A Journal of the Plague Year 2.0 Day 25

29th November 2020

There is a growing mound of stuff by my bed, my launching pad to the mattress and keeper of me on it. Like the flower on the big deep-pile lily pad of the rug that A tuts at, as the room gets increasingly messy through these days of our lives.

A tangle of wires allows me the power to keep the laptop, phone and light as accompaniment through day and night. I try and sweep the untidiness under the bed, but that’s so crammed with ephemera (paperwork, old tech, sports equipment) it’s turned away. The bedside light itself now sits on the floor, being a tad too stark to be right by the pillow, glaring out into dramatic shadows between blinding light and pitch shapes that the form creates. The room looks like a witch’s eerie when it’s on, sometimes winningly so.

The laptop has a recent addition, a games controller, swamped somewhere in the clothes (jeans, t-shirt, longjohns), flung off before any time under the covers. A doesn’t like clothes on or in the bed, which is a sanctuary against the Great Outside.

A hairdryer sits on the side, an immediate giver of heat that I blast under the covers occasionally -it saves on the heating up of the whole room, with the old-fashioned radiators. For too long I’ve had to lie in funny shapes to get my feet and hands warm under an icy duvet.

A shaker holds the dregs of a liquid lunch, very handy when one cannot faintly be arsed to cook. A black rucksack sits waiting to eat it all or vomit more out, should I ever need to venture beyond.

On the tabletop an alarm clock emanates the time, temperature and date in series, designed to look like a wooden cube, which it genuinely is (how do they do that?), but a constant reminder of unnatural priorities, expectation, decay. A charcoal face mask thing sits alongside, as reminder, given that whenever I do remember it’s always in the bathroom and thus too late (it has to sit for 10 mins). Still never use it. A decades-old pic sits underneath, fallen as a bookmark. From a passport machine in wigs and boas, shades and hats, back when we were in love.

Two Tiger Balms stand sentry (pale and mild for the head, red and powerful for the body), but very much utilised as short-lived relief during migraines. A small bottle of hand sanitiser, given by a friend who stocked up in Taiwan back when it was worth it’s weight in gold, sits gathering dust. Along with a line of books I occasionally pop in and out of (travel guides), have started some time or other, or most wanted to start in lockdown and never fucking did. Murder mysteries, socio-economic study, ghost stories, social prize-winners, historical yarn.

I added a copy on Wilderness Europe, a Time Life book from childhood. Bought by subscription that was a big thing back in the day, and usually neglected as part of a wider series -but a nostalgic inspiration in interspersing non-Fiction and account, poetry with facts. I will always remember the passage on the quality of air over a Scottish beach, where clarity allowed the author from miles away to see, hear a Curlew turning glinting pebbles. So anonymous are the volumes, lost among dozens per collection, the authors don’t even get their names on them (Douglas Botting btw).

One tome in the row tells of a spookfest set on an expedition in the Himalayas, another a woman trapped indoors by agoraphobia, but whom witnesses a New York murder. A study on animalian maneaters and monsters in the human psyche, another how the rich oligarchies we live in are increasingly resembling failed states. A murder in colonial Beijing, the confessions of a female sociopath, the life and dangerous times of an Irish girl during The Troubles. The Writers and Artists Yearbook from 2017, bought for cheap due to its outdatedness, but increasingly worn and a reminder of life’s failure as it degenerates. A boardgame, Dixit, bookends the lot, bought for our enforced hibernation, but never used as we set up our separate, enforced hidey-holes in different rooms.

On top of all this is a model plesiosaur, made by a German firm called Schleich, and that excels in creating artistry out of natural form. The ways they pose their animals show the perfected designs of evolution, where the streamlined grace of a body made to flow through waves is offset with the warp of a whipping neck, -a three dimensional u-bend from differing angles. The globular torso contrasts with the sharp blades of the flippers, yet united by the same teardop shape, that if you notice, mirrors the ‘small’ head too (that in reality would be the size of a man’s torso). All moulded in plastic -a throwaway medium now elevated to an artform of accuracy, in the patina of skin, blush of colouring and age spots, glinting eyes and teeth, and even, if you flip it, a perfectly placed arsehole equidistant between limbs. Overall it looks like a sinuous, smooth strip of animal -dynamic, weird, beautiful. Schleich has found its plastic models are being collected by adults, rather than kids.

Behind all this an old self portrait, one to go with a similar painting of A on the other half. I’m looking cold and unclothed, weird colours in a barren snowscape (a line of telegraph poles behind), while A sits on his knees, eyes downcast, yet in vivid tempera. Neither of us see them anymore, they are wallpaper.

This basically is my nest. It keeps me furnished on the same spot on the left side of the bed, everything within reaching distance, and where I am as I speak. Pretty much, right now, my world and all I need for it. Day after tomorrow will be the last, back to Werk, back to all that moneymaking that we call a life, and end of the blog. Urgh.

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A Journal of the Plague Year 2.0 Day 24

28th November 2020

Sweet FA all morning till A suddenly came home from a trip to the shops and announced a mate wanted to meet nearby. A sudden mash of showering, hairing, bearding, clothing and out within 10 mins where we met our neighbours and headed out to Wandsworth Common, walking both stretches (didn’t know it was connected by a bridge) nattering to my architect friend A about projects in a pandemic and corruption and the earthquakes in his Kiwi hometown. Well until the dark, seeing the glowing lights of the shops like some tinkly, doomed village, but very pretty.

The streets were rammed, as if everyone was out Xmas shopping but without the shops. I’ve never seen the park so packed either, with queues to cross the canal and zillions of dogs nipping about as lone darts or sudden, yapping flurries. One came right up, plonked itself on the ground, then flipped aching for his belly to be scratched -but in this day and age we shouldn’t due to infection. Literally the hardest thing to stand impervious while it lolled about.

All in all people everywhere, thoough it’s not like I can complain, being one of them. So much for a national lockdown.

Northcote Road more resembled a pre-pandemic Soho, cluttered with street drinkers all down its considerable length, the most popular place being a fish and chip shop doling out endless cans of lager and Spanish beer bottles. The other establishment opposite had the world’s most enfuriating app to download, which set out an array of options that when clicked on, helpfully explained what a menu was rather than offering one. Their loss, grasping pandafucks.

J was bubbling with the kind of post-work energy of someone freed from a prison of dying animals and bitching colleagues (works as a vet), one of the most high stress jobs and highest in suicide rate. He recounted in one grouping how one vet managed to off themselves and two colleagues tried it within the same week. Make a mistake and a cute bunny dies, then everyone loathes you -while all the time the casualties keep rolling in every 15 minutes. I surmise, unlike human patients, the workers tending to them have far less support, despite feeling every pain still at negative outcomes. Vet has to be nurse, doctor, surgeon and counsellor, while nurses double as secretaries, cleaners, social ombudsmen and a critical, political eye with vials of gossip to unleash should one set a paw wrong. And to J that day, rabbitting incessantly on the dismalities of smalltown life and twerks of celebrities while he tried to operate.

