One year ago: Week 18 2020


MONDAY I was reading late last night and my wife came into the bedroom with a grim look on her face: “There’s been a terrible accident.” It turned out that the chicken stock I’d made earlier and carefully decanted into an old orange-juice bottle was ruined. The paper grease-sucking techno-pad I’d inserted loosely into the neck of the bottle to suck up the surface fat had dropped right inside, gorged itself on all the excess fat it could find and exploded, depositing its magical absorbent grains into the rich, chickeny liquid. The stock was contaminated with who knows what. It was more mishap than “terrible accident”, I said.

📌 It looks from the PM’s speech that the government will be using divide-and-rule to bring the country out of the Coronavirus crisis. It appears to reveal a bigger, stricter system of regulation as businesses and industries will emerge, one by one, out of the Lockdown. But the suspicion of course is that this ushers in a new era of corrupt practices in which rules are relaxed, bent and bought off as time goes on. This puts the Labour movement back to where it was roughly 100 years ago.

📌 We were Zooming for Séan’s 10th birthday, and half way through he announced he was leaving because “adult conversation” (kitchen tips) had taken over the session.

TUESDAY We watched a new TV drama last night called Normal People. It is a class teenage love story and it’s a teenage love story about class, set in Ireland. Much of the first episode took place in a classroom, the rest in middle-class girl’s comfortable detached empty home and involved super-inelligent, intellectually snotty adolescent girl copulating with super-perceptive lesser-class insecure adolescent boy, who’s very good at gaelic football. Brilliant performances.

📌 I learned during an online coffee that J passes unwanted ice cream over the garden fence to a neighbour and P has “developed a strange relationship with the [vulnerable] woman over the road”, who posts empty packages through their letterbox to indicate what items she’d like P to get her from the shops.

WEDNESDAY Headway’s radio show wanted me to plug the monoprinting video tutorial I’ve done for the Barbican, so I did a Zoom interviewing with Alex. It was fun, and much less stress than trying to monologue it, which is my worst nightmare.

Homemade radio…

As we talked I noticed a lovely ceramic on the shelf behind Alex and she told me it was part of a project she did with her partner Dave (genius editor of the video tutorial). Together they made 12 dozen egg cups in 12 months. This is my favourite, which I have named the ‘Buckaroo Egg Cup’.

Buckaroo Egg Cup…

📌 I’m getting better at the Answer Smash section of Richard Osman’s House of Games. I got “guinea pigneous” and “Ed Milibandontherun” today.

📌 Our friend Sarah came up with two treats: an easy banana ice cream, and a streamed gig of Palestinian jazzer Faraj Suleiman from Kings Place. Both at the same time more than doubled the pleasure.

📌 The TV adaptation of Normal People has started to bore me. The early part, in which Connell attached to “the group” more easily – and to the exclusion of his love for Marianne – has passed into a reversal. In college, Marianne is the “groupie” and Connell the loner. Too much slurpy sex has started to dilute the power of the story. I’m looking for other things to do while it’s on.

📌 The news that BA is to cut tens of thousands of jobs is a story we are likely to hear more often from now on. The statement that their business now needs to be “reimagined” makes mass unemployment sound like the start of a new Enlightenment.

📌 There’s been an amusing trickle of stories on what people have used as makeshift face coverings when venturing outdoors. One friend in Brighton re-purposed an insomniac’s eye mask. Now I discover that the comedian Richard Herring, when stranded awaiting a tyre-change at Kwik-fit in his local village, used his runner’s bum bag, “which worked pretty well as it was made of breathable material and the zip looked like a big smile.”

THURSDAY Michelle hosted an Open Studio Zoom today. It was fun and a great pleasure to see some of the other Headway members, plus staffers Emily, Laura J and Alex. Tony A joined in and it was a joy to see that poxy old Arsenal shirt again.

📌 I was browsing my outstanding Amazon purchases when my wife remarked that the list would make an appropriate diary for Lockdown.

📌 At the Brighton Zoom quiz, Janet & Dave’s hosting/quizmastering was interrupted by a massive off-screen clatter, scream and the sound of breaking glass. Their daughter had fallen down the stairs, was bleeding lightly but otherwise OK. After a short pause, Janet & Dave continued, but got increasingly confused about the order of the questions.

📌 In Young Sheldon Pastor Jeff is thinking about moving into the house next door to the Coopers.

FRIDAY The TUC has launched an online Mayday hashtag, #ThankAWorker.

📌 It was disturbing to discover a BBC podcast series called Obsessed With Normal People, as I felt I had become obsessed with disliking Normal People. I started to listen to the first instalment but grew as irritated with it as I am with the TV drama. I learned also that Obsessed With… is a BBC strand. There is an Obsessed With Killing Eve podcast, too.

📌 The Barbican monoprinting workshop video is getting some attention. It looks good, thanks to Dave’s editing skills. It is in the Barbican’s May Guide.

SATURDAY Saturdays DO generally start with the Marina Hyde column in the Guardian, and today was no exception. It included this telling passage.

📌 My wife pointed to an Ask the Expert column on the Guardian website which tackled one of the day’s most pressing issues.

One of the answers was superficially well-meaning.

But then its fault was revealed in a spiky riposte.

Only to be trumped by the original correspondent.

📌 The need to collect a prescription took us through the Barbican so I got some shots for an Instagram project I’ve been asked to do.

SUNDAY The Lockdown routines are turning into comfortable habits. Sunday starts with editing last week’s diary and posting it online.

📌 Agreed with a friend to share a glass of fizz next Thursday on Zoom to celebrate her special birthday. Then it was straight into making a new soda loaf. This one has no oats or bran and tastes a bit dull. It also doesn’t look too beautiful, which is because I just mix and pour. No handling, rolling, shaping, etc. I probably need to overcome my reluctance to get my fingers stuck into the dough.

📌 We watched a gripping 1970s psychological film called ‘The Conversation’, starring Gene Hackman as a security snoop who is driven to paranoia and ultimately insanity by his own guilt. It also features a very young Harrison Ford.

📌 There is something dodgy going on with the internet connection. Our friend in Brighton dropped off her network and couldn’t join our Zoom quiz. I have just spent 10 minutes watching a 2.5mb picture sending via email. Using any internet service while a catch-up TV app is running is impossible.

📌 I’ve stopped hating Normal People so much. It might be because we’re getting to the end of the 12 episodes, or maybe I’ve been blessed with some tolerance spirit I never had before. I still find Connell and Marianne’s obsessive introspection irritating, but I’ve softened, a bit.

📌 Andrew Rawnsley’s column in the Observer talks about the government’s precarious next steps towards rebooting “business as usual”. I read elsewhere that in other countries schoolchildren are returning to their classrooms, but enter school only after a temperature test. There is muttering in the UK media that “immunity passports” will be issued within months.

Read all of my scrapbook diaries…

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