Having long known we were living in strange and troubling times, I am frustrated, but not altogether surprised by the latest grim episode to grip the world. I first became aware of it in January as a result of my wife’s mounting concern that what was happening in China would inevitably happen here unless our leaders took immediate action.
Writing is frequently a dejecting and profitless pursuit for me. I write several thousands of words every week, a few hundred of which will likely never be read by anyone but me. I write reviews much like the ones posted below in the hope of elbowing publications into giving me regular commissions, although rarely does this work. Thus what I’m left with are many bespoke articles that are never to see the light of day. But not these reviews. They were written for an upstarting website focusing on life in London, the editor of which was presumably unimpressed with my contributions. So lest they wind up on the web elsewhere under somebody else’s name (unlikely perhaps, but this has happened to my writing before) I thought that it was best to post them here first.
As I travelled by car though the dusty boondocks, on towards Kissimmee, I passed an old wooden sign that read: “Rabies shot $5”. Below the text, crudely scribbled in permanent marker pen, was an arrow pointing towards a tiny ramshackle hut made of corrugated metal and a few bits of soiled cardboard, presumably there for decorative, rather than structural, purposes. Then no more than thirty yards down the road stood a gun club, its unavoidably large emblem assuring sceptical drivers that the business was “100% owned and operated by gun enthusiasts!”.
Five years ago I caught glandular fever, the viral infection that is frequently and rather dismissively referred to as the “kissing disease”. It tends to affect people differently: for some, it consists of a lousy week of tiredness and a blisteringly sore throat that makes eating near impossible; for others it’s months of nausea, depression, lingering fatigue and roughly a week of tonsillitis either side of those effects.
The first time I went to Butlins was during a week of excruciating planned activity fun. I was about twelve years old and my school at the time had arranged for us to do four days of laborious river walking, abseiling and mountain biking in the rain. Then, as a reward for the wretchedness of the first four days, we were treated to one day at Butlins.