One year ago: Week 20 2020


Monday There’s a sense today that this week could be a tipping point. The government has staggered into a statement about the way out of lockdown. The media is full of ridicule. Three of the four nations do not support it. Will England follow them, or stick to its determined path?

Sienna Rodgers in LabourList says this of the PM’s national address: “The [Johnson] statement was effectively a declaration of class war. Those who can work from home are more likely to be better paid, and they can protect themselves, whereas those in construction and manufacturing must put their lives on the line so that bosses can protect their profits.”

📌 Taz called to chat. She tells me that fasting at home is easier than at work. She said the tiredness is harder to deal with when you bundle in the daily challenge of the Central Line. I agreed to contact S because he has little in common with the people who live in his supported-living place and he is probably terrified. I sent an email asking him a question about a pub in Matthew Street.

Tuesday The intention was to sit outside in the sunshine and work out what the hell was going on in Killing Eve. Every time we come back to this series I can’t remember where we got to. All I can be sure of is that Jodie Comer is an assassin with a twisted sense of humour and that Sandra Oh agonises about everything.

📌 The lone magpie is still wandering around the lawn, so yes, I guess something tragic must have happened.

📌 Johnson has gone all Trump. It seems he didn’t check his Sunday address (“Stay Alert”) with the Chief Medical Officer beforehand. He has allowed 40,000 people to die so that he can follow his narrow political and economic fetishes. He is no longer “following the science”.

📌 I continued with Hilda Ogden’s curlers all the way through The Darkest Hour. The film came so highly recommended that it never crossed my mind that it could be a turkey. The scene in which Churchill (Gary Oldman) got on a London tube train for the first time and asked “the people” whether he should negotiate with Hitler was 100% puke.

Wednesday This is the first day out of Lockdown, or at least the first day of the “easing” process. The PM’s new slogan, “Stay Alert”, has faced so much ridicule I felt it was improper not to join in. I have started to sign off my emails not with Stay Safe, but: Stay Alert! Boo!! (just testing).

📌 Lisa posted a funny clip on Twitter of her staying alert and hitting imaginary Covids with a wooden backscratcher.

📌 The Conversation has all the stories worth reading…

📌 The Chancellor of the Exchequer has extended the furlough scheme – a jobs-retention measure – until October. That seems like a good thing, but something tells me it’s actually a business subsidy that gives employers some time to decide the ways in which they’d like to exit the crisis. Many will choose to sack workers. In other words, it is a taxpayer-funded mini industrial massacre the government hopes it won’t get the blame for.

📌 Every day brings a new surprise delivery when the products I bought online after alcohol finally arrive. Today was especially exciting. I got a mixed set of Gütermann threads and a stainless steel knork.

The knork you’ve been waiting for…

📌 I gave myself a huge number of brownie points for solving the Kitchen Crisis. My wife noticed that when she opened the fridge door, the light did not come on. This probably meant the fridge was off. By a masterful stroke of deduction (prompted by my wife’s insistence that we needed to buy a new fridge), I urged a check of the main fuse box. The fuse had tripped.

📌 Keir Starmer apparently gave Bojo a right duffing up in PMQs.

📌 My wife has never seen Spooks, so we went right back to Series 1 on iPlayer.

Thursday News arrives that Zoe Ball’s breakfast radio show has lost one million listeners. It is personally comforting to know that we are new additions to her cosy broadcasting parlour, bucking the trend and presumably making Zoe feel a bit better about herself.

📌 I imagine a time in the near future when, despite the risks, to continue to opt out of or resist the drift “back to normal” will feel uncomfortable, and those who continue to protect their health will become outcasts by default.

📌 There’s a big ruck going on about excess mortality. April 2020 saw an increase of 50,000 deaths, but only a proportion of them because of Coronavirus. What the virus did do, however, is shape the way dying people shuffled off. The last moments and the funeral were dictated by the handling of the crisis. One man on Twitter reported “attending” his father’s death from his kitchen, alone on the phone. 

