Priti Vacant? She don’t care!

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”.

Not-so Silver Lady

Journal Entry, 15 Nov 2020:

It’s Sunday morning, and I’m watching the Horror Channel. We have adverts for talking meerkats, insurance firms and equity release policies, fancy coffee-makers, and a brand of Q-10 face cream. Today’s film is ‘Air Collision’, a sci-fi drama about air traffic control systems being disrupted by solar storms.
Naturally, this event occurs just as Air force One is on a collision course with a passenger jet. The President is a distinguished-looking executive type, not the hysterical tangerine brat we are about to lose.

In the US, President Trump gave a press conference at which he announced that ‘this administration will not be going into a lockdown’, ignoring the fact that this administration will not actually be running the country after January.
The arrogant, wisecracking trooper of last week was nowhere to be seen; instead, Trump appeared subdued and docile. His supporters have been popping up on the news, declaring that they have a catalogue of evidence to prove the wild accusations of fraud – invalid ballots and votes cast by deceased individuals.

Viewers were also startled to notice that his deranged blond bouffant has turned grey, prompting an avalanche of sarcasm – perhaps he thinks that we will now mistake him for Joe Biden, or possibly this is a side-effect of the experimental drug treatment he received before the election. And his supporters, including the rabid members of the ‘Proud Boys’  held a protest march to overturn the results of this flawed, corrupt election, which delivered 306 seats to Biden – the same number that enabled Trump to win four years ago.

Covid Statistics, 16 Nov 2020:
US 11.5 million cases, 252 thousand deaths.
UK 1.4 million cases, 52 thousand deaths.

In the news it was announced that Pfizer has had promising results from a large-scale Coronavirus vaccine trial, and they plan to start manufacturing and distribution later this year.

Unfortunately, the active ingredient is unstable and needs to be stored at minus 70 degrees. And after the end of the EU Transition period, we are expecting huge queues at ports around the UK as freight wagons struggle with unprepared customs paperwork. Large areas of Kent have been cleared for use as lorry parks, since it will no longer be possible for goods (including deep-frozen supplies of vaccine) to cross UK borders without tariffs. So we could end up with vast quantities of expensive medicine, caught up in a traffic queue, deteriorating to become a useless rancid soup. But there are large numbers of people around the UK who oppose the use of vaccines, and who would be delighted to see this turn of events.

At least we can rest secure, confident that our vaccines programme is safe in the hands of Kate Bingham, ‘taskforce tsar’, who went to school with Boris Johnson’s sister and also happens to be married to a conservative minister. Kate has no experience in healthcare, but her company received £49 million from the gov’t. And she then paid £670k to a PR firm (like, who needs a PR firm to promote vaccines in a pandemic?) which oddly enough is linked to Dominic Cummings’ father-in-law.

And a row has broken out in the corridors of power, with Dominic Cummings being dismissed from his role as senior policy weirdo. Having brilliantly engineered the Brexit campaign and a general election triumph for the Conservatives, he proceeded to break lockdown rules and then berate the press from the comfort of his chair in the Number Ten Rose Garden. The latest allegations concern derogatory comments about Carrie (Boris’s fiancée) which so annoyed the PM that he sent Dom packing.

Also in the news, it was announced that Peter Sutcliffe has died. He became famous as The Yorkshire Ripper, carrying out a series of rapes and murders in the Leeds area during the late 1970s. The police and press took a relaxed attitude to his crimes, since some of his victims were prostitutes; and a fake recording led the police on a wild goose-chase, exploiting their misogyny and inherent trust of native-born Yorkshiremen.

A silver lady statue has been unveiled in Newington Green to commemorate Mary Wollstonecraft, mother of feminism; however, the sculpture, by Maggi Hambling, has provoked scorn because it shows a pert, naked Barbie-doll figure rising from a mass of amorphous bodies. The figure doesn’t convey dignity or the radical philosophy that Wollstonecraft embodied.

Warthog Day

Journal Entry, 07 Nov 2020:

It’s Saturday morning, and I’m watching the Horror Channel. We have adverts for nasal decongestant spray, eczema treatment lotion, and food delivery services. Today they are showing ‘The Black Hole’, a sci-fi thriller where mad scientists unleash potential doom; a bit like an episode of Quatermass, but one where Nigel Kneale had been given access to documentary footage of the CERN accelerator. The end credits seem to consist mainly of special-effects and financial consultants. If I was watching this in a stranger’s bedroom on a hungover Saturday morning, we would have said to each other, ‘This isn’t Horror!’ ‘No, but it is horrible…’

Meanwhile, life in the real world proceeds as an unfolding nightmare – last week, Austrian police carried out a series of raids and made 14 arrests after a gunman murdered four people in the heart of Vienna on Monday.
The man, described as a 20-year-old Islamist terrorist who had been freed from jail last December, was shot dead by police as he fired on passers-by.

