A Journal of the Plague Year Day 81

Monday 8th June 2020

We moved to the UK when I was 5, coming from a nice middle class family, as is common with many immigrants who can afford the costs to emigrate. Dad told us that on the plane you could open the window and touch the clouds, which were like cotton wool. There’d be snow: I imagined digging myself out and tunneling my way to school. In retrospect he knew.

He’d studied here in London, law I hear, but blew it all, gave money to a friend in need, argued too much with the colonial professors. But left with a penchant to liberate his kids should he ever have any, to a more free life. Without the ethnic politics of Malaysia, where to this day we’d be barred from university choices and jobs due to our race. As ethnic Chinese, we were known as the ‘Jews of Asia’, for the way we monopolised wealth despite starting out as poor WWII refugees. In Indonesia, where affirmative action is non-existent Chinese made up only 7% of the population yet 90% of the wealth. When the Asian Financial Crisis hit in 1997, inflamed by multinational hedge funds, one of the side-effects was half a million children succumbing to malnutrition. Race riots took over by May of the next year, and almost 12,000 were killed, mostly ethnic Chinese, with 100,000 fleeing the country. In Malaysia the historic slanting of the Chinese after 600 years in business was balanced out when they introduced affirmative action for the varied ‘Bumiputra’ (sons of the soil) populations, mostly Malays, long indentured and an underclass in their own country. A rebalancing followed, opening up opportunity to many of the poor, whilst teaching racial harmony in the schools -but over the years the Chinese who made up nearly half the population at one stage, dwindled to 23%, as many moved abroad for better prospects.

Mum remembers the race riots during the Communist insurgency of the late 1960s, how as a young teacher they watched the fires crowd out the horizon, then had to try and shuttle the children home safely. Britain would be a better life.

Fast forward to 1980s Thatcherite Britain. I remember it cold, a sensation I’d never felt before, and grey. October. We moved from our tropical beach house into a little rent in Windsor, picked for the royal associations and guaranteeing a hallowed education just in name: Clewer Green, Trevelyan, The Windsor Boys’ School, The Windsor Girls’ School, The Berkshire School of Art. The flat was small but beautiful, opposite the library, where my sister R aged six, would sneak into the Adults section to get her books, and where I learned English stuttering over the long names in Asterix. They bought me a tiny desk, with little drawers -trumped up as a big reveal but remember thinking it a bit shit. There were no other kids, and the walk to school was crap, a mile and a half. Though in hindsight, we should’ve stayed there.

A few months later we bought a horrible house on a council estate -one of the few that were privately owned. Mum went from a departmental head at her high school to a cleaner, for which she gave up her pension. Dad, a landowner and academic but one without degrees, went straight into factory work and abject poverty for the rest of their lives. We were too poor to have furniture for a while. Unbeknownst the area was the most racially divided boroughs in the London area: Slough with the highest minority-majority wards in the country (97% Pakistani) to Windsor winningly White and native, an affluent tourist town surrounded by army estates. We’d landed right into one that later got notorious, including the odd riot.

On the first day at school, my sisters got straight into fights -a running meme for the rest of their tenure. R was a born tomboy, always loud, belligerent, brave, and climbing trees, building forts and taking anyone on. She’d tie her little anorak around her shoulders then zoom round the playground shouting ‘Supergirl!’ at the bullies, and generally doing Supergirl things, such as punching them in the face. They learned to stay away. But H, the eldest got it worst, where the kids were old enough to see the difference, and read into it. At first just as belligerent as R, as the years went on she started to quieten. I remember the first dark-skinned pupil joined by Class 3  -a Sri Lankan boy who’d moved house because the last place was too racist -subsequently the entire hundred+ school chasing him round the playground while the dinner ladies watched and the teachers pretended not to. It went on for days, at every break.

By middle school (Trevelyan) H was being badly bullied every day, not just the open insults -getting drinks poured down her, fights, punches, playgrounds throwing her into the air like giving the bumps, then letting her fall, and her name Chinky or Ching Chong day in day out. One gang of girls merciless. She used to stay behind class to avoid rec, much to the annoyance of the teachers just as complicit; when she finally told them she was being bullied, years later, they said ‘oh you’ll make friends soon’. One teacher, as a lesson, took her to the playground, and to demonstrate her small size, picked her up and stood her in a bin for the rest of the class to watch. By then H barely spoke. I think of these people now and want to rip their shitty little earrings out.

