WEDNESDAY 1 Cowardly Conservatives are finally making the simplest calculation: kill or be killed. But it is still a gamble. If Boris makes it to the next election as their leader, they are doomed. If they replace him now and support a new leader at the next election they have a slim chance of survival. If they stick with Boris and by some miracle he stumbles into a moment of newfound popularity, he will call a snap general election and might win.
📌 American Express predicts a bumper year for foreign travel, but my wife laughed with derision when I suggested adventure travel companies might sell package Summer holidays to Ukraine to help clear up and rebuild.
📌 Another email arrives from Amazon detailing a new phase of the Kindle Swindle. Not only will I soon be unable to buy books with my Kindle device, I won’t be able to buy them with the Android app either. This is clearly a plan to kettle all Kindle users into subscribing to Kindle Unlimited. The only way I can otherwise buy books from Amazon is through their website. I’m not sure I’ll bother. This feels like a tipping point for Amazon. What was once a good business model has been corrupted by excessive greed… Prime deliveries never arrive the next day as promised, Amazon staff wages and conditions are poor, the Kindle Swindle, the arrogance of the monopolist business believing it can own practically everything and everyone… The list goes on an on.
📌 An article in the Guardian listing the likely contenders to replace Boris as PM is hilarious because none of the proposed replacements scores higher than 5/10. This raises the likelihood of Boris keeping his job simply because his party is so totally empty of political talent. Talented Tories such as Rory Stewart, Sayeeda Warsi and Ruth Davidson are not seen as contenders.
THURSDAY 2 Fascinating article in Variety about how Patti Smith’s big hit Because The Night came into existence. A very rough cassette version of it written by Bruce Springsteen sat on her mantlepiece for a long time before she finally listened to it, fell in love with it, rewrote bits and created her masterpiece with producer Jimmy Iovine. I remember being blown away by Springsteen’s own version of the song (credited to Patti Smith Group), performed at Manchester Apollo in 1981.
📌 The stitchwork portrait of three drunk women staggering down the street is a reprise. I have made this image so many times and with the women in so many different outfits. To recap why I return to it: the powerful triangle of forward motion is reminiscent of a rugby maul; no faces are shown, which forces the viewer to imagine them; no background is shown, which forces the viewer to invent one in their own mind. I do think of these women as drunkenly launching themselves into infinity.
📌 The commentators are edging towards the belief that economic sanctions against Russia have backfired and only military confrontation can bring an end to the war in Ukraine.
📌 At last, the padron peppers are showing some signs of life!
📌 The Platinum Jubilee (Platty Joob) flypast for the Queen was impressive but slightly muted, as if a show of military might was not appropriate at this moment in history.
📌 The Guardian urges Conservative MPs to muscle up and depose their maverick leader.
During the Queen’s platinum jubilee celebrations, the country will celebrate the life of a figurehead who embodies for many voters the idea of selfless service and integrity in public life. The contrast with the current occupant of No 10 could not be more stark.Guardian editorial
FRIDAY 3 I embarrassed myself in a dream and woke up riddled with guilt and sweating.
📌 We sat in the pub last night roughing out the first episode of The Golden Lane Murders. It is a sort-of cross between Midsomer Murders and Stephen Merchant’s The Outlaws. There is an exsanguinating body lying face down in the rooftop fish pond of Great Arthur House. The water that usually leaks from the pond onto Betty’s balcony one floor below has turned pink. I asked my wife two questions. Who is the stiff and who killed them? Her answer was to name a much-hated local politician as the victim and her displeased illicit lover (a freemason) as the perp.
📌 Boris was roundly booed by crowds as he arrived at St Paul’s Cathedral for the Queen’s jubilee service.
SATURDAY 4 Seems the French are upset that the multiple screw-ups in the hosting of the Champions League final have tarnished the nation’s standing globally.
📌 Found a fab stitchwork artist, Vera Shimunia, who is Russian and married to a Ukrainian. Sanctions have forced her to close her Etsy shop.
📌 There’s a scene in the TV drama Inventing Anna in which one character observes that no one offers their credit card to pay for something unless they want to. Tonight I offered my credit card to my wife to pay for some drinks. She returned with the drinks but later told me she’d booked a helicopter ride.
SUNDAY 5 Nick Cohen looks forward to life after Elizabeth II and the installation of Charles III as monarch.