The inquiry into the Manchester Arena bombing has heard that bomber Salman Abedi was challenged by members of the public, but one of the security guards declined to approach him in case they were accused of racist behaviour. The security management firm was actively chasing cost efficiency measures and had recruited minimum-wage personnel for the Ariana Grande concert in 2017.

The US Presidential Election has taken place, and Donald Trump took to the airwaves on Wednesday night to proclaim himself winner. Some commentators (even Republican supporters) said that this announcement was premature, since a lot of the postal votes had not been counted. As the postal votes piled up, it appeared that Biden was catching up with the orange warthog, who promptly accused the Democrats of fraud and has been refusing to accept the count.

Later:
It was announced that Biden had won the state of Pennsylvania, which means that he had 273 electoral college votes; the outcome from the remaining three states would make no difference, and so the news channels projected that he was the new POTUS.

When this happened, Donald Trump was relaxing at one of his many golf clubs, and he just tweeted ‘I won the election. By a lot’ in angry block capitals. Huge crowds gathered in many large cities (no social distancing being observed here; perhaps the emotion of the day was just too much) to celebrate, cheering and dancing.

Entropy is piling up,
The crumbs and strands of accidental time
The fragments of a broken cup
And a prayer whose empty words no longer rhyme.

Goblin Virus Flush

My tarot cards betray the coming storm

Journal Entry, 01 November 2020:

It’s Sunday morning, and I’m watching the Horror Channel. As usual, we have commercials for herbal remedies, car insurance, and pension fund management. And this morning’s movie is ‘Virtual Nightmare’, a curious mixture of the Matrix and the Stepford Wives where a handsome young executive finds that his polished existence conceals another grim reality. Wholesome corporate blandness is just as awful as Dante’s vision of Hell.

Meanwhile, the world outside continues to unleash a parade of genuine misery. In the UK, after toying with an elaborate system of tiered restrictions, the Prime Minister has finally caved in to the demands of medical experts and announced that England will be placed under complete lockdown to halt the spread of Covid-19. Schools and Universities will remain open, but non-essential businesses will be forced to close.

The Turkish city of Izmir has suffered collapsed buildings and heavy flooding after a magnitude 7 earthquake struck the region on Friday, leaving 21 dead and hundreds injured.

And legendary Scottish actor Thomas (Sean) Connery has died aged 90, after a career including James Bond, William of Baskerville, Henry Jones Sr and Zed in the deranged fantasy ‘Zardoz’. This last movie also stars Charlotte Rampling, who is currently on screen in the Danish thriller series ‘DNA’.

In America, the presidential campaign is near its end; millions of US citizens have already voted ahead of the election on Tuesday, but Trump has instructed his supporters (worshippers?) to intimidate anybody planning to vote for the Democrat Joe Biden.

The hangover from the Charlie Hebdo affair (offensive cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammed) continues, with savage attacks against French individuals and culture carried out by militant Islamists.

On Thursday a 21-year-old Tunisian migrant, Brahim al-Aouissaoui, decapitated a woman and killed two other people in Notre Dame Basilica in the French city of Nice, while a Greek orthodox priest was shot outside a church in Lyons two days later.
And in Quebec, an attacker armed with a sword has killed two people and injured five others.

Latest Covid-19 figures:

USA: 9.47 million cases, 236 thousand deaths
UK: 1.03 million cases, 46.7 thousand deaths

Goblin Spasm and the Virus Flush

“Come choose your victim
Take him by surprise
Go in hard and get him
Right between the eyes and
Inject the venom” (AC/DC, ‘Inject the Venom, Young/Johnson/Young 1981)

Consider the use of antibiotics; administered doses can clear the infection, but will tend to crystallise in the joints causing inflammation and intense pain. To avoid this problem, we can disperse the drug (sulphadimidine) in a film of solid plastic, from which it can gradually leach into the stomach juices and kill the bacteria.
The plastic film could be a blend of hydrophobic monomers, or a beaten sheet of kombucha membrane from the stall at Goblin Market, where the merchant keeps a vast array of unusual skins held in place by gleaming cobalt pins.

