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 disfigured racism, snarling and spitting on the streets, from the tweets, in the news. Online calls for war. Trump with lightning 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 as borders close… 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, 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.

Stage 6: Point of no return

Back to werkkk. FML. Fuckwaddery.

Stage 7: The twist.

Oh look, it’s lockdown again. Biden just won too. Did someone say new strain? More lightning.

Stage 8: Climax

It’s Christmas! It’s New Year! It’s Love Lies Bleeding! It’s Death All Around! It’s worse. Bodies through the roof. No wait, it’s better!

Stage 9: Resolution

Vaccines. Vaccines by the millions. Vaccine vaccine vaccine. 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, possibly doves.

I look back on the first day I wrote 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 door handle and button, holding every breath and wishing for mask and gloves. 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 and whistling at the windows. So strange to look at our former lives so alien and distant, only a few weeks before. Nothing had been set up for this: infrastructure, money, careers, priorities, regimens, lifeplans no longer made 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. My first foray into empty streets and shops, and looking for a life without shopping, that first clapathon, the 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 of it, especially those growing into adulthood (before more shit comes their way), clogging up the trees with their guitars and boomboxes and 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 memories for some. 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 speed.

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 like 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 eddies, vicious undercurrents in an outwardly inclusive, celebrated river that is the landing port of hope to so many lives. If you’re not rich you suffer for it -outside a world entire to the domestic, and the tiny 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 living their days watching tv, safely 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 in the last 24 hrs, a shade shy from the 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 and won, societies have 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

A Journal of the Plague Year 3.0 Day 15

31st December 2020

Happy New Year! Have been putting this off for a while. How to sum up such a year? The end of days indeed.

In a nutshell, we have over the months become experts in a new lexicon, and self professed mini-scientists in the making. This pretty much exemplifies how much we collectively as a species has gone through. Dictionary.com interestingly enough made pandemic the word of the year. Oh why, pray fucking tell? Well, let me light you the way, down a magical mystery path.

Coronavirus – a family of respiratory viruses that are studded by a crown-like (hence corona) surface, that attaches to other cells. They include in their bosom buddies the common cold and flu.

Covid-19 -the name of the beast, dubbed in the month it was found. Coronavirus December 2019. It’s killing millions of people.

Asymptomatic – not having the obvious symptoms of the disease despite having it.

Anti-vaxxers – nutters who don’t believe in vaccinations or see it as a threat. Unbeknownst to us it’s really an injection of microbots that will further enslave us to our reptilian overlords, such as Bill Gates and Hillary Clinton.

Anti-maskers – sociopaths. The stupid.

Antibody test – testing to see whether you have remnants of the disease after overcoming it.

Antigen test – to see whether you currently have it.

Bat soup – apparent evidence China’s cultural practices spread the virus, from a meme in which a Chinese presenter eats bat soup. It was the national dish of Palau in Micronesia, from a travel vlog filmed three years earlier -not a Chinese delicacy. She said it tasted like chicken.

Bleach – Leader of the free world, President Trump’s miracle cure-all to flush out the plague from your veins. That the world’s top scientists had never thought about and was lying undiscovered in everyone’s home. People died taking it. Really stupid people.

DNA – the building blocks of life. Like really, really tiny lego.

Genes, genotypes, alleles, epialleles, epigenetics, phenotypes, chromosomes, diploids, heterozygotes, single nucleitide polymorphism, base-pairs – erm, new types of Pokemon.

Epidemic – a major localised disease infecting large amounts of people

Endemic – something we’re stuck with like, all the time. Like Elsa from Frozen.

Pandemic – a disease that circulates globally. The Daily Mail.

Human to human – a transmission type that means we’re fucked.

Doomscrolling – reading through depressing news.

Face mask – the must-have look of 2020.

Flattening the curve -keeping infections spread out over a steady period -and low enough for a health system to accommodate. Aka sombrero flattening.

Frontline workers -came to mean those still working through the pandemic, at risk of their own lives, to keep society functioning. From doctors and nurses, pharmacists and police, to supermarket workers and rubbish collectors.

Herd immunity – whereby so many people within a given population have had the sickness and thus have a certain level of immunity, it spreads less due to a lack of hosts. It then becomes a more low lying threat, similar to flu.

Hydroxychloroquine – the malaria medication suggested as a cure in the early days, touted by President Trump and bought up in its entirety by the US govt. Before they found out morbidity actually rose after taking it, and several people had poisoned themselves too.

ICU – Intensive Care Unit. Big, bulky, expensive equipment and machine needed to save lives. We don’t have enough to cope with a full blown pandemic, anywhere. For a while, along with PPE, they traded as a currency between nations, with some even robbing from each other.

Intubation – the bit where the ICUs are breathing for you, via tubes inserted into your nose and lungs. It marks a serious stage of an illness.

Lockdown – when everyone supports Netflix.

Pangolin -the cute scaly animal that rolls up, and that genomic sequencers found a 99% match for in the virus DNA. In short at some point it passed via bat to pangolin.

Panic buying – the communal spirit in Asda, any day of the week, any time of the year, any year.

Patient Zero – the first person to get the infection.

PPE – Personal Protective Equipment – stuff that keeps you more protected from infection, eg. masks, gloves, sanitiser, goggles.

Rona -our loveable, affectionate name for the infection that’s fucking the world.

Quarantine – a quick GOT re-run.

Racism – the inherent way humans see each other, with kneejerk distrust and superiority, especially when things go wrong, someone feels threatened, competitive or with low self-esteem.

R number – the rate at which the disease spreads. If it’s R1 an infected person on average infects 1 other person. If it’s higher than that (eg R1.3) the number of infected will rise for longer, and spread further. If it’s say R2, expect the number of infections to double (and without measures, start to climb exponentially, doubling again). The R number can chart the rise and fall and rise again of an epidemic.

Second wave – the second uptick in infections, as seen in previous pandemics, following a lull.

Shelter in place – the initial non-panicky, polite way NYC and California advised their citizenry to stay the fuck home, lock down, the shit’s hit the fan.

Social distancing – keeping apart at all times, say 1-2 metres as per government guidelines to lower the risk of infection. Please note: humans are not to be trusted -in the pic below they’re wallowing in the novelty by still trying to touch each other.

Super spreading / super spreaders – events or individuals that can infect mass amounts of people.

Support bubble – another household or individual we’re allowed to mingle with indoors.

Toilet roll – the new gold. In times of need it’s the last paper-thin membrane remaining before revolution and the breakdown of civilisation.

Travel restrictions – where, when and who can travel to where, when and who. It’s complicated. Or sometimes not -just giant sharpened shutters come slamming down against all, for all.

Vaccine – the cure-all injected in doses, to make you impervious to the illness. Like Ironman. It doesn’t always work, can entail unwieldy storage and roll-outs, and there’s increasing distrust in them for no good reason other than we keep seeing zombie flicks where it all started from vaccines.

Vitamin C, D and I think E – homespun attempts at vaccines before vaccines could come out.

Astro-Zeneca-Oxford, Janssens, Moderna, Novovax, Pfizer, Sinopharm, Sinovac, Sputnik V – names of some of the most popularised vaccine types, often named after their big pharma company, of which 200 are under development.

Vectors/ vector points – areas where the disease more readily spreads. Children.

Ventilator – the medical machine helping people breathe.

WFH – working from home. Some fucker checks up that you do, periodically.

WTF – most of the world in March

Wuhan – a big fucking city in China. 18 million people live there, it’s by a river.

Zoom – our new communication tool, allowing everyone to wfh or socialise.

Only Fans – our new communication tool, allowing everyone to wfh or socialise.

