FRIDAY 1 A hangover can easily swallow a whole day.
SATURDAY 2 HuffpostUK has a soft story to partner the Conservative Party’s arrival in Manchester for its annual conference. The author reflects on some of the modish looks Tories have embraced in years gone by. During David Cameron’s leadership, his lower ranking political bedfellows adopted his masculinist body language (wide stance, shirt sleeves rolled). Boris Johnson’s cabinet colleagues are tipped to be seen dressed in a variety of playful costumes (cosplay). Expect to see “top politiciansdressed in camouflage, branded jumpers, hardhats, aprons, lab coats, police jackets, goggles and fishmonger hats.”
📌 The new character tasked with transforming the NHS is a former military man with the surname Messenger.
📌 Marina Hyde opens an epic attack on Britain’s culture of male violence with a slew of stats: “At least 80 women in the UK have been killed by men since [Sarah] Everard. Only 1.6% of rapes in England and Wales reported to police even result in a charge. Fifty-two per cent of police found guilty of sexual misconduct kept their jobs.”
📌 James Bond (aka Liverpool fan Daniel Craig) has said Jürgen Klopp will make a great James Bond. Hard to disagree, but the new 007 as seen in the latest film is a breath of fresh air. But a woman. And black. Which probably means an early death in the next film.
SUNDAY 3 The next lesson in my writing non-fiction course is all about memoir. The set reading includes a book extract, which contains the following…
Of course since we’ve moved here I’ve been rereading Madame Bovary. I am Madame Bovary as I read Madame Bovary. Ennui, excess of emotions. C’est moi.
📌 Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer urges the Conservatives to avoid appearing too cocky as they gather in Manchester for their annual conference… “The fuel famine is being accompanied by surging energy prices and food shortages. The army has been put on standby. And they used to say that Labour would turn Britain into a version of Venezuela.”
📌 Our local allotments are welcoming more and more children, which is nice for them.
MONDAY 4 The Prime Minister is stoking his own hostility towards business. The fuel shortages and the supply-chain fractures that have left supermarket shelves empty are not the government’s responsibility, he says. That is a problem for businesses to solve.
📌 Fascinating to see which news organisations have picked up on the latest data mega-leak, the Pandora Papers. The Guardian reports the contents of the 12m secret files as a portrait of how the rich and the powerful conduct their financial affairs in ways not open to ordinary citizens. The Mail fingers a number of world leaders as dodgy, as does the BBC. Other news outlets (eg, Mirror, Telegraph, HuffpostUK) have yet to use the day-old story.
📌 Twitter went on fire when Harry took two steps forward before remembering to hold Meghan’s hand.
📌 My wife predicted that the pregnant woman in Midsomer Murders would be revealed to have a cushion up her jumper. She also predicted that the crime was death by vaping (poison). She was right about that one.
📌 Boris says that the aggro we’re suffering (fuel and food shortages) are a temporary “blip” until Britain can bounce back. This is what “getting Brexit done” means in reality. And in any case, others (inc potential trading partners) see the UK’s plight differently…
📌 The New Statesman points out that unlike the rest of mainland Britain, Northern Ireland is not suffering a fuel famine or a food shortage. Which could mean that the government will stop ranting about the inadequacies of the Northern Ireland Protocol – for the time being – because technically Northern Ireland is still operating in the EU and to pick a fight now would risk an all-out trade war with the EU.
📌 Someone on Quora asks “Is it true that the Irish, Scottish, and Welsh don’t like it when people refer to them as ‘English’?” The answer is yes, but they put up with it.
📌 When we told our sponsors that Project Cuba (an art collaboration based on postage stamps) was lost in the post (it went to Algeria), they were very understanding and happy to accept a composite film as proof that their money has been well spent. This was a big relief and a chance for Cristina to get excited about The Gibson Brothers’ video of their 1978 hit Cuba.
TUESDAY 5 The national fuel shortage may be more complex than we think, says an article in the Conversation, which cites the new, greener E10 petrol as a factor.
