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.
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.
So I wrote this book Supernice about an alien invasion. The aliens create a dystopia of oppressive new rules and terrible consequences for breaking them. In response, the government replace advertising hoardings with posters that politely (and then not so politely) tell the public how to behave to avoid trouble. Following are some quotes from the book. (And the book can be acquired for a dollar, to your right, if you fancy)
At first the messages seemed friendly:
Advertising hoardings stretched along the seafront. Usually they were filled with adverts for phones or cars, but now the adverts were in pastel shades of purple and pink, with butterflies and smiling faces. In large letters the messages were simple:
SHOW LOVE, NOT HATE
PSST, YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL, PASS IT ON
But even then, Natasha was suspicious and happy to see signs of rebellion:
As she headed back home, Natasha passed a hundred more pink posters in bus stops and stuck to lampposts. Some had already been defaced.
KINDNESS SPREADS was graffitied with DESTROY!
And LOVE UNITES US in purple, with FUK DA ALIENS in angular black writing over the top. Natasha had never liked graffiti – she always thought it made a place look messy – but this was righteous.
And finally as the oppression became more extreme and the pretense ended:
The main road had changed again. Instead of advertising hoardings with hippy messages, now there were screens, each showing an order.
POLITENESS IS NECESSITY and SHOW RESPECT and DON’T BECOME ONE OF THE TAKEN.
I wanted to create an atmosphere of tension and uncertainty, but one in which people needed to find a way to not only survive, but to still laugh, still connect, still keep going. And of course they wanted to dupe the aliens and escape too.
Well now I’m back at work, I’ve discovered that is exactly what London has become. Lots of instructions with cute pictures, saying Cover your face, Keep your distance, Don’t travel unless you have to. It’s all considerate messages for our own safety, but the atmosphere is still intense. With half our faces covered, people are more suspicious of each other, and anyone could be a virus carrier. But we still need to laugh, connect and keep going. Luckily we don’t need to worry about the alien bit. Yet.
So, I’m back at work and it’s great to see everyone again and be outside tackling some plants.
It’s all quite odd though, everything is not quite the same, little details have shifted. I’ll get some pictures tomorrow. It’s as if someone gave all of London a makeover. And then almost all Londoners have changed too. We hide our faces. We aren’t rushing, instead we keep our distance. No more stand on the right, walk on the left on escalators, now everybody stands. And there are police everywhere.
At work, my colleagues are just like they always were – cheery, lovable oddballs. But with longer hair. The guys have either slicked back styles or new wavy locks.
I feel like this is a puny blog, so here is a fella I read about this morning, the monkey slug caterpillar, Phobetron. They aren’t anything to do with monkeys or slugs, but they are caterpillars. Aren’t they incredible?
After another trip to Urgent Care, more panic that the infection was spreading to my brain and then it turned out it wasn’t, things calmed down. I have new antibiotics that seem to be working, I still look weird, but that may just be me. I’m now mostly too tired and tetchy to do anything but watch Community and sleep, but I wanted to share a story of a man at the hosiptal.
He was sitting just the other side of a curtain, talking to a nurse. I couldn’t hear everything, I guessed he was a patient because I heard him mention dizzy spells. But there was something un-patient-like about how he spoke. He was too talkative and his voice too strong, most patients are weak and scared. This man did not shut up, just a monologue. I thought he had a mental illness, but his voice was clear and confident and a bit patronising.
So I listened closely. Here is some of what I heard:
‘I mean, I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced anxiety or a panic attack, but it’s just the worst’ (goes on to explain a panic attack to a doctor.)
Doctor: And you can’t go back to work, is that right?
‘No! Because every time I go there and I switch the phone on and there’s like this surge of energy. I know some people will say this sounds weird, but this technology has never been tested. 5G isn’t like 4G. And even the wireless is causing changes in our brains.’
‘I’ve done a lot of research on this, they brought this technology in without doing the proper testing…’ (he starts to talk about brain chemistry in fairly technical terms that managed to still not sound convincing at all.)
‘It’s like a tendril that’s going to burst in my head. Sometimes it’s hot and sometimes cold. You can’t possibly imagine what’s that’s like. The most intense and terrifying experience.’
Doctor: Well your ECG and blood tests are normal, but you’ve spoken about anxiety, so I’m going to get you to speak to a psychiatrist.