So drink or four was a welcome respite. Later at home we continued with an entirely new gang: housemate J and ex-housemate Jk, which soon dribbled into drunken singing, dancing, endless retro music vids and J crashing into his 200 year old painting, silver plates and tv. D smoked out the window and there was a alot of banter between Wales, Northerners and Wherever I Come From. I was called Penang Curry, J was Pontypridd and Jk The Face of Exeter 2011 (no seriously, winning a modelling competition back in the day -we even sorted through the internet to find the page). D was just ‘Northern’ or ‘Lancs’, which he hates as he’s from Yorkshire apparently and constantly lying that it’s a different thing.

At 4am unable to sleep, having necked so much rumncoke, took out my laptop and proceedeed to try and optimise it, as one does when starved of no-holds fun. Ended up deleting an app called ‘Xbox Something Or Other’ which has nothing to do whatsoever with a game console I don’t own and everything to do with Windows not working and being replaced by a white screen of death every time I restarted. A good 1.5 hrs later, after sifting through a spidergram of functions and services to reignite, it got back to normal. Fucking life, a banging headache that catches up.

But another one under the belt at least. Need some sleep.

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A Journal of the Plague Year 2.0 Day 23

27th November 2020

I’ve decided to give up on the architecture forums I have spent literally 20 years lurking on. A couple of weeks ago someone posted on there about how giving up on Facebook was one of the best things he’d ever done for peace of mind and getting on with life. This coincided with an article, perhaps algorithmically sent my way, about how a new study revealed the same predication among Facebook users having a negative mood for their day after using it. I barely use social media anymore, but on dallying back again on FB have realised how much of a political debate everything is these days, beneath the blizzards of likes and pictures of babies and kittens, and glasses of wine by the sea. Statement after statement.

I realise this is the same addiction I get on the forums. That although the intent is well, architecture, one gets waylaid by what everyone else fucking thinks all the time and chirps to all and sundry to what they think everyone should think all the time. Everything is Twitter these days.

I first got onto the ‘architecture’ forums after being entranced about skyscrapers and buildings at a young age. Here finally I could get updates on the latest going up, big sidelines in all other types of new building, threads on classic styles and increasingly urban planning, cities, history, and humanity at large, from photos of people’s trips around the world to -of course -current events and political discourse. By 2008 one of these forums -back when strangers chatting was a big thing -became the largest in the world. All this also coincided with the rise of China, aka The Great Motherfuckerland, which sent me into frissons of delight at everything being built, but also apoplectic with the usual trolls, racism, underlying bias -a neverending battle in which I’ve spent a good chunk of my life working for free as a teacher/ journo/ hack writing online posts that are very much like articles. Such a fucking waste.

One such thread came up yesterday that’s sealed the deal. A retrospective look on if having been on the site has changed our outlook on any countries. Many mentioned their experiences on cutting fresh eyes through the usual BS media tropes, but others on how their experiences actually marred their outlook on certain countries, after running into obnoxious forumers.

There are the good and bad. I think we all know in our heart of hearts that you get nice people and nasty people in every culture, not to mention all the usual gamut of personality types. We only need to remember any of our school days, and the personalities, tribes, cliques and loners that inhabited them, then transpose that state to any schoolyard anywhere, everywhere. It’s just quite astounding that so many people don’t admit it to themselves, that the media keeps categorising and portraying peoples as one and the same while we lap it up -and with some still striving to reinforce the status quo. It’s weird we trust media interpretations more than our real life experiences.

Let me titillate you on the exotic, rare flowers I have encountered over the years. In Attenborough’s dulcit tones, just imagine these as the be all and end all of your classroom:

A: A self-confessed Brazilian sociopath living in the Netherlands, who is a university lecturer (pity those students), turning up at every disaster story to blame the country it befell. His pathological urge in life being to rid the world of all dangerous animals, of anything that can conceivably harm humans, with the rest living in zoos and farms. The Amazon needs to go too, for better land usage.

B: A lovely, sweet gentle Spanish guy who loves SE Asia. He also loves SE Asian girls -as in children. He includes shots of charming holidays in his hotel room with an assembled collection of local Cambodian 12 year olds, and comments in how he’s helping out the Khmer ‘dark one’ as they’re not considered pretty. Yes, he’s paying them for sex, and showing off he can.

C: A White supremacist from Finland, very nerdy, things changed after he went to SE Asia, picked up a girlfriend willing to see through his bullshit/ stupid enough to take him on, and left the forums with lingering shots of him with a whole woman on jungle piers in Thailand. Likely murdered her, or her him.

D: A breath of fresh air, an Australian ecologist defending everyone from the usual trolls with calm, empirical evidence and high EQ. Much of her days are spent out in the Australian bush, rescuing cute things and plants and doing a lot of science. Very anti-China, but canyer blame her?

E: Brazilian gay Stormfront member, very likely on the spectrum and undiagnosed. Wanted to travel but refused to set foot in a list of northern states in his own country due to a certain ratio of the Black population. Spent years dodging bans by politely arguing for endless pages in an underhand manner, changing the goalposts whenever anyone called him out on his racism. Final straw came after the Airmax crashes (where Boeing’s typos would send the aircraft into a nosedive whenever anyone tried to correct it). He spent weeks trying to convince everyone the planes had obviously gone down due to pilot error, the irrefutable logic being the pilots were dark skinned, the airlines were run by uncivilised darkies (just look at their history) and Boeing was from a White American, First World country with flushing toilets and everything. Admitted to doing a hit and run in his Mercedes -running because the woman on her bike he hit was Black and he would have been in danger.

F: Swedish scientist with a contrary view on everything ever, piping up with scientific data to obfuscate his every claim and sweeping statement. Will heckle from the sides constantly anything beautiful or proud, will plant his views in the middle of anything that is slightly weak. Now recently married to a Chinese woman that gives him carte blanche -excuse the pun -to be racist to Chinese, and criticise how backwards we all are. Runs Youtube channels on his travels, and judges cultures on how much litter he can spot, however tiny. Admits people don’t much like him in real life; likely spent school getting punched in the face.

G: Another breath of fresh air, Brit who takes everything with a sensible outlook, high EQ, and lots of humour, including on how fat and nerdy he looks, and how twee his hometown of Fungus-on-Neath is. How bo-ring! But my hero on certain dark nights.

H: Ugandan American, Muslim SJW constantly making enemies by having the gall to defend the Third World, and every stereotype thrown their way. Never backs down, fiercely intelligent and wise despite his youth, all with a certain calm. Yet works in finance with fast cars and faster women, before he remembers to be all inclusive.

