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

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 have 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.

Corona – the bestselling beer that nearly went bust a month into the pandemic. No, really. Never underestimate the stupidity of humanity.

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. The virus btw was started by 5G, a world changing spell sent out by dalek towers stationed surreptitiously throughout our towns and cities.

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 to flush out the plague from your veins, that he worked out live on teevee. Something the world’s top scientists, and everyone else on the planet 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, base-pairs, diploids, heterozygotes, single nucleitide polymorphism -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 stupid 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 tons of ammonia detonates in Beirut -the world’s largest non-nuclear blast -killing over 200 and making one third of the city homeless. Massive structural, economic, societal and geopolitical damage in an instant
  • 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 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 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 21

Tuesday 7th April

Well another forage out has led to stocking up ridiculously on that rarity: meat. Veal mince, pork filet and diced lamb, all exorbitantly priced and exorbitantly reduced, enough to force me into snapping them up, despite whispers of false economy. Yes, I’ve reached the stage where I’m blogging about my shopping. Such is my domestic world. Will maybe make burgers, and a curry.

I will strive to keep up appearances. Trim the goattee, pluck the eyebrows, and keep the short back n sides, long on top. Though there has been quite a trend seen of men shaving their heads on social media and among friends, my idea also on day 1. There’s definitely something to be said about that, how everyone has been having that same instinct, as if we’re all joining the army, or prison, but a virtual version like the Open University of FML. Cold Steel against your own humanity I reckon, into becoming a new you when life changes for the worse.

I’ll use J as my outside, the replacement of social expectation. One’s partner being inadequate, having seen you already at your worst, waking up with your hair like spiders, halitosic, farteous, spotted and a limp.

This is what housewives back in the day had to look forward to, trapped in a life where detail becomes your only cerebral outlet. From which cleaning product to use on the shower (Mr Max) to the trick in getting the windows fully open (tweak the ledge up then down), to the organisation of your cupboards (the winter stuff can now go into storage behind the door). Dolling yourself up for your provider, as some semblance of meaning. It does after a spell become a ritual, a new font to immerse yourself.

I mean wtf. Everything I said I never would be. My outlook (clue’s in the word) has always been swiveled to the horizon, a true north being to travel, to experience, to live beyond, with hobbies in people, culture, society, and the things we create. If you’re interested in humans, or life, or nature you’re interested in getting out. I’m determined not to write politics today. Make this diary my own.

Watched Ponyo, and not as good as the first time. Plus a bit AWKWARD how they portray a tsunami as a magical event. Pre-2011 obvs.

Wrote a lot on the book. Ate badly, but healthily.

I think that’s pretty much it. My life in still.

Pretty much got nothing to say if it’s not gossipping about the wider world. Four fucking walls.

Feel a bit crap, all achey on occasion (though it’s not THAT). But I am not to write about what is outside, only what I am experiencing here. And from the look of things, that’s not a lot.

One of them days.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 15

Wednesday 1st April 2020

 

So A just told me about the coming powercuts next week from 11pm to 5am each night, the planned closure of the BBC and talks about the Internet going down to stop the spread of misinformation, and the fact its workforce is not an essential service. That we’d better start downloading films to watch. I was a bit nonplussed but not that bothered either (have plenty of books) but posited it could be the period when the shit hits the fan, and a crackdown on reportage would mitigate public unrest.

I was just about to fact-check it for the blog, sending feelers out already via WhatsApp, when it hit me what date it is today. The fucker.

Yep, hook, line and sinker.

I had to squash him a bit after that.

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Dark humour, indeed. Some K-pop star (Jaejoong, from Girls L-Owed or ABCDEFG or sommat) got into a lot of trouble along the same lines, drawing quite some telling off from his 1.9 million followers after claiming to be stricken in hospital, from flagrantly ignoring the regulations.  He later claimed it was to draw attention to the rules we should all follow. Now, it’s one thing to be told off by strangers, another by someone who admires you, the scales fallen from their lurid doll-like gaze and replaced with character assassination. And another thing entirely to have it happen again and again and again, for hours of scrolling. Yes, the public spotlight/ social media is brutal, soul wrecking, personality changing, dark. And to lay it even thicker, now the Korean Center for Disease Control (aka KGB) is looking into punishing him. With a name like that you know they’re going to be very dour and formal about all this, like being taken to the principal’s office after filming him on the bog.

