A Journal of the Plague Year Last Entry

New Year’s Day 2021

Personally when I look back on the year it can boil down to how Hollywood sells every flick, as dictated by the screenwriter’s bible. The formula of each film no matter what the book is, whether it’s the Bible or Moby Dick or the Avengers, which might as well be the same story in different costumes. You know there’s a film out there in all this; money just has to be made.

Stage 1: Premise of struggle

The outlook on the disease in the depths of winter. The world on tiptoe, the unfolding horror. Will we survive?

Stage 2: Incitement

The disgusting, uncivilised practices of the evil Chinese, The Party hellbent on a cover up. The equally disfigured racism, snarling and spitting on the streets, from the tweets, in the news. Online calls for war. Trump.

Stage 3: A brave new world

The building of field hospitals, mass graves, food handouts, panic buying, bog roll bandits, flights grounding, markets crashing as borders close… lockdowns, country after country. Clap for heroes.

Stage 4: Almost a kiss moment

Everyone miserably WFH or furloughed or with universal credit, and allowed to go out once for exercise (and maybe hang out in the park all day with some mates and lots of beer). Wait. Is this… is this… enjoyable? Is this… life?

Stage 5: Midpoint

Watching the sun set on another balmy day, walking home alone thinking on things, news, life, family, love, boredom. Noticing that weird dog, carrying a man’s hand in its jaws. Thinking nothing more of it.

Stage 6: Point of no return

Back to werkkk. FML. Fuckwaddery.

Stage 7: The twist.

Oh look, it’s lockdown again. Biden just won too. Did someone say new strain?

Stage 8: Climax

It’s Christmas! It’s New Year! It’s Love Lies Bleeding! It’s Death All Around! It’s worse. Bodies through the roof. No wait, it’s better!

Stage 9: Resolution

Vaccines. Vaccines by the millions. Vaccine vaccine vaccine. Oh, and in other news, back to work tomorrow.

We are of course not at stage 9 yet, but in Hollywood years, that’s how it ends. Finishing on a sunset and people walking as the camera rises to take a vista of the world being normal again, possibly doves.

I look back on the first day I wrote the blog. At a moment just after watching some enjoyable film and feeling blissful (rare for me). Then suddenly the jolt of memory, of the here and now, the realisation. Would this be it -the end of days? Was I unlucky enough to be one of the people born to see it? Imagining the breakdown of society, the journeying across unforgiving lands for loved ones. Then that first trip out to the supermarket in a silent world, watching every door handle and button, holding every breath and wishing for mask and gloves. Each street windswept, each infrequent face grim. Nearly bursting into tears when passing the more vulnerable -homeless, disabled, the very old and alone, clutching their bags.

The world had become that surreal mix of fantasy and history playing out, filmic even. Relationships changed, objects looked different, even the light itself, either flickering doom from a screen or corroding everything with the threat of infection and whistling at the windows. So strange to look at our former lives so different and distant, only a few weeks before. Nothing had been set up for this: infrastructure, money, careers, priorities, regimens, lifeplans no longer made sense.

Then slowly, the relinquishing of the doom when realising shit was still holding together, the decision helping greatly -and gratefully – that the museum was furloughing us. Enough to keep myself and A, now without work and no access to universal credit, housed and fed. To still be able to send money back to family. That the food shops still opened, that no one was busting out into barricades and Mad Max. This, the slinking into the new normal. My first foray into empty streets and shops, and looking for a life without shopping, that first clapathon, the addiction to screens.

In turn hit with the sunniest month the UK ever recorded, in May. And segueing into a summer of picnics and hanging out, night walks by the river -I’m positive many people will have fond memories of it, especially those growing into adulthood (before more shit comes their way), clogging up the trees with their guitars and boomboxes and blankets. Not just them but the cross-fitters tearing up the bridleways, gurus doing yoga to swaying flowers, the families under leafy bough and everyone drinking up the streets. It was interesting to see how zones started manifesting themselves in the local Common, society as usual self segregating -the teenagers by the copse, the picnickers and partiers on the lawn, the sporty and fit slap bang in the middle. The new gay village decamped from Clapham High Street to the fountains, the loners and tokers on darkened benches, watching a dying sun. And what a sky-stunned summer it was.

It is a decision one perhaps doesn’t consciously make, but happens one day: to stop caring. To delineate that line between your bubble and so many others. Despite the times, the virus deaths (albeit lowered to all time lows) it was a reflection of society as it’s always functioned -tutting at headlines or momentarily sad on other’s tragedy. Only when it does effect our own do we put our everyday things down, our priorities in furnishing our own lives amidst the competition. But I mean, what is one to do? Stay in, close the curtains and spend your days grieving for no one you knew, to no avail? Do we have enough on our plates to not do so? Maybe we shouldn’t beat ourselves up, because we imagine others will if we won’t.

