A Journal of the Plague Year Day 65

Saturday 23rd May 2020

We’d planned to go cycling this morning, all the way into Central London to see the ghost town, but it was blustery all day and whistling through the windows. A maintains it’s hard to ride when the wind’s against you, making it difficult to enjoy things, notably any scenery you pant your way past like Mutterly.

I imagine the place as dystopian, akin to the opening to 28 Days Later, where a fallen double-decker blocks Westminster Bridge. Apparently the scene was made on low budget by shooting at the height of a Sunday summer morning (dawn at 4am) and begging any drivers to wait a few minutes. I kinda just want to say I saw it, I was there, for history. A pretty ghoulish intent, but for a committed urbanist just too compelling.

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I expect the streets will be populated somewhat, with quite a few cars too compared to the start of lockdown, now that the sun’s out and the rules have been eased. A big furore’s kicking up about Dominic Cummings, chief Tory aide and mastermind of the Leave Campaign who was caught driving 260 miles to Durham after getting C-19 symptoms (apparently to have his kids looked after by his elderly parents). There’s also a lot trending on social media as to why media outlets initially refused to cover the story in a hope it would all blow over, notably ITV news. And how the govt is now desperate to reinterpret the wording of what staying lockdowned entails.

Downing St issued a statement saying it was going to ignore the story because papers such as The Guardian and The Mirror published reports that he’d been seen twice on other outings from Durham, and that they were false allegations. It’s since been forced to face up after Tory backbenchers have come forward to ask for Cummings’ resignation, seeing the party reputation and resources damaged otherwise. The PM maintains he’s backing Cumming’s position to stay in place as an advisor. Ah such farce.

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The day has been surprisingly health-moan free- no headaches, though a big achey arm by nightfall, perhaps from playfighting in bed as one is wont to do when bored. Other domestic newsflashes include thinking about cutting and dyeing the hair again (growing out), feeling old (seeing bad photos of me), feeding on a giant watermelon for days (paired with feta, as is traditional for Greek country cooking), and bickering about whose turn it is to do the cleaning this weekend (we’d been getting the order wrong and expecting each other to do it).

Apparently the trick is to not add the mint, onions, rocket, walnuts or olive oil as many recipes ask, but just the purist melon and cheese, nothing else, the Greek farmers way of taking a block of cheese while working  the fields, and for once ignoring the herbs around. That way the flavours combine into something new, rather than layer themselves distinctly. Also the seeds can be cooked after – they’re literally amazing with salt and pepper.

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I am also getting exhausted from the racism online. One of my favourite websites now overrun with it, as it has been for some years. Skyscraperpage is racist, oozes it -and that’s just a random architecture and urbanity site, who you’d think was populated by progressive IMBY’s. I’m increasingly resorting to watching Youtube vids on a range of algorithmic topics that are my own personal echo chamber, perhaps to cheer myself up that the world does support my way of thinking everywhere I look. But knowing inside that it’s just a damn foil I’m surrounding myself with every click.

It kept me up last night. The end to a good day scuppered by seeing the insults online, and the avid acceptance and support of them as an institutional reminder. I am yearning for history to fast forward, and just deal with the results rather than this limbo. My intended holiday to NYC, planned over a lifetime, will always be marred as to what to expect, sure -but it’s getting increasingly shadowy. I get that Americans are not all neo-Nazis and there are hundreds of millions of normal people, but the White supremacism -underhand, subconscious or overt -appears saturating in every public arena online, that currently rules its politics and laws. The country is battling for its soul, and the democratic rights of ignorance that now supersede facts.

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I cannot bring myself to watch the lurid videos of the racism, from neighbours shouting insults for hours, to demonstrators attacking, to the public diatribes. It’s hard to watch hate without feeling it yourself.

