A Journal of the Year 3.0 Day 13

29th December 2020

Changed my clothes today (really, put some on rather than just gliding round in the bathrobe all day). Cut my hair, had a shave, showered and doused my locks in a panoply of product -water, paste, hat for half an hour, paste some more, gel, hairspray, water, in that order to get it to fall right. Welcome to Asian hair, which if it isn’t long stands up like a straight ‘fro or colludes into becoming a bowlcut when you’re not looking. Even cut my toenails and removed errant hairs that sprout at randomised places around the face (eg forehead, side of nose, ear lobe) that if left unattended will start reproducing. It’s annoying I can’t get enough manly stubble on the jawline but have to shave my cheekbones. There’s a global secret out there, we’re all freaks.

I am rejoining the world. I’m wondering if there’ll be burning wrecks outside and zombie streetkids -the UK healthcare system is a shade away from full capacity at the mo. Deaths are 6.6% higher in this last week (while in Germany it’s 21%), a sign of the new variants at work. What has been happening out there, while I’ve been gone?

Well… it all started when a lawyer in Shanghai travelled to Wuhan.

Yes, China has been at it again, busy jailing reporter/ blogger Zhang Zhan for 4 years, for her reportage of the new disease, and overflowing hospitals. The CCP is like that kid who innocently opened the door to the zombies, and has now been caught rewiring the security cams. Now it’s been very convenient to scapegoat a highly unpopular dictatorship for the virus -it fits with our civilisational narrative -but China is not entirely to blame for the infection. Though now it’s obvious the country isn’t doing itself any favours by further shooting itself in the foot, publicly, while still prancing about as stage villain to an audience of billions.

I will again remind in summary all our recent global goings on.

As acknowledged, the virus was first detected in South America and Europe 3-9 months before it hit Wuhan (likely in a less infectious format), notably as early as March 2019 in Barcelona, and following on in Buenos Aires, Florianopolis (Brazil), Barcelona again, Paris and London, Milan and Turin by November and December, according to sewage sampling done this summer, and coordinated by Oxford University. China’s patient zero was also in November, traced to the countryside around the city (and incidentally site of the World Army Games the month before). It took till December for it to spread to Wuhan, via a site where rural and urban folk meet -a farmer’s market.

China’s mistake was to treat it as a purely animal > human zoonotic disease, that could only be passed from beast to man. We get about three new types each year somewhere in the world, and they don’t warrant lockdowns other than the closure of the spreader site and track and trace of the attendants. As per policy, the authorities shut down the market and formally alerted the WHO on New Year’s Eve, only two days after it was first detected in a Chinese lab as a new strain of pneumonia. It also released the genetic profile to open source, public forum before a second death anywhere in the world. So far, so not guilty.

However, when evidence was increasing that it was human>human, with multiple doctors flagging the fact patients were coming in without any contact with the market or countryside, still nothing was acted on. A ‘super-spreader’ event was even allowed to continue by the mayor, a big city convention that many Chinese consider let it into neighbouring provinces.

China’s second mistake was following WHO advice (after presenting the evidence) that more was needed to confirm it was human > human. It took three whole weeks for the green light, or should I say red light.

The third mistake happened at a low level, but was by far the most damning in the eyes of the world: at about this time, well after it had already been officially documented and released to netizens and the press, the local police reprimanded Dr Li Wenliang. They’d taken a shine against his chatgroup about the disease, fining him for fearmongering and making him sign a statement -his treatment in turn started to spread like wildfire across China’s social media.

In short the local authorities did not conform to the provincial or state authorities dealing with an epidemic, who’d learned the hard way that cover ups could never be effective. They only resulted in shame, more infections, public investigations and reforms, as happened after SARS. Following public furore state missives swiftly followed up that any attempts at cover up would be ‘nailed to a post of shame for all of history’, and the police made to apologise to the doctor. But too late, the narrative was already on the wall, not just in China but the world. Li’s death from the disease only magnified him into a martyr for the cause, for free speech too.

So these mistakes are no different to many that have played out across the world, given the fact they had even more warning and knew the coming severity, plus gifted an M.O. on how to deal with it from China and Asia. But putting all that into context the Party, now jailing a citizen journalist for four fucking years, hasn’t appeared to have learned its lesson. Actually many Wuhanese critics ultimately disappeared for weeks at a time, reappearing to suddenly amend their blogs and acknowledge the govt were, yes, trying very hard and doing very well. Zhang Zhan has been on hunger strike since June; her lawyers are trying to persuade her to appeal.

It appears pattern recognition may not be the strongest aspect of China’s PR machine, or maybe it doesn’t give a flying fuck any more. The ‘wolf warrior diplomats’ (named after China’s dire bestselling, nationalistic film) that have worryingly been infiltrating China’s foreign policy admin -in response to Trump’s sabre-rattling since 2016 -are just stretching their muscle. For long China’s foreign envoys smiled politely whenever an awkward question was raised, noting how pretty the flower arrangements were -then sprinting for the door and overturning all manner of vases n shit. Nowadays they launch Twitter wars with Trump and activists on either side of the spectrum, or even peddle conspiracy theories online (hinting C-19 was deliberately spread by US soldiers in the Army Games).

However, in better news the original wolf warrior Liu Xiaoming, who also happened to be the UK ambassador, just resigned two years before the end of his tenure. Infamous for his defence of Xinjianger ‘reeducation camps’ (really, they’re just colleges for vocational studies and puppy breeding and happiness), Hong Kong democracy blitzing (look at your own record, monster), and congratulating Britain on Brexit (hi five, new puppet!), he has marked his position throughout with many a memorable headline.

Hopefully it’s an end to his droning, and this phase of global repositioning, inline with the coming exit of Trumpist demagogue. Hopefully also a sign of things to come, not just in the public face, but in genuine reforms behind the state facade, as infamously there are several competing lobbies beneath the smile. It appears both sides have scored wins against each other.

