An upside to awful daily news – I’m reading more than ever

For most of my life I’ve been something of a news junkie. That is, I listen to the Today programme on Radio 4 every morning, read a broadsheet newspaper, and generally take an active interest in what’s happening. I’m a card-carrying member of the Liberal Democrats but have voted Green and Labour.

The phenomenon of Brexit/Trump has interested and excited, but mostly appalled me since the 2016 referendum. The shenanigans last year, when there was a plausible path to stopping Brexit altogether via a second referendum, had me glued to things like the excellent Brexicast. So many ‘could have beens’ felled by party tribalism on all sides and Corbyn’s incompetence and complicity.

And then the December 2019 general election came along and the Cummings-Johnson regime was secure in its majority.

I wish I didn’t but I get ridiculously emotional when I hear the lies, the contradictions, and endless stream of baseless bluster from Cummings-Johnson, Gove, Truss and all the rest; surely the cabinet of none of the talents. Others have described the litany of awfulness better than I can. Jonathan Freedland and Rafael Behr are both particularly good at this for example. Add in Robert Reich for equally erudite trashing of the imbecile in the White House who joins Cummings-Johnson in their mutual appreciation society alongside Bolsonaro, Netanyahu, Orbán, Putin and other deplorables.

So what to do?

I suppose I could write to my MP but the honourable member for South Suffolk is a political non-entity; a back-bench number-maker-upper who seems to have not a single idea of his own. With an impregnable majority he doesn’t listen to the likes of me because he doesn’t have to. Or do anything else, frankly.

So I somehow have to detach myself from all this horror. I literally switch off or leave the room whenever Cummings-Johnson or Trump is speaking. But another thing I’ve done is to switch off the Today programme altogether after the first hour and have my breakfast while reading fiction. It’s a time when I’m awake, I’m usually the only person around in our house at that time and I can generally knock off 30-50 pages a day. This is definitely a bright silver lining under the dark clouds of our time.

I’ve already read more books this year than in any previous year. I’ve enjoyed the twists and turns of Charlotte Philby’s spies; realised just how brilliant a writer is Kate Atkinson whose mysteries are not solved by a lucky break or coincidence but because everything really is connected; I’ve dodged the authorities with the Ness Sisters and been thrilled by Clo and Eris/Discordia getting the better of Damocles; I’ve laughed and been educated by Sandi Toksvig’s bus journey and Rachel’s Holiday; heck, I’ve even read all 888 pages of David Copperfield.

My country, and perhaps yours, is run by a cabal of corrupt, incompetent men, enabled by political men and women without a shred of integrity (Priti Patel - the Home Secretary bringing in laws that would have prevented her own parents coming to Britian, Robert Jenrick - the housing minister who had to think twice about taking a bung from a property developer, Suella Braverman - the Attorney General who thinks it's OK to break the law, and on it goes), while the men and women of great integrity, the civil servants, do their best to somehow keep things running.

My world, however, is full of heroes and heroines, victories and comeuppances, mysteries and resolutions and, yes, OK, the occasional spaceship and laser weapon.