A Journal of the Plague Year 2.0 Day 26

1st December 2020

Pinch punch first day of the month. Here’s a kick for being so quick. Here’s a blow for being so slow, no returns.

Tbh am now writing this last entry from a few days after, having been unable to face it really. As if the coming tide that is Werkkk and a return to normalcy is also the end of days. Even despite the masks, the social distancing, the blaring headlines, the closed up shops and job insecurity, everything looks pretty normal: in crowded streets and buses, happy drinkers and restaurant meals, screen time and XfuckingXmas. Billed as a return to the windswept plazas of the first lockdown and the malaise of interior worry this second outing only ever morphed into a new normal of same-same-but-different, and Keeping Calm and Carrying On, with little change on the streets or everyday. …Just more politics to it all, enshadowing every move.

The politicisation of a pandemic has now divided the country between regional displays of intent and governance, not just tiered systems paying heed to the science, but regional differences paying heed to political autonomy as in Wales, Northern Ireland, London, the Isle of Man, Scotland and England. It may be a show that the United Kingdom really is a collection of proud countries in league with each other -or it could be a coming fracturing, as autonomies try out their muscle to break away post-Brexit. They say 2020 has been a true test of a nation’s governance, as seen in the facadism of the US being world hero (peddled by Hollywood’s propaganda dept), and similar falls from grace in the trendy progressives of Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, and Austria, also riven by a certain selfish disregard. The UK one can firmly put in the disaster pot alongside, quite the panto villain with currently 60,000 dead and the 5th highest toll and 5th highest (city states aside) fatality rate in the world. Whilst countries such as Brazil, Belarus and Mexico have played out their parts on cue. -Not so much lampooned due to poverty and disorganisation, but belligerently thick leaders intent on portraying it all as a seasonal cold, and sacking their scientific advisors if they don’t play along.

This has contrasted with the displays of strength from the usual expected dictatorships such as China, Venezuela and Cuba, but also small nations such as New Zealand and Finland, Brunei and Taiwan, Togo and Benin. Many societies led by a woman at the helm have correlated into quite the trend in defeating infection, with the foresight to marry a strict lockdown as an economic argument too. The toxic masculinities of other powers meanwhile appear too entranced by short term dramatics. Pushed by blindsided businesses and lobbies in dick measuring and bravado, self interest and stupidity, the caving in has proved murderous. Mass-murderous.

Poor states in the Global South have done exceptionally well to upend the assumption they’d all die by the million with little government aid. From Tanzania to Nigeria, Papua New Guinea to Haiti, Bangladesh to Uzbekistan they have benefitted from higher temperatures that seem to make things less infectious, plus younger populations less at risk. But also coupled with army-enforced lockdowns and billions pumped into the latest tech, from automatic temperature gauging in every public building to track and trace. The latter carried out by the latest apps, or volunteers and Private Investigator firms hired to do it manually.

Czechia has straddled both sides, enforcing excellent counter-measures in the first wave -but then celebrating with nationwide End of Covid parties complete with crowds and parades, and now lumped with much higher infections this second time round. The same with India -the world’s densest tract of humanity that enforced the earliest, strictest measures over the largest populations, in-step with China, but that stood to lose heaviest with the larger amount of poor and degraded infrastructure. Some of the greatest successes have occurred here, including the tracing of 20,000 people at a religious festival when an idiot returning from Italy broke quarantine to shake hundreds of hands. Plus ridding infection in the world’s largest slums, such as Dharavi that holds over a million people in ultra-high density. However it hasn’t been as successful to maintain it, now with numbers climbing into the third highest deaths in the world (though still firmly low per capita). India is just too large, dense and complex to maintain it for nine months and counting. China only managed to pull it off with an army of volunteers knocking on every single door in the cityscapes of Wuhan (18 million) to get the same mix of pleas for help, cooperation and argument as anywhere else in the world. But then rolled out to all other cities before it became too unmanageable. The use of effective early track and trace, border closure and highest level, sustained quarantines has paid off.

This second wave appears to be more deadly for many, with increasing evidence it’s a Mediterranean mutation that’s more infectious. Also that it was already in Europe and South America from as early as March 2019 which historic sewage sampling is showing many cities (Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, London, Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, Milan) as having that year, perhaps as a less infectious strain. The China hawks and conspiracy theorists (just as idioted on that side of the spinner as anywhere else) have latched onto the fact Wuhan was the arena for the 7th World Military Games just before the first outbreak surfaced in the countryside where some events took place. And not just that it may have come from a visitor abroad, but was intentionally laid as a weapon by some Black Ops soldier, usually, of course, American. While conveniently forgetting the whole pantomime of how it spread from Wuhan after, or that such an exercise would fuck up every country on the planet as has shown, not just China. That’s how pandemics go, it doesn’t willingly differentiate, try as we might ourselves.

