On Tuesday I travelled up to the Midlands. I stopped at the M40 services at Beaconsfield. I would say mask-wearing was down to less than 10% and now definitely something that mostly older people are persisting with.

I saw an advert about the exciting opportunities to retrain as a worker on the new HS2 project. They offer training, though you need your own transport to get on site, then you get qualified as a lorry driver and you drive away rubble or something like that. It was not clear if the advert was still valid.

The most notable stories in the Redditch Standard dated 18th February:

The North side of the new Redditch Gateway development looks finished and includes a huge Amazon shed.

I walked in to the town centre and noticed that the one bus stop that I had seem anti-lockdown stickering on now has 1 new sticker, a design I don’t think I’ve seen in London:

Mask-wearing in the town centre is at a similar level to the motorway services, which seems to be the level it has now fallen to generally. So lockdown is definitely over. That entire period around it is now over. Though this message was playing while I waited for a bus that didn’t come, and I walked home:

I was listening to the World Service through the night and heard the news from Ukraine as it broke. This is not exactly unexpected as my memory of the early 90s is that something called “Russian Nationalism” was predicted to be causing wars in the near future, and characters like Zhironovsky as well as the Pamyat movement got quite a lot of western press attention out of proportion to their influence. Russian revivalists were the baddies in the Bond revival Goldeneye, but they were also the background scenery in minor characteristic works of the period such as the satirical novel Bilton by Andrew Martin. “The end of history” was never taken too seriously even in 1990, only Derrida fans kept talking about that stuff all these years. The real mood music was always Niall Ferguson and such like trying to put substance on Samuel Huntingdon’s sketchy “clash of civilisations” cartoon history. A book that might have come too early was Paul Kennedy’s The Rise And Fall Of The Great Powers, which seemed to fall out of view when it looked like one of the great powers was definitely over. But Henry Kissinger never went out of print, maybe his Diplomacy (1994) influenced more leaders than admitted to it.

But now the old crisis is definitely over as we have the new crisis. I drove back to London today and tried to follow the BBC news. I listened to an Islamic preacher explaining the logic of God’s mercy and the distinctions that applied depending on the desire for forgiveness; what he said was very reasonable but I wondered why it was on Radio 4, and then I realised the unit had retuned to the local Unity FM station instead (at the end there was a statement advising all believers to get vaccinated). When I was closer to the capital I was able to get a clear Radio 4 signal and heard a woman reading a short story set in a Northern town. A hailstorm broke out as I heard the latest news from Ukraine whilst going through Streatham. A Ukrainian student at UCL said she was going back to the home country during the conflict.

The picture at the top is a muddy alley way after some rain; here’s a slightly more pleasant picture of allotments, far away from any war zones.

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