The NHS filled an estimated 500,000 positions for volunteers within a day after a call to arms (and 3 million in total). As it turns out they were barely needed if at all, as the health system managed to stay below capacity, and even the giant new Nightingale Hospital only ever saw a handful of patients. But I do wonder, how many of us would ever have turned up? I’m sure at the start of the crisis yes, but by the unofficial, unmissable, once-in-a-lifetime summer of love, perhaps not so much. Now, with the number of sick climbing stratospheric, it may well still come to pass.

And I know so many people where that experience was not the same. People genuinely grieving for loved ones, or destitute from lost employment, hounded by anxieties on top of the usual. Mental health has most definitely come to the fore as an issue, with many still alone and coping. It was not all fun and games all summer, in crisis after crisis. It’s said suicide increases in the sunniest days, as everyone else gives the impression of having so much glorious fucking fun; likewise Christmas.

Normality returned by August and September, vanquishing those heady memories for some. I can’t say much about Autumn, a return to work that’s so catastrophically small-minded in every way possible I’d rather just, not. Nothing happens there but my depression, their judgement and our competition. Hell is other people.

Everyone pretending to worry and look crestfallen when announced we were again entering closure for lockdown, but inside jubilant as butterflies on speed.

Not just one lockdown but two to follow up, after a few weeks respite in between. Fast forward to now and it’s cold again. Everything’s falling apart. The lightbulb’s gone in the hall, the ones in the kitchen flicker interminably to the point of seizure -you literally can’t switch them off due to the buggered switch, and they burn all day, all night like a bad, bad disco. The heating’s shit and hugely expensive, stuck with old fashioned heaters that do nothing but spout bills and accidents -the one in the lounge also has the switch stuck (melted inside -no really), and the room’s now sealed off like a tomb so cold you can see your breath. I lie in bed all day freezing.

I fucking hate London sometimes, beautiful and cosmopolitan as it is, yet how uber capitalist beneath. Like exclusive eddies, vicious undercurrents in an outwardly inclusive, celebrated river that is the landing port of hope to so many lives. If you’re not rich you suffer for it -outside a world entire to the domestic, and the tiny four corners one affords to call their own. Whenever things break down I’m reminded how poor we are, after decades trying to get on the first rung, any rung. In all this -we planned our lives wrong. I know I moaned a lot, but the poverty I didn’t really touch on. Thankful at least to have a wage.

Xmas has come and gone, lovely as always despite starkness without the clan, as has New Year -fizzle pop of no parties across the board, though everyone did some secret fireworks shopping it seems. Missed the family, all year, now jobless and living their days watching tv, safely in their furnished prison I send parcels to in a hope it’ll relieve their imagined drudge. There is a level of pain one feels on behalf of another, amplified by worry and the inability to ever really know what they’re feeling, how they’re really doing. The disconnect of our separate bodies and minds that is this dimension, exacerbated aptly by social distancing. Miss A too, who lives in the kitchen now (even with the schizolights). But stop. Stop.

Still alive, it always helps. My motto to die for. It’s not all bad, and it’s not all been bad. It’s been quite the experience of life, and all that life can afford, equally wonderful and shit, to finish that damn quote by Samuel Johnson. And Karen eat your heart out -live, laugh and love, so much fucking love.

I do miss this city. It’ll be back.

I think it’s time to bid adieu. Things will go back to normal this coming new year, new you. Even if it is back to the same old same old, at least people all around aren’t dying for it. I look at the stats at the mo, the new strains viciously seeing infection rates treble despite the lockdown and only the other day near 1,000 deaths in the country in the last 24 hrs, a shade shy from the record in April.

But the glimmer is in the vaccines now rolling out, slowly for some faster for others, but enough to innoculate the world. Just how fast for us on this small, forgotten island with the deadliest strains? Though at least less likely to take all of humanity down across the waters -that continent now ever more foreign as of New Year’s. We’re no longer in the EU.

The year will be a turning point likely too, for capitalism, for globalisation, for universal basic income, for working from home, for retail, for office, for tourism, for socialising and entertainment, for mental health awareness, for social justice, for faith -or the fall from it. For the changing face of our world, its new icons and the breathless rise of computing and streaming and social media and AI into our lives. For race, for politics, for borders and economies. Entire regional blocs have changed, wars have been fought and won, societies have heaved. And through all that, I think the main thing this year has taught -you gotta love people, even the slightly shit ones, as we’re all we really have. Each other.