📌 Hilda’s curlers were a pest, but, I’m quite enjoying the hair.

📌 Another day, another mystery delivery arrives, this time some T-shirts from Uniqlo.

📌 I didn’t make the Headway art session this morning, but Emily sent me the still life they did, and this was my belated effort. Very quick and very sloppy. That is NOT a baguette next to the bowl of things that hopefully look like lemons. It is some kind of grooved artisanal stick, or maybe an ethnic musical instrument.

📌 The Liftup (as opposed to Lockdown) is progressing.

📌 I’m now back in touch with Stuart, and understandably he’s been streamoftexting. The banter we used to do face to face is now done with our thumbs. He reminded me about a pub on Matthew Street, The Grapes, and reminisced about a night in the Everyman Bistro with Julian Cope. He said something I wrote reminded him of John Betjeman. I corrected his misspelling of the poet’s surname and said thank you.

Friday The Morning Star is not biting its tongue.

📌 I stopped reading an article when I came across a sentence referencing the “Office of National Statistics”.

📌 Cristina sent me a picture of what a friend did with the Masculinities tutorial thingy.

And one Michelle sent me by Dave.

📌 Andy has gone off on one about the new libertarian Liftup trend.

📌 It’s fun browsing the Wish site trying to work out what some of the products are.

📌 Thankfully, Susie Dent is staying alert…

📌 We did the monoprinting workshop on Zoom with some of the people from the Barbican Creative Learning team. It was a fun way for them to end the working week. Masculinities assistant curator Chris Bayley joined us to talk about the images and themes of the exhibition. I never thought the social side of the workshop could work remotely, but it did. I watched their behaviour throughout. Beth and her sister Becky seemed well into it. Josie, too. The project was always meant to be a conversation springboard and a way to share different ways of seeing. It also works well as a fun and easy way to study art appreciation (history, theory, methods, aesthetics).

Saturday At the end of the Zoom coffee morning (theme = blue), Brian told us that Leila died in hospital yesterday, age 91.

📌 Dermot O’Leary is recommending a Netflix series called White Lines.

📌 How a new loaf looks has probably become just as important as its taste. Quite impressed with this one.

📌 We did the Headway fundraising Zoom quiz and watched State of Happiness, which I noticed is nudging into feminism by making the women the smartest and most skilful players in 1970s Norway.

Sunday Gill got me into the Acute Art app, which does the Augmented Reality (AR) thing. She has been wandering around London placing a constipated puffin in various locations. It starts to have a much-needed crap then thinks better of it and pulls out of the manoeuvre. I fiddled with the app and accidentally got a cartoon character dancing around our living room under the Northern Lights.

📌 There were two magpies on the lawn, but they each kept themselves to themselves.

📌 Just as I was starting to believe the country was in the grip of a new kind of authoritarian rule, Andrew Rawnsley claims the PM’s power is dissolving as the list of government screw-ups grows by the day, and loyalty with it.

📌 The experiment in oven-made flatbread was a failure. I think it’s time to stop experimenting and stick to the recipe.

📌 Beth’s sister Becky posted the picture she did at the Barbican Zoom print workshop.

📌 My wife has been watching a dubious TV programme on the sly. I caught her glued to a spectacle called 1000lb Sisters, which details the ups and downs of two grossly overweight American women. The title of the programme is derived from the fact that one of the sisters weighs 600lb and the other, the skinny one, 400lb. The banality of their conversations is no different to anyone else’s banality. Their fatness is what gives them their edge. My wife’s quote is: “Behind every overweight person there is someone who assists and enables them. They’re too fat to shop for food, so someone does it for them. There’s always a husband or a boyfriend doing it. It’s a form of abuse.”

📌 In Spooks Matthew Macfadyean is suffering the consequences of telling his girlfriend he is a spy. “I’m not Matthew, I’m Tom” was how he put it. She pissed off pronto with her daughter Maisie (who seemed OK with Matthew being Tom) and slammed the door in Tom’s face.

Read all of my scrapbook diaries…

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