Posts Tagged ‘lockdown’

One of the inevitabilities of being stuck in the flat during lockdowns this year and last has been that I’ve been watching some ‘old’ telly. ITV4 and Drama and a couple of other channels have bought the rights to, and have been showing, tv shows from – hog, gods, I can’t believe I’m actually writing these words – fifty or more years ago. I mean, yeah. 1971 was sixty years ago.

I mean, it’s tough enough watching Top Of The Pops from back then, but there are a lot of shows that I watched in part to see how well they’d aged, and in some cases to see how poorly.

So, the usual reminder for all of these Ten Things… they’re not the best, nor necessarily my favourites. They’re just Ten Things/Subjects I like… at the time of writing, or in this case ten things I’ve been watching.

1. The Saint
If there’s ever a show that typifies the period, and the period in television, it’s surely The Saint. I was a huge fan of the books, both the collections of short stories and the novels. But I’m pretty sure I encountered Simon Templar for the first time on telly. The plots weren’t exactly labyrinthine, and usually involved Templar, played of course by Roger Moore in a role he was made for, saving some young woman from one bad fate or another. They were fun shows, and occasionally showed the Templar of the books, but only occasionally.

(As I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to have less patience with adaptations that don’t, y’know, actually adapt the books nor even the characters. It’s just a character with the same name and not a lot else.)

The Saint is fun though, and it’s a pleasant way of passing an hour. But not much more.

(I have fond memories of Ian Ogilvy’s stint in Return of the Saint, but I suspect it’s aged very, very badly)

There was an attempt to revamp the character fairly recently. I quite liked the promo for it, but I’ve no idea what happened to the show.


 
 
2. Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased)
I genuinely expected this show to have aged far, far more than it has. You could remake it now with exactly the same scripts, exactly the same wardrobe, and better production values and it would work as a period drama.

Most of that is down to the partnership between Mike Pratt as Jeff Randall, a private investigator in London, and Kenneth Cope as Marty Hopkirk, his deceased former partner who comes back as a ghost to… help him. At first it’s merely to solve his own murder, but then he’s stuck on the ‘mortal plain’. Oh, and mustn’t forget Annette Andre as Hopkirk’s widow, and all the fun that goes along with her slowly recovering from the loss of her great love (which is greeted by Hopkirk with sorrow then mild annoyance that she’s moving on with her life.)

It’s a fun show; the effects for the time are great and the puzzlment of both Randall and Hopkirk as they discover both their new relationship and what ‘the rules’ are for Hopkirk moving forward.

The scripts are cracking, the dialogue is fun and watching their relationship evolve is huge fun.

(There was a reboot with Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer in 2000, played for comedy; the less said about that, the better, although it might have worked had Reeves played Randall and Mortimer played Hopkirk, instead of the other way around, and upped the drama and lowered the comedy. If they’d have remade the show in other words instead of fucking around with it.)

This is from the pilot of the original, when Randall discovers Hopkirk is still around…

 
 
3. Star Trek
Yeah, I’m about to be heretical. I realised I hadn’t actually seen the original series for years, so when they reran it, I watched most of them.

OK, so the remastered effects work fine, and the scripts are fine. And the plots, for the most part, when they’re not being crassly ‘contemporary’ and ‘relevant’ are also fine. Some of them are flat out amazing. But… the acting. The acting often… isn’t fine. Nimoy is wonderful, always. Kelley is great, almost always. And Nicholls is rarely anything but fantastic. But… Shatner? Sorry, but I found myself watching the show despite Shatner, and the same applies to Doohan.

You can’t help but pay respect to the show for what it spawned but of the more than sixty episodes, there are maybe a dozen and a half I actually enjoyed watching. Which saddens me, immensely.

And since you’ve all probably seen every clip that exists about Star Trek, here’s an evolution of Warp Speed in Star Trek.

 
 
4. The Persuaders
Now, if you’re looking for a show that’s aged, very, very badly… you can’t do better than this show. I loved it when I watched it at the time; both Roger Moore and Tony Curtis seemed, to me, to be having loads of fun. Learning later that they didn’t much like each other, and indeed each regarded the other as lazy may have tarnished my enjoyment.

But what topped it off was discovering there were basically three plots the entire time, and most of them involved either one of them being mistaken for someone else, or getting involved with some affair or another against their wishes, but what the hell, we’re here now so we may as well...

The original idea, only kept for a handful of episodes after the pilot (which is good, and remains good) was that they were highly resourceful, very intelligent men who were successes at what they chose to do but they were rich and bored and… wastrels. So they get blackmailed by Laurence Naismith’s retired judge into going after people who ‘got away with it’. Could have been a great show. The first couple of episodes looked like it was going to be a great show.