And is this what it all just fucking boils down to? A sabre-rattling of political entities, borders drawn and fingers pointed? A list of countries measuring their deaths like the Eurovision Song Contest or Olympics, both canceled but now replaced by a grimmer tally? The so-called universality of the world has been found wanting in the first real test of its strength since WWII, with division sown between countries denying or blocking funds and aid, and even stealing them off factory lines and airstrips before they depart. Even the entity managing the global efforts -the World Health Organization -had its funding cut at the worst possible time mid-global-fucking-crisis, by the Trumpist demagogue -for being too praising of China (rather than blaming it), and thus in league.

So to put all that in perspective, I dwindle the lens down, very down, to the effect all this politicking in the corridors of power has to the common person, on the street, doing our little life thing. It’s a real fapping bummer that politics affect our everyday -we don’t always see it so much in the West, sidelined by buying shit up, endless nine-to-five and garish social media to notice, but it does. The division in society is showing up most obviously in a growing collusion among friends and acquaintances that this is all an overreaction. Though many have given up on the ‘It’s Just The Flu’ line (it’s killed at least 4x the amount of the worst influenza epidemics, even with lockdown and in less than a year), the argument’s now replaced with ‘Let’s Just Leave The Old Folk To Die’, which we could perhaps ice a cake with and give out. The conspiracy theory that it’s fake or government/ multinational ploys to infect us with mind control is ever alive and well -and all too real in places where civil rights and democracy have genuinely given way to dictatorship **cough, Hungary, Ethiopia, /cough **.

It’s a little known fact that my very own city is seeing almost weekly protests, that are culminating in riots every fortnight with hundreds arrested in other urban centres across the country. But barely reported -a sign that the media agencies (except of course, the Sun) are paying heed to not giving more fuel to the fire, in league with an embattled government. Yet also a sign they are not as free a press as they pretend, and that free societies operate our own propaganda. The narrative that democracy is unimpeachably peachy cannot be cracked, despite that the protesters, anti-vaxxers, anti-maskers, conspiracy theorists, party-goers, ravers, Karens and Jeremies are killing others. Tens of thousands of others. The kind of angry people taking down quarantined products at the supermarket or barging into stores unmasked (even ringing 911 on the staff for not allowing them access), and forbidding their families to take precautions. I wonder if in a third lockdown anyone will even bother by then.

Okay there I go, rabbiting on too much again.

Dwindling down once again to my own experience I cannot, cannot possibly hold a high horse. Shocked at the crowds of drinkers clogging up my local high street and parks I was exactly one of them, holding a bottle. Like people complaining about traffic when they help make it up, or tourists moaning things too touristic, as if special sites should be fenced off from the rest of the worser dressed riffraff, for one’s sole enjoyment. I have entertained between more than one ‘bubble’, popped into a shop before without a mask, sat next to others on public transport, and any distancing in meeting outside is often undermined by a muppet hug or two. I’m increasingly lackadaisical at such a simplicity as washing my hands.

Overall this is a test on society, and our own selves -what we hold high and if we do as we say or not as we do. What is morality truly if we cannot be the change we want to see? Especially when it’s other lives on the line.

On the last day of er ‘freedom’ I met up with a good work friend, Al, who is everything you need in terms of reliability and some down-to-earth, existential natter and jokes to offset the climes. To dally a day on a bench and a walk in the retro Festival of Britain bit of Battersea Park -all 1950s modernity in formal lines and empty space, looking spookily atmospheric to our times. In a surreal symmetry of dead fountains and mist we caught up with stories on lockdown, culminating world events with our outlooks on them, and the hopeful end coming with vaccines rolling out. A beer or two on the benches, then a coffee plus bakewell tart at the riverine Peace Pagoda (how massive can a two storey building get?), as yoga and tai-chi fans used it as backdrop. It was very much life being lived, and a sense of history playing out beyond. I don’t think such scenes, such feelings can ever be replicated.

In the end the sun got low, the coming darkness emptied the views and a wind rose, shooing us off to our own respective ways. The paths we make out in life are ultimately our own, I’ve never felt it more strong.

