A Journal of the Plague Year 3.0 Week 3

27th December 2020

So did a spot of shopping to get out the house, picking up most of Tesco’s reduced section (surprisingly not a lot of ex-Xmas stuff) then stopping off at a Somali place to get take out. As with many African joints there’s no menu, you kinda negotiate with the cook what you wanna -I settled on some spiced rice and lamb shoulder, reminding me a lot of biryani but with Arabian spices and a salad. Plus some lemony-yoghurty-chilli dip which was super spicy and amazing. So good, huge portions too (which I’m thinking may be a sign of quality, insofar that the cook genuinely believes it deserves that demand, and that people always finished their plates) -I need to do it again. In terms of Somali cuisine I’ve only ever had the gorgeous looking xalwa (halva) before, which is a jelly-like mix of sugar, cornstarch and spices, and astringently sweet. You literally feel the buttery goodness clamping onto your frame as you move, becoming that same wobbly blancmange. This the posterchild for You Are What You Eat.

I realise their fare is more redolent of the Middle East than East Africa, though it does have a heavy influence from Ethiopia too, in its injera and stews, not to mention Indian (chai, chapattis, samosas), Persian (pilaf, baklava), and even Italian (pasta, coffee and cream). The restaurant is Safari on Falcon Rd -when I signed the book for track and trace (at 3pm) only one other customer had made it that day; Somali food deserves a higher profile and I hope she survives.

After my favourite past-time – a TV dinner, was out like a light in a glorious food coma, before D came round from the other side of Clapham. Well, someone’s gotta finish off all that Crimbo alcohol, and be merry and light. Made it through half a bottle of sloe gin, while D settled for his usual vodka + flavoured water (he can’t do fizzy stuff due to some dodgy ailment). All necked while we watched a steady stream of MVs -Eighties, Nineties, Noughties with occasional forays into Abba and what on earth is number 1 these days. We couldn’t think of a single chart topper that we knew this year, or the past 3 years, even if it was the million $ question on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Anyone noticed how Miley Cyrus nowabouts (or at least in Midnight Sky) looks and sounds like Lulu?

My one ban was on the nefarious coven that is the Spice Girls, as D plays them every damn time until they become that dimwit zigazigah nipping at your earlobes, telling us what they want what they weally weally want. He settled on substituting them with the Coors, who apparently all died in a horrific bicycle smash (three four seater) in Belgium in 2002. A actually wanted another stab at the board game Dixit blessim (who knew someone actually likes it -apparently it won game of the year back in 1994) -while D is fucking terrible at playing and has as much fun as a pedo in an old folk’s home. Give him the random phrase of say, ‘I’m not in Kansas anymore‘, or ‘AI takeover‘ and he’ll not really know what to do, and match it to a card of an elephant holding a flower, or someone playing tennis with a cat. Still, he won.

We finished off on Disney sing-a-longs, pissed as newts by then and sounding like them too. Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, Little Mermaid, Pocahontas, Moana and -I hang my head in shame -belting it out with Elsa on that fucking hill to die on, while she crafts homicidal chandeliers. My nemesis, Frozen. Might just jump out the window in the cold light of day.

Not many people know this but Let It Go was written for a schizophrenic who went on to kill several people and a cat in a New Jersey (and why Demi Levato was first choice).

So what on earth do the kids these days listen to? What is the equivalent of the Spice Girls or Backstreet Boyz or Madonna? Kool n the Gang? What exactly is imprinting on young febrile minds as we speak, that will last till their dying day?

So after doing a spot of research, of course we’d heard of Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, Ariana Grande, Drake, Taylor Swift, though pushing it a bit with The Weeknd, BTS, Blackpink, Halsey blah-de-blah. But who on earth are Bad Bunny, Juice WRLD, Roddy Rich, Lil Uzi Vert? Garnering hundreds of millions of fans across the world and getting themselves plastered over the cover of Rolling Stone at the age of fifteen. There’s a lot of flow, a bitta drill and quite the sideline in Latin rappers with Caribbean tinge, who dare I say, it sound a bit same-y. There’s a thing now: an understated backbeat, crazy styling and self-penned lyrics over vocal talent (‘lyrical lemonade’), which is fab. I wonder if the rappers of early 80’s Compton ever realised that near 40 years later the kids of White America, the kids of the world, and the global music industry would be following suit.

