It seems as though those who’ve signed up for email notifications aren’t getting them. I’m trying to find where this problem is coming from, but so far I’ve been going in more circles than the Olympic logo in a hall of mirrors.
What I would say is that a sign up form can be found by clicking on the ringed button below…
…and that should work. That should send you an email every time a new diary post is released – if not, then please do let me know and I’ll see what I can do.
Or throw my laptop out the window.
Anyway, on to my second apology. Yesterday I implied that my Mum only cooks frozen carbonaras, and that because she doesn’t read the blog anymore I’d probably get away with writing that.
Turns out Mum does read the blog, and informed me that she’d read it as she passed me a plate of home-made Spaghetti Bolognese, making me feel like a right bastard. So first up, Mum, sorry for implying you only give me ready-meals, because your cooking is excellent and I’m a very lucky chap.
But it has made me speculate on how people are eating in this crisis. A friend of mine pointed out something very profound over a Zoom beer or two yesterday:
“It’s amazing that the economy crashes when we only buy what we need.“
At the supermarkets, we’re starting to see everything going back to normal.
For a little while at least, things were quite odd. Flour was as scarce as a student at a 9am Thursday morning lecture. Eggs were nowhere to be seen. Bog roll had become the new reserve currency. Now, thankfully, it seems as though we’ve found our happy medium and self-interested bastards aren’t panic-buying everything.
But we’re shopping in different ways, and eating differently, too. For many people, especially those a bit younger who can afford it, eating out is a big part of city life. Indeed, the same could be said for getting takeaways. While a sizeable number of my generation eat extremely healthily and bring their own lunches into work, many eat out for almost every lunch break.
I know I did when I worked in recruitment, and that’s why I put on nearly two stone in a year.
And almost all young working people will eat in a pub or restaurant every now and then, and many almost weekly. Along with avocados and vaping, it’s just one of the many reasons we can’t afford houses.
With no pubs, bars or restaurants, however, we’re all cooking for ourselves. For many, this won’t be too different from the norm, but for others it’s either an opportunity to learn some new dishes and develop their skills or a chance to absolutely cack the bed and eat two wheels of cheese a day.
But I do wonder about what my friend said. We are all living within our means, and buying only what we need to survive. That, apparently, is enough to plunge our country into a recession that might even surpass the Credit Crunch in 2008.
Isn’t that an astonishing thought? So much money and so much time spent on things from an overpriced burger to a fourth pair of trainers to small, shiny rocks that cost thousands of pounds because… I dunno, it’s sparkly?
Don’t get me wrong, we can’t all just be islands the whole time. Spending time with friends is about the single best thing we can do for our mental health – I read today about how recovering alcoholics are dealing with the lockdown, and how ‘community’ is considered to be the opposite of ‘addiction,’ not ‘sobriety.’ And, in our world, community is often found by going out for dinner, the cinema, or the pub.
But it does make you think about consumerism as a whole. One lesson I might take from all this when it’s over is that, actually, sometimes the only reason I buy or do things is that other people are, too. The second it’s gone, I don’t really miss it, so why fall back into old habits? I’ve already basically cut out clubbing from my life (thank Christ), so why not extend it to other things, too?
…Like exercise, maybe.
I jest. However, one thing I will never abandon is, for me, the beating heart of this country. Those places where communities gather and the world’s problems are sorted. The warm, fuzzy glow of a den of merriment and happiness, glimmering into the street outside.
Whether its being glued to the news to stay up to speed, or watching Tiger King to watch hillbillies on speed, we’ve all had to find ways to pass the time through the ol’ magic box.
Mum and I have now made our way through every single episode of Taskmaster on Dave twice, as well as all of Hypothetical. I’d recommend both if you can find them on UKTV Play. We’re making our way through the absolute mayhem of Tiger King, are watching BBC’s Mum (v. v. good), and have been watching the joyous food of Masterchef as we chow down on our cook-from-frozen carbonaras.
That’s doing Mum’s cooking a massive disservice, but I’m not sure she even bothers to read these anymore so I think I’ll get away with it.
