The Coronavirus Diaries, 22nd January 2021

A beautiful day of blue skies and a slight breeze, but cold without your gloves. So a very big surprise this evening when there was a sudden heavy shower of rain. Octavia who I saw briefly this afternoon spoke of the possibility of snow. Oh I do hope not. Snow is fine in the country, but in town it becomes dirty, with cold slushy puddles in the road which heedless drivers drench with pedestrians by driving through them at speed. The roads are gritted but seldom the pavements which become slippery death traps. No thank-you. No snow please.

I have and am continuing to have a week of Zoom. Perhaps at last I have caught up with the rest of the world and am becoming more comfortable with this way of socialising. If I have spent much of the day working at the computer I am not wild about sitting in front of it to talk to friends. Screen life balance. Tonight I have listened to the News Quiz on Radio 4, watched Channel 4 news, and at nine I plan to watch the new Russell T Davies series It’s a Sin about AIDS and the 1980s. Then if I can keep my eyes open I’ll round off Friday with The Graham Norton Show.

I remember when AIDS became an all invasive menace, though listening to Russell T Davies on the news tonight I realise I was some way behind as I don’t believe I was aware of it until the mid 80s and he was talking about 1981. I started thinking about one of my colleagues, I’ll call him by his initials SR, who was gay and suffered verbal abuse from older boys who burst into his classroom ‘to protect’ his pupils. Given how many gay men there were on the staff at that school in senior positions it seems extraordinary that more wasn’t done about it. SR was a friend, totally out in the staffroom and occasionally quite outrageous. He later died from AIDS. Such a waste. I have photographs of him on school trips we were on together to the Netherlands. He was generous, kind, sometimes intensely annoying, and of course, in my memory, forever young. I’m glad to be remembering him. I can see him just after he had said something very naughty, all wide eyed innocence, just waiting for your reaction before his face split into a smile. He made life better. AIDs was seen a gay plague. The nonsense that was written, the hate that was unleashed, the shaming, the blaming, the rampant homophobia. Ugly.

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The Coronavirus Diaries, 8th June 2020

I am still disturbed by the conversation I had with with the man about George Floyd. He dismissed the killing saying it was no worse than any other murder, so why were people so upset. He said Floyd had been a criminal, that black men are killed by other black men and no one starts marching. The idea that a policeman, a white policeman, murdering a black man while his colleagues looked on and did nothing, did not seem to him to make the murder more significant. The fact that black men and women in both the US and the UK are more likely to be stopped by the police when going about their business did not trouble him. It reminded me of a sketch on Not the Nine O’Clock News. But it also made me wonder if this man has formed these views on his own, or if they have been shaped by what he is read or heard. On my visits to the Co-op I didn’t look at the newspapers’ front pages. Is this the line some editorials are taking? If so, it is deeply irresponsible, deeply divisive. We live in societies that value white lives over black ones, where we have a Prime Minister in this country who talks about picaninnies and watermelon smiles, then wonders why people of all colours take offence. The pandemic has shown how black and minority ethic groups have suffered most, not because they have less immunity, but because they are more exposed, are more often to live in poorer housing. The pandemic has laid bare the inequalities of our society we have been ignoring for years.

Is it any wonder a moment comes that ignites all the frustration? When people take to the streets to protest? The vast majority of the protests are peaceful. The bursts of violence and looting are the ones that get the most coverage. Easier to condemn such behaviour than look at the fundamental injustices in our democracy that have led to it.

During our constitutional walks in London Celia and I have spent time enjoying and admiring the new estate in Myatts Fields. The old estate was a warren, and a place dominated by gangs and violence. The new one is human scale, the design has been carefully thought out to encourage openness and interaction. Our neighbour Cynthia describes it as a piece of Scandinavia in south London. It’s all the more impressive as it was built after austerity began. The council must have taken the decision to pursue its plans despite budget cuts. Yet in the short term, building high rises would have seemed the sensible financial solution. Continue reading