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, the flowerbeds starting to overgrow, the squared off trees untrimmed and starting to lose their cubism. A landscape to myself.
There was a sense of an elegant decay, almost spookily so. No animals, just the rustling of leaves and water.
Gardeners had obviously been laid off or furloughed, with pavilions starting to muddy up and peel, 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 also overgrown 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, nature returning. Fun 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.
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, Mexican waves, salutes, mini-bugles) and the other boo him (upside-down flags, one finger salutes, thrown toilet roll), 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 but ever moreish for it: shepherds pie, steak pie, duck pancakes and chicken kievs. Nabbed the lot.
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, should we survive it.
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, sunny. 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 my 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
Thus Karen is not just entitled, sociopathic, White, middle class and sporting a bob anymore, but also 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.
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 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.
“Okay Paul, Accounts Executive.”
“Tara, you… Commercial BID WRITER.”
“Right,Louise, Retail. Manager.”
“Sure Sarah, Multinational Cee. Eee. Oh.”
“Mo, CHARITY Worker.”
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.
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. It is as if life is imitating art.
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.
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, the 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.
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.
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.
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 hidden 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.
There is a horror in realising you are mad, or unreal. In realising that reality has betrayed you, and become surreal. Or 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 is beneath. But when that vast masking does crack, or fall entirely we find ourselves lost as to be falling.
Perhaps we need not fear the unknown -unless we know what’s really out there lurking in our collective subconscious. 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. The same dream since time immemorial that is merely us, the demon looking back.
It is what lies beneath. 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. They are meant to keep us safe, but we all know it to be something else.
The monstrosity may not be what we do -of which there’s so much possible, tinged by our darkest wants -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.
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).
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.
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:
Fortnum & Mason
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)
Harvey Nicks (do they even do food?)
Selfridges (the best imo, far more choice, and surprisingly, deceptively affordable)
M&S (can be swapped with below)
Waitrose (far more choice than above, which only does it’s own brands)
Sainsbury’s (can be slightly naff, all the usual brands but pricier for no reason whatsoever)
Tesco (naff, but all the usual brands)
Morrisons (normally bottom of the pile. Wide use of the cheapest sugar, the offcuts, the sweatshops, despite rebranding)
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Nadir Shah, ruler of the Persian Empire attacked the Mughal Empire in 1739. At that stage India under the Mughals had been the world’s largest power (vying with the Ming Dynasty in China). They commanded a subcontinental golden age -a quarter of world GDP and industrial output, one of the three Islamic Gunpowder powers and ruling from the world’s largest castles, stationed over the Hindu and Sikh populace. Then Nadir came along, beat back a 300,000 strong army and sacked the capital, Delhi, massacring her inhabitants and taking 10,000 slaves. They also carted off the fabled Peacock Throne, Koh-i-Noor (Sea of Light) and Darya-i-Noor (Mountain of Light) diamonds, plus enough gold and riches for the entire Persian Empire not to be taxed for the next three years.
That helped considerably in the downfall of the Mughals, already embattled by the native Marathan uprisings (which in turn would go on to fragment into civil war, and allow the British and Dutch to keep bribing their way across the minor fiefdoms in a 270 year process). Thus the world’s largest manufacturer, steel, metal, minerals, food and textiles producer, shipbuilder and tertiary employer, with one quarter the global population and per capita wealth higher than in Europe, had by the 20th Century been transformed into a vast resources mine for the UK, and the world’s most profitable colony ever.
Next time you look at the glorious Victorian architecture of the era, you can thank India for funding it -or Mr Nadir for putting it in process, the world’s greatest empire so fallen as to furnish the feet of the next one. So what a tangent.
Today is a nadir, from where the phrase was coined.
I have been thoroughly invaded by foreign foe, culture made stagnant. My industrial output redacted, trade winds poisoned and society curtailed, riven by domestic dispute and a new policy of isolationism. Kingdoms have fallen in this small flat.
As has played out across the land, and world. I think it’s all getting to us just about now, the 3-4 week mark tempting the winds of rebellion. My highlight of the week has been to get a takeaway. Salt baked squid with chilli from our local Chinese, though I suspect they kinda forgot the salt and we had to add it ourselves, and the squiddy itself wasn’t squidgy, more rubber as a sign of overcooking. But it was like a Michelin restaurant with ambient light and a piano tinkling, just to the screams of a tacky Netflix horror (The Girl From the Third Floor, 23 out of 40 on the horror cliché list) while the world burned.
