Diary: April 2021

THURSDAY 1 We are both suffering from Jab2 side effects. Cold symptoms and an aching arm. And today’s the day the new kitchen units arrive.

πŸ“Œ One of the most revealing aspects of the government’s controversial Racial Disparity Review goes back to a quote from Prime Minister Boris Johnson when he said he wanted to “change the narrative” of race relations in Britain. Changing the facts might have been a better idea, but Boris has always been a great believer in the power of a good story.

πŸ“Œ The new Phomemo bluetooth sticker printer will be great for making combines and text work. But it is probably too small (W: 57mm) for monoprinting miniatures.

πŸ“Œ The weekly instalments from the New Statesman Archive are proving worthwhile. Today’s email points us to a 1969 review of Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint with the revelation that the book had arrived β€œflaunting its reputation ahead of it like the bloated phallus of a Greek comedian”. Another article focuses on Lloyd George’s wartime attempt at a low-octane form of nationalisation.

πŸ“Œ The new custom-made headboard in our bedroom looks like it was stolen from an overpriced European boutique hotel.

Boutique headboard…

πŸ“Œ Another London Boroughs stitchwork tote bag is underway. They make such good gifts.

πŸ“Œ Ed McBain’s Long Time No See, Chapter 2 (see Wednesday, 31 March)… The victim’s wife tells the detective firmly that she had no idea who might want to kill Jimmy. She’s lying. Later at home she is physically threatened by an unknown somebody presumed to be a criminal accomplice of her dead husband.

FRIDAY 2 Make Votes Matter offered an April Fool from the Danish Parliament, in which an earnest plea to adopt the UK’s FPTP voting system descended into mass giggling.

πŸ“Œ My monoprinting workshop seems to have worked wonders on Harshita. Her use of colour is impressive.

Beppe’s CafΓ©, by Harshita…

πŸ“Œ For reasons I am at a loss to explain, reading about Joe Biden’s big infrastructure plans for the US made me want to spurn the curated music playlists I normally listen to (Spotify, Amazon Music) and opt instead for Jackson Browne’s Lives In The Balance album. It reminded me why I used to admire the USA, and I recalled that time I met Browne at a hotel in St James, London, to discuss the album. He enjoyed the conversation so much he took me up to his room and played me a cassette tape of the new, as yet unreleased Warren Zevon album.

πŸ“Œ Since my cousin Kate and her husband moved to Scotland, my interest in our northern neighbour country has grown. The 2016 fight over EU membership and the perennial battle for independence have somehow become less of a fringe issue. And now I learn Scotland is (perhaps not so surprisingly) a hotbed of peasant rebellion. I exaggerate, but it was fascinating to read about the can-do group of environmentalists who clubbed together to buy 5,200 acres of land off the Duke of Buccleuch in order to create a nature reserve.

πŸ“Œ One B&B owner on A New Life In The Sun called her B&B co-owner a “daft moo”. And Yorkshireman Steve has decided to “take his bouncy-castle business to the next level” by including a rodeo bull.

SATURDAY 3 Ed McBain’s Long Time No See, Chapter 3 in precis… When detectives arrive to accompany the victim’s wife to identify her husband’s body, they find her at home, dead, throat slit. The apartment has been thoroughly searched and trashed. There is obviously a connection between the two killings.

πŸ“Œ As if the EU hadn’t screwed up enough, first in its handling of mass migration, then with Covid, the Morning Star reminds us of the itchy problem of nationalism and fascism that has been at its door for some time.

πŸ“Œ The monoprint miniature etchings work better than I thought they would. An A4 page made into a mini zine could hold a 7/14 collection.

πŸ“Œ As a teenager the wall beside my bed was covered in bad poetry that “came to me” in the middle of the night. I doubt it still exists, but this story in the Mirror suggests my embarrassment might one day be exposed.

πŸ“Œ Huffpost UK obviously has the nation’s best interest at heart…

SUNDAY 4 Not surprisingly, Will Hutton is waving the flag for Joe Biden’s raft of reforms in the US. Big Government has never seemed so popular. If the plan works and is sustainable, it would naturally realign the US with the EU. What role Britain?

πŸ“Œ The conflict in British football between club and country came to light in the report of Liverpool’s return to form against Arsenal. It coincided with a note from one blogger I follow pointing me to the football fun fact that Britain won the “first” World Cup in 1909.

πŸ“Œ One of the big psychological twisters I never got round to tackling was the weird relationship women have with their hair.

