July 9-15, 2022
SATURDAY 9 Friends of the London Symphony Orchestra occasionally get invited to private recitals, at which members of the orchestra play selected works and those invited enjoy wine and buffet food. We were invited to one such event last night because my wife recently volunteered to be a marshall at an LSO event.
Which was how we came to sit at a café-style table in Jerwood Hall for a violin/piano performance.
I was distracted throughout the short pieces by the fabulous facial contortions of the piano player and the intuitive way she and the violinist moved the drama of the music, as if they were psychically connected. This made me wonder whether, beyond the technical, trained musicians read music in a way the rest of us read fiction or poetry.
The inclusion of music by a composer named as Coleridge-Taylor also distracted me, and it wasn’t until I got home that I learned the fascinating story of the black musician Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and his connection with the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
📌 Reading about Carrie Johnson, Boris’s wife, I learned that prior to wedding Boris she was a spad (special adviser). I imagined this sounded like a cushy job (feet up, offering your views on the latest crackpot policy idea) and decided to check out the pay rates. Top spads earn up to £145,000 pa, rookies earn £40,000. Total annual amount paid to spads last year = £12m. At the last count, Boris had 43 spads. Digging deeper into these named individuals and it emerges that there is nothing special about them at all. They are posh twits who act as degenerate slavies to needy ministers.
📌 The expectation always is for Alexei Sayle to deliver laughs. He provided heaped plates of it in his Imaginary Sandwich Bar, but his new radio series Strangers On A Train makes very little effort and instead goes for the soft pathos of everyday stories offered up seemingly at random by his fellow train passengers. The only real laugh in the last episode comes with a guard’s announcement that the train’s journey will be delayed by 15 minutes while the driver executes a detour around an unexploded bomb.
📌 Penny Mordaunt has just announced her candidacy for the Conservative party leadership contest. I’m struggling to imagine what Convervative members see as a good leader.
MONDAY 11 Contributed to a podcast on ‘Patients Who Rebel’. I struggled to offer any examples of my rebellion when being treated in hospital, but the podcast’s host, Katie Campion, reminded me of a few I’d forgotten about. I tried to emphasise that I was not an obnoxious rebel, more of a cheeky antagonist to the healthcare professionals in whose hands my fate rested.
📌 The Conversation has an article saying the economic damage caused by Boris’s chaotic reign as PM could last for up to 2 years. I wonder if those readying themselves to appoint a new leader have twigged that a General Election will take place before any signs of a recovery appear. In other words there is very little Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss can do to keep the Conservative party in power.
📌 I’ve lost the will to point out that panini is a plural, so adding an S to it is a sign of gross ignorance. My wife tells me it’s a sign of encroaching insanity to mention it.
TUESDAY 12 In a recent moment of freeform thinking during the disintegration of Boris and the governmental havoc he unleashed, I suggested that the House of Lords should always have a standby government prepared to take over in extreme cases where the real government can’t handle things any longer. It was such a far-fetched notion that I filed it under “crackpot ideas” and moved on. Then I read that I’m not the only one who has such moments of eccentric pondering. Media money-saving expert Martin Lewis published his thoughts on the current energy crisis by saying communities will soon be forced to open stay-warm equivalents of the food banks that became such a necessity for many during the Covid lockdowns.
📌 Whenever the need to engage with our GP surgery arises I always anticipate a big confrontation with weary unhelpful staff. Today I bounced up to the reception desk braced for a fight, but the exchange was polite, cordial and over in less than a minute.
WEDNESDAY 13 The Conservative party leadership election to choose our new prime minister is already getting ugly. Insults from the ultra-right of the party hurled at Rishi Sunak include calling him a socialist and an expert in the “dark arts”. Today the field will be whittled down and any contenders from the camp David Cameron once referred to as the “swivel-eyed loons” will be forced to back one candidate, probably Liz Truss, as the one to stop Red Rishi. I’ll be listening with interest to see which way Penny Mordaunt swivels her campaign. Wikipedia tells me she paid her way through sixth-form college by working as a magician’s assistant.
📌 My wife’s cousin Mike is now installed in a theatrical boarding house in Chichester, contending with a penny-pinching landlady and preparing for the opening of his latest appearance in the Roy Williams play Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads. But even from a distance (around 70 miles) he continues to perfect his real-life role as a left-wing Alf Garnet, moaning daily by text about middle-class BBC TV presenters such as Sophie Raworth.
📌 In art class I started to experiment mixing photography and watercolouring on cotton paper using the theme of nature. The plan is to eventually incorporate stitchwork to watercolouring on fabric. The oak leaf was my first test subject.
THURSDAY 14 Today’s the day the election to appoint the new leader of the Conservative party – and our next prime minister – starts to resemble the reality TV programme I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! Yesterday, from a field of eight candidates, the two who scored fewer than 30 votes from fellow Conservative MPs were eliminated. That leaves six remaining. As of today, and over coming days, the candidate scoring the lowest number of votes will be kicked out of the contest, one by one, until only two remain. Ordinary citizen members of the party (around 200,000) will then pick the winner. So a week-long countdown starts now, followed by a spectacular three-week fight, from which Britain will get a new leader.
📌 Labour needs to pray that the final run-off in the Conservative leadership election is between Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak. Both have been stained beyond cleansing by Boris. Penny Mordaunt, if elected, has good reason not to call an early general election. Then Labour’s only hope is that PM is a useless PM.
📌 In a compendium of views on who would make the best new leader of the Conservative party, Rafael Behr asks those voting not what leader they want but what kind of political party the Tories should become after the havoc of Boris.
📌 At Headway just before lunch Cheryl sang a fabulous slow clubby jazz version of Summertime And The Living Is Easy, with piano and acoustic guitar. She told me she started singing as a child in church and never really stopped.
📌 I can’t be the only one who thinks Penny