Before this I’d been lost, sick of the computer, any gaming, any writing, any TV, and unarsed to read. I lay on the bed till I fell asleep, which has been the MO for the other two, who have taken to siestas midway. I even tried to cut n style my hair for something new, but chickened out into a halfway monstrosity, which is about as dispiriting as it can get. My futility exemplified by a hair crisis, like when you lose it in dreams and are utterly crumpled.
We’re all getting the cabin fever, and today marks a change. Tomorrow I’m going to read. Maybe write a bit. Fuck installing a rota, that doesn’t work. I’ve no energy to keep it up. I’ll need to go out and get some sunlight at some stage, though it may kill me, such is life at the mo.
Have been following the darling #VeryBritishProblems Twitter page,which is a sign things have reached a lowpoint. So not Twitter interested; my profile embarrassingly made up of nothing but complaints on public transport over the years -the only time I feel Twitter useful -as vent when no other avenues are available. So much so I had to change my handle to Transporta, like some kind of network nerd to justify the whining.
#VBP though is funny AF, though not quite reality. It goes far to portray our species as affable, endearingly ingratiating and anxiety-riddled. And yes, there are many of us far-too agreeable Brits about, but when interacting it’s not always the same apologetic partner to play off. And that congeniality only survives if it’s reciprocated.
Instead you’ll sometimes meet that steely gazed Ukipper/ Tory you pfaff and ingratiate yourselves around, making yourself suddenly ridiculous and public interaction a gauntlet, #VeryEthnicProblems. As a fellow Southerner there is a code which we all partake, and it only works if everyone is in on it. At once adorable and infuriating, often requiring a translator.
If a Southerner says:
“Yeah we should definitely catch up some time!” = Let’s never see each other again. Ignore me the next time, fool.
“If you don’t mind” = You’d better do this
“EXCUSE me/ SORRY, but” = How fucking dare you!
“Are you sure?” = I want you to do it but am embarrassed to say so
“Not bad” = quite good/ very good
“(pause)…lovely” = shit/ ugly
“fine” = shit / ugly
“interesting” = shit /ugly
“I’ll definitely” = I probably won’t
“so… planning any holidays?” = You bore me
“I don’t want to make a fuss” = I’m about to make a fuss.
“How’re you?” = I don’t care
“I’m fine” = I know you don’t care
“I’m fine. no really!” = fuck you
sigh/ slight flaring of nostrils/ upturned eyebrow/ look aside = fuck you
“I don’t want this to sound racist/ I’m not racist, but…” = I’m about to say something racist
“Many thanks in advance” = if you don’t comply there will be repercussions
Signing off an email with “Regards” = I hate you
Not putting an X (kiss) after every text = I hate you
“I’m a bit worried about Helen” = I’m about to character assassinate Helen. Let’s take her down, publicly.
“I’m just wondering” = I am about to make a statement/ confront you
“I’m a little concerned” = I’m very fucking concerned and disagree with you
“I’ll ring you right back” = I may ring you within the hour
“You’re gonna love him. He’s so funny” = he’s very ugly but you’re in his league
“sorry, it’s just not my vibe” = I do not like you, I do not want to be seen with you
“have a great time” = I really don’t care
“sorry to hear” = I really don’t care
__(nothing) = I hate you
__(nothing) = I’m secretly in love with you
__(nothing) = 42
To finish off, some castle porn. The world’s largest fortifications from Mughal India, though by dint of the British Raj’s decision to term them ‘forts’ (claiming their garrisons were stationed therein, and ignoring the royalty still inside), they aren’t recognised in the Guinness Book of Records. This despite several larger than the record holder, Hradcany in Prague (which isn’t even particularly defensive, a moniker in name only). Once again, the nuances of the Brit lingo perpetuates. But for what it’s worth, enjoy -the last vestiges of an empire:
Broke the record for staying in bed doing sweet FA, watching TV and the internet mindlessly. It’s sickly. Hopefully the lowpoint of my daily lockdown experience, and the only way being up from now on.
I realise increasingly I’m gonna have to ditch the internatz sessions if I’m gonna use this time to write a book, as well as the blog. Less bullshit, more conviction. Less keyboard warrior, more slow time scribe. I’ll need to remember people pay money to isolate themselves and write, they go on retreats, become fire-watchers or hermits and wall themselves in at great expense.
