A Journal of the Plague Year Day 14

March 31st 2020

The house got a deep clean today. All furniture polished, floors stripped, fabric waterboarded and rugs publicly whipped. The recycling bins are now twice as full as they can take, tottering like Stonehenge due to imaginary collection days -First World problems again, ah how we’ve missed you.

Although a little disconcerting. Are we ever going to see binmen again? Is it a sign of things to come? It starts with a lack of attention to recycling categories and ends in shooting crazed Mad Max grannies from the roof of a local mall.

The govt issued a missive quickly mentioning something about power outages mid-cough, and that we should maybe expect them [/cough]. The minute the internet goes down there’ll be rioting I’m sure. People running into Dixons and trying to grab all router shaped boxes, fusilli phone cords, then eyeing up radios and satellite dishes, like any 80’s disaster movie when they need a looting scene (smashed plate glass, carnival atmosphere, Black dude with shades nodding to a ghetto blaster).

28 Days Later (2003) Directed by Danny Boyle Shown: Cillian Murphy

People are getting fed up of queueing to get into the supermarkets, like exclusive clubs for tracksuited, standoffish couch potatoes, leaning on their trolleys. No one bothers dressing up anymore, which is unlike London, where putting on the lippy to take the rubbish out is a thing in certain circles. And once inside, the exclusivity demands attention -make sure to browse leisurely, maybe take a few selfies with the bogroll, smell every brand of air freshener and try on all the XXL cardies. While the people outside are now heckling NHS staff who get to skip the lines, as was done in Liverpool to a crying nurse after her 13 hr shift. They’re also liable to share fake news that kids will be banned from Asda (dear heaven of God), and that early hour for the aged is game for anyone sporting a sudden limp, or Jim Carrey style impersonation of a chimpanzee. One week in and people are starting to lose their shit.

Business Leaders Converge In Sun Valley, Idaho For Allen And Company Annual Meeting

So the news is Europe has a new dictatorship a la Hungary, approving Viktor Orban’s new emergency grip over power worse than the Communist dictatorship, but in a much more Far Right kinda way, including 8 years prison for being an upstart, and hot on the heels of his previous gem making it an offence to help undocumented migrants. Meanwhile India (the new name for the country is Meanwhile India, it’s reached that stage of geopolitical power where you can’t keep ignoring it, despite most of the people in the world being them) has seen its online youth organise mass food and cash handouts to the millions of migrant workers, many trapped between states and attempting treks of hundreds of km. Although the govt offers free food, shelter and cash, it’s harder to come by on the road.

In the US things are hitting the part of the curve that climbs exponentially, infections in line with the politicking, which is reaching ear screeching levels between left and right as hospitals take the strain, and the long-suffering populace battles through the confusion, pistols at the ready. An aircraft carrier, now stranded in Guam is radio’ing for help as its 4,000 sailors get cosy with corona.

Over 900 died in Spain today, beating Italy for the first time, as it did China’s amount of infected. East Asia is now locking down the air routes, and closing all borders as reinfection stalks the recovery, several provinces in China, reentering lockdown. While the US is offering Venezuela a lifting of sanctions so it can get access to the lifesaving meds and equipment it could easily afford – just so long as they get rid of Maduro hold new elections, and thus give US access to the world’s largest oil reserves, which sounds suspiciously like a mega ransom to me, and a country using death threats as an opportunity. Shocker! People are already massing at the Colombian border, now closed.

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Oh and the stock markets have fared their worst since 1987 in this quarter, the Dow Jones down by 23% and FTSE 100 by 25%. Meanwhile, India is attempting a herculean task: to trace tens of thousands of people at risk of infection from a ‘super-carrier’, a 70 y.o. preacher returning from Italy, now deceased who flouted govt advice and attended a local festival back before they were banned. 550 came into direct contact with him, which has led to 40,000 people in 21 villages now quarantined. I mean seriously, one righteous fucker in the mix and the entire district now feeds through hamster nozzles.

A 13 year old boy in Brixton with no underlying conditions has just died, making him the youngest in the country, but not unheard of. Apparently 1 in 30,000 infections in his age group will succumb. The kid was born in 2007 for Chrissakes. He would have been a 5 year old, just starting to learn football by the time of the 2012 Olympics in his home city.

He started showing symptoms on Thursday, and was rushed to hospital for breathing problems. By Friday he was on a ventilator, then an induced coma, and died in the early hours of Monday morning, just 4 days after his first symptoms. So contagious is C-19 his family weren’t allowed to be with him in his final moments. His name was Ismail Abdulwahab.

A 19 year old died on the same day, once again with no underlying health conditions and ‘very healthy’ succumbing just 30 minutes after being taken to hospital -once again after a few days of symptoms, and only a few hours after his condition worsened. Post mortem was fulminant (meaning sudden, explosive and severe) pneumonia. His name was Luca di Nicola.

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According to data from China the young may be more protected normally because of differences in immune systems -newer, fresher, more likely to overcompensate perhaps (although this shouldn’t really change things with this infection). Older people, who’ve had more experience with other coronaviruses react with a time-worn attack plan, but this version is different from the others, and may be affecting the reaction negatively, making the immune system attack the body alongside.

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Oh, and facemasks. All that official, widely spread malarkey about them being ineffective was meant to be a salve to reserve them for essential workers, but those absolute gems of community who choose to stockpile everything then sell them off eBay got them anyway. While China had been telling people to wear them from the start as precaution, arguing it was airborne back from Feb 8th (something quite hard to prove but that a Shanghai team were convinced). Infection rates can be up to halved using them appropriately. Ah well, shucks. It didn’t help either that when accepting Chinese masks (and test kits) up to 70% of them were ineffective, thanks to some eminently dodgy new companies in Shenzhen, which are now under investigation, not just for jeopardising foreign contingency plans, but China’s too.

People, govts are inept and predatory, and society burns far too quickly. Design by committee, so endemic among democracies and First world individualism -stage villain for wrongly signposted ways, diabolical bureaucracy, stolen misallocated funds, confusing media campaigns and bad graphic design -is now proving deadly.

This I’m sure will be the Autumn/Winter look by next year, or possibly Friday.

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On the home front, it’s been everyone in the house. Strumming from room to room and scrolling, then the cleaning blitz before more of the same. An occasional Netflix session, a phone call here and there, and endless tappety on the laptop. I mean the internet is hard to compete with. Tell a time traveler from the 1950s about this day and age, and the most confusing thing will be the fact you have a rectangle in your pocket that holds all the information in the world, but you use to look at kittens.

I mean just look at the options, for the uninitiated, the unmotivated, the un-arsed. The ones who don’t wake up in a ray of light, bursting with energy (seriously who TF does that?). Who don’t have a home gym/ yoga session to throw themselves into with Joe Wicks. Who don’t cook well, recipe books n everything. Who don’t have gurning, sun flared children for countless hours of fun and board games and reading re-mortgaging leaflets.