Honestly though, we have enough on our plates -CCP, please, just get with the programme, if not for our sake (collectively, the world), but yours. Many thanks in advance.

Free Zhang Zhan.

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A Journal of the Plague Year 3.0 Day 12

28th December 2020

Did fuckall all day. Stayed in bed, watching Youtube. Hangover blues, post Christmas. The world can burn.

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…Here are some more acceptable displays of people having fantastic lives.

“After dinner we like to have a quick round of polo.”

“Then look at our investment portfolio together. Or maybe some poor people”

“In Sweden we sit at tables and chairs to eat, and use cutlery.”

“Live. Laugh. Love.”

“Sometimes for a laugh we like to turn up at premiere events and pretend we’re celebrities”

“As do we”

“Our interests include travelling…

My favourite quote is to add life to your days not days to your life

“Dance like no one’s watching. Especially a photographer.”

“I start every day as if it’s my last. Which is why I blow up 37 balloons and carry them around. Carpe diem.”

“Every day is a mountain and I live on top of it

“That just got out of bed look”

“I live for the burn”

“You are what you eat”

That’s why I only do WholeFoods. They really are the best. And you’re worth it.

“That’s why I don’t have a tv”

“Heaven is a place on earth”

“We’re really just the same as everybody else”

“No, really”

“I live for the kids”

“We made it”

“We called our home, Dream Achieved”

We called ours Casa Siesta coz it’s in Alicante, then voted for Brexit.

“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Then create a POS, market it with a jazzy celeb and add a 300% markup. Then reinvest. Simples.”

“No pain, no gain”

“All you gotta do is win at life.”

“Know yourself. Learn yourself”

“Fortune favours the brave. And who can afford the shares”

“And the world is your oyster”

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Bunch of gurning kite flyers. Pandafucks. Mumlickers.

I’m not jealous, no. Just saying, it’s for situations like this we have cancer in the world.

Yesterday

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A Journal of the Plague Year 3.0 Week 3

27th December 2020

So did a spot of shopping to get out the house, picking up most of Tesco’s reduced section (surprisingly not a lot of ex-Xmas stuff) then stopping off at a Somali place to get take out. As with many African joints there’s no menu, you kinda negotiate with the cook what you wanna -I settled on some spiced rice and lamb shoulder, reminding me a lot of biryani but with Arabian spices and a salad. Plus some lemony-yoghurty-chilli dip which was super spicy and amazing. So good, huge portions too (which I’m thinking may be a sign of quality, insofar that the cook genuinely believes it deserves that demand, and that people always finished their plates) -I need to do it again. In terms of Somali cuisine I’ve only ever had the gorgeous looking xalwa (halva) before, which is a jelly-like mix of sugar, cornstarch and spices, and astringently sweet. You literally feel the buttery goodness clamping onto your frame as you move, becoming that same wobbly blancmange. This the posterchild for You Are What You Eat.

I realise their fare is more redolent of the Middle East than East Africa, though it does have a heavy influence from Ethiopia too, in its injera and stews, not to mention Indian (chai, chapattis, samosas), Persian (pilaf, baklava), and even Italian (pasta, coffee and cream). The restaurant is Safari on Falcon Rd -when I signed the book for track and trace (at 3pm) only one other customer had made it that day; Somali food deserves a higher profile and I hope she survives.

After my favourite past-time – a TV dinner, was out like a light in a glorious food coma, before D came round from the other side of Clapham. Well, someone’s gotta finish off all that Crimbo alcohol, and be merry and light. Made it through half a bottle of sloe gin, while D settled for his usual vodka + flavoured water (he can’t do fizzy stuff due to some dodgy ailment). All necked while we watched a steady stream of MVs -Eighties, Nineties, Noughties with occasional forays into Abba and what on earth is number 1 these days. We couldn’t think of a single chart topper that we knew this year, or the past 3 years, even if it was the million $ question on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Anyone noticed how Miley Cyrus nowabouts (or at least in Midnight Sky) looks and sounds like Lulu?

My one ban was on the nefarious coven that is the Spice Girls, as D plays them every damn time until they become that dimwit zigazigah nipping at your earlobes, telling us what they want what they weally weally want. He settled on substituting them with the Coors, who apparently all died in a horrific bicycle smash (three four seater) in Belgium in 2002. A actually wanted another stab at the board game Dixit blessim (who knew someone actually likes it -apparently it won game of the year back in 1994) -while D is fucking terrible at playing and has as much fun as a pedo in an old folk’s home. Give him the random phrase of say, ‘I’m not in Kansas anymore‘, or ‘AI takeover‘ and he’ll not really know what to do, and match it to a card of an elephant holding a flower, or someone playing tennis with a cat. Still, he won.

We finished off on Disney sing-a-longs, pissed as newts by then and sounding like them too. Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Little Mermaid, Pocahontas, Moana and -I hang my head in shame -belting it out with Elsa on that fucking hill to die on, while she crafts homicidal chandeliers. My nemesis. Might just jump out the window in the cold light of day.

Not many people know this but Let It Go was written for a schizophrenic who went on to kill several people and a cat in a New Jersey (and why Demi Levato was first choice).

So what on earth do the kids these days listen to? What is the equivalent of the Spice Girls or Backstreet Boyz or Madonna? Kool n the Gang? What exactly is imprinting on young febrile minds as we speak, that will last till their dying day?

