Day 80 : Mon 1 June

Summer begins with the lifting of lockdown and riots in America.

Woke early after a good night’s sleep, Chickens doing their strong silent technique for gaining attention again! I let them out and settle in for some news, noticing that there are an awful lot of cobwebs around in the house. Have they sprung up over night or have I just seen them for the first time (Am I right to assume that a cobweb is an abandoned spider’s web gathering dust?)

Meanwhile so-called Business Secretary Askoh Sharma is bumbling his way through an interview with Kay Burley on Sky News.Kay  She is wiping the floor with him. He appears unable to answer any question about his brief and even stumbles over repetition of the party line on lockdown and test and trace. As if to illustrate his own brand of ignorance he appears beside an empty bookcase. It may be true, as he claims, that he is talking to people in the business community, but I bet they aren’t listening to him. Car showrooms open today, but no-one would, or should, buy a used car from this man.

The scenes from America about the protests over racism, police violence and inequality are truly startling, but I worry that they may become the excuse that Trump’s armed supporters use to take to the streets. Especially when Trump wants to register the antifascist movement as terrorists, and heavily armed  police and state troopers lay into demonstrators with gusto and little evidence of cause. The targeting of journalists is particularly noticeable. At what point do people realise they are living in a fascist state? 

I make myself a double egg, cheese and mushroom omelette for breakfast sprinkled with garlic and chilli flakes. It brings back memories of the first time I tasted a ’hot’ omelette for breakfast. It was in a revolving restaurant above a hotel on the outskirts of Agra during holi. I had not realised what my companion had ordered for me, but I was hooked at once. Strangely the hotel staff would not let us go into town for fear we would not survive the hurly-burly of the festivities! Instead we strolled through the nearby fields and I played cricket with some young lads on a dusty patch of ground. Then we came across a gruelling wrestling tournament in the middle of a tiny village. Not quite what Proust had in mind with his madeleines, but a spicy omelette immediately brought back memories of that happy day for me. 

And speaking of literary memories, a tweet highlighting a Guardian article about Laurence Sterne’s wonderful The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman made me want to read it again. It has always been a favourite of mine, so funny and clever – one of THE great books which has survived the test of time for more than 250 years. It is quite extraordinary. The narrator is the central character who doesn’t even get born until about a third of the way through the book, and you risk never reaching the birth because of a clever ‘loop’ at one point, The reader is reminded that they have lost track of who one of the characters is and you are directed to go back several chapters and replenish your memory. You are just as likely to have forgotten by the time you get back to the loop, so there is a chance you may never finish the book. And you have to admire an author who places his Preface in Chapter 20 of Book 3, at page 173 in my 1905 edition (which I have had since1965).

They said it was a book that could not be filmed but Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon had a stab at in a ‘A Cock and Bull Story’ in 2006. A ‘curate’s egg’ of a movie, it was described as ‘a post modern romp’ which even the Anglo-Irish clergyman Sterne might have found amusing if not as confusing as his masterwork.

This diary is beginning to feel like something composed by Sterne himself, a meandering collection of thoughts and anecdotes taking a lot of time and space. Maybe I should put a limit on the time or the length of each entry. I keep thinking I will, but it ends up writing itself every day. And what else s there to do, part from writing something else, or reading, or gardening – which is what perhaps I should be doing now. Who knows. But first the blueberry muffin I meant to have with my mid-morning coffee.

On Twitter I find a fine collective essay from celebrated Irish journalist Fintan O’Toole which addresses the hypocrisy that has lost the UK government any credibility. It should be compulsory viewing for Cummings, Johnson and their Cabinet colleagues. They won’t listen, or course, but ’This Violation’ can be viewed on Vimeo here:

Messages come in from old friends in Maryland: ‘Well it is all very distressing – we are living in a failed state. Will there be deliverance in November? Trump will do everything he can to mess up the election, with a little help from his pal in Russia!  Until this week it seemed England was in just as bad a state, but at least you don’t have violence in all major cities, some of it by police. Now Trump wants to send in troops. That won’t end well.Who imagined living us into such dire times?’

And from Philadelphia: ‘Never could have imagined that the situation here could get worse but lo and behold. The demonstrations and Covid are so tightly linked. People are fed up, jobless, terrified and angry. Desperate measures for desperate times. How we long for Obama.’

Thank goodness for the video evidence that not all US police are closing ranks with their murderous colleagues, and show solidarity by standing up to racism and marching with the protestors. There is amazing footage on @redfishstream of huge crowds demonstrating on the streets of Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Las Vegas, Miami, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, Seattle, Detroit, Salt Lake City. All the while Trump was cowering in a bunker at the White House while crowds vented their anger outside. Could thus be the start of something big? Is it really a turning point? Or will we see the jackboots of fascism on the street of America? We should all watch out for what happens to the guy Trump tweeted footage of with the message ‘Anarchists, we see you!’ My questions – who took the footage, and who sent it to POTUS?

I have spent little time outside today, apart from a brief snooze in the garden this afternoon and an even briefer sally up the road to collect things from neighbours. The heat reduces appetite, but after reviewing my colleague’s latest opus (at last), I am now ready for a quick supper, then maybe a movie and bed.

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