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By Ashleylister @ashleylister
Golly heck! (Other random couplings of double expletives are available, by the way.) Tissue as a blog topic has a suggestion of unfortunate timing about it, don't you think? Which might explain why none of my fellow writers has posted this week. With talk of rampant Covid-19 contagion and the unexpected twists it has brought into our lives consuming so much airtime, I'm pretty sure the last thing anyone wants to read more about here is coughs, sneezes and diseases. Am I right? Bin that approach for now!
I'm also guessing you're not up for a blog about tissues and bedroom etiquette either - euhw. Correct? And I figured an instructional post on how to make e.g. flowers out of tissue paper wouldn't go down particularly well, even though we're all desperate to find new ways to fill our time. (Try learning Georgian - my latest challenge.)
OK, then how about the 'tissue of lies' angle? Not so much the downer of deceit in personal relationships, as I feel I've covered that one enough times in five years of writing these blogs; no, I'm thinking about the world of espionage, grand deceptions, webs of intrigue. As it happens, I'm currently reading 'Libra', Don DeLillo's excellent novel about the machinations that lay behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
Like so many people, I know exactly where I was the day JFK was shot, although I was only ten years old at the time. I was in the family living-room of our house in Peterborough and I was watching television in the early evening (about 7pm) on Friday November 22nd 1963. It was our first ever TV set, rented of course, and we'd only had it since the start of the month, acquired to stop my middle brother absconding all the time to watch television at other people's houses. I was only being allowed to view it at that hour because there was no school next day. Whatever programme I was engrossed in (possibly a nature documentary) was suddenly interrupted by a news bulletin saying Kennedy had been shot. I ran upstairs to tell my mother (who was tucking up my siblings) and she refused to believe me!
It was an event which rocked America and shocked the world. Hundreds of books and papers have been written about what happened and why. Scores of documentaries have been made. Thousands of interviews were conducted and witness statements recorded in criminal trials and investigations, including the Presidential 'Warren' Commission. The CIA and FBI also undertook internal investigations. Most of the contemporary newsreel is in the public domain as is much of the witness testimony as well as the findings of the Commission. Warren concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald was acting alone in assassinating JFK and that Jack Ruby was acting alone in assassinating the assassin. All very convenient - and all in retrospect demonstrably untrue - and so the conflicting rumours and theories continue to vie for public attention over half a century on.
Here's a taster from 'Libra' : "We want to set up an attempt on the life of the President. We plan every step, design every incident leading up to the event. We put together a team, leave a dim trail. The evidence is ambiguous... We do the whole thing with paper. Passports, drivers' licenses, address books. Our team of shooters disappears but the police find a trail. Mail-order forms, change-of-address cards, photographs. We script a person or persons out of ordinary pocket litter. Shots ring out, the country is shocked, aroused. The paper trail leads to paid agents who have disappeared... This plan has levels and variations I've only just begun to explore. I know what scientists mean when they talk about elegant solutions... But we don't hit Kennedy. We miss him."
Enter the 'cock-up' theory of history...but DeLillo scripts it brilliantly. Do read it for yourselves. I love the fictional espionage thrillers of Eric Ambler, Ian Fleming and John le Carre but 'Libra' deals in hard facts and informed hypothesis within its fictional framework - so if you have any interest in understanding what really went down in Dallas in 1963, and in what can be found beneath the true-life tissue of lies as they mesh in triple- and quadruple-ply, this is a must-read. I'd certainly call DeLillo's book a revolutionary act by Orwell's definition (see below).
Okay, poem time. I said I'd largely steer clear of coughs, sneezes and diseases. However, I can't get out of my head the mental image gleaned from one news report yesterday evening direct from the Intensive Care Unit at a large hospital of a large room in which every single one of the patients was unconscious and hooked up to a ventilator that is doing the work their suffering lungs can't manage, until such time as they win their fight for life and start to regain the use of those lungs or succumb and lose the struggle. This, I fear now, is what April - that cruellest month - holds for a good  number of our more vulnerable citizens. It is truly stark and chilling to contemplate, like something out of a sci-fi movie made manifest in England in 2020. Let's hope there are enough such beds and ventilators in place in good time to see those who need them through the critical days ahead.
Inside The Care Hive
Low-level ambient light fills this cavernous shed,
barely illuminates the thousand regimented beds
whose occupants, in unconscious row upon row,
are all being breathed for by machines, in unison.
Indicators blink, scopes flicker and the steady hiss
of mechanical lungs is strangely soothing,
given that beneath those sterilised covers and pipes
is being waged an invisible fight for life itself.
Recumbent like larvae inside the care hive,
watched over by selfless workers day and night,
these vulnerable beings, all precious in their own right,
will either rally or expire, for as yet there is no cure
and for each that coin's still spinning in the air; but
they're all deserving every chance to make it through,
to hatch again. The surest measure of our social worth
is how we mourn each loss, celebrate each rebirth.
I realize that's a bit of a heavy note to finish on, but kudos to all NHS frontline staff, and thank you for taking the time to read my blog. Stay safe, S ;-) Email ThisBlogThis!Share to TwitterShare to Facebook


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