It’s been noticeably weird with some TV. Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, Question Time, Have I Got News For You; all of these shows feel very strange without audiences. By contrast, watching the baying crowds of Britain’s Got Talent (filmed pre-lockdown) feels positively bizarre.
But Jesus Christ. Thank God for the telly. Otherwise, we’d all be doing stuff like hobbies, reading, or learning a new language.
No-one needs to learn Spanish, really. We all know it in our heart of hearts.
If you are able to access Sky Atlantic, my personal recommendation for TV is the first series of True Detective, starring Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson (excuse the fact that he’s a supposed 5G conspiracy twonk). It is, quite simply, perfect television.
And just be grateful that no-one can film any Mrs. Brown’s Boys.
A slightly shorter blog today, which comes with the news that I’ve managed to find some contract work! Hurrah and hooray. This does mean that the blog’s release times might change, and may even move to being bi-weekly.
A big thank you to all who’ve been reading and enjoying them thus far, however – we’re all in this together!
Well, apparently everyone is doing 20 for 20. A picture of yourself, aged 20.
So we’re going to be under lockdown for another three weeks.
Meeurgh. It’s obviously necessary, and is what’s best for the country, but still.
Hopefully, come early May, we’ll start to see restrictions lifted. One very entertaining side-note of this is that restrictions might initially be lifted for the 20-30 age bracket. Seeing as I am 29 and my girlfriend is 31, this means that I can move freely and she can’t, giving me the impetus to take the mickey until the end of time.
Unless she stoves my head in with a frying pan.
Anyhoo, here we are for the foreseeable future. The good news is that I have somehow had rather a good lockdown – I’m now consistently running 5Ks, I’m getting a little bit better at the banjo, and I’ve even managed to find some remote work.
Which does make me wonder somewhat. Am I so introverted that I prosper in a dystopian society that values staying inside and minimising human interaction? Am I so boring that having little to do makes me happy?
Does London make me fat?
…No. I make me fat.
But still, food for thought. Some aren’t as lucky with this lockdown as I am and are likely feeling increasingly anxious, depressed, or downright trapped. My thoughts and love go out to all who do.
My thoughts and love do not, however, extend to the useless twerps in government who have repeated, yet again, that the Brexit transition period will not be extended.
I have written before that Brexit is done. No-one is going to dispute it, no-one is going to try to stop it, no-one is going to try and sabotage it. Once this situation with the coronavirus is done, we might all look back on Brexit and think that it’s the political equivalent of smashing your head into a wall, sure, but for the time being, Brexit is happening.
So on that basis, why on God’s green earth would anyone think that it’s a good idea to just ram it through at a time when international cooperation is absolutely vital? Sajid Javid wrote in the Times this week that a coordinated global response to the pandemic is paramount – so why don’t we just hold fire on f*cking off from the biggest supranational institution in the world for a few months extra until a vaccine is arranged, eh?
Even the non-politician Brexiteers are starting to agree. This is the right-wing journalist Isabelle Oakeshott, who is also the girlfriend of the Brexit Party’s Richard Tice.
Make no mistake – crashing out of the EU with a no-deal Brexit during a pandemic will literally cost lives. For the sake of twelve weeks, is that worth it?
You know what it is. We all do. It’s this chap here. This remarkable, wonderful chap.
£12m is staggering. Well done, Captain Tom. You utter bloody legend.
I love her. I’ve written about her before, and posted the video online where she declared the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy to be essential workers. She also said that they might not be able to reach every household this year, to the huge relief of overworked or less well-off NZ parents.
It was perfect. A small masterclass in how to be relatable, caring, optimistic, and pragmatic, all in one or two sentences.
And what else of Ardern? She’s just announced that New Zealand’s politicians are all taking a 20% salary cut, “in solidarity with those who have lost income from the coronavius.”
Ardern called for a swift, strict lockdown before the risk of coronavirus was on their doorstep. She announced the lockdown at a press conference and calmly, clearly, and thoroughly explained the rationale behind it, and what was expected of New Zealand’s citizens. They may be the first nation on the planet to fully eliminate the coronavirus without the need for a vaccine.
