Friday, April 10, 2020

Lockdown 1665

In Journal of the Plague Year Daniel Defoe's narrator touched on some of the issues associated with enforced containment: 

"If, then, there were cases wherein the infected people were careless of the injury they did to others, this was certainly one of them, if not the chief, namely, when people who had the distemper had broken out from houses which were so shut up, and having been driven to extremities for provision or for entertainment, had edeavoured to conceal their condition, and have been thereby instrumental involuntarily to infect others who have been ignorant and unwary...

"The people broke out, whether by force or by stratagem, even almost as often as they pleased; and, second, that those that did thus break out were generally people infected who, in their desperation, running about from one place to another, valued not whom they injured: and which perhaps, as I have said, might give birth to report that it was natural to the infected people to desire to infect others, which report was really false...

"This is one of the reasons why I believed then, and do believe still, that the shutting up houses thus by force, and restraining, or rather imprisoning, people in their own houses, as I said above, was of little or no service in the whole. Nay, I am of opinion it was rather hurtful, having forced those desperate people to wander abroad with the plague upon them, who would otherwise have died quietly in their beds."

Thursday, April 09, 2020


One of our near neighbours in the village has gone to ground with enough food supplies to provide relief to a small Caribbean nation after a natural disaster, private ventilator machines etc. 

Rich people in Guatemala are not generally known for their community spirit. 

And one thing we have learned these last few days is that the more selfish elements of the country's elite are more than capable of screwing things up for everyone else.

One exemplar walked into a private hospital and signed in (think of the receptionists, the pen that was used) with a fever and maybe even a persistent dry cough. 

I suppose the idea of that bed awaiting at the Parque Industrial was sufficiently unappealing to override any sense of personal responsibility. 

The end result, fairly immediately, was a pair of resident consultants testing positive, suggesting that they were unprepared for this sort of walk-in. And today, around half a dozen new cases associated with this case of personal exceptionalism. 

There really do have to be stiffer penalties for this sort of thing. If any one of the people thus infected were to die, manslaughter charges surely would be appropriate. 

On Pause

There seems to be prevailing view — in the US in particular — that the economic contraction associated with the pandemic is man-made and man-controlled rather than systemic, rather like a pause button effect, and that once the threat to life has diminished sufficiently — ideally during the summer — the button can be un-pressed and everything will more or less start off again where it left a ‘robust’ state.

There’s an obvious political angle to this narrative in the US. And yet it is not to be entirely discounted as many stalled industries are likely to need to play catch-up almost immediately and may tend to kick off again at full tilt.

Yet can 17m unemployed just walk back into their old jobs? Is the US economy such an island that the wider slowdown in global trade, tourism and so on is unlikely to have much of an impact?

What of the likely longer-term absence of large-scale social interaction and its associated psychological impact? Is the new normal really going to so closely resemble the old normal?

Thinking more locally, there are certainly parts of the Guatemalan economy that from the supply side at least will come back online rather like a rebooted server. The demand side could be trickier though.

And the 4/5s of Antigua's economy that used to be funded by foreigners will not magically re-appear in even the medium term.

When the pause button is finally released we may not hear the tune we expected.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

Moving goalposts

The rules for ending lockdowns were established by Italy, the first country in the West to impose one: Two whole incubation periods of 15 days have to pass after the last new positive case is detected. 

Then there follows a 90-day heightened vigilance period in which many mass or social activities remain restricted. 

So, at any single moment one is a minimum of a month away from release. Four from a return to some sort of pre-pandemic normality. Yet in reality, much further. 

There were four new cases here in Guatemala today, one a man in his 70s from San Juan del Obispo. 

France has seen a rise in fatalities, while Italy, which had appeared to be past the worst, has had a new surge. 

In Europe only Spain appears to have peaked. But that just means the number of new cases detected each day has started a slow decline. They remain a long way from that final 30 days. 

Even China still reports 20+ new cases a day. 

And a strong sense that what is to come afterwards could well be worse has started to take hold. 

Monday, April 06, 2020


The staggered nature of the pandemic, across the globe, across the US even, may be creating false expectations of imminent relief. 

Responses are still remarkably local and idiosyncratic. Every country appears to have come up with one completely bonkers idea all by itself. Panama has gendered its lockdown, Belize has denied re-entry to its own citizens and so on. 