R continued to fight. Some of the boys in the neighbourhood wouldn’t believe she was a girl, so ready was she to take them all on and oblivious to any assault. Even when she was dragged out of a tree aged six, she stood up bleeding to the 14 year old skinheads. For it was a skinhead estate, we found out pretty soon. Every day for weeks the entire neighbourhood’s kids mobbing as a wall of flesh on the back gate to scream racist abuse, spit, throw projectiles, while their parents ushered them in every night and gave us evils from high windows. We couldn’t go out, and if we ever did we’d have to try and avoid Sean and his gang, and put up with everyone else, though one little girl, Dana, did start to play with us. They started calling her ‘nigger-lover’. Chrissakes folks, at least get it right.

Next door lived a teacher and her middle class family. A bit cold but civil, who would offer a lift to my sister occasionally (until she overheard the mother’s nickname for her). At some stage next door made their feelings more overt. One night their kids dancing idiotically in a ring and singing outside our house. Night after night we were getting new projectiles -no longer stones or sticks, but soggy clumps of tissue, that rarely made a noise but would dry like concrete; it didn’t take long to spot it was them, and know no one could be trusted.

Windsor, twee little Home Counties town full of tourist lace and Royal tradition, is the most odiously racist place I’ve ever been, permeating every level and class. It’s hard to forget even after so long the looks of sheer, screaming disgust, the hate, the friends that betray. Even when it’s not leaning out of cars to spit at you, or stare 180 as you walk by (to the point you think it normal behaviour for all pedestrians), or throwing bricks, spraying your walls and kicking you in the face in some carpark, it’s insidious even in the acceptably middle class assumptions. Little old ladies asking you to get your proximity away from their seat, tutting if you walked in front of them, always starting off: ‘in this country…’.

During A-Levels, my essays were held up as an example to other classes of a sign of plagiarism, too good was the writing. It happened again in art college, losing final marks because they concluded my lecture notes copied from books. My mate who’d done none and did in fact frantically copy some of mine on the last day, got a higher mark. I questioned the low score out of curiosity, my lecturer fumblingly embarrassed, admitted the accusation; and it would not be changed. This was the most left-wing, open environment you could think off, and an abrupt ending to the first illusion I’d ever entertained as being accepted. To this day if reminded I’m still pissed.

Growing up in Windsor one grows to hate everything that is different, such is the cultural norm, notably yourself. Everything about the way I looked, dressed, smelled was found wanting, even what I ate -after being mocked I would only wolf down my packed lunch after getting home, locked in the bathroom. Everywhere you looked, you read, you watched and listened you couldn’t but help but laugh, cry, fall in love with the White image, and that everything else was unworthy. Just watch any 80s flick of the era or older, involving anywhere abroad, from Indiana Jones to Casablanca to Breakfast At Tiffany’s to James Bond. We are the background: bestial, stupid, laughable as foil to White saviours. This on top of the domestic dramas and trauma behind closed doors. No teacher ever asked about the bruises, black on white.

Being proud would never happen for decades. By then R, so headstrong at the start, was a shy and quiet young woman, so ahead of the class yet dropped out of school and jobless. H had become the opposite, up for any fight, strong and persevering; it was as if they’d swapped roles.

It was one night I was home visiting from uni, when another great big stick or brick or something came into the window, can’t quite remember. But that I went berserk, just saw red and chased them over the wall and into the warren of the garage block. Rounding back onto the street empty-handed, then began yelling at the houses like a madman, like come-out-and-fucking-stab-me mad. That for 15 years we’d put up with that shit, that after one generation grew up, another would replace them. That it was the complicit parents to blame, that my father sat dying for years while barricaded, watching them throw their missiles from a bygone age. I think I was out there for half an hour screaming at darkened windows, where in the end Mum and R came out too. It all stopped after that night, the cowards.

