What Are You Doing Today?

Great Britain

Illogical Thinking

One thing we know now about the apocalypse; the papers will continue to publish travel sections and restaurant reviews as if the world was normal. But our world is now a prison sentence with no appeal date set and too much time for introspection and reflection.

Living in a flat, mine’s full of passive activities – there’s little  I can physically get up to. In a home created to a specific design ethic there’s nothing at all to add or remove. I won’t be knocking up shelves any time soon. As someone who’s always up by 6:00am, the days are stretching to infinity. Writing remains the main activity, but this very active and energetic lad is now a prisoner doubly tethered by a pandemic and a hospital.

The vaccine rollout has revealed Kafkaesque flaws. To get chemo I must test negative for Covid. To do so I must enter the centre for a test two days before my treatment, which means doubling the risk by making an extra visit to hospital by train. If they vaccinated the extreme-risk patients at the centre they’d halve their hospital visits, but, says a nurse, ‘that’s the kind of logical solution that continually evades this government.’

Downbeat Dramas

It’s the British film academy qualifying season and there are over 220 films to sift through. The documentaries this year have been revelatory, and include ‘Time’, an inevitably tragic story of injustice involving a black prisoner, ‘Collective’, about a small free-sheet uncovering a horrifying Rumanian hospital scandal, ‘The Dissident’, about the grisly murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi amid continuing Saudi cyber-attacks, and ‘Assassins’ covering another murder, far more bizarre, that of Kim Jong-un’s half-brother in Kuala Lumpur’s airport by two elaborately duped teenage girls.

There are too many earnestly polemic movies this year, but sometimes the issues and the drama combine to great effect. True-life spy thriller ‘The Courier’ and Guantanamo Bay drama ‘The Mauritanian’ both star Benedict Cumberbatch, ‘I Care A Lot’ is a smashing debut melodrama, unnerving and heartless, from J Blakeson starring Rosamunde Pike, and in ‘Promising Young Woman’ Carey Mulligan hunts predators while posing as a potential rape victim. In ‘New Order’ revolutionaries turn every bit as ugly as their opponents as wealthy wedding guests look on in horror. Darker still is ‘The Infinite Trench’, the true story of a man who spent 40 years living under the floor during Franco’s nightmarish regime.

There’s not a lot of cheer to be had but ‘Palm Springs’, a cheeky Groundhog Day-style time loop romance, should put a lot of smiles on faces. On TV there’s ’30 Coins’ from the brilliant Alex de la Iglasias, making his TV debut. Pitched somewhere between his ‘Day of the Beast’ and a Dan Brown thriller, the plot involves evil priests, Judas’s thirty pieces of silver and a cow giving birth to an infant. ‘Call My Agent’ is a delight, although so close in subject to my forthcoming novel ‘Crazy Lady’ that I may have to abandon it (my book, not the show). Meanwhile I’m reading volumes on the theatre, the Renaissance, totalitarianism, technology and a few ‘regular’ novels, as well as taking Hidden London walks and researching new ideas.

Back Like It Was Before

What did we do before that was so special? A meal, a trip, a drink with friends? We interacted and thereby removed life’s predictability. My brother, who would be quite happy if a neutron bomb removed everyone from the world, leaving him completely alone in the woods, has been thoroughly enjoying the lockdown. Having been surrounded by people all talking at once for my entire adult life I’m discovering the pleasures of small, quiet things probably for the first time since I was a child.

Back then I made endless models from balsa, cardboard and modelling clay. I can suddenly see the appeal of building Francis Drake’s Golden Hind from matchsticks, or recreating the HMS Ark Royal from an Airfix kit. Online  creation is too virtual, lacking hands-on appeal. But building stuff feels as pointless as doing a jigsaw. Perhaps that’s the idea; not everything – life especially – has to have a point. It would mean all those magazines teaching us to fulfil ourselves are wrong. Maybe the best use of time is wasting it.


24 comments on “What Are You Doing Today?”

  1. Rachel Green says:

    Oh, but to build something spectacular out of matchsticks and then burn it. There’s wonder for you.