Frankly it’s gone on far too long that only people with great vocal range and who look good doing it are allowed into the halls of fame, while the rest of the talent become songwriters for other people or give up and spend the rest of their days serving fast food and living out their car, as Lizzo -classical flutist, competition winning free-style rapper, gospel vocalist and icon to body diversity even before she was famous, came one week from doing. Hmm maybe Lizzo isn’t such a good example, she can do just about any fucking thing par excellence, while riding a bike (unlike the Coors, RIP 😦 ).

So quite refreshing the fact talent scouts now have a new recipe to look out for, but so very new to us after decades of the ol’ tried and tested -that a teenager who druggedly whispers her songs is currently the world’s bestselling artist. And the hook now lies in a certain choice line or two that rides a flow to your brain rather than some ohrwurm that will haunt your days. We’re just not kool anymore.

In my mind’s eye I’ve just turned up at the back of the bus, through a haze of weed, to nestle myself among the teenagers, head nodding, shades down, braids up. But then… my walkman falls out, the cord detaches and Lulu and Take That blare out without my noticing. Oh, the abject shaaaame.

No film for us -it was originally intended to be movie nite, but it became much more enjoyable without. Near the end we were smoking in the living room, blitzing a Quality Street and painkillers, and rocking to a heady mix of Guns n Roses with Adele, in a chilled way, in a good way. Kool n the Gang again -just to Someone Like You crooning it out across the airwaves. We’re showing our age methinks but duuude, what can you do?

D finally got an Uber at 2 or 3 something, disappearing into the night. Which was one of them better ones. Good goobley god, it’s nearly New Year’s.

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A Journal of the Plague Year 3.0 Day 9

Christmas Day 2020

It’s Christmas. It’s motherflipping Christmas. Jumped out of bed to body pop, like a freak. Tidied the place up, made myself presentable, put on the Christmas Dino jumper.

My presents came in emails this year -how times have changed. No less than six books on my wishlist now for the Kindle (thankyou C), plus vouchers from Mum and other sis, C2 xx. Sat A down for his unwrapping -Korres cologne, the new Information Is Beautiful book, some horror novels sent by a friend in Hungary (You and Hidden Bodies that’s now a Netflix series -totally not his thang, I’ll inherit them instead), and a can of expensive Spanish olive oil, that’s the best he’s ever had apparently (the Brindisa Arbequina).

I got all nervous trying to prep my first Xmas dinner, though in reality A did everything, while I was Ambassador’s wife and master of ceremonies. D came over just after 1, and we began drinking and prepping and drinking some more, though in retrospect I kept it light, only getting through about a third of a bottle of rum, and D getting in his gin n tonics. The sloe gin, beer and mulled wine sachets were left forlorn the rest of the day -with literally no space to intake them. We’d be like giant squashed slugs, steeped in alcohol by then.

A big fireplace burned on screen with the dregs of Christmas past playing, and we each sporadically did video calls to family -D retiring to the bedroom for privacy, then returning immediately to get a Santa hat and a scowl. He slam’s the door again, then a few seconds later it’s a “Ho Ho Ho”, which got us spitting our drinks out. Goodness, the day was stacked. Ginormous fucking lunch:

Black forest mince pies with cream

Amouse bouche: jackfruit and mushroom bao

Starter: artichoke crumble and sourdough.

…at this point we got stuffed and had to take a break. Then ploughed on:

Main: salmon en croute with white sauce, the world’s best roast potatoes, fried sugar kale and mushrooms, gravy.

Another fucking break…

Dessert: salted caramel and gold mince pies with cream

Dessert 2: Chocolate ganache cake

We didn’t do an Xmas Pudding -why would anyone ever do that to themselves?

