January 2022, as it happened…


SATURDAY 1 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

πŸ“Œ 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.

πŸ“Œ 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.

πŸ“Œ 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).

Read the Guardian review here…

SUNDAY 2 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.

πŸ“Œ 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.

πŸ“Œ 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.

πŸ“Œ 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.

πŸ“Œ 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 3 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.

πŸ“Œ 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.

πŸ“Œ 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.

πŸ“Œ A story in the Guardian is headlined…

Read the full story here…

It includes the news that dozens of people over 90 fell off swings and roundabouts.

πŸ“Œ I’m trying to nail the point in time when wreckless lost its W to become reckless.

πŸ“Œ 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.

From this blog one year ago…

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 β€œus” and β€œthem”.

John Harris, the Guardian

πŸ“Œ 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.

Read the Guardian review here…

TUESDAY 4 Lateral flow tests are the new toilet rolls.

πŸ“Œ 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.

πŸ“Œ Liz Truss has been caught on the take, scoffing a Β£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 AlbariΓ±o, a Spanish white wine, costing a total of Β£153; and three bottles of the French red Coudoulet de Beaucastel, costing a total of Β£130…

πŸ“Œ As children go back to their classes today, here is another image from this time last year.

πŸ“Œ 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.

πŸ“Œ “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.

πŸ“Œ 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.

Gone but not forgotten…

WEDNESDAY 5 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”.

πŸ“Œ A lot of Australians are angry that unvaccinated Novak Djokovic has been given permission to play tennis.

πŸ“Œ 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 6 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.

πŸ“Œ The Morning Star sure knows how to knock off a tantalising headline…

FRIDAY 7 The Sun reports that Prince Andrew has been forced to sell his Β£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.

πŸ“Œ 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.”

SATURDAY 8 According to the Vice horoscope today I will be focused on money matters and learn something new about love and harmony.

πŸ“Œ I bet quite a lot of the people who have continued to suck up to Boris are now looking for ways to breathe out and move away with dignity intact.

πŸ“Œ My wife gave a cautious thumbs-up to my genius idea for saving the NHS from being overwhelmed by the unvaccinated. It is the Covid equivalent of the pox party. Anyone not wanting the jab can go sit in a room and breathe in a dose of “pure sars-cov-2”, get infected, self isolate at home for 14 days, take lots of paracetamol and lemsip, stay hydrated and watch the whole back catalogue of Taskmaster on All4.

πŸ“Œ Watching, listening and reading Boris being ridiculed is a cruel, guilty pleasure.

πŸ“Œ The British Museum’s Peru exhibition is fascinating and inspiring. Peruvians appear to have found the knack of living in partnership with the environment rather than trying to boss it. The exhibition was also a great opportunity to nick some readymade patterns for my stitchwork projects.

The Naszca geoglyphs were a special favourite. I can see myself thieving from this collection for many years to come.

πŸ“Œ The description of this afternoon’s movie, Viva Las Vegas, makes it sound like a satire: “A charismatic racing driver arrives in the city to prepare for its first grand prix. Unfortunately, his car has no engine, so to make the money to buy one he takes a job as a casino waiter. However, he loses focus when he falls in love, leaving a rival with the means to steal the race and his girl.”

πŸ“Œ A news item on TV saw health minister Sajid Javid go up against a hospital doctor over the government’s intention to make vaccination mandatory for frontline health workers. The doctor questioned the effectiveness of compulsory vaccination and said he was not vaccinated and didn’t want to be. He thought losing his job for holding that belief was unfair.

SUNDAY 9 We are likely to see more cases of flurona this year because the Winter flu virus was so benign, says HuffpostUK.

πŸ“Œ There are lots of nice tributes to Sidney Poitier, who has died at 94. To Sir With Love will always be a standout film for me. And a standout song by Lulu.

πŸ“Œ In Ed McBain’s Poison one of the chief investigating officers is having it off with the chief murder suspect.

MONDAY 10 It looks like the Australian prime minister has some tough choices to make. The tennis star Novak Djokovic complied, albeit cackhandedly, with state law. His continued presence in Melbourne is an embarrassment to a country with very strict federal laws on Covid vaccination. In the light of looming elections, the opposition parties are probably rubbing their hands with glee at the discomfort of Liberal prime minister Scott Morrison.

