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 that no longer made sense.

Then slowly, the relinquishing of the doom when realising shit was still holding together, the decision helping greatly -and gratefully – that the museum was furloughing us. Enough to keep myself and A, now without work and no access to universal credit, housed and fed. To still be able to send money back to family. That the food shops still opened, that no one was busting out into barricades and Mad Max. This, the slinking into the new normal. 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 and blankets. Not just them but the cross-fitters tearing up the bridleways with 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, while the loners and tokers on darkened benches, watched 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 others’ tragedy. Only when it does effect our own do we put our everyday things down, and redress those priorities furnishing our 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 or 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 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.

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In retrospect:

The virus

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

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Racism

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

APTOPIX Minneapolis Police Death

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Politics

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

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Economy

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

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

NYC During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Life

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

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

All the best and stay safe.

Signing off.

W x

PS a pic of kittens

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Yesterday

 

Lockdown 2.0

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 93

Saturday 20th June 2020

Today was the longest day -early this year. The sun got up at 4am and went to bed again by 11pm, when the last of its colour vanished from the skies. A friend happened to have a beeday in Clapham Common and it was rammed -the first sunny day in about 2 weeks, plus it being midsummer solstice and a Saturday – I reckon about 5,000 people out on the Common having a jolly. There were constantly about 6-10 of us on socially distanced matting with people passing through and being replaced though I didn’t know anyone, but we got on fab, got drunk and played pictionary to an epically setting sun.

Tried to have a conversation with a couple where the inevitable –so where are you from? or what do you do? didn’t come up, and waited for the info to be volunteered -I think that’s a new politesse for London. The guy was talking about his work needing him to travel and decamp to NYC etc, with his accent hard to place. In the end he mentioned he’d studied interior design and was from Malaga, and his partner French, probably from Caribbean ancestry being able to speak Creole, (alongside Spanish, French, English and Portuguese). I think we got on so well because none of us ever asked those ubiquitous questions, a sign we weren’t that kind of judgmental.

The birthday boy and his other half, friends of J, were moving to a wild, tropical part of China -Yunnan province that’s wreathed in jungle and hilltribes -having been yoga teachers and Buddhists, so a bittersweet goodbye. Everyone pissed by then and fucking the social distancing, hugging at the end. We’re idiots.

Much of the crowd had diminished by then.

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Though still in numbers at 9.15pm

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There was a 250 year old churchyard right by us -Our Poor Lady Trinity St Clappers -which is surely sending a lengthy naughty list to Santa, or Satan. Because the police had closed the loos to discourage people staying too long, and the Common without many bushes, every fucker was using the site as an open air urinal. Couldn’t believe it but hundreds of men were pissing on the walls for hours, I counted about 12 stains at any one time on the back stretch alone, gravitating like furtive zombies staring into brick. I cannot imagine what the stench must’ve been like, wafting occasionally downwind and frightening horses. Nor for the poor deacon who’ll maybe swing by tomorrow (services are still banned thankfully so might not), but if doing so will faint, robes flying. Yours truly used a bush by the corner of the skatepark, AWKWARD when the family went by, everyone meerkatting their attention to the amazing lawn in the opposite direction.

A had stayed behind to work on his CV and apply for jobs but once home, we went for a toke through languid streets, sunset turning to the midnight blue of dusk. What a lovely fucking day.

My Stonehenge moment:

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I think midsummer’s gonna be a thing for me now. I’ll get all pagan and dress up in leaves and arson. Hail to the next year; may it be infinitely better than this one.

Hmmm.. maybe last year someone got fucked, pissed on the stones, and sungod Bertha pissed back.

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

 

A Journal of the Plague Year Week 8

Sunday 3rd May 2020

J has decamped to his other half’s house for a week, just across the Common, 45 mins walk away. The place will be quieter without him pottering about, researching his silver in the living room, though hopefully replaced by A who will creep out more surely. He is a little snail.