We will have a monarch who doesn’t accept that his authority has nothing to do with his ability and everything to do with an accident of birth.Nick Cohen, the Observer
Charles will rule Britannia like a tinpot dictator, Cohen predicts, poking his reactionary impulses everywhere, both local and global, in a wilful incontinence that contrasts sharply with his mother’s caution and dignity. I think maybe the Clown Prince whose embarrassing behaviour has hitherto been tolerated will become The Mad King and subjected to the hardest cruelties satire can muster. Expect to see him depicted in the style of Hogarth walking the streets of Windsor naked muttering dark thoughts about his lost inheritance and something about feminine hygiene products.
📌 Martin Kettle also looks towards life after QE2, comparing the platinum jubilee celebrations with previous jubilees. He concludes by describing it as a “soft-focus funeral for an era.”
📌 A London Inheritance has gone all Queenie, first with a long piece about commemorative royal jubilee beer and a second article featuring unseen images from the 1953 Coronation, the 1981 Royal Wedding and lots more.
📌 Trying to work out whether a good session down on our communal allotments project (The Golden Baggers) weeding, sweeping and generally sprucing things up counts as equivalent to a session in the gym cycling and rowing.
MONDAY 6 All reports suggest Boris is doomed, even if he wins the confidence vote among Conservative MPs later today. According to Polly Toynbee they will oust him eventually, more from the need to save themselves than to reform the party which, Polly says, has descended into a cult.
📌 The image of Boris dragging his wife up the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral to a chorus of boos from assembled citizens will be the moment the nation finally worked out that the game was up.
📌 According to Wikipedia the 1922 Committee was formed in 1923.
📌 Blimey, I never knew David Bowie was in awe of Bruce Springsteen’s Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ album and his cover of the song It’s Hard to Be a Saint in the City is superb.
📌 With the Prime Minister facing a confidence vote I sense the end of a political era for the UK and that the vandals are about to be vanquished, whatever that amounts to. In this light I decided to start a collection of till-roll portraits (quick sketches printed on the receipt printers used by waiters in bars and restaurants) of the key political players in this intriguing time.
TUESDAY 7 No one seems interested in reporting that in last night’s confidence vote Boris won the backing of 59% of Conservative MPs. The 41% who voted against him make the headlines. He is fatally wounded, carrying a hollow victory, etc. One ordinary party campaigner yesterday remarked that “selling Boris” has become the hardest job in the world. Traditional Tory voters who were happy to back him in 2019 have noticed the cost of heating the cottage in the country and presumably sit shivering in anger that the PM does not pay to heat 10 Downing Street, the location of multiple boozy parties during lockdown. Tory fanzine The Telegraph seems to be more aware of this discrepancy than the PM himself.
📌 I’ve long been fascinated by pictorial languages so decided to try some words as stitchwork patterns. This is Japanese for “forward” or “go for it”.
WEDNESDAY 8 Boris has blown it for the Conservatives’ long-held reputation for being the party of business.
📌 We were very disappointed by the ending of the TV miniseries Your Honor. For some stupid reason we wanted Jimmy the gangster to see the light, reject his half-wit son as useless and bless his daughter’s relationship with her elder brother’s killer.
📌 In art class our theme was Nature, which we set about after a lengthy moan about the data security breach the college had just unleashed. I used a dead rose on six layers.
📌 Dawn described someone in her choir as having an RBF, which stands for Resting Bitch Face.
📌 My wife imposes a ridiculously strict ban on foodstuffs in the cinema, so it was with amazement that today we were allowed to eat a whole a bag of Haribo Tangfastics while watching Men, a movie that will enthrall fans of silly 1980s horror but is meant to be a serious comment on toxic masculinity.
THURSDAY 9 The new Wembley stadium has a super-sensory booth for disabled people. I’m on the list to try it, but the gig is… Coldplay.
FRIDAY 10 Finished the latest stitchwork featuring the expression “Go For It” in Japanese. Will probably try something in Traditional Chinese next.
📌 Trip to Kew Gardens aborted because the taxi didn’t turn up and no explanation given. To Oxford Street instead to buy clothes for the Swiss wedding next month and a ride home on the new Elizabeth line.
📌 Resigned from the committee of our local allotment project because one member hysterically and unilaterally implements a cult misanthropic form of what they call “biodiversity” without consultation or any real understanding of environmental management.
SATURDAY 11 Made my peace with the eco zealot down on our allotments by explaining carefully but passionately the difference between urban biodiversity and rewilding. I added a slight dig about the Buddhist approach to the natural environment, which probably irritated her, but I don’t care. She got the message that biodiversity projects need to be managed.
📌 In the Guardian’s latest update of the war in Ukraine is a short paragraph stating that… “Thirty-seven thousand women are in the Ukrainian army and more than 1,000 women have become commanders.”
