A Journal of the Plague Year 2.0 Day Two

6th November 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 86

Saturday 13th June

STILL SICK OHMIGAAHD. It has not come to pass.

But then, woke again a few hours later, sweaty, stained and strained. And it had, miraculously ache-free. Well enough to be up and about and feeling healthy in the first time in weeks. Bizarre.

And well enough to go out by the afternoon to meet some friends who live across the way, first time we’ve seen them in ages. Making full use of the lockdown ease in restrictions.

Discovered Wandsworth Common in all its glory.

The streets through Clapham very much resembled a socially distanced block party, all the pubs, cafes and restaurants doling out custom while the punters resided in doorways and on household chairs, available ledges and walls. Northcote Rd enjoyed a black van with a DJ pumping out the BBQ choons, apparently entirely independent from any business.

Everyone on one side of the street partied, the other side stopped, stared then decided on joining them.

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The park is the usual Common scenario – blank grassland with trees at its edges, popular with sports but these days taken over by the picnickers and drinkers, notably ourselves.

Plenty of the local teens were out loitering, circling with digital boomboxes and the hot bods -the kind who still wear their baseball caps backward, circa 1987/ 2017 -with their tops off and throwing varieties of ball.

By late afternoon the clouds were gathering on this first day in a week with sunshine, doom-laden with a double rainbow appearing. Some parts of the space resistant to shadow shone bright even as it rained. It must be hard for them insisting on playing ball, the wind blowing, hands freezing, refusing to put your pecs away while pretending to be in Rio, and not Wandsworth in the rain.

Nothing will ever dampen those horizons, or get in their way. Made for some epic cloudcapes anyhoo.

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Then it was back to theirs, a sparkling place of modern living and luxury simplicity segued into a historic building -all minimalist de-clutter offset by lone artpieces, historic detailing and orchids. The kind of place you think, one day my son… Designed by the architect who makes one half of the couple, the other a yoga instructor having given up being a vet due to how dire and depressing the industry is. By all accounts riven with death, intrigue and bitching like Game of Thrones with abducted pomeranians and murderfied gerbils – it has the highest suicide rates of any other industry. -I remember a mate who was a veterinary nurse, his little flat dotted with occasional squeaks, hairballs and furtive burrowing sounds at every turn, from the rescued animals he couldn’t bear to put down. He regaled me on the practices that happened.

For example, if some kind soul brought in an injured squirrel, perhaps rounded into a soft ball in delicate hands, you were meant to thank them graciously and wait awkwardly till they left. Then take the furball outside, and pitch it like a baseball at the tarmac or appropriated Death Wall. For the government insists you do it as guidance -as an invasive species from North America it demands annihilation, having sent the native Reds (smaller, tufty ears, red) into ever shrinking outposts in Scotland, as they get outcompeted.

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There is another line of conservation, that treats invasive species beyond a certain timescale as acceptable (as almost every wildlife habitat was created by being an invasive species at some stage). The city is currently seeing in a small colony of teeny Yellow Tailed Scorpions in East London, near the old docks where they jumped ship from the Med.

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We also have mitten crabs (yes, another Chinese biological import) -more problematic as they’re killing off all local species in favour of one. However, we may have hope -put a price on anything, and the human er ‘spirit’ will suddenly come to the fore and vanquish the impossible multitudes. As seen in the port city of Qingdao just before the Beijing Olympics, when a disastrous algae bloom turned the local coast a brilliant green. The government, having exhausted the army, eco groups and local do-gooders, then added a price for every bucket hauled (it can be used as fertiliser, food additives and fuel) -within days the seas had been cleansed and every grain of sand scrubbed as thousands of humans with greed on their minds descended.

