Week 41…

October 5-11, 2020

MONDAY 5 There’s a story in the Hackney Citizen punting a new film, Rocks, about an abandoned child, and a quote from one of its writers.


# Stuart writes to say “you have a way of extracting the most personal info out of me without even trying”. I took this as a compliment. He went on to confess that… “At birth, I was expected to be a girl. So for the first few years I slept in a bedroom surrounded by dolls, cuddly toys and female clobber.”

# Do parents who get fed up playing with their only child resolve the problem by having another one?

# A review of two Brexit books puts some context to what is often seen as an isolated political flashpoint, but was actually a national Euro-skeptic sore that had been festering for decades and finally burst with the June 2016 referendum. A different set of circumstances might have sent Britain on a different journey entirely.

# In line with yesterday’s accidental spillage of grated parmesan cheese all over the kitchen floor, I opened the door of the too-small new fridge and an egg crashed onto my shoe.

# The new stitchwork project is an image of Alex’s dog Nova, on a blank cotton tote bag. Already I’m not happy with the ears.


TUESDAY 6 My wife swears that the government’s new oven-ready Covid app sucks the life out of your phone’s battery. In my case it also repeatedly plays an annoying pop-up ad telling me to download the app I already have installed.

# The pharmacist who gave me my flu jab asked if I was allergic to eggs. Apparently, the vaccine is made from something eggy.

# The City of London really is a creepy secretive place. It has the feel of a seedy enclave where dirty-money wrongdoing is unfolding behind every door.

# Stuart’s latest fascination is for Soviet and East European cars from the past. It started with the Trabant and a musical diversion into U2’s 1991 album Achtung Baby. Then he cruised on to the Russian Moskovitch, which was really quite a stylish vehicle IMO.

Cool Commie cars: from top, Trabant, Moskovitch

# A professor at Lancaster University has coined the term “Prozac Leaders” to describe excessively upbeat, self-trumpeting characters such as Boris Johnson, Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro.

WEDNESDAY 7 The 9.15 video call with my renal consultant was not greatly different from the real thing in that I sat in a waiting room waiting for someone to call my name.

# Quora does it again…


# Said hello to Bridget in Cafe Passione, but she didn’t know who I was.

# There are some neat planters alongside Speed House managed by the Barbican Horticultural Society.

# Global Citizen has a story with the headline “The NHS Just Became the World’s First Health System to Commit to Net Zero Emissions by 2040”. I wonder in Boris knows about that? Or whether he has read the academic report in The Conversation that says he is incapable of taking tough decisions because people might hate him for it.

# This story reads like one of those gripping TV docu-dramas with classy actors getting all the emotional and psychological nuances spot-on.

Read the full story…

# Newsbiscuit returns to form.

The old jokes are the best…

THURSDAY 8 The boss of the Geffreye Museum says they kept the statue of slaver Robert Geffreye because the government told them to. Sorry, the minister “reminded” them where their funding came from.

# She sends them so regularly, I’m not sure why the arrival of a new picture from Sam surprises me. Perhaps the surprise is actually in the image and not in the receipt of the email.


# Iceland’s Grímsvötn volcano is getting ready to erupt. The big question is whether the eruption will be a small one with wet, sticky ash that doesn’t travel far, or a big eruption with masses of dense soft ash that drifts globally and shuts down air traffic.

# Cristina sent over the feedback from the Barbican workshop last week and it was all positive. It made me want to check out the Basquiat-style work of John, the old Irish fella who attended.

# My wife and I refer to the BBC TV programme Repair Shop as “the crying show” because lots of tears are shed when people see their treasured belongings restored. But it really is one of those special inventions that distinguishes the BBC as a world-beating broadcaster.

# Our pandemic TV diet is a rich one: Giri/Haji is superb both from a close-up British/Japanese angle and from a wider viewpoint looking at Japan from a distance and at Britain (London) from an equal distance. And Pamela Adlon’s Better Things takes the TV short story into places it never even knew existed.

