‘They synchronise their visits to supermarkets’
Digest: May 10-16
Sunday, London Two 30ish people stood outside Great Arthur House, two metres apart, chatting in a relaxed way – a man and a woman doing something we understand as normal. It seemed slightly perverse to study them from a distance, speculating on whether this was an example of ‘Love in the Lockdown’. There’s been a lot written about such encounters. One article remarked on the “return of the Jane Austen romance”, in which letters pass between would-be lovers long before even a handshake is exchanged. The letter has been replaced by the dating app and its capacity for video meetings. The benefits of the slow-burn date are sold as safer than the quick hook-up. The emphasis is on the relationship over the lusty encounter. Lockdown lovers even devise sneaky ways to meet physically. They synchronise their visits to supermarkets, which offers an early test of suitability.
📌 Nicola Sturgeon said she doesn’t know what Boris’s “stay alert” message means. She has told Scots to get out and exercise a bit more but to keep your distance from others and to wear face coverings when in shops. She says she is committed to a four-nation approach, but “What will make the approach harder is if the UK government takes decisions for the four nations without consultation.”
📌 The latest loaf was done with 5-year-old yeast, so I was quite pleased with the outcome. The sideline attempt to make a burger bun was not such a triumph. I overdid the slow-cook part of the exercise. Rock-hard exoskeleton; soft interior.
📌 The PMs statement to the nation cements the belief that, as with Brexit, the Conservative Party acts first out of self interest. The need to satisfy his party comes before the PMs concern about people dying or facing death. England is on its own in this folly. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will follow their own policies.
📌 Hilda Ogden’s house coat is nearly finished after a short delay, and the new Van der Valk series starring Marc Warren finished with a typically suspenseful shoot-out. It ended happily so I’m guessing a new series will air next year.
Monday, London There’s a sense today that this week could be a tipping point. The government has staggered into a statement about the way out lockdown. The media is full of ridicule. Three of the four nations do not support it. Will England follow them, in which case trust and credibility are lost.
The ridicule is mounting… Matt Lucas put this out on social media. His ‘Boris’ voice is really good.
Sienna Rodgers in LabourList says this of the PM’s national address: “The [Johnson] statement was effectively a declaration of class war. Those who can work from home are more likely to be better paid, and they can protect themselves, whereas those in construction and manufacturing must put their lives on the line so that bosses can protect their profits.”
📌 Taz called to chat. She tells me that fasting at home is easier than at work. She said the tiredness is harder to deal with when you bundle in the daily challenge of the Central Line. I agreed to contact S because he has little in common with the people who live in his supported living place. I sent an email asking him a question about a pub in Matthew Street.
Tuesday, London The intention was to sit outside in the sunshine and work out what the hell was going on in ‘Killing Eve’. Every time we come back to this series I can’t remember where we got to. All I can be sure of is that Jodie Comer is an assassin with a twisted sense of humour and that Sandra Oh agonises about everything. I checked the internet to see if there was a handy summary, but they all seemed to start: “to understand where we are in ‘Killing Eve’, we need to go right back to Series 1 (we’re on Series 3)”. The confusion then gets multiplied out of all proportion as characters you can barely remember (and who are probably dead) are brought back to life. This is no help. I will ask my wife, “where are we?” before we start the next episode.
📌 The lone magpie is still wandering around the lawn, so yes, I guess something tragic must have happened.
📌 There’s a man in a high-viz tabbard pottering up on the roof of Bernard Morgan Penthouse (aka, The Denizen), but otherwise no building activity is visible. Just as I finished that last sentence, the crane started to move.
📌 Johnson has gone all Trump. It seems he didn’t check his Sunday address (“Stay Alert”) with the Chief Medical Officer beforehand. He has allowed 40,000 people to die so that he can follow his narrow political and economic fetishes. He is no longer “following the science”.
📌 I continued with Hilda Ogden’s curlers all the way through ‘The Darkest Hour’. It came so highly recommended that it never even crossed my mind that it could be so bad. Bad is maybe an unfair word. Gary Oldman was rightly praised for deftly slipping into Churchill’s skin. I also liked the performance by Kristin Scott-Thomas. But the story was stupidly jingoistic and very corny. There was a totally unconvincing young secretary character who acted as Churchill’s moral compass, and the scene in which he got on a London tube train for the first time and asked “the people” whether he should negotiate with Hitler was 100% puke.
Wednesday, London This is the first day out of Lockdown, or at least the first day of the “easing” process. The PM’s new slogan, “Stay Alert”, has had so much piss taken out of it I felt it improper not to join in. I have started to sign off my emails not with Stay Safe, but:
Boo!! (just testing)
📌 Lisa posted a funny clip on Twitter of her staying alert and hitting imaginary Covids with a wooden backscratcher.
