This has probably been an odd Christmas for lots of you, so I just wanted to send you all some good feelings of peace and warmth, like a hot toddy in front of a well contained fire. xx (for anyone not from UK, these are kisses, not just random ‘xx’s. It’s actually perfectly normal to put ‘xx’s at the bottom of a message, and I think you should all start doing it 🙂 )
People have got understandably upset over the thousands of Londoners* crowded into St Pancras last night trying to escape London. Yesterday, travel was banned for Christmas in the south of England with 8 hours notice. Previously, there were repeated promises that that definitely wouldn’t happen, so everyone made plans and promises and then had eight hours to fulfil those plans and promises, leading to scenes like the above picture.
With our new mutated virus, this could be catastrophic, and I’m seeing a lot of anger towards the people who travelled, but not enough with the people who caused all this. And since the virus started so much blame has been turned on individuals making stupid decisions, which hasn’t helped at all. The argument I keep seeing from anti-maskers is ‘It’s all about personal responsibility.’ ‘Stop telling me what to do, leave it up to personal responsibility.’ And then from the government ‘These people aren’t using personal responsibility, what’s wrong with them?’ For example:
‘The Government should allow us to take personal responsibility in the ongoing battle against Covid, not put us on the naughty step’Julia Hartley Brewer from a Telegraph headline.
‘Health secretary Matt Hancock has warned that ministers will fail to get the new strain of coronavirus under control unless the public take personal responsibility for preventing its spread.’From the Independent
And it’s bollocks. Utter utter bollocks.
Because these people in St Pancras ARE using personal responsibility, that is exactly the problem. Their personal responsibility is to their families, their mental health, their happiness. They’re trying to get home to fulfill their personal responsibilities, but in such a panic that it doesn’t occur to them that lots of other people would do the same or how disastrous that might be.
What these people need is group responsibility, social responsibility, and that isn’t (in our individualistic society) so easy to come by, especially in a crisis.
That’s why we need a government, to control society in times of trouble so that our individual needs don’t take over. We need them to make calm, logical, consistent decisions so we know what to do. Instead we’ve had vague, rambling, ever changing decisions that are so ludicrous it’s led to constant doubt that the virus even exists despite 1.6m deaths worldwide.
From the people I know who are trying to do the right thing, I keep hearing the same cry. They say, ‘I need someone to tell me what I’m supposed to do for the best,’ and more importantly, ‘I need someone to tell the people I’m letting down that it is for the best.’ Because this situation is complicated and unfamiliar and no one can agree about what’s going on we each cling to what makes sense to us personally. It’s the work of our government to think in terms of the country as a whole, we can’t do that.
But in order for our rulers to be capable of that, they have to have social responsibility. We need a prime minister who isn’t acting purely with selfish, panicked (or disaster capitalist) interests and can instead make decisions that benefit the people of the country he’s responsible for, no matter how difficult. That’s the role he chose to take on.
We need a leader, not Bojo the clown.
* Actually, they probably aren’t Londoners if they’re going North to get home for Christmas
The foxes aren’t actually leaving, they’re way too happy, but the situation with has got silly and a bit unpleasant, so after this I’m going to leave off writing about them for a while.
We already had some residents demanding that we dispose of the foxes because they are a health risk, even though we kept insisting that we absolutely fucking wouldn’t. We also knew we had residents sneaking around feeding the foxes even though we repeatedly explained it was a bad idea – they have become totally tame and dependent on people.
But now we have one particularly enraged resident saying that she’ll report us to the police because somehow she’s come to the conclusion that we absolutely fucking do intend to kill the foxes and it’s disgusting and we’re all evil. She called up one manager and screamed ‘How dare you kill the foxes.’ The manager explained that we have no intention of doing so. Then she called up my boss and screamed at her for her terrible murderous ways, while my boss explained that no killing will be happening. Then she cornered Mike and lectured him on how she’s started a petition to stop us killing the foxes. I don’t know what it will take to convince her, I mean the foxes are still there, hanging out, looking healthy and happy.