It’s a sorry goodbye to the breathing space this disaster has unavoidably given, forgive the pun. Despite the haranguing, the domestics behind closed doors or open on the streets. The moments of exquisite cosiness and inflection interspersed with dark memories, haemorrhaging costs, and tears at windows.

I’ve spent a great deal of time hammering fists at impervious skies while scrimping on money or decaying relationships into heartbreak -as well as making a dormouse nest of beer, friends and domestic luxury. These privated sojourns into a dark and inviting forest of blankets, films, books and food.

Been quite a year.

And love. Worrying, denigrating, passing you by. Even in its cheesiest and most commercial renditions, so much motherfucking, shitty, stupifying, beautiful love. Bittersweet.

I will always remember these days. And everyone ever, all you lovely people.

Thank you. Signing off x.

FIN

Yesterday

Lockdown 3.0

Lockdown 2.0

Lockdown 1.0

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.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year 2.0 Day 22

26th November 2020

Headed out today for drinks with an old time mate, B, out in the wilds of the South Bank. We were scheduled to meet romantically beneath the big clock in Waterloo but salubriously ended passing each other at the exit to the station bogs. He’s dyed his hair blue, a new colour each week though I’m adamant a honeyed brown will be best. Had some beers by the eternal river, and thoroughly enjoyed the outdoors until it got too cold to stay.

London’s South Bank, once a heaving epicentre for tourists as well as Londoners alike (a rare thing as never the twain should mix) was a veritable ghost town, tumbleweed in its public squares, though the crowd stayed hemmed in walking up and down the viewpoints. A few food and booze vans catered to them, with some buskers almost as normal. Though the big book and food markets were gone, the fairgrounds were fenced off (normally a German, fairy-lit Xmas markt by now) and ‘London’s Living Room’ that is the Royal Festival Hall was closed -all its acres of carpeted free-for-all, comfy sofas, exhibitions and caffs to loiter many an hour in (without having to spend a penny). The same for the similar functions of the National Theatre and Queen Elizabeth Hall next door, the latter one of the ugliest buildings in the city (if only they’d just paint it white) but one of the homeliest inside.

We ended up by the London Eye, looking up at the big wheel in a rare daylight stasis, its pods empty and yearned for, as were nearby ‘igloos’ – glass pods laid out by some swanky restaurant to be hired for a few hundred squid, but now wastefully unused. A very inviting playground beckoned -the kind with wooden climb-a-thons, heavy logging and rope nets everywhere -but the minute I approached some worker informed me brusquely it was closed. I chose to pee round a hoarding instead. The pocket park was pretty full, well used on every bench and tree with the kind of people who loop a big rubber band round the trunk and shimmy about pulling it. A strange spooky, child sat in a bush (literally inside) staring out at us.

The crisp air was gorgeous, occasioned with sun streaming from passing clouds. If one squinted, and looked only at the river and nowhere behind, it appeared almost normal. A lone woman wailed by the waters, holding a fake microphone -possibly a milkshake carton -without any semblance of skill other than her bravura. I imagined she was either worryingly desperate or just caged up too long to care, and fair dues to her. She was irremediably awful though, snippets of moaning on the wind like a cat in the Thames.

In turn we decamped back to the station, complete with lights and a roof, settling on the upper level where lovely empty tables from a closed cafe gave us shelter. We drank steadily with a fab Where’s Wally advent calendar -down to £2 in M&S -depicting a morass of winter wonderland folk (hundreds of Santa Clauses, many passed out and drunk) and 24 window dates to get through. Every date had a chocolate, every chocolate came with demands to find something on the picture (eg a pair of tiny binoculars, an angry elf), and every find came with a timed challenge set by ourselves. If we didn’t find those binoculars within a minute a terrible fate would befall one’s person.

I ended up losing all but two. It is for this reason that the world will now have coronavirus until 2022, Trump will stay in power, I will never be a writer, continue to fuck up my relationship, never be content, never have sex again, have a stroke, get cancer, get AIDS, stay forever in the closet and work at the museum for the rest of my life, until I die of Covid, likely tomorrow. So, no difference then. -B though will get an unsealable anal fissure and have his firstborn molested by a family member, so I think that’s fair. We were astounded there was no chocky for Xmas Day itself, the calendar likely dreamt up in some pan-European format, where the continentals all celebrate and give pressies on Xmas Eve instead. Freaks.

