A Journal of the Plague Year Day 25

Saturday 11th April 2020

The first day of Easter break, and the sun is out in force, enticing everyone like the Nicki Minaj version of an ice cream sundae. Purring outside your doors, window washing your views, and stroking the bike seats. The fun police meanwhile have been expecting you, finetuned to follow squealing into the bushes and compromising selfies from the lawn.

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A had a bikeride, all the way to Hyde Park, and reported on vans blaring public announcement, notably that anyone not exercising needed to stay in. Hence why the streets and spaces had noticeably less festival-goers, from the usual rollerblading Bodyform ads that Battersea’s been recently. J told me however that Barry Island near his hometown was inundated, the beaches like a Baywatch episode but with shittier weather and pastier, anorak wreathed skin. I imagine this to be the case for much of the country.

Going out and lying on the grass is the new crack. Illicit, irresponsible, brazen. The domain of the wild and rebellious, who throw caution to virus-laden winds. They can be found loitering beneath the trees, perhaps slap bang in the centre of the lawns, relying on too vast a distance for the copshop to walk all the way, or perhaps just not giving a shit. Chewing gum as they approach, lazily twirling a windmill or blowing bubbles into their face as the finebook comes out.

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Meanwhile, I stayed in doing the usual writing and scrolling, watching the Reef as respite. I say that theoretically, as this Aussie flick is one true nailbiter, and the second best shark movie to date. It’s not relaxing. Using real footage rather than CGI, and throwing actors in the deep of it is quite something. Apparently it’s based (very loosely) on real events, when a boat capsized and three people decided to swim the smorgasbord to another island. A tiger shark (in the film replaced by a Great White) subsequently stalked them with only one surviving. Tiger sharks though smaller, are considered more dangerous – Great Whites can inflict devastating damage, but are more cautious and will scope neurotically before maybe getting in an investigative nibble and sodding off again. Whereas Tiger sharks are born opportunists, a mindless tube with teeth at one end swimming openly through turtle shells, coconuts and car parts -aka the trash can of the ocean.

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In one ridiculously tense scene a man is actually caught in the horror of horrors – a dark room with a shark in it. This is the kind of childhood scenario envisaged by anyone seeing Jaws the first time, where the 20 footer is somehow haunting the stairs at night or hiding in the bathtub, but now believably transported into a human space (an upside-down boat). Just so long as spiders don’t fly and sharks don’t float down corridors I will still be OK with existing in this world.

It does remind us that thank St Fuck we aren’t bobbing in a wine dark sea right now, fin-spotting the direction of our nemesis. There’s something inordinately vulnerable about swimming with an unknown -connected by a selfsame medium with unseen danger from any angle. Meanwhile disabled into a fraction of your speed, defence and reactions. And not too dissimilar to going out and lying on those verdant lawns right now, where threat floats just as invisibly. Just not the type weighing a tonne and brandishing teeth. If we had tallman ICU’s jumping from darkened alleyways, complete with tentacle tubing and suffocating shocks, maybe people would pay heed. Or maybe, still not. A monster, it appears, needs to be grotesque.

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We fear nature because we cannot predict it, unbound by our societal constraints, nor impulses. Even the dog scares the hitman, as it can’t be controlled.

Talking about perspective, 980 people died in UK hospitals yesterday, a record so far, while the US will likely break 2,000 from tomorrow, which is meant to be their peak day. France, Spain and Italy are now showing decreasing figures thankfully.

Israel is currently having problems with its Ultra Orthodox Jewish communities, who make up 14% of the population. Due to their adherence against modernity, which often includes TV and the internet, the message for lockdown and social distancing is harder to disseminate, not helped by a disregard for rule of law (replaced by religious teaching). Weddings, funerals and bar mitzvahs have been observed, gathering up to 150. Religious schools and synagogues still operate subversively and their districts remain crowded and unmasked.

I did a little research, as one can be inclined from sheer boredom. And found they prefer the term Haledi Jewish, and are some of the most vocal supporters of a free Palestine. That many are anti-Zionist and against the State of Israel itself, even while living there. This is due to the ‘political quietude’ they are meant to adopt according to the Torah, with a respect for free states, unconcerned with politicking today when preparing for an afterlife overrides. Well, who knew?ss

I think we could perhaps take a leaf from that book, to be politically quiet for a bit. On that note…

Today’s bike ride was similar to all the others. How quickly beauty obscures pain, and how quickly we get used to that beauty, then bored of it. They say alpine Switzerland, land of majestic vistas, crystal lakes, and outstanding quality of life is either a vision of heaven or hell. Too perfect, too ordered, and perhaps a reason why the country suffered some of the highest rates of drug abuse back in the day (when Needle Park in Zurich was filled with thousands of users in the 80s), before they started facilitating the victims rather than criminalising them.

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To deal with all that perfection -and upkeep -you’ll need a civically focused mindset (conscription into the army /social service helps in your youth), and a steadfast following of the rules. Is Switzerland boring? Well no, not more than anywhere else, just a bit of a stickler. But it does end up as the happiest (or second happiest) country each year. Societal constraint and a warm fluffy blanket of predictability appears to play some part, though I’m sure so does an inordinate shower of cash from being the world’s tax parasite.

Oh shoot just went down the political bridge again. Wtf else can I write about? I brush my teeth up to 5x a day. My nails need cutting. Saw Drag Race. Front door keeps juddering with the breeze. The station has a fire alarm, that sounds uncannily like the end of days.

Had a bit of a night with cider and J, dissecting his friendscape and our pasts. Drunken bitching. EOD. Another one under the belt.

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