I: Dubayan dude, stupidly rich, well travelled and sweet (lots of pics of his new family) and the most polite, big-hearted forumer going, despite enduring years of abuse for being Muslim and living in the UAE, thus with a shariah knife over his head, hating women, tacky tastes and a terrorist. He is an annoying vision to the hecklers of everything the opposite.

J: Pakistani forumer moved to Canada who insults everyone all the time, in every post. Toxic. Literally cannot help it. High powered business job.

K: Pakistani forumer who is his nemesis, good natured, funny, intelligent, high EQ. They spend days arguing. He also does time, like any Third Worlder with the gall to hang out in the West, arguing against the hate and assumptions, though liable to suddenly get sentimental and send likes to everyone’s replies.

L: Indian forumer who bickers with both of them over India-Pakistan. Every chance he gets.

M: Brazilian forumer who seems completely normal -until you find out his underhand views on White supremacy, how colonialism was a good thing and will only refer to African countries by their colonial names. Loves art deco.

N: British forumer who believes all things modern is good, hates how everyone hates brutalism. Also believes how all things old is bad, wants all old buildings destroyed in London, celebrates when one does get bulldozed and argues to the teeth why. Very, very likely on a spectrum.

O: Turkish gay moderator, who spends each post insulting people on a personal level, and laughing at their cultures in a knee-jerk reaction. Hates Muslims, despite living in an Islamic society, thus a poster boy for Islamophobes. Became a mod due to his love of cats, which he thinks is endearing enough to get away with his crazed power plays, or that sociopathy itself must be loveable quip of character.

P: Odious far righter, despite being a decidedly non-White, ‘browntown’ ethnic minority. Makes one think either he’s completely in denial, or that far right is a pathology. Or perhaps his riches has made him buy into the mindset in order to keep it, and those are who he hangs around with all day.

Q: French guy who only talks in riddles, including odes to how shit Islam is. Weird, annoying, thinks himself enigmatic when all he does is troll and everyone ignores him anyway.

R: American old guy, Trumpist, banned under several guises for his constant racism against Black people and Chinese. Lives in San Francisco, where he constantly has to warn his visitors about ‘The Blacks’. Spends every other post on the coming economic downfall of China. Completely backs China’s treatment of Muslims though as, well, he hates them more.

S: New Zealander who spends every other post hating on women. Tries to portray everything as a gender war, and how men are being attacked, and that women are base creatures. A one-issue poster driven by a pathological hatred. Likely an Incel (Involuntarily Celebate) activist.

T: American consultant in a hospital -Trumpist, supremacist, racist with rambling, drug-addled (or just plain weird) diatribes on his support of the local strip joints and prostitutes. Oh and how Mila Kunis is White enough to be hawt (no, her East European ancestry has no thread of Judaism no, he’d made sure of it on Stormfront). And wants to find where she lives and how he’d be able to show her a good time as an older man wining and dining her, and she’d be afrenzy at his compliments and displays of wealth (because she can’t have that right?) and we’d all be jealous ha! Took a week off work during the election to ‘drink our tears’ over the coming Trump win.

U: Loveliest, inclusive, accepting Brazilian woman, of Filipino heritage. Very kind to all, and the ambassador’s wife at the ball, pretty much everyone loves her to bits. Don’t think she actually contributes anything on urban discussions come to think of it.

V: Filipino guy who posts endless articles on the Philippines at every drop of a panama hat, as we are of course all dying to know the detailed history of last Royal Family of Luzon when talking about mass transit sytems. Is obsessed by how much Spanish lineage, history and culture there is in every aspect of the country, and trying very, very hard to convince everyone it is a White country of mestizos. Is under the impression we walk around all day thinking about the Philippines.

W: Hong Kong supernerd who has written over 240,000 posts on every wheedling aspect of Chinese urban projects -and made any development in the region disappear under an avalanche of smalltown newstories. On councils appointing a new secretary, the wonders of legislature by-law changes in Fuzhou, new rubbish collection routines, tax bracket amendments, that someone planted a tree, a sewage pipe got a new turn and that big vote on whether a stretch of highway to Shitzou village should be expanded. Single-handedly vanquished all forum visitors to the region with adversely the most development. Very much on the spectrum.

X: American old guy, beame a mod. Very wise and fair as a moderator, but when he writes his own posts the stylus scratch. ‘Applauds’ whenever a Black person is unlawfully killed (even over a photo of the grieving mother at a funeral), defends every cop or perpetrator no matter what, constantly posting crime figures and correlations to the ethnic minorities. Went doolally during BLM.

Y: Romanian American leftie campaigner, pretty aggressive but never gets banned, will argue endlessly over any little thing and peppers it all with insults, sweeping accusations or dismissals, and sudden turns to the Right. Is on about the 300th page of coronavirus and why it is a scam. I suspect someone who’s only there to argue, regardless of the subject.

Z: Literally a Russian bot, who will send blizzards of likes to literally hundreds of posts from a decade ago, to people asking a question about signs in Moldavian, or personal messages in an inbox. Then will snap out of it and be real again. We reckon a mix of the two -quite a nice person when the human takes over.

OK, I’ll stop there. I could go on for days, literally. But you get the gist -this is just a damn architecture forum. And you can imagine the comments that are hard to ignore day in day out. Your fingers itching for the keyboard as someone celebrates the Amazon burning, or how it’s Haiti’s fault 300,000 just died in an earthquake (due to them being the first country created when slaves fought off their masters).

But overall, I think in any tranche of people you have to look out for elements that mar the rest, and that a huge amount of society has been set up to handle just for this toxic minority, sometimes negatively:

1. sociopaths/ psychopaths -the toxic avengers, manipulative, enjoying the ‘power’ over insulting others, cannot help but prey on the weak or signs of weakness -say, put up a story on Africa and wait for them to arrive. Also why people from Developing countries will hesitate to portray their countries negatively in the world forums, as it attracts these usual commentators like flies to shit. The ones who can’t help but insult on literally every post, anywhere, even if you are talking about the weather.

2. small cock syndrome -people with low worth/ unheard who want to take down others, to make themselves feel better. Bullies. Or just plain, everyday jealousy.

3. pathologically on a spectrum (find it hard to understand others viewpoints or feelings unless heavily pointed out). This isn’t their fault, it’s not out of animosity and it’s part of our social contract to accommodate them.

4. Personal prejudice -mostly talking about racists on here, many of whom can be tied to all of the above. Or normal people but buying into media tropes/ a bad personal experience, due to a lack of critical thinking.

In short these kinds of people or comments aren’t a norm among societies. Yet they are so vocal they start to dominate despite being the minority. Classic Dunning-Kruger effect, in which those with low EQ shout about their ignorance and are proud of it, while those with high EQ politely listen and give them their batshit crazy platform.

