Saturday, March 28, 2020

Not Going Out

When From The North was last updated, dear blog reader, you may recall that yer actual Keith Telly Topping had just gone into self-isolation due to his sincere wish not to catch the deadly killer coronavirus and, you know, die. A little over a week on and, this blogger is back to report that he is still well-isolated. The fever which this blogger mentioned he had developed last time finally broke a few days later, though this blogger was still then - and, actually, remains now - feeling more than a touch grotty; the general consensus (from NHS One-One-One) seemed to be that it's merely been a nasty bout of bronchitis rather than influenza (or, indeed, anything apocalyptically worse). A diagnosis which would certainly help to explain that bloody annoying cough which this blogger had for weeks before he locked the doors of Stately Telly Topping Manor behind him. So, it looks like this blogger not going anywhere for a bit - not that he could even if he wanted to without getting Pinched By The Fuzz for general loitering. Especially as 'coughing at a policeman' is now, seemingly, an arrestable crime. About time, too.
To be fair, dear blog reader - and not wishing to blow off his own cornet nor nothing of the sort - but this blogger was self-isolating long before it was fashionable to do so. You know, before members of royalty and leading politicians starting testing positive for this ghastly lurgy.
Of course, not unexpectedly, whilst this current health crisis has highlighted, if any highlighting was needed, how great and vastly under-appreciated many people are in life, the reverse has also been true. So, whilst we - rightly and uncynically - applaud our brilliant NHS staff and also praise those working in perhaps less glamorous industries like carers, the retail sector, transport, finance and broadcasting - those who, whilst we've all been sitting in our collective gaff feeling sorry for ourselves, have been getting on with their jobs and keeping the country from collapsing completely, let us also have a jolly big round of appreciation for others. Like, for instance, the boss of Weatherspoons who is reported to have refused to pay suppliers until the crisis is over. Big applause for you, mate. Or, for that matter, let us all stand up and salute That Awful Branson Individual who is expected to get out the begging bowl and demand a government bailout worth hundreds of millions of knicker for Virgin Atlantic. This, just a few days after asking (for which read ordering) his staff to take eight weeks - unpaid - leave. Mister Branson, you beardy git, we totally salute you.
Nevertheless, all of the sick profiteers and hypocrites happy to get their greed right on and put money before the safety of their staff, of course, fade into utter insignificance when compared to yer man Mike Ashley. Within moments of the government announcing the decision to instruct all retail outlets that didn't provide 'vital services to the public' to close, the loathsome, twattish Sports Direct boss and owner of this blogger's beloved (though tragically unsellable) Magpies grandly announced that Sports Direct would be staying open whatever the government said as Ashley considers selling cheap trainers is providing 'a vital service' to the public. Which it isn't, or anything even remotely like it although, arguably, it does provide a vital service to greed-bucket Mike Ashley's vast pockets. It didn't take long for a massive backlash against this crass misjudging of the public mood to cool Ashley's jets somewhat and produce a grovelling u-turn. Followed, a few days later, by an allegedly contrite Ashley humbly begging the government's pardon for the error of his ways and claiming he was 'led stray by older boys'. Probably. This blogger will leave it entirely up to you, dear blog reader, to decide for yourselves whether you believe there is so much as an ounce of sincerity or genuine regret in Ashley's apology or if it is no more than an example of 'I'm sorry I got caught.' This all came during the same week that supporters of Newcastle were given another timely reminder of Ashley's uncanny ability to score embarrassing metaphorical own goals. On the same day that fellow Premier League club Brighton & Hove Albinos announced payment holidays for their supporters, NUFC opted to take direct debits for 2020-21 season tickets from the bank accounts of existing ticket holders despite a good chunk of the 2019-20 season remaining to be played and no one having the slightest idea when (or, even if) the 2020-21 season will actually kick-off. Having already caused dismay with clumsy attempts to keep his shops open and imposing online price rises, it came as little shock that another Ashley enterprise has placed profits above people. Quick to publicise their own 'generosity' when giving away tickets when it suits them, the club are rather less forthcoming about plans for those who have already stumped up for match tickets for games that have been postponed. It's satisfying to know that even in these uncertain times, some things remain reliably consistent. The fact that there are many good people in the world and then, there are some who are, simply, scum being one of them.
So, anyway, dear blog reader. Self-Isolation Diary, Day Two in the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House: This blogger was, by that stage, 99.999 per cent certain it is was merely a (heavy) cold he was suffering from rather than the dreaded coronavirus - although bronchitis would not be diagnosed for another couple of days. Entertainment-wise, already Keith Telly Topping had watched the previous evening's excellent BBC4 Steve McQueen/Le Mans doc, the latest episode of Picard and then had a second viewing of the Westworld series opener (this time when this blogger wasn't half-asleep, occasionally being shaken awake by that dress Evan Rachel Wood was almost wearing), followed by one of this blogger's favourite movies, Orson Welles's F For Fake. And, all that took him up to about eleven o'clock on the first morning of self-isolation.