Oh and books. And horror flicks. And noodles. And trifle. And blankets. And werewolves. And staring out the window watching pigeons. Perhaps naming them. If you got no one just fucking enjoy that fact, and yourself. Another thing I’ve learned this year, make the most of it -everything really’s an opportunity, tobogganing through shit and sparkles, and we’re on the fucking ride anyway.

Thanks so much for being with mine for a bit.

Again, love. Lots of it. x

Now there’s a funny noise outside, barking. I think it’s a fox.

Yesterday

Lockdown 1

Lockdown 2

Lockdown 3

A Journal of the Year 3.0 Day 13

29th December 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The third mistake happened at a local level, and was by far the most damning in the eyes of the world: at about this time, well after it had already been officially documented and released to netizens and the press, the local police reprimanded Dr Li Wenliang for starting his chatgroup about the disease, fining him for fearmongering and making him sign a statement -his treatment in turn started to spread like wildfire across China’s social media. In short the local authorities did not conform to the provincial or state authorities dealing with an epidemic. They’d learned the hard way before, that cover-ups could never be effective, and only resulted in shame, more infections, public investigations and reforms, as happened after SARS. Following public furore state missives swiftly followed up that any attempts at cover ups would be ‘nailed to history’s post of shame for all eternity’, and the police made to apologise to the doctor. But too late, the narrative was already on the wall, not just in China but the world. Li’s death from the disease only magnified him into a martyr for the cause, for free speech too.

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

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

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

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

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

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year 2.0 Day 11

15th November 2020

So have been updating yesterday’s entry (pretty much doubling it) which is terrible habit and that oft takes up hours. But was rudely jarred out the rabbit hole by the sound of a big explosion, echoing at about ten past one. I checked the window and no ballooning little mushroom cloud, the platforms utterly quiet and not one lingering scream of agony, or desperate klaxon.

Ho hum. Oh well, no delightful fantasy of a spot of excitement to break the day (roaring fire engines, police vans, cable news teams, possibly filming me rescuing a small, blonde child). J said he hears it at his workplace every so often and it may have something to do with trains. Perhaps crashing, or they’ve set off a firework at the pigeons.

It’s Sunday, which means the Day of Rest. Again. Albeit I did clean the flat and got J to do the kitchen. Later a sudden storm whipped up quite atmospherically, and thunder boomed, making me wonder if there’d been a random lightning strike earlier, from a cloudless sky. Made a curry, watched some people vlogging their holidays, vicariously trotting the globe before snoozing again into ponderous nothing.

And realising I currently, utterly am devoid of a life. The biggest part of my day so far has been a noise.

Rather a big part of my existence these days is all about forgetting I exist. News sites, architecture fora, armchair travelling, culture wars, kittens, fat people falling, animals being dicks, dashcams, industrial explosions. All plated up from my personal, algorithmically enhanced echo chamber.

Meanwhile, back in the real world the almost-distant state of Slovakia has pulled off a feat never before seen anywhere else on the planet -testing almost 70% of its populace over two days, and discovering over 50,000 extra cases among its 5.4 million people. UK sent observers to the huge process and are now rolling out similar to Liverpool, having learned from how one country can test a full half of its population within 24 hrs. The Slovakians used antigen tests which can give results in 15 mins, but aren’t as accurate -yet have proven very useful for smaller countries or catchments. It’s coming here in one form or other soon. Literally out of a movie, and a point in history to always remember. I can’t overstate how subtly important it will be -the beginning of the end.

Oh and on the subject of governance I’ve just discovered Chris Hedges. Academic, activist, writer-reporter, and cultural commentator who’s literally been through the wars and seen a thing or two about human nature, governments and institutionalised idiocy.

He mentions we are living in an era of corporate, totalitarian socialism. Whereby the banks and multinationals call the shots, and are supported by a corrupted state -a genuinely libertarian, capitalist system would’ve finished them off a long time back. Instead they get the money of the workers, equally divided. And get away with it by promoting a culture of illusion to the populace, one in which we replace hope and empathy with narcissism and hierarchy, a marriage of cool new social media and the cronyist establishment.

That selfie stick or Insta-feed, it’s a form of idolatry (Hedges is surprisingly religious still, perhaps from all the death he’s seen in the conflict zones). We are on the pedestal now as the new God, yet just as exceptionalist, judgemental and illusory.