OMG. Needed a Roman vomitorium to fit it all in, plus the booze. The pigs in blankets, stuffing, smoked salmon, and bresaola never saw the light of day. Then we all went on a walk to burn about a tenth of it off, meeting up with An for a long traipse round Wandsworth and the Common. Some out of towners -complete, utter strangers -wished us a merry Christmas, so we knifed them.

Missed a video call with fam, but made one to sis when I got in. Other sis and Mum didn’t pick up, so will try again later or tomorrow (rang them earlier in the morning already). Genuinely needed a rota today; I get why traditionally the housewives of the world needed a vat of sherry to go with their all day workathon that everyone else enjoyed, putting their feet up in front of the telly and popping in to nick a sausage. And thank sweet St Fuck for the invention of a dishwasher. We worked that fucker.

Post lunch was highlight of my life, the board game Dixit which I’d been building up for days, yet still the others I had to drag kicking and screaming into playing. They weren’t too impressed with a Nineties French game about trying to match art cards, but hey, when pissed everything’s fun and what can you do with a last minute Oxfam sweep before lockdown? Mariah played like a lounge singer throughout, occasionally falling off a piano or becoming gangsta drill suddenly, as my algorithm on Youtube’s fucked. Listen to one song and you’re 2012 Peckham Boyz for the rest of your days, popping up like Smith and Wesson between the Disney.

Xmas film was Cat in the Hat (trippy, fun and fab -it get’s that it’s based on a mindfuck for adult’s), then later Midnight Sky (what a downer), which is Netflix’s new offering, and a retelling of every space-y escapade as of late; Mr Clooney’s in danger of getting himself typecast as a ghostly astronaut, or an astronaut that know’s ghosts. Minor drama when a plug melted (how the fuck does that happen?) and the switch got jammed, but hey, we’re still alive. No one had dinner but me, which was the roast potatoes, veg and gravy then much later snacking on the last wad of crumbly salmon goodness like a chocolate bar. Filthy.

Twas a merry day. We need more of them. Christmas Two should be celebrated some time in July, so we can have Christmas cake on the beach, like they do in Australia.

To a better year. Can’t be hard, but let’s not jinx it. I know it’s been a tough one for many, but for some it’s a choreographed coming of age, one emblazoned with memories. I’ll always remember the teenagers hanging out in their summer of love, populating the parks and street corners with digital ghetto blasters, well into the night. The people, now cosying up with their loved ones in a bubble, the readers settling down for another good book. I’m not exactly gonna say ‘long may it last‘, but ‘long shall we make the most of any given situation’, and trill that on a 2020 card instead.

xxx

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year 2.0

5th November 2020 Day One

Today is the first day of Lockdown 2.0. Work closed for me a couple of days ago ( I sadly missed our last day to the world’s smallest violin), as did many of the shops one by one on our local High Street. I spent yesterday seeking out board games to help us bide our time, like a middle aged fanatic. At first scouring the local charity shops, then the TK Maxx, pretending to be a caring Dad in the kiddy aisles. It’s been a good few decades since I was ever inspired to traipse down these plastic coated ways, full of lurid lights, mystery noises, shocking pink, glitter and dazzle -my adult antithesis -but it took approx. 6 seconds before I felt again that inner frisson of excitement. As if I was that 7 year old gobshite once more gurning for a glo-in-the-dark She-Razzle Death Worm plush. Every time I passed a certain aisle an automated fart sounded from one of the stealthy, plasticised offerings. I didn’t find a thing but bittersweet memories of Windsor Woolworths.