And then they threw away any sense of seriousness and went for the comedy, and slapstick comedy at times. A decent idea, with decent actors.… thrown away.

Oh, and the plots, dialogue, attitudes and costumes have aged horrendously. (I’m not sure how a show made a decade after The Saint has aged far more than that show did, but bloody hell it did…)

Two saving graces: one episode in which there’s a double of Moore’s character wandering around, which had a first class mystery and resolution, and one episode where Curtis’ character meets up with a childhood friend… who turns out to be a contract killer. And Moore and Curtis fall out over it. Genuine drama, genuine conflict. Very well portrayed.

Oh, and the opening titles which are clever as hell.

 
 
(And while this would never happen, I kind of liked this ‘update’ of them…)


 
 
5. Blake’s 7
I mentioned above that I watched Star Trek for every reason other than the acting of the main character. I can’t say the same about Blake’s 7. The ”main’ character – Blake (Gareth Thomas) when the show starts, then Avon (Paul Darrow) – was never less than screen grabbing, for entirely different reasons, but the acting of all the Marion protagonists and antagonists were fantastic, throwing themselves completely into the ‘seriousness’ of the show’s premise.

The scripts were great, the plots were… on-and-off great. The production values were less than great most of the time, although the props were great, the Liberator‘s hand guns looked fantastic and I wanted one when I was a kid. Hell, I want one now.

The show was dark as hell more than half the time and the ‘goodies’ lose as many times as they won. And while the goodies were the goodies, the people you were supposed to root for, sometimes they didn’t make it easy.

It’s a show that’s ripe for a reboot, and I’d love to see one.

 
 
6. The Protectors
This show should not work. I repeat; it should not work. Three impossibly smart, glamorous (for the time) private investigators working around the world, being hired for [half hour] missions, for a tv show whose prime thing seems to be showing how many different places around that world they can show.

And yet it does. I wouldn’t put it all down to the opening and closing titles, but I’m not not putting it down to the opening and closing titles.


 
 
7. The Champions
The Champions is utter rubbish from start to finish, with plot holes in every episodes you could drive a truck though, wooden acting (when the baddies aren’t chewing the furniture) and for secret agents with super powers – gained when they crash their plane in the Himalayas – they’re not very, erm, secret.

I love it. Every episode is silliness and deftness and utterly stupid. And bad enough to enjoyable fun.

 
 
8. The Fugitive
I don’t think I’d ever seen the show until it started being shown over lockdown. I mean, sure I’d probably seen the odd clip here and there and I knew the story of course. But my main familiarity with it was through the movie.

So I watched it. It’s surprisingly good, given its very basic plot structures and how often some basic plots are repeated; I can definitely see where Kung Fu and The Incredible Hulk got most of their ideas from. David Jansen is superb; no surprise there, he usually was in anything, and the Javert-like Inspector Gerrard (played by Barry Morse) was superb in the role he was handed.

It was everyone else in the show; I struggled to give the slightest toss about any supporting characters, and in the end, I just gave up the struggle. This was probably my biggest disappointment. I wanted to like this show, but in the end… I didn’t.

 
 
9. Perry Mason
Now this was a show I was actively looking forward to when they announced it was being run. And, sadly, though not on the same level as The Fugitive, there was that same ‘I genuinely don’t care about the case of the week, nor the fate of the characters who appear’.

I liked Della Street, and Paul Drake (more than I’d expected to) and very much liked the resident District Attorney Hamilton Burger, but to my astonishment, I really didn’t like Perry Mason much at all. A superb lawyer, sure, but not someone I’d want to spend much, if any, time in the company of.

(I find it genuinely odd how much my views were influenced, and not in a good way, by the TV movies. That Perry Mason was someone I’d like to have known, as I would that Della Street.)

 
 
10. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Everything a british spy tv should be. Everything the Gary Oldman movie got wrong, this got right and Alex Guinness was probably the best George Smiley there will ever be (though it continues to amuse me that Guinness at first didn’t think he was suitable for the role and suggested Arthur Lowe for the job).

Add in the cast from heaven and you have a show I could watch once a month for the rest of my life and still find something new every time.

One thing that’s rarely spoken on, even by those who rightly praise the adaptation to the skies: how cleverly the ‘last episode…’ opening to every episode after the first is. They re-show the final scene of the previous episodes… but shot from a different angle. I’ve never seen it done elsewhere and my gods it off-balances you every bloody time.

Superbly done.


 

OK, one more bonus bit of whimsy from the past. The ‘directors commentary’ on a classic kids’ tv show from when I was growing up: Mary, Mungo and Midge. There is no reason for me to include this other than pure silliness. But that is, of course, among the best reasons for doing anything.


