So; how we all doing? Teaching yourself to play the clavichord in all that unforeseen free time we have? Cowering in a cupboard at the prospect of visiting the supermarket? Preparing for another game of Russian roulette in the care home you work in? Or maybe you’re lying in a mass grave on Hackney Marshes, in which case you’re obviously not virtuous enough to tackle Covid-19 head on. Not like glorious leader Little Lord FauntleFuck, who met the gaze of the beast in battle and came through the other side.
In Terry Gilliam’s 1977 film Jabberwocky, naïve peasant Michael Palin bumbles his way around a medieval kingdom governed by a corrupt, incompetent ruler and terrorized by a hideous, flesh-eating dragon, which seems like a fitting metaphor for where we’re currently at. Indeed, at one point a courtier hypothesizes that the prosperity of the very nation is entwined with the existential threat posed by the monster, which is an argument it’s easy to imagine Dominic Cummings making before he too scuttled away to his sick bed. And whilst no-one wishes an agonising demise upon our own corrupt and incompetent rulers – silence at the back, please – there is a degree of poetic justice in how Coronavirus blazed a trail through the Westminster hierarchy, what with the blasé approach the UK government took whilst things were going horribly wrong elsewhere. I mean, it couldn’t happen here, right? This was a contagion for those who looked a bit foreign and ate bats; not us, with our Wetherspoons pints and wholesome Greggs pasties. Well, there’s no pint and pasty for you, sonny Jim. Just the daily Downing Street doom hour with Dominic Raab or Matt Hancock telling porky pies about PPE – or, as a special treat, charm and compassion’s Pritti Patel, presumably parachuted in because Magda Goebbels had a prior engagement. “I’m sorry if people feel that there have been failings.” Just as I’m sorry if people feel that you’re the evil-eyed villain in some ropey sci-fi epic. A sort of Servalan without the sex appeal. And yes; I did just make a Blake’s 7 joke; I have plenty of spare time on my hands.
So welcome to the new normal. Our symphony of uncertainty. No-one knows how long this will go on for. Thanks to experts overfilling rolling news via hesitant Skype connections, no-one knows just how much dodgy living room wall art we’re going to be subjected to. Will Tim Burgess run out of albums we’ve to communally play as the second and third wave of the virus makes landfall and the economy resembles something my dog has tried to kill?
Me – I miss loitering in record stores and sitting in pavement cafés talking shite about French cinema. Then again, I’m middle class, ensconced in my own comfortable paradigm, with a garden I can escape to whenever my under-stimulated seven-year-old twins start smearing their own excrement up the walls; others miss having food in their fridge, or being able to breathe unaided; Covid-19 isn’t some great leveller, and we won’t all be recuperating at Chequers. Instead, far too many people have first-hand experience that neo-Liberalism wasn’t fashioned with pandemic in mind (and whilst I’m at it; far too many people are crap at social distancing; for most of us, a trip to Co-Op to buy essentials is like some dystopian real-life game of Pac Man. Others act like they’re at the petting zoo, or a Cheltenham Festival for cunts).
Why, Cheltenham? Why have you filled your festival full of cunts? But Cheltenham doesn’t have any answers – only over-extended intensive care units, like everywhere else. And when it comes to the post-Covid world, all we can do is imagine. Will there be pubs? Jobs? A post-apocalyptic zombie wasteland, like what Coventry is? Will we still have to use Zoom, or can we go back to ignoring relatives again? ‘What did you do during the Great Plague, grandad?’ Well, I coughed at a shop assistant and told ‘em they now had the virus. And it’s tempting to hope that something positive will come out of this. A fairer, more compassionate society, where those of us who have survived this pestilence are determined to look out for one another. On the other hand, that sounds like an awful lot of hassle; think I’ll carry on with my glorious solipsism, instead.