The govt has informed London we’re on Tier 2 when we come out of lockdown on December 2nd, so I’ll likely be back to work in the next few days, for prep (though how much lifting of dustsheets can we do in a week?). I do reckon though, with near 700 dying daily, this Tier will change for the worse nearer Xmas, which is the date predicted for a culmination of infections. The only reason we’re not banning the holiday entirely (up to three households allowed to meet up) is everyone will group up regardless, and a revolution otherwise. In other European nations they’re enforcing the ban, including enter and search powers in Benelux.

Had a burrito from a great looking Mexico streetfood van (Wahaca), though as always they damped down on the spiciness for local tastes, thus changing everything in 500 years of tried and tested flavour balance. I don’t know why (actually I do) but it’s always a struggle to convince people that I want extra spicy, and can handle it. That I like vindaloo and ghost peppers, despite their judgement. Remember once politely arguing with the woman in Halal Brothers I could handle the extra sauce, even if she couldn’t.

So it was a pleasant surprise when he lavished on the ‘very spicy’ level 3 habanero without another word, but on actually munching into the lovely mess, found it about as hot as ketchup with a dash of tabasco. Oh Wahaca, you can’t even spell your name right. If catering so much to local tastes, to the point you’re renaming a region, you’re not really representing it. Oaxaca is meant to have the best food in Mexico; don’t think Wahaca should pretend that banner.

Film for the night was The Eye by the Pang Brothers. Creepy AF, and based on a real event -a nightmarish gas tanker explosion in Central Bangkok that killed ninety. That plus a blind girl who inherits donor eyes from a suicide victim, one who could see dead people. It’s quite the nerve shredder and deserves to be a classic -apparently it was remade by Hollywood but that was dire, as to be expected. The one remake that’s an improvement I reckon is The Ring, and now on my to do list for tonight.

All in all a much better day, do very much enjoy B’s company. Cheers bud x

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year 2.0 Day 9

13th November 2020

I stayed up till 3:30am last night feverishly reading the last 200 pages of Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend, following the trials and Tribulation of twelve year old sleuth Harriet Cleve Dufresnes. She’s intent on finding the culprit behind her brother’s murder -a little boy found hanged from a tree. Beautifully garrulous throughout, Tartt is a former Pulitzer winner, and goes to great lengths to portray a Deep South simmering with faded elegance and painful, ongoing history in a 1960s summer of growing the fuck up.

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To say wish fulfilment is never scored is quite the understatement, one never sees those wrongs righted, those fallen by the wayside resurrected, or justice for the utter cunts that deal the hands, with a two-faced society complicit. And one never does work out who the perpetrators really are after 700 fuckery pages. But yeah, it’s all about the duplicity of a community -the gossip and intrigue, the love and humanity, the divisions and markers, interspersed with Tartt’s own hints and dead-end distractions. These are devices designed to confuse and allude (such as a large, foreign hat placed on a bed, that’s gotten the net alive with finger pointing at those described as bulbous-headed). It invites the reader to suspect characters exactly as the stricken community does, going about its shitty business in a charade of social niceties and hidden daggers that change lives.

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Thus we hypothesize and suspect, employing our in-built prejudices to outline one from another. Was it the disgruntled housekeeper? The over-charming boyfriend? The absent father? Cleverly done -Tartt has gotten us to betray our own biases in pointing the finger, the very same ones that cause such ruckus within the community. But the point is, like life, we will never really know what lies beneath every complex mask and life event. There is no certified killer -to reveal that person would undermine the point of the tale despite betraying the premise.

It very much reminds me of the futility and frustration of life, that isn’t a Hollywood re-telling. Translate our lives onto screen and they’d employ a much better looking actor, atmospheric strings (possible a lone piano) to our saddest moments with a blue filter, confetti, whooping, possibly clapping passersby at our happiest, sun-drenched piques. After finding The Meaning it will end tidily on a high note, you walking a hilly street with a view and newfound bounce, before the camera pans to a suitably epic panorama.

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Last night I dreamt about the time my uncle (not really an uncle but a family friend) was deported suddenly, my hero gone in a day. He was young, a student, handsome, sweet and visiting only every so often that I’d spend days in thrall, annoying highly no doubt with tickling and stories, and him being the first person to read one of mine. In retrospect a father figure since Dad was sick and sitting in the armchair all day. Never really thought much about it over the years except that I kept a hair of his in a small brass turtle (weird) and that I chased the taxi down the street and he put his hand on the glass (sad). All before it went fast downhill and life and grief and spots and rehab came on full blast. Saw him briefly again in Malaysia when I was 15 and we’d both changed, and ignored him for the most part out of shyness, as he chatted in the other room. Later the family lost contact, he moved to Mauritius last we heard.

