A Journal of the Plague Year Day 38

Friday 24th April 2020

PUBLIC DISCLAIMER

DO NOT READ THIS LOOK AWAY NOW

If you’re looking for escape this, today, is not where to find it. For never was a story of more woe. Thus following, reality.

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Another day another dollar. Scroll. Brush. Scroll. Sleep. Scrub. Lunch. Netflix. Scroll. Sleep. Film. Sleep.

A Friday so I treated myself to takeaway for lunch, which turned out to be the stodgiest fried calamari in the city, like chewing on bread crust. Our local really is the worst, but beggars can’t be reviewers. The night’s film was the other highlight, a tankard of cider to go with An American Werewolf in London, and a good catch up with J while A is getting ever more islanded, which he may be enjoying. It was Orthodox Easter recently, the equivalent to Greek Xmas (regardless if you’re religious or not) which he’s not celebrated, separated from family all these years. We’ll try and do something later maybe, though he’ll typically veto it.

The C-19 death toll in the UK hit 20,000, which is only counting those from hospitals. It’s significantly higher if they tally up those in care homes and residences, so we may be closer double that. This could yield the world’s highest deaths per capita, over current leader Belgium, who counts live fatalities and not just in healthcare. It all depends whether the UK extra deaths are at the 40% or 100% ends of hospital totals.

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I’ve been increasingly worried about the ‘biblical famines’ the UN is warning may transpire within months. They will start in the world’s current war zones where infrastructure is broken and farming majorly disrupted by fighting. DPR Congo, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, South Sudan, Chad, Niger. It’s also unlikely for people or countries to give aid, such is the situation in their own backyard. DPR Congo is a prime example of what a disruption of infrastructure results in. The Second Congo War ended in 2003, where fighting killed an estimated 20,000. However excess deaths continued well after taking 5.4 million by 2008, due to the complete collapse of food industries, healthcare and transportation networks.

Likewise the UN sanctions before the Gulf War against Iraq, that resulted in an extra million deaths (560,000 of them being children). They targetted the populace not the regime as hostage -banning food, water, medicines, medical equipment, water purifiers, even baby food and milk powder. And lasted for 12 years after the US and UK repeatedly blocked UN attempts to end them, plus three successive UN Generals resigning in protest. When Ambassador Madeleine Albright was told in interview that half a million children had died, she infamously said: “we think the price was worth it”.

But would that even be worthy of a headline in our lifestyles?

This scenario is even keeping me up at night, and becoming one of the things when waking. It’s not normal for me, and I doubt for anyone. When we hear of untold horror and misery abroad we may well shed a tear at the news report, given it’s sufficiently graphic enough. But no one really takes it home with them, into their daily thoughts and fears and dreams. The only time I’ve seen any kind of widely depressionable story has been for the death of a single person, Princess Diana. Forget the 250,000 killed in the 2004 tsunami, or the additional million in Iraq following invasion, it’s the death of a celeb people grew up with, who felt they personally knew that got people crying beyond the screentime. Witness footage of her funeral, as thousands of mourners spontaneously burst into tears as her cortège rolls by (one of them myself). It’s like something out of North Korea.

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On that subject Kim Jong Un, rotund dictator of said country is currently MIA on the global stage, with rumours thick and fast that he may be dying after heart surgery. All eyes now on his sister who will likely take the reins if he expires. Now, I’m no fan of an autocratic regime that has in the past kidnapped random South Koreans, taken down passenger planes and operates internment camps, but the South Koreans are just as gung-ho, trigger-happy and belligerent. Just as liable to be the first to shell the opposite side, shoot over a prow, or hold mass army drills on the border, in a giant show of two fingers against the horizon.

The US is also increasingly seen as playing both sides off each other -the situation allows them to keep foreign bases on the peninsular and Japan, thus controlling the north Pacific and hemming in China. Notably George Bush’s ‘Axis of Evil’ speech even after NoKo had agreed to dismantle it’s nuclear capabilities, that subsequently made Kim restart them in defence, and defiance. Or the abrupt ending of the 2018 thaw (both sides had even competed as the same country in the Olympics) when the US held mass joint-training exercises, thus restarting the arms race.

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South Korea is also quite propagandic and equally dogmatic. All the lurid tabloid tales -on the uncles being thrown to bloodthirsty hounds (in fact he was shot by firing squad, following an assassination attempt he’d commandeered) or execution of former girlfriends for prostitution (she turned up a year later as a newscaster), of the Pyongyang Metro being fake, and that everyone on the streets are actors (thousands of them) -are all sourced from the south, via media agencies citing ‘cross-border sources’.