They have suffered just 9 deaths.
When New Zealand suffered a terrorist attack last year, Ardern went and spoke to Muslim communities, showed her solidarity with them, and refused to speak the perpetrator’s name. That name, along with the terrorist’s notoriety, has been lost to the ether now.
Oh, and not only that, but she’s doing all this while being the first world leader to take maternity leave while in office, and was the first leader to bring said babbee to the UN General Assembly in 2018.
Ardern is a leader.
Some caveats. Yes, New Zealand has a pretty unique culture when compared to other major nations. Yes, it has a far smaller population than other major nations. Yes, its economy is smaller than other major nations.
But you cannot deny that Ardern is authoritative, compassionate, and inspiring. She is a leader.
You have to wonder what she must make of Donald Trump. Or, indeed, Australia, the UK, or almost any other Western power’s leader.
Even sodding Justin Trudeau, the previous moderate poster boy, has a pretty stupid and sketchy past.
The UK has had something of a dearth of leadership over recent years. From Theresa “Brexit Means Brexit, nothing-has-changed” May, to Jeremy Corbyn, the “Leader” of the Opposition, we had no real leadership whatsoever across the Brexit negotiations.
We’ve also felt the vacuum while Boris Johnson has been recovering from the coronavirus – since he went to hospital, we have been treading water.
Or drowning, depending on how pessimistic you are.
Johnson, after a shaky start, has seemed to find some gravitas over the course of the coronavirus outbreak. But there are still some major questions to ask over his government’s handling of the outbreak.
“We’re following the science,” they said, only to backtrack and change their minds.
Allowing Cheltenham to happen, possibly spreading the coronavirus between thousands of people.
Failing to get ventilators, failing to distribute PPE, failing to explicitly say what constitutes “essential” work…
There are some big cock-ups here. This is going to lead to an inquiry, and from insider sources reported by leading journalists, most politicians are currently acting in a way to cover their backs, rather than in the public interest. Deflecting blame and passing the buck is a way to keep a political career alive, but not a way to keep vulnerable people alive.
I rather get the impression that Jacinda Ardern would literally fall on a sword if that was in New Zealand’s interests. Hand on heart, how many of our politicians can you say would do that, too?
Johnson’s message to the nation on Easter Sunday having just got out of hospital was his finest to date. Passionate, from the heart, and, for the first time during his premiership, inspirational.
As I wrote yesterday, I hope he has learnt from his experience in the NHS. I hope he can be the leader he so desperately wants to be.
He simply has to look at two small islands in Oceania to see how it’s done.
At the start of the Easter weekend, I made this. I’ve since had electroshock therapy and no-longer consider myself to be the banjo-wielding blues sensation, Jon Banjovie. I took the weekend off to regain control of my faculties, and I sincerely hope all of you reading had as good an Easter as possible in these strange times.
Unfortunately, things still remain rather bleak. Deaths remain in the hundreds per day, lockdown looks set to continue for at least another three weeks, and there are some absolutely godawful scenes at care homes across the country.
But we did have some good news over the weekend. Boris Johnson, our PM, was released from hospital. As I’ve written about before, despite my own beliefs about the man and his politics, this is an undeniable good thing. He’s not going to be back at the helm proper for a few weeks yet, but it’s clear that we need a captain.
First-mate Raab handled the situation admirably, to be sure. But he does remain an absolute cack badger.
Johnson, quite remarkably, released a video on Easter Sunday, dressed in a full suit (from the waist up, at least). I, for one, think that if I’d just come out of the ICU and was being sent home I’d whack on the onesie and not move for three weeks. But not only was he impressively attired, he was genuinely impressive, too.
Do watch this video if you haven’t already.
Johnson is clearly still not quite there with his lung capacity yet – he is noticeably short of breath towards the tail end of the video. But the rhetoric he employs, combined with a clear, non-bumbling performance, is extremely powerful.
