Diary: Week 53

December 27-January 2

SUNDAY An allergy to cat hair always set me against them. Cats were malevolent, scheming beasts who had it in for me. I once threw a glass of cheap red wine into the face of a cat that had been using my lawn as a toilet and dared to stare back uninterested when I tried to reason with it.

Cats were my enemies and I despised them, until now. The change comes from TS Eliott’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, as read by Jeremy Irons, another of my pet hates.

πŸ“Œ News that financial services are not already included in the Brexit trade deal added a ghosty feel to a walk around Liverpool Street and Broadgate.

Much of the largescale redevelopment of the area was predicated on what the City was before the Pandemic and the arrival of a new high-speed train link to feed it. It now looks desperately empty, and a future for the London money business beyond becoming a mutant “freeport” tax-dodging operation is hard to imagine.

πŸ“Œ A dash of optimism can be quite effective, from the right source.

From Twitter

πŸ“Œ We finished the latest series of The Crown and decided that a cunning way to skip over Prince Charles in the real succession might be a welcome move.

MONDAY A radio documentary about David Bowie kept me wide awake in the early hours.

πŸ“Œ The Morning Star warns that Boris’s Brexit Deal means the fight for workers’ rights will need a reboot.

πŸ“Œ Never been to South America, which makes it a great place to explore in my latest stitchcraft project.

South America

πŸ“Œ Bugsy Malone is such a great daytime movie for Christmas.

πŸ“Œ There’s a mixed spray of opinion on whether the schools should reopen as scheduled next week. The risk to the containment of the virus spread is high, yet so long as schools act not just as learning institutions but as childminders, too, the problem is not easily solved.

TUESDAY Among our wedding gifts 32 years ago were two identical coffee grinders. For reasons I’ve never worked out, we kept both. The spare has now come in useful in my Lockdown breadmaking experiments. It helps make a small batch of DIY flour from bran, oats and seeds, which is then added to main flour to spice up the flavour.

πŸ“Œ A Quora correspondent writes that the slang term “rozzer” for a British police officer is a corrupted form of Robert (Peel). A bit like Jeremy Corbyn became “Jezza” and Paul Gasgoigne “Gazza”.

πŸ“Œ The South America tote bag is finished. The stitching resembles the contour lines on a map.

Contoured stitching

πŸ“Œ My wife got a notification via the nhs Covid19 app that she had been in contact with someone who has tested positive. The message arrived one week after the alleged contact and strangely instructed my wife to self-isolate for four days only.

WEDNESDAY I wrote to Isobel saying TS Elliott had softened my hatred of cats. She replied suggesting two more poems, but they didn’t work for me.

πŸ“Œ I think Headway has quietly won one of the GSK Impact Awards. Back in March a film crew turned up for a day and I gave a long socially distanced interview. I even suggested a corny shot from the canal bank of an overhead train heading for Haggerston station. I said it represented our “journey”, words that tasted cheesy the moment they came out of my mouth.

πŸ“Œ On Twitter Headway are still pimping a blog I wrote for Michelle about the success of the Zoom Home Studio sessions, which I’m now very hungry for.

πŸ“Œ We are being offered the image of a convoy of refrigerator lorries similar to the ones used at Smithfield meat market patrolling the entire country with the Oxford vaccine. The sunlit uplands of “normality” shine from Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s eyes.

πŸ“Œ A year ago we were in Tenerife fretting about data roaming charges and reading on Twitter that Deliveroo had opened a “bacon sandwich ATM” in the City of London.

A sketch of Tenerife from one year ago

πŸ“Œ Finally caught up with the new TV version of Black Narcissus, which we found heavily laden with simmering subtext in the manner of Jane Campion’s The Piano.

THURSDAY A doctor on the radio is angry at how the story of the virus is being shaped. It is depicted as moving with cunning and stealth, infecting at will with deadly consequences.

The virus is not the culprit, the doctor says. It just does what viruses do. The blame for the chaos and the deaths lies with people. Those who flout the rules and guidance on wearing face coverings, washing hands, keeping your distance, etc… they are the culprits.

He failed to add that there is no will from those in authority to enable the change of behaviour required to “beat” the virus. Those people the doctor blames just carry on in the only way they know how to, much like the virus.

πŸ“Œ Edge of Humanity magazine has a fabulous photo essay by Marina Shukurova subtitled “A Dying Village in Russia”.

πŸ“Œ The Economist has a story about some academics and a muso geek who have tuned into and recorded the music made by the Aurora Borealis.

πŸ“Œ The Morning Star is firm about our future outside the EU and the “deal” that underpins it.

πŸ“Œ The Guardian’s daily round-up has a fatalist tone with a forced smile.

πŸ“Œ I expected Charlie And The Chocolate Factory to be a children’s film. It is, but it is also very adult and very dark. Johnny Depp’s character is especially disturbing, but funny, too.

πŸ“Œ In a New Year’s Eve Zoom, one of our friends was positive about the coming year but conscious that Britain had become “a laughing stock”.

Read the full story here

πŸ“Œ A picture message from Neil shortly after the 11pm Brexit deadline passed was worth stealing.

FRIDAY Stacey has named her Word of the Year for 2021. This is the word that will be her metaphorical travelling companion for the next 12 months. The word is JOY.

πŸ“Œ Positive News has ingeniously named 20 good-news stories for 2020. The headliners include: β€œRenewables had a record year”, β€œBaby booms for wildlife” and β€œProgress in tackling malaria and TB”.

πŸ“Œ Guardian Economics Editor Larry Elliott has reprised that memorable speech he gave to the NUJ chapel upstairs in The Horseshoe when we were faced with management plans to impose new working practices using digital technology.

He told us then that the people in charge of executing these plans are the workers, so we should grab this power and make it work in our own way. That was the gist of his message, and I bought it.

So, as someone whose heart said LEAVE but whose head said REMAIN, Larry’s views on Brexit are ones I have always read with interest. Today he lays it out plain. We are where we are and the chance to get hold of the steering wheel is there for the taking.

πŸ“Œ The new stitchwork project is London’s boroughs. I already got Havering confused with Bromley. This is going to be an education.

London boroughs

SATURDAY As great-sounding Dutch food words go, Hagelslag is a king among kings. And in the New Year’s honours comes Oliebollen.

πŸ“Œ The competition for who makes the coffee in the morning is hotting up. I won December 2020 by one point (15-16). So far we are equal.

πŸ“Œ The Prime Minister’s self regard is legendary. His storytelling skills are well known, and his acting skills seem to convince a lot of people all of the time. Business people are no such pushover. Time and again their real-world skepticism tells them the PM’s stories are thinly disguised fairytales.

πŸ“Œ It looks like we have a desperate week in front of us.

From the Guardian

Read all of my Diaries.

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