Diary: July 2020

Includes: Gothic horror, a slip-up with the Nuclear Trigger, and a drunken duck staggering in the City

WEDNESDAY 1, LONDON My favourite oak shelving unit (below) has been banished to the storage shed in favour of a slimmer model.

📌 There is an editorial in the Guardian that illustrates how events such as a pandemic can derail ideologically driven governments and force them into compromises that challenge the Party orthodoxy. The case of our current Conservative government and the role of the State is one such example.

📌 At a Headway Steering Group group Zoom I noticed for the first time how deeply professionalised the public engagement function has become. This is largely thanks to Catalan Cristina, who has grown into the role and manages to skilfully steer a bunch of brain-injury survivors, all with different temperaments and needs. The members who take part all seem to have adapted and found a way to thrive in the online dislocation. Yoki made a great statement about what she gets from being able to share her experience.

📌 I’ve enrolled at the WordPress Blogging University. Day 1 (yesterday) was to write a blog saying “Who I Am and Why I’m Here“. Today’s task is to give your blog a new title and tagline (see top).

📌 Listening to the new Bob Dylan album, ‘Rough And Rowdy Ways’, I imagine myself asking Nick Cave if he’s changed his mind about an interventionist God.

📌 Sam sent some more pictures, one of the still life we did in Open Studio last week and one of her Van Gogh framed on the wall.

📌 Just when you suspected a drought in diary material…

THURSDAY 2, LONDON Lockdown Catch-up. ‘Spooks’ started with good character stories (Matthew McFadyean, Keeley Hawes), then it drifted into All Plot No Character. Now (series 5) is all fights and chases. The Harry/Ruth romantic mismatch is a weak diversion.

📌 British reports are nudging towards a description of China trying to turn Hong Kong into a prison island. 

📌 There’s a story in ‘The Conversation’ that suggests Britain might be on a post-Soviet path to hidden unemployment, whereby furloughed workers are put on unpaid leave or no/low pay, but not technically rendered unemployed.

📌 In the Headway Open Studio Zoom session, I managed to turn Connie into a gothic horror character.

FRIDAY 3, LONDON I still get an ecstatic feeling of accomplishment when I unsubscribe from a load of email lists I’ve stuck with for too long.

📌 My wife really does have a problem seeing things my way. I de-messed our store rooms and she promptly re-messed them in the most space-inefficient way possible. I stormed off, refusing to attempt any further co-ooeration and sat brooding in a dark corner with a flask of cold tea and the new Bob Dylan album.

📌 We finished ‘Schitt’s’ and there was a great moment when Alexis walked David down the aisle in a brilliant role reversal, because Alexis had thoughtfully decided to wear a white wedding dress.

📌 Day 4 of Blogging University was all about targeting your ideal reader. I wrote a postdescribing how I blog with my sister in mind.

 📌 I wrote a short piece for Michelle about the Open Studio Zoom sessions during Lockdown. The new studio website will be launched soon, so I also supplied some quotes on what I’ve been busy doing at home…

Stitchwork eyeball…

📌 The pubs are allowed to open at 6am tomorrow. Can’t wait to see who goes for that. Meanwhile, other news came in that…

📌 In ‘Spooks’, Adam had the much anticipated coitus with his son’s nanny.

📌 Snooping around items in the WordPress Reader, I found a letter written by Nick Cave in which he uses the word “liminal”.

SATURDAY 4, LONDON One of our friends failed to turn up at the Zoom quiz on Thursday. Today we got this…

📌 At the Breakfast Club Zoom, the storytelling theme was Sport. I spoke about the 2012 London Olympics, especially the Paralympics because it took place just before my stroke. And afterwards I was myself disabled, so the memory becomes a landmark with a difference. I described the blind triple-jumper crashing into the judges and knocking them off their seats. Jane recalled watching the 2005 Istanbul Champions League final on TV with Paula (Irish, Man Utd), and we learned from Shirley that the corporate world has its own Olympics and that JP Morgan are the best.

📌 Locally, the Lockdown liftoff is a gentle reawakening. The Two Brewers had a lone drinker sitting outside, but the sense of release is real. I still want to kill cyclists who use the pavements when the roads are empty. Some prick did it in Beech Street Tunnel, which is still closed to all but zero-emissions traffic and has a dedicated cycle lane, which the two-wheel tosser decided to ignore.

📌 Day 5 of Blogging University urged the trial of 3 new Themes (layouts), but they were all deeply unsatisfactory. I’m conflicted. Should I design for phone, tablet, laptop or desktop use? More research required. 

