A Journal of the Plague Year 2.0 Day 24

28th November 2020

Sweet FA all morning till A suddenly came home from a trip to the shops and announced a mate wanted to meet nearby. A sudden mash of showering, hairing, bearding, clothing and out within 10 mins where we met our neighbours and headed out to Wandsworth Common, walking both stretches (didn’t know it was connected by a bridge) nattering to my architect friend A about projects in a pandemic and corruption and the earthquakes in his Kiwi hometown. Well until the dark, seeing the glowing lights of the shops like some tinkly, doomed village, but very pretty.

The streets were rammed, as if everyone was out Xmas shopping but without the shops. I’ve never seen the park so packed either, with queues to cross the canal and zillions of dogs nipping about as lone darts or sudden, yapping flurries. One came right up, plonked itself on the ground, then flipped aching for his belly to be scratched -but in this day and age we shouldn’t due to infection. Literally the hardest thing to stand impervious while it lolled about.

All in all people everywhere, though it’s not like I can complain, being one of them. So much for a national lockdown.

Northcote Road more resembled a pre-pandemic Soho, cluttered with street drinkers all down its considerable length, the most popular place being a fish and chip shop doling out endless cans of lager and Spanish bottles. The other establishment opposite had the world’s most enfuriating app to download, which set out an array of options that when clicked on, helpfully explained what a menu was rather than offering one. Their loss, grasping pandafucks.

J was bubbling with the kind of post-work energy of someone freed from a prison of dying animals and bitching colleagues (works as a vet), one of the most high stress jobs and highest in suicide rate. He recounted in one grouping how one vet managed to off themselves and two colleagues tried it within the same week. Make a mistake and a cute bunny dies, then everyone loathes you -while all the time the casualties keep rolling in every 15 minutes. I surmise, unlike human patients, the workers tending to them have far less support, despite feeling every pain still at negative outcomes. Vet has to be nurse, doctor, surgeon and counsellor, while nurses double as secretaries, cleaners, social ombudsmen and a critical, political eye with vials of gossip to unleash should one set a paw wrong. And to J that day, rabbitting incessantly on the dismalities of smalltown life and twerks of celebrities while he tried to operate.

So drink or four was a welcome respite. Later at home we continued with an entirely new gang: housemate J and ex-housemate Jk, which soon dribbled into drunken singing, dancing, endless retro music vids and J crashing into his 200 year old painting, silver plates and tv. D smoked out the window and there was a alot of banter between Wales, Northerners and Wherever I Come From. I was called Penang Curry, J was Pontypridd and Jk The Face of Exeter 2011 (no seriously, winning a modelling competition back in the day -we even sorted through the internet to find the page). D was just ‘Northern’ or ‘Lancs’, which he hates as he’s from Yorkshire apparently and constantly lying that it’s a different thing.

At 4am unable to sleep, having necked so much rumncoke, took out my laptop and proceedeed to try and optimise it, as one does when starved of no-holds fun. Ended up deleting an app called ‘Xbox Something Or Other’ which has nothing to do whatsoever with a game console I don’t own and everything to do with Windows not working and being replaced by a white screen of death every time I restarted. A good 1.5 hrs later, after sifting through a spidergram of functions and services to reignite, it got back to normal. Fucking life, a banging headache that catches up.

But another one under the belt at least. Need some sleep.

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A Journal of the Plague Year Day 86

Saturday 13th June

STILL SICK OHMIGAAHD. It has not come to pass.

But then, woke again a few hours later, sweaty, stained and strained. And it had, miraculously ache-free. Well enough to be up and about and feeling healthy in the first time in weeks. Bizarre.

And well enough to go out by the afternoon to meet some friends who live across the way, first time we’ve seen them in ages. Making full use of the lockdown ease in restrictions.

Discovered Wandsworth Common in all its glory.

The streets through Clapham very much resembled a socially distanced block party, all the pubs, cafes and restaurants doling out custom while the punters resided in doorways and on household chairs, available ledges and walls. Northcote Rd enjoyed a black van with a DJ pumping out the BBQ choons, apparently entirely independent from any business.

Everyone on one side of the street partied, the other side stopped, stared then decided on joining them.

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The park is the usual Common scenario – blank grassland with trees at its edges, popular with sports but these days taken over by the picnickers and drinkers, notably ourselves.

Plenty of the local teens were out loitering, circling with digital boomboxes and the hot bods -the kind who still wear their baseball caps backward, circa 1987/ 2017 -with their tops off and throwing varieties of ball.

By late afternoon the clouds were gathering on this first day in a week with sunshine, doom-laden with a double rainbow appearing. Some parts of the space resistant to shadow shone bright even as it rained. It must be hard for them insisting on playing ball, the wind blowing, hands freezing, refusing to put your pecs away while pretending to be in Rio, and not Wandsworth in the rain.

Nothing will ever dampen those horizons, or get in their way. Made for some epic cloudcapes anyhoo.

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Then it was back to theirs, a sparkling place of modern living and luxury simplicity segued into a historic building -all minimalist de-clutter offset by lone artpieces, historic detailing and orchids. The kind of place you think, one day my son… Designed by the architect who makes one half of the couple, the other a yoga instructor having given up being a vet due to how dire and depressing the industry is. By all accounts riven with death, intrigue and bitching like Game of Thrones with abducted pomeranians and murderfied gerbils – it has the highest suicide rates of any other industry. -I remember a mate who was a veterinary nurse, his little flat dotted with occasional squeaks, hairballs and furtive burrowing sounds at every turn, from the rescued animals he couldn’t bear to put down. He regaled me on the practices that happened.

For example, if some kind soul brought in an injured squirrel, perhaps rounded into a soft ball in delicate hands, you were meant to thank them graciously and wait awkwardly till they left. Then take the furball outside, and pitch it like a baseball at the tarmac or appropriated Death Wall. For the government insists you do it as guidance -as an invasive species from North America it demands annihilation, having sent the native Reds (smaller, tufty ears, red) into ever shrinking outposts in Scotland, as they get outcompeted.

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There is another line of conservation, that treats invasive species beyond a certain timescale as acceptable (as almost every wildlife habitat was created by being an invasive species at some stage). The city is currently seeing in a small colony of teeny Yellow Tailed Scorpions in East London, near the old docks where they jumped ship from the Med.

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We also have mitten crabs (yes, another Chinese biological import) -more problematic as they’re killing off all local species in favour of one. However, we may have hope -put a price on anything, and the human er ‘spirit’ will suddenly come to the fore and vanquish the impossible multitudes. As seen in the port city of Qingdao just before the Beijing Olympics, when a disastrous algae bloom turned the local coast a brilliant green. The government, having exhausted the army, eco groups and local do-gooders, then added a price for every bucket hauled (it can be used as fertiliser, food additives and fuel) -within days the seas had been cleansed and every grain of sand scrubbed as thousands of humans with greed on their minds descended.

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Mitten crabs are of course a prized delicacy in places like Shanghai that holds them as a star dish of the city, winning Michelin wreaths for their sweet flesh. In Europe however they haven’t caught on because of the offputting look of the growths that grow on the pincers (hence their name, and another moniker being ‘Hairy Crabs’). Also, they’re Thames dwelling, sieving through 20,000 tonnes of annual sewage dumped after heavy showers, and thus not as salivating. The Mayor is currently building the enormously overpriced, already-late ‘Super Sewer’ (at 5 billion smackeroonies its ballooned to 5x the original cost thanks to money-grabbing contractors), a 25km tunnel under the city that will be able to take the overflow of raw shit. Until then it’s unlikely to be on any menus.

It was so nice to socialise again, progressed into light drunkendom and gossiping about everything lockdown, riot and race related. It’s almost a social nicety now -to catch up on the current events, protests and pandemic at the start to get it over and done with, though now slowly becoming like Brexit B Word -something not to mention in polite company and ambassador’s balls. It segued nicely, and divisively, into how much of a colonialist twat our sacred Churchill was after 3 million died in the Bengal famine, that a 2017 study on the soil samples now affirms was engineered by his actions not drought (and the fact he denied them aid even after Canada and the US offered).

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At some stage we moved on to the hot topic of upward mobility (welcome to party-mad middle age, guys) and I stated it was noticeably easier in the UK, touting not just the figures but anecdotes on how many of our posho mates and creatives came from chavvy, knifey fams in caravan parks or refugee trails. But then J pointed out, we’d never even have that convo outside the UK, where class isn’t such a big fucking hang-up. I looked at it, he was right.

We later tried the homemade kimchi -fermented cabbage swamped in chilli (horribly pungent, spicy, and superb); Korean food is not like Chinese -it punches as a single note without so much the differing layers of flavour or texture, but in a good way. We finished the night with more wine, a surefire path to migraine and hangover for me, but what the hell. I need it. The food’s made me as reckless and unapologetic, likely to fight on the beaches.

Not so much a block party, more a fizzy, enjoyable slump into foreign sofas.

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