📌 The Conversation has all the stories worth reading…
📌 The Chancellor has extended the furlough scheme, a jobs-retention measure, until October. That seems like a good thing, but something tells me it is actually a business subsidy that gives employers some time to decide the ways in which they would like to exit the crisis. Many will choose to sack workers. In other words, the extension is a taxpayer-funded mini industrial massacre the government won’t get the blame for.
📌 Every day brings a new surprise delivery when the products I bought online after alcohol arrive. Today was especially exciting. I got a mixed set of Gütermann needle threads and a stainless steel knork.
📌 I proudly gave myself a number of brownie points for my scientific approach to the Kitchen Crisis. My wife noticed that when she opened the fridge door the light did not come on. This probably meant the fridge was off. By a masterful stroke of deduction (prompted by my wife’s insistence that we needed to buy a new fridge) I urged a check of the main fuse box. The fuse had tripped. Reset switch, fridge light back on, and the characteristic whirring sound of an old fridge was music to our ears. The same problem had inflicted the cooker and a new fuse in the plug did a similar job in reviving a seemingly dead appliance. Working out what caused these electrical failures is still guesswork, which I will soon abandon until the next crisis.
📌 Keir Starmer apparently gave Bojo a right duffing up.
📌 My wife has never seen ‘Spooks’, so we went right back to Series 1 on iPlayer.
Thursday, London News arrives that Zoe Ball’s breakfast radio show has lost one million listeners. It is personally comforting to know that we are two new additions to her cosy broadcasting parlour, bucking the trend and presumably making Zoe feel a micro-nano-teeny bit better about herself.
📌 I imagine a time in the near future when, despite the risks, to continue to opt out of or resist the drift “back to normal” will feel uncomfortable, and those who continue to protect their health will become outcasts by default. And they will see their tormentors as a self-selecting underclass.
📌 There’s a big ruck going on about excess mortality. April 2020 saw an increase of 50,000 deaths, but only a proportion of them because of Coronavirus. What the virus did do, however, is shape the way dying people shuffled off. The last moments and the funeral were dictated by the bungling1 of the crisis. One man on Twitter reported “attending” his father’s funeral from his kitchen, alone.
📌 Hilda’s curlers were a pest, but, I’m quite enjoying the hair.
📌 Another day, another mystery delivery, this time some T-shirts from Uniqlo.
📌 I didn’t make the Headway art session this morning, but Emily sent me the still life they did, and this was my belated effort. Very quick and very sloppy. That is NOT a baguette next to the bowl of things that hopefully look like lemons. It is some kind of grooved artisanal stick, or maybe an ethnic musical instrument.
📌 The Liftup (as opposed to Lockdown) is progressing.
📌 I’m now back in touch with Stuart. The banter we used to do face to face is now done with our thumbs. He reminded me about a pub on Matthew Street, The Grapes, and reminisced about a night in the Everyman Bistro with Julian Cope. He said something I wrote reminded him of John Betjeman. I corrected his misspelling of the poet’s surname and said thank you.
Friday, London The Morning Star is not biting its tongue.
I stopped reading this article when I came across a sentence referencing the “Office of National Statistics”.
📌 Cristina sent me a picture of what a friend of hers did with the ‘Masculinities’ tutorial thingy.
And one Michelle sent me by Dave.
📌 Andy has gone off on one about the new libertarian Liftup trend.
📌 It’s fun browsing Wish trying to work out what some of the products are.
📌 Some weird things on Twitter just tickle me.
📌 We did the monoprinting workshop on Zoom with a bunch of workers from the Barbican Creative Learning team. It was a fun way for them to end the working week. ‘Masculinities’ curator Chris Bayley joined us to talk about the images and themes the exhibition explores. I never thought the social side of the workshop could work remotely, but it did. I watched their behaviour throughout. Beth and her sister Becky seemed well into it. Josie, too. The project was always meant to be a conversation springboard and a way to share different ways of seeing. It also works well as a fun and easy way to study art appreciation (history, theory, methods, aesthetics).
Saturday, London At the end of the Zoom coffee morning (theme = blue), Brian told us that Lela died in hospital yesterday, age 91.
📌 Dermot O’Leary is recommending a Netflix series called ‘White Lines’. Might give that a go tonight.
📌 How a new loaf looks has probably become just as important as its taste. Quite impressed with this one.
📌 We did the Headway fundraising Zoom quiz and watched ‘State of Happiness’, which I noticed is nudging into feminism by making the women the smartest and most skilful players in 1970s Norway.