I think at the end of the day, just get the fuck away from it all, regardless. hell is other people. We feed them by listening, and as a great woman said, when one argues with an idiot, no one can tell you apart. Society has always been an exercise in granting trolls the attention they crave, thus giving them the power. Tell a lie often enough and it becomes a truth.

Have I just lost? Am I not the great idiot alongside?

Who cares. Fuckem.

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A Journal of the Plague Year 2.0 Day 22

26th November 2020

Headed out today for drinks with an old time mate, B, out in the wilds of the South Bank. We were scheduled to meet romantically beneath the big clock in Waterloo but salubriously ended passing each other at the exit to the station bogs. He’s dyed his hair blue, a new colour each week though I’m adamant a honeyed brown will be best. Had some beers by the eternal river, and thoroughly enjoyed the outdoors until it got too cold to stay.

London’s South Bank, once a heaving epicentre for tourists as well as Londoners alike (a rare thing as never the twain should mix) was a veritable ghost town, tumbleweed in its public squares, though the crowd stayed hemmed in walking up and down the viewpoints. A few food and booze vans catered to them, with some buskers almost as normal. Though the big book and food markets were gone, the fairgrounds were fenced off (normally a German, fairy-lit Xmas markt by now) and ‘London’s Living Room’ that is the Royal Festival Hall and its acres of carpeted free-for-all, comfy sofas, exhibitions and caffs to loiter many an hour in (without having to spend a penny) was resolutely closed. The same for the similar functions of the National Theatre and Queen Elizabeth Hall next door, the latter one of the ugliest buildings in the city (if only they’d just paint it white) but one of the homeliest inside.

We ended up by the London Eye, looking up at the big wheel in a rare daylight stasis, its pods empty and yearned for, as were nearby ‘igloos’ – glass pods laid out by some swanky restaurant to be hired for a few hundred squid, but now wastefully unused. A very inviting playground beckoned -the kind with wooden climb-a-thons, heavy logging and rope nets everywhere -but the minute I approached some worker informed me brusquely it was closed. I chose to pee round a hoarding instead. The pocket park was pretty full, well used on every bench and tree with the kind of people who loop a big rubber band round the trunk and shimmy about pulling it. A strange spooky, child sat in a bush (literally inside) staring out at us.

The crisp air was gorgeous, occasioned with sun streaming from passing clouds. If one squinted, and looked only at the river and nowhere behind, it appeared almost normal. A lone woman wailed by the waters, holding a fake microphone -possibly a milkshake carton -without any semblance of skill other than her bravura. I imagined she was either worryingly desperate or just caged up too long to care, and fair dues to her. She was irremediably awful though, snippets of moaning on the wind like a cat in the Thames.

In turn we decamped back to the station, complete with lights and a roof, settling on the upper level where lovely empty tables from a closed cafe gave us shelter. We drank steadily with a fab Where’s Wally advent calendar -down to £2 in M&S -depicting a morass of winter wonderland folk (hundreds of Santa Clauses, many passed out and drunk) and 24 window dates to get through. Every date had a chocolate, every chocolate came with demands to find something on the picture (eg a pair of tiny binoculars, an angry elf), and every find came with a timed challenge set by ourselves. If we didn’t find those binoculars within a minute a terrible fate would befall one’s person.

I ended up losing all but two. It is for this reason that the world will now have coronavirus until 2022, Trump will stay in power, I will never be a writer, continue to fuck up my relationship, never be content, never have sex again, have a stroke, get cancer, get AIDS, stay forever in the closet and work at the museum for the rest of my life, until I die of Covid, likely tomorrow. So, no difference then. -B though will get an unsealable anal fissure and have his firstborn molested by a family member, so I think that’s fair. We were astounded there was no chocky for Xmas Day itself, the calendar likely dreamt up in some pan-European format, where the continentals all celebrate and give pressies on Xmas Eve instead. Freaks.

The govt has informed London we’re on Tier 2 when we come out of lockdown on December 2nd, so I’ll likely be back to work in the next few days, for prep (though how much lifting of dustsheets can we do in a week?). I do reckon though, with near 700 dying daily, this Tier will change for the worse nearer Xmas, which is the date predicted for a culmination of infections. The only reason we’re not banning the holiday entirely (up to three households allowed to meet up) is everyone will group up regardless, and a revolution otherwise. In other European nations they’re enforcing the ban, including enter and search powers in Benelux.

Had a burrito from a great looking Mexico streetfood van (Wahaca), though as always they damped down on the spiciness for local tastes, thus changing everything in 500 years of tried and tested flavour balance. I don’t know why (actually I do) but it’s always a struggle to convince people that I want extra spicy, and can handle it. That I like vindaloo and ghost peppers, despite their judgement. Remember once politely arguing with the woman in Halal Brothers I could handle the extra sauce, even if she couldn’t.

So it was a pleasant surprise when he lavished on the ‘very spicy’ level 3 habanero without another word, but on actually munching into the lovely mess, found it about as hot as ketchup with a dash of tabasco. Oh Wahaca, you can’t even spell your name right. If catering so much to local tastes, to the point you’re renaming a region, you’re not really representing it. Oaxaca is meant to have the best food in Mexico; don’t think Wahaca should pretend that banner.

Film for the night was The Eye by the Pang Brothers. Creepy AF, and based on a real event -a nightmarish gas tanker explosion in Central Bangkok that killed ninety. That plus a blind girl who inherits donor eyes from a suicide victim, one who could see dead people. It’s quite the nerve shredder and deserves to be a classic -apparently it was remade by Hollywood but that was dire, as to be expected. The one remake that’s an improvement I reckon is The Ring, and now on my to do list for tonight.

All in all a much better day, do very much enjoy B’s company. Cheers bud x

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A Journal of the Plague Year 2.0 Day 21

25th November 2020

I am having a bad hair day/ life, in every way possible.

These people on the other hand are having an absolutely fucking fabulous hair day. They got it specially done, they went on a photo shoot, gave it some blue steel.

I envy them.

The Fires of Mustique

The Mod Helmet


The Texan Oil Gusher

The Sex Badger

The Sexsquatch

The No Seriously If I Got Into A Car Wreck They’d Think They Hit A Yeti

Days of Thunder

Days of Hiding



The NASA Lift Off

The Magic Mushroom


The Laser Bowl

The Pixielated

The When Big Hair Roamed The Earth

The Shy and Enigmatic

The Nothing Is Strange

The Full Vienna Philarmonic

How do they do it?

So perfected in poise, pride and in public, where people are so impressed they sneak pictures. Even social media takes note.

