A Journal of the Plague Year 3.0 Day 5

21st December 2020

I have been very much sucked into the game Alien Isolation. The latter half of the title very apt for our times. J has left for Wales while A barricades himself in the kitchen for most of the day, working at the breakfast bar with his laptop, floor heater and view over the estate. Every few minutes he pops out for a smoke, which worries me, then it’s a bike ride for the evening. And repeat. We wake, eat and go to bed separately these days.

Thus it’s just me and the homicidal extra-terrestial. I get why it’s been dubbed the best horror game of a generation; unlike a film where one watches events play out on a screen, this time YOU, dear friend, is in control of your protagonist. You get to decide to run or hide, to make a sprint for it or crawl about in available corners, gibbering like a gibbon.

The fucker’s fast, and like this first semblance of AI to the public, it’s intelligent. It acts on sound and movement, unlike the games I grew up with where the characters forged set paths that you could learn and cheat. Thus hiding in the pits of an airvent I was forced to throw a noise emmiter out one of the ducts, so as to distract the thing from me exploring about. Of course the sound bomb bounced off a wall and landed at my feet, making me scream. And run, chased through dark corridors.

Then I saw it pass by in front, in the self same air vent, and bottled my scream (like that would have helped -there have been times I’ve been inches away from the screen to better peer into the corners). I switched off my torch and began crawling the fuck away. Of course it caught up, jumping me in the black, and forcing out a bunny pellet in the bed.

It’s true what you see in films, when spaz hands can’t work the gun or missy falls over at the most unwarranted of times. The stress levels ensure you are just as idioted, running into walls, taking the wrong door, trying to shoot with a loaded carrot, and missing anyway. The game is so stress enducing even after I got killed (a horrible wrenching sound, everything going slow-mo, with a spiked tail emerging from your belly as it fades to black) I was still covering myself into the duvet and mewling. Motherfucker this is intense.

I’m almost too scared to carry on. Just cannot, cannot find some damn keypass out of the trap. So ended up watching a youtube vid on some gamer playing it out to give me clues. Even then I was screaming, along with him. I like to think I’m calm in a crisis as, well, I usually am. This is proving me wrong.

I think collectively humans on the planet right now are being spazimodo in the same way. We are literally launching ourselves into the mire with the pandemic -and after watching Attenborough’s latest offering (his witness statement on the destruction of the world over his lifetime) -with the environment too. We are literally sitting over a spread with Death and his mistress Mass Extinction, and having the time of our lives, having invited them over with promises of tea and biscuits, and a lathe for the scythe. Instead of running for the hills, we’re playing footsie under the table.

It says something when for me to get away from it all and some light relief, I’m choosing to get chased into industrial piping by a creature with two mouths and acid for blood.

An Xmas card came in the post, from my ex-landlord and friend T. It sits now over the fireplace with its pic of ice skaters outside the Albert Hall, near where we werkkk, and painted back when people could swan about unmasked. Even though he’s furloughed he’s super busy still, likely planning for the holiday and a big meal as he’s a great cook -these lives lost to ether. We’re planning Xmas day ourselves too, with D, who’s been stranded in the Big Smoke and now our support bubble. His plans to go up north were upset by the lockdown, plus apparently the police at Waterloo were stopping and checking travellers. He’d not have gotten away with an excuse for work when carrying a packed suitcase and a whole bunch of pressies. Thus he’s been home alone for a week now, like Tom Hanks in Castaway.

Ours will be salmon en croute, and I’m adding pigs in blankets. A will bake the parsnips n potatoes, as Greeks make the world’s best in every shape and form -ALWAYS perfectly crisp on the outside and mushy inside (their chips OMG), and D bringing the stuffing. I’ll do a starter of vinegar sweet veg and fried sprouts, and we’ll finish off with vegan chocky cake.

Artists’ impression

With J gone I’ve ventured into the living room to write this on a table, vertically, as opposed to lying in bed and making no end of typos as I try and tap shit out with laptop on my chest. My spine is like a Quaver from so long doing it. It’s really quite civilised -the lamp’s are on and the room is lit like a cosy study, helped by J’s inordinate amount of antiques. Silver is meant to be displayed in firelight he’s said -it shimmers and glows through an ethereal gloom. One of which is a turkey dome that looks inviting for use in the next few days. I feel like Sherlock Holmes, and it’s getting late.

Anyhoo, time again for some running through darkened, post apocalyptic rooms. Or maybe a showing of the Hound of the Baskervilles, the Hammer horror version with some candles and blankets. With all this around it feels right tonight.

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year 3.0 Day 2

18th December 2020

Okay let’s just get it over and done with.

1. Infections are up, way up. Like that Pixar cartoon about going to Venezuela with balloons, and that is the second most weepy film for men (after Shawshank Redemption, for women it’s Titanic or Kittens III, or The Dog Dies At The End or summat). That kind of Up, tear-jerkingly so. Not just here but across Europe, the US, Lat Am and even Japan and SE Asia. Some places that had some of the best results the first time round are now suffering the worst, such as Slovenia, Bosnia, North Macedonia, and Czechia that even held end of Covid celebrations back in summer. Those wretched balloons.