Body Mullet – being presentable for the cam: nice top, nothing underneath. See above.

Zoonotic – an animal to human transmission that defines the type of disease.

This is not to say that other shit didn’t happen round the world. It’s been quite a year.

  • Iranian Gen. Souleimani is assassinated by a U.S. drone strike
  • UK leaves the EU
  • The oil price falls by 30% after failure of the OPEC Deal
  • Tokyo Summer Olympics postponed till 2021
  • Black Lives Matter protests take hold round the world following the police killing of George Floyd
  • Space X executes its first manned flight
  • The first manned hyperloop is performed
  • Constitutional referendum in Russia nullifies the previous terms of Vladimir Putin
  • 2,500 tonns of ammonia detonates in Beirut, killing over 200 and making one third of the city homeless. Massive structural, economic, societal and geopolitical damage
  • Belarus presidential elections deemed fraudulent, spark massive months-long civil unrest
  • Russian opposition leader Navalny allegedly poisoned by Putin’s agents
  • Japan’s Prime Minister Abe Shinzo retires due to ill health, ending an era of economic growth known as Abenomics
  • China rolls out the Security Laws into Hong Kong, effectively curbing the territory’s freedom of speech
  • With Turkey’s aid Azerbaijan reclaims parts of Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenia
  • Democrat Joe Biden defeats Republican Donald Trump in the US presidential election
  • Thailand protests the unassailable power and economic hegemony of the Royal Family
  • Ethiopia enters civil war in the Tigray region
  • Large scale bushfires lay waste to swathes of Australia, Brazil, Russia, Ukraine and the US

So yeah, happy new year. If anything we should all give ourselves a pat on the back we got through it, as it’s increasingly obvious how pants people are to each other given a chance. What we point a gun at, who we vote for, what we throw our cash at, and our pity. I’m going to try very, very hard not to sound like the Christmas Grinch now and still wish every fucker out there a lovely, restful period from all the slaying and bitching.

Despite the fact London’s usual fireworks extravaganza has been cancelled, the night is alive with a good zillion going off anyway. If ever you get a chance to hang out in a tower block on the night, try and get to the top and see the horizons light up. The neighbourhood’s been booming for a good half hour with people shouting out Happy New Year! and waving from lighted windows, which by British cultural tradition caused us to freeze, then pretend not to have seen them. Some bright spark lit the local skies up with an inordinately expensive display (including the gold shimmery waterfall ones that last for ages), our cue to feel all cosy and light.

This is the toned down, lightshow version from the usual fireworks A-bomb around the London Eye, for what it’s worth. Tomorrow will be the last blog entry for 2020. Joy to the world, fuckers.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year 3.0 Day 1

17th December 2020

So again? Really?

Not just talking about the fact we’re in the third time down and out in society, ravaged by the virus, but also am I so committed into writing this?

For the last couple of days I’ve allowed myself to enjoy not writing. Not working. Taking on lockdown as the super secret holiday it really is to many lucky enough to be furloughed, while pretending to decry the situation. You only need to look at Oxford Street right now to see our real priorities in life.

All too much otherwise.

I’d have to start with a recap -the daily infections, the death rolls, death rates, new strains, the news horrors round the world, the retail apocalypse, the Xmas hypocrisy, the fresh political borderlands between who will get the vaccines first, who will grab the lot and leave the rest of the Third World to wait till 2024, if at all. They can maybe just deal with it like, forever as they do with Dengue Fever, Malaria and AIDS. Oops. There, I did it again.

I’d finish off with a navel gazing episode of guilt, outlining my hypocrisy. Then in the real world a good few hours of anxiety-ridden perfectionism, editing, correcting and re-editing for the ‘flow’ and pace and impact. Every damn day.

Well let’s not but say we did. The world, and our societies are shite, people are self servingly shite as are many a leader, attracted to politics for power and self-aggrandisement rather than the greater good, humanitarianism, and cuddling disaster victims without photo shoots involved. Let’s just leave it at that.

The last stint of work involved a shift as normal, followed by putting dust sheets on a few gondolas of product. Then drinks with a workmate who doubles valiantly as my psychotherapist, as I offload my rages at office politics (why is there a need?), society (why won’t it stop misjudging me and leave me alone?!?), and personal life (family, past, present tragedies), all to an edge of humour in order for it to be sold, but surfacing every now and then into true bitterness. He’s a bit of a hero in my book.

I really gotta curb drunken rambling when offered the outlet, though he has pointed out my work-life balance is obsolete as it consists of misery either way. I’ve countered that I’m strangely impervious to depression this last decade no matter what gets thrown, and that I do enjoy stuff. Like time on my own, film nites, and writing The Book that’s so far saved my poor, indentured soul with that zippo of hope, tapping at restaurant windows with big eyes.

Homewise, it continued with film nite and cider with J whose anxiety has rerisen with his first time being furloughed, though I’m working on zipping between him and A, who is as ever islanded in the kitchen and avoiding real contact. We lead separate lives now and it’s a crying shame, manifesting in dreams where he stops and I have to leave him behind. This morning it was a concrete walkway, a lift shaft to his new flat, and my discovery only then.

Yesterday was a shopping blitz. I suddenly realised the deadline for my buying shit for Xmas, starting a round of wishlist fulfilling on Amazon. Ended up spending £260 at time I don’t have it, but it’s hard to think of Mum and my sister alone at their favourite time of year (first time our Xmas get-together has been canceled) when they finally get to socialise and see family, and the rest a desert. I’m sometimes tempted to write on the family history, but let’s just say it’s one of untold woe, involving lots of mental health issues, deaths, blades, crazy bats and running away and let’s just leave it at that.

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/489836896942647349/

I’ve eaten shitloads of chocolate recently, despite not being that big a fan. I still have secreted emergency supplies in my schoolbag and tea cupboard when suddenly the need arises (chocolate is said to be a surrogate for love, igniting the same brain functions and chemicals), but J luxuriously fills a £300 solid silver Georgian fancy-tupplerette with Quality Street at all times. It’s proving disastrous for my health in front of the box.

J and I have taken to braying at each other, after a small child randomly did the same at the family table, on Strange Encounters of the Third Kind. It sounds like nuuuuuugggh, and a step up from miaowing which is our normal greeting of choice. He sometimes stops randomly and podium dances/ twerks silently for a few seconds, given a random excess of energy. Occasionally chewbacca moans.

I’m still sleeping in fits, about 4-5 hrs. Hitting the sack at about midnight, waking at 4 or 5am, checking up on news and fora for about 3 hrs, then slumping into nothingness till 10, or lunch, laptop in the lap.

Day one was bedbound by digital leprosy, my arm furtively out from the covers to scroll. Day two has been the celebration of spending and capitalism, including venturing outdoors to haul foodage home, plus freebies root vegetables given out by a local non-profit battling food waste. Then playing computer games. Day three is, well now. Had a haircut (sweeping it back now). A has just finished some zoom interviews and getting high. J is sitting in a corner playing with our silver spoon collection. I mean that literally.

Another dollar, another day. It’s time for chocolate.

I’m sorry but how weird is this guy? -His arms. HIS ARMS. Hey Hank! Canyer pass us the lawnmower buddy?

Tomorrow

Lockdown 1

Lockdown 2

A Journal of the Plague Year 2.0 Day 26

1st December 2020

Pinch punch first day of the month. Here’s a kick for being so quick. Here’s a blow for being so slow, no returns.

