Diary: March 2019

This month’s diary includes… A ridiculous number of Brexit references, a mass participation choir and the collection of a community award

Saturday 2, London
To the glorious Two Temple Place for a John Ruskin exhibition.

John Ruskin (8 February 1819 – 20 January 1900) was the leading English art critic of the Victorian era, as well as an art patron, draughtsman, watercolourist, a prominent social thinker and philanthropist
They were selling lapel badges for the Ruskin Today society

Sunday 3, London
There is an article about the Labour Party in the Guardian Weekly that quotes a councillor in Liverpool saying that Momentum is/are just Militant with bus passes. The quote is positioned alongside a cut-out photo of Derek Hatton.

Tuesday 5, London
Here is my City Matters column, issue 093.

The Golden Baggers AGM always raises the bar in the dull-but-necessary meeting category. The homemade cake on offer is superb (this year a yummy ginger parkin), making it a truly pleasurable way to start planning for the growing season ahead.

The allotment project is now in its ninth year, yet the energy and enthusiasm for progress never flags. The scheme is based around 42 wooden planters (it started as one-tonne builders’ bags, hence the name Baggers), which residents can rent for an annual subscription of £20 (‘Friends’ can join for £5).

Membership is open to all residents, experts or beginners, and on the first Sunday of every month they share more scrumptious home baking at their Social Sunday events.

I was especially disappointed this year to learn that one of our Hatfield House residents and veteran Bagger has gone to live in America. He was always very generous in sharing his show-stopping tomatoes, so I never needed to grow any of my own.

Key issues at this year’s AGM were the election of a new Chair and the agreement of a new constitution, the need to attract more ‘Friends’ and to promote the project’s core community values.

We also discussed the failed attempt to save the trees that border the allotment but will soon disappear as part of the development of the former Richard Cloudesley School and suggested locations for this year’s annual outing. Last year’s trip to Turn End house and gardens in Buckinghamshire will be hard to beat. Anyone wanting to join should write to goldenbaggers@gmail.com.

The Golden Baggers is clearly the most successful resident-led project on the estate and its example is proving influential, most obviously in the activities at our refurbished community centre.

The Christmas Day tea party was a riot of festive fun and the recent jumble sale added to the feeling that residents revel in the chance to do things together, preferably with cake included.

Jumble sales are a great chance to hone your people-watching skills. One minute residents will be chatting amicably about family fortunes and local issues; the next they will be cutting a tough deal for that old teapot, holding out for the last 50p.

Any offers for this fine item?

If anything can take the shine off this neighbourly bliss it is the clumsiness of the council. A number of residents met recently with housing chief Paul Murtagh, who arrived in a foul mood to explain and apologise for the City Corporation’s stuttered response to a potentially deadly gas leak at the building site next to Basterfield House.

He’d hoped to make his task easier by fixing the meeting (two months after the event) as a drop-in rather than a full-throated Q&A grilling from the residents most affected. Unfortunately, his plans went awry when some canny individuals promptly rearranged the set-up and started firing their questions. Mr Murtagh looked more and more uncomfortable as the volleys of verbal shots whistled his way.

While admitting that the City Corporation had failed residents and was searching its soul for “lessons learned”, he stuck to the script that the site work met with all existing laws and regulations. He expressed this forcefully, but tripped slightly when it came to evacuation policy and revealed that, unlike almost every large building in the developed world, there are no emergency muster points or marshalling for the Golden Lane Estate.

On the day of the accident back in December, it was residents, acting on advice from the gas board, who cobbled together a plan of action until the emergency services arrived to offer some leadership. Confused residents eventually found a safe point at Prior Weston School, shaken and feeling sick.

Mr Murtagh told the meeting that the City Corporation’s advice when faced with an emergency is to sit tight, keep calm and carry on until help arrives. Yes, even if, as has happened before, an unexploded wartime bomb is uncovered! It later emerged that the City Corporation is reviewing how it handles “events such as this one”, but is unable to share or publicise the findings.

The Square Mile’s emergency plan to swerve Brexit appears to have paid off with a hush-hush deal in Paris last month to make sure all the City’s hedge funds and derivative thingies do not turn to dust at midnight on March 29.

The best revelation about this mysterious caper would be proof of my suspicion that the audacious plot was hatched not at the Bank of England but here on Golden Lane with the help of Bayer House resident and YouTube sensation Elly Space, whose infectious Europop anthem ‘Cancel Brexit’ is powerful enough to turn the tide of history. If you’re still in doubt, go to https://youtu.be/mf4mqPGwtN4 and turn the volume up to 11.

