MONDAY 28 Stuart apologised again. He wrote to say sorry if he saw me at the Headway Zoom meeting the other day, but he can’t remember whether he did, or didn’t. I told him he didn’t and told him not to apologise. I explained that I was at the Headway Open Studio art session instead trying to do life-drawing, from a model, on YouTube. I made the mistake of sending him a copy of my work.
Stuart replied with a humorous review by a fictitious art critic called Herbert Trimble. In it Trimble describes a visit to a Royal Academy Summer exhibition, at which he found a work of genius “nestling insouciantly” among a collection of also-rans. It was rare, Trimble waxed, to find such distinguished work as ‘Saskia Awaits Penetration’ so far from Turin. Trimble then allowed his pretentious scribbling to roam into a contemplation of “the fragility of Womankind versus the Taurean wilfulness of the Male”. In conclusion, he lazily renamed the artwork ‘The Billy Birthing Method’, which I took as a compliment.
# It looks like China has given itself the power to arrest any Chinese students anywhere in the world who might, as part of their studies, question the authority of the Beijing regime.
# Fake-news grannies storm the internet…
# My wife has been stockpiling foodstuffs and household essentials such as toilet rolls in preparation for Britain crashing out of the EU. It is all stored in a large plastic crate know as the Brexit Box. She says it is an “emergency standby” initiative, but as more and more items pile into the Brexit Box, I’m convinced it is a sign of paranoia. I accidentally revealed this to friends by email and my wife retaliated in a huffy tone with a qualifying memo: “Just to confirm, I HAVEN’T been stockpiling, but I do have an emergency crate in case all the lorries get stuck in Dover on 31 December.” The use of whole words in capital letters is always a worrying sign.
# There’s an addictive afternoon TV programme featuring Damon Grant from Brookside in a stylishly paint-spattered workman’s overshirt. He tarts up bits of decrepit junk, a miracle of DIY that makes the owners of the junk fall back in love with the rusty item they were about to take to the tip.
# I’ve half-heartedly started learning to use Procreate properly, by following a YouTube tutorial. I hope to make it whole-heartedly, but my track record with learning apps is that I will get to the point where it does what I want it to do in the moment, and leave it at that, often moving on to another app and learning one more thing I want to do in the moment. Procreate has, I have discovered, the potential to do practically all of the digital illustration I am ever likely to want.
TUESDAY 29 Turning serious news stories into tabloid nibs is my new fascination. Probably won’t last very long.
# Stuart has sent another review of my life-drawing efforts, by Germaine of Tunbridge Wells. It begins: “Having been subjected to no less then three of Billy Mann’s drawings of the female form I was alarmed to realise that in every one the subject is pictured in a subordinate pose.”
# Cliff Richard is on the radio, talking about a book he’s written. It’s embarrassing. I asked my wife if we should expect Cliff Richard to know better than to say things like “my secretary”, and she said, “No.”
# The drawbacks of some of the “Lockdown Innovations” are starting to emerge. People working from home are reluctant to “call in sick”, and changes to how the health service is delivered have their shortcomings, too.
# I was told bluntly that doing a Zoom meeting from the bath was inappropriate.
# Marge says she saw Carrie Symonds in Côte.
# Unlike the rest of Europe, Britons are not that keen on a return to the office-based, commuter-crammed working life. One report says only 34% of white-collar workers have gone back to their desks, as compared with 83% in France.
# Pete came up with a nice bit of alliteration, describing Steve’s knee replacement as “smooth as a cashmere codpiece”.
WEDNESDAY 30 The meaning of surnames just took on a new dimension.
# Will the Norwegian wellbeing trend of friluftsliv catch on here in Britain. I hope so, and with the sales of outdoor patio heaters getting hotter every day, all the signs are there.
# My second attempt at shakshuka was a lot better than the first. Added spicy tomato chutney this time rather than chipotle ketchup. Cold dry toast makes a brilliant scooper-upper.
# I think Alex’s dog Nova might become my next stitchwork project. I sent a crappy line drawing to her and she replied that I’d missed off Nova’s six-pack.
# On this day last year…
# Lakshmi writes from India about the last days of the monsoon and the exploding number of virus cases. In one line, she says, “for so many the fear of unemployment and hunger is more real than the virus”.