September 2021, as it happened…

WEDNESDAY 1 The Taliban is reported saying Britons stranded in Afghanistan will be allowed to leave, but it would be nice if they stayed. A government minister said they’re lying.

📌 It will be interesting to watch British government officials “negotiate” with the Taliban. If they use the methods they honed in talks with the EU, I don’t hold out much hope for a successful outcome.

📌 I made the mistake of watching the YouTube trailer for the film of the book, We Were Liars, that is the subject of my latest stitchwork project. It reminds me that we all see things differently. The trailer promotes a trivial teen suspense story, which I don’t recognise reading the book.

📌 At Margaret’s birthday lunch we discovered that Jan not only has double-jointed elbows, but double-jointed feet.

📌 Sue said her Italian language students were surprised that horse-racing is such a big deal in British culture. One of them said Frankie Dettori is barely heard of in Italy.

📌 For a few moments only, solar power overtook coal-fired power in Australia.

📌 Foreign secretary Dominic Raab used the term “optimism bias” to explain why British people have been abandoned in Afghanistan following the takeover by the Taliban. They didn’t expect the US to pull out so fast is the shorthand translation.

📌 The sunflowers look quite miserable…

Sunflower on the verge of nervous breakdown…

THURSDAY 2 A bullfighting festival in Spain was closed down after it emerged that two of the slain bulls had the names “Feminist” and “Nigerian”.

📌 At Headway, Brad asked me what I was reading. I said the Guardian. He said his dad read the Guardian but his “wanker” paper was the Sun. I said mine was the Mirror.

📌 Helsinki is thinking about turning itself into an “English-speaking” city.

📌 Great news! Project Totem Pole is back on. The three tree stumps at the centre of the community craft project between the British Museum and St Luke’s Men’s Shed, have been examined by Gary, and he reckons he can join them together to form a single unit. I offered my congratulations and expressed my trust, with my fingers crossed behind my back.

Three will become one…

FRIDAY 3 Gosh, how left-wing can the Conservative Party become before someone starts calling it Marxist? Correction: Conservative Government, circa 2021. Having already embraced public ownership and state subsidies, now they intend to raise taxes to pay for health and social care.

📌 The Mail‘s report on Matt Hancock’s Swiss holiday with his lover “Miss Coladangelo, 44” includes the revelation that their secluded hotel room costs £87 per night.

📌 Coronation Street‘s Des Barnes became a war lord in Ghana, says the Mirror.

📌 It’s hard to describe how irritating it is to read the line “more than one in four Bulgarian and Romanian workers have left since the start of 2020” in relation to the scarcity of lorry drivers to deliver food to supermarkets. More than one in four can be two or three. If the writer actually wants to say “more than 25%”, what’s wrong with saying that? Two in four is 50%. And even if the real figure is 25%, that is 75% short of 100%. In other words, three quarters of Bulgarian and Romanian workers have not left the UK since 2020. Rant over.

📌 More numbers to crunch with the headline that only one of 125 security guards at the British Embassy in Afghanistan made a successful escape to Britain, claims the Guardian.

📌 Chris said that people from big families eat fast. Slow eating might see your chips stolen by a predatory sibling.

SATURDAY 4 The national shortage of lorry drivers predates Brexit, it says in the Socialist Worker. And the idea that the fall in the number of migrant workers from the EU has driven up wages is a myth. Most workers, the article says, have not had massive pay rises. It then goes on about what Karl Marx would have had to say…

‘Marx spoke of an “industrial reserve army” which plays a role in stepping up competition between workers and pressures them to accept lower pay.’

📌 On a walk down Brick Lane yesterday, one shop window displayed the sign “Please do not enter with symptoms of… Covid-19, Racism, Homophobia”.

A sign of the times…

📌 Tried a very quick monoprint of Lil (it’s his birthday), but didn’t like it. He looks like Buster Bloodvessel. Very frustrating when the initial print is weak. It makes everything that comes after it weak, too. I tried etching with a needle and bronze wax, but I forgot that wax is harder to print than hard pastel and nowhere near as good-looking as soft pastel.

Lil as Buster Bloodvessel. A waste of a good piece of cotton paper…

📌 Agonisingly tedious journey to Putney for Lil’s birthday drink at The Boathouse. No one on busy trains wearing masks. Spotted a funny sign at Waterloo station…

📌 At Lil’s birthday drink in Putney his sister Tamara decided to name her boat in the Bahamas The Notorious Strumpet, inspired by the story of Priss Fotheringham.

