A Journal of the Plague Year Day 83

Wednesday 10th June 2020

The small vagaries of life in a domestic existence start off ephemeral, but soon grow especially once they recur.

There is a strange animal outside making a noise every morning and often through the day. Often at dawn. Starts off as a squawking, progresses into dying seagull, and whining into oblivion. Occasionally screams. Enough to have gotten me up at 5am searching in slippers for some injured bird. During the afternoon you’ll hear a hoiking noise like a fat bloke clearing his throat, which degenerates into a yapping cough. I looked all of these up, and it’s a fox, which J, brought up on a farm, regards as vermin but I think magical, but then again I think pigeons are magical. The grunting cough it does is called ‘gekking’ (onomatopeic – the word sounds like what it means), one of a large retinue of noises the animal can make, most infamous of which is the death scream, pealing into the night when it’s supposedly mating, or just bored imo:

Deer also scream, not to mention make pinball noises

It is with this extra time on one’s hands, chained to a screen for hours, and having exhausted every favourite site that you begin to explore. I went for a random meander down the problems of cursive writing in the Russian script.

Lishish – (you will deprive) Лишишьs

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And the traditional solution to the problem:

I have also been following travellers as they visit London the first time:

And lightshows in China:

The largest of which comes from Wuhan, a city you might have heard of recently. It covers 900 buildings:

Peeps trying Marmite the first time:

08:35

07:37

14:02

And Surströmming

Which naturally segues into vertigo vids:

Until 2007 this climb was done entirely without safety harnesses for millions of pilgrims, many who’d do the plank walk. A favourite suicide spot in recent years it’s now frequently closed as they launch investigations.

Welcome to the rabbit hole that is lockdown life by this stage.

So need a life right now. I’m sure Bezos sells one on Amazon.

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A Journal of the Plague Year Day 29

Wednesday 15th April 2020

Today has been especially sluggish. Giant-leopard-spotted-sliming-through-treacle-sluggish. With a limp. Didn’t sleep last night due to a headache pill containing the barest whiff of caffeine, and thus was trancing glo-sticks to an allnighter in my head till 6am, faceplanting the pillow. It’s not so much counting sheep by then but chasing the fuckers down and shooting them.

Got up 3 hrs later to start my day. Another joyless meal: Thai chicken soup out of a can, poured over fried bacon, carrot, potato and rice. As amazing as it sounds. Yep, I’m hitting the stage of using up what’s about to start crawling about or becoming smoked.

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J thankfully gave me a chocolate mini-egg and some shortbread, two humane essentials at the mo, along with power, internet and water. Watched Maleficent II -crap film but a welcome change. I’ve heard there’s a high demand for media set in historical or ahistorical climes, pre-digital, pre-internet, pre-phones-4-U, pre-car, pre-TikTok. Sherlock Holmes, Game of Thrones, Dan Jones that kinda thing. I think we’re all desperate to just get TF away from reality for a spell -every morning the global hobby being lying in bed and reading endless newsfeeds, literally in-yer-face for hours.

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Hearing about the World Health Organisation and its demonisation via the Trump regime, the continuing breakdown of the global food distribution network, more racism (casual, overt, politicised) and more large business closures (Oasis, Cath Kidston, Warehouse). Today I progressed to attempting to chase a refund (Sainsbury’s Bank having trouble for some 1.5 month-long reason, despite promising multiple times), having to book new mandatory time off work, chasing up cancelled holiday plans and checking bank records all becoming a wonderland of bureaucratic shite, a dervish of dates, times, passwords, password generators, statements, emails and assorted fuckery. They say people work longer than they did before computing, even though so much time’s been saved the bureaucratic nature of all transactions nowadays means it just becomes a blizzard. The same applies to the workplace -nothing will ever save you time, you just do more work.

I need to decouple myself from Americana, in all its garish glory. I need some Wuthering Heights, with wolves. Possibly set somewhere more exotic than Huddersfield, like the brooding wastes of Kamchatka or Hokkaido or Earthsea. It breaks my heart that I’ve had to cancel three holidays -the most we’d ever booked. I would’ve been in the wilds of the Tyrolean forest right now, working my way to Lake Garda. Possibly spotting a bear from a creaking train carriage, the kind with a restaurant car, aspidistra and doilies, and a mysterious murderer on board as light entertainment.