In the dream I acknowledged it as one of my greatest losses, despite having far, FAR worse happen and not ever really thinking much about it since. Woke up ‘crying’ (the kind where you’ve been streaming hot tears for hours but then wake to find your eyes dry and face scrunched). It was an undeniably sad instance, but not that bad in retrospect nor memory. Perhaps a marker between more innocent times. It’s weird how the subconscious comes roaring back after so long – I mean seriously has it been playing hide and seek for 30 years? Festering in some Freudian sock drawer behind the empty trajectories of modern life, from the new realities after childhood?

Ko Liang, if you’re out there, leave a note.

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Life just isn’t tidy, paced out or packed with meaning. Nor with fulfilment, justice or orchestras. No distinct beginning, middle and end, despite plenty of annoying ad breaks. It just is, the trick is to surf it or be a fucking mermaid (though the plodding, entirely unmythical manatee might be a better, albeit unprettier role model).

Quid pro quo Clarice: did you know manatees -aka sea cows -are so chill they’ve become abnormally good at evolving? These dudes know the meaning of life. Normally stress and evolution (read: change) results in cancer, dampening the rate at which a body and bones can morph. Manatees, so large as to have no natural predators and not really into vicious infighting can now turn their heads 360. Imagine one of them adorable blubberboxes suddenly, creepily swivelling its head round to look at you.

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But then came modernity, whaling and speedboats.

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Dreams leave a stain. I’m intent though to change things today.

Talk to A more who pretty much resides with trusty laptop in the kitchen now. Take out the rubbish, buy some Udon for some Japanese carbonara thing I saw on the internet and have friends round for a round in the garden at 7. It’ll be cold and dark with a pandemic on but the beer will surely cheer.

The curtain’s opened for once and life feels too short not to change it.

dav

FIN

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year 2.0 Day 8

12th November 2020

Met a friend for a bevy today, socially distanced though not distant, parked on a bench in the swanky Coal Yards development of Kings Cross. Remember when it was the ginormous Bagleys nightclub where I’d spend many a schoolboy weekender dazed and confused, a narrow, booming warehouse of four dancefloors with a capacity of 1,000 punters each, who’d greet the sun a wasteland of marble eyes, and tongue chewing.

A lazer fantabulosa inside but grim wreck of a joint beyond -bombsite of Victorian industry, skagheads and prossies, though today it’s morphed into a civilised parade of designer outlets, mixed with overpriced food (sarnies starting at £8.50) and coffee, so much coffee. The roof dutifully lifts off halfway and meets a neighbouring canopy like two giant slugs getting it on in the low light. Now everywhere closed of course, with the restaurant kitchens glowing like lanterns in prep for the dinner delivery shift, or training attentive, be-hatted staff behind the glass. How it’s changed.

We watched the preppy locals swarm out for the school run, laughing at a seriously awkward moment when a lone 7 year old, perhaps with needs, parked her bike and sprawled herself across the bench, slowly nuzzling into a complete stranger from behind. Occasionally staring up at him. He was frozen in terror and pretending none of it was happening, while we whispered Heeeyyy Daaaadddy between ourselves. I know it was wrong, poor guy, but exquisite.

Ah, Britain, how I’ve missed you.

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But all in all we spent a good few hours over some cans of cider, and an unctuous set of kebabs, catching up, reminiscing old times, decrying the days of our lives and talking about whether we were all just sociopaths -a common worry to many but unwarranted, because if you were such a nutter you wouldn’t be worrying about it. You’d just pathologically be it. Also, if a tree falls in a forest, does it make a noise? If a sociopath doesn’t act out, and abides by our society’s rules, are they a sociopath?

I think we all can be on that spectrum, knowing full well how to lie, steal, beg, borrow, cadge and sleep our way to the top -if we need, or just plain decide to. We know how to lie convincingly, portray a mask, inveigle our way through the politics and backstab others from confided-in harbours of safety, or subtlety. We know the full gamut of hatred, jealousy and tactics in competition. We do not really applaud the success of others, but feel it as a robbing of our own corpus behind the smile. But it’s one thing to think it, possibly even feel it, and another to do it.

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And even if one does do it, it’s one thing to carry it out -then question yourself after in a private moment -another to do it without a second thought, ever. Thus the question is: if someone acts like a sociopath, regardless of the knot that is the soul -are they still a sociopath? Another more stark, easier question to ask is, do you motherfucker, enjoy destroying other’s lives? Do you find it hard to refrain when given the chance? Do you understand love?

