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 Year 3.0 Day 13

29th December 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Free Zhang Zhan.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year 3.0 Day 5

21st December 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Artists’ impression

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

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

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year 3.0 Day 3

19th December 2020

Have been spending my time in the company of a computer game recently, chased down metal corridors on a spaceship and crawling through air vents as some evil extra terrestial hunts me out and tries to bite my head, as do creepy androids with steel punches. I’m not sure why but the joypad is the only thing known to science that gives me energy. The rest of the time I have a malaise in my bones, especially when waking where it manifests as a gnawing ache, and dear god it’s such an odyssey to get up for work, each and every damn day. Thankfully which I don’t have right now.

Before the age of 20 I never felt fatigue, even running up hills on my commute, now it’s an absolute constant -some call it age -is it just me? Or some kind of chronic fatigue, or the after-effects of Lyme’s disease or summat. I mean, who the fuck wakes up in a ray of sunlight each morning, stretching their arms with a smile on their face and bouncing out of bed in cereal ads? Pyschopaths, that’s what, on their first day of a killing spree.

So I am tinkering on whether to just dive into a bit of gameplay on waking, in order to boost mind and body, a bit like immersively violent yoga. Blasting people in the face with a glock, getting chased through industrial steam vents, and malleting labourers in the back -there’s nothing more brightening to start your day. Now, I’ve been known to get quite immersed into gaming (one of those people who sway to the side as the pixelated road takes a turn) and I reckon it’s my mind just switching onto threat, and pumping the adrenaline. I don’t think anything in modern life does that anymore, unless you are genuinely besotted with the idea of customer service, or commuting, or pigeons. Jizzing on the keyboards with the latest figures from Marketing and texting work mates about it, at home.

It was 4.30am (my usual waking hour) where I ended up beached, watching youtube foodie vids, then frying up some curry noodles by 10am and falling back asleep as per usual. Till waking again at 3pm. FFS. In 5 minutes I was hauled into the local community pool (ours still runs, given entirely to ourselves in separate sessions) and sitting in the hot tub with A and An, which we’d booked the day before. Swimming I must admit, does give one energy. It’s just the getting used to the cold bite of winter on one’s naked skin each time (changing, creeping into the waters, looking for sharks), akin to a Westeros saga or the 1993 film Alive, where in a cut scene the acid snow comes up and eats them as punishment for cannibalism. Or as a northern European calls it, air.

In my untold decades living in the UK I have never been able to get used to the weather. Ever. For 9 months of the year I feel cold to the bones, no matter how clad, and why it’s such a mountain to climb to throw the duvet off each time. Even my arm creeping out from under the covers, like a pale, angular creature to tap at a keyboard feels dead within minutes, until it verges on pain. People always remark on just how rigor mortis my hands are when they touch them, and I want to scream it’s not me it’s you, fuckers! I’m tropical, my family’s from the jungle – poison darts n dinosaurs n shit. You people are eskimos, happy to be bathing in glaciers or fighting bears or whatever you do every morning. It’s not normal. 15C is not a balmy room to luxuriate in, with a small boy fanning you with a palm leaf. FFS.

The UK has a distinctive tine of humidity plus temperate weather, that makes the cold penetrate. I’ve heard rumour that many people from more northerly climes (the kind where they actually get snow) find it colder here, and people with muscle and bone problems, such as arthritis, hurt more. When I lived in Finland, where it plummeted to -15C as per norm, I found it true. The cold there kinda makes a ‘wetsuit’ reaction of the skin, encasing you in a shell of numbness while inside you stay warm -I found I was even able to nip out in a T-shirt if I had to, through metre high drifts, or jump into snow after sauna.

That’s never been the case here where I keep a hair dryer by the bed (body produces no warmth so it’s still cold underneath) for a few seconds respite from unending discomfort. It constantly feels like I’m soaked in a puddle, in November, in Manchester. Not so much bathing in snow after a spa session, more chucked out nightclub > alley with a kebab stuck to the side of your face. It’s tough for me here, constant fatigue, constant cold while everyone else is having a bit of light tennis. I am an alien.