The Caterpillar Attack

The Mysterious Roadkill

The Ladykiller Cloud

The King of Sting

The Shithead

The Sex Comes Knocking

The Make Up Brush


The Chuck Norris Is On The Back Of My Head

The Cup Overfloweth

The Strange Encounter

The Gloryhole

The Stilling Of Deeper Waters

The Checkout

The Death Is The Answer

The Why

The Why Not

The Attack Ships On Fire Off The Shoulder Of Orion

If only, to be so blissfully unaware.

Also it’s cake day bitches

This is me right now, everything about me:

Ok, enough culture for today. Such is the human spirit.

F

M

L x

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A Journal of the Plague Year 2.0 Day 20

24th November 2020

Okay, mental health day. I’m a bit down, barrelling this past week.

Been in bed for days now. So much for the brand new me.

It is again that empty plain, with expectation rising like monoliths on the horizon. Stuff that would be a normal day of tasking, but now, lamped with so much lethargy it becomes insurmountable terrain. With vampires.

  1. Work will likely start at the end of this week. Literally cannot face it. There are no secrets in that place, it always gets out. Everyone knows what everyone says, ever, insofar as we have ears and eyes and brains and people tell each other anyway, or it’s so painfully obvious we can work it out, despite pretending not to. I wish folk knew that and maybe stopped the underhand daggers at every opportunity. Jobs should be a job, not a competition.
  2. Need to sort THAT THING out, which cannot be spoken let alone looked in the eye.
  3. Need to finish rewriting The Book. Need to face the reality that I may never get it published, wasting my time for a dead end, stuck with a non-existent pension and old age to look forward to. Yes, I’m getting old.
  4. I’ll never be a writer.
  5. I’ve wasted my life. Fuckers.
  6. I need to get kempt again. I am unkempt. My hair a mess, sleeping pattern a mess, not changing clothes. Not bothering to cook, to eat, to exercise -losing weight drastically. I weigh as much as I did as a teenager.
  7. Mum rang and I missed it, I need to ring her back, it’s been 3 days now. With the phonecall always comes the memories, yay, so always put it off till it becomes that giant spider in the back of your mind, wiggling its legs. Till I pull them off.
  8. Need to go shopping, the fridge is getting bleak and that jar of mayo lonely. Need to get out of the house. Need to go for a walk. Need to breathe fresh air and open the curtains and see the shitting daytime.
  9. Need to buy some medical equipment I won’t go into, about 400 squidaroonies.
  10. Need to apply for that job D sent me. Another epic, soul-destroying slog for 5 hours, signifying nothing.
  11. Need to drag myself off from the Net. I am netted, often living vicariously through youtube, watching people go on trips and chat about shit.
  12. Need to be sociable and hang out more in the living room or kitchen and be the life and fucking soul. Need to be happy.
  13. Need to write this piece of shit.

Oh fuck my life. Don’t need a fucking hug. Tomorrow’s another day and all that, yeah.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year 2.0 Day 19

23rd November 2020

We received today a noise complaint from a mystery neighbour, a tersely worded letter from management about the stress it can cause and not to leave washing machines on after 9pm; looked like the usual copy paste they send every time it happens on the estate. And so the sleuthing is on. It is like a lovely holiday in the sun and sand, or a spectacular train journey of luxury across continents, that two days in is helpfully relieved by the timely murder of a conspicuous fellow guest. Whereby you and your partner now embark on a new journey of discovery, gossip and international intrigue with an assembled mélange of the rich, bitter and deliciously suspect.

I don’t reckon it’s next door as they’re a bunch of twenty-something tokers who wouldn’t give a shit, a mix of Brits and Spaniards who we only ever see in passing (uncomfortably following one step behind, to land at our respective doors). Maybe they’re the ones with the noise and we’re mistaken suspects, though doubtful as they’ve been doormice since ever. Their only transgression being the smell of weed that used to permeate the corridor, until another terse letter to everyone in the corridor.

The flat below -now that’s where my roving eye is on. Just after moving in, I dragged a set of Ikea cupboards all the way from Croydon on my own (in loggerheads with A who felt we didn’t need them). No mean feat involving trekking out of town, traipsing through the ginormous superstore, spending a small fortune then heaving it all back on foot and two forms of public transport, that took up most of the day. I then proceeded to assemble my prize from the flatpack. It was about 3pm, and after a few goes with the hammer a banging replied from downstairs, the sound of some maniac ferociously thumping their ceiling with a baseball bat. Of course I stopped -but what to do? Just not build it, ever -staring forlornly at the instructions each night? Take everything out to muddy grounds and do it there, then try and drag the bulky unit back up? In the end I settled on building it in the stairwell. And in doing so broke the thing, the side snapping off.

Incensed with fury I then stomped back to the flat, slamming doors and banging as loud as poss up and down the hallway. No reply, fuckers. A half hour later, on my way out I passed a neighbour I’d never seen before in our private stairwell (only those on our floor ever use it), and that fitted the bill as to what I imagined a sound-averse, motherfucking curtain twitcher with no friends and no fucking life looks like.

In a previous flat we had one such Neighbourhood Watcher, an old guy living alone (of course), who’d spend days castigating everyone else on every little thing envisaged. He’d lie in wait at the entrance doors, and if you politely left it open for him he’d teach you a darn good lesson on the dangers of tailgating, and the prostitutes who’d use the abandoned sofa in the ‘lobby’. He was though quite handy in getting rid of problem tenants, notably the top flat reserved for council housing.

At first a young Nigerian girl who’d hold the odd soirée for bevies of the rich and not famous (gold and labels) but broke the cardinal rule of owning a dog -secreted on her person in daily walks, and we reckoned kicking it, from the constant whining. Then a quiet kid, but oozing chavness and smelling the whole place up with ganja. He gave way to another teenager, this time with baby, who introduced herself with banging night and day parties, blocking the stairwells with her lounging, toking mates. The last straw coming when she smashed her own window (surely just open it?), to scream at some guy walking past who’d done a dirty on her best mate and he screamed back yeahbitchyouweren’tcomplainingwhenyougavemeablowjobinnit.

Sometimes Mr Windowtitt’s alarms would go off, wired to every corner, wall and window no doubt, and set off by a mosquito sweeping past or him touching the glass whenever something waddled by. They were the sounds of nuclear attack klaxons, and would go on for hours until the appropriate authorities showed up, as he’d wait nerdily rather than manually fucking disable them, and upset procedure. Once, saddled with a vomitous migraine I screamed out the window, and he screamed back, albeit a little dispiritedly, that he had to wait. Concerned now that he was the ASBO. Such a fucking twat.