Only found that in passing, and it speaks to me. So much. But it’s all very heavy for Right Now, and I don’t have an hour or three to give it justice, respectfully dissecting and disseminating, fact checking, shaking my fist at the skies and plotting arson. I know organising a revolution may very well be Getting a Life, but not when you just wanna watch Jaws IV The Return, swaddled in blankets and biscuits.

It’s been two full days since I actually had a change of clothes, drifting about in a bathrobe like a secure-wing patient. Hair’s a thatch and a big red zit mars the chin. I’ve resolved to go out for dinner, to make some Dutch-Indonesian chips, an invention from immigrants on that side of the Channel. Chips from the Chippy, which I’ll ladle with peanut sauce, mayo and raw onion.

Don’t care what anyone says, tis a thing of beee-yoo-tee, and a bed for my face.

However this El Dorado will involve me picking a costume, as Londoners can be wont to do, sorting the hair, a shave and concealer on my head in order to brave the Great Outdoors. Arrrghhh. As a great philosopher once said, ain’t nobody got time for dat.

It’s cold, it’s dark, it’s wet, but I gotta work for it. I do enjoy my own company a great deal I’ve discovered, it just takes hours to get rid of the niggling guilt at the back, like spiderlegs in a cranny. Or the sense that someone, somewhere out there is judging me, as I lie in bed for 5 hours smelling of wee and squirrels.

To get the place empty, short of an ebola outbreak I lie in wait, week after week for that perfect storm. J has left for the night to see his other half, A has decamped for the weekend to his art studio (a garage in a friend’s house). So finally, I have the flat to myself to cavort in, streaking from room to room in human skins, drinking from skulls and farting openly, gloriously.

I’ll be watching some horror flick likely, stuffing my face. Bring it on.

Update: Just got back in. I found myself something to embellish the chipfest. A trifle. A MOTHERFUCKING TRRIIIIFLE BITCHES, reduced in Tesco’s. Am literally delirious.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 100

Saturday 27th June 2020

Today is the last day of the blog, after these 100 days of solitude. Lockdown has eased itself out into less and less restriction, and ceased to function for a while now, without us having noticed too drastically. Life is not back to normal, but there is quite a semblance of it outside, traffic jams, shoppers, foodies, drinkers -the only obvious difference being the masks and the queues before the shops. Deaths are down to the single digits while we await a second wave, possibly a second lockdown too if things get bad again. But for the time being, that semblance of normality is with us again, enough to take stock and hope it continues.

s

In retrospect:

The virus

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

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Racism

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

APTOPIX Minneapolis Police Death

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Politics

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

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Economy

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

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

NYC During the Coronavirus Pandemic

Life

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

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

All the best and stay safe.

Signing off.

W x

PS a pic of kittens

s

Yesterday

 

Lockdown 2.0

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 93

Saturday 20th June 2020

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

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

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

Much of the crowd had diminished by then.

bty

Though still in numbers at 9.15pm

bty

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

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

My Stonehenge moment:

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

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

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 38

Friday 24th April 2020

PUBLIC DISCLAIMER

DO NOT READ THIS LOOK AWAY NOW

If you’re looking for escape this, today, is not where to find it. For never was a story of more woe. Thus following, reality.

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Another day another dollar. Scroll. Brush. Scroll. Sleep. Scrub. Lunch. Netflix. Scroll. Sleep. Film. Sleep.

A Friday so I treated myself to takeaway for lunch, which turned out to be the stodgiest fried calamari in the city, like chewing on bread crust. Our local really is the worst, but beggars can’t be reviewers. The night’s film was the other highlight, a tankard of cider to go with An American Werewolf in London, and a good catch up with J while A is getting ever more islanded, which he may be enjoying. It was Orthodox Easter recently, the equivalent to Greek Xmas (regardless if you’re religious or not) which he’s not celebrated, separated from family all these years. We’ll try and do something later maybe, though he’ll typically veto it.

The C-19 death toll in the UK hit 20,000, which is only counting those from hospitals. It’s significantly higher if they tally up those in care homes and residences, so we may be closer double that. This could yield the world’s highest deaths per capita, over current leader Belgium, who counts live fatalities and not just in healthcare. It all depends whether the UK extra deaths are at the 40% or 100% ends of hospital totals.

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I’ve been increasingly worried about the ‘biblical famines’ the UN is warning may transpire within months. They will start in the world’s current war zones where infrastructure is broken and farming majorly disrupted by fighting. DPR Congo, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, Niger. It’s also unlikely for people or countries to give aid, such is the situation in their own backyard. DPR Congo is a prime example of what a disruption of infrastructure results in. The Second Congo War ended in 2003, where fighting killed an estimated 20,000. However excess deaths continued well after taking 5.4 million by 2008, due to the complete collapse of food industries, healthcare and transportation networks.

