May 29 – June 4
SATURDAY Just as I was about to set off on a trip to the outdoor gym in Spa Fields…
📌 Marina Hyde places Boris alongside David Koresh and Charlie Manson in a list of cult leaders. It begs the question of how Boris’s “King of the World” story will end. Trump juiced up a murderous riot at the heart of government. Will Boris’s followers yield so easily to violent action in defence of their cult leader, the People’s Toff? Will his cultists turn on him as being both incompetent and an embarrassnent? Netflix are probably ghosting the Original story right now. Executive Producer: Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson.
📌 A monied class of young professionals has adopted the area around Liverpool Street and Broadgate as a social hangout.
📌 An Eataly has opened in Liverpool Street. It was rammed with the unvaccinated. We have good memories of the Eataly in Bologna and it’s reverence for the Slow Food movement. I even found an app with lots of their recipes.
The London enterprise has a different vibe. It is a gigantic blingy shopping mall dressed up in expensively packaged Italian finery, as if Donatella Versace waved her wand over Selfridge’s Food Hall.
📌 Even though I had decided to support Manchester City in the Champions’ League final, when Chelsea scored I was strangely delighted.
SUNDAY Channel 4’s Before We Die began as a mystery starring the ever-watchable Lesley Sharp, but by Ep3 it has turned badly into a stock gangster thriller with testosteronic gun-toting baddies and implausible plottery.
📌 A story in Socialist Worker claims that from July 1 the NHS will start selling patient data to commercial enterprises. This sounds like a scare story, but if true it makes for a fantastic TV serial-killer drama in which people who con citizens into handing over their data are viciously killed, one by one, in a sprawling year-long morality tale ending with the assassination of the Prime Minister.
📌 In a TV tribute to the brilliantly funny Friday Night Dinner, various actors, writers, producers, etc, talk about some of the show’s magic ingredients. The tribute is a 10th anniversary celebration, but also a memorial to the actor Paul Ritter, who died recently aged 54. Ritter’s character, Martin, had a catchphrase, “Shit on it!” for when things went wrong and exasperation got the better of him.
The phrase gained an unlikely fan following among students locked down in their sweaty student bedsits during the pandemic. They’d post signs in the window proclaiming “Shit on it!” as a comment on how the authorities were handling their plight.
In short, this anecdote brought into the Friday Night Dinner conversation the beauty of the catchphrase and how it has become a tickbox essential for a successful TV comedy.
In Meet The Richardsons, Lucy Beaumont sees the catchphrase as a cornerstone of “the BBC sitcom I’m writing”, Wet Cloth Dry Cloth (Google it). The catchphrase she employs is “Save it for bingo!” (pronounced bingeaurr in Hull). It is a line I use in mock desperation when my wife refuses to put the subject of a sentence she is speaking near the front of it.
📌 The people who run my wife’s gym have turned into yoga Nazis. They have streamlined their classes into three types: Calm, Align and Flow. This has infuriated my wife because she cannot now attend an Ashtanga class with a dedicated tutor. All instruction must now fit one of the three types. This has resulted in some quiet rebellion from the instructors. They sneak in some Ashtanga moves, for example, with the condition that should one of the gym’s officials appear, students must switch instantly into Calm, Align or Flow positions.
📌 I suspect I’m the only person in the world who doesn’t like the way Google automatically places an initial capital letter at the beginning of words it believes should have one. Google, for example. To search the web is such a generic activity that a lower-case g for Google is in my view OK. Try typing google, though, and your writing is instantly modified to Google.
📌 News of a fatal shooting nearby, coming shortly after a fatal stabbing, fuels speculation that post-pandemic Britain could fall into the grip of a crime wave, as it did in the years following WW2.
📌 The new Stitchwork project is a tote bag featuring a map showing the simplified geology of the British Isles.
📌 A “Special Thanks” mention for the Barbican’s Dubuffet exhibition must be worth a place in the Scrapbook.
📌 Is there a condition called Avoidance Failure? Probably.
MONDAY My wife instinctively believes that if I’m doing something on my mobile phone I am up to no good. She has a look that says Nothing Virtuous Can Be Accomplished With That Thing.
