A Journal of the Plague Year Day 65

Saturday 23rd May 2020

We’d planned to go cycling this morning, all the way into Central London to see the ghost town, but it was blustery all day and whistling through the windows. A maintains it’s hard to ride when the wind’s against you, making it difficult to enjoy things, notably any scenery you pant your way past like Mutterly.

I imagine the place as dystopian, akin to the opening to 28 Days Later, where a fallen double-decker blocks Westminster Bridge. Apparently the scene was made on low budget by shooting at the height of a Sunday summer morning (dawn at 4am) and begging any drivers to wait a few minutes. I kinda just want to say I saw it, I was there, for history. A pretty ghoulish intent, but for a committed urbanist just too compelling.

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I expect the streets will be populated somewhat, with quite a few cars too compared to the start of lockdown, now that the sun’s out and the rules have been eased. A big furore’s kicking up about Dominic Cummings, chief Tory aide and mastermind of the Leave Campaign who was caught driving 260 miles to Durham after getting C-19 symptoms (apparently to have his kids looked after by his elderly parents). There’s also a lot trending on social media as to why media outlets initially refused to cover the story in a hope it would all blow over, notably ITV news. And how the govt is now desperate to reinterpret the wording of what staying lockdowned entails.

Downing St issued a statement saying it was going to ignore the story because papers such as The Guardian and The Mirror published reports that he’d been seen twice on other outings from Durham, and that they were false allegations. It’s since been forced to face up after Tory backbenchers have come forward to ask for Cummings’ resignation, seeing the party reputation and resources damaged otherwise. The PM maintains he’s backing Cumming’s position to stay in place as an advisor. Ah such farce.

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The day has been surprisingly health-moan free- no headaches, though a big achey arm by nightfall, perhaps from playfighting in bed as one is wont to do when bored. Other domestic newsflashes include thinking about cutting and dyeing the hair again (growing out), feeling old (seeing bad photos of me), feeding on a giant watermelon for days (paired with feta, as is traditional for Greek country cooking), and bickering about whose turn it is to do the cleaning this weekend (we’d been getting the order wrong and expecting each other to do it).

Apparently the trick is to not add the mint, onions, rocket, walnuts or olive oil as many recipes ask, but just the purist melon and cheese, nothing else, the Greek farmers way of taking a block of cheese while working  the fields, and for once ignoring the herbs around. That way the flavours combine into something new, rather than layer themselves distinctly. Also the seeds can be cooked after – they’re literally amazing with salt and pepper.

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I am also getting exhausted from the racism online. One of my favourite websites now overrun with it, as it has been for some years. Skyscraperpage is racist, oozes it -and that’s just a random architecture and urbanity site, who you’d think was populated by progressive IMBY’s. I’m increasingly resorting to watching Youtube vids on a range of algorithmic topics that are my own personal echo chamber, perhaps to cheer myself up that the world does support my way of thinking everywhere I look. But knowing inside that it’s just a damn foil I’m surrounding myself with every click.

It kept me up last night. The end to a good day scuppered by seeing the insults online, and the avid acceptance and support of them as an institutional reminder. I am yearning for history to fast forward, and just deal with the results rather than this limbo. My intended holiday to NYC, planned over a lifetime, will always be marred as to what to expect, sure -but it’s getting increasingly shadowy. I get that Americans are not all neo-Nazis and there are hundreds of millions of normal people, but the White supremacism -underhand, subconscious or overt -appears saturating in every public arena online, that currently rules its politics and laws. The country is battling for its soul, and the democratic rights of ignorance that now supersede facts.

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I cannot bring myself to watch the lurid videos of the racism, from neighbours shouting insults for hours, to demonstrators attacking, to the public diatribes. It’s hard to watch hate without feeling it yourself.

J has been getting down recently, the lockdown is getting him lonely -and we’re not helping by being holed up in our rooms for most of the day. I gave him a hug or three, but that’s not exactly a miracle cure. I try to have lunch with him on the sofa, and fixed the TV that’s been on the blink (goddamn Sony Bravia, planned obsolescence kicking in after 7 years), recalibrating every setting for half an hour, but all to little effect. He’s headed off to his partner’s place for a day or two to cheer himself up.

I got to remember things can be a lot worse, like skyline-burning worse, just like how we imagined it at the start. As America’s death toll climbs past the 100,000 mark the Great Orange Wotsit (thank you to my sister for the moniker -an item just as tainted and puffed up with hot air) going golfing on the occasion, a sign as to how mundane the disaster’s become. In better news New York state is significantly lowering in deaths, but the other states are starting to climb, notably North Carolina and California. A part of me wants to say fuck it, bring it on, goading on the end of the world order, another part knows it’s playing into the same role.

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