26 February-March 4…
SATURDAY The war in Ukraine has thrown an uncomfortable light on Boris’s Brexit bluster, writes Paul Waugh. In defending Ukraine he is openly seen to be supporting the country that wants to join the institution he was so keen to get Britain out of – the European Union. He might also be finally waking up to the fact that political and economic alliance is preferable to isolation.
Slowly, it appears that No 10 is realising that the real “enemy” is not Brussels bureaucrats. It is the common enemy of the gangster state that is Putin’s Kremlin.
📌 Full Fact outs a number of sources, including the BBC, for using old footage of war planes, military manouvres and disasters to grease up reports from Ukraine. One of them was a warehouse explosion in China from 2015.
📌 Vlad is out of control, reckons the commentariat – so far out of control that nothing short of the re-establishment of a long-gone Russian empire will do…
📌 My wife is convinced that the continuity announcer on Absolute Radio 70s is Steven Toast. Whenever she mentions this I take it as a cue to do my brilliant impersonation of Clem Fandango.
📌 To Barbican Cinema 1 to see my wife’s cousin Michael in The Duke, a lovely film about class starring Jim Broadbent as a Newcastle working-class hero idealist campaigning for free TV licences for OAPs, and Helen Mirren as his long-suffering wife. Michael appears at the beginning for about 10 seconds as a reporter from the News Chronicle in a flat cap and a panatella cigar in his mouth. The film’s twist is a good one. It is signalled by a single line right at the start, but otherwise remains hidden until the end.
SUNDAY The Guardian has a compelling historical drama dressed up as a portrait essay of Vladimir Putin and the Russia he has built in the image of Ivan The Terrible. If once there was hope that Russia and the West could somehow rub along, all that is gone. The real, crazy, obsessed, power-mad Putin is depicted in a way that recalls Al Pacino’s final descent in Scarface.
📌 The BBC has a fascinating profile of the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, whose previous job was as a comedy actor.
📌 I heard on the radio that Thrash Metal has been renamed Threttle.
📌 Liverpool won the Carabao Cup on penalties. Their Russian-backed opponents Chelsea were unlucky to lose.
MONDAY It is starting to look like Russia’s real intention is to annexe all of Ukraine east of the Dnieper River. Kyiv will become the new Berlin.
📌 Graphic design is a place where art and invention dance with each other ecstatically. My cousin Kate posted a picture of her series of beer mats celebrating Liverpool FC footballers.
TUESDAY Google has announced it will block content from Russian media sources RT and Sputnik. Meanwhile, the biggest failure in this crisis, the United Nations, will have another meeting. The last one yielded a statement declaring Putin’s assault on Ukraine as an “affront” to its principles.
WEDNESDAY From a position of privilege and distance it will now be fascinating to watch the type of resistance that unfolds in Russian-occupued Ukraine. It will be fascinating, too, from a position of detachment to watch what the EU does to counter the undoing of its eastern expansion. Will the iron curtain come down once again, or will the people of the countries that border Russia stand against the power of Putin’s iron fist?
📌 My early-morning quiz question was to ask how many holes there were in Blackburn, Lancashire. My wife said she didn’t know. The answer is 4,000.
📌 Reading Russia’s side of the story is getting harder. Their news sources are facing blockage in the West. RT is still on Twitter and Sputnik is adding an introduction to all of its stories, which says…
On 24 February, Russia launched a special military operation in Ukraine aimed at protecting the republics of the Donbass region it had formally recognised earlier that week. Moscow has made a point of saying that it has no occupation plans and that the operation’s goal is to protect civilians from genocide.Sputnik
📌 In art class we concluded our 2-week input into International Women’s Day. One member of the class did a portrait of Anita Roddick in the style of Maggie Hambling. The result reminded me of Brain May on the cover of Bohemian Rhapsody. I didn’t say anything. I continued on the idea of superimposing drunk women on to an old Bridget Riley I started last week and brought in the element of the toilet queue. It is a psychoanalyst’s wet dream.
📌 There’s surely an obvious answer to the question, but when Putin asked Nato to guarantee that Ukraine would never be given Nato membership, why didn’t Nato just say “OK, deal”. Meeting lies with lies is no long-term solution to anything, but it might have neutralised an obviously incendiary situation in the short term. It presumes, though, that Nato prefers peace to war.
📌 Lessons in sarcasm… Me: “Is Tina Turner still alive?” Wife: “Yes. Why? Hasn’t she been in touch?”
THURSDAY The private view of Postwar Modern at the Barbican last night was rammed with creepy arty types standing in front of the artworks talking bollocks. The exhibition was fab and vast, but the experience was horrendous. Maybe with war raging in Europe once again, that was apt. There was nowhere near enough photography included in the exhibition for my taste, and maybe too much sculpture, as good as it was.
📌 Ridicule is the new weapon of war. On the radio this morning one expert said that Russian tanks stood waiting ominously on the outskirts of Kyiv because Russian soldiers don’t know how to change tyres.
📌 We won Cadbury’s chocolate eggs in the Headway quiz. It was spotting the intro to a Nik Kershaw song that sealed it.
📌 Kat tells me she hasn’t been bullied or persecuted for being Russian, which is good news.
📌 At the Barbican’s 40th birthday LSO performance of Haydn’s The Creation not only did Sir Simon Rattle send in a sick note but I swear I saw Uriel checking his phone for messages shortly before he stood up at the end to wish Adam & Eve the best of luck for the future. It was 109 minutes of my life I won’t get back.
Western conviction that this is not supposed to happen in Europe any more has not stopped it happening. The shock is producing dramatic policy changes across the continent. The most historically significant shift is in Germany, which is sending weapons to Kyiv and ramping up defence spending. Gone overnight is the taboo around military assertiveness that was born of national atonement for the Third Reich.
FRIDAY The Labour Party has won a by-election in Birmingham on a turnout of 29%.
📌 Two separate articles in the Guardian – one by transparency campaigner Gina Miller, the other by veteran editor and columnist Simon Jenkins – ridicule the current pledge by the prime minister and his top team to clamp down on dodgy Russian money in London. The main reason being, they argue, is that the British government is itself up to its neck in complicity.
📌 At the Stitch Festival in Islington I was a lone male figure among tribes of female cross-stitchers with packed lunches and return tickets to Somewhere, UK.