📌 Last week’s homework in our writing class was to tell a travel story. I didn’t exactly take the easy route and tried to write a travel piece about not going anywhere. Here it is…
Global travel during a global pandemic wasn’t on the Prime Minister’s list of instructions. But Boris, we’ve got places to go! Italy, India, South America, Australia, Africa, then back to the UK maybe, via the USA.
Solution: a Lockdown World Tour! In stitches! That sounds like a way to go…
I bet Jules Verne didn’t spend his quiet moments sorting threads into compatible colour combinations. He hung out with some of the top creatives of his time, but still the picture seems somehow wrong.
The actor George Clooney is well known for his hand stitching and claims to have nailed the craft mending his children’s clothes. He heads up the hashtag #sewbro, for men who know what to do with the pointy end of a needle.
But even that revelation doesn’t help my imagination get to the sight of a 19th Century French homme de lettres such as Verne sitting in his study stitching the outline of a world map onto a plain white tablecloth while building a plotline for Phineas Fogg.
Maps make great stitchwork patterns. An artist told me: “Stitchwork is a fascinating way to explore line.” It sounded plausible, coming from an artist. And “drawing with thread”, he said, was a way to slow the process and to savour the moment of a path well taken.
Run your hands round the muscular shoulders of South America. Stroke your best fine needle down towards its waist at Latitude 38S then journey the full length of its scorpion’s tail and wrap your mouth around the words TIERRA DEL FUEGO.
Relief maps are a thing of beauty, as are soil maps, migration maps and geological maps. Roads, too. I once stitched a satnav map of Didcot, Oxfordshire, onto a blank cotton tote bag. Madrid is a glorious higgledy-piggledy starburst of roads. Huddersfield looks like a man with a big nose.
Stitchwork offers a variety of headspaces to inhabit. Just stop, sit and surrender to something slow and transcendent. Its allies in the spiritual world would be mindfulness, yoga or qigong. The difference is your head is never empty and the urge to drift into fantasy is to be encouraged. Combine it with the memory of places visited in a pattern that looks like the bones of art and stitchwork can take you to any place on earth called Tranquility.
Italy came first, and days loafing and reading and reading and loafing at the roadside bars of Sorrento and Amalfi. Then to Australia, and that camping trip when the frog jumped out of the bush toilet. South America and India were a challenge, total unknowns but for their triangular shape and complexity of colour. And the same things cropped up in every place – shape, line, colour…
“The imagination cannot help but pursue a line in the land…” Robert McFarlane, The Old Ways
Look carefully at these travelogues and you’ll spot some cheeky stitching tricks or the faint signs of an accident involving blood. Mistakes, bodged solutions, improvised routes. Where next?
I wasn’t entirely happy with the essay, but the class liked it and all rushed off to check out George Clooney’s hashtag.
📌 I still don’t know if the word “outage” is just another way to say “power cut” or if it means the service suffering the “outage” (in this case Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp) simply broke down.
📌 A monoprinting workshop with a group of local seniors turned sour when one old grump started making silly demands. First they wanted a red pen, then they wanted a red paint brush. Then a green one. Each demand came with a loud bang on the table and the word “Oi!” directed at me. Some nice touches came out of the event, so I decided not to add any rat poison to the grump’s cup of tea.
WEDNESDAY 6 The shattered remains of life-lessons casually discarded lie strewn across the lower floors of everyday existence. Last week, a studio job I was doing looked nearly finished… To me.
Then studio boss Michelle said No, that was just “layer one” finished. The next layers will deepen the tone at the bottom, lighten the tone at the top and turn the soft focus figures into HDR. In other words, because I had a finished image in my head, I fooled myself into believing the job was done.
📌 Perversely, I’d quite like to see NHS workers go on strike this Winter just to see whose side the media comes down on. In the past, firm action has fizzled out when the media has heaped on the guilt. I say this as someone who is relatively healthy and in no immediate need of emergency treatment. Things can change, so I intend to be careful what I wish for.
📌 Headway have been posting pictures on Twitter of the lunches members cook and serve at the Timber Wharf centre. One was of the kebab and tortilla plus salad we got for lunch last week.