To this day there is a part that is still bitter, that will always be bitter so long as I see it, and the world around duplicitous. Racism changes lives, it kills, it denies you jobs and promotions and money and lifeplans we endure, even in subconscious bias. You sweat like a dog year in year out, while watching those hired after and promoted within a year. Leaving in disgust after 5 years of blocked applications. After chatting in common rooms full of cooing colleagues, walking out then overhearing their racist jokes about you. I’ll never fully trust sweet sounding OAPs after that, or anyone who’s ever worked in ‘the forces’.

That it takes 7 years in the next job of more of the same, the very last to leave the bottom payscale by dint of always being peripheral and every word unimportant.

I find it hard to randomly watch, hear, or hear about racism any more, it just ignites too much inside. That I see it underlying so much of media portrayals while the rest just accept, and we face every day. It’s just so fucking draining. One of the first openers to Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race retains the scenario that the complainant understands the argument, fully. They are not simply one-sided, they understand inverse racism is still racism, they know what ‘playing the race card’ is and are wary of it, and that not all White people are to blame, should pay for the sins of their fathers, or to be lumped as one and the same in the exact way racism categorises others. That strawman arguments of not being able to ‘say anything’ anymore or suffering White Mans Burden, or accusations of such, of being over-sensitive or reading too much into things is alien to them. That ethnic minorities can be racist too, and are no angelic civilisations. But all too often our cries beach themselves against the same, listed barrage, imbedded by the sense of authority in these matters despite never having experienced it, and by that constant sense of The Other.

I remember insomnia after five days, waking up dazed and confused. Thinking I had insects in my bed; asking Mum to tell me about her nonexistent childhood in Germany, then looking into the mirror in the dark, and realising I wasn’t White and British, but East Asian. Imagine if you woke up Chinese one day. How fucking alien all that embodies.

The same way ethnic minorities navel-gaze, look upon themselves as lesser, question themselves constantly, and battle their own media-driven assumptions, is the same way they think White people regard them. Even if it is without hate, we fear it is with prejudice. From the news to Hollywood to Netflix to the internet to the voting booths, it takes a toll. Think of someone that got bullied for being different in your school, we can look back on and agree was unjust and cruel. Then think about a society subsequently forming political parties that wanted everyone who looked like that person booted out of the country, and millions voting for it. That for the last 25 years it’s been the main priority for the majority of voters that we stop more of them arriving, regardless of what they stand for, who they are or what they can offer. What message does that publicly announce?

It’s so easy to hate on the White world, to try and wash yourself from everyone you imagine judges you every time they look or interact. To not even come into contact with the possibility, and disregard a society constantly betraying you yet demanding allegiance at every turn and story. That daily life outside is a tiresome, constant minefield of expectation, judgment, acting and giving a damn. But ignoring that is impossible. You work, you have friends, you watch TV and fall in step with the characters, allegiant to sports teams and even proud of your nation when the flag flies exultant, or some other nation tries to trash it. You fall in love, you marry and live your life with them, and will have kids like them.

I remember a British drama on the box, about a British Pakistani brother and sister. The young woman recruited into terrorism, whilst her twin accepted into the anti-terrorism force. They question him for his allegiance -he a former soldier, thankful to Britain for taking him and his family in, thankful to Britain for giving him the freedom of society and speech, proud of his adopted nation and very off-the-cuff about it all too. He’s hired on the spot. We, as ethnic minorities scoff at that portrayal, no doubt written with White assumption. How many native White people thank Britain? Actually take the time out, pause and thank the country for bringing them up, for taking them on, for accepting them against all the odds. The answer is they don’t -they are that country they love, that they do not have to prove themselves to, and not in a job interview either. Walk down the street after that charming interaction at the supermarket, and thank Britain for not kicking you out.

So here’s the secret: we are British. We do not look at it through the lens of us and them, we do not look at it as some foreign country that accepted us and continues to do so. We are this country in the same way any native White Briton feels, and who doesn’t question why they are standing in it, or having to thank some abstract ideal or the general White populace for being there. I close my eyes and I am British, more British than anyone under the age of 37. I’ve had more experience of living in this country, eating the food, living the lifestyle, reading the news, going to the same schools, pubs, clubs, restaurants, cinemas, supermarkets, and everywhere else, seeing from the same eyes as an idiot abroad, and I’m sure I’d take anyone ‘native’ on in knowing more of the history, language, customs or geography. Just I don’t look like it and will never, ever fit into the narrative. One colleague once mentioned, with a knowing glint in her eye: ‘the question is would you die for this country?’. She of course assumed we wouldn’t, that the question needn’t even be answered. I asked her back, why would I, even if I wanted to?

