SATURDAY We’d just decided to tackle Peaky Blinders, another TV series everyone else has seen but we never did. Then we had a coffee at Fix with Amanda and she went all fan-girl for Ewan McGregor in Halston on Netflix. So that was that.
📌 Stuart revealed that at his posh-boy school he played a prehistoric game called Fives, in which your hand performs the role of a tennis racquet. Stuart says that to compound the poshness they wore smart white kid gloves from a shop in Liverpool called Watson Prickard.
📌 I am official Shed Monitor at our local community allotments. It is my job to keep things tidy and well maintained. Today, I attempted to bring some order to what had become a cauldron of chaos and cobwebs. My fellow growers are a careless lot. Tools go missing regularly and I’ve lost count of the number of messages I’ve had asking for the combination for the shed padlock, “I always forget,” they yelp pathetically.
📌 You make your husband a cup of tea and he drops dead. Then you root through his possessions and discover he has another family, in another country. A daft idea turns out to be an agonising study of a woman on a journey through lies and deceit to find out who she really is. And who she wants to be.
MONDAY There’s an article in the Guardian that says the “centre” of politics is not the harmless place you imagine it to be. It is where all that’s bad with the status quo, settles in comfort, no questions asked.
📌 There’s something baffling out there call Bitcoin Mines, which are full of bitcoin miners who are draining the world’s supply of electricity. No one is sure what to do about it. More frighteningly, it brings to mind the image of former mineworkers union leader Arthur Scargill shouting, “We produce the best deep-mine bitcoin in the world.”
📌 The new stitchwork is a no doubt doomed attempt at sketching with thread. Based on an archive image from the Autograph APB collection.
TUESDAY The Socialist Worker reckons that the new G7 deal to stamp out global tax avoidance is a con. It argues that setting a “minimum” corporation tax rate at 15% when most countries already have it at over 20% will in effect make the minimum the maximum, as happened with the minimum wage in the UK. The Conversation suggests: “File most of this under ‘tax advisers being quite accomplished at finding loopholes’.”
📌 One of those “Doh, obvious!” moments of realisation has stuck with me since viewing the Rodin exhibition at Tate Modern recently. What I saw at the exhibition was more of a representation of those who selected the items on display, and their availability, than of Auguste Rodin himself. In other words, no exhibition or collection is actually ABOUT it’s subject, it is someone’s point of view on that subject.
📌 Two recent articles put the PM in the hot seat over Ireland (again). One in the Guardian insists that visiting US President Joe Biden has the opportunity to force Boris into making serious political and economic decisions. The other, in the Morning Star, is headlined: “A united Ireland is the only way through Brexit’s blockages, bottlenecks and bureaucratic burdens”.
📌 Such a relief to discover that hedgehogs and walruses are not to blame…
📌 There’s a fascinating article in The Critic which draws an exact parallel between the political successes of Tony Blair and Boris Johnson. It quotes Johnson himself writing about Blair in the same words Johnson’s critics now use against him. He told his fellow Conservatives in a Telegraph article that they would only win power again when “enough people realise they have been swindled” [by Blair].
📌 All the headlines say that French President Emmanuel Macron got a slap from an angry crowd member. Close inspection of the video footage shows that he actually dodged the blow, like a canny boxer might have.
WEDNESDAY Taxation is starting to be seen as an equality issue, and not before time. And even in the US, where to be stinking rich has always carried some kind of strange blessing.
📌 Reading my Diary from this time last year is like stepping into the past and the future at the same time. Will the appearance of Dominic Cummings in the news agenda soon become an early Summer annual event?
📌 The Barbican has asked if I can now do the clay workshop as a real event. And Nat is keen to join in as resident “expert ceramicist”. This could be fun.
📌 “Progress was made on guide dogs”. I really don’t understand why that wasn’t the headline.
📌 My wife accidentally tipped a bag of quinoa into a large jar containing couscous. We will shortly be handing out our bespoke quincous recipes.
📌 It’s been a while since Sam sent over any of her drawings.
THURSDAY While recording a bit for a Headway podcast yesterday, we churned over the question “What is the first thing you ever made?” This was in the wider context of the question “Who is the artist and what do they do?” I spoke about working in his shed with my dad, making a photographic enlarger from an old oil drum and a broken bellows camera. I told also of making a crystal set straight from diodes, capacitors, etc, plus lots of solder. Jess said that her job involved making things happen and we all wondered whether that was “art”. It sounds like a spurious argument, but that’s what theatre and screen directors and production teams do. Maybe the studio nominations for the Turner Prize are not so surprising after all. In a silly moment we all agreed that “air is art”.
📌 The TV series Time, is unremittingly grim in its depiction of prison life. And it reminded me of the warning we got when volunteering at Pentonville to not let the prisoners get inside your head. Tell them NOTHING about yourself, we were instructed. The actors in this drama did, however, get into my head, so much so that the distinctive smell of prison came back to me.
📌 More and more people are getting on buses without face masks.
📌 The buildings at Timber Wharf are being re-clad in line with the recommendations following the Grenfell Fire disaster. The old deadly cladding is little more than polystyrene blocks, painted to look like render.
📌 Kat wasn’t initially keen to pose for the latest entry into the #katyasshoes portfolio, arguing that her feet were too unsightly. Undaunted, I persevered and got the shot.
📌 The Barbican has been slammed for being institutionally racist – by its own staff. I’m not sure its customers are any more diverse. Whenever we attend an event there we play the absurdist game of Spot The Non-White Face.
📌 Making prints using a pasta rolling machine and old Tetra pak cartons sounds like something off Blue Peter. You first etch your drawing on to the inside out of a juice carton…
📌 Ken agreed to partner up for the clay workshops the Barbican has asked me to do. We are billing ourselves as the Morecambe & Wise of clay.
FRIDAY Full Fact has a clear summary of the government plan to share NHS data. Nevertheless, it’s hard not to see this as the government opening the door to the snake-oil salesmen and that it won’t be long before citizens are offered a “cash windfall” if they agree to share their private medical data to an open market.
📌 The campaign to change the word Empire to Excellence in the naming of the honours awarded to citizens by the Queen (OBE, CBE, MBE, etc) reminds me of my own lonely campaign to have the word Service in the NHS changed to System.
📌 John Crace sometimes falls over trying to get to the point, but today’s report of Matt Hancock’s failure to deliver his homework to the select committees is a masterclass in sketch-writing. The punchline is a suggested question, “What Door Matt Did To Dom”…
📌 Sam’s latest picture (for an ‘Among The Flowers’ project) puts her reputation as the “Queen of Wonky” at risk. It’s not very wonky at all.
📌 The new etching tool is like a dentist’s drill. Etching plastic is easy, but needs practice, so I’m sure there will be plenty of badly drawn everything prints in this scrapbook soon.
📌 The DIY haircuts began over a year ago. The amount of hair yielded on each occasion has been decreasing steadily.
📌 Anthony Hopkins deserves his Oscar for The Father. The film from the stage play suits his style. As if to prove the daft conclusion we came to on Wednesday that “air is art”, in lots of moments both he and co-star Olivia Coleman are featured in static shot, merely thinking the character they are playing.