2020, Winter 3

I had my first encounter with the real world effects of the corona-virus yesterday, having got up early to do my shop, joking with Rachel that I'd better be quick if I was to get any toilet paper. The joke was on me, as it turns out, as the entire shop was stripped of the goods currently making headline horror stories.

It resonated with me a little more than I thought it would. In a way, it could well be strangest thing I'd ever seen, perhaps never before witnessing something so contrary to the norms of day-to-day life of a millennial living in 21st century England. What a privilege that is – that the biggest shake up in my life is the lack of loo roll and dried pasta.

The item that surprised me most was flour. I figured, in my head, the majority of people wouldn't resort to baking their own bread in their time of panic. I suppose I was wrong. Although, it is pure heuristics – it likely only takes a very small percent to purchase long lasting ambient items that aren't frequently put out, to make it feel as though the nation is surviving on fresh home baked bloomers.

'You're alright Louis, you already self isolate!' I've heard more than once, and adopted as my own self deprecation lately. It's true, I'm lucky that life for me is mostly unchanged.

A week ago we joined friends at Bristol's 'Chance & Counters', a board-game cafe nestled in the Christmas Steps. While I had poked my head in from time to time in the past, this was the first time I had ever sat down and played. It was a great time – a huge collection of games to peruse, all lovingly dog-eared and wiffled by the many games each box had endured.

And that 'much-used' quality might have all been in the back of our minds – just how good an idea is a board game cafe during a pandemic? Pieces, understandably, aren't spritzed down with some kind of disinfectant between games, and the majority of patrons there were enjoying a hearty menu of all finger-food dishes. It must be a microbe's dream, especially on a busy Sunday.

Something to humour, maybe, for now. It'd be a shame if or when the circumstances get worse, a place like 'Chance & Counters' isn't able to sustain itself.

Maybe coincidentally or maybe out of a morbid fascination we played the game 'Pandemic' while we were there. Whether a game like that sees more or less plays during an actual pandemic, who knows – I'd think more, but the cafe's edition was unclaimed at the time. It's a fun game, although I've always preferred player-versus-player formats over co-operative ones. I tend to slowly zone out as the players around the table discuss everyone's move very far in advance. When it comes to my turn, I then submit to doing that thing.

Studio Ghibli's inclusion to Netflix has been another highlight. I watched 'Only Yesterday' last week, and 'Nausicaä' yesterday, both movies I likely haven't watched in over a decade. Both are shy from perfect, although rewatching 'Only Yesterday' cemented itself in my top three of Ghibli's releases. I was surprised to see it often ranks quite low in lists online. I particularly loved how well-realized the car journeys were – the lively small talk, and the way the world was animated to move around the car, or how droplots of water on the foliage in the country-side shimmered while reflecting the car's beams. Whoever had creative control had a love for watching the world go by.

'Nausicaä' was a good watch too, and it has aged far better than I had expected. Me and my brother both commented on how it's very much the sister movie of Mononoke, almost following one another beat for beat, only in a different setting. I'm sure I'm not being too contrarian in saying Monokoke is the better movie, and it's interesting how a few subtle changes elevate it a world above Nausicaä in my eyes.

Rachel preferred Nausicaä, and I understood why. Mononoke is a much more pessimistic movie, nature is a force that's far more unforgiving, and the characters get punished when they try and control it, regardless of their intentions. In Nausicaä, the focus is far more in the characters and the politics, and nature is something that's guided by humans, despite being more powerful, and lived alongside in harmony.

They needed to make one to make the other.


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