So after doing a spot of research, of course we’d heard of Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, Ariana Grande, Drake, Taylor Swift, though pushing it a bit with The Weeknd, BTS, Blackpink, Halsey blah-de-blah. But who on earth are Bad Bunny, Juice WRLD, Roddy Rich, Lil Uzi Vert? Garnering hundreds of millions of fans across the world and getting themselves plastered over the cover of Rolling Stone at the age of fifteen. There’s a lot of flow, a bitta drill and quite the sideline in Latin rappers with Caribbean tinge, who dare I say, it sound a bit same-y. There’s a thing now: an understated backbeat, crazy styling and self-penned lyrics over vocal talent (‘lyrical lemonade’), which is fab. I wonder if the rappers of early 80’s Compton ever realised that near 40 years later the kids of White America, the kids of the world, and the global music industry would be following suit.

Frankly it’s gone on far too long that only people with good vocal range and who look great doing it are allowed into the halls of fame, while the rest of the talent become songwriters for other people or give up and spend the rest of their days serving fast food and living out their car. As Lizzo -classical flutist, competition winning free-style rapper, gospel vocalist and icon to body diversity even before she was famous, came one week from doing. Hmm maybe Lizzo isn’t such a good example, she can do just about any fucking thing par excellence, while riding a bike (unlike the Coors, RIP 😦 ).

So quite refreshing that talent scouts now have a new recipe to look out for, but so very new to us after decades of the ol’ tried and tested -that a teenager who druggedly whispers her songs is currently the world’s bestselling artist. And the hook now lies in a certain choice line or two that rides a flow to your brain rather than some ohrwurm that will haunt your days. We’re just not kool anymore.

In my mind’s eye I’ve just turned up at the back of the bus, through a haze of weed, to nestle myself among the teenagers, head nodding, shades down, braids up. But then… my walkman falls out, the cord detaches and Lulu and Take That blare out without my noticing. Oh, the abject shaaaame, don’t you no blame.

No film for us -it was originally intended to be movie nite, but it became much more enjoyable without. Near the end we were smoking in the living room, blitzing a Quality Street and painkillers, and rocking to a heady mix of Guns n Roses with Adele, in a chilled way, in a good way. Kool n the Gang again -just to Someone Like You crooning it out across the airwaves. We’re showing our age methinks but duuude, what can you do?

D finally got an Uber at 2 or 3 something, disappearing into the night. Which was one of them better ones. Good goobley god, it’s nearly New Year’s.

Yesterday

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A Journal of the Plague Year 3.0 Day 10

26th December 2020

Why is Boxing Day so called? Do we unbox stuff, hit each other? Or it alludes to the fact we just lie all day watching the box, sprinkled in food and wrappers, and drool. I can’t even remember what I watched.

An entire day appears to have slipped by in the stream. Maybe I did some exercise, entertained the Queen. Maybe I murdered some people in alleyways, trance-like. Might explain all that blood.

It is a little disconcerting. They say add life to your days not days to your life (right up there with Life Laugh Love, Karen), but have I not done anything noteworthy at all? Ah yes, I remember. In the morning I sent an excerpt of The Book to an agent, working for a few hours on the email and intro. This gave me carte blanche to do absolute sweet FA for the rest of the day, imbedded into sofa, mesmerised by a screen. We now have a modern allergy to boredom, even for a few seconds.

I imagine I watched a few shitty episodes of something on Netflix -my list on there I’ve realised is entirely devoted to Films I’ll Maybe Watch But Not Right Now, the kind of bargain basement shit you’d find at the bottom of the DVD pile back in the day, or in the Pound shop. Mediocre movies from 15 years ago, rom-coms that no one ever saw, some flick Someone Now Famous Wished They’d Never Done, a documentary on Something Or Other Interesting That Happened But We Can Dilute Into Numbness By Dragging Out Into A 3 Hour Epic Or Entire Season.

Anything recent that Netflix assures us is fantastic because it funded it, but is really a lacklustre bore-a-thon on human existentialism (the cheapest way to tell a story) packaged into something newfangled or woke/ unwoke. Say a beauty pageant (perhaps for drag queens), or a fat farm, or a gay conversion centre, with a laugh-an-hour at the whole situation, till it gets tired, fast. Why is Americana so formulaic? Anything that does vaguely work (thank you Sundance) is suddenly approached by the Hollywood bigwigs, thrown millions at and the premise beaten to death in a thousand different formats and merch. The Funny Spy. The Angsty Adult. The Revenge of the Angsty Adult. The Cool Mom, The Flabby Dad. The Ethnic Love Story. The Cartoon Creature, Lost. The Funny Guy And His Loveable Neurodiverse Sidekick. The Autistic Kid. The Cursed House. The Innocent Abroad and Their Funny Romance. The Man and Woman Who Start to Warm to Each Other After Contrived Melodrama. Female Struggle But Ultimately Bonding – Girl Friends! It’s all so 2020, or should I say 2017 and counting.

And has anyone seen the description blurbs when you click on a film? So mindlessly cryptic, anodyne and asinine in such a tired formula they’re likely a bot. Or a field of indentured copywriters who might as well be one, clamped under a grate so strict they get electrocuted if they stray. Their mindless recipe for tapwater tries to entice you it’s absinthe -for Schindler’s List they’d put down:

A man on a mission. A people in chains. Their struggle to redeem themselves in a black and white world -but can they outwit these dark forces?

For The Little Mermaid:

A girl seeking a dream. A crab dodging the pot. A man entranced. But can legs save her from destiny?

For Trainspotting:

A youth on the edge. A baby on the ceiling. Scotland will never look the same.

Hit me with something new. The problem with US movies, or series, is that there is so much money to be made. And canyer blame them? Find an ounce of creativity, humour and a refreshing take on something, and sell, sell, sell. You’ll make fortunes overnight, while the iron’s hot. Copy that format till it sticks, you can’t go wrong (because by the time you do -you’ll be rich).

Of course the current dearth of creativity is due to the fact for the last year nothing’s been filmed by any studio due to the infectiousness of a crew, and that everything that was due to be released is reluctant to show until cinemas get back to normal. If anything this year has marked the speeding up of the big screen being replaced by home streaming.