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Anyhoo, there is a test out there, among many, and a lot of entirely normal, nice folk find they score on the spectrum even if they don’t enjoy a round of social sabotage. It appears the hangover from our predatory days (you only need to look at the behaviour of cats and why they’re bastards), when we exploited the weak or you know, chased them down to rip their throats out, still lingers in much of the population.

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Also in our social set up: trained for years through hierarchy the minute we venture a schoolyard that first time, then followed up with a lifetime of standard business practice that’s an aria to managing exploitation for a bottom line -notably, yourself. The fact by the time you’re hitting the higher Finance end those well on the spectrum are as high as 1 in 7 (rather than 1 in 200). And from personal experience, via a stint in the echelons of a City skyscraper -corridors echoing with evil and connivance, cackling over child sacrifice -I’ve definitely seen it. Where narcissism nurtured such a belief in their capabilities they’d laughably hold meetings to declare their ignorance and openly backstab those who were missing, showing the stereotype so true.

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All these millennia where we’ve staked out territories and discovered ownership has had a staining effect, imbedded down the line. Where it became duty to kill all strangers (to protect one’s own), to stamp out difference (lest it infect a new norm), to rid one’s newborns of deficiencies (lest they pass onto new generations), to maintain the hierarchy or die on the dagger, or keep up the pretence at all costs. The triumvirate of self preservation, manipulation and upkeep is what instills such people into power and their endearing values into a culture.

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We still see it in our less regulated niceties today, from media tropes to the freedom/ anonymity of the net inviting every opinion, consensus and darkness of thought. Look at the toxic rain of comments, insults and bickering on just about anything, especially before they got everyone to register names or identities. We like to think we are good people, but what will we, can we do when not even God is watching, and never will?

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This is the result of nature and nurture combined, whereby for too long the psychopathic and sycophantic in league have created many a cultural trait. Control, ambition, power, judgmentalism -rising through the ranks to instill their ways -the Trump administration is a good example of enablers lighting the way for self serving buffoons. Who get to wield out their fantasies over the cultish following they engender among the easily led and selfish -hundreds of millions strong.

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Anyhoo, we surmised we weren’t sociopaths in the end, I was way too empathic (it’s almost a problem) despite knowing full well how to be an unhinged, murderous bastard when cornered, B too much of a romantic despite putting himself first. And the fact we’re almost pathologically nice guys.

Well, we would say that if we were nutters.

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But then a fat bloke plonked himself down, exposing his builder’s arse to the extent my mate took a pic, to share with his loved ones. We surmised the man couldn’t feel the bite of the cold due to it being so furry. I also think alcohol numbs the front part of the brain, the one associated with critical thinking and empathy. Given the fact he would likely have lamped us one, or been very ahem, butt-hurt, I wonder if we would have tried to throw chips into it otherwise. I like to think I wouldn’t want to hurt the unfortunate fella’s feelings, but then I am writing about him to all and sundry on a public forum.

But man, you shoulda seen it, like pumpkins in a sack.

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So, right then.

Now, honest to god, I don’t know whether I should mention the more sobering note hereon. To sign off with? To break the narrative -or add to it?

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Anyhoo, fun and games aside, lovely day we’re having and all that, the shadows lengthen, reminding us of a monolith that can’t be ignored, not really. Time to go in again.

I’ll sign off, yeah – ignore the rest. I mean, who really cares any more?

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year 2.0 Day Two

6th November 2020

So for the last 72 hours the Great American Show has been counting down the election results with ever more fervour, ratcheting up the tension to a crowd of not just millions in the country but billions across the globe. So much hinges upon it.

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You’ve got to give it to these rolling, roiling 24 hr news channels: they don’t relent, though the news anchors (or at least the directors and writers) must surely be flagging after 72hrs. It’s like a drawn out Telethon but one in which Pudsey bear is slowly being winched to the lip of the volcano, and may or may not be sacrificed into a burning hell for the next 4 years dependent on the rate of our donations. Brinkmanship is very much a term apt for the unfolding spectacle.

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As Biden nears the now fabled 270 seat mark that’ll secure him the victory, Trump is busy throwing his toys out the pram. His son calling for all out war on social media while Dad is suing to stop the count, and entailing ever more curtailments from Twitter as he peddles his fake news that sent-in ballot papers are unsightly and the process rigged. The trending handle ‘Stop The Count’ has seen crowds converge across the remaining states still busy at it, notably swingers Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Arizona and Georgia, where small legions of staff filing the papers now have to protect against a wall of zombies pressed against the glass and spitting abuse. Perhaps those complaining about systemic hijack of the democratic process and urging us to Make Every Vote Count should perhaps not try to hijack the democratic process and allow every vote to be counted. But hey, ‘Murica.