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Choosing the Perfect Family Home

Life has become smaller, noticing the littler eddies in this leaking tap of existence. The new toothpaste is leaving bright blue detritus in the sink, like tiny, stubborn anemones. J has put a battery into one of his antique clocks in the living room, and it ticks infernally (every half second) like a time bomb. A sleeps with his earphones now, and iPhone hugged, like a warm, fascist teddy bear. I’ve stopped changing T-shirts, day and night for about 2 days a pop, and stopped caring. I need to cut my toenails. It’s all starting to drift; I’m going to have to unplug. With nothing to report but the reports. Horror films or award winning docudramas are becoming daytime TV, and Oscar worthy screen matinees are background to the sucking glow of the internet. That’s literally it for life right now, internet and films, food in between (baked beans on rice, nuff’ said).

Things I saw today (read: sat through): Mercy Black (banal, cliché-ridden, unscary), that Rome docuseries (Caligula the Utter Cvnt and his licentious siblings), Tiger King (Florida Man strikes again, a sign of what happens when you lack history and culture in your life), and 1917, which I did perk my head up and watch. Heartstopping and heartrending in equal measure, shot in one glorious take -you can see why it was Oscar nominated, though a little harsh on Jerry, who is as likely to murder you as look at you, even when you save him from burning plane wrecks.

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My good friend in Germany is facing trouble in a lockdown, and dreading time with the kid who’ll drive her barmy (14 y.o, that age). She still works in social services, although unreasonably so, providing leisure and sporty options to refugees, which no one really feels is frontline nor essential anymore, including the refugees. She’s also asking about any conspiracy theories I’ve heard (none so far other than a fudging of infection stats) but I do wonder. As of yesterday the UK govt started counting the people who’d died outside hospitals and the tally jumped by a quarter. In Germany they only test the living, which may account for why their survival rates are seemingly the highest in the world.

 

Sweden meanwhile marches on apparently oblivious, throwing caution to the wind as cinemas (though Indy films only, given the dearth of blockbusters, now delayed), schools, shop, cafés and bars still go strong, with citizens picnicking and BBQing on the beaches, parks and beauty spots, dazzling smiles unsheathed. Public gatherings are limited to 50 (down from 500 on Friday), and those over 70 advised to avoid social contact. There is an uneasy sitting between public trust in the experts, and the unfolding horror everywhere else, even just across the Oresund link where Denmark has been in lockdown for nearly a month. It’s the biggest gamble the country’s taken since WWII, back when they were twiddling over whether to let the Nazis through on one side and the fleeing Jews on the other -or why not both at the same time? Sweden is attempting once again, to have its cake and eat it. In a lovely Drottninggatan bistrot with beer and some pals.

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Does life go on if the disaster unfolding, with thousands of dead, goes unseen? Is it normal? What impact on a complicit society will it have -and should ignoring the fate of others ever become cultural? Is it even a new normal? as that has long been the M.O. for much of the Western world in regards to the indentured billions of the Global South supporting our lifestyles the past few hundred years.

Sweden may be the one experiment that all our governments have wondered about.

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Likewise Trump, like a stuck record on his daily Old Tyme Medicine Show introduced a pillow company CEO (who will now start making masks) at the daily press briefing, who then went on to beseech the nation to read the Bible, as well as castigate it for taking the good book out of the curriculum.

“God gave us grace on Nov. 8, 2016, to change the course we were on,” ( referring to the day Trump was elected). “God had been taken out of our schools and lives. A nation had turned its back on God.”

Indeed, God help us all.

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Does March ever fucking end?

Yesterday

 

 

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 12

Sunday 29th March 2020

March being in Spring is a myth, certainly in the UK. Okay there’s a little more light, and the flowers, uninformed, may start to bloom (the stupid varieties like the tree outside, sporadically attempting blossom since January). But dearie me it’s cold still, and grey, and windy, a constant noise that sings of contagion outside. If anything March is the coldest month, as you look outside and think it warm and Spring-like, then freeze in wind and shadow, wishing you’d packed the furs. As opposed to when it’s an ice storm and you sensibly don more than a tank top. In reality ‘winter is coming’ should be taken up in September, and only relinquished in May, 8-9 months later. Tomorrow they’re changing the clocks, for mainland Europe it’ll be the last time, for Britain we will as always attempt to go it alone, miserably.

Things cannot be possibly more windswept.

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Today has been one of learning for the house somewhat, A has been watching the free ballets from the Bolshoi, now streamed live at 7pm Moscow time -this week’s offering being Sleeping Beauty. The way he sold it was the world’s bestest dancers for 2 and a half hours, who trained and competed every muscle and sinew all their lives, to culminate in a show that’s spent thousands of manhours to prepare and would cost hundreds of squid a head -the least we could do was watch. And sure enough, the exquisite finesse, non-dreary, uplifting music, extravagant costumes and stage were breathtaking. But could we? A lasted about 20 mins, I for 20 seconds. Sorry.

I’m sure if I’d paid the ticket and was there in person I’d be edge-of-the-seat-rapt, my little eyeglasses swivelling like the Neighbourhood Watch in Windsor. But in this day and age of the half-second attention span, the scroll that never stops, the swipe like a tennis game, it’s a lot to ask for. No explosions, dinosaurs, likes or whooping. Culture appears wasted on us.

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J and I lunched through the bite-sized 15 min segs (far more consumer friendly) of the Netflix Explained series, taking in subjects such as diamonds (totally not their worth), billionaires (off with their heads!), animal intelligence (a human-imposed hierarchy whereby we believe they don’t have souls so we get to eat them), and the latest bestseller, pandemics, complete with worldwide authority on the subject, Bill Gates (China, not again). The Guardian has run an article pinpointing the correlation of our recent pandemics and scares with the rise of industrial scaled farming, whereby pigs in Mexico, fowl in China, cows in the UK, and camels in the Middle East, brought up in vast numbers in close proximity are now infecting cross-species, notably us. The 1918 Spanish Flu that killed 100 million came from a pig infected with bird flu and human flu simultaneously, as DNA has sternly pointed out a century later. And not only has modern farming priced out the smaller landholders, it’s also forced them into wildlife hunting (or farming) as seen in China and Africa, where the last homestead on the left, just outside the jungle, is baiting what comes out of it. This is especially worrisome in the Global South due to the higher temperatures, which make them deadlier to humans. One of the main reasons bats are such a vector is that the newly transferable viruses are especially resilient to surviving the cooking of a human fever, thanks to the high body temperatures in the daily life of a furry, flying, madly flapping mouse that covers hundreds of sq km of microbial gardening each night. We really shouldn’t get near the fuckers.

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I’ve also been reading, today my usual collection of Lonely Planet/ Rough Guide travel books from the comfort of an armchair. These guides provide a convenient summarisation of all the best of a given country, culture and cuisine can offer, though of course now they can be shelved under the SF and Fantasy sections, possibly Mythology. India is the current tome, reading up on the carved lakehouses of Srinagar, rife with touts and scams, though ornate gems in a place straight out of a storybook mountainscape, the closest to an Alpine city you’ll get. The 1.5 million inhabitants share a convergent evolution of architecture similar to fairytale Europe – multi-storeyed, ornate wooden houses with steep sided rooves to slide off the snow, plus a plethora of the aforementioned houseboats, which are graded between the floating palaces replete with chandeliers and centuries old chintz to the cobbled-together pirate ships redolent of sleaze. Oh and I remember from a friend who spent a time out there on his way into Pakistan, that weed grows everywhere like, well a weed.

