Wednesday, London At the top of my Quora feed is the question: “Why should I go to the UK?” And the top answer says, “I’ve read your Quora profile. Don’t come here. You wouldn’t like it.” The writer then goes on to catalogue the reasons, including the statement: “You’d think it looks like a communist country”, despite it being “probably the most capitalist country in Europe”. It continues: “Our views on Universal Healthcare would make you angry. You would probably be surprised at just how popular our National Health Service is, even amongst people who are rich enough to afford private healthcare.” And before it concludes its KEEP OUT message, the answer states: “If you were black then you might be amazed that white people will speak to you in just the same way that they would speak to a white person, and black people will speak to white people in the same way as black people.”
📌 Another Quora asks… “What is the most embarrassing swimsuit fail you have ever seen?” The top answer, a masterpiece of misogyny, described a day at a public swimming pool… “there was a gorgeous girl lounging on the pool deck, clearly soaking up all of the admiring stares she was getting from the gaggle of college-age guys around her. This girl pretty much defined ‘feminine pulchritude’, with long blonde hair, a beautiful tan and a gorgeous set of knockers filling out a white bikini.” The story goes on to tell how the college guys picked her up by the arms and legs, and tossed her into the pool… “As she hit the water, the girl’s long blonde wig flew off revealing short, darker hair pinned to her head, and… the falsies she had apparently stuffed into her bikini top popped out and floated away across the pool!”
📌 We took delivery of the new Big Massive Telly, which certainly lived up to its name. Inevitably we bickered throughout installation and set-up. My stubborn insistence on not taking full responsibility for technology matters does cause some friction. So I look forward to long Winter evenings working out how to get the TV and Alexa to talk to each other.
📌 The City is still very empty and it’s impossible to imagine it being as it was anytime in the next decade. Shoestring businesses will not reopen. Half a million people will not arrive each day to clog its arteries. Will this mean the “cityfication” of outlying towns? That was already happening, to an extent, but will it move out further and faster? That might even be the Big Plan, if there is one.
📌 Marcus Rashford has become the man who can save humanity from itself.
📌 Sam sent an email to say hello and tell me she’ll do the Twiggy picture when she’s finished the Van Gogh flowers. I sent her a picture of my Twiggy stitchwork T, which my wife says looks nothing whatsoever like Twiggy.
Thursday, London Michael Rosen’s recovery resembles mine in stroke rehabilitation.
📌 On the day Vera Lynn died, to the chorus of “RIP at 103”, Macron arrived to award the Legion D’Honneur to the city of “LonnDonn”. The honour was because De Gaulle and Churchill once sat down to share a whisky and a cigar while they won a world war, piece of piss, blah.
📌 On a snoop around the Barbican, I found a smokers’ corner behind the Museum of London, with a shelter and bench in which I could dodge the rain.
📌 Sam finished her Van Gogh and sent me a picture of it.
📌 I’ve always been suspicious of crowds, and the pandemic has convinced me I can do without them. But this piece in the Guardian has made me think again. I value, and now miss, the communal or the collective experience, but the crowd is a scary and unpredictable thing. Is a crowd just a mob in waiting? Can the collective experience (the author uses the word (congregation) return from the ashes of the pandemic? Or will the mobs start roaming?
Friday, London There’s a leak in the seal of our electric espresso maker. Luckily, a replacement part is available online.
📌 In preparing for the ‘Masculinities’ workshop on Monday, I studied the Barbican’s community web page and it’s really impressive.
📌 All the furniture is now moved into Shed34. I think.
📌 Stuart has done a reverse ferret and started praising OMD, who he previously described as “Posh Peninsula Poseurs”.
📌 At the family Zoom we talked about the prevalence in the UK of mysterious statues in tribute of slave traders. I argued that maybe these stupid men just thought they were doing their best within a system that enriches the capitalist class. Kate said there was no excuse since at the time slavery was actively debated, so anyone making money out of it was complicit. We then wondered if, in years to come, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg statues will be tossed in the river because they knew fully well that their enterprises were built on tax dodging.
📌 My wife says that Michael Portillo looks like a TFL seat cover.
📌 I asked my wife what time her Zoom book group was. “Eight thirty nine,” she replied. “That’s a very precise time,” I remarked. “You missed the implied dash,” she said, clarifying that she meant “8.30-9”.
Saturday, London Katie Hopkins has been banned forever from Twitter.
📌 On Twitter is a long thread from Dr Amy Kavanagh (@BlondeHistorian) explaining the bumpy paving stones you get near pedestrian crossings and at the edge of railway platforms. They are a secret code with which sight-impaired people can navigate safely to wherever it is they want to go. There’s an equally long government web page explaining their installation.
📌 Yay! Marina Hyde is back, sticking it to Boris and his midlife crisis. Here is part of an imaginary presentation by Boris: “Here’s a slide showing how tens of thousands more people than necessary have Sadly Died because of decisions I took or put off taking. But looking at the positives, here’s a slide of the new designs for my plane!”
📌 Once again Zoom shows it has a remarkable capability for elicitation. Our “Breakfast Club” session has become an exercise in pocket storytelling. Today’s theme was food memories. Sandra and I both reminisced fondly about school dinners and our mothers’ cooking. Brian told us about the window-shopping trips with his mother down Oxford Street that ended in a Lyons Corner House and a chocolate eclair (served by uniformed maids known as Nippys) to stuff in his 7-year-old mouth. Shirley and Jane both had fishy recollections: Jane’s of the seafood spaghetti in the Daily Catch in Boston, and Shirley’s of a lobster shack in Whitstable. And Gill showed us her Concorde memorabilia, which included a cutlery set and a menu, from a journey to New York on one of the last flights. Through these memory explorations we each get to know each other more in a gentle way.
📌 On a walk around Whitecross Street and the Barbican, it definitely looked like it was the reset and not the reboot button that got pressed by the virus. No one looked keen to get back to a 0-60 lifestyle.
📌 I cautiously speculated not long ago that soon we will be wearing badges that say CLEAN or IMMUNE. The suggestion was greeted with horror at a family Zoom. Now I read that immunity passports are already a real thing.
📌 Then we had the first ever Premier League game to be shown on the BBC, with simulated crowd noises. I made this during half time.
We speculated on what would happen if the empty stadium became normal and games were simply televised. The simulated crowd sounds would need to be improved and all the seating stripped out. In its place could be apartment blocks of “pods” that look onto the pitch. You rent them out like Airbnb. Or simply watch at home, which has been the trend anyway for many years.