Every month for as long as I can remember, I’ve been buying paper copies of Gramophone and the BBC Music Magazine, “Music” being how the BBC refers to classical music.
All over my home, these magazines have accumulated in shelves and in heaps:
I haven’t had these magazines on order, because I don’t trust my neighbours not to let in burglars through the front door we all share, and because I like the exercise of actually walking to a shop and buying these magazines.
Which means that during the recent Plague, I’ve not been getting either of these magazines. The shops where I would have bought them have all been closed.
One of the many changes I am now contemplating in my life is: Not resuming buying these magazines. Are many people now contemplating a similar decision with regard to these or other such printed publications? Surely, they are. Are many people contemplating buying printed publications they do not now buy? I doubt this very much.
If “normal” ever returns, it will, for most of us, in big ways and in small ways, be a different normal, not least among those who publish the magazines like the ones in my photo. It’s not just the obvious ways in which we will remain nervous of the Plague returning, though that will definitely happen also. It’s that by being jolted into doing this for the first time, and not doing that any more, we are all now shedding old habits and being pushed towards acquiring different habits. I try to resist generalisations involving words like “we all now …”, but I really do think that the above generalisations are largely right. (You need only look at the recent numbers for postings here per month at this blog, on the left, to see this kind of thing happening to me and maybe therefore also for you.)
So, habits are being dropped, and acquired. And, are you, like me, and provoked by the above experiences, going beneath and beyond such changes of habit, and asking yourself: What other habits should I now decide to shed, and decide to acquire?
After all, and especially for the likes of me, life has just got shorter.
In my various earlier postings about e-scooters, I mentioned the fundamental problem of bikes for getting around on. Because bikes are so big and clumsy to take with you everywhere, bikers must constantly leave their bikes unattended, which means they regularly get damaged and/or stolen.
This afternoon, while out-and-about out in south-east London, I encountered and photoed a very partial answer to the bike protection problem:
I’m guessing that how this works is that you have a special key that lets you into this contraption, to insert or remove your bike.
Setting aside the sheer bother and expense of this thing, the bigger problem is that your bike problem is not typically confined to one spot. The problem follows you. Wherever you go, you may want to get shot of your bike for a while, and bam, sooner or later it gets wrecked or nicked. At least with hired bikes, there is a choice of places to abandon the bike. With this thing, you need to hire a whole new metal tend for each spot you might want to stop at. No. Comments telling me otherwise would be most welcome, but as of now, I just don’t think this works.
If, despite my grumbles, you want to investigate further, I took (see the photo on the right of the above three) a photo-note of the website to go to.
TWO years ago, I warmly welcomed DI Meg Dalton in Watkins’ debut. Now in her third outing, she has developed into a memorable detective with attitude, pounding Derbyshire’s Peak District with commendable fortitude.
A young social media star — famous for cooking sausages on a barbecue wearing only a bikini — goes missing from her job at an abattoir on a summer’s night.
Traces of blood and hair are found in one of the pig troughs, but there is no sign of the victim. Has she been killed?
Even more importantly, what on earth was she doing working in an abattoir in the first place?
Have animal rights protesters harmed her, or is there something more sinister at work? Has she fallen prey to the ghost of the Pale Child who, legend has it, announces death if once seen?
Subtly plotted, and with a delicate sense of place, it confirms Watkins in the front rank of British crime writers.
Last night I went shopping, and was out for about an hour. In that time, I observed three more e-scooters in action. Three. In the space of an hour.
First, on the left below, was the usual. A guy on an e-scooter, scooting past me so quickly I hardly saw him. This time, I did have a camera with me, and managed the photo you see. Thank goodness for zoom:
On the right, it gets a bit more interesting. We are now in my local supermarket of choice, Sainsburys. I spotted a lady pushing what I could clearly see (from the wires) was an e-scooter with an e-. I asked her, as super-politely as I could manage given the circumstances, if I could photo her e-scooter. “I’m writing an article about e-scooters.” “Not you, just the scooter.” She agree very readily, so there is her e-scooter.
Then it got really interesting. I spotted a guy, not just pushing his e-scooter around, but using it to carry his basket of purchases. Same request from me. Photo please, not you, just the e-scooter, please say if you don’t want this, ingratiate ingratiate. But, surprising answer, beyond the Yes Fine Photo Away bit, I mean. Turned out this was the same guy and the same e-scooter as in this earlier posting here. “You photoed me before!” Oh, wow, that was you.
So again with the photoing, not of him but of the e-scooter, this time with his shopping basket aboard:
You can see a bit of my basket on the right there. The real point, however, is how very fortuitously convenient it is to plonk your basket on an e-scooter like that. Nobody planned this. When they were designing e-scooters, nobody said, what about supermarket shopping? It just happens to work well. You’ll be seeing a lot more of this in the future. There will probably even be design tweaking, to include a shopping basket of this sort in the design of the entire e-scooter, just like is happening with food delivery motor-scooters.