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A is now looking up on the birth of the Renaissance on his tablet, alongside what I glimpsed as the wiki page on Kandinsky, J making notes on the tax breaks in Jersey, alongside the science of the unseen worth of an object. I think we’ve reached that episode of Groundhog Day where we start to improve ourselves for wont of anything to do. We may want to write a treatise on nihilism soon, after that arthouse Italian flick on Nietsche’s genealogy of morality and its edge-of-seat climax when that rape victim (having eaten a meal with nails) looks at the screen and burps, or the bit where the guy is wanking off using a victim’s severed hand. There really is a whole genre of horror arthouse in the 1970s I had no idea about, a bit like Swan Lake’s little-known Human Centipede seg. It’s called Salo, 120 Days of Sodom btw, if you fancy something to watch over tea, directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini, whom Maria Callas was so inspired by she became his stalker, trying desperately to convert him off from 15 year old boys.

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This morning I’d gotten a pretty miserable start, scrolling through the news and getting into arguments, as everyone knows bickering over say, Britain’s shocking roles in the 1907 Constitutional Revolution of Iran plus a sideshow on your ‘horrible pathogens and pangolin stews’ will set you up grand for the rest of the day. They say when you argue with idiots noone can tell you apart. I’ll need that tattooed on my hands as reminder, helpful before I type, punch or press the trigger. Why are right wingers just so toxic, and frankly underhandedly supremacist, in the racist-we-hate-darkies-and-Jewslims-T-shirt-wearing kind of way, in the you-deserve-to-die-because-you-can’t-afford-healthcare-kinda-way?

Why does a side so conspiratorially side with every issue presented? Why do hundreds of millions of female Trump voters denounce the right of choice, or their whole aged demographic wake up one day and feel free healthcare an assault on their freedom, and those outdoorsy voters in rural communities think saving the planet a sudden traitorous conspiracy, ready to shoot Pee Pee the Panda in her face as it’s her fault she can’t shag? Does political chauvinism so overshadow personal choice? How can people be proud of their ignorance, and believe it usurps knowledge, or even the act of learning /enlightenment itself? Once again, arguing with such superstition makes you as ridiculous.

 

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I can see The Right issuing a new edict on say, the colour orange, or say, the act of stapling an envelope being a sign of tree huggin’, lefty, Commie-courting, gun-hatin’, minority-lovin feminazism, and that gold (especially the General Motors variety) and saliva (specifically the C-19 impervious variety) is of the great and good.

Imagine the Great Orange Dolphin that is POTUS, quietly closing the Press Room doors then leaping (backflip) into a bubbling jacuzzi-vat of poppers. He knew from the start evil Orange was the new Black. Yes. He’s never had that colour touch him. No. Tweeting vids of himself licking jiffy bags suggestively, to a chorus of congratulatory shares and an army of forum posting, flag waving, sign posting supporters. Hundreds of millions of them, claiming how orange was written in the Bible as the colour of the damned, how staplers were spotted trying to kill a Bald Eagle, and were first invented in Eye-ran.

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I fell asleep again after a few hours of that, awoke again nearly at 3pm. Lunch at 7. Says it all, when losing track of time is losing grasp of society, when obsession isn’t countered nor measured against. J has fallen asleep on the sofa for most of the afternoon; his spirit animal being the panda for sleeping so much, and his room rumoured to be an armoire of the stuffed variety. Just as mine is currently the sloth, if sloths were antsy (covered in ants perhaps). I feel animals are getting their own back, unintentionally. Or Mother Nature’s real; I imagine like Queen Latifah with lightning.

 

In another world, and one that glowers outside there is a global disaster unfolding. My daily reminder, that is becoming a cliché in this diary. I honestly feel guilty, and callous if I don’t mention the fact, like people taking selfies on a vista as others go over the edge. The world is becoming small again, from the confines of the flat, the four walls that face off that there is anything remotely relevant outside, and so winningly concrete in their obliteration. For a while now it had been the opposite -a haphazard existence of inside looking out. As if the small box rooms are extensions of the self -similar to driving, when the car becomes a body navigating on a broader perspective. But this time on a vast global exterior, projected into our tiny living rooms of live feeds, climbing counters and horrifying headlines from further and further afield, yet closer and closer to home. We’ve not opened the windows today, the only reminder being the howl from outside.

Perhaps we are as blind as those Trump voters, sticking our heads in the sands against personal stance (and which us lefties are just as guilty), and hoping for the best while the target mark on our arse starts to glow. What exactly happened to my community spirit a few days before, ebullient in giving, that’s now decayed into a bed-tied existence with more scrolling? Perhaps for another day, for another to care about.

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In South Africa the flagrant disregard for the quarantine in some parts is seeing the army enter Jo’burg townships, where the poor would effectively be imprisoned in single room shacks for months otherwise, and why many ignore the curfews. Where desperation and situation make a breeding ground for social unrest as well as infection. We, who have a choice of rooms, of outlets and viewpoints, yet blinkered in our existence are not that different after all, even if we are staying inside. Try sitting in your bathroom for two months and see if your stance changes, if your extensions of concern pervade beyond the walls or your body does the talking (and walking). Anyhoo, I’d choose the bedroom, chained as I am right now. Can’t even be arsed to make dinner.

Sometimes there’s nothing more to say, things are as is. It’s cold, it’s remedial, and people outside are dying, as they’ve always done.

 

Yesterday

Tomorrow

 

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 11

Saturday, 28th March

 

Another Bad one.

Wind blowing, grey skies, disaster.

  1. Burnt the lunch, smoke billowing, flat stinking. Pan a write off.
  2. Opened the windows, the blinds came out of socket and the frame collapsed.
  3. Cannot write, stuck on the book that I’ve rewritten into a corner with. Never, ever, ever turn round and try and change tense. Easier if you start from scratch again. I’m just 80,000 words too late.
  4. Lost my wallet. Searched the whole house, emptied every drawer, bag and pocket, stripped the sofa, wardrobe and bed, then did it again. Canceled cards.
  5. Went shopping with borrowed cash, took some pics. New phone won’t synch them no matter what.

In other news, thousands of people are dying outside. Italy has surpassed the 10,000 mark in deaths, over 3x that of China, while Spain is now at 5,700, tombstones whose shadows still loom. Some are saying Italy’s high rate is due to the skewing in the demographics, with one of the world’s most aged societies, while others posit the country’s high end healthcare has artificially kept the populace alive beyond their natural end, and now overrun the disease is all it takes to finish the job. Other sources point toward the testing regimen, or lack of one, and that many, many more are unknowingly infected. Thus the death toll -currently at 10% -seems higher than it is. That virulence is docile.

Coupled with the horror is increasing public unrest, where people holed up for too long and out of pocket (3 weeks and counting) are now breaking into shops for goods. China too witnessed a riot, where hundreds of Hubeians massed at the border with Jiangxi were delayed as both sides argued over who was to do the checkpoint testing (China operates an automated health app for every citizen phone), till police cars were being set upon and overturned. China averages about 200,000 ‘mass incidents’ annually, or about 550 per day as a norm (down from 5x that number in 2007). Either way, it looks like two months is approaching the limit for an authoritarian state, and half that for a libertine one. It remains to be seen what plays out in a US lockdown.