πŸ“Œ Paula said she cried at the end of TV’s Unforgotten. And one commentator in the Observer considered referring the “devastating end” to Ofcom.

MONDAY 5 As is likely to be the case in the coming weeks, I woke in the very early hours from a dream based on Line of Duty. In it I devised a whole political philosophy that hinged on the establishment of an AC-12 equivalent in every department of public life. In Education, in Transport, in Health, etc, the AC-12 unit would root out and punish the bent workers, thus ensuring a fair society to flourish and flaunt its beauty to the world.

πŸ“Œ Chapter 4 of Ed McBain’s Long Time No See, in precis… Sophie Harris, mother of Jimmy, stands to get a $25,000 insurance payout. She also recently accepted a marriage proposal from a badass local boxing trainer. Detectives interview him but he seems clean.

πŸ“Œ The premature flowering of cherry blossoms in Japan is a clear sign of impending climate-change doom, reports CNN. In a muddled metaphor, one expert called it the “tip of the iceberg”.

πŸ“Œ Another gem from Frank on the Nextdoor Barbican online noticeboard.

πŸ“Œ I’m Thinking of Ending Things is one of the weirdest films I’ve ever seen. A masters degree in surrealism might help, but probably not much.

TUESDAY 6 The mood of uncertainty is growing. As 12 April approaches and Boris’s Covid exit plan begins in earnest, the businesses that will be permitted to open are not sure if they can still function in the ways they did before. Friends are wondering whether they’ll still be able to ‘perform’ in social situations. They are not alone. But even if they struggle, experts predict that with time, social skills have the capacity to bounce back.

πŸ“Œ Sam sent me two new drawings, one of a skeletal upper body she titled Skull and a magical one of Sydney Harbour Bridge, which I have stupidly lost in a phone storage folder somewhere.

Skull, by Sam Jevon…

πŸ“Œ A powerful Netflix documentary, Seaspiracy, has made us consider a plant-based diet, despite the usual vested-interest accusations of “misleading misinformation”. It said important things about the state of the oceans and the industrial-scale, unregulated wilful trashing of nature.

πŸ“Œ Another Cuban stamp monoprint finished.

Monoprint of 1972 Cuban postage stamp supporting the UNESCO Venice conservation campaign…

πŸ“Œ The next stitchwork is underway – African rivers on a T-shirt.

African rivers…

WEDNESDAY 7 Chapter 5 of Ed McBain’s Long Time No See in precis… Isabel Harris held hands with her married boss in a secluded corner of a cocktail lounge, claims a fellow employee, who also describes Isabel’s appearance and behaviour at work as “flirtatious”.

πŸ“Œ Physically resembling a politician really has no upside.

πŸ“Œ Any expectation that the unions had finally found their 21st Century mojo in issues such as equal pay and regulation in the gig economy are too easily smothered by damning stories about bullying and misogyny. These are not accusations made by enemies, they are stories from within.

πŸ“Œ Stephen Bush in the New Statesman argues that until all official parties (government, scientists, etc) can speak with a single voice, doubts about the Astra Zeneca vaccine will persists. Factually, the dangers of side effects are minute compared with the protective benefits, but so long as scare stories sow uncertainty, any exit strategy is precarious.

πŸ“Œ I had a fabulous video consultation with my renal specialist this morning. Yesterday my wife had an equally fabulous video consultation with a physiotherapist about her tennis elbow. But two positive experiences of digital doctoring do not make a robust treatment system, as the Hackney Citizen reports.

πŸ“Œ At last Labour looks like it wants a fight. Not sure it can win the battle over vaccine passports. That’s an idea that will be defeated at the implementation stage.

Read the full story here…

πŸ“Œ The title of Sam’s latest is Man With Teapot On Head. I told her surrealism suits her.

Man With Teapot On Head, by Sam Jevon

THURSDAY 8 The moral panic around the AstraZeneca vaccine will not disappear quickly and will probably slow the national rollout, but reassurance came from a small voice on the radio this morning uttering the compound word “pharmaco-vigilance”. This is what’s done in the pharmaceutical industry that equates with the software updates and tweaks we get all the time from technology companies. In this way, he said, all the Covid vaccines will be supplemented from time to time with modifying boosters.

πŸ“Œ I bet Catalan Cristina sets the Headway group Zoom meetings for 10am because she is in Barcelona, and it’s 11am there. Her distance-working timekeeping tripped up earlier this week when we were meant to talk with some artists in Cuba. She got the time zones wrong and we didn’t meet them until an hour after we were meant to.