Some members complain about the food served at lunchtime. I eat it and enjoy the company even if it is rubbish made from tube pasta or lentils. Or both. These meals cost £3.
📌 If Boris doesn’t find someone who has been “levelled up” soon he will have one huge albatross hanging round his neck. And no amount of mixing metaphors will rid him of it.
📌 We finished the Hockney module in art class today and when asked what I had learned I said steal, edit and please yourself.
THURSDAY 7 Each week at night-school (course = Creative Non-fiction) we get homework. This week it’s to write a 500-word “memoir essay”, obeying all the principles of the form we learned in last week’s lesson. The problem is that at the same time we need to do the course reading for next week’s lesson, which is in something called “autofiction”. This means that my memoir essay homework is very likely to contain suggested elements of autofiction, if I can work out what it is. Apologies to all who get autofiction when they were expecting memoir.
📌 Larry Elliott makes Boris look like the most left-wing politician in Britain.
FRIDAY 8 I’m still not sure I understand what autofiction is, so I’ll need to swot a bit more before Monday’s class. At the moment it sounds like the author and the narrator of a story are so intertwined as to be indistinguishable.
📌 The meeting with the Melburnians at Muma (Monash University Museum of Art) to discuss curating a collection from the museum was cancelled, so I checked out a video of Valerie, one of Jennifer’s clients who has a wicked sense of humour. She thinks God is a bit lazy.
📌 Sue has an idea to start a Stitch & Bitch afternoon. I said I’d be there, like a rat up the proverbial drainpipe.
SATURDAY 9 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 10 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 11 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 12 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 13 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 14 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 15 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.
SATURDAY 16 Distressed to learn that my library book is due for renewal and someone else wants it. It is Zadie Smith’s essay collection Feel Free, and I’ve only read two so far.
📌 At first I read this sentence in HuffpostUK without the he final comma, and burst out laughing. “Grant Shapps tried to explain the thinking behind his new HGV driving rules, which will allow EU lorry drivers unlimited pick-ups and drop-offs in the UK, during the Today programme on Friday. “
📌 Liverpool didn’t struggle to score goals today against Watford.
📌 I decided that our friend’s son, Séan, 11, needed some advice. I told him: “Séan, never trust atoms… They make up everything.”
📌 There’s a theory going round that the costume designers on Strictly Come Dancing are the key to success. Rose had a great costume tonight. Greg, Emma Thompson’s luvvie-hubbie, was done up in a ridiculous blouse and powder-blue oversized bags.
📌 The dining table at Paula’s put a shiver up the spine.
SUNDAY 17 An overenthusiastic culture of competition can be very danaging. The comedy actor Robert Webb has quit Strictly Come Dancing citing health issues. It turns out he found the regime “brutal”.
📌 Men of a certain age in the UK are invited to perform a certain health check (bowel cancer). It will require some planning.
MONDAY 18 “Cop 26” doesn’t sound like an international conference on the climate emergency. It sounds like an American TV detective show.
📌 Driving lorries could become the hot new career-change option for bored middle-class professionals. Upcycling old tat will obviously continue to be a primary ambition, but lorry driving is looking more and more attractive. The Unite union has won some big pay increases recently under its new leader Sharon Graham. And because of the national shortage of lorry drivers, their status has shifted upwards to that of keyworker. Think of the freedom of the road and the travel opportunity to visit the loading bays of Britain’s shelf-denuded supermarkets.
📌 The killing of the MP David Amess during a constituency surgery is a trigger for the Conversation to highlight the threats faced by politicians in other democracies and to reflect on the chronic breakdown in relations between public and public servant.
📌 The Mail headline says: “Kate Middleton recycles £4,290 Alexander McQueen dress”. Turns out all she did was wear the same dress twice.