Consider the use of cobalt soap to catalyse the curing mechanism for polymer resins. The metal ions flicker between oxidation states, causing the resin molecules to react, but in the process the catalyst becomes smothered by crosslinked material.
One possible way round this would be to trap the catalyst on a mineral carrier; we looked at using calcined alumina, snowcal, or micronized polyester, blending the cobalt soap in a solution of ketone resin and then adding dry powder until a uniform blue dust was obtained.

The cobalt took longer to react, but the resulting polymer film had no residual stresses and so showed improved flexibility and water-resistance. The addition level of the metal soap was also more uniform and gave consistent performance between batches.

Consider the ragged troupe of goblins, marching and leaping past the edge of the woods; exotic fruits piled high in baskets, gleaming with temptation. Laura and Lizzie whisper to each other, viewing the voluptuous burden and the sturdy creatures, half-man, half-beast, servants eager to take mastery over someone weak and tender.

The curious gourd, bright skins and juice like fermented honey, her pupils dilate as she bites into the soft, sweet flesh. Pinned to the grass by the weight of the sun, she watches the sky begin to writhe and crumple, surrendering to the drowsy waves. Somewhere in the distance there are rustling sounds, stifled moans, the occasional yelp of pain; she will rise in a while, a little little while, but not until the goblins and their cobalt-flavoured fruit have said goodbye.

Free School Covid

Journal Entry Sunday 25 Oct 2020:

It’s Sunday morning, and I’m watching the Horror Channel, where they are showing adverts for premium yoghurts, home insurance policies, and Foxy Bingo – an online gambling portal whose mascot is a man-sized fox in a lounge suit. Unfortunately, this reminds me of a Scandinavian crime thriller we watched last week called ‘The Bridge’, which featured a gang of eco-terrorists wearing animal masks – rat, pig and fox.

The film this morning is ‘Monster’ about a washed-up B-movie actor who is convinced that the hideous creature from his film career has escaped from the big screen and is now on the rampage.

Meanwhile, the UK is in a frenzy over the decision by MPs to block plans to provide free school meals to children in poor families during the holidays. Some politicians have taken a harsh line on this, claiming that parents are responsible for feeding their children and should not be encouraged to rely on support from hard-working taxpayers. This prompted a furious backlash from the public, who pointed out that MPs enjoy a heavily subsidised restaurant in the house of commons AND can claim expenses to cover the cost of food, travel, and heating.

Francis Bacon inside out: instead of a screaming, deformed monster perched in a square orange chamber, we need a gleaming orange sculpture in a meat-coloured dungeon.

The race to the White House enters its final week, starring Donald Trump, a washed-up reality TV show host who is convinced that the synthetic corporate strategies of his entertainment past can be translated into genuine policies. Donald really does look like an orange version of a Francis Bacon portrait.

Three Studies

Caught fast between gravity and turbulence

The loincloth falls, a tumbled corridor of pain
Until it lands across my eyes; but still I hear
The hammer driving home each tortured nail.

We hurled the angry words across the room,
And saw them clatter down the stairs, releasing
Wicked fragments that were sure to hurt
The children as they made their way to bed.

I slash the canvas, but the picture still remains
The gateway to corruption and despair.

My favourite Bench

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.

Covid – the nightmare continues

Journal Entry, 10 Oct 2020:
It’s Saturday morning, and I’m watching the Horror Channel; we have trailers for psychological torture thriller movies along with wholesome adverts for fitted wardrobes and pain-relief gel. The channel is currently showing ‘Seaquest’, an underwater version of Star Trek with scripts and set designs borrowed from Stargate One. As usual with sci-fi drama shows, nearly all the actors are white and everybody speaks English.

I look forward to my horror treats on TV; mutant zombies and suburban devil-worshippers, alien creatures or derelict blood-soaked workshops in remote Eastern European villages. But real life continues to be equally distressing.

In America, President Trump has been on the campaign trail, addressing crowds of devoted supporters and assuring them that the ‘China Virus’ is nothing to worry about. It was announced last week that he had tested positive for Covid-19, and, despite the White House having first-rate medical facilities, he was rushed to the Walter Reed military hospital for a three-day course of experimental treatments.

Trump then declared himself to be recovered, and took part in a motorcade past his army of well-wishers before appearing on the White House balcony and pulling off his face mask with a defiant flourish.
I can’t be the only person who was disappointed to see that his face didn’t come away, revealing a mass of printed circuit-boards.

Latest Covid figures:
USA 7.9 million infected, 219 thousand dead.
UK: 576 thousand infected, 47 thousand dead.