2. It looks like new strains are at work: the UK is suffering due to a homegrown mutation that emerged in Kent, and has dramatically infected London from the east these last two weeks (with Wales going into super-lockdown -Tier 4 -that even limits transport). Places across the world that enjoyed low infection rates due to humidity (whereby it was posited the virus latched onto minute water droplets that fell to the ground and became less airborne), are now seeing it skyrocket on the new wave, such as New Orleans and parts of Peru.

Germany’s previous response was castigated as being far too relaxed, with barely a lockdown. This second visitation, despite much stricter measures, have seen deaths skyrocket for no good reason -it points strongly towards a different strain.

Many countries are reaching or exceeding the dreaded 1 death per 1,000, including now the UK (by comparison for our worst global flu outbreak recently -2018 -it was 0.0086 deaths per 1,000, more than 116x less fatal).

They also think C-19 is deadlier than Spanish Flu as a virus, insofar that in 1918 they had far less PPI, infrastructure, treatment and global lockdowns which is why it had a higher death toll. Yet C-19’s first two months in NYC was still comparable with the peak months of 1918, despite our modern day measures and facilities, and the fact the city was in lockdown. The US state of North Dakota has recently joined the ranks of New Jersey and Massachusetts with the world’s highest death rates, though they may be joined by Tennessee, currently with the fastest infections, ballooning as we speak. -Many of the Midwestern and Southern states most averse to mask wearing are now paying the price. Hospital beds have run out in Sweden, and are imminently about to do so in Texas and New York City.

3. The vaccines rolling out, Pfizer, Moderna, Oxford, Sinovac, Sinopharm, Sputnik V etc for a time looked like they would all be bought up multiple times over by the rich countries (Canada grabbed enough for 10 doses for each of its citizens), with the Developing World waiting till as late as 2024 to get theirs. WHO on Wednesday however set aside 2 billion shots for them (about 10% of those available so far, for the majority of humans on the planet), propping up support from China, Russia and the World Bank. And New Zealand has heroically bought up doses enough for the Pacific island nations too (thank you Ardern) -not just magnanimously but in recompense for the decimation in the previous pandemic, when soldiers returning from WWI stopped off en route and spread Spanish Flu.

It’s also been found out that Moderna’s vaccine was engineered as early as January 13th, before even the second death anywhere in the world. Just a few days after China released the genetic sequence for the virus -it really takes this long to test. China’s Clover has just announced promising results in its own labs, a vaccine able to be stored and transported at 2C to 8C, similar to Moderna’s (by comparison Pfizer’s needs -70C to -80C).

4. Meanwhile the African nations appear to still be on their winning streak of low infection. Much to the disbelief of the West who assume it’s all a case of non reportage. However look beyond cultural arrogance and Africa has many winning traits to weather the storm. Notably it’s demographics, whereby much of the continent is made up of children and teenagers far less susceptible to dying from the disease, and the older contingent a fraction of their Western counterparts. Their age pyramids resemble Chinese roofs.

Nigeria

Ethiopia

Ghana

Egypt

South Africa currently has the continent’s highest death rate, but inline with the fact it’s also the most aged nation of the region:

By comparison, richer nations have far larger proportions and populations of older folk, who are much more at risk -they resemble demographic meringues of doom, flattened and bulbous:

UK

Italy

China

Peru

Also this isn’t to detract from the fact the African Council convened a few days after the pandemic was announced and agreed to enact continent-wide measures between nations. As the region most likely to suffer from the disease, with little PPI, ICUs and infrastructure (but no stranger to epidemics) they knew they HAD to rely on preventative measures.

The more pink, the more stringent, as charted by Oxford University. Tanzania was notably scolded by its neighbours for being the outlier, though even its response would put many richer nations to shame:

5. To cap off, world leadership is still playing up. While many are valiantly fighting the good fight (New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern, Germany’s Angela Merkel) the usual suspects are still at it, banging the drum and shitting in the sink while everyone else tries to get on with it. Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro mentioned taking the vaccine may turn one into an alligator, having set himself on a personal crusade against vaccines in general, in contrast to the rest of the nation. Meanwhile Trump is still too consumed AF trying to stay in the White House to roll out meds with any speed whatsoever, and Mexico’s Manuel Lopez Obrador -mask averse and slamming Europeans for having lockdowns -is conducting only 10,000 tests a day (with a whopping 97% positivity rate) in a nation of 130 million.

Oh and France’s Emanuel Macron just got it. Still would.

6. The frontline workers in Stanford Medical Center in Palo Alto, California meanwhile are protesting the fact that they were left off the list of 5,000 vaccines that arrived for the facility staff. Only seven medical residents made the cut, while the higher management working from home, and fatcats slumming it in their deep pile Bond lairs got it. -Even cleaners and caterers, yet not the nurses and scrubs directly in the wards. The hospital blamed an algorithm and too much pressure for it to have been reviewed. Yeah soz about that.