📌 Any idea that the Taliban will go easy on women’s rights is starting to look shaky.

SUNDAY 5 Another beautiful bit of crazy idealism from Will Hutton in the Observer, inwhich he imagines a voluntary national trust fund into which Baby Boomers shovel money to pay for Millennials’ gap years and flat whites. The Conversation pitches this story as a proposed peace deal between Boomers and Millennials.

📌 Most of the young people I know just want to know how to get the same deal I got from society when I was their age.

📌 The Labour Party is to make 81 of its staff voluntarily redundant. It had 99 applications but some of them were rejected as being “crucial” roles.

📌 The late-Summer crop from the allotment was disappointing.

Slim pickings…

MONDAY 6 The footballer Marcus Rashford is more effective in opposing the government than Her Majesty’s Opposition is.

📌 Poetry Extra featured poets and others reading the news (NB, as reported by BBC Radio 4) in some amazingly inventive and idiosycratic ways. The Canadian journalist Lyse Ducet was a standout. I think I’m becoming a fan of Ian McMillan, though I’m not sure whether it’s his poetry I like as much as his accent. He describes his job as “word worker”, which I like.

📌 Our new tea-time TV table viewing is Back to Life on BBC3.

TUESDAY 7 As cheery as it would be to see the Prime Minister shafted by his own tribe, the WHAT of the debate on health and social care funding is not in doubt (more money for hospitals and care homes). The HOW is, but the WHAT will always triumph in any argument.

📌 Another visit to the British Museum to get inspiration and instruction for our community totem pole.

At the British Museum…

One of the conservators was brave enough to say the British Museum is a collection of “colonial loot”. His name was Alex and he was an adhesives and clamping nerd. Then we got to check out the Benin Bronzes…

Benin Bronzes…

… all of which gave me the idea of turning part of our totem pole into Bart Simpson.

WEDNESDAY 8 There is a universal chorus in the media saying Boris’s newly announced increase in National Insurance contributions to fund health and social care is a flimsy statement of ambition rather than a policy with a concrete plan. And in an effort to make clear what the new tax is for, a line will appear on the deductions side of your pay slip from next year stating “health and care levy”. But it won’t say which private equity firms your money will be handed to.

I like this idea of blatantly telling taxpayers exactly what their money is being spent on, if not who’s spending it. If everyone is shown weekly/monthly where every penny of taxation is spent, they might make different choices at the ballot box.

Mind you, they might also be tempted to make stupid decisions along the lines of “do we really need to pay for xxxxxx?” Insert your own words. Down that road lies the abolition of the PAYE scheme, which I’m sure would delight many of Boris’s swivel-eyed colleagues on the Conservative back benches.

📌 El Salvador made Bitcoin a legal currency. Then came the downside.

Read the full story here…

📌 HuffpostUK tells us that young people with wealthy parents are more likely to become wealthy themselves. This is the news equivalent of reporting that dogs bark.

📌 Probably because I have discovered loads of poetry collections on Spotify, I wrote an email in verse today. I’m now trying to think of ways to start a verse-email without using the word Hi or Hello.

📌 My wife got very excited watching the tennis.

THURSDAY 9 I can’t decide whether the preposterous twist at the end of We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart, is stupid  or very clever.

📌 Dunce Education Secretary Gavin Williamson held a Zoom meeting with someone he thought was footballer/campaigner Marcus Rashford. Only later did he discover that he’d been talking to the rugby player Maro Itoje.

📌 Mixing gold with yellow is an adventure. The question is, do I have the courage to include lemon in the mix?

Gold and yellow stitchwork on white linen…

📌 Superb Thai food at Headway Eats by Jackie, which introduced me to a new word. Larb.

Duck larb…

Then in Back To Life Miri found Billy’s dead wife’s sex toys.

FRIDAY 10 Heard a Robert Frost poem that has the line “good fences make good neighbours”.

📌 Six Palestinian prisoners busted out of an Israeli jail by digging a tunnel with a rusty spoon.

📌 In Neither Nowt Nor Summat Ian McMillan said some girls he spotted in Hull wore skirts “shorter than the reign of Edward The Eighth”.

📌 My wife’s paint colour chart includes one called Teresa’s Green. I think it might be the colour of our bathroom.

