OPINION: Love in the time of Coronavirus

Words by Ed King

Last week we were counting ‘reported cases’. This week we’re counting ‘deaths’.

I was in India, a country relatively (at that point) unaffected by Coronavirus – there were pockets of contagion in the far north and south, with quick containment, and neither the virus nor the fear had spread very far – the ‘reported cases’ were just tipping 30, whereas the UK was pushing 400.

My return flight was with Air China, including a four hour layover in Beijing. So, each day began with a pot of curd, several cups of chai, and a scan of online news reports to see what airlines were affected – my biggest fear was missing my transfer and getting stuck in China, having been held up coming into Beijing because a Swiss man had lost his jacket. Over 40 minutes on the tarmac, in December, with the bus doors open. I travelled through the UAE when SARS struck and we spent hours in Doha airport being questioned and swabbed – my faith in the Civil Aviation Authority of China, who present themselves like the Ministry of Love when there isn’t a global pandemic, was limited. I needed to readdress my route home.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, from Bangalore to London City. Booked, packed, and ready to go. But by then I was stuck in the daily news cycles (a wagon I’ve been falling in and out of since leaving the world of PR agencies in 2006) and followed the Coronavirus story from CBS to Al Jazeera. Where had the virus been found, who was responding in what way? What public statements of blame and tacit panic were coming from the podiums of what countries? Europe was infighting; North America were wearing slogans on caps. China was silent. The Daily Mail even found a way to blame it on immigration. It was fascial, in my mind, and I braced myself for the circus of panic buying and ignorance that would undoubtedly greet me once I landed in London.

On Tuesday my niece was sent home from school with a fever. An old friend of mine in London is seriously ill. My mum is too afraid to hug me and every handshake I’ve had comes with an air of suspicion. Professionally, I lost near £5,000 in 24 hours and I’m in a better position than most. Every day we huddle round our iPhones to hear Uncle Johnson’s latest fireside chat and watch the doors of our social outlets close until further notice. It’s not a circus; no one is laughing or cheering. There’s no grand finale. Not a fun one, anyway. And the hubris I carried around for the first few days has turned into embarrassment and shame.

Don’t get me wrong, I still see the cracks in the story – the quiet announcements that pave the way for privatisation of our front line services, where ‘strain’ will become ‘support’ from the private sector. The selfishness of consumers and the arrogance of a designer facemask. The special measures being passed through parliament whilst we’re distracted by body counts. The contracts waiting for Big Pharma, who will be painted as ‘pioneers’ and ‘saviours’ as they make billions from a global cough. I’m still skeptical. But, curiously, now, I’m hopeful too.

There’s something else that’s palpable, aside from Google led health concerns, armchair assessments, and crumbling economies; there are other waves washing over the country I both defend and despise. Compassion. Community. A sense of mature camaraderie, that regardless of whether you’re red, blue, yellow, green (or heaven forbid even purple) in your politics this is something beyond the ballot box. And I’m not talking about taking Whitty and Vallance verbatim, which is another conversation, but more the small decisions people are making to simply support one another.

Since Monday, I’ve had conversations in two supermarkets because the men beside me wanted to know “…are you already mate?” My housemate is currently downstairs batch cooking curries for our neighbours. Professional peers are paying my invoices early, where they can, and the largest tour operator in the country has told me I can settle up whenever. I have a WhatsApp group with my family, where we’re sending my sister jokes, gifs, and memes as her household stay under quarantine – I went to bed last night after sharing a video of goats jumping on a wobbly sheet of metal. We haven’t played like this since we were children.

I’m changing too. I’m swapping the self-import analysis of the public domain for community spirit. I’m not Gandhi (Gandhi wasn’t Gandhi) and I’ll start with my own love list first, but I’m going to pitch in. I’m going to do the right things at the right tie, to plagiarism our premier. I’ll probably still go to the pub, until I’m forced not to, but I’ve shut down all my events until August and I’m watching the briefings from Downing Street with a clearer sight. I’m listening. I’m not picking them apart. Well, not as much anyway.