‘Yes, but anxiety isn’t the problem, it’s caused by the 5G. Now this is what a lot of people don’t understand…’
I’ve seen a lot of rumours about 5G on the Internet. I can’t see well enough to go looking up now, but I know some think it caused the virus. Not sure how this fitted in with this guy’s panic attacks and tendrils. Or why he sounded more like a pub bore than a seriously ill person who goes to the hospital during a plague. Maybe he thinks the plague isn’t real. Maybe you clever readers can figure this one out – I’m always throwing these little mysteries out to you, I know!
Anyway when I saw him finally, he looked totally normal, he was wearing a clean shirt, khaki trousers, smartly cut grey hair. He could have been a bank manager on his day off. He could have been David Icke.
Although it is a bad idea to end up in hospital during a plague, it’s probably a more efficient experience than when not during a plague.
Note: this blog may be more badly spelt and incoherent than usual, but I have a reason this time.
On Monday I got a stye on my eye, you know, one those little painful lumps on your eyelid that go away in a few days? I got one of them. By Tuesday it was really hurting, with stabbing pains shooting into my head. Wednesday I got a weird lump on my cheekbone, like a painful pea. Thursday my eye swelled up so much I couldn’t open it and I kept walking into things. By Friday, another red lump, like someone had punched me, had appeared on my eyebrow. I had an am-I-being-silly?-or-am-I-in-trouble? phase. I went to the pharmacist, managed to lose my wallet on the way and then couldn’t see to find it. Had melt down. Called a friend who lives nearby and he came out and found the wallet perfectly safe in my bag, then kindly waited while I went in the pharmacist.
I said to the pharmacist, ‘It was just a stye,’ and he said something to reply, but he had a mask on and I couldn’t hear him. So I launched into symptoms, then when I finished, I realised he’d said the same thing a few times and I was too panicked to listen.
‘See a doctor. You need to see a doctor.’
I went to the doctors, they were shut and told me no one would come out to see me and they said I had to go to the hospital for Urgency Care.
(Is this Accident and Emergency now? They’ve rebranded?)
I didn’t want to go to the hospital so I called 111. The very calm, helpful doctor I eventually spoke to told me I needed to see a hospital. That I needed someone with me in case I had a siezure on the way and I might need to be put on an IV drip.
Anyway, Urgency Care in a crisis, runs very smoothly and was half empty because everyone is too scared to go in (I suspect the ward where the virus patients are is not so calm). We could all sit at a distance from each other and I got seen in about twenty minutes.
I have an infection that has spread over half my face. It could have damaged my eye, but didn’t. I got given the strongest antibiotics they have and told by a very reassuring doctor, the not very reassuring comment ‘You’re strong, these will probably work. If not, you have to come in and be put on a drip.’ He squirted some orange stuff into my eye which dribbled all down my face and meant no beggars bothered me on the way back (scared for how they’re doing right now, but this was not the time).
I seem to have survived the night. My face has swelled up a bit more, but I don’t feel too bad. So if I disappear, I’ve either got nothing to say because I’m boring, or I’m in the hospital.
Note: wearing a face mask when you can’t see out of one eye is like peering out of a small hole in a box.
I have tagged this Lifestyle, because this is my covid lifestyle, watching fox cubs. And here are some words for such a lifestyle.
Deponent – having a passive form but active meaning (I feel this sums me up at the moment, because I definitely mean to be active, but my form is passive.)
Stygian – having a gloomy or foreboding aspect; murky (not sure if this is my mood or the mood of the world today)
Medusiform – resembling a jellyfish (self explanatory).
Along with watching foxes, I went out to buy some milk and watched a bit of Seven Psychopaths ( I haven’t the concentration to watch a whole film at once). And I decided to stop trying to write a book that was annoying me, and start writing a new one. It went quite well too. I might start another new one when this one gets annoying. Maybe I can sell them on to people who have trouble starting writing.
So I fixed my goddamn camera (well, I assume I did. I was trying to fix it and now it works. I’m not exactly sure what the connection between these two states is, but presumably I did something.) And I can take actual photos! I can’t really go out exploring, of course, but then the fox cubs came to visit.
I crept out the back door and got a couple of wonky snaps, (I had to kind of lean over the fire escape, it was awkward) and then, just as I was about to take the best photo ever, the kid from next door started shouting out the window.
‘Go away foxes! Go away!’ she yelled.
They weren’t even in her garden, they were in mine. The little bugger.
I sympathise though, she’s about eight, has been left with her grandparents and is going slowly insane. She spends hours hitting their washing with a stick while singing nonsense very loudly. This cannot be an easy situation for an only child. Still, she could have waited a few minutes before shouting.