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It didn’t taken long for many people to inform POTUS that if they did indeed stop the count it would mean Biden, settling at 243 versus 215, would win right there. Others wished the Great Orange Dolphin had had one of his charming typos, just that one letter missing that would’ve meant so much more, and reflecting true intent.

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Hot on the tails of the new handle, inserting itself into the ecosystem of Twitter and contemporary global culture came new visions of a fabled count, that now needs to be stopped. The fuzzy faced vampire of Sesame Street infamy.

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Meanwhile from the UK the trending handle appears to have become equally associated, quickly rising as the second new icon to insert itself into global consciousness.

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-All this despite the fact UK just entered a new period of lockdown. What is there to say? Ho hum, the march of culture and mindset carries on unabated. The other leading trend in the UK being to #banfireworks, set by those irked from the randomised bangs of half hearted attempts at a Guy Fawkes night, or the annual quota of singed kids missing a finger/ ear/ eyeball.

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So it’s not the emptied streets of the cities and aisles in the supermarkets, the plummeting recession exacerbated by the ill-reported collapse of Brexit negotiations, and missing of trade deadlines coinciding with the new measures. Nor the sheer fact so many businesses will now go under for good, unable to weather another round of closure -instead it’s tweet after tweet of pigeon war. I got to hand it to the Brits, we’re a bunch of miserable cunts but at least find humour to go with it.

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I say this from a pampered position of furlough, though of course the very near future looks pretty damn uncertain. So many friends and colleagues, some of which have only just managed to eke back a semblance of employment, against all the odds (such as having several degrees from winning global institutions to gild their warehouse job), are now back in jobseekers limbo after a couple of weeks. Denied access to the furlough scheme despite years of work there, but due to them being gifted zero hours contracts through an agency and a government intent on saving the hassle of affording workers their rights, means they have none.

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Meanwhile the rest of the museum, which had been on the brink of swallowing a round of three-figure redundancies, has had a stay of execution. Personally it’ll be hard to enjoy the ‘time off’, being the strata in the crosshairs to be offered up to The Great Quota now haunting the hallowed halls of each dept. Apparently it’s mid-management they see most as mismanagement.

But at least alive, it always helps. The government is now looking at beyond worst case scenario of 85,000 dead, though it’s wise to remember without a lockdown they were looking at 200,000 – 800,000. Worse than WWII.

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Two new shops in our locale, perhaps taking advantage of the flatlining rents, are surely doomed. One a bespoke furniture maker, whose family spent countless weeks behind plate glass setting it up for the benefit of the passing commute, only offered a final view of the lone matriarch, head in her hands over the paperwork. The other a gelato place, whose sun-visored, visored worker looked as frozen in the headlights whenever custom approached the door. Their timing has been untimely.

I’ve not been outside, but it sounds business as usual -the drone of traffic and announcements in the train station of fires, owners of numberplates blocking the track and errant ‘Mrs Snows’ and ‘Mr Sands’ requiring immediate attention from security guards or Transport Police. The curtains are constantly closed due to the cold, and the fact to open them would entail my good personage having to actually get up out of bed, walk over and exert my arms. I am valiantly, sacrificially trying to rid myself of all my bedtime in one go -dozing, scrolling, watching, eating, muttering, scratching and pissing willfully while horizontal in a bid to get fully sick of it, get it out the system. Before a rebirth of hourly exercise, yoga, learning Greek, painting public murals and writing a new book. Maybe a spot of light tennis and poetry.

But for the time being, fuck it, fuck you all. Onwards with the show, it simply must go on.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year 2.0

5th November 2020 Day One

Today is the first day of Lockdown 2.0. Work closed for me a couple of days ago ( I sadly missed our last day to the world’s smallest violin), as did many of the shops one by one on our local High Street. I spent yesterday seeking out board games to help us bide our time, like a middle aged fanatic. At first scouring the local charity shops, then the TK Maxx, pretending to be a caring Dad in the kiddy aisles. It’s been a good few decades since I was ever inspired to traipse down these plastic coated ways, full of lurid lights, mystery noises, shocking pink, glitter and dazzle -my adult antithesis -but it took approx. 6 seconds before I felt again that inner frisson of excitement. As if I was that 7 year old gobshite once more gurning for a glo-in-the-dark She-Razzle Death Worm plush. Every time I passed a certain aisle an automated fart sounded from one of the stealthy, plasticised offerings. I didn’t find a thing but bittersweet memories of Windsor Woolworths.