# In the first Cormoran Strike book, the author describes security cameras as “malevolent shoeboxes”.

FRIDAY 9 There’s a plan unfolding in America to have President Trump removed from office for being unhinged, detached from reality, bonkers, etc. It sort of adds up


# Today’s Open Studio was hosted by abstract artist Katrina Russell-Adams, who talked to us about deconstructing what you see and looking at it differently. I did a digital painting of the view from our living-room window of the Barbican towers. I found the whole experience totally liberating.


# Concrete is one of the biggest sources of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Making the cement that goes into concrete creates so much that if the cement industry were a country, only China and the US would emit more carbon dioxide.

# If it wasn’t so serious, the Johnny Bananas story would be hilarious.

Read the full story…

# Once again I didn’t appear in The Queen’s birthday honours list. Marcus Rashford got an MBE.

SATURDAY 10 The Labour Party opposition seem baffled as to how to oppose the government. A story in the Morning Star says it is now complaining that the UK government’s does not protect employers as much as France, Germany and the Netherlands.


# Marina Hyde is gobsmacked at how little has been learned over the past six months.

Read the full story…

# The Conversation has a compelling essay about the Lennon-McCartney partnership. John would have been 80 yesterday. The essay doesn’t really say anything new, but it does establish that creative partnerships are a complex chemistry of unpredictable elements. Any attempt to simplify them will always miss the point.

# Positive News has a story saying teenagers are kinder than you think and have proved their selflessness throughout the trials and tribulations of the pandemic.

# Did my first phone check-in today at Barbican Kitchen for a coffee with Gill. You point your camera at a bar code on a coaster and the Benugo menu pops up, from which you order your drinks, etc. It knows your table number and in due course your stuff is delivered to your table. My wife says young people have been doing this for years, but I felt quite chuffed with myself. So chuffed that I downloaded the Kings College Covid research app and logged my symptoms (none).

SUNDAY 11 We’ve decided that Young Wallander is a massive con. I guess we expected something along the lines of Morse/Endeavour, but the only resemblance is the use of the name of the detective protagonist. Endeavour Morse was/is clever. Morse came first, then Endeavour, the young Morse 30 years earlier. Young Wallander is not the Kurt Wallander we already know as a rookie cop in an evolving social democracy (Sweden), but merely a young police officer with the name Kurt Wallander. The setting and themes are contemporary, not retro, so Young Wallander could easily just be Kurt Wallander Jnr, a twentysomething copy following in his dad’s footsteps. It’s hard not to think this is a wasted opportunity, until you remember that this is a Netflix production, a place where dumb-downery is entirely feasible.

# There’s a man on the roof of Great Arthur House talking on a mobile phone. Best guesses at the moment are that he is A. Removing the window-cleaning hoist, or B. Stealing the window-cleaning hoist.


# We picked the last of the tomatoes, cleared the plot and readied the soil for the nematodes.

# Put together a few abstract ideas for Katrina and the Hove Avenue project, mainly concentrating on the Walthamstow location.


# One of the internet’s biggest crimes is standing the news story on its head. The conventional way to tell readers something in the popular media is to say in the first sentence what happened and to whom. Eg, “Naga Munchetty and Charlie Stayt had a furious argument live on TV this morning”. The story then unfolds with the facts, explaining what happened, when, who was involved and the outcome. Then, if time and space permits, the story introduces some background, such as, “this is the fourth time this year Naga and Charlie have bitten each other’s heads off”, blah, bah, blah.

The logic of this narrative structure is based on how you might tell the story to a stranger. But soon, if oral storytelling starts to mimic the written word, you’ll be hearing what Naga had for breakfast before you find out what nasty things she said to Charlie. Scrolling to the bottom of the text to find the nub of the story must rank as one of the internet’s worst innovations.

# The Winter clothes are out of storage, the Summer wardrobe is in.

# It says in the news that the government is preparing to hand Covid tracing powers to local authorities. Could this be the start of a new devolved dialogue?

Read all of my Diaries.

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