πŸ“Œ Paul Waugh has a fact-packed analysis of Boris’s lying and its corrosive effect on British politics, arguing that the current House of Commons rules on truth-telling need reform.

If a better way of forcing him to make corrections was in place, he may cease to be as slapdash with statistics.

πŸ“Œ I learned recently that Covid lateral flow tests are more reliable than I thought they were. What I also learned is that social-media pranksters have been continually testing their efficacy with substances such as tap water, fizzy drinks and ketchup. Full Fact po-facedly gives its verdict on these stunts.

πŸ“Œ The backgrounds on Sam’s pictures are getting more and more complex. I’d like to have seen this image with a flat wash as background.

Sea Life Menagerie’, by Sam Jevon...

TUESDAY 11 Note to Self: Even if projects with Australia sound like the best fun in the world, remember the time difference and the VERY early Zoom conversations.

πŸ“Œ The prime minister living it up at secret parties while all other UK citizens were in lockdown is a story that has gained such momentum that it is now unlikely ever to slow down.

πŸ“ŒAt the Guardian cybercoffee no one believed me when I said George Clooney was a fellow #sewbro. Then Angela sent a picture of George at a sewing machine, when I thought he was a dedicated hand-stitcher.

Nice hemline, George…

πŸ“Œ Aisling pipped Sunetra at the post in TV’s House of Games to take home a matching set of red salt and pepper mills.

WEDNESDAY 12 Angela Rayner has resumed her nagging attacks on Boris this morning and Marina Hyde refers to him as a “smirking fibreglass toby jug”.

πŸ“Œ “It’s all men!” my wife blurted as we discussed those who sit brazenly maskless on public transport.

πŸ“Œ What were you doing on 20 May 2020 when the prime minister was at a secret boozy party in Downing Street? Lots of stories are emerging, including one from the actor Rory Kinnear. One of my postings from that day read:

I can’t be the only one who had the passing thought that at some point our prime minister calculated how many virus deaths could be parlayed into some sort of national sacrifice. It is a cynical view, but one obviously shared by others, as evidenced from this TV clip that appeared under the #WhereIsJohnson trending hashtag.

THURSDAY 13 Paul Whiteley, my wife’s old colleague at Essex University, is in the Conversation saying Boris is doomed. He has sped towards the Maggie Thatcher position of being a liability to the Conservative Party. Sue Gray, who is currently investigating the accusations of rule-breaking at the 2020 Downing Street drinks parties, is in a tricky spot because Boris actually has the power to quash the findings of her inquiry.

πŸ“Œ Stephen Bush in the New Statesman reckons Boris is safe for the time being because none of his predicted replacements (Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss) is any cleaner than Boris himself. Only by electing Jeremy Hunt leader could the Tories potentially put the issue behind them, Bush says.

πŸ“Œ Michelle wants to press on with the idea of getting the studio affiliated to the Crafts Council with a #sewbro project, inspired by the ground-breaking stitchwork of George Clooney.

FRIDAY 14 Image of the day is The Queen sitting alone at her husband’s funeral when hours before Downing Street was Party Central.

πŸ“Œ The Tortoise reports that the Greek government has come up with a fresh ruse to get the British Museum to return the Elgin Marbles to Greece, where they are known as the Parthenon Marbles. The sticking point in this long-running ownership dispute rests on the British Museum’s refusal to accept the Greek insistence that the Marbles are stolen goods. Loot, in fact. The ruse is an attempt to initiate an antiquities loan deal similar to one Greece has just done with Italy. So far, the British Museum has remained stony-faced in its refusal to play, arguing that the Marbles were obtained legally (bought from the 7th Earl of Elgin).

πŸ“Œ Full Fact has drilled into the doctor who told Health Secretary Sajid Javid to stuff his booster jab and found his claims to be shaky. Unfortunately this story, which another doctor in the Times described as an “anti-vax wet dream”, will stick.