πŸ“Œ At a Headway Steering Group we discussed the logistics of putting on an outdoor Summer cabaret and my ancient idea of forming a karaoke band playing badly made cardboard instruments resurfaced. About 2 years ago I made myself a cardboard 1954 Gibson Les Paul for this very purpose.

1954 Gibson Les Paul (Not)…

πŸ“Œ It looks like teaching has lost its vocational allure. It could be false memory, but my school teachers at least gave the impression that they were wedded to a cause.

πŸ“Œ Which for some reason brought back the memory of our History teacher, Mr Shufflebotham, who we playfully referred to as “Spade Arse”.

πŸ“Œ The John and the Paul in this story might have gone on to greater things…

πŸ“Œ Chapter 6 of Ed McBain’s Long Time No See in precis… With reluctance, Isabel Harris’s married boss confirms under interrogation that they were having an affair and were together in a hotel room when Isabel’s husband Jimmy was killed.

FRIDAY 9 Doctors routinely assume women are cry babies when in pain, new gender-bias research shows.

πŸ“Œ Nicola Sturgeon is treating Alex Salmond’s new Alba party as a storm-in-a-teacup sideshow and ploughing on with the Greens to put a new Independence referendum on the May elections agenda.

πŸ“Œ Headway Home Studio welcomed Chairman of the Board Glen as our subject. At school he was a big fan of punk rock, so we pictured him in a mohican wig with chains and safety pins. I made a punk postcard.

Punk postcard…

πŸ“Œ The travel industry isn’t happy with the government’s “traffic light” system (red, amber, green) of “safe” countries and the strict regulations holidaymakers will need to observe and pay for. Tests and quarantine could hypothetically add thousands to the family holiday bill.

πŸ“Œ The idea that the state should keep its nose out of people’s business no longer holds the power it once did, writes Larry Elliott.

SATURDAY 10 Every avenue of public discourse has been taken over by the death of HRH Prince Philip. My wife is furious. She doesn’t believe there is that much to say about a man who walked behind the Queen and occasionally made offensive remarks in public.

She is properly annoyed, rantingly annoyed, that the TV and radio schedules have been occupied by the subject. She cannot be pacified. She says she intends to offer the BBC a piece of her mind. When I utter what I believe to be a benign remark about it being sad for the family and all that, it is swatted away with rage. When I tell her she is in danger of sounding like a mad person she hits back with logic and reason.

πŸ“Œ In dealing with the boredom of the pandemic restrictions, our friend Gill walks the streets of London taking photographs with her phone. She has a special interest in street art and in modernist and brutalist architecture. As she photographed one fascinating building recently, a security guard appeared and asked her to stop. As he escorted her away, he told her in a whisper that she would not make a very good spy. The building she had been innocently picturing is occupied by the UK security service MI5.

πŸ“Œ An article in the Guardian Weekly magazine about former UK Prime Minister David Cameron states that his post-prime-ministerial career did not yield the financial rewards he expected and that he envies some of his contemporaries. It led me to wonder whether some people simply have no concept of “enough”. Cameron is wealthy beyond most people’s imagination, but he clearly measures himself not with “most people” but with the super rich.

πŸ“Œ The Kerelan fishing community is pioneering a neat environmental initiative by sifting the rubbish caught along with the fish in trawlers’ nets, mashing it up and using it to build roads.

SUNDAY 11 Chapter 7 of Ed McBain’s Long Time No See in one short paragraph is… At the funeral, detective Carella learned that a) Jimmy was having nightmares, and b) He had a dodgy get-rich-quick scheme on the go with an old Army pal.

πŸ“Œ The Observer observes in its otherwise flattering summary of Prince Philip’s life that he… “was not afraid to cause controversy through his occasional public use of racist and sexist language long considered unacceptable.” Arrogant hereditary privilege was always the vibe he gave off, and the death of that isn’t something to be mourned.

πŸ“Œ The government’s soaring popularity makes the Labour Party’s role as political pest all the more important. Very few people can imagine them as a governing entity, but they can easily be seen as a modifying force.

πŸ“Œ Sam sent her drawings from the Home Studio session last week in which we all pictured Headway Chair Glen Hodgson re-living his punk past.

Glen Hodgson, by Sam Jevon…
Screenshot of Home Studio…
Another punk postcard, by Billy Mann…

MONDAY 12 A sinister power grab has slipped in over the past year.