And whilst I will hold onto my belief that there is manipulation in the media, because there is, I’m choosing not to fight that this time. My energy is can be better spent. Rightly or wrongly, people are scared. My friends are scared. My family are scared. Part of me is scared too. And there’s only one way and one emotion I know of to fight fear.

Ed King is Editor-in-Chief of Review Publishing – you can follow Ed King on Twitter at www.twitter.com/EdKing2210

For more on Review Publishing, visit www.reviewpublishing.net/


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OPINION: I wish it could be Christmas…

OPINION: I wish it could be Christmas... / Ed King




Words & lead pic by Ed King

‘As long as that’s here, I’ll be OK. I can drink that; by the time the line gets below the bottom of the red shield, past the emblems, the cursive and the thick bold type, I’ll feel OK. I don’t need a mixer but I have orange juice or lemonade. There’s even ice in the fridge. If there’s time.’

I would have this conversation with myself at least once a day. Usually at lunchtime or as I’m lying in bed. I had no bedtime anymore. I woke up earlier too – an odd by product of addiction – with an inbuilt alarm clock running on fear or necessity. Life was a drawing of Gin Lane and it’s a cold Tuesday morning when you’re waiting for Victoria Wine to open.OPINION: I wish it could be Christmas...

In the end, the precise cut lines of the Smirnoff logo turned into the rounded edges of Grants. The world became numb. Anesthetized. The colours stayed the same, as did the schedule and as did the fear. But the necessity got worse as the price tagged dropped, like some symbiotic downward spiral. My ability to ration found levels almost as frightening as my denial. It was around this time that I began to question my drinking.

Vodka and orange in the morning, first thing. Then another. I’d make one for the shower and have a forth with toast. With a healthy pour, this could be a third of a litre gone by breakfast. Then I’m ready for the day. I’d struggle through the morning, taking a half-and-half bottle to work and hiding behind the same masks as everyone else, and then get back on track at lunchtime. Or just before if I could conjure a meeting. Order a beer, drink it quick, pretend you don’t notice, then order another one before your colleagues have time to say “…but you hold it well”. We all knew I didn’t. But I could order a shot at the bar both times, and there was always the vodka – hiding and ready should oblivion ever be needed.

I was eighteen years old. I kept this going until I was at least twenty two.

It started with abuse, neglect and aggression. As many acts of obnoxious self destruction will. Locked in a house with a sexual bully for a step brother and the ‘Ice Queen’ for a stepmother, although pantomimes were ultimately a lie. I was six, when Andrew made me play the games I never understood. The ones that always ended with me getting beaten up and made to hide under his bed. The rest of the house was even less fun – three floors of cold anger, radiating from our weekend matriarch as she stalked from once acerbic non sequitur to another, threatening my eight year old sister like a violent hybrid of Sylvia Plath and Cruella de Vil (I would honestly like to find something positive to say about this time and place in my life, and I guess it’s either ‘Mojo’ or ‘Chris’. But one was a cat, the other was ten, and neither has sanctity on their job descriptions).

I remember my childhood best by houses and the ‘weekends at Leamington’ were when, and where, it all came together. Or undone. But eventually every weekend became every fortnight, before sliding into the forever to be blessed ‘occasional days’. The wild stab of parenting poking fun at itself with an oddly honest moniker. I didn’t care. With every step I was freer than before.

By the time I was fourteen I never had to go back, and had already discovered blotter paper acid (my wings of mercy, then hell) and smoked much more than I drank. But when peer platforms and public expectations/acceptance kicked in, around that sweet sixteen spot, I found alcohol much more than reliable. It was legal, kind of, and I could sit on a park bench with a clearly visible reason. I could share it, even if only to dilute the guilt. But no one would call the police and a bottle of Bulgarian Cellars was the same price as a Blue Penguin. I probably wouldn’t have even have been expelled. And I could eat.