📌 My wife grew increasingly irritated as I repeated the words “no idea who you are” during the introduction to a “Celebrity Special” of Pointless Celebrities.
SUNDAY 12 Boris is being buried daily by bad news. It’s hard to see how he can dig himself out. He has run out of gimmicks (“Save the NHS” red bus) and slogans (“Get Brexit done”) and he’s been outed as a character who can’t speak without telling lies. This is now the entrenched view even among the public. Add Partygate to the mix and his future as prime minister looks bleak. Who knows, he might actually be keen to go? One report yesterday predicted his post-PM earnings at £5m a year. So an exit on his own terms might be a strategy, and I half expect him to call a snap general election soon and fight it on “Get Brexit Done 2: Abandon Northern Ireland” and starting a nasty trade war with the EU.
📌 The sense that this government is nearing the end prompts in the imagination a time in the distant future when the 30 Year Rule kicks in and all the facts contained in the government documents of today will be laid bare for all to see. It is a tantalising moment worthy of a big TV drama as various current politicians now in old age scramble to protect their reputations. The lucky ones will already be dead, but their descendants will inherit the shame. Marriages will crumble and desperate measures will be employed to salvage dignity.
📌 McDonald’s has reopened in Russia under a different name and hordes of Russians are flocking to get a burger.
📌 A parody Laura Kuenssberg patrols Twitter as the Secretary of State for Propaganda and occasionally has something quite witty to say…
📌 Someone on Quora wants to know why the UK is determined to wreck the Northern Ireland Protocol and risk a trade war with the EU. The top answer is a meticulous list illustrating the government’s real intentions in Northern Ireland, which is to cut it adrift from the UK.
TUESDAY 14 As might have been expected, the introduction to parliament of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill has rekindled dampened fires. An editorial in the Guardian outlines it as a triumph for the hard right of the Conservative party and a way for King Boris to wage a new war with the EU. But something else is happening, writes Katy Balls of the Conservative-leaning Spectator. The bill’s passage into law is likely to be stalled by a nervous House of Lords. Boris’s future as PM hangs on a slim thread. So the EU is probably happy to wait for the next PM to arrive before it starts talking tough about trade wars.
📌 Mathematician and early computer genius Ada Lovelace was quite a feisty character, if the BBC’s serialisation of her letters to Charles Babbage, Michael Faraday, et al are anything to go by. But she wasn’t a typical role model for women in science, writes present-day mathematician Hannah Fry…
Intelligent she might have been, but she was also manipulative and aggressive, a drug addict, a gambler and an adulteress.Hannah Fry, BBC website
📌 Home Office staff disgusted by the government’s most recent immigration policy hit back…
📌 Finished last week’s art class assignment. The theme was Nature and I chose a dead rose as my subject. This image presumes a species of rose named ‘Ascension‘ and the dead flower is meant to be ascending heavenward.
📌 RIP Joan Flannery, 95. She died with her lippy on.
📌 Also finished the latest stitchwork tote bag. It shows the 25 wards of the City of London.
WEDNESDAY 15 Tried some microwavable clay in art class and very disappointed with the results. To fill the time I started painting into a cotton-paper print of the dead rose picture I did last week and discovered that the printer ink bleeds like watercolour. ‘Dead Rose Bleeding’ sounds like the title of an avant-guard American film.
📌 Fascinating insight into the idea of a National Care Service, an open goal the current Labour leadership looks set to fluff badly.
📌 An article in the Guardian outlines Boris’s political philosophy as a machine geared only to keeping him in charge. Any conventional ideas about the purpose of politics being to govern a nation in the interest of its citizens is secondary to Boris’s idea of himself as King of the World.
FRIDAY 17 Describing inflation as if it were the weather enables lazy media commentators to avoid saying plainly what it actually is – rising prices. Another lazy trick is to use buzzwords. “Baked in” is today’s offering as so-called experts fret that the nation is becoming dependent on “baked-in” state handouts in hard times.
📌 As is so often the case these days, Aditya Chakrabortty has a trusted reality check on the real cause of Britain’s decline.
From privatised trains to high-street chemists and care homes, industry after industry is today owned by multinational investors with tentacles around the world who treat our basic needs as tiny income streams to suck up and siphon off into palm-treed tax havens.
📌 Boris is still trying to decide whether he needs a new ethics advisor to replace the one who just quit.
📌 Over to Toynbee Hall to discuss an upcoming advice clinic on the rising cost of living. It’s always a pleasure to step back into Victorian London. Our meeting took place in a room that was once a bedroom for do-gooding volunteers who came down from Oxford to help the needy of East London.