If you enjoyed this Ten Things, I’ve done others, less ‘about me’ ones which are probably more pleasant to read…


See you tomorrow, with… something else.

 

 

Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 slowly approaching.


I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

During the last huge blog run, I did a stack of ‘ten things’ I liked: individual episodes of tv shows, individual comic book issues, and pilots, and two on old movies ,then one on old-ish movies, and a couple about podcasts. And I wrote a series of Doctor Who posts, about each incarnation/regeneration, and my sometimes tenuous relationship with the show.

So, I figured I’d do it again in this run. A couple of weeks ago, I did one on things I’ve been watching during the various lockdowns, And last week, some shows I’ve been rewatching just to enjoy the rewatch.

However, I got a bit carried away in the writing, so cut it short. This is the second part of it, ok? Good.

As before, there will of course be omissions. Your favourite shows probably won’t be here. And if I have to point you again towards Budgie’s Law of Popular Television: y = x + 2 to explain why, I will…

As always, the usual reminder for all of these Ten Things… they’re not the best, nor necessarily my favourites. They’re just Ten Things/Subjects I like… at the time of writing. (And why.)
 
 
OK, so last week, we did The West Wing, Doctor Who, Yes, [Prime] Minister, and the Arrowverse Crossovers.… That’s four. Here are the other six.

Moving on…

The Honourable Woman
I tell myself I rewatch this show every so often as much for the story as for the acting. And I’m lying to myself every time,.

Rewatching this is a pure indulgence, because, given the actors involved, I’d rewatch if the entire show was the actors merely reading pages from the phone book, interspersed with their shopping lists.

Every single member of the cast – which includes Maggie Gyllenhaal, Andrew Buchan, Lubna Azabal, Stephen Rea, Janet McTeer, Katherine Parkinson, Tobias Menzies and Lindsay Duncan – blow the screen apart every time they appear. I’d say each of them steal every scene they’re in, but they don’t. They steal every bloody line, and then it’s stolen right back by the next person to speak. The entire show is a masterclass of understated acting, every scene a story in its own right, and the passion and anger shown on rare occasions hits you in the gut, then grabs your heart, and refuses to let go.

It’s incredibly good.


 
 
A Touch Of Cloth/Police Squad
A complete change of tone for this one. And I’m putting them together not because I’m cheating or couldn’t decide between the two, perish the thought. No, they’re essentially the same programme, just with different settings, different intentions and different writers, actors and production crew. (Whistles innocently)

But they’re the same. They’re shows where you see the gags coming precisely a fifth of s second before they land, and instead of making you bored by the anticipation, it somehow makes you part of the experience, every bloody time.

I suppose if I were to have to separate out the two, A Touch of Cloth’s target is British police procedurals. Every other gag takes as its target something you don’t even realise is a trope, identifies it, targets it, hits the target spot on, then searches for the next one.

And when I say you didn’t realise it, here’s one example. Those screens that police put photos on, and write on, when making up an incident board. Why are they transparent? So the camera can be placed behind it and you can still see the actors. There’s no other reason why they should be transparent. See what I mean?

Or how an investigating officer, turning up at a crime scene, is greeted by his subordinates not with a “good morning” or similar, but instead by rapid-fire exposition about the victim.

There is a plot to each A Touch Of Cloth (two parts to each story) but even that takes the piss out of standard police drama tropes: the first, the burned out, widowed, misanthropic cop forced to return to work, for example.

The show concentrates more on the situational and visual gags than the verbal gags, but they’re there as well.

Police Squad, on the other hand, while still doing the whole ‘let’s take the piss out of US police dramas’, relegates the plot to solely being in service to the gags. Like Airplane (from where it came) and The Naked Gun which it spawned, it’s sole aim is to throw as many gags, verbal and visual, at the viewer in the hope that some stick. Some of the gags are a straight feed line=>response, some are more complicated. All are gloriously funny to someone, and if you don’t like an individual gag, hang around, there’ll be another one along in a moment.

The State Within
Back to the politcial thriller genre for this one. There’s no reason I should think of The State Within in the same vein as State of Play, but I often do. It can’t be because they both have the word ‘State’ in the title, as does ‘Deep State’, can it? (Spoiler: it almost certainly is). But while State of Play, excellent though it is, isn’t something I regularly rewatch, The State Within very much is. The actors are superb in it, the dialogue crackles, and every character in the show is… believable. I mean, I have no idea whether or not people in positions of power actually behave like this, but I’m quite prepared to believe they do. Besides, Jeremy Isaacs as a British Ambassador, Neil Pearson as his Deputy Head of Mission and Ben Daniels as his ‘counsellor of Extremal Affairs (his MI6 bloke) are superb in the roles they play, perfectly cast.

