A Journal of the Plague Year Day 57

Thursday 14th May 2020

Spent the day doing paperwork, cobbling together the insurance claims and chasing refunds for three holidays we’d booked over this period. Had never planned so many trips in short succession and in one year, having suddenly gotten antsy in January. -Embarrassingly in hindsight, so stricken with wanderlust as to fully exemplify both compounds of the word. We’d been flushed with newfound, short-lived wealth (A finally getting a job) and a bid to revive things. In another life, back when we had money.

It took 6hrs, umpteen phonecalls and chasing up on emails and missives. Never again. At about the 5hr mark started getting tetchy, something long promised I’d never do in life. All too often people get stressed then take it out on others, which is what keeps the world’s psychiatrists in career. Reined it in, but dear lord, half a day of joyless graft, pressure, complexity and concentration without a break changes you. Start off as a guitar-singing nun, end up as crack wrestler Numbnutz Jack.

But things are better than yesterday, that’s for sure. The household drama, the tears, the tightly closed doors, the crying through haircuts. Lockdown doesn’t help domestics.

The work took so long we barely ate, just sloughed through it. Six flights, an overnight train, a stay in a youth hostel, an Airbnb and 5 hotels, to cancel, ask for refunds, liaise with travel agents, booking companies and credit card providers then put into claim with the attached evidence of a refusal of refund. All the while harbouring these empty experiences to mourn, lost to vicarious dimensions when asking a receipt from the Hallstatt Lakehaus or the Lower East Side Digs.

AirBnb is meanwhile laughably still selling rents and experiences, despite you not being able to be there in person. You can have virtual participation via scrolling deleriously through someone’s house, perhaps stare at their sofa or play spot-the-cat. Maybe watch one of them wedge their wobbling arse into a deckchair and sun themselves for an all-inclusive fee. But strangely after noone ever took them up on that (actually I bet some fuckwit somewhere, some time did), they’re now investing in online sessions of say yoga, or a drawing lesson or storytime for the kids. You can watch a middle-aged couple make shitty cupcakes you’ll never taste or interview someone about the wonders of their insurance firm job, at up to £85 a pop.

Okay there are some that look genuinely clickable, such as the cocktail class by Lisbon drag queens (nightclub-in-my-bedroom setting, lots of glitter), someone who set up a 1.5hr long escape room (there’d better be skeletons in the cupboard, or nudity), and various online concerts, from Provencal piano playing with a view to speakeasy Jazz clubs.

Others however looked graspingly doomed -how to propagate houseplants (pic of man watering a plant) for £30 and 1.5hrs, or a woman cooking in her French kitchen (looking exactly like any formica-happy kitchen anywhere, trying to lick the whisk suggestively), or the hour long lecture on how to cut a champagne bottle with a sabre. You can imagine these poor denizens of ex-hospitality thinking, now what is it that I can offer to the world, if not my overpriced, neutrally-colored bedroom?

One that I woulda picked if I absolutely had to, was a Plague Doctor’s Tour of the deserted streets of Prague, the guide dressed in full Black Death monk-and-crow-skull costume. Not sure if it’s legal and he’ll have to streak down alleyways or into bins whenever the copshop shows, but that does resonate right now.


Anyhoo, I procrastinate, back to the weeeeerk. Ah yes, that dish of sweet, pure fuckery. We’d done half the graft the week or three before, this was now the chasing up. Godawful werk you cannot avoid or rebrand as anything else. I’d genuinely rather polish shit.

Spent my childhood being hammered into my skull that werk is misery, werk is shite and something to scream at the moon about, that so long affected my every approach for years after, and fought to overcome. But now I see it true.


J’s feeling better thankfully, though somewhat islanded in the house with us locked into our rooms the past two days, furtively only out to forage from the kitchen. We treated ourselves after to a trip to the supermarket, the highlight of the day like any granny with no mates, the kind who talks interminably, pitiably with service staff. I would’ve hugged everyone on the street if it wouldn’t now be counted as murder.

Things have been opening up recently with a relaxation of some of the rules, and the lack of a queue seemed to show less people shopping -perhaps a dip in having to stock up. Bought a large, chocolate cookie in Lidl, in recompense for the middle class Riesling I’d otherwise be pretending on the vistas of the Salzkammergut. It’s become properly chilly these past few days, enough for a return to longjohns, squirreled away in the blanket box, but the air itself is sublime, like a blade of cold and life. It burns zephyrs in my head.

We tidied the room, revamping it to clear some clutter and make things minimalist rather than plain and messy. Minimalism only works one way, and takes no prisoners. Otherwise it looks shit. Part of our ongoing negotiations in the new set-up between ourselves, and a facet in the drama beforehand.

A is watching Ricky Gervais’s After Life, a swansong to depression and loss with a comedic bent. He loves it, but I see the pain. So much of it strikes a chord. Sometimes one has so much on their plate, with so little to lose, just being a cunt with zero tolerance is not only the last option but a liberating one. Gervais also demonstrates how it’s a self-defeating way to act, and a vicious cycle. That beneath every miserable card-carrying member of the wanker cub, there may be a painfully beating heart.

Oh but how lovely looks England in it all. Filmed in a glorious summer he does take pains to paint the place as twee and empty, but the peace and history still shines through. Filmed in Hemel Hampstead and Beckonsfield -lair of model villages and a young, bullied Colonel Gadaffi -it is an aria to smalltown Home Counties life, and a tainted amosphere (think moneyed Sky-watching Brexit-land) that Gervais grew up in (Reading) and I know all too well (Windsor). He infamously set The Office series in the black hole that is Slough; this time round he’s just as piss-taking, though quite conducive to leafy surburban life, perhaps from his more moneyed existence these days.

Swansea was deemed the ‘lovely, ugly town’ by hometown boy Dylan Thomas back in 1957, and translated into the ‘pretty, shitty city’ when the film Twin Town premiered 40 years later while I lived there – an opening gala and everything at the local UCI. Then an afterparty in the Barons nightclub, with Rhys Ifans and Kelly Jones turning up!


My other hometown further south, once part of the ‘Staines Massive’ back in the Ali G days, I’d now dub the ‘bullshit beauty that is Berkshire’. Berk as in you berk; it famously came in at No 2 in the Crap Towns series (beaten only by Hull).

I am perhap getting old and nostalgic for an utter cultural shithole. For all its gardens and gracing milk bottles I have to remember Windsor votes as a Tory stronghold, effectively bans mosques (locals taking arms against ‘increasing the traffic’) and the Daily Mail is sold out even in Waitrose. It’s the most racially divided pair of boroughs in the London metro, the other being Slough with the highest minority-majority wards in the country. Maybe just call it as it is, Cunt town.

Turds, polishing, yeah.

Pub quiz fact, Rhys Ifans, before hitting screengold fame as the bod in Notting Hill, was a Versace model in Milan beforehand.





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s