social media are wont to do. We can pleasure ourselves for hours over this: I think it’s Spring.

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Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 4

Saturday 21st March 2020

Last night was the swansong for pubs, bars, clubs, theatres, gyms, and leisure/ community centres, not to mention schools. Restaurants are allowed to operate only with takeaways. Going out for a final pizza (Francomanco’s) we waited patiently for nearly half an hour as the small team stacked up orders, the pizza chef sweating in the empty restaurant -business seemed solid. In a few restaurants singular couples sat, candles burning.

Witness these epic, unreachable scenes below, now worthy of National Geographic covers and coffee table books exalting the exotic. People, clumped:

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The streets were almost crowded, commuters in every bus stop, but also a deal of footfall towards the boozers, each one full. A lone man ran a treadmill from a window in the gym above, spreading the last of his copious body fluids before a flabbygasted hibernation. It was almost a snapshot of London at its norm, nowhere near as crowded but a semblance of old -a few hundred populating the streets around the station, mums with toddlers, family groups, commuters, shoppers and drinking buds in arms, couples in embrace.

The supermarket trawl was its usual self-defeating offering of stuff no one else wanted to buy, but you got one or two of in case. Some cigarillo-like wafers from Poland (cheap looking but amazing, creme filled), a big bar of Turkish Delight (how does that company even function, everyone hates it yet is ubiquitous in every shop -evidence of one laureate winning marketing team) and some butter, very much needed. No crispbread, pickled goods, Vitamin D or paracetamol, or anything carby, tinny or cleany, which was the original intent. Vitamin Dee is the new big thing, the It girl that not only offers that daily 5 mins of sunshine required for a good mood (in UK level climes, 5 mins equates to an hour naked in an X-shape in the middle of the road, well until mid-April), but also purports to reduce respiratory infection by up to 70%. It is of course now mythical, on par with Bigfoot sightings and right now, God. I was reminded of the timeless words of George Bush Jnr, to a painfully smiling Hispanic family: “I know how hard it is for you to put food on your kids.”

At one point, trying to wrangle my camera from a ridiculously over-engineered bag, I picked out the black-wrapped butter and put it to my face. A snapshot of society indeed.

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The new estimates for the government’s current approach of gradual infection is 250,000 dead – lower than the 800,000 if the viral spread is left unchecked but also significantly higher than the 20,000 figure if quarantine is instated. One hospital in London – Harrow, is already breaking capacity with its ICU’s and wards overrun. Everywhere on the fora, people are intoning: It Is Coming. Yet life looks as if getting back to normal for a few, or at least a last Churchillian knees up down the boozer, typical. It appears a few days of self-imposed lockdown is undoable for many Londoners. Even when the tube looks like this (photo courtesy of J, one of the last workers in the city today):

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A is off for a bike ride today, in Battersea Park, a semblance of normality and his need to get in exercise otherwise his mind will go barmy. I’ve asked him not to talk to strangers, and not to hug them. Yesterday he put the pizzas in the oven to warm them gently, complete with boxes. A few minutes later smoke was billowing and a thankfully non-existent fire alarm screaming in my head. Pizzas were saved, while I held every nerve not to castigate in a big shouty display. The whole flat still reeks of smoke and is freezing from the windows being wedged open (barely a few inches thanks to 60s modernism coupled with noughties Health & Safety); I lied to our flatmate J that there must have been olive oil on the cover that got ignited when it rested on a still-hot stove, easily done. As opposed to putting yards of paper into an oven. Alanis could easily have penned out a belter about us dying in a fire after surviving a pandemic, back when it was ironic, rather than a viable option.

It does not bode well.

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The world of the internet is still well and truly alive, and feeding, with finger-pointing, political competition, sabre-rattling and divisiveness making up almost every comment. There is far less of the sharing of helpful information for all, the comfort, sympathy and jokes we kinda need right now -less of the support networking overall. As a great woman once said, Life is like a fucking giant sinking disaster, you’ve just got to enjoy the view while rowing.

 

But I do get it, there is quite a history of cataclysm bringing out the best and worst in people. I had a horrible dream, one of many recently where I was willing to do anything to protect my loved ones, including repeatedly punching some woman in the eye. With a chair leg. However if that were to transpire, I wouldn’t boast to all and sundry about it, rather quietly stuff the crawl space.

I do think if ever historians of the future look back on these archived comments -a rash throughout these past few decades ever since we each got an online podium and our entitled 15 years of fame -they’ll come to the conclusion we are a pretty nasty bunch. Judgmental, prejudiced, openly, knee-jerkingly racist, homophobic, fat-shaming, sexist, misogynistic, divisive, politicised, partisan and petty. Just look at the Youtube comments from a few years back, before they got all un-toxic and started getting people to register their identities, or at least some form of societal comportment. Actually, Youtube in the noughties would be a great example of the winning human spirit, unsheathed from the shackles of social respectability and free to call Adele fat for page after page, regardless of her performance.

