A Journal of the Plague Year Day 24

Friday 10th April 2020

Another schizo day. Trying to relax yet structure it, while trying to work yet play. Swear I need to do a rota, like I did at weerk.

Spent far too long doing the forum surfing, and checking news bites (a delicious hour seeing the presented evidence on the Great Orange Dolphin’s behaviour -that he suffers from Narcissistic Personality Disorder alongside growing senility), before launching into some book writing. Then a spot of gaming (Skyrim where I murdered a giant spider, Streetfighter where I spinning-bird-kicked E Honda in the head), which raised the guilt again, enough for me to embark on another round of book editing.

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Which in turn led to a spell on TikTok, which A is now getting seriously hooked into also. This is not good. I am feeling guilty for working too long, then relaxing too much. Like every addict who knows they’ve been busted.

J has been similarly at odds with what to do with himself today, finally settling on working on his antiques (writing up, researching their worth and stories, and selling them online). While A has done a bike ride, some cooking and not much else. I’m trying to inveigle everyone into sitting down to watch a film, which I may put on and hope they’re lured in.

I perhaps need this psychotic break. Like Trump at Christmas, who forgets what he’s saying mid-sentence. I almost pity him.

And let me begin by wishing you a beautifewel… Look. you remember this. Do you remember, they were trying to take Christmas out of…’

Below is pictured the actual turning point (indeed) of that sentence, exhibiting the behavioural tics of dementia, closed eyes, forward lean, open mouth, grasping/ flappy limbs.

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Yesterday’s showing was The Invisible Man, the kind of film that does genuinely suck you into the storyline -but heavily flummoxed by the internet slowing on the streaming site, creating new cliffhangers and ridiculously paused scenes, mid-gurn. Every 20 mins we had to load/ reload, a reminder of the golden days of terrestrial when adverts interrupted everything. The same again for Underwater, the laughable Kristen Stewart creature feature, where you can’t really make out the cast, dialogue or creatures through the murk, exacerbated by the infernal stop-start. This is Trump’s life at the mo, despite being at the helm, and someone needs to take those controls out of his flippers.

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Throughout, despite the cider and cake, J and I were non-committal to the point of monosyllabic malaise -I even mentioned it, how I was spending the day like a sleepwalker. Apparently, the lack of vitamin D does that to you, and at our latitude we have to wait a bit longer before we can get enough out of the sun, until mid-April at least.

980 died in UK hospitals today, for France 1,400, including those who died in care homes. The BBC new site has degraded into telling village notices despite the conspicuously unmentioned disaster – how Joe Wicks is doing PE classes, how schoolkids are writing emails to an old folks home, a skipping Sikh guy is entertaining his community and a woman is using her parent’s campervan as an office. Stop the fucking press. Oh and Kenny Dalglish has it, whoever he is. What next? Newsflash! How to spruce up your day by playing microwave bingo! The Warrington boy writing to Santa about a mask for his proud, nurse-mum. The new TikTok kitten sensation, jumping to the words: Social Distancing! How to spell zoonotic! It appears Kevin and Marjorie from the local church in Kippershyt village have taken over the BBC.

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There’s a fine line between honest reportage and propaganda methinks, between buoying the wartime spirit and censorship. And treating a nation as people entrusted with truths, or downplayed into sycophancy. Or maybe people just aren’t clicking anymore, and have had their fill of doomsaying, especially now the sun’s out.

CNN has for some time also started to stray into the tabloid news category, dangling other stories lasciviously that look little different from This One Trick clicks a rung removed. They tend to show a lurid pic, coupled with a half headline, coyly doing up its laces.

This nurse demonstrates how fast germs spread even if you’re…

(armless? breeding Pomeranians? Dave?)

The doctor in the viral photo with his son behind glass has lost his…

(other son? will to IG anymore? will?)

Jake Gyllenhaal crushed Tom Hollands handstand challenge…

(by doing a handstand? by doing it cowboy? by doing his laces?)

NASA astronauts estranged wife charged with lying about claim…

(on the moon? of Catholicism? over 2004 parking ticket?)

A Florida man dies days after hundreds exposed to…

(radiation? Trump briefing? his TikTok vid?)

A fire at a Florida airport destroys more than 3,500…

(mice? Floridians? photo ops?)

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Oh CNN, how far ye’ve changed with the times. Fast forward a few years and we’ll be forced into playing a round of flappy bird to access any article, as if an advert for the latest season of Marie Kondo’s Sock Drawer isn’t enough. If you’ve so caved into a landscape of sensationalism and sponsorship for clicks, as opposed to journalistic integrity, or dissemination of insight, your leveling of any field will be forever changed. As if the lobbying already wasn’t the most decisive factor. Like art being measured by how garish, or sullied the paint is.