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Mitten crabs are of course a prized delicacy in places like Shanghai that holds them as a star dish of the city, winning Michelin wreaths for their sweet flesh. In Europe however they haven’t caught on because of the offputting look of the growths that grow on the pincers (hence their name, and another moniker being ‘Hairy Crabs’). Also, they’re Thames dwelling, sieving through 20,000 tonnes of annual sewage dumped after heavy showers, and thus not as salivating. The Mayor is currently building the enormously overpriced, already-late ‘Super Sewer’ (at 5 billion smackeroonies its ballooned to 5x the original cost thanks to money-grabbing contractors), a 25km tunnel under the city that will be able to take the overflow of raw shit. Until then it’s unlikely to be on any menus.

It was so nice to socialise again, progressed into light drunkendom and gossiping about everything lockdown, riot and race related. It’s almost a social nicety now -to catch up on the current events, protests and pandemic at the start to get it over and done with, though now slowly becoming like Brexit B Word -something not to mention in polite company and ambassador’s balls. It segued nicely, and divisively, into how much of a colonialist twat our sacred Churchill was after 3 million died in the Bengal famine, that a 2017 study on the soil samples now affirms was engineered by his actions not drought (and the fact he denied them aid even after Canada and the US offered).

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At some stage we moved on to the hot topic of upward mobility (welcome to party-mad middle age, guys) and I stated it was noticeably easier in the UK, touting not just the figures but anecdotes on how many of our posho mates and creatives came from chavvy, knifey fams in caravan parks or refugee trails. But then J pointed out, we’d never even have that convo outside the UK, where class isn’t such a big fucking hang-up. I looked at it, he was right.

We later tried the homemade kimchi -fermented cabbage swamped in chilli (horribly pungent, spicy, and superb); Korean food is not like Chinese -it punches as a single note without so much the differing layers of flavour or texture, but in a good way. We finished the night with more wine, a surefire path to migraine and hangover for me, but what the hell. I need it. The food’s made me as reckless and unapologetic, likely to fight on the beaches.

Not so much a block party, more a fizzy, enjoyable slump into foreign sofas.

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Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 3

Friday 20th March 2020

The trains are running. It seems a morning thing. They’ll stop soon. There are reduced train services due to staff shortages, in turn due to ‘health issues’. Pray, what fucking health issues could those possibly be?

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So, so far no lockdown. I’m wondering if this is just a delay, or the status quo will be normalised from now on. I had a dream, rather tellingly of being in a train wreck where an old lady subsequently got her legs trapped by a concertina-ing row of seats (I laid her on a makeshift gurney, she was fine). -A rather obvious symbolism there -a straight trajectory into disaster for the elderly, though they’ll pull through in the end. Also, a similar scene cherry-picked from memory in the film Alive, an opus on the Andean air crash where the survivors had to eat the dead to survive. Well, we’re not there just yet.

Yesterday I slunk out to forage some more – the fridge’s been so overstuffed the door fails to close half the time, and the UFO light stays on inside, like a raygun heating up the perishables for hours, to the aroma of gently heated cream and fish. The supermarkets were everything they promised to be from the media, disparate shoppers pottering around acres of empty shelving  -all animal and plant life clear cut, cleaning products swiped, dairy and carbs burned. Alcohol was stacked fine, as were cakes and thankfully, the Greek yoghurt aisle – I grabbed the last two tubs that were actually Greek. Along with a large container of mystery seasoning; I think it’s Bosnian, whose people enjoy the world’s largest spice intake thanks to an optimised stock mix from the 70s, that overnight got smeared onto everything, ever. I figured that shit’s got to be good. Oh and herring, turns out no one likes herring.

Outside the lights were on, but everyone’s home.

