Race With The Devil

The South Downs Way is a 100 mile national trail that follows the old routes along the chalk ridges of the South Downs, many of which have been used for 8000 years. Jane’s lucky enough to live in this part of the country, and last Friday we took a nine mile walk that included several sections of the trail. It turned out to be a race against the weather. A race in which we lost. Massively.

All photos Fujifilm X100F


Through the wayward pines, and some early indications of the weather to come


Lambs! Hundreds of ’em…


Some serious rain starting to close in….


The Devil’s Jumps are a group of five large burial mounds on the South Downs Way, just outside the hamlet of Treyford. They’re around three to four thousand years old, and the main line of five barrows is aligned with sunset on Midsummer Day. We had our sandwiches on the top of one, and now I’m wondering if we’ve been a bit disrespectful. I mean, I’ve seen Poltergeist and Pet Semetary. Don’t mess with ancient burial sites.

The Devil's Jumps Fingerpost

The Devil's Jumps

These guys know something is going down


All along the watchtower


Just a few miles to go, but things ahead are not looking too good…


…but we’re also being chased from behind

That was the last snap before we were hit by just the type of end-of-times rainstorm you’d expect in 2020. Obviously I dealt with it in my usual stoical way1, but it’s always good to know: in the rain, no one can see your tears.

1. The original title of this post, ‘How I Survived a Hurricane’, was rejected by the fact-checkers.

Storm

In the alternative universe where a certain microbe didn’t leap from a bat, there’s a version of me holidaying in Barcelona right now. (NOTE: I am neither a virologist nor a quantum physicist). And even though my version of me is serval hundred quid lighter and stuck in England, it’s great to be able to do some of the simple things that make life feel normal. For the last couple of weekends, this has meant walking through the South Downs with the dogs, and spending time in the pub with friends. Just like people used to do back in Normal Times.

But it’s hard to know which way things are going, on all levels. Photos are a lot easier than words for me right now. There’s a sense of Autumn in the air, and it feels like there might be a storm coming.

Midhurst & the South Downs / All photos Fujifilm X100F


There’s a polo game going on over there in the fields. No spectators allowed these days due to Covid.


It’s not easy being this handsome


The dogs and the chickens co-exist relatively peacefully


Potato Wars!


And in the pub with friends. As it should be.


On the tipsy shuffle back home at sundown and past the ruins of Cowdray House, destroyed by fire in September 1793

Now For The Hard Part

It’s twelvety-seven weeks since lockdown started, and over the last few weeks it’s felt like I’ve run out of words. Whilst these months of isolation have been far from easy, they have at least been simple. Stay home; don’t go near anyone; try to at least wear some underwear during Zoom calls. But as we ease out of lockdown, the long slog back to normality has become ever more apparent.

Like America, we’re realising a global catastrophe is not the best time to have a morally bankrupt leader in a dysfunctional relationship with the truth. But unlike the US, where people can solve the problem in four months’ time, it’s hard to imagine what Britain will look like after the remaining four years of this Government.

So where are we? Well, by the weekend the vast majority of shops, restaurants and pubs will be allowed to reopen. Providing they adhere to the strict social distancing regulations, that is. The same goes for offices, although like many people working from home, it’ll be months before I’m compelled to go back. And in many cases, two households can now act as one. On a personal level, this means I now get to spend time at Jane’s house. My gain is her loss.

As the UK flounders around the top of the worst affected countries, even the Government’s most outwardly ardent supporters no longer trust it. We’re told to rely on ‘Good Britsh Common Sense’ (none of that foreign rubbish), but there are 65 million different versions of Britsh Common Sense in this country. As Bournemouth beach filled up with thousands of sunseekers last week, the council declared a major incident. The city of Leicester is now forced to extend its lockdown based on infection data two weeks overdue. As well as a failure of competence, even more crucially, we’ve seen a failure of leadership. We have a Government whose main claim to fame is the ability to come up with three-word slogans. The country’s being run by a third-rate PR Agency.

You probably wish I’d shut up for another month now.

In an attempt to start the return to normality, I decided to go up to central London for the first time since this all started. I live right by the station, so can leave my house and be on the South Bank in under an hour. Masks are now compulsory on public transport. I’d expected things to be much busier now, but of course, there are none of the tourists that would normally pack this part of London. Even after everything that’s happened, it’s still a strange experience.

A person who is tired of London is not necessarily tired of life; it might be that he just can’t find a parking place.

– Paul Theroux

All photos Nikon F100 / Ilford Delta 100 / Developed in Bellini Foto Eco Film Developer

Waterloo Station looking uncharacteristically quiet


I’m seeing lots of good mask etiquette


The London Eye still has no reopening date. Disappointing for those who want to pay for a panoramic full HD view of London, and then watch it through a six-inch phone screen.


The Houses Of Parliament. The only time I’ve seen Westminster Bridge this empty was during the Rage pandemic of 2002.


Winston & Abe, still looking on from Parliament Square


Normally these steps opposite the National Gallery would be packed with people chatting and eating


And you’ll never see Covent Garden looking this empty during waking hours


Not much movement on the Thames


Hand sanitisers! On the streets!