πŸ“Œ There’s a scary story in Guardian Weekly asking whether a new American civil war is likely. And the answer, with the rise of clusters of right-wing militias fuelled on Trumpist hatred, is a definite yes. It will look a lot, say experts, like the Troubles in Northern Ireland, with targeted attacks designed to maximise death and division.

SATURDAY 15 Quora says that the term “Don’t be a James” is cockney rhyming slang for advice not to be a James Blunt.

πŸ“Œ The tennis player Rafael Nadal has been on the radio saying the Australian Open tournament is bigger than any single player. Meanwhile, the BBC has a clear analysis of the situation, concluding that Novak Djokovic effectively cancelled his own visa in his actions. As much as sports people like to tell us they are not “political”, Djokovic knowingly played state law against federal law. If the outcome is “political”, he is the one who made it so.

πŸ“Œ Novakgate is starting to smell very Brexity. I wonder what the result would be if Liberal Australian PM Scott Morrison brought forward this year’s elections, took a leaf from Boris’s book and made his election slogan “No, vaccine, no entry”.

πŸ“Œ Really enjoying getting my needle stuck into Sam’s Legs.

SUNDAY 16 Chris Roberts was on Facebook recalling an interview with Jean-Jacques Beineix, who died recently. He mentioned the film Diva, which for many years in my youth I named as my favourite movie. It was my introduction to cinema as art and left a big impression on the young me.

πŸ“Œ The Barbican displayed some of the lighting fixtures from the current Noguchi exhibition in the Conservatory, added a pop-up wine bar and somehow invented a new indoor/outdoor social setting for the well-healed.

πŸ“Œ Marge came round to dinner last night so we missed The Masked Singer. Tonight ‘Bagpipe’ was revealed to be former tennis ace Pat Cash.

πŸ“Œ My wife goes all gooey when she sees Junior Bake Off contestants helping each other rebuild collapsed cakes. Likewise when they console those who cry at the news that they came last.

MONDAY 17 A fascinating radio programme about the role of fleas and other parasites in poetry sent me on a bodily tour of itch scratching.

πŸ“Œ Half way through a cold, dispassionate analysis of the UK’s Covid deaths it started to feel like the whole experience has been a mass cull of people deemed economically non-productive and of little use to the future of post-Brexit Britain. Then came the news that pregnant women had died and babies born prematurely because midwives were not supported properly.

Read the full story here…

πŸ“Œ Just because Boris is about to be toppled, don’t be fooled into thinking Britain has changed, says an article in the Guardian. To those who voted for him, it states, Johnson is as disposable as any other servant.

Johnson is a contracted private service provider – as long as he delivers, then as clients, his supporters don’t really care what he gets up to outside of the tasks he has been hired for. Those tasks are broadly Brexit and a shiny, prosperous country where jobs and funds have been cut or confiscated from those less deserving.

πŸ“Œ Finished Sam’s Legs. Not sure I want to work with white linen again for a while. Calico here I come!

πŸ“Œ There’s a line in Ed McBain’s 87th Street Precinct story Poison in which a detective thinks “Hope is the thing with feathers”.

TUESDAY 18 Be careful what you wish for. Nadine Dorries, culture secretary and an ally of Boris, is threatening the BBC if it doesn’t shut up reporting her friend’s misdemeanors. What she hasn’t twigged, writes the Socialist Worker, is that the BBC is the establishment’s greatest ally and chief propogandist, so getting rid of it might not be such a bright idea.

πŸ“Œ Conservatives itching for Boris to go might also want to think hard… about who might replace him. The latest money is on Penny Mordaunt, minister of trade last seen in a popular TV diving show called Splash.

πŸ“Œ For many, a Conservative leadership contest is the best bit of TV fluff to hit our screens in years. The sheer drama of who will knife who next is up there with Season 4 of Ozark.

πŸ“Œ It looks like Boris is engineering his own exit by claiming his innocence in Partygate but willing to resign if Sue Gray’s inquiry says he was warned about having a party during Lockdown. My wife is still annoyed that Downing Street staff are apparently allowed to drink alcohol while “working”. Government policy is fuelled on gin.

WEDNESDAY 19 It’s my guess that very soon the Prime Minister will be out and a new one in. In preparation I wondered what the cartoonists would make of Boris’s tipped replacements.

