Politicians who take with one hand and take away with the other; the joy of star-struck teenagers; the tragedy of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe… The world feels unmoored – is this the new normal?
Aren’t things a bit… weird right now? Aren’t they? A bit odd? Everywhere I look Britain seems to be glitching slightly, news melting under the gentlest light, people fixed in 10-minute yawns. Last week I was walking through central London on a frosty evening when, upon turning a corner, I found myself suddenly in the crush of a crowd, young people dressed in glitter and lipstick and screaming with a kind of desperate joy. I panicked a little. This was the most people I’d been in contact with for two years, each one a stranger, two in pink furs, and I got that feeling again, the same feeling I’d had when I looked out of the window at falling leaves only to realise a moment later that they were in fact discarded face masks. The feeling that nobody, nothing, is yet quite right.
I’d stumbled, it turned out, into a crowd of Lady Gaga fans outside the House of Gucci premiere – on my way home later that night teenagers in full Gucci looks sat on the pavement in Leicester Square eating McNuggets through lace gloves. It was a Tuesday, and not far away Richard Ratcliffe was entering his third week camping outside the Foreign Office, writing of his young daughter, “She knows that Daddy is on hunger strike to get Boris Johnson to bring Mummy home.” The whole country seems poised, confused. Johnson, unmasked in a hospital, is at its centre, misdirecting traffic.