If that BBC drama knew in any way what they were even talking about, the police would have asked what they felt about allegiance and merited him on honesty, not which side he was on and if he ticked sufficiently their prerequisite boxes.

When we look at ‘White’ people and culture, no matter how one could try and extract themselves from the immersion, or hate back, we cannot but help to have been formulated in it, to have laughed and cried alongside every media portrayal from Pretty Woman to Titanic to Avatar to the fucking Little Mermaid. The same cannot be said from the other side. Whenever China gets bad news, sure plenty of people say they hate the regime not the Chinese people, but just look how quickly that translated to open racism during the pandemic. How many people have cried for Gong Li in Farewell My Concubine, or laughed with Sing from Kung Fu Hustle, fallen in love with Teacher Luo in Under the Hawthorn? Or ever even watched a documentary where Chinese actually talk amongst themselves, thus displaying more than one personality type? And that’s for China, the most out-there country right now emblazoned on many a headline for years -what about any given ‘shithole’ country? They are not just indentured refugees, poverty-mired underclass or corruption-riddled nouveau riches. They are like you and me, and just as multitudinous, just as understanding and ignorant in equal measure.

In short we ask – no, we demand – the way one sees their own race, their own community or family or class as multitudinous, and not compatible with categorisation, has to extend that view to all others.

So what has become of Windsor? In the noughties people tried to convert part of the Windsor Dairy, which had been functioning as a makeshift mosque for the small, local community. Residents were so averse to ‘increasing the traffic’ they took up arms and assaulted anyone they deemed looked Muslim on their street, while worshippers barricaded the dairy. The mosque never did get consent due to ‘increasing the traffic’. The town’s since had a Black MP, though racist leaflets were distributed to every pub and local institution on the eve of his election, urging people that we couldn’t ever let this happen -the same betrayal across the river in Slough. Our street is now affably middle class, despite everything being ugly postwar terraces the property prices are legion. The town is staunchly Conservative and voted Brexit. I’m sure it’s nowhere as bad as it was before -notably a friend who was brought up after says there is little open hate anymore.

I always look back when I talk or write about racism with embarrassment, there’s always so much to say, too many incidents to recount from too bitter a well. I don’t think about race every day, as I’m sure most people don’t. But then reminded, and especially right now, when one sweeps it under a rug, and doesn’t learn from history, you’re doomed to repeat it. Our experiences, our histories need to stand testament, and publicly.

Sorry to have gone on for so much, but then again no, I’m not fucking sorry.

 

Yesterday

Tomorrow

 

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 57

Thursday 14th May 2020

Spent the day doing paperwork, cobbling together the insurance claims and chasing refunds for three holidays we’d booked over this period. Had never planned so many trips in short succession and in one year, having suddenly gotten antsy in January. -Embarrassingly in hindsight, so stricken with wanderlust as to fully exemplify both compounds of the word. We’d been flushed with newfound, short-lived wealth (A finally getting a job) and a bid to revive things. In another life, back when we had money.

It took 6hrs, umpteen phonecalls and chasing up on emails and missives. Never again. At about the 5hr mark started getting tetchy, something long promised I’d never to do in life. All too often people get stressed then take it out on others, which is what keeps the world’s psychiatrists in career. Reined it in, but dear lord, half a day of joyless graft, pressure, complexity and concentration without a break changes you. Start off as a guitar-singing nun, end up as crack wrestler Numbnutz Jack.

But things are better than yesterday, that’s for sure. The household drama, the tears, the tightly closed doors, the crying through haircuts. Lockdown doesn’t help domestics.

The work took so long we barely ate, just sloughed through it. Six flights, an overnight train, a stay in a youth hostel, an Airbnb and 5 hotels, to cancel, ask for refunds, liaise with travel agents, booking companies and credit card providers then put into claim with the attached evidence of a refusal of refund. All the while harbouring these empty experiences to mourn, lost to vicarious dimensions when asking a receipt from the Hallstatt Lakehaus or the Lower East Side Digs.

