One year ago: Week 33, 2020

August 10-16…

MONDAY Another scorching day, but thankfully we got the train back to London from Winchester just before 9.30am. It was urgent because my wife had agreed to water a neighbour’s plants while they holidayed in Greece. Their apartment has no sun-shielding blinds and it was a worry to think of the plants wilting in the heat. One of the plants even has a name, Alice, after the celebrity gardener Alice Fowler who gave it to them as a gift.

📌 I’ve been reading the blog of a young Nepalese woman as she prepares to get her exam results and what her grades might mean for her future. Today she explained that the subjects she studies in this next step in her education (effectively from school to college) is traditionally done in consultation with her parents. Her parents want her to study sciences in college and become a doctor or an engineer; she wants to be a writer. She goes to sleep at 2am determined to front it up tomorrow and convince her parents that she can cut it as a writer.

The big reveal comes in the next sentence when she tells us that what she has just written is fiction. She then writes a po-faced essay denouncing the system of forced education she grew up with and how it is perilous for her country to support this culture of repression. It’s a powerful posting, in this case cheekily partnering melodramatic fiction and plain clear exposition into the big con.

TUESDAY The wildflower trough in the corner of the terrace was looking good, but in desperate need of a drink. Ditto the fuchsia. The Baby Oak Tree seems happy with this blazing sunshine, so that’s good.

📌 In a virtual coffee break with colleagues at The Guardian I learn about some of the issues facing organisations (such as The Guardian) with big buildings and lots of workers. Those environments simply don’t work any more and the news that small-team “agile” businesses are the ones benefiting from the changed conditions is no surprise. Will the virus dictate how our immediate world is modelled in the future, with wide pavements and corridors, self-cleaning workstations and other futuristic conveniences?

📌 Got the Sonos to talk to the new wi-fi. And got Alexa to talk to the Sonos.

📌 A drawing from a friend’s TikTok video (a day pulling veg on a farm). Full story here.

WEDNESDAY The UK has plunged into recession, it says in the news. The worst since 1955.

📌 My wife says she’d love to be in Belfast because it’s only 22°C.

📌 In Coming Up For Air, George Bowling, still deep in reminiscence about fishing, says that as a boy he discovered a small pond that had become detached over time from a larger one. Some of the fish got cut off in the process and grew to monstrous proportions. Special mention goes to the massive carp in the pond behind Binfield Hall. I reworked this paragraph as a drabble.

📌 The Wee Ginger Dug uses the term “toddlerish foot-stomping” in reference to Boris Johnson refusing to allow Nicola Sturgeon to attend key virus meetings.

📌 My wife said, “Guess what?” I played along as if this were some kind of knock-knock joke and discovered that our great nephew is 4 and not 5. We’d just sent him a card and a balloon.

📌 There was a nice drabble in The Drabble using the form as a review from an art exhibition.

THURSDAY A Manchester band called Cabbage were on the radio talking about their songs and political songwriting. They have a song called Born In The NHS and another one about rail privatisation.

📌 President Trump has changed the definition of what a shower head is. In America. The present regulated defintion only allows a fixed volume of water to pass. This is an environmental restriction, especially important for droughty states such as California. But the current shower heads do not permit enough water for the President’s luxriant barnet.

📌 Uniqlo have time-limited offers on smart staples.

📌 Today’s Headway Home Studio was all about insects. We were told to set our imaginations free with some pictures from Michelle’s back garden.

📌 The fig tree arrived in the post. It now faces eastish in full daytime sun against a wall.

📌 I cleared out a kitchen cupboard in preparation for the delivery next week of a new fridge and found a bottle of absinthe, which I’m told is the quick way to an early grave.

📌 Got free tickets to see the Masculinities exhibition at the Barbican again.

In the ‘Queering’ room...

Looks like lots of other people did, too, because it was quite busy. Some of the exhibition I’d forgotten already, but I still think the 4 portraits of Portuguese bullfighters fresh from the field of conflict are the best.

El forcado…

📌 A story in The Guardian says that Colombia has been in a civil war for 52 years. Wikipedia says it started in May 1964.

FRIDAY Wrote a couple of drabbles, which I am starting to enjoy more than I ever imagined. One was about the old Etymological dictionary, the other about a trip to Broadstairs a year ago.

📌 In The Conversation there is a story saying that two researchers have discovered that Thomas Cromwell effectively photoshopped himself into a picture seated next to Henry VIII.

📌 On Twitter, Amanda said, “This morning feels like a Barbieri morning.”

📌 The Barbican Masculinities monoprint workshop got postponed until 27th. My prep included the study of a manga version of a typical ‘western’ cowboy, largely because a lot of the manga I’ve seen seem to blur gender boundaries.

My cowboy manga…

📌 One of the snooker semi-finals on TV, Wilson vs McGill, was a comedy of errors. At one point both players kept missing the object ball. Later, commentator Steve Davis said “Let’s not remember this game for the misses”.

📌 This story’s got legs.

📌 The suspect in the TV crime drama who carries on regardless, filling the kettle and buttering bread while a Detective Inspector is asking questions, is obviously guilty.

SATURDAY Marina Hyde is back, having a pop at education secretary Gavin Williamson and the shambles of the school exam results. Boris has been forced out of hiding to defend the notorious algorithm that has pissed off so many people.

‘You’ve heard of the Kitemark – any Johnson imprimatur is the guaranteed shitemark
And later in the piece.
‘Less than 48 hours later, transport secretary and adult human Grant Shapps publicly suggested that “4am Saturday” was actually on Sunday.’

I wonder if any of them have noticed that they’re shafting people who in four years’ time will be first-time voters.

📌 Sorting through all those boxes from the back of the wardrobe.

Discoveries include a brass belt buckle from my days in the Boys Brigade (motto: Sure & Steadfast), a silver swimming medal won by my sister, a stamp album nicked from my maternal grandfather Willy, a commemorative decimal coin set and a half-dollar coin with Kennedy’s head, a gift from my cousin in America.

SUNDAY I’m working on a drabble love story, or should that be a love story drabble, or simply a love drabble. I need to check out a London location for it, so in the meantime I posted a crime drabble, which I see as the start of a series called The Golden Lane Murders.

📌 The Spanish blogger Josep Goded has written a post saying, as I understand it, that the monarch King Juan Carlos took a massive bribe from Saudi Arabia so he could pay off his former lover. This could be one of the fabled “falling out of love” plots I’ve heard about.

📌 A story in the Observer expands on one I’ve been watching – Downing Street muscling in on London and its separately elected local government. It’s a centralisation of power that has become a real mission for this government, an “anti-localism” obsession.

📌 My wife’s tomatoes are going bananas.

📌 To the Barbican for a lakeside coffee with Gill and Sandra, then to the Toyin Ojih Odutola exhibition in the Curve, where some arsehole decided to start sneezing.

📌 Someone on Nextdoor Barbican wants to know where they can buy bamboo sticks for their tomatoes.

📌 Nearly finished. I’m sick to the back teeth with this stitchwork, supposedly of Twiggy.

📌 The plot twist in Dead to Me S2: E6 is epic.

📌 Then the heavens opened and rainwater flooded in at the balcony door. Frantic mopping with anything absorbent, but the damage was done.

Read all of my scrapbook diaries…

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