📌 Message from the Electoral Reform Society reports Unison as the latest big union to back proportional representation. Labour really has no excuse now in dragging its heels on this issue. How to make it work is another matter. PR systems were once a notorious hard-sell, but maybe not so now among a younger generation of voters conditioned to juggling permutations as they built their gaming skills.
SATURDAY 18 I knew I wasn’t the only one who thought Boris was using the war in Ukraine to deflect attention from his own crimes.
📌 Someone on the radio reading a traffic report just interrupted themselves mid-sentence and said: “Sorry, I’m going to stop now. I haven’t written it down properly. I don’t know where the accident is.”
📌 My wife started picking at my eyebrows. She said I had “a bit of Denis Healey going on”.
📌 According to Marina Hyde, Labour leader Keir Starmer has “the feel of someone who’d ask for your informed consent before kissing you. You sense there’d be a waiver in the air.”
📌 At the AGM of our local residents’ association – so scantily attended as to resemble a cranky church meeting from The Vicar of Dibley – the treasurer proposed a letter of thanks to our outgoing Alderman. Amid lots of tittering and muttered swear words, a seconder could not be found and the proposal was withdrawn.
SUNDAY 19 I’ve just found out about an ancient local charitable foundation that appears to be feeding vast amounts of money to a single organisation in a neighbouring borough. Must look deeper.
📌 My wife is showing me how to use a sewing machine. I say she is a bad teacher. She says I am a bad pupil.
📌 MONDAY 20 The heat has obviously been a treat for bacteria because all of our bread had gone mouldly. Luckily there were some Greek flatbreads in the freezer.
📌 Sam’s surrealist pictures really are up there with the best..
📌 Had my first experience today of trying to buy something from the EU on Amazon only to be told I can’t.
TUESDAY 21 Listening to the radio interviews with rail bosses and union leaders you sense that a government determination not to resolve the current dispute is at the root of it all. Both sides seem to want modernisation, it’s how to get it that has become the political football. It obviously leads to further comparisons with Britain in the 1970s, and Boris obviously thinks there’s mileage in resurrecting the spirit of Maggie Thatcher. It might unite his party and save him for a while, but the rest of the country has moved on from those dark days.
📌 My wife says that being able to stand on one leg is a sign of good health.
📌 Islington Council says that the school alarm that rang continuously from 2pm to 2am last weekend did not stop residents affected from “enjoying the use” of our homes.
📌 The media really does feed on itself. The Tortoise reports a story in the FT as saying that Brexit costs Britain £100bn a year in missed income.
📌 The best thing Keir Starmer could do is to resign pdq. If he tries to wedge a party stooge into Jeremy Corbyn’s North Islington seat he will be humiliated. And Corbyn knows that.
📌 I thought the water supply to our allotments had been cut off because the hose didn’t work. Then someone pointed out that I hadn’t turned the tap on.
WEDNESDAY 22 My wife’s actor cousin arrived yesterday to stay with us while he attends the rehearsals of a a play he’s in, Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads. Last night we heard lots of actory gossip, but repeating any of it would be grounds for divorce, I’m told.
📌 Our art class subject today was Yellow. I struggled to find much interest and ended up simply playing around with methods and materials in between eating chocolate treats bought to celebrate a top-notch Ofsted report.
As we all presented our images at the end of the session, Marianne said of the banana she had painted: “Once I found the shadow, I found the image”. We did have a surprisingly interesting conversation about what yellow actually is and the edges at which it leaks into orange and brown.
THURSDAY 23 Impressive performance on the radio this morning by rail union negotiator Eddie Dempsey, who told his interviewer in a relaxed but firm tone that in situations where the RMT union and rail bosses have been able to negotiate without any interference from a government mouthpiece, good settlements have been made. He quoted the examples of Merseyrail, London Underground and Docklands Light Railway (DLR). His principle complaint was that mouthy government ministers are wrecking a possible solution to the dispute by waging a dirty propaganda war (my words) in the media when a proper negotiating conversation is what is needed.
📌 My wife and her choir-singing friends were disappointed to learn that the LSO Community Choir is to be disbanded. Their final performance in July will be Fauré’s Requiem, for which they are required to dress in black. I suggested they arrive carrying a fake coffin to show their disapproval.
FRIDAY 24 I’ve just been invited to be interviewed for a podcast about “awkward customers” in the healthcare system. These are the people who “won’t do what they’re told” by nurses and therapists. I don’t know whether to be flattered or insulted.
📌 The government has just lost two by-elections and Boris has gone into hiding in Rwanda.