I asked E-scooter Man if he’d had any grief about bringing his e-scooter into Sainsburys. Funny you should ask, he said. No grief from Sainsburys, but, the nearby Tesco wouldn’t let him do this. So he said, fine, I’ve been shopping at Tesco’s all my life, but if you don’t want this, I’ll take my business elsewhere. No problem, your gaff your rules, but I’m off. Whether these contrasting decisions reflected a big Tesco-v-Sainsburys commercial divergence, is some sort of class thing, or merely reflects that Sainsburys has bigger aisles, I do not know. My guess is, local staff made it up, but Tesco will give it further thought. Prediction: the design of shops will also be affected.
E-scooter Man agreed with my claim that bikes are useless for urban shopping, because you have to leave them outside, and sooner or later, they’ll get stolen. “I’m not leaving my bike out there.” Everywhere I go in London I see bikes parked outside, and a regular percentage of them are severely damaged, especially the wheels. Sometimes entire bits are missing. And of course if it’s all been nicked, you don’t see that, but it still happened. But, when you stop riding your e-scooter you can take it with you. Above all, if necessary, you can carry it with you. If, in mid-shop, they tell you to stop pushing it around, you can simply fold it up and carry it. Are they going to even forbid you to do that? Surely not. You need never be separated from from your e-scooter. Which means it could still be mugged from you, but is far, far less likely to simply be stolen or maliciously wrecked in your absence.
The heart of what Candace Owens says about the dramas now unfolding in America is that black Americans are the only ethnic group in American who make martyrs and heroes out of their worst people, i.e. petty and not-so-petty criminals who come to bad ends. George Floyd is now all over T-shirts, but he was actually, first, a petty criminal, and then a not-so-petty criminal, as Owens explains. By martyrising and glorifying wickedness and failure, you set yourself up for a life of wickedness and failure. And mostly: just failure.
What Candace Owens says seems to me, and to Scott Adams, very persuasive. I hope it will prove persuasive to those whom it is most particularly aimed at, which is black Americans. But what Owens says is partly aimed at old non-black guys like me and Scott Adams, because what she says is also universally appealing wisdom. Wise people don’t do this! Owens has certainly done nothing to stop me hearing this speech of hers.
A twitter commenter says that Owens will become America’s first female black President. But Owens is surely in the meantime attempting something smaller and more immediate than that, and in the longer run potentially bigger and better than that.
The “alarm clock” reference comes towards the end of the video.
Serious question: Did any Republican lose a business to rioters?
I began thinking of my answer, but the first tweet-in-response said it for me:
I bet some future Republicans did.
I’ve been suspecting for some time now that Antifa – or “Fa”, as I prefer to think of them – could be a project put together by Trumpsters to ensure his re-election. I mean, if they really were that, what would they be doing differently? (Take a gander at this bit of video, to see what I mean.)
On a more serious note, all these demos will speed up the process of discovering if ending Lockdown makes sense. I already think it does make sense. If, as I am now betting, no Coronoavirus spike now materialises among the demonstrating classes, others will likewise be convinced.
Meanwhile, a huge chunk of people are now behaving as if the only thing they’re scared of is dirty looks from other people. They aren’t scared of The Bug itself anymore. Lockdown is ending. You can feel it. You can see it, for real and on the news and social media. Two months ago, no matter who had done what, there’d have been no demos about it because almost everyone was truly scared of The Bug. Now, The Bug is right down there with car accidents and getting struck by lightning.
It’s almost as if no government action was required, either to make Lockdown start when that made sense, or now, to make it stop.
This afternoon, I plan on retracing the steps I took last Wednesday, past Tate Ancient, along the river and across the River, to check out that Ancientist Tower that commenter Alastair so kindly identified.
Meanwhile, here are some more photos I took on the far side of the River on that earlier expedition, of signs:
I love signs, and I love photoing signs. Photoing them is good because signs can be tedious and time-wasting to read at the time, but fun to read at your leisure. They are informative in the obvious way, and also wondrously varied in style and atmosphere. Signs, for instance, can tell you a lot about the politics of a place. How well-governed, or alternatively intrusively and officiously governed is it? By what sort of people? What’s the crime rate like in these parts? Are strangers welcome? Animals? That kind of thing. Even a mere photo of a street sign, if you include some context, can tell you a lot. A defaced sign, as in photo 8 above (a bit), tells you something, about local behaviour and about local official concern about such behaviour.
I am particularly fond of the officially erected maps that adorn all big cities these days, especially the bit where it says “You Are Here”. London’s signs of this sort are a fine example of the genre, which I constantly photo (see the first photo above), both for their aesthetic appeal, and to tell me where I was.
