SATURDAY A new year and a fresh look at Boris’s flagship “levelling up” agenda in the Guardian. Part of it, apparently, is to beef up local democracy in some way. But no one seems sure, exactly, what that means…
A proliferation of elected mayors across the country looks more like a distraction than a solution to the problems of postindustrial England.Guardian editorial
📌 Paul Waugh in the i has a strong analysis of Boris’s prospects in the coming year. Watch out for the phrase “Peak Boris” as the discontent within his own party is more likely to beat the PM than anything the Labour Party currently has to offer.
📌 If Labour does have any chance of sinking its claws into the government this year, Rachel Reeves emerges in Larry Elliott’s estimation as the one who will walk away with traces of blood under her fingernails. She tops a stereotypically Guardian list of Women to Watch in 2022.
📌 The Joel Cohen/Frances McDormand film of The Tragedy of Macbeth is a niche masterpiece, and raises the bar on doing classic theatre for the big screen. I’d love to see them do a job on King Lear. The star of Macbeth, though, is not McDormand as the pushy wife, or Denzel Washington as the power-crazed king, but Kathryn Hunter as one of the three Witches (pictured).
SUNDAY Some kind of behaviour compliance is obviously desirable and even necessary during a pandemic, but if life is made ridiculously difficult in the process, sympathy for the cause fizzles out quickly.
📌 It’s starting to dawn on even the dimmest politician that pre-Covid, full-throttle Britain, in which economic and social activity pelt along at exhausting speed, is a foreign country now. It puts the prime minister in a sticky spot. Some kind of new national sick-pay programme is required urgently, but that will irk the backbench nutters in his own party who are pulling his strings with threats of rebellion.
📌 In a look back on its biggest stories in 2021, Positive News includes a list of the world’s best cities for mental wellbeing. Reykjavik is top and the highest performing UK city is at number 11, Liverpool. It is the only UK city in the top 20.
📌 In his New Year Facebook message, Bates lists all his favourite books from the past year. Among the authors was the crime writer James Sallis, who on first glance looks like a contender to ween me off my over-reliance on the Ed McBain 87th Precinct back catalogue. The style seems to be very Hammet/Chandler, with the use of short, notey utterances instead of linear trains of thought/speech.
📌 Our latest TV entertainment addiction is The Masked Singer, in which various low-octane celebrities dress in gaudy costumes disguising them as objects (eg, Mushroom, Traffic Cone) and sing a popular song. A panel of experts then attempts to guess who is “behind the mask”. At the end of each show, one of six Masked Singers is unmasked, to a chorus of “take it off!” from a fevered studio audience. Last night Chandelier was revealed to be Heather Small from the band M People.
MONDAY A psychoanalyst would conclude after only the briefest of encounters that I am Peter Pan. I have somehow managed to bypass growing up. Sort of.
📌 The new TV thriller to capture the nation’s attention is The Tourist, set in Australia and starring Jamie Dornan. It’s a real puzzler and quite gory in parts, but touched with absurdist humour native to the location.
📌 Outside has been another place for the past two weeks. Staying indoors just seemed like the safest thing to do, and in any case the Festive season focuses markedly on the home. But the weather is unusually warm for this time of year, so despite the perils of Covid, a close encounter with the view from the window is on the cards.
📌 A story in the Guardian is headlined…
It includes the news that dozens of people over 90 fell off swings and roundabouts.
📌 I’m trying to nail the point in time when wreckless lost its W to become reckless.
📌 I know plenty of people for whom the equation is simple: The unvaccinated are now clogging up hospitals where cancer operations should be back in full swing.
But the vaccine refuseniks are not a single entity, writes a thoughtful John Harris, and the Vaccine Gap is not an open and shut case.
The vaccine gap shows us how far we are from being a society that understands itself collectively, and how easily we still break into “us” and “them”.John Harris, the Guardian
📌 Licorice Pizza is a less-than-ordinary Young Love story with all its growing pains running sweatily on the streets of 1970s California. It is joyous and ridiculously zany in all the least expected parts. It has fabulous cameos from Sean Penn and Tom Waits, but cameo show-stealer is Bradley Cooper as a Hollywood sleazeball, dressed head-toe in white, with a helmet haircut and the glazed gaze of a hungry serial killer.
TUESDAY Lateral flow tests are the new toilet rolls.
📌 Not long ago Prince Andrew asked us to believe he was not close to the convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Today his lawyers will argue the opposite in an attempt to avoid a trial claiming the prince was guilty of the same crime.
📌 Liz Truss has been caught on the take, scoffing a £3,000 lunch from one of Boris’s posh restaurateur chums. That some politicians still see naked corruption as standard behaviour says a lot.
Truss and her companions drank two measures of dry gin; two bottles of Pazo Barrantes Albariño, a Spanish white wine, costing a total of £153; and three bottles of the French red Coudoulet de Beaucastel, costing a total of £130…
📌 As children go back to their classes today, here is another image from this time last year.
📌 A video from 1999 of David Bowie talking prophetically to Jeremy Paxman about where the internet will take us shows him looking like a cross between Mick Jagger and Liam Gallagher. My wife tells me it is a joke: “That’s a syrup,” she said, scathingly, witheringly, like I was the most stupid person on the planet.
📌 “Pluralistic Ignorance” is when you deliberately, accidentally or subconsciously shift your point of view towards what you perceive to be the majority view. Even if your perception of the majority view is wrong, write researchers in the Conversation, using the example of a survey testing whether “back to normal” or a slower, fairer, more sustainable post-covid future is most desirable.
📌 In the new-year clear-out my wife’s old suitcase, which had become a storage chamber for dust sheets, regrettably went to the dump.
WEDNESDAY A judge in America is taking an awful long time to decide whether Prince Andrew should go to court or if he can avoid publicly answering sex-offence charges. An item on the radio claimed that The Queen has already effectively cut him out of the royal family. The journalist Emily Maitliss has written about an interview she did with the Prince two years ago in which he declared an inability to sweat because of an excess of adrenalin he acquired after being shot at during the Falklands War. Maitliss says she encouraged the Prince to expand on that by telling him she was “fascinated by adrenalin”.
📌 A lot of Australians are angry that unvaccinated Novak Djokovic has been given permission to play tennis.
📌 At Stitch & Bitch Dawn told us about the guy who lived in the next block to hers who killed his wife, stuffed her body in a trunk and used it as a coffee table.
THURSDAY The Novak Djokovic visa battle in Australia has triggered global media hysteria. It might be useful if the medical experts who cleared his exemption from Australia’s vaccination rules stood up and said plainly what qualifies them to issue exemptions and what the criteria were. No confidential information about Djokovic need be released. Also, if Djokovic “loves Melbourne” so much, as is reported, why didn’t he simply fly in 14 days ago and enjoy his time in that beautiful city prior to playing his precious tennis games.
📌 The Morning Star sure knows how to knock off a tantalising headline…
FRIDAY The Sun reports that Prince Andrew has been forced to sell his £17m Swiss chalet because The Queen has refused to pay his legal bill in the sex-offence case he is currently fighting in the US.
📌 At Headway yesterday Sean and I were looking at a Black Lives Matter poster. It was a gallery of miniature paintings showing important black faces, including creatives such as Zadie Smith, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Ben Okri and David Olusoga. Sean said Olusoga had “white features”. I commented on his hair: “His dreads are like yours, Sean,” I said. Sean replied curtly, “They’re not dreads, they’re twists.”