And while the developed world is starting to look forward to 'better times' (Austria is already planning to un-lockdown), the situation in the developing world may be about to significantly worsen, and it would indeed be unfortunate if the moment of greatest need in marginal communities comes at a time when the affluent are collectively breathing a sigh of relief. 

Unless the human race as a whole has developed a form of herd immunity in just three months (or untraced infections are running at 50x the levels currently tracked, as some of the billionaire optimists suggest) then we won't be able to let our guard down as a species for some time.

Here in Guatemala we now have our first example of regional community transmission of unknown provenance and our first small town effectively cordoned off by the military. It may be a tipping point. 

Patzún is a locale that plays an important role in the supply chain to the market in Antigua, fruit and vegetables in particular, and the developments over the past few days and the new prohibition against inter-departmental travel may entail additional side effects here in terms of the impact on businesses which depend on supplies from outside Sacatepéquez. 

Those who only a fortnight or so ago were advocating a 'buy local' campaign as a way of ventilating the local economy probably never imagined how soon this policy would become de facto if not de iure

A couple of days ago I spotted a marketing initiative put together by a cartelito of eight catering businesses in the city, all claiming to be 'locally-owned' but in truth only two of them really are in the purist sense. 

That the promotional scheme was pitched in English both culturally and linguistically and would anyway be unlikely to appeal all that much to many panza verdes shows just how far some have to go to fully understand the new situation here. 

Suddenly everyone is in the same boat, chasing the same, far more local customer base. Those that understand this market have a clear advantage, and in these times of contractions and re-alignments, the more effortless natives are almost certainly going to try to put the squeeze on the faux-indigenes, in ways that will be familiar to anyone who's ever been to Cornwall

So, if you use the word 'local' in your marketing, you are going to have to be absolutely transparent about what you mean. For be warned, Antigueños are not going to accept any BS. 

Many seem to feel that they have been actively disrespected for a long time by a portion of consumer facing businesses chasing supposedly bigger fish; some may even be looking for payback. 

Westworld, off with S3

In spite of the what the chemtrailers, vegan extremists and 5G mast-obsessed might tell you, SARS-CoV-2 is a virus that is actively resisting attempts to pinpoint its metaphorical payload. 

This has left a lot of the content we might now be consuming at home lacking in au courant relevance. 

Perhaps not Westworld  now with added Aaron Paul and Susana Asensio  for it is a) set in a sufficiently distant near future and b) can be about whatever you want it to be about really...though the occasionally predominant proposition that some people are under close observation within a simulation without fully realising it, could easily be stretched to fit current realities.

Saturday, April 04, 2020


SARS-Cov-2 has been able to consistently mess with our expectations because culturally at least, these expectations have largely been set by fiction and not by history. (Or 'models' that are abstracted from human realities.)

A reading of the literature for the Great Plague in London (1665) for example, will reveal that pestilence has often spread in ways that are uneven in both pace and extent and more than a little dumfounding.

The apocalypses we imagine and then pay to witness tend to be simple and brutal in premise. Yet I have often wondered why we don't speculate just a little bit more around partial rather than near total apocalypses, calamities where the breakdowns are just a bit more selective, where only one or two key switches in civilisation’s fuse box have been flipped.

The novel coronavirus that has brought the modern world partially to its knees is a very slippery character indeed. Far far more contagious than its predecessor, and potentially lethal to an uncertain number of human beings from a frustratingly imprecise sub-set of the species. 

Our current obsession with testing has more to do with pinning the little bugger down than providing a proper solution. 

There seem to be just too many ways to cut the cake and one ends up with the suspicion that this indeterminacy is a fundamental part of the MO of the virus and one that it is somehow exploiting.

In this it has almost dream-like qualities: the moment of potential intelligibility turns out to be but a blink away from the collapse into the ungraspable. 

Here in Guatemala one might even want to examine the ways in which the contagion co-evolves with the measures taken to suppress it. 

About a month ago my wife pinpointed this formally sneaky aspect of the pandemic when she referred to the behaviour of SARS-CoV-2 as 'mathematical'. Then we watched this interview with one Dr Djaballah conducted by the Korea Times, in which his use of the adjective cryptic really chimed with us. 

Now, while I am (almost) never a subscriber to conspiracy theories, the patterns we are seeing with this virus would not be that hard to stigmatise as the work of a human agent determined to dick around with the basic settings of SARS-CoV-1. 