Oh you.

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In more sobering news, 563 people died yesterday in the UK, our death toll starting to approach Italian levels -that dark marker all countries are now measuring themselves against, having taken the baton from China. Spain, where over 900 died, is likely to grab it tomorrow, or perhaps the US. For the UK, infections are now plateauing, with a good response thanks to enforced social distancing and lockdown, but the deaths will still climb, whereby the fatality bulge follows a week later. The finishing touches are being put to the vast new, 4,000 bed Nightingale Hospital, appropriated from the ExCel exhibition centre in East London, and built with army labour.

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My German friend linked me to a Swiss conspiracy theory she’s heard, about the fact C-19 is not more deadly than a seasonal flu, just more contagious, but governments are taking the chance to redact our civil rights -and that they won’t be withdrawn after (all eyes on Hungary when this is over). I am however at the stage where whatever happens happens, dangerously apolitical at a time when we might need to be. One day at a time.

I’m now with a new routine. Wake, internet, br/lunch, siesta. Read, internet, shower, Netflix, exercise, write, dinner+film. Sleep. I feel a giant fucking slug. The randomisation of a siesta offsets the afternoon shower, a battle between structure and sloth. Today’s national toll is keeping me indoors, for a time I’d envisaged as a critical infection period. The sun came out today, we planned for a bike ride until I heard the stats, and the sun had gone by then too.

But it did light up this motherclucking feather. How beautiful, this little thing.

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Tonight was Terminator night, the latest edition with Arnie (tick), Linda Hamilton (tick) and everyone else new, with a terrific role for Mackenzie Davis, a semi-termie, who sadly won’t be reprising her role (no spoilers!) due to an er, plot technicality. And ba-limey, does it drag out the nonstop action, plane, trains and automobiles, though Mexico City (and country) still suffers that malignant orange filter and a strong aversion to the swanky city centre, and its skyscrapers, Old City and elegant street cafes. No, what we want is dust. Dust! People smuggling (tick), dodgy cops (tick), desert scrub (tick), guns (tick), legions of the poor/ refugees (tick), oh and a US car plant replacing Mexican labour with robots (tick). But easily backgrounded in the roller coaster ride, and a welcome lesson in losing yourself, even if it is to an oily, shapeshifting robot throwing javelins at your face.

Dust!

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And after all that gunsmoke pizzazz, silence. Like a sudden cliff; I even felt bad to end the credits with the score meandering comfortably to a stop. When night falls, the city is a tomb. There is no longer that murmur of traffic, the endless shunting of trains in the station opposite, the chatter on the street from the local bars, the clip-clopping of the late night commuters, or the planes cruising ever skyward. We look out the window at the lights, and it is in every sense of the word, a deafening silence (I’m not gonna say Dark Fate, but greyish trajectory maybe). I worry about the pigeons, who’s gonna feed them? Are they dying en masse, without our trash, crumbs and vomit to peck at? Maybe we should empty a few bins liberally over the streets, also for the foxes, which I used to see every time I stumbled home late.

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Netflix’s World At Night nature series, narrated by an insanely annoying woman oozing righteousness with every cadence, had an episode on the city today. Notably a section on leopards, the night stalkers of Mumbai, which now happens to be the world’s largest concentration of big cats anywhere in the world, counting no less than 50 in town, along with the 20 million humans. Chillingly the night cameras track them in the shadows, sometimes as they brazenly follow people around, though they’re really out for piglets. Other CCTV footage shows them creeping onto verandahs, balconies and through front doors to grab dogs, of which 1,000 are killed annually. Now that is some other level of exotic I need -other segments showing the elephants in ‘southern Africa’ (they didn’t even bother with the country, as hey, what would that matter) rumbling through a darkened town centre to stunned pedestrians and window peeping kids. Or in Halloween, where huge moose (meese?) invade Alaskan streets that one night to get at the jack o lanterns, before melting away again for the year.