I think the realisation has come from watching Kong Skull Island play luridly in the background while I put together a whole bunch of useless map comparisons (who knew Ecuador was bigger than the UK?) for a random architecture forum. Ah, yes, life, the one I forgot to get even in lockdown. And through it all, comparing Iceland to England, Bangladesh to Russia the surreal series of background explosions, choppers, and a big ape stomping on people.
This is my life at the mo:
Seriously, what a shit film. Cartoonish, absurd, and quite jarringly gory. And don’t even get me started on John C. Reilly’s character, the only local with an actual role or speaking part -endemic to every exotic King Kong/ Tarzan/ Jungle Cruise/ Anaconda film where leaving the West to get sticky equates to Here Be Dragons. He achieves characterisation by dint of being the only American (his Japanese comrade conveniently dying beforehand, the tribe conveniently mute and er, unsmiling) -and thus obnoxiously endearing at every interaction with the camera, drop a kitten and he’d probably be there to catch it with his face. Gurning between your legs.
I think though what irked me, and kept me up at night was the pulping of humans by giant feet, fist and teeth, which was a tad too inhumane despite the dodgy CGI. Much more palatable when you see them scream a bit and get chased before being bitten, rather than casually obliterated. Human flies.
Tom Giggleston does however redeem himself as having the world’s most velvety man-voice throughout. He should be doing Sheba catfood ads, or Milk Tray, that perfect tine of Englishness without being too posh, even when he is pretending to be a gun-for-hire. The kind that isn’t creepy, no having just stepped out of Claridges, possibly a Bentley.
The rest of the day’s viewing was Netflix’s The Windsors series, that also droned in the background, and looks like the setup for The Crown, who just cobbled their storylines off this research, including never-before-seen footage and letters from the Royal Collection archives. Quite a segway, King Kong > Queenie.
The weekly shop had to happen, the fridge looking like a wasteland of leftover veg, a cleaved carrot, a half swede, some mushrooms, none of which I have any remote interest in. In Lidl I treated myself to a German bartkartoffeln (read: fried potatoes with lardons) as my first semblance of civilisation. There was no queue for the supermarket, despite being quite crowded inside, and hardly anyone wore a mask, which we’d happened to have forgotten also. I know some of my East Asian friends only go out with shades, hat and mask to avoid recognition, like they’re Donatella stealing through Primark, or Gary Glitter in a playground. But you’d do that too if you were EA and opened up any random comments on say Asian pet food supplies to the local weather, and see the hate. Got stared at a few times on the street and in the shops, one with a real look of fuck you, so had to give it back. It’s hard to work out sometimes if they wanna fuck you or fuck you.
For all the hate -and yes, let’s pretend China can be vilified for that local cover-up at the start, and not knowing what they were dealing with – it’s still a month’s lag that many Western nations had, but squandered. CNN published a story today on it, on why Europe/ NA delayed their response despite knowing it was human-to-human and highly contagious by then (not to mention having seen all the Asian nations enforce lockdowns), with the US and UK particularly late to the table:
For perspective, Wuhan took 2 days to go lockdown from human-to-human confirmation (or 8 days from the first suspicions raised on Jan 14th), while NYC took 22 days from its first (and even with the benefit of watching a similar-sized city in China go through the rigmarole a month beforehand). Animal>human infections never result in lockdowns or even quarantines, as seen in the periodic outbreaks of Bird Flu round the world, or the 3-4 new zoonotic viruses we annually find. China’s mistake was believing it the same, with the local police covering up news for a week before the State warned those doing so ‘would be nailed to the pillar of shame for all of history’.
The US squandered a month it could have prepared/ prevented, and was still repatriating 40,000 Americans from China after the travel ban.
Meanwhile, the UK waited a full 2 months after the first case to enforce social distancing, business closures and stay-at-home. It may be gauche but I’ll say it now: surely there’s blame in that too? If one’s to point the finger at China, all sweaty and fat-handed, weaving from side to side, for dropping the bowl, it kinda figures us doing the same makes us as culpable, especially granted the foresight.
Anyhoo I digress, gotta stop bitching. On the forum that I’m addicted to occasionally browsing, there’s a 587-and-counting page update on C-19, frothing for blood at every turn -and that’s a skyscraper architecture forum. For the Good News To Restore Your Faith In Humanity post asking for admissions, there are just the two pages, and it’s been like that all year. Good news just doesn’t sell (you only need to ask those Jehovah’s Witnesses bored AF by their bookstalls). Albeit the one about the kindly centenarian who’s doing a garden marathon in his zimmer, while raising £14 million for the NHS has just been added. I raise a glass, with dry hands.