In Streetly on the way home from Sutton Park, we pass a petrol station with an empty forecourt, all nozzles bedecked with yellow hoods to indicate that they are out of fuel. Triggered in part by self-perpetuating media reports of fuel shortages, by the ongoing post-Brexit haulage and logistics problems, by HGV driver shortages, and by high levels of distrust in government and politicians, those who rely on their cars to get to work descended on petrol stations en masse, panic buying fuel in scenes reminiscent of the toilet paper crisis of March 2020.
“Will someone please think of the teachers”, “will someone please think of the nurses”, “key workers should get priority and be able to jump the queue”, “don’t be selfish and think of others” and other cries mimic every other crisis, shortage and challenge we’ve faced over the course of the past eleven two years under the Conservatives. During the pandemic alone we’ve heard these narratives on everything from face masks, to the use of public transport, to bags of bread flour. However, we are a nation of self-interested idiots or, if you’re feeling generous, desperate folk just trying to get by. The only effective opposition we have is a football player turned children’s poverty activist, the Labour party hell-bent on tearing themselves a new one and sitting on fences rather than taking a kick at an open goal. To the toilet paper aisle we go. To the fuel pumps we go. These crises are borne of fear, frustration, and the absolute failure of state.
The sky is painted in shades of pink, orange, and red, an apocalyptic sunset after a day of torrential rain. It is a fitting backdrop for what feels like a stage play but is sadly real life in this has-been country, riddled with nostalgia for yesteryear, and falling apart at the seams.
I have always hated November, but this November has taken the trophy for Worst November Ever. Still, there [were] still faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity*.
Regular readers could be forgiven for thinking I have a melancholy mind. I keep a notebook which I fill with observations from my everyday life in and around my city of Birmingham. From time to time, I share snippets from my notebook here on my personal blog. This year, my observations have been bleak. My latest, a postcard from the end of the world, especially so. My hope is that after seeing these photos, you will see that I am not dressing things up, or rather down, but rather aiming for a truthful portrayal of Birmingham. I love my adopted home town, but it has seen better days.
New leaves on my pilea peperomioides after I gave it a few drops of fertiliser. It’s really quite dark inside now that we’re through to November, and some of the lower leaves were starting to turn yellow and drop off. I knew it wasn’t from overwatering as I’ve really got a handle on that now, but thought a little bit of food might help make it happier as I grow my plants in a soil free mix – coir, perlite and bark – and thought it might be short on nutrients as I hadn’t fed it since early September.
The holiday lights are up on New Street, the atmosphere a strange mix of Christmas Eve and the end of the world. On the cusp of England’s second lockdown, the shops are heaving with people stocking up on essentials from businesses that don’t have an online presence, and the cafés and restaurants are packed with friends getting together one last time before everything shuts again for a month or more. At the Bullring end of New Street, trestle tables have been set up outside Zara and Waterstones, staffed by the devout offering religious literature to those who pass by. Two groups of young men face each other across the shopping square volleying the names of Jesus and Allah back and forth, performing their faith and devotion in public before the indifferent eyes and ears of the final audience of the season. Overhead, a huge digital advertising screen on the side of a shuttered shop flashes the faces, names, ages, and last known whereabouts of Birmingham’s missing people. I cast my eyes down, reach inside my coat pocket for my phone, and refresh the Guardian’s live blog coverage of the US election results. I don’t usually carry my phone with me when I go for a walk or head into town unless I am meeting someone, but I haven’t been able to detach myself from it all week.