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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Tomorrow

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