Stocked up at the local Tesco Metro, the only supermarket open after 5 on a Sunday. There was the same homeless guy outside as there’s ever been asking for change to get himself a hostel -though not a lot of cash about these days. I was a bit dubious at the sign, as the government was meant to be providing hotel shelter, though looks like many haven’t transpired. In the Guardian article all on the streets had fallen through the net. That they’d rung 5 or 6x and never heard anything back, perhaps due to them being EU and us having just left. I entertained the idea of bringing him home but I doubt J would have that happen, being responsible for the flat and the copious amounts of silver. We’d talked the other day and it had been a veto, though that’s understandable.

The 500,000 positions needed for UK’s annual fruit picking fest appears unable to be filled. Of the hundreds of thousands of Brits employed to do it, a whopping 115 chose to stay on, after facing a back-breaking 8 hr shift of bending over coupled with Repetitive Strain Injury. So much for the Brexit promises eh? They are now drafting in people from Romania more willing to be exploited for minimum wage -and a day upped to being 12hrs, 5x a week.

This is what many of us willfully believe our fruit and veg comes in from:

Rather than this:

The country will just have to come to terms that there are day-to-day jobs our populace is unwilling to work, at all costs, because Britons never, ever shall be slaves. Or accept we operate sweatshops in a foreign corner of every field. It seems this pandemic has exposed the facade that is our everyday, in every facet -how fragile our economies, societies, respectability and governments are behind the mask, how very reliant are lives have been made into spending for it.

The reality is picking the fruit is not able to be automated, as one also needs to be able to check if it’s ripe (smell, look and feel), not just spot them and navigate around the leaves and brances. This added cost puts quite a strain on the profits, and many unscrupulous farmers employ slave labour: indentured East Europeans and refugees from further afield who work for well under the minimum wage, sleep several to a wagon and get fed the most basic of nutritional needs, the lowest common denominator impossible to save up from.

Many get trapped with confiscation of passports, threats to family back home, money owed for smuggling them there, systemic abuse or the sheer inability to save for a ticket back. They provide the ripe fields for recruiting prostitutes, house slaves, drug runners and human traffic, often sold as bespoke teaching or nanny positions for some rich family, then kidnapped. It has always been a problem to be swept under the carpet -a frontline job we can ill afford (or we can but save so much from not doing so).

The Atlantic has posted a new story: We Are Living In A Failed State, where blame for the corona cack-handedness lies squarely at the door of POTUS and his armed sycophants. It’s hot on the heels of the March story (different author): America Is Acting Like A Failed State, unable to project authority or ensure its populace. Meanwhile The Great Orange Dolphin is busy doing a victory lap as the deaths hit 60,000 in the US, and NY State -if it were a nation -would now have the world’s highest death rate, overtaking tiny San Marino (where 40 out of 33,344 people have died), almost double Belgium, and approaching 3x Italy.

The Top 30 death rates per million:

New York – 1,242

San Marino – 1,208

New Jersey – 872

Connecticut – 680

Belgium – 670

Andorra – 569

Massachusetts – 563

Spain – 537

Italy – 475

Louisiana – 427

UK – 414

Michigan – 404

France – 379

District of Columbia – 351

Netherlands – 291

Rhode Island – 280

Sweden – 264

Republic of Ireland – 260

Pennsylvania – 217

Maryland – 208

Switzerland – 204

Illinois – 200

Indiana – 185

Delaware – 177

Colorado – 150

Luxembourg – 147

Washington State – 115

Georgia (USA) – 114

Monaco – 102

Portugal – 100

Now imagine the orange buffoon, fat face beatific, eyes closed doing the airplane round the stadium as his Republican fanbase whoop him on on one side (confederate flags, anti-Mexican waves, salutes, mini-bugles) and the other boo him (upside-down flags, one finger salutes, lobbed bogroll), while the cheerleaders who resemble beardy hunters in camo let off a round of gunfire. Or you could imagine him doing the same with the entire stadium dead. No joke, he is already bringing MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banners out of the Eisenhower Executive Office.