Japanese culture likes to distinguish between these ‘truths’, the honne ‘true sound’ of your inner, privated thoughts and the tatamae of what you present to the public. This applies to most places round the world, though the Japanese system goes one step further in debate class, whereby both teams, after their polarising exercise, actually find correlations between arguments and round on a respectable midpoint. Thus, instilling a unity of honne and tatamae -the great nexus of Buddhist and Ayurvedic teachings, whereby what you think, say and do are in line with each other, giving inner peace. It’s much more doable in Japan -cultural stalwart of politesse, yet honesty alongside. This is somewhat lacking in the rest of the world, as exposed on the Internet, where any respectability can often be a mask. Don’t get me wrong the Japanese still snigger at videos of fat people falling over and will bitch about Sandra The Bitch In HR buying Rich Tea when it was her round. So not so kawaii as they make out (cuteness being a rebellion against sararimen conformity).

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But they are perhaps less likely to spit from the balcony or get all warm and cuddly at the idea of foreigners dying -because if they do, they’ll politely mention they do and be gracefully accommodating if you disagree, as opposed to manning the barricades in Les Miz or shooting people from clocktowers until we all concur. It also helps that in Japan the kids don’t get any tests until the age of 9, because they spend the first few years largely learning how to live, rather than the usual mix of subjects interspersed with three daily lessons on where they stand in playground hierarchy.

It remains to be seen how they bow out of hosting the Olympics this year. In South Korea they set up signs and even protests forbidding Chinese, China is in turn playing the blame game, and in the US they’re already talking about recompense, and even war, rather than focusing on the job at hand.

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I won’t even start on the utter lack of empathy, and often overt schadenfreude we have for Iranians at the mo’, now dying in their thousands under our sanctions, for a regime we put into place, back when we overthrew their democratic, secular government and reinstated their dictatory Shah (who in turn would be overthrown for a refreshing round of Wahabbism), in order to grab the oil in ’53. But then that would be gauche, me talking pollyticks after railing about getting all politicised at this no-dinner party of ours. I really have to look into it, it is perhaps a condition I suffer, a bit like Tourettes. Bring up say, popcorn flavours in conversation and I’ll then want to point out the mismanaged holes in globalised food production or the American health system, and why war is a bad thing.

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https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/2020/03/coronavirus-has-forced-iran-to-take-a-hard-pause/

We appear to be grappling on two fronts, as a collectivised audience to the WTF situation operating across the world right now, and getting deluged under. It helps if we organise our crazy fucking grab the cat fears:

Front Number One: interpersonal

  1. How our governments are dealing with this; what is being done, what is the approach, what are the worst/best case scenarios?
  2. How many will die?
  3. Where the blame is.
  4. What the reaction is in the populace, and how that affects the spread.
  5. How long will this last – the viral peak, the global economic meltdown.
  6. What lockdown is, and what is the new normal for societal life.
  7. How will all this Thunderdome shit affect the future?

Front Number Two: personal

  1. How bad is the virus, what will it do to me or loved ones should we catch it? What can I do to survive it?
  2. Where is my income going to come from?
  3. Where is my home and shelter going to come from?
  4. Where is my food going to come from?
  5. Who will look after my dependents?
  6. How do I protect myself if shit hitteth the fan and society becomes Chavfest Zombieland? Where did I put that axe?
  7. How can I protect my old folk, from afar, for the next few months, or even year? How will I stop it spreading to them?
  8. What will happen to my investments/ are my savings safe? All £55.78 of it.
  9. How TF am I meant to keep sane and healthy and all yoga-mat blissful under lockdown?
  10. Will I get my refund?
  11. How are my friends doing? Actually fuck ’em I got enough on my plate.
  12. Shoot, I forgot to fully switch bank accounts, am I being charged? I still have that phone swap thing to do. The cat needs to be de-wormed. I think I left behind one of the kids in Asda. Rent is due. My divorce papers are missing. I think I water-boarded my i-Pod. Something’s going off in the fridge. A bird just shat on the window.

I honestly think we should divide those further into What Matters (most or what matters today), and What Can Be Shelved/ Ditched. Basically an exercise in downsizing on all fronts -imho I’d jettison almost the entirety of Front Number One.

Come on kids, we have enough on our tiny, cracked Ikea plates. Cain’t we all, y’know, just geddalawnng?

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