It starts with a plane exploding as it takes off, and moves through a British soldier on death row, fraud, embezzlement, and a rogue former ambassador who got fed up (if you believe him) with, as they say, the job of being sent abroad to lie for his government.

The plot is clever, the pacing gloriously varied but perfect for each scene, and there’s always a sense of everyone being slightly out of their depth, but always, well almost always, rising to the occasion.

Add in a slowly developing love story in there – which I have no idea how they pull off, but they do – and I really, really like rewatching how the show develops.

After watching it, I’m always torn between the wish for a sequel warring against the the knowledge that none was needed. I always come down on the side of being glad they didn’t make one, with the slightest very tinge of regret.

 
 
The Sandbaggers
OK, full blown for the spy genre for the next two, but while both show complete disdain for the ‘James Bond’ type of spy story, they’re about as different as they can be. Sandbaggers is very much of its time, the mid-to-late 1980s, and the lead protagonist is as ‘anti-Commuiist’ as you’ll find in fiction, but like every character in the show, deeply damaged. As a person, I mean.

(And not for the first time, I wonder why it is that I find seriously damaged characters so interesting, so much more interesting than merely slightly damaged ones. A blog entry for another time, maybe.)

The basic setup is simple: British intelligence, SIS, the secret intelligence service, MI6 as its popularly known. There’s a Chief of Service, a Deputy Chief, Directors of Operations and Intelligence, Station Chiefs, the usual… but within the Director of Operations’ purview is a small group, a three person team, known as Sandbaggers. They do the dirty work, the blackmails, the killings when necessary (and when they can get permission… when they ask for it, that is).

They’re underpaid, they’re at various levels of experience. And, unless they’re very very lucky, they get killed doing their job.

In the twenty-odd episodes, spread over three series, four of them don’t make it out alive and we learn through the series that three were killed before the show started.

What I love about this show is that every – almost every – character evolves during the run. You learn more about most of the characters and it shows how under pressure, high pressure, you can work with people you dislike intensely, with people you show respect only to because of their position. And, crucially, how you can trust people you don’t like, but you can also learn that people you like… can disappoint you, can betray your trust. And yet you still have to work with them, for ‘the greater good’.

This clip is from the end of the first episode, where Neil Burnside, played by Neil Marsden, almost lost two of his agents due to the naïveté and incompetence of his Norwegian opposite number… who tried to con SIS.


 
 
 
 
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
There’s not much to say about this show other than ohnmygodit’sgreatyoushouldwatchitasoftenasyoucan.

So I’ve said it. Now watch it. (It’s on iPlayer right now, and pisses from a great height all over that movie they made.)

OK, a bit more. Every actor acts their socks off, and every character is rounded and human, and just a little bit more dangerous than they at first appear. It’s a show in praise of duty, and of secrets, and of never, ever forgetting who you can, and cannot, trust. And, oddly, about love.

I’m not sure there is an official trailer for the show, but that hasn’t stopped some people making their own. I particularly like these two.


 
  

I had intended to write about House MD or The Blacklist for my final one this week; both great shows and both are strange exceptions to my ‘I won’t rewatch individual episodes of shows which have a multi-season arc’. I’ve enjoyed rewatching individual episodes of both. Despite having to ignore the sub-sub-plot of the seasons-long arc, the main plot and sub-plot from individual episodes of each show are engrossing enough on their own to watch again and again.

But in the end, I couldn’t separate them. So, something entirely different, something that entirely took me by surprise, much as my discovery of Jeopardy took me by surprise when I started enjoying it more more more to my utter astonishment.

My final pick of the ‘stuff I’ve enjoyed rewatching’:

Connections
Not just the show itself, which I’ve enjoyed watching my copies of again, but season 2.

Y”see, season 1 was an hour long show. Ten episodes about that master of explaining science and history and their interaction, James Burke. And Series 3 was similarly, one hour (of US tv, ok) episodes.

For series 2, however, they made twenty half-hour episodes and on previous rewatches, I’ve not enjoyed them as much. For a start, they’re only – shorn of ads – about twenty-minutes’ each. I mean, they’re not bad tv, and the’re chock full of information. And Burke changed the emphasis from the connections of innovations themselves to the connections between the various reasons for the processes of innovation.

But I’ve found myself watching, over the period of eight weeks or so, watching one episode a night before I head bedwards. Not always immediately before aiming head at pillow, but yeah, somewhere around midnight, putting an episode on and watching the twenty-minutes or so.