AirBnb is meanwhile laughably still selling rents and experiences, despite you not being able to be there in person. You can have virtual participation via scrolling deleriously through someone’s house, perhaps stare at their sofa or play spot-the-cat. Maybe watch one of them wedge their wobbling arse into a deckchair and sun themselves for an all-inclusive fee. But strangely after noone ever took them up on that (actually I bet some fuckwit somewhere, some time did), they’re now investing in online sessions of say yoga, or a drawing lesson or storytime for the kids. You could watch a middle-aged couple make shitty cupcakes or interview someone about the wonders of their insurance firm job, at up to £85 a pop.

Okay there are some that look genuinely clickable, such as the cocktail class by Lisbon drag queens (nightclub-in-my-bedroom setting, lots of glitter), someone who set up a 1.5hr long escape room (there’d better be skeletons in the cupboard, or nudity), and various online concerts, from Provencal piano playing with a view to speakeasy Jazz clubs.

Others however looked graspingly doomed -how to propagate houseplants (pic of man watering a plant) for £30 and 1.5hrs, or a woman cooking in her French kitchen (looking exactly like any formica-happy kitchen anywhere, trying to lick the whisk suggestively), or the hour long lecture on how to cut a champagne bottle with a sabre. You can imagine these poor denizens of ex-hospitality thinking, now what is it that I can offer to the world, if not my overpriced, neutrally-colored bedroom?

One that I woulda picked if I absolutely had to, was a Plague Doctor’s Tour of the deserted streets of Prague, the guide dressed in full Black Death monk-and-crow-skull costume. Not sure if it’s legal and he’ll have to streak down alleyways or into bins whenever the copshop shows, but that does resonate right now.

 

Anyhoo, I procrastinate, back to the weeeeerk. Ah yes, that dish of sweet, pure fuckery. We’d done half the graft the week or three before, this was now the chasing up. Godawful werk you cannot avoid or rebrand as anything else. I’d genuinely rather polish shit.

Spent my childhood being hammered into my skull that werk is misery, werk is shite and something to scream at the moon about, that so long affected my every approach for years after, and fought to overcome. But now I see it true.

Fuckjugglers:

J’s feeling better thankfully, though somewhat islanded in the house with us locked into our rooms the past two days, furtively only out to forage from the kitchen. We treated ourselves after to a trip to the supermarket, the highlight of the day like any granny with no mates, the kind who talks interminably, pitiably with service staff. I would’ve hugged everyone on the street if it wouldn’t now be counted as murder.

Things have been opening up recently with a relaxation of some of the rules, and the lack of a queue seemed to show less people shopping -perhaps a dip in having to stock up. Bought a large, chocolate cookie in Lidl, in recompense for the middle class Riesling I’d otherwise be pretending on the vistas of the Salzkammergut. It’s become properly chilly these past few days, enough for a return to longjohns, squirreled away in the blanket box, but the air itself is sublime, like a blade of cold and life. It burns zephyrs in my head.

We tidied the room, revamping it to clear some clutter and make things minimalist rather than plain and messy. Minimalism only works one way, and takes no prisoners. Otherwise it looks shit. Part of our ongoing negotiations in the new set-up between ourselves, and a facet in the drama beforehand.

A is watching Ricky Gervais’s After Life, a swansong to depression and loss with a comedic bent. He loves it, but I see the pain. So much of it strikes a chord. Sometimes one has so much on their plate, with so little to lose, just being a cunt with zero tolerance is not only the last option but a liberating one. Gervais also demonstrates how it’s a self-defeating way to act, and a vicious cycle. That beneath every miserable card-carrying member of the wanker cub, there may be a painfully beating heart.

Oh but how lovely looks England in it all. Filmed in a glorious summer he does take pains to paint the place as twee and empty, but the peace and history still shines through. Filmed in Hemel Hampstead and Beckonsfield -lair of model villages and a young, bullied Colonel Gadaffi -it is an aria to smalltown Home Counties life, and a tainted amosphere (think moneyed Sky-watching Brexit-land) that Gervais grew up in (Reading) and I know all too well (Windsor). He infamously set The Office series in the black hole that is Slough; this time round he’s just as piss-taking, though more conducive to leafy surburban life, perhaps from his moneyed existence these days.