📌 We binged on all 6 episodes of ‘Staged’, a Zoom-initiated TV Lockdown project starring Michael Sheen and David Tennant. Great, tight drama with lots of conflict/resolution (obvious and subtle) and some surprising guest appearances from straight actors doing brilliant comedy. Dame Judi Dench said fuck; Samuel L Jackson and Adrian Lester both sent themselves up hilariously.

SUNDAY 5, LONDON Our lawn is routinely colonised these days by a bunch of ground-floor YWPs (Young White Professionals). I’ve started to define them as the elite performers from a “gaming generation”. I ponder their future moves and plan my own accordingly.

📌 Shirley sent us a link to a Zoom presentation from the How To Academy. It was about community and “sacred capital” from a woman called Zita Cobb. It focused on an island off Newfoundland called Fogo and it referenced EF Schumacher, which made me want to re-read ‘Small Is Beautiful’.

📌 Donald Trump has become a portrait of insanity. He hysterically defines anyone he doesn’t agree with as a raving commie scarily demanding obedience to the cause.

📌 Liverpool beat Aston Villa 2-0 in one of the most boring games in years. If fanless football takes off and the beautiful game loses its stadium identity and becomes a TV sport totally, more of this tedium is likely.

MONDAY 6, LONDON ‘The Poke’ has some very funny items, but sometimes they lack detail, like WHERE? I really want this scene to be in Britain.

📌 Luke’s adventures with his rebuilt 1970s RV in America sound dramatic. Last night in Florida he parked his stuttering vehicle in a Taco Bell car park and got ready for bed. Taco Bell staff then told him to piss off so he ended up in a nearby Walmart car park, nursing a dicky fuel filter, a beer and creeping disillusion. 

📌 I’m not too pessimistic about post-pandemic Britain because I think British people are secretly quite good at making things up as we go along.

📌 We watched Oxford United beat Portsmouth in the League 1 playoffs to reach the final at Wembley against Wycombe. Oxford had cardboard cutouts in the stands. We wondered whether they were pictures of real supporters like Jane’s sister and her mate Pat. Portsmouth’s shirt sponsor is Portsmouth University.

📌 Luke is still stranded in Walmart car park, Tallahassee, Florida, under attack from mosquitos.

TUESDAY 7, LONDON The daily emails from Blogging University are a pest. They look at me, taunting, bullying. Do it now!

📌 We’ve started a mega clear-out and reorganisation project to maximise the use of our minimum space. My wife has found someone on the web who might buy some old style magazines from us.

📌 There’s a nasty argument raging on Twitter about funding for the arts to help them recover from the pandemic. Someone stupidly remarked that theatres are for middle class people and of no interest to the working classes. This prompted a vigorous response from tweeters saying pantomime is attended mainly by the working classes and its revenue is key to keeping the whole theatre business alive.

📌 Jan’s grandson has made 14 zines in the past week. This after my efforts last week in pimping their virtues and those of the Wellcome Zine Club.

📌 My head is quite fuzzy again today. I could be sickening for something, or I might just need some fresh air.

📌 Another ‘Sam’ arrived today. It is a completed version of the ‘Connie’ portrait we all did at the Open Studio session last week.

WEDNESDAY 8, LONDON There are two noisy magpies in the tree outside, poking beaks with an occasional flutter. I think some kind of ornithological hanky-panky is in progress.

📌 Stuart resurfaced after five days with a reference to Haysi Fantayzee and Yip Yip Coyote.

📌 As soon as I had posted a short rant about the Gaming Generation, pointing out their many faults, I came across a long article in the Guardian by Luke Harding describing how the identity of the Skripal poisoners was uncovered by a Gamer who went on to launch the investigative Bellingcat site. I said in my rant that talented Gamers make good criminals. They make good Spooks, too.

THURSDAY 9, LONDON Government opponents are struggling to poke holes in chancellor Rishi Sunak’s mini-budget. The offer of £10 vouchers to eat out rather than at home, and scrapping the furlough scheme but bribing employers to keep jobs, are just two of Rishi’s stunts that have come in for a kicking. Part of the difficulty for his opponents is that in the same circumstances they probably would have done something very similar.

📌 A teenager on the lawn was doing keepie-uppies. First he used a full-size ball, then switched to a tennis ball. He kicks equally well with both feet.

📌 Staff from the Barbican came to the Open Studio Zoom session today, plus the curator of the next Curve exhibition, of Toyin Ojih Odutola’s images.