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So this is it, priorities, priorities. Beyond me standing staring at Hazmat Barbie, daily infections somewhere in the ether have risen to 20,000 for the UK though it may be as high as 80,000. Rumours abound this is a more contagious mutation from Barcelona, that landed some time in July, while highly hidden death rolls are topping 400 a day by now. Meanwhile there’s the big countdown in the US as the election appears on a knife-edge of results and a civil war, to a backdrop of 230,000 dead, and the highest ever infections registered for a single day -over 100,000. And Sainsbury’s just announced a whopping 3,500 job cuts, including almost all Argos stores and its fabled catalogues that were once the bestselling tomes since the Bible. Stalwart of childhood fantasies for 48 years, once described by Bill Bailey as the Laminated Book of Dreams.

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And yet we party, for that Last Gasp throwing heed to the contagious wind. Taking a bike ride later that night the streets were awash with social undistancing -London Bridge with its ancient but trendy pubs, indy cafes and historic diners a hive of candlelit activity, street drinkers and packed restaurants with queues outside. One after another in a smorgasbord for infection except for the gloomy respite of the White Cube gallery, like the haunted house in the neighbourhood that everyone eggs then runs away -yet also a promise as to what lies in wait for the rest of the strip tomorrow. The building resembled the zombie apocalypse of windswept brutalism, strip lighting and barriers to prevent entry to its Sainsbury’s-esque Carpark of a forecourt. Hardly anyone throughout, pint in hand, was masked, while a few lone men sat at empty tables looking emptied. Alkies a mile off.

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A busker band under fairy lights churned out some 80s chart toppers while a large crowd of coated partygoers chatted appreciatively from three opposite bars. It looked positively radiant, were it not for the fact the band was dressed in biohazard gear and it was 2020. I carried on through, holding my breath.

Much later, approaching the midnight toll the streets had emptied and pedestrians scurried off into drunken stupor. A few cars cruised by, one parking onto the pavement and unloading dressed up women in need of another prosecco and utterly nowhere to find it. Soho I heard was rammed, as were the East End nightlife districts -Dalston, Hackney, Hoxton, Brick Lane as well as other offerings in the south -Clapham, Peckham and Brixton which I’d turned down invites for. Scenes played out across the land. Strangely muted though according to the police, who didn’t record a single major incident but a convivial atmosphere. The young feel genuinely invincible, emboldened by mates or celebs who had it and were fine.

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Problem is these days a convivial atmosphere gets into your body, lungs and bloodstream and kills you. Like in the joke, pianos that fall out of trees. I dunno, kids these days.

I never did find a discounted Monopoly. Who knew that board games now are £30-40? One highly priced one was called Pandemic, which seemed promising but on closer inspection was a format in which all players colluded to rid the world of infection. Yaaawn. Plague Inc The Board Game was much more with it, based on the bestselling download 130 million strong, in which each player becomes a deadly disease intent on world annihilation.

Pretty dark, but I know which one I wanted. In the end I settled for a less guilt-inducing hand-me-down from the British Red Cross called Dixit (bear with me). It looks like a French (where else?) artsy fartsy card game of surrealist pictures, which players try to emote into words. Much more civilised, Marjorie, this may be our saviour when things start to wear thin. I also worry it may also look like life imitating art by then.

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Also managed to grab some flour, the last two packs of complete eggs in Lidl (cracked but easily swapped, the other slimed over with yolk but sorted by a handy food bag) and a few too many bottles of cider to go ker-azee with.

Riding for miles into the night on 5 pints is perhaps not the best way to say ta-ra again to civilisation, but it was a good idea at the time, and dare I say it, a little bit epic. The vaulting skyscrapers in Vauxhall really are a sight, doomed and half built like giant tombstones, with Kenny G’s sax in your head. But this lockdown I’m intent not to guilt-trip about that I’m not contributing to, or personally resolving, like pandemics or World Hunger. I will take it easy. I will lie in bed. I will watch movies. I will wear the same clothes, perhaps adult nappies. I will appreciate the smaller things, like detail, talk, fruit, chocolate, blankets, fluffy pillows, walks, drunken cycling, plush. As they promise, it’s time to Enjoy Life For Less. Just remember to stay safe from fuckery, and look out for our loved ones and all that.

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Tomorrow

Lockdown 1.0