Last weekend a massive storm hit France and Italy, causing severe floods; houses and bridges were washed away, while mudslides buried dozens of cars. And in the past couple of days the US has been hit by Hurricane Delta, with storm damage causing widespread destruction in Texas and Alabama.

In the UK, the number of Covid infections is rapidly increasing, with major cities in the North facing a renewed lockdown to curb the spread of the virus. This announcement was leaked to the press, much to the annoyance of local mayors Andy Burnham and Joe Anderson. The government recently ordered pubs and restaurants to close at 10.00 each night which led to crowds gathering in the streets and rushing to the local shops to purchase more booze.

And now we are expecting to have a new, more confusing set of rules put in place, ordering people to stay home, avoid meeting in groups of more than one, and generally cease all activity.

In the news: North Korea has held a military parade, showing off a vast army of soldiers marching in perfect formation (almost like a CGI scene) and a brand-new long-distance weapon. This is a sad development since, back in April 2018, Donald Trump had persuaded the leaders of N and S Korea to embrace diplomacy. However, the initiative came to nothing, and the two nations resumed their prevailing attitude of hostility.

Into The Metaprism

Forgotten shadows wait for me
And some things never change;
Watched by rough, angry buildings I make
My way down Oxford Road; it’s quiet, stray workmen
And students blinking in the early morning light.

Offices and studios no more; instead
A weary pile of concrete slabs and rusted bars
Waits for demolition to proceed. During one of these morning walks
I must have unwittingly inhaled
A single grain of polarised unhappiness that travelled
Through the bloodstream, bouncing off the lipid corridors
And taking up position in my spine
Where it sends out random jolts of stabbing pain.

No matter where I lie, or sit, or kneel
Discomfort saturates the universe; the only cure
Is listening to Hurts on MP3 and wishing that
My pen had been the one to spill those lines.

Rule of Six

The Rule of Six

Rampaging virus doesn’t want to stop, he’s loving
Every minute of our deconstructed lives. We’re
Growing old, but how much longer? Growling
At an indifferent moon, beset by hunger and despair
As the chromium-plated bureaucrats keep cold and dusty notes
On how many people die on any given day.

The Rule of Six has been designed to help keep safe
The random citizens held captive by this town. Simple, clear
And rational advice will stop you falling victim to
The microscopic horror from the skies.

Citizen-units may gather in groups of up to six, unless:
They come from more than two households;
Any of them has been diagnosed with Covid-19
In the past fourteen days;
Any of them is displaying symptoms of the disease;
Any of them has returned from a country on the list
Of restricted destinations in the past ten days;
Or ever eaten roasted pangolin.

Citizen-units may gather in groups of up to six, provided:
They are out-of-doors and keeping
A social anti-social distance of two yards between
Each member of the gathering. The group
Must finish their activities and then disperse
By ten o’clock. To prevent the spread of this disease,
Singing, shouting and laughter are prohibited. Masks
Are to be worn at all times except when taking
Food and drink, in regulated mouthfuls using spoons
Correctly sterilised by throbbing gamma rays.

Citizen-units may gather in groups of up to six,
But must travel separately to the agreed destination
Using the correct online boarding-pass to activate
The table reservation catalogue. Physical contact
Is not allowed; the sharing of a joke might carelessly infect
Unstable persons within earshot who do not have
Defence against this cross-contamination. According

To the national anthem, please bear in mind:

“Some of us may die.
Remember, statistically
It is not likely to be you.” (PP)

Footnotes:

To find out which countries are on the restricted list, follow the guidance on your app. This list will be refreshed at exactly six o’clock each day. Failure to comply with the restriction carries a fine of up to £10,000. Failure to update the app on a daily basis carries a fine of up to £250.
Hats, scarves and gloves must be removed and placed in a clear plastic bag before taking your seat. The removal of coats, jackets and pullovers is not allowed.
Anti-bacterial hand gel conforming to British Standard VX19-614:2 must be applied at intervals of forty-five minutes or less.
The wearing of protective goggles is recommended to protect against the disinfectant spray used by hospitality premises.

More stringent lockdown conditions have been imposed on Manchester, Salford, Stockport, Oldham, Rochdale, Merseyside, Warrington and Trafford. People living in these areas may not meet up with anybody else, either indoors or outdoors, unless they form part of a designated bubble.

Like all domestic and international legal strictures, these rules do not apply to Dominic Cummings or Margaret Ferrier.

To enable citizen-units to go about their daily lives we have introduced a clear and simple structure of Tiered lockdown to be applied at different places across the UK.

