One year ago: Week 32, 2020

August 3-9…

MONDAY Headway have made all their Covid-safe adjustments to the Kingsland Road centre and plan to reopen in September. They invited me to a guinea pig/lab-rat trial day later this month, and I said Yes.

 📌 On the bus to Tate Britain for Aubrey Beardsley, we passed through Trafalgar Square and got to see the new artwork on the Fourth Plinth. It is called The End. And anecdotally, again it was men who are not wearing face coverings.

This is The End…

 📌 The Beardsley exhibition was disappointing, not so much because of the content but because the rooms were still overcrowded (despite timed ticketing), with no directional signage and minimum supervision.

We noticed later apart from the Beardsley exhibition that numbers in the rest of the gallery were comfortable and a clear one-way system in operation. If this item had been a separate posting, with picture gallery, video, etc, the headline might have been “Tesco trumps Tate in Covid comfort wars”.

Of the exhibition itself, the surprise was how short Beardsley’s life was (RIP@25). And the lasting influence of his work, right up to album-sleeve design in the 1960s. One of my favourite ‘inspired’ works was a Picasso.

One more surprise was the ham-and-cheese sandwich in the Members Room costing £6.

TUESDAY The City is still very quiet. A few sandwich bars have opened. And thankfully Hotel Chocolat on Cannon Street was open for me to buy some emergency chocolates for my wife’s birthday tomorrow. She’d hinted that she’d quite like a sewing machine as a gift, but hasn’t yet decided which one. When she makes up her mind, I will buy her that.

For the time being, she has chocolates and a book of dress patterns for when the machine arrives.

 📌 The Museum of London at the Barbican will reopen for ticket-only visits on Thursday, so that’s something to look forward to.

 📌 Scientists have said our test’n’trace system is not good enough to cope with the schools reopening in September and the inevitable second spike of the virus. The government disagrees.

 📌 A friend on Facebook posted one of those A-Z firstname/surname lists that allegedly reveal hidden truths about you. Accordingly, the list says that if I were to present an academic paper, based on the initial letters of my first name, my surname, and the month of my birth, the paper’s title would be, Reinterpreting Silences In New Media.

WEDNESDAY The continuing arguments about whether schools should reopen in September uncover an obvious truth – that their primary function is not education but child-minding.

📌 Birthday girl. Masks are definitely the new socks.

Birthday lunch dessert…

📌 I never was much into poetry, but I have kept the copy of Nine Modern Poets from my school days, and still browse in the middle of the night.

📌 Midway through the first quarter of George Orwell’s Coming Up For Air, the principal character, George Bowling, has just left the dentist’s and could be still under the influence of the anaesthetic. He strolls around then falls into a deep reminiscence about his childhood, so deep I was getting bored, wondering when the story would pick up again. Then I imagined it might not. Reminiscence, nostalgia, reflection and a sense of rootedness could end up being the whole point of the entire book. Strangely, my boredom lifted.

 📌 The taxi driver who took us to Waterloo station said the government’s handling of the virus crisis was a shambles.

📌 Sitting on the train at Waterloo station, 14.05, awaiting the departure of the 14.09 to Portsmouth Harbour, via Winchester, the Tannoy announcer requests “Inspector Sands” to report the the information office. My wife tells me that the surname “Sands” is the universal code for an emergency. Our train left on time.

Afternoon sun in Winchester.

THURSDAY Lazy lie in bed, then a nice stroll around Winnall Moors. I never tire of this place and there’s always a discovery in waiting.

📌 Headway are re-pimping my monoprinting workshop with this picture.

And with a quote from me: “I wanted to take the easy wax monoprinting method with me anywhere, so I kept all the basics in my back pocket, in miniature form.” These were a selection of classic portraits I carried around on holiday in Spain. The reverse side of the printing trace is sometimes more interesting than the finished print.

Luis Buñuel…

📌 Sam sent me her latest, a picture of Prince.

Prince, by Sam Jevon…

📌 Some man on the TV said, “blackberries are my paint”.

FRIDAY A sense of doom hangs in the air. Every day brings new clues that a reimposition of full Lockdown is likely. More countries are added to the ever-growing quarantine list. Localised lockdowns come as no surprise. Aberdeen is the latest. Where next?

Later: Answer = Preston, Lancashire.

📌 Another walk out on Winnall Moors. Lots of children swimming in the river. Still no vole sightings. Posted a video story as evidence of my research.

📌 Tried to write a drabble about the likely reimposition of Lockdown, but gave up after two lines, having already sensed it was doomed to fail. Maybe there is something symbolic in that.

📌 Read an article saying Boris is a funtime PM and will be useless in the hard task of an economic collapse.

SATURDAY The Morning Star has been reporting on a new fight in the Labour Party on issues relating to a leaked memo that allegedly proves (or possibly disproves. It’s complicated!) that there was an internal plot to get rid of Jeremy Corbyn. The Star gleefully quotes parts of the memo, so I will, too: “Among the revelations in the 860-page report are comments describing colleagues as a ‘total mentalist,’ ‘bitch face cow’ and ‘pube head’.”

📌 Friends of friends came round to Magdalen House for coffee and said they were mulling over a move to a staycation location in Dorset for a year while international travel is off the agenda.

📌 While the weather is still good, booking a table in pub gardens has become the new leisure preoccupation. At 1pm, the Willow Tree has a well-behaved queue outside, all entering one by one at appropriate intervals. We are booked for 5pm.

📌 The Pond at Winnall Moors wasn’t really a pond today.

Dry pond…

📌 Dinner at Rick Stein’s as a treat. I had sardines to start and hake main.

SUNDAY Another ‘Only in the Barbican’ message hit my inbox…

📌 News that engineering works will force us to spend the whole day travelling on buses and trains in boiling heat prompts the decision to stay in Winchester one more night. Posted another item on Winnall Moors.

📌 After ogling the fig tree outside our patio door, I bought one online for £11.99, to be delivered in 2-3 days. I’m told they grow OK in pots and we’ve been eating home-grown figs for the last 4 days.

 📌 In George Orwell’s Coming Up For Air, the George Bowling character is still deep in reminiscence: There was another game we had when the toads were spawning. We used to catch toads, ram the nozzle of a bicycle pump up their backsides and blow them up till they burst.”

📌 We watched a BBC4 documentary about the Real Thing and I never even knew about their 4 from 8 album, which I immediately checked out on Spotify.

Read all of my scrapbook diaries…

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