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Then to Singapore, which is the vision of the future, and where animals now frolic openly as part of city life, where even otters have returned to the busy city waterways, sharing pavements with joggers every morning. I look out, and it is another world, another time. And all I see are streetlights with everyone home. Dang, I wish there was a black bear rooting through Recycling; I’d maybe settle for a ferret under some leaves. Reality is all a bit too mundane, even in these most surreal of times, and I feel myself too demanding. That I am healthy touch, touch, TOUCH wood.  Though perhaps a fool to want otherwise.

To finish off, Mexico City. We really should give the place her moment.

 

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 13

Monday 30th March 2020

Well, I came across this today, that’s doing the rounds on social media. Very heartwarming, and oh so together in our time of collective need. I’ll add a lovely little transcript below.

I can’t wait for a year’s time when all of this is a distant memory. And there’ll be a corona baby boom because all the lovers were loving. And there was a rise in small businesses because all the entrepreneurs had a moment of stillness and creativity.

And all the children remember nothing but a time when all the mums and dads were at home drawing and playing ballgames. And be the time we all got to stop and be present.

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We will remember the time when health was the first priority. And we learned new ways to use fresh produce to feed our families. We will remember the laughter and fun on Tick Tock, Facetiming with our friends and family each day.

Date nights in the house and home P.E. workouts with Joe Wicks. A time when our real heroes in the NHS urged us to stay at home for the greater good. And our country showing us hope by turning Wembley and the Angel of the North blue.

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And we were all forced to think outside the box and dream of new things and reinvent old ways. And for once even amongst the chaos there was community. There was a global rise in togetherness. And as the streets were quiet our homes were bustling with love and laughter.

That time is coming soon, just like any other crisis before it. This will all be a distant memory. Things we’ll listen to our children discuss in the classroom that we share with our grandchildren.

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So to you: I know it’s unsettling, but focus on the silver lining. We’re all in this together. And there’s so much beauty to see.

Ah bliss, what happy memories. How we’ve all misconstrued this time together as a global catastrophe, when we coulda just framed it as the middle class Western staycay it really is! Yes, laughter and fun on social media, online workouts with hot C-list celebs, our homes ‘bustling’ with love and laughter. No Indian states to cross, no windowless Jo’burg shacks to stand in, no queueing outside US gun shops, no anti-Asian racism, no decision on which Italian patient to let die, no Iranian mass graves to dig, no parents or grandparents to watch succumb, from afar.

At a time when spousal and child abuse levels are skyrocketing, when the internet is saturated with finger-pointing, hate speech and pandemic politicking, when state after state is refusing to help its neighbour, and near a thousand people a day are dying in Italy alone, this may well be all that’s needed. Ah what a breath of fresh air! Let’s sweep it under a lovely chenille rug, all cuddly and warm, the betrayed social contracts, economic exploitation, global posturing, political corruption and massive societal cracks that had always lain beneath, all gone! No matter that the chintz-happy carpet’s now scraping the ceiling.

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Maybe they should do one for the Syrians about long distance hiking, timeless desert vistas, dieting opportunities, natural tans and the great outdoors with daytime fireworks. And the lucky 5% who can afford the average $20,000 for a Mediterranean cruise + tour package after, discovering new cultures and selfie ops across Europe. Whilst playing British bulldog with the authorities and organised crime to the tune of 10,000 missing kids by 2016 alone.

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Or the hale, healthy spirit of togetherness that is the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border right now, where millions of happy hikers are about to embark on a historic reenactment exercise, in memoriam to the holocaust trails of Partition.

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https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/nishitajha/india-coronavirus-lockdown-migrant-workers

As a random snapshot of our socially distant spirit today, word is the EU may dismantle from sheer selfishness given how moot it’s suddenly become: so-designed for precisely these scenarios yet refusing to help when presented. Given that Germany and Netherlands have blocked a rescue package (claiming the Southern states too greasy, too profligate with their spending and can’t be trusted, as they die in their thousands), Italy may well bow out, taking along Spain and Greece.