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In India the world’s largest, most encompassing lockdown is now threatened by millions of migrant workers. Although shelter is being provided in the stations and public buildings, alongside free food, a large percentage are still desperate to return home, some embarking on foot for journeys of hundreds of miles. The need of home, of food, of employment, money and semblances of normality is something humanity shares as the world starts to fracture without commercial life. We’ve designed all our societies around this.

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Outside I witnessed my first major queues -Asda looked like a 40 minute ordeal, snaking around the car park, while the giant Boots warehouse was either overtly spreading out its custom, or there were far too many of the sick looking for medication. Even Whole Foods had ten people waiting outside, while Lidl operated no outside queueing, and was moderately busy once in. The streets were the same gunslinging noons, the few pedestrians silhouetted into blankness in the sun. The former shops appeared surreal as reminders of a bygone era.

 

 

The day was tough, harried by self doubt and technicalities, plus the usual burden of tasks and worries. Worries for others, for the outside world, for the endless bureaucracy of the 21st century. From composing claims from multiple email channels, to synching devices and wifi coverage, from aligning margins to uploading data on a compromised OS. Bypassing card payments to future-proofing replacement deliveries, via securitised codes. I see visions of a different time, when people spent time, slow time  with each other, talking without devices, looking without lenses. When was the last time a sitting room was used for two people to just sit?

Attempted to watch Hitchcock’s The Birds, a vision of pastel suspense and porcelain beauty so far removed, where all of that was evident. In the way people talked and interacted, smoking in the sun or across from coffee tables, chatting at communal bars or intimating at counter tops. All so civic, and civilised, before the impending doom. I would have enjoyed more the growing, brooding skies as the feathered furies began to roost menacingly, but the streaming kept pausing, probably due to the high traffic. I do wonder without streaming services what our society would do -mass incarceration leading to meditative insight, or bag of bats madness. I imagine the latter. It’s practically a public service, a lifeline involving frontline staffing and emergency powers. Thank god we don’t have guns.

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The Birds was preceded by Michael Moores new docudrama, Fahrenheit 11/9 (not to be confused with 9/11), on the rise of Trumpist demagogues and the complicit failures of the Democrat demigods, notably a jawdropping skit of an Obama speech, in which he drinks the toxic tapwater from Flint, Michigan (Moore’s hometown poisoned by lead, as befitting of their corrupt senator), to the horror of the townsfolk. How the scales fall from our eyes.

Film tonight ended with Groundhog Day. Nuff said.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

 

 

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 9

Thursday 26th March 2020

 

A few minutes ago they started yelling. I thought it was a party, the clapping alongside, and when I went to the window another woman in the old folk’s home opposite was doing the same. We ignored each other (thank God).

The shouting rose, and rose, till I was running to the kitchen for a better view from the tower block. By then it had risen to crescendo with an army of car horns you could hear reverberating across the city; every window in the block opposite had people doing the same, all 24 floors of them standing in silhouette, backlit, most of them alone.

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I found out from J it had been organised on social media which I’ve avoided for days now -that at 8pm tonight there would be applause for the frontline workers, the essential services from healthcare to police, soldiers to postmen. It was quite the sight, especially knowing it was nationwide too. We watched in wonder.

This was of course started in Wuhan where the first lockdown was, from sporadic yells of people trapped indoors for so long, that evolved into balcony bellowing and cheering, encouraging others to keep going. In Italy the same, cheering for emergency vehicles and police vans. It’s times like this we learn the power of community, and the value of spirit in trials of hardship. The NHS has now filled its 450,000 volunteer positions within less than a day.

Italy is hard come by, it’s toll climbed again, bucking the trend of a decline seen in the last 3 days, with over 700 succumbing last night. Rumours are Italy is not just handicapped by the older populace, but the strain is more virulent. News too, that the US will likely overtake both Italy in China within the next 24 hrs, and will become the new global epicentre for the pandemic.

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Today I applied for Tesco jobs, inspired by a colleague now out of work and asking for a reference. I’m only applying for branches that will be reachable, with minimal commuting and thus exposure -it helps that I live next to the world’s busiest train station, so my radius is quite encompassing. There were literally 8 pages of positions for the company alone, all asking for immediate work on a temporary basis.

I’ve made some noises in the way of volunteering, though A says the NHS needs noone any more, and my working is volunteering enough to support my dependents. I’ve offered by CV building and job application services to some of my colleagues who don’t have as good English skills, my first foray into putting my money where my mouthpiece is, rather than endlessly writing about community spirit while popping out to forage, avoiding all contact and coming back with having done anything but purchase goods.

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The streets were sunny, and mostly quiet, though occasionally a bottleneck of a whole 7 people would clog up certain crossroads and shop awnings. I posted off my collection of masks to The Fam (they’d run out entirely of envelopes so had to bop over to the last open corner store), then it was the trundle through Lidl, which had restocked itself post-panic buying. Though of course bogroll and cleaning products were still mythical. Paracetamol was found, like El Dorado in a ray of light.

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A has spent a good few hours on the phone trying to get through to BA (who had charged him twice for a fictional flight), and the jobcentre, neither of which were ultimately reachable. We’ll try again tomorrow. Apparently they’ve been inundated with hundreds of thousands of calls, the latter likely in the millions, so cannot even accept new ones. It’s all left to a Tweet to do the talking, and like everything, everything money related, has occupied a worrisome purgatory of loss.

Yesterday’s film was The Lighthouse, starring that good looking Cedric-from-Happy-Plopper-and-Paul-Daniel’s-Wife-Debbie-McEgg. Him. Plus the vampiric looking Willem Defoe, now haggard in a strikingly accurate 19th Century rendition of a grizzly Newfoundland seadog (they have a similar accent to the Irish), salt o the shanty-shaking blarney sea. An aria in solitude and madness, and how very close to home. The relationship between salty sea master and monosyllabic hired lugger lurches between hate and love, sometimes within seconds, as they increasingly deteriorate into alcoholism and entertaining past demons through their solitude, sometimes to memories of murder, or visions of mermaids and sea monsters (tentacles and all). Heads in lobster baskets, dripping jizz, that kinda thing. All very black and white, shot on a 5:4 format redolent of silent films, for which a great deal of this brooding study is.

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A lonely island (a rocky New England shore), a haunted past and present, a backbreaking, mindbreaking roster, littered with secrets and intrigue, notably the semi-mythical light in the house itself, like a glowing gemstone. It doesn’t end well. Perhaps neither for us.

The performances of these actors are astounding, studded with rambling monologues that become increasingly poetic, ad hoc craziness and a certain sexual tension. I was glued to it. I wouldn’t call it enjoyable, but is one to savour, rather like a storm. Bat down the hatches; the city is once again, unearthly silent at 8:55pm.

Today’s offering was Gemini Man, starring Will Smith and Will Smith as himself, clone wise, and thirty years younger. From the start, the predictable hi-jinxing of hi-fiving US spies acceptably murdering foreign subjects, (the typical Hollywood East Europeans, casually evil -you can just tell as they sit in awkward, unshaven dourness on intercity train journeys) and the usual ludicrous examples of American heroism (pinpointing a single passenger on a packed HSR from a couple of miles away, dodging hundreds of bullets hippo-sprayed by trained marksmen). Oh and a British villain, of the craggy fifty-something suit and tie variety. Plus one of the spies is female, brilliant and beautiful (ssshhhooocker!) erm and at uni, where she’s studying Marine Biology, like most American students do. Will Smith Jnr is sometimes quite accurate, other times a cringey CGI mould, gurning over a plasticised trajectory, as are the fightscenes, the kind where they speed things up a little too much and it looks like Tekken. Oh Ang Lee, master of suggestion and cinematography, where did it go wrong? I mean Hulk shoulda been a lesson.

