A Journal of the Plague Year Day 30

Thursday 16th April 2020

Broke the record for staying in bed doing sweet FA, watching TV and the internet mindlessly. It’s sickly. Hopefully the lowpoint of my daily lockdown experience, and the only way being up from now on.

I realise increasingly I’m gonna have to ditch the internatz sessions if I’m gonna use this time to write a book, as well as the blog. Less bullshit, more conviction. Less keyboard warrior, more slow time scribe. I’ll need to remember people pay money to isolate themselves and write, they go on retreats, become fire-watchers or hermits and wall themselves in at great expense.

s

I think the realisation has come from watching Kong Skull Island play luridly in the background while I put together a whole bunch of useless map comparisons (who knew Ecuador was bigger than the UK?) for a random architecture forum. Ah, yes, life, the one I forgot to get even in lockdown. And through it all, comparing Iceland to England, Bangladesh to Russia the surreal series of background explosions, choppers, and a big ape stomping on people.

This is my life at the mo:

s

Seriously, what a shit film. Cartoonish, absurd, and quite jarringly gory. And don’t even get me started on John C. Reilly’s character, the only local with an actual role or speaking part -endemic to every exotic King Kong/ Tarzan/ Jungle Cruise/ Anaconda film where leaving the West to get sticky equates to Here Be Dragons. He achieves characterisation by dint of being the only American (his Japanese comrade conveniently dying beforehand, the tribe conveniently mute and er, unsmiling) -and thus obnoxiously endearing at every interaction with the camera, drop a kitten and he’d probably be there to catch it with his face. Gurning between your legs.

s

I think though what irked me, and kept me up at night was the pulping of humans by giant feet, fist and teeth, which was a tad too inhumane despite the dodgy CGI. Much more palatable when you see them scream a bit and get chased before being bitten, rather than casually obliterated. Human flies.

Tom Giggleston does however redeem himself as having the world’s most velvety man-voice throughout. He should be doing Sheba catfood ads, or Milk Tray, that perfect tine of Englishness without being too posh, even when he is pretending to be a gun-for-hire. The kind that isn’t creepy, no having just stepped out of Claridges, possibly a Bentley.

s

The rest of the day’s viewing was Netflix’s The Windsors series, that also droned in the background, and looks like the setup for The Crown, who just cobbled their storylines off this research, including never-before-seen footage and letters from the Royal Collection archives. Quite a segway, King Kong > Queenie.

The weekly shop had to happen, the fridge looking like a wasteland of leftover veg, a cleaved carrot, a half swede, some mushrooms, none of which I have any remote interest in. In Lidl I treated myself to a German bartkartoffeln (read: fried potatoes with lardons) as my first semblance of civilisation. There was no queue for the supermarket, despite being quite crowded inside, and hardly anyone wore a mask, which we’d happened to have forgotten also. I know some of my East Asian friends only go out with shades, hat and mask to avoid recognition, like they’re Donatella stealing through Primark, or Gary Glitter in a playground. But you’d do that too if you were EA and opened up any random comments on say Asian pet food supplies to the local weather, and see the hate. Got stared at a few times on the street and in the shops, one with a real look of fuck you, so had to give it back. It’s hard to work out sometimes if they wanna fuck you or fuck you.

s

For all the hate -and yes, let’s pretend China can be vilified for that local cover-up at the start, and not knowing what they were dealing with – it’s still a month’s lag that many Western nations had, but squandered. CNN published a story today on it, on why Europe/ NA delayed their response despite knowing it was human-to-human and highly contagious by then (not to mention having seen all the Asian nations enforce lockdowns), with the US and UK particularly late to the table:

https://edition.cnn.com/2020/04/16/asia/asia-europe-us-coronavirus-delay-intl-hnk/index.html

For perspective, Wuhan took 2 days to go lockdown from human-to-human confirmation (or 8 days from the first suspicions raised on Jan 14th), while NYC took 22 days from its first (and even with the benefit of watching a similar-sized city in China go through the rigmarole a month beforehand). Animal>human infections never result in lockdowns or even quarantines, as seen in the periodic outbreaks of Bird Flu round the world, or the 3-4 new zoonotic viruses we annually find. China’s mistake was believing it the same, with the local police covering up news for a week before the State warned those doing so ‘would be nailed to the pillar of shame for all of history’.

s

The US squandered a month it could have prepared/ prevented, and was still repatriating 40,000 Americans from China after the travel ban.

Meanwhile, the UK waited a full 2 months after the first case to enforce social distancing, business closures and stay-at-home. It may be gauche but I’ll say it now: surely there’s blame in that too? If one’s to point the finger at China, all sweaty and fat-handed, weaving from side to side, for dropping the bowl, it kinda figures us doing the same makes us as culpable, especially granted the foresight.

s

Anyhoo I digress, gotta stop bitching. On the forum that I’m addicted to occasionally browsing, there’s a 587-and-counting page update on C-19, frothing for blood at every turn -and that’s a skyscraper architecture forum. For the Good News To Restore Your Faith In Humanity post asking for admissions, there are just the two pages, and it’s been like that all year. Good news just doesn’t sell (you only need to ask those Jehovah’s Witnesses bored AF by their bookstalls). Albeit the one about the kindly centenarian who’s doing a garden marathon in his zimmer, while raising £14 million for the NHS has just been added. I raise a glass, with dry hands.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 9

Thursday 26th March 2020

 

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

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

S0223152

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

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

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

s

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

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

S0203149

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

S0193148

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

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

s

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

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

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

ss

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

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

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

sss

Yesterday

Tomorrow