And I’ve loved it. It’s been very enjoyable, very informative, and the bite-sized chunks have been exactly what I’ve needed before wending my way towards my bed. Huh.

No, don’t worry, I’m not about to make you I watch a whole episode.

Instead, here’s what’s often said to be one of the finest moments of ‘timing your shot’ in television, from the first series. Enjoy.

 
See you tomorrow, with… something else. It’s Saturday tomorrow, so you know what to expect.

 

 

Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.


I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

“How are you?’

“Hope you’re well…”

Two platitudes, two phrases – ok, one question, one wish – which have taken on a whole new level of seriousness and importance the past month or so.

I’m far from the first person to realise that, but it’s something that’s now pretty much universally accepted that there’s every possibility that the response to both might well not be what you were expecting to hear.

And that’s far from the only change in communications that’s arisen.

A telephone voicemail with merely “Hey, it’s [me/your brother/mother/dad]” and “call me” might previously have been just to save time.

Now it leaves, as a friend mentioned today on Twitter, an impression of trouble; you could be calling to let them know that someone’s ill, or that someone’s died.

Things that didn’t previously need to be said… now need to be said. Both to avoid confusion and to remove ambiguity… and also to reassure the other person that you are ok, that you aren’t unwell, that you don’t have bad news to communicate.

But that “how are you?” question. It’s being asked not only out of genuine worry and honest enquiry, but because most people don’t want to worry their family and friends, so unless they’re asked, they won’t say that yes, in fact, they’re feeling ill, or even, that they’re not doing so great, they’re struggling at the moment.

While we’re all still getting used to this new world in which physical presence is not only not recommended, it’s pretty impossible… we’re also having to get used to the poor substitute of video calls. Of Zoom and FaceTiming and WhatsApp and Skype and Hangouts… and any others of the dozen or so common video calling apps.

Now I’m not… old. For all my joking about feeling ancient, I’m 55. (That shouldn’t exactly be a surprise) But it does mean that I come from a generation to which video calling for the most part is not how we learned to communicate.

My son is 24. He’s been video calling his girlfriends almost since he had girlfriends. But, with a couple of rare prior exceptions, it’s only since the lockdown that he’s videocalled with his mother and me. We’ve had a couple of Zoom conversations, the three of us involved: him in Wales, my ex-wife in Barnet, and me in the flat in Abbey Road. They’ve been nice, exactly what they should be. But they’re still kind of new to me and his mum. (Less so to his mum, to be fair, since she’s been using Zoom for work.)

And despite the enjoyment we had in the chats, despite the similar enjoyment I had when FaceTiming with friends the other evening… I’m still not sure that I’m… ok with it.

Partly, of course, this is due to me being… well, me. I’m not a fan of me being on video. It’s even worse than having a photo taken.

Because, despite the annual A Life In Pictures post, I loathe having my photo taken… or at least I loathe having it taken where I don’t get to control what happens to the photo after it’s taken. There are lots of photos of me in that post. Not one of them is a photo that I do not want others to see.

I mean, I joke every year that I’ve been about as embarrassed over the decades’ old photos as I’m ever going to be, but let’s be honest: if I didn’t want the photos in the post, they wouldn’t be there.

And with maybe half a dozen exceptions, I knew each photo was being taken at the time What I detest is so called ‘candid’ photos. Because I don’t like how I look in them, although I’m frankly astonished if I come out looking anything other than horrible. Hell, I don’t like how I look anyway, but I definitely don’t like how I look in candid shots.

So you can imagine how much I ‘enjoy’ being on video when my face, with all its faults, is on display.

Shudder.

But much as the walk is worth the foot pain it’s going to cost me, so far – so far at least, being able to see friends and family is worth the dislike of being on video.

So far.

It’s good to see them, it’s good to see that they’re well. To know that when I ask “how are you?” I can see the evidence that they’re ok.

To anyone reading this, I hope that you’re well… and that you stay so.
 
 
Something else, tomorrow…

Sorry about skipping yesterday; I really wasn’t in the mood to write anything, let alone a blog.

I’m not wholly convinced I’m in that much less of a bad, melancholy, mood today, but after yet another crap night’s sleep, I kind of feel that if I don’t write something today, the blog will lapse into disuse again. One day off I can allow myself. More than that? No.

Because the past week hasn’t exactly been great for a lot of people, and that includes me.

Oh, that sleep reference? Well, this is what I wrote around 5 am this morning.

As for the rest, well, I can’t say that it suddenly hit me, the full absurdity of nuttiness in which we find ourselves; it’s not been sudden at all. It’s been growing day by day since before the harsh ‘lockdown’, but the last week has been rough.

