Fear and Loathing in the UK

Posted on March 2, 2022

Before I start, the title of this blog is based on a play on words from a book by Hunter S Thomson, I read years ago. Sorry if you didn’t get it. What you probably will get, is the feeling of not having any control or influence on the nightmare unfolding in Ukraine.

Trip to Salisbury

I had to go to pick something up in Salisbury yesterday and ended up in a wet and cold industrial estate. It was all quite desperate wandering around in the rain worrying, where only a quick visit to Lidl (for a pint of milk) lifted my spirits. There is something uniquely uplifting about wandering along the famous ‘Lidl Middle’. I always imagine what fun it must be working in the Lidl buying department when a salesman turns up with a Mary Rose model ship, some heated shoes, and a set of Bongo Drums.

Whenever I am not in control of something, I can’t stop thinking about it. I can only liken it to a situation many years ago when I was owed a lot of money. It was a time when I didn’t know if my client was going bust. I had no power over whether they were going under, but it didn’t stop my brain from having ongoing battles with itself when I was both awake and asleep. These featured positive and negative outcomes that ranged from losing my house to everyone living happily ever after. Scenario after scenario, minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day.

The Halycon Days of Covid

In a way, the early days of Covid were similar. In April and May 2020, I assumed I was going to die every time hay fever set in. However, that fear subsided when I realised that I had an element of control. By keeping out of the way of people and staying relatively healthy, I could give myself a fighting chance. Getting severely ill with Covid was around about 2 to 5% for my age group. Not great but not bad compared to a roughly 100% death rate in the event of a nuclear holocaust. Also, I surmised that if I died of Covid, at least my kids would live on, with a bit of insurance money as a bonus. Covid and that sunny spring suddenly feel like the good old days.

The problem with the current crisis in Ukraine is the unknown. No one, not even the most experienced political observers, knows how this will pan out. Last night I tried to convince myself that a narcissist wouldn’t blow up the world. For a narcissist, surely, having the power to end civilisation is far more fun than actually doing it? If Putin decides to end civilisation as we know it, he also ends it for himself, his family, and his incalculable wealth.

Putin’s Mind

This little period of personal denial comforted me somewhat. Then I wondered why on earth I was trying to understand how Putin’s mind works. I’m not a psychologist and even if I was, how would I know what levels of insanity Vladimir Putin is experiencing? He might be bluffing but he might be thinking, “fuck it, if this doesn’t work out and I am going down, the whole world can go down with me”. If he is in that kind of mindset, it’s a case of Goodnight Vienna and just about every other major capital in the western world.

So, with that in mind, there is no point in worrying about worrying too much. I am far better off taking on the mindset of a driver who dropped some building materials off at my house the other day. I am having an office (well, an upmarket shed) built in my garden at the moment, so I decided it was a great excuse for a bit of dark humour.

“What are you building?”, he said.

“A nuclear bunker”, I replied, feeling impressed with my topical, razor-sharp wit. For a few seconds, I was unaware of the impending tumbleweed accompanied by the sound of a distant church bell.

“You are joking, aren’t you?” he replied.

“Yeah, but it might be wise with what’s going on”, I said, trying to retrieve both my joke and my dignity.

He looked totally nonplussed. I tried to imagine what kind of world he lived in. How on earth could he be oblivious to what is happening? We are pummelled with the Ukraine crisis from every direction. I guess he must spend all day listening to TalkSport and Absolute 80s.

I suddenly felt quite jealous.

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