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Yesterday’s film was Cold Skin, a 2017 French-Spanish funded horror from a book of the same name, La Pell Freda. Shit. Dodgy prosthetics, unscary creatures that have the big-reveal within the first 20 mins, and a pre-cursor to the Pattinson-Dafoe offering, The Lighthouse, also about two deteriorating men trapped on a lighthouse island. This version though had none of the menace or ethereal qualities that would define such a setting, replaced with tiresome screenplay, ham acting and weak characterisation (one of them unbothered that the other just tried to kill him, or has him effectively trapped each night). It scored 20 out of 40 in my horror cliche list I made last night. If ever you’re terrified by blue-tinged gimps, manatees, or just rubber this is for you.

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I tried to feed the pigeons again. This time going one level up in the stairwell so I could lob the dinner disaster from yesterday onto where they roost. They all ran away, and the food just lies scattered in the sun. Some have come back and are just sitting there in the stupid pigeon-sitting-there way they do. I swear, these animals have no idea what food is. Or maybe it’s cannibalistic, feeding pigeons an omelette, though I’ve seen them snacking on KFC many a time.

The night’s offering was The Handmaiden, satiating my recent aversion to Hollywood. Pre-digitalis (tick), historicist (1920s, tick), foreign (Korean, tick), non-formulaic (LGBTQ crime drama, tick), no fucking explosions (tick). Fantastic storytelling, perverted, perverse and exotic -but I’d uploaded the directors cut. Which thus meant sitting through a near 3hr epic. J very nearly fell asleep until I conspicuously, loudly fiddled with the cushions.

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J’s been a bit down these last few days, the lack of work and meaning starting to hem in the walls, but has started reading which apparently is making a world of difference. At Home by Bill Bryson which I’ve leant him, one of the driest subjects (domesticity) made into a rip-roaring journey through history with laughs a minute and studded with delicious, sordid details. Once again historic narrative saves the day.

Dinner was a slim-fast milkshake thingy (Complan, which I used to love as a snack while a kid), bought during the panic buying as something we could savour as a last resort, starving already and watching burning skylines.  There’s been nothing much more to my life today. No sleep. Internet. Sleep. Internet. Eat. Film. Sleep.

I officially ran out of alcohol today, the last dregs of the raspberry gin.

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A Journal of the Plague Year Day 28

Tuesday 14th April 2020

The horror movie checklist:

  1. Large house with multiple rooms. Old.
  2. Dark house, where multiple 20W lamps are needed in every heavily curtained space. Even in daytime, thanks to broody, rainy locations like Southern California. Firelight.
  3. A basement/ attic stuffed with middle class clutter and weird AF shit.
  4. A basement door to the garden that is jammed. Extra point if a spade is resting outside, with a wooden handle.
  5. An unlocked front door. All exteriors are pretty much unlocked, the opposite once inside.
  6. Creepy doll
  7. Jewellery box with a twirling ballerina.
  8. Painting close up. The eyes.
  9. Door knob slowly turning.
  10. Looking through a slat. Surprise!
  11. Key doesn’t work. It will later.
  12. Old newspaper/ photo album with grainy black and white of an unhappy loner.
  13. A diary/ investigation wall. Tortured drawings.
  14. Upper middle class family. One of the parents is creative.
  15. Pale, sickly looking child. Very serious. Nerdy, independent.
  16. Pale, sickly looking service staff. Extra point if they look and act Victorian, despite hitting their twenties in the 1990s.
  17. Creepy old person/ disabled person. Extra point if they have a foreign accent.
  18. Skin disease.
  19. Teen sex scene.
  20. School angst. Bullying.
  21. Southern accent
  22. British accent.
  23. Someone innocently bursting into a room, or grabbing someone by the shoulders from behind, to greet them as you do. Or just walking past with the sudden sound of screeching strings.
  24. Walking into a room. Stopping. Freezing.
  25. Calling on someone and finding them violently compromised by a household object.
  26. Explosive flurry of urban wildlife: birds/ bats/ rats/ a cat.
  27. A barking dog, that becomes a whine.
  28. And then I woke up!
  29. Secret room.
  30. Sharpened bench/ farm tools.
  31. Shower scene, eyes closed. Extra point if she doesn’t check the heat/ wait for it to warm.
  32. A fall from height.
  33. Woman/ child calling stupidly, announcing herself at all times no matter the glimpsed shapes and skittering sounds. Half a point if it’s a teenage guy.
  34. Quit it guys! This ain’t funny guys!
  35. She who runs falls.
  36. I have a great idea: let’s split up.
  37. No one believes me! /I’m going mad! Can I trust mine own eyes?
  38. Noises on the level above. Tracking them.
  39. Hiding in closet/ under the bed scene.
  40. Blissful diorama at the end. But it’s not the end…

Score: Child’s Play (2019) – 11/40 Surprisingly refreshing, though everything as trashy as promised and quite a dalliance into torture porn, ewww.