Rishi Sunak, by Dave Brown, The Independent

πŸ“Œ Our next project in art class is focused on Chinese New Year. Out with the hopeless, in with the hopeful, etc. I have decided to base a collage exercise using couplet papers on something widely assumed to be Chinese but I’m told is in fact a British marketing stunt…

Chow mein in simplified Chinese…

THURSDAY 20 Earth history has already seen five Mass Extinctions. These are catastrophes in which at least 75% of the planet’s species are wiped out. According to an article in Vice we have now entered the sixth. The article includes a quote from a scientist saying:

The most important thing we can do for the future is to preserve as many species as possible in museums, so that in 200, 300, or 500 years from now, people will still be able to say this is what the Earth once had.

πŸ“Œ The plan to unseat Boris has been labelled the “Pork Pie” plot because one of the chief plotters represents the Mowbray constituency in Leicestershire, where pork pies are made.

πŸ“Œ Boris has now been fingered for using mafia methods to keep his MPs in line.

FRIDAY 21 Found a lost email yesterday inviting us to a family wedding in Switzerland in July. This released a flurry of activity deciding a route and finding a suitable hotel in the centre of Basel. We decided to add a few days in Amsterdam to the trip and my wife skilfully found a luxury train fare that is only a little more than standard. It’s nice to be able to make plans again.

πŸ“Œ Today’s plan is to move the sofa and vacuum away all the dust that has collected beneath it. It’s also a chance to fix a faulty light switch. How exciting is that! Might even put on the radio news while toiling to get the latest on the discovery of a secret torture chamber in the basement of 10 Downing Street where Boris in a gimp mask has been waterboarding Tory MPs who think he should shove off and let a real Prime Minister take over.

πŸ“Œ My cousins Helen and Kate both hope Boris survives the “pork-pie putsch” and carries on being rubbish at his job. That way he just has more time to make himself and his party look TOTALLY UNELECTABLE at the next election.

πŸ“Œ The government has really got a grip on what the public wants right now – and that is less boring announcements on trains. The subheading to this story is “Bonfire of the Banalities”, as if the entire train-using public can reference Tom Wolfe novels just like that.

Underwhelming headline of the week…

πŸ“Œ RIP Meat Loaf, never knowingly referred to as Meatloaf.

πŸ“Œ We never go there, but I’m glad Conway Hall exists and persists. I guess that supporting it in spirit is not really good enough? I suspect that’s what humanist-in-chief Polly Toynbee would tell me. In her column today she reckons political protest in the UK is on its way down the same road as Hong Kong.

πŸ“Œ Doctors are greedy blood-suckers too. Is that such a surprise?

πŸ“Œ Being very short, buying trousers has always been an ordeal. Then I found Banana Republic stocked my perfect size. Then Banana Republic closed down and the Trouser Ordeal started all over again. Now my waist has grown with old age, Marks & Spencer are my saviour. Off the peg, perfect fit, happy days.

SATURDAY 22 In Liverpool Homebaked, the locally-run cafe cooperative that started in the old Mitchell’s bakery on Oakfield Road has taken over the cafe space at St George’s Hall. It’s a remarkable enterprise success story built on the popularity of “Shankly Pies” and a determined new localism.

πŸ“Œ The Tortoise has some hot revelations about Boris and Carrie during the March 2020 lockdown.  They were travelling freely between their various residences, despite Boris’s personal instruction to the nation to stay indoors.

πŸ“Œ Marina Hyde detects a moment of realisation among Boris’s colleagues.

πŸ“Œ The Conservative Party is no longer in any way conservative, writes Jonathan Freeland. It is a party of vandals, happy to sneer its contempt for the monarchy, the Union and the citizens of Britain.

Its instincts now are those of Viktor OrbΓ‘n, funnelling public money and jobs to ideological allies, ready to burn down even the most valued institutions that stand in its way.

πŸ“Œ Brenda Spencer, perpetrator of the 1979 Grover Cleveland Elementary School shooting and inspiration for the Boomtown Rats hit I Don’t Like Mondays, is eligible for parole in September.

