SATURDAY Today we can meet the people who are standing in our upcoming council elections. I’m not sure I want to meet them, but I want to watch them answer questions from residents. Our council is unlike any other in the world in that businesses can vote alongside residents. This leads to spivvy business people trying to get elected so they can get their hands on the levers of power. It is a sorry sight to see these transparently greedy people trying to convince council tenants to vote for them.
SUNDAY The geopolitics of the war in Ukraine are cooly laid out in an article in the Observer that puts context to the passion with which the good/evil framing of Ukraine and Russia is accelerating.
📌 I do love a coincidence of numbers. The government is reported to be offering British householders £350 a month to take in refugees from Ukraine. That is coincidentally the DAILY pay rate for members of the House of Lords.
📌 My wife says that when she was very young she was taken on a visit to Madame Tussauds waxwork museum in London. She remembers one of the waxworks being John Christie, the serial killer of 10 Rillington Place.
📌 One woman on our train to Oxford offered her seat to a pregnant woman she noticed standing in the aisle. The pregnant woman declined, saying she was getting off at the next stop. By way of pleasantry, the seated woman congratulated the pregnant woman on her pregnancy. The pregnant woman replied saying that her pregnancy was a surrogacy, but thanked the seated woman “on behalf of my uterus”.
📌 Harry Boggis-Rolfe, one of the legal brains I used to consult at the Guardian, was on our train to Oxford. Harry became momentarily famous as a character in the Sebastian Faulks book Jeeves and the Wedding Bells. Harry was as close to the real English upper class as I’m ever likely to get, a real Wodehouse character in tweed and Viyella.
📌 My Great Nephew Oscar’s parents live next door in Oxford to a character that makes Victor Meldrew sound like Bambi. Some innocent tradesperson parked his van in the wrong place and Mr Grumpy came out and squirted ketchup all over it.
MONDAY At Tate Modern last week my wife wondered out loud whether the Blavatnik extension to the vast gallery had any connections to Russian oligarchy. Yes appears to be the answer, according to a story in the Guardian, which mentions the litigious Leonard Blavatnik as an extension to a news item about his sanctioned business partner Viktor Vekselberg.
📌 The Oxford Pissarro exhibition was subtitled Father of Impressionism, a theme that gains weight when Pissarro’s work appears alongside paintings by both his son Lucien and other artists such as Seurat, Signac and Cézanne. He was a good printmaker, too, as it happens.
Then we went to the Natural History and Pitt-Rivers museums where an overwhelming stash of curiosities and colonial loot left us drained. My wife overheard one visitor asking, loudly, “Where are the shrunken heads?” Only to be told, disappointingly, that they had been removed.
TUESDAY Squatters broke into one of oligarch Oleg Deripaska’s luxury London properties and claimed it for the people of Ukraine.
📌 A report in the Guardian says China was never really sitting on the fence over the war in Ukraine. It is obviously waiting until Russia nears exhaustion economically and militarily. Then it will throw its entire weight behind Russia, cuckolding it in the process.
📌 Britain imports tiny amounts of Russian oil and gas, but its shortage in the West has given Boris an excuse to appease other dictators and nasty regimes, writes Simon Jenkins. Britain is not yet so desperate that it needs to grovel to Saudi Arabia, he announces imperiously.
📌 Boris’s answer to Vladimir Putin is to slap a massive import tariff on Russian vodka.
📌 If the Pissarro exhibition at the Ashmolean yesterday faithfully carried the “vibe” of impressionism, the Jesse Darling exhibition at Modern Art Oxford did likewise for modern art. In many ways its strangeness embodied the popular view of modern art as a stunt. But there was real beauty lurking inside all the weirdo junk pieced together in what looks to the naked eye to have no consistency whatsoever.
📌 The question that popped up on Quora got me thinking.
At first I thought the top answer might be Fanny, but it was Lolita.
📌 “No war at the dinner table” was a rule laid down when a Guardian reporter offered accommodation to a Syrian refugee in 2015.
📌 My wife once worked waiting tables at a restaurant in Oxford. One day she arrived to find a handwritten note on one of the tables instructing the manager to sack her and her friend Stacey at the end of the shift. They both walked out immediately and went to the pub.
WEDNESDAY In art class we did painting in tea. One member insisted that anything less than 2 tea bags was pointless. Henrika said my portrait looked like Paul McCartney, then Mick Jagger, then Liam Gallagher. I think it looks more like Fred West.
THURSDAY Looks like I was wrong about Putin. I believed his intention was to conquer all Ukrainian territory east of Kyiv, but Ukraine in its entirety now seems to be the plan as strikes on the western city of Lviv show. Lviv has been the city of refuge for fleeing Ukrainians, a place where they wait and decide whether to make a run for Poland or to sit tight and hope for peace to come soon. Sometimes agonising family decisions are made and children are sent across the border to rehabilitation camps while parents and grandparents dig in.
📌 You’d think foreign secretary Liz Truss was personally responsible for the release of hostage Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe from detention in Iran when it was more likely the repayment of the £400m dodgy debt from 1979 that did the trick.
FRIDAY It’s A Fair Cop was on the radio last night. In it former Humberside police officer turned stand-up comedian Alfie Moore engages a live audience in solving hypothetical everyday crimes, with an obviously serious-hilarious outcome. At the end of the show he names the audience member who performed best. In last night’s show it was a character he’d named Psycho Andy due to Andy’s willingness to use either sharp or blunt instruments enthusiastically against presumed opportunist burglars.
📌 The Morning Star directs attention to a War on Want report that fingers McDonald’s in shifty tax manouvres and the exploitation of Covid cash handouts to businesses.
📌 Cute bit of art spotted on the wall next to the bus stop on Old Street.
📌 Cecil did loads of drawings at home during Lockdown and gave me permission to turn one of them into a stitchwork.