  2. Brian Evans says:

    I’m with your brother!

    Oh dear, Mr Admin, your film list is about as depressing as your reading list. As Mona Lott in “Bandwagon” used to say: “It’s being so cheerful that keeps me going”

  3. Frances says:

    I find I cannot read anything that is not a simple murder mystery by the likes of Catherine Aird or Colin Watson. When I run out of those I will reread Margery Allingham and maybe even Agatha Christie. There are a lot of very old British films on Youtube and I watch those. Television has nothing I want to see, especially the news.

    I was lucky to get most of a brain tumour out in early December but no idea when they can get the rest. A slow grower and benign so not much more to do than shrug. I am in group 1d for vaccination and you would be 1e. They are going for health workers first, then people working in care homes and those over 80, people working in public services like police. Only then I pop up because of age, then you. All governments are trying to figure out a logical order but, the truth is, we all need the vaccination and there is no good logical solution. Is there no other form of transportation for you to get to the hospital?

  4. Martin Tolley says:

    OK so jigsaws maybe pointless, but I’ve had fun with online ones https://www.jigsawexplorer.com You can use their pix or make one from your own photos, you can alter the number of pieces to make them easier or harder, AND… you get a wonderful standing ovation when you put the final piece in place.

  5. Derek j Lewis says:

    I know this Government has been pretty useless and believe me i’m no fan but if you want to see incompetence compare it to the Welsh one I’m subject to.
    I’m also becoming convinced that it’s the endless layers of NHS bureaucracy, not politicians that hamper any joined up thinking in the NHS (‘NHS providers’ what’s that about? Given the last year it’s definitely not fit for purpose) My friend is in palliative care and now has to attend our local cancer centre on her own, and sit in a waiting room that has been stripped of all furniture except one chair. Her spirit is slowly being crushed.
    On a more cheerful note, thanks for the heads up about the films up for this year’s BAFTA awards. I think that’s one awards programme I can cheerfully avoid.
    Frances, have you tried Catriona McPherson and if you’re in the U.K. the magnificent ‘talking pictures TV’

  6. Helen Martin says:

    For other entertainment try the Canadian news. We have just fired our Governor General (don’t believe the “stepped down” suggestions) for being an abusive boss to her staff. She’s a former astronaut who seems to have lost all the patience she must have once had.Suggestions are now rife as to her replacement. One suggestion is Prince Harry (a traditional style appointment and someone who “likes a comfortable lifestyle while doing little real work”), Wayne Gretsky (for the sports fraternity) Christopher Plummer (great grandson of a Prime Minister) and surely you people can come up with others (Nigel Farage will not fly, sorry).

    What on earth sort of palliative care do they have in Wales? The picture you paint, Derek, is horrendous, just brutal. And, Chris, you and the nurse are absolutely correct.The priority lists are just created to prevent massive runs on vaccination centres; there is no real logic to them. I’m 78 and healthy and my husband’s health is irrelevant to my vaccination so I figure some time in August. Meanwhile I just keep doing what I’m doing and not worrying about it.

    I’m doing simple crosswords and trying the New York Times Saturday one (we get it two weeks later than New York.) After a long period of waiting my husband has received a model train parts shipment that turns out to be intended for someone in Quebec. He;s having an interesting time arranging for it to go to its proper destination and get his from the supplier. As someone whose job involved this sort of thing he’s actually having a good time. I can’t figure out why my hobbies have absolutely no real attraction. Other than knitting, which I do compulsively while the twice weekly covid announcements are made.

  7. Roger Allen says:

    “One suggestion is Prince Harry (a traditional style appointment and someone who “likes a comfortable lifestyle while doing little real work”)”

    But as it is – my language fails! –
    Go out and govern New South Wales!
    No longer a practical option, I’m afraid, Helen Martin. There’s a growing problem with surplus royals and aristos nowadays. Unfortunately culling them went out – in the English-speaking world at least – a few centuries ago.
    North Korea got it right, I think, when they kept Kim Il Sung as head of state after he died. It’s said Mantua appointed the poet Virgil as the ruling Duke in the Middle Ages too. Why should being alive be a requirement for heads-of-state, especially ceremonial roles like Governor Generals (Governors General?)?

