One year ago: Week 24 2020


8-14 June

Monday There was a story on the radio about extreme DIY dentistry during the Lockdown. One of the methods for dealing with a painful cavity was to strip the red plastic from a Babybel cheese, dissolve it in spit to form a paste, and to plug the hole with that. Another told of people replacing crowns with superglue. Many spoke of buying DIY dentistry kits on the internet.

📌 A question on my Quora feed asks, “What is a cockwomble?” The top answer goes into a lengthy expression of admiration for the term before getting to the definition: “It’s an annoying twat who is patently wrong but will not shut up, even when you prove how wrong he is (it’s always a he).”

📌 Historic England has published an online photo exhibition of life during Lockdown. It features pictures from both professionals and public, and as a collection it manages to capture the dislocation we’ve all faced and dealt with in our own ways.

📌 With the quarantine and public-transport restrictions that are now being introduced, the government has finally got to the place it should have been at 3 months ago. 

📌 Back in the 1980s when I worked on the music press, one of the hot bands was Pop Will Eat Itself, fronted by a character called Clint Mansell, who now writes exquisite film music.

📌 This time last year I was working on the St Etienne football memory painting.

📌 Stuart thinks I should write a biography of Felix Pappalardi, a US muso who played with both Mountain and Cream.

📌 In Schitt’s Creek Moira wore a ridiculous Barbra Streisand wig to Ronnie’s “girls” party in the belief that they were all lesbians. And in Spooks, Zoe got convicted of manslaughter but was then able to do a runner to Chile. Danny cried.

Tuesday I wanted to know what the weather was like on the day I was born.

📌 The cocktail bar looks good cleaned up. We’re not sure we want to sell it now.

📌 On the TED Radio Hour there was a feature on alternative narratives of death. One of them was the “positive” return of the body to the environment. We heard from a woman who’d invented a mushroom burial suit because mushrooms are the magical thing that will cleanse the human body of its many toxins, decompose it quickly and “transform” it into a mulch that will feed and fertilise future earth-based life forms. The nirvana scenario is to see a tree or a rose bush growing out of your grave. The woman had therefore devised a netted burial shroud impregnated with mushroom spores. She hoped to progress to some more stylish designs in the near future.

📌 At the Guardian online coffee meet, Angela said she liked Rishi Sunak, Philippa had been doing night shifts making up food parcels and Margaret showed us a Cut-price Portrait she did. Emma made an appearance, even though she will give birth any minute (or more likely Thursday). I secretly hoped it would happen right then, like a live-streaming event.

Margaret’s portrait…

📌 The serial killing in Cardinal is really quite gruesome. My wife thinks that the grisliness of TV killings are diluted when viewed with subtitles. Some of the Scandi-noir murders are just as visceral, but the effect is muted when the death rattle is in Swedish, Danish or Norwegian, written across the bottom of your TV screen.

Wednesday I just read Richard Herring’s diary entry on Bristol and the toppling of the Colston statue. His point of view sits comfortably alongside those of the historian David Olusoga.

📌 Michelle asked those of us who appeared in Posy’s film, Chaos/Quest, to write some feedback. I said it was a special film that captured the remote, lonely experience of brain injury.

📌 Stuart wondered why Nik Kershaw chose to reference Arran in his song The Riddle when other two-syllable locations (“Bootle or Scunthorpe”) would have done the job.

📌 The word “throuple” (three in a ‘coupling’) was used in Schitt’s Creek.

Thursday The Headway Home Studio session included a visit from an illustrator, Katie Scott, who majors in botanicals, fantastical and zoological. She gave us a picture of a leopard and a lion to work from. I ignored the leopard and cut off the lion’s head.

📌 We finished Killing Eve and declared it a disappointment. We lost enthusiasm when they gave a whole episode to probing Villanelle’s embarrassing family in Russia. They were so embarrassing she killed them all without the blink of an eye.

📌 The virus is said to disproportionately affect BAMEs, but explanation and context are not given. Unqualified, the high incidence of infection is a potential weapon in a race war. The facts need better reporting.

Friday Stuart sent a message about The Venerable Bede, implying he wasn’t such a good guy.

📌 It looks like British lives do have a price. The economy has tanked by 20% and there’s a Tory clamour to restart what we had before. The capitalists clearly can’t afford for the restrictions to continue.

📌 Michelle’s Creative Challenge was all about The Thinker, so I took a picture of Errol’s ceramic.

📌 I hadn’t heard from Stuart in six hours, so I sent him an email:

Dear Rev Donaldson
Can I ask for your reminiscences of ice-cream? I was just chatting on Zoom with my sister and cousins, and we chanced upon our different strategies for finishing off an ice-cream cone. My wife contributed by saying she used to push the flake deep into the cone’s cavity, which I took to be a nod to the work of professor Freud. I would bite off the tip of the cone and suck out the ice-cream. I suspect that to be something deeply psychoanalytical, too. Have you any input on ice-cream (psychoanalysis not necessary)? FYI: We grew up with Mr Whippy (Freud again?)

📌 We finished Cardinal and decided to move on to Series 2.

Saturday We had a brief conversation about who is the funniest. I don’t think either of us is in any doubt.

📌 At the Breakfast Club Zoom, we all played one minute of a favourite piece of music and said why it was important to us. I chose Scott McKenzie’s San Francisco and my wife picked Elton John’s Tiny Dancer.

📌 I’ve looked at it from both sides now, and the Tres Amigas hen-party stitchwork project is growing on me. I might even get to like it soon.

📌 I’m always pleased to read updates of Michael Rosen’s progress.

Sunday We were chatting about racism and ended up talking about the play my wife’s cousin Michael appeared in last year at the Chichester Festival, Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads. He’d said there was a possibility it would be staged in the West End in the Autumn and we’d agreed he could use our spare room for the duration. All those plans went down the toilet with the pandemic, but if my memory of the play is right, most of the actors are socially distanced (inside a fake pub), so the possibility of staging and even filming the play inside a big studio is possible. It is so relevant after yesterday’s events in London.

📌 A psychotherapist friend has been sending us a tune a day during Lockdown. Today it was Ronnie Lane’s The Poacher.

📌 The Zoom quiz is a thing of beauty. Because you are trusted to not cheat and to mark your own scores, there is no competitiveness. The sole purpose is to engage with others in the pleasure of testing and sharing knowledge. Anyone who feels bad after a Zoom quiz has unresolved psychological issues.

📌 A cheese feast is on the menu, so I got to make a small Auntie Tricia soda bread loaf.

📌 Just found three self-portraits I don’t remember doing.

📌 Just as I was missing the input of Gary Younge to the BLM debate (he left the Guardian to be a professor of sociology at Manchester University), he makes a timely comeback with a long essay pulling in the types of empire European countries built and the incendiary presence of Trump in the current US protests.

Read all of my scrapbook diaries…

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