In the meantime, this blogger had a quick check to make sure that he had enough food in the house to last for at least a week and noted that he did, aside from a few perishables like bread, milk and eggs. So, Keith Telly Topping thought to himself, 'at least I can always get Morrisons to deliver those, given that they were making such a fuss the previous day about all of the extra driving and delivery staff they're taking on.' This blogger, therefore, went onto the Morrisons website, registered his very self and, it was only at that point, he noticed the 'minimum delivery forty smackers' bit in the small print. This blogger lives alone in the crumbling splendour of Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House, dear blog reader, so, he is lucky to get through forty quid's worth of purchases in a month, let alone seven days. This blogger did drop Morrisons a quick e-mail enquiring, basically, 'are you taking the feking piss, or what?' Keith Telly Topping will let you all know the reply when - or if - he gets one. So that, of course, meant this blogger did have to go out to ALDI and back a couple of days later. Which was no great hardship - it's only a five minute walk, after all - but it did, rather, make this whole 'avoid contact with anyone' thing a bit of a nonsense.
Self-Isolation Diary. Day Three: This was the day's self-isolation entertainment sorted. The horror.
This blogger went for The Masque Of The Red Death first, followed by The Satanic Rites Of Dracula. Then he dug out The Andromeda Strain, The Satan Bug, the opening episode of Survivors, that episode of NCIS where Tony and Caitlin get the plague and the last episode of series two of Millennium. Plus Monty Python & The Holy Grail. Just, you know, to take his mind off the current world situation.
It was only at about this stage - Monday - that many people started to realise just how really serious the whole situation had become. Bashing Boris's address to the nation was more than a touch like Chapter Eight from the Book of Revelation, was it not? 'My fellow Britons ... The Seventh Trumpet shall sound, The Horned Beast shall appear, The Temple shall be rent in twain and cast into The Bottomless Pit. And there will be a great wailing and gnashing of teeth. So, to sum up, then ...'
Boris Johnson's statement announcing strict new coronavirus restrictions was watched live by more than twenty seven million punters, according to overnight figures. Which does rather make one wonder what the other thirty five million of the British population were doing at the time? Contemplating on the inherently ludicrous nature of existence, perhaps? I mean, they can't all be working in 'vital public services,' can they? His televised address to a terrified nation was seen by over fifteen million viewers on BBC 1, while 5.7 million tuned in to ITV and 1.6 million saw it on Channel Four. An additional 4.4 million watched the thing on the BBC News Channel and on the Sky News Channel.
That figure makes it the most watched broadcast in the UK for several years, probably since the Closing Ceremony of London Olympics in 2012. The statement was also streamed live on Amazon Prime. To about four confused Grand Tour fans who wondered where Jezza and the boys had got to.
Amol Rajan's article on the BBC News website, Coronavirus & A Media Paradox explains a significant problem that all broadcasters are currently facing. 'It's obviously not the most important thing happening right now, but with millions of people working from home, ratings for television channels and streaming services are soaring. Demand for news and entertainment is surging. It's not just the BBC. In news terms, ITV and Channel Four News are seeing both the sort of absolute numbers and audience shares that, in normal times, they would dream of. But there are a couple of paradoxes here. The first is that though demand is surging, it is going to get harder and harder to supply fresh material to meet that demand. ITV has now suspended [production of] Coronation Street and Emmerdale. The BBC had already suspended Eastenders, Peaky Blinders, Line Of Duty, Casualty, Holby City and many others. Netflix has suspended all productions across the globe, which is of course unprecedented. It is impossible to overstate the anguish and turmoil this will cause for members of an industry which is largely staffed by freelancers on short-term contracts. With no job security, and no other productions to turn to because of the far-reaching consequences of the virus, this will cause widespread immiseration.'
Still, at least Wor Canny Jodie Whittaker is helping people through these dark and dreadful times. Thanks, Jodie. Appreciated.
Day Four of Isolation by Joy Division was, indeed, the first time since the previous Tuesday evening that this blogger was forced to venture beyond the walls of Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House and have a stroll down to ALDI for bread, milk, eggs, ham and ... biscuits. And pizza. This blogger was there and back inside twenty minutes, dear blog reader and managed to thoroughly avoid physical (or, indeed, emotional) contact with anyone. Which was helped due to the shop being virtually empty when this blogger got there except for the lass on the till. And even she was wearing rubber gloves (something, one imagine, which was becoming de rigueur in shops across the country by that stage). 'They'll be having you in a hazmat suit next' this blogger joked. If she saw the funny side, she kept it to herself.
This blogger was able to do all of the above on that particular day because the delivery of the new Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House kettle, ordered the previous day online from Argos, was satisfactorily completed at an obscenely early hour of the morning. She's called Kelly, if anyone was wondering ... And, she lights up blue when one jiggles her button.
