A Journal of the Plague Year Last Entry

New Year’s Day 2021

Personally when I look back on the year it can boil down to how Hollywood sells every flick, as dictated by the screenwriter’s bible. The formula of each film no matter what the book is, whether it’s the Bible or Moby Dick or the Avengers, which might as well be the same story in different costumes. You know there’s a film out there in all this; money just has to be made.

Stage 1: Premise of struggle

The outlook on the disease in the depths of winter. The world on tiptoe, the unfolding horror. Will we survive? Shelves at the supermarket start to empty.

Stage 2: Incitement

The disgusting, uncivilised practices of the evil Chinese, The Party hellbent on a cover up. The equally disfiguring racism, spitting and snarling on the streets, from the tweets, in the news. Online calls for war. Trump as lightning flashes in the background.

Stage 3: A brave new world

The building of field hospitals, mass graves, food handouts, panic buying, bog roll bandits, flights grounding, markets crashing, borders closing… lockdowns, country after country. Clap for heroes.

Stage 4: Almost a kiss moment

A grey world -everyone miserably WFH or furloughed or with universal credit or protesting with BLM, and allowed to go out once for exercise (and maybe hang out in the park all day with some mates and lots of beer). Wait. Is this… is this… enjoyable? Is this… life? Flowering.

Stage 5: Midpoint

Watching the sun set on another balmy day, walking home alone thinking on things, news, life, family, love, boredom. Noticing that weird dog, carrying a man’s hand in its jaws. Thinking nothing more of it. Then Back To Werkkk FML. Back to life, back to reality.

Stage 6: Point of no return

Shit, autumn! Oh look, it’s lockdown again. Did someone say new strain? Deaths, starting again, Trump starting again, more lightning.

Stage 7: The twist.

Biden just won. Vaccine is announced.

Stage 8: Climax

It’s Christmas! It’s New Year! It’s Love Lies Bleeding! It’s Death All Around! It’s worse. It’s a terrible new mutation, zombies n everything. Bodies through the roof.

Stage 9: Resolution

Vaccines. Vaccines by the millions. Vaccine vaccine vaccine. Biden blesses everyone. Oh, and in other news, back to work tomorrow.

We are of course not at stage 9 yet, but in Hollywood years, that’s how it ends. Finishing on a sunset and people walking as the camera rises to take a vista of the world being normal again, someone selling balloons, possibly doves taking flight.

I look back on the first day I started the blog. At a moment just after watching some enjoyable film and feeling blissful (rare for me). Then suddenly the jolt of memory, of the here and now, the realisation. Would this be it -the end of days? Was I unlucky enough to be one of the people born to see it? Imagining the breakdown of society, the journeying across unforgiving lands for loved ones. Then that first trip out to the supermarket in a silent world, watching every handle, holding every breath and wishing for PPI. Each street windswept, each infrequent face grim, nearly bursting into tears when passing the more vulnerable -homeless, disabled, the very old and alone, clutching their bags.

The world had become that surreal mix of fantasy and history playing out, filmic even -relationships changed, objects looked different. Even the light itself either flickering doom from a screen, or corroding everything with the threat of infection, whistling at the windows. So strange to look at our former lives now alien and distant only a few weeks before -nothing had been set up for this: infrastructure, money, careers, priorities, regimens, lifeplans no longer making sense.

Then slowly, the relinquishing of the doom when realising shit was still holding together, the decision helping greatly -and gratefully – that the museum was furloughing us. Enough to keep myself and A, now without work and no access to universal credit, housed and fed. To still be able to send money back to family. That the food shops still opened, that no one was busting out into barricades and Mad Max. This, the slinking into the new normal. The first foray into empty streets and shops, and looking for a life without shopping, that first clapathon, that addiction to screens.

In turn hit with the sunniest month the UK ever recorded, in May. And segueing into a summer of picnics and hanging out, night walks by the river -I’m positive many people will have fond memories, especially those growing into adulthood (before more shit comes their way), clogging up the trees with guitars, boomboxes, blankets. Not just them but the cross-fitters tearing up the bridleways, gurus doing yoga to swaying flowers, the families under leafy bough and everyone drinking up the streets. It was interesting to see how zones started manifesting themselves in the local Common, society as usual self segregating -the teenagers by the copse, the picnickers and partiers on the lawn, the sporty and fit slap bang in the middle. The new gay village decamped from Clapham High Street to the fountains, the loners and tokers on darkened benches, watching a dying sun. And what a sky-stunned summer it was.

It is a decision one perhaps doesn’t consciously make, but happens one day: to stop caring. To delineate that line between your bubble and so many others. Despite the times, the virus deaths (albeit lowered to all time lows) it was a reflection of society as it’s always functioned -tutting at headlines or momentarily sad on other’s tragedy. Only when it does effect our own do we put our everyday things down, our priorities in furnishing our own lives amidst the competition. But I mean, what is one to do? Stay in, close the curtains and spend your days grieving for no one you knew, to no avail? Do we have enough on our plates to not do so? Maybe we shouldn’t beat ourselves up, because we imagine others will if we won’t.

