Journal Entry, 17 Oct 2020:
It’s Saturday morning, and I’m watching the Horror Channel; there are trailers for crime drama series and a psycho-slasher movie called ‘The Resident’ starring Christopher Lee. The film they’re showing today is Tremors 2 – Aftershock, about subterranean Lovecraft-type mutant warthogs. I can’t help noticing that a couple of the lead actors bear a faint resemblance to Kevin Bacon. I bet the script had faint beige footnotes on each page, saying ‘the guy with the mustache always ends up dead’.
Meanwhile, real life continues to offer up a continuing parade of genuine horrors: in Paris yesterday, a teacher was attacked and beheaded in the street by an assailant yelling ‘allahu akbar’ after he used images of the prophet Mohammed during a class discussion on freedom of speech. Whatever that is…
Following his treatment with steroids, hydroxychloroquine, chlorox and remdesivir, President Trump is back on the campaign trail, claiming that he has achieved immunity to Covid. We were treated to the bizarre spectacle of this 74-year old dancing on stage to the gay anthem ‘YMCA’.
And in the UK, the three-tier system has been introduced with medium, high and very high infection zones. Liverpool and Lancashire have both been given tier three rating; oddly enough, gymnasia have been ordered to close in Liverpool but are allowed to remain open in Lancashire.
Happiness is a Cold Bench
Stuck here on my favourite bench
I watch the abandoned gateway
Echo the gaps that fly between
The vans that interrupt the passing cars.
I suck the daily diesel fumes
Deep into my hollow personality
With any luck
I won’t have to wait too long
Before a hungry lorry driver asks me
If there’s room to leave his truck.
I was looking at the boiler this morning and found a sticker which said ‘Last Serviced: 30 July 1986’ which gives some insight to the world of property rental in the UK. Back in 86, as I recall, we were on the brink of the financial Big Bang, when everybody got swept up in the giddy euphoria of militant capitalism.
My local newspaper, the Evening Mail, was fairly conservative and would regularly feature letters from the headmaster of a Catholic School in the region. This correspondent delivered regular, boring missives in which he fulminated against the crawling decadence of society; he particularly despised gay men, and would describe with unseemly relish the various STIs that affected them. And he never ended a letter without reminding everybody that gay men were responsible for the raging epidemic of AIDS, and that (according to the Association of British Actuaries) most gay men were unlikely to live past the age of 42.
And in 1986 I went to a job interview at a firm called Holdens, in Bordesley Green; they sent a detailed letter explaining that I would be required to attend a technical interview and a medical examination, and that I should bring with me copies of my qualifications.
I arrived on time – a cold October day, as I recall – and talked about my technical background and career prospects. Then the interviewer said ‘I’d be interested to know what sort of person you are. What do you like to do in your spare time?’
Since I was unemployed, I had very little money to spend on leisure activities, and told him that I enjoyed occasional visits to the library, the botanic gardens, and the cinema.
‘And what about home life? Are you married?’ When I said no, he proceeded to ask for more details: Why not? Do you have a girlfriend? No? Why not? Do you see yourself getting married at some point?’
I replied that I had no immediate plans to marry, but I expected that I would eventually do so. He then asked me to wait while they called the works doctor, who checked my blood pressure and weight, asked about my consumption of alcohol and tobacco, and told me to remove my lower garments and then cough.
After this procedure I was invited back to the office and told that they were interviewing a number of candidates, and that I would hear from them in about two weeks’ time.
Perhaps they did reply; I can’t remember ever getting a letter from them.
And in 1986, we also saw the launch of a new broadsheet paper called the Independent, which claimed to be outside the standard left-right political structure. When the Duchess of York gave birth to her first child, most of the press devoted several fawning pages to the new royal, speculating on possible names, careers and astrological destiny for the baby.
The Indie, meanwhile, contented itself with a small item tucked away in the corner of page 8, announcing that both mother and child were doing well. Several commentators raged that this was disrespectful – treasonous, even – and demanded that the editor be sent to jail.