 

Meanwhile, life carries on. At Tesco I indulged in the Sunday tradition of sweeping all of the reduced items of the week, collected in last-minute flurries in a specific fridge only those in the know seek out. All the stodgy ready-meals, red alerted as artery cloggers but ever moreish for it: shepherds pie, steak pie, duck pancakes and chicken kievs. Nabbed the lot.

https://www.facebook.com/paulmannart/

Youth China (one of myriad companies -the country operates the largest survey industries in the world for business, government and leisure) has recently been gauging the effect the lockdown has been having on people, particularly in Wuhan, who entered first, lasted the longest and came out first. It looks as people will be divided into two camps from now on, those YOLO fans now drawn to cafes, clubs and crowds, ‘revenge’ shopping and holidaying, and those more cautious because life is precious and must be safeguarded, reluctant even to come out of a self-imposed lockdown. It looks as life as we know it now is here to stay, perhaps for another 2 years. Forever changed, shall we survive it.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 37

Thursday 23rd April 2020

Today will be a new day, a new me. Oh yes.

Threw myself and J a picnic on the lawn outside, after having taken the recycling out and noticing the surrounds -the weather nigh on perfect: cool, clear, golden. All the new leaves brilliantly green, creating wavering glades and dells.

However when we ventured out carrying everything unfeasibly, they were watering the lawns, as if nefariously seen our planning. In the end we managed to bag a spot in the corner -ours a rare gated estate, normally banned in London. Then settling down for crudités (which to us non-French mortals means raw veg and dips), followed by a spell lying in the sun, pillowed and reading. Armchair travelling: India and Russia.

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All was light and blue skies, and nary a care in the world. A lot of the residents were doing the same, each in small huddles respectfully distant, occupying every patch of grass and nurturing an almost smug relaxation.

Then the call from work.

I’m being furloughed, but on full pay, and due to how crowded the museum gets we’re looking at June, possibly as late as October. A long wait though really can’t complain with so many people out there without the option, nor income. I’m free to find another job for the time being, for my new dependents.

It all coming back. The outside world, battling beyond the gates.

There’s a controversial new meme going round following another Redditt viral vid. A bunch of women castigating a respectful, patient cop for closing a park playground in the US, till he subsequently arrests one of them (she’d offered up her hands), thus birthing a new martyr for the right. Likewise, it all runs in with the militant anti-vaxxers, some of whom are now protesting outside another policeman’s house following the similar arrest of a rebellious ‘playdate party’ organiser.

So the meme is Karen. Karen has a distinctive bob haircut, and is the type of mumsy woman who complains a lot to service staff; she always wants to speak to a manager and is outraged at minor things. It basically screams entitlement and/ or bullying. It started out as a meme quite a few years ago, and was initially nameless.

2017:

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However today she’s been updated -the current sideshow for Karen is subtly based on race (as is everything in the US), and age, and income. She’s White and starting out or is in her middle ages (‘right, Karen’ is the new ‘ok, Boomer’ riposte for Generation X). She’s churchgoing, anti-vax and likes to target ethnic minority servers. Also conspicuously middle class, with a predilection to sticking up that Laugh Love Life sign in her living room.

2020:

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This comes on a recent rash of women caught hassling other park users (even calling the police or impersonating them) for nothing more than hanging out there and being people of colour. Although it’s happened since time immemorial, this time round people have been filming it and using the hashtags, eg #SwingsetSusan.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/woman-dubbed-swing-set-susan-charged-impersonating-officer-chase-hispanic-n1071356

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As a lifelong member of service personnel I can definitely attest to the existence of ‘Karens’, that there is a certain ilk of middle-aged woman (more so than other age groups and of men) who will be cause of outstanding drama and revel in it, knowing full well her rights to do so. Often setting traps (I don’t have a receipt -your staff never gave me one!), knowingly committing fraud (well that’s the pricetag right there so you have to honour it!) or demanding special treatment above others (I’m only buying one thing!), all of which are the three most common confrontations. So I do look on with a certain joy that she’s finally been called out. That the starched yet cartoonish Fox-News-presenter-look has been exposed as ridiculous rather than venerated.