And yet, back in January, one of the principal arguments deployed against the conspiracy theories was that any cabal of super-villains in a hidden lab would surely have chosen to elaborate a bug that would be far more lethal and in a sense, far more simple. Would they, really? 

Like any other conclusions we draw, this one is going to have to be provisional. 

Friday, April 03, 2020

Vivarium (2020)

Cometh the hour, cometh the movie. 

If ever there was a psychological-satire to survive the widespread narrative redundancy of these times, this is it. 

It falls some way short of being a horror flick, of being science fiction, of either sufficient drama or character development, of possessing a fully satisfactory explanation and of having a big enough conceit for a full feature, yet all these deficiencies are picket-fenced away by the sheer timeliness of it.

That and the excellent casting. Imogen Poots has been a little bit eclipsed by the likes of Florence Pugh, Carey Mulligan and Felicity Jones in recent years, but she remains one of Britain's leading young female film actors. (She and Eisenberg were also great together in The Art Of Self-Defense.)

There's also a stand-out performance from Jonathan Aris, a contemporary of mine from both school and university. 

Aris plays Martin, an estate agent ⁠— creepy even by the standards of his profession ⁠— who leads a slightly reluctant young couple called Gemma and Tom to view the show home at a development called Yonder, which turns out to be a vast, uninhabited, cookie-cutter gated community, with no wall and no gate, so no need to fret about the potential horrors on the outside; instead, this movie is all about the nightmare of suburban introspection. 

The property ladder here, and there is one, is much more of a snake. 

Of Yonder Martin ⁠patters that "It's near enough and far enough. Just the right distance." And that in essence is always the problem with the easy-to-replicate lifestyle of suburban early parenthood that it encapsulates: one is always a bit too near to some things and a bit too far from others. And the sense of being just the right distance from an intimation of being utterly trapped tends to come and go. 

Right now in lockdown, just how many are being existentially-excruciated by their constricted domestic existence, squeezed in with the little aliens they have engendered? Suddenly the prison is a lot less metaphorical. 

These days people tend to use the Interwebs to escape lab-rat conformity, so it surprised me a little that although we do get the inevitable 'no network' moment of most contemporary horror flicks, neither Gemma nor Tom seem especially bothered by the more general loss of connectivity. 

‘Bring up the child and you will be released...’

The Clone Wars

Michael, one of my oldest non-Chapin friends in Antigua, once confided to me how he thought long and hard before opening his shop ⁠— La Nube ⁠— about the sort of business that could thrive in the city without being almost immediately swamped by clones. 

Duck feather pillows have done the job for him in that respect for many years now. They are perhaps also a bit more recession-proof than other available discretionary purchases, like spa treatments, though I imagine that trade is currently suspended. (Fortunately, my friend belongs to Antigua’s diminishing class of hobbyist, gentleman-entrepreneurs.) 

Only last week I was noting with admiration how Pappy’s BBQ has significantly adjusted its offer towards the home and even retail markets by vacuum-packing their food. Well now there are already several copycats trill-rauuuuling on the tejados of Antigua.

Here in Antigua the Johnnies don’t even come lately. 

Ofertón Pérez of the day. 

Fancy breakfast in November? You can pay for it now. 

Bunfight at the O.K. Corral

After a truly epic bunfight in congress last night, which lasted until five in the morning, representatives have approved a decree guaranteeing basic services, Internet included, for three months, ‘or whatever it takes’.

This I think should be taken as the surest sign yet that the fundamental restrictions in place right now are unlikely to be loosened any time soon. 

This morning the parque central in Antigua was sealed off like a crime scene and is being guarded by local military reserves. 

There were minor grumblings in our household earlier, occasioned by the fact that I have already paid our water bills through to the end of 2020. 

However, given that we don’t sit within that class of citizens likely to be seriously inconvenienced by the economic contraction, now is not the time, I believe and would like to append as a piece of advice to others in a similar situation, to partake of available freeloading opportunities. 

The Great Pizza Bubble

So, Giammattei has ordered the beaches and lakes closed for Holy Week. 

How exactly is that going to work over at Atitlán?

The imprecision in the measure is once more apparent. Closed for swimming, closed for navigation or closed to outsiders completely? 

In the UK the police have been dumping black dye into lagoons that might otherwise remain attractive to swimmers. 