Tbh am now writing this last entry from a few days after, having been unable to face it really. As if the coming tide that is Werkkk and a return to normalcy is also the end of days. Even despite the masks, the social distancing, the blaring headlines, the closed up shops and job insecurity, everything looks pretty normal: in crowded streets and buses, happy drinkers and restaurant meals, screen time and XfuckingXmas. Billed as a return to the windswept plazas of the first lockdown and the malaise of interior worry this second outing only ever morphed into a new normal of same-same-but-different, and Keeping Calm and Carrying On, with little change on the streets or everyday. …Just more politics to it all, enshadowing every move.

The politicisation of a pandemic has now divided the country between regional displays of intent and governance, not just tiered systems paying heed to the science, but regional differences paying heed to political autonomy as in Wales, Northern Ireland, London, the Isle of Man, Scotland and England. It may be a show that the United Kingdom really is a collection of proud countries in league with each other -or it could be a coming fracturing, as autonomies try out their muscle to break away post-Brexit. They say 2020 has been a true test of a nation’s governance, as seen in the facadism of the US being world hero (peddled by Hollywood’s propaganda dept), and similar falls from grace in the trendy progressives of Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, and Austria, also riven by a certain selfish disregard. The UK one can firmly put in the disaster pot alongside, quite the panto villain with currently 60,000 dead and the 5th highest toll and 5th highest (city states aside) fatality rate in the world. Whilst countries such as Brazil, Belarus and Mexico have played out their parts on cue. -Not so much lampooned due to poverty and disorganisation, but belligerently thick leaders intent on portraying it all as a seasonal cold, and sacking their scientific advisors if they don’t play along.

This has contrasted with the displays of strength from the usual expected dictatorships such as China, Venezuela and Cuba, but also small nations such as New Zealand and Finland, Brunei and Taiwan, Togo and Benin. Many societies led by a woman at the helm have correlated into quite the trend in defeating infection, with the foresight to marry a strict lockdown as an economic argument too. The toxic masculinities of other powers meanwhile appear too entranced by short term dramatics. Pushed by blindsided businesses and lobbies in dick measuring and bravado, self interest and stupidity, the caving in has proved murderous. Mass-murderous.

Poor states in the Global South have done exceptionally well to upend the assumption they’d all die by the million with little government aid. From Tanzania to Nigeria, Papua New Guinea to Haiti, Bangladesh to Uzbekistan they have benefitted from higher temperatures that seem to make things less infectious, plus younger populations less at risk. But also coupled with army-enforced lockdowns and billions pumped into the latest tech, from automatic temperature gauging in every public building to track and trace. The latter carried out by the latest apps, or volunteers and Private Investigator firms hired to do it manually.

Czechia has straddled both sides, enforcing excellent counter-measures in the first wave -but then celebrating with nationwide End of Covid parties complete with crowds and parades, and now lumped with much higher infections this second time round. The same with India -the world’s densest tract of humanity that enforced the earliest, strictest measures over the largest populations, in-step with China, but that stood to lose heaviest with the larger amount of poor and degraded infrastructure. Some of the greatest successes have occurred here, including the tracing of 20,000 people at a religious festival when an idiot returning from Italy broke quarantine to shake hundreds of hands. Plus ridding infection in the world’s largest slums, such as Dharavi that holds over a million people in ultra-high density. However it hasn’t been as successful to maintain it, now with numbers climbing into the third highest deaths in the world (though still firmly low per capita). India is just too large, dense and complex to maintain it for nine months and counting. China only managed to pull it off with an army of volunteers knocking on every single door in the cityscapes of Wuhan (18 million) to get the same mix of pleas for help, cooperation and argument as anywhere else in the world. But then rolled out to all other cities before it became too unmanageable. The use of effective early track and trace, border closure and highest level, sustained quarantines has paid off.

This second wave appears to be more deadly for many, with increasing evidence it’s a Mediterranean mutation that’s more infectious. Also that it was already in Europe and South America from as early as March 2019 which historic sewage sampling is showing many cities (Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, London, Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, Milan) as having that year, perhaps as a less infectious strain. The China hawks and conspiracy theorists (just as idioted on that side of the spinner as anywhere else) have latched onto the fact Wuhan was the arena for the 7th World Military Games just before the first outbreak surfaced in the countryside where some events took place. And not just that it may have come from a visitor abroad, but was intentionally laid as a weapon by some Black Ops soldier, usually, of course, American. While conveniently forgetting the whole pantomime of how it spread from Wuhan after, or that such an exercise would fuck up every country on the planet as has shown, not just China. That’s how pandemics go, it doesn’t willingly differentiate, try as we might ourselves.

And is this what it all just fucking boils down to? A sabre-rattling of political entities, borders drawn and fingers pointed? A list of countries measuring their deaths like the Eurovision Song Contest or Olympics, both canceled but now replaced by a grimmer tally? The so-called universality of the world has been found wanting in the first real test of its strength since WWII, with division sown between countries denying or blocking funds and aid, and even stealing them off factory lines and airstrips before they depart. Even the entity managing the global efforts -the World Health Organization -had its funding cut at the worst possible time mid-global-fucking-crisis, by the Trumpist demagogue -for being too praising of China (rather than blaming it), and thus in league.

So to put all that in perspective, I dwindle the lens down, very down, to the effect all this politicking in the corridors of power has to the common person, on the street, doing our little life thing. It’s a real fapping bummer that politics affect our everyday -we don’t always see it so much in the West, sidelined by buying shit up, endless nine-to-five and garish social media to notice, but it does. The division in society is showing up most obviously in a growing collusion among friends and acquaintances that this is all an overreaction. Though many have given up on the ‘It’s Just The Flu’ line (it’s killed at least 4x the amount of the worst influenza epidemics, even with lockdown and in less than a year), the argument’s now replaced with ‘Let’s Just Leave The Old Folk To Die’, which we could perhaps ice a cake with and give out. The conspiracy theory that it’s fake or government/ multinational ploys to infect us with mind control is ever alive and well -and all too real in places where civil rights and democracy have genuinely given way to dictatorship **cough, Hungary, Ethiopia, /cough **.

It’s a little known fact that my very own city is seeing almost weekly protests, that are culminating in riots every fortnight with hundreds arrested in other urban centres across the country. But barely reported -a sign that the media agencies (except of course, the Sun) are paying heed to not giving more fuel to the fire, in league with an embattled government. Yet also a sign they are not as free a press as they pretend, and that free societies operate our own propaganda. The narrative that democracy is unimpeachably peachy cannot be cracked, despite that the protesters, anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers, conspiracy theorists, party-goers, ravers, Karens and Jeremies are killing others. Tens of thousands of others. The kind of angry people taking down quarantined products at the supermarket or barging into stores unmasked (even ringing 911 on the staff for not allowing them access), and forbidding their families to take precautions. I wonder if in a third lockdown anyone will even bother by then.

Okay there I go, rabbiting on too much again.

Dwindling down once again to my own experience I cannot, cannot possibly hold a high horse. Shocked at the crowds of drinkers clogging up my local high street and parks I was exactly one of them, holding a bottle. Like people complaining about traffic when they help make it up, or tourists moaning things too touristic, as if special sites should be fenced off from the rest of the worser dressed riffraff, for one’s sole enjoyment. I have entertained between more than one ‘bubble’, popped into a shop before without a mask, sat next to others on public transport, and any distancing in meeting outside is often undermined by a muppet hug or two. I’m increasingly lackadaisical at such a simplicity as washing my hands.

Overall this is a test on society, and our own selves -what we hold high and if we do as we say or not as we do. What is morality truly if we cannot be the change we want to see? Especially when it’s other lives on the line.