Tried watching some Chinese films, now the world’s biggest market, and what is taking over the Hollywood machine. Our new worldly saviour perhaps. They too have an army of writers, grade A actors, ginormous budgets, special FX and a world of history and tales to draw on. Perhaps this is the new wave? Up n coming, that’s turned around in less than a decade to become a behemoth of creativity. It’s ripe for discovery to say the least.

Well, to put it bluntly… Hell no.

Almost every flick is unwatchable. China appears still at the corny end of the spectrum when catering to vast audiences -watch as heroic boy band members save small, stupid children (separated by perhaps following a balloon/ doll/ puppy amidst all the guns-ablazing chaos) from alien bombs, or evil, foreign militia. Female assassins ward off dozens of arrows with a spinning blade… while flying. Buildings/ mountains/ glaciers collapse milliseconds behind the fleeing troupe. Some background sidekick dies -their last breaths given to profess their love of girlfriend/ family/ motherland/ Earth before detonating the key explosion on the baddies. It is an industry conspicuously playing to its own domestic market, and pretty much unsellable outside, unlike say Bollywood or the Korean New Wave, or Iranian arthouse.

You’d literally walk out in a cinema midway, perhaps vom a bit in the popcorn. I don’t think the Chinese mass market has yet reached the level of jaded in the West, to not still be entranced by the stilling waters of Rambo or fucksuit Ironman. As always the smaller productions, and the ones focused on the human story are far more appealing: crime dramas, coming-of-age epics, gothic horrors and modern angst, that win the usual awards. Avoid however the romance and ‘comedies’, and anything approaching swashbuckling adventure -still at slapstick and catering to people who walk into traffic because they’re munching on something.

Historic dramas can go either way -studies of the person behind the mask (usually a villain reaccommodated, or a new feminist perspective), or a dirge of predictable, big budget battlescenes that plays out similar to the blockbusters, whereby you can replace the aliens with Mongols or colonial White people, or the Japanese. Backdrops became such spectacle, with ever more epic budgets and fantastical storylines that China even introduced a law against inaccurately portraying history.

And it goes to show that when the City of Life and Death premiered in 2007, an award-winning biopic on several lives during the Rape of Nanjing either side of the massacre (of hundreds of thousands of civilians during WWII), the director received death threats for his sensitive portrayal of a Japanese soldier, equally horrorstruck and caught up in the maelstrom.

In short Chinese films sell their own version of the Chinese Dream in every move and nuance, just like they do Stateside. This time it’s all about importance of community above individuality, nationhood over life (or even family), of endless sacrifice for the greater good. It’s nauseating. China, please move on. Nationalism is a notoriously tricky device for The Party -handy when it needs to seal over divisions in the 180 ethnic groups, or when a foreign embassy du jour needs a demo or two over some policy atrocity (like acknowledging the Dalai Lama/ Taiwan). But all butterfingers and screaming when it gets out of hand, and people start setting buses on fire.

One good flick I saw recently was Wild Goose Lake, featuring A-lister Hu Ge (back when he was the best paid actor in the world and commanding $60 million salaries), but in a break from form, cast in an arthouse crime-a-rama that was apparently the runner up to last year’s Palme D’Or in Cannes (that went to Parasite). Hu plays a criminal on the run, who teams up with a prostitute on the lakes of you-guessed-it, Wuhan, and tries to get the ransom on his head as high as possible in order to save his wife from going down with him (it’s complicated and subtle, but you get the gist after a while). The bit where the moped suspect gets his head ripped off, the chase in the zoo as the animals watch creepily, and where Liu Aiai spits out Hu’s jizz over the side of the boat, is frankly, quite memorable, and unexpected to say the least.

Sorry about the spoilers, but it’s not like anyone’s ever gonna watch it, really.

Okay, enough enjoyable bitching. The telly is now a god-given right to our quality of life right now in lockdown. Having exhausted the formulae, we demand our manifesto for better. Newer. More. Culture needs to move on, as given this year, demand definitely has, with an aching gap in the market. Potatoes of the world unite!

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A Journal of the Plague Year 3.0 Day 9

Christmas Day 2020

It’s Christmas. It’s motherflipping Christmas. Jumped out of bed to body pop, like a freak. Tidied the place up, made myself presentable, put on the Christmas Dino jumper.

My presents came in emails this year -how times have changed. No less than six books on my wishlist now for the Kindle (thankyou C), plus vouchers from Mum and other sis, C2 xx. Sat A down for his unwrapping -Korres cologne, the new Information Is Beautiful book, some horror novels sent by a friend in Hungary (You and Hidden Bodies that’s now a Netflix series -totally not his thang, I’ll inherit them instead), and a can of expensive Spanish olive oil, that’s the best he’s ever had apparently (the Brindisa Arbequina).

I got all nervous trying to prep my first Xmas dinner, though in reality A did everything, while I was Ambassador’s wife and master of ceremonies. D came over just after 1, and we began drinking and prepping and drinking some more, though in retrospect I kept it light, only getting through about a third of a bottle of rum, and D getting in his gin n tonics. The sloe gin, beer and mulled wine sachets were left forlorn the rest of the day -with literally no space to intake them. We’d be like giant squashed slugs, steeped in alcohol by then.

A big fireplace burned on screen with the dregs of Christmas past playing, and we each sporadically did video calls to family -D retiring to the bedroom for privacy, then returning immediately to get a Santa hat and a scowl. He slam’s the door again, then a few seconds later it’s a “Ho Ho Ho”, which got us spitting our drinks out. Goodness, the day was stacked. Ginormous fucking lunch:

Black forest mince pies with cream

Amouse bouche: jackfruit and mushroom bao

Starter: artichoke crumble and sourdough.

…at this point we got stuffed and had to take a break. Then ploughed on:

Main: salmon en croute with white sauce, the world’s best roast potatoes, fried sugar kale and mushrooms, gravy.

