Billy Connolly once joked that “the great thing about Glasgow is that if there’s a nuclear attack it’ll look exactly the same afterwards.”  But what about after a pandemic? There’s exciting talk afoot around the globe of banning cars, turning office buildings into homes, building bike lanes, greening city centres and suburbs & encouraging micro-markets, so people can shop locally and well. 


The young may not have fallen ill or died, yet may never recover financially from coronavirus or its psychological fallout.  Lives on hold, unemployment and a frankly bleak reality socially, economically, environmentally await when “normality” returns. Yet we look to them to find solutions!


One son’s summer job involves wiping old people’s bums. As he tries to feed them they dribble and say mamamamamaaaaaaaaa.  His brother finally got a job interview and flew yesterday into “the Wuhan of Germany” (North Rhine Westphalia – catchy name) as it announced Lockdown Take 2.  


Sleep would not come, so I’m steeped in Little Dorrit, BBC Costume drama at its dazzling best: fantastically written, outstanding performances, stunning locations.  Dickens could be writing about both the financial crash of 2008 (when this Andrew Davies adaptation was filmed) & 2020: Wm. Dorrit at times so like Trump, vainglorious, pretentious, rude, bankrupt, blind.


In Shakespeare’s plays brothers often portray jealousy, betrayal, usurpation. Shakespeare’s brother Edmund was an actor in London. Picture the scene:  “Go on.”  – No  “Please?” – No. “Just a small part,” – No! “Bastard!”


Procrastination is a thief of many things and robbed us of knowing more about Shakespeare the family man.  In 1662, fifty years after Shakespeare died, an antiquarian called John Ward made a note in his diary to call on Judith Shakespeare next time he was in Stratford-Upon-Avon.  Judith died shortly afterwards.


The way we live is unsustainable. Relentless pursuit of money drives societies into poverty, is environmentally catastrophic. We need new goals, new ways of meeting the needs of all, within the means of the planet. Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics offers ideas about thriving while retaining balance https://www.kateraworth.com/doughnut/


This house is almost literally built of books & I keep buying more, especially books by medics for son studying medicine – Gavin Francis, Simon Baron-Cohen, Adam Rutherford to name but a few.  Son’s Professor asks him what book he’s reading. “Rugbymen, Asterix and Venom v. Spiderman…” Son replies. His honesty elicits a laugh.


A pandemic. Police brutality. People dying in their homes alone. Children missing out on education.  And at 7:30 am my 87-year old neighbour is on tiptoes peering over the fence, worrying that the roots of a tree I planted 3 years ago, a tree not even a metre high, might in 100 years reach her garage.


George Floyd dies when a cop kneels on his neck for almost 9 minutes crying at least 16 times “I can’t breathe,” and calls for his dead mother.  The Rev Al Sharpton put it well: “the reason we could never be who we wanted and dreamed of being, is (for 401 years) you kept your knee on our necks.”


“Black people have been killed in the streets and no one cared. Black communities have been razed. And white people lament the loss of a Target. The social contract isn’t just broken. It never existed… They are lucky that what black people are looking for is equality and not revenge.” Kimberley Jones.


From the NYT: But the point here isn’t that Trump is responsible for the nation’s wounds. It’s that he is the reason some of those wounds have festered and why none of them can heal, at least for as long as he remains in office. Until we have a president who can say, as Lincoln did in his first inaugural, “We are not enemies, but friends” our national agony will only grow worse.


While my jaw was on the ground, I was emotionally untouched as we were walked through the finished Grand Design. A city trader and his wife have spent countless millions turning 3000 subterranean square metres into London real estate. It didn’t feel like a home.  And while the lighting’s ingenious, tit’s going to be one big dark cellar in a power cut. 


Here’s why my children tell me I’m naïve: I watch programmes in which white couples spend the GDP of a small country doing up a house that’s all marble and gleaming glass and wonder why they don’t build homes for homeless folk, well-equipped schools, communal gardens or community centres that would transform immigrants’s lives.  


Rapper Killer Mike says, “it is your duty not to burn your own house down for anger with an enemy. It is your duty to fortify your own house so that you may be a house of refuge in times of organization. Now is the time to plot.  We must plan. We must strategize, organize, and mobilize.” Be the change we want to see in the world.


In the Great Dictator Chaplin says “Do not despair…The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people.” He says “Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men – machine men with machine minds… You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.”   


With a population of around 330 million, the USA has two candidates running for president, two old white guys long past retirement age to lead them out the anger, rising unemployment, a failing economy, and a pandemic that has done much to highlight to the divisions between white and black, rich and poor, haves and have nots.


In leadership training we talk about the importance of listening, of empathy, of setting excellent examples and earning respect.  After all, it makes good business sense. Research shows psychological safety is key to success.  So why do so many elect leaders who have none of those skills?  Narcissists, lone-wolves, emotionally deeply unintelligent men? 


Cummings has been portrayed as a manipulative demon with supernatural powers, a monster, an evil genius. It’s far from the truth. He and Johnson are lazy, dogmatic incompetents, blundering liars, inflated narcissists responsible for the highest Covid death rate in Europe and Brexit, which has already (according to Bloomberg) cost Britain £130 BILLION.


Derelict buildings, boarded-up windows. Homelessness. Abandoned multimillion-pound homes. Hatred of immigrants. “Polish go home” Shortening life expectancy. Powerlessness.  Obesity. Binge drinking. Food banks. Shambolic government. Shrinking economy. Ever widening gap between rich and poor. Tax avoidance schemes for the rich. Utilities and manufacturing largely owned by foreign companies.  That was England in 2018. It’s time for change.