On the last day of er ‘freedom’ I met up with a good work friend, Al, who is everything you need in terms of reliability and some down-to-earth, existential natter and jokes to offset the climes. To dally a day on a bench and a walk in the retro Festival of Britain bit of Battersea Park -all 1950s modernity in formal lines and empty space, looking spookily atmospheric to our times. In a surreal symmetry of dead fountains and mist we caught up with stories on lockdown, culminating world events with our outlooks on them, and the hopeful end coming with vaccines rolling out. A beer or two on the benches, then a coffee plus bakewell tart at the riverine Peace Pagoda (how massive can a two storey building get?), as yoga and tai-chi fans used it as backdrop. It was very much life being lived, and a sense of history playing out beyond. I don’t think such scenes, such feelings can ever be replicated.

In the end the sun got low, the coming darkness emptied the views and a wind rose, shooing us off to our own respective ways. The paths we make out in life are ultimately our own, I’ve never felt it more strong.

It’s a sorry goodbye to the breathing space this disaster has unavoidably given, forgive the pun. Despite the haranguing, the domestics behind closed doors or open on the streets. The moments of exquisite cosiness and inflection interspersed with dark memories, haemorrhaging costs, and tears at windows.

I’ve spent a great deal of time hammering fists at impervious skies while scrimping on money or decaying relationships into heartbreak -as well as making a dormouse nest of beer, friends and domestic luxury. These privated sojourns into a dark and inviting forest of blankets, films, books and food.

Been quite a year.

And love. Worrying, denigrating, passing you by. Even in its cheesiest and most commercial renditions, so much motherfucking, shitty, stupifying, beautiful love. Bittersweet.

I will always remember these days. And everyone ever, all you lovely people.

Thank you. Signing off x.

FIN

Yesterday

Lockdown 3.0

Lockdown 2.0

Lockdown 1.0

A Journal of the Plague Year 2.0 Day Two

6th November 2020

So for the last 72 hours the Great American Show has been counting down the election results with ever more fervour, ratcheting up the tension to a crowd of not just millions in the country but billions across the globe. So much hinges upon it.

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You’ve got to give it to these rolling, roiling 24 hr news channels: they don’t relent, though the news anchors (or at least the directors and writers) must surely be flagging after 72hrs. It’s like a drawn out Telethon but one in which Pudsey bear is slowly being winched to the lip of the volcano, and may or may not be sacrificed into a burning hell for the next 4 years dependent on the rate of our donations. Brinkmanship is very much a term apt for the unfolding spectacle.

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As Biden nears the now fabled 270 seat mark that’ll secure him the victory, Trump is busy throwing his toys out the pram. His son calling for all out war on social media while Dad is suing to stop the count, and entailing ever more curtailments from Twitter as he peddles his fake news that sent-in ballot papers are unsightly and the process rigged. The trending handle ‘Stop The Count’ has seen crowds converge across the remaining states still busy at it, notably swingers Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Georgia, where small legions of staff filing the papers now have to protect against a wall of zombies pressed against the glass and spitting abuse. Perhaps those complaining about systemic hijack of the democratic process and urging us to Make Every Vote Count should perhaps not try to hijack the democratic process and allow every vote to be counted. But hey, ‘Murica.

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It didn’t taken long for many people to inform POTUS that if they did indeed stop the count it would mean Biden, settling at 243 versus 215, would win right there. Others wished the Great Orange Dolphin had had one of his charming typos, just that one letter missing that would’ve meant so much more, and reflecting true intent.

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Hot on the tails of the new handle, inserting itself into the ecosystem of Twitter and contemporary global culture came new visions of a fabled count, that now needs to be stopped. The fuzzy faced vampire of Sesame Street infamy.

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Meanwhile from the UK the trending handle appears to have become equally associated, quickly rising as the second new icon to insert itself into global consciousness.

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-All this despite the fact UK just entered a new period of lockdown. What is there to say? Ho hum, the march of culture and mindset carries on unabated. The other leading trend in the UK being to #banfireworks, set by those irked from the randomised bangs of half hearted attempts at a Guy Fawkes night, or the annual quota of singed kids missing a finger/ ear/ eyeball.

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So it’s not the emptied streets of the cities and aisles in the supermarkets, the plummeting recession exacerbated by the ill-reported collapse of Brexit negotiations, and missing of trade deadlines coinciding with the new measures. Nor the sheer fact so many businesses will now go under for good, unable to weather another round of closure -instead it’s tweet after tweet of pigeon war. I got to hand it to the Brits, we’re a bunch of miserable cunts but at least find humour to go with it.

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I say this from a pampered position of furlough, though of course the very near future looks pretty damn uncertain. So many friends and colleagues, some of which have only just managed to eke back a semblance of employment, against all the odds (such as having several degrees from winning global institutions to gild their warehouse job), are now back in jobseekers limbo after a couple of weeks. Denied access to the furlough scheme despite years of work there, but due to them being gifted zero hours contracts through an agency and a government intent on saving the hassle of affording workers their rights, means they have none.

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Meanwhile the rest of the museum, which had been on the brink of swallowing a round of three-figure redundancies, has had a stay of execution. Personally it’ll be hard to enjoy the ‘time off’, being the strata in the crosshairs to be offered up to The Great Quota now haunting the hallowed halls of each dept. Apparently it’s mid-management they see most as mismanagement.

But at least alive, it always helps. The government is now looking at beyond worst case scenario of 85,000 dead, though it’s wise to remember without a lockdown they were looking at 200,000 – 800,000. Worse than WWII.

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Two new shops in our locale, perhaps taking advantage of the flatlining rents, are surely doomed. One a bespoke furniture maker, whose family spent countless weeks behind plate glass setting it up for the benefit of the passing commute, only offered a final view of the lone matriarch, head in her hands over the paperwork. The other a gelato place, whose sun-visored, visored worker looked as frozen in the headlights whenever custom approached the door. Their timing has been untimely.

I’ve not been outside, but it sounds business as usual -the drone of traffic and announcements in the train station of fires, owners of numberplates blocking the track and errant ‘Mrs Snows’ and ‘Mr Sands’ requiring immediate attention from security guards or Transport Police. The curtains are constantly closed due to the cold, and the fact to open them would entail my good personage having to actually get up out of bed, walk over and exert my arms. I am valiantly, sacrificially trying to rid myself of all my bedtime in one go -dozing, scrolling, watching, eating, muttering, scratching and pissing willfully while horizontal in a bid to get fully sick of it, get it out the system. Before a rebirth of hourly exercise, yoga, learning Greek, painting public murals and writing a new book. Maybe a spot of light tennis and poetry.

But for the time being, fuck it, fuck you all. Onwards with the show, it simply must go on.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 100

Saturday 27th June 2020

Today is the last day of the blog, after these 100 days of solitude. Lockdown has eased itself out into less and less restriction, and ceased to function for a while now, without us having noticed too drastically. Life is not back to normal, but there is quite a semblance of it outside, traffic jams, shoppers, foodies, drinkers -the only obvious difference being the masks and the queues before the shops. Deaths are down to the single digits while we await a second wave, possibly a second lockdown too if things get bad again. But for the time being, that semblance of normality is with us again, enough to take stock and hope it continues.

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In retrospect:

The virus

At its worst C-19 was killing over 1,000 a day in the country. It’s still yet to peak abroad, notably the US, Latin America and now India. The strong sense of doom in the dark days of February contrasting with the sunny shores of late June now, having never reached full blown societal breakdown, and the burning horizons envisaged -though in the US it came close at times with the riots. To date, the virus has killed over half a million worldwide and infected ten million more, and multiple times more undetected. Some countries have managed to control the outbreak, including many we deemed in the West too poor to have done so -Vietnam, Senegal, Ghana, Venezuela, Greece. While the illusion of superiority has come crashing down from badly coordinated responses and deadly politicking, in richer states such as the US, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria and here in the UK. Those in the scopes have changed with time, but generally the old and sick remain the most at risk, while those younger are the ones who most spread it. The responsibility is with everyone, and individually.

