April 16-23, 2022
SATURDAY 16 Every so often, and especially when we are away from home, my wife books us into restaurants reputed to be adventurous in their cuisine. We call these “Pip & Andy places” after two friends in Brighton whose exploration of food is unparalleled. They manifest their enthusiasm with delicately styled photos on social media, so in that spirit here is the Disco Cauliflower my wife had at Maray, Bold Street, Liverpool.
📌 The Walker Art Gallery never fails to inspire with its beautifully unpretentious collection of art from the 18th Century to the present day. My one gripe is the lighting of Stuart Sutcliffe’s Hamburg No2 painting, which mutes its incredible texture. William Hogartth’s massive painting of David Garrick as Richard III prompted my wife to search The internet for pictures of actor Rupert Everett for comparison.
📌 From the Walker Art Gallery we strolled down to the river and stopped at Tate Liverpool. The Jean Dubuffet has gone, but a new gallery of Ideas and the Journeys Through the Tate Collection is a worthy attempt to make modern art more accessible to a bigger range of people.
📌 In a heart-stopping FA Cup semi-final against arch rivals Manchester City, Liverpool won 3-2. We watched it in a small real-ale pub at the top of Bold Street. Keith screamed at the TV as if that might help. And maybe it did.
📌 The Unthanks concert at the Philharmonic Hall was a sheer delight, a Christmas gift from my wife and the perfect way to smooth out what had earlier been an occasionally stressful day. The performance, to promote their newly finished studio album Sorrows Away, had a distinct post-pandemic vibe with lots of talk about sacrifice and coming out of a tunnel, etc. At one point Rachel Unthank spoke of the redeeming power of song and how singing with crowds of people in their local Northumberland community was a life-saver for her. I walked away from the gig questioning the dimensions of what we call “folk” and its subtle reach into all aspects of life.
SUNDAY 17 Just like Partygate for Boris, Wifetaxgate will stick for Rishi Sunak.
📌 The country’s sorry state, in which its leaders casually flout the law and trample on political and legal convention is the sole fault of the Conservative Party, says an Observer editorial. Its MPs, and only them, have the power to put things right, but consistently refuse to do it. The article stops short of labelling them cowards, but the message is clear.
📌 On a day trip across the River Mersey to New Brighton in search of childhood memories, my wife was disappointed to learn that she had missed the first two installments of Desperate Scouse Wives at the Floral Pavilion.
📌 The view from the window of our city-centre apartment is quite spectacular in its own way. Our only regret is that the window isn’t bigger.
📌 Maybe Liverpool’s footballing success is the result of the club’s manager, Jürgen Klopp, also being the team’s greatest fan. His passion infects ordinary matchday supporters and inspires them.
📌 In New Brighton there was a pub with a sign outside headlined The Helmets, which featured a picture of Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock in hard hats. I didn’t get the joke until my wife explained it.
📌 I don’t quite understand why Joe Biden, Boris Johnson, Emmanuel Macron, Olaf Scholz, et al, don’t just go to Mariupol, sit in deck chairs in a prominent location and hold a peace summit.
MONDAY 18 Liverpool is rammed with architecture that today seems remarkable but in the past was probably routine. We seem to spend a lot of time looking up, clocking the splendour and magnificence of city-centre buildings that speak of empire and wealth. They contrast with the decrepitude of shut-up shop fronts and decaying terraces that speak of economic decline, poverty and bone-headed planning policies. My favourite monuments are those carved from the local red sandstone, but time and again we despair of a culture of destruction that sees centuries-old architectural beauties demolished to make way for new builds that will themselves probably be rubble in less than 20 years. Restoring, repurposing, converting and adapting seem to be architectural practices that have fallen out of favour, but it’s cheering to read in the Guardian that they’ve now found a new role in the political agenda as a route towards a sustainable way of living. It worked in Liverpool with the popular restoration of the dock areas, so it can’t be such a great leap of faith to extend the “remake” ideology to all buildings of historic interest. Or is the secret aim of the crazed developers to destroy history itself?