His singling out of praise for foreign nurses is striking. Perhaps moreso is his praise for the NHS as being, “The beating heart of our country… the best of this country… unconquerable… powered by love.”
This, from a Conservative politician, is highly significant.
Johnson’s critics, myself included, have given short shrift to his previous claims to be a champion of the NHS – he was widely booed during trips to hospitals last year and criticised for his actions earlier this year.
Indeed, many give short shrift to his claims to be much of a politician at all. There is considerable room to criticise his actions in the Vote Leave campaign (£350m on the side of a bus), the Tory leadership contest (hiding from Andrew Neil) or, indeed, trying to ram through Brexit (lying to the Queen, proroguing Parliament unlawfully).
At the very least, he has, undoubtedly, been a highly prominent and chaotic player in the United Kingdom’s (mis?)fortunes over the last few years.
But, underneath it all, underneath the bluster and bombast, the bluff and buffoonery, lies the heart of a man who desperately wants to be loved. I don’t think he wants to be associated with the likes of Priti Patel or Dominic Raab any more than the next, sane person. He’s just made political bedfellows of them and ridden the wave of Brexit-borne isolationism to the throne.
But now he’s in charge. And, now that Brexit is done and dusted (yes, it’s going to happen, like it or lump it), and, indeed, coronavirus has completely ripped up the rulebook, he has an unprecedented opportunity to do things his way.
And it just so happens that, right at the moment when the power is in his hands, he has had a life-changing event happen to him. It’s all very well and good visiting hospitals and shaking hands, but being in a ward under 24-hour care with your life at risk can change opinions.
Rewatch the second half of that video and I, for one, think that the passion that he exudes is real. This isn’t some voter base-pleasing press release – I genuinely think that those are sincere thanks from the bottom of his heart. While we cannot know his thinking, it is striking that the particular thanks he gives to foreign nurses come at a time where we, collectively as a nation, are no longer using terms like “unskilled” or “migrant” workers.
We’re using “essential” instead.
I wish the PM a very speedy recovery. We need him back. But, as some have (perhaps a little harshly) pointed out, Johnson doesn’t just owe the NHS his life, but the promised £350m too.
Maybe, just maybe, this event will have been a catalyst towards a change in opinion on NHS funding. Maybe Johnson will emerge from this as the politician we see in the video above, not the democracy-dodging, Dom Cummings-dependent despot of last year.
Maybe this is the start of something.
Or maybe it’s just a cunning ploy by the Tories to make Boris comparable to Jesus this Easter. Yes, some people really do think it’s all been a conspiracy theory.
The doorbell just rang for a delivery of dog food (dogs gotta eat, too).
The delivery man waited for me to get to the door, pointed at the parcel on the ground, then left before I could open the door. He called out, “Have a good day,” and, as he left, I replied, “Cheers mate, you too.”
That was the most I’ve spoken to someone face-to-face (other than my Mum) in two weeks. I miss talking to strangers. Not that I talk to that many strangers in London to be fair, because I’m not one of those mental people barking at financiers in St James Park.
I do sometimes talk to birds and squirrels I see on my walks in the vain hope that one of them might reply. No such luck.
Anyway. Lockdown update: I am keeping surprisingly busy. My jogging has actually improved by quite a bit for me (I just about managed 3.5 miles yesterday without keeling over), I’m still doing yoga, and my banjo playing no longer sounds like a cat walking over a ukelele. I’m enjoying writing this diary, and I’m trying to keep my brain firing on all cylinders by not gaming too much.
But, with an extension of the lockdown all but confirmed, I am going a little bit stir-crazy. As are we all, no doubt. At least the weather, for our daily doses of constitutionally-approved exercise, is absolutely glorious.
Which is why I’m starting to worry more and more about the fact that some people seem determined to take our exercise away from us. Or, at the very least, to make us feel guilty about it.
I worry that we’re turning into a country of snitches and grasses. All of this crap about reporting your neighbours for going out more than once a day seems a bit “1930s Russia” rather than Great Britain.