📌 Cristina and I had an exuberant online meeting with the Cuban artists at Havana’s Riera Studio for them to show us the works they’d done for the Mail Bonding collaboration based on postage stamps and national identity. The pieces were unimaginably impressive. Standouts were a collection of A4 serrated portraits of celebrity British figures such as The Queen, Lady Diana and Elton John and a set of elongated panoramas of London vistas such as Parliament from the Thames, and other architectural skylines. You couldn’t move for red buses and phone boxes. It was a joyous collection and a fabulous exchange. Then one Cuban artist picked up a guitar to accompany another artist singing a gentle slow version of Guantanamerafor us. The memory of the meeting, and the artists’ effusive gratitude at being involved will live for a long time, and if our sponsors, the British Council, had been there they would be proud of the support they’ve given us.
TUESDAY 19 At night school the teacher said my “autofiction” essay magnified my tendency towards flippancy and that my use of bald, blunt words to describe people such as “idiot” and “tosser” risked alienating readers. Some of my classmates rallied to my defence, arguing that raw words were very Billy. Here is the essay…
When Billy, ie me, told me the title of his new artwork I tried to keep a straight face. Then he goaded me, pressing for an answer. What was with the funny look when he said it was called All The Boys I Ever Kissed? He kept at it, nag nag nag, right in my face until I spat it out: “People will think it’s about YOU!”
He hit back: “Don’t be ridiculous! Only an idiot would look at that and think it’s about me. Do I look like someone who’d kiss a guy called Bruce?”
Then he started telling the story all over again. He was listening to Grace Dent on the radio, plugging her upcoming appearance on Radio 4’s My Teenage Diaries. Grace finished the tease by saying her diaries contained the names of “all the boys I ever kissed”. This, Billy claims, was where he got the title. He said it got him thinking about kissing, like do we all experience kisses in different ways. Doh! And the difference between a lip kiss and a mouth kiss. This, he says, is how he came to ask dozens of women to write the names of three “boys” they’ve kissed onto a big pair of red lips. He even got quite theoretical about it, claiming that the names in the mouth cavity represented the “sexual” while those on a bit of plump red were “platonic”. He secretly inserted the word “Dad”, once in the cavity, once on the lips, to add a “sinister twist”. One woman wrote the names of her two dogs. Another one drew a stick figure called Twat.
Every time Billy tells this story he gives it a new spin. He even once spewed up the claim that every single name written into the artwork was “a story that will never be told, owned solely by the woman who wrote it” in a calligraphic pen designed to disguise her handwriting. He even went full-throttle tosser one day claiming it was piece of “feminist art”. One idiot bought into the idea and remarked: “I bet Pablo was a good kisser”.
When an artist needs to explain an artwork, they’ve probably failed. Billy doesn’t accept this and continually makes bigger and bigger claims for this very ordinary piece. He has even made it the core of his “feminist collection”. Other pieces include a painting of three drunk women staggering down West Street, Brighton, and a montage of Lautrec’s Woman Putting On Her Stocking cavorting through a field of oversized poppies.
I really don’t know why I stick with Billy. Something keeps me attached to his irritating pronouncements. When he had a stroke in 2012 I truly honestly kept my fingers crossed for a week. But he came back to life and to sack him now would be cruel. I just wish he’d listen when I tell him that there is a very good reason why All The Boys I Ever Kissed has never appeared in any gallery, anywhere.
One of my classmates wrote an absorbing autofiction essay about discovering they were a twin whose sibling did not survive the birth and how finding out about them later triggered an imagined shadow journey through life wondering all the what-ifs and facing up to the idea that they were incomplete in some way.
📌 It sometimes looks like businesses are ahead of governments in their adoption of progressive policy. The Timpson retail organisation has just been applauded for paying for staff prescriptions. This won’t surprise students of this company, which seems to cling to Victorian roots in benevolence and philanthropy. Wikipedia: “The company has a final salary pension scheme in place, owns holiday homes for workers, gives staff their birthdays off, and pays bonuses for exceeding targets. In 2007, to celebrate growing from £500,000 profit to £12m in 20 years of trading, Timpson’s launched the “Dream Come True” programme for staff, which over 12 months paid for eye operations, reunited families and sent staff on trips to Australia. The business has been in the top 10 of the Sunday Times100 Best Companies to Work For every time it has entered. The company has a policy of employing ex-offenders across the group, over 10% of its workforce, and runs pre-release training in several prisons.”