Meanwhile, having long debated with friends in Antigua whether or not pizza saturation point had been reached, I think we can all agree that we’re well past that stage now, into something approaching the great pizza bubble. 

Even restaurants that never before offered pizza are now competing for customers with the existing horde, many of whom must be feeling a degree of consternation at the unexpected arrival of reinforcements. 

The latter must also be regretting that they didn’t offer home delivery before, as experience has to count for something in this situation and in the likely prolonged absence of tourists, it could become part of that over-heralded phenomenon, the new normal. 

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Just passing Tower Bridge

Back in the days when we were both living and working mainly in London, my wife would often join me after office hours for social events, at first in Bloomsbury and later on in Soho. 

Like any self-respecting Chapin, she tended to struggle a bit with punctuality. I'd call up to see where she'd got to and although she was either still at her own desk in the City or at home about to dip into the shower, she'd tell me she was 'just passing Tower Bridge'. 

This became one of our in-jokes. So the other night, when Trump announced that the epidemic in the US would peak in the next couple of weeks, we both turned to each other and exclaimed 'he's just passing Tower Bridge'. 

Trump is also hoping large swathes of his audience consider peak a synonym for end. 

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Unanswered question of the day...

What the flying fork was patient 39 (and/or family cohort) doing at a hospital in Amatitlán interacting with a 69-year-old, diabetic doctor, having only recently returned from New York? 

The system, such as it was, has suffered a critical failure, and as far as the rest of the country is concerned, this could turn out to be THE critical failure. 

All She Wants To Do...

Well we barely made the airport for the last plane out
As we taxied down the runway I could hear the people shout
They said "Don't come back here Yankee"
But if I ever do
I'll bring more money
'Cause all she wants to do is dance...and make romance. 

April Fools’ Day

...has been postponed until April 13.

It’s easy to blame Trump...

He's Trump. He’s more than asking for it.

Yet in the USA, and Mexico for that matter, there’s an underlying structural issue that the executive is feeding off: federal government. Trump sits atop a patchwork of responses to the pandemic, even if his own, typically ineffectual, bullying, duplicitous and deflecting approach is the most visible.

He won’t universalise the restrictions, he says, because half the cases are in New York. No point in shutting down the flyover states, especially the red ones. But then he says the national epidemic will peak by the end of April. The stated policy infers that he is still mainly talking about New York, but rather abruptly, the bigger picture is smothering the detail.

Anyway, it’s hard to be shocked when Trump bats away a probing question by calling it ‘nasty’. Far more gobsmacking was the lie delivered this week by Mexico’s pandemicist-in-chief Hugo López Gatell, an epidemiologist of some repute.

When asked if President López Obrador should be concerned that a politician he’d been meeting with lately had tested positive, he categorically discounted the possibility that infected individuals without symptoms can pass it on.

Last week’s New Scientist led with an article titled People Without Symptoms Are Covid-19 Spreaders. Anyone who’s been tuned into coronavirus chatter for the past month or so wil know that this is not such an outlandish claim. Maybe Hugo knows better, but the political rationale for his assertion was all too apparent.

Today it has emerged that Vladimir Putin finds himself in a similar position to Mexico’s AMLO. The medic he appointed to coordinate Russia’s response to the virus, and with whom he has been repeatedly pictured at desks, in lifts etc. has picked up the bug. Putin’s response was delivered in his familiar reassuring style, such that any nearby hack would be happy to move on to the next question.

Perhaps the most depressing thing about the interchange between the journalist and López Gatell in the Palacio Nacional, was the way she allowed the expert to shut her down so aggressively. Those that take on the Donald have become used to trying to stand their ground, parrying his veering misrepresentations, until he simply turns away.

AMLO’s underlings may need to adopt a less prickly approach to the press if the mother of El Chapo Guzmán tests positive for SARS-CoV-2 later in the week.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

At the movies...

Right now it's a bit like almost every country in the world is trying to watch a movie in slow motion expecting it to be over sooner than if they had watched it at full speed.  

They all want to get to the end so they can talk about it with their friends and neighbours, but everyone started watching at different times and at different speeds.  

The Chinese are already thinking about which movie to put on next. 

Monday, March 30, 2020

A Plague On Both Your Houses

The hard right and the hard left both have an aversion to plagues. 