Likewise the UN sanctions before the Gulf War against Iraq, that resulted in an extra million deaths (560,000 of them being children). They targetted the populace not the regime as hostage -banning food, water, medicines, medical equipment, water purifiers, even baby food and milk powder. And lasted for 12 years after the US and UK repeatedly blocked UN attempts to end them, plus three successive UN Generals resigning in protest. When Ambassador Madeleine Albright was told in interview that half a million children had died, she infamously said: “we think the price was worth it”.

But would that even be worthy of a headline in our lifestyles?

This scenario is even keeping me up at night, and becoming one of the things when waking. It’s not normal for me, and I doubt for anyone. When we hear of untold horror and misery abroad we may well shed a tear at the news report, given it’s sufficiently graphic enough. But no one really takes it home with them, into their daily thoughts and fears and dreams. The only time I’ve seen any kind of widely depressionable story has been for the death of a single person, Princess Diana. Forget the 250,000 killed in the 2004 tsunami, or the additional million in Iraq following invasion, it’s the death of a celeb people grew up with, who felt they personally knew that got people crying beyond the screentime. Witness footage of her funeral, as thousands of mourners spontaneously burst into tears as her cortège rolls by (one of them myself). It’s like something out of North Korea.

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On that subject Kim Jong Un, rotund dictator of said country is currently MIA on the global stage, with rumours thick and fast that he may be dying after heart surgery. All eyes now on his sister who will likely take the reins if he expires. Now, I’m no fan of an autocratic regime that has in the past kidnapped random South Koreans, taken down passenger planes and operates internment camps, but the South Koreans are just as gung-ho, trigger-happy and belligerent. Just as liable to be the first to shell the opposite side, shoot over a prow, or hold mass army drills on the border, in a giant show of two fingers against the horizon.

The US is also increasingly seen as playing both sides off each other -the situation allows them to keep foreign bases on the peninsular and Japan, thus controlling the north Pacific and hemming in China. Notably George Bush’s ‘Axis of Evil’ speech even after NoKo had agreed to dismantle it’s nuclear capabilities, that subsequently made Kim restart them in defence, and defiance. Or the abrupt ending of the 2018 thaw (both sides had even competed as the same country in the Olympics) when the US held mass joint-training exercises, thus restarting the arms race.

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South Korea is also quite propagandic and equally dogmatic. All the lurid tabloid tales -on the uncles being thrown to bloodthirsty hounds (in fact he was shot by firing squad, following an assassination attempt he’d commandeered) or execution of former girlfriends for prostitution (she turned up a year later as a newscaster), of the Pyongyang Metro being fake, and that everyone on the streets are actors (thousands of them) -are all sourced from the south, via media agencies citing ‘cross-border sources’.

In fact South Korea is studied by sociologists as a prime example of how propaganda is just as rampant in democracies, fueled by complicit media agencies as well as their avid audiences. One only has to look at the partisan politicking in the US (**cough Fox News /cough**), or the Rupert Murdoch/ AN owned press at large here (**Daily Mail, Sun**).

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When Kim Jong-Il died NoKo released its usual dreary propaganda to the world, showcasing endless streams of people distraught at his death (the kind who’d throw themselves on the coffin as it gets lowered), of course the world took this as how very indoctrinated the North Koreans were. Then people started pointing out that in the background, no one was crying, only those in front facing the lens were suddenly found to be apoplectic with grief.

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Thus SoKo subsequently followed up with lurid tales of everyone who didn’t cry getting 6 months free stay in a labour camp.

North Koreans Face Six Months Labour Camp for Not Crying at Kim Jong-il’s Death

Thus parroted by the rest of the world:

Punished for not crying: Thousands of North Koreans face labour camps for not being upset enough


At the end of the day North Korea is a study on journalistic integrity and standards. Almost no stories coming from there can be fact-checked or corroborated… but neither can anyone call them out on it if they decide to go to print. Thus much of the world just ends up reporting it anyway, straight from South Korean tabloids, even if you’re a respected broadsheet. Which is telling -it fits with the narrative.

It’s also telling which papers are reporting the dictator’s death (Daily Express, Sun, NY Post), as rumour-milled via a Chinese social network, and which are waiting for official confirmation, or at least putting a question mark in the headline.

The fat twat.