Swansea was deemed the ‘lovely, ugly town’ by hometown boy Dylan Thomas back in 1957, and translated into the ‘pretty, shitty city’ when the film Twin Town premiered 40 years later while I lived there – an opening gala and everything at the local UCI. Then an afterparty in the Barons nightclub, with Rhys Ifans and Kelly Jones turning up!

https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/rare-footage-1997-captures-premiere-16446798

My other hometown further south, once part of the ‘Staines Massive’ back in the Ali G days, I’d now dub the ‘bullshit beauty that is Berkshire’. Berk as in you berk; it famously came in at No 2 in the Crap Towns series (beaten only by Hull).

I am perhap getting old and nostalgic for an utter cultural shithole. For all its gardens and gracing milk bottles I have to remember Windsor votes as a Tory stronghold, effectively bans mosques (locals taking arms against ‘increasing the traffic’) and the Daily Mail is sold out even in Waitrose. It’s the most racially divided pair of boroughs in the London metro, the other being Slough with the highest minority-majority wards in the country. Maybe just call it as it is, Cunt town.

Turds, polishing, yeah.

Pub quiz fact, Rhys Ifans, before hitting screengold fame as the bod in Notting Hill, was a Versace model in Milan beforehand.

 

Yesterday

Tomorrow

 

A Journal of the Plague Year Week 2

Sunday 22nd March 2020

The sun is out. People are on the streets, and in the parks, basking like how you’d expect in a perfectly normal day on Planet Earth in the early 21st century, and in groups too. From the older lady I spied statuesque in the carpark, soaking up her Sunny D, to the gaggles of teenagers manning street corners and park benches, impervious to care and often reason. A. who has been going for a normally lonesome walk every day due to anxiety, reported on the sudden herds. No wonder the govt has had to close down pubs and cafes, throwing heed and germs to the wind appears endemic.

In short, it looked like a quiet Sunday morning. The only difference being the distinct lessening of the traffic.

s

I do think there is a libertine element still in London, a mix of Britons never ever being slaves (well, except under the Romans, and Picts, and Saxons, and Vikings, and Normans), and the anything-goes culture of a cosmopolis. On the one hand it lifted my spirits, seeing this semblance of normality, and a reminder that perhaps there is a focus beyond the infectious headlines, on another heavily gloved mit I felt uneasy about the varying options in contagion. A few of the food shops and small supermarkets operated short queues to get in (gone within 5 minutes) akin to exclusive, chichi nightspots albeit dampened by the homeless man sprawled at the entrance, sleeping it off to a sign asking for a hostel room. I’ve heard the homeless will be housed in the emptied hotels, and the Mayor will pay for it. I hope this transpires, that It Is For Real, as few people would notice, or care so much right now.

I managed to buy some face masks from a corner store, the owner having a veritable pile of them for £2.10 a pop at the till (highly suspicious, I’m never lucky). I bought 3, vowing to post them to The Fam. Along with the usual smattering of crisps, a tinned curry and packet of mystery milk, possibly camel. In the small Sainsbury’s opposite it looked normally stocked (read: amazingly stocked), I even got two packets of fresh pasta, which I may build a bidding website for.

Just outside our estate there’s an unofficial corner (read: cul-de-sac) where people leave junk to be collected by the council, or just leave junk. Tawdry closets, mangled sofas, desperately dated drawers, that kinda thing. Today’s offerings were a brand new leather and gilt armchair and a spotless new mattress, glinting in the sun. I’m wondering if anyone will grab them if ever, with the idea of contamination now imbedded as a poo stain, or murder scene. The last time this happened I moved two new chairs to sit them outside the charity shop a whole 20 yards further, but today even I was worried to touch them. I went down again to snap a pic and the chair had been taken, bless. Noticing a bargain is the last stand in functioning society.

There was suddenly something deeply inviting about the bed, in the sun.

