It’s a lovely spring day, and I just got in from a fairly long walk. I went through Greenwich Park (twice) and I have to say it was the busiest it has been for a long time: I go through the park quite often, and it hasn’t been that crowded in ages. I had to swerve my chair to avoid people every few metres. Of course, this being a bank holiday, maybe that is to be expected, but I can’t help worrying that we might now be returning to ‘normal’ too quickly. Everyone seems to have suddenly assumed that the pandemic is over, and that they can act as they did before it. Every pub, restaurant and cafe I passed today seemed packed. To a certain extent I can’t really criticise, as I’d be in there with them under other circumstances; yet I can’t help worrying that if we take things too fast and snap too eagerly back to normal, this nasty little virus could return with a vengeance.
The country’s up shit creek due to Brexit etc. The tory’s solution? A bloody expensive boat! ”A new national flagship is to be commissioned by the government in a bid to boost British trade and industry globally, the prime minister has said. The vessel will be the successor to the Royal Yacht Britannia, which was retired in 1997.” I realise that this doesn’t make for much of a blog entry, but after the Tories made such a big thing of austerity, and after their ideologically-driven benefit cuts caused so much harm, to spend £200m on an outdated symbol of a long-faded empire really is taking the piss.
I just want to send huge congratulations to my old school friend Dan Holt on becoming a barrister. Dan was two or three year groups younger than me, so we didn’t cross paths much at Hebden. A couple of years ago, though, we bumped into one another at powerchair football in Woolwich: people kept saying his name, and it struck me as familiar. It turned out he had moved to London to study Law at Queen Mary University. He has now completed the exams to enter the legal profession; you can read a bit more about his awesome achievement here.
I realise that this might make for a bit of an odd or unusual blog entry, but for a couple of weeks I’ve been puzzling over a question I’m not sure how to find the answer to. It’s not that it’s particularly complicated, just that I’m not sure which words to tap into google to get the answer. Ever since moving to London eleven years ago, I’ve used the big red busses quite frequently. When I first moved here, I remember being impressed with how all the busses had automatic ramps which the driver extended only by pushing a button on his dashboard. Up in Cheshire, whenever I wanted to get on a bus, to go from Alsager to Crewe say, the driver had had to get out from his seat and manually unfold the ramp for me. It was quite time consuming and laborious, and I think they resented it. What I want to know now is, has the rest of the country caught up with London? I haven’t had to use a bus outside of the capital in ages, so I don’t know the type of ramps they use. Of course, it is only due to activist groups like DAN, who campaigned for accessible public transport in the eighties and nineties, that busses have ramps at all; but I think they focussed specifically on London, so the rest of the country got rather left behind. Can anyone tell me what the situation is? What sort of wheelchair ramps do bussed outside London have? Does it vary from town to town, area to area? Have busses outside the capital been modified, or is this yet another situation where all the resources get poured into London and the rest of the country gets left behind?
As a James Bond fan, I’m not quite sure yet what to make of this news that MGM was today bought by Amazon. Of course, MGM has always been American, but the danger now is that Amazon will now seek to put it’s own mark on cinema’s longest running franchise as it tries to establish itself as a media giant. It has already said it plans to “reimagine and redevelop” it’s acquisitions, although what this means is unclear. While all art inevitably changes and evolves over time, I just hope they don’t go too far in trying to remake Bond in their own, perhaps American, image.
I think it worth noting that, for the first time in months, I had lunch in a cafe today. I went out for a walk with Dominik: we were passing through Woolwich at about four, and we were both getting hungry. It was just a simple sandwich, but having had just about all my meals at home for the last year, to finally eat something in a good old south London cafe complete with other Londoners, really felt like the return of something I had been missing. It wasn’t so much the food as such, although it was quite a good sandwich, as much as a hint of the type of culture which used to see me sitting in cafes and drinking coffee for hours. We didn’t stay long, but hopefully it won’t be too long now before such lunches become a regular occurrence.
I’m very pleased to report that I just had my first Covid vaccination dose. In the end I was given the Astrazenica vaccine, not that it matters at the end of the day. I’m just happy to have done my bit for society, to get past this wretched pandemic. Mind you, I’m very glad that I took Serkan with me to the pharmacy rather than going alone: rolling up there, joining the queue and giving my details, I was initially told that I couldn’t have my jab today for some reason and would have to re-book; yet Serkan stuck to his guns, fought my corner and got them to reconsider. It was quite a relief as I was eager to get it over and done with. I currently feel fine: my arm hurts slightly, but apart from that I’m rather perky. I suppose it’s the knowledge that I’ve done my bit to get past this pandemic.
If you ever start to feel hard done by by the current situation, I think this is worth remembering. Very sobering indeed.
As everyone will no doubt be aware, it’s the Eurovision Song Contest tonight. Say what you like about it, I have a bit of a soft spot for it. Now more than ever, we need this sort of big, international cultural event to bring everyone together and forget our divisions and differences, if only for an evening. One of the main things I watch out for every time it’s on, though, is the language each entry sings in: Do they sing in their own language, or do they use English or another language? I think it is a choice which is becoming increasingly telling, with English becoming more and more dominant, not just across Europe but the globe too. Largely thanks to the growing ubiquity of American film and culture, English is now almost a default tongue. Thus it’s always interesting to see which performances in tonight’s contest opt to sing in English, knowing it’s more likely to be understood by others, or have the cajones to use their own tongue in order to try to maintain a bit of cultural authenticity.
I know I shouldn’t just post links to Youtube videos on here, but I think this New York Times vid, comparing the cost and efficacy of the American Healthcare system to others across the world, is very, very telling. When looked at properly, it’s jaw-dropping to see how much worse the American system is – it’s focus on profit makes it almost draconian. It’s good to see Americans themselves at last realising this, and perhaps admitting to their selves that their country might not be quite as great as they like to think.