Journal Entry, 21 Nov 2020:
It’s Saturday morning, and I’m watching the Horror Channel. We have adverts for twee Cotswold home furnishings, Hello Fresh food delivery, and emergency gas repair services. Today’s film is ‘Sharknado’, the everyday story of a freak whirlwind which scoops up thousands of killer sharks and gradually scatters them over southern California. This movie rejoices in its own absurdity and has become a cult classic.
But for really preposterous action, we need to travel to the UK where Prime Minister Boris Johnson (!) yesterday leapt to the defence of Home Secretary Priti Patel. Patel is a charming woman who is keen to restore the death penalty (even though there have been numerous miscarriages of justice in Britain) and casually dismissed calls for an investigation into benefit sanctions and mental health issues.
She also worked as a lobbyist for British American Tobacco before joining a parliamentary committee to support small shops, during which role she campaigned against the introduction of plain packaging for cigarettes.
And in 2017, Patel was forced to resign from her post as Development Secretary after making unauthorised visits to senior government figures during a personal holiday in Israel.
In February 2020 Sir Philip Rutnam resigned after Patel had ordered him to dismiss Andy Tighe from his post at the Home Office on Christmas eve. This led to a cabinet office investigation into allegations that Patel had behaved in a bullying manner towards junior staff, and the final report concluded that her conduct – shouting and swearing at other civil servants – did constitute bullying, even if she was not aware of this herself.
The report’s author, Sir Alex Allan, was then asked by Johnson to tone down the report. When he refused, the PM announced that he had considered all the evidence and found that Patel had not broken the ministerial code, and was therefore not liable to face any disciplinary action.
At which point, Sir Alex resigned.
Meanwhile, back in the US, Donald Trump’s hair has staged a miraculous recovery and is now once again porn-star blond. Mister President has demanded that the votes cast in Georgia should be recounted to prove that he was the actual winner in that state. He has also launched a series of moderately incoherent legal challenges against the election result, and some observers are alarmed that his staff in the White House may be engaged on the destruction of records before he gets dragged out of the building by security officers.
And a district judge in Pennsylvania dismissed Trump’s attempted legal challenge as being ‘without merit’ – pretty damning stuff.
Later, Sunday morning:
Tonight, the Horror Channel is showing ‘Triangle’, a weird time-slip thriller movie which I really enjoyed at the cinema many years ago but have not seen since.
The Grenfell Tower inquiry has heard that when their panels failed the fire-spread test, Celotex submitted alternative sample with a different composition which passed the test. They then doctored the report so that it appeared to say that the successful test data belonged to the original – inferior – samples.
The various parties involved have been given immunity from prosecution to allow them to disclose relevant details – such as the fact that everyone knew that ‘The cladding will fail in the event of a fire’. But everything related to this case was done expressly in order to reduce the cost to the local authority.
Imagine a reworking of Duke Bluebeard’s Castle: Judith makes her way carefully across the damp cobbles in the courtyard, past the Anti-Vaxxer propaganda posters showing two crossed hypodermics beneath the slogan ‘Don’t Die of Ignorance’.
Bluebeard is already halfway down the stairs, where the paintwork is badly worn, revealing the various colours beneath.
Strange molten faces appear at intervals in the walls; Judith follows her husband along a gloomy corridor, which opens out into a round chamber with seven doors.
Room one: a gleaming white operating theatre, with chairs and tables made of clear plastic. No indications of any human activity visible here. Surgical instruments are laid out, ready for use.
Room two: a pale blue library, with vast constellations of Tarot cards of different shapes and sizes arranged over the walls and ceiling.
Room three: on elegant tables, nine wind-up gramophone players are neatly arrayed, scores perched on music-stands behind each one, while violins and French Horns hang from the ceiling. Small gold musical notes and treble-clef symbols are sprinkled across the floor.
Room four: laboratory glassware sparkles on a set of shelves, while the walls are covered with posters depicting chemical structures. Bubbles drift elegantly through tall glass columns of coloured liquid.
Room five: paintings and photographs of war and battlefield scenes cover the walls, while a glass cabinet in the centre of the room contains guns, bullets, and shells. A list of military casualties runs around the ceiling.
Room six: one end of the room is dominated by a large picture of Pope Alexander VIII, champion of the corrupt and venal empire. The other walls carry a frenzied landscape of banknotes from various ages and countries, like leaves in a blizzard.
In room seven, we encounter a series of department-store mannequins, unclothed, each bearing a printed replica face-mask of a political figure: Boris, and Priti, and Dominic, and Dido, and Matt, and Michael, and Alok, and Theresa.
They don’t care, they all say “We only did what we thought was right”.