SATURDAY Our homework this week for writing class includes studying passages from The Argonauts, by Maggie Nelson. This is the reading equivalent of losing badly at Space Invaders. Fully formed sentences, some occasionally sequential, drop on your a head at increasing speed and from different directions. It’s exhausting, but at the same time intriguing.
SUNDAY The latest moves in the government’s Sausage Wars with the EU look very like an attempt to goad the EU into building a wall to separate Northern Ireland from the Republic. What will more likely happen is that the EU will make things good for Northern Ireland, which will bring a united Ireland ever closer.
📌 There’s an illustrator featured in It’s Nice That, Juanjo Cristiani, who has made a set of tarot cards based on the characters from the cult TV show Ru Paul’s Drag Race. Tarot and Drag are probably the two things in the world I know least about. The Cristiani illustrations are mostly garish cartoon figures, with occasional flourishes of the fabulous. I think that might be the idea.
📌 In the Observer Andrew Rawnsley speculates on what the Conservative Party will look like once the public and their MPs decide they’ve had enough of the cult comedian called Boris. It’s starting to look like a backstage plot to kill the mad king/emperor before the institution of conservatism becomes totally unrecognisable to anyone. Choose your favourite example from history.
📌 It could be Mail Online mischief-making, but if Labour MPs start defecting to the Conservatives, Keir Starmer’s days must be numbered on one hand.
📌 When my wife called upstairs to say Judy had been voted into the Dance Off on Strictly Come Dancing I pretended to know who Judy was.
MONDAY Jennifer messaged to say the Muma (Monash University Museum of Art) meeting is still in the works. Talking to Australia means getting up very early, so although I am keen to see their collection and start curating an online exhibition, an 8am meeting on Zoom is not something I’m desperate to get on with.
📌 Christmas is around the corner and even if it turns into something familiar from the works of Charles Dickens, at least we will have Sam’s picture of a “Christmas Cookie Jar” to keep us warm.
📌 Listened to Sarah Kendall’s George Peach story again and was rivetted by its brilliance.
📌 It’s starting to look like Autofiction is not so fascinating after all. The authors all seem to be (or have) first-person characters that are self-obsessed in the extreme. You wonder why they don’t just check in with a therapist. The idea that one of them might look out of the window and think about that rather than themselves would be considered sacrilegious.
📌 A nice reminder popped up on Pointless that the US Constitution starts with the words “we the people”.
📌 There’s a massive oil tanker holding a million barrels of oil floating in the Red Sea, abandoned since 2017.
TUESDAY At night-school my writing skills did not impress my literary classmates. One of them said I was cruel to a character in my latest story, which was an attempt at the “memoir essay”. None of them noticed the deft way I shifted the focus of the story from the central pathetic young person to the middle-aged couple. I don’t think one of them listened to the Joe Jackson song because Joe Jackson isn’t Virginia Woolf and therefore not worthy of referencing. The essay is called Young Love, and here it is…
We did the same thing every night. It was so samey as to be almost boring. We’d step off the Circumvesuviana at Sorrento and stroll West down Corso Italia towards Piazza Tasso. The narrow pavements give this walk the feel of one endless shuffling queue as tourists and locals bump along in a rhythm that keeps getting stuck. Italian men, we noticed, cannot resist the urge to turn shop windows into mirrors, check their looks and move on, chests puffed.
But on this day something else happened. About five minutes into the stroll, my wife announced: “Look over there!” Hearing those words immediately brought to mind a line in the Joe Jackson song Is She Really Going Out With Him? Which was apt, because when I did look over there, in front of the cinema at 219 Corso Italia stood a gawky teenager holding a sad bunch of flowers.
This guy was a picture of awkwardness, in an oversized mud-brown suit, yellow shirt and tan shoes. He shifted from one foot to the other, cautiously glancing this way and that, hesitant, hopeful. He might as well have hung a sign around his pink, zitty neck saying LOSER.
What was he thinking? Maybe he was wondering if she turned up soon people would stop looking at him with pity. Or perhaps he’d zoned out of his own discomfort to dwell on the discomfort of, say, his brother, who’d just been dumped. Or maybe all he really wanted was for his mother to arrive immediately so he could get rid of these friggin flowers.
To our shame, we stared, and stared some more. Then we felt ashamed and hid in the shop opposite and waited, and watched, as the minutes ticked by and Teenage Mutant Minger continued to squirm the eternal squirm. We discovered in those moments our love of Yacht Rock, and that spaghetti comes in a variety of sizes. Our favourite would be a 12.
The suspense was too much. All that sneaky staring started to feel creepy. So we moved on, leaving the scene to find its own way to a climax. We sat down to eat and drink at a restaurant just off Piazza Tasso and speculated, and pondered. We looked at our watches, wondering where our spotty outsider was at this very moment. And with whom? And what their children would look like? We spoke about the universalities of courtship and wondered whether Italian petrol stations also sold crap flowers. But I think what we were secretly wondering in all of this was whether in that moment outside the cinema, we saw young love doing what it does best – killing a small piece of the heart.
By the time we got to the bottom of the bottle we were convinced that what really happened was that the most beautiful 15-year-old in Sorrento had bounded up to zit-boy, spluttering the so sorry-I’m-late thing, in Italian.
“Amore mio, scusami per il ritardo.”
And we left it at that.
📌 Marina Hyde concludes that Boris wasn’t alone in not being remotely concerned about the number of Covid deaths in 2020. The British public wasn’t that bothered either.
📌 Every year my earnest attempt to slim down a wardrobe long-ago diagnosed as obese is met with sturdy opposition from my wife. “I bought you that!” is the phrase she uses most often as she rifles through the bags marked “clothes bank”.
📌 Paul Waugh’s incisive analysis of the Covid select committee report illustrates the enormity of the waste of money and the serial screw-ups. Especially that of Dido Harding’s Test & Trace racket. The Guardian more or less echoes these points.
WEDNESDAY A first meeting with the team at Muma (Monash University Museum of Art) went very well and I am excited to be working with such open-minded people to curate and write about an exhibition from their collection. It will be great fun, too. It was 6pm in Melbourne, 8am here.
📌 In art class today we played a sort of pass-the-parcel postcard game. One person starts the artwork, which is then passed to another person, who has already passed their “startwork” to a third person. At each stage new additions are added to the image and the artwork circulates and changes at each point at which it reaches the next artist. I started my “postcard” with a yellow nuclear sky above a supposedly radioactive blue sea.
📌 Sam is back to monochrome with a mindboggling Covid diagram.
📌 In his Tweets, Dominic Cummings refers to Boris Johnson as a shopping-trolley emoji 🛒.
THURSDAY The EU is playing a canny game with Boris. If he rejects the current offer to keep trade flowing between mainland Britain, Northern Ireland and the Republic, he will be holding the door open to both an all-out trade war with the EU and the abandonment of the Northern Irish people, who will then accept a united Ireland as the best solution.
📌 The Special Visa policy the government seems to be rolling out is an arrogant insult. The pig-farming industry is the latest to join this spurious scheme that carries with it the assumption that there is an endless supply of overseas nationals queuing up to temp as butchers in Britain.
📌 On a heritage walk of South Islington/old Finsbury our guide got quite ratty with laggers and natterer’s.
FRIDAY The perennial ankle injury means a whole day doing RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation). Then I spilt a cup of tea into the bath while I was in it. There must be a third calamity waiting in the wings.