Another fucking break…

Dessert: salted caramel and gold mince pies with cream

Dessert 2: Chocolate ganache cake

We didn’t do an Xmas Pudding -why would anyone ever do that to themselves?

OMG. Needed a Roman vomitorium to fit it all in, plus the booze. The pigs in blankets, stuffing, smoked salmon, and bresaola never saw the light of day. Then we all went on a walk to burn about a tenth of it off, meeting up with An for a long traipse round Wandsworth and the Common. Some out of towners -complete, utter strangers -wished us a merry Christmas, so we knifed them.

Missed a video call with fam, but made one to sis when I got in. Other sis and Mum didn’t pick up, so will try again later or tomorrow (rang them earlier in the morning already). Genuinely needed a rota today; I get why traditionally the housewives of the world needed a vat of sherry to go with their all day workathon that everyone else enjoyed, putting their feet up in front of the telly and popping in to nick a sausage. And thank sweet St Fuck for the invention of a dishwasher. We worked that fucker.

Post lunch was highlight of my life, the board game Dixit which I’d been building up for days, yet still the others I had to drag kicking and screaming into playing. They weren’t too impressed with a Nineties French game about trying to match art cards, but hey, when pissed everything’s fun and what can you do with a last minute Oxfam sweep before lockdown? Mariah played like a lounge singer throughout, occasionally falling off a piano or becoming gangsta drill suddenly, as my algorithm on Youtube’s fucked. Listen to one song and you’re 2012 Peckham Boyz for the rest of your days, popping up like Smith and Wesson between the Disney.

Xmas film was Cat in the Hat (trippy, fun and fab -it get’s that it’s based on a mindfuck for adult’s), then later Midnight Sky (what a downer), which is Netflix’s new offering, and a retelling of every space-y escapade as of late; Mr Clooney’s in danger of getting himself typecast as a ghostly astronaut, or an astronaut that know’s ghosts. Minor drama when a plug melted (how the fuck does that happen?) and the switch got jammed, but hey, we’re still alive. No one had dinner but me, which was the roast potatoes, veg and gravy then much later snacking on the last wad of crumbly salmon goodness like a chocolate bar. Filthy.

Twas a merry day. We need more of them. Christmas Two should be celebrated some time in July, so we can have Christmas cake on the beach, like they do in Australia.

To a better year. Can’t be hard, but let’s not jinx it. I know it’s been a tough one for many, but for some it’s a choreographed coming of age, one emblazoned with memories. I’ll always remember the teenagers hanging out in their summer of love, populating the parks and street corners with digital ghetto blasters, well into the night. The people, now cosying up with their loved ones in a bubble, the readers settling down for another good book. I’m not exactly gonna say ‘long may it last‘, but ‘long shall we make the most of any given situation’, and trill that on a 2020 card instead.

xxx

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A Journal of the Plague Year 3.0 Day 8

24th December 2020

So I’ve wrapped all my pressies and tidied, and retired the appropriate drinks in the fridge for the big day tomo. I have received some vouchers online, and a mysterious parcel in the post, literally collected from the concierge as he was shutting shop for the next few days (he reopened gawd bless him). D will come round in late morning for a late Xmas lunch, we decided on an afternoon meal otherwise we’d be blind drunk by dinner, throwing turkeys off the roof and baiting Santa or summink.

I’m not sure what the Xmas movie will be, maybe the new Netflix thing with George Clooney, and the meme of astronauts on a space station as killer debris tears it apart (from the trailer anyway). That was so impressively done in Gravity, then Interstellar they can’t miss the opportunity a third time it seems. My other option or course, is Elf.

Across the continent (so near yet now so far) it’s this that’s the big event, when carol singers go door to door for sweets and pressies get opened, plus the big meal before midnight. Over here magic only settles on the 25th, where we swan about looking at things in disbelief that they’re happening on The Day, so long built up to as Michael McIntyre has noticed. Look at those people driving their car, On Christmas Day. Look at that tree standing there, On Christmas Day. Ohmigod is that robin, a robin!¡dear jeezusjizz on Christmas Day.

D will be our plus one, allowed as a support bubble according to the rules as he lives alone. Other than prepping the big lunch, opening pressies, getting pissed and the Xmas movie, there’s also the board game I bought long, long ago at the start of Lockdown 2 in October and never used. Not to forget, the skype session with fam, that will likely drag on for over an hour. I’d better try and do that sober.

The news just in -good news or at least a semblance of it, is that we did reach a deal in the Brexit malarkey. I don’t know if that just means we sacrifice a dolphin on Charles de Gaulle’s birthday, or get to call Brussel sprouts Brummie cabbages from now on, but it’s better than No Deal No Entry, the bit in the gameshow where the losing contestants get doused in petrol and set alight. All in time with France reopenink the border innit in Kent. To EU nationals with a clean health card (dear lord, thank fuck), notably the 30,000 HGV drivers stuck on an impromptu caravan holiday in the Downs. Though at the rate of 45 minutes to two days processing per driver as they load em on, it’ll take 3 years to get them all out in time for Xmas 2024, if we still have boats by then, or you know, are alive after the famine. It’s likely thousands will spend Xmas day here, forlorn in their cabs with a view of some Margate verge.

So everything now done and dusted, A‘s having a nap, so I’m at a loss of what to do. I’ve forbidden myself to Youtube as it gets me down, angry, empty or weird. Same with forums and news sites, that makes my life smaller now rather than larger. And social media is an odious viper that needs treating with a stick.