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But hey, worth the respite. Nothing like a bitta mindlessness and killing to get you not thinking about the mindlessness and killing. Dinner has deteriorated – cold rice, soya sauce + sesame oil, and hammy garlic sausage slices. Took a whole 40 seconds to prepare, and about the same time to consume in front of the box, eating and watching baloney. Must try harder.

I don’t know what isolation does to people, but the message is clear from Hollywood so far, put any two people together and they will compete, and make life Sartreanly hellish for each other. I do wonder if there will ever be a film without the struggle, about say two people being plonked on an island and just getting along. No giant apes, no sharks, no killing piggy. No bloody social stereotyping. The Netflix reality series, ‘Terrace House‘ does just that, whereby they get a bunch of Tokyoites from disparate backgrounds into a household, who aren’t lugged with pressing personality disorders or diametrically opposing political views, who aren’t say a lion pride holed up with some sassy zebras. And hey presto! They chat, show their fears, their heart, and fall in love at their own pace. Not Love Island, not Big Brother (of whom the German and Brazilian editions only found out about the pandemic a few days ago).

If I wrote a book where Once Upon a Time They Lived Happily Ever After would anyone even pick it up, let alone actually enjoy it? If there was no global crisis, would I even be writing?

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Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 8

Wednesday 25th March 2020

 

Day 2 of the lockdown and the fridge is already looking depleted. It’s sunny outside and the world seems beckoning. Unbeknownst to most there is another worldly drama playing across the seas, that many just aren’t interested enough to click on, and the fact one third of the global population is now in lockdown. India has just entered a nationwide homestay as of last night  -the world’s largest social undertaking in history, over nearly 1.4 billion citizens.

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https://www.vox.com/2020/3/24/21190868/coronavirus-india-modi-lockdown-kashmir

The lack of warning meant panic buying across the country, even in small villages (giving adequate warning means hundreds of millions will head to their hometowns, thus largely negating the effect of what a lockdown is meant to instill, as seen in the droves of students who fanned out from Lombardy and spread the virus across Italy when word got leaked). Narendra Modi’s govt has sanctioned some of the most timely and forward thinking measures long before other countries cottoned on, including the preemptive closures of its railways, highways, 80 of its most major cities and early banning of gatherings, events and religious services. Indians today are waking up to a few shops open, a few vendors, and spraypainted rings on the ground, where people will have to queue 2 metres apart when buying. Also already complaints about overly overt policing, insofar as essential workers are being hassled trying to reach their workplace and food startups are dumping their inventories as delivery trucks are forced to turn round. Many more fear sheer starvation, and a distinct lack of healthcare options in many states, although the government is bailing out free grain, dairy, unemployment benefit and hard cash hand-outs for those without bank accounts. Those who live in slums are also mentioning social distancing is all but impossible, where nearly one fifth of urbanites live, many of whom opted to stay despite free housing on the outskirts (some slums generate over a $1 billion annually from sheer entrepeneurship). In contrast to some southern cities where quality of life is on European levels, others in the north are still entrenched in the Third World.

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https://qz.com/india/1047419/bangalore-turns-bengaluru-the-birth-life-and-descent-into-dystopia-of-indias-most-liveable-metro/

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https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/mumbais-biggest-slum-dharavi-bustling-micro-econom/

Take all this into account and imagine the scale of the undertaking, of the shared experience. Uttar Pradesh State alone accounts for 200 million people, where some rural areas report one ICU for 3 million. Take the counties of our own green and pleasant land, one of the world’s densest despite, where 50 million people fit into an area the size of Maine, or Sri Lanka.  Think of Cambridgeshire, Devon, Yorkshire. Well if you divided India into similar sized catchments, there’d still be 2,452 of them. If you gave them first names, like say, Bill and Ted, you’d have a problem dubbing them all without heading into Chardonnay-Lou-Lou, or Gugu-Mbatha territory. If every second was half a million people -in short an instant city you’d have to police, feed, shelter, wage and nurse for 3 weeks for, you’d be sitting there for over 40 minutes. If you counted every Indian person sitting under lockdown right now, swiping right for each of their smiley profile pics -let’s say a second for each -you’d be there for 44 years, and your arm would have eroded away back in 2050.

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Premise of a horror movie satire if ever I saw one, a Tindr/Grindr fanatic chained to feverish possibilities. On that slightly jarring note, all that is also out the window. J, an occasional user, has mentioned how traffic is down, yet people are still up for social undistancing, and swapping body fluids, albeit some are more cooperatively marking meet-ups as future red letter days, on their fireman calendar. A Facebook friend has taken screenshots of his great one-liners du jour, ‘hey, lets get coughey together’, ‘Babe, I’ll take your breath away’. We kinda need that humour in our everyday I feel, despite acknowledging what is going on abroad, in town, right next door. Let’s not forget to help out in our blinkered isolation, and barricades of personal prioritising.

250,000 have so far volunteered to help at least a single day when the NHS called out. China, South Korea, Cuba and Russia are now sending testing kits, masks, medical teams and ICU’s across the world, including to the US. New Yorkers are setting up their own mask factories at home. When Texas refused to instate a lockdown, each of its 254 counties ordered their own. Iran has freed 130,000 non-violent prisoners, including political ones, amid an army of hundreds of thousands of volunteers disinfecting the streets and helping in the hospitals. In Italy 8,000 doctors have volunteered – 5x more than the state had sought, and despite nearly 10% of C-19 cases -over 5,000 -being healthcare workers.

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In other news Prince Charles just checked in as positive. Along the lines of global, candle-burning vigils for Tom Hanks and his wife, oh and Linda Lusardi, plus the world-igniting excerpts from Madonna on how great an equaliser the disease is. Poor Charles, even A is worried about the Queen who he’s not a fan of and is not a subject to, but I’ve assuaged him that her London pad has 660 rooms to distance herself in, and her current hidey-hole in the country over a thousand.

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It’s not like I hate them. I just don’t have enough tealights to care that much if they got ill, and definitely not more than anyone else. Like a neighbour’s pet on its way to the vets, claiming that oh, they had a good run. And one littered with racehorses, yachts, gala balls, servers and corporate sponsorship.

 

Yesterday’s film was Knives Out. A timely, nail biting study on an odorous family fighting over a huge inheritance, with a murder thrown in. High camp and intrigue, and ticking off our boxes on getting our back on the class divide, our hero the servant girl /nurse, while James Bond does a ham act in so deep a Southern drawl you’ll need subtitles. The comeuppance for any Hollywood villain is always one to be savoured, but so delicious is this turning of tables I do question as to what so spices it so. The idea of fairness, of equalising the curve, and setting right from wrong. Coupled with a superiority of emotional intelligence (EQ), and I think a dash of mob mentality where we the manky droves take down the exalted statues lording over us, who’ve long been rubbing our pug noses in their feeds and plinths of enablers. The rich are portrayed as the emotionally asinine, the greedy, the shallow, the judgmental and cold, but are we not following the same time-worn paths in doing the same when their time comes, if ever it does, at our hand? If our current climes are so great a leveller why are we still clicking on those stories? And still denigrating them?