πŸ“Œ We’d never seen Meet The Richardsons, presuming it to be a tortured spin on the idea that bickering couples are somehow funny. We were wrong. It is hilarious, a self-referential mockumentary in the class of W1A.

πŸ“Œ Covid Veterans are likely to become a fixture of future society. Those with Long Covid medical needs will be the most prominent, but other, more invisible sufferers of many and varied residual conditions will come to form a significant part of the population. There’s already a blank look in some of those faces. Of joy empied out.

πŸ“Œ There’s still no clear sign as to when the sun will come out for any length of time.

πŸ“Œ We’re still washing our dishes in a bucket, in the bath, and the boy blackbird outside is desperate for a girlfriend (again).

πŸ“Œ No new acronyms this week…

…But we were in stitches watching one of TV’s Gogglebox stars, Jenny, taking meticulous notes while watching the drama unfold.

πŸ“Œ The David Cameron Covid Cash scandal is starting to snowball.

πŸ“Œ My wife’s irritation at the media takeover by HRH Phil, etc, was shared by others.

πŸ“Œ A fascinating article in Prospect magazine putting out a less-than flattering portrait of saintly scientist Stephen Hawking describes his habit of betting on physics debates. “When, in 2012, he bet against the discovery of the Higgs particle at the LHC, it wasn’t because of any strong theoretical argument but because it inserted him into a story in which he’d played no part. Sure enough, the Daily Telegraph ran the headline: β€œHiggs Boson: Prof Stephen Hawking Loses $100 Bet.”

πŸ“Œ Looks like Boris is chasing Dave to throw him under the bus.

πŸ“Œ Wake me up when the Primark stampede is over.

TUESDAY 13 Someone on Quora wants to know how to spot an imposter pretending to be from the UK. The top answer says the giveaway is the non-use of the definite article. So, if I say something like, “In UK we love to drink warm beer” rather than “In the UK…” I am quite obviously a fake Brit.

πŸ“Œ I punted to ceramicist Natalie an old idea of Cubic Earth, spinning on a tilted axis with the ancient supercontinent Pangea supine across its surface like DalΓ­’s melting clock. Years ago I imagined it as an installation at Stonehenge.

Cubic Earth visits Stonehenge…

πŸ“Œ Fascinating times lie ahead. Everyone will emerge from the pandemic restrictions at different speeds. There is no singular experience, which begs the idea that new interest groups will form around a given experience. Those forced back to the slavery of the workplace could become a major voice. Parents forced to deal with home schooling might now become more vocal in education, etc.

πŸ“Œ The condensation of Ed McBain’s Long Time No See into one paragraph per chapter continues with Chapter 8… At the military hospital, detective Carella discovers that Jimmy’s nightmares were psychotic recollections of a gang rape he witnessed as a teenager. And back in the city, another blind beggar gets their throat slit.

πŸ“Œ The African Rivers stitchwork T-shirt has turned into the African Rivers Plus Climatic Zones T-shirt.

Africa in stitches…
Here’s lookin’ at you, Africa…

πŸ“Œ It didn’t take long for the slimy profiteers to crawl out into the sunshine. One firm, Randox, is offering discount PCR test to returning travellers with “partner airlines”.

πŸ“Œ Being old and disabled, Lockdown hasn’t been such a dramatic restriction for me as it has for others. But strolling is definitely more exciting today.

WEDNESDAY 14 Another Zoom meeting at Barcelona Time with Catalan Cris made me want to be there. We talked about the positives of lockdown and what the winning keywords were. There’s a danger that some of the good will be forgotten, so identifying single word prompts such as tolerance, acceptance, compassion and friendship is the mission. The message will come from their description.

πŸ“Œ The “Get Cameron” snowball is starting to pick up speed.

πŸ“Œ The Chumocracy and the sleaze is viral, says Sir Starmer.

πŸ“Œ Dead roses do have a certain beauty.

Dead roses…

πŸ“Œ The art et al. website is launched today. It is jam packed and not very pretentious at all, which is what I was hoping. The front page is very raw, which I think is good for a launch. I toyed with other ideas for a while but gave it up as pointless. The nitpicker in me was mildly irritated that the site seems unable to decide whether it is art et al. or Art et al.(.). The difference is loosely philosophical.

Raw vision…
Pointless tinkering…

πŸ“Œ Super-rich people who want to pay more tax? Just so their governments can then hand it to their super-rich friends who think paying tax is for losers, I suppose.

