Sat 19 Jun 21:
This morning, the Horror Channel showed ‘Malibu Shark Attack’ – just another film about psychotic marine predators swept onto a crowded beach by a tsunami. And in the news, we had a story about twin sisters who decided to go for a swim in a lagoon in Mexico. One of them was attacked by a crocodile, and was saved by the other, who kept punching the animal until it released the victim.
No doubt there will be a movie soon which involves just this type of storyline…
They took my tonsils out when I was twelve. I remember waking in a hospital bed and being sick into a blue plastic bowl. Perhaps my adenoids are sleeping in a jar of formalin on a forgotten shelf, just waiting for me to come and take them home.
There were no spare beds in the children’s ward, so I ended up on the adult ward surrounded by old men who shuffled round, made slow by jagged lumps of pain. I had a small cassette player and a tape of Beethoven. The hospital sent a trainee teacher to give me some maths practice which involved modular numbers. I had just one lesson and was unable to follow his instructions, the jumble of clock-face diagrams and Pugwash boats on different coloured waves.
I remember only one meal in hospital – some kind of heavily-spiced burger, which I was unable to eat.
There was no-one to talk to. Back in those days there were no TV programmes during the day, apart from some peculiar Open University lectures, one of which featured a room full of melting plastic people. Another odd programme was a discussion of two modern poems: ‘Tea at the Palaz of Hoon’ and ‘I Dreamed that in a City dark as Paris’.
Years later I managed to track down these verse icons:
I DREAMED THAT IN A CITY DARK AS PARIS by Louis Simpson
I dreamed that in a city dark as Paris
I stood alone in a deserted square.
The night was trembling with a violet
Expectancy. At the far edge it moved
And rumbled; on that flickering horizon
The guns were pumping color in the sky.
There was the Front. But I was lonely here,
Left behind, abandoned by the army.
The empty city and the empty square
Was my inhabitation, my unrest.
The helmet with its vestige of a crest,
The rifle in my hands, long out of date,
The belt I wore, the trailing overcoat
And hobnail boots, were those of a poilu.
I was the man, as awkward as a bear.
Over the rooftops where cathedrals loomed
In speaking majesty, two aeroplanes
Forlorn as birds, appeared. Then growing large,
The German Taube and the Nieuport Scout,
They chased each other tumbling through the sky,
Till one streamed down on fire to the earth.
These wars have been so great, they are forgotten
Like the Egyptian dynasts. My confrere
In whose thick boots I stood, were you amazed
To wander through my brain four decades later
As I have wandered in a dream through yours?
The violence of waking life disrupts
The order of our death. Strange dreams occur,
For dreams are licensed as they never were.
TEA AT THE PALAZ OF HOON by Wallace Stevens
Not less because in purple I descended
The western day through what you called
The loneliest air, not less was I myself.
What was the ointment sprinkled on my beard?
What were the hymns that buzzed beside my ears?
What was the sea whose tide swept through me there?
Out of my mind the golden ointment rained,
And my ears made the blowing hymns they heard.
I was myself the compass of that sea:
I was the world in which I walked, and what I saw
Or heard or felt came not but from myself;
And there I found myself more truly and more strange.
(Perhaps these poems could be twisted around each other to generate a new hybrid literature, a tense architecture of wordy ideas.)
In the news: property developer John Bloor recently applied to build 600 homes near Ledbury. This development was universally opposed since it would create traffic problems and ruin an area of outstanding natural beauty. However, Housing Minister Christopher Pincher – dismissing the objections of the town council – gave approval to these plans, and two days later the Conservative Party received a massive donation from Mr Bloor.
This is typical of the government’s policy in recent years – allegations of sleaze and cronyism have dogged the party in relation to the awarding of Covid-related contracts. And this was regarded as one factor in the shock by-election result last week which saw Chesham and Amersham elect a Liberal Democrat MP, after being a Tory stronghold for over 40 years.
Last night the Euro 2020 football tournament continued with England playing Scotland at Wembley. Despite the fact that we are still seeing about 8,000 new cases of Covid every day in the UK, thousands of fans descended on London to drink, and dance, and cheer on their team. It was claimed that UEFA officials had demanded the right to attend the game without complying with quarantine or vaccine rules; failure to indulge them would result in the finals being moved from Wembley to Budapest.
The widespread mingling of persons who may or may not be carrying the Virus, and their dispersal from London (following the pitiful no-score draw) means that we might see a spike in Covid-19 figures in a couple of weeks’ time. Despite a determined campaign by the NHS, there remain large numbers of vaccine sceptics, who believe that Covid is not dangerous, and that the vaccine is a conspiracy to implant monitoring devices into a gullible public. Indeed, it was recently proposed that, in order to protect the elderly residents of care homes, all staff members in such places should be required by law to be vaccinated.
However, this triggered a storm of protest, with trade unions saying that compulsory vaccination would breach the Human Rights of care home workers, and that up to a third of care home staff would resign (and claim unfair dismissal) rather than accept an ‘untested, experimental’ vaccine.
MY ELECTRONIC NURSE by Romola Savile
Without a word she plunges grains of vaccine
Deep into my upper arm; I gasp and look around.
The ward is lined with neat white beds
Each one contains a tattered story book,
A catalogue of dreams, a body shape
That is, or was, or will be racked with pain
Depending on the time of day.
I’m scared I might be asked to leave
When they find out I don’t know who I am
Or why I’m here; I overheard some urgent, whispered
Conversation where they said
Some damaged organ or a useless gland
Was waiting to be found and torn apart.
She handed me the script, and said ‘Here
Is your life; it’s up to you what happens next.’
The broken paragraphs gave no idea
Of what I had to say, or when. The faded maps
Showed rough terrain that I already knew
Could not be found. A set of elegantly angled shapes
Showed me how atomic networks bite and punch
And pull apart the oyster shells where neutrons wait
Hiding somewhere in the mud, afraid to breathe
Through tightly folded wings that dream of space.