In fact South Korea is studied by sociologists as a prime example of how propaganda is just as rampant in democracies, fueled by complicit media agencies as well as their avid audiences. One only has to look at the partisan politicking in the US (**cough Fox News /cough**), or the Rupert Murdoch/ AN owned press at large here (**Daily Mail, Sun**).

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When Kim Jong-Il died NoKo released its usual dreary propaganda to the world, showcasing endless streams of people distraught at his death (the kind who’d throw themselves on the coffin as it gets lowered), of course the world took this as how very indoctrinated the North Koreans were. Then people started pointing out that in the background, no one was crying, only those in front facing the lens were suddenly found to be apoplectic with grief.

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Thus SoKo subsequently followed up with lurid tales of everyone who didn’t cry getting 6 months free stay in a labour camp.

North Koreans Face Six Months Labour Camp for Not Crying at Kim Jong-il’s Death

Thus parroted by the rest of the world:

Punished for not crying: Thousands of North Koreans face labour camps for not being upset enough


At the end of the day North Korea is a study on journalistic integrity and standards. Almost no stories coming from there can be fact-checked or corroborated… but neither can anyone call them out on it if they decide to go to print. Thus much of the world just ends up reporting it anyway, straight from South Korean tabloids, even if you’re a respected broadsheet. Which is telling -it fits with the narrative.

It’s also telling which papers are reporting the dictator’s death (Daily Express, Sun, NY Post), as rumour-milled via a Chinese social network, and which are waiting for official confirmation, or at least putting a question mark in the headline.

The fat twat.

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And talking of convenience, where for example is the coverage or navel-gazing (surely one story?) for the current human tragedies of the US/UK-backed sanctions: Iran, Venezuela, and of course North Korea? Despite sitting on vast commodities or one of the leading science powers, they’ve been denied medical equipment and ICU’s they could otherwise have afforded easily. We even cover Iran building mass graves, and tut at their imagined cover up of figures, without nary a mention of our role in it. The latest humanitarian crisis on the now closed Colombian-Venezuelan border likewise ignored, as has been the US calls for the country to hold new elections (read: exit President Maduro) in order to allow the meds in, plus access to the world’s largest oil reserves. Sounds a lot like a ransom, and exploiting a tragedy to do so.

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It appears this global crisis is only spewing division and geopolitical rivalry, as opposed to the Bennetton ad we all imagined a shared experience would engender, and cooperation between states. That democracy is really a veil over ignorance, selfishness and prejudice, if not a platform for it. Witness country after country stealing vital equipment before being sent off, or even en route, and ignoring all calls of aid from its neighbours. See the comments following any, ANY news story.

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How depressing, but it had to catch up some time. The air weighs heavy so it’s time to take a walk, chew some cud and maybe take in an 80s film, back when it was all so much simpler. Life is but a scroll away.

Oh and the Great Orange Dolphin just suggested we all inject bleach and sunlight into our lives and limbs, to vanquish the plague. His wranglers are now desperately attempting to shut him the fuck up and wind down his daily updates. Perhaps throwing playballs in the other room and bustling him out -today’s was the shortest yet, at 22 mins, rather than the hours he normally courts. This I think would be a mistake.

As a great woman once said, I’m not saying kill all stupid people, just get rid of the health and safety signs and let the problem sort itself.

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Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 34

Monday 20th April 2020

I sent the book off today to two agents, feeling myself dandy for doing so too. Then had another long trek, this time into Clapham via the Common. In terms of rating London’s green spaces there’s not a lot to say about it, it would maybe score 2 or 3 out of 10. It’s first and foremost a common, delineating itself from parkland by being relatively open ground and unplanted. No acres of flowerbeds, no landscaping a hill to the right or left, though there are two pretty ponds, and a windswept one. Everything is left as nature intended, kind of, with a few statues here and there and a playground/ outdoor gym/ skatepark. The scraggly collection of woods on one side is pretty scant in terms of biodiversity, being mostly grass and small, young bushes, studded with condoms. It is of course a favoured dogging site, almost legendary, though these days populated by the kind who cannot pull online or via an app (read: old, unsexy and unkempt, possibly murderous).

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The rest of the park is plain – large empty spaces of green or gravel, popular for sports aficionados and event staging. It is dare I say it, boring. The Attenborough equivalent of an Asda carpark. Inside the ponds we saw a dead and rotting fish ( a fat, white carp), studiously being ignored by a heron, and two potatoes, possibly jettisoned by fleeing BBQers. The fun police were out in force, cruising ominously along the running paths and stop-searching drivers for evidence of commuting or shopping.