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However, look a bit closer and the meme is now transforming. The Redditt page is indeed drawing up sub-Redditts on people’s experiences, though it’s obvious many are just dealing with your classic narcissists and sociopaths. So why the gender specifics? It appears this meme is finding fuel from your standard misogyny -it’s not enough that you call out bad people, but increasingly their gender adds to their damnation. There is a long list of contributors who are embittered ex-partners and divorcés, and only a handful who put forward ‘he-Karens’.

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Thus Karen is not just entitled, sociopathic, White, middle class and sporting a bob anymore, but also suburban, anti-vax, racist, slutty (but pretending otherwise) and divorced and lying to the judge. Some part of me thinks you gotta laugh, that some people are getting their long-neglected comeuppance. Another part thanks god I’m not called Karen.

Surely there needs to be a male counterpart. Once again from twenty years customer service experience I can also attest -the belligerent, arrogant, dismissive male, also tending towards the upper middle class, middle aged, and a big fan of bullying young women. Who complains hoarsely, talks over anyone and if not getting his way, leaves with a barrage of insults, foiled with swearing or thrown money/ products. Also very liable to change behaviour when ‘escalated’ to another man, and transforming into a vision of studious gentility and grace, often with an aside about the atrocious young girl we employ. We can call him Jeremy. He wears a suit or Dad jeans, is plump, red in the face (casual alcoholism), greying, balding and posh speaking.

He has a small, kept woman, who is trying to divorce him first chance she gets or at least outlive the bastard (perhaps accidentally, repeatedly, reversing over him in his double garage). He drives a saloon, or tank and has three kids in private schooling, and a dominatrix mistress in Colchester. Likes shooting wildlife, Thatcherite, casually racist and a businessman. Has a cottage in France and a dog called Gravel, or Gavel.

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These are perhaps the memes in life we encounter in our everyday, in certain fields. On one hand that public recognition can curb the behaviour, on the other it’s obvious everything ever could become a meme -the chav, the soccer mom, the footballer’s wife, the gangsta, the SJW, the bag lady, the A-Gay, the emo, the Guido, the hipster, the nerd, the geek, the stoner, the trailer park trash, the hillbilly, the Essex girl. The pigeon feeder.

The Chinese tourist, the Brit Abroad, the Florida Man, the WASP, the Chelsea fan, the Sloane Ranger, the Scouser, the trainspotter, the truck driver, the art student, the tree hugger, the banker, the lawyer. It’s basically an acceptable form of social stereotype.

Think of your job title. And add in your name. Now use that as an insult, like you’re in Mean Girls.

“Okay Paul, Accounts Executive.”

Tara, you… Commercial BID WRITER.”

“Right, Louise, Retail. Manager.”

“Sure Sarah, Multinational Cee. Eee. Oh.”

“Yeah Mo, CHARITY Worker.”

“Fine Praveen, Front. Line. NURSE”

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Perhaps there is truth in parts, that a certain look or upbringing follows/ imparts a certain behaviour. When wearing a smart suit and working in finance you do become that much more forward. When feeling indentured or down, those dark clothes suddenly appeal. When feeling empowered, masculated does the bob haircut -halfway house between male and female -embody your mindset? This is what makes a culture, we just got to remember it’s a sum of parts. In the same way we look at our own countries/ schools/ workplaces as having all representative personality types, it applies to every tranche. The same creatives, jokers, rebels, intellectuals, artists, nerds, hipsters, hippies, emos and jocks whether you’re Inuit or Amish. A Black feminist lesbian or a Welsh male rugby player, a tribal hunter in the Congo or a factory worker in Sichuan. Just don’t all get the same haircut.

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I think of it distantly now, that other life when we were in proximity.

I am now attempting to watch I Am That Pretty Little Thing That Lives In The House.

It is like a beautiful rendition of my nightmare the other morning, slow, unsettling and domestic, with a carer spending her days in isolation. I’ve only seen the first 20 mins as Netflix has gone kaput yet again, but it’s promising, although J who’s seen it swears nothing’s gonna happen and it’s a bit shit. It is as if life is imitating art.