We all worked from one of Toyin’s story drawings, of a woman at a table in a café. As I did it I imagined a scene in which the woman was receiving bad news from her daughter.

📌 We won the Brighton Zoom quiz by half a point. A group of giraffes is called a Tower.

📌 Chris K has a Facebook friend with the surname Fulleylove.

FRIDAY 10, LONDON Richard Herring has broken out into a light sweat on Twitter with some dope claiming that stand-up comedy will bounce back stronger than ever once the Pandemic has passed.

📌 An article in the Guardian depicts a government determined to suck all the power of local democracy from areas and regions. The piece argues that the Tory party has bizarrely become the party of the uber-centralised state. In my mind I went further and started to picture life in a society run by a pseudo dictator in a shaggy blonde wig.

📌 Black Lives Matter is doing a great job at flushing out racism. This obviously isn’t much fun for those such as the Brent MP who has been forced to close her constituency office after violent attacks and death threats, but it does expose racism in all its naked ugliness and leaves it with fewer places to hide.

📌 On a walk around old Hoxton, Shoreditch and the Regent’s Canal it is hard not to notice the vast amount of land and property once in public ownership now exclusively private, with little or no public access.

📌 Sam’s versions of botanical drawings are fabulous. This is from one of Katie’s.

📌 Stuart has reconnected (he tripped over and broke a hip) with a helpful dictionary definition of a Scally, which unusually referenced a head girl from a school in Birkenhead.

SATURDAY 11, LONDON The conclusion of Schitt’s Creek left a hole in our lives. It was our evening mealtime companion. We groped around for a replacement using the obvious search term “if you liked Schitt’s Creek…” and one of the possibilities was Arrested Development. We’d tried it before, on the recommendation of Sue, but gave up. So we’ve started again, and the spark has become a flame.

📌 Marina Hyde has nailed it again with a piece about Chris Grayling and his ability to “fail upwards”. She concocts a scene in which Grayling walks unscathed from a Chernobyl-type disaster of his own creation, “a sort of Terminator of shitness”, only to get another job to fuck up.

📌 Memory. Cashing something called a Giro cheque at the Post Office. This was an unemployment benefit. You signed the cheque, handed it across the counter and got your money. I remember it stating on the cheque “sign on receipt of payment”. When I pointed this out to the cashier, and demanded the money BEFORE signing, they told me to fuck off.

📌 I’ve never really noticed a nice bit of the Thames Path on the north side of the river at Millennium Bridge. There are lots of seats and it’s a good spot for afternoon sun.

📌 Some shops, bars and restaurants are obviously opening just to show they are open.

📌 The overlaid soundtrack on Cardinal is so loud you don’t hear all of the dialogue. Is this a new technique?

SUNDAY 12, LONDON One of my new blog followers runs a flash-fiction workshop. Today, the prompt was for a horror story about someone who couldn’t remember who they were. I wrote this one in the bath.

📌 The newspapers are asking what will happen when Boris realises his chancellor, Rishi Sunak, is greasing a comfortable path to his job. Will he turn nasty, or will he make sure Rishi screws up before he needs to?

MONDAY 13, LONDON Bumped into a neighbour in the allotments. She is a primary-school teacher, has complex health issues and has been on furlough. The allotments have been a life-saver for her, but if she doesn’t return to work now she will lose her job. She spoke about being economically forced into the role of risk-taker. She also said we need to remove the nets from our tomato plants and trim the plants from the bottom to get plenty of tomatoes at the top.

📌 Universities could be at the centre of the next big labour war. The business people are struggling to work out how to build a profitable model in the post-Covid world. Should teaching be in person or online? Where will the money come from and what kind of service can be delivered and at what price? It’s a minefield, but at the moment the teachers have some power in numbers. It is a very old-fashioned labour conflict with management.

📌 The outfall of this crisis is likely to last for decades, and not only in the shape of chronic lung problems and mental-health issues.

📌 As Wycombe scored against Oxford after 12 minutes in a crucial League 1 playoff game, my wife pointed out that the Wycombe shirt sponsor is Cherry Red Records.

📌 In an article about mapping the ocean floor, two of the key facts in the early section are that the “ocean economy” employs 31 million people full-time and that the income generated is $1.5tn a year.

📌 Memory. My first full-time job was as a computer operator at the Institute of Oceanographic Sciences. It was located in an observatory on the top of a hill.