Anyway, Reynard and Talbot will be staying out of the blog for a while. Which is good, because I think it may have gone to their heads.
We are not trying to kill the foxes. We’ve given up even shouting at them because they aren’t even slightly bothered and assume we’re playing. But I figure it’s wise to shut up about the foxes for a bit.
I wanted to share a few photos showing what the tube looks like right now, because it is WEIRD. There have been a few cries from Transport for London saying that they are hugely in debt and need money from the government to carry on. However, I don’t think this is just due to the lack of passengers, but also the lack of advertising, because there is very little.
Instead there are posters telling us to be kind or mind the gap. I think they’re just putting up whatever they can find.
Maybe this is what a post-capitalist world would look like. Instead of every step we take being filled with BUY THIS! maybe we could get rid of these posters all together and have murals, or large photos of the sky.
With this and the talk about changing statues, it feels like London is getting a whole makeover this Covid season. I get why people find it frightening, but I think it’s exciting, like moving to a new city.
Note: sorry I’ve been kind of absent recently. I don’t have a good reason, I just don’t have anything to say 🙂
Just a quick update for anyone worried about Reynard and Talbot. Our boss got some fox deterrent powder to be added to water and sprinkled around the garden. Mateo trundled out with his watering can, putting the most solution in the sandpit since they clearly like it there. On his way back from sprinkling around the rest of the garden, he passed the sandpit. One of the foxes was sitting happily in the sand, happy as Larry.
We suspect the deterrent is not effective.
For those of you getting attached to these foxes, don’t read on. Instead have a look at this fox from my garden during lockdown and then move on.
So, nature can be quite grim. And inexplicable. Don’t worry, Reynard and Talbot are still alive and harassing children, but one fox isn’t. Mateo found the head, but only the head, of a fox this morning, in the bushes. Did one of the children exact revenge on another fox? Perhaps the children were the aggressors all along?
Some of you might remember the cat’s head that Jessica found a few years ago. I think the police said that that foxes did it, but we were never satisfied with that explanation. It’s all very strange. Where did the body go?
Some of you might remember the gangster foxes, Talbot and Reynard, at one of the large gardens where I work. Their cheeky faces won over our hearts and their tendency to creep up on children in a sinister way fired up some panic. Seems they’ve gone one step further now.
Previous blogs: Fantastic Mr Fox
Today my boss got a call from a parent. We have a small playground for children with a sand pit. Turns out the foxes have been jumping into the sand pit where children are playing, stealing their toys and leaping out again. They then rip up the toys in front of the children before running off.
I did suspect that the foxes were setting up a protection racket, but it looks like some of the children have refused to take part and it’s led to rivalry and the start of territory war.
‘Nice dolly you have here. Be a shame if something happened to it,’ sneers Talbot while Reynard sniggers nearby. ‘Oops!’ says Reynard as the dolly’s head is snapped off.
This is not the Beatrix Potter style story I was hoping for when I posted their photos.
I was doing a lot of watering today. Apparently it dissolved the glue holding my boot together. All of a sudden, my boot was flapping. I was at a garden in the middle of nowhere and had no shoes to change into. Fortunately, a colleague had a spare hairband I could wrap around it. And then I had to limp home on the train, trying to not lose the sole on my shoe altogether.
Other news, I was on an escalator with some teenagers this morning and one of them pressed the emergency stop button. It wasn’t much of an emergency stop, more of a carry on for thirty seconds then trundle to a halt button. The teenagers ran off, and the five staff who all came out running a moment later paid no attention to me, but started shouting into their radios about where the kids had gone. So if you want to get away with pressing the red button, make sure there are some teenagers around who’ll get the blame.
And those are the most interesting things about my day! How about you?
Last week the heat turned my brain to porridge and shriveled all the plants to dust. I didn’t post because I was too grumpy.
But now it’s cooler, greyer and my brain got impatient because I haven’t been on a proper adventure into London since lockdown began. So off I went.