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Racism

This year has marked a racial reckoning across much of the West, the coming of age of generations too suffering of the sins of their fathers. The world needed to change, and it did. The rot embodied by cold-blooded murder so in danger of becoming an accepted norm -were it not caught on film and amplified by social media -that something had to be done, or we would never have been able to justify our cultures again. Thousands of protests around the world, and billions of voices have shown the might of people power, and made the corporations, governments and institutions rethink their long exclusionary policies. The spotlight on history revealing the hypocrisy of our modern day hidden in plain sight -in glorifying statues and dismissed atrocities, in open bias long peddled by the media, to the fact our hierarchies, for all their touted sophistication, rely not on merit but looks and connections. The anti-Asian surge during the pandemic, the state-posturing, the sabre-rattling and populism had already formed a backdrop, common to pandemics through time, and now followed up with the authority atrocities. George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, remember their names. Igniting the presidential picking of sides, the street battles, the tearing down of icons, and the record for history to come. As Noah Yuval Harari points out, we have an undiagnosed crux: culturalism -not just racism on race, but prejudice based on culture; this ‘clash of civilisations’ invariably pits both sides as thinking themselves the only civilised ones. And how it has come to pass.

APTOPIX Minneapolis Police Death

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Politics

Trump has been the name of the day, and the tyrant at the helm taking down the bad ship the USS United States. It is not so much the world laughing at the country any more but worse -pitying it. The US is no longer pax americana that the Hollywood propaganda machine has so long promoted, rather the opposite -a warmonger that gives the democracy a bad name, insofar as it can even be called one. Vote a sociopath into power and you’ll see the gaudy, unabashed fireworks singe the gathered throngs, the huddled masses. Seeing the world so affected by every move from above, translating directly into your everyday has empowered people to take a stance, but also one in which partisanship saturates every call to arms and tears societies apart. The oneupmanship between nations, burning their bridges as they battled over PPE, or declared trade wars, exacerbated by opportunistic brinkmanship, from Hong Kong to the Himalayas, Venezuela to the Vietnam coast. Trump and Xi have both been major players, but within many countries a degradation of democracy to create overarching power has also manifested itself, notably Hungary, Brazil, Ethiopia, Turkey. We have seen two sides of the same coin -in ugly scenes of people defending their right to infect others, and governments readily rescinding constitutions in acts unconnected to protection. Politics is eating itself from the inside out.

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Economy

Personally, it’s been tough as well as easy, up and down. The anxieties of costs, future, health and those of loved ones too all balanced with a huge amount of free time and no more rigmarole of commuting, weerking and hell being other people -plus the guilt that comes attached. I applied to maybe 15 jobs in the time, with naught a reply, and a promise to change my name. My family out of work next month, but on a magnitude that applies beyond just those we know. A coming recession looks inevitable, that for this country alone will be the worst in 300 years, not just crippled by the pandemic but already hobbled by Brexit (with a look to mask that loss of face with the miasma of biological lawlessness, that something only as epic as a pandemic will excuse). The horizons seem darkened, though somewhat distant in the sun. What awaits the global economy for the decade to come, and the destabilisation of societies remains to be seen, but it doesn’t fare well -it almost cannot.

Will return to work this coming week in a bittersweet homecoming of sorts -a semblance of normality but entering an uncertain future, an outlook that applies to the entire economy beyond firsthand experience. How much can be clawed back, and how much needs to be rewired, and endured? How much support will we need, and how much can we give?

NYC During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Life

Well one cannot deny the rollercoaster of mind and body. No more exercising, no more waking to panicking alarms, no more structure to many a day. Worry and freedom in a perpetual chase of emotions, dependent on how much one loses themselves in the present, or past. There’s been argument, division, reconciliation, laughter, so much love. A realisation of what is important in life. At times working for 18 hour days, but mostly not working at all, where time drifts between periods of sleeping. And always, the need for money, the abandonment of family to an uncertain fate, abstracted over some far horizon and haunting one’s dreams. I never did get the infection.

One day we will look back on this with tales to tell. What position we come to feels like the flotsam on some wave, with perhaps a promise of land to beach on. That promise can never die, even if it never transpires. Society has changed, and it is up to us to make it anew, to sculpt that form we wish it to take. There’s never been a better time, and neither has it been so precious; I thank you for giving it.

All the best and stay safe.

Signing off.

W x

PS a pic of kittens

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Yesterday

 

Lockdown 2.0

A Journal of the Plague Year Week 12

Sunday 31st May 2020

As American cities burn under protests (25 have declared curfews) other cities round the world are also holding protests in sympathy for George Floyd. Today London held a march between Trafalgar Square, down Whitehall and crossing over to the US Embassy in Vauxhall, where it was stopped from reaching by the police (cmawn, they’ve got a moat). It ended peacefully, but the numbers were impressive, spread by social media and disowned by the Black Lives Matter UK movement (who’d prefer to enforce social distancing). A sister #BLMLondon took the reins after trending:

Black Lives Matter protest

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Sister demos were held in Manchester and Cardiff too

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Not to mention abroad.

Copenhagen

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Berlin

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Tokyo held theirs yesterday

In the US scenes of violence across the nation are getting ever more lurid in the news and on social media. Agitators from both far right and far left appear to blame, with the Minneapolis mayor putting an estimate of those fighting overnight at 80% from outside the city (and confirmed today when St Paul mayor announced every single person arrested last night had come from out of state).

When even Salt Lake City or Fargo are seeing violence one knows the shit’s hit the fan.

In more hopeful scenes, many peaceful protests, and dissolution of violence have also been filmed, from the Mennonite supporters (similar to the Amish):

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to the protesters protecting a riot cop in Louisville separated from his team:

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to the Flint, Michigan Sheriff, who put down his baton and helmet, and asked the crowd what they wanted. They asked him to march with them, and he did:

As did the Camden police chief:

Protesters protected a Target Store (cross country the massive chain has closed, bummer of a name right now):

To a more strained relationship at times between the Black Lives Matter groups (BLM) and the Anti Fascist League (Antifa), who were appropriating the BLM acronym in their grafitti:

The protests appear to have caught a zeitgeist for much of the young. Too long lumbered with the politics of old, and the sins of their fathers from racial division to sexism, homophobia to inequality, corruption to populism, student debt to never owning a home, a gig economy to ecological disaster. To not just one crisis of a generation but two in quick succession -the 2008 Financial Crisis, and now the 2020 Pandemic, with the Great Depression to come, not to mention global warming. This is a world they have inherited, and too long powerless to change. So depressed (and for so long) was Greta Thunberg at seeing her future wrecked, with the adults unconcerned all around her, she took up protesting.

Comparisons have been drawn to the summer of 1968, an equally volatile year that saw in riots and call for rights across the world, enshadowed by the Vietnam War, the Cold War and threat of dictatorship on one hand and nuclear war on the other. People who lived through it are saying this is worse. To the new generations, an apology is owed.

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Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 32

Saturday 18th April

Nadir Shah, ruler of the Persian Empire attacked the Mughal Empire in 1739. At that stage India under the Mughals had been the world’s largest power (vying with the Ming Dynasty in China). They commanded a subcontinental golden age -a quarter of world GDP and industrial output, one of the three Islamic Gunpowder powers and ruling from the world’s largest castles, stationed over the Hindu and Sikh populace. Then Nadir came along, beat back a 300,000 strong army and sacked the capital, Delhi, massacring her inhabitants and taking 10,000 slaves. They also carted off the fabled Peacock Throne, Koh-i-Noor (Sea of Light) and Darya-i-Noor (Mountain of Light) diamonds, plus enough gold and riches for the entire Persian Empire not to be taxed for the next three years.