TUESDAY 14, LONDON Yippeee! I won the Horror House flash-fiction contest. My prize was a picture of a kitchen knife.

📌 My wife says she is relieved that wearing masks is to be made mandatory. Others see it differently.

📌 My wife knows all the technical terms for the TV game show Tipping Point. A “Rider” is when two of the plastic discs sit on top of each other, thus halving the possibility of a successful tip.

📌 An article in the LRB enlarges on the role of the state in democracies over the past 100ish years and how even super-selfish capitalist nations sought to nurture the “social state”, that little bit of socialism that all societies need today in order to breathe properly. It’s relevant now because Trump and Johnson seem determined to abandon the idea for a more despotic approach. The bit about Germany is especially fascinating.

📌 I confused the TV weather forecaster’s name with the place name of the viewer’s photograph that popped up next to her (eg, Clee Hill, Shropshire). My wife rolled her eyeballs, but the moment had accidentally given birth to a game in which place names can be people’s names. Tomorrow I intend to see how many people’s names I can get from the London Underground map.

WEDNESDAY 15, LONDON There’s a lot of humorous chatter about the type of person who objects wearing a mask.

📌 In the Headway Steering Group meeting Dave and I hatched a promo idea for Three Billboards Outside Haggerston to punt the Headway East London brand.

📌 Today’s Creative Challenge from Michelle was all about Nature, so I retold an old storyabout me and Stuart gassing about music (again) and a picture of a tree.

📌 James Brown got in touch via Messenger about something I wrote in the NME nearly 40 years ago. We went over some old memories and he told me that Ron Rom is now a successful film director.

📌 Lockdown catchup. In Spooks, Adam and Roz are stuck in Turkey chasing the nuclear trigger nicked by Iranian spies in a daring airport heist.

THURSDAY 16, LONDON The Guardian has released a fab ‘dance’ documentary about two black brothers on a Hackney estate. There’s one scene in which two guys, one black, one white, share a park bench. The action is all in their body language and the physical ‘gap’ they ‘unconsciously’ place between one other. Social distancing of another kind.

📌 I started a new blog strand today. Artwork Archives is my chance to jibber-jabber about some of my old pictures. I started with Can Isaac, so I guess the next one should be Toulouse.  Or is that too repetitive? 

Top tip: doing places allows you to add the TRAVEL tag, which pulls in the viewers.

📌 At today’s Open Studio Zoom session, Kat brought along her pet, Mr Lizard, for us to draw. He is a He, she said.  He is anally incontinent in front of a camera. He eats rocket. He is a Bearded Dragon, originally from Australia. And most surprising of all, he is about the size of a shoe, not one of the tiny things you see scampering around your terrace while on holiday.

And my version…

📌 The sarcastic replies on Quora are always the best… Q: Is it safe to walk in Glasgow at night? A: “Good heavens, no! Last time I was in Glasgow I wandered into a pub and the people were friendly enough – we even started buying rounds for one another: “Brilliant!” I thought. Then, several hours later I walked out onto the street, happy and unsuspecting, darkness had fallen during my time inside the pub and almost immediately I was hit – without provocation – by a lamp post, standing aggressively on the pavement. A couple of passersby came over to offer me help and hailed a cab for me and it was just a fiver to be taken home, but no sooner had the cab pulled up in front of my house and I’d opened the door to get out when the top of the taxi door frame clobbered me in the forehead. I somehow managed to stagger to the door of the house and when I explained to my Glaswegian wife what had happened I didn’t get an ounce of sympathy – it was if what I’d experienced was just what was to be expected there!”

📌 In Spooks, Adam brought a very dead Roz back to life with a single kiss. It was like the bath scene in Fatal Attraction, without the knife. Her eyes popped open as if even she was surprised she was still alive. Then she slipped away carrying a big red suitcase, right in front of all the mourners at her churchyard graveside. Never to be seen again, until the revival of Cold Feet.

FRIDAY 17, LONDON There’s a bit in The Conversation saying public transport is badder for the environment than cars: “When running at normal capacity, public transport is more environmentally friendly than travelling by car. But under social distancing conditions, and assuming that any unfilled seats correspond to a commuter driving to work instead, diesel-powered public transport produces more C0₂ emissions per passenger than a small car.”

📌 An article by Simon Jenkins about an Iraq-war documentary came with a fabulous Ben Jennings illustration.

📌 Overlooked in the big push to “get back to normal” are people with pre-existing health conditions who will be forever compromised by the threat of the virus until a safe vaccine has been developed and made available to all.