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And talking of convenience, where for example is the coverage or navel-gazing (surely one story?) for the current human tragedies of the US/UK-backed sanctions: Iran, Venezuela, and of course North Korea? Despite sitting on vast commodities or one of the leading science powers, they’ve been denied medical equipment and ICU’s they could otherwise have afforded easily. We even cover Iran building mass graves, and tut at their imagined cover up of figures, without nary a mention of our role in it. The latest humanitarian crisis on the now closed Colombian-Venezuelan border likewise ignored, as has been the US calls for the country to hold new elections (read: exit President Maduro) in order to allow the meds in, plus access to the world’s largest oil reserves. Sounds a lot like a ransom, and exploiting a tragedy to do so.

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It appears this global crisis is only spewing division and geopolitical rivalry, as opposed to the Bennetton ad we all imagined a shared experience would engender, and cooperation between states. That democracy is really a veil over ignorance, selfishness and prejudice, if not a platform for it. Witness country after country stealing vital equipment before being sent off, or even en route, and ignoring all calls of aid from its neighbours. See the comments following any, ANY news story.

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How depressing, but it had to catch up some time. The air weighs heavy so it’s time to take a walk, chew some cud and maybe take in an 80s film, back when it was all so much simpler. Life is but a scroll away.

Oh and the Great Orange Dolphin just suggested we all inject bleach and sunlight into our lives and limbs, to vanquish the plague. His wranglers are now desperately attempting to shut him the fuck up and wind down his daily updates. Perhaps throwing playballs in the other room and bustling him out -today’s was the shortest yet, at 22 mins, rather than the hours he normally courts. This I think would be a mistake.

As a great woman once said, I’m not saying kill all stupid people, just get rid of the health and safety signs and let the problem sort itself.

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Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 37

Thursday 23rd April 2020

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

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

However when we ventured out carrying everything unfeasibly, they were watering the lawns, as if nefariously seen 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.

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

Then the call from work.

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

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

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

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

2017:

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

2020:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think of your job title. And add in your name. Now use that as an insult.

“Okay Paul, Accounts Executive.”

Tara, you… Commercial BID WRITER.”

“Right, Louise, Retail. Manager.”

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

“Yeah Mo, CHARITY Worker.”

“Fine Praveen, Front. Line. NURSE”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 36

Wednesday 22nd April 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 24

Friday 10th April 2020

Another schizo day. Trying to relax yet structure it, while trying to work yet play. Swear I need to do a rota, like I did at weerk.

Spent far too long doing the forum surfing, and checking news bites (a delicious hour seeing the presented evidence on the Great Orange Dolphin’s behaviour -that he suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder alongside growing senility), before launching into some book writing. Then a spot of gaming (Skyrim where I murdered a giant spider, Streetfighter where I spinning-bird-kicked E Honda in the head), which raised the guilt again, enough for me to embark on another round of book editing.

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Which in turn led to a spell on TikTok, which A is now getting seriously hooked into also. This is not good. I am feeling guilty for working too long, then relaxing too much. Like every addict who knows they’ve been busted.

J has been similarly at odds with what to do with himself today, finally settling on working on his antiques (writing up, researching their worth and stories, and selling them online). While A has done a bike ride, some cooking and not much else. I’m trying to inveigle everyone into sitting down to watch a film, which I may put on and hope they’re lured in.

I perhaps need this psychotic break. Like Trump at Christmas, who forgets what he’s saying mid-sentence. I almost pity him.

And let me begin by wishing you a beautifewel… Look. you remember this. Do you remember, they were trying to take Christmas out of…’

Below is pictured the actual turning point (indeed) of that sentence, exhibiting the behavioural tics of dementia, closed eyes, forward lean, open mouth, grasping/ flappy limbs.

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Yesterday’s showing was The Invisible Man, the kind of film that does genuinely suck you into the storyline -but heavily flummoxed by the internet slowing on the streaming site, creating new cliffhangers and ridiculously paused scenes, mid-gurn. Every 20 mins we had to load/ reload, a reminder of the golden days of terrestrial when adverts interrupted everything. The same again for Underwater, the laughable Kristen Stewart creature feature, where you can’t really make out the cast, dialogue or creatures through the murk, exacerbated by the infernal stop-start. This is Trump’s life at the mo, despite being at the helm, and someone needs to take those controls out of his flippers.

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Throughout, despite the cider and cake, J and I were non-committal to the point of monosyllabic malaise -I even mentioned it, how I was spending the day like a sleepwalker. Apparently, the lack of vitamin D does that to you, and at our latitude we have to wait a bit longer before we can get enough out of the sun, until mid-April at least.