By the way Life (see photo 4) is not life; Life is (see photo 5) a kitchen appliance showroom.
All the enterprises referred to in the above signs are now, inevitably, shut. Long may that not last.
Crime writer Tony Kent does a fifteen minute video-at-a-distance interview with fellow crime writer Roz Watkins. Roz is my niece, which is partly why I keep mentioning her here. But the bigger reason I keep on about her is that she is very good at what she does, which is not just writing the books she writes but also selling them. She’s an excellent public speaker, and a very personable interviewee. So, if you want to know more about what sort of person Roz is, and also about the idyllic yet sometimes spooky place she lives in (the Peak District), as well as about her books, tune in here.
Animals figure prominently in this interview. Starsky the dog makes an appearance near the beginning. They talk about killing animals in crime thrillers and about how that upsets people far more than killing mere people seems to. Also, animals are a big part of the background of Roz’s latest book, Cut To The Bone, number three in her DI Meg Dalton series. A missing girl has got on the wrong side of animal rights activists, and traces of her blood and hair are found in an abattoir. That kind of grizzly thing. It’s due out in hardback in a month’s time, and, unless I have misunderstood things badly, is already readable as a computer file.
My favourite quote from the interview is when, 4 minutes 20 seconds in, Roz says: “Everyone wants to kill all the lawyers.” Very dramatic.
Last Sunday, the gloriously sunny day when I photoed this reflection photo, I also photoed many other photos, as I walked to and around Parliament Square, and then along the River to Lambeth Bridge and across, and then to Vauxhall. My aim was to photo the statues in Parliament Square and the two pronged Vauxhall Bus Thing in friendlier light than I had so far managed.
But while engaged in this project, I couldn’t avoid noticing something else that was happening. See if you can spot what these twenty eight photos have in common:
Yes. Well spotted. Cyclists. Lots and lots of cyclists. Cyclists on their own. Cyclists in pairs. Families of cyclists. Great squadrons of cyclists. On otherwise almost entirely empty roads.
Quite what this “means”, I’m not entirely sure. But a major point of this blog is to feature things that seem interesting, without it being entirely clear to me why they are interesting. “Interesting” being the lowest form of interestingness that there is, because it’s the sort that you haven’t yet explained to yourself.
The only titbit of interpretation I can offer is that I caught a Daily Telegraph article about how the Lockdown was beginning to fray at the edges, and illustrated at the top with a photo like one of the ones above, featuring a great cluster of cyclists. I can’t now find this piece, but I swear I saw it. I didn’t read it, because the DT hides most of its stuff behind a paywall these days, and paying my way past paywalls is a habit I don’t want to start catching. But, I did see it. It was something along these lines, but with a cyclists photo at the top instead of a short video about people sunbathing en masses on the beach.
Also, there was me, creeping about photoing these cyclists. I too am fraying the Lockdown at its edges.
Because, another interesting thing about Lockdown London, at any rate the bit I live in, is that the Plod are almost nowhere to be seen. Parliament Square on Sunday contained many cyclists and creepers about like me, but no coppers whatsoever. You’d think Parliament Square would still be a worry to them, yet the only cops I saw that day were charging about in vans, attending to some other matter of far greater importance to them than me creeping about photoing, or than lots of cyclists. Who knows? Maybe they were actually having a go at some crimes.
Now, I know, had any policemen tried interrogating any of these cyclists, their answer would have been: “This is excercise, and exercise is allowed.” That would have been my answer also. But in practise, the rule that the police seem to have been applying during all this History has been more like: “You can go out, but you are not allowed to enjoy it.” It was the way these cyclists were so obviously having a good time taking their exercise that made it feel like defiance of the official line. And my worry was pleasure (because photoing) is what I would have been accused of also. So, I agree with the implication of that DT piece. It’s starting to crumble. If the government is wise, it will now relax things.
At the risk of boring you, another thought occurs to me about these cyclists, which is that slowly but surely the Lockdown is being politicised. Lefties don’t mind the economy tanking quite so much, because they have a government that they hate that they can then blame it all on. They have elections to win that they’ve lately been losing, rather badly. Righties, on the other hand, want the Lockdown to end, so that they can get back to being right about everything.
But cyclists of the sort I was photoing are a classic lefty demographic. If they are making a nonsense of the Lockdown, then the Lockdown is in trouble and needs to be wound down rather fast.
Also, the very fact that Lockdown is being politicised is further evidence that people are no longer taking it that seriously, the Righties in particular. When you start thinking how the crisis du jour will help or hinder your political tribe, then it’s no longer a proper crisis. It’s a mere circumstance.
Please don’t mistake the above for my considered opinions. This is me having made some observations, and then me thinking aloud about those observations.