I might have to read, by candle light and whatnot. It’s getting cold- below freezing tonight, and a blanket may be in order, plus a whispering frame of a fireplace on the box. Am very sorely tempted into sneaking another mince pie – a Black Forest version from Lidl with some spray on cream. And Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

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A Journal of the Plague Year 3.0 Day 7

23rd December 2020

I’m getting sucked into Youtube. When one is left to their own devices, say the high security wing, a desert island in the mid-Pacific, or Hatfield, one is also left out of touch to the stern, reprimanding eye of society. With only your personal algorithm, Gilbert, for company.

Gilbert knows your darkest desires, and fears, and will seek to entertain them. No one is stopping him as he crafts your very own echo chamber, personalised with wolfen smile. Gilbert has been known to create such clickfests, upping the drama after every vid ends, in order for you to start on the next one -notably, he’s been found to automatically assign more and more extreme content, for say someone interested in veganism, or animal rights, or immigration policies, or Islam; to anyone becoming a convert. He lights the way as a one stop shop for more and more righteousness, conspiracy theories, then portals to the dark web, for example seeking to avenge the millions of Muslims killed these past decades at Western hands when you were only looking up times for Isha, or shisha. As happened to Safiyya Shaikh, born Michelle Ramsden. She converted in 2007 after the kindness of a Muslim family of neighbours impressed her, but ended up wanting to bomb St Paul’s Cathedral.

This is what Youtube withdrawal looks like:

Well, I digress. So, Gilbert. Gilbert has recently been feeding me increasingly bizarre routes into personal headspace. He calls them ‘channels’, with vid after vid of similar content, and when he runs out, he posts the same ones again, till I cave. I am stuck on a roundabout with enticing options only in:

People Watching Eurovision For The First Time Avenue

The Serial Killing, 520 Year Old Floating Spookfest That Are Greenland Sharks Quay

Cruise Ships Leaving Tardy Passengers Behind While the Resident Sociopaths Heckle Them Harbour

Landslides Hill

And This Is Where It Starts To Get Dark Airport…

The Japan Tsunami of 2011 Vista

The Decline of America Close

Lovely Holiday Vids… To Recently Invaded by/ Enemies of the West Cul-de-sac

North Korea Amirite Boulevard

China Apologists (Don’t Mention Xinjiang or Tibet or Taiwan or Hong Kong or The Spratly’s) Freeway

What Happens When You Stand Out Vista

The last one so close to the bone to my own experiences from past to present to future, I see every month, will mar my day. I keep revisiting the damned issue on this blog; it keeps cropping up.

-That was just a woman on holiday (and they cut some of the instances out). I literally cannot watch it twice without wanting to punch a wall or face. I sat down with A the other week after another round of public abuse (the train guard right next to them, doing nothing), to have a chat about a long term plan in leaving ‘The West’. Can’t live with it any more, can’t live with myself living with it, despite all the love I have for the place and those here – and that I am a Briton and a Westerner through and through. I reached my limit many years back with the hypocrisy that indentures my life, my past, my pay, my prospects. My choice to show my face on a street or past a school or on public transport or in a pub, or even hang out digitally on a public app, that’s out of my control. The fact when I anglicise my name (as in give an entirely false one) in duplicate I’ll get a reply to only that one. I’ve tried so very hard to make myself presentable, in every aspect and box to tick over the years.

The worst is when people I confide in don’t really think it happens at this scale, to this frequency. That I may have misconstrued Ching Chong shouted across a crowd, from its term of endearment, or all that pattern of behaviour is a misreading each time; I’m playing the victim/ race card/ paranoia. And ah, it’s just a joke. They’re not really racist. But live in my shoes and after a few years, see if you’re as forgiving, when the joke is always on you, with a helping of public humiliation. See if it looks the same if a Black guy walks into a carriage and people start making tribal noises. They don’t (so much) as they’d be called out on it, rightfully so.

But breathe, reel it back. No more bitter pie -this entire last few paragraphs might as well have been penned by Gilbert himself.

Any further down these routes and I’ll go kamikaze at the local mall, or at least start booking Disney cruises -it’s fucking Xmas fer Chrissakes. Okay enough, time to lie down, and start a withdrawal plan to go and fucking buy presents or a life or something.

Will stare very, very hard at this image until I put the flamethrower down, and let’s just brush it under the giant gaudy rug.

Here ends today’s missive. Thanking you for listening to my shit x.

Everyone, everything, bunch of cunts, going to hell.

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A Journal of the Plague Year 3.0 Day 6

22nd December 2020

So finally ventured out to do shopping, and it seemed pretty normal. No mosh pit grannies or flying loaves, or obese people filming each other screaming. Certain chains such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose are now rationing things like rice, flour, bog roll and eggs (and for Waitrose likely its cheapo Essentials range too, in edible flowers and prosecco flavoured crisps), but thankfully not Lidl; maybe the Germans really are just better organised. The streets were still populated and I’d arranged to meet up with D who’s been working home alone all week.

Xmas tree

We met up in Northcote Road which has until recently been doubling as the local Soho, ripe with shoulder rubbing and vector for transmission via loitering and street drinking -well until this new strain put a dampener on the parade. It rained, the streets were wet and people were scurrying to and fro with their shopping or dogs. We found a dry seat outside an empty pub, the kind built under the awning. About two minutes later a portly policeman politely moved us on; he did tend to lecture but apologised and we apologised back as we Brits are wont to do; though increasingly less so these days. I think we were perhaps representing a grey area -allowed to meet up with our support bubble outside, yet not allowed to stop?

Passed the new Wetherspoons on the corner (having taken over from the vodka bar, Revolution, literally up n running within 48 hrs of its demise), now shuttered up and proclaiming massive posters in its windows, about Daily MFail reports that the virus is a lie and that it’s all a conspiracy to stop their business. Haha, what a bag of wankers, notably fat cat boss Tim Martin, fresh from his ongoing campaign for Brexit (which cost him £600m as Remainers left in droves).