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There perhaps should be a meme about this, us, the stay-at-homers like drones watching Netflixian propaganda, unsullied by wind or sun to give off a cold, screen-like glow. Monosyllabic, licking out jam jars, crisp packets and greasy keyboards, dressed in our all-day finery of underwear or bathrobe

We can call ourselves Dave, and/ or Emma. A heteronormative couple, childless, furloughed, avid readers of the rolling news. Trump-haters, Harry Potter/ GOT fans, iPhone subscribers and pizza lovers. We have an old cat called Tuppence, or Teapot, adore re-runs of Peep Show and The Office and worry about the mortgage, airline vouchers, Waitrose stocks of smoked salmon, our mums and when all this horridness will just blow over so we can go on holiday again. And like all memes, we wear ourselves with pride. Redditt bitches, bring it on.

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Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 36

Wednesday 22nd April 2020

So there was a knocking on the door, and somehow or other I was through it in a blink and into a darkened hall. On the stairs a woman, draped in well, drapey things. All operatically b&w, lightning flashing, then I recognised her from the film I saw last night (the magnetic, bitchy love interest from the party, the one who got vommed on), and suddenly she was no longer The Grey Lady, more goth chick having a chat.

And of course I went through the usual BS imminent victims do in any Hollywood cliché, that of wandering blindly from room to room and trying to ignore the skittering sounds.

Kept seeing reflections that didn’t marry with reality. Till finally it was the long mirror by the bed, in which I caught a glimpse of a figure passing.

The more I looked, approaching, the more it materialised in the image -that of an armchair, and in it seated a figure. When I turned to the seat in real life it only had the same cape-like drapes over it, but in the reflection however, a man staring back.

I think a dream is like the nth dimension, where we know without really seeing. As if inhabiting with black fingers the space, projecting the happening in real time, being each whoever speaks. A black hole between planes.

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That is of course the essence of a night terror, culminating in the knowing of abject fear -actually being that fear as if falling from height yet never reaching bottom.

I managed to shout ‘holp’, aka HELP -one’s attempt to get woken but numbed by drugged limbs and an implausible paralysis, lying there and just taking it. When I did finally come to, my eyes already open, and staring at the long mirror opposite.

Just as bad: the door open a crack, holding a seething black and emanating another’s presence, even with the light on.

OMG needed to pee so bad, but the corridor lined with antique mirrors thanks to J’s silver dealership. There’s so much mythology associated with one’s reflection, from urban myths /movies such as Candyman (say his name seven times while looking and he’ll appear), to the old tale that if you look into the mirror at night you’ll see the Devil, notably yourself looking back.

Now, I’m not the superstitious type, and neither am I a small child needing a teddy. But dearie me, that place in the brain after dreams, sending out raw feelers to the darkest of memories and weird fears -it makes you believe in all manner of shit. Forget the sleep paralysis/ disorder, the apnea, the hypnea, that perhaps your subconscious is in terror to wake you from the fact you’ve stopped breathing, manifested as a nightmare. And that the paralysis is normal, to stop you acting out as you dream -sleepwalkers aside. Just now everything dark holds a shape within.

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In the end matter overcame mind and just did it, prancing down the hall like a jittery Pan. So that was me done till daylight, and the setting up of my day.

-To become painfully lazified for the rest and pooling into shadow. I promised to just go with the flow. And not to beat myself up about it either. So no writing (just see yesterday’s entry), no cooking, no shopping, or walks, or bike rides, or emails, or worrying about no cooking, no shopping, or walks, or bike rides, or emails. Just lying in bed scrolling, watching TV. I barely made it out the bedroom, the day settling like a miasma, fitting for the time period.

And felt just as shit at the end of the day. I hope that that’s it now, got it out the system.

As night falls I count my worries, as if checking for wounds -26 of them, assigned to tabs that must be closed down slowly in order to sleep. Many of them chasing refunds from the 3 holidays canceled, the furloughing that work will likely instate tomorrow, the family, the flat. These threads of bureaucracy becoming binding, that slowly make you sink. Oh the fucking horror.