THURSDAY 15 Starmer might just be on to something with his Sleaze rant.

πŸ“Œ Obligatory food photo (lunch).

πŸ“Œ In the studio, messing around with the Bluetooth receipt printer and some portraits of Michelle Carlile.

Make your own postage stamps with a receipt printer…

πŸ“Œ Obligatory food photo (supper).

Veggie pasta and salad, as gifted to us by Marge. Plus a nice bottle of Chianti…

FRIDAY 16 Mark Zuckerberg loves to remind me of key moments from my past.

πŸ“Œ At Headway Home Studio we explored working on unusual surfaces from a set of Brian’s plastercast self-portrait sculptures.

I chose to work on scrunched-up tinfoil, which I then opened out and flattened. It was a challenge. Eventually I managed to scratch out something using Posca pens and ink. The tiny ridges of the foil obstructed every stroke of the paint and forced me to “surrender” to its physical barrier. I also added nipples and gold underpants to the figure.

πŸ“Œ The Tory Sleaze story brings to mind the words dog and bone, and not in the context of Cockney rhyming slang.

πŸ“Œ The next stitchwork project, a tote bag featuring Pablo Picasso as drawn by Chris Miller (titled β€˜Pablo’s Sack’). I turned an affectionate portrait of a great artist into the stiff image of a psychopathic criminal.

Pablo, by Chris, via Billy…

SATURDAY 17 The controversy of who wears what at Phil’s funeral has spiralled into absurdity. The latest is that Prince Andrew was insistent on wearing his military uniform (Vice-Admiral), which was vetoed by the Royal Navy, presumably not wishing to have a disreputable member of the royal family tarnishing its public image.

πŸ“Œ Scottish independence has been a blue-sky talking point for much of my adult life. But only now does the fuzzy glimpse suddenly come into focus. The prospect of an independent Scotland becoming part of a Nordic alliance is really tantalising, even if you only consider the potential for a new genre of TV crime drama.

πŸ“Œ The Morning Star senses an open goal…

Read the full story here…

πŸ“Œ Sam sent her picture of Lisa Slominski, who she’s been working with recently.

Lisa Slominski, by Sam Jevon

πŸ“Œ We both think the TV show This is My House is a job-creation scheme for pandemic poverty-stricken actors.

πŸ“Œ Our spare bedroom is still a makeshift dining lounge for the duration of the building work downstairs. Each night we sit in the same places on a sofabed eating food cooked by friends and watching TV on an iPad. Our current favourite mealtime viewing is either Death in Paradise or Taskmaster. Each has 10 series available on catchup.

SUNDAY 18 My wife has resumed her rage at the blanket media coverage of the Royal funeral…

πŸ“Œ A Dutch blogger I follow has parlayed her enthusiasm for gaming into a life skill. She says gaming teaches you to go off the beaten track and to learn the thinness of the line between right and wrong. But the main thing gaming teaches her, she says, is to find pleasure in boring repetition: “You don’t always need talent to be successful at something. Hard work and a LOT of hours will get you to the top in the end.”

πŸ“Œ The sleaze story was never likely to stop at David Cameron. Even if that once looked likely, Cameron would never take a bullet for the team, so to speak. The snowball is getting bigger by the day.

πŸ“Œ Just realised that the 60th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s first space flight was 12 April. This is the memory montage I did a few years ago…

πŸ“Œ The new stitchwork tote bag is a district map of Hampshire.


πŸ“Œ Ed McBain’s Long Time No See, Chapter 9 summary… The new victim, Hester, was 63 and obviously not killed for the $22 in her bag. She had a niece, Stephanie, who was thought to have moved to Chicago until detective Carella discovers she in fact still lives locally, in a rough part of town and works in a “health club”.

πŸ“Œ An unexploded bomb has been found on Brighton beach.

MONDAY 19 European Football just mutated into the ugliest of capitalist monsters called the European Super League (ESL). Gary Lineker predicts the project “will die on its preposterous and avaricious arse.”

It looks like football just went the way of wrestling and became less a sport and more a part of the TV entertainment industry. It’s a power grab, and those who have lost it (ie, Euefa, Fifa) are not happy. Various national leaders are whingeing on their behalf.

Football sold its soul to big business some time ago. Hearing Boris Johnson calling big business the baddies makes you wonder which party he leads.