J is convinced I have some kind of disease, like Raynaud’s, when he sees how icy my hands are and he’s breaking into sweat. It’s not that, rather the fact -if anyone’s noticed -that every other animal but us at these latitudes is tightly encased in fucking fur or feather. Exposed skin is not for these parts. It is not fit for humans.

Okay, bitching over. I still love the UK. Despite the fact it’s Colditz. Warm pubs, glowsy fires, tinkly lights. Hot chocolate and warm blankets. It’s just till May you have to get used to it, wearing the longjohns.

So last night the announcement came, London is now Tier 4 as of midnight. A, who went out on his nightly bikeride in the rain (like a nutter) reported on the streets crammed with traffic within hours, as a good few million people made a break for Xmas before the giant sharpened shutters came down (Mad Max patrols, helicopters, flame throwers). Queueing outside shops -many whom stayed open till 11pm -booking all rail tickets and clogging up the motorways out of town. 21 million people have been affected, with Wales entering a Tier 5, which means even transport shutting down and birds being shot for moving. The main rail termini, of which London has 7, were all equally clogged up, St Pancras had a queue that went the entire length of one of the world’s biggest buildings.

1,200 miles worth of traffic surrounded London within hours

The city will likely enter Tier 5 at some stage too -we have in the past two weeks been infected by a new strain, said to have emerged in Kent, and similar to one in South Africa, though not the same. It’s 70% more infectious, but not more deadly -yet what’s worrying is the one in SA targets younger people than the norm. Our strain (there’s 4,000 different mutations out there) is being closely monitored by WHO; it’s in London, the Southeast and across Wales at the mo. The exodus last night may well have spread it, similar to how word of the first lockdown in Lombardy got leaked into the universities, and thousands of asymptomatic students took it across Italy.

We finished the day watching Silver Bullet -a Stephen King werewolf movie, very 80s and TV-movie-esque (in a good way), though quite a departure from his novelette. J is quite down, islanded from his beau now stranded in Wales, and no longer entranced by his work. We talked at length about these dark times and our dark pasts, over a flickering screen and some beer, it seems we’re both in the same boat. I watch horror movies when I’m sad, he sleeps. A smokes. Building up his case for cancer and being put into the ground one day, as will we all ha fucking ha.

I’m feeling quite dissonant to the world recently, the umbilical in my lap.

I’m angry. That I wasted my life, that we thought we could make it. Those futile dreams fresh out of uni, so many years trying to get our careers as writers or artists that might as well have been mf astronauts on our way to Pluto. Even onto any rung of the shitting housing ladder and nothing to show for it but two emptied decades, no money and fresh mental health issues. Not wanting to end on a downer here but fuck it, the world is a lie. Who the fuck wakes up for it?

Okay, down time for Aliens and armageddon. Blue steel for breakfast.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year 3.0 Day 2

18th December 2020

Okay let’s just get it over and done with.

1. Infections are up, way up. Like that Pixar cartoon about going to Venezuela with balloons, and that is the second most weepy film for men (after Shawshank Redemption, for women it’s Titanic or Kittens III, or The Dog Dies At The End or summat). That kind of Up, tear-jerkingly so. Not just here but across Europe, the US, Lat Am and even Japan and SE Asia. Some places that had some of the best results the first time round are now suffering the worst, such as Slovenia, Bosnia, North Macedonia, and Czechia that even held end of Covid celebrations back in summer. Those wretched balloons.

2. It looks like new strains are at work: the UK is suffering due to a homegrown mutation that emerged in Kent, and has dramatically infected London from the east these last two weeks (with Wales going into super-lockdown -Tier 4 -that even limits transport). Places across the world that enjoyed low infection rates due to humidity (whereby it was posited the virus latched onto minute water droplets that fell to the ground and became less airborne), are now seeing it skyrocket on the new wave, such as New Orleans and parts of Peru.

Germany’s previous response was castigated as being far too relaxed, with barely a lockdown. This second visitation, despite much stricter measures, have seen deaths skyrocket for no good reason -it points strongly towards a different strain.