📌 My wife is doing an audit of the number of women who combine below-the-knee floaty dresses with trainers. Each sighting scores 2 points. If a denim jacket is included as part of the outfit, an extra point is scored.
📌 We went in search of my great grandfather’s grave in Broadgreen, but the cemetery was closed. Then on to Sefton Park for more childhood recollections and lunch on Lark Lane, which used to be genuinely Bohemian but is now just low-rent trendy.
📌 The bombed-out church has a fascinating statue.
📌 My wife and I disagree about the motives of Gentleman Jack.
TUESDAY 19 We started our week-long visit to Liverpool with some great food, and said farewell last night with equally satisfied stomachs. At The Italian Club Fish I feasted on a seafood stew called Cioppino.
📌 There are a curious set of pavement etchings outside Liverpool Lime Street train station.
📌 At Liverpool Lime Street train station the loudly repeated instruction for “Inspector Sands” to contact the station manager went on for around 5 minutes non-stop. This, I’m told, is secret rail-service code for “Yikes! Emergency!”, so it was a relief when our overstuffed train to London crept away on time. We speculated as the train headed south that someone pushed the emergency-announcement button by accident or out of mischief, either because the “Inspector Sands” message is now so widely known as to be ineffective or because Inspector Sands sounds like a character in the board game Cluedo.
WEDNESDAY 20 Paul Waugh in the i says that Boris has repeated his “apology” script so often that even his biggest supporters are getting bored and hunger for a change of tune. Waugh rams home the message that it’s Conservative MPs who delivered Boris to the job of Prime Minister and it is now time for them to remove him.
📌 My wife says the experimental egg-and-bacon porridge I made looks like sick.
📌 Manchester United manager Ralf Rangnick described his team’s players as “onlookers” in last night’s 4-0 defeat to Liverpool.
📌 Tina Daheley has returned from maternity leave, but what’s happened to Clare Runacres?
📌 According to the number-crunchers at the Tortoise, the government’s controversial “Rwanda Plan” to process asylum seeks offshore has a budget that will cover the processing of 63 asylum seekers annually. The report adds that last year Britain had 48,540 applications for asylum.
📌 Jennifer messaged to remind us that the Art et al. Cromwell Place panel discussion is doing the rounds on social media. I replied with an apology for my incessant fidgeting. I remember at the time staring blankly at Lisa’s trainers, then at her carefully painted fingernails (not the whole nail, just a single crescent at the tip of each nail). In between I twiddled my walking stick, crossed and uncrossed my legs a dozen times and knocked over an empty plastic cup. It made a plastic clatter that is still ringing in my ears.
THURSDAY 21 I’d missed one of Kate Davie’s blogposts from March, which was annoying as I am meant to be notified by email every time a new one appears. The blog was about how artists struggle to get funding and the hordes of “gatekeepers” that stand in their way, pulling strings and siphoning money. I commented that the gatekeepers are the result of art’s existence as product. An alternative to a market system is the only way out.
📌 At Headway, Stuart asked me if there is a general election today. I said I wish.
📌 As convincing as Larry Elliott’s columns always are, sometimes they float dangerously into Brexit jingoland.
FRIDAY 22 We went to a show at the Barbican last night called Boys. Its reputation arrived in advance. It comes from the experimental “physical theatre” company Pappy Show and a performance at London’s South Bank scored 3 points in a Guardian review. It was billed as an exploration of masculinity, and it was, in parts. Other times it looked like a bunch of over-athletic drama students in a homo-erotic wrestling match.
📌 The media still talks about inflation as if it were a force of nature, like the weather, and never that it is rising prices caused by poor economic management.
📌 A report in the Morning Star makes me think maybe the war in Ukraine is the moment in history when the West as global policeman ended and the East finally got its hands firmly on the wheel of international power.
📌 Resistance from Tory MPs to putting Boris on the hotplate of a privileges committee investigation was minimal to non-existent. Maybe Tory MPs are finally looking for a legitimate way to stab him in the back. If so, it will be a slow death by a thousand cuts, reckons Freddie Hayward in the New Statesman.