πŸ“Œ My condensed precis of Ed McBain’s Long Time No See (each chapter a short paragraph) faces the hurdle of what to do when a writer treads water. Chapter 10 is full of scenery, context and the inner thoughts of detective Steve Carella, so the story development is short… Stephanie the “health-club” hooker offers nothing to Carella’s investigation other than confirmation that it is a baffling triangle of deceit – three “nice” dead blind people, all with slit throats and secrets of some kind.

πŸ“Œ Jurassic Park and other film escapades have shaped our view of what dinosaurs looked like. They are based on genuine 19th Century paleontologists’ bone collections, but it turns out that many of them are probably wrong, and all the spikes and scales that give dinosaurs their rough prehistoric appearance could have been brightly coloured feathers instead. In fact, our understanding of what dinosaurs looked like is in perpetual evolution.

TUESDAY 20 The Mirror has decided whose side it’s on in the Super League soccer argument.

Read the full story here…

It’s headline is made more interesting by the recollection of another headline.

In 2018 former Liverpool player turned TV pundit Jamie Carragher – himself a keen antagonist of the Super League breakaway group of clubs – was caught on camera spitting at a 14-year-old girl who had obviously told him something he didn’t want to hear.

From the Morning Star…

πŸ“Œ Matt Hancock selling GP surgeries to a US health insurance outfit. Why am I not surprised?

πŸ“Œ Found a nice sun trap by the lake in the Barbican.

πŸ“Œ Keir Starmer got kicked out of a pub in Bath for not being Labour enough.

πŸ“Œ Zoe Williams in the Guardian sees the government’s Pandemic state capitalism (and its recent descent into corruption with the Covid Contracts scandal) as similar to that of China, where backhanders and financial favours among self-appointed elites are the norm, she says.

πŸ“Œ In the New Statesman, Ailbhe Rea makes a good point about Boris’s pledge to shut down the ESL (European Super League)… It would set “a politically tricky precedent for the Conservatives to intervene in one high-profile and unpopular case of attempted monopoly with no plans to continue that approach consistently.”

πŸ“Œ Chapter 11 of Ed McBain’s Long Time No See in precis… In Jimmy’s old neighbourhood detective Carella tracks down former Hawks gang leader Lloyd and Lloyd’s former girlfriend Roxanne. It was seeing Roxanne gang raped 12 years ago that is said by doctors to have been the source of Jimmy’s nightmares. Both Lloyd and Roxanne say no such rape ever happened, but Roxanne does confess to secretly being unfaithful to Lloyd with Jimmy. On one lustful occasion.

πŸ“Œ Prince Philip was a relic in more ways than one…

πŸ“Œ Stuart has been reminiscing about the sandwiches and doughnuts he used to buy from Cousins, the famed Liverpool confectionery cafe. I told him I preferred Reece’s, mainly for their superior sausage rolls.

Cousins, Liverpool, a long time ago…

πŸ“Œ That European Super League thing caved in quickly.

WEDNESDAY 21 It was that moment when naked capitalism stood there with all its embarrassing body parts hanging out. You sensed the game was up when Cold War Steve put out one of his mash-ups featuring the Group of Six, plus Boris in his vest.

By Cold War Steve…

πŸ“Œ A man on the radio said he got a call from someone claiming to have found his missing dog. Phew, the man thought. The caller then told him that unless he paid him Β£1,000 he would kill the dog.

πŸ“Œ There’s no stopping Marcus Rashford in his quest to do the right thing.

Read the full story here…

πŸ“Œ Lovely meal out with Family. If I ever write an autobiography, the best title would be Opinion Pending. Must remember to check out Bunny Hill in Stoke.

Turkish/Italian at Iskele, Whitecross Street, EC1...

πŸ“Œ The Guardian is to repay a chunk of furlough money back to the government. Is this the real face of corporate social responsibility in the future?

THURSDAY 22 The word on the street is that the NHS is prepping up for big volumes of Covid patients in August.

πŸ“Œ And the local pharmacy is prepping up for the determination of the British public to claim its right to overseas travel.

πŸ“Œ Sam sent me a picture of an exotic-looking shoe.

Shoe, by Sam Jevon...

πŸ“Œ Looking forward to May, when outdoors at the Barbican will be a whole lot more exciting.

πŸ“Œ There’s a lot of rampant speculation that Anna Maxwell Martin is H.

πŸ“Œ Once again, Larry nails it. Let’s hope this really is the last word on the European Super League.