980 died in UK hospitals today, for France 1,400, including those who died in care homes. The BBC new site has degraded into telling village notices despite the conspicuously unmentioned disaster – how Joe Wicks is doing PE classes, how schoolkids are writing emails to an old folks home, a skipping Sikh guy is entertaining his community and a woman is using her parent’s campervan as an office. Stop the fucking press. Oh and Kenny Dalglish has it, whoever he is. What next? Newsflash! How to spruce up your day by playing microwave bingo! The Warrington boy writing to Santa about a mask for his proud, nurse-mum. The new TikTok kitten sensation, jumping to the words: Social Distancing! How to spell zoonotic! It appears Kevin and Marjorie from the local church in Kippershyt village have taken over the BBC.

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There’s a fine line between honest reportage and propaganda methinks, between buoying the wartime spirit and censorship. And treating a nation as people entrusted with truths, or downplayed into sycophancy. Or maybe people just aren’t clicking anymore, and have had their fill of doomsaying, especially now the sun’s out.

CNN has for some time also started to stray into the tabloid news category, dangling other stories lasciviously that look little different from This One Trick clicks a rung removed. They tend to show a lurid pic, coupled with a half headline, coyly doing up its laces.

This nurse demonstrates how fast germs spread even if you’re…

(armless? breeding Pomeranians? Dave?)

The doctor in the viral photo with his son behind glass has lost his…

(other son? will to IG anymore? will?)

Jake Gyllenhaal crushed Tom Hollands handstand challenge…

(by doing a handstand? by doing it cowboy? by doing his laces?)

NASA astronauts estranged wife charged with lying about claim…

(on the moon? of Catholicism? over 2004 parking ticket?)

A Florida man dies days after hundreds exposed to…

(radiation? Trump briefing? his TikTok vid?)

A fire at a Florida airport destroys more than 3,500…

(mice? Floridians? photo ops?)

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Oh CNN, how far ye’ve changed with the times. Fast forward a few years and we’ll be forced into playing a round of flappy bird to access any article, as if an advert for the latest season of Marie Kondo’s Sock Drawer isn’t enough. If you’ve so caved into a landscape of sensationalism and sponsorship for clicks, as opposed to journalistic integrity, or dissemination of insight, your leveling of any field will be forever changed. As if the lobbying already wasn’t the most decisive factor. Like art being measured by how garish, or sullied the paint is.

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Good news (we hope) in the US, as infections seem to be leveling off and the lockdown starting to see results, though hopefully all that’s not in the vein of the BBC’s current picture painting. Tomorrow will be the worst day for fatalities according to the projections, with mass graves already dug in NYC.

The US does enjoy a certain serendipity in terms of its low density suburban setup for much of the land -detached housing and car culture ensuring people never had much physical contact with each other anyway. Part of the cultural handwringing, pointing toward how isolationist, untrusting and unempathetic the people can turn, but now reaping the benefits in terms of limiting the infection – albeit should they get it their higher rates of obesity, heart disease, asthma and diabetes will increase the chance of dying.

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A similarly low infection rate has occurred in Australia, the only country with larger average homes that the US, whilst NYC bucks the trend for obvious reasons, notably its high density landscape. Almost serendipitous for the nation, but tragic for the city. It is as if being social and societal has finally been punished, but such is the gamut that is life.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 23

Thursday 9th April 2020

 

 

Emily Maitliss opened Newsnight yesterday, following 938 new UK deaths, with one of the most prescient statements in a long time:

“The language around Covid-19 has sometimes felt trite and misleading. You do not survive the disease through fortitude and strength of character, whatever the Prime Ministers’ colleagues will tell us. And the disease is not a great leveller, the consequences of which everyone – rich or poor – suffers the same.

This is a myth which needs debunking. Those on the front line right now – bus drivers and shelf stackers, nurses, care home workers, hospital staff and shop keepers – are disproportionately the lowest paid members of our workforce. They are more likely to catch the disease because they are more exposed.

Those who live in tower blocks and small flats will find the lockdown a lot tougher. Those who work in manual jobs will be unable to work from home.

Her opener made headlines on every broadsheet.

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As mentioned recently the US infections -currently the epicentre of the pandemic -has seen an unfair slanting in Black and African American victims of the disease, Chicago reporting 70% of their cases despite the city only one third Black, with similar skewing in Louisiana, NYC and Detroit, places where race and income level strongly correlate. The BBC today has also turned the lens to our own country:

 

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Once again it appears more of the same. This seems mainly due to London being the epicentre, where 40% of residents are non-White. It also does have that correlation with class to some extent -for example 30% of Bangladeshi and 15% of Black households are classed as overcrowded compared to 2% for the national average, where it’s thus less likely to pass on. As Maitliss mentioned, minorities are also much more likely to be key workers, from the NHS (where one quarter of nurses and almost half of doctors are non-White), to transport staff and supermarket workers.