The NHS filled an estimated 500,000 positions for volunteers within a day after a call to arms (and 3 million in total). As it turns out they were barely needed if at all, as the health system managed to stay below capacity, and even the giant new Nightingale Hospital only ever saw a handful of patients. But I do wonder, how many of us would ever have turned up? I’m sure at the start of the crisis yes, but by the unofficial, unmissable, once-in-a-lifetime summer of love, perhaps not so much. Now, with the number of sick climbing stratospheric, it may well still come to pass.

And I know so many people where that experience was not the same. People genuinely grieving for loved ones, or destitute from lost employment, hounded by anxieties on top of the usual. Mental health has most definitely come to the fore as an issue, with many still alone and coping. It was not all fun and games all summer, in crisis after crisis. It’s said suicide increases in the sunniest days, as everyone else gives the impression of having so much glorious fucking fun; likewise Christmas.

Normality returned by August and September, vanquishing those heady days. I can’t say much about Autumn, a return to work that’s so catastrophically small-minded in every way possible I’d rather just, not. Nothing happens there but my depression, their judgement and our competition. Hell is other people.

Everyone pretending to worry and look crestfallen when announced we were again entering closure for lockdown, but inside jubilant as butterflies on pills, heading out.

Not just one lockdown but two to follow up, after a few weeks respite in between. Fast forward to now and it’s cold again. Everything’s falling apart. The lightbulb’s gone in the hall, the ones in the kitchen flicker interminably to the point of seizure -you literally can’t switch them off due to the buggered switch, and they burn all day, all night like a bad, bad disco. The heating’s shit and hugely expensive, stuck with old fashioned heaters that do nothing but spout bills and accidents -the one in the lounge also has the switch stuck (melted inside -no really), and the room’s now sealed off a tomb so cold you can see your breath. I lie in bed all day freezing.

I fucking hate London sometimes, beautiful and cosmopolitan as it is, yet how uber capitalist beneath. Like exclusive islets and vicious undercurrents in an outwardly inclusive, celebrated river that is the landing port of hope to so many. If you’re not rich you suffer for it -outside a world entire to the domestic, and the four corners one affords to call their own. Whenever things break down I’m reminded how poor we are, after decades trying to get on the first rung, any rung. In all this -we planned our lives wrong. I know I moaned a lot, but the poverty I didn’t really touch on. Thankful at least to have a wage.

Xmas has come and gone, lovely as always despite starkness without the clan, as has New Year -fizzle pop of no parties across the board, though everyone did some secret fireworks shopping it seems. Missed the family all year, now jobless and watching tv in their furnished prison I send parcels to in a hope it’ll relieve their imagined drudge. There is a level of pain one feels on behalf of another, amplified by worry and the inability to ever really know what they’re feeling, how they’re really doing. The disconnect of our separate bodies and minds that is this dimension, exacerbated aptly by social distancing. Miss A too, who lives in the kitchen now (even with the schizolights). But stop. Stop.

Still alive, it always helps. My motto to die for. It’s not all bad, and it’s not all been bad. It’s been quite the experience of life, and all that life can afford, equally wonderful and shit, to finish that damn quote by Samuel Johnson. And Karen eat your heart out -live, laugh and love, so much fucking love.

I do miss this city. It’ll be back.

I think it’s time to bid adieu. Things will go back to normal this coming new year, new you. Even if it is back to the same old same old, at least people all around aren’t dying for it. I look at the stats at the mo, the new strains viciously seeing infection rates treble despite the lockdown and only the other day near 1,000 deaths in the country, a shade shy from the 24hr record in April.

But the glimmer is in the vaccines now rolling out, slowly for some faster for others, but enough to innoculate the world. Just how fast for us on this small, forgotten island with the deadliest strains? Though at least less likely to take all of humanity down across the waters -that continent now ever more foreign as of New Year’s. We’re no longer in the EU.

The year will be a turning point likely too, for capitalism, for globalisation, for universal basic income, for working from home, for retail, for office, for tourism, for socialising and entertainment, for mental health awareness, for social justice, for faith -or the fall from it. For the changing face of our world, its new icons and the breathless rise of computing and streaming and social media and AI into our lives. For race, for politics, for borders and economies. Entire regional blocs have changed, wars have been fought, societies heaved. And through all that, I think the main thing this year has taught -you gotta love people, even the slightly shit ones, as we’re all we really have. Each other.

Oh and books. And horror flicks. And noodles. And trifle. And blankets. And werewolves. And staring out the window watching pigeons. Perhaps naming them. If you got no one just fucking enjoy that fact, and yourself. Another thing I’ve learned this year, make the most of it -everything really’s an opportunity, tobogganing through shit and sparkles, and we’re on the fucking ride anyway.

Thanks so much for being with mine for a bit.

Again, love. Lots of it. x

Now there’s a funny noise outside, barking. I think it’s a fox.

Yesterday

Lockdown 1

Lockdown 2

Lockdown 3

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