PAST THE PEAK?

Teifi, afternoon, flash of bankside blue
Kingfisher searches elver wriggles new
Beneath Henllan bridge otter, trout in paws,
Crunches his lunch whilst Senedd makes bad laws
Guided by science there will be no tests
Crashed trees block the falls, robins fill their nests
Nurses in London block Westminster bridge
Vulnerable kids stare at empty fridge
Birds sing louder, the skies are bluest blues
I burst into tears at the newest news
Tenants evicted as they lose their work
MPs and the spads won’t give up their perks
Sun sets brighter now, we are past the peak
So Boris tells us, when he deigns to speak.

Harry Rogers, Mayday in the red bedroom, 2020.

Oh The Things That We Do

Go down to Creek Road, get drunk on free beer,
Walk through Greenwich Park, shoot a fucking deer
Venison’s better than cheap minced beef pies
Share surplus with neighbours, what a surprise

Oh the things that we do when we are poor

Take rod to river, hook stale bread on,
Cast into slipstream, then pull out a swan
Play bird as it flys up high in the sky
Then kill it and pluck it, try not to cry,
To roast in oven cut swan into four
One more of the things we do, when we’re poor.

Go down Tesco’s fill up trolley and pay
Go out to friends car, stack shopping away
Go round aisles again load exactly the same,
Plus one pack of brillo, forgotten, you claim
With first bill in hand you’ve already paid
Thus shopping’s half price, good game that, well played.

In desperate days we ignore the law,
Oh the things that are done when we are poor.

Harry Rogers, In the Yellow Room, 23rd April, 2020.

FIN DE SEICLE

Today I watch a video report of fucking Covid-19 denying murderers in California on the way to their personal raptures who have forgotten their own sky god commandment, thou shalt not kill. Idiots. I am angry.

Meanwhile in Hackney a thirty year old Sri Lankan single mother incinerates herself in the back garden during lockdown. I am crying.

Elsewhere a young English father is locked down with his wife and son unable to take him to McDonald’s for his fourth birthday party. He tranforms his kitchen into a mock up drive through take away with himself in a YouTube video on the tv in their kitchen. The child is happy with french fries and chicken nuggets. His wife loves the ingenuity of it all. I laugh and cry at the same time.

I feel twitchy, never has there been such social fragility in all my 72 years. The Brexit talks pale into insignificance as the rise of populism grows daily. Italy is on the brink of leaving the EU. You can smell something ancient in the phrases that are bandied about. Phrases such as ” It’s the media that’s the cancer, all their news is fake.” and “All the politicians are useless, all they do is lie.” and “China is to blame.” Even the middle classes are dazed and confused by the consequences of the lockdown as their jobs also disappear and they slip into negative equity. I have read about a similar situation in my collection of 1930s left book club publications. I lie in my bed unable to sleep easy.

Still, the sun is shining this week, yesterday it was the same temperature in Antarctica as it was in Los Angeles………

Harry Rogers, Locked down in Aberbanc, 21-04-2020

LECTERN VICISSITUDES.

