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 4

8th November 2020

It has come to pass. At 4.30pm yesterday CNN finally announced it would ‘project’ the winner of the US presidential race as Joe Robinette Biden Jnr, 46th President of the United States. Other networks followed shortly after, and Fox News finally caved last. Biden himself found out from his grandkids. It was his third attempt at the office, each try marred by personal tragedy such as the deaths of his wife and son -but it paid through in the end: at the age of 77 he’s the oldest US president yet, and the most popular with the highest amount of votes ever tallied, in his name.

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WELL DONE AMERICA. Thank Fuck. Thank Pizza God. And well done Vice President Kamala Harris too, the highest office a woman has ever held in the country, and a person of colour on top (her father Jamaican and mother Indian). Beau, Doug Emhoff, will be America’s first Second Husband and the first Jewish person in that role. She becomes officially the most powerful woman in US history, though others point out the power behind the throne was often the wife, such as Eleanor Roosevelt and rumoured Hillary Clinton (back when her husband was busy adjusting uniform standards with his protein stains). CNN quipped that the Republicans and their channels will have to learn, ultimately, how to pronounce her name -‘Kommla’ not ‘Kamarla’.

Finally democracy can rehabilitate its own good name after four years in the wilderness, the bit where it went round shitting on everyone and starting fires.

The streets of every major US city celebrated, with CNN’s announcement igniting spontaneous rounds of applause, whooping (what else, where else), car honking and pan banging across the nation. A carnival atmosphere attempted social distancing (face masks, personal bubbles) but soon gave way to crowds marching and dancing in unison while waving banners, state and rainbow flags, the latter increasingly a symbol not just of LGBTQIA support but social diversity and unity.

The new Civil War has not come to pass, though counter protests also took hold, but rather muted given the majority of supporters were either too busy distancing themselves from the loser, watching in dazed silence at the news, or drinking themselves into clifftop oblivion. Trump was busy on a round of lone golf, having thrown in his Belgian lace hanky at the final hour, though he did find time later to continue the claim he’d been the true winner, and been robbed.

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One can imagine The Great Orange Dolphin, swaddled now in silk comforters, a spherical mound beneath the bedcovers but for that cold glow of the phone light, watched by guards as Melania furtively, ecstatically packs her things, whispering febrile Slovene in the dark -the remaining staffers crumpled, heads in hands outside the door. Kayleigh McEnany, mascara dribbling, chain-smoking, calling faintly through the keyhole.

Her view is of a slashed painting of George Washington, golf club imbedded, lording over scattered copies of The Art of the Deal and DVDs of The Apprentice Season 3. Every curtain closed throughout the wing in utter silence, but for one torn and hanging by a thread, the other leading into the huge bundle of Versace bedding. A globe that opens out into a display for alcoholic beverages and discarded Big Macs burns surreally in the corner that no one is bothered or high ranking enough to put out.

And far, far away a loon calls into the night.

Trump looks unlikely to give up from cold dead hands, given that if he ever gets past first stage, he’ll be looking at a beckoning spell in prison, from his incalculable tax-dodging alone. Orange is the new black.

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This is a turning point, a page to be flipped after so much domestic and geopolitical damage. A return to support for the Paris Accord that aims to stem greenhouse gases, to NATO and WHO, battling right now the worst crises since WWII. To a nation riven by racial, religious, generational, political and class divides, between the haves and have-nots, the 1 percenters and The Rest, the urban and rural, the north and South, east and west, natives and non-natives, Black and White and all in between. Diversity is strength in numbers, in duality and pluralism, not diremption trammeled into so many lines through political chicanery for the pathologically selfish and threatened. To climb the ladder then burn it behind you should never become cultural creed.

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Okay, enough soapboxing, we’ll have much more of that in the next few days. The transition period is a whopping ten weeks, and inauguration in January by all counts. For the time being lets hope everyone settles down, puts away their hunting rifles and camo, and concentrate on the task at hand -not just political change but the giant viral cloud threatening the world in the greater scope of things.

Yes, that.

So, MINKS.

Cute little fuckers. Minks apparently are a new biohazard, spreading a fancy mutation that’ll be harder to vaccinate against. Outbreaks earlier in Spain and now Denmark have seen all their captive populations culled by the millions, and a global populace now wobbling about whether a zombie apocalypse might actually manifest, as we all secretly know it’s bound to happen one day (though the WHO did respond in saying it was entirely normal and expected to have differing zoonotic strains).

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It remains to be seen whether our farming and hunting practices require a sea change, increasingly seen in the last new human viruses and global pandemics -SARS, Bird Flu, Swine Flu, MERS, HIV, and Ebola. Due to the size of the human population now, 7.8 billion and counting, we should maybe all just go veggie -the risk is rising alongside every year we grow so exponentially, at 200,000 extra babies each day. The mountains more of meat we will need to feed those lives adds ever more risk -throughout history every time Man gets jiggy with Nature we correlate with a new round of infectious, incurable disease. Such as Bubonic Plague or Smallpox or Spanish Flu (that actually originated in a Kansas farmstead), coming from rats and livestock when we began farming then mass-farming, then industrial farming.

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But then:

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But then

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But then

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Ah, the dichotomy of individualism. We know we shouldn’t do it, we know it even kills other souls without mercy, yet we do it (sorry about that). Democracy or benevolent dictatorship? Anarchy or Facism? Shame culture or guilt culture? I decide, or we decide?

Our world is built on hierarchy, a form we like to think is about efficiency. We just haven’t worked out how the mad scramble to the top is meant to impose order, that the fact no matter where we are in that jungle we will always be in competition, between the winners and losers, and invariably the vast majority will always think themselves the latter. That life will not stop and take a breath (or at least a laboured final few, possibly via an ICU) unless that Hell Is Other People In Competition ever lets up.

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Okay, like I said. I step down from the soapbox, and will myself rummage through the fridge, pausing then nibbling on pieces of packaged death, like any member of a guilt culture is wont to do. Because I’m worth it.

Anyhoo, for what it’s worth, nice one Mr Biden. You big baby squash your facey baby you x. I may now light a candle, and sway in the spirit of collective beatification. So please now, heal the world.

Make it a better place.

For you and for me and the en-tire human race. There are… people dying, if you care enough for the living, make a better place for you and for me.

Save it for our children ye-ah!

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 in the town square to 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 before mid century. 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, coke cans 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 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. 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. Raking at the 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 deflect, suddenly pointing his harpoon at the birthday girl and 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