And on that pressing social subject, what is inheritance tax these days?

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Am watching The Platform on Netflix, a Basque horror and thinly veiled lesson on society, in which people lured from a nightmare job interview enter varying stages of survival – the rich at top enjoying a table of luxury, while 250 levels beneath they fight over the slowly decreasing spread as it makes it’s journey downwards. At the bottom they murder and cannibalise, at the top a fascist restaurant punishes the staff if a hair is found out of place, notably in the canapes. In between people fight, kill, hallucinate and gorge on intrigue to climb upwards, alongside the question as to whether they alone are responsible for their crimes or it’s the greed of those above, or the system entire, or their administrators. Some inmates attempt to civilise their wants, picking only a few titbits off, only to watch others stuffing their faces on the floor below, stripping the displays, breaking china and stepping on gateaux, as seen in contemporary scenes over supermarket bogroll.

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That is until someone pleas to instill a portion rationing and spread the word, to which all ignore. Only when another threatens to shit in the plates does it work, and all get equally fed, bottom downwards anyway. Thus from anarchy / capitalism is borne fascism/ communism, positive feedom and negative freedom, each one diametrically opposed yet sharing similar values.

Solidarity or shit. This has got to be one of the most apt films of our time, and hopefully not a snapshot of 2020. The bit where the nice lady suddenly shat on the face of the social climber, well I’m not looking forward to that.

I’d mention something about eating flatmates too, but right now that would just be bad taste.

 

Yesterday

Tomorrow

 

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 5

Sunday 22nd March 2020

The sun is out. People are on the streets, and in the parks, basking like how you’d expect in a perfectly normal day on Planet Earth in the early 21st century, and in groups too. From the older lady I spied statuesque in the carpark, soaking up her Sunny D, to the gaggles of teenagers manning street corners and park benches, impervious to care and often reason. A. who has been going for a normally lonesome walk every day due to anxiety, reported on the sudden herds. No wonder the govt has had to close down pubs and cafes, throwing heed and germs to the wind appears endemic.

In short, it looked like a quiet Sunday morning. The only difference being the distinct lessening of the traffic.

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I do think there is a libertine element still in London, a mix of Britons never ever being slaves (well, except under the Romans, and Picts, and Saxons, and Vikings, and Normans), and the anything-goes culture of a cosmopolis. On the one hand it lifted my spirits, seeing this semblance of normality, and a reminder that perhaps there is a focus beyond the infectious headlines, on another heavily gloved mit I felt uneasy about the varying options in contagion. A few of the food shops and small supermarkets operated short queues to get in (gone within 5 minutes) akin to exclusive, chichi nightspots albeit dampened by the homeless man sprawled at the entrance, sleeping it off to a sign asking for a hostel room. I’ve heard the homeless will be housed in the emptied hotels, and the Mayor will pay for it. I hope this transpires, that It Is For Real, as few people would notice, or care so much right now.

I managed to buy some face masks from a corner store, the owner having a veritable pile of them for £2.10 a pop at the till (highly suspicious, I’m never lucky). I bought 3, vowing to post them to The Fam. Along with the usual smattering of crisps, a tinned curry and packet of mystery milk, possibly camel. In the small Sainsbury’s opposite it looked normally stocked (read: amazingly stocked), I even got two packets of fresh pasta, which I may build a bidding website for.

Just outside our estate there’s an unofficial corner (read: cul-de-sac) where people leave junk to be collected by the council, or just leave junk. Tawdry closets, mangled sofas, desperately dated drawers, that kinda thing. Today’s offerings were a brand new leather and gilt armchair and a spotless new mattress, glinting in the sun. I’m wondering if anyone will grab them if ever, with the idea of contamination now imbedded as a poo stain, or murder scene. The last time this happened I moved two new chairs to sit them outside the charity shop a whole 20 yards further, but today even I was worried to touch them. I went down again to snap a pic and the chair had been taken, bless. Noticing a bargain is the last stand in functioning society.

There was suddenly something deeply inviting about the bed, in the sun.

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The air feels fresh. I made the mistake of wearing my shoes inside, twice now on the same day, when before I’d warned others about taking them off, the pavements being quite the vector for anything coming out of the human body, and absorbed when wet. I even put it as a Facebook post, like how grannies do the same on some kitten charity or the latest scam you must pass on to all otherwise it means you hate them and want them robbed.

Also sat through an online tutorial, about how the virus is covered in fat, acting a bit like an oil droplet which won’t come off with just water, but needs regular soap or handwash to break it down, and 20 seconds worth. Alongside a vid of how to wash, a short from China showing the bits you’ll likely miss using dye. I did it properly when coming home from my little sojourn, but popping out just now I halved the time. There’s a lot to be said about my enthusiasm for a cause when having relaxed just the teeniest bit, and the saddening studies on how punishment motivates people more than a prize. Or laziness, just sheer I cannot-be-arsed-right-nowness. Those people laughing in slow mo in the park, that could be me.

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I’ve not looked at the news today, though I did sink to trawling through a news forum. Once again there’s a lot of back and forth about Trump and China being in the sights for global blame. I did get involved, mentioning how China’s localised cover-up was not so much to blame (having informed the World Health Organisation -WHO – a full two weeks before ever castigating Dr Li Wenliang and his private Wechat group). What we can definitely shake a stick at China for is the fact it hadn’t quarantined the infections believing them only animal > human for nearly a month. The WHO is still haunted by a tweet on Jan 14th maintaining that no evidence had yet to be found of human to human infection. Likely from now on it’ll have to change procedure that any new disease be treated as human > human rather than waiting for a patient to turn up without any contact with wildlife, markets, handlers or farmers (about 3 or 4 new human viruses are discovered every year). Also Trump and his cronies insistence to call it a Chinese disease points towards a political tool, perhaps to dive from the spotlight accusing him of gross mismanagement, perhaps in reply to the equally idiotic Chinese General hinting it was all a US spy infection, planted during their joint Hubei exercises.

Imagine Trump diving. Like a fat dolphin, squeak-screaming under the kitchen table and toppling no end of shit.

There are other diseases out there with place names such as Spanish Flu (rather unfairly, it didn’t originate there -Spain was just the country not under media lockdown during WWI and openly spread the word about it), and West Nile Virus, itself a branch of Japanese Encephalitis. However all these were named from the 1930s backwards, or centuries before, and the practice has died out -we don’t call HIV the African disease, nor the Los Angeles Disease, where it was formally identified. To do again in this day and age is courting xenophobia, as if East Asians or anyone who looks like them don’t have enough to deal with right now in a surge of viral racism.

This ends today’s public announcement. I’m weaning myself off the pollyticks. Really I am, promise. That was only two paragraphs; It really does help when you avoid the screaming headlines. I have no global update to post today.