Retail may collapse en masse around the world, as does the gig economy, a Great Depression, mass unemployment, extremism and instability, while Russia and China look to make headway using the crisis. And the US, like a beauty contestant trapped under a beaching, floundering Trump, made ballast by big business and an army of enablers, don’t even get me started.

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We may all be in this together, but you don’t get to see ‘so much beauty’ by sticking your M&S tote carrying, Sky-subscribing, Hollyoaks-watching, window-twitching, wife-swapping, Mail-reading, Chelsea-supporting, Starbucks-swilling, picnic-making fucking head in the sand, after you took your fam in the 4 wheeler to Dover, against the govt advice. Yeah bring a flippy kite and pretend you’re exercising you highly entitled VIPs.

Now is a chance to change in this reset button, to fight for your livelihoods and your kids’, not believe this is all just another global funnel of experience upon you – just you -to temporarily waylay your Godgiven lifestyle. Yes, how ‘unsettling’ it’s all been. The fact the insecurity and destitution we live in now, is what billions live through as a norm all their lives to supplement and supplicate you. And it doesn’t have to be like that and never did, and we can change it together.

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The earnest, beseeching Geordie accent (voice o the workin people, aye!), brimming with righteousness (imagine her as a proud, overworked nurse) grates to say the least. I think that’s what got me most, the way they picked her and their idea as to what she should embody. Swear to God, they’re targetting people who don’t read.

Someone commented after the vid: ‘Everybody doing their part to help the greater good. I cannot think of anything more British’.

How apt, the white picket walls already outlined as the rest of the batshit diseased battle it out beyond (and on that note the most charitable populace happens to be the Iraqis). Play this to the Syrians, Venezuelans or Iranians, who are fucked to the nth degree without ICUs, masks, scrubs, sanitisers or meds thanks to our sanctions, let alone a billion sub-Saharan Africans and claim we’re in it together, for the greater good. That Joe Wicks puttering about in his pistachio sitting room and denizen to a better you, will lift their spirits.

They could at least have used better examples, rather than the usual offerings catering to our self-serving, facile narcissism, borders drawn.

Gwaaan, pay it forward. I dare ya:

In short, it is an embodiment of everything that is wrong with our world. That Toon nurse satanic, probably poisoning babies. It’s just too much of a cliché that we mollycoddled Westerners get blindsided to everything, everyone else, even in this circus of shit on our doorsteps, busy laying our scented candles in a trail to the vast sucking arsehole that’s become the bathroom.

Bah fuckin humbug.

Ok, sorry. Really need to get out more. Rant over.

And in other news…

Let’s get closer to home. And breathe.

Yes, people need support. People need a lift, in a time when we’re under house arrest. We need something to look forward to. Even if it is an idiotically entitled video, though a coupla kittens playing with a giant Malteser of shite would have had a greater impact, sensitivity and societal brainwork. Imagine their little mittens all pat pat patting it, trying to get it through the cat flap, that little, little gaawjus little tail, rubbing their lickle fat faces in it! Ah, togetherness.

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On that note, last night was a true, slightly jarring respite.

Thanks to watching Beauty and the Beast (live action version) with an ecstatic J, who has a big thing about objects coming to life and being invested, similar to his antiques work and art degree and everything ever (the fab scene where the operatic armoire jumps off a balcony to battle bad’uns being the best thing that’s ever happened). Doing our best to ignore the dodgy CGI for Beast and Emma Whatserface’s constant earnestness, but the singing and dancing and the fact it was candlelit elevated it into every tealight-burning vigil for world peace. I even took a snap, to show my grandkids one day.

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So yes, thoroughly enjoyed that, cosying up on the sofa like a giant fat dormouse, while cuddling my M&S tote. Flipping channels on Sky Box Bundle Badass News, on the way to catch my Hollyoaks Xmas Special 2004 re-run, I heard 25 million people will fall back into poverty (classed as surviving on less than a fiver a day) in China alone after this month, and that India is now seeing a humanitarian crisis the largest the world will likely ever see again, stories with less hits than the shocking issue that millions of garden centre plants will have to be binned across our great and beautiful land.

Thank you Simon Jack, business editor for the BBC:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-52098436

I hear the Little Mermaid’s next. Can’t wait!