Thursday 7, London
A Facebook posting I quickly regretted.


Friday 8, London
A first thought after hearing about the death of girl-about-London-clubland Magenta De Vine, as posted on Facebook.


Sunday 10, London 
There is a big long-read article in the Guardian about Aldi, the two Albrecht brothers, Theo and Karl, their mission, their progress and their business style. At times, the article seems to imply that the brothers saw a genuine social purpose in finding a way to the lowest price for the average grocery shopper, as if their purpose was to reduce the amount of money people spent on food [shit waiting to happen] in order that they may spend it on better, higher things. In other words, that providing one of life’s essentials – food – should not drain on people’s lives or present a struggle.

Tuesday 12, London
To the Barbican Cinema to see Kindergarten Teacher. The name of this film was a turn-off, so its content came as a pleasant surprise.

Oh Maggie, I wish…

Beautifully ambiguous. There are two stories. The child genius is a compelling narrative, but behind the success of Jimmy, the 5-year-old poet-who-doesn’t-know-it, is the failure of his teacher Lisa, who is a lousy mother, wife, night-school poet and, it turns out, kidnapper. There is an unstated redemption for Lisa. She succeeded in teaching Jimmy to say “I have a poem” whenever one popped into his head, and by the end of the film it’s unlikely he will ever forget to say it, even if it’s only to himself. (Er, she taught him about point of view, too, by crawling around on the floor – Ed)

Thursday 14, London
Headline: “EU on no-deal Brexit motion: ‘like Titanic voting for iceberg to move'”
Leader in The Economist

Monday 18, London

To rush through May’s deal would be like cutting corners when building the foundations of a house because you want to move in quickly.

Matthew D’Ancona, the Guardian

Tuesday 19, London

Happy birthday to my sister, who lives in the EU

Wednesday 20, London
At the Guardian Archives today, one set of Don McPhee negatives I logged was labelled “Bolton Gays”, which sounds like the title of an earthy TV comedy drama. I dared not look at the pictures on the light-box. Other sets of negatives I have catalogued recently include those labelled “Pigeon Exhibition at Leeds”, “Cars Crushed in Liverpool”, “Bridge Made Of Willow at Marsden” and “Christmas Pudding Factory near Derby”.

Thursday 21, London

It requests permission to carry on playing a game that she has lost.

Guardian editorial on PM’s begging letter to EU

Friday 22, London

The French EU minister, Nathalie Loiseau, has called her new cat Brexit. “He wakes me up every morning meowing to death because he wants to go out,” she says. ‘And then when I open the door he stays put, undecided, and then glares at me when I put him out.’

Gary Younge, the Guardian

Saturday 23, London
A scene from the ‘Bollocks to Brexit’ march along Whitehall in London. It was actually a call to revoke the Article 50 treaty clause that triggers the countdown to the UK’s departure from the EU.

A step in the right direction?

And just in case you wanted some kind of evidence…


Sunday 24, London
Jane was one of the 500 voices in The Public Domain mass choir singing event at the Barbican today.

A Culture Mile project
Jane’s conductor, Lucy

Wednesday 27, London
To the Hackney CVS Annual Awards because I had nominated Headway for the ‘Best Community Voice’ award, or something. Rosy was flabbergasted but nevertheless delighted to collect the award in a ceremony that was so inspiring for the number of stories of community success it delivered.

Rosy & Me

Thursday 28, London
We had some medical in the studio today for an anatomy workshop with clay. The teacher uses art to help the students explore the human body. In this picture volunteer Will presents his model of volunteer Callum to the man himself.

Will and Callum

To the theatre…

Featuring the heartthrob from Peaky Blinders
Cillian Murphy

I spotted one of the local market-stall women at this. Then I remembered that the play starred a heartthrob actor from TV’s Peaky Blinders and realised why this was not such an unlikely sighting after all.

Friday 29, London
A new Friend on Facebook posts…

Close encounters

Saturday 30, London

There will be a meeting of EU heads of government on 10 April: it’s probably best not to assume their patience with Britain’s ongoing nervous breakdown will be infinite.

Jonathan Freedland, the Guardian

Joined a Headway public-engagement thing last night in which Ben interviewed A, P and G for the benefit of a collection of Hackney creatives from somewhere up Kingsland Road near Tesco’s. It was a nice way to shamelessly plug Headway’s many talented artists and the three Friday enfants did a great job of being themselves, which is an irresistible proposition in itself, especially when G does his Stephen Hawking thing with his Macbook. Hilarious. The guests loved it and we must remember to give the event some quality follow-up if it is to have any lasting impact.

● Read my April Diary

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