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That helped considerably in the downfall of the Mughals, already embattled by the native Marathan uprisings (which in turn would go on to fragment into civil war, and allow the British and Dutch to keep bribing their way across the minor fiefdoms in a 270 year process). Thus the world’s largest manufacturer, steel, metal, minerals, food and textiles producer, shipbuilder and tertiary employer, with one quarter the global population and per capita wealth higher than in Europe, had by the 20th Century been transformed into a vast resources mine for the UK, and the world’s most profitable colony ever. A sum of $45 trillion in today’s dough has recently been estimated as to how much India bankrolled Britain.

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Next time you look at our glorious Victorian architecture of the era, you can thank India for funding it -or Mr Nadir for putting it in process, the world’s greatest empire so fallen as to furnish the feet of the next one. So what a tangent.

Today is a nadir, from where the phrase was coined.

I have been thoroughly invaded by foreign foe, culture made stagnant. My industrial output redacted, trade winds poisoned and society curtailed, riven by domestic dispute and a new policy of isolationism. Kingdoms have fallen in this small flat.

As has played out across the land, and world. I think it’s all getting to us just about now, the 3-4 week mark tempting the winds of rebellion. My highlight of the week has been to get a takeaway. Salt baked squid with chilli from our local Chinese, though I suspect they kinda forgot the salt and we had to add it ourselves, and the squiddy itself wasn’t squidgy, more rubber as a sign of overcooking. But it was like a Michelin restaurant with ambient light and a piano tinkling, just to the screams of a tacky Netflix horror (The Girl From the Third Floor, 23 out of 40 on the horror cliché list) while the world burned.

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Before this I’d been lost, sick of the computer, any gaming, any writing, any TV, and unarsed to read. I lay on the bed till I fell asleep, which has been the MO for the other two, who have taken to siestas midway. I even tried to cut n style my hair for something new, but chickened out into a halfway monstrosity, which is about as dispiriting as it can get. My futility exemplified by a hair crisis, like when you lose it in dreams and are utterly crumpled.

We’re all getting the cabin fever, and today marks a change. Tomorrow I’m going to read. Maybe write a bit. Fuck installing a rota, that doesn’t work. I’ve no energy to keep it up. I’ll need to go out and get some sunlight at some stage, though it may kill me, such is life at the mo.

Have been following the darling #VeryBritishProblems Twitter page,which is a sign things have reached a lowpoint.  So not Twitter interested; my profile embarrassingly made up of nothing but complaints on public transport over the years -the only time I feel Twitter useful -as vent when no other avenues are available. So much so I had to change my handle to Transporta, like some kind of network nerd to justify the whining.

#VBP though is funny AF, though not quite reality. It goes far to portray our species as affable, endearingly ingratiating and anxiety-riddled. And yes, there are many of us far-too agreeable Brits about, but when interacting it’s not always the same apologetic partner to play off. And that congeniality only survives if it’s reciprocated.

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Instead you’ll sometimes meet that steely gazed Ukipper/ Tory you pfaff and ingratiate yourselves around, making yourself suddenly ridiculous and public interaction a gauntlet, #VeryEthnicProblems. As a fellow Southerner there is a code which we all partake, and it only works if everyone is in on it. At once adorable and infuriating, often requiring a translator.

If a Southerner says:

“Yeah we should definitely catch up some time!” = Let’s never see each other again. Ignore me the next time, fool.

“If you don’t mind” = You’d better do this

EXCUSE me/ SORRY, but” = How fucking dare you!

“Are you sure?” = I want you to do it but am embarrassed to say so

“Not bad” = quite good/ very good

“(pause)…lovely” = shit/ ugly

“fine” = shit / ugly

“interesting” = shit /ugly

“I’ll definitely” = I probably won’t

“so… planning any holidays?” = You bore me

“I don’t want to make a fuss” = I’m about to make a fuss.

“How’re you?” = I don’t care

“I’m fine” = I know you don’t care

“I’m fine. No really!” = fuck you

sigh/ slight flaring of nostrils/ upturned eyebrow/ look aside = fuck you

“I don’t want this to sound racist/ I’m not racist, but…” = I’m about to say something racist

“Many thanks in advance” = if you don’t comply there will be repercussions

Signing off an email with “Regards” = I hate you

Not putting an X (kiss) after every text = I hate you

“I’m a bit worried about Helen” = I’m about to character assassinate Helen. Let’s take her down, publicly.

“I’m just wondering” = I am about to make a statement/ confront you

“I’m a little concerned” = I’m very fucking concerned and disagree with you

“I’ll ring you right back” = I may ring you within the hour

“You’re gonna love him. He’s so funny” = he’s very ugly but you’re in his league

“sorry, it’s just not my vibe” = I do not like you, I do not want to be seen with you

“have a great time” = I really don’t care

“sorry to hear” = I really don’t care

__(nothing) = I hate you

__(nothing) = I’m secretly in love with you

__(nothing) = 42

To finish off, some castle porn. The world’s largest fortifications from Mughal India, though by dint of the British Raj’s decision to term them ‘forts’ (claiming their garrisons were stationed therein, and ignoring the royalty still inside), they aren’t recognised in the Guinness Book of Records. This despite several larger than the record holder, Hradcany in Prague (which isn’t even particularly defensive, a moniker in name only). Once again, the nuances of the Brit lingo perpetuates. But for what it’s worth, enjoy -the last vestiges of an empire:

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Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 28

Tuesday 14th April 2020

The horror movie checklist:

  1. Large house with multiple rooms. Old.
  2. Dark house, where multiple 20W lamps are needed in every heavily curtained space. Even in daytime, thanks to broody, rainy locations like Southern California. Firelight.
  3. A basement/ attic stuffed with middle class clutter and weird AF shit.
  4. A basement door to the garden that is jammed. Extra point if a spade is resting outside, with a wooden handle.
  5. An unlocked front door. All exteriors are pretty much unlocked, the opposite once inside.
  6. Creepy doll
  7. Jewellery box with a twirling ballerina.
  8. Painting close up. The eyes.
  9. Door knob slowly turning.
  10. Looking through a slat. Surprise!
  11. Key doesn’t work. It will later.
  12. Old newspaper/ photo album with grainy black and white of an unhappy loner.
  13. A diary/ investigation wall. Tortured drawings.
  14. Upper middle class family. One of the parents is creative.
  15. Pale, sickly looking child. Very serious. Nerdy, independent.
  16. Pale, sickly looking service staff. Extra point if they look and act Victorian, despite hitting their twenties in the 1990s.
  17. Creepy old person/ disabled person. Extra point if they have a foreign accent.
  18. Skin disease.
  19. Teen sex scene.
  20. School angst. Bullying.
  21. Southern accent
  22. British accent.
  23. Someone innocently bursting into a room, or grabbing someone by the shoulders from behind, to greet them as you do. Or just walking past with the sudden sound of screeching strings.
  24. Walking into a room. Stopping. Freezing.
  25. Calling on someone and finding them violently compromised by a household object.
  26. Explosive flurry of urban wildlife: birds/ bats/ rats/ a cat.
  27. A barking dog, that becomes a whine.
  28. And then I woke up!
  29. Secret room.
  30. Sharpened bench/ farm tools.
  31. Shower scene, eyes closed. Extra point if she doesn’t check the heat/ wait for it to warm.
  32. A fall from height.
  33. Woman/ child calling stupidly, announcing herself at all times no matter the glimpsed shapes and skittering sounds. Half a point if it’s a teenage guy.
  34. Quit it guys! This ain’t funny guys!
  35. She who runs falls.
  36. I have a great idea: let’s split up.
  37. No one believes me! /I’m going mad! Can I trust mine own eyes?
  38. Noises on the level above. Tracking them.
  39. Hiding in closet/ under the bed scene.
  40. Blissful diorama at the end. But it’s not the end…

Score: Child’s Play (2019) – 11/40 Surprisingly refreshing, though everything as trashy as promised and quite a dalliance into torture porn, ewww.