  8. Peter T says:

    Caligula supposedly appointed his horse to political office. I’d not go so far as making a horse Governor General (though if you’re ready to sink to Royals …). However, there seem to be numerous very smart dogs about.

    I’m an engineer, not a medic. My income is lower, but I make my own decisions. Surely, if you have a patient who needs or would greatly benefit from a vaccination or other treatment that costs only a couple of £, you arrange for them to receive it without asking permission from the PM, Hancock’s Half Hour or an army of Men from the Ministry administrative assistants?

  9. Brian Evans says:

    Oh please, Helen, take the appalling Farage of our hands.

  10. Stephen Winer says:

    Actually, De La Iglasias did make a film for television before. It was for a horror anthology series and it was called The Baby’s Room – a fun little haunted house story with a twist. Worth a look.

  11. brooke says:

    In the US, data-driven models developed by scientists and physicians are used by the incoming administration to set vaccination priorities. Said models are published. Unfortunately because 1) public leadership for past year has been so atrocious (e.g.national office for public health and vaccine administration was abolished as a sop to anti-vaxxers):2) the distribution chain is so damned complex; and 3) healthcare inequities are baked into the system, we need transparent priorities. If you work with the models, you’ll see there are no easy answers; we’re paying for preceding stupidity.
    Conservative budgets and prejudices have strangled our medical systems: in the UK under the guise of austerity measurfes and blaming the EU; in the US, private interest greed prevails. Both systems are wrapped in red tape as a result. Be careful what you vote for.

  12. admin says:

    Having read all of the above, one upside to having terminal cancer (not a sentence I relish writing) is that I’m being vaccinated this week.

  13. brooke says:

    Hope, trust, pray (me) that your spouse will receive vax at same time or soon after.

  14. Brian Evans says:

    A bit of good news at last. All the very very best Chris.

  15. Barbara Boucke says:

    Not easy words to write – not easy words to read – even though I only know you from your books and this blog. I’m glad you are finally able to get the vaccine. I wish you the best. KBG. (I think those are the right letters.)

  16. Derek j Lewis says:

    KBG indeed. My previously mentioned friend was in a hospice 5 years ago writing the song list for her funeral. Still going, back driving, walking and being completely arsey

  17. Ed DesCamp says:

    Chris – congratulations on getting a date next week for your inoculation. All the best with chemo.
    Now… I think it’s time for you to build a scale model of Arthur.

  18. Roger Allen says:

    The fact they think it worth vaccinating you is surely evidence that terminality isn’t too imminent, Admin.

  19. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    I’m someone else who has a family member given a very small chance of remission and still going strong 30 years later.
    Hoping for the best possible outcome.

  20. Helen Martin says:

    This is definitely the time for those examples, Cornelia. Wishes and prayers from all corners for you, Chris.

  21. mike says:

    Hoping to be reading new books from you for the next 30 years at least.

  22. I cant think of anything to write other than to say your characters are so very real to me that I feel as though I worked with them or one of them was an uncle or something. Consequently, I have an admiration, nay love, for the writer quite unlike any other contemporary author. I love reading your blogs – like your books, so erudite, entertaining and wise. I’m sure many of us on here feel the same way, and are very sorry indeed to hear of your diagnosis. But I too know of people who got one and are still here causing mayhem. Long may you do so, Chris.

  23. Laura Hecht says:

    I hope it doesn’t hurt.

  24. Wayne Mook says:

    They say hope springs eternal, so I’ve renewed my passport. It’s due in the post, the e-mither I received said TNT are bringing it, I’d thought they had re-branded though. Not so daft it’s a 10 year passport so I may get a year or twos use.

    A wedding in Portugal is penciled in for August, delayed from last year. Fingers crossed.

    Hope the jab thingy goes well, my granddad was given 6 months to live and died 20 year late of something else, embolism.


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