What Are You Doing Today?
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.’
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.