Diary: 24-31 August

MONDAY String reckons everything went to pot when Woolworths closed its doors forever and children stopped playing with yo-yos. He wonders whether they have a yo-yo app.

πŸ“Œ Sininensirkus, a bunch of witty, politically switched-on Finnish outsider artists I’ve followed on Instagram since meeting them in Chichester a few years ago, detail their posts in Finnish, so I have to guess what they’re saying. For a change, I ran today’s text through a translator, and learned that they were out in a city somewhere in Finland, under a bridge, making sound recordings. I pressed LIKE. Sininensirkus translates as “Blue Circus”.

πŸ“Œ The return of children to their schools is becoming a key issue. The government is desperate for elements of the old world to be pieced back together quickly. Localised lockdowns run the risk of national instability. So long as everyone thinks “It could be us next”, the old world will remain a fading memory and citizens will start to rebuild their lives independently. As they do, they might choose to jettison some of the old social and economic drivers. They might insist, for example, on flexible or home working. This puts those in power in a difficult place because there will be no universal understanding of the citizen’s place in society. All the old universally acknowledged truths willΒ come under scrutiny or face abandonment.Β Taxation is an obvious detonator.

πŸ“Œ Simon Jenkins in the Guardian points to the hubris at the centre of government failing.

‘What in most European countries has been a sensible conversation between leaders and led has in England looked like a closed establishment playing games with the emotions of the nation.’

TUESDAY The Hackney Citizen reports on a literacy project that sent diaries to schoolchildren at the start Lockdown, in which they wrote their thoughts and feelings as the crisis unfolded.

πŸ“Œ At the Guardian virtual coffee chat, I learned about recent encounters with dentists and about holidays at campsites. The Education crew report teacher friends keen to get back to teaching. It will be a novel experience for some, a rare chance to actually teach students in groups small enough to do something you could actually call education and not state-funded child-minding.

πŸ“Œ Posted a cheeky drabble I wrote after I totally forgot the real story.

πŸ“Œ Sue posted on Facebook that Simon had been found dead at home. “Contrary little so-and-so, but a bloody good mate to me. I never thought I’d say this, but I’ll miss him.” So will Brighton & Hove Albion.

WEDNESDAY The Nextdoor Barbican online noticeboard has a begging letter. Please, the writer writes, help us find our cat, still missing after three weeks: “We’re heartbroken.”

The pet owners have been told by experts that house cats rarely stray far from home. I also know from other cat owners that if they find a cosier billet with more food and cuddles, cats have no hesitation in sneaking off in the dead of the night. Which makes the begging of the Barbican owners sound slightly pathetic. “So please, if you have him, let him come home. He needs us like we need him.” Not for one moment do they believe that they might want the cat’s return more than the cat wants it. It would break their hearts twice over to discover that the cat hates their guts.

πŸ“Œ The new fridge is installed. It seems smaller than the last one. But is has a bigger freezer. There is still no space left for the old jar of pickled caperberries we might need in 2030. The real issue came to light when my wife appeared brandishing an unopened tube of chestnut paste from… 2002.

πŸ“Œ I can’t say I’ll miss this stitching project when it is finished.

It had a negative vibe about it right from the start when I screwed up the sketching and got the mouth wrong. Can’t wait to move on, especially as my birthday stash included a bunch of blank cotton tote bags.

πŸ“Œ I love reading those old Guardian writers who can pack so much context into so few words. On the Middle East, Brian Whitaker used to make the shortest nib (News in Brief) sparkle with background. And in a longer piece Ian Black does it here with the UAE/Trump/Israel plan for the Palestinians.

πŸ“Œ Three magpies on the lawn. Not sure what that means.

πŸ“Œ Paula says it was on the news that the City of London has been renamed the Lost City of Londinium.

πŸ“Œ Stuart came up with the Liverpool Band name the Mersey Docks And Harbour Board. I replied: “I wanted to be in a band called Prestatyn Urban District Council (PUDC), because we always had one of their deckchairs in the boot of the car.

πŸ“Œ SΓ©an couldn’t wait to get back from the restaurant to watch Captain Underpants on Netflix.

πŸ“Œ Good Girls has come good at E3. The cast list at the end included a character called “buttoned-up man”.

THURSDAY A still-life greeted my arrival downstairs this morning.

πŸ“Œ A drabble about Stuart and his ramblings about naranja.

πŸ“Œ Facilitated the Headway Open Studio monoprint workshop for the Barbican’s ‘Masculinities’ exhibition. The results were better than I could ever have imagined and everyone really took to the process, which is the whole idea. I hope they continue to use it.

Bottom of the class…
Top of the class, by Mike…

πŸ“Œ Someone at the World Health Organisation said children returning to school means greater contact with adults and therefore an “uptake in mortality“.

πŸ“Œ The Diary Snapshot about String’s descent into hell. Or maybe that was just what he wanted us to believe.

πŸ“Œ An unexpected arrival, presumably for my birthday, from unknown sender. Cheers?

πŸ“Œ The developers who run the building site outside our front door held a Zoom webinar to tell everyone they are doing a great job.

This is a webinar…

Nobody believes them and they are a walking, talking example of what it is to be full of shit. Actually, they did it sitting down on this occasion, and two of them didn’t even know how to unmute.