WEDNESDAY 20 in community art class we are playing a kind of artistic Blind Date. We pick the title of an existing work of art from a hat and interpret it in our own way without reference to the real artwork. My title is A Place Where My Thoughts Are Frozen In Time. The temptation to google the artwork is immense, but I will not cheat. To prove it, this is my first sketch…
THURSDAY 21 We started the Stitch & Bitch project yesterday and six people turned up, which was a surprise. The idea is to make tote bags we can sell at the Christmas market.
The group will take some time to become a functioning unit, but it was a good start with lots of enthusiasm and a willingness to be part of a collective project.
📌 Tim at Headway had a joke. Q: What is the closest thing to Silver? A: The Lone Ranger’s arse.
📌 Margi said I can help myself to her muffins anyday.
📌 James and Stuart made a Mariachi backing track for a group rendition of My Old Man’s A Dustman to be added to the film of Project Cuba.
FRIDAY 22 Met Chris at Studio Voltaire in Clapham for the William Scott exhibition. The toilets were worth a picture…
…and the exhibition was fascinating, if a bit cultish. William Scott is presumably not known for his sense of humour, but when I said this to Chris he accused me of being WEIRD (white, educated, industrialised, rich, democratic), which I suppose I am.
SATURDAY 23 I told Sam that if ever her ‘Christmas Rug’ gets made, some fool will inevitably try to straighten it.
📌 Zadie Smith’s book of essays, Feel Free, includes a superb dismantling of Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg. The Facebook colour is blue because Zuckerberg is red-green colour blind. It is stuffed with trivia because to Zuckerberg that’s what ‘friendship’ looks like. You ‘poke’ people on Facebook because that’s what dweebs like Zuckerberg do to girls they’re too scared to talk to. All of this wrapped up in software designed to eliminate selfhood, because Zuckerberg had his stolen early in his development as a person.
📌 A semi-submerged wave of public incivility and hostility is rising.
SUNDAY 24 Stuart messaged to tell me about a book Bruce Springsteen and Barack Obama have co-authored. I replied with: “They did a podcast together, which was good for one episode but got slightly sickening thereafter.”
📌 The Socialist Worker has an article defining morality in terms of class. In the context of war and other officially sanctioned immorality, it claims: “State violence maintains and protects a system of exploitation, sexism and racism. It shields a world where the rich thrive and tens of thousands of the poor die every day from poverty.”
📌 It looks like being ill in the near future would not be such a great idea.
📌 My wife was very unhappy about the totally implausible way Angela in Angela Black tried to kill her abusive husband.
MONDAY 25 There’s a useful reminder in the New Statesman of how Boris and Rishi have successfully fuzzied the lines between Capital and Public expenditure.
📌 The attempted move into the production of bespoke stitchwork craft aprons got off to a spluttering start. Think I’ll stick to single letters of the alphabet to denote first names (S=Sue, etc) as they will probably sell better than abstract diagrams of cult housing estates.
TUESDAY 26 There’s a comedy radio programme called Polyoaks that is actually an accurate description of how the NHS is slowly being dismantled and marketised. Only when the public realises that the NHS is no longer a service provided by the people for the people will they get upset about it. And by then it will be far too late.
📌 I’m sometimes forced to clarify words. Today in an email I used the word “exclusive” to describe an art exhibition, adding a second short sentence to make it clear I was using the word as a flipside to “inclusive”. But it was still taken by my reader to mean elite.
📌 When our neighbour Patsy lost her debit card in Amsterdam she was sent to a police station in the red-light district to register it missing. When she gave the police officer her postcode, London EC1, she was told that the greatest number of lost debit cards reported to that station were from people in London EC1.
Patsy asked a few more questions and discovered that the lost debit cards were registered not to residential properties in EC1 but to business addresses, the inference being that cowboy capitalists in the City go on the razz in Amsterdam’s red-light district and “lose” their debit cards, the ones they obviously have registered to their workplace addresses.