S0143140

The air feels fresh. I made the mistake of wearing my shoes inside, twice now on the same day, when before I’d warned others about taking them off, the pavements being quite the vector for anything coming out of the human body, and absorbed when wet. I even put it as a Facebook post, like how grannies do the same on some kitten charity or the latest scam you must pass on to all otherwise it means you hate them and want them robbed.

Also sat through an online tutorial, about how the virus is covered in fat, acting a bit like an oil droplet which won’t come off with just water, but needs regular soap or handwash to break it down, and 20 seconds worth. Alongside a vid of how to wash, a short from China showing the bits you’ll likely miss using dye. I did it properly when coming home from my little sojourn, but popping out just now I halved the time. There’s a lot to be said about my enthusiasm for a cause when having relaxed just the teeniest bit, and the saddening studies on how punishment motivates people more than a prize. Or laziness, just sheer I cannot-be-arsed-right-nowness. Those people laughing in slow mo in the park, that could be me.

s

I’ve not looked at the news today, though I did sink to trawling through a news forum. Once again there’s a lot of back and forth about Trump and China being in the sights for global blame. I did get involved, mentioning how China’s localised cover-up was not so much to blame (having informed the World Health Organisation -WHO – a full two weeks before ever castigating Dr Li Wenliang and his private Wechat group).

What we can definitely shake a stick at China for is the fact it hadn’t quarantined the infections believing them only animal > human for nearly a month. The WHO is still haunted by a tweet on Jan 14th maintaining that no evidence had yet to be found of human to human infection. Likely from now on it’ll have to change procedure that any new disease be treated as human > human rather than waiting for a patient to turn up without any contact with wildlife, markets, handlers or farmers (about 3 or 4 new human viruses are discovered every year from animals, but don’t require lockdowns). Also Trump and his cronies insistence to call it a Chinese disease points towards a political tool, perhaps to dive from the spotlight accusing him of gross mismanagement, perhaps in reply to the equally idiotic Chinese General hinting it was all a US spy infection, planted during their joint Hubei exercises.

Imagine Trump diving. Like a fat dolphin, squeak-screaming under the kitchen table and toppling no end of shit.

There are other diseases out there with place names such as Spanish Flu (rather unfairly, it didn’t originate there -Spain was just the country not under media lockdown during WWI and openly spread the word about it), and West Nile Virus, itself a branch of Japanese Encephalitis. However all these were named from the 1930s backwards, or centuries before, and the practice has died out -we don’t call HIV the African disease, nor the Los Angeles Disease, where it was formally identified. To do again in this day and age is courting xenophobia, as if East Asians or anyone who looks like them don’t have enough to deal with right now in a surge of viral racism.

s

This ends today’s public announcement. I’m weaning myself off the pollyticks. Really I am, promise. That was only two paragraphs; It really does help when you avoid the screaming headlines. I have no global update to post today.

Mum rang yesterday, she opted to take leave from work, the proud firm of Keeler Ltd, provider of opthalmic equipment round the world and so far protected by being in the private health sector. They’re doing the honourable thing and keeping her on the payroll till it all blows over. She joked with the HR woman’s noncommital gestures -that if they had suggested a course of action (stay away /don’t stay away) and Mum subsequently popped her clogs they’d become liable. I told her not to be mean, that the nice HR lady was doing her job, but Mum maintains the woman found it funny. I can imagine that pained, whooping laugh and beseeching niceties while they stood metres apart.

But joking aside, they are a fantastic, refreshingly humane company that consciously chose not to outsource to a sweatshop in the Global South, and I beseech the world to each buy a retinal scanner when this is over.

s

At 77, with multiple health issues, she’s high risk and may have to be cocooned away for quite a sentence – 4 months to next year even according to the official hints. Enough to get cabin fever and drive herself and my sister up the tiny cramped walls of the ’60s terrace, stuffed to the eaves with things hoarders hoard. Before she seemed calm, and was going to keep working until I persuaded her otherwise (there’s a legendary 83 y.o. lady who vows to carry on on the factory floor, now laid out so worktables occupy separated rows from each other); she’s now a little more fearful, having seen the numbers in town rise from 2 to 20 almost overnight. That a doctor in the next town over was caught with the disease while treating patients. The fact there may be 20x more infected than officially tested for round the country, it all really hit home, her home.