7. Despite all this it’s shopping as normal, in London at least. A mate has just reported on the carnival buzz of my local high street too, Northcote Road. This really doesn’t look like a citywide lockdown:

So business as usual then, world. The same cackhandedness, grabbing the pie, assumption and not giving a toss.

Yay. I plan this to be my only political entry for the blog (well until I summon the urge over some tabloidal horror), as it gets me down and I’m becoming a grump. From now on go out and buy a fucking newspaper (just mask up). x

Yesterday

Tomorrow

A Journal of the Plague Year 3.0 Day 1

17th December 2020

So again? Really?

Not just talking about the fact we’re in the third time down and out in society, ravaged by the virus, but also am I so committed into writing this?

For the last couple of days I’ve allowed myself to enjoy not writing. Not working. Taking on lockdown as the super secret holiday it really is to many lucky enough to be furloughed, while pretending to decry the situation. You only need to look at Oxford Street right now to see our real priorities in life.

All too much otherwise.

I’d have to start with a recap -the daily infections, the death rolls, death rates, new strains, the news horrors round the world, the retail apocalypse, the Xmas hypocrisy, the fresh political borderlands between who will get the vaccines first, who will grab the lot and leave the rest of the Third World to wait till 2024, if at all. They can maybe just deal with it like, forever as they do with Dengue Fever, Malaria and AIDS while we live it up to MVs and pop and watching our shares. Oops. There, I did it again.

I’d finish off with a navel gazing episode of guilt, outlining my hypocrisy. Then in the real world a good few hours of anxiety-ridden perfectionism, editing, correcting and re-editing. Every damn day.

Well let’s not but say we did. The world, and our societies are shite, people are self servingly shite as are many a leader, attracted to politics for power and self-aggrandisement rather than the greater good, humanitarianism, and cuddling disaster victims without photo shoots involved. Let’s just leave it at that.

The last stint of work involved a shift as normal, followed by putting dust sheets on a few gondolas of product. Then drinks with a workmate who doubles valiantly as my psychotherapist, as I offload my rages at office politics (why is there a need?), society (why won’t it leave me alone?!?), and personal life (family, past, present tragedies), all to an edge of humour in order for it to be sold, but surfacing every now and then as true bitterness. He’s a bit of a hero in my book.

I really gotta curb drunken rambling when offered the outlet, though he has pointed out my work-life balance is obsolete as it consists of misery either way. I’ve countered that I’m strangely impervious to depression this last decade no matter what gets thrown, and that I do enjoy stuff. Like time on my own, film nites, and writing The Book that’s so far saved my poor, indentured soul with that zippo of hope. That tapping at restaurant windows with big eyes.

Homewise, it continued with film nite and cider with J whose anxiety has rerisen with his first time being furloughed. I’m working on bouncing between him and A, who is as ever islanded in the kitchen and avoiding real contact. We lead separate lives now and it’s a crying shame, manifesting in dreams where he stops and I have to leave him behind. This morning it was a concrete walkway, a lift shaft to his new flat, and my discovery only then.

Yesterday was a shopping blitz. I suddenly realised the deadline for my buying shit for Xmas, starting a round of wishlist fulfilling on Amazon. Ended up spending £260 at time I don’t have it, but it’s hard to think of Mum and sister alone at their favourite time of year (first time our Xmas has been canceled) when they finally get to socialise and see family, and the rest a desert. I’m sometimes tempted to write on the family history, but let’s just say it’s one of untold woe, involving lots of mental health issues, deaths, blades, crazy bats and running away and let’s just leave it at that.

https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/489836896942647349/

I’ve eaten shitloads of chocolate recently, despite not being that big a fan. I still have secreted emergency supplies in my schoolbag and tea cupboard when suddenly the need arises (chocolate is said to be a surrogate for love, igniting the same brain functions and chemicals), but J luxuriously fills a £300 solid silver Georgian fancy with Quality Street at all times. It’s proving disastrous for my health in front of the box.

J and I have taken to braying at each other, after a small child did the same on Strange Encounters of the Third Kind. It sounds like nuuuuuugggh, and a step up from miaowing which is our normal greeting of choice. He sometimes stops randomly and podium dances/ twerks silently for a few seconds, given a random excess of energy. Occasionally chewbacca moans.

I’m still sleeping in fits, about 4-5 hrs. Hitting the sack at about midnight, waking at 4 or 5am, checking up on news and fora for about 3 hrs, then slumping into nothingness till 10, lunch, laptop in lap.

Day one was bedbound by digital leprosy, my arm furtively out from the covers to scroll. Day two has been the celebration of spending and capitalism, including venturing outdoors to haul foodage home, plus freebie veg given out by a non-profit battling food waste. Then playing computer games. Day three is, well now. Had a haircut (sweeping it back now). A has just finished some zoom interviews and getting high. J is sitting in a corner playing with our silver spoon collection. I mean that literally.

Another dollar, another day. It’s time for chocolate.

I’m sorry but how weird is this guy? -His arms. HIS ARMS. Hey Hank! Canyer pass us the lawnmower buddy?

Tomorrow

Lockdown 1

Lockdown 2