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So this is it, priorities, priorities. Beyond me standing staring at Hazmat Barbie, daily infections somewhere in the ether have risen to 20,000 for the UK though it may be as high as 80,000. Rumours abound this is a more contagious mutation from Barcelona, that landed some time in July, while highly hidden death rolls are topping 400 a day by now. Meanwhile there’s the big countdown in the US as the election appears on a knife-edge of results and a civil war, to a backdrop of 230,000 dead, and the highest ever infections registered for a single day -over 100,000. And Sainsbury’s just announced a whopping 3,500 job cuts, including almost all Argos stores and its fabled catalogues that were once the bestselling tomes since the Bible. Stalwart of childhood fantasies for 48 years, once described by Bill Bailey as the Laminated Book of Dreams.

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And yet we party, for that Last Gasp throwing heed to the contagious wind. Taking a bike ride later that night the streets were awash with social undistancing -London Bridge with its ancient but trendy pubs, indy cafes and historic diners a hive of candlelit activity, street drinkers and packed restaurants with queues outside. One after another in a smorgasbord for infection except for the gloomy respite of the White Cube gallery, like the haunted house in the neighbourhood that everyone eggs then runs away -yet also a promise as to what lies in wait for the rest of the strip tomorrow. The building resembled the zombie apocalypse of windswept brutalism, strip lighting and barriers to prevent entry to its Sainsbury’s-esque Carpark of a forecourt. Hardly anyone throughout, pint in hand, was masked, while a few lone men sat at empty tables looking emptied. Alkies a mile off.

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A busker band under fairy lights churned out some 80s chart toppers while a large crowd of coated partygoers chatted appreciatively from three opposite bars. It looked positively radiant, were it not for the fact the band was dressed in biohazard gear and it was 2020. I carried on through, holding my breath.

Much later, approaching the midnight toll the streets had emptied and pedestrians scurried off into drunken stupor. A few cars cruised by, one parking onto the pavement and unloading dressed up women in need of another prosecco and utterly nowhere to find it. Soho I heard was rammed, as were the East End nightlife districts -Dalston, Hackney, Hoxton, Brick Lane as well as other offerings in the south -Clapham, Peckham and Brixton which I’d turned down invites for. Scenes played out across the land. Strangely muted though according to the police, who didn’t record a single major incident but a convivial atmosphere. The young feel genuinely invincible, emboldened by mates or celebs who had it and were fine.

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Problem is these days a convivial atmosphere gets into your body, lungs and bloodstream and kills you. Like in the joke, pianos that fall out of trees. I dunno, kids these days.

I never did find a discounted Monopoly. Who knew that board games now are £30-40? One highly priced one was called Pandemic, which seemed promising but on closer inspection was a format in which all players colluded to rid the world of infection. Yaaawn. Plague Inc The Board Game was much more with it, based on the bestselling download 130 million strong, in which each player becomes a deadly disease intent on world annihilation.

Pretty dark, but I know which one I wanted. In the end I settled for a less guilt-inducing hand-me-down from the British Red Cross called Dixit (bear with me). It looks like a French (where else?) artsy fartsy card game of surrealist pictures, which players try to emote into words. Much more civilised, Marjorie, this may be our saviour when things start to wear thin. I also worry it may also look like life imitating art by then.

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Also managed to grab some flour, the last two packs of complete eggs in Lidl (cracked but easily swapped, the other slimed over with yolk but sorted by a handy food bag) and a few too many bottles of cider to go ker-azee with.

Riding for miles into the night on 5 pints is perhaps not the best way to say ta-ra again to civilisation, but it was a good idea at the time, and dare I say it, a little bit epic. The vaulting skyscrapers in Vauxhall really are a sight, doomed and half built like giant tombstones, with Kenny G’s sax in your head. But this lockdown I’m intent not to guilt-trip about that I’m not contributing to, or personally resolving, like pandemics or World Hunger. I will take it easy. I will lie in bed. I will watch movies. I will wear the same clothes, perhaps adult nappies. I will appreciate the smaller things, like detail, talk, fruit, chocolate, blankets, fluffy pillows, walks, drunken cycling, plush. As they promise, it’s time to Enjoy Life For Less. Just remember to stay safe from fuckery, and look out for our loved ones and all that.

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Tomorrow

Lockdown 1.0