No, you shouldn’t be sunbathing in a crowded park if you can avoid. No, you shouldn’t be cycling in groups, jogging straight into people, or generally not observing social distancing.
NO, you absolutely should not be driving down to your second house to infect all the people in the village, forget your bread-maker, go back to London, then go back down again.
I didn’t make this up. This actually happened.
But you should be allowed to go outside, buy Easter Eggs, or, yes, have fun.
Some people appear to actually be enjoying the lockdown, which is great for them. According to reports that came out today, quite a large number of over-60s are comfortable with the restrictions.
But a lot of people aren’t. Going outside, especially when the weather is this good, is absolutely fundamental to staying sane. For some families, particularly those confined to their homes with multiple children, it’s the single-most important part of the day – going out, stretching legs and clearing heads.
Yet some knobbers clearly don’t approve of this. I can only imagine it’s a weird, sadomasochistic belief that, if this really is “Our Blitz,” there is no space for fun, happiness, or trying to find some kind of semblance of normality. We all must suffer, apparently.
Which seems bloody daft to me, seeing as Britain basically got through the Blitz by using our collective dry humour to keep spirits up.
This lockdown is in response to something utterly bloody horrible. That doesn’t mean that all life has to be horrible, too.
Lighten up, you miserable bastards. Have a bloody Creme Egg and simmer down, Karen.
Jesus wept. The fact that I even have to type that sentence is a sad reality of the world we live in.
In case you missed it, there is a bizarre side-story to the coronavirus epidemic, which is that people are claiming that the rolling out of superfast mobile networks under 5G is responsible for the virus.
This has led to a tidal wave of fake information being shared online. It’s even led to some people trying to set fire to 5G masts.
Now look here. I absolutely do not deny the fact that information from the top is kept from us plebs. Politicians will continue to obfuscate data to suit their needs or hide their mistakes. Heads of banking conglomerates and trust funds will go to extreme lengths to cloak their earnings. The army aren’t going to tell us who they’re going to bomb next or when or why.
But no-one in their right mind could ever think that a slight alteration to radio waves might create a new lifeform that attacks the cells of living organisms.
The 5G nutters have been around for a while. I even had one on my Facebook, sharing things to minimal attention or, indeed, likes and shares. But this person was educated to at least an undergraduate level, and it made me realise that, actually, conspiracy theories can weasel their way into the minds of anyone.
It’s not just the gullible or naive or thick. Because a little part of me wants to believe it, too.
Life isn’t perfect. It never is. For all of the times spent at the Cider Bus at Glastonbury, there’s the Northern Line at 8.50am on a Monday. For all the wonderful, caring partners, there’s the teenage crush that rejected you and shagged your mate. For all the dogs in the world, there are wasps.
Seriously. What is the point of wasps? Little yellow and black ballsacks full of poison and hate. Genuinely, one of my three wishes from a magic lamp would be the end of wasps, forever.
Where were we?
Oh yes, life isn’t perfect. But here’s the problem: it’s really hard work to make things better. Perfection, in fact, is impossible. But you know what’s easy?
We blame others for our own shortcomings – “Well I didn’t get the promotion because Jeff must have wined and dined Graham and got in his good books, the snake.” We blame the weather for having no willpower to go to the gym. And, crucially, we blame the “powers-that-be” for when things go wrong on a much larger scale.
Don’t get me wrong, blame can, and should, be used constructively. Just blindly trusting a government to do work properly, or not holding it to account for its shortcomings, especially one as D-Grade as our current bunch, would be disastrous. Accountability is a cornerstone of democracy.
But everyone, to some degree, will have a sense that something is wrong with the world. Just as one of us will be angry that they don’t make Mars Delights anymore, another will be angry that they ever existed (and whoever you are, you’re the ones responsible for them being discontinued, and I hate you).
And, by the way, there are some of those who wonder how in the everloving Christ Mrs. Brown’s Boys is still going. And there are some who wonder why it isn’t on constantly.
Some people, unfortunately, are just thick.