πŸ“Œ After a snoozy start, Nightmare Alley sprang into full-on Noir when femme fatale psychologist Cate Blanchett stood up to challenge Bradley Cooper’s confidence trickster. From then on it resembled a glorious masterpiece of the genre, Chinatown inevitably lurking in the background.

Read the Guardian review here…

πŸ“Œ On the way home from the cinema I bumped into neighbour Anthony, who told me he fell out of bed last night while dreaming that his house was on fire.

SUNDAY 23 Conservative MPs are queuing up to tell the police about the strongarm tactics Boris’s whippers have been using to make sure they back the PM. On Radio 5 Live it was reported that many of these MPs are from the younger 2019 intake and are self-made business people who are not used to being pushed around. Maybe some of them are seasoned bullies themselves. Maybe even a bit like Boris himself. This is the ugly face of Johnson’s revolutionary transformation of the Conservative Party – levelling up the bullies.

πŸ“Œ The background on Sam’s Peacock is so distracting you hardly notice the detail in the plumage.

Peacock, by Sam Jevon…

πŸ“Œ Jane Northcote did one of her fab watercolour sketches of 84 Charterhouse Street.

πŸ“Œ It really is quite exciting to see if Boris can escape a grisly end to his premiership. It has all the characteristics of a master illusionist spectacle waiting to happen, as if David Blaine were submerged in a plexiglass water tank suspended by a crane outside the Houses of Parliament. Will he surface and draw breath once again, or will he drown in a frantic attempt to kick his way out of the box?

MONDAY 24 An expert at Cardiff University has added to Susie Dent’s study of the “orphaned negatives” in the English language with a hitlist of “Five life-affirming words we should bring back into use”. It is a ridiculously eccentric collection that includes the word mesology, which the author says is the science of achieving happiness, and another one that describes group crying. Maybe some words are so redundant that they are better left to rest in peace.

πŸ“Œ Breaking through the fog of conflicting information about what’s going on in Ukraine is difficult. The Morning Star version is embarrassingly pro-Russia, the BBC’s is shamefully jingoistic, casting Russia as the country we should all throw rotten eggs at. I never thought I’d be waiting for Simon Jenkins to ride in with a saddlebag full of clarity, but here he comes with his table-thumping demands for common sense. About time, too.

πŸ“Œ Sometimes Quora can be uplifting. Finding anyone to say nice things about Britain is hard work these days.

πŸ“Œ Sam’s portraits always carry a real honesty, even the ones she has done of herself. Her gozzy eye and her hooked nose are imperfections she wears happily on her sleeve. The same truthfulness is here in her portrait of The Queen.

The Queen, by Sam Jevon…

TUESDAY 25 Wordle is taking up far too much of my time.

πŸ“Œ I’m trying to imagine how I’d feel about the death of a friend overseas had it not happened in the times of Covid. Maybe we’d have been able to say goodbye in a better way.

πŸ“Œ The guy from Toynbee Hall crammed an awful lot into the three-hour Evaluation training session.

πŸ“Œ The Metropolitan Police are looking into Boris’s birthday bash.

WEDNESDAY 26 As much as I admire Polly Toynbee’s steadfast determination to bang the social-justice drum – and I admire even more the way she coolly slips rigorous factual reporting into her columns – I do wish she would sometimes just lose the plot and get properly angry. In a recent one about social housing she mentions the value of a stable home almost as a side issue, its beauty suffocated by the urgent need to point out that George Osborne and David Cameron shafted the British taxpayer to the tune of Β£29 billion.

πŸ“Œ Marina Hyde reveals that five months after interior designer Lulu Lytle claims to have been working on Boris and Carrie’s home makeover, Boris is grumbling about finding the money for Lulu to get started on the job.

πŸ“Œ Just like the Prime Minister, Metropolitan Police chief Cressida Dick should have resigned a long time ago, for crimes against policing.  But if she can now nail Boris for eating too much cake, she’ll probably get to keep her job.

πŸ“Œ Michael Portillo is back on the trains, with a comb-over.

πŸ“Œ In the second week of art class based on Chinese New Year I made some digital collages from the physical collages I made last week using a selection of couplet papers.