This Week In The Coronapocalypse | Bertie Goes Home

So. Bertie went home this morning and I’m back to solitary confinement. I’m sad about this. These are the photos from our last couple of days together.

All photos Fujifilm X100F


Prior to this pandemic, thanks to Brexit and the ensuing culture war, Britain has been engulfed in political turmoil for three years. Each day seemed to bring a new political calamity, which was then promptly forgotten when the next one happened 24 hours later. Weeks felt like months, months felt like years. I really regret not keeping a simple note of events as they happened, just so I could look back and try and make some sense of it all.

So during this period I’ve decided to sum up the weekly events that have struck me the most, from the deadly serious to the absurdly ridiculous. If my tone seems flippant at times…well, we all have our own way of getting through this horror.

See all previous updates here

This week in The Coronapocalypse:

  • Italy begins to ease lockdown after eight weeks, with parks reopening and relatives reunited
  • Contact-tracing smartphone app piloted on Isle of Wight
  • Five Eyes Alliance contradicts theory Covid-19 leaked from lab
  • Virgin Atlantic to axe 3000 jobs and shut Gatwick operations
  • More than half of UK adults receiving some form of state financial help
  • Air France, KLM and Lufthansa make face masks compulsory for all passengers
  • Key Government Covid-19 advisor resigns after breaching social distancing rules with visit from ‘mistress’ (note to tabloid editors: nobody has had a ‘mistress’ since about 1890)
  • Bank of England predicts economy 2020 will be biggest economic slump in 300 years
  • 400,000 emergency PPE gowns flown in from Turkey fail quality control checks
  • Britons commemorate the 75th anniversary of VE Day and remember those who died in WWII, whilst many of the survivors die in care homes
  • Britons celebrate VE Day with socially-distant street parties
  • President Trump says coronavirus will “go away without a vaccine” but offers no scientific evidence
  • 14-day quarantine proposed for air passengers
  • Government announces £2bn plan to encourage more cycling and walking


Worldwide cases: 4,152,885 (previous week 3,484,558)
Worldwide deaths: 282,733 (previous week 244,786 )
UK cases: 219,183 (previous week 182,260 )
UK deaths: 31,855 (previous week 28,131)

source

This Week In The Coronapocalypse | Bromance

The bromance (as Jane calls it) between me and Bertie happily continues. We’ve had a great week together. Romantic walks, intimate meals, evenings spent curled up on the sofa, and…erm…drinking puddle water and chasing birds1.

Mind you, it’s not easy living with someone who likes to chill by lying on his back, legs apart and testicles on display for all to see. But hey, I think he’s getting used to me.

1. Note to Jane: my days of chasing birds are over

All photos Fujifilm X100F


Prior to this pandemic, thanks to Brexit and the ensuing culture war, Britain has been engulfed in political turmoil for three years. Each day seemed to bring a new political calamity, which was then promptly forgotten when the next one happened 24 hours later. Weeks felt like months, months felt like years. I really regret not keeping a simple note of events as they happened, just so I could look back and try and make some sense of it all.

So during this period I’ve decided to sum up the weekly events that have struck me the most, from the deadly serious to the absurdly ridiculous. If my tone seems flippant at times…well, we all have our own way of getting through this horror.

See all previous updates here

This week in The Coronapocalypse:

  • PM Boris Johnson back to work after recovering from Coronavirus
  • UK records its lowest daily death toll for a month
  • New Zealanders queue for burgers, fries and takeaway coffee after being freed from month-long lockdown
  • Nation holds minute’s silence for key workers who have died
  • Scotland recommends use of non-surgical face masks when in a confined space. England does not.
  • 30 million have sought US unemployment aid since virus hit
  • Huge jump in official death numbers as government includes coronavirus deaths in care homes and the community
  • Number of recorded cases in US exceeds one million
  • 3-10% of UK population may have been infected
  • Flag carrier British Airways announces 12,000 redundancies
  • Boris Johnson and partner Carrie Symonds celebrate birth of baby boy
  • Captain Tom Moore, who raised more than £29m for NHS by walking laps of his garden, celebrates 100th birthday.
  • Sales of condoms down, as social distancing rules limit ‘number of intimate occasions’
  • Ryanair to cut 3,000 jobs and reduce staff pay by up to a fifth
  • Record falls in CO2 emissions
  • Legendary American investor Warren Buffett dumps entire holdings in four major US airlines, warning that “world has changed” for aviation industry
  • US intelligence agencies conclude that the virus was “not manmade or genetically modified”
  • President Trump claims to have evidence coronavirus started in Chinese lab but offers no details
  • Spain’s lockdown, one of the toughest in Europe, slowly eased as adults allowed outside again


Worldwide cases: 3,484,558 (previous week 2,921,556)
Worldwide deaths: 244,786 (previous week 203,299 )
UK cases: 182,260 (previous week 148,377 )
UK deaths: 28,131 (previous week 20,319)

source