πŸ“Œ Another marvellous piece by John Lanchester in the London Review of Books (LRB). It starts with the story of the Ever Given, the giant container ship that got stuck recently in the Suez Canal. Then it sprawls out into history of the Suez Canal plus a neat bit of memoir on when it was closed down by the Six Day War in 1967 and stayed shut for 8 years. The piece then explains and dissects the intricacies and mystery of the global shipping business. It is a surprisingly compelling essay, given the subject.

FRIDAY 23 β€œIf you join the dots it looks like it’s coming from Dom.” That’s a killer quote on the source of Boris’s leaky text messages.

πŸ“Œ The kitchen is finally starting to look like a kitchen.

Kitchen progress…

πŸ“Œ Today’s Headway Home Studio was a mark-making workshop by Sam, in partnership with Jennifer Gilbert. The task was to build on Sam’s famous Legs ink drawing…

Legs, by Sam Jevon

My effort attempted to stick a catalogue model’s body onto Sam’s Legs, but I’m not sure I was intended to use colour since the workshop was meant to be about monochrome mark-making.

Sam’s Legs, by Billy…

Sam herself stuck to the spirit of the project…

πŸ“Œ Sam is also famous for her painted fingernails, which came to mind coincidentally as I returned from the blood clinic and looked down.

πŸ“Œ A Great White shark has taken a wrong turn in the Atlantic and could be at a beach near you soon.

πŸ“Œ Vaccine nationalism must be defeated urgently if the world is ever to properly emerge from the Covid crisis.

Read the full story here…

SATURDAY 24 Though far from finished, the kitchen is at least once again that magic magnet of a place where you potter and prepare. We have running water, a washing machine, a dishwasher, a kettle and a toaster. There’s an oven and a hob, but some kind of technical swotting is required before they can be used. Several of the cupboards are still without doors and the floor is covered in stiff plastic sheeting. The quartz worktop is frighteningly pristine.

πŸ“Œ A message from my union tells me that Wednesday next week is International Workers’ Memorial Day, a remembrance of all those who lost their lives at work. The message states…

“Every year more people are killed at work than in wars. Most don’t die of mystery ailments, or in tragic ‘accidents’. They die because an employer decided their safety just wasn’t that important a priority.”

As someone on who almost died at work, but was then supported wholeheartedly by my employer (the Guardian newspaper) in my fight for life, I shall nevertheless mourn those who weren’t so lucky.

πŸ“Œ Finding witty ways to pair the words ‘tax’ and ‘text’ is this weekend’s media sport.

πŸ“Œ A crazy Australian fantasist is going to court to prove he’s the secret lovechild of Charles and Camilla. He’s pissed off that they’ve ignored his letters demanding a DNA test and says he has a picture of his daughter that looks like The Queen.

πŸ“Œ You simply can’t move for intellectuals overusing the word “fungible”.

πŸ“Œ Marina Hyde reckons “James Dyson” is just secret code for Boris’s latest sex partner.

πŸ“Œ At today’s online coffee/chat with local friends I learned about the lost language of Polari, which was widely used among subcultures, and especially the gay community, until the decriminalisation of homosexuality starting in 1967. I was also introduced to the work of the surrealist photographer Angus McBean.

πŸ“Œ Decided to have a go at digital collage. This is my a tribute to Sam Jevon.

SUNDAY 25 The view that Boris used a deadly pandemic to shield dodgy Covid Cash payoffs to his mates is sticking fast.

“The argument goes that Mr Johnson won’t be much hurt because an expectation that he will behave badly is already ‘in the price’. “

πŸ“Œ The three punctures in my right arm following a visit to the “cheerful” sight-impaired phlebotomist last week have healed surprisingly well. The single puncture in my left arm, made with a “baby needle”, has left a big bruise.

πŸ“Œ I forgot to check if Waitrose has changed from Chicken Kiev to Chicken Kyiv yet.

πŸ“Œ The Hampshire stitchwork tote bag is finished and ready to carry potatoes and carrots.

Hampshire in stitches…

MONDAY 26 Keir Starmer has screwed up on Twitter by getting his facts wrong about the Matchwomen’s Strike of 1888.

From the Morning Star…

πŸ“Œ While listening to Bernard Cribbins singing Right Said Fred on the radio and reminiscing about the Two Ronnies, we started to wonder what makes teenagers laugh. So I Googled it and it turns out they laugh at one-liners, wordplay and hipster jokes (eg, Q: How do you drown a hipster? A: In the mainstream.).

πŸ“Œ I might be borderline obsessed with the Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit. Maybe it’s a classic western white male retirement crisis thing, dwelling on a pair of 30ish Swedish sisters, who warble.