 

Yesterday’s film was also about exposing social injustice, writ into a daily life thriller. The showing was Bombshell, starring Charlize Theron (with prosthetics, playing news anchor Megan Kelly), Margot Robbie (Kayla, a new intern) and Nicole Kidman (fellow anchor, Gretchen Carlson) as the women embroiled in the sexism and sex-for-promotion scandal that overtook the Fox News network in 2016. Terse, edge-of-the-seat stuff, though lacking the fun and humour of the recent Apple offering, The Morning Show (Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon) that seems based on it. The film does miss out on what could have been some delicious exposées on toxic news avenger Bill O’Reilly, who gets a bit part, but concentrates on the fall from grace of Jabba-like media tycoon and former Nixon-courting politician, Roger Ailes.

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Apparently, the writers and producers from the start had the challenge of making the audience like the victims, or at least identify with them -stalwarts of a right wing, populist and propagandic news empire. They did this using Fleabag-like monologues, confiding with the camera while interacting the entire time still with daily life, a voice in the audience’s head despite it being evil altruistically alternative. Constant reminders of their family lives intersperse the film, complete with blonde, gurning children happily vulnerable to hate mail and reporters, then glossing over the rest, such as Kelly’s open racism or Carlson’s anti-gay rhetoric. A lowdown on what constitutes a Fox News story helps, as relayed by a secret Democrat working as a writer there. It starts off the trailer:

“You have to adopt the mentality of an Irish street cuff. The world is a bad place, people are lazy morons, minorities are criminals, sex is sick but interesting. Ask yourself what would scare my grandmother or piss off my grandfather.”

This is of course the opener near the start, that winks at the viewer to say, yes we know they’re morally corrupted, please play along. From there it introduces the two entirely fictional characters -the secret Hillary-supporting, lesbian staff writer and her one-time fling, Kayla -the generic Bimbo-dressed victim, who help to paint Fox staffers into a softer, more human and inclusive place. The fact they had to make them up entirely speaks volumes (perhaps unable to find anyone that wasn’t into animal sacrifice or KKK weekenders). The film makes for criminally good viewing, though there is no dramatic flourish at the end, or bible-thumping comeuppance to savour -true to life: Fox ended up paying $50 million to the dozens of victims, and $65 million severance to the three men accused.

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Also true to life, an icon for the film trailer on Youtube shows Charlize Theron, mouth open, about to ingest a side-on pizza slice – a screengrab deemed enticing enough to target another demographic it appears, even if it is a tale for the #metoo generation. Not unlike Aisle’s use of short skirts, excessive angles and transparent news desks to draw in the punters. Art mirrors life. And life goes on. Badly.

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This morning A got an allergic reaction. Going bright red, itchy and bumpy, hard to look at. Poor thing. But it is as always, a passing fad -within the hour it was gone, as he is strangely adverse to all sickness ever. Though when he does get sick (once every couple of years) it is very.

Went for a bike ride, the sun winking through foliage and air crisp and cool. People were dressed for summer, admiring the heritage poking above the trees, and placid waters mirroring the strolling, enough to add an atmosphere of convivial relaxation. There are only a few places I’ve been where every direction is beauty -usually in natural format, though humanity does raise a built landscape every now and then. Lauterbrunnen Valley, Symi, Lazise, Ko Phi Phi Leh, May in Virginia Water. The Ringstrasse, Burano, dusk in the Gardens by the Bay.

Well, for a few choice moments Battersea Park yesterday was that coffee table cover, something you spend years looking for. Just the right amount of people not to bespoil it, the perfect weather (cool yet sunny), and the optimal clarity at this time of year. For an everywhere that was crisp, gentle and swaying in the light.

This is the imagery strong enough to obscure the beyond, and deliver that long fought-for moment of peace.

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But of course I can’t really sing of anything nice without subsequently having to stylus-scratch it back into reality, with the looming elephant out of shot. This is the running theme so far, for this blog, for life and how we interpret it.

-We were one of the only few wearing facemasks, it’s still not a thing apparently among the youthful and healthy, who exclusively populated most of the paths. Strange summer.

This weekend will be geared towards heading off the holiday crowds. I like to think on one hand we are enjoying the view from the lifeboats -life’s great promise. On another, we need to remember not to push under the drowning.

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Yesterday

Tomorrow