Mum rang yesterday, she opted to take leave from work, the proud firm of Keeler Ltd, provider of opthalmic equipment round the world and so far protected by being in the private health sector. They’re doing the honourable thing and keeping her on the payroll till it all blows over. She joked with the HR woman’s noncommital gestures -that if they had suggested a course of action (stay away /don’t stay away) and Mum subsequently popped her clogs they’d become liable. I told her not to be mean, that the nice HR lady was doing her job, but Mum maintains the woman found it funny. I can imagine that pained, whooping laugh and beseeching niceties while they stood metres apart.

But joking aside, they are a fantastic, refreshingly humane company that consciously chose not to outsource to a sweatshop in the Global South, and I beseech the world to each buy a retinal scanner when this is over.

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At 77, with multiple health issues, she’s high risk and may have to be cocooned away for quite a sentence – 4 months to next year even according to the official hints. Enough to get cabin fever and drive herself and my sister up the tiny cramped walls of the ’60s terrace, stuffed to the eaves with things hoarders hoard. Before she seemed calm, and was going to keep working until I persuaded her otherwise (there’s a legendary 83 y.o. lady who vows to carry on on the factory floor, now laid out so worktables occupy separated rows from each other); she’s now a little more fearful, having seen the numbers in town rise from 2 to 20 almost overnight. That a doctor in the next town over was caught with the disease while treating patients. The fact there may be 20x more infected than officially tested for round the country, it all really hit home, her home.

I felt distant, in every way, and wonder when I’ll next see her.

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My daily structure is becoming less regimented, but still there. Rather than me sitting rod straight on the table tapping away, I’m on the sofa with Netflix in the background. Yesterday  we made the disastrous decision to watch Leisure (pronounced Leezhur) Seeker starring Helen Mirren (Golden Globe award nominee for the part) and Donald Sutherland as an aged couple kidnapping their own camper van to enjoy a vacay to the umbrage of their kids. Was kind of expecting a delightful mix of Bad Grandpa and Dukes of Hazzard, but it was of course a timeless study on our slow and inexorable act of dying from a largely Italian arthouse team. Donald is a former arts and lit professor deteriorating with Alzheimer’s, liable to accuse his wife of polygamy as he is to burst into quote on Hemingway; Helen his long-suffering, perky Southern belle of a wife liable to chat endlessly to strangers as she is to take up shotguns. No spoilers here but she’s dying too. Oops, may have fudged that a bit.

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Like you were ever gonna see it.

At the end I felt like shooting myself in the gullet. In one scene they enter an old folks home and point an unloaded shotgun around at several members of the bedded community, then get told off about it and offered a price leaflet. If that happened here it’d be ten years just for possession, and the rest of the fucking story would just end there. Fin. And we would not have had to watch them die and pretend everything was absofuckinglutely fine behind those walls.

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The whole thing felt like a demise mere days from now, dripping slowly worries, fondness, memories and saying goodbye to a sacrament of decaying time -rather than an exercise savoured for your twilight years multiple decades in the future. I may have cried for an instant. Right now America’s Got Talent (AGT!) is playing in the background, by contrast. By very very fucking contrast. So full of cheering and trashy pizzazz I want to reach through the screen and slap everyone of the goobers with a brick. How can people be so very whoopingly supportive, so very worshipping of any given status quo? Does the studio director say jump and they fucking imbed their heads in the ceiling? While Nipplepants Cowell lords over them like an arsey, stuck up demigod, hovering from his red buttoned throne. How can people be so willing to submit to hierarchy, to appraise or condemn from their exalted, cup-holding audience seats? This series will date badly, to the point of becoming historical reference. Culture, society, economy.

I need to get out more. I think rather it was just a reminder of a simpler, freer time that pissed me off so much. History envy may be a thing now.

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What is happening out there? What is happening to my friends and family and everyone I’ve ever known, outside of re-run land where what we see is no longer there, and always Has Been? What is reality from a different lens?

A welcome respite is not really one, when that breath of fresh air is deepening a chasm. It’s not so much a list of cliches: living for the moment, putting off the inevitable and all that jazz, but that we can enjoy ourselves, the air, the sun, and others with social distancing. We need to learn now how to do it, not later, not too late. 800 people died today in Italy, and a week or two ago they too were sunning themselves on passegiata. Eight hundred.

J came home shortly after in a huff, wiping down the door handles on everything -a blindsided colleague of his had admitted his wife had the lergy, yet had come in 3x to work, plus met clients. Well I suppose, I’ll swap that guilt for the kitchen fire last night. J’s working again today, apparently before any auction the dept heads have to work an unpaid weekend, to put in the extra time and commitment. Illegal surely, but suddenly acceptable in these current climes. We wound down with two episodes of Drag Race, all bright colours to bitchiness which J is obsessed by, and is infecting us with. Sakura was kicked out last night, rather unfairly I may add, especially in comparison to that rather uninspired Emo-Minelli, who resembles a pretty slug.

A car in the lot below has a bookshelf tied to its roof, liberally balancing an assortment of heavy boxes, houseplants, coat stands, bench tools and books on top. Looks like a tenant is moving with his father, back to the country where they can hold out longer, perhaps in a castle. It can’t end well, an opener for Final Destination if ever I saw one. Plus I know how it’ll end for the survivors.

I’m bored. As fuck. I took a picture of the flowers outside, just like little old ladies on social media are wont to do. We can pleasure ourselves for hours over this: I think it’s Spring.

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Yesterday

Tomorrow

 

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 4

Saturday 21st March 2020

Last night was the swansong for pubs, bars, clubs, theatres, gyms, and leisure/ community centres, not to mention schools. Restaurants are allowed to operate only with takeaways. Going out for a final pizza (Francomanco’s) we waited patiently for nearly half an hour as the small team stacked up orders, the pizza chef sweating in the empty restaurant -business seemed solid. In a few restaurants singular couples sat, candles burning.

Witness these epic, unreachable scenes, now worthy of National Geographic covers and coffee table books exalting exoticism. People, clumped.

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The streets were almost crowded, people still commuting to work with every bus stop packed as per norm, but also a deal of footfall towards the boozers, each one full. A lone man ran a treadmill from a window in the highrise gym above, spreading the last of his copious body fluids before hibernation. It was almost a snapshot of London at its norm, nowhere near as crowded but a semblance of old -a few hundred people populated the streets around the station, people with toddlers, family groups, commuters, shoppers and pals in arms.

The supermarket trawl was its usual self-defeating offering of stuff no one else wanted to buy, but you got one or two of anyway, just in case. Some cigarillo-like wafers from Poland (cheap looking but amazing, creme filled), a big bar of Turkish Delight (how does that company even function, everyone hates it yet is ubiquitous in every shop -evidence of one laureate winning marketing team) and some butter, very much needed. No crispbread, pickled goods, Vitamin D or paracetamol, or anything carby, tinny or cleany, which was the original intent. Vitamin Dee is the new big thing, the It girl that not only gives you that 5 minutes of sunshine required every day for a good mood (in UK level climes, 5 minutes of sunshine equates to an hour naked in an X-shape in the middle of the road, well until mid-April), but is also purported to reduce respiratory infection by up to 70%. It is of course now mythical, on par with Bigfoot sightings and right now, God. I was reminded of the timeless words of George Bush Jnr, to a painfully smiling Hispanic family: “I know how hard it is for you to put food on your kids.”

At one point, trying to wrangle my camera from a ridiculously over-engineered bag, I picked out the black-wrapped butter and put it to my face. A snapshot of society indeed.