So he is always what I have in mind about Those That Complain. Some widower without a life, and a deep-seated sadness to be filled with letter writing to the council, endless phonecalls of untrammeled grump, and binoculars at the ready, sometimes jiggling methodically. So when I passed the lonesome looking fellow in our stairwell I had my lasers trained. Yet he was so affable and holding open the doors I got taken aback. -Or maybe methinks he was protesting too much. But then the other day, passing by their window the flat in question appears inhabited by a Mediterranean looking family. I will have to sharpen some bench tools in the yard, slowly, conspicuously, trying to catch their eye. Maybe licking an axe.

Ah such nostalgia golden in the sun, like re-runs of all your favourite episodes. On every estate I’ve ever lived poverty ensures mental health problems, and utter chaos. 24-7 Babyscreaming, pounding bass, pounding trainers, pounding faces, cop cars, fire engines, mystery vans, mystery suitcases. Bouncing balls, breaking glass, breaking bones, screaming sirens, hissing spraypaint, landing bricks, racist tirades, spit, vomit, shit.

The sound of the woman dragged by her hair and their mad sex after, the bully one-time screaming in terror from his house, the weed factory run by a Vietnamese slave, the town bike moaning with ecstasy through the hottest, window-open nights (we reckon alone the whole time), the old lady in the armchair glimpsed from immaculate gardens, downing a bottle. Trying to shag each other as 7 year olds, the local still famous for being the hunting ground for a fucking serial killer.

I thank God our neighbours never complained, because we were one of Them, constantly yelling and banging and throwing handily heavy /delicate objects. When we first moved in we were decidedly thinking ourselves above all that, Dad an academic from landed gentry, Mum the high-earning breadwinner. But a career on a factory line and cleaning floors paid to that belief, our furniture (insofar when we had any) decaying in the garden, the TV full blast all day, interspersed with our yelling and fighting. The stench of cigarettes and alcohol, cooking and rotting carpet, and piles of second hand crap tottering even up the stairs. Some rooms you couldn’t see the floor or hear yourself think, till you kicked a wall or two to get the headspace. Our neighbour an old lady who lived alone: quiet, reserved and with her own dramas behind closed doors. I once heard her Christmas Day in bed, sobbing through the wall.

Though now we’re no longer that ilk. Having left home and progressed into the echelons of the middle class again, if not in income in mindset. Yes, indeed my liege. -But like every southerner of a certain standing, throughout time and place and circumstance, we are now not to Interfere. It’s almost impolite to introduce oneself to the neighbours, cake in hand, as privacy these days is a closely guarded secret. Our last sanctity to an utterly different life to what’s on show to the public eye, and 8hrs of exhausting workplace comportment. This I find particular to these shores, and why sniff and binge drinking is such a thing, to let the hair down that’s normally so starched it’s been standing in fright all day.

Anyhoo, on with the day. I reckon the noise complaint was from J’s birthday though surely it can’t have taken two weeks to send the letter. Maybe he had a secret rave when we were out this weekend, or maybe he’s been screaming in front the box again. I’ve half a mind to do the same, throwing no end of shit out the windows in a show of devil-may-care, till the copshop turns up and we can do some hostage-taking. Little A mewling as I tie him to a bedpost, necking a cocktail of white wine vinegar and Alka-Seltzer, Netflix blaring Attenborough through March of the Valkyries. Then throwing down Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbooks and threatening everyone with antique golf clubs and hot tea.

Lockdown may just be starting to get to me. Time to change, time to just fucking embrace your true self.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year 2.0 Day 18

22nd November 2020

Have been binge-watching The Crown, and drinking in the backdrops, often missed. The most expensive series ever made ($130 million and counting) it is deceptively lavish. The crowds in impeccable period costume, glimpsed by the thousand as they line the streets, occasionally waving flags (recently they’re resorting to CGI, perhaps due to C-19). The endless parade of candelabras and gilt, Old Master paintings and landed estates, hired at great expense. Armies of peripheral servants, guards, horses and courtiers, sporting precious metal and polished antiques that emanate through the low light.

Even did a thing where I went through the big regalas, stopping, rewinding, on the adornments of anthropological, exotic ceremony. -The weddings (Queenie and Di), funerals and coronations, and their glittering cascades of cloth, furs and diamonds to a constant echoing of choirs.

But once again, it is all background. To the lives lived out regardless as focus to all the pomp and ceremony. Their loves and losses, trials and tribulations, affairs of desire, fears and dreams. Displayed in gilded cages of spectacle and expectation, whereby they are rulers of all but their own lives. It’s not like they actually appreciate the thousands of man-hours that go into sparkling up those backdrops.

There is also the contrast, starkly so. The episode where 12,000 Londoners suffocate in the four days of the 1952 Great Smog, goes to pains to show a disconnect. In the dim dioramas of broken glass and brick alleyways, dingy bedsits and overrun waiting rooms, where the common people suffocate by the hundreds, that resonates today.

The Smog, powered by coal fires closed down the ports, airports and all major roads, as well as sport matches, theatres and cinemas as the audience couldn’t see the action. Swans and wildife wandered the streets, unable to find the river or parks, policemen carrying flares wandered in front of inching buses to light the way. The cloud crept into houses and left a slick of brown grease on the wallpaper, quietly suffocating the sick, old and young, notably babies. The morgues filled up within hours. 4,000 died in those days, but modern research puts it at 12,000 that spiked in that month, as those who contracted lung diseases succumbed after, some walled into their homes and not discovered for years. Many more may have died from cancer within the decade.

The episode where an intruder, Michael Fagan, breaks into the palace in 1982, and chats to the Queen at the end of her bed, also portrays a nation riven with unemployment, unrest and the scuddingly grey estates he harks from. He attempts to convey the truer picture outside to the Sovereign, residing over a country made too bombastic by war with Argentina, and the newer, crueller reign of Thatcher to notice. These were some of the darkest days in postwar history, when unemployment topped 3 million and took out 14% of the workforce (half of which it’s estimated was sacrificed by the govt to keep inflation low). A two year recession and separatist terrorism stalked the land, from the Irish Republican Army and the Welsh Army of Workers (who knew?). 400,000 council homes were sold in the Right to Buy scheme, thus ensuring a vastly diminishing pool for the genuinely needy, rising by the thousands every week.

So are we, these so-called have-nots separated by 40 years of economic rise and social progress, safely harboured in the First World, just as guilty as those pampered royals? Looking back on history, here we are living the millionaire lifestyles that back in the day everyone else yearned and died for, even from a few decades before. Warm goosedown duvets, central heating, double glazing. Video games, washing machines, microwaves, restaurant meals, plane tickets. Education, pensions, cars. Pot plants, pineapples, tea tree, pepper, bog roll. Living out life with the zest of being smallpox, syphillis, leprosy and plague-free. We even have slaves that make our clothes, paint our nails, service our vehicles, pick our fruit, and deal out handjobs in the Passat. Small black rectangles that hold all mankind’s knowledge -Library of Alexandria be damned -that we use to look at kittens and nudity.