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Good news (we hope) in the US, as infections seem to be leveling off and the lockdown starting to see results, though hopefully all that’s not in the vein of the BBC’s current picture painting. Tomorrow will be the worst day for fatalities according to the projections, with mass graves already dug in NYC. The US does enjoy a certain serendipity in terms of its low density suburban setup for much of the land -detached housing and car culture ensuring people never had much physical contact with each other anyway. Part of the cultural handwringing, pointing toward how isolationist, untrusting and unempathetic the people can turn, but now reaping the benefits in terms of limiting the infection – albeit should they get it their higher rates of obesity, heart disease, asthma and diabetes will increase the chance of dying. A similarly low infection rate has occurred in Australia, the only country with larger average homes that the US, whilst NYC bucks the trend for obvious reasons, notably its high density landscape.

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A Journal of the Plague Year Day 7

Tuesday, 24th March 2020

Lockdown. As of last night, PM Boris Johnson came on to let us know that we’re no longer allowed out other than one exercise (type) a day, to go shopping (only food, pet stores and pharmacies) or to work (essential workers, or if you ‘absolutely have to’). The Telegraph of course emblazoned its headline this morning as ‘The End of Freedom’.

We’ll get fined otherwise, and if we hang out in groups of more than 2 it’ll get broken up, similar to the days of Thatcherism where more than 8 people around a radio constituted an illegal rave. I don’t however see myself joining a Reclaim the Streets brigade.

TOPSHOT-BRITAIN-HEALTH-VIRUS

It’s not so much that the lockdown is now in place, but why it took so long, given the track record of not acting quickly enough in Italy and Wuhan, alongside the proven benefits that South Korea, Singapore and the rest of China managed to pull off (for the time being -reinfection is still a fear, albeit with standard testing at every corner). Opinion posits this late joining to the party has been BoJo’s long championing of personal liberties; he famously wrote in his former Telegraph column that the ban on public smoking was akin to killing Iraqis to free them.

Well after the droves of people witnessed across the country’s parks and beauty spots over the sunny weekend, he had to bite the bullet. It sounds like in the West that’s exactly what is needed in order to keep the population indoors: guns, with the army having to be called in across the continent – Italy alone has had hundreds of thousands of people fined already. The army helicopters did a flypast over our estate last night, spotting some chinooks out of the eight before we stopped counting.

As mentioned before, us Brits are a libertine bunch, a bit too entitled since the days of Empire, and in contrast to a Germany where the death toll per capita is lower than its neighbours, perhaps due to a more heedful populace in a regimented Germanic stereotype. Albeit Austria -more specifically the apres-Ski resort of Ischgl -has now been pinpointed as a main source for infecting much of Mitteleuropa, notably a majority of the spreader Germans and Danes and as far away as Iceland. All thanks to a sick barman (who blew whistles to clear the drunken droves engaging in body fluid beer pong), and an ensuing cover-up, the management and council in cahoots. Austria had consistently denied the link until it became too obvious, with hundreds of patients sharing that same hand-warming, shoulder-rubbing vector-point.

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The US too appears ever hassled, with its right to bear arms in a similar cultural quandary as the UK, whereby it’s populace may now prove to be its own worst enemy. It’s one thing to have 165 million people left with a month’s worth of money before facing homelessness and destitution, as the current fiscal roll out is promising, it’s another to give them guns to go with their desperation. The Stateside press is fervent with calls to take out Nancy Pelosi, who undid the emergency draft of economic measures after noticing it did nothing for the common man and a lot for uncommon, big business. Predictably so -barging into DC and plonking down her 1,400 page amendment as a rebuttal to much more rebuttal. Going by what the Republicans had intended your average white collar worker would get $1200 a head, while blue collar families $600, as a random example.

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Meanwhile the Democrats took the opportunity to attempt a sea change in policy to come with the draft, from affirmative action rolled out into the corporate echelons to gender/ minority equity in the payscale, from halving greenhouse gases to increased union power, freer healthcare to free internet. This has of course stymied the fast-tracked path of the bailout, as businesses continue to fold and a large chunk of the population waits in limbo, attack rifles readied.

The fact that for most Americans keeping yourself in work is vital to paying for your healthcare, has become a vicious Catch 22 in these climes, whereby even the threat of illness negates work which in turn negates any chance of proper treatment, or will further indebt you for decades. This is what Obamacare, increasingly indentured, attempted to bypass. It seems the end of the American Dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, even if that entailed for some, the white picket fencing off from community and a God-given right to bear arms. Not in the shape of the Red Scare, foreign attack, immigrant takeover, economic overshadowing, nuclear war or a Hollywood alien race, but a mere virus exposing the flaws in every society so far. Plus a global, capitalist system utterly reliant on unceasing spending, no matter whether you’re in Louisiana or Lusaka.

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The fact Trump is now seeking to reinstate this system to the tune of untold dying is a sign of our times, and the monster we’ve nurtured, whereby dollars > death. The House Senate is now looking to shorten lockdowns, if even have them in place, which isn’t exactly democratic in any way given the commercial lobbying (read: corruption) and the lack of people voting on their own fates.