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Another blanket-drowned day. Up at 5am, back to bed again by 8. Then awake by 11. No breakfast. Attempted lunch at 4pm.

Grated up a swede, threw in a potato too why not. Garlic and onions. Bacon. This’ll be like one of those German potato cakes, or latke, yeah!

Dash of soya, green tabasco. Some of that Bosnian spice mix why not. Fry, till crispy on the edges.

Doesn’t work. Crispy, yet soggy. Smoking AF. Tried it anyway.

Waaay too salty, it’s that Bosnian stock mix thing. Better make rice to water it down. It’ll be like what rice was designed for, a few choice slivers of flavour intensity like jewels in creamy fluffiness. Yes.

Gawd, it’s still awful. This calls for an egg, no three. A full on omelette. Like a tortilla. Yes. Separate the rice, return it to the pan.

OMFG inedible. Salty, sludgey, eggy. Like super eggy. Burnt.

Every surface smells of egg, room is noxious too with weird smoke pong. Open window, re-wash all the china, glasses and cutlery.

Let’s try rice porridge. The kind that actually demands a salty accompaniment, commonly duck egg or thousand year egg. That’ll surely utilise the flavour. Yes.

OMFG it’s literally poison. Burning a hole into the bowl. Complete fucking giant egg write-off. Half my larder gone on it too. This is like McCandless’s existential nadir when he kills that moose in Into The Wild.

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Pounding, vomitous migraine from disrupted sleep plus no food.

Looked up some foreign cinema, after my diatribe about Americana yesterday. After an hour of research, downloaded a Chinese film noir, The Wild Goose Lake, apparently second place to the Palmes D’Or. Took an age to get started (clicking away pop ups like Whack-A-Mole, restarting on new tabs, loading up a stream at dial-up speed). Then no subtitles. None found either online.

Have a sudden urge to play whack-a-mole with real moles.

Tomorrow I’ll try and give the chum to the pigeons, they’re probably starving. Though I tried the last few days to feed them.

They have got to be the most stupid animals I’ve met. They watch me throw them crumbs, then whole slices like a performance artist. One of them works out it’s bread, but the minute it falls off the roof, it’s as if disappeared. They do not make the connection, as slice after slice ends up on the floor below. Even when a day later I collect them and deposit them, shrine-like, in the middle of the carpark, they remain like modern art. Speaking volumes about our disposable consumerism at an epoch-changing time of want and the Heiglian ideal. Yes.

They’re probably new pigeons. The rest have starved to death, and these were the chicks that survived. They have no idea what bread is, but if they’re willing to peck at vomit, they’ll maybe be able to peck at my lunch dinner attempt.

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In the news.

  • Trump has had a meltdown, publicly ranting at reporters for an hour and a half, and including a pre-prepared video on the injustice he’s endured, notably under questions on his running of the C-19 show.
  • Many Africans in China are now facing homelessness following an outbreak of C-19 reinfection in the African districts of Guangzhou, and a nurse who was attacked after a man escaped an isolation ward. A slew of evictions followed, and a sign even put up asking Black customers to please not enter a McDonalds (later the company apologised). Although social media campaigns have now sorted food, clothing and re-housing, and the govt is making a statement they have a zero tolerance to racism, the local police were said to be hassling the unfortunates, and even blocking aid-givers.
  • It’s seen as an excuse for the council to finally push the community out, once hundreds of thousands strong, inline with a crackdown from 2018 eliminating visa-overstayers and illegals, which China has been increasingly inundated with this last decade. The history of racism and pandemics goes hand-in-hand, and galling given that Chinese round the world have been victims, but now fellow perpetrators. The world is studded with fucking idiots.
  • World food production is looking increasingly threatened by the collapse of logistical transport networks, processing factories and retail. Most immediately vulnerable are Pacific nations, with desert nations and smaller European/ island countries to follow.
  • Russia is giving hints it’s gotten serious over there, Putin looking serious alongside. China has recently been having many cases of reinfection coming from across its northern border, notably the border city of Suifenhe reentering lockdown.
  • Japan is also looking worse, with hundreds more cases. Like Russia it’s been following a light lockdown if none at all, relying on masks and social distancing. China’s other re-lockdowned city is a port that services Japan, Jiaozhou.
  • Another 778 died in UK hospitals today, bringing the total over 12,000, despite still an undercount. The BBC is no longer reporting the deaths, or at least making it obvious.
  • Globally deaths are at 120,000 and 2 million infected.

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A Journal of the Plague Year Day 14

Tuesday March 31st 2020

The house got a deep clean today. All furniture polished, floors stripped, fabric waterboarded and rugs publicly whipped. The recycling bins are now twice as full as they can take, tottering like Stonehenge due to imaginary collection days -First World problems again, ah how we’ve missed you.

Although a little disconcerting. Are we ever going to see binmen again? Is it a sign of things to come? It starts with a lack of attention to recycling categories and ends in shooting crazed Terminator grannies from the roof of a local mall.

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The govt issued a missive quickly mentioning something about power outages mid-cough, and that we should maybe expect them [/cough]. The minute the internet goes down there’ll be rioting I’m sure. People running into Dixons and trying to grab all router shaped boxes, fusilli phone cords, then eyeing up radios and satellite dishes. Like an 80’s disaster movie when they need a looting scene (smashed plate glass, carnival atmosphere, Black dude with shades nodding to a ghetto blaster).

28 Days Later (2003) Directed by Danny Boyle Shown: Cillian Murphy

People are getting fed up of queueing to get into the supermarkets, like exclusive clubs for tracksuited, standoffish couch potatoes, leaning on their trolleys. No one bothers dressing up anymore, which is unlike London, where putting on the lippy to take the rubbish out is a thing in certain circles. And once inside, the exclusivity demands attention -make sure to browse leisurely, maybe take a few selfies with the bogroll, smell every brand of air freshener and try on all the XXL cardies. While the people outside are now heckling NHS staff who get to skip the lines, as was done in Liverpool to a crying nurse after her 13 hr shift. They’re also liable to share fake news that kids will be banned from Asda (dear heaven of God), and that early hour for the aged is game for anyone sporting a sudden limp, or Jim Carrey style impersonation of a chimpanzee. One week in and people are starting to lose their shit.

Business Leaders Converge In Sun Valley, Idaho For Allen And Company Annual Meeting

So the news is Europe has a new dictatorship a la Hungary, approving Viktor Orban’s new emergency grip over power worse than the Communist dictatorship, but in a much more Far Right kinda way, including 8 years prison for being an upstart, and hot on the heels of his previous gem making it an offence to help undocumented migrants. Meanwhile India (the new name for the country is Meanwhile India, it’s reached that stage of geopolitical power where you can’t keep ignoring it, despite most of the people in the world being them) has seen its online youth organise mass food and cash handouts to the millions of migrant workers, many trapped between states and attempting treks of hundreds of km. Although the govt offers free food, shelter and cash, it’s harder to come by on the road.

In the US things are hitting the part of the curve that climbs exponentially, infections in line with the politicking, which is reaching ear screeching levels between left and right as hospitals take the strain, and the long-suffering populace battles through the confusion, pistols at the ready. An aircraft carrier, now stranded in Guam is radio’ing for help as its 4,000 sailors get cosy with corona.