And I’m one of the luckier ones. I mean, though I know people who’ve got coronavirus, I don’t personally know anyone who’s died. I know people who have lost people, and know of some others, but those who’ve died? No, I didn’t know any of them personally.

As far as I know, anyway.

That’s not going to last.

Six weeks ago, more or less, a friend predicted that in the very near future, we’d all know someone who’d died of this bastard virus. I can’t honestly say that I decried the idea, nor that I swallowed it unquestionably. But yeah, I was foolish enough to not wholly agree at the time.

Yeah, they were right, I believe.

And given the increases we’re now seeing – a reminder, those who are dying now, picked up the infection before the lockdown started – I suspect that horrible moment is going to come a lot sooner than even they feared.

Another friend of mine said, ages ago, that I’m ‘dangerously’ content in my own company. I’m not sure I’d agree with the adjective, but content in my own company? Oh, definitely. I’ve been very determinedly single for many years, and I haven’t been either the most social or sociable of people for more than a decade. I wish I could blame that on the mental health issues that became apparent almost ten years ago. I really wish I could do that, but it’d be cheap and nasty and self-serving to do so.

The truth is that I was never the most social nor sociable of people before that; the problems I had may have exacerbated it, but no more than that.

(Oh, by the way, you wouldn’t believe how pissed off I am whenever I see someone online suggesting that that those who live on their own and aren’t very social are handling it better… because I’m not. At all.)

What I have had over the past few years, though, to help me in my mostly solitary life, are a set of ‘safety nets’ .

One of them was grabbing coffee and having a regular catchup with my ex-wife, my lad’s mother. Laura’s lovely, and as I wrote at the end of last year:

Laura’s one of my favourite people on the planet. As well as being Phil’s mum, she’s been a part of my life for coming up on thirty years. We catch up for coffee every week or so, and if for some reason we can’t, there feels something fundamentally wrong with the world.

She’s a lovely lady; smart and funny. And I like her enormously. I’m very pleased she entered my life in 1992; that she’s still in it is A Good Thing.

I wouldn’t change a word of that. But who knew that when I wrote it, that the “…and if for some reason we can’t, there feels something fundamentally wrong with the world” would come to seem so prescient?

So, yes, Laura’s one of my safety nets.

Another is the Family Benn. I wrote about them as well in that post. But not being able to see them every week, to see Clara and Roger and the kids, to see Mitch… hurts. And I hate it. I truly hate that I can’t see my closest friends, and can’t share laughter and silliness and physical presence, let alone physical contact.

The other ‘safety net’ is one I’ve been well aware of for a very long time: being surrounded by people, usually at a coffee shop, who don’t know me and don’t give a damn about me (and it’s reciprocated in full, I assure you)… but it is being surrounded by… people. It eases the ‘yeah, I’m on my own’, just a bit, and highlights the difference between being on my own… and being lonely.

As I say, I’ve been single for a long time. And usually, mostly, almost exclusively, I like it. Or at least I’m fairly good-naturedly resigned to it. With occasional phases of being very bad-naturedly resigned to it, admittedly.

But never have I loathed it like I have the past couple of weeks. Never have I utterly detested my own company so frequently, so hugely, and so definitely.

Now, I shouldn’t need to say the following, but since every day there’s more evidence to justify the old saw”nothing is ever ‘needless to say’…”, of course I’m following the government guidelines/rules.

I’m only leaving my small flat for exercise (an hour’s walk), to go shopping, and occasionally for medical reasons, to pick up a prescription from the pharmacy or – as I’ll do in about two weeks – to donate blood. And when I return, I’m washing my hands. As I’m doing on a regular basis anyway.

(Not for nothing, but while I have no idea which songs you’re using to mark the ’20 seconds’ you’re supposed to wash your hands to, I’m using the first chorus of of (I’m) Reviewing The Situation from Oliver! That takes a little over 20 seconds.)

Other than that, I’m staying inside, I’m reading, watching tv… and struggling to do either for more than about 20 minutes at a go. I’m writing, a bit.

I’m going out for a walk… when the foot allows, and even sometimes if it doesn’t, knowing that getting out for a walk is – just about – worth the pain the walk will reward me with later that evening. I’m struggling with that balance as well.

“Struggling”. Yeah, that’s the word.

Especially since, yeah, as I mentioned above, I don’t really have anything to complain about… compared to many, many others. Others have people ill in their families, others have friends and relatives who’ve died. Others go into work in the NHS, working in horribly stressful conditions and, while protecting themselves as much as possible, look after patients seriously ill with this bugger of a virus. Others have lost their jobs, their income has collapsed, or they’ve physical problems that make my fucked up foot look in perfect health by comparison.

Me? I’m stuck on my own, and keeping myself to myself… which is what I’ve been doing for the most part for the past few years anyway.

