Diary: July 2019

This month’s diary includes… Bruce Springsteen’s new album, a World Cup win for England and a ‘horror’ film that is more of a comedy

Thursday 4, London
Shortform writing is a big thing for me at the moment. Words, sentences and paragraphs are the units I thrive on. Boil it down. The shorter the better. I’ve installed a plugin to my web browser that lists the keywords associated with your search, and another one that shows synonyms. These are great tools for me in casting and recasting sentences and lines. Below is my stab at an ultra-sparse review, in this case for Bruce Springsteen’s new album, Western Stars, which I didn’t like to begin with but now can’t stop playing. I have posted the review elsewhere in this blog. Reading it back now, all I can say is that it was satisfying to complete, but I’m not sure it works as a piece. It has a simple structure, but lacks shape and rhythm. It is also a bit random in its exposition and its tenses. Work in progress, this method, I guess.

Western Stars, by Bruce Springsteen

Hooked now, but 
Not at first. 
Word shapes bland.
Patterns dull.
Listen again,
And again,
Over and over,
Like a beginner.
“I woke up this morning,
Just glad my boots were on.”
Sing, don’t growl.
Big guitar, organ, sax, piano, before.
Now brass, strings and percussion.
And piano, 
Whichever one that is.
Clarence and Danny gone.
Davy Sancious back.
A sort of homecoming?
Sublime rhyme.
Might take 10 spins
To find ‘Sleepy Joe’s Café.
Orchestra in the dust,
They are calling it.
“I drift from bar to bar.
Here in Lonely Town.
Wishing you were here with me,
Come Sundown.”

Friday 5, London
At The Other Art Fair in Granary Square, Kings Cross, London, I especially liked this painting that uses irregular squirts of coloured oils, which dry hard into tiny jagged pillars and thus cast micro shadows on to the canvas. 

For some reason this painting spoke to me about migration.

By Merab Surviladze
By Merab Surviladze

I asked an official-looking woman at the stand if it was OK to take photographs. She told me she was French, could not speak English, but managed to tell me she was the artist’s wife. I said something like, “les photographiques, oui?” to which she laughed and replied “mais oui”. 

I thought later that I should have tried a “permité?” or something, but it was too late by then.

This is an image I made from a photograph of another picture at the exhibition I liked.


Monday 8, London
Jane and I put on a mini exhibition yesterday in the Sir Ralph Perring Centre. It was to show the Y6 Prior Weston pupils’ pictures inspired by the work of Paul Klee. Turnout was a bit disappointing, but it looked great and the exhibition is an idea worth sticking with.

With artist Tyler (second from left) and family

This picture is by Steve and shows Shirley shooting me with featured artist Tyler, his mum and his brother. Plus nice co-incidental sightings of the wall-mounted aircon system and the centre’s vintage Ercol furniture.

Thursday 11, London
At Headway today we visited the Rabbits Road Press for a workshop in risograph printing, alongside some corporate volunteers from a City money firm, something to do with “clearing”, which sounded like some kind of back-end book-keeping for cowboy capitalists. But they were all very nice. Their firm paid for everything (sweltering minibus driven by Cris included) and put on a buffet lunch. We had fun doing the risographs, too, which is a bit like conventional litho separation printing but you create the seps as artwork by hand and use a machine like a photocopier to make masters, in our case using just two colours, blue and pink. We will use the results for a public printing workshop at Headway HQ in a couple of weeks. The workshop was held in a fascinating old converted library called the Old Manor Park Library, aka, the Carnegie Library, an ornate sandstone construction out somewhere near Forest Gate.


Saturday 13, London
There is an article in the Guardian that tells us that trees are the cheapest and most efficient form of carbon capture, and that much of the planet’s current climate crisis could be mitigated by the planting of 1bn trees worldwide. Later: At the Whitecross Street Party. The theme this year is the rise of the non-conformist.

By Paul Cahill
By Patricia O’Connor
By Paul Cahill

Tom’s brass band did a session and we sat listening on hay bales. While we sat in Iskeké having a drink a junkie/wino’s Rottie attacked an ornamental ram and bit off its right horn.

Sunday 14, London
I just found a strong piece in an old copy of the Morning Star arguing for Proportional Representation. It seems there is a growing movement within the Labour Party to abandon FPTP (First Past The Post). Later:  To see the “horror” movie Midsommar at the Barbican. And my posting on Facebook.


Here are the notes I made, in the dark, book on knee, scribbling randomly during the film.


And later still… England won the 50 Over cricket World Cup in a gripping game against New Zealand. The match was originally drawn at 241 runs each off 50 overs (over = 6 balls). 

This led to an eliminator called a Super Over, a tie-break in which each team gets six balls to score maximum runs. In the final ball, New Zealand needed 2 runs to win. England finally won it, but in a most dramatic way.

In the closing minutes of the main game a freak deflection led to 2 runs for England becoming 6 – an accident.

Then the Super Over tie breaker finished tied at 15 runs each (NZ were run out on the final ball, needing 2 runs to win, but had already scored 1 run). Throughout the whole game England had scored 26 boundaries (4s and 6s) whereas New Zealand had only scored 17 and it was this rule that decided the championship.

Seeing those pictos on Twitter put me in mind of the gripping way all those events finished. The second one is permanently burned into my memory because the final moments, though very fast, seemed to happen in slow motion as scrum-half Matt Dawson gathered the ball from a chaotic ruck, spread his arms, his head flicking this way and that to find kicker Jonny Wilkinson, deciding Wilkinson was primed and delivering a perfect pass from which Wilkinson drop-kicked England into sporting history.

