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The Year of Living Dangerously

THE WORST thing has not been that we’re cut off from one another, but that we’re cut off from connection altogether. No matter what you’re doing online – celebrating your 25th anniversary as a rock band, like Trinidad’s own Orange Sky on Saturday night, wishing your granny a happy birthday, playing a board game, having sex or screening a documentary, like the Third Horizon Film Festival this weekend – the hard truth is, you’re really doing it alone.

We’ve all done it alone together for a year now.

Children have gone to school and teachers have gone mad, managers have been promoted and weddings have been held back, Courts of Appeal have sat and virtual blind dates have been stood up, patients have revealed all to doctors on smartphones and grandparents have tried to conceal their tears when they see their grandchildren on FaceTime.

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Nature Abhors a Vacuum

IN 1977, when I was repeating my O’Levels in England, there might have been six people watching TV in my guardian’s London flat, all squirming with the need to pee, everyone craving a cup of tea, and no one willing to get up first, because, the moment a bottom left a chair, a chorus went up of, “I’ll have a cup!”

In the time of covid, my wife and I have approached domestic chores similarly, each of us trying, not to outwit, but to out-wait the other. With only two of us playing, though, the game of thrown-my-back-out-and-can’t-mop begins as a showdown at high noon and grows in tension from there; all we need is a blues harp soundtrack and a couple of tumbleweeds and we could be Western gunslingers.

Still, our lockdown approach to housekeeping has largely been to cut one another slack and let sleeping dustballs lie. We’d need a lot more than global despair and community ennui to provoke one of us to pick up a mop. (My wife, with dustpan-and-broom, does make daily US Marine-style search-and-destroy missions against the Vietcong lizard droppings, but she’s only ever delaying the last helicopter leaving the roof of the embassy in the salon.)

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Bad Hair, Fair Hearing

EVEN IN a crisis involving psychological pain dread enough to tip the sufferer towards suicide, such as the misery described by Meghan & Harry in their interview with Oprah, you’ve still got to feel an abiding gratitude to anything that gets rid of Piers Morgan.

Now, despite being glad to see him go every time, I’m usually also delighted to see Piers Morgan arrive on any scene, from The Celebrity Apprentice through Good Morning Britain to Real Time (especially if Jim Jeffries is on set). Subject to his admittedly severe personal limitations, Piers Morgan can be very good at his job – sometimes even the best – and he is no fool. You can very easily almost like him and I very often do (almost like him).

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GW28 Snakes & Salah-adders

An advice column for the bottom seven million Fantasy Premier League managers

My Fantasy Premier League team, BC FC, continues the downward slip that may lead it right back to what has been, for most FPL seasons, it’s natural place at the bottom of its mini-leagues. I’m unlikely to actually sink to cellar position because the bottom team has almost 400 points fewer (396).

Someone who passed O’Level maths in the usual one attempt, and not the four spread over three years it took me, could probably declare it a certainty but, with nine clear weeks left in the competition — I just counted on my fingers to be sure — I could not state with any certainty (nor even great doubt) that it was a mathematical impossibility; but at least my chances of ending up at No 10 are better than Sir Keir Starmer’s.

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Give a Dog a Bad Name...

ONCE A DOG has learned to suck eggs, you have to shoot him, they say in Alabama, an aphorism I’ve always loved, because you can almost hear the banjos playing.

But, as canine-based pithy truths go, I’ve always preferred, “Give a dog a bad name and you might as well hang him”. Figuratively, it means that, if you besmirch someone’s reputation, they’re as good as dead, but I’m playing with the proverb’s literal meaning now.

We have a new rescue dog whose name hasn’t quite settled yet.

He came to us a jumpy little guy, not quite knee-high, who’d been hopping out of the cane fields, overturning a garbage bin, and disappearing back into the cane. He came close to me, tail between his legs, but then sprinted away if I put a hand out. Even after my wife let him into the yard, where the fence calmed him, he would not come to me. (I suspected the usual male human abuser in his background.)

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