Many countries are reaching or exceeding the dreaded 1 death per 1,000, including now the UK (by comparison for our worst global flu outbreak recently -2018 -it was 0.0086 deaths per 1,000, more than 116x less fatal).

They also think C-19 is deadlier than Spanish Flu as a virus, insofar that in 1918 they had far less PPI, infrastructure, treatment and global lockdowns which is why it had a higher death toll. Yet C-19’s first two months in NYC was still comparable with the peak months of 1918, despite our modern day measures and facilities, and the fact the city was in lockdown. The US state of North Dakota has recently joined the ranks of New Jersey and Massachusetts with the world’s highest death rates, though they may be joined by Tennessee, currently with the fastest infections, ballooning as we speak. -Many of the Midwestern and Southern states most averse to mask wearing are now paying the price. Hospital beds have run out in Sweden, and are imminently about to do so in Texas and New York City.

3. The vaccines rolling out, Pfizer, Moderna, Oxford, Sinovac, Sinopharm, Sputnik V etc for a time looked like they would all be bought up multiple times over by the rich countries (Canada grabbed enough for 10 doses for each of its citizens), with the Developing World waiting till as late as 2024 to get theirs. WHO on Wednesday however set aside 2 billion shots for them (about 10% of those available so far, for the majority of humans on the planet), propping up support from China, Russia and the World Bank. And New Zealand has heroically bought up doses enough for the Pacific island nations too (thank you Ardern) -not just magnanimously but in recompense for the decimation in the previous pandemic, when soldiers returning from WWI stopped off en route and spread Spanish Flu.

It’s also been found out that Moderna’s vaccine was engineered as early as January 13th, before even the second death anywhere in the world. Just a few days after China released the genetic sequence for the virus -it really takes this long to test. China’s Clover has just announced promising results in its own labs, a vaccine able to be stored and transported at 2C to 8C, similar to Moderna’s (by comparison Pfizer’s needs -70C to -80C).

4. Meanwhile the African nations appear to still be on their winning streak of low infection. Much to the disbelief of the West who assume it’s all a case of non reportage. However look beyond cultural arrogance and Africa has many winning traits to weather the storm. Notably it’s demographics, whereby much of the continent is made up of children and teenagers far less susceptible to dying from the disease, and the older contingent a fraction of their Western counterparts. Their age pyramids resemble Chinese roofs.

Nigeria

Ethiopia

Ghana

Egypt

South Africa currently has the continent’s highest death rate, but inline with the fact it’s also the most aged nation of the region:

By comparison, richer nations have far larger proportions and populations of older folk, who are much more at risk -they resemble demographic meringues of doom, flattened and bulbous:

UK

Italy

China

Peru

Also this isn’t to detract from the fact the African Council convened a few days after the pandemic was announced and agreed to enact continent-wide measures between nations. As the region most likely to suffer from the disease, with little PPI, ICUs and infrastructure (but no stranger to epidemics) they knew they HAD to rely on preventative measures.

The more pink, the more stringent, as charted by Oxford University. Tanzania was notably scolded by its neighbours for being the outlier, though even its response would put many richer nations to shame:

5. To cap off, world leadership is still playing up. While many are valiantly fighting the good fight (New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, Germany’s Angela Merkel) the usual suspects are still at it, banging the drum and shitting in the sink while everyone else tries to get on with it. Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro mentioned taking the vaccine may turn one into an alligator, having set himself on a personal crusade against vaccines in general, in contrast to the rest of the nation. Meanwhile Trump is still too consumed AF trying to stay in the White House to roll out meds with any speed whatsoever, and Mexico’s Manuel Lopez Obrador -mask averse and slamming Europeans for having lockdowns -is conducting only 10,000 tests a day (with a whopping 97% positivity rate) in a nation of 130 million.

Oh and France’s Emanuel Macron just got it. Still would.

6. The frontline workers in Stanford Medical Center in Palo Alto, California meanwhile are protesting the fact that they were left off the list of 5,000 vaccines that arrived for the facility staff. Only seven medical residents made the cut, while the higher management working from home, and fatcats slumming it in their deep pile Bond lairs got it. -Even cleaners and caterers, yet not the nurses and scrubs directly in the wards. The hospital blamed an algorithm and too much pressure for it to have been reviewed. Yeah soz about that.