Many of us even have ‘followers’ and quite the modicum of fame and attention, crossing borders with blizzards of posted Likes. Yet this is not what we notice. -Of course it fucking isn’t, constantly bombarded with capitalism and pop, exhorting us to try harder, buy harder.

Is the grass always greener? It’s no wonder that after some celeb dies we find out what a loser they were in lifestyle, chained to infighting, lawyers, wranglers, sycophants, fanbases, doctors, drugs, cults and contracts with no real interaction with real people. Shitting in the corners, getting 6ft Buddha statues hauled into private wards for their intravenous hits.

Lets pretend this is as good as it gets. It’s what you want to do with that fact that may change it.

Watching the empty streets of Central London swing by, at 5pm on a Sunday, now dark and rattling instead of the usual backlit crowds, I was struck by an eerie beauty to it all. Offices with huge artworks in their lobbies, designed to alienate and thus intimidate, lit for no one. Dynamic new shopfronts promising pizzazz beneath crystal walls of glass now frozen in bluish tinge. The buildings like long undiscovered monoliths, rearing into the gloom, lights off, their pampered residents flown to warmer climes to live out lockdown with a glass of Bolly by the sea. The wind blew, the bus trundled its roundabout way through a silent city, the only glowing node in a complexity of form. The other two riders like companions round a fire, or rolling shots on some film that I smiled at.

It’s the little things that make your day, and there’s something to be said in finding beauty in the nondescript. Even if it is the quiet drama of bleakness, and the sense of history pulling forward, interminably.

Chicken Kiev with cheese, now that literally can’t be beat. Coupled with crispy garlic sprouts (slice em, fry em with nuts, vinegar, rice wine, sugar, soya sauce, lots of pepper, sesame oil to finish). Happiness on a plate once home, in the soft glow of living room cosiness, and sitting down and talking to someone.

I have also had quite a revelation in chatting to K, who may be able to translate The Book for the Mandarin-speaking market, the world’s largest and something I’ve never thought about. Quite excited, not at the prospect, but just working together on it is enough, and feel things progressing.

Been waiting too long for the Grand Plan to start.

Despite the fact I’ve been in bed now for 3.5 hrs (writing to all you lovely people), my body aches all over (age), my arms are dead (no heating beyond the blankets) and I have an undying bitterness in my mouth (memories + morning breath) I will endure. Time to fucking get up.

A new life! A new me! I will exercise, I will eat out and walkabout. I will write, I will make cuppas and watch the birds and learn how to hold handstands (did actually try this out on the bed once and nearly broke my neck). I will watch a film and nap too, luxuriantly on the sofa, scratching my arse when the time comes. I will accessorise. x

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year 2.0 Day 17

21st November 2020

Life’s been quite lovely these past few days. Hanging out with friends, taking time to cook and having clothing (even changing them). On occasion feeling snug, as I am now swaddled in a blanket and staring out at trees, one of which has a birdfeeder and occasional sparrows. Every time your head swivels to look at them they fly off like Godzilla just showed up. Tits.

I’ve looked at the phone the once all day, missing a call from Mum and about 80 Whatsapp messages on various groups. Werk has about 33 emails mostly entirely unconnected to my having to view them, such as a customer enquiring about a missing button, or the enticing update to get your printing requests in. An unwelcome reminder of other responsibilities, of a very real world beyond.

Can we all just agree to Universal Basic Income, aka luxury communism? The gobots do the work and the getting taxed, we do the fruits of their labour. Even if we do have the tech to set it all up and live happily ever after, I bet some fat cat, oozing shares, will demand it all carry on as normal, as miserably normal, as he’ll benefit somehow or other. Like being able to look through his glass floor and see financey people scurrying about in his name, or an extra diamond cushion in the penthouse he never visits.

They tried UBI out in some village in Canada back in the 70s. And found out instead of people burning their windfall on a new pick-up or wardrobe of the latest disco flares, they invested in their own education: retraining or a new degree to build on. Likewise when Norway discovered North Sea oil and reaped back the dividends 40 years later. It put its profits into a sovereign wealth fund, that only ever invested in safe, middle-of-the-road returns, making an extra $trillion. -Enough to gift each citizen into a kroner millionaire, or a population of 5.3 million trustafarians with a $188,000 to blow at the shops.

Already comfortably one of the world’s richest peoples, they did instead vote to reinvest the dosh back into their future generations. Britain on the other hand, that also grabbed a large chunk of the oilfields lost out on an estimated £250-600 billion, thanks to subcontracting the work to private middlemen and funneling off profits to offset taxes (in effect sending it all to a series of property bubbles).

Switzerland was another nation rich enough to try UBI, saddled with the hardships of being the world’s parasitical tax haven, and an inordinate amount of rich folk trying to smear money all over them, year after year. Being really quite used to getting money for free at the top of the capitalist pyramid scheme, they voted not to instate it, less it wobble the whole lovely structure. Yep, they voted NOT to have free money into their accounts each year, the equivalent to £25,000 p/a on top of any work they did. Oh, the Swiss, land of cuckoo clocks and neighbourhood watch.

I’ve found a universal truth to all this. Universality. And I don’t want to go back to Werk.

I like working for myself, being my own boss and all that jazz. I suspect most people, who’ve ever been in contact with other people, may share this world view. It can’t come sooner -Millennials and Generation Z completely fucked with their zero hours future (ensuring no pensions), and saddled with the debts of their forefathers. From global warming to what’s accruing as we speak: all those commercial rents those poor property moguls are losing out on, that is the main rippling cost of the pandemic on populace and businesses alike. Won’t somebody, somebody just think of the children? Trapped somewhere in some lonely chalet school without a single airline to their name. And those yachts just aren’t going to staff themselves.

Maybe we’re all born in the wrong time, when in the future we could be swanning about in a luxury of no regimented schedules and non-commuting, investing our hard-earned cash in pizzas and onesies and trips to Morocco. We’ll maybe just pretend global warming isn’t happening. We’ll maybe just look at those scurrying below us, automated or otherwise and pray they never get sentient to the set up.

Am binge watching The Crown, where money and prestige only buy isolation, and a fucking nightmare of a life without power over one’s own. And feeling thoroughly sorry for poor little rich girls, which we all really are, somewhere in our whirring.

It is perhaps this we should be thankful for. Glass half full n all, that we have our loved ones still in the midst of a pandemic, and that the zombie apocalpyse never did manifest itself.

But then emails. And competition.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year 2.0 Day 16

20th November 2020

Home comforts

Today bedbound as usual. My sojourn into gaming has ended, though I will likely start it up again during the week.

In fact spent much of the day adding to yesterday’s post and prepping to meet some friends in the north, at the farther end of the Piccadilly line. Thus a shower, shave and comb has been in order, plus a pack or two of beer and chocolates.