To work out which Tier your neigbourhood belongs in, just use the following formula:

T = 6N(t) – 3N(i) + 5(S(a)/S(b) + G/K) + (S(a)-S(b)) – P/Q + (R(b) – R(a)) + 17.5F

Where

N(t) is the total number of people living in the borough region
N(i) is the number of infected individuals currently living in that region
P is the average number of occupants per dwelling in that region
S(a) is the number of unemployed people currently living in that region
S(b) is the number of Furloughed workers living in that region
R(a) is the Covid reproduction rate within that region as recorded no more than 2 days earlier
R(b) is the average Covid reproduction rate of the three largest neighbouring borough regions
K is the number of schools in the borough region
F is the number of hospitals (excluding specialist Nightingale medical facilities) in the borough region
G is the average household income in that region
And Q is the average number of cars per household in that region.

The restrictions applied to each Tier are as follows:

Tier 1: Individuals can gather in groups of no more than four hundred, consuming generous quantities of champagne and roasted peacock.

Tier 2: Individuals can meet up in groups of no more than seventy, drinking lavish quantities of Mateus Rose and eating Cornish Pasties.

Tier 3: Individuals can meet up in groups of thirty for special occasions such as weddings, funerals etc but any other indoor gatherings must not exceed fifteen people.

Tier 4: Individuals can meet up in groups of twelve for special occasions, but any other indoor gatherings must not exceed eight people.

Tier 5: Individuals can meet up in groups of six or more in a beer garden provided that social distancing is observed with at least two metres between people.

Tier 6: Individuals can meet up in groups of six or more in a public park provided that no consumption of food or drink takes place.

Tier 7: All public entertainment venues – cinemas, casinos and concert halls – will have to observe a 10.00 pm curfew, with social distancing of two metres observed at all times.

Tier 8: All pubs, bars and restaurants will be allowed to open for six hours a day provided that all individuals observe social distancing, and spend a minimum of twenty-five pounds per head on food and non-alcoholic drinks.

Tier 9:  Individuals must remain confined to a single room in their dwelling, with no more than three daily visits to the bathroom. All doors and windows are to be kept locked.

22 In Septimus Blue

21 Sep 2020: live Downing Street briefing from Messrs Vallance and Whitty about the ongoing Covid-19 crisis. Eight per cent of the UK population has been exposed to the virus and may therefore have some degree of immunity. In-patient numbers are increasing, the numbers infected are doubling every seven days.

One year ago: we had just returned from a trip to Eastern Europe, where we spent two weeks marvelling at the architecture and food in Prague, Brno and Budapest. Stayed in youth hostels and travelled by train between cities.

Five years ago: Journal entry, 22 Sep 2015: ‘Zingo Bildo, thousand-faced moon, look favourably on our sacrifices!’

On Monday night I went over to Manchester by train and stayed in Travelodge. Expensive fish and chips in Slug & Lettuce, and a large Shiraz in the hotel bar while watching Sky News on the TV – some pretty wild stories involving David Cameron and a pig’s head.

This morning had coffee in ‘Cheeky’ then got to the factory and had interview with two managers. I thought it went quite well, so I treated myself to wonderful home-made quiche in the station buffet.

Got home on Weds and found a voicemail from the recruitment agency; called them back and they said that the company was thinking of offering me the post at a salary of XX per annum – how does that sound.

I explained that I was already earning more than that, so there wasn’t much point moving for a cut in salary. They then said how did I feel about a slightly higher salary with a possible review after three months? No, I said: that is still less than my current salary.

‘Well, what sort of package are you looking for then?’ he asked.

If they send me a written offer of employment I’ll compare it with my present situation and make a decision.

Eleven years ago: Journal entry, 22 Sep 2009: Sent an e-mail enquiry to ‘Plastic Coatings Ltd’ in Birmingham asking if they were involved with the AWM (Advantage West Midlands Quango) project to create a ‘Thermoplastics Cluster’ and also asking if they had any jobs going.

Odd that I can still remember the moves of Pinan Shodan, after so many years without practicing.

Lots of banging from downstairs – the builders are renovating the cellar flats, presumably so the landlord can install some more ex-convict teenage scrotes.

I shall have to become a private tutor to a bunch of 13-year olds; give them an LP copy of “Heroes” and ask them to compose lyrics to all the instrumental numbers on Side Two.

Seventeen years ago: Journal entry, 22 Sep 2003: Tried to make a DER331/PABA adduct.

Rang Manda, she said National Motorcycle Museum burned down.