I did spot an interesting tree, as pique among dross. Very Easter. J said it may have been diseased (apt). I may come out and start worshipping it.

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Then it was Clapham Old Town, a nondescript part of London tarted up into prettiness. Although every building is not that old it’s been done up as if they are, even the 20th Century additions, complete with flowerboxes and fabric awnings, scrubbed brick and pistachio paint. This is what all of London could look like with a spirited makeover, given this end was also traditionally poor throughout the centuries. Mostly residential but gracing a tiny corner of shops and businesses, almost all closed but for the delis, organic cafes, bakeries and ultra-expensive grocers each with a queue (how very Clapham). Sainsbury’s had a very long line outside, Tesco directly opposite nary a soul, not even a guard. UK has a curious hierarchy of supermarkets/ grocers not always evident abroad, from the department store emporia at one end who deliver in 1920s horse-driven cabs, to the panic buying, zombie-baiting megamalls at the other:

Fortnum & Mason

Harrods (formerly top spot but they lost their royal charter ever since Dodi, son of arms dealer Fayed, got into the car with Diana. It’s now owned by the Qatari royals)

Harvey Nicks (do they even do food?)

Selfridges (the best imo, far more choice, and surprisingly, deceptively affordable)

M&S (can be swapped with below)

Waitrose (far more choice than above, which only does it’s own brands)

Sainsbury’s (can be slightly naff, all the usual brands but pricier for no reason whatsoever)

Tesco (naff, but all the usual brands)

Morrisons (normally bottom of the pile. Wide use of the cheapest sugar, the offcuts, the sweatshops, despite rebranding)

Asda (the new low, having seen the kind of supermarket sweep and panic at the disco behaviour relevent to these climes. Part of the Wal-Mart fam)

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Once home I was face-down and asleep, as is usual nowadays whenever popping out, as if the toll of sunshine and fresh air weighs upon the shoulders, along with possible contagion. Out of it for hours. Then cut my hair, and joined a group chat with some buddies via Zoom, the place to be this season. Despite all that had a low mood, surly even. A part of me is constantly worrying, one housemate becoming a hermit, the other needing contact, and myself trying to provide both or neither.

I miss going out to have a meal, going shopping, going on holiday. The NYC trip for May is now a no-go (had that coming) as BA has finally canceled the flights; the supremely dodgy travel company wanting to charge us £150 for an admin fee still and that’s eating me up. Canceled the Airbnb – with now over £400 in vouchers to use. Also found out the museum is looking at July or even as late as October for a reopening, so I’ll likely be furloughed.

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Across the US people have been demonstrating to reopen the country, and get rid of lockdown, plus the usual barmy anti-vaxxers. There’s been a counter-demo by two fearless healthcare workers, dressed in their scrubs, standing in the street to block the traffic from joining. In the face of hooting car horns and a woman leaning out and yelling at them to go to China if they wanted communism, and that it wasn’t fair they got to work and she didn’t.

Health care workers stand in the street as a counter-protest to those demanding the stay-at-home order be lifted in Denver
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Democracy is being given a bad name. This pandemic is showing the flaws in the system, when ignorance is given equal standing as information, when the leader himself goads it as a device to keep himself in power. We kinda forget Nazism was a democratic rise.

This is why we need constitutions, as we the people can’t be trusted, as history has shown. Of course we’re going to vote for ourselves, of course we’ll step over others to get to the top, of course we’re going to lie, cheat and steal to furnish our bigger piece of the pie. I do wonder why giving freedom so often means giving free rein to abject competition.

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I’ve looked at the news fora for the first time in a while today, and the comments are starting to die down, less demands for lynching, less arguing, insults and vitriol. It appears we’re getting used to the new normal. C-19 may be on the verge of getting boring.

Another 823 died last night in UK hospitals. Deaths in general have doubled -a 20 year high, added to by unconfirmed virus fatalities and a great deal of people avoiding hospital treatment for fear of cross-contamination, or thinking they’re overloaded (the reality is that beds are now at record vacancies due to this). They’re hoping the worst is over despite the high tallies. The city remains silent to the core.

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News of vaccine trials to start next week are encouraging, though we’re still a good year off from being able to medicate it should it succeed. The orders for more tests and PPE are being stymied by bureaucracy, the govt promising new supplies from Turkey for the following day, then realising they’d forgotten to formally request it even. At times like this paperwork fuckups can kill, on a huge scale.