I have been sat in front of our TV as 24 hour coverage of this pandemic unfolds for weeks now. I am over 72 years old, I am not supposed to go out unless it’s absolutely crucial. At first I watched all the bulletins as the prime minister and a variety of high faluting experts stood at lecterns flanked by carefully folded Union Jack flags with the white background and red cross of St George clearly and deliberately to the fore. The early strategy where herd immunity was considered to be the way forward, where every bulletin encouraged everyone to wash their hands every time they touched something but otherwise everything carried on as normal, the roads were full, the trains were full, the airports were full, sports venues, bars, gigs, theatres, cinemas, restaurants, pubs, political meetings, all functioned as ever. This laissez-faire approach was allowed to continue for weeks despite the fact that the government knew in advance that the country could not handle a pandemic such as this because it had participated in an emergency planning exercise, Operation Cygnus, which spelled out exactly what would happen in the event of a virulent respiratory virus running rampant through the world. One question sticks in my mind, if the government knew that the exercise showed that the NHS was under staffed, under equipped and under resourced, why did they not address these issues? What is the point of spending millions of pounds on full blown civil and war emergency planning exercises if you’re not going to take any notice whatsoever of the advice given from the plethora of front line experts, strategists, and senior civil servants involved? And yet, despite all the delay, as the daily death figures rise exponentially, as the economy falls into a slough of despond, as draconian measures curtail freedom of movement, somehow large numbers of people put their faith in the newly elected prime minister, one Boris Johnson. This man who eventually encouraged us to adopt social distancing, made us aware of the dangers of shaking hands with anyone outside of your in house family, and then promptly ignored his own advice, shook hands with all and sundry including a wardful of Covid 19 sufferers and finished up in ICU narrowly avoiding his own demise, some people believe that he is some kind of hero of the people. How can this be the case? He had been infectious for some considerable time and yet continued to bustle around in Westminster and elsewhere, in all kinds of meetings where he will have put untold numbers of staff, colleagues, acquaintances and contacts into harms way. A monumental case of don’t do what I do, do as I say. It’s unacceptable behaviour of anyone, let alone the Prime Minister. The daily broadcast with the Trump style flag frame moved further backwards, where substitutes run through the same sets of statistics that are designed to show how well the country has carried out the government strategy continue unabated. Ministers come and go and continuously state the obvious, the roads are empty, the people, on the whole, obey the rules, all is hunky dory as long as we remain in lockdown. And yet, and yet, PPE levels are disastrously low in hospitals and care facilities, meanwhile health ministers say the government response is phenomenal. Health workers are told not to use equipment unnecessarily. Economic forecasts say that the crisis we are heading into is massive. The number of unemployed in Britain is set to head North of three and a half million. The current universal credit system that penalises those people who have fallen into poverty is not going to be accepted as sufficient by people who have done nothing except lose their jobs as a result of the pandemic. Current levels of benefit will not meet family commitments. Only a government prepared to crack down on tax avoidance and evasion by the richest could address this future catastrophe. The country currently is being run in a totally undemocratic way without adequate parliamentary scrutiny. These are scary times and we now appear to be trapped in the middle of a classic Catch 22 conundrum. Stay locked down, save lives and crash the economy, or ease the lockdown, save the economy and bury a lot more people. Either way it’s a grand disaster. At first I wasn’t sure whether this was just a straight folk devils and moral panics scenario with the government and the media cooking up a false flag emergency to get the ruling class in a position to carry on austerity led business as usual. Now that the death levels here are not falling it is clear that the reality of the situation is that we have an incompetent government, unable to act in favour of saving lives because the economy and their pals in the City of London come first, above human lives. The Prime Minister is possibly going to stand down due to viral fatigue, he will likely be replaced by Raab or Gove, either of which, in my view, are strictly second division when it comes to leadership. It’s a giant deprression filled mess which only ends in tears whatever the outcome, and whenever the end of lockdown occurs. Many people won’t be here to see it, for some of those death might be a blessing in disguise. The aftermath to this ain’t going to be pretty. I’m getting older by the day, there ain’t much I can do about this shitshow. I would like to be able to drive my partner Jenny down to Llangrannog Beach for a pub lunch and a walk by the sea this summer, but the chance of such a simple pleasure looks ever more remote.

Harry Rogers, West Wales, 20th April, 2020

DREAM DIARY

Looking out through lockdown windows
The world in view is too sombre
My mind wanders to pastures new
To party times with good old friends
To singing in the Poppit dunes,
Picking those lost forgotten tunes.
Of how we’ll change the world to come
A glass half full for everyone
The gig economy we’ll shun,
Eugenicists? We’ll make them run.
Hold hands together down The Strand,
Spill wine to our favourite band,
We’ll dance together after dark
Like lovers smooching in the park
All this for future enquiry
Written now in my dream diary.

Harry Rogers, a la Chambre rouge, 2nd April 2022.