So hey, that’s the way things are. Let’s be together, or maybe let’s not and say we did.

For as a great poet once said:

Down here all the fish is happy
As off through the waves they roll
The fish on the land ain’t happy
They sad ’cause they in their bowl
But fish in the bowl is lucky
They in for a worser fate
One day when the boss get hungry
Guess who’s gon’ be on the plate?
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Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 6

Monday, 23rd March 2020

Okay, today’s been tough. As in tough being stuck indoors. So not that tough given the mf shitcake the world is baking right now. But let’s forget perspective and ethics and scale and any later claims to hairblowing heroism, I’m feeling it’s tough, being in bed. Still in my PJ’s, writing the book for 5 hrs, break for a pot noodle, then admin for another 3hrs and counting, and writing now the blog. I imagine weeerrkk today will account for about 11hrs when I’m done with this. Don’t mind it so much but when it involves claiming travel insurance, a new all-day, family affair, it’s gonna be a memorable one.

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I don’t know anyone who can conceivably enjoy or enable into existence the process of filling out jargon-heavy forms, ringing up multiple call centres, midway discovering other refunds not fulfilled or double charging, then extracting a range of evidence, phone and bank records, screenshots and converting it all to PDF while trying to annotate using counter-intuitive tools. Our collective societies should be designed around never having to do this. A is doing a big chunk of the werk, but in his roundabout way, operative word roundabout. I dream of the day we can talk to an operating system, perhaps pleasingly named Berty, or Sharon, and get them to fill out, fact-check, source and send the form within milliseconds, trawling through our emails, creating attachments and communicating with other OS’s in multiple bureaucratic pigeonholes. She’d only have to ask if you wanted to claim, and all you’d have to say is yes Shazza, yes.

Throughout this time the smell’s getting to me. That pungent burnt aroma it appears only I can still savour, reeking at a low level throughout the flat two days later -not so much cardboard/ woodsmoke, more dead fish, giving me a headache, a gnawing gut feeling and a lack of appetite. It does make me wonder what Francomanca puts into its boxes. I found out how to fully open the 2 metre high windows yesterday after fiddling with the brackets, they swing dangerously out and I’ve entreatied the housemates not to trampoline.

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The fact I’m already moaning about the little things in life is an indicator methinks. This is the new normal. People are dying, and I’m inside, oblivious. When UK reaches the state of Italy I will be singing a different tune, nearer to the first blog post, what only 5 days ago, so full of doom and gloom, and now look at me, complaining about paperwork. Do I have to acknowledge disaster every day? Do I have the altruism to even look?

The news is full of snaps of heaving beaches and national parks; places such as Snowdonia and the Peak District recording their busiest days in living memory, where parking space so ran out miles of empty cars appropriated the country lanes. London parks are now threatening closure until we behave. And stop effectively killing each other – a viral load indeed.

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Brighton:

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A similar story played out in so-called lockdown states in the US, notably squawky Californian beaches and buzzing Floridian boat parties, tied up to swap fluids. The tube lines and trains in London also suffered a rush hour, in part thanks to the enlightened choice of cutting down so many services and stations the groundlings that still travel have to cram onto the next available shuttles, making social distancing a Hawkins-esque abstract, a bit like how they claim learning algebra will help you in life. The govt maintains that only essential workers should use the trains, and is discussing full stay-at-home-or-we’ll-shoot-you lockdown, by all counts the only thing that may work on us Brits. Especially when that once in a lifetime opportunity presents itself in the sky of a golden glowing ball.

Still terrible news from Italy, but marginally better as a slight dip has been seen in infections and deaths these past 24 hrs, the latter down from over 800 to 600. India has enacted a lockdown now of 80 cities and over 100 million people, the largest in history alongside China’s -the subcontinent has been especially vigilant for months, and can be praised for their far-reaching measures knowing full well the disastrous possibilities in the world’s densest tracts of humanity, even with their much earlier lockdowns, public transport and interstate travel bans, rail cancellations and events and business closures.

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However, for all its foresight the Indian govt can only hold so much at bay, with such a vast undertaking. Some states alone have 200 million people in them.  And when Indians and Africans start dying in their far greater droves, will we even care by then?