So, yeah, you can add ‘feeling guilty about feeling shit’ to the mix.

I’ve been better.


Before I close this entry: a note of thanks, to everyone who’s currently using their time, either through their work or while they’re staying home, who are… making life better for someone else. Whether it’s singers and artists bringing enjoyment to others, comedians lightening the mood even if just temporarily, or those sharing their lives with others, letting them know they’re not alone, that everyone is finding it tough right now. Thank you. Thank you so much.

And, of course, thank you to everyone in the NHS, from the doctors and nurses on the front line, to receptionists, to those maintaining the equipment, to those managing the organisations… to everyone. Thank you…
 
 
Something a bit more cheerful, or at least less melancholy, tomorrow.

I’d planned to restart the Ten Things today, but to be honest, I’m not in the mood. And I’m not entirely sure what do a Ten Things about anyway. I’ll have a ponder and hope to return to them next Friday. Besides, which I’m still getting used to this blogging thing again.

And anyway, as has been mentioned the past couple of days, my foot’s bloody killing me.

So, instead, one more post about London in Lockdown, to do with health. My health.

My physical health, anyways. I may write at some point on how I’m ‘dealing’ with lockdown and social distancing and stuff. Summing it up, the post would be ‘not that well’. But no, I’m not writing that post today. (Edit to add: It might, however, go some way to explaining why this is a shorter entry than you might reasonably expect from me.)

I’m fifty five years old. I take a few medications every day, including drugs or cholesterol and high blood pressure. (Although to be fair, the latter is a very small dose, and both my GP and I were fairly astonished that it had such a huge effect, returning my at times stratospheric blood pressure to a ‘normal’ measurement almost immediately.)

But like everyone else, in every area of my life, things have changed.

Ordering a repeat prescription is as easy, as convenient as ever, using the online website. Going to pick up the prescription, however? Well, yeah, that’s a different experience right now. Along with the pharmacists wearing face masks that look like they’re from a science fiction movie, those same pharmacists look… weary. Not just tired, but bone weary, utterly and completely shattered.

The queue outside the pharmacists was one of the smaller ones I saw… only about a dozen and a half people, and in substantially less good humour than the shopping queues. These were – some of them – people in pain, people who shared their pharmacists’ weariness. And people who just wanted to get their medications and return home.

Let’s put it this way: I was one of the more cheerful people.

Two quick other points; a hospital follow up appointment is now going to be by phone… to be honest, I’m surprised and impressed they didn’t cancel it completely. And I’m due to donate blood (after not being able to donate for 14 weeks after a procedure) in mid-April. I’m still planning on donating.

Sorry; I’ve nothing else to say today.

Hopefully, something more cheerful and light tomorrow.

I’m an idiot.

I know, this doesn’t surprise anyone reading this. But I am.

I mentioned on Twitter a couple of weeks ago pre-lockdown that were I still to be living in my last place, in Ham, between Richmond and Kingston, I’d almost certainly have thought at some point during the weekend: you know what? It’s a nice day, I can go outside as long as I don’t go near anyone else… you know what? I think I’ll go for a wander in Richmond Park.

This was the weekend when videos of crowds of people in Richmond Park appeared on the news and online. This was the weekend when the temporary (?) idiocy of the British public was shown to the world. This was the weekend when I realised that I’m a fucking idiot.

Because of course everyone else would have thought the same. Because of course me staying the hell away from everyone else is no bloody use whatsoever… if other people won’t stay the hell away from me.

Now I didn’t go to Richmond Park that weekend, because I don’t live in Ham any more. I didn’t go to Regents Park, because although it’s doable for me to get there without much difficulty… it’s still far enough to make it have to be a deliberate decision, not something that happens on a whim. I’ve lived here three years and only walked there twice.

But I was reminded of my own idiocy today when I went shopping. The restrictions have slowly increased, the queues have slowly grown, fair enough. And it’s not like the shops instantly went from ‘everyone? Come in the shop, no distancing necessary’ to ‘full social distancing, and we’re limiting the number in the shop at any one time’.

But today was the first time it really sank in. When I walked to Kilburn from me, about a mile or so from the flat, it was to discover that every ‘decent sized food shop – Sainsbury’s, Iceland, Marks and Spencer – had a queue measured in the dozens, and in one case, there were over 50 people in the queue, all about six feet apart from each other.

And I’ve noticed that the shops have cut down the number allowed into their premises almost day by day. Shops that last week let 20 people in… are now letting in 5. Pharmacies are letting one person in at a time, if they’re letting anyone in.

That said, the politeness in the queues and the understanding that for once, we are ‘all in it together’ is a but heartwarming. What’s interesting to me, however, is how the rules of courtesy have changed.