I’ve been studying tunnels and catacombs under London recently and came across a place called Leake Street. This is a tunnel going under the platforms of Waterloo station, where graffiti is legal. It sounded like the kind of place I should know about, so I assumed I must have been there and forgotten. I was wrong.
I went today, I’ve never been before and it was ace, but a tiny bit creepy early in the morning.
You could see history in the walls. Layers of images piled up expressing rage, sadness, disgust and joy with life. Lots of current events (of course plenty of covid comment) and delight in colour and shapes.
I found this great blog showing the graffiti on the walls each day as they change – 100 Days of Leake Street.
Next week, more tunnels under London (albeit less colourful ones).
It occurred to me walking to work today, that London may never look this empty again once the virus is over, so I took a couple of photos. Although Dan reckons that London is changed forever now, the people won’t return.
‘So London will become a rotting husk? Just the occasional cyclist and confused tourist wandering about?’ I asked. He nodded.
Okey doke. We know the movies and the TV series, the plague comes and the busy city life never returns. We end up huddled around a camp fire roasting cockroaches on sticks and trying to open a tin of beans with a plastic spork. And yes, I am aware of how melodramatic I am, it doesn’t mean I’m wrong.
This morning my colleague was accused by an irate French woman of staging a protest against one of our statues. This lady must have had a very low opinion of London protests, since the event consisted of my colleague attaching a laminated sign to the railings next to the statue. (The sign announced some renovations about to take place.)
At a few of the gardens I work at, there are lots of statues. Some are, like I showed the other day, mythical white women. Others are historically famous white men in blackened bronze, often on horses. Most of them are generals. One is a president of an allied country from the war. They are just like the statues that have annoyed so many over the last few months, and they’ve always annoyed me too. They are dull and completely removed from what matters to most of the people who walk past and most of the people who have ever walked past.
There are so many interesting and inspiring things we could celebrate: inventions, individual acts of heroism, creativity (I know statues to these things to exist, but they are rare.) Instead we celebrate the men who led others into battle, to their deaths. Men who were already celebrated in their lifetimes. And women who have never existed – these at least have interesting myths behind them, but still don’t mean much to people now.
I’ve seen a few arguments against changing statues. Here are two:
‘Ah, but it’s history! You can’t destroy history!’ people say. And of course I, and almost everyone else, agree. But statues aren’t about history, because nobody learns anything from a statue, except maybe the name and how the person died (it’s all in how the horse is standing, apparently). If you want history, then put the statues in a museum, where people can see them properly and read about them.
‘Ah, but we should keep them because these were often bad people. We should have statues up to remind people of the bad things that happened.’ Ok, so would you put up a statue of Hitler then? Or would that be disturbing? Of course it would be, because a statue is a celebration. These people are so important that they are looking down on us from their pedestals. Which is why it matters that these people did bad things and why it matters that they’re all rich, white men looking down on all of us, who mostly aren’t those things. (And to be clear, there is nothing inherently wrong with being rich or white or a man, just a problem if those are the only celebrated characteristics.)
When people get upset about statues being changed, I don’t think it’s about history. In fact, I think the huge BLM protests that happened around the world were historic, and in the UK they led to a statue being thrown into the sea, which will probably go down in history. So if you like history, then you should be excited by these events. I think the upset is partly about change, which tends to freak people out. But without change we wouldn’t have cures and inventions and events. And secondly it’s about dominance, it is Why do THESE people get to take down OUR statues? Which doesn’t make sense either, because why don’t they?
Personally, I would like to see something in Postman’s Park style. Statues of ordinary people being heroic. Or maybe some of the nurses who’ve died during Covid – who gave their lives fighting the virus for us. (here’s a list with info about them, and unsurprisingly, they are a number of different races and lots of women. They look more like the London I know than the statues do. Picture below.)
Or Aztec statues! How fantastic would they be?
So what do you think? What statues would you like to see?