But we all have misgivings. And, for some people, conspiracy theories provide an answer to their questions where they couldn’t find one before.
Do I think that we’re ruled by lizard-men wearing human suits? No. Do I believe those weird cults who are continuously telling us that the world is going to end? No. Do I believe any of the words that come out of this plumped-up halfwit, whose single braincell appears to be connected entirely and solely to his idiotic, frothing mouth?
No. Of course I don’t.
But do I think that major corporations get up to some pretty shady shit? Hell yes I do, because they are often uncovered by investigative journalists. We have no idea about what really goes on at the very top, because we’re not there. Just look at the true story depicted in Dark Waters, where a corporation dumps chemicals into a local river and literally kills local people.
But these shady dealings are almost always about profit margins, not power, because there’s very large reward for comparatively little risk – any sanctions put against massive corporations are unlikely to affect them too badly because they’re all so rich anyway.
But no government is going to try to install mind-control devices to take over their nation, because the risk far outweighs the reward. And also I’d hope that most governments are, in general, not comprised of criminal masterminds from Superman comics.
And this is part of the theory about 5G propagated by David Icke, conspiracy-theorist extraordinaire and all-round dickhead. The other “scientific” theories revolve around 5G either suppressing our immune systems or targeting specific people through sCiEnCe AnD mAgIc.
It’s bollocks. These radiowaves, while altered from 4G, are non-ionising – they do not have the power to break apart the chemical bonds in our DNA and cannot affect organic tissue. Nor, indeed, can they control our thoughts.
Unless you’re a UKIP member listening to LBC on digital radio.
So there you have it. 5G doesn’t cause coronavirus. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think critically about the information we are given, or recognise that there are some things the are going to be held from us.
But please. Use your brains. 5G doesn’t cause the coronavirus, the frickin frogs aren’t turning gay, and the Queen isn’t a space lizard.
But come back tomorrow and I’ll explain how 9/11 was an inside job by Big Oil…
Our Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is in intensive care. This is not good.
Thankfully, the news coming out today is that he isn’t suffering from pneumonia, hasn’t required a ventilator, and is in “good spirits.” But make no mistake, being in an ICU is not a good sign.
According to coronavirus mortality rates for men of his age in the same position, his odds are at around 55:45 in favour of recovering. His friends and well-wishers doing the rounds on the media today have been at pains to mention how virulent he is on the tennis courts, but the fact is that he is an overweight, middle-aged man.
It goes without saying that I hope to God that he recovers, and that his poor fiancé, Carrie, is coping ok, despite her being both symptomatic herself and pregnant.
I’ve had plenty of fun with Boris in my writing over the years. My political blog, Between the Lines, detailed his political career, should you be interested in reading it. Looking back at that page, it seems like a decade ago that the Tory leadership election was underway. Christ alive, what I wouldn’t give for a little Brexit bantz right now.
But, right now, we need him at the helm. Yes, the government has been making mistakes across the board, whether it be on ventilators, testing, or clear lockdown instructions. But, without putting too fine a point on it, he’s the best leader we’ve got.
His stand-in, Dominic Raab, also got a mention in my political blog. In my analysis, I wrote this:
The concept of Dominic Raab becoming Prime Minister is, on every level, horrifying. The man is the embodiment of everything that people hate about the Tories.
He’s thick, he’s spiteful, but it still feels like he thinks he deserves to be Prime Minister.
Despite his middle name being Rennie, he gives me actual heartburn.
And, now, to my last-year self’s horror, that is the reality – he is in charge.
Not fully in charge, mind. He’s still just the understudy, and cannot make decisions without the Cabinet’s say-so. But given that the Cabinet is at war with itself, and with no clear timetable for Johnson to return, quite how on earth anything is going to get done at all is something that remains to be seen.
So, while on a human level it is unequivocal, I also want Johnson to get well soon on a political one, too.
Because Dominic Raab has no place leading a conga line, let alone a country.
If you want to have a look at what a real leader should look like, look no further than the absolutely wonderful Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand.