Diary: August 2020

The month started with signs of post-Covid life emerging, and ended with sobering thoughts on what now lies ahead…

SATURDAY 1 A good-story start to the day is a good habit to get into.

📌 The Barbican has opened its conservatory free, allowing visitors to book tickets online and using a strict one-way system. Every time I visit there’s a new discovery waiting. Today, one of the huge terrapins was even out on a rock, sunbathing.

Terrapin around 35cm head to tail…
See the videos...

📌 The self-made Thankyou card Mia sent us for her 17th birthday present reminded me of the sleeve for Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life album.


📌 Frank had a small gathering in the allotments to release the 10 butterflies he had nurtured as a school project. It was also another chance to smell our tomato plants.

Butterflies awaiting release…

📌 I knew that a neighbour who’d been gravely ill was well on the road to recovery when he wouldn’t stop talking and I started muttering to myself, “Oh please shut up, you boring windbag.”

📌 We watched all 3 hours of the BBC2 documentary about Rupert Murdoch. It was chilling in parts, but what hit me most was the resemblance in the methods used by newspaper snoops and hackers to those of the MI5 staff in TV’s Spooks.

SUNDAY 2 In Quora, someone asks, “Has anyone made plans to leave the UK due to Brexit?” The top answer is a blunt YES: “This is no longer the country I grew up [in] and had a degree of affection and allegiance to. It has become an increasingly divisive and spiteful place, run by nasty spiteful career politicians.”

📌 On the radio, Sue Perkins spoke to two boybanders of yesteryear, one from Boyzone, the other from Westlife. They have gone into partnership as BoyzLife, which allowed Perkins to speculate on the ‘girl’ equivalents. The funniest was Destiny’s Kitten.

📌 From a Crystal Palace supporter…

📌 Did a couple of postings from our visit to Barbican Conservatory yesterday. One, a picture story, plus 3 short videos and a gallery.

📌Although Dead To Me is quite suspenseful, it has some funny moments. Tonight’s involved a birthday cake for Jen’s dead husband.

MONDAY 3 An early posting as we are off to Tate Britain to see the Aubrey Beardsley exhibition.

📌 A message arrived saying Headway East London, where I am a member, have made all their Covid-safe adjustments to the Kingsland Road centre and plan to reopen in September. They invited me to be a guinea pig/lab rat on trial day later this month, and I said Yes.

📌 On the way to the Tate on the bus, we passed through Trafalgar Square and got to see the new artwork on the Fourth Plinth. It is called The End. And anecdotally, again it was men who are not wearing face coverings.

This is The End…

📌 The Beardsley exhibition was disappointing, not so much because of the content but because the rooms were still overcrowded (despite timed ticketing), with no directional signage and minimum supervision.

We noticed later that outside the Beardsley exhibition, numbers in the rest of the gallery were comfortable and a clear one-way system in operation. If this item had been a separate posting, with picture gallery, video, etc, the headline might have been “Tesco trumps Tate in Covid comfort wars“.

Of the exhibition itself, the surprise was how short Beardsley’s life was (RIP@25). And the lasting influence of his work, right up to album sleeve design in the 1960s. One of my favourite ‘inspired’ works was a Picasso.

One more surprise was the ham-and-cheese sandwich in the Members Room costing £6.

TUESDAY 4 The City (financial district) is still very quiet. A few sandwich bars have opened. And thankfully Hotel Chocolat on Cannon Street was open for me to buy some emergency chocolates for my wife’s birthday tomorrow. She’d hinted that she’d quite like a sewing machine as a gift, but hasn’t yet decided which one. When she makes up her mind, I will buy her that.

For the time being, she has chocolates and a book of dress patterns for when the machine arrives.

📌 The Museum of London at the Barbican will reopen for ticket-only visits on Thursday, so that’s something to look forward to.

📌 Scientists have said our test’n’trace system is not good enough to cope with the schools reopening in September and the inevitable second spike of the virus. The government disagrees.

📌 A friend on Facebook posted one of those A-Z firstname/surname lists that allegedly reveal hidden truths about you. Accordingly, the list says that if I were to present an academic paper, based on the initial letters of my first name, my surname, and the month of my birth, the paper’s title would be, Reinterpreting Silences In New Media.

WEDNESDAY 5, LONDON & WINCHESTER The continuing arguments about whether schools should reopen in September uncover an obvious truth – that their primary function is not education but child-minding.

📌 Birthday girl. Masks are definitely the new socks.

Birthday lunch dessert…

📌 I never was much into poetry, but I have kept the copy of Nine Modern Poets from my school days, and still browse in the middle of the night.

📌 Midway through the first quarter of George Orwell’s Coming Up For Air, the principal character, George Bowling, has just left the dentist’s and could be still under the influence of the anaesthetic. He strolls around then falls into a deep reminiscence about his childhood, so deep I was getting bored, wondering when the story would pick up again. Then I imagined it might not. Reminiscence, nostalgia, reflection and a sense of rootedness could end up being the whole point of the entire book. Strangely, my boredom lifted.

📌 The taxi driver who took us to Waterloo station said the government handling of the virus crisis was a shambles.

📌 Sitting on the train at Waterloo station, 14.05, awaiting the departure of the 14.09 to Portsmouth Harbour, via Winchester, the Tannoy announcer requests “Inspector Sands” to report the the information office. My wife tells me that the surname “Sands” is the universal code for an emergency. Our train left on time.

Afternoon sun in Winchester.

THURSDAY 6, WINCHESTER Lazy lie in bed, then a nice stroll around Winnall Moors. I never tire of this place and there’s always a discovery in waiting.

📌 Headway are re-pimping my monoprinting workshop with this picture.

And with a quote from me: “I wanted to take the easy wax monoprinting method with me anywhere, so I kept all the basics in my back pocket, in miniature form.” These were a selection of classic portraits I carried around on holiday in Spain. The reverse side of the printing trace is sometimes more interesting than the finished print.

Luis Buñuel…

📌 Sam sent me her latest, a picture of Prince.

📌 Some man on the TV said, “blackberries are my paint”.

FRIDAY 7, WINCHESTER A sense of doom hangs in the air. Every day brings new clues that a reimposition of full Lockdown is likely. More countries are added to the ever-growing quarantine list. Localised lockdowns come as no surprise. Aberdeen is the latest. Where next?

Later Answer: Preston, Lancashire.

📌 Another walk out on Winnall Moors. Lots of children swimming in the river. Still no vole sightings. Posted a video story as evidence of my research.

📌 Tried to write a drabble about the likely reimposition of Lockdown, but gave up after two lines having already sensed it was doomed to fail. Maybe there is something symbolic in that.

📌 Read an article saying Boris is a funtime PM and will be useless in the hard task of an economic collapse.

SATURDAY 8, WINCHESTER The Morning Star has been reporting on a new fight in the Labour Party on issues relating to a leaked memo that allegedly proves (or possibly disproves. It’s complicated!) that there was an internal plot to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn. The Star gleefully quotes parts of the memo, so I will, too: Among the revelations in the 860-page report are comments describing colleagues as a “total mentalist,” “bitch face cow” and “pube head”.

📌 Friends of friends came round to Magdalen House for coffee and said they were mulling over a move to a staycation location in Dorset for a year while international travel is off the agenda.

📌 While the weather is still good, booking a table in pub garden has become the new leisure preoccupation. At 1pm, the Willow Tree has a well-behaved queue outside, all entering one by one at appropriate intervals. We are booked for 5pm.

📌 The Pond at Winnall Moors wasn’t really a pond today.

📌 Dinner at Rick Stein’s as a treat. I had sardines to start and hake main.

SUNDAY 9, WINCHESTER Another ‘Only in the Barbican’ message hit my inbox…

📌 News that engineering works will force us to spend the whole day travelling on buses and trains in boiling heat prompts the decision to stay in Winchester one more night. Posted another item on Winnall Moors.

📌 After ogling the fig tree outside our patio door, I bought one online for £11.99, to be delivered in 2-3 days. I’m told they grow OK in pots and we’ve been eating home-grown figs for the last 4 days.

📌 In George Orwell’s Coming Up For Air, the George Bowling character is still deep in reminiscence: “There was another game we had when the toads were spawning. We used to catch toads, ram the nozzle of a bicycle pump up their backsides and blow them up till they burst.”

📌 We watched a BBC4 documentary about the Real Thing and I never even knew about their 4 from 8 album, which I immediately checked out on Spotify.

MONDAY 10, WINCHESTER and LONDON Another scorching day, but thankfully we got the train back to London just before 9.30am. It was urgent because my wife had agreed to water a neighbour’s plants while they holidayed in Greece. Their apartment has no sun-shielding blinds and it was a worry to think of the plants wilting in the heat. One of the plants even has a name, Alice, after the celebrity gardener Alice Fowler who gave it to them as a gift.

📌 I have been reading the blog of a young Nepalese woman as she has been preparing to get her exam results and what her grades might mean for her future. Today she explained that the subjects she studies in this next step in her education (effectively from school to college) is traditionally done in consultation with her parents. Her parents want her to study sciences in college and become a doctor or an engineer; she wants to be a writer. She goes to sleep at 2am determined to front it up tomorrow and convince her parents that she can cut it as a writer.

The big reveal comes in the next sentence when she tells us that what she has just written is fiction. She then writes a po-faced essay denouncing the system of forced education she grew up with and how it is perilous for her country to support this culture of repression. It’s a powerful posting, in this case cheekily partnering melodramatic fiction and plain clear exposition into the big con.

TUESDAY 11 The wildflower trough in the corner of the terrace was looking good, but in desperate need of a drink. Ditto the fuchsia. The Baby Oak Tree seems happy with this blazing sunshine, so that’s good.

📌 In a virtual coffee break with colleagues at the Guardian I learn about some of the issues facing organisations (such as GNL) with big buildings and lots of workers. Those environments simply don’t work any more and the news that small-team “agile” businesses are the ones benefiting from the changed conditions is no surprise. Will the virus dictate how our immediate world is modelled in the future, with wide pavements and corridors, self-cleaning workstations and other futuristic conveniences?

📌 The Wee Ginger Dug uses the term “furren pairts” for “foreign parts”. Both sound like suggestive euphemisms to me.

📌 Finished a post about how Sam has taken to using colour in such a brilliant way. But I might bin it. I’m not sure I can trust my impulses when it comes to blog ideas.

📌 Got the Sonos to talk to the new wi-fi. And got Alexa to talk to the Sonos.

📌 A drawing from a friend’s TikTok video (a day pulling veg on a farm). Full story here.

WEDNESDAY 12 The UK has plunged into recession, it says in the news. The worst since 1955.

📌 My wife says she’d love to be in Belfast because it’s only 22°C.

📌 In Coming Up For Air, George Bowling, still deep in reminiscence about fishing, says that as a boy he discovered a small pond that had become detached over time from a larger one. Some of the fish got cut off in the process and grew to monstrous proportions. Special mention goes to the massive carp in the pond behind Binfield Hall. I reworked this paragraph as a drabble.

📌 The Wee Ginger Dug uses the term “toddlerish foot-stomping” in reference to Boris Johnson refusing to allow Nicola Sturgeon into meetings.

📌 My wife said, “Guess what?” I played along as if this were some kind of knock-knock joke and discovered that our great nephew is 4 and not 5. We’d just sent him a card and a balloon.

📌 There was a nice drabble in The Drabble using the form as a review from an art exhibition.

THURSDAY 13 A Manchester band called Cabbage were on the radio talking about their songs and political songwriting. They have a song called Born In The NHS and another one about rail privatisation.

📌 President Trump has changed the definition of what a shower head is. In America. The present regulated defintion only allows a fixed volume of water to pass. This is an environmental restriction, especially important for droughty states such as California. But the current shower heads do not permit enough water for the President’s luxriant barnet.

📌 Uniqlo have time-limited offers on smart staples.

📌 Today’s Open Studio was all about insects. We were told to set our imaginations free with some pictures from Michelle’s back garden.

📌 The fig tree arrived in the post. It now faces eastish in full daytime sun against a wall.

📌 I cleared out a kitchen cupboard in preparation for the delivery next week of a new fridge and found a bottle of absinthe, which I’m told is the quick way to an early grave.

📌 Got free tickets to see the Masculinities exhibition at the Barbican again.

In the ‘Queering’ room...

Looks like lots of other people did, too, because it was quite busy. Some of the exhibition I’d forgotten already, but I still think the 4 portraits of Portuguese bullfighters fresh from the field of conflict are the best.

El forcado…

📌 A story in the Guardian says that Colombia has been in a civil war for 52 years. Wikipedia says it started in May 1964.

FRIDAY 14 Wrote a couple of drabbles, which I am starting to enjoy more than I ever imagined. One was about the old Etymological dictionary, the other about a trip to Broadstairs a year ago.

📌 In The Conversation there is a story saying that two researchers have discovered that Thomas Cromwell effectively photoshopped himself into a picture seated next to Henry VIII.

📌 On Twitter, Amanda said, “This morning feels like a Gato Barbieri morning.”

📌 The Barbican ‘Masculinities‘ monoprint workshop got postponed until 27th. My prep included the study of a manga version of a typical ‘western’ cowboy, largely because a lot of the manga I’ve seen seem to blur gender boundaries.

My cowboy manga…

This could be a cynical marketing ploy, but it’s interesting nevertheless.

📌 One of the snooker semi-finals on TV, Wilson vs McGill, was a comedy of errors. At one point both players kept missing the object ball. Later, commentator Steve Davis said “Let’s not remember this game for the misses”.

📌 This story’s got legs.

📌 The person in the TV crime drama who carries on regardless, filling the kettle and buttering bread while a Detective Inspector is asking questions, is obviously guilty.

SATURDAY 15 Marina Hyde is back, having a pop at education secretary Gavin Williamson and the shambles of the school exam results. Boris has been forced out of hiding to defend the notorious algorithm that has pissed off so many people.

‘You’ve heard of the Kitemark – any Johnson imprimatur is the guaranteed shitemark

And later in the piece.

‘Less than 48 hours later, transport secretary and adult human Grant Shapps publicly suggested that “4am Saturday” was actually on Sunday.’

I wonder if any of them have noticed that they’re shafting people who in four years’ time will be first-time voters.

📌 Sorting through all those boxes from the back of the wardrobe.

Discoveries include a brass belt buckle from my days in the Boys Brigade (motto: Sure & Steadfast), a silver swimming medal won by my sister, a stamp album nicked from my maternal grandfather Willy, and a half-dollar coin with Kennedy’s head, a gift from my cousin in America.

SUNDAY 16 I’m working on a drabble love story, or should that be a love story drabble, or simply a love drabble. I need to check out a London location for it, so in the meantime I posted a crime drabble, which I see as the start of a series called The Golden Lane Murders.

📌 The Spanish blogger Josep Goded has written a post saying, as I understand it, that the monarch King Juan Carlos took a massive bribe from Saudi Arabia so he could pay off his former lover. This could be one of the fabled “falling out of love” plots I’ve heard about.

📌 A story in the Observer expands on one I’ve been watching – Downing Street muscling in on London and its separately elected local government. It’s a centralisation of power that has become a real mission for this government, an “anti-localism” obsession.

📌 My wife’s tomatoes are going bananas.

📌 To the Barbican for a lakeside coffee with Gill and Sandra, then to the Toyin Ojih Odutola exhibition in the Curve, where some arsehole decided to start sneezing.

📌 Someone on Nextdoor Barbican wants to know where they can buy bamboo sticks for their tomatoes.

📌 Nearly finished. I’m sick to the back teeth with this one.

📌 The plot twist in Dead to Me S2: E6 is epic.

📌 Then the heavens opened and rainwater flooded in at the balcony door. Frantic mopping with anything absorbent.

MONDAY 17 The Conversation has a story about face masks and their impact in the environment. We are compelled to use them but no guidance in how to dispose of them. They litter the streets, the beaches and the seas.

‘The majority of masks are manufactured from long-lasting plastic materials, and if discarded can persist in the environment for decades to hundreds of years.’

📌 Spent most of the morning clearing up after the flood. We need to hire a dehumidifier, but buying one is probably cheaper.

📌 On Quora…

The top answer told of a half-hour on a Miami beach watching the faces of two sun worshippers as they engaged in mutual masturbation.

📌 Northern Ireland, then Wales made a stand on the exam results algorithm fiasco. Then we got the news that the government had caved in and teachers’ grades will count in England, too.

📌 A new picture from Sam arrived by email. I asked her if the champagne bottle is full or empty.

TUESDAY 18 The floor tiles continue to pop up, victims of the flood damage. And it seems the woodwork beneath them, which rests on concrete, has been drenched, too.

We are anticipating an almighty fight with the council about this because they hold the bulding insurance and we hold the contents insurance. The Golden Lane Estate, like the Barbican, is Grade II Listed as heritage architecture, but the maintenance is poor.

📌 A blogger I follow asked himself what is the loneliest time of day, and reckons it is 3.30am. There could be a mental health issue involved in the analysis. He says 3.30am is…

‘…a time when you don’t exist, a between time, a hole in the clock’s ticks… when thoughts are both loudest and quietest… when screams are both loudest and quietest… when life is both dead and alive…’

📌 The Quora asks what is the strangest thing you’ve seen on public transport? The top answer starts with a spoiler alert that what follows is “a bit naughty” then goes on to describe sitting opposite a man on a train with his “thingy madoobly” “hanging madly” from his short football shorts.

📌 Since very few people read my online diaries (last count: 4), I’ve surrendered and I’m trying again to pimp some traffic from Twitter. My method is to take a snippet and make a picture out of it.

📌 Even middle-ground Labour fanatics are convinced.

📌 Andy got a 24-hour ban from Facebook and the comments were hilarious. One of them wanted to know how to do it “I want it on my CV”. No news yet on what the crime was.

WEDNESDAY 19 The temptation to answer “from the allotment shop, stupid!” is almost ovetwhelming.

📌 And on the subject of stupidity, I’m still slightly baffled as to why some people still don’t know how to talk to a search engine. I learned some time ago that search engines are now so clever that they can practically read your thoughts. Practically. The problem stems in the transition from thought to word. I once typed into the empty grey strip at the top of my screen, “hook thing that looks like a question mark” and the machine located it in a jiff, best prices included. So my advice now to people who look stumped by the empty grey strip is DON’T BE! Tell it exactly what you’re thinking and it will do the rest.

📌 Posted another drabble today, a love story set in Postman’s Park. I really like the 100-word limit. It seems restrictive, but with 30-odd years of editing skills, it’s very natural for me, a nice fit.

📌 Nominated the studio for a Lottery arts grant. This is something else I find quite easy to do. Stuff I actually care about.

📌 I read an article saying that the owner of Zoom developed the virtual background thing so he could watch his kids doing sport and still attend meetings.

📌 String is off on another rant about going back to normal and how normal it’s not. Social distancing should be physical distancing. No one sticking to the mask rules, and those who even bother to wear masks see them as a green light to behave in the exactly the same way as they did before the pandemic. He lightens up only when talking about porridge. String is obviously quite weird, so I wasn’t entirely surprised to learn that he flavours his oats the in strange ways. Eg, he adds ground pepper in winter, and sometimes single-malt whisky, too.

📌 My wife noted a zero compliance to the mask diktat at Lidl, Hackney, where she insists on buying chorizo and washing-machine liquid. In the Guardian is a story about intergenerational Covid conflict. It quotes some young dude who has a nice chat with granny, takes her shopping list, then pisses off to an illegal rave in an airfield near Bath.

📌 When I asked which online weather forecaster we can trust, my wife replied that she always trusts the one with the best outlook.

📌 Another stunner from Sam…

THURSDAY 20 I used the iPad for today’s Open Studio drawing session. It was a still-life supplied by Emily from an Instagram account she follows. I used Procreate and absorbed myself in all the different brushes, effects and colours for an hour. I should do it more often.

📌 I’m working my way into a headspace where I will write a letter of referral for the flood damage to each of our our NINE councillors and see what happens.

📌 A friend punted Good Girls as a follow-up to Dead to Me, but it’s a real turkey, though one of the three main characters does have a fascinating pair of eyebrows that appear to be acting in a totally different story.

