Where did the last five months go? I’ve just checked – and my last
Drum & Monkey post was at the end of April. How shaming! Or it
could be, if I let it. But I’m not sure how many people read this
guff anyway – and besides it’s my blog: I’ll do what I want.
what I want, it turns out, is (as far as possible) to take summers
off. Not that we had much of a summer, weatherwise; but, in common
with many others I suspect, I experienced an odd kind of burnout
earlier this year. It can’t have been pressure of work – I was
fortunate that I had just about enough; my workload was eminently
manageable and, working from home, was even more so. But I think the
stress of last winter – the UK’s rocketing Covid-19 numbers (of
cases, hospitalisations and, sadly, deaths) with, at least to begin
with, no vaccine in sight – left all of us suffering some low-level
form of PTSD.
Whether I still am is for others to judge – but by and large I’ve enjoyed the past few more or less indolent months. I love summer sports, and the return of Wimbledon, complete with crowds, and the well-attended Test cricket series against New Zealand and India gladdened the heart. The results hardly mattered – it was enough just to see people gathered together en masse.
And of course there was football, and Euro 2020: held a year late – but oh what a circus, oh what a show. With matches staged all over Europe it was, to some, a colossal waste of money and an unpardonable splurge of environmentally-unfriendly profligacy. Others (me) found it massively uplifting: an example sans pareil of the resurgence, the indomitability, of the human spirit.
you were to ask me, do I like football, I would unthinkingly answer
yes. And it’s true I like to see Norwich City do well – it’s my
home town, my home team, and the city feels a marginally happier
place when “the Canaries” are on a winning streak. (Which, at
present, they aren’t.) But I don’t get bent out of shape when they
lose (which as just as well). I just don’t feel that invested in it,
me the World Cup or the Euros though, and I’m all over it. Especially
in the early stages. I lose a bit of enthusiasm once teams start
getting eliminated and the whole thing becomes more ponderous; but
the first days and weeks… Four matches a day? A riot, a rainbow, of
colour, drama, excitement? Massive crowds of people going nuts in the
hot summer sun? Bring it on.
out it’s not really football I love; it’s tournament football.
year especially – partly because it was such a poke in the eye to
the pandemic; but also there was England’s performance to sustain my
interest. There was no shame in their eventual loss to Italy – just
inexperience, and a certain naivety.
on the World Cup.
shame, however – and rightly – was in the widespread reaction to
the trolling of England penalty takers Bukayo Saka, Jadon Sancho and
Marcus Rashford, all of whom missed from the spot during the penalty
shoot-out that decided the match, thus handing victory to the
has been written about the so called “culture wars” being waged
in the UK and elsewhere. Pro-vaxxers versus anti-vaxxers. Climate
crisis deniers versus eco-warriors. The “woke” versus the
“anti-woke”. The list goes on and tediously on; but what
characterises these conflicts, these differences of opinion, is
absolutism – a total unwillingness even to acknowledge that there
might be a point of view other than yours. Simply because of how it
works, social media – Facebook especially – encourages this
polarisation, this reductive, binary tribalism, devoid of nuance.
our government, shamingly, has jumped on the bandwagon. Crude
populism, enabled by social media, is what brought about Brexit, and
what got Boris Johnson elected.
while culture wars, the extremism of culture wars, does not in itself
give legitimacy to trolling, it does provide an environment where it
can exist: where trolls feel encouraged to hurl their disgusting
insults with relative impunity. And where, if it’s not too much of a
reach, radicalised wingnuts can find justification for carrying out
atrocious acts, of which last week’s murder of Southend West MP Sir
David Amess was merely the latest.
or not, most of us who use social media (and I use Facebook a lot)
are operating in an echo chamber. We become friends with people who
share our opinions – and every exchange with our Facebook friends
just reinforces our confirmation bias. It’s how the algorithm works.
And if someone disagrees with you? Hey presto: just unfriend them.
it’s not necessarily how friendships work in real life. With real,
flesh-and-blood folks, your friendships are yours to make – not
down to some bloodless, soulless, sinister piece of computer code.
probable that most of the people you choose to spend most of your
time with share most of your opinions – but not all. I have a
friend whose views on certain issues trouble me (because they don’t
chime with my own) but who is one of the most generous, thoughtful,
kind-hearted people I know. Am I going to terminate our friendship
because we disagree on one thing (albeit a fairly fundamental thing)?
No I’m not. I’ll continue to press my case, and to call my friend out
when they say something that I find offensive. And we’ll continue to
make each other laugh, to commiserate with one another when needed,
and “have each other’s backs”.
occurs to me that perhaps I need to consciously expand my real-life
friendship groups – to extend the hand of friendship to those with
whom I might, on some subjects, vehemently disagree. It’s got to be
healthier than allowing Mark Zuckerberg to arrange my social life, or
access my headspace.
many cities, Norwich is characterised by narrow streets lined with
Victorian terrace houses. I live in one such.
wouldn’t have it any other way. The street where I live is pleasing
to the eye, characterful, and the neighbours are friendly and
helpful. As I hope I am to them.
is a concern. And that problem will continue to grow unless and until
laws are passed limiting car ownership, and car sizes, per household
(which may be the subject of a future Drum & Monkey). But it’s
one we put up with, for now.
did. I can’t be the only one whose equanimity has been seriously
challenged by the profusion of delivery vans on our streets: an issue
that predates the pandemic, but which has become a great deal worse
over the past 18 months.
it’s not so much the number of vans that upsets me – I order stuff
online myself from time to time – it’s the behaviour of the
you’re doing a drop, and there’s no place to pull into nearby: fair
enough. Stop your van, do the delivery sharpish, jump back in, and
off you go. I can be patient for the couple of minutes or so that
that takes, and we’ve all got to make a living.
when did it become acceptable to just slam on the anchors, stick your
hazard lights on, and leave the van in situ for 10 minutes or more
while you do a bunch of deliveries? Traffic backing up behind you all
the while? Worse: WHEN THERE’S A PERFECTLY GOOD PARKING SPACE
drivers: I’m looking at you.