Xmas gammon

In the end we bought a few bevies from Co-op and retired to the grounds of the estate; I lost a bottle of cider to the fountain and had to fish it out again, lest it sozzle the koi. Am so off sweet cider these days, and switching back to beer.

Last night’s hammy hammer horror – the 1959 rendition of the Hound of the Baskervilles -was as camp as Christmas. Valiantly acted with Peter Cushing superb as Sherlock Holmes, and opposite another great icon of the macabre, a young Christopher Lee (as Sir Henry Baskerville), who’d go on to take over the role of the famous inspector a decade or two later. A leetle bending of the original tale sees a few characters combined to introduce a brazen Spanish harridan, luring her target to the jaws of death, and liable to run away whenever a man talks to her (thus starting an automatic chase, as I think that’s how flirting was constituted in those days). When caught she may or may not force a kiss on him/ herself as he shakes that feminine mystique outta her. Why young woman? Why… did you run away!? Before the Sexual Revolution of the 1960s came along, courting pretty much meant stalking the woman till she caved, or in this case sprinting after her across bubbling bog and quicksand.

Yes, very camp -the blood as shiny and vivid as the thinly disguised enamel slopped onto the tors, the ‘mire’ a pool with sawdust and sand on top, and the moors a mix of the genuinely shot and the creaky, Dry Ice-laden set of cardboard and houseplant. Night time is that blatantly sunny scene shot with a heavy filter. But it all added to the premise; there is a certain je ne sais quoi to these strangely shadowed film sets of yesteryear. Despite coming from the infamous house of Hammer, any horror was very subdued, with action verging on farce and over in seconds -early days for the seminal producer.

Although utterly unscary, it has been a welcome escape, that artfully balance between so-bad-it’s-good and so good-it’s-bad, plus a healthy dose of bittersweet every time. Positively refreshing -I should do this more often. I mean, how exactly has my soul so been saved by a dose of B-movie, high British schlock?

Fuck Netflix, fuck Hollywood, that’s how. Stop fucking gurning and clapping and thinking everything’s so fab and worn on your glitter-laden sleeve ye damned cartoons of characterisation. Every time. Get a damn life, and perspective, and some mystery; I mean do we HAVE to promote the American Dream in EVERY move, sentence and facial nuance? Priorities in a pandemic now, -wtf am I gonna watch for the Xmas movie?

The Eyebrow of America

691 people died of C-19 today in the country, 30,000 truck drivers are stranded at Dover, shitting in the bushes as Hard Brexit looms, and a second new strain just landed from South Africa, that’s even more infectious. #Plagueisland has been trending all day on the world’s social media. Ho fucking hum, bah fucking humbug -let’s move on shall we?

I’ll need to buy the Xmas food soon, and when I say food, I mean booze. Can’t believe it’s Christmas; for the first time I actually feel a bit grown up, now that I’m the one organising it rather than going to the folks’. I will try very hard for the next two days to be merry and bright, regardless of the shitshow. No pissing on people’s bonfires n all that – I may even watch my nemesis, Elsa at it (Elsa‘s a homicidal maniac, but that was just a phase -it’s more important to remember she was empowered doing it, and above all, she’s pretty). I may also watch The Road, for a touch of festive 2020ism, no one should mind aTALL if I stick that on after lunch.

Ho fucking Ho.

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A Journal of the Plague Year 3.0 Day 5

21st December 2020

I have been very much sucked into the game Alien Isolation. The latter half of the title very apt for our times. J has left for Wales while A barricades himself in the kitchen for most of the day, working at the breakfast bar with his laptop, floor heater and view over the estate. Every few minutes he pops out for a smoke, which worries me, then it’s a bike ride for the evening. And repeat. We wake, eat and go to bed separately these days.

Thus it’s just me and the homicidal extra-terrestial. I get why it’s been dubbed the best horror game of a generation; unlike a film where one watches events play out on a screen, this time YOU, dear friend, is in control of your protagonist. You get to decide to run or hide, to make a sprint for it or crawl about in available corners, gibbering like a gibbon.

The fucker’s fast, and like this first semblance of AI to the public, it’s intelligent. It acts on sound and movement, unlike the games I grew up with where the characters forged set paths that you could learn and cheat. Thus hiding in the pits of an airvent I was forced to throw a noise emmiter out one of the ducts, so as to distract the thing from me exploring about. Of course the sound bomb bounced off a wall and landed at my feet, making me scream. And run, chased through dark corridors.

Then I saw it pass by in front, in the self same air vent, and bottled my scream (like that would have helped -there have been times I’ve been inches away from the screen to better peer into the corners). I switched off my torch and began crawling the fuck away. Of course it caught up, jumping me in the black, and forcing out a bunny pellet in the bed.

It’s true what you see in films, when spaz hands can’t work the gun or missy falls over at the most unwarranted of times. The stress levels ensure you are just as idioted, running into walls, taking the wrong door, trying to shoot with a loaded carrot, and missing anyway. The game is so stress enducing even after I got killed (a horrible wrenching sound, everything going slow-mo, with a spiked tail emerging from your belly as it fades to black) I was still covering myself into the duvet and mewling. Motherfucker this is intense.

I’m almost too scared to carry on. Just cannot, cannot find some damn keypass out of the trap. So ended up watching a youtube vid on some gamer playing it out to give me clues. Even then I was screaming, along with him. I like to think I’m calm in a crisis as, well, I usually am. This is proving me wrong.

I think collectively humans on the planet right now are being spazimodo in the same way. We are literally launching ourselves into the mire with the pandemic -and after watching Attenborough’s latest offering (his witness statement on the destruction of the world over his lifetime) -with the environment too. We are literally sitting over a spread with Death and his mistress Mass Extinction, and having the time of our lives, having invited them over with promises of tea and biscuits, and a lathe for the scythe. Instead of running for the hills, we’re playing footsie under the table.