πŸ“Œ Governments could easily save money by improving the environments of their citizens. New research shows, as if it wasn’t obvious, that people who grow up in cash-strapped, violent households will end up physically and mentally screwed.

πŸ“Œ Stuart sent a video clip of John Lennon getting angry during an interview. At one point he tries to carve out a reasonable argument, but beneath it all he is rushing headlong to boiling point.

TUESDAY 27 An article in The Conversation describes the gender imbalance among the UK’s powerful Metro Mayors in the run-up to the May local elections. Tracy Brabin in West Yorkshire is one rare exception… If she wins. Her Wikipedia entry is written in Yorkshire dialect, so she’d get my vote, if I had one.

πŸ“Œ Determined once and for all to learn Procreate. Getting some help from Lisa Bardot and just finished messing with shadows.

πŸ“Œ Is it me, or is Boris’s trajectory starting to look a lot like Sarkozy’s?

WEDNESDAY 28 Still waiting for Stacey Dooley to report from 10 Downing Street for a special edition of her TV show This Is My House. Marina Hyde got in early.

πŸ“Œ Reading my diary from this week last year I remarked how Zoom has an inbuilt safe-distance mechanism. And one year on I still prefer it to meeting some people face to face.

πŸ“Œ What was pitched as a short telephone survey on transport use for the disabled turned into a marathon. Sorry, Beverly, lovely to talk to you, but you don’t half drag things out.

πŸ“Œ Headway’s Summer collaboration with the Barbican is now three projects rolled into one. I hope it can still be fun with such a compound identity.

πŸ“Œ “Bossnapping“. There’s an interesting new word to play with. I wonder what the equivalent might be for a non-hierarchical workplace.

THURSDAY 29 The Cash for Curtains story just wont let up. Who knew that a home makeover had such far-reaching political implications.

If we could peek inside No10, writes Zoe Williams, “what we’d see is not timeless English class, but a billionaire oligarch’s idea of what an aristocratic English interior should look like.”

πŸ“Œ I’m sure Kate is only Kate because Catherine won’t fit across a single tabloid newspaper column. Anyway, she’s been married to William, aka Wills, for 10 years today.

πŸ“Œ Pavement portraits using a receipt printer. Is this a viable proposition?

Your receipt, Madam…

πŸ“Œ It’s like Boris sees himself as the eternal naughty boy caught with his fingers in the pie. His desperate need to tell lies seems to be hard-wired into his personality. The idea that he lies deliberately in order to get found out is a new one on me, but the theory does have a ring of truth.

πŸ“Œ It only seems like a matter of time before the rump of the Conservative Party turns on its leader. His performance when questioned in Parliament yesterday was an embarrassing spectacle. At one point he seemed to lose all control and slipped back into his seat red in face and full of fury.

The metaphor of the slipped mask is an overused one, as is the one about where the bodies are buried. An emboldened media has him on the run now, and the media is a permanently hungry animal. One by one, even his closest allies are shifting silently away from the epicentre of shame. It might only be a matter of weeks before the trigger is cocked.

FRIDAY 30 We’re still using what’s left of the lockdown, plus the chaos of the home refurbishment, to binge-watch TV we never saw the first time round. We’ve just gone right back to the beginning of Call The Midwife, and I notice that the nuns know instantly that the surname Cholmondeley is pronounced Chummly.

πŸ“Œ Pleased to discover that Kezia Dugdale has lost none of her spirit or enthusiasm for progressive politics. Scottish politics is distinguished by its prominence of women. Dugdale (formerly Labour), Ruth Davidson (Conservative), Nicola Sturgeon (SNP). And they are all “flawed” in their own ways, which makes their successes more fascinating.

πŸ“Œ 49 years later… Still fascinated by Carly Simon’s pronunciation of the word apricot.

πŸ“Œ The Home Studio session was all about the harlequin, with Alex posing in a costume she got in a job lot from eBay. She started by showing us various harlequin pictures, from traditional representative paintings to some weird ones by Picasso. I wasn’t sure how to tackle it, so I went weird…

Alex as harlequin…
Billy attempt 1…

…and then even weirder…

Billy attempt 2…

πŸ“Œ The 12 prefabricated undercover market stalls outside our local supermarket that have never been used have now found a use, as an outside undercover drinking area for fun-loving post-lockdowners who buy their drinks either in the pub over the road or from the supermarket, where the bottled beer shelves had large gaps.

Read all of my scrapbook diaries…

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