WEDNESDAY 27 The Queen has said she can’t make her scheduled appearance at the Cop26 climate conference in Glasgow. The news prompted a flurry of speculation and declaration on this being the “final chapter”. She probably just wants to give Boris the swerve.
📌 The final chapter of democracy is mapped out in the Conversation in a doomy prediction that the world’s nations will all eventually buckle to the Chinese capitalist-communist authoritarian model. The model is dubbed Communism 2.0 and is characterised by how it sustains authority and regulates individual freedom with cyber surveillance and AI.
“Vast databases of citizens’ DNA and irises will make personal identifications impossible to fake, while ubiquitous online, mobile and CCTV monitoring will liquidate privacy and any possibility of organised dissent.
“In the state’s gaze, each person will stand naked with no choice but to do the autocrat’s bidding or be vanished and die, forgotten by all, out of sight in a ‘black jail’ or in an officially non-existent concentration camp.“
THURSDAY 28 The gap between what the government says and what it does fits the title From Here To Eternity. What is obvious in the Chancellor’s latest budget is that the State has been entrenched as the star actor in Boris’s revolutionised Conservative Party. Those Tories opposed to this can either put up or shut up. Stay tuned for more episodes of this gripping soap opera.
📌 The stitchwork reproduction book cover project is finished and ready to devastate the publishers (Bonnier Books) who commissioned it.
FRIDAY 29 This time last week I visited the William Scott exhibition at Studio Voltaire in Clapham. At the time, Chris and I briefly talked about white privilege and how we felt slightly uncomfortable as white people judging the work of a radical black artist.
A week later and WHITE is still on my mind. The Studio Voltaire exhibition space is like the interior of a small church hall painted bright white. This works well for the bright colours William Scott uses in his work. But white also inhabits many of his multicoloured images, often in the white grinning teeth and the whites of the eyes on the black people he depicts. I also keep remembering that white is 0% black.
But I guess what I’m struggling to say here is that there are no white faces in this collection, but white has a strong presence in the exhibition.
📌 A large single black leather glove discarded and lying ominously on stained concrete. It seems to be saying something. A detective would note that it is a left-hand glove. Sinister, or what?
📌 The Barbican was rammed to the roof with Inside No9 nerds. Good job we got discount tickets because £70 for 90 minutes of two clever-dicks talking about how clever-dicky they are is a massive scam.
📌 Our studio‘s merchandise is up there at the front of the Barbican shop alongside the Noguchi cushions.
SATURDAY 30 The Conversation has a fascinating analysis of modern witches and witchery, which includes the revelation that witches have been forced to take their broom sticks online because Britain no longer supports a decent Pagan environment from which they can wave their wands and cast their spells, etc.
Modern witch identity is empowering women to stand loud and proud within a patriarchal society.Maggie Webster, The Conversation
📌 It looks like Samhain is the new Christmas. It’s pronounced sah-ween and its purpose is to celebrate Death – or Passing, to be more euphemistic about it.
📌 Katrina’s feature about the studio has arrived on the Art et al. site. It is surprisingly complete, doesn’t cut and corners and has a good pace. It genuinely reflects the voices of people like Sandra, Yoki and Affiong.
📌 During Strictly Come Dancing I pretended to be amazed that Craig has become the voice of reason. I suggested that upcoming and downvoting would turn the show into the kind of gross spectacle it pretends so hard not to be.
SUNDAY 31 Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer predicts hard times ahead for the government if it cannot conjure some kind of economic boom to supports its increases in tax and spend. “There’s a reason why many public services will remain mediocre or worse even as taxes rise to their highest level in 70 years. The fundamental explanation is the sluggardly pace of economic growth. When the economy expands at 2.5% a year, the country can afford to buy itself decent public services with relatively modest levels of taxation. At growth of 1.5%, you end up with inferior public services for higher levels of taxation.“
📌 An anti-Conservative progressive alliance is a fantasy, writes Nick Cohen. But if the decline of autocracies in Turkey and Hungary are anything to go by, minestrone alliances are the only way forward for Democracy.
📌 Very impressed by Kate Winslet in Mare of Easttown.