Yesterday we watched Doomsday Preppers straight after BoJo’s speech, which wasn’t the best choice in hindsight. I ended up yelling at the screen after having every button pressed repeatedly in seeing grown men (all terse, overweight and suburban) bring up their kids and inveigle other families and long-suffering wives into a life of unputdownable threat and big boys’ army games. Which got me triggered, so to speak. Watching white-socked wannabees bowling around pristine lawns armed with uzis and a well-tended fear of cityfolk, or the sweaty ranch-owning narcissist who puts his kids in life-or-death scenarios as per norm, in preparation for a terrorist takeover. His hiring of local law enforcers -constructively nurturing more trigger happiness -to stage a shouty ransoming of family members, guns to heads was especially revealing. All in aid of seeing what the 7 year old would do (he caved and put the shotgun down, bless his little warm, living hands).

I honestly think there is an unsaid link between our sociopathy spectrum levels with a hangover from our predatory evolution. That those on the far right have been shown to share nightmares of being hunted, hounded by constant threat (darkies chasing them with machetes, feminazis throwing tampons, trees getting hugged) -and that we ourselves demonstrate when put in the corner. When forced to defend our loved ones the last feelings of empathy or concern for the Other (side) goes well out the reinforced window. It’s a certain mix of cold disregard with wheedling attention and premonition that is a pathological condition methinks, and the series is making the most of it. I was shocked to find it was from the National Geographic, though of course majority stakes went to Rupert Murdoch a few years ago, and the channel’s always been in bed with Fox since 2001.

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Anyhoo they must be loving life right now. So I am not convinced this world deserves us, and that we deserve the world, regardless of how glossy a cover it makes and how, like most relationships in life, we pretend to care and support each other.

More commuting horrors of the tube were snapped this morning – but before we tut our middle class tongues, look again at the pics and note this is just the normal 5-7am rush hour for the poor as it is every day – construction crews, supermarket shelvers, carers, caterers, cleaners, transportation workers who have to come in from far to service the centre. Take away their trains and frequencies and it can only get worse -it’s a telling sign that somewhere like Denmark puts on more trains to enable social distancing, and we do the opposite to systemise it. Is that plain stupidity or just the usual punishing of the poor, at best callous, at worst intentional?

These people are not wilfully there, they are not congregating at sunrise for a latte in the park. They are trying to survive, and running a new gauntlet to do so; choice being a luxury we may have and they do not.

In short this is more a picture of desperation than disregard.

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There is always an underlying economy beneath our everyday, the background workers shunted into fruit picking, manual labour, cleaning and human exploitation from nail bars to prostitutes to garage workers to sweatshop droves in territories beyond. The fact most Londoners have no idea there is a peak travel time at dawn, where it’s standing room only on buses and trains, so long as you live out in Zones 4-9, and are up early enough to witness it, perhaps when catching your flight to more aspirational destinations.

You can actually work out how many slaves work for you here; take note that by namedropping you live in London you actually entail more indentured labour than if you opted for Dubai, pariah of a vast underclass behind the steel and glass, just less hidden. This appears to be our question in these days of our lives, do we look out for that unseen economy? Do we worry for and change habits for the untold numbers at the edges of society, the shadows in our peripherals, blocking the sun? The old, the sick, the alone, the homeless, the vulnerable who will be dying soon in forgotten wards and warehouses across the country in the next few weeks.

Italy has seen a fall in deaths again today, though still in the hundreds. It may be over the worst, though Spain looks soon to take that mantle. The UK waits in the wings, and a judgement on what our policy of half-arsed mitigation has sown. When push comes to shove, and for all our navel-gazing entreaties, how much will we look out for others, or take up arms against them? There’s a lot to be said about being alone in a crowd.

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https://elpais.com/elpais/2020/03/22…tml#foto_gal_4

 

In other news J, who was a photographer and artist in another life has had his image on valuable items, for an upcoming auction (online of course) added to the Chiswick house feed where he works. Very apt, and a sign of the times. When I saw it, jaw-dropped, I did actually ask where he got them from. What is it that we hold dear, no really?

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John Rogers, @durbinlewis

“Right now in today’s world our perception of value might have shifted somewhat since 1766, when Sir Thomas Broughton and Mary Wicker had their coat of arms engraved upon this soup tureen as part of their marriage silver. Nevertheless the timeless quality of the silver sold through the Wakelin partnerships continues to captivate collectors and aesthetes alike.

Lot 580 on the 25th March Silver & Objects of Vertu auction

 

Just saw two of our neighbours from the window, coming up with their shopping (Sainsbury’s looks like), and proving life can be normalised despite. The sun is out and it almost looks a vision of lost mundanity, with their produce and smiles and nice clothing, all satisfaction arising in a time of want. They’ve even managed to find loo roll.

The stairs, that’s where we’ll get them.

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