📌 In Spooks, whenever an actor leaves the series, their character does, too. But the women spooks all disappear with a new identity, but the men get killed off.

📌 Stuttering progress continues on the latest stitchwork T-shirt project.

SATURDAY 18, LONDON Patsy recently posted a warning on the Baggers WhatsApp group about dodgy courgette seeds.

This unfortunate incident escalated to include another seed supplier, and with a seemingly drastic outcome.

📌 Got lost on a walk around the City. I headed first to Bunhill Fields burial ground.

Then along Moorgate to Finsbury Circus, where my orientation went on the blink. I exited the circus, thinking I knew where I was and ended up at the wrong end of London Wall in front of the Gherkin. Only just got back to the Barbican in time for our first in-the-flesh Saturday  Breakfast Club meeting in 4 months. Gill is madly enthusiastic about Blade Runner. 

📌 If the City of London Corporation had any real interest in the Arts it would employ Theatre Deli in Broadgate to act as a laboratory for the council’s much-vaunted Culture Mile project.

📌 Maybe she should be blonde.

SUNDAY 19, LONDON Annie Nightingale was on the radio news saying that she knew about John & Yoko’s relationship before the rest of the Beatles.

📌 Nick Cohen in the Observer is talking about how nasty Boris can get if you piss him off. “Conservative politicians talk about Johnson with a venom few socialists can match. It’s not that he’s a criminal like Putin, they say. He doesn’t have the balls to be truly evil. Rather, he is a pathetically insecure narcissist who turns on you if you don’t feed his craving for applause.”

📌 To Parsons Green where, depressingly, we found a majority with the view that the government has done OK with the pandemic. In the White Horse (aka, the Sloaney Pony) we ate lunch in a deserted interior. And later we heard two sisters compare the number of marriage proposals they’d each had.

The Sloaney Pony…

📌 Stuart and I have been sharing a great enthusiasm for Lulu’s To Sir With Love. A fascinating fact is that the song was also the name of the 1967 film, starring Sidney Poiter. But the titles differ. The film is To Sir, With Love, the song title loses the comma.

MONDAY 20, LONDON Protest outside offices on Bunhill Row opposite the Wetherspoons. BA recently announced it was to retire its entire fleet of 747 Jumbo Jets.

📌 As I’d agreed last week, I sent a shot of an article I wrote (and did the picture) for NME decades ago to James Brown.

📌 My wife is refusing to help me. Her birthday is in the first week of August and she says she cannot give me any ideas for a gift. I will feel like a total failure and a bad husband if I don’t come up with a solution soon, even though she insists she wants nothing. I sent her two links for possible gifts. One was for a vintage Biba scarf, the other was an online art appreciation course with CityLit. So far, she has made no reply.

TUESDAY 21 LONDON I didn’t write much here yesterday because I was feeling queasy. I went for a morning walk up to the canal basin, but that didn’t help. In fact, later, while we were down in the basement sorting stuff in the storage rooms, I was forced to quickly locate a plastic bag and throw up. The sick bag contained a disgusting cocktail of half-digested cold garlic bread and a banana.

📌 There is an article in the latest issue of Positive News pointing to post-Covid bright spots, one of which is the Wellbeing And Future Generations bill currently before parliament. It’s the work of Caroline Lucas.

📌 My wife swears there are pigeons nesting somewhere on our roof. She bases this on the sqwalking we hear from our bedroom first thing in the morning.

📌 I got an official letter saying our lovely financial adviser Katie has moved on to “a different opportunity”. This was distressing because it was Katie rather than the firm she worked for that inspired us with confidence and assurance about our money matters.  So I decided to find Katie, but by the time I did (she’s on Instagram as @the_money_mum) my wife had already contacted her by text.

📌 Sam sent me her latest picture, a finished version of the Toyin Ojih Odutola image from a recent Open Studio session.

📌 I gave up on David Copperfield at 70%. I want to move onto the Bob Paisley biography I got off Carol. I’d read Copperfield before anyway. My wife said watch the film instead. I wasn’t sure there was one, then I found reference to an ancient one from 1935 starring Freddie Batholomew and WC Fields.

📌 Agreed with Stuart that the best Spanish translation of Headway is “El Método de la Cabeza”.

WEDNESDAY 22, LONDON The wi-fi boosters arrived from Lithuania. This is great news. We’d almost given up on them ever appearing.

