A Journal of the Plague Year 2.0

5th November 2020 Day One

Today is the first day of Lockdown 2.0. Work closed for me a couple of days ago ( I sadly missed our last day to the world’s smallest violin), as did many of the shops one by one on our local High Street. I spent yesterday seeking out board games to help us bide our time, like a middle aged fanatic. At first scouring the local charity shops, then the TK Maxx, pretending to be a caring Dad in the kiddy aisles. It’s been a good few decades since I was ever inspired to traipse down these plastic coated ways, full of lurid lights, mystery noises, shocking pink, glitter and dazzle -my adult antithesis -but it took approx. 6 seconds before I felt again that inner frisson of excitement. As if I was that 7 year old gobshite once more gurning for a glo-in-the-dark She-Razzle Death Worm plush. Every time I passed a certain aisle an automated fart sounded from one of the stealthy, plasticised offerings. I didn’t find a thing but bittersweet memories of Windsor Woolworths.

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So this is it, priorities, priorities. Beyond me standing staring at Hazmat Barbie, daily infections somewhere in the ether have risen to 20,000 for the UK though it may be as high as 80,000. Rumours abound this is a more contagious mutation from Barcelona, that landed some time in July, while highly hidden death rolls are topping 400 a day by now. Meanwhile there’s the big countdown in the US as the election appears on a knife-edge of results and a civil war, to a backdrop of 230,000 dead, and the highest ever infections registered for a single day -over 100,000. And Sainsbury’s just announced a whopping 3,500 job cuts, including almost all Argos stores and its fabled catalogues that were once the bestselling tomes since the Bible. Stalwart of childhood fantasies for 48 years, once described by Bill Bailey as the Laminated Book of Dreams.

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And yet we party, for that Last Gasp throwing heed to the contagious wind. Taking a bike ride later that night the streets were awash with social undistancing -London Bridge with its ancient but trendy pubs, indy cafes and historic diners a hive of candlelit activity, street drinkers and packed restaurants with queues outside. One after another in a smorgasbord for infection except for the gloomy respite of the White Cube gallery, like the haunted house in the neighbourhood that everyone eggs then runs away -yet also a promise as to what lies in wait for the rest of the strip tomorrow. The building resembled the zombie apocalypse of windswept brutalism, strip lighting and barriers to prevent entry to its Sainsbury’s-esque Carpark of a forecourt. Hardly anyone throughout, pint in hand, was masked, while a few lone men sat at empty tables looking emptied. Alkies a mile off.

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A busker band under fairy lights churned out some 80s chart toppers while a large crowd of coated partygoers chatted appreciatively from three opposite bars. It looked positively radiant, were it not for the fact the band was dressed in biohazard gear and it was 2020. I carried on through, holding my breath.

Much later, approaching the midnight toll the streets had emptied and pedestrians scurried off into drunken stupor. A few cars cruised by, one parking onto the pavement and unloading dressed up women in need of another prosecco and utterly nowhere to find it. Soho I heard was rammed, as were the East End nightlife districts -Dalston, Hackney, Hoxton, Brick Lane as well as other offerings in the south -Clapham, Peckham and Brixton which I’d turned down invites for. Scenes played out across the land. Strangely muted though according to the police, who didn’t record a single major incident but a convivial atmosphere. The young feel genuinely invincible, emboldened by mates or celebs who had it and were fine.

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Problem is these days a convivial atmosphere gets into your body, lungs and bloodstream and kills you. Like in the joke, pianos that fall out of trees. I dunno, kids these days.

I never did find a discounted Monopoly. Who knew that board games now are £30-40? One highly priced one was called Pandemic, which seemed promising but on closer inspection was a format in which all players colluded to rid the world of infection. Yaaawn. Plague Inc The Board Game was much more with it, based on the bestselling download 130 million strong, in which each player becomes a deadly disease intent on world annihilation.

Pretty dark, but I know which one I wanted. In the end I settled for a less guilt-inducing hand-me-down from the British Red Cross called Dixit (bear with me). It looks like a French (where else?) artsy fartsy card game of surrealist pictures, which players try to emote into words. Much more civilised, Marjorie, this may be our saviour when things start to wear thin. I also worry it may also look like life imitating art by then.

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Also managed to grab some flour, the last two packs of complete eggs in Lidl (cracked but easily swapped, the other slimed over with yolk but sorted by a handy food bag) and a few too many bottles of cider to go ker-azee with.

Riding for miles into the night on 5 pints is perhaps not the best way to say ta-ra again to civilisation, but it was a good idea at the time, and dare I say it, a little bit epic. The vaulting skyscrapers in Vauxhall really are a sight, doomed and half built like giant tombstones, with Kenny G’s sax in your head. But this lockdown I’m intent not to guilt-trip about that I’m not contributing to, or personally resolving, like pandemics or World Hunger. I will take it easy. I will lie in bed. I will watch movies. I will wear the same clothes, perhaps adult nappies. I will appreciate the smaller things, like detail, talk, fruit, chocolate, blankets, fluffy pillows, walks, drunken cycling, plush. As they promise, it’s time to Enjoy Life For Less. Just remember to stay safe from fuckery, and look out for our loved ones and all that.

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Tomorrow

Lockdown 1.0

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