A made a nut roast for lunch, which was smoky and quite the highlight. -Though the thing with nut roasts it’s all very nice but when paired with the other veg it starts to resemble a plate of roasted salad, with gravy.

Our friends C and K bought along some home-made vegan cake. I dunno but I’ve always found the vegan bakes an improvement on the originals, notably chocky gateau. Today a gianduja level richness and buttery, yet still light. Highly suspect and something the vegans aren’t disclosing, a cabal intent on keeping the good shit to themselves. Probably pumpkin tears.

Has anyone noticed that Magners Pear cider (worst on the market) tastes surprisingly like champagne? Or maybe mine had low sugar in some industrial accident, involving fingers.

Wood Green was dark and damp by the time we hit the street, with a bevy of long time drinkers asking for change, or cadging 40p off a corner shop that refused to allow it. In the end a crusty, angry looking guy in a neighbouring queue gave it to the bloke, and told him ‘yeah but don’t you take the piss outta me again’. Big hearted though he didn’t look it, in a cold place.

We bought some chocs -Thorntons Xmas selection they were begging shoppers to leave with, alongside a whole range of painfully discounted Xmas stock. And it’s only November. R said he reckons the lockdown will be extended and Xmas badly affected, though unlikely it’ll ever be really off the cards. Even if there was an Xmas ban (no tinsel, no trees, Santa and his flying venison to be shot), it would be unenforcible. Other countries though have proven it can be done, despite our need this year more than any other to get together and be with our families.

India just canceled its own biggest festival Divali, as did the Islamic world with Eid. Chinese New Year (CNY), annually the world’s biggest migration, went kaput early on -though having a lockdown coincide with a month-long national holiday where most businesses would have shuttered up anyway certainly helped in the greater scope.

Normally CNY is planned expertly -all tickets sold online, well beforehand. Every terminal built like an airport with stadia capacity, and 700 extra train routes put on as millions cross the country to their homesteads, notably 400 million ex-ruralites. However when bad weather hits, and staggers departures, as seen in the 2017 blizzards, the knock-on effect can be terrifying.

Even without disruption these pics show the volumes of people we are talking about, that can spread a disease across thousands of miles and to saturation point within days. We can be thankful this never came about, or that we’re not any of these poor bastards.

In Guangzhou South, the world’s largest station tried to cope with a crowd of 100,000, many who spent the night outdoors. Tickets had to be distributed to even approach the terminus.

Anyhoo, back to 2020, back to life, back to ryalitee.

Our’s was a more intimate setting and the night progressed with lovely company and swapping stories, many on yesteryear. They have the bestest garden, and rare-looking plants everywhere including into the house, as C was a former botanist. It’s a veritable jungle. We got reminiscing randomly on the sexy, gender-fluid Antoine De Caune (and his sidekick Jean Paul Gaultier). Then Eurotrash, The Word, Terry Christian, Amanda de Cadenet, Magenta de Vine, the Rough Guide, Katie Puckrick -remembering their D List names being quite the game. Ah, icons of a certain generation and a vertiginous mix of art, bad production, tongue n cheek and sleaze -whatever happened to that lot eh? But a welcome glow of nostalgia, crossing from time.

Also got talking with C about families and how universally the set-up’s pretty shit if not unworkable. That the best catalogue-ready examples I’ve ever known still harbour deep, dark secrets like the time Daddy strangled Tommy, or when Mother gets the gin out. Basically it’s our animalian genomics at fault, this evolutionary psychology currently at in-betweener stage. An arrested development due to only a couple of hundred years -or even a few decades -that collectively we started living in cities, and forced society to function with them as template. These vast reefs of experience -good and bad -with crowds to feel lost in, or battle.

We aren’t lone animals, wanderers like the Great White Shark or Billy No Mates tiger. We aren’t singular couples either (though, how sweet) that mate for life and jettison the young (not quite as sweet, which Western society follows), such as albatross or magpies. We aren’t herding animals either like the verdant herds of wilderbeest or vast colonies of squawking seabirds. Our urbanities may resemble that but bear in mind towns and cities are a relatively recent invention, that until as late as 2007 were reserved for the minority. We are now becoming ‘metro sapiens’, but the growing pains and angst involved, like any spotty, emo-addled teenager is playing up in the flesh.

What is surprising is that we aren’t single family animals. And not for vast amounts of our history. The nuclear family has not been the norm for untold millennia. Look at our cousins, the apes: gorillas, chimps, bonobos and langurs. They hang around in mid-sized groups, made up of about 5 nuclear families and up to 30 individuals -classroom sized (12 -25’s a nice number). In other words a hamlet, and very tight knit. This isn’t to say discord doesn’t go on (one only needs to notice Frankie the chimp trying to kidnap his sister’s kid to eat it), but it’s infinitely helped by a larger, more immediate support network.

This is still the set-up in many parts of the world where cousins and castes live in the same neighbourhood. When mum and dad are too busy having a fight, shagging, or getting the bottle out the kids can run amok at uncle and auntie Flo’s instead. It’s never just one or two person’s responsibility to keep the entire household afloat plus raise them happy and stable and away from a lifetime of pschotherapy. An only child will have cousins as siblings, a single parent can rely on others to prop up support, old folk can be passed around and be surrogate parents themselves.

And yes, everyone will still annoy the fuck out of each other as is the leading hobby for humans in our natural environment, but there’ll always be an option of someone to turn to, others to get distracted by and remind one of a greater perspective on things. And less of an option of letting an issue fester if you are gonna get too close for comfort. Overall, beware toxic masculinity (read: bloodfeuds) that can upend all this anyway, but that society these days has mostly vanquished the worst of.

This has been the base M.O. since ever, though in the modern age some societies such as in Pakistan are increasingly having to marry their cousins to maintain the set up, and keep extended, garrulous families on the same street. -A culture built on never having to say goodbye, of never having to see one’s daughter head out alone for an unknown family, miles distant. Or everyone the same fate in an old folk’s home once no one can look after them. Smalltown Pakistan is attempting to bypass all this, but now starting to impose it through arranged, sometimes forced unions, alongside the genetic consequence.

It’s a sign that the nuclear family no longer works (if ever it did), that when people leave them suicide rates go down, as was recently seen in China when a generation of youth left for the biggest tier 1 or 2 cities. The modern world splits up these family groups every which way.

We also concluded we can set up our own family groups in a network of friends, some lifelong, some recent. That C with 0 kids has had more meaningful relationships than his brother with 9 from multiple partners.

So here’s to meaning, regardless of blood and lines and crowds. To mates and chocolate cake too.

Night was lovely, and very much needed as it was a damn good semblance of community, of whatever, wherever, whoever one may consider home x.

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