SATURDAY 11 I typed into Google: “Is Emma Raducanu posh?” There was no definitive answer. Some of the more interesting facts are that she was born in Canada to a Chinese mother and a Romanian father and was described on a French website as Posh Spice with a tennis raquet. Then a telling line popped up in the Independent: “She started off attending ballet classes, but her father decided sport was the way forward and had his daughter do horse riding, swimming, tap dancing, basketball, skiing, golf, go-karting and motocross, all alongside her tennis practice”. I’m not sure that fully answers the question.

📌 The Conversation says beavers are back and tells us what it means for our future.

📌 There’s a lot of morbid replays of 9/11 going on, so I’m going to the gym to listen to Bruce Springsteen’s album The Rising. The title track is the story of a New York fireman climbing the stairs of one of the burning Twin Towers to rescue trapped people. Quite a few of Springsteen’s songs have a religious feel (in this case, Ascension). One of my favourites is Lost In The Flood, from his debut album, Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ

“Nuns run bald through Vatican halls, pregnant… Pleading Immaculate Conception…”

📌 The party conference season is imminent and at last Labour comes out fighting with some concrete ideas and an attack-dog attitude. Pity it doesn’t come from the party’s leader, Keir Starmer.

📌 The Whitecross Street two-day Party got off to a good start. St Luke’s had a stall at which children made animals from food.

SUNDAY 12 The last few Donna Leon Brunetti stories I’ve read have been overloaded with travelogue nonsense. The one I’m on at the moment is at 20% in and there’s not even a sniff of a crime to solve.

📌 The US Open tennis final between Briton Emma Raducanu and Canada’s Leylah Fernandez was blissfully free of grunts. Raducanu, 18, won in straight sets and the whole nation erupted in celebration.

In the interview afterwards, she spoke about looking forward to many many more games against Fernandez in the future. In the background, Fernandez smiled through gritted teeth with a look on her face that said, “You bet, bitch.”

📌 I woke up early this morning replaying in my mind an incident yesterday in which I told a man at the local supermarket checkout to back off to a safe distance.

📌 In the Guardian Jonathan Freeland describes Boris’s politics as “ideological cross-dressing” and labels him a TINO (Tory In Name Only). Labour can only defeat him by repeatedly claiming that he’s doing the right thing (raising taxes for the NHS) but in the wrong way (taking it mainly from the young).

📌 Marina Hyde’s destruction of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, his tax avoidance pathology and his obsession with space travel and eternal life, must rank as a written-word landmark in happy slapping.

📌 The political future of Northern Ireland is locked in a desperate stalemate/standoff that ill serves its citizens, writes the Guardian. With elections due next year, it’s not hard to envisage the province ending up as some kind of Gibraltar lookalike without the sunshine.

MONDAY 13 A new phase of Covid jerkaround looms just as most people seem to have given up on even the slimmest adherence to any type of biosecurity. Universal mask-wearing might at least act as a reminder that the Age of the Virus has not yet passed.

📌 Sam is back to monochrome, but with some nice shading.

‘Female Artist’, by Sam Jevon…

📌 At the evening class in writing “creative non-fiction”, whatever that is, the teacher went pink with irritation when I deviated from the prompt in a five-minute writing exercise. I thought what I’d written was quite good. And it mentioned water, which was in the prompt. I understood the subject to be about sensual awareness of our environment, but I don’t think that’s what the teacher thought it was. It’s based on what one of the group members had said earlier:

“Carolyn nearly told us about the toilets in the village school of her girlhood. We imagined the sound of running water, the smell of disinfectant and a powerful reluctance to touch anything at all. Only one member of the class chose to imagine how taste came into the experience.”

TUESDAY 14 HuffPostUK has a story about elite British universities being in the pay of arms dealers. I was shocked that I wasn’t shocked.

Read the full story here…

📌 Paul Waugh has left HuffpostUK to join the i. In his last column he cogently summarises where we are with the Covid virus and manages to include a sparkling depiction of Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty (aka, Doctor Death) as a freewheeling TV game-show host.

📌 Emily at the Guardian is going to a wedding at the weekend. She says all wedding dresses these days are shapeless sacks. She eventually plumped for one that looks like a man’s shirt.

WEDNESDAY 15 The gym has become such a habit that if a 45-minute gap opens in the day, I’m straight in like a rat up a drainpipe.

📌 Boris is predicted to reshuffle today. The temptation to sit in front of the TV watching various ministers trundle in and out of No10 is huge.