In the case of the former it’s largely down to the collective consciousness (and response) they tend to elicit. Meanwhile, the ideological left is anchored by Marxist doctrine which offers only two possible pathways to social progress: class struggle is the standard shortcut, but over the longer term inevitable, in-built tendencies in the economic and political ‘superstructure’ will tend to do the job. 

Not nasty, random, micro-biological bugs. 

John Hatcher didn't teach me on a one-on-one basis at Cambridge, though I attended his lectures and was supervised out of Caius for my first Lent term by his key protegé Dr Mark Bailey, who was then playing on the wing for England (Rugby Union), and coincidentally went on to become High Master at SPS. 

Along with Hatcher, he was pursuing a self-consciously non-ideological, data-driven approach to medieval society and politics. 

Hatcher in particular took on the (mostly French) Marxist historians by insisting that the massive adjustments to the social order after the Black Death were a direct consequence of it: e.g. a shortage of labour significantly changed the balance of power as far as the rural poor were concerned, with lasting consequences for most western European societies. 

As a result, the rump of Marxist scholars have been reduced to trying to prove that the Black Death didn't really kill all that many people. Yet the data says otherwise. Mortality was almost uniformly around 50% across the old world, across the board. 

Yet this presents another problem for historians. Bubonic Plague is spread by the fleas of rodents in which infection is endemic. Yet rats were not so evenly spread around medieval Europe as the effects of the plague rather clearly were. Something else was going on - pneumonic plague perhaps - but the truth is we just don’t know and possibly never will. 

In this fascinating book Hatcher dips below the data to semi-fictionalise the personal experiences of English villagers in 1348. 

Did you get the memo?

Someone didn't.

My copy said that no commercial activity of any kind, with the now familiar and limited exceptions, was to continue at any time of the day. 

After 4pm even those exceptions were then to cease and desist, though another part of the document handled the need for urgent medical/pharmaceutical assistance separately. 

Yet this morning, standing in my garden, I could tune into the monotonous hum of local cottage industry. Plus the rustling occasioned by the poles of next door's pool cleaners when they connect with my fence and its foliage. Pool cleaners! 

And a friend sent me this pic from the parque earlier this morning. Payday and creeping complacency. 

"Today scared me. The banks were insane. I estimate MAYBE 2 in 10 people were using masks. People were one foot apart in bank lines. Crowds of 20 maskless people were standing around in the park and on the streets. It was insanity," he wrote. 

This state of affairs has left even the Prensa Libre confused. They point out that the Prez doesn't appear to have read his own memo carefully enough, because during last night's address he said it was still OK for his imaginary friend Doña Chona to continue to operate as long as she uses a mascarilla and provides alcohol gel...and presumably also keeps her pink unicorns indoors. 

Meanwhile, this sort of 'civil disobedience', which I predicted some time ago, ought to be clamped down on pretty quickly, because it is only going to get worse over the course of the next fortnight. 

Coronavirus Rhapsody


Restrictions have been tightened in Guatemala, with the new rules coming into effect from tomorrow, Monday 30th. 

Alcohol can now no longer be purchased or consumed after 3pm. 

And even deliveries, including take-aways, will now be limited to between 4am and 4pm. 

Though this part is less than 100% clear, it must be said. Prensa Libre details what I just stated (based on this morning's communication, below), while El Periodico suggests there has been no alteration to the existing guidelines. 

The PNC are probably too busy spreading another kind of virus to know or care what they are actually meant to be doing. (Seriously, WTF? Whatever happened to the estado laico? )

Something did loosen: Municipal Markets can now remain in action until 1pm. 

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Watch out for the white pyjamas...

Those of us that speak Spanish should take the time to view last night's press conference from CDMX, from start to finish. It's an education. 

Though I suspect that many local viewers had disappeared off to buy toilet rolls after the first five minutes or so.

I've seen more covered faces when they present a recently-captured narco. The audience at least appear to have grasped the basics of social distancing. It's an extraordinary show. Scientifically, medically precise, yet politically woolly in the extreme. 

Unlike Trump, these guys are being pretty transparent about the difference between SARS-CoV-2 infection and Covid-19 disease. 

Dr Hugo López Gatell, designated smartest guy in the room, possibly also in all of Mexico at this time, generally spoke sin pelos en la lengua, as they say, except when the subject of the President or the measures taken up to yesterday were discussed. 

