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Coronabollocks: Culture In The Time Of C-19
John Calvert , March 26th, 2020 09:00

Coronavirus: a terrifying pandemic or a chance to clear some debts, while strengthening the old personal brand? It really depends on who you are, says John Calvert, in his new round up column, which will be updated regularly, right here

Despatches From Quarantine #2: Fear And Looting In West Finchley / They're Coming To Get You, Barbara / War Is Hell, But Lockdown Is Boring

Nah Bruv, this is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but with a lank picture-framer in Shoreditch, buying chrysanthemums for his girlfriend in a packed flower market for people who play the cello. And then she goes home and next Monday her fucking GRAN’S DEAD.

And you grabbed my hand and we fell into it. Like a daydream, or a fever.

I’ve always fantasised about proving my valour in an apocalypse scenario. This is my chance. Unfortunately I was born a part-Jewish Ulsterman - from a niche genepool whose inborn skill-set extends to either shouting and sexual repression or being tense and eating flatbread. We are resolutely without honour and / or courage. For example, next autumn when The United Federation of Neo-Britain commits to a full-scale land war in Indochina for the last remaining ore reserves, I’m very sure I’ll play dead in a mortar crater. Yeah. And when it dies down a bit I’ll probably walk to the barracks, and then eat all the food and maybe have a nap. That self-sacrificial Tom Hanks-type figure, imploring Private Ryan with his dying breath to just “Earn this… Earn it”? Yeah that’s just not us.

But what’s clear to me now, in these most uncertain of times, when all is lost and we only have each other in this terrible forever-war against the enemies of the flesh, is that a funnier ending to the film would be a deflating montage of post-war Private Ryan clearly not earning it. Jim Ryan sleeping at work, or eating a whole packet of Bourbons in one go, or borrowing money off his friend and not paying him back.

The great and the good of music, however, are being very Hanks-y at the moment. Jon Bon Jovi, for example - who 20 years after I last looked now resembles Barry Cryer but also an austere Victorian spinster - is fighting Corona through the medium of song. A one-man syphilis pandemic in the 80s*, today Jon is just a lovely old person, who this week in a gesture of cheer has asked the Twittersphere to help write his next song. If I was being shitty I’d say that the product of base amateurs could only be an improvement over the balls that is every JBJ song since ‘Blaze Of Glory’; but good on Jon. Brian May, meanwhile, taught fans to play Queen songs. Sadly he couldn't fit all his hair into the frame so he looked more like the eccentric owner of an antiques shop squinting at a stain on his cords.

Meanwhile, on the spank-it-like-there’s-literally-no-tomorrow front, Pornhub have offered to host the Cannes Film Festival on the site’s newly designated movie section, after the festival’s cancellation last month. Not ones to shirk a fight, YouPorn (very much the Pepsi to Pornhub’s Coca-Cola in the slap-ham industry) announced it was offering a free month’s prescription to encourage social-distancing. All good stuff this - very funny. But it does the beg the question, when did pornographers get so executive? So media savvy? So…tech start-up, public relations slick? Back in my day porn was just a girl, a camera crew and a California plumber with some bad life-choices and a penis like God’s own Schwerer Gustav.

Over in pop-world, Harry Styles had to postpone his European tour, which I’m loving, cause he’s beautiful and young and I’m reaching an age where I have to be told when there’s a crumb on my mouth. I can gauge how bitter I’m becoming at any given moment by how much I want Harry Styles to go bald. Right now I want to survive Corona purely so I get to see c-2027 Styles, where his face starts at the back of his head and he smells of wee a bit.

[*Jon Bon Jovi was not a one-man syphilis pandemic in the 1980s, Legal Ed]

Day One: Despatches From Quarantine / Postcards From The Edge (Of Barnet)

This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang but with some bollocks sneezing on your eyebrow in Finsbury. And you grabbed my hand and we fell into it. Like a daydream, or a fever.

As of this week I’m getting less fresh air or sunlight than the average Cumbrian Incel. I’m cardiomyopic, I’m asthmatic, and quite possibly I’m emphysemic - I smoke as much as a longshoreman in 1950s Sunderland. My liver looks like rural bathtub meth embedded in rye bread. All told, there were tail-gunners over Schweinfurt with a longer life expectancy than me. I’m prepared to go out like a gentleman but I swear, if I choke it and the chancers who’ve been using the coronacrisis as a platform to peddle their artistic wares live I’m going to be very annoyed.