Still, to be fair, telephone conversations like the following were still possible: 'Hello. Do you deliver? Specifically to Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House where yer actual Keith Telly Topping is currently self-isolating and in desperate need of some decent grub?' 'Yes sir, we do.' 'That's excellent to know.' 'And, why's that, sir?' 'Because, I really deserve this king prawn curry with egg-fired rice.'
Of course, it says so much about our society that one of the main 'oh, no, that's awful' aspects of the announcement that Prince Chas has tested positive for Covid-Nineteen and is currently self-isolating, wasn't that he might have passed this potentially deadly virus onto his parents - both of whom are in their nineties - but, rather, that he attended an event with Ant and/or Dec the previous week and, although they didn't shake hands, he was within two metres of them. Take the Daily Mirra's report for example. Or the same story appearing in the Daily Scum Express. This is the Twenty First Century we've created, dear blog reader.
Of course, this blogger was not completely isolated from the outside world. He spoke to his brother on the phone, for example. And, he is glad to report that everyone over there is fine, albeit, self-isolating as best they can, just like the rest of us. And then, there's always the interweb ...
So, this 'name one band and/or artist that you've seen live for every letter of the alphabet' thing which is currently whizzing around Facebook like a ... big whizzing thing. Okay, then. Aztec Camera, The Bodines, Edwyn Collins, Doctor Feelgood, Echo & The Bunnymen, Fun Boy Three, Goldfrapp, The Housemartins, Icicle Works, james, Kraftwerk, Lindisfarne, Paul McCartney & Wings, Ned's Atomic Dustbin, Oasis, Pixies, The Quads, Rockpile, The Smiths, The Teardrop Explodes, Underworld, The Velvet Underground, The Wonder Stuff, XTC, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, The Zutons. And, typing all of that out alleviated the self-isolationisms boredom for about thirty seconds.
Mind you, it could equally have been ... Ash, The Bootleg Be-Atles, The Clash, Denim, Everything But The Girl, The Fall, Goodbye Mister MacKenzie, Hawkwind, I Am Kloot, The Jam, Killing Joke, The La's, The Mighty Lemon Drops, New Order, Orbital, Primal Scream, The Quads, R.E.M, The Specials, The The, U2, The Verve, The Waterboys, XTC, Neil Young & Crazy Horse, The Zutons. Either/or, take yer pick.
And, you know what dear blog reader? Keith Telly Topping his very self regrets almost none of the above gigs attended across the years. Well, except for The Wonder Stuff, maybe. They were a big disappointment. Get yer hair cut, hippies.
So, dear blog reader, it would appear to be that time again ...
The return of The Blacklist and, particularly, this week's episode a kind of testosterone-snorting variant on ... And Then There Were None in which guest-star Joely Richardson got to deliver one of the best lines in the history of television: 'You really know how to show a girl a good time, tell me do you do autopsies during all your dates or am I special?'
The Picard series finale. Well, that was emotional. Though, inevitably, some whinging whingers hated it. And other whinging whingers really hated it. This blogger, needless to say, thought it was great.
To celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of its first first broadcast in 2005, Rose. And, you know what, it still looks great - with, or without that Graham Norton interruption.
Ashes To Ashes repeats on the Drama channel.
And finally, dear blog reader, this blogger has always been - and will remain long after this current crisis is over - a big fan of the National Health Service; it didn't need a national emergency to remind this blogger of just what a remarkable job those people do on a daily basis. Underpaid, over-worked, often under-appreciated or taken for granted by scum politicians and those for whom paying for their own health care is no problem, the post-war creation of the National Health Service remains one of this country's proudest ever achievement and those who work in it should be safe in the knowledge that the majority of us in this country do not forget that fact for a single second. But, of course, this is the real world and we, sadly, do. And, for that reason, it very was gratifying this week to see millions demonstrating their appreciation for the NHS in loud, highly attention-grabbing ways. It's easy to be cynical about this sort of thing, of course, or to try and score some cheap political points on the back of it - and true to their usual form, the Middle Class hippy Communists at the Gruniad Morning Star did both simultaneously. But this week has, perhaps, been a timely reminder to politicians of all stripes that, whilst they can mess around with many aspects of British life, the NHS is one of the few things that will get millions marching through the street to defend it. Perhaps it's a sad indictment of us all that it's taken a national emergency of this sort to make that point so clearly but, nevertheless, now it has been made it would be a very stupid politician indeed that would ignore it. Not that the world is short of very stupid politicians, of course. Here endeth the lesson.
So, from the Stately Telly Topping Manor Plague House, dear blog reader, that's another  From The North update concluded. Stay safe wherever you are, stay as well as you can, keep in touch with those you care about, occupy your time as best you are able to and, remember, you may be on your own at the moment but you are not alone.