September 25-October 1…
SATURDAY Finally, at 44% into Donna Leon’s Earthly Remains a body has been found in the Venice Laguna.
📌 The Golden Lane Estate has a visionary layout. Around 60% is open space. Lawns and leisure facilities on your doorstep. A branded stitchwork tote bag showing its colour-coded plan seemed like a nice idea.
📌 It’s hard to tell whether the newly developed building on Goswell Road is finished and has an eccentric design or whether work is still in progress.
📌 Liverpool are developing a habit of scoring good goals and conceding daft ones.
SUNDAY “An empty haircut in a centrist suit” is the kind of slapdown that must make Labour leader Keir Starmer wonder why he bothers.
📌 As if Angela Rayner’s taunts weren’t enough to make the PM squirm with embarrassment, Marcus Rashford is back in action this afternoon, goal hungry, and looking to add to his collection of humiliating wins over a government that gives a good impression of not giving a toss.
📌 Iceland has more women MPs than men, says the Guardian.
📌 My wife didn’t believe me when I said during an episode of The North Water that in a similar predicament to the dwindling numbers of whalers stranded among dead the bodies of their shipmates, I would unhesitatingly butcher the corpses, prepare fresh steak meat and freeze it for future consumption.
MONDAY It seems ridiculous to even imagine that dull management was ever on Boris Johnson’s ‘must-do’ list when he set out, age 4, on his quest to become “World King“. His current plan to use soldiers to stand in as lorry drivers looks like an act of desperation. But maybe not. Could it be one of those disruption methods of government that became the hallmark of his partnership with Dominic Cummings? Might his plan really be to prepare us all for a future of successive crises, in which life becomes a never-ending hurdle sprint? Or a game of leapfrog? Or that thing where you see who can stand on one leg for the longest?
📌 Whatever happens now in German politics will be a reasonable clue as to how the EU might renew itself. More democracy might even make Britain suffer feelings of remorse.
TUESDAY If the Labour Party ever gets back into power it won’t need to start nationalising the railways because the Conservatives will have already done it.
📌 The death rattle of the old order is getting louder by the day.
📌 The homework we’d submitted to last night’s writing class was a 500-word Personal Essay. Everyone else’s writing is loose and expansive, a “reading experience”. My attempts (that’s what “essay” means in French”) are taut, clipped and experimentally performative. Maybe that’s the kind of person I am – a short showoff – because I actually think my essay is quite good.
stroke /strəʊk/ noun 1. An act of moving one’s hand across a surface with gentle pressure. 2. An act of hitting or striking someone or something; a blow. 3. A sudden disabling attack or loss of consciousness caused by an interruption in the flow of blood to the brain.
I can’t say how much of what follows is true. Memory is no longer a dependable friend. Buried among the known knowns is the fact that it started in King’s Cross, London, at lunchtime on Tuesday 9 October 2012. I was eating a sandwich in a quiet part of my glass-and-steel workplace when a buzzing sound came to my right ear. First it was just annoying, then it grew into a persistent, irritating pest. Faster, louder, harder, the sound drilled on and on to become an ugly grind. I gripped my skull with both hands.
Something was wrong. I felt nauseated. My vision went blurry. I tried to stand, but fell back in the chair deflated, puzzled and detached from any familiar points of reference that might have been useful in making sense of these sensations. My left arm flapped disobediently. My left leg wouldn’t move. The grinding noise in my right ear was now a horrible, evil gouging. I self-tested, raising my left arm to place a finger on the tip of my nose. I poked my eye instead. I was having a stroke.
This is how I later tried to retell the story of my brain injury. The intention when I set off was to weave it into a sparkling written exploration of the word stroke, its definitions and uses. I’d recall learning the correct way to swim breaststroke. Then there were the ridiculous number of times I’d shown a stroke of genius. One of them involved the perfect connection of a golf ball to the head of a 7-iron.
Long story short, I had two lots of emergency brain surgery, spent three weeks in intensive care and was then admitted to a stroke ward. I tried to jot down some of my memories from those early days in recovery and it all tumbled out, like bad poetry.
I needed to know how alive I was…
Left side, forget it; movement, locked; speech, yes-ish:
“Do I sound like Francesca Martinez?”
Nurse: “Who is Francesca Martinez?”
Hallucinations, something about fishing.
Weird dreams, something about my wife and a hen night.
Morphine, morphine, morphine.
Bedpan pooing is strangely comforting.
Eventually, neurologist Diane told me what had happened. A vein in my neck burst and leaked blood into my cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance, coordination and fine motor skills. My cerebellum was now a black mass of dead cells.
“Your brain turned to mushy peas,” Diane said.
A stroke is something you give to cats. A stroke of luck is a piece of good fortune. A stroke is a keyboard character, a slanty thing. My stroke was a close encounter of the 3rd kind. BTW: Stroke survivors call themselves strokies.
My classmates thought the essay was OK and said I’d hit the brief and used lots of the tools available to the personal essayist such as vivid detail, etymology, cutaways, scene-setting, dialogue and poetry.
WEDNESDAY Boris’s political revolution is starting to look like an Armando Ianucci film. Posh Boy becomes King of the Proletariat, staggers through war [pandemic] and economic upheaval to declare a state of emergency, aka a pocket dictatorship, in which we all learn to do as we’re told and suck up the bad stuff.
📌 Maybe Keir Starmer has triggered an accidental revolution in the Labour Party. The long-predicted separation from the unions has started.
📌 I can’t imagine how we were persuaded to cross the threshold of the local cinema for The Green Knight. Someone must have given it a good review. I’ve spent my entire adult life running from questing medieval knights and their heraldic mumbo-jumbo. This film was so badly exaggerated in all the clichés of the fantasy genre that when the fox started to speak and St Winifred asked the gallant knight to fetch her decapitated head from a nearby pond they had to be having a laugh. Sadly not.
THURSDAY The art-class brief is to combine the view-from-a-window sketch with a touch of David Hockney. I intend to paint solid colour on to my sketch and pick out some details to photo-collage.
📌 Chris said he fell asleep halfway through Keir Starmer’s speech.
📌 Our preparations for Christmas have started.
📌 Project Cuba has suffered its first derailment. The artwork has accidentally been sent to Algeria. Somehow the headline Postage Stamp Art Project Gets Lost In The Post makes the collaboration more interesting.
📌 “With great effort we moved through Mother Goose to Dr Seuss” says Patti Smith of learning to read in her memoir Just Kids.
FRIDAY A hangover can easily swallow a whole day.