Diary… When Auntie Val got locked in Milson’s cage


She was waiting for her hot date to arrive…


Digest: 26 April-2 May


Sunday 26 April, London What I like about Zoom is its inbuilt safe-distancing, which means you don’t have to suffer anyone annoying for too long.

📌 Much of the Coronavirus crisis is about money, not health. People want to get back to work quickly because they can’t afford not to. The government wants to end the Lockdown because the public purse can’t afford to keep it going.

📌 We finally got the All4 app to work on the telly and watched ‘Friday Night Dinner’. Auntie Val accidentally got locked in Milson’s new cage while waiting for a hot date off Tinder to arrive. BTW, Adam is “Pussface” and Jonny is “Pissface”.

Monday 27, London I was reading late last night when my wife came into the bedroom with a grim look on her face and the words “There’s been a terrible accident” . The chicken stock I’d made earlier and carefully decanted into an old orange-juice bottle was ruined. The paper grease-sucking techno-pad I’d inserted loosely into the neck of the bottle had dropped right inside, gorged itself on excess fat and exploded, depositing its magical absorbent grains into the rich, chickeny liquid. The stock was contaminated. The incident was more a mishap than a disaster, so I laughed and went back to my book. 

📌 It looks from the PM’s speech like the government will adopt a divide-and-rule approach to bring the country out of the Coronavirus crisis. There will be a bigger, stricter system of regulation as businesses and industries emerge, one by one, out of the Lockdown. But the obvious suspicion is that this ushers in a new era of dodgy dealing, in which rules are relaxed, bent and bought off as time goes on. This puts the Labour movement back to where it was roughly 100 years ago. 

📌 The lunchtime Twitterpic to plug last week’s diary attempts to place Donald Trump’s remarks about protection from Covid-19 at the centre of America’s identity.

Trump’s America…

Tuesday 28, London We watched an engrossing new TV drama last night, ‘Normal People’. It is a class teenage love story and it’s a teenage love story about class, set in Ireland. Much of the first episode took place in a classroom, the rest in middle-class girl’s comfortable detached empty home. The action centred on a super-inelligent, intellectually snotty adolescent girl copulating with super-perceptive lower-class insecure adolescent boy, who’s very good at gaelic football. Brilliant performances. Unswitchoffable.

📌 This is the midday Twitterpic. Those hands are meant to be clapping.

📌 I learned during an online coffee that J passes unwanted ice cream over the garden fence to a neighbour and P has “developed a strange relationship with the [vulnerable] woman over the road”, who posts empty packages through their letterbox to show what items she’d like them to get her from the shops.

📌 Another Twitterpic, probably my favourite.

Wednesday 29, London Headway’s radio show, imaginatively titled Radio Headway East London, wanted some audio of me plugging the video tutorial I’ve done for the Barbican. So I did a Zoom interview with Alex. It was fun, and much less stress than trying to monologue it, which is my worst nightmare.

Homemade radio interview…

During the interview I noticed a lovely ceramic on the shelf behind Alex and she told me it was part of a project she did with her partner Dave (genius editor of the video tutorial). Together they made 12 dozen egg cups in 12 months. This is my favourite, which I have named the ‘Buckaroo Egg Cup’.

Buckaroo Egg Cup…

📌 Disinfecting and quarantining your mail still feels very weird. All instinct tells you to open that non-junk letter NOW! The one that arrived from Headway in a brown A4 envelope looked interesting but not urgent. A box of 12 coloured pencils poked out of a ripped hole. Inside was a Sam Jevon colouring book, and it will keep me in rapture during the dark hours ahead.

📌 I’m getting better at the Answer Smash section of Richard Osman’s ‘House of Games’. I got “guinea pigneous” and “Ed Milibandontherun” today.

📌 Our friend Sarah came up with two treats: an easy banana ice cream, and a gig from Palestinian jazzer Faraj Suleiman at Kings Place. Both at the same time more than doubled the pleasure.

📌 The TV adaptation of ‘Normal People’ is boring. The early part, in which Connell attached to “the group” more easily and to the denial of his obvious love for Marianne, has passed into a reversal. In college, Marianne is the “groupie” and Connell the loner. Too much sex with bad sound simulation dilutes the power of the story. I’m looking for other things to do while it’s on (Hilda Ogden monostitch). I’ve started to use the word tedious when describing ‘Normal People’.

📌 The news that BA is to cut tens of thousands of jobs is one we are likely to hear more often from now on. The statement that their business now needs to be “reimagined” makes mass unemployment sound like the start of a new Enlightenment.

Thursday 30, London From a column in the Guardian by Marina Hyde: “Every second you’re having the lockdown debate is a second you’re not having the debate that starts, ‘how in the name of our necrotic self-respect are we on course to be the worst-hit country in Europe when we had so much warning?’”

📌 There’s been an amusing trickle of stories on what people have used as makeshift face coverings when venturing outdoors. One friend in Brighton re-purposed an insomniac’s eye mask. Now I discover that the comedian Richard Herring, while awaiting a new tyre at Kwik-fit in his local village, Hitchin in Hertfordshire, strolled the high street wearing his runner’s bum bag: “…Which worked pretty well as it was made of breathable material and the zip looked like a big smile.”

📌 Browsing my recent Amazon purchases, my wife took a sneaky peek and said the list would make a good visual diary for Lockdown.

📌 In ‘Young Sheldon’, Pastor Jeff is viewing the house next door to the Coopers with his new bride. Even Mary looks worried about that.

Friday 1 May, London The TUC has launched an online Mayday hashtag, #ThankAWorker.

📌 There is a BBC podcast series called ‘Obsessed With Normal People’. Since I am obsessed with disliking ‘Normal People’, I listened to the first installment but grew as irritated with it as I am with the TV show. ‘Obsessed With…’ is apparently a BBC strand. There is an ‘Obsessed With Killing Eve’ podcast, too. This branding has satire potential, I’m sure.

📌 The Barbican monoprinting workshop video is out. It looks good, thanks to Dave’s editing skills. It is featured in the May online Guide, and includes an interview with me.

Saturday 2, London Saturdays DO generally start with the Marina Hyde column in the Guardian, and today was no exception. It included this telling passage.

📌 My wife pointed to an ‘Ask the Expert’ column on the Guardian website which tackled one of the day’s most pressing issues.

One of the answers was superficially well-meaning.

But then its fault was revealed in a spiky riposte.

Only to be trumped by the original correspondent.

📖 Read last week’s diary digest.

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