Rang Simon, he said Excalibur Rally is happening the same time as my weekend away in Cork.

Covid Memories

It was different back in those days; if you wanted to buy groceries in a supermarket you had to pay by cash or cheque. Before starting your trip round the shop, you would be required to queue up at the customer service kiosk and let the assistant stamp the back of your cheque to enable it to be used for payment at the till. And yet, just a year later, I saw my first-ever barcode scanner at the Presto supermarket in Harrow.

On Wednesday nights I would join my two housemates for a couple of pints in the Red Lion. We shared a house on the outskirts of Leicester; two chemistry students, one computer scientist, and our landlady. The journey into town was too far, taking us past the cattle market and the prison, so we just went to our local and sat at (usually) the only free table, near the door.

‘Are you coming, then?’ asked Dave.

‘Yeah, hang on, just setting this up.’ I had a portable cassette radio on which I would record concerts broadcast on Radio Three, and this evening the last item was Beethoven Three. The leader and conductor made their way onto the platform; I waited for the applause to die down, then pressed the record and play buttons and dashed out.

We sat in the pub drinking lager-and-lime, arguing about the merits of various academic pursuits, and listening to Culture Club (who I mistakenly thought were UB40) on the jukebox. Then, at about ten o’clock we would leave to walk home. Back in those days all pubs had to close at ten-thirty, and it would be too late to get a snack from the local chippy.

The landlady would still be up when we got back in, watching TV or knitting. John offered to make us a coffee, and I went upstairs to check if my tape had captured the entire symphony.

I scanned back, and back a bit further until I heard the furious closing pages of the finale, and applause. After the concert we had a news summary, during which the announcer said that police in London were investigating the discovery of human remains at a house in Muswell Hill.

I turned the machine off and went downstairs to chat to the others before turning in for the night.

I was reminded of this when I saw the trailer for a new TV drama called ‘Des’ starring David Tennant  as Dennis Nilsen, the lonely serial killer who butchered young men and who was caught after their body parts blocked the drains at his rented house. Tennant gives a horribly convincing portrayal of this callous misfit, a nondescript civil servant with limp, side-parted hair and harmless-looking spectacles.

Two years later, in 1985, I found myself in London. I enjoyed going to pubs and meeting other men. One of them lived in Muswell Hill, and when we went back to his house one night he pointed out a nearby bus stop. ‘That’s where Dennis Nilsen would get off the bus with his victims.’ he said.

I enjoyed London; cinemas, theatres, etc. I went to see lots of chamber music and orchestral concerts, including a performance of aggressively modern work played by the LSO under Pierre Boulez. The Royal Festival Hall was busy, but not full; and I wondered how many people would listen to this piece if it was shown on BBC One as part of a Prom Season. (Diary note: ‘Went to see Boulez, he conducts like a policeman directing traffic’)

It has recently been announced that the members of the LSO are to be given access to a new Covid-19 diagnostic tool, the DNA-Nudge box. This magical device takes a cotton-bud swab of saliva, whirls it round for half-an-hour, and then delivers a verdict to let you know if you are infected with Covid or not.

Health secretary Matt Hancock has been lauding the virtues of this device for months now, and the government has given 160 million pounds to the developers, a research team based at Imperial College; however, scientific appraisal is thin on the ground, and the units are still hard to find, despite us being promised that a nationwide roll-out was scheduled for September 2020.

I suspect that Hancock and his comrades are so easily dazzled by anything remotely technical that they willingly handed over the money, keen to find a solution to the UK epidemic of this new virus. One is reminded of the infamous ‘Bomb Detector’, a cheap plastic item carrying an aerial and a printed circuit-board. This object had originally been marketed as a novelty joke device for finding lost golf balls, but a shrewd entrepreneur had spotted that the UK government was totally ignorant when it came to anything scientific. He organised some fancy packaging, a series of ‘demonstrations’ to prove that the aerial would respond to the presence of concealed explosive materials, and promptly made a small fortune on the back of a worthless product.

https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/conman-james-mccormick-sold-golf-1850330

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/10205295/Bomb-detector-conman-convicted-of-fraud.html

https://www.cnet.com/news/man-accused-of-selling-golf-ball-finders-as-bomb-detectors/

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-23768203

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/only-scientist-in-commons-alarmed-at-mps-ignorance-2041677.html

https://www.ft.com/content/2f4f624c-543f-11e8-b3ee-41e0209208ec

https://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/1317716/coronavirus-test-UK-hospital-care-homes-Second-wave