Diary: June 2020

‘Floyd died gasping for breath as the nation was in the grip of a pandemic that restricts respiration’

Monday 1, London Today is the start of the new Cummings-Johnson anarchy, in which the aim of ‘getting the pandemic done’ swings into operation.

📌 Stuart has moved from the Lotus Eaters to Nik Kershaw (at my instigation).

Tuesday 2, London 5Live reports that property lettings have gone through the roof due to relationship break-ups.

📌 President Trump has all but declared Martial Law in the US. He says if black people don’t stop protesting in the wake of the George Floyd killing, he will send in the Army.

📌 One commentator drew a symbolic parallel in the Floyd killing. He said Floyd died gasping for breath as the nation was in the grip of a pandemic that restricts respiration.

📌 Another bad choice of thread on this latest stitchwork project. I know her arse was big to begin with, but I think I’ve done the woman a cruel injustice.

📌 The Royal Academy has an online life-drawing class. These are the first two poses.

📌 Carol-Ann got in touch. I knew she was OK because I’d seen her doing a silly dance on an Instagram video, the whole purpose of which was clearly to show off her massive bosom.

📌 In ‘Schitt’s Creek’, David and Stevie got into their first snog.

Wednesday 3, London Last night my wife tittered childishly when a man called Robert Fuchs appeared on the evening news. The titter turned into a scoff when he was followed by a union rep called Wayne King. “What kind of parents with the surname King call their son Wayne!?” she blurted. She said this knowing that my parents wanted to name me Andrew, but didn’t because at school I would have been called “Andy Mann”. She knows also that among my childhood playmates was Carol Ness, who had two older brothers, Peter and Phillip.

📌 Homerton Hospital midwife Rachel Millar, 24, has appeared on the cover of glossy fashion magazine Vogue alongside train driver Narguis Horsford and Waitrose worker Anisa Omar as part of a story about Britain’s “New Frontline”.

📌 The Black Lives Matter movement is getting stronger and stronger worldwide. The Liverpool team publicly did a “take the knee” salute in support, and this tweet appeared below footage of a march in New Zealand.

📌 Some monocled blimp in the government (aka, Jacob Rees-Mogg) singlehandedly scrapped the online remote voting system our MPs were happily using and ordered them all back to sit in Parliament. So the ones shielding or quarantined from Covid lost their right to vote.

📌 The Conservatives are behaving like they know they’ll lose at the next election, so they are wrecking as much of society as possible in the hope that it can never be rebuilt in a non-conservative way.

📌 We get a new delivery of food from Tesco tomorrow, so for lunch I made a mini-casserole from stuff we needed to use up: cabbage, green leaves, spring onions, pesto, chorizo, meatballs.

📌 One of the contestants on ‘Tenable’ named Andover as one of France’s top ten cities.

 📌 Things you never expected to learn on a grey Wednesday in Lockdown Britain…

📌 Walking to the post box counts as an event.

Thursday 4, London Hackney Council has run out of the paper it uses to issue fines to people who urinate and defecate in public places such as parks. London Fields is one victim of this behaviour, but a Hackney resident writes claiming the problem is more widespread and includes “lots of drunk mens’ penises as they walk about weeing everywhere.”

📌 The London protests for George Floyd and Black Lives Matter are in the news.

📌 The building site outside our front door is back in full swing. The north side of the flat is unuseable. I accidentally walked into the spare bedroom room naked the other day. 

📌 The Headway Open Studio art session today was all about Vincent van Gogh.

And we had a close look at one of his paintings of irises. Michelle took a picture in her garden and we all had a go at that… While we were at it, everyone chatted about nature so we heard lots of plant and pond stories. Alex’s sister pushed her in the pond when she was 9 and she felt the frog spawn squelching between her toes.

📌 We came second in the Brighton Zoom quiz. Jaq and Lynne beat us by half a point.

Friday 5, London Cris put me onto the Wellcome’s Zine Club on Instagram, which I’m enjoying.

📌 My wife said she had “something controversial to say about the telly”. What she said was that before we buy the new (very big) one she’d like to replace our blonde-wood Habitat sideboard with a Mid-Century classic equivalent. I said I didn’t think that was in any way controversial.

📌 Zoom Fatigue is in the air.

📌 My wife was talking to one of her friends about some voluntary work she’s doing for a health organisation and is appalled that they use Survey Monkey. I detected a bit of Researcher Snobbery in her tone and it reached a peak of superiority when she exclaimed, in horror, that “they quote percentages to two decimal places!”

📌 I’m not sure the Cummings-Johnson Death Plan to kill off the elderly is working. I’ve seen plenty of our wrinkly neighbours skipping around in face masks clutching their two-year-old Waitrose plastic bags like they’re some kind of war medal.

📌 Chris sent me a nice piece he’d written for the Wellcome. Look forward to seeing what they do with it.

📌 The call of nature stood outside our bathroom window singing his lonesome blackbird songs. It made the other call of nature seem a little less private.

Saturday 6, London On the radio were two women (one black, one white), on a bench in a park, 2m apart, talking about the George Floyd killing and the protests that followed. The white one said that what the Floyd case has taught her is that it is not good enough for her to practise non-racist behaviour and to abhor racism. She said her duty now was to be actively anti-racist. It reminded me of the Rock Against Racism movement here in the UK and the gigs we went to. Coincidentally, Richard posted this montage.

Will Black Lives Matter be America’s equivalent moment? If, as an article in The Conversation implies, the issue is tied deeply to America’s position in the world order under Trump, we are indeed at a tipping point.

📌 We did the ‘Breakfast Club’ coffee-shop Zoom and we all brought some of our “favourite” things. Jane brought a silver bracelet that belonged to her mother. And Sandra’s favourite thing was to dress up to go out. So she’d done the whole “experience” of having a relaxing bath, slipping on an elegant dress, jewellery, make-up, etc. Mine was the Timex watch Jane bought me for my 30th birthday. Gill told a lovely story about her favourite jacket and how she never really felt she “belonged” until she got it. She wore it to a Jam gig in 1982 at the Deeside Leisure Centre and afterwards got to spend 2 hours with the band.

📌 This is unusually poetic and reflective from Mark Steel.

📌 I learned a new word: “stushy”. I heard it on the radio and it appears to mean classy or stylish, and is possibly derived from the word ostentatious, which sounds plausible. It was used in reference to a description of Barack Obama’s headphones

📌 Stuart has got into the groove of inventing band names from body parts and medical conditions. He says it was inspired by Gerry & The Pacemakers, but I think it is just him being silly. He has already invented the musical careers of Calvin And His Coronary Bypass, Ian And The Implants and Lionel’s Liver Salts. He briefly mentioned Gary And The Gall Stones and Pete’s Prosthetic Leg before I was moved to mention Ingrid & The Ingrowing Toenails. He tells me that Ingrid “went out on a limb” and joined Sole To Sole before getting a good job in Boots.

📌 ‘Cardinal’ is our new TV fix.

Sunday 7, London It was disappointing to find that the tomato seedlings have not burst out of their cardboard pots and proliferated all over the planter in the allotments yard.

📌 I did my Local Legend interview on Culture Mile radio with Hunt & Darton. My wife says I spent too much time interviewing them and not enough talking about Headway, which is a fair point.

📌 At a Baggers Committee Zoom I learned about London’s compost shortage and that Camden Garden Centre has a nifty one-way safe-distancing etiquette. We agreed that this is an exceptional year and that poorly performing Baggers need not be reprimanded. Jacqueline said we should get stuck into making our own compost.

📌 My wife’s new jigsaw is a very unconventional version of a Diego Rivera painting. The difficulty isn’t in the picture but in the weirdness of the cut. Each piece is such an odd shape that, though it cannot be mistaken for any of the others, placing it relies on waiting for its slot to “arrive”. The firm that makes these jigsaws is called Eurographics.

📌 People dying alone and left to rot is a shameful reflection on the type of society we’ve built.

Monday 8, London There was a story on the radio about extreme DIY dentistry during the Lockdown. One of the methods for dealing with a painful cavity was to strip the red plastic from a Babybel cheese, dissolve it in spit to form a paste, and to plug the hole with that. Another told of people replacing crowns with superglue. Many spoke of buying DIY dentistry kits on the internet.

📌 The top question on my Quora feed is from someone asking, “What is a cockwomble?” The top answer goes into a lengthy expression of admiration for the term before getting to the definition: “It’s an annoying twat who is patently wrong but will not shut up, even when you prove how wrong he is (it’s always a he).”

📌 Historic England has published an online photo exhibition of life during Lockdown. It features pictures from both professionals and public, and as a collection it manages to capture the dislocation we’ve all faced and dealt with in our own ways. I like the pictures of people most.

And the funny ones…

📌 With the quarantine and public-transport restrictions that are now being introduced, the government has finally got to the place it should have been at 3 months ago.

📌 Back in the 1980s when I worked on the music press, one of the hot grebo bands was Pop Will Eat Itself, fronted by a character called Clint Mansell, who now writes exquisite film music.

📌 This time last year I was working on the Etienne memory painting.

📌 Stuart thinks I should write a biography of Felix Pappalardi, a US muso who played with both Mountain and Cream. Stuart says he was killed, age 43, by his then girlfriend Gail.

📌 In ‘Schitt’s’, Moira wore a ridiculous Barbra Streisand wig to Ronnie’s “girls” party in the belief that they were all lesbians. And in ‘Spooks’, Zoe got convicted of manslaughter but was then able to do a runner to Chile. Danny cried.

Tuesday 9, London I wanted to know what the weather was like on the day I was born, and this is what I found…

📌 The cocktail bar looks good cleaned up. We’re not sure we want to sell it now.

📌 On the ‘TED Radio Hour’ there was a feature on alternative narratives of death. One of them was the “positive” return of the body to the environment. We heard from a woman who’d invented a mushroom burial suit because mushrooms are the magical thing that will cleanse the human body of its many toxins, decompose it quickly and “transform” it into a mulch that will feed and fertilise future earth-based life forms. The nirvana scenario is to see a tree or a rose bush growing out of your grave. The woman had therefore devised a netted burial shroud impregnated with mushroom spores. She hoped to progress to some more stylish designs in the near future.

📌 At the Guardian Google coffee Meet, Angela said she liked Rishi Sunak, Philippa had been doing night shifts making up food parcels and Margaret showed us a ‘Cut-price Portrait‘ she did. Emma made an appearance, even though she will give birth any minute (or more likely Thursday). I secretly hoped it would happen right then, like a live-streaming event.

📌 The serial killing in ‘Cardinal’ is really quite gruesome. My wife thinks that the grisliness of TV killings are diluted when viewed with subtitles. Some of the Scandi-noir murders are just as visceral, but the effect is muted when the death rattle is in Swedish, Danish or Norwegian, written across the bottom of your TV screen.

Wednesday 10, London I just read Richard Herring’s diary entry on Bristol and the toppling of the Colston statue. I very much side with his point of view, alongside those of the historian David Olusoga.

📌 I think I might make Everton my second team. I’ve probably been leaning that way for some time. The club has a record of often doing the decent thing and I’ve been stubborn in my ignorance of their virtues and jingoistic in my depiction of them as the enemy. Even before Liverpool’s great current dominance, Toffee-bashing felt wrong somehow, so maybe it’s time to atone.

📌 Michelle asked those of us who appeared in Posy’s film, ‘Chaos/Quest’, to write some feedback. I thought it was a special film that captured the remote, lonely experience of brain injury.

📌 Stuart wondered why Nik Kershaw chose to reference Arran in his song ‘The Riddle’ when other two-syllable locations (“Bootle or Scunthorpe”) would have done the job.

📌 The word “throuple” (three in a ‘coupling’) was used in ‘Schitt’s’.

Thursday 11, London Stitchwork can be frustrating on many levels, and one of them is trying to estimate whether you have enough thread to cover a given area. You end up devising possible solutions to running out. The woman on the left in this piece could end up with two yellow stripes down her back.

The white stilettos are a mess. Never mind the orange skin.

📌 I think my wife secretly enjoys me stealing her quotes for my artwork.

📌 The Open Studio session included a visit from an illustrator, Katie Scott, who majors in subjects botanical, fantastical and zoological. She gave us a picture of a leopard and a Lion to work from. I ignored the leopard and cut off the lion’s head. Its arse was far more interesting.

📌 We finished ‘Killing Eve’ and both declared it a disappointment. We lost enthusiasm when they gave a whole episode to probing Villanelle’s embarrassing family in Russia. They were so embarrassing she killed them all without a blink of the eye.

📌 The virus is said to disproportionately affect BAMEs, but explanation and context are not given. Unqualified, the high incidence of infection is a potential weapon in a race war. The facts need better reporting.

Friday 12, London Stuart sent a message about The Venerable Bede, implying he wasn’t such a good guy.

📌 It looks like British lives do have a price. The economy has tanked by 20% and there’s a Tory clamour to restart what we had before. The capitalists clearly can’t afford for the restrictions to continue.

📌 Michelle’s Creative Challenge was all about The Thinker, so I took a picture of Errol’s ceramic.

📌 I also sent Michelle an idea for a mappy colouring book, ‘Around The World With Billy’, which plays to the ‘…With Billy’ branding the Barbican used for the monoprint video.

📌 I hadn’t heard from Stuart in six hours, so I sent him an email:

Dear Rev Donaldson
Can I ask for your reminiscences of ice-cream? I was just chatting on Zoom with my sister and cousins, and we chanced upon our different strategies for finishing off an ice-cream cone. My wife contributed by saying she used to push the flake deep into the cone’s cavity, which I took to be a nod to the work of professor Freud. I would bite off the tip of the cone and suck out the ice-cream. I suspect that to be something deeply psychoanalytical, too. Have you any input on ice-cream (psychoanalysis not necessary)? FYI: We grew up with Mr Whippy (Freud again?)

📌 We finished ‘Cardinal’ and decided to move on to Series 2.

Saturday 13, London We had a brief conversation about who is the funniest. I don’t think either of us is in any doubt.

📌 At the Breakfast Club Zoom, we all played one minute of a favourite piece of music and said why it was important to us. I chose Scott McKenzie’s ‘San Francisco’ and Jane picked ‘Tiny Dancer’.

📌 I got distracted from the main task and made this to the sound of Ennio Morricone’s ‘Chi Mai’.

The main task being to post this illustration.

📌 I’ve looked at it from both sides now, and the ‘Tres Amigas’ hen-party stitchwork project is growing on me. I might even get to like it soon.

📌 I’m always pleased to read updates of Michael Rosen’s progress.

Sunday 14, London It’s not often a picture comes along that’s likely to both define the moment and shape the future. This one of a racist thug pissing next to the memorial of the police officer who died defending others in the 2017 Westminster Bridge terrorist attack is one of them.

📌 We were chatting about racism and ended up talking about the play Michael appeared in last year at the Chichester Festival, ‘Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads’. He’d said there was a possibility it would be staged in the West End in the Autumn and we’d agreed he could use our spare room for the duration. All those plans went down the toilet with the pandemic, but if my memory is right, most of the actors are socially distanced (inside a fake pub), so the possibility of staging and filming the play inside a big studio is possible. It is so relevant after yesterday’s events in London.

📌 A psychotherapist friend, Amanda, has been sending us a tune a day during Lockdown. Today it was Ronnie Lane’s ‘The Poacher’.

📌 Yesterday I suggested for dinner a cheese feast with Auntie Tricia’s Irish Soda Bread, plus strawberries. It was rejected in favour of roasted veg with Haloumi. And there was so much left over that the cheese feast is now unlikely to make its promised appearance today.

📌 The Zoom quiz is a thing of beauty. Because you are trusted to not cheat and to mark your own scores, there is no competitiveness. The sole purpose is to engage with others in the pleasure of testing and sharing your knowledge. Anyone who feels bad after a Zoom quiz has unresolved psychological issues.

📌 I was wrong about the cheese feast. It’s back on the menu, and I got to make a small Auntie Tricia loaf.

📌 I just found three self-portraits I don’t remember doing.

📌 Just as I was missing the input of Gary Younge to the BLM debate (he left the Guardian to be a professor of sociology at Manchester University), he makes a timely comeback with a long essay pulling in the types of empire European countries built and the incendiary presence of Trump in the current US protests.

📌 Different Strokes can be a great source of classic ranting…
“Week 12 isolation, and I have one thing to say:
Cognitive/neuro fatigue, whatever you care to call yourself, you are an absolute twat!
You do not deserve a fancy name. You are brain fatigue, simple.
You are never welcome at my door. If you were a thing, I would put you in a box and drop you to the bottom of the deepest ocean!
Actually, no, I would drop you into a spewing volcano, to be swallowed up by molten lava never to be seen again!

Monday 15, London The Prime Minister signalled his intention to cut the safe-distancing rule in half, which triggered a number of illegal raves to kick off. Hordes of pleasure seekers grabbed the chance to sniff laughing gas and crap all over the place.

📌 Lockdown stitchwork project number 4 is finished.

📌 Great news! Mr Pinkjacket (aka, Michael Portillo) returned to our screens with his fascinatingly pompous train journeys.

📌 Stuart tells me he has it on good authority that Aristotle’s first name was Trevor.

📌 According to ‘The Conversation’, a tsunami of crystal meth is about to hit Europe. New alliances between Mexican druglords and European labs, plus disruptions to the global supply chain in cocaine (#CoronaBlame) are said to be the cause.

Tuesday 16, London Unintended Consequences. Or maybe Half Intended Consequences. Applications that were either developed for or have become dominated by a single purpose have been repurposed by the virus. Twitter is now used by many as a simple messaging service. Ditto Instagram. And Zoom, a business conferencing app, is now used for social engagements.

📌 From the Morning Star…

📌 Footballers speaking out about political issues was once a standing joke. Not any more. After Raheem Sterling on racism comes Marcus Rashford on free school dinners.
Later: Boris Johnson, under pressure from his cabinet, backed down. Rashford wins 1-0.

📌 You will never know how close you came. I read a blog by a Headway East. London volunteer telling how he nearly brought Coronavirus to the Timber Wharf centre. He was on the bus, on his way to the centre when he felt unwell. He called the centre and one of the staff told him to go home. He had Covid-19, was (eventually) admitted to hospital but is now recovered.

📌 My wife reckoned one of the experts on ‘The Bidding Room’ was seriously underestimating the value of a nice bit of Isle of Wight Glass. She was right. It fetched double.

Wednesday 17, 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 previously 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. I sent her a picture of my Twiggy stitchwork T, which my wife says looks nothing whatsoever like Twiggy.

Thursday 18, 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 19, 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’ online 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 slavery was actively debated at the time, so anyone making money out of it was complicit, ignorance is no defence, etc. We then wondered if, in years to come, Jeff Bezos and Mark Zuckerberg statues will be tossed in the river because they built their enterprises on tax dodging as a recondition.

📌 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 20, London Katie Hopkins has been banned forever from Twitter.

📌 Also 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. She invents an imaginary presentation by the PM: “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 Saturday 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. 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.

Sunday 21, London There’s something happening called Twexit. Right-wing nutters and racists are leaving Twitter en masse, a move possibly triggered by the expulsion of their cheerleader Katie Hopkins.

📌 According to Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer: “The voters are running out of patience with the Johnson government’s excuses for its lethal amateurism.”

📌 A professor at King’s College has studied the lungs of people who died of Covid-19 and found them to be wrecked to a point beyond recognition. This, he said, suggests possible future problems for those who survived.  A kind of chronic lung condition or Post Covid Respiratory Syndrome (PCRS, my title).

📌 We got the tomatoes planted out and potted up some of Joan’s toilet-roll acorn seedlings, a Memory Group project. We kept one for ourselves, just in case an oak tree might come in useful one day.

📌 The crowd sounds for the Everton vs Liverpool game were brilliant, like there was some wizard audio editor doing their stuff in real time.

📌 I can see fanless football becoming a new business project, a whole lifestyle/leisure subscription package in which you get your food and drink delivered to your home to watch the footie, which appears on your Big Massive Telly at a very low price.

📌 Lois posted a picture of a Museum Visiting Group online ‘outing’ to the Smithsonian.

📌 My wife discovered another dubious body-shocker TV programme called ‘The 3,000lb Family’, the main character of which fills the entire screen of the new Big Massive Telly.

Monday 22, London We did the online Community View of the Barbican’s ‘Masculinities’ exhibition. They hinted that the Barbican could make a reopening announcement at the end of this week, which would be exciting. I facilitated the monoprinting workshop with my wife as my demonstration model. She did a portrait of one of the Portuguese bullfighters pictured in the exhibition.

We also did a free-writing exercise and a photographic study of something ‘masculine’. I did a car made out of a wire coathanger, but I’m not sure why.

I noticed in these exercises how I automatically turn topics into stories.

Tuesday 23, London My daily email from ‘The Conversation’ tells me that Pluto, the planet that was demoted in 2006 to a “dwarf”, holds massive cosmological secrets. One of them is that “it has had a warm interior ever since it formed, and may still have a liquid, internal ocean under its icy crust”. This means life on Pluto is technically possible. Note the use of the word “may”, always a signal by scientists that they don’t want to stick their necks out and go straight for the “Dog seen shitting on Pluto” headline. It also signals that they don’t know the difference between “may” and “might”. The story brought to mind a picture I made last year as a possible prompt for Tony Brooks.

📌 Sophia and Liam are the top baby names of the last 12 months.

📌 At last, some real news…

📌 I was wrong. Harry Styles is not singing “watermelon sugar smile”, which sounds a bit racist. He is singing “watermelon sugar high”, and something else about strawberries on a warm summer’s evening.

📌 My wife brought a package with her when she delivered my cup of coffee, made with the newly refurbished electric espresso maker.

📌 Sam sent me a shot of her new picture. I want the wallpaper.

📌 Alan Bennett has remade his ‘Talking Heads’, the TV monologues that were so successful back in the late 1980s. The first two were both powerful stories, the first featuring Imelda Staunton as a nosey old biddy who has a narrow mind and a mania for writing letters of complaint. She is locked up in her own bitterness and ends up locked up in a real prison, where she finds the freedom to open her mind and to expand her horizons. The social commentary of this is hard to ignore. The second story featured Sarah Lancahire as a mother who has sexual feelings for her 15-year-old son, AND TELLS HIM! It was a dark, disturbing story that left us both feeling uncomfortable but nevertheless questioning the price of deviance and nonconformity in an intolerant world.

Wednesday 24, London Just as I thought the upcoming US presidential election was a foregone conclusion, Barack Obama has stepped up to campaign for the dud Democratic candidate Joe Biden. This makes what I presumed to be a catastrophic one-horse race an interesting battle of ideas, a contest I had switched off now definitely worth watching. It also raises the tantalising prospect that if Biden wins, Obama will return to government in some sub-presidential job, where I think he will thrive.

📌 Tom Petty’s family have taken legal action against Trump for using the dead star’s song ‘I Won’t Back Down’ at a rally. This recalls the memory of Ronald Reagan using Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born In The USA’, totally unaware that it is a song about the despair of Vietnam war veterans. Neil Young, a Canadian supporter of Bernie Sanders, had a similar ruck with Trump over his use of ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’, another song lyrically scathing about US society.

📌 Gill posted this on Instagram, adding a pun about a “brief” speech.

📌 The weekly email from the Royal Academy includes an online study or Angelica Kaufmann, in which we learn that it was considered improper for Renaissance women to draw real nudes, so they had to practise their life-drawing with sculptures. Kaufmann, however, was rich enough to pay for private models and did her nudie drawing on the sly.

📌 Sam seems to be doing a picture every day under Lockdown. Today she sent me a photo of her ‘Twiggy’, which I love, but she says is one of the worst she’s ever done.

📌 Liverpool found their form in an empty Anfield and thrashed Palace 4-0. Mark Steel was watching.

Thursday 25, London Lockdown Catchup. Series 3 of ‘Spooks’ was a turkey and Series 4 is all plot and no character.

📌 Zoe Ball had a story that there will be two special episodes of ‘Normal People’ for Comic Relief. I can imagine a cracking satirical version of Connor and Marianne (was that their names?) on the job. 

📌 July 4 has been renamed Trimdependence Day.

📌 I’m really hooked on the Open Studio Zoom sessions because it’s very like being back in the Arch, everyone painting, drawing, sculpting, talking, listening to music and enjoying the whole business if doing it together. Today, Emily showed us some fantastic archive photos tracing the studio’s history, and Kat had arranged a still life exercise for us from some of the studio’s current contents. I focused on drawing Chris’s ceramic “mask”, which is in fact another of his self-portraits.

📌 I’m so bad at growing plants, anything that looks easy and low-maintenance is my holy grail. Our balcony gets a lot of sunshine, so I’ve decided that geraniums will be my pet plant, and I intend to make the ‘pelargonium peltatum’ my speciality. Famous last words, etc.

📌 It’s hard to see in this photo from our spare bedroom, but at the end of that crane hoist is a concrete staircase.

📌 Starmer has sacked RLB over an article by Maxine Peake and anti-Semitism.

📌 I’m now half-expecting a Summer of race riots.

📌 Our residents’ association is rubbish. Its committee shows zero  imagination, and poor communication is accepted as a natural condition. Great numbers of residents don’t even know we have an association, let alone contribute to its work. In short, my belief is that the residents’ association is doomed. And that might be no bad thing.

📌 The “translator” stepping in to speak for the Andalusian woman on the news had her job made easy. The woman was wearing a face mask.

📌 We both think Roland is the Eddie Grundy of ‘Schitt’s’.

📌 Chelsea beat Man City 2-1, which meant…

Friday 26, London Lockdown Literature. The emotional intensity of Chapter 32 of ‘David Copperfield’ is almost unbearable. Barkis has snuffed it, Little Em’ly has run off with Steerforth and heartbreak gangs heavily over the head of anyone with the surname Peggotty. At the end of the chapter Mr Peggotty concludes his miserable short stay in London with a foreboding pledge:  “I am going to seek her fur and wide… my unchanged love is with my darling child, and I forgive her.”

📌 There are lots of Liverpool videos in circulation, including one of the team watching the closing seconds of last night’s Chelsea victory over Man City. They gathered for an outdoor screening at Formby Golf Club, which my cousin Helen describes as “their local”.

📌 Finally got word from Stuart, who had not been in touch for 4 days. He’d had a fall and was admitted to hospital. Hopes to be discharged next week.

📌 I said NO to a Zoom workshop pitch. I’d really rather plan for getting back to real ones.

📌 Another staircase is craned into the new building outside our front door.

📌 Community Builders Reunited, on WhatsApp. I suggested ‘Bumping Drop-ins’ on Zoom as a possible alternative to bumping into people on the street.

Saturday 27 London The family asked me on Zoom yesterday whether I have been celebrating. I hadn’t. I was just quietly pleased, and contented myself how my philosophy of stroke rehabilitation has been shaped by Liverpool, from notions of goal-setting and possession to the inspiration of the individual talent in the team context. It’s always been a beautifully vague idea, but I cling to it. And then this piece appeared in ‘The Conversation’ that got closest to defining it with any clarity. 

📌 The ‘Morning Star’ quotes ONS figures showing that care workers are dying from Coronavirus at twice the rate of the rest of the population.

📌 The question on Quora is: “What baby names are Illegal in Italy?” And it turns out they include the names of parents and siblings, “ridiculous” names and names from literature. Among the examples listed are Moby Dick, Great Gatsby and Joey Tribbiani.

📌 The ‘Breakfast Club’ Zoom was another great leap forward in shared storytelling. We all told of great memories when travelling or on holiday. I told of the Metaxa 5* nights in Crete on our honeymoon. Jane did the story of Uluru and the plover we ran over who cheated death in the roadhouse bird sanctuary.

📌 Ireland has formed a three-party coalition government, which makes it start to look very European. Deffo one to watch from now on. Will Sinn Fein eventually make it a Party Four?

📌 Stuart reconnected via email, pledging to check whether Michael Parkinson is dead yet, which I took to be a good sign.

Sunday 28, London That Harry Styles song about watermelons is now firmly on my nerves. It makes no sense and is stupidly repetitive. It’s only got three lines: the one about strawberries that starts the verse, the one at the end of the verse about not being able to go on without something, and the chorus line about watermelons.

📌 I’ve been trying to imagine the future and what it might look like. Despite Brexit and the exodus of many foreign nationals, my lived experience of being British is living in London, England. The past (without foreign ‘others’) is somewhere else. The question What do you dislike the most about England? came up today on Quora and I thought the answer, from someone called Steve Black, 45, whose profile tells us he is “uneducated, uncouth and getting grumpy”, was worth quoting in full: “I dislike hardly anything about England. I have travelled the world and lived in the US and believe me England is a paradise compared to most countries. Corruption is here, but nowhere near as blatant and obvious as the rest of the world. Our police on the whole is still a service and not a near military force as other countries are turning to. The National Health is superb, it has problems and will always need more money and better management, but once again on the whole it works great. As for students and the loan systems, fuck ’em, why should my tax money pay for you to go and learn something that is really only a benefit to you in future earnings. If you don’t make the extra money, you don’t pay it back.” Black goes on to say the main thing he dislikes about England is the whingeing, and “any TV programme with the word celebrity in it, and Arsenal football club. The rest I can happily put up with.” Is Black the new Briton?

 More from Quora.

📌 Stitchwork project 5 is stuttering along, but using some leftover darning wool from my mother-in-law’s old sewing box was not such a good idea. There’s black fluff everywhere.

📌 There’s a neighbourhood busy-body group active online that uncovers wrongdoings and sends out urgent pleas to locate lost cats. This is the latest entry…

The above message describes the experience of being hit in the mouth by the fast-food projectile and tasting the burger. It adds that YouTube is probably to blame.

📌 My wife went off on one when a Coronavirus advert came on Spotify telling us to stay at home and resist the urge to pop out for a packet of crisps. She ruined her rage by using the lazy catch-all ‘They’. Paraphrased, it goes like this: They tell us to go out into a world where the virus is still rampant, to go to work, to get the economy going. They tell us to get back into the pubs and the parks (but keep off the beaches). They tell us we’ve pulled together to crack the problem. But don’t you dare eat a bag of fucking crisps.

📌 We watched the latest in the ‘A House Through Time’ series – 10 Guinea Steet, Bristol – and noticed how the show has become paced with the urgency of a detective story and packed with heavy drama.

Monday 29, London I wake up early most mornings thinking poetic thoughts, but not able to put them into words.

📌 Xenophobic stereotyping is behind the under-reporting of Covid successes in central European countries such as Slovakia, Croatia and the Czech Republic. So says an article in ‘The Conversation’.

📌 A contrasting couple from Twitter.

Later, Mark Steel was inundated with tweets from people pointing out that “cock-blocking” was an old term.

📌 The Prime Minister has said that parents who don’t send their children back to school in September will be fined. He has also performed another shameless raid on Labour Party policies with the announcement of a huge social infrastructural programme to get post-Covid Britain back on its feet, among which is a mass refurbish and investment in schools. Expect some New Model Army of low-wage apprentice slavies in your neighbourhood soon.

📌 Stuart is back in action with news that the Sinner before the Gates of Heaven in the Meat Loaf song was a sadistic groupie called “Lumpen Linda”.

Tuesday 30, London Someone posted a message on Twitter saying that when the government declares a count of PPE equipment it has supplied to NHS staff, every single item counts as 1. The example quoted states that “200 pieces” of PPE is a box of gloves.

📌 Another Twitter correspondent writes to tell the world that the collective noun for a group of ladybirds is a “loveliness”, and helpfully includes a picture of loveliness on top of a wooden post.

📌 For my exercise walk I hit the canal basin at Angel Islington and noticed two women of a certain age – possibly fans of Virginia Woolf – slipping in for a swim. Another woman, on the west side of the basin, was happily immersed in both a swim and a canal-side chat with a passer-by. All in a light drizzle.

📌 The stitchwork projects are a new path to line drawing, especially when you look at the reverse side.

📌 He can cook, he can sing, he can paint and he tells good jokes. Four reasons to hate Pip.

📌 Leicester has been put on extended Lockdown. My wife says it’s because they all ran out too soon to buy crisps.

📌 In ‘Schitt’s’ Alexis and Ted agreed to go their separate ways over Twyla’s 4-Cheese lasagne and a nice bottle of Chianti.

Read my May 2020 Diary.

Read my June 1919 Diary.

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