It says something when for me to get away from it all and some light relief, I’m choosing to get chased into industrial piping by a creature with two mouths and acid for blood.

An Xmas card came in the post, from my ex-landlord and friend T. It sits now over the fireplace with its pic of ice skaters outside the Albert Hall, near where we werkkk, and painted back when people could swan about unmasked. Even though he’s furloughed he’s super busy still, likely planning for the holiday and a big meal as he’s a great cook -these lives lost to ether. We’re planning Xmas day ourselves too, with D, who’s been stranded in the Big Smoke and now our support bubble. His plans to go up north were upset by the lockdown, plus apparently the police at Waterloo were stopping and checking travellers. He’d not have gotten away with an excuse for work when carrying a packed suitcase and a whole bunch of pressies. Thus he’s been home alone for a week now, like Tom Hanks in Castaway.

Ours will be salmon en croute, and I’m adding pigs in blankets. A will bake the parsnips n potatoes, as Greeks make the world’s best in every shape and form -ALWAYS perfectly crisp on the outside and mushy inside (their chips OMG), and D bringing the stuffing. I’ll do a starter of vinegar sweet veg and fried sprouts, and we’ll finish off with vegan chocky cake.

Artists’ impression

With J gone I’ve ventured into the living room to write this on a table, vertically, as opposed to lying in bed and making no end of typos as I try and tap shit out with laptop on my chest. My spine is like a Quaver from so long doing it. It’s really quite civilised -the lamp’s are on and the room is lit like a cosy study, helped by J’s inordinate amount of antiques. Silver is meant to be displayed in firelight he’s said -it shimmers and glows through an ethereal gloom. One of which is a turkey dome that looks inviting for use in the next few days. I feel like Sherlock Holmes, and it’s getting late.

Anyhoo, time again for some running through darkened, post apocalyptic rooms. Or maybe a showing of the Hound of the Baskervilles, the Hammer horror version with some candles and blankets. With all this around it feels right tonight.

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A Journal of the Plague Year 3.0 Day 4

20th December 2020

So I’m trying valiantly not to have another political barney, but the force is strong (picture me at the breakfast table, the heel of my hand on my brow, shivering with effort). I mean shit has resolutely kicked off out there.

Thanks to the newly infectious super strain we’re currently entertaining on these shores 40 countries have banned flights and travel from the UK, Canada the latest, France the most damaging. This giant spanner in the works is due to the absolute backlog now blockading Dover, that normally handles 10,000 lorries a day coming off from the Channel Tunnel, under the world’s busiest shipping route (alone responsible for 20% of our offshore cargo). The ferries, tankers and Eurostar just as grounded.

Drivers heading for Britain are unlikely to commit to the crossing now as they’ll not be able to return, and be stuck with the miles of trucks now snaking through the Kent countryside, without even toilet facilities (they just have to go in a bush or dig a hole in the embankment), living out their cabs. Few are getting food or water either. This comes hot on the tails of the usual Xmas demand plus the stockpiling for the looming Brexit -a likely No Deal by all accounts. The PM is holding emergency talks with France over the next 48hrs, and maintains there will be no stay of execution for Brexit while he’s at it.

Supermarkets are already reporting gaps in their fresh produce and people are of course, panic buying. In terms of game theory we may well have to join them. This is what being the Billy No Mates of an international pariah looks like. Think Iran, North Korea, Cuba. Kent.

J booked a coach ticket for Wales, to spend his Xmas with his beau. He feels guilty for abandoning us but we’re more than fine; he has his own mental health to look after and no one likes spending their Xmas apart from the other half. I imagine them in a misty farmhouse in atmospheric dragon country, possibly with wolves worrying the local sheep. How romantic, in a Wuthering Heights kinda way.

As reminder this was London at the start of this month, coming out of the second lockdown, when everything was low in infection. A different country entirely. Traditionally Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus each get double the visitors of Times Square, Oxford Street 4x more, or 550,000 a day.

Then they noticed the infections weren’t lowering despite that lockdown. This is now, only six days after the new variant was identified, which doubled the sick within days:

Cooped inside I’ve spent the entire day watching youtube vids mindlessly, exhausting my algorithm (like a personal friend you can’t shake, perhaps I should give it a name, like Gilbert) so that it just stupidly chucks up the same offerings again and again. Then a movie for the evening -Interview With A Vampire -with J, who was a bit bored and texting throughout, until I’d conspicously clear my throat before a seminal section. The film is 2 hrs long, and quite wordy to stay true to Anne Rice’s cult book, but studded with exquisite scene and image imprinting despite the understated nature of the work. It shows director Neil Jordan as a true master of his craft, the enfant terrible back in the day fresh from introducing gender-bending to the IRA. -Funereal black horses emerging from the Parisian mist, the vampires afire clawing at a ruined abbey, the graveyard statue looking at her husband for a caught second, as he becomes the damned and the undead.

This escapism is questionable, is it so far removed from the lalaland crazy outside? I doubt I will find the same haunting beauty of history being played out as the film so elegantly portrays, spanning three centuries in Gothic costumes, burning waterfronts and antebellum exorcism. It will instead be the queues and gaps under fluorescent lighting, the muffled coats and masks, the darkened, typically wet streets at this time of year. No Brad Pitt with long hair and wolfen eyes, a blonde, homicidal Tom Cruise or besotted Antonio Banderas to accompany me. But then nothing looked exotic back in their day either, to those contemporaneous eyes even in New Orleans, Francophone and (d)ripping with Spanish moss and bodices. They likely moaned about the mud and stench, and you know, fleas, rats, smallpox.

Anyhoo, this is no cinematographer’s play, it’s real life and shopping. Maybe some basket banging with grannies over the last banana, which I can imagine I’ll swing to In the Hall of the Mountain King, or Rule Britannia. Time to grab the coat, and just fucking brave it. Bring it on, it’s like history innit.

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