FRIDAY 21 The question in Quora was: “As a Polish person in the UK, which party most aligns with your views?” And the top two answers were UKIP and Brexit.

📌 Convinced that I’d lost my bank card, I phoned up to cancel. It turned into farce when I screwed up the security number and got a bit short with the nice Scottish lady. Then the penny dropped and I remembered where it was. I had to confess my stupidity and slope away humiliated. The nice Scottish woman was laughing as I went.

📌 Squeezed out another drabble – about the power of search engines – or possibly a rant disguised as a drabble.

📌 At the family Zoom, we spoke about how good the baddies were in Line if Duty. Lennie James was brilliant in Series 1. In series 2, Keeley Hawes made a soft start, but turned up the baddiness continually after that.

SATURDAY 22 I guess I will never shake off my love if a good headline.

📌 I learn that over the past two decades fewer and fewer firms are listing on the stockmarket because listing would mean not only raising more capital, but closer scrutiny by the regulators.

📌 Melanie Sykes and the comedian Alan Carr share a Saturday-morning radio show. They have taken to describing it as the Mel’n’Alan show, which sounds like the manifestation of a skin disease.

📌 Nicola Sturgeon face masks are on sale in Scotland for £7 a pop.

📌 Wrote a quick crime drabble that came to me last night as I watched a man leaving Bayer House.

SUNDAY 23 Posted this week’s Artwork Archive so I could get on with the business if enjoying my.

📌 You can always rely on the child to screw things up.

📌 Some of my birthday presents. I also got a brilliant selfie stick and used it to video my wife doing something her parents told her not to do. She went mad and forced me to bin it.

📌 Back to another exhibition, this time The Enchanted Interior at the Guildhall Art Gallery. It was quite relaxed, until you got stuck behind a couple of obsessives, who think wearing a mask in a one-way system entitles them to clog it up.

We both got a lot out of these MALE depictions of women sitting and behaving meekly in their “Guilded Cage”.

The notable disruption of the the scenes came from WOMEN artists and photographers. But overall, we were glad we bothered to go.

📌 My wife believes that the Lee Mack character in the TV sitcom Semi Detached has Ulcerative Colitis.

MONDAY 24 String reckons everything went to pot when Woolworths closed its doors forever and children stopped playing with yo-yos. He wonders whether the have a yo-yo app.

📌 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”.

📌 The return of children to their schools is becoming symbolic. 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 an increasingly distant 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 will come under scrutiny or face abandonment. Taxation is an obvious detonator.

📌 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 25 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.

📌 At the Guardian virtual coffee chat, I learned about recent encounters with dentists and 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.

📌 Posted a cheeky drabble I invented after I totally forgot the real story.

📌 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 26 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.”

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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.

📌 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.

📌 I can’t say I’ll miss this stitching project when it is finished.

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

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📌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.

📌Three magpies on the lawn. Not sure what that means.

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

📌 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.

📌 Séan couldn’t wait to get back from the restaurant to watch Captain Underpants on Netflix.

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

THURSDAY 27 A still-life greeted my arrival downstairs this morning.

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📌A drabble about Stuart and his ramblings about naranja.

📌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.

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

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

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

📌 An unexpected arrival, presumably for my birthday, from unknown sender. Cheers?

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

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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 28 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.

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

📌 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 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.

📌 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.

📌 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 29 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.

📌 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.

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

📌 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.

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📌 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 30 Stuart is in full swing with the fictitious biography of me he has been chiselling away at. I foolishly mention 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 expecting? He allowed himself a quick glance down at his clothing – suede boots, yep, chamois-leather jacket, oh yes, and beneath it his ‘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.

📌 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 if his school subjects had been the social sciences or media studies? The obvious inference here is that the difference is all about class.

📌 Sunny Sunday input from Twitter…

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📌 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.

📌 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 the Guy Pierce character resonated with me in a different way this time. Having now spent so much time with people who suffer acute memory problem, I can say Pierce did a bloody good job on that one. Insomnia next, then Inception…

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

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📌 A quote grom Carla, who writes the I Can’t Wink blog: “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.”

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

MONDAY 31 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.

📌 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.

Read last month’s Diary.

3 thoughts on “Diary: August 2020

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