I functioned highly for several years – an existence not as fun as it sounds. You get away with very little. But I was earning money, having sex, and being successful in interviews; I grew up, of sorts. I built things, I destroyed things, and I still have friends left. I even gave up drinking. Twice. I went to AA, Aquarius and numerous third sector councilors, before my mother locked my in a room with nothing but a bottle of Jacob’s Creek and my own face to stare at. Three months later I emerged like a shaky butterfly, torn and frayed by still just about able to fly. I still remember the first time I went into the town centre sober.

Now that broken boy is a long way behind me. The wounds are scars. And although I can knock back the shots, and the angry is ‘still there mum’, I am nothing of the shadow I once was. It’s Boxing Day and there’s alcohol all around me, but I’m not drinking. I had two glasses of Malbec at Christmas dinner without realising, and the champagne on OPINION: I wish it could be Christmas...arrival is still sitting half touched on the window sill. The cheap French stubbies are unopened and there’s a bottle of rum in my kitchen I’ve used only for baking. Tonight I’m staying in, watching The Goonies and Gremlins back to back. I’m not thinking about New Year’s Eve until New Year’s Eve and I’m already scaling back my ideas for that.

It’s also on days like today that I remember one of the ‘moments of clarity’ from my early twenties – a man who had come to speak at an Aquarius meeting I once attended. He was ‘an inspirational speaker’ who had ‘survived’ the ‘disease’ that is alcoholism. He was very animated and very angry, and wouldn’t walk on the same side of the road as a pub beer garden (or even an off license) because of the ‘blind addiction that is ruining society, being sold and taxed by a government that doesn’t want to care about its people.’ He didn’t care about us, and even then, as I dug chewed nails into weak skin, I could at least see that. There was nothing in this man to admire or to aspire to be; he was ‘full of shit’ and still ‘broken’ by his ‘personal choice’. The Feudal System. The East India Company. The National Lottery. Your own life. His was no more a freedom than my previous daily routine.

I’m writing this to get ahead of New Year’s Eve Resolution #3 – be more honest with my writing. And start at the start, right? But in this time of orchestrated celebration and endorsed excess, I say find your peace. Your peace. Be merry, if you can. Don’t be me or that man. Be happy.

And if you can be a happy drunk, one who’ll wake up sober with just the right amount of regret, then I’ll raise a glass, deck the halls and sing along. Hogarth be damned.

Ed King is a writer and editor of Birmingham Review. Follow him @edking2210


OPINION: Full Moon in Libra 23.03.16 ‘Illuminate your true self’

Full Moon in Libra 23.03.16

Words by Joëlle O’Toole

The sign of Libra is ruled by Venus; the charm, charisma and beauty bestowed on those with prominent Libra chart placements are discernible, notable and characteristically Venusian. To me, Libra is Venus ruled – although some disagree with this. Aries is unquestionably ruled by Mars.

This is the only axis in the chart which embodies the polarity of Venus Vs Mars, female archetype Vs male archetype, giving Vs receiving, yin Vs yang. This is the axis of smoothing the waters Vs expressing the true self, and this is the message of this Full Moon. What is more important to you, how you appear to others (Libra) or how you actually wish to express yourself (Mars)?

The Sun is now traversing through Aries, announcing loudly that the spring has sprung and the Moon becomes full when perfectly opposite to the Sun, in this case at 4ºLibra. On this occasion, however, there is a partial lunar eclipse at the same time. The beautification which the Full Moon in Libra wishes to sing out to the world is obfuscated by the shadow of the earth. Expression is halted, beauty is obscured, light is shadowed.

So the question needs to be asked on this Full Moon, what is beauty? Is beauty the glow of expensive make-up on your skin, or the muscles bulging from your arms? Is beauty the perfectly coiffed hair and the waxed moustache? Or is it something deeper and more profound? Do all these things appear beautiful when cast into shadow, or does the visual translate into more meaningful depths?