FRIDAY There is a report saying children in Britain are among the unhappiest in the world. Romanian and Finnish children are the most content. Fear of failure is cited as the reason for young Britain’s misery.

πŸ“Œ After such a bad start, Good Girls is becoming a real relationship complexity. Glad we stuck with it

πŸ“Œ At the family Zoom, like good British people (though my sister is now French, apparently) we talked about the weather. We also talked about the storms that have been battering the US (we have relatives there), notably in Texas, where my cousin Helen had intended to be on vacation back in May. She told us her Texan friend was OK, because Galveston had been spared the worst of it. Her friend’s family were OK, too, and the son was able to continue working as a “lineman” for the county. This sparked a choral outbreak of the Glen Campbell classic.

πŸ“Œ On an old Top of the Pops (BBC4) we saw miniskirted teenage girls dancing spastically in cages and John Peel pretending to play the mandolin.

πŸ“Œ A blogger I follow said, “Julia saw a weasel today in the Mencap Garden”. Which I thought sounded like a song by Half Man Half Biscuit.

SATURDAY The Podcast Hour on BBC Radio 4 Extra featured a nature podcast in which one of the presenters explained how flightless birds such as penguins or ostriches became flightless. She said that in evolution birds only started to fly to escape big horrible predatory animals. Once the dangerous animals were killed off by environmental changes, birds no longer needed to fly/flee. Many of them continued to, but some didn’t. Flying, she said, uses up a lot of energy, so with no motivation, certain birds decided not to bother, couldn’t be arsed, and gave up. In the end, they lost the ability to fly.

πŸ“Œ The employment laws and regulations that were fought for and won throughout the 20th Century will be fought for all over again in the 21st. This story in the Guardian is one we will likely read many times again in the coming years.

πŸ“Œ Today’s postings include one of Stuart’s emails reworked into a story and a Diary Snapshot of the Thingy Madoobly quote.

πŸ“Œ At the family Zoom yesterday my cousin Helen told us that today is Bottle Oven Day in the Potteries. She sent a picture of some bottle ovens to prove it, which look like massive chimneys to me.

πŸ“Œ Liverpool lost to Arsenal on penalties in the Community Shield final at Wembley. A Liverpool youngster on his big-game debut dithered before shooting and skied it.

SUNDAY Stuart is in full swing with the fictitious biography of me he has been chiselling away at. I foolishly mentioned the alias names I once used to chat up girls. Stuart has caught the essence perfectly…

Dangerfield slid effortlessly across the still warm leatherette front seats of his 2CV, reached inside the glove box for his trusty companion, not a gun but his Gold Spot breath freshener spray, had a quick blast and put the pedal to the metal, careering down Bold Street not so much like a bat out of hell but a rather nervy bluebottle escaping from its sanctuary behind a radiator. Did this woman truly know what she was in for? He allowed himself a quick glance down at his clothing – suede boots, yep, chamois-leather jacket, oh yes, and beneath it his β€˜piece de resistance’, a signed Port Vale football club 1978 FA Cup runners-up T-shirt. Nothing could stop him now, he thought, as the river loomed ever closer.

πŸ“Œ A blogger I read speculates on Boris Johnson’s education. He spouts the classics, trying to spin a joke wherever he can, because at school Latin was his subject and Greek myths his bedtime reading. But imagine, she says, if his school subjects had been the social sciences or media studies? The obvious inference here is that the difference is all about class.

πŸ“Œ Sunny Sunday input from Twitter…

πŸ“Œ String has been jibber-jabbering about otters and how typically human of us it is to call them otters without first finding out how they would prefer to be called.

πŸ“Œ In preparation for our first post-Lockdown visit to the cinema to see Tenet, we watched another Christopher Nolan film, Memento. We first saw this before my brain injury, so this time the Guy Pierce character resonated with me in a different way. Having now spent so much time with people who suffer acute memory problems, I can say Pierce did a bloody good job on that one. Insomnia next, then Inception…

πŸ“Œ Andrew Rawnsley says in the Observer that we now have a government of Total Power with absolutely no responsibility.

πŸ“Œ A quote grom Carla, who writes the I Can’t Wink blog: “A few weeks ago, my sister told me that her former coworker is putting her hamster in adoption as she can no longer take care of it because she has too many hamsters already.

πŸ“Œ The new series of Strike was disappointing. Robin has gone all lovey-dovey slushy for Cormoran.

MONDAY A piece in the Conversation tells us that gun sales in the US jumped 94% in the period March-July. Seems it is not only a security issue but a social one. Shooting is a safe-distancing recreational activity, too.

πŸ“Œ A blogger in Cornwall wrote to say he too was a stroke survivor and a Liverpool supporter, despite never having been there. He seemed to see that as marking him out as a fraud, a fake footie fan. I think this could be a romantic throwback to when football teams were an organic part of a community. I feel the same myself, and given enough alcohol will reminisce endlessly of afternoon games in Stanley Park with Liverpool players instructed by Bill Shankly and Bob Paisley to go and play with the local kids. But those times are long gone, and though Klopp has brought much of the Shankly ethos back to Liverpool, I doubt he would encourage his players to risk injury from the ankle biters of Anfield Road.

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