There was some over-elaborate hand-washing (and not the sort we have all been asked to practice) citing compliance with WHO guidelines and some unconvincingly definitive conclusions on the contagiousness of those that have the virus, but not the sickness. 

He also had an awkward @anncoulter moment when he was speaking in front of an infographic that was saying something completely different to what was coming out of his mouth. 

How convenient that the pre-symptomatic aren't spreaders. Lucky old AMLO. They must never sneeze, cough, rub their faces, bite their nails. That's what I'd call a viral load of old cobblers. 

The lady in the box doing the signing was severing her own jugular symbolically a worrying number of times. 

And that Canciller chappie on the right should be placed in immediate quarantine for the benefit of clear and truthful communications. At one point even Hugo there was giving him the stink eye. 

What about the borders? And what a load of piffle about the airports remaining open so stranded Mexicans could be repatriated. 

He then started making some not very apropos remarks about working with the UN to prevent an international medical conflict  in effect a drug war, though not of the kind the country has been embroiled in for the past decade. 

Overall a bizarre blend of the clear-cut and granular with the utterly vague. Everyone except those with a vital role in the 'sustento nacional' (national wellbeing) is to stay at home (x3), yet the decision as to how important they are in this respect is to be left to each and every individual. 

Devolved responsibility again. It's voluntary. So, yoga classes galore. 

I have to say that the spectacle of Mexico carrying on as normal had been equal parts disturbing and oddly reassuring. As with Boris’s brief flirtation with ‘herd immunity’, which he must now be regretting, it seemed to leave open the possibility of another way. 

Like it or not, executive leadership is often defined by single key moments. I think we can now discount the possibility that AMLO will be outlived by a load of streets named in his honour. He has failed spectacularly, historically, and along the way possibly damaged the cause of progressive government in Mexico. 

Major Tom to Ground Control

Starting to feel like an astronaut out in deep space fondly remembering life back on Earth...

Heading in the wrong direction.

Curfew to continue in Guatemala until April 12. 

Baby steps still from Giammattei, but with neighbours to the north and south both now in a 30 day lockdown we will be compelled to synchronise even though our own medidas masivas kicked off a little earlier in the process. 

The President probably needed to erect a bit of a concrete dome on top of Semana Santa, which was already threatening to leak out into the atmosphere. 

The UK announced today that it’s own measures will be extended ‘for a significant period’, while yesterday the Governor of California suggested a time frame of 3 months is now most likely. 

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Meanwhile, down south...

Chile now has 1909 cases. 

Local businesses say up to 80% will fail if this all goes on for more than three months. 

Piñera has even more trouble than Giammattei with recusant diputados opposed to following up the lockdown with any sort of financial assistance for the unemployed. 

The anti-facho contingent must be a bit conflicted right now, as indeed should anyone be who is habitually committed to civil liberties. 

300 have been arrested for curfew violations, thus far. (Not quite the levels that Guatemala has witnessed, relatively-speaking.)

Chile’s referendum and constituent assembly have been pushed back from April to October, something the government and opposition were able to agree on. 

They also seem to be taking the need for additional psychological clinics as seriously as emergency field hospitals. 

There are pumas on the streets of Santiago. 

Yesterday in Guatemala two foreigners with suspected covid-19 were found dead in a house on the Carretera a El Salvador. It has to be said that facial-cranial trauma was not one of the 'mild symptoms' that I was previously aware of. 

Lies, damned lies and...

In a video address from outside his big, second floor office at the Ayuntamiento yesterday, Victor Hugo reminded us that 80% of Antigua’s economy is tourism-dependent which means, he added, that 80% of the population is directly affected by the current downturn. 

Well, no it doesn’t. The two proportions may well be semi-accurate after all, but the one does not follow from the other. 

I do hope our mayor understands this, because a grasp of statistics like this was always going to be an integral part of the job, and now it could almost be a life and death matter. 

It’s quite possible that 60% of panza verdes could live quite comfortably on 30% of the tourist revenue seen in the past, for example. (Off the top if my head, with no claim for accuracy.) 

For local GDP, as elsewhere in Guatemala, was never particularly evenly spread. 

And yet, there’s a case to be made that as near as dammit to 100% will be directly affected, if not equally so. 