📌 Then came the TV adapter to use our old DVD player, and the discovery in the back of the cupboard of an old Sony Discman, which still works perfectly.

📌 My wife seems to have enrolled us into an unofficial mutual support programme among friends and neighbours. A Bangladeshi friend delivered a chickpea and tomato curry with onion rice, crafted by her mum. And a neighbour is paying us with fresh ground coffee for some old potting compost we have left over.

📌 The release of the report into how the Russian spies did some cyber-fiddling with the Brexit and Scottish Independence elections sounds like the episode from Series 7 of Spooks we watched last night. It finished with Harry putting a bullet into the Russian baddy.

📌 Kate posted Jordan Henderson’s full speech on the family WhatsApp group.

📌 Baggies promoted. Pete relieved.

📌 Judy Murray got kicked off Celebrity Masterchef. Her rice was undercooked and my wife said her sauce looked horrible.

THURSDAY 23, LONDON When the Moon app accidentally popped open on my phone, I noticed that Apollo 11 appears to have landed in the Sea of Tranquility. Then I discovered that the Moon’s seas are not seas at all, they are basaltic plains.

📌 I missed the Open Studio session today with the intention of taking a longish walk. But I lay in the bath too long, an activity prolonged further by a speaker-phone call with someone called Jack about knocking £10 a month off our broadband bill. So the walk was replaced with some reading for an Artwork Archive blog post I have in the pipeline. More of Mrs Islam’s curry for lunch weighed me further to the spot.

📌 The Prime Minister is in Scotland trying to convince the Scots that they should stick with him and stay part of the union. This is because opinion polls show a big drift towards a support for independence. Needless to say, the Wee Ginger Dug has an opinion on the visit: “He’s like one of those lecherous auld drunks at a party who thinks that the reason you are not succumbing to his dubious charms is because he’s not pawing at you enough.”

📌 Then someone on Quora added to the debate: “I don’t understand the fervour with which nationalists deny reality. I’m amazed they manage to get out of bed in the morning without convincing themselves the floor doesn’t exist and is an illusion created by Evil English people.”

📌 Lockdown Catchup. Series 7 of Spooks has become predictably predictable. Every episode ends with a chase and/or an attempt to defuse a terrorist bomb. Some of these dramatic devices are laughable. In Episode 4, the spooks stopped the bomb from exploding by zapping it in a microwave oven for 20 seconds on full power. You wanted it to go PING! at the end, but it didn’t.

FRIDAY 24, LONDON I’m starting a new strand called ‘Only in the Barbican’, satirically noting the ridiculous and pretentious behaviour of the peoole who live there. Most of the entries will come from a local online noticeboard.

📌 Face coverings are mandatory in shope from today. This is a good move, but it’s still hard not to think we are in the Summer school holidays of this crisis and soon the weather will change.

📌 The Daily Mirror has been told off by Full Fact for overestimating the amount of unpaid hours health service workers do.

📌 My wife returned from Marks & Spencer to say that 80% of customers not wearing face coverings were men. Most of the shoppers had complied with the new rule.

📌 I did an online photography workshop with the Barbican based on the Masculinities exhibition. We had to picture something that signified masculinity to us. I chose some tools from the bottom drawer in the kitchen.

SATURDAY 25, LONDON Marina Hyde in the Guardian has got another column out of Brexit. “If we press ahead with no deal on the back of a pandemic, viewers all over the world will be tuning in to our national soap opera every week, just to see what crazy shit we’ll do to ourselves next.”

📌 That phrase “upstairs stuff” sounds like a euphemism.

📌 I’ve started following the blog of a young Polish woman as she sets off on a round-the-world trip on a motorbike, starting in Glasgow. She’s got as far south as Peterborough and there’s smoke coming out from under the seat of the bike.

📌 I read a blog post from a photographer who was going through some dusty old boxes and found a collection of Graham Greene novels, which were, he says… “just for amusement, escapism, beautifully written and laced with humour and pathos, they were never read to inspire, at no point did I put one down and think I really must dash off to the Colonies.” He then goes on to tell a story from the past about “being followed” in Damascus and how it has left him with a lifelong paranoia.

📌 At the Breakfast Club Zoom, we each told 3 things about ourselves, one of which was a lie. No one guessed that I once went camping with 9 lesbians.

📌 Only in the Barbican… or in this case the Golden Lane Estate.

See the video: Drunken Duck Staggers Hone.

📌 One of my Diary entries from this day last year.