Collages based on Chinese couplet papers…

πŸ“Œ Dawn told us her mates call her Dawn The Prawn. I told her Jamie Oliver’s prawn+pea risotto is yummy.

THURSDAY 27 Listening to Alexei Sayle’s Imaginary Sandwich Bar always takes me back to my childhood as a street urchin in Liverpool. When Alexei returned every so often from art college to visit his mother (“Comrade Molly” as we knew her) in Valley Road, Anfield, we would delight in some cruel name-calling, tormenting this horribly hunched, tortured figure in a duffle coat with jeers of “Oi, Rasputin!”

πŸ“Œ I had a dream/nightmare that Boris somehow survived his current debasement and was able to go into the next election with a message saying “We’ve walked through the storm, with our heads held high. Now give us the tools and we’ll finish the job.”

πŸ“Œ At the Headway Burns Night supper club we enjoyed a nice bottle of Croatian pink fizz.

FRIDAY 28 The Guardian has a profile of the gung-ho militarist Tory MP Tom Tugendhat which manages to come across as a dire warning. He enjoys dancing to Whitney Houston with Michael Gove, and is currently plotting to unseat Boris as PM and snatch the job for himself.

SATURDAY 29 There’s no way Chancellor Rishi Sunak can justify a rise in National Insurance when he presided over a sprawling fraud scheme that saw ghost and zombie companies handed billions of taxpayers money in dodgy covid loans, writes Simon Jenkins. The revelations came from a government minister, Lord Agnew, who stood up last week in the House, supposedly to speak in defence of government policy but instead resigned on the spot over the corruption of the loan-scheme that saved many businesses from collapse during the pandemic but also suffered from chronic undersight and mismanagement.

Agnew estimated that total fraud across the public sector now ran at Β£29bn a year, or about 5p on income tax. The bounce-back loan fraud is estimated to have cost a third of the annual revenue of the new national insurance levy of 1.25 per cent due in April.

πŸ“Œ We are still not quite sure how Wordle deals with words that have the same letter twice – eg, chill, elite – but nevertheless got today’s word in 3, which is sadly still our best score.

πŸ“Œ It’s common nowadays for us not to know who any of the celebrities are on celebrity TV shows.

SUNDAY 30 It probably sounds ridiculous to say it, but might we not soon be headed down a road where public toilets are clearly marked with penises and vaginas. Very few people properly understand the difference between sex and gender; even fewer have any desire to swot up on the subject, and a minuscule proportion of those who do have bad intentions towards their fellow citizens. The legal implications of equality are vast, the sex/gender part of the issue is microscopic.

πŸ“Œ Separation and Death are the big themes haunting Parallel Mothers, the latest cinematic conspiracy between Pedro AlmodΓ³var and PenΓ©lope Cruz. The film places a maternity-ward mix-up and its devastatingly sad consequences alongside the forensic anthropology of a mass killing during the Spanish Civil War. The stories can justifiably be seen as cousins separated by time, but sometimes they feel like they were grafted on to one another to make a political point.

Read the Guardian review here…

MONDAY 31 Boris is off to Hungary to sort out the Ukraine Problem, leaving behind him a number of U-turns (compulsory vaccination, national insurance) waiting to happen.

πŸ“Œ The best word to start Wordle is SOARE, says a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Psychology and Language Sciences in the Conversation. Dopey me has been using MEDIA.

πŸ“Œ After speculating that Metropolitan Police chief Cressida Dick might finally have found some dignity and decided to nail Boris, it is now widely agreed that she has in fact stayed loyal to the “greased piglet” and is looking to save his bacon.

πŸ“Œ Essex-raised Gaby Hinsliff says her maligned county can be as proud to be the home of the vajazzle as it can about its role in fomenting the Peasants’ Revolt. It’s all about class.

πŸ“Œ Stephen Bush in the New Statesman says the moment for Conservative MPs to get rid of Boris has passed. They dithered, he says, because the list of possible replacements is not an attractive one. Which means that Boz will stagger on for a while yet, a terminally wounded animal no one has the courage to put out of its misery. The trail of blood is getting longer.

Read all of my scrapbook diaries…

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