Someone a bit older drops something out of their shopping basket, and two or three people near them go to pick it up… then stop… and merely point towards it, gesture towards it. Where once they’d have picked up the item and returned it to the older person… now the courteous thing is not to do that.

People working in shops are being thanked more than ever before (cf the busses post from yesterday), as are the people standing by the doors letting one person at a time out… and in.

What I definitely noticed today were the people with huge shops offering those picking up only one, two or three items their place in the queue. OK, that happens sometimes in normal times, but now? Happens a lot.

There are a lot of things changing, in the day to day stuff, the little things that matter… that I wonder – I truly wonder – how they’ll change back… or if they won’t, afterwards.
 
 
See you tomorrow with something else.

OK, after a couple of days of housekeeping, I now find myself with a blank screen.

And after writing, and deleting, three different posts for today, with each of which I ran out of words after about 100 of the damn things, let’s hope that this one at least gets written.

I’d intended to write something personal about how I’m dealing with the lockdown. I really did. But everything I wrote seemed, on review, to be a little more ‘personal’ than I’m comfortable being. I mean, sure, there’ll be something on that – spoiler: I’m not doing brilliantly right now, I’ll acknowledge – but I’m apparently not quite ready to write that post.

Instead, you get something about London In Lockdown, or rather: my London In Lockdown. I suspect you’ll get more in future instalments but you get something today about what’s changed.

For example: busses. Now yes I know that we should all avoid taking public transport unless absolutely necessary. I do know that. And, for the most part, when I’m just going for a walk, I do.

I took the opportunity the first few days to find three different routes to walk, all of which have the two things necessary for me to enjoy a walk: no even slightly steep inclines either direction, and some pleasant scenery along the way. So, I don’t get bored either with the route or the scenery.

But yeah, busses. Because sometimes I need to take busses. The combination of a fucked up foot (a purely technically medical description, you understand, about more of which in a second) and where I live means that although there are a couple of shops within easy walking distance and a decent size Sainsbury’s within… an ‘ok’ walking distance, if I want to go to A Big Supermarket, then it’s a bus. And to be honest, the past week or so, even if I want to go to the decent size Sainsbury’s, it’s a bus.

Why? Well, for whatever reason, my foot has been bad the past week, seriously bad. Whether that’s because it’s actually playing up more than usual, or possibly after years of putting it off, something serious is going on inside the thing at the end of my left leg… or whether it’s psychosomatic, or I’ve just stressed it more than usual with the hour’s walking…. or whether it’s a combination of all of the foregoing… I have no idea.

But it hurts like hell at the moment.

I’m usually very grateful anyway to whoever the hell it was who first had the idea of combining codeine in a decent amount with paracetamol and gave me the wonderful ‘take the edge of the pain’ medication known as cocodamol. OK, I’m also very grateful to the doctors I’ve had over the years who’ve checked me out, seen the MRI and then gone “yep, repeat prescription”. But I’m particularly grateful to both the past week.

As a result of their efforts, I can at least go for my government allowed hour of exercise outside the flat every day. OK, I say ‘exercise’; what I mean is that hour’s walk in what passes for fresh air in London.

The foot + cocodamol combination has meant that I can, for the most part, go out and have a wander for an hour, and then there are the busses for the other occasions.

I’ve noticed several things about taking a bus now that didn’t apply before ‘all of this’.

(As a side note, I wonder when this global crisis will get a proper ‘name’. Whether it’ll be described as “the Event” or “The Incident”… you know, as such things are always described in sf comics, novels, tv shows and movies.)

Sorry, back to the busses.

I’m not sure when ‘oh, most of the other passengers wearing a face mask’ became what I expected to see, instead of merely unsurprising, let alone the anomaly.

I’m equally unsure when seeing people sitting together was the exception rather than the rule; it’s as usual now as it is for children of any age to be well behaved. I can’t remember the last time I saw a child even boisterous, let alone misbehaving, on the bus.

Similarly, almost every time someone gets off the bus, there’s a ‘thank you’ or ‘thank you, driver’, called out. Again, the rarity is someone not saying it rather than it being said.

Finally… many busses have taped off the seats nearest to the exit doors. I’m not wholly sure of the reasons for that one, but I’d imagine it’s to do with reducing the chance of anyone standing by the doors coming anywhere near anyone sitting in these seats.

So, yeah, taking a bus these days is a very different experience to before all this kicked off. (Mind you, I could do without the dirty looks from anyone in the street when I exit the bus.)
 
 
Apologies to all, kind of. This blog entry has been a bit of a mess. It’ll get better.

See you tomorrow…