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The new estimates for the government’s current approach of gradual infection is 250,000 dead – lower than the 800,000 if the viral spread is left unchecked but also significantly higher than the 20,000 figure if quarantine is instated. One hospital in London – Harrow, is already breaking capacity with its ICU’s and wards overrun. Everywhere on the fora, people are intoning: It Is Coming. Yet life looks as if getting back to normal for a few, or at least a last Churchillian gasp and bevy down the boozer, typical. It appears a few days of self-imposed lockdown is undoable for many Londoners. Even when the tube looks like this (photo courtesy of J, one of the last workers in the city today):

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A is off for a bike ride today, in Battersea Park, a semblance of normality and his need to get in exercise otherwise his mind will go barmy. I’ve asked him not to talk to strangers, and not to hug them. Yesterday he put the pizzas in the oven to warm them gently, complete with boxes. A few minutes later smoke was billowing out of the unit, and a thankfully non-existent fire alarm was screaming in my head. Pizzas were saved, while I held every nerve not to castigate in a big shouty display as the lesson appeared well learned. The whole flat still reeks of smoke and is freezing from the windows being wedged open (barely a few inches thanks to 60s modernism coupled with noughties Health & Safety); I lied to our flatmate J that there must have been olive oil on the cover that got ignited when it rested on a still-hot stove, easily done. As opposed to putting yards of paper into an oven. Alanis could easily have penned out a belter about us dying in a fire after surviving a pandemic, back when it was ironic, rather than a viable option.

It does not bode well.

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The world of the internet is still well and truly alive, and feeding, with finger-pointing, political competition, sabre-rattling and divisiveness making up almost every comment. There is far less of the sharing of helpful information for all, the comfort, sympathy and jokes we kinda need right now -less of the support networking overall. As a great woman once said, Life is like a fucking giant sinking disaster, you’ve just got to enjoy the view while rowing.

 

But I do get it, there is quite a history of cataclysm bringing out the best and worst in people. I had a horrible dream, one of many recently where I was willing to do anything to protect my loved ones, including repeatedly punching some woman in the eye. With a chair leg. However if that were to transpire, I wouldn’t boast to all and sundry about it, rather quietly stuff the crawl space.

I do think if ever historians of the future look back on these archived comments -a rash throughout these past few decades ever since we each got an online podium and our entitled 15 years of fame -they’ll come to the conclusion we are a pretty nasty bunch. Judgmental, prejudiced, openly, knee-jerkingly racist, homophobic, fat-shaming, sexist, misogynistic, politicised, partisan and divisive. Just look at the Youtube comments from a few years back, before they got all un-toxic and started getting people to register their identities, or at least some form of societal appearance. Actually, Youtube in the noughties would be a great example of the winning human spirit, unsheathed from the shackles of social respectability and free to call Adele fat for page after page, regardless of her performance.

Japanese culture likes to distinguish between these ‘truths’, the honne ‘true sound’ of your inner, privated thoughts and the tatamae of what you present to the public. This applies to most places round the world, though the Japanese system goes one step further in debate class, whereby both teams, after their polarising exercise, actually find correlations between arguments and round on a respectable midpoint. Thus, instilling a unity of honne and tatamae – the great nexus of Buddhist and Ayurvedic teachings, whereby what you think, say and do are in line with each other, giving inner peace, and much more doable in Japan – cultural stalwart of politesse, yet honesty alongside. This is somewhat lacking in the rest of the world, as exposed on the Internet, where any respectability is much more of a mask. Don’t get me wrong the Japanese still snigger at videos of fat people falling over and will bitch about Sandra The Bitch In HR buying Rich Tea when it was her round. So not so kawaii as they make out (cuteness being a rebellion against sararimen conformity).

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But they are perhaps less likely to spit from the balcony or get all warm and cuddly at the idea of foreigners dying -because if they do, they’ll politely mention they do and be gracefully accommodating if you disagree, as opposed to manning the barricades in Les Miz or shooting people from clocktowers until we all concur. It also helps that in Japan the kids don’t get any tests until the age of 9, because they spend the first few years largely learning how to live, rather than the usual mix of subjects interspersed with three daily lessons on where they stand in playground hierarchy.

It remains to be seen how they bow out of hosting the Olympics this year. In South Korea they set up signs and even protests forbidding Chinese, China is in turn playing the blame game, and in the US they’re already talking about recompense, and even war, rather than focusing on the job at hand.

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https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCdr8nWm_lLG7QwnmqSvLe8A

I won’t even start on the utter lack of empathy, and often overt schadenfreude we have for Iranians at the mo’, now dying in their thousands under our sanctions, for a regime we put into place, back when we overthrew their democratic, secular government and reinstated their dictatory Shah (who in turn would be overthrown for a refreshing round of Wahabbism), in order to grab the oil in ’53. But then that would be gauche, me talking pollyticks after railing about getting all politicised at this no-dinner party of ours. I really have to look into it, it is perhaps a condition I suffer, a bit like Tourettes. Bring up say, popcorn flavours in conversation and I’ll then want to point out the mismanaged holes in globalised food production or the American health system, and why war is a bad thing.

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https://www.nationalgeographic.com/history/2020/03/coronavirus-has-forced-iran-to-take-a-hard-pause/

We appear to be grappling on two fronts, as a collectivised audience to the WTF situation operating across the world right now, and getting deluged under. It helps if we organise our crazy fucking grab the cat fears:

Front Number One: interpersonal

  1. How our governments are dealing with this; what is being done, what is the approach, what are the worst/best case scenarios?
  2. How many will die?
  3. Where the blame is.
  4. What the reaction is in the populace, and how that affects the spread.
  5. How long will this last – the viral peak, the global economic meltdown.
  6. What lockdown is, and what is the new normal for societal life.
  7. How will all this Thunderdome shit affect the future?

Front Number Two: personal

  1. How bad is the virus, what will it do to me or loved ones should we catch it? What can I do to survive it?
  2. Where is my income going to come from?
  3. Where is my home and shelter going to come from?
  4. Where is my food going to come from?
  5. Who will look after my dependents?
  6. How do I protect myself if shit hitteth the fan and society becomes Chavfest Zombieland? Where did I put that axe?
  7. How can I protect my old folk, from afar, for the next few months, or even year? How will I stop it spreading to them?
  8. What will happen to my investments/ are my savings safe? All £55.78 of it.
  9. How TF am I meant to keep sane and healthy and all yoga-mat blissful under lockdown?
  10. Will I get my refund?
  11. How are my friends doing? Actually fuck ’em I got enough on my plate.
  12. Shoot, I forgot to fully switch bank accounts, am I being charged? I still have that phone swap thing to do. The cat needs to be de-wormed. I think I left behind one of the kids in Asda. Rent is due. My divorce papers are missing. I think I water-boarded my i-Pod. Something’s going off in the fridge. A bird just shat on the window.

I honestly think we should divide those further into What Matters (most or what matters today), and What Can Be Shelved/ Ditched. Basically an exercise in downsizing on all fronts -imho I’d jettison almost the entirety of Front Number One.

Come on kids, we have enough on our tiny, cracked Ikea plates. Cain’t we all, y’know, just geddalawnng?

s

 

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