7. Despite all this it’s shopping as normal, in London at least. A mate has just reported on the carnival buzz of my local high street too, Northcote Road. This really doesn’t look like a citywide lockdown:

So business as usual then, world. The same cackhandedness, grabbing the pie, assumption and not giving a toss.

Yay. I plan this to be my only political entry for the blog (well until I summon the urge over some tabloidal horror), as it gets me down and I’m becoming a grump. From now on go out and buy a fucking newspaper (just mask up). x

Yesterday

Tomorrow

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 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.

s

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.

ssss

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.

sxx

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

s

Yesterday

 

Lockdown 2.0

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 55

Tuesday 12th May 2020

J got sick, feeling back pain and a headache. Then he woke up drowsy as if a hangover, enough to have to get me to do his shopping. No runny nose, cough or fever, taste and smell fine. But still.

So we had to have that conversation, something we should have had way before any of this, months ago: what to do if anyone gets it.

Standing 2 metres away from someone at all times is pretty awkward in a flat like this. J cocooned on the sofa in blankets while we stood in the opposite corner by the door, I might as well have gotten a stick to prod him with, maybe a crucifix.

So we’ll isolate him in his room, and do all the feeding and tending, though J’s idea is to go his partner’s place and sit it out there. I advised against, considering there are other flatmates on that side to consider, who may get infected.

We then awkwardly retired to our bedrooms for the early night; the living room feels a bit in bad taste now.

Next morning we checked up and no sweats, chills and headache had gone, no blue ‘Covid toes’ and the pain had moved down his back. We think it’s been back pain all along.

Lockdown is easing now across the country, people now allowed out for as long as they can exercise, and commuting set for tomorrow. Life is starting again, but it remains to be seen how fast and how large a second wave will be. In Seoul, one super-carrier out at the newly reopened nightlife, visited 5 clubs in one night, infecting dozens. They’re now trying to trace nearly 2,000 other punters.

Greece, a vision of how to do things, with 2,700 cases and only 150 deaths, will reopen for tourism in June. Brits will be allowed by our government to partake.

In contrast NYC is still hammered down, whose death toll is now past 26,000. By contrast San Francisco, who locked down on the same timescale, has only 35 deaths. That’s no mistake, not even a week’s difference, and change in population density take into account such a discrepancy. They believe more strongly it’s due to different strains, NYC infected from a more lethal, contagious mutation from Europe, California a milder one from Asia.

The bungled efforts of the government has doomed much of the nation -epidemiologists say 60% of the 83,000 deaths (about 50,000) so far could have been avoided if they’d locked down a week earlier – a clock has been set in Times Square advertising the fact. The BBC has looked in-depth at the response, comparing it with other nations, and finding that Democrat governors locked down on average after 2.5 days when deaths hit 1 per million. Republicans locked down on average 13.5 days – nearly two weeks later.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/embed/p08cx0s7/52622037

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-us-canada-52622037/coronavirus-the-lost-six-weeks-when-us-failed-to-contain-outbreak



New York is currently the world’s deadliest place per capita
. The global Top 20 at the mo:

New York – 1,397
San Marino – 1,208
New Jersey – 1,074
Connecticut – 853
Belgium – 756
Massachusetts – 746
Andorra – 621
Spain – 576
Italy – 511
Louisiana – 505
UK – 482
District of Columbia – 476
Michigan – 468
Rhode Island – 419
France – 414
Sweden – 328
Netherlands – 322
Pennsylvania – 306
Republic of Ireland – 301
Maryland – 290

The excess deaths in New York are six times the average, and very likely c-19 is being undercounted. The same for the UK, which if connected would almost double our current total of 33,000 dead. Both New York State and the UK are now seeing a decrease in cases and deaths, but in Italy they are rising again. Russia now has the second highest amount of global cases.

In other words, we’re knowingly opening up again, knowingly killing. Like at the start of the pandemic, we can see it coming, we can work it out personally. But we’re trusting our government to take action despite.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 51

Friday 8th May 2020

 

Back in the day, the city calling. Offering up its coolness and grit, but a clean grit. That something in the air where anything’s possible.