On the plus side, the Muni have indeed been analysing the needs of the population against some rather crucial metrics, and have concluded that 1200 families fall into the urgent need of assistance category.*

* UPDATE: This has in fact been delegated down to the alcaldes auxiliares, so here at least, we’re probably fucked. This was a job for conscientious professionals, not rank amateurs. Like any of the surrounding villages, we have numerous households that tend to be a rather complex mix of cases: struggling small business owners, the newly unemployed, the old and infirm, longer-term indigents, bottom feeders and so on. Sorting out who gets the despensa will not be an easy task. 

Things to do in self-isolation (2)

I’m reading Austen. Wasn’t part of the plan, but now I’ve started, I can’t let up. 

We’ve somehow managed to avoid ordering take-away, probably for the better, though opinion is divided on how hazardous a practice this could be

There’s been something of a re-flowering of the bewildered bikes; perhaps the curve peaks Friday-Sunday. When you're having to be a bit of a huevón 24-7, the arrival of an actual weekend possibly provides some relief from the sheer guilt of it all. 

One local eatery, known affectionately to locals as Patas Arriba — perhaps because it soon will be — has started advertising items on its menu as the scientifically-proven prophylactic deterrent against covid-19

This may not be an on-the-books delito, yet in a nation as credulous as this, it possibly ought to be. (I suppose any establishment willing to use a dead rodent as the emblem of its kitchen, heads off to the races with a bit of a handicap.)

There’s questionable taste and then there’s the sort of thing that unquestionably makes you want to repeatedly scrub your hands. 

Meanwhile, a family group just passed outside, dad in almost full Cassandra Crossing hazmat (minus the sub-machinegun) , mum and one daughter a bit more ninja and the other daughter could have been trying to blend in on the streets of Kabul. 

Friday, March 27, 2020

The Harry Potter approach

Boris says that thanks to the 'wizardry' of modern technology, he can continue to run the country from his sick-bed with covid-19

Digital tech is apparently plugging some gaps (home schooling for example) in an effective manner, which in certain instances may presage a new normal, post-pandemic. 

However, I was genuinely disheartened to listen to this defiantly up-beat post from the mistress of my college, Susan J Smith

Surely no amount of wizardry can make up for a lost last term at Cambridge. 

I sense some unfairness in this. 

Just like the stalled Premier League season must surely be allowed to run to its conclusion whenever possible, there is a potent argument against this sort of fudge. 

Liverpool have waited 'aeons' for this title and similarly, the current set of undergrads approaching their finals will have invested three precious years in a process, the denouement of which is often the most cherish-able. 

Why put the needs of those yet to matriculate  next year's intake  before those with unfinished business of graduation and everything that can be crammed (collectively) into an Easter term. 

If even the IOC and Japan can (albeit) grudgingly propose to hold 'Tokyo 2020' in 2021, Cantab can find a way to resolve this, even if it means shortening term breaks or finding extra accommodation. 

The University has been through this before during the wars. No wizardry then. It shouldn't be used now as an unconvincing pretext by them, or indeed by Boris. 

No redemption...

Things to do in self-isolation (1)

I had been thinking of preparing a sort of photo montage of all the bewildered motorbike delivery riders from our security cams, but like the mass ejaculation of a coral reef, this eye-catching phenomenon has proved rather short lived. 

So now I am 'reduced' to people in masks, people not in masks, plus the occasional curfew breaker. 

We had one pretty spectacular example of the latter yesterday...

A bloke on a bike in an advanced state of inebriation trying to make it somewhere/anywhere before 4pm. He zig-zagged alarmingly across the cobbled street on our flank before hitting the curb at a 90 degree angle and dismounting involuntarily. (This one may have to be a video...) 

He waited a bit and then attempted to continue, but his front wheel was now somewhat lacking in roundness and off he went again, this time sideways into some tall bamboo, disappearing completely for several minutes.  

And repeat. 

A car stopped and a man emerged. A knight errant? No, someone after an amusing pic. 

Shortly afterwards another (maskless) woman appeared and led the stricken cyclist off south by the arm, seemingly just in the nick of time. 

But later, after dark, he repeatedly re-appeared, alone in the village but for the hungry street-dogs, still visibly wobbly and now sans vélo, probing a variety of different exit options, at some risk of spending the night in police custody.

"As long as the dark side flows through the cracks of my flesh, I cannot be killed.”