📌 Next week’s writing class is all about the personal essay. I know as homework we will be asked to write a one. I have three contenders in mind. One is the day I was savaged by a dangerous dog. The second is when I screwed up on stage opposite a star actor in a production directed by Sir Peter Hall. The third is more of an idea than an experience. Its title is Catching Up, or somesuch, and it will explore the many and varied ways I am forever bringing myself “up to speed”. These will include all the TV we’ve caught up on during the lockdowns (still haven’t seen Peaky Blinders), discovering finally that Lou Reed was dead more than seven years after the event, and learning to walk again after a stroke.

THURSDAY 16 Britain, the US and Australia are said to have formed a nuclear pact to oppose China’s ambition for world domination. The three nations, dubbed Aukus, will apparently share secrets about nuclear submarines. This sounds like a plausible bit of global strategy… until you watch the new TV drama Vigil (“brought to you by the people who made Line of Duty“), which depicts an investigation into the submarine shenanigans of British and US nuclear u-boats. No one on the planet (except maybe the Chinese) can work out who’s doing what to whom with these deadly vessels. The US is secretly snooping around British territorial waters, casually dragging unfortunate trawlermen to a watery grave. And the Russians are lurking in the background somewhere. On board the HMS Vigil, meanwhile, a psychologically troubled police officer (Suranne Jones) is trying to nail the killer of an onboard crew member and peace campaigner (Martin Compston from Line of Duty). Gripping stuff.

📌 The Conversation has a double-bill of headline stories. One is about pumping oxygen into the brain to stop Alzheimer’s getting a grip. The other is the problems teachers face in teaching English grammar, the main one being they never learned it themselves.

📌 We were trying to remember the words to Incy Wincy Spider, only to discover we never actually knew them and had for decades been teasing children with the wrong words.

📌 Is it Nicky Minaj’s cousin, or a friend of her cousin’s or the cousin of her friend who got the swollen testicles off of the Covid vaccine, allegedly?

📌 Freed for the time being from a stitchwork commission, the chance to drop back into the pleasures of monoprinting was welcome.

📌 The new toy is an avatar generator. I wanted it to work on still lives, but it insists on manipulating a human face.

FRIDAY 17 Inflation is rising, we’re all doooomed, says the Conversation. But at least I think I’ve managed after several decades as an adult, to work out what inflation is: “the rate at which the value of a currency is falling and, consequently, the general level of prices for goods and services is rising.”

📌 Released from the studio commission for the time being, the plan to create a stitchwork based on where I live (The Golden Lane Estate, London EC1) has resumed with some gold thread left over from the commission.

📌 Signed the agreement with Art et al to curate a online exhibition of works from the Monash University Collection.

📌 As a short person, it’s nice to know that I’m being levelled up.

Read the full story here…

📌 In Winchester, Alfred is still standing tall, and sometimes a bit scarily.

SATURDAY 18 In Winchester, Liz and Bill live two doors down from “The Gerries”. Gerard and Geraldine.

📌 Looks like Aukus isn’t a dream geostrategic alliance after all. It’s Britain playing poodle to the US, who has bribed Australia with nuclear submarines in order to keep an eye on China.

📌 Squadrons of kamikaze pigeons are being trained to intercept deadly terrorist drone strikes.

📌 Winchester has a red telephone box that still has a working phone.

Winchester calling…

📌 The Ghurka Museum in Winchester might have won an award recently for its hi-tech overhall, but it’s still the scenes built with toy soldiers and cheesy waxwork warriors that steal the show.

📌 Jill looked up at the night sky and said the actor Jason Isaacs “could eat crisps in my bed any day.”

Night sky…

📌 Portrait of Claudia Winklemam.

SUNDAY 19 The Socialist Worker has a useful long read outlining the origins and the potential for individual action in the workplace. It re-makes some valuable points about organised labour, but cannot resist introducing the word “revolution”. That single word has thrilling connotations for some but negative ones for others. It has some truly gross baggage involving death, destruction, torture and misery. I nominate “Disruption” as a replacement, with emphasis on the potential beauty of upheaval and change.

📌 Someone on Quora puts forward a very rosy view of Europe before the EU, only to be shot down in flames by a very long list…

📌 RIP Jimmy Greaves, 81, annoyingly brilliant soccer star of my youth.

📌 Winnall Moors, Winchester, never fails to offer something new and exciting…

Winnall Moors…

📌 Every time a runner approached the finish line of the Winchester Half Marathon, the local children started to bang on the hard plastic hoardings that lined the street. The rolling, frenzied rattle built to a cacophonous, maddening thunder.

