A Journal of the Plague Year, 2020

Week 11 May 31st

“I am in blood stepped in so far…”

The tragedy is that this is no longer just a metaphor

It’s been over a month since I last posted an entry in my journal. What can we deduce from that unseemly gap? That lockdown has become commonplace and not worthy of comment? That no-one I know has caught Covid 19 (or at least, not seriously), so it becomes harder to maintain an end-of-the-world style narrative? That far from having endless stretching hours of nothingness to kill, actually most people are extremely busy and can’t fit everything in?

No. none of the above. Or, more accurately, all of the above, in varying proportions, depending on the time of day, or day of the week. But above all, the overriding factor in distracting my attention away from recording History As It Happens has been this:

The opening of Garden centres up and down the land.

At this point I must sheepishly acknowledge my privilege. I know I’m extremely lucky to have a big house and a big garden. I know many people and families are struggling in cramped accommodation with no access to outdoor spaces, and I can’t imagine being cooped up for all of this time. (Eleven weeks and counting, as far as the Journal’s calculations go). But this is my journal, about me, so there. Lockdown has turned us all into extras in Lord of the Flies.

So, having felt guilty for a nano-second, I can put that to one side and get down to business. The glorious sunny weather, and the recent availability of plants and equipment, has meant that every waking hour I’ve been shopping, weeding, digging, planting, and designing. And my garden, a monstrous 200 footer that backs on to woods, has never looked more beautiful. And the bird song, morning noon and night has been spectacular as well.

I am still working, but because I only teach Key stage 3 classes, I am not condemned to the ghastly, intensive, untried trudge of Zoom lessons, so beloved of Lord Adonis, that famous and world -renowned Pedagogical expert. I have to set, check and mark a lot of work, and occasionally go into school for my part of the rota of staff dealing with children of key workers and the like. I don’t have a Year 10 or 12 class, so I’m not expecting to be called back before the Summer holidays, apart from the rota just mentioned. I’m also finishing off Teacher training courses, getting ready to assess Trainees remotely.

Word class test and trace systems in place on June 1st

But the significant thing about today, June 1st, is that it marks what is supposed to be the beginning of the Great Return to Normality. All kinds of things are happening: schools re-opening, shielded people allowed out and about, meeting in groups of six, shops etc opening up again. What it actually means, and remember this when you look back in anger, is that today marks the day when a Second Spike in infection became unavoidable. Yes, the actions of our government, who care for nothing but their own power, have made it inevitable that many more people will die. And they know this. I can’t think of a more shocking indictment of this ghastly shower of shit we have that passes for a Government. Johnson and Cummings et al know that thousands more will die and they think it a price worth paying.

Another milestone, that will gather ever more significance as times passes, was the Cummings Barnard Castle debacle. That was the moment when the Tories lost the next election, and the allegation of lying finally began to cut through. The ridiculous assertion that Johnson and the Tories was a Man of the People and could represent the interests of the “ordinary” voter in the north, was holed below the water line. Of course, there is plenty of time for other events to take place and Johnson can row it back, particularly when he is prepared to throw money at anything and everything.

If Dom can do it, why can’t I?

And the lying thing is important. More and more people cannot now believe a word Johnson says. So the assurances about a “World Class Test and Trace system”, about taking “Baby steps” and “following the Science” are meaningless. As are the ludicrous “Five tests”. It seems that Johnson’s view is that each test is passed when he says it has been passed. Don’t trouble him with evidence or data.  More and more “Scientists” are willing to speak publicly about it being far too early to relax things. All of this is being done to create a feel good narrative that removes Cummings from the front pages. I’m just not sure what their own longer-term forecast is. They must know that disaster is on the way. I wonder whether Johnson is so used to blagging it and getting away with it that he doesn’t think it will matter, because he will just continue to refuse to be accountable, not answering questions and pushing on, head down, until the end of the next press conference. At present he and evil genius Dom are still going along with the Trump playbook, where you just assert the opposite, ignore stats (so they no longer present the figures in comparative death totals) and spin awkward questions or appalling revelations (the clear plan for people in Care homes to die) as coming from “Campaigning newspapers”. But we don’t need to worry. Evil genius Dom has sorted a few teething problems with the new Red Wall seats. You know, the great unwashed from up North, who can’t speak properly and have an appalling diet. Using Johnson’s unparalleled Classical Education, he has taken a leaf from the Ancient Romans book and gone for the old bread and circuses trick. Football is back, along with horse racing (double whammy that one because it also keeps her Maj happy) and getting pissed in big groups outside. Brilliant. Cogito Ergo Dum, as it were.

The perfect time to ease lockdown?

In this extraordinarily depressing landscape, there is some comfort to be had in the thought that the pendulum has begun to swing back, and that this is the beginning of the end. It was fascinating to see Tories joining in the criticism last week, even those who have been the most ideologically bonkers. When that happens because of what their inbox tells them the public thinks, you know the tide is shifting. Just as in America with Trump and Republicans, at some point mainstream Tories will have to calculate exactly when they are going to cut Johnson loose to save themselves from complicity. They will have one eye on the inevitable future inquiry. All reasonable democrats just need to keep the faith. There will be a reckoning and the guilty will be exposed, but we will have to wade through a lot of bodies on the way. The Macbeth quote, so useful in dissing ruthless political operation in the past, comes into its own now.

“I am in blood

stepped in so far that, should I wade no more

Returning were as tedious as go o’er”

The real tragedy is that that was always a metaphor. These days, horribly, it has be taken literally.

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