It was meant to capture some kind of hazy gloom, a blue funk that lurks undetected in the mists of your mind. I sent it to Michelle and she posted some studio pictures of Quentin on Instagram.

SUNDAY 26, LONDON My wife tells me I’m about two weeks late on this story, but it has only just come to my attention. The saga of two celebrities making a show of their hate for one another didn’t interest me until the word “Poo” plopped into the headline. This is childish in the extreme and something I should be ashamed of. Should be.

📌 Liverpool beat Newcastle 3-1. The brilliant simplicity of their football hangs on the letter P: possession, position, passing, patience, persistence. The 5Ps.

📌 We went round to Anne’s for an “end of term” drink. She’s off to Ireland on Tuesday. She told us the hilarious story of her pedalling urgently to the pet undertaker in Islington with a dead and rigid Lulu in her pannier, shrouded in a white quilted pillowcase. She’s convinced Lulu died because of her diet of cheese and chocolate. I told the story of Priss Fotheringham and her blue plaque in Whitecross Street. That brought on fits of laughter, especially when Sarah read out the Wikipedia section on “chucking”.

📌 Anne told us there were a lot of young sex workers with wheelie bags lurking in the City. And that employers with home workers are devising more and more sophisticated ways to spy on them.

MONDAY 27, LONDON The Morning Star has been doing a serieson leftist and anti-fascist (“antifa“) footie clubs around the world. They included Clapton CFC, the most famous one here in London.

📌 The blogger My Life As A Piece Of String (aka, “String”) is getting up steam on the drift “back to normal”. I especially liked the use of  the phrase “leaky cliches” in reference to Brexit. String also predicts that “face masks will become the new socks”, which I like, too. Here on Golden Lane, City of London (weird), our chief councillor, aka Alderman, is also resisting the drift back to normal by refusing to hand in his “letter of surrender” (resignation), which signals the end of his natural term in office. He claims he is not “refusing” but “deferring” until the pandemic has passed.

📌 My latest stitchwork project has progressed in fits and starts, but a breakthrough moment came when today I actually felt like I was drawing and painting with thread, as pretentious as that might sound.

TUESDAY 28, LONDON Lockdown Catch-up. Malcolm was at it again last night in Spooks (Series 7). He fired up his computer, ran a few of his wizard programs and Hey Presto, Connie is outed as the Russian spy in MI5. Unfortunately, she’d already slit Ben’s throat with a razor wire she’d cunningly hidden in her bra strap.

📌 There’s an article in The Conversation saying that most of the funding to invent a Covid vaccine quickly has come from the public purse, whereas the distribution of it is in the hands of the private sector.

📌 I posted the Story of Twiggy and for some reason immediately began to regret it.

📌 I now suspect the Labour Party is keeping quiet about government screw-ups because it would most likely have done pretty much the same. It will be telling when the tsunami of mass unemployment (and maybe a second or third virus spike) hits. Will the government, which has already stolen an awful lot of Old Labour policies (nationalisation, state intervention), continue on that path to Blue Socialism? If it does, all Labour can then argue is that “we could do it better”, which isn’t much of a rallying cry.

📌 My wife’s birthday present arrived while she was out, which was a relief.

📌 Our new fold-down balcony table arrived, too.

📌 My wife visited a department store and returned to say all the mask refuseniks were men. She also did an offline, real-world yoga session. She was in a class of 3.

📌 Spoke to Margaret, Jan and Philippa. Jan has been out in the new campervan, which has all the trimmings inc toilet, shower, microwave, comfy bed. Later sent Margaret a message to put in Mena’s card as she goes off to have her baby. I have missed the Big Event entirely.

📌 Sam sent me her picture of Kat’s lizard. Sam’s niece named it Lenny. Kat told us it was a boy.

WEDNESDAY 29, LONDON Taxes could be another deadly blow to businesses if urgent reforms of the business rates is not introduced. Businesses cannot scale down to safe operations at the current cost of this local tax. Businesses have already had massive support from the state, but the economics of enterprise is still no longer sustainable. UK business collapse is inevitable unless the UK Chancellor announces something drastic soon. Bail them out or let them fail?

📌 The blogger My Life As A Piece Of String (aka String) has a post in which he imagines a gig at which “old-times” tribute band The New Normal (“please form an orderly queue for the mosh-pit”) are supported by the Badly Worn Face Masks. 

📌 I think there must be a debate about weight going on (again) that I’ve missed…

📌 Geologists have been speculating as to what the Covid-19 fossil record will look like to the horny-handed excavators of a distant future. The Covid virus itself will leave no geological trace, but discarded face masks and rubber gloves will be neatly preserved as fossils in the layers of sandstone and shale that will come under scientific scrutiny millions of years hence.