And before all that pesky adulthood and reality, responsibilities, history.

Sun’s out, guns out.

Parklife.

Clapham Common busy as always, the temperature hitting 24C at about 3pm. All along the way people strolling, queueing outside the few shops. The usual keep-fitters skipping and cartwheeling but vastly outnumbered by sunbathers and picnics.

PC Plod nowhere to be seen, but the signs everywhere, littering the flat surfaces.

A big no-no the outdoor gyms, now unsightly.

Looking like exotic, unreachable zoo animals, or edgy art.

The bandstand also (apparently the biggest in London), uglified as if to barricade there being nothing to see, nope. Rightly so, it’d be a prime vector from the sun.

The park caff fully open, and suspiciously looking to provide picnic fodder. A queue in and out, with almost a carnival atmosphere surrounding it.

Everywhere else nature returning. Although the parks now more used, quietude still to be found.

Once upon a time a ranger house, or public loos disguised as a wee cottage, pun intended. Looks like the mfing future.

The surrounding streets their own bubble in a quiet decay.

For so many a meaning lost without selling, buying, shopping.

I’ve no idea if that circus ever got there.

The ice cream shop does a roaring trade, and the closest thing to a break we can get. The queue snakes round the corner and down the street, with each punter looking a little embarrassed.

Today’s meant to be the first day of summer, traditionally the windows open, the radios blaring, the lawns littered with bodies and streets drunken. Instead a furtive atmosphere like a held note -fun is not to be had but if so, surreptitiously.

Tomorrow will be Saturday, and even hotter. It’ll happen then.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

 

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 47

Monday 4th May 2020

Took a walk, a first for me on my own. A part of me can’t be bothered to entertain myself, as if, well, what’s the flipping point? I tend towards the home, the computer, the indoors and domestic, living vicariously through a screen due to a crippling lifelong condition called Laziness. The time I do want to experience things trekking about and getting canoodley with life is abroad. As they say, joy is doubled when you share it with someone; I just don’t think it, feel it otherwise.

I’m built to spend time on my own, but not to experience happiness that way.

The streets are as to be expected -the place quiet but nowhere completely empty or like a ghost town. There’s a steady stream of odd cars, and a handful of people on each thoroughfare, with often a queue outside whichever shop that’s open, even the small family-run ones.

Many stores are shut, some looking permanently with newspapers over their glass, or hand drawn signs of desperately discounted pricing, one place wallpapered with A4s of £2. I had no idea what it once sold, the name itself giving no clues. Other places as if momentarily left. The ones still surviving were very much like the old fashioned stores before supermakets took over -bespoke service, specialised produce and community based chit-chat.

Others had added little touches, from antique points of sale and off props, to signs of human misjudgement, not just banal marketing campaigns and identikitted salon design.

Then from the streets to the parks, also slightly unkempt, but beautifully so.

Battersea Park has an odd expanse which looks a lot like a retro exhibition gardens. I couldn’t place it as to whether it was 1950s or 70s, though it was refurbed in 1994 according to the sign. They were fountainless with the flowerbeds starting to overgrow, the squared off trees untrimmed to lose their cubism. A landscape to myself.

There was a sense of an elegant decay, almost spookily so. No animals added to the scene, just the rustling of leaves and water becoming a momento mori.

Gardeners had obviously been laid off or furloughed, with pavilions starting to muddy up, the flower beds dying or getting invaded with weeds and grass. Some cages round the back were populated only by signs touting that the animals would be back soon -metal keeps all profuse and jungled. Hopefully whatever once dwelled there will appreciate the new foliage on return, if still alive.

The rest of the park was gloriously overgrown with nature returning. The parade police were nowhere, but weren’t really needed, with nary a soul for stretches. It was a Monday -everything was just getting on with it. Was good to get out, I see that now.

There’s something to be said about what you notice, about the conversations one has with themselves on a privated walk. Notably the fact you see, feel and experience more than what’s there.

I hope we’re all okay, that we go in peace.

 

Yesterday

Tomorrow