One year ago: Week 26 2020

June 22-28…

Monday We did the online Community View of the Barbican’s Masculinities exhibition. They hinted that the Barbican could make a reopening announcement at the end of this week, which would be exciting. I facilitated the monoprinting workshop with my wife as my demonstration model. She did a portrait of one of the Portuguese bullfighters pictured in the exhibition.

We also did a free-writing exercise and a photographic study of something ‘masculine’. I did a car made out of a wire coathanger, but I’m not sure why.

I noticed in these exercises how I automatically turn topics into stories.

Tuesday My daily email from The Conversation tells me that Pluto, the planet that was demoted in 2006 to a “dwarf”, holds massive cosmological secrets.

One of them is that “it has had a warm interior ever since it formed, and may still have a liquid, internal ocean under its icy crust”. This means life on Pluto is technically possible.

Note the use of the word “may”, always a signal by scientists that they don’t want to stick their necks out and go straight for the “Dog seen shitting on Pluto” headline. It also signals that they don’t know the difference between “may” and “might”. The story brought to mind a picture I made last year as a possible prompt for Tony Brooks.

📌 Sophia and Liam are the top baby names of the last 12 months.

📌 At last, some real news…

📌 I was wrong. Harry Styles is not singing “watermelon sugar smile”, which sounds a bit racist. He is singing “watermelon sugar high”, and something else about strawberries on a warm summer’s evening.

📌 My wife brought a package with her when she delivered my cup of coffee, made with the newly refurbished electric espresso maker.

📌 Sam sent me a shot of her new picture. I want the wallpaper.

📌 Alan Bennett has remade his Talking Heads, the TV monologues that were so successful back in the late 1980s. The first two were both powerful stories, the first featuring Imelda Staunton as a nosey old biddy who has a narrow mind and a mania for writing letters of complaint. She is locked up in her own bitterness and ends up locked up in a real prison, where she finds the freedom to open her mind and to expand her horizons. The moral of this is hard to ignore. The second story featured Sarah Lancahire as a mother who has sexual feelings for her 15-year-old son, AND TELLS HIM! It was a dark, disturbing story that left us both feeling uncomfortable but nevertheless questioning the price of deviance and nonconformity in an intolerant world.

Wednesday Just as I thought the upcoming US presidential election was a foregone conclusion, Barack Obama has stepped up to campaign for the dud Democratic candidate Joe Biden. This makes what I presumed to be a catastrophic one-horse race an interesting battle of ideas, a contest I had switched off now definitely worth watching. It also raises the tantalising prospect that if Biden wins, Obama will return to government in some sub-presidential job, where I think he will thrive.

📌 Tom Petty’s family have taken legal action against Trump for using the dead star’s song I Won’t Back Down at a rally. This recalls the memory of Ronald Reagan using Bruce Springsteen’s Born In The USA, totally unaware that it is a song about the despair of Vietnam war veterans. Neil Young, a Canadian supporter of Bernie Sanders, had a similar ruck with Trump over his use of Rockin’ In the Free World, another song lyrically scathing about the US.

📌 The weekly email from the Royal Academy includes an online study of the Swiss painter Angelica Kauffman, in which we learn that it was considered improper for Renaissance women to draw real nudes, so they had to practise their life-drawing with sculptures. Kauffman, however, was rich enough to pay for private models and did her nudie drawing on the sly.

📌 Sam seems to be doing a picture every day under Lockdown. Today she sent me a photo of her Twiggy, which I love, but she says is one of the worst she’s ever done.

Twiggy, by Sam Jevon…

📌 Liverpool found their form in an empty Anfield and thrashed Palace 4-0. Mark Steel was watching.

Thursday Lockdown Catchup. Series 3 of Spooks was a turkey and Series 4 is all plot and no character.

📌 Zoe Ball had a story that there will be two special episodes of Normal People for Comic Relief. I can imagine a cracking satirical version of Connor and Marianne on the job. 

📌 July 4 has been renamed Trimdependence Day.

📌 I’m really hooked on the Home Studio Zoom sessions because it’s very like being back in the Arch at Timber Wharf, everyone painting, drawing, sculpting, talking, listening to music and enjoying the whole business if doing it together.

Today, Emily showed us some fantastic archive photos tracing the studio’s history, and Kat had arranged a still life exercise for us from some of the studio’s current contents. I focused on drawing Chris’s ceramic “mask”, which is in fact another of his self-portraits.

📌 I’m so bad at growing plants, anything that looks easy and low-maintenance is my holy grail. Our balcony gets a lot of sunshine, so I’ve decided that geraniums will be my pet plant, and I intend to make the ‘pelargonium peltatum’ my speciality. Famous last words, etc.

📌 Starmer has sacked Rebecca Long-Bailey over an article by Maxine Peake and anti-Semitism.

📌 I’m now half-expecting a Summer of race riots.

📌 The “translator” stepping in to speak for the Andalusian woman on the news had her job made easy. The woman was wearing a face mask.

📌 We both think Roland is the Eddie Grundy of Schitt’s Creek.