📌 My sister messaged to say she is the last member of our family to join the pandemic. I did not congratulate her. My cousin recommended drinking lots of fluids. She already does that, most of it burgundy in colour.
📌 I probably deserve an award. I have persuaded the grumpiest of our neighbours to join our allotment project. I nailed him when he came scrounging some compost for his balcony pots. I sold him a bag of compost for £5 then told him that for £5 a year he can get fresh, homemade compost anytime for free. He paid up and agreed to smile more often and pop by for a cup of tea and some light conversation about courgettes.
Other than that it was haunting images of women that got to me – one by Lucian Freud and the other of Lee Miller having a wash in Hitler’s bathtub.
📌 There is something inevitable about what will now happen to Boris. Unless he can craft himself a virtuoso exit, he will be eaten by his own breed. The feast could last quite some time.
SATURDAY 25 A charming and welcome recollection popped out of the radio in the middle of the night. On BBC4 Extra the actor David Morrissey presented a half-hour documentary about Roger Hill, an influential radio DJ in Liverpool when I started writing about music back in the early 1980s. I have often since wondered whether Hill was still passionately promoting the weird and the wonderful from the streets of my hometown. What I didn’t know back then was just how influential and inspiring he actually was, or about the theatre work he did with the Everyman, especially with young actors such as David Morrissey himself, Kathy Tyson, Ian Hart and the McGanns. The show also featured Jayne Casey, who once teased me mercilessly in a cafe on Bold Street about my choice of clothes and my taste in music.
SUNDAY 26 Two articles today point to a political future for the UK that sounds blissfully modern. Andrew Rawnsley looks at Boris’s decline and the rise of the not-so secret pact between the two main opposition parties, Labour and the Lib Dems. This looks at the moment like a loose alliance, but if such a light-touch collaboration can be maintained and survive the inevitable challenges from those with a taste for something more radical, a new type of politics might be born. John Harris, meanwhile, extends the idea to envisage a kind of centre-ground populism, where UK politics becomes an pop-fest love-in of coproduction.
MONDAY 27 Lots of reports pointing to a legitimacy crisis in the US Supreme Court following the decision to ban abortion. Its popularity rating has sunk to 25% and many states have pledged to devise a workaround to the ruling.
📌 The cameras at Wimbledon pan to celebrities in the crowd and we’re all meant to know who they are.
📌 In my digital art course I learned all about “flatting”, which is laying down basic colours as a foundation on which to build complexity.
TUESDAY 28 My wife’s cousin, a northern actor, is staying with us in London while he rehearses a play, Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads, in which he plays an intellectual racist. When he is not supplying us with juicy anecdotes from the theatre world, he likes to rant about class. Last week the target of his ire was the BBC newsreader Sophie Raworth, who he dismisses as “Smug Putney”. This week it’s Wimbledon and his sights are on snooty All England popinjays such as Sue Barker and Tim Henman.
📌 A video has appeared on Twitter of Boris emerging from his ministerial 4×4 and jogging a few paces to the open door of a hotel.
📌 I dreamt that I won £360,000 on the Lottery. My wife did not believe me and insisted I’d made a mistake. I persisted and was proved right. My wife put on some lipstick and was nice as pie.
WEDNESDAY 29 Andy Burnham was on the radio this morning repeating the message he delivered at Glastonbury and in the Observer at the weekend arguing for the “rewiring” of Britain’s political system, with more devolution, cross-party collaboration and proportional representation.
📌 Today’s art class was Pointillism on a matchbox, a deeply unsatisfying experience.
📌 I bored easily of the GK Chesterton and Ruth Rendell stories I started and have moved on to Sophie Hannah.
📌 Just when you thought horror movies had moved on from cheesy shlock to become if not more literary then at least more psychological, along comes The Black Phone, which starts off looking like the latter but ends up riddled with implausible turns and stock gimmicks. Baddy Ethan Hawke looked like he was auditioning for the next Batman movie.
THURSDAY 30 My wife’s actor cousin Mike told us about the repeat fees actors get for appearances in film and TV. He says regular payments sustained him throughout the lockdown. He cited big payments for film and globally in-demand series TV (eg, Spooks) and tiny ones (£2.36) for a repeat episode of The Bill in a far-flung corner if the world. A branch of his union checks all transmissions and collects payment: “It’s nice to wake up in the morning to an email saying you just got £800 for not moving.”
📌 Duncan Campbell asks how the Metropolitan Police force has descended so far into chaos, incompetence, racism and corruption that it has been put into “special measures”.
📌 Sam’s dragon picture is slightly disturbing, in a Game of Thrones way.