Of course visceral appearances aren’t only about beauty, but also about acceptance. I watch the world around me and people trying to please, wanting to be liked, wishing to impress – desperately trying to fit in. I sometimes ask them why, I sometimes find myself doing the same, but most of the time I know why. They’re scared. You’re scared, I’m scared. We are scared; afraid that we will be alone if people don’t like us, worried that we will lose our jobs if we don’t agree with everything, concerned that if we stand out we will be ostracised and treated like we still live in a century where uniqueness was treated with burning or drowning.

We’re controlled by fear, dictated to, set into regimes of nicely presented suits and shiny cars; politely queuing behind lines and lines of others doing just the same. Most bristling with anger, frustration, obscenities on the tip of the tongue and sometimes tripping off it.

These same people spend time reading about extending their lives whilst not actually living at all.

This Full Moon chart interestingly brings in all the elements which add up to us creating and maintaining façades. The 27º Cancer Ascendant brings the family dynamic to the mix and the Moon is ruled by Cancer. In the chart the Full Moon itself lands in its home, the 4th House also. Asking the question, who are you when you are at home with yourself?

If you spend some time considering the elements you most like and admire about yourself and then match up these qualities with the ones which are encouraged by others, how do they match up? Are you surrounded by people who love the you that you love, or do you feel that you have to adapt to be more like they imagine you to be? Do you ever apologise for sharing your feelings, or talking about yourself? Do you feel that cannot be outspoken without evoking conflict?Libra.svg

And if you do evoke conflict, is it your conflict anyway? When you choose to strip away the pretences and the niceties, there will people who resist this shift in you and wish you to revert to what they expect. There will conflict from them; there will be those whose egos are threatened by truth, and others who simply become angry when witnessing freedom as they wish to live a life where they no longer have to tie themselves in knots.

None of these are reasons to respond however, think mirrors and recognise projection. Fear speaks in tongues and can be invoked by the most surprising of folk at times, but once recognised as it is; fear is powerless and easily assuaged.

There is a transcendental element to all this; echoed beautifully by a Venus-Neptune conjunction, already propagating spiritual love and transcendence, enhanced further by occurring in the sign of Pisces. A sign ruled by Neptune, so elevated in its own wisdom at times, Pisces can command the upper echelons of true love and revere Venus into exaltation in this sign. Venus rules the Full Moon of this chart and cannot be iterated enough when considering the essence of this Full Moon being about beauty and the over-shadowing of such. When Venus links up with Neptune it tells us stories of love being an effervescent, uplifting and magical connection which has no need for the visual, or even the physical. Physical, masculine, energising Mars is almost thrown out of the picture by this over-emphasised Venus position, but just manages to bring itself back into the picture by forming a sextile to the Full Moon position, from Sagittarius.

Again we must bring expression of one’s truth back into the picture, and also remember that the axis of this Full Moon is Libra to Aries. A Full Moon cannot exist without it’s opposite, just as light cannot be discerned without the shadows cast. In just the same way beauty cannot be conceived without the absence of such, so the shadows cast by the eclipse of this Full Moon will be as revealing as they are diverting.

I invite you to ask yourself during this Full Moon what it is that you love about yourself the most and how true to this you are. For the closer we appreciating our own beauty, the more those around us will be allowed to see us shine and start to see us as we really are. Beauty isn’t in the eye of the beholder, beauty is behind the eyes of the subject and exists most vividly within the inner world of the subject.

Let the shadow cast by the earth over this full moon, reveal to you how to ‘illuminate you true self’.

Joëlle O’Toole is a freelance astrologer, offering bespoke readings, natal & solar return charts – beginning on your birthday, telling you about the coming year. Prices start at £50.

For more information contact Joëlle at http://waxlobster.blogspot.co.uk/