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Another blanket-drowned day. Up at 5am, back to bed again by 8. Then awake by 11. No breakfast. Attempted lunch at 4pm.

Grated up a swede, threw in a potato too why not. Garlic and onions. Bacon. This’ll be like one of those German potato cakes, or latke, yeah!

Dash of soya, green tabasco. Some of that Bosnian spice mix why not. Fry, till crispy on the edges.

Doesn’t work. Crispy, yet soggy. Smoking AF. Tried it anyway.

Waaay too salty, it’s that Bosnian stock mix thing. Better make rice to water it down. It’ll be like what rice was designed for, a few choice slivers of flavour intensity like jewels in creamy fluffiness. Yes.

Gawd, it’s still awful. This calls for an egg, no three. A full on omelette. Like a tortilla. Yes. Separate the rice, return it to the pan.

OMFG inedible. Salty, sludgey, eggy. Like super eggy. Burnt.

Every surface smells of egg, room is noxious too with weird smoke pong. Open window, re-wash all the china, glasses and cutlery.

Let’s try rice porridge. The kind that actually demands a salty accompaniment, commonly duck egg or thousand year egg. That’ll surely utilise the flavour. Yes.

OMFG it’s literally poison. Burning a hole into the bowl. Complete fucking giant egg write-off. Half my larder gone on it too. This is like McCandless’s existential nadir when he kills that moose in Into The Wild.

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Pounding, vomitous migraine from disrupted sleep plus no food.

Looked up some foreign cinema, after my diatribe about Americana yesterday. After an hour of research, downloaded a Chinese film noir, The Wild Goose Lake, apparently second place to the Palmes D’Or. Took an age to get started (clicking away pop ups like Whack-A-Mole, restarting on new tabs, loading up a stream at dial-up speed). Then no subtitles. None found either online.

Have a sudden urge to play whack-a-mole with real moles.

Tomorrow I’ll try and give the chum to the pigeons, they’re probably starving. Though I tried the last few days to feed them.

They have got to be the most stupid animals I’ve met. They watch me throw them crumbs, then whole slices like a performance artist. One of them works out it’s bread, but the minute it falls off the roof, it’s as if disappeared. They do not make the connection, as slice after slice ends up on the floor below. Even when a day later I collect them and deposit them, shrine-like, in the middle of the carpark, they remain like modern art. Speaking volumes about our disposable consumerism at an epoch-changing time of want and the Heiglian ideal. Yes.

They’re probably new pigeons. The rest have starved to death, and these were the chicks that survived. They have no idea what bread is, but if they’re willing to peck at vomit, they’ll maybe be able to peck at my lunch dinner attempt.

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In the news.

  • Trump has had a meltdown, publicly ranting at reporters for an hour and a half, and including a pre-prepared video on the injustice he’s endured, notably under questions on his running of the C-19 show.
  • Many Africans in China are now facing homelessness following an outbreak of C-19 reinfection in the African districts of Guangzhou, and a nurse who was attacked after a man escaped an isolation ward. A slew of evictions followed, and a sign even put up asking Black customers to please not enter a McDonalds (later the company apologised). Although social media campaigns have now sorted food, clothing and re-housing, and the govt is making a statement they have a zero tolerance to racism, the local police were said to be hassling the unfortunates, and even blocking aid-givers.
  • It’s seen as an excuse for the council to finally push the community out, once hundreds of thousands strong, inline with a crackdown from 2018 eliminating visa-overstayers and illegals, which China has been increasingly inundated with this last decade. The history of racism and pandemics goes hand-in-hand, and galling given that Chinese round the world have been victims, but now fellow perpetrators. The world is studded with fucking idiots.
  • World food production is looking increasingly threatened by the collapse of logistical transport networks, processing factories and retail. Most immediately vulnerable are Pacific nations, with desert nations and smaller European/ island countries to follow.
  • Russia is giving hints it’s gotten serious over there, Putin looking serious alongside. China has recently been having many cases of reinfection coming from across its northern border, notably the border city of Suifenhe reentering lockdown.
  • Japan is also looking worse, with hundreds more cases. Like Russia it’s been following a light lockdown if none at all, relying on masks and social distancing. China’s other re-lockdowned city is a port that services Japan, Jiaozhou.
  • Another 778 died in UK hospitals today, bringing the total over 12,000, despite still an undercount. The BBC is no longer reporting the deaths, or at least making it obvious.
  • Globally deaths are at 120,000 and 2 million infected.

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