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Small weights add up, the curtains never open, nor close. And something is always behind, beyond. And festering. I sometimes think there is a certain pitch between reality and imagination, sleep and awake, looking and not looking that makes everything possible, and what you put into it changes that path on the multiverse.

I feel if I stare into that reflection, at that certain time, at that certain pitch, and recognise that kernel as truth… the nightmare will become real, that this insanity will become sanity. They say if you don’t wake up in time you go mad.

-What is it that we fear then? That it is real? Or that it isn’t? The darkest part of the mind may not be so black and hidden, but grey and inconsistent, as any ghost.

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There is a horror in realising you are mad, or unreal. In realising that reality has betrayed you, and become surreal. And always had been thus -this new here and now.

The world projects all too often that we are to be warm and safe, we have set up entire societies to be of that ilk, and to never reveal what lies beneath. But when that vast masking does crack, or fall entirely we find ourselves lost as to be falling.

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Perhaps we need not fear the unknown -unless we know what’s really out there lurking in our collective subconscious – and that what we find within, in our privated moments and dream selves, can manifest darkly in everyone else.

This is why so many share the shadow, the selfsame one sitting on our chest, or standing by the bed and glowering a presence. This same dream since time immemorial that is merely us, the demon looking back.

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In the same ways numbers become meaningless, and stories ever more distant (so long as we are not experiencing it ourselves), lies the same fear of abandonment by an impervious people who do nothing but watch.

Thus the monstrosity may not be what we do but what we don’t. And through the glass darkly each night, the mollycoddling binds fall away to reveal a truer truth. When we allow ourselves to look at The Presence, that Face and drink it in.

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A Journal of the Plague Year Day 34

Monday 20th April 2020

I sent the book off today to two agents, feeling myself dandy for doing so too. Then had another long trek, this time into Clapham via the Common. In terms of rating London’s green spaces there’s not a lot to say about it, it would maybe score 2 or 3 out of 10. It’s first and foremost a common, delineating itself from parkland by being relatively open ground and unplanted. No acres of flowerbeds, no landscaping a hill to the right or left, though there are two pretty ponds, and a windswept one. Everything is left as nature intended, kind of, with a few statues here and there and a playground/ outdoor gym/ skatepark. The scraggly collection of woods on one side is pretty scant in terms of biodiversity, being mostly grass and small, young bushes, studded with condoms. It is of course a favoured dogging site, almost legendary, though these days populated by the kind who cannot pull online or via an app (read: old, unsexy and unkempt, possibly murderous).

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The rest of the park is plain – large empty spaces of green or gravel, popular for sports aficionados and event staging. It is dare I say it, boring. The Attenborough equivalent of an Asda carpark. Inside the ponds we saw a dead and rotting fish ( a fat, white carp), studiously being ignored by a heron, and two potatoes, possibly jettisoned by fleeing BBQers. The fun police were out in force, cruising ominously along the running paths and stop-searching drivers for evidence of commuting or shopping.

I did spot an interesting tree, as pique among dross. Very Easter. J said it may have been diseased (apt). I may come out and start worshipping it.

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Then it was Clapham Old Town, a nondescript part of London tarted up into prettiness. Although every building is not that old it’s been done up as if they are, even the 20th Century additions, complete with flowerboxes and fabric awnings, scrubbed brick and pistachio paint. This is what all of London could look like with a spirited makeover, given this end was also traditionally poor throughout the centuries. Mostly residential but gracing a tiny corner of shops and businesses, almost all closed but for the delis, organic cafes, bakeries and ultra-expensive grocers each with a queue (how very Clapham). Sainsbury’s had a very long line outside, Tesco directly opposite nary a soul, not even a guard. UK has a curious hierarchy of supermarkets/ grocers not always evident abroad, from the department store emporia at one end who deliver in 1920s horse-driven cabs, to the panic buying, zombie-baiting megamalls at the other:

  1. Fortnum & Mason

2. Harrods (formerly top spot but they lost their royal charter ever since Dodi, son of arms dealer Fayed, got into the car with Diana. It’s now owned by the Qatari royals)

