Journal of the Plague Years (Days 2-4)

Farce to face teaching was cancelled as of Wednesday 18 March 2020. In effect, as I had no teaching, I was already locking down in my office.

Journal of the Plague Years Day 2

First Skype call – and persuaded a student we can Skype not face to face. Sorry, you don’t understand the situation if you want to meet face to face today.

First benefit of OneDrive – looks like I can access my files remotely on iPad. Not tried reading yet.

Apparently adopting the over 70s for shopping is being gamified. Recruit as many as you can.

Day 3 Noon

It’s so tedious to have to keep logging into email for work. Time out is too quick. Meanwhile odd things with Outlook calendar — it seems to think I’m in Samoa. Settings think I’m London though.

Venture into the centre to download a PowerPoint — must get computer working — and pick up prescription. The health centre has barriers at its desks, as does the library. Big queue at chemist and I opt to collect tomorrow. Go into BigSupermarket and nearly don’t buy anything — shelves are bare. Even at times of pancake day I don’t recall lack of flour. I buy sponge flour for emergency and go to cheese shop to panic buy unpasteurised.

Back at home, I catch up with podcasts, eat, note that Towner has finally closed but I am still getting emails about buying theatre tickets.

I fall asleep to Front Row and wake again for Moral Maze. Bah. I am exhausted but I suspect this is the stopping everything exhaustion — although I shan’t be stopping. Sleep during Today in Parliament.

Awake again for 6am and get off to sleep again to vivid dream of checking out of hotel but forgetting to pack clothes, a visit to the New Inn and then panicking about closed stations. A ginger cat is caught up in yellow earphones and I take her for a walk.

So I can read files from OneDrive, but remote editing is bollocksed.

I’m meant to be at pharmacists for 10, but run into two neighbours and the pharmacy is closed 11-1 for restock. No flour in supermarket but at last there are eggs. No flour in wholefood shop but but stock powder and cornflour.

Make it to the library — deserted.

Day 4 Early PM

Back to the pharmacist and they’ve removed the pick up queue. As in the big supermarket, there are black and yellow stripes a metre apart. You are meant to stand two metres apart, but no one is. Keep two chevrons visible.

So much for nudge theory.

I swing home as usual via DaJoPuPa, and there’s a young woman with arm crutches putting on a fair turn of speed. I am weighed down with shopping, but decide to drop in to Cheapish German supermarket, but they are still picked over. I do score a bag of purple onions. As I went through the underpass, I noted how many of the anti graffiti tiles have fallen off.

It’s a metaffa.

Corner shop: no flour. More expensive eggs.

Still catching up on work emails — we know about the assessments for next week, but it’s not clear if we can tell anybody. Various emails, and various non-committal replies. The word seems to be out though, but we don’t know it’s out.

Rembrandt bookI read a couple of chapters of the Rembrandt biography — the grey brown paper does not help legibility. It’s covering the years of the Young Rembrandt exhibition and I’m about to get onto the Rembrandt and Light stuff. I might be able to catch up with reading catalogues.

The acres of free time have yet to kick in — I am tired, but I think it’s the stress of uncertainty.

This morning a neighbour asked me how the Clarke Award was going. Well remembered madam.

To work via Thais R Us — self-raising only — and picking up a work laptop.

We’ve rightly focused on student access to technology, but a colleague has a partner home working and two school age children and lives on a boat. Is this going to be practical? We have a virtual crisis conversation via Blackboard.

Norman Collier lives.

I’m persuaded to pick up a headset. Who knew we had all this kit? It’s in Anselm, by the chapel, through the door, not the first room, she’ll wave you through.

I go to Anselm and the chapel. Through the door. She waves me through.

One more face to face meeting. Then emerging for food and exercise.

I wonder if this will kill off all the post-apocalyptic YA? We can get enough of it at home.

Shortly off to middle class supermarket. Campus closes at 5pm.

Watching Paint Dry

Portrait de la jeune fille en feu (Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Céline Sciamma, 2019)

Some point after 1725, the artist Marianne (Noémie Merlant) is commissioned by a Milan-born countess (Valeria Golino) to paint the portrait of her daughter Héloïse (Adèle Haenel), whom she intends to marry off to a Milanese nobleman after the death of her elder daughter. Héloïse, formerly a novice at a nunnery, has other ideas and has already worn out a (male) painter. Marianne must pretend to be a companion, and paint in secret. Continue reading →

A Caller Calls

Friedrich Dürrenmatt, adapted by Tony Kushner, The Visit, or the Old Lady Comes to Call (directed by Jeremy Herrin, National Theatre, London)

Slurry is a mixture of solids suspended in a liquid, but I guess we tend to think of manure. It’s also the name of a town in New York State which by 1955 is almost bankrupt. The trains rarely stop there, the factories have all closed and the bailiffs are circling.
Continue reading →

Nonstick

Dark Waters (Todd Haynes, 2019)
I still don’t get what interested Haynes in this project — like Velvet Goldmine and Carol it has the hell designed out of it, but in a downbeat register that oddly never ends up as camp. It’s the familiar enough story of the downtrodden lawyer up against megacorp— DuPont’s poisoning of a town’s water supply through Teflon. Mark Ruffalo gives a reasonable enough performance, but too often we are told about his character rather than shown it, Tim Robbins meanwhile clearly relishes his setpiece ethical speeches as head of the law firm. Anne Hathaway is largely wasted, more as a reflection of Ruffalo’s character than someone in her own right. And in the end we only get resolution through captions, without the big setpiece court case we probably need for catharsis.

Home A Clone

Caryl Churchill, A Number (directed by Polly Findlay, Br/dge Theatre)

I hadn’t realised that this revival of a 2002 play was a one-act play — it’s a taut hour and change, written at the time of Dolly the Sheep. After the first Royal Court production with Michael Gambon and Daniel Craig, revivals seem to have gone for real life fathers and sons: Timothy and Samuel West, John and Lex Shrapnel. Here we have Roger Allam (who I think I saw at the RSC in about 1987) and Colin Morgan, mainly off the telly (but he was great in Benjamin). Continue reading →

Death, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman (directed by Marianne Elliott and Miranda Cromwell, Piccadilly Theatre)

This is the American play, judging by the number of revivals — I’ve seen screen versions with Warren Mitchell and Dustin Hoffman and a stage version with Roy Barraclough. This transfer from the Young Vic is not the first African American version, and the shift between ethnicities seems remarkably smooth. There are hints in the direction of the Loman’s family past of slavery plantations and his wish to live the American Dream seems even more poignant, the dice even more loaded. His rejection by colleagues has a hint of unspoken racism, the brother’s line about going to Africa added resonance. Continue reading →

Be Witched

C. S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (directed by Sally Cookson, Br/dge Theatre)

After last year’s slightly bizarre choice, the Bridge played it safe for the panto slot, with a classic children’s literary adaptation revived from the West Yorkshire Playhouse. They end up with a curious mix of Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz and The Lion King. My guess it was twenty years since I read the novel and I never warmed to Lewis, with or without Christian allegory. I’d forgotten the evacuation context, and rather like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang it feels as if it takes forever to get to fantasyland. I can see why they did a long train sequence to offer us some initial spectacle, but it seemed to last forever. Continue reading →