The US continues to squabble over a blame game, alongside ineffectual handling of preventative measures. Opinion pieces in CNN and the New York Times are now making the connection (alongside Dr. Anthony Fauci, the main health advisor to the regime) that an administration compromised by so pointing the finger is misdirecting its resources, possibly wilfully so. Fauci maintained in yesterday’s interview with CNN, that he can’t exactly jump in front of the microphone and take it away whenever POTUS makes another sweepingly inaccurate statement. Trump’s deployment of a line of appropriated human props in the background of his public appearances are surely starting to reveal the holes rather than cover them, by the fact many of them appear to have thought processing.

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Japan is mulling over whether to postpone or possibly cancel the Olympics (its legally binding agreement when accepting the flame was to hold it in 2020, this year only). Norway and Canada are already out. The nation’s torch relay has been heavily edited already and similar hisses are being sounded across many nations to follow suit. More shockingly, Eurovision has been canceled.

Having scrolled through a few million comments last night on the Internatz, it appears people are settling into the routine, while many others are reaching the point of cabin fever/ bankruptcy/ withdrawal and asking in their non-drug hazed clouds, whether it’d be better to just get on with normal life and let the millions die. It’s reached that. The moral question on an indentured life in the name of the living. And we’re barely at the shit>X<fan moment. The global economy is now set for a depression, the Asian nations months ahead, whose lockdowns and infection levels were steadfastly clearing, are now facing reinfection as numbers climb from returnees stepping off Western flights.

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Last night I had a sore throat, so quickly used the throat spray thing everyone says got invented in Sweden a few years back, and that halts many colds in their tracks. Despite it being anti-bac rather than anything anti-viral. Had to use it again today, and A admitted the same, but thinking it’s just the dry air from being indoors for so long. Here’s to hoping.

Last night’s matinee was Onward, Pixar’s latest which has a fantastic premise (blue elves, centaurs, trolls and assorted storybook creatures transposed into today’s evolved existence, of suburban drives, class politics, and that time-worn Disney adage, the magic of unbridled capitalism), along with lovely visuals and two likable protagonists. However, how very quickly does it wear off, how very quickly do we realise how unexotic our everyday is, even when populated by pet dragons, cop centaurs and chimeral restaurateurs. And there’s only so far you can push the same meme of juxtaposing fable with reality- although they definitely should have had more on the feral unicorns. A very human story, almost boringly so. Plus a rather bizarre insertion of a half body dad (don’t ask). I generally felt they missed a trick somewhat, peppered with way too much Deux Ex and dreamed up situational comedy written by several competing writers without a producer. It is too deeply unmagical, too accurate to our lives to suspend disbelief.

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Next up is the BAFTA winning documentary For Sama. In this day and age, dare I watch it? The struggle of a filmmaker, newly pregnant, who is forced to stay in Aleppo, the world’s oldest city and former UNESCO World Heritage Site as it’s bombed out of existence (her partner a frontline medic). The ethical dilemma of bringing a new life into such a world throughout. It is perhaps too close for home now, no longer viewed from the pity generating, door slamming safeties of mollycoddled privilege, in the continent next door.

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Aleppo was of course Syria’s biggest city (more so than its capital Damascus) and spending no less than 8,000 years as the same continuously inhabited settlement, while we were largely still looking for caves and handy-sized rocks, and mammoths still roamed. At its centre a vast citadel that would be the world’s largest castle if ever we decided to call it one, surrounded by ancient medinas, bazaars, churches (yes, churches) and mosques:

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Now gone

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It is a harbinger, that we have been here before. If another country offered shelter, on the doorstep, would we go? Could we afford the liquidity of an average $20,000 fee, and risk that seafaring, lorry-hiding, continent crossing journey? From a war with an estimated 700 sides, where half a million have died violently or from starvation. It brings it home, context, scale, memory. When society crumbles where do we turn?

There’s a lessening pool of what can suspend disbelief, of options in escapism. But we should at least be thankful we still, right now, have the choice.

Need to open the windows again. Then Netflix, then pie.

Yesterday

Tomorrow