The night’s film was Fantasy Island. I wouldn’t call it run-of-the-mill despite using the usual jump scares and idiot decision-making (let’s split up! Let’s stage an argument now!) from the dwindling arsenal of Hollywood storytelling. The film’s premise is each vacationer gets to live out a fantasy, but of course one that turns sour and increasingly deadly. There’s a refreshing lack of gore and overt sadism, and an interesting landscape of a storyline (SPOILER) in which one finds the disparate scenarios for each guest are related. Large plotholes withstanding it was an interesting enough watch, and a big part of my life for 2 hrs, becoming the highlight of my day.

I need to get out more. Maybe all this was just some numpter wanting a bit of me-time.

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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 17

Friday 3rd April 2020

Today has drifted by once again, with myself unsure of what happened. As if just woken, recounting what transpired in the dream.

Yes, I did that zoom meeting this morning (washed, changed, did my hair, repainted the walls). Then at some stage nipped out to do some shopping, after lunch.

Then it was a sit-down, and Lion King (‘live’ action version). A phonecall midway through. Then boom, here I am at half eleven at night.

Seriously, wtf have I done? Perhaps this is what slow time is meant to be like. I imagine stuff rural folk still do. Hovis ads with golden light streaming through glass, fields of wheat, smoking cottages and flatcaps. Aye m’lad, you get up, go get tha loaf down t’Ma in them flowers field, then be ‘ome fer supper. Day dun. Good pig.

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Though I’m sure in reality it involves busy dates with threshing machines, stone breaking, seed counting and bestiality. I’ve had none of these today (okay maybe the one) and this throws up the anxiety of not having had a productive day, while neither having that timely satisfaction of a simple task accomplished. But what exactly is the worst that can happen?

There is a time after a gluttonous, glutinous day off when the laziness has set to a level that cannot plateau further, crystallised into a bed. To me, it feels a bit like a headache or lancing of all energy, a sense of a decayed day. And that’s the worst, fossilised into a fabric embrace and smelling of sweat and youtube. While failing in life, having that Pulitzer prizewinner sitting still unwritten under the ticking of clocks.

My hair is currently manky. I put gel in it and it started smelling as it’s the cheap variety, normally a pleasant essence but I think at some stage it got heated by some alien x-ray and now smells like l’eau d’augebrèthe. Also a crow’s nest mess, and I’m savouring the idea of running it under a waterfall with hummingbirds and orchids, scented candles, pachelbel playing.

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In other news facemasks have suddenly become gold, generating a global game of PPE Pokemon. A general consensus is, with the World Health Organisation as usual a step behind, that a barrier to/ against your breath would actually be effective if the fucker’s airborne. Which China has been saying it is for quite some time, and why the whole 2 billion peeps in East Asia are masked to the max.

Last week Slovakia ‘appropriated’ a whole Chinese shipment of them destined for Italy (along with ICUs), then France did the same intercepting those on the way south. Turkey just took 160 ICU’s meant for Spain also, who can’t find a break right now. Meanwhile the US is appropriating all coming from American factories, or outbidding those on runways, taking supplies destined for France, attempting to rob SE Asia’s and now grabbing Germany’s and Canada’s too (the governor of Quebec threatening to cut off electricity to over the border). A smouldering Justin Trudeau has come on to plead remind the Great Orange Dolphin that trade treaties need to be complied with, while a call is on to stop the ‘modern day piracy’. The vast ongoings have been likened to a treasure hunt, although it more resembles hungry hippos, whereby the loser gets asphyxiated.

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689 more people died today, though the figure’s hard to spot, and willingly so it appears, coming up only as a bullet point among the live BBC news feed. Intended to stop the malaise of doom and gloom, but perhaps needed now that a sunny weekend is coming. The authorities are gearing up for a nationwide game of British bulldog with people ‘out for a walk’ (while transporting their picnic baskets, blankets, dogs, balls, deckchairs, sun loungers, parasols and volleyball nets). There’s definitely a spirit of gamesmanship in the air, filtered or not.

A Nottingham landlady is also under fire for her lockdown lock-in at a pub she runs, or as she described it: some well-wishers privately popping in to leave greetings for her husband. Meanwhile, I’ll be off to practice a bit of armed roleplay, plus a speedy check of cash handling procedures in my local HSBC.

Argentina has been forced to reopen its banks for face-to-face service as many in the nation are no longer able to access their cash or paychecks, leading to the central streets of the cities suddenly flooded, a carnival atmosphere among the thronging queues. Any excuse really, we are after all, humans. The same species that’s decimated the planet, with untold millions from history murdered beneath our feet, and whose governments are increasingly revealing themselves to be the robber barons they’ve always been beneath the veneer of labels and politesse, liable to steal from one another as to lie, point fingers and poison.