📌 Chelsea beat Man City 2-1, which meant…

Friday Lockdown Literature. The emotional intensity of Chapter 32 of David Copperfield is almost unbearable. Barkis has snuffed it, Little Em’ly has run off with Steerforth and heartbreak hangs heavily over the head of anyone with the surname Peggotty. At the end of the chapter Mr Peggotty concludes his miserable short stay in London with a foreboding pledge: “I am going to seek her fur and wide… my unchanged love is with my darling child, and I forgive her.”

📌 There are lots of Liverpool videos in circulation, including one of the team watching the closing seconds of last night’s Chelsea victory over Manchester City. They gathered for an outdoor screening at Formby Golf Club, which my cousin Helen describes as “their local”.

📌 Finally got word from Stuart, who had not been in touch for 4 days. He’d had a fall and was admitted to hospital. Hopes to be discharged next week.

📌 I said NO to a Zoom workshop pitch. I’d really rather plan for getting back to real ones.

📌 Another staircase is craned into the new building outside our front door.

Saturday The family asked me on Zoom yesterday whether I have been celebrating. I hadn’t. I was just quietly pleased, and contented myself how my philosophy of stroke rehabilitation has been shaped by Liverpool, from notions of goal-setting and possession to the inspiration of the individual talent in the team context. It’s always been a beautifully vague idea, but I cling to it. And then this piece appeared in The Conversation that got closest to defining it with any clarity.

📌 The Morning Star quotes Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures showing that care workers are dying from Coronavirus at twice the rate of the rest of the population.

📌 The question on Quora is: “What baby names are Illegal in Italy?” And it turns out they include the names of parents and siblings, “ridiculous” names and names from literature. Among the examples listed are Moby Dick, Great Gatsby and Joey Tribbiani.

📌 The ‘Breakfast Club’ Zoom was another great leap forward in shared storytelling. We all told of great memories when travelling or on holiday. I told of the Metaxa 5* nights in Crete on our honeymoon. Jane did the story of Uluru and the plover we ran over who cheated death in the roadhouse bird sanctuary.

📌 Ireland has formed a three-party coalition government, which makes it start to look very European. Deffo one to watch from now on. Will Sinn Fein eventually make it a Party Four?

📌 Stuart reconnected via email, pledging to check whether Michael Parkinson is dead yet, which I took to be a good sign.

Sunday 28 That Harry Styles song about watermelons is now firmly on my nerves. It makes no sense and is stupidly repetitive. It’s only got three lines: the one about strawberries that starts the verse, the one at the end of the verse about not being able to go on without something, and the chorus line about watermelons.

📌 I’ve been trying to imagine the future and what it might look like. Despite Brexit and the exodus of many foreign nationals, my lived experience of being British is living in London, England. The past (without foreign ‘others’) is somewhere else. The question What do you dislike the most about England? came up today on Quora and I thought the answer, from someone called Steve Black, 45, whose profile tells us he is “uneducated, uncouth and getting grumpy”, was worth quoting in full: “I dislike hardly anything about England. I have travelled the world and lived in the US and believe me England is a paradise compared to most countries. Corruption is here, but nowhere near as blatant and obvious as the rest of the world. Our police on the whole is still a service and not a near military force as other countries are turning to. The National Health is superb, it has problems and will always need more money and better management, but once again on the whole it works great. As for students and the loan systems, fuck ’em, why should my tax money pay for you to go and learn something that is really only a benefit to you in future earnings. If you don’t make the extra money, you don’t pay it back.” Black goes on to say the main thing he dislikes about England is the whingeing, and “any TV programme with the word celebrity in it, and Arsenal football club. The rest I can happily put up with.” Is Black the new Briton?

📌 Stitchwork project 5 is stuttering along, but using some leftover darning wool from my mother-in-law’s old sewing box was not such a good idea. There’s black fluff everywhere.

📌 There’s a neighbourhood busy-body group active online that uncovers wrongdoings and sends out urgent pleas to locate lost cats. This is the latest entry…

The above message describes the experience of being hit in the mouth by the fast-food projectile and tasting the burger. It adds that YouTube is probably to blame.

📌 My wife went off on one when a Coronavirus advert came on Spotify telling us to stay at home and resist the urge to pop out for a packet of crisps. She ruined her rage by using the lazy catch-all ‘They’. Paraphrased, it goes like this: They tell us to go out into a world where the virus is still rampant, to go to work, to get the economy going. They tell us to get back into the pubs and the parks (but keep off the beaches). They tell us we’ve pulled together to crack the problem. But don’t you dare eat a bag of crisps.

📌 We watched the latest in the A House Through Time series – 10 Guinea Street, Bristol – and noticed how the show has become paced with the urgency of a detective story and packed with heavy drama.

Read all of my scrapbook diaries…

One thought on “One year ago: Week 26 2020

  1. I stopped reading Quora some time ago as it takes a lot of time and makes me a bad person as it is the modern equivalent of going down to Bedlam to laugh at the inmates. Loved one answer I read on the eternal American preoccupation of Brits being deprived of firearms – “Because we don’t want people like you owning guns.”

    Liked by 1 person

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