📌 The only surprise is that this has taken so long…
📌 Has that stuffy blue-stocking-chalk-stripe Conservative disappeared forever, or just been briefly dazzled speechless by the lies of their winning leader? Andrew Rawnsley sees more significance in the Cummings Testimony than many of them want to face up to.
📌 A dummy run for tomorrow’s clay workshop – in more ways than one.
📌 I was told off for dropping my mask for too long after sipping my wine in Barbican Cinema 2.
TUESDAY Power sharing in business might be another way to turn the tide on Labour’s flagging popularity.
📌 A charming CNN story about the quest to identify a mysterious man found dead on an Australian beach in 1948 includes a beautiful nugget on how a university professor took on the role of detective – and found love on the way… “After a single dinner dominated by talk of death and DNA, the pair decided to marry.”
📌 In a move to de-stigmatise coronavirus strains (India, Kent, etc), the World Health Organisation (WHO) will henceforth use the Greek alphabet (Alpha, Beta, Delta, etc) to name the various variants.
📌 As a fan of health data sharing, I’m glad my medical history is out there for all doctors and researchers to access. What will drive me to stop sharing is if NHS Digital doesn’t speak up soon to say that access to my data will be strictly controlled.
📌 The online clay workshop (Pinch Pot Portraits inspired by the work of Jean Dubuffet) went very well. All the members (from Accumulate and the Barbican) were far more creative than I was. I finished too early and made a clay flower just to give the Zoom box for “Billy’s Hands” something to show.
WEDNESDAY The Socialist Worker believes the revolutionary flame still burns across the nation. The pandemic experience has, against all natural urges, seen the Tories reach deep into the powers of state support: “They shut down most businesses and subsidised wages, when for decades Tory and Labour governments wanted to interfere as little as possible with profits and pay.” And with the Black Lives Matter, Kill The Bill and Palestine Solidarity movements, a strain of resistance is coming together in the public mind. Resistance is becoming a key word. Maybe a state of permanent agitation is a good thing for any society, although it does have uncomfortable echoes of the Israel/Palestine experience.
📌 The Conversation tells us there’s a pet-stress crisis looming. Dogs got so cozy with their owners over the past 12 months that they will be traumatised when they abandon them to return to work.
📌 The police custom of reporting “felicitous negation” is a fascinating insight into the subtlety of the evidence rigging in the Hillsborough trial.
📌 I went off-piste in Quora, ignored what they wanted to feed me and found a laugh…
📌 There’s a photo doing the rounds that almost humanises Keir Starmer. It’s a posed shot from his college days in Leeds. He was a New Romantic wannabe with a preposterous quiff and a studied gaze.
📌 Accumulate kindly posted a thank you message for the Pinchpot Portraits workshop.
THURSDAY The political changes in Israel look as shaky as ever. But there’s still some hope that tyranny is on its last legs in what used to be called The Holy Land.
📌 The building site outside our front door is in the final construction phase with the erection of a 14-storey residential tower block. The adjacent school is finished and being fitted out for September opening.
📌 One of the people at the Pinchpot Portraits workshop I did on Tuesday said they were boycotting Amazon because of their tax-avoidance stunts. I wondered then if tax had at last become a “cut-through” subject for the general public. Today’s story about Microsoft makes me think tax has at least made it to the agenda on “fairness”, whatever that is. Maybe the growing number of workers outside of the PAYE system has something to do with it.
📌 For reasons I’ll never be able to explain, I did not click on the Conversation story about “geometrically baffling quasicrystals”.
📌 At the Headway Art Café today, Emily said she likes drawing on bananas with a ballpoint pen.
FRIDAY Phoning the doctor’s surgery at 8am precisely is now the only way to get your medical needs on the agenda.
📌 The next stitchwork tote bag was not very satisfying. It is too clever for its own good. The title is… ‘Location: Arsenal FC (aka The Gunners or You Fakkin Gooners)’.
📌 The Pfizer jab is OK for 12-15 year-olds, say the experts.
📌 A friend told a suspicious story about the death of another friend, whose brand new laptop and an expensive underwater camera went missing in a hurried house clearance.
📌 While watching Have I Got News For You, my wife said that people with facial enhancement look “tight and shiny”.