This pandemic will very, very much need a period of yoga matting after all this, and some pro-navel gazing on how such a horrid, horrid, silly thing ever happened. The stealing of medical supplies, the racism, the use of sanctions, the use of the crisis for more political and geopolitical leverage. The calls for war, or at least a rallying cry for one when it’s all over, like a dessert laden afterparty we can all look forward to.

Ah yes, that spirit of human unity and dignity in crisis, hands held out to infect our neighbours and clapping on our balconies to wish it all away.

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In my vid chat to friends last night, one of whom is a civil servant (possibly a spy) I heard crime’s fallen dramatically on all fronts but two – domestic/ child abuse has skyrocketed as people wall themselves in with the enemy, and cybercrime is stratospheric, what with all the main syndicates suddenly finding no punters to wheedle. From online grooming to blackmail porn, money holding scams to the usual alerts that your nonexistent PayPal accounts are being imminently closed for suspicious activity, and couldja please ring this number in Brazil to verify all bank and card deets, passwords, addresses and DNA samples

I’ve also gotten a furtive missive from er, 100 Pennsylvania Avenue to see if I’m interested in ‘informational activity’, as it’s been noted I am an outstanding persona of interest. Whaaat? Do I get to become cool, wear designer shades and work alongside Charlize Theron types? Dodging bullets, swapping briefcases, aiming sights on evil businessmen and secretly meeting rivals in places where no invested zoom could possibly train, such as benches on the Washington Mall.  Oh the possibilities! The one night stands in 5* Euro-accommodation, the parkour training and martial arts madness, the cocktails, the tuxedos, the gala balls and casinos! I’ll start doing my hair now. I suppose it’s better than last time, when Kofi Annan and his briefcase of African cash stood me up outside the UN.

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I seriously think there is a vast and pliant population online that needs to be addressed, a social issue. Old people, like really old. Who’ve just worked out how to use a mouse from 1996, and now ply through cyberspace like a barge of kittens in an Orca enclosure, clicking on flashing pop-ups, endearing them to come round the corner for nookie, or to put This One Crazy Trick (snail faced, pebble eating, butter smearing, pee absorbing) to virulent use. That lithe sportswoman (sometimes a pre-teen gymnast), legs askew, Who Had No Idea Why Everyone Was Laughing, or that handsome fella born between 1900 and 2030 who is inline To Make Thousands Back From PPI, or claim Free Solar Panels Off The Council. Oh and Gary Lineker’s dead.

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In all seriousness there’s an entire multi-billion $ industry now catering to this army of the befuddled -clickbait or Nigerian prince scams being just some of them. On a more sinister, world-changing note, algorithms are identifying these as the people to call when you need a bit of light canvassing for your presidential campaign, interest lobbying, geostrategic spywork or commercial investments. These people can change the world. In the US there is no limit on free speech, unlike say Europe, where hate speech is arrestable. Americans like to think hate speech is self-policing, that people soapboxing their diatribes on say how Black slavery was validated and needs to be brought back, that childbirth hurts as it’s God’s punishment to women, or we need to assassinate a 15 year old Swedish schoolgirl for her climate change activism, will only mean they’ll get their comeuppance from being outcast as crazies, and their jobs subsquently lost.

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However, switch that to the echo chamber of Cyberspace, with lonesome retirees who have nothing to lose and you’ll receive a free propaganda dept and labour force, who’ll spend 10 hrs a day sharing Breitbart articles and Rupert Murdoch news across social media, chat forums, radio shows, podcasts and blogs while adding, liking and thumbing down millions of related comments. Generally leading to things such as the Tea Party movement (teabaggers), Trumpism and the Gulf War. Instead of crazies with a subsequent sacking, you get a blizzard of likes and a ‘discussion’ on the table that allows it to actually gain credence, then a vote.

Next time you look at little old neighbour Ruth, clutching her handbag, her pitifully light shopping, smelling of wee and trying to remember her house number, keep in mind she may well be Putin’s premier ground agent, a denizen of international intrigue via her WhatsApp handle, Killblade4U.

Hopefully, there are more discerning voices out there. Those who aren’t inside, out of work, stuck all day, lacking a life, writing politics and ingesting newsfeeds, then starting blogs to parrot their political leanings. Erm, yep.

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Though seriously, in all truth if ever I started a war it would be against kittens (versus pandas) and they’d only work out territorial claims using kisschase.

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Oh and Ukippers, they’ve got to go. Fucking scum.

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