Over 900 died in Spain today, beating Italy for the first time, as it did China’s amount of infected. East Asia is now locking down the air routes, and closing all borders as reinfection stalks the recovery, several provinces in China, reentering lockdown. While the US is offering Venezuela a lifting of sanctions so it can get access to the lifesaving meds and equipment it could easily afford – just so long as they get rid of Maduro hold new elections, and thus give US access to the world’s largest oil reserves, which sounds suspiciously like a mega ransom to me, and a country using death threats as an opportunity. Shocker! People are already massing at the Colombian border, now closed.

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Oh and the stock markets have fared their worst since 1987 in this quarter, the Dow Jones down by 23% and FTSE 100 by 25%. Meanwhile, India is attempting a herculean task: to trace tens of thousands of people at risk of infection from a ‘super-carrier’, a 70 y.o. preacher returning from Italy, now deceased who flouted govt advice and attended a local festival back before they were banned. 550 came into direct contact with him, which has led to 40,000 people in 21 villages now quarantined. I mean seriously, one righteous fucker in the mix and the entire district now feeds through hamster nozzles.

A 13 year old boy in Brixton with no underlying conditions has just died, making him the youngest in the country, but not unheard of. Apparently 1 in 30,000 infections in his age group will succumb. The kid was born in 2007 for Chrissakes. He would have been a 5 year old, just starting to learn football by the time of the 2012 Olympics in his home city.

He started showing symptoms on Thursday, and was rushed to hospital for breathing problems. By Friday he was on a ventilator, then an induced coma, and died in the early hours of Monday morning, just 4 days after his first symptoms. So contagious is C-19 his family weren’t allowed to be with him in his final moments. His name was Ismail Abdulwahab.

A 19 year old died on the same day, once again with no underlying health conditions and ‘very healthy’ succumbing just 30 minutes after being taken to hospital -once again after a few days of symptoms, and only a few hours after his condition worsened. Post mortem was fulminant (meaning sudden, explosive and severe) pneumonia. His name was Luca di Nicola.

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According to data from China the young may be more protected normally because of differences in immune systems -newer, fresher, more likely to overcompensate perhaps (although this shouldn’t really change things with this infection). Older people, who’ve had more experience with other coronaviruses react with a time-worn attack plan, but this version is different from the others, and may be affecting the reaction negatively, making the immune system attack the body alongside.

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Oh, and facemasks. All that official, widely spread malarkey about them being ineffective was meant to be a salve to reserve them for essential workers, but those absolute gems of community who choose to stockpile everything then sell them off eBay got them anyway. While China had been telling people to wear them from the start as precaution, arguing it was airborne back from Feb 8th (something quite hard to prove but that a Shanghai team were convinced). Infection rates can be up to halved using them appropriately. Ah well, shucks. It didn’t help either that when accepting Chinese masks (and test kits) up to 70% of them were ineffective, thanks to some eminently dodgy new companies in Shenzhen, which are now under investigation, not just for jeopardising foreign contingency plans, but China’s too.

People, govts are inept and predatory, and society burns far too quickly. Design by committee, so endemic among democracies and First world individualism -global bastard for wrongly signposted ways, diabolical bureaucracy, stolen misallocated funds, confusing media campaigns and bad graphic design -is now proving deadly.

This I’m sure will be the Autumn/Winter look by next year, or possibly Friday.

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On the home front, it’s been everyone in the house. Strumming from room to room and scrolling, then the cleaning blitz before more of the same. An occasional Netflix session, a phone call here and there, and endless tappety on the laptop. I mean the internet is hard to compete with. Tell a time traveler from the 1950s about this day and age, and the most confusing thing will be the fact you have a rectangle in your pocket that holds all the information in the world, but you use to look at kittens.

I mean just look at the options, for the uninitiated, the unmotivated, the un-arsed. The ones who don’t wake up in a ray of light, bursting with energy (seriously who TF does that?). Who don’t have a home gym/ yoga session to throw themselves into with Joe Wicks. Who don’t cook well, recipe books n everything. Who don’t have gurning, sun flared children for countless hours of fun and board games and reading re-mortgaging leaflets.

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Choosing the Perfect Family Home

Life has become smaller, noticing the littler eddies in this leaking tap of existence. The new toothpaste is leaving bright blue detritus in the sink, like tiny, stubborn anemones. J has put a battery into one of his antique clocks in the living room, and it ticks infernally (every half second) like a time bomb. A sleeps with his earphones now, and iPhone hugged, like a warm, fascist teddy bear. I’ve stopped changing T-shirts, day and night for about 2 days a pop, and stopped caring. I need to cut my toenails. It’s all starting to drift; I’m going to have to unplug. With nothing to report but the reports. Horror films or award winning docudramas are becoming daytime TV, and Oscar worthy screen matinees are background to the sucking glow of the internet. That’s literally it for life right now, internet and films, food in between (baked beans on rice, nuff’ said).

Things I saw today (read: sat through): Mercy Black (banal, cliché-ridden, unscary), that Rome docuseries (Caligula the Utter Cvnt and his licentious siblings), Tiger King (Florida Man strikes again, a sign of what happens when you lack history and culture in your life), and 1917, which I did perk my head up and watch. Heartstopping and heartrending in equal measure, shot in one glorious take -you can see why it was Oscar nominated, though a little harsh on Jerry, who is as likely to murder you as look at you, even when you save him from burning plane wrecks.

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My good friend in Germany is facing trouble in a lockdown, and dreading time with the kid who’ll drive her barmy (14 y.o, that age). She still works in social services, although unreasonably so, providing leisure and sporty options to refugees, which no one really feels is frontline nor essential anymore, including the refugees. She’s also asking about any conspiracy theories I’ve heard (none so far other than a fudging of infection stats) but I do wonder. As of yesterday the UK govt started counting the people who’d died outside hospitals and the tally jumped by a quarter. In Germany they only test the living, which may account for why their survival rates are seemingly the highest in the world.

Sweden meanwhile marches on apparently oblivious, throwing caution to the wind as cinemas (though Indy films only, given the dearth of blockbusters, now delayed), schools, shop, cafés and bars still go strong, with citizens picnicking and BBQing on the beaches, parks and beauty spots, dazzling smiles unsheathed. Public gatherings are limited to 50 (down from 500 on Friday), and those over 70 advised to avoid social contact. There is an uneasy sitting between public trust in the experts, and the unfolding horror everywhere else, even just across the Oresund link where Denmark has been in lockdown for nearly a month. It’s the biggest gamble the country’s taken since WWII, back when they were twiddling over whether to let the Nazis through on one side and the fleeing Jews on the other -or why not both at the same time? Sweden is attempting once again, to have its cake and eat it. In a lovely Drottninggatan bistrot with beer and some pals.

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Does life go on if the disaster unfolding, with thousands of dead, goes unseen? Is it normal? What impact on a complicit society will it have -and should ignoring the fate of others ever become cultural? Is it even a new normal? as that has long been the M.O. for much of the Western world in regards to the indentured billions of the Global South supporting our lifestyles the past few hundred years.

Sweden may be the one experiment that all our governments have wondered about.

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Likewise Trump, like a stuck record on his daily Old Tyme Medicine Show introduced a pillow company CEO (who will now start making masks) at the daily press briefing, who then went on to beseech the nation to read the Bible, as well as castigate it for taking the good book out of the curriculum.

“God gave us grace on Nov. 8, 2016, to change the course we were on,” ( referring to the day Trump was elected). “God had been taken out of our schools and lives. A nation had turned its back on God.”

Indeed, God help us all.

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Does March ever fucking end?

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