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 was closed -all its acres of carpeted free-for-all, comfy sofas, exhibitions and caffs to loiter many an hour in (without having to spend a penny). 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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