I felt distant, in every way, and wonder when I’ll next see her.

S0123137

My daily structure is becoming less regimented, but still there. Rather than me sitting rod straight on the table tapping away, I’m on the sofa with Netflix in the background. Yesterday  we made the disastrous decision to watch Leisure (pronounced Leezhur) Seeker starring Helen Mirren (Golden Globe award nominee for the part) and Donald Sutherland as an aged couple kidnapping their own camper van to enjoy a vacay to the umbrage of their kids. Was kind of expecting a delightful mix of Bad Grandpa and Dukes of Hazzard, but it was of course a timeless study on our slow and inexorable act of dying from a largely Italian arthouse team. Donald is a former arts and lit professor deteriorating with Alzheimer’s, liable to accuse his wife of polygamy as he is to burst into quote on Hemingway; Helen his long-suffering, perky Southern belle of a wife liable to chat endlessly to strangers as she is to take up shotguns. No spoilers here but she’s dying too. Oops, may have fudged that a bit.

s

Like you were ever gonna see it.

At the end I felt like shooting myself in the gullet. In one scene they enter an old folks home and point an unloaded shotgun around at several members of the bedded community, then get told off about it and offered a price leaflet. If that happened here it’d be ten years just for possession, and the rest of the fucking story would just end there. Fin. And we would not have had to watch them die and pretend everything was absofuckinglutely fine behind those walls.

S0173145

The whole thing felt like a demise mere days from now, dripping slowly worries, fondness, memories and saying goodbye to a sacrament of decaying time -rather than an exercise savoured for your twilight years multiple decades in the future. I may have cried for an instant. Right now America’s Got Talent (AGT!) is playing in the background, by contrast. By very very fucking contrast. So full of cheering and trashy pizzazz I want to reach through the screen and slap everyone of the goobers with a brick. How can people be so very whoopingly supportive, so very worshipping of any given status quo? Does the studio director say jump and they fucking imbed their heads in the ceiling? While Nipplepants Cowell lords over them like an arsey, stuck up demigod, hovering from his red buttoned throne. How can people be so willing to submit to hierarchy, to appraise or condemn from their exalted, cup-holding audience seats? This series will date badly, to the point of becoming historical reference. Culture, society, economy.

I need to get out more. I think rather it was just a reminder of a simpler, freer time that pissed me off so much. History envy may be a thing now.

s

What is happening out there? What is happening to my friends and family and everyone I’ve ever known, outside of re-run land where what we see is no longer there, and always Has Been? What is reality from a different lens?

A welcome respite is not really one, when that breath of fresh air is deepening a chasm. It’s not so much a list of cliches: living for the moment, putting off the inevitable and all that jazz, but that we can enjoy ourselves, the air, the sun, and others with social distancing. We need to learn now how to do it, not later, not too late. 800 people died today in Italy, and a week or two ago they too were sunning themselves on passegiata. Eight hundred.

J came home shortly after in a huff, wiping down the door handles on everything -a blindsided colleague of his had admitted his wife had the lergy, yet had come in 3x to work, plus met clients. Well I suppose, I’ll swap that guilt for the kitchen fire last night. J’s working again today, apparently before any auction the dept heads have to work an unpaid weekend, to put in the extra time and commitment. Illegal surely, but suddenly acceptable in these current climes. We wound down with two episodes of Drag Race, all bright colours to bitchiness which J is obsessed by, and is infecting us with. Sakura was kicked out last night, rather unfairly I may add, especially in comparison to that rather uninspired Emo-Minelli, who resembles a pretty slug.

A car in the lot below has a bookshelf tied to its roof, liberally balancing an assortment of heavy boxes, houseplants, coat stands, bench tools and books on top. Looks like a tenant is moving with his father, back to the country where they can hold out longer, perhaps in a castle. It can’t end well, an opener for Final Destination if ever I saw one. Plus I know how it’ll end for the survivors.

I’m bored. As fuck. I took a picture of the flowers outside, just like little old ladies on social media are wont to do. We can pleasure ourselves for hours over this: I think it’s Spring.

S0163143

 

Yesterday

Tomorrow