First thing I see is that Gary Barlow and JC Chavez have teamed up for an online gig. I should think this is the first of many such ‘bedroom concerts’ in the coming months, from artists of all stripes. Barlow’s a Tory turd, and had his Dad never introduced him to Elton John, he’d be an avuncular policeman in Preston right now, but I dig the concept. How about Sunn O)))) from the interior of their all-white marble mausoleum at the gates of hell? Or Alan Vega from his tomb in Graceland, playing the dead flag blues? How about the Outbreak monkey performing from his cage in a secret military base under a Utah mountain range, just chatting random shit about bananas and fucking?

Meanwhile in North America, a lot of people I really did admire once trade verses of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ on Instagram, in quite the most asinine example of fart-smelling Hollywood earnestness since Emma Stone won an Oscar for risible Gap advert La La Land and in her acceptance speech declared it “One for the dreamers.”

Back to London where Bono, the answer to the question nobody is asking right now, writes a song for Coronavirus. It’s generic, it’s blandly universal, it’s fundamentally meaningless. It’s U2. And much like their auto-installed iTunes album it only exists because, these days, evidently we have no choice but to eat shit. Which is because, in 2020, the world is ruled by the wholly un-self-aware, whose blind self-assurance and rank opportunism in the face of existential irrelevance has to become everyone else's problem. It’s like the Titanic’s going down and Bono’s on a nearby tugboat shouting “OOOOOOOH will yee look at me big feckin' Oirish heart?! I’m not an entertainer, I'm an international statesman!” until a member of staff shoots him in the glasses for creating panic. As legend has it, once during a lightning storm on a passenger jet, Bono leaned across the aisle to comfort a concerned nearby passenger. ”Don’t worry kid,” he said, “it’s just God taking pictures.” Yeah well I disagree. I think God saw his chance and he fucked it.

Speaking of rank opportunism and the public having to eat the shit of the newly irrelevant (quite literally, in this case), Jamie Oliver has been commissioned to present his own coronavirus cooking show. It’s to be called Keep Cooking And Carry On (because of fucking course it is) and will feature Oliver wanking around his soon-to-be reclaimed £7million flat in Islington and generally talking like Goldie while teaching people how to cook in a crisis. The only crisis here is his impending insolvency. That and his crisis of identity, as every morning he wakes up a 52-year-old geezer forced to peddle that same FHM-brand of ersatz youthful Britishness, just so that in a month he isn't sleeping in the same room as nineteen Manc ex-cons in a disused Textiles factory in post-apocalyptic Yarm. But, hey, in the end just keep on telling yourself it’s about helping us - the little people, and that's important to remember; like not letting your kids eat breaded turkey. And just keep on telling yourself it's not about Oliver’s bottom line.

This just in: Marcus Mumford piano-dicks ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ for Corona. The hashtag ‘You’ll Never Wank Alone” is trending within the hour, because the Great British Public are fucking amazing.

I can almost see him now, the big melon, sat there in his depression-era braces and frat boy joggers, phoning Ed or other men called Marcus or his mate Jordan Peterson to go on about his weeping heroism, perhaps as a dutiful Carrie bakes her famous jam tarts in preparation for a Tory lovemaking session involving sophisticated pulley systems and medieval-style pegging. Bare dungeon shit. Yeah that’s Marcus - the David Cameron of indie; the caring Conservative covering the LFC anthem with the utmost degree of doe-eyed, indie-sensitive altruism, despite it being almost guaranteed a member of his extended family in the Lords voted against the Hillsborough inquest.

I’ve eaten 13 party rings since noon and all day I stare at my collapsing face in family Skype calls, where conversation topics range from classist genocide to mortgage holidays to “Is mum ok for eggs?” I can’t focus. Or think straight. I try to chat to girls but I keep thinking about World War III. The multi-cellular virus that is Donald Trump, who in recent press conferences looks to be experiencing history's most protracted mini-stroke, still has the launch codes.

Yeah the ship’s going down and we’re still in the kitchen making noodles. I hear stories like my mate's drug delivery guy owns a Hazmat suit now, or that my girlfriend’s accountant bought a baseball bat on Amazon in case martial law is declared in Walthamstow. At tQ we’re forwarded actual real-life PR emails advertising ‘exciting opportunities’ in the sex industry for McDonalds workers on unpaid sick leave. As we speak, even Keith Richards, who of course cannot be killed by conventional weapons, is in Chelsea shitting it, dislodging his last mystical douchebag in preparation for the big one.

The band has stop playing but we’re still dancing. 'The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore'. Hard times ahead. But while the chief plays 'Sunshine On Leith', we’ll fight this together.

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