Monday 15, London
Photos from a tour of the gardens at The Charterhouse alms houses in nearby Charterhouse Square, arranged by Catherine at St Luke’s and given by Charterhouse Head Gardener Kate. We got to see how bees drink water and cool down in a “bee bath”.

All photographs by Billy Mann

I just got some positive feedback from Fiona. I sent her a boiled-down 400 words of a pitch for a grant she is working on about how the Bridges in a Group idea can be used in a traditional healthcare setting. It was very plain-speaking, but that is what the pitch was meant to be. I’m still not sure any normal reader might not stop after the title, but that wasn’t in my brief. 

Here is what I sent…

Patients, Families and Health Professionals Working Together to Support Long-Term Stroke Self-Management
A Programme to Establish Effectiveness and Implementation of a Group Based Self-Management Intervention in Practice

Close to 1.2 million people in the UK live with the experience of stroke. Acute care may have improved in recent years, but ongoing support is still inconsistent, and many survivors will go on to suffer depression or other emotional, psychological and social needs. Most established rehabilitation ends after only a few weeks and survivors often claim they feel abandoned afterwards. 

PROTEA seeks to evaluate how a new group programme might change this to create a support system to help stroke survivors and their families manage the rehabilitation transition from hospital to home. Bridges, the self-management group, has over a number of years worked alongside survivors and their families to build such a programme. It enables survivors to feel confident and comfortable tackling everyday activities, but also to pursue the individual quality-of-life experiences they treasure most. They learn to use specific therapy techniques and to access resources. The group also encourages sharing experiences, strategies and tips with fellow survivors. 

PROTEA comprises four packages of work. The first trains stroke survivors and clinicians to organise the groups, and to capture the information needed for successful measurement. 

The second evaluates the costs and effectiveness of the group in six existing stroke pathways, in London and South Wales. Patients are recruited as they leave hospital care and surveyed about their quality of life and their goals. Then they are chosen randomly to either continue with the established care pathway and/or to take part in group self-management. After 6 and 12 months they repeat the survey and the results will show whether group attendance has been beneficial. This stage also estimates the costs to services and value for money.

The third package runs in tandem with 1 and 2 and looks at ways the group therapy might work in each of the stated clinical pathways, how members rate it, and whether delivery is consistent. 

Finally, package four is where the PROTEA findings get shared, with a support toolkit that includes easy infographics, blogs and a short film. At is core is a network for ‘community champions’ to operate in, plus presentations in London and Wales to drive the momentum towards establishing the PROTEA intervention as an add-on to existing stroke services across the UK.

Thursday 18, London

‘In deed and act Mr Trump violates the values the US aspires to uphold – equality under the law, religious liberty, equal protection, and protection from persecution – because he does not believe in them.’

Guardian editorial

Friday 19, Whitstable, Kent
A day out with the St Luke’s O55 crew.


And a pin badge I bought for Jane.


Saturday 20, London
Dawn just sucked on a piece of lemongrass in her cocktail, thinking it was a sherbert straw. At first she thought it might have been an artistic sliver if celery, but then Sue told her it was lemongrass. This is in a bar on Clerkenwell Road called Monsieur le Duck. It claims to ooze a vibe called “douceur de vivre” – what people in Gascony do to chill. We were there after a long day volunteering to show neighbours the glories of Great Arthur House roof garden as part of the London Assembly’s weekend celebration of parks and open spaces.


Tuesday 22, London
J and D reckon ‘Greta Garbo’ faked a stroke last night in a desperate attempt to seek attention. Naively, I tried to check if the ‘ailment’ was real, in case it was. I wasn’t the only sucker. Paramedics were called and it was a panic attack, apparently. ‘Greta’ was put to bed and the rest of us carried on gabbing.

Thursday 25, London
Taz told us today that Quentin had died. He had just held an exhibition in Islington. There was a silence in the studio. Some members obviously couldn’t remember who he was and Taz showed them a photo. Not knowing how to respond to the news of a death is maybe a universal discomfort we all experience. I just said it was very sad and that Quentin had been happy here at Headway and in this studio.

Later: To the Barbican for The Lehman Trilogy.

It was very long (2 intervals) and actually not a play at all but a reading of a narrative by three actors in a glass box. I was quite bored, but Jane and Jackie seemed to like it. It starred Simon Russel Beale, Ben Miles and Adam Godley.

Saturday 27, London
To lunch at Aragon in Parsons Green to celebrate M’s 16th birthday. We learned from one of her cards that her birth in 2003 coincided with the introduction of Congestion Charging in London. I asked M if at 16 she had any ambitions. She answered saying that she has plans for herself (education, travel, etc) but ambition is pointless because climate change has screwed the planet and no future can be assured.

Monday, London


I’d wanted to do something around the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo Moon Landing. I wondered how Tony might draw it and the idea fell straight into place, based on his dry humour. It coincided with the chance resurrection of Photoshop Touch on my decrepit iPad2, an app that died a death around two years ago. This is a screenshot of the posting I put on Instagram.

31 July, London
At Q’s funeral at St David’s Church in Islington, one woman I noticed in the congregation looked very stern, but became tearful later. She did not sing any of the hymns but did join in near the end for the Lord’s Prayer.

See you down the road, Q

● Read my August Diary

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