MONDAY 20 Nigel Kennedy has pulled out of one of his violin gigs because he wasn’t allowed to play Jimi Hendrix songs.

📌 Beans on toast for Christmas dinner. It could be worse, I suppose, but that’s probably what the PM wants me to think.

📌 Owen Jones says young people think communists are sexier than capitalists.

📌 Butch Vig sounds like the name of a character in a bad mafia movie. His real name is Bryan and his parents turned their home into a museum of creativity.

📌 My gym trainer asked today what my wife thought of my new, post-Covid fitness levels.

TUESDAY 21 There must be a way to capture the carbon dioxide emitted by aeroplanes and use it to make fizzy water.

📌 I don’t hold out much hope for the totem pole we’re meant to be making as a community craft project at St Luke’s. Delivery day is next week, but only two members of the group of six have actually bothered to do any work. At least Gary got to play with a chain saw…

A totem pole is in there somewhere…

WEDNESDAY 22 Government bails out private US business to prevent price increases being passed on to customers/citizens. This is crony capitalism by any definition.

📌 Decorative headband and necklace for the community totem pole done. All I need to do is source some big marbles for eyes and small ones for nostrils…

📌 Sam’s building her backgrounds in more and more sophisticated ways…

📌 At the new art class I met a woman whose first ever record was ‘Making Plans For Nigel’ by XTC. She is compiling a glossary of onomatopoeic words for the sounds of music (eg kerrraang!) The theme for today’s art class was to sketch what you see out of a window, so I just looked out the nearest window and did that…

📌 The community totem pole project is starting to look weird.

THURSDAY 23 The Conversation reports that lockdown has spawned a national identity crisis and large numbers are quitting their jobs in an effort to find a better work-life balance. But shifting the ballast from work to life doesn’t mean loafing around more than usual, feet up, gin and tonic in hand. What makes us happiest, say the psychologists, is being busy and tackling tasks. In other words, doing some work. It’s called Eudaimonic happiness.

📌 Someone on Quora asks whether English will eventually replace Dutch in the Netherlands, since most Dutch people speak English. No was the answer. And look a bit more closely, open your ears, and you will discover that behind your English back Dutch people are talking to each other in Dutch.

📌 I always thrived in the environment where the teacher was a mentor rather than an instructor.

📌 Project Book Cover is progressing slowly. It’s stitchwork plus water colour on linen. And very experimental.

FRIDAY 24 “…he hoped a 14,000-word essay would get his leadership back on track” is the standout line in a Morning Star editorial slagging off Keir Starmer. Closely followed by a description of the essay as “a focus group crafted version of the Sermon on the Mount”. Ouch.

📌 We’re still talking about the two “niche” films we saw last night in the Barbican’s season on Autism, as recommended by Chris. The first, Illuminating The Wilderness, was by Project Art Works’ Kate Adams about a trip to Scotland with six artists from the PA studio. It was a kind, characterful portrayal of people with “complex needs”. The second, Jigsaw, from 1980, was anthropological and sometimes borderline intrusive. The school children portrayed were all silence and twitches, whereas the Wilderness bunch were outgoing and noisy. In the discussion afterwards the term “complex needs” was repeated over and over, yet the idea that almost everyone, neurotypical and neurodiverse alike, has complex needs still seemed remote from the conversation. And only by accepting that can more open, flexible and fluid social and political systems develop.

📌 An email from the Women’s Equality Party on abortion rights urges me to “find out more about our top secret action on Thursday 14th October…”

📌 The Worldwide Web has many faults, but Full Fact isn’t one of them.

Read the full story here…

📌 The anniversary card my wife “sent” me sparked a discussion about who is speaking the words.

SATURDAY 25 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.

Golden Lane Estate tote bag…

📌 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.

Goswell Road, EC1…

📌 Liverpool are developing a habit of scoring good goals and conceding daft ones.

SUNDAY 26 “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 27 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?

📌 The Guardian is urging Labour leader Keir Starmer to pull his finger out, connect with the public and do some damage to the government.

📌 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 28 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 29 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 30 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.

Work in progress…

📌 Chris said he fell asleep halfway through Keir Starmer’s speech.

📌 Our preparations for Christmas have started.

Yum, yum…

📌 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.

Read all of my scrapbook diaries…

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