📌 I got a Like from a blog called The Drabble, and when I investigated, it turns out that a Drabble is a story in exactly 100 words and a genuine literary genre. The Drabble has loads of them so I decided to give it a try.

📌 Got an email from James reminding me about the meeting with a disability designer from the Royal College of Art on Friday to discuss making some “disability” face masks. These are my designs. My main concern about masks is that can act as gags, so I tried to design masks that have a “voice”.

📌 News that Ruth Davidson is to be given a seat in the House of Lords has really pissed off the Wee Ginger Dug.

📌 I asked Stuart what he imagined Neil Young meant when he sang, “I was thinking about what a friend had said. I was hoping it was a lie.”  He offered: “Hey Neil, I just saw your lady in the laundromat washing some ‘his and hers’ lurex bondage suits with a moustachioed Mexican called Sebastian.”

THURSDAY 30, LONDON The Hackney Citizen has an absurdly long piece about the backlash against the decision not to remove the statue of slave-trader and philanthropist Sir Robert Geffrye from the Museum of the Home.

📌 A nice motto appeared buried in a page from It’s Nice That. It comes from photographic artist Izumi Miyazaki, who is interviewed as their Midweek Mentor. In one line she says, “Think about something fun and ridiculous and get some sun through the window…”

By Izumi Miyazaki…

📌 Today’s Open Studio theme came from Headway support worker and artist Nancy, who showed us some of her drawings and paintings. She says she likes to depict the emotion of a scene as much as the physical content. She then asked us to find an object that symbolised peace for us. I chose a photograph of me and my wife being happy at a party. I chose it because last night we’d had the most ridiculously petty argument, and now needed to restore some peace. “Stick to the abstracts,” was her response to my hand of friendship. 

📌 Window cleaners are dangling from ropes attached to the roof.

📌 Sam sent me the picture of the candle she chose to draw in the Open Studio session.

📌 The government seems to be on a crash-course to conflictover its decision to end “shielding” on 1 August and order people back to work.

📌 You know you’re getting old when you hear Story of the Blues on Radio 2.

FRIDAY 31, LONDON It’s almost too hot to do anything, but I managed to write a blog review and do some prep for the Headway East London Mask Task design meeting.

📌 The Mask Task meeting wasn’t too demanding. We “designers” have been asked to dream big and conjure some crackpot ideas. Dave said he wanted a different mask for every outfit. Tirzah drew vampire fangs with dripping blood on her mask template. Jésus used sequins. That wasn’t a surprise. I started to wonder about the possibilities of fragrance impregnation, as you do.

📌 I think Boris might be building up to the reintroduction of full-blown Lockdown. His government once again has failed to get its message across. In fact, all evidence suggests nobody knows what the message is, or even if there is one. A friend in Brighton tried to work out what was going on… “Just checking I’ve got this right: Go out and eat and drink in pubs and restaurants to ‘eat out to help out’ and protect the economy, but don’t do that cos you’ll get fat and die of the Covids you’re helping to spread. But we’ll give you 50% off in the really cheap shit places, but don’t take up our offer, you greedy fat fucks. If you’re in the north, you can go to the pub and meet your mates and family, but you can’t meet them in your garden. Any worsening of coronavirus in the UK will be you and Europe’s fault due the ‘second wave’, despite the UK still having more deaths every week than the rest of the EU combined. And we’re really just still in the first wave. Go on a foreign holiday to help the travel industry, but if you come back with the Covids, it’ll be your fault. And if you can’t quarantine when you come back because you’ll starve or get fired, that’s also your fault. Anything I’ve missed?

Health Minister Matthew Hancock…

📌 The Wee Ginger Dug has a very witty name for the ousted Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw. He calls him Surname Surname. The Dug also hints that Ruth Davidson’s tipped appointment to the House of Lords is a bribe for her return to lead the Scottish Tories.

📌 I asked the family on Zoom who they were supporting in the FA Cup final (Arsenal v Chelsea). The verdict was Arsenal, but Kate added jokingly that she wanted “mass casualties” so that neither team is a threat to Liverpool next season.

📌 We’ve started watching Dead To Me on Netflix, from Series 1. My wife thinks Judy is a psychopath. I think that’s probably what she’s meant to think.

Read my June Diary…

One thought on “Diary: July 2020

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