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J is worried about his workplace, the owner increasingly unhinged, threatening and enjoying his power, laying off workers and oozing job insecurity from every pore; they got an email today demanding all heads of dept account for their actions of the past week. A has had no structure to his day, having spent a large part of it surfing the newsfeeds in his PJs, as I’m sure a great many people have been. I do wonder what industries are actually being bulked up by this crisis – the internet at large, streaming TV, video servers, news agencies, supermarkets, food producers, big pharma, cleaning products, telecommunications, social media, funeral directors. I’d hazard booksellers would normally be enjoying a bumper season, but there aren’t enough shops to sell them. Oh and porn apparently is doing reams of trade, at server crashing levels. All else is failing, and the banks must be absolutely shitting themselves. I see adverts now, harking back to a different time -holidays, beauty products, bosomly ladies in your area desperate to come round, sanding tools, when really we should be algorithmically targetted right now with face masks, Vileda supermops, guns, chainsaws.

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I bought hair dye, my little treat to check out what I’d look like blonde but without the embarrassment should it go tits up, though likely it’ll turn ginger. It did make me question the large chunk of my life that is ultimately spent on others, on courting what others think. Fashion and hair products have been too long a large chunk of my raison d’être, I’ve parted with them now like Kate saying goodbye to Leo. Oh and eating out, that’s something I’m going cold turkey on, stodgy AF.

The movie for the night was Last Christmas. And oh, how London looked so familiar yet such a foreign country. Shot in 2017 during -you guessed it -Christmas, it was all fairy lights, crowded streets and atmospheric tinsel, a place I’ve been missing for a while now. She even sat down at a market (loads of real punters in the background gaping at that lass from Game of Thrones having a coffee with Emma Thompson), and I witnessed a jawdropping shot of people actually in close contact with each other, a bit like how people smoking indoors in films pre-Millennium makes you think they gotta have CGI’d that.

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The film was actually quite enjoyable, portraying a London where race, class and role was interchangeable (accurate to real life), where love interest, comedic effect, support cast and background noise had no set mould (accurate), and unlike Hollywood offerings, made no such fuss about it (partially accurate, it’s still a statement in London to date beyond your class). Though they did appear to tick off reprazent for literally every stratum of society, like helpful porn categories: queer, trans, every race, interracial, religious, atheist, disabled, homeless, rich, poor, left, right, age gap, worldly, bigoted. Shots of the Brexit marches, and anti-EU tirades firmly wedged it into its time, but the storyline was endearingly classic too, though I’m aware many film reviewers baulked at the big reveal, which I blurted out beforehand, thinking it so unfeasible it was fine as a joke. But hey, it was a welcome respite to lose yourself into, albeit as a bittersweet, nostalgic piece of Brollywood to reminisce again and again, back when we touched each other.

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The schools closed today, a grudging first step as children are low risk (there’s never been a death so far, anywhere in the world below 15 years old) – yet super carriers in the adorable way they openly spread bodily fluids, wiping their snotty noses along guard rails, sucking door handles and sneezing into cash drawers.  The government has been worried about the toll it would take on half the population having their kids actually live with them during daylight hours too, unable to WFH effectively and looking to throw themselves off a balcony within days. The ruling has exempted those whose parents are currently working on the frontline in healthcare and emergencies, which must make for some very awkward schooling, ranging in ages and lessons in a very empty room, with one-on-one teaching. I’ve read online about how a full-time job it is to keep the darlings entertained, fed and schooled on a daily roster, while working on the laptop, or worst, worrying about not working at all.

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There’s a lot being said about people spending so much time with each other, about the spike in divorces every post-holiday season (Last Christmas indeed), and recently seen in China. We need to give each other space, a new reality of being alone in the same room, alone in a crowded society, a single flat in a vast and multitudinous city of 9-25 million depending on where you stop counting. Social distancing might have to be socially distant in this case, for a time. Though saying that, to quote that bible of workplace posterage, there is no I in us.

In other news, Spring Breakers Stateside are launching full throttle regardless, California is in lockdown, Italy has now surpassed China in deaths and we’ve globally passed the 10,000 mark on that. Venice’s canals are becoming crystal clear, and populated by thousands of fish due to the refreshing lack of human activity:

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Day three.

Yesterday

Tomorrow