One year ago: Week 29 2020


July 13-19…

MONDAY Bumped into a neighbour in the allotments. She said we need to remove the nets from our tomato plants and trim the plants from the bottom to get plenty of tomatoes at the top.

📌 Universities could be at the centre of the next big labour war. The business people are struggling to work out how to build a profitable model in the post-Covid world. Should teaching be in person or online? Where will the money come from and what kind of service can be delivered and at what price? It’s a minefield, but at the moment the teachers have some power in numbers. It is a very old-fashioned labour conflict with management.

📌 The outfall of this crisis is likely to last for decades, and not only in the shape of chronic lung problems and mental-health issues.

📌 As Wycombe scored against Oxford after 12 minutes in a crucial League 1 playoff game, my wife pointed out that the Wycombe shirt sponsor is Cherry Red Records.

📌 In an article about mapping the ocean floor, two of the key facts in the early section are that the “ocean economy” employs 31 million people full-time and that the income generated is $1.5tn a year.

📌 Memory. My first full-time job was as a computer operator at the Institute of Oceanographic Sciences. It was located in an observatory on the top of a hill.

TUESDAY Yippeee! I won the Horror House flash-fiction contest. My prize was a picture of a kitchen knife.

📌 My wife says she is relieved that wearing masks is to be made mandatory. Others see it differently.

📌 My wife knows all the technical terms for the TV game show Tipping Point. A “Rider” is when two of the plastic discs sit on top of each other, thus halving the possibility of a successful tip.

📌 An article in the LRB enlarges on the role of the state in democracies over the past 100ish years and how even super-selfish capitalist nations sought to nurture the “social state”, that little bit of socialism that all societies need today in order to breathe properly. It’s relevant now because Trump and Johnson seem determined to abandon the idea for a more despotic approach. The bit about Germany is especially fascinating.

📌 I confused the TV weather forecaster’s name with the place name of the viewer’s photograph that popped up next to her (eg, Clee Hill, Shropshire). My wife rolled her eyeballs, but the moment had accidentally given birth to a game in which place names can be people’s names. Tomorrow I intend to see how many people’s names I can get from the London Underground map.

WEDNESDAY There’s a lot of humorous chatter about the type of person who objects wearing a mask.

📌 In the Headway Steering Group meeting Dave and I hatched a promo idea for Three Billboards Outside Haggerston to punt the Headway East London brand.

📌 Today’s Creative Challenge from Michelle was all about Nature, so I retold an old story about me and Stuart gassing about music (again) and a picture of a tree.

📌 James Brown got in touch via Messenger about something I wrote in the NME nearly 40 years ago. We went over some old memories and he told me that Ron Rom is now a successful film director.

📌 Lockdown catchup. In Spooks, Adam and Roz are stuck in Turkey chasing the nuclear trigger nicked by Iranian spies in a daring airport heist.

THURSDAY The Guardian has released a fab ‘dance’ documentary about two black brothers on a Hackney estate. There’s one scene in which two guys, one black, one white, share a park bench. The action is all in their body language and the physical ‘gap’ they ‘unconsciously’ place between one other. Social distancing of another kind.

📌 I started a new blog strand today. Artwork Archives is my chance to jibber-jabber about some of my old pictures. I started with Can Isaac, so I guess the next one should be Toulouse.  Or is that too repetitive? 

📌 At today’s Open Studio Zoom session, Kat brought along her pet, Mr Lizard, for us to draw. He is a He, she said.  He is anally incontinent in front of a camera. He eats rocket. He is a Bearded Dragon, originally from Australia. And most surprising of all, he is about the size of a shoe, not one of the tiny things you see scampering around your terrace while on holiday.

And my version…

📌 The sarcastic replies on Quora are always the best… Q: Is it safe to walk in Glasgow at night? A: “Good heavens, no! Last time I was in Glasgow I wandered into a pub and the people were friendly enough – we even started buying rounds for one another: “Brilliant!” I thought. Then, several hours later I walked out onto the street, happy and unsuspecting, darkness had fallen during my time inside the pub and almost immediately I was hit – without provocation – by a lamp post, standing aggressively on the pavement. A couple of passersby came over to offer me help and hailed a cab for me and it was just a fiver to be taken home, but no sooner had the cab pulled up in front of my house and I’d opened the door to get out when the top of the taxi door frame clobbered me in the forehead. I somehow managed to stagger to the door of the house and when I explained to my Glaswegian wife what had happened I didn’t get an ounce of sympathy – it was if what I’d experienced was just what was to be expected there!”

📌 In Spooks, Adam brought a very dead Roz back to life with a single kiss. It was like the bath scene in Fatal Attraction, without the knife. Her eyes popped open as if even she was surprised she was still alive. Then she left the scene carrying a big red suitcase, right in front of all the mourners at her churchyard graveside. Never to be seen again, until the revival of Cold Feet.

FRIDAY There’s a bit in The Conversation saying public transport is badder for the environment than cars: “When running at normal capacity, public transport is more environmentally friendly than travelling by car. But under social distancing conditions, and assuming that any unfilled seats correspond to a commuter driving to work instead, diesel-powered public transport produces more C0₂ emissions per passenger than a small car.”

📌 An article by Simon Jenkins about an Iraq-war documentary came with a fabulous Ben Jennings illustration.

📌 Overlooked in the big push to “get back to normal” are people with pre-existing health conditions who will be forever compromised by the threat of the virus until a safe vaccine has been developed and made available to all.

📌 In Spooks, whenever an actor leaves the series, their character does, too. The women spooks all disappear with a new identity, but the men get killed off.

📌 Stuttering progress continues on the latest stitchwork T-shirt project.

SATURDAY Patsy recently posted a warning on the Baggers WhatsApp group about dodgy courgette seeds.

This unfortunate incident escalated to include another seed supplier, and with a seemingly drastic outcome.

📌 Got lost on a walk around the City. I headed first to Bunhill Fields burial ground.

Then along Moorgate to Finsbury Circus, where my orientation went on the blink. I exited the circus, thinking I knew where I was and ended up at the wrong end of London Wall in front of the Gherkin. Only just got back to the Barbican in time for our first in-the-flesh Saturday  Breakfast Club meeting in 4 months. Gill is madly enthusiastic about Blade Runner

📌 If the City of London Corporation had any real interest in the arts it would employ Theatre Deli in Broadgate to act as a laboratory for the council’s much-vaunted Culture Mile project.

📌 Maybe she should be blonde.

SUNDAY Annie Nightingale was on the radio news saying that she knew about John & Yoko’s relationship before the rest of the Beatles.

📌 Nick Cohen in the Observer is talking about how nasty Boris can get if you piss him off. “Conservative politicians talk about Johnson with a venom few socialists can match. It’s not that he’s a criminal like Putin, they say. He doesn’t have the balls to be truly evil. Rather, he is a pathetically insecure narcissist who turns on you if you don’t feed his craving for applause.”

📌 To Parsons Green. In the White Horse (aka, the Sloaney Pony) we ate lunch in a deserted interior. And later we heard two sisters compare the number of marriage proposals they’d each had.

The Sloaney Pony…

📌 Stuart and I have been sharing a great enthusiasm for Lulu’s To Sir With Love. A fascinating fact is that the song was also the name of the 1967 film, starring Sidney Poiter. But the titles differ. The film is To Sir, With Love, the song title loses the comma.

Read all of my scrapbook diaries…

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