3. Harvey Nicks (do they even do food?)

4. Selfridges (the best imo, far more choice, and surprisingly, deceptively affordable)

5. M&S (can be swapped with below)

6. Waitrose (far more choice than above, which mostly does its own brands)

7. Sainsbury’s (can be slightly naff, all the usual brands but pricier for no reason whatsoever)

8. Tesco (naff, but all the usual brands)

9. Morrisons (normally bottom of the pile. Wide use of the cheapest sugar, the offcuts, the sweatshops, despite rebranding)

10. Asda (the new low, having seen the kind of supermarket sweep and panic at the disco behaviour relevent to these climes. Part of the Wal-Mart fam)

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Once home I was face-down and asleep, as is usual nowadays whenever popping out, as if the toll of sunshine and fresh air weighs upon the shoulders, along with possible contagion. Out of it for hours. Then cut my hair, and joined a group chat with some buddies via Zoom, the place to be this season. Despite all that had a low mood, surly even. A part of me is constantly worrying, one housemate becoming a hermit, the other needing contact, and myself trying to provide both or neither.

I miss going out to have a meal, going shopping, going on holiday. The NYC trip for May is now a no-go (had that coming) as BA has finally canceled the flights; the supremely dodgy travel company wanting to charge us £150 for an admin fee still and that’s eating me up. Canceled the Airbnb – with now over £400 in vouchers to use. Also found out the museum is looking at July or even as late as October for a reopening, so I’ll likely be furloughed.

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Across the US people have been demonstrating to reopen the country, and get rid of lockdown, plus the usual barmy anti-vaxxers. There’s been a counter-demo by two fearless healthcare workers, dressed in their scrubs, standing in the street to block the traffic from joining. In the face of hooting car horns and a woman leaning out and yelling at them to go to China if they wanted communism, and that it wasn’t fair they got to work and she didn’t.

Health care workers stand in the street as a counter-protest to those demanding the stay-at-home order be lifted in Denver
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Democracy is being given a bad name. This pandemic is showing the flaws in the system, when ignorance is given equal standing as information, when the leader himself goads it as a device to keep himself in power. We kinda forget Nazism was a democratic rise.

This is why we need constitutions, as we the people can’t be trusted, as history has shown. Of course we’re going to vote for ourselves, of course we’ll step over others to get to the top, of course we’re going to lie, cheat and steal to furnish our bigger piece of the pie. I do wonder why giving freedom so often means giving free rein to abject competition.

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I’ve looked at the news fora for the first time in a while today, and the comments are starting to die down, less demands for lynching, less arguing, insults and vitriol. It appears we’re getting used to the new normal. C-19 may be on the verge of getting boring.

Another 823 died last night in UK hospitals. Deaths in general have doubled -a 20 year high, added to by unconfirmed virus fatalities and a great deal of people avoiding hospital treatment for fear of cross-contamination, or thinking they’re overloaded (the reality is that beds are now at record vacancies due to this). They’re hoping the worst is over despite the high tallies. The city remains silent to the core.

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News of vaccine trials to start next week are encouraging, though we’re still a good year off from being able to medicate it should it succeed. The orders for more tests and PPE are being stymied by bureaucracy, the govt promising new supplies from Turkey for the following day, then realising they’d forgotten to formally request it even. At times like this paperwork fuckups can kill, on a huge scale.

The night’s film was Fantasy Island. I wouldn’t call it run-of-the-mill despite using the usual jump scares and idiot decision-making (let’s split up! Let’s stage an argument now!) from the dwindling arsenal of Hollywood storytelling. The film’s premise is each vacationer gets to live out a fantasy, but of course one that turns sour and increasingly deadly. There’s a refreshing lack of gore and overt sadism, and an interesting landscape of a storyline (SPOILER) in which one finds the disparate scenarios for each guest are related. Large plotholes withstanding it was an interesting enough watch, and a big part of my life for 2 hrs, becoming the highlight of my day.

I need to get out more. Maybe all this was just some numpter wanting a bit of me-time.

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