J has been getting down recently, the lockdown is getting him lonely -and we’re not helping by being holed up in our rooms for most of the day. I gave him a hug or three, but that’s not exactly a miracle cure. I try to have lunch with him on the sofa, and fixed the TV that’s been on the blink (goddamn Sony Bravia, planned obsolescence kicking in after 7 years), recalibrating every setting for half an hour, but all to little effect. He’s headed off to his partner’s place for a day or two to cheer himself up.

I got to remember things can be a lot worse, like skyline-burning worse, just like how we imagined it at the start. As America’s death toll climbs past the 100,000 mark the Great Orange Wotsit (thank you to my sister for the moniker -an item just as tainted and puffed up with hot air) going golfing on the occasion, a sign as to how mundane the disaster’s become. In better news New York state is significantly lowering in deaths, but the other states are starting to climb, notably North Carolina and California. A part of me wants to say fuck it, bring it on, goading on the end of the world order, another part knows it’s playing into the same role.

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Yesterday

Tomorrow

 

 

A Journal of the Plague Year Week 8

Sunday 3rd May 2020

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

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

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

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

Rather than this:

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

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

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

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

The Top 30 death rates per million:

New York – 1,242

San Marino – 1,208

New Jersey – 872

Connecticut – 680

Belgium – 670

Andorra – 569

Massachusetts – 563

Spain – 537

Italy – 475

Louisiana – 427

UK – 414

Michigan – 404

France – 379

District of Columbia – 351

Netherlands – 291

Rhode Island – 280

Sweden – 264

Republic of Ireland – 260

Pennsylvania – 217

Maryland – 208

Switzerland – 204

Illinois – 200

Indiana – 185

Delaware – 177

Colorado – 150

Luxembourg – 147

Washington State – 115

Georgia (USA) – 114

Monaco – 102

Portugal – 100

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

 

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

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

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 22

Wednesday 8th April

Have just returned from an evening walk -the Italians call it the passeggiata, where after dinner you put on your Sunday best and go for a stroll. Everyone tends to meet up in the town square and have a good old gossip, loiter and flirt in the lilting light. This is a daily ritual played out all over the Mediterranean and Middle East, and I see why. No pressure to spend in order to be happy, to drink to socialise, or be exercising to go out. No plan, no destination, no rendez-vous. You’re just out for a walk, and anything that may come your way, in mind and body. Also an English tradition to clear one’s head, practiced back from mid century and before. I do remember it in Wind in the Willows, where Mole always swore by going for an evening walk come rain or shine, and that everyone needed to do it. I thought it a splendid idea as a kid, but when faced with a treasure trail of bus stops and army estates it proved a bit more shite in reality. I think the timing’s key, when the colours begin to glow.

The place now is often a beautiful ghost town.

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We ended up by the river, the Thames Path full of joggers and couples, or lone people on benches, some just leaning on walls and staring mistily at the Danubian waters, beneath the vaulting towers of Vauxhall. The architecture a story writ in stone and steel offsetting each other in style, typical of London. Every street was varied, where centuries-old churchtowers faced off postwar highrises or glass condos, and making perfect photo ops, which I kept annoying A to borrow his phone for, or make take a snap, having forgotten mine. The skies were ethereal.

On the way back we got lost, finding some nice pubs and a French bistrot (for ‘when this is all over’), but then ending up in the concrete wastes that is so much of Battersea, riddled with pre-fabs that look alike. We walked in the entirely wrong direction attempting to head to our own block squatting on the horizon, before realising it just another ugly doppelganger. Brick, concrete, square windows, utterly functional and uninspired, in contrast to the high end views of the Thames, like sentinel ships.

By that stage it had been all hush -emptied streets and a languid summer feel, punctuated with glowing visions of warmth and other lives. But by walking interminably the wrong way then back again I got increasingly frustrated, a switch from an elegant, arm-in-armness. I have a deep-seated intolerance to such a pitch of inefficiency, the kind of bottled up anger that makes you want to scream, punch walls and upend bins. I imagined myself raking at the damn blossoms like a madman, stomping on people’s daffodils stupidfuckingword, their picket fences handy javelins into their shitty lives, framed by chintz. We’d spent a good 45 mins plodding a huge loop back to the river, while my dinner sat uncooked and going off.

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At home still furious, made worse by having to simmer it beneath the veneer: that everything’s all right, and no one is to blame, and let’s all have a nice sit down, and not cleaver the TV, or use the wok as a fucking baseball bat. Dinner was veal burgers and rice, wrongly cooked, while film night got ignored until I masking taped everyone into the sofa. I’m going to go to bed with a brick, and will gnaw at it. Piece of shite. I think sometimes things culminate, and I know, know, know I don’t have the right.

Yesterday 850 died in the UK from the C-19. About 60 of them were from outside the hospitals, and there may be more not yet counted in a daily lag. The way things are going, any rumour of a release from lockdown in the next few weeks is now off the menu. Another report came out today, based on the daily figures, that the UK may be in line to have more deaths than France, Italy and Spain combined, at 66,000.

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Meanwhile, The Great Orange Dolphin (GOD) plated up a tumultuous, rambling briefing, following the highest death toll so far on a single day from any country -1,800 – despite many hints of undercounting. The reporters endured an embarrassing diatribe throwing barbs on all sides to deflect their questions on his recent leadership (or lack of), mixing messages, before rounding on the World Health Organisation (WHO). He went on to claim he’d no longer fund the organisation tasked to bring nations, their governments and their science together to collectively fight infection, mitigate the spread, treat the sick and protect the healthy. His reason to withdraw US contributions (about 1/8 of its $4 billion budget) being that it was too ‘China-centric’, though many see it as a typical sociopath’s deflection of blame by pointing at another. Basically show up at the party for cake, and the G.O.D. who was meant to bring it will subsequently point his harpoon at the birthday girl, squeak-screaming how she prefers pilot whales and he wants his pressie back.

Despite that withdrawing funds for this global organisation in the middle of a pandemic would be a major attack against domestic and international recovery, this is now being sold as protectionist realignment by the American right, notably Fox News, in the spirit of a just and superior power not to heckled, and not to be made a fool of. The WHO is now the sudden posterchild of villain and hero, for both sides, and is desperately  sending out public requests to end the politicisation of a pandemic. That one cannot have your cake and eat it, then kill everyone.

U.S. President Trump leads daily coronavirus response briefing at the White House in Washington

In other news the victims of C-19 in the US appears unfairly slanted to Black and African American groups, in Louisiana for example making up 70% of the deaths. There is a questioning of the different forces at play, from the higher rates of obesity and illness that contribute to the fatality rates, to the lower income thresholds that are more unlikely to seek or receive help. To the fact many Black Americans complain that using bandanas/ cloths during the face mask shortage is tantamount to being framed as criminals, from being turned away from stores to getting shot, hence why they’re reluctant to do so. The papers are also still full of opinion pieces on how the US got into the position of having to rely on China as its saviour (via providing Personal Protective Equipment and Intensive Care Units), and the Chinese propaganda machine now repainting itself as such. They are of course brimming with rage, both left and right, justified and unjustifiable, at China’s role in its spread in the first place, while receiving millions of donated PPE and ICUs.

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Today I promised not to write so much, limiting it to the morning, then embarking on a sojourn into gaming. Set up the laptop, unpacked the controller, and reloaded Steam. I’m not much of a gamer, though was seriously addicted to Streetfighter II as a kid – but have mostly missed out on a huge round of development, whereby gaming is now overshadowing the film industry itself, and the graphics are no longer cubist, or a floating world.

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Skyrim: Elder Scrolls was the choice. Now, I’m not one to know what the fuck I’m doing half the pixelated time, battling with the controls more than on-screen baddies, and occasionally screaming or throwing TVs out the window, so opening up the veritable universe of such a game is a risk. The complexity of it is galling, with a million different functions, controls, options and tasks. For example collecting various shit in various locations to make various spells for various occasions, via an encyclopedic menu. Or trying to kill that giant flipping spider with shitty little arrows, while nipping in and out of a corner, while the controls freeze up then change. It all sounds too much like hard work.

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There were those early Playstation ads where they basically inferred gaming was akin to a new life, being able to experience unimaginable things, from a conqueror of worlds, to just a platform, or a golf swing. Well, if they did a version of modern life, imagine walking around trying to access menus whenever having a thought or move, carrying round untold baggage like any trolley-pushing, homeless granny, and a good few scrolling options to find out whichever bag it’s in as the queue waits fuming. VR’s gonna be the future, you just reach to your abstract pocket on the side to grab that axe, or ray gun or shrinking potion as that tentacle whips towards you, as opposed to pausing and going through an Excel sheet each time. Ah, life, virtual, imagined or real – still stuck with the same bureaucratic shite.

When computers start simplifying life will be when they actually lift off as useful to humans.

Tomorrow I’ll probably take up Streetfighter again (now on it’s fifth offering), and my days will effectively cease, the lockdown being the rest of my life, when I’ll have starved to death, swaddled in adult nappies. Cold dead joysticky hands.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 18

Saturday 4th April 2020

It’s been a long time coming. The sun is out and the temperatures are climbing into whole double digits. After 7 months of Great British winter it’s about feckin time, and normally an excuse for the entire country to have a sickie-induced, unofficial national holiday. Windows open with music blaring, everyone in shades and shorts, sunning themselves on beaches, parks and traffic islands, sinking timetables as trains come to screeching halts from the ‘wrong type of sunshine’ or buckling rails in the heat shimmer. The distant tinkle of ice cream vans as the new morning-to-night chorus, churning out their tinny renditions of Ode to Spring and ice-cream flavoured plastic. Tube carriages becoming searing animal transportation scandals, and the motorways and country lanes clogging with daytrippers in the 15 degrees.

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Well, the country’s on high alert to battle this oncoming tide of wellwishers and semi-pagan worshippers. Lines of armed convoys, army escorts, throbbing helicopters and arm-to-arm sweeps of the Picnic police.

A woman and child in Kettering were caught inflagrante with a bucket and spade. A grandfather in Looe with a fishy looking pole. Then that family in Southwark, claiming their children (holding picnic blankets and rackets) weren’t theirs. The three teenagers in Birkenhead, whose burgeoning pregnancy turned out to be a football. Chopper footage of three people in Brixton dancing around a radio, though they said it was epilepsy.

The horror. In all seriousness though, this deceptive kinda shit is killing people. The Health dept is now looking at banning the daily ‘exercise’ that is clogging up the beauty spots and vista points with cars, winnebagos and selfies. The Western govts are increasingly looking at smartphone tech now, that can trace your whereabouts (as if they don’t already do), like they did in Asia to alert others if a newly infected person had recently been in contact or passed nearby. The legendary Spring Breakers who broke US advice to party in Mexico were apparently tracked the whole way, and are now facing the consequences along with their hangovers and teen pregnancies. Likewise the same may soon be happening here, your records of diverting suspicously through the Peak District, or via your bosses wife or the atmospheric dells of Clapham Common at 4am, while popping to Lidl for all to see.

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Today I got progress on the glowering thing that’s long been in the back of my mind (after the world collapsing and tens of millions dying of course, of course) these past few weeks. The first coupla pages of my book I’m trying to write, with great feedback from some literary aficionados that have seen me re-write them from scratch, but with less description and a change in chronology. When writing it’s like trying to paint a vast picture while hovering only a few inches away, unable to step back and see the unruly splodges that mar it, nor the overall composition. It takes someone else to come in and point out that my portrait has three eyes, or a bird’s shat on the corner, or it looks like an untrammelled disaster and I really should take up plasticine figures again.

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I also missed my sisters’ birthdays; both of them born two years apart but on the same day -C looking chuffed in a family snap over a big double-candled cake, yet strangely missing mum who’d just gone into labour. I look at these bygone pics and wonder if Now marks a turning point between worlds, that of Before and that of After, always after. They say social distancing may last years, and that older folk may have to be shuttered away till the next one, though my civil servant friend has conveyed (through the art of mime) that the govt hopes it’ll be over by June.

708 people died today in the UK, overtaking Spain and Italy, where the Midlands has now become the new epicentre with over 200 deaths (almost double London). 5 London bus drivers were among the day’s dead. We’re still an estimated 7-10 days away from peak. And does it even register with us any more? We are growing a shell to the fate of others, beyond our little chalk-drawn, spray-painted, wall-built delineations.

Spain is now seeing a second day of lowering its figures to a ‘healthy’ 674, on the heels of Italy also down to 681, both of whom were recording tallies of up to 950 in the previous week. The US took 1,344 into the highest daily death toll ever. Italy remains the country with the highest deaths so far, over 15,000.

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Meanwhile China is saying it will not limit its production of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and ICUs to any country, like a teacher trying to break up bickering students. The kind who are pulling each others hair and stealing phones, to the tune of hundreds of ICU’s appropriated on the way to Spain or Italy, or the US barring factories from sending any equipment to any other country other than itself, even if they’d already commissioned and paid for them.

This is a bit like a fun game of catch which everyone had been enjoying by the rules, but then started holding on for too long. Until The Great Orange Dolphin comes along, barges poor Flipper out the way, and eats the damn ball.

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I literally cannot point it out further, like a stuck record. How there are certain ideas in people’s minds projected into societies, in turn becoming governmental policies that are undermining this entire effort to stop the pandemic globally. We need to be united and working as a team, not as a committee, and not as a rival rugby troop. Sometimes you do need that perspective, to not put fences around your own little claims, and sense of righteousness over others.

I realise I am that teacher now, shouting empty words like a stuck record to a roomful of lounging, scrolling, smoking, casually sexting youth. Like a door greeter in the Disney Store churning out those empty niceties, or a production line products to the wrong client.

One day we may look back at all this and be appalled. Or will we? Will these transgressions ever see the light of day again? Or just be portrayed as a lovely staycay with govt support and no, we know nothing of stealing those meds meant for our neighbours who couldn’t afford it, but we could so we deserved it more. Ah, the snapshot of human life, to stand back and appreciate.

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Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 16

Thursday 2nd April 2020

Needing

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Break.

Increasingly lethargic to write. Headachey all day, writing all day. Fuckers.

Stuck in a rut.

I imagine about 12 hours worth, of which 1 hr on admin (weeerk emails and texts), 4 hrs on the book conundrum (so hair-tearingly stuck I’ve had to contact a stranger to help), an hr on this blog and about 6hrs doing sweet FA on news forums where I’ve taken full time employment as a keyboard warrior. I mean who still does that? Chatrooms were sooo noughties. Boomers obviously, emanating great globs of social division as they crawl through cyberspace like giant pale, male slugs of patriarchy. Writing crappy articles in effect, as a post that will be argued by one odious oversized mollusc and looked at by another five, before sliming over to a new page.

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I am of course being sucked into the black hole that is the algorithm laced Internet, where I’ll be later bombarded by more material to further polarise my views, perhaps unintentionally -or not -but to further partisan up the great unplugged. This is how the giant slugs came about in the first place, once fellow victims with kitchens and friends and everything. With algorithms ruling every roost, you’ll never be surprised into new things, and every echo chamber only ever gets deeper. That’s how Netflix gets positively boring. I’m currently stuck in a purgatory of low budget horrors, food porn and lots and lots of immersive Americans standing round talking to, with and about each other. No other suggestions come forward.

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But no. Don’t settle -the world is bigger than that.  Go, seek out that animated history of the Slovakian harp, or some shorts from the Saudi indy scene, or just anything waaaay out there ker-azee, unwatched by anyone else ever, the most obscure offering you can eke out of the molehill of Mongolian film history. Then maybe things will spice up, hopefully.

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Also watched a mix of the Big Brother contestants only now being informed of the C-19 pandemic (Germany, Brazil and Canada, last week), without a clue as to what they were saying, just seeing their shocked expressions in close up. It must be terrifying to be launched straight into it, without the creeping build-up we’ve all been privy to these last weeks. The Germans were most shocked when they found out people were self-isolating, the Brazilians that every non essential shop and business was winding down, and the Canadians that the US border was closed.

There is something macabrely intriguing about seeing the dawning realisation of something on another. From a position of safety, or prior knowledge beforehand, makes it perhaps a position of power. Not quite sure about that ethically, but I thoroughly enjoyed every second.

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A following vid (as you do, clicking randomly through your algorithmic menu) was of a brother and sister discovering each other on another BB show in the States, who realised they had the same father when cross-referencing names and descriptions (war vet, missing foot). I mean bizarre, yet amazing, and warming, though a little inbred in that Southern charm kinda way. Then followed up, just as randomly by PM Julia Gilliard’s rousing 2012 speech against sexism and misogyny, voted Australia’s most unforgettable TV moment. Impressive viewing once again, which I dawdled a delicious hour through following up on the issues she’d been specifying, on sordid texts, lascivious expense scandals and bullheaded villainry. I think the algorithm is targeting my emotions, the act of getting jawdropped in a sea of domestic mundanity.

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She keeps the world turning, even from seven years ago.

For a large chunk of the day Netflix’s docurama Rome played in the background, a haze of murder, nudity and intrigue that kept making me look up over the screen as it flashed tit and blood and Doric columns. Annoying.

Then the 8pm Clap-A-Thon for the NHS, echoing across the land and this time people were playing instruments (bugles, horns, drums). I kind of had that very awkward Britishism, caught in a window full of other windows facing me, and dragged into clapping alongside rather than looking like an emotionally stunted Billy No Mates. It’s not that I don’t support the NHS, or didn’t find it genuinely magic, I’m just not the kind to clap or hoot or do anything other than sway a little, even if I was front row at America’s Got Motherfucking Talent, my cat just won and the camera on me. So I pretended to clap. Yes I did. Though genuinely smiling. Anyhoo, for what it’s worth, Thankyou NHS x

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In similar circumstances the people of Brazil took to their pots and pans, but this time to express their outrage at the leadership of Jair Bolsanaro, the outspoken far right president, similar to Trump, who’s been valiantly holding the virus at bay by diagnosing it as the sniffles, refusing lockdowns, and maintaining it a bad dream we’ll soon wake up from, to a strong coffee and some light tennis on the beach. That is till this biggest protest of his rule to date, racketing out from a few hundred million balconies. Democracies have increasingly been shown to be undemocratic and graspingly unprofessional in all this -it should never reach this stage.

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There’s something to be said about sociopaths in power… I mean it’s a no brainer literally just stepping back and letting the medical experts advise you on what to say. And look grave, possibly even upset at press meetings on people dying. Just so long as you maintain that serious facade and try pretending that people’s lives equate to say, a dollar in your pocket, then you’ll likely be bolstered by sweeping support from all sides, as seen in countries under siege mentality. Such as the noticeable uptick in adoration exhibited for the Great Orange Dolphin (G.O.D.), even from Democrat hills, that has him at his highest ratings ever (49%). Even when all he can think to talk about are the ratings for these briefings, as thousands gasp it out.

Like he literally cannot see what that looks like, literally cannot fathom a logic that hundreds of thousands of human lives are more important than his spotlight. Look at that little facial icon in the corner, ready to fight on the beaches. A look of cold steel to the wind, hair catflapping madly as he raises the flamethrower. Then he opens his mouth.

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Yet given the set-up, script and role these arrivistes still seem unable to tear themselves from their tried and tested MO on or off stage: of pathologically lying on any given subject, and making for the usual pfaff of bluster, disbelief, grandiosity and unimpeachability (God complex). Until the last minute when they lose grip (cold, dead hands, crowbarred by an upset secretary), at the untold cost of thousands of preventable deaths. Imagine Trump, embattled, washed up, squeak-screaming again under the presidential desk as the staff try and tease him out with oil contracts and Fox cameras, maybe some Russian ladies of the night with incontinence issues. It will take till then, that delicately held point in time and history books – possibly a black and white Newsweek cover of the whole Benny Hill scene- before we ever get to turn the corner on this thing.

Amazon Pink River Dolphin or Boto Inia geoffrensis Underwater, Rio Negro BRAZIL

Amazon Pink River Dolphin or Boto Inia geoffrensis Underwater, Rio Negro BRAZIL

Am stuck increasingly with nothing to do. No board games, no one interested in computer games either -it’s the soul sucking internet, or Netflix for most of the day. We contemplated going out for a walk, but the kind of cold, dark, empty walk you’d get at 10.30pm during a ghostly pandemic lockdown of a not particularly pretty part of town, all train tracks, brick terraces and highrises to the tune of litter confetti and plastic tumbleweed. Like Dune, but a budget where they had to make do with Felixstowe for location. Noone cleans the streets anymore.

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In the end we opted to have our souls sucked, promising tomorrow to be a constructed, constructive day full of tasks, shopping and prep for a Sunday dinner party we’ll be throwing in honour of ourselves, for which J will get his antique silverware out. Tomorrow morning will be a conference call for work, to vote on some products for the new Wildlife Photographer of the Year comp. Kind of looking forward to doing something, anything again yet tentative to rejoin public life, like a first day of school encore. Will even have to get out of my one-piece, all-day bathrobe, which now looks like one of those over-the-shoulder numbers cavemen always wear, or a large, splayed cat.

Lunch a milkshake and chicken kiev (overcooked, popped and fizzled away), dinner 3 slices of bread and some ineffective painkillers. Life’s a little bit shit.

Currently it’s Fool’s Gold, Kate Hudson, Matthew McConaughey, and a youthful Kevin Hart chasing Conquistadore treasure in the Caribbean. A camp, long-winded ‘action-comedy’ set in crystal waters that’s particularly refreshing after a steady diet of horror, arthouse and psychological/ historical drama. I’m not sure what’s going on but I am peeping up whenever Mr McCona-heeeyyy is going shirtless, which is like in every scene ever, even when shopping or arguing over divorce papers. I’ve heard he’s always crossing his arms across his lovely chest, or generally gesticulating as he talks, because if he puts them to his sides you’ll see they’re preternaturally short. Like a baby penguin.

I’ve been avoiding the news, but like the ghastly spectacle it is, on your doorstep, I looked. Infections now over 1 million, and Spain with another 950 deaths, UK 569. Morgues are being set up all over the country, in makeshift tents and every purported ice rink which noone’s ever going to return to. The US grabbed something like 5 million masks destined for France, by paying 3x the price in cash and redirecting the plane just as it was about to taxi off from China. Trump also invoked his emergency powers to get 3M to stop its mask shipments, destined for a SE Asian locale from their Singaporean factory, to be redirected to the US of A. And to stop making them for anyone other than their own. They refused, but were brought to task by the G.O.D. via Twitter, who is now vowing they’ll ‘have a big price to pay’.

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At the same time, CIA documents show China covered up infections near the start (the thing with the doctor), and on human> human transmission, or at least was too delayed in announcing it, as if not to be outdone in the panto-villain stakes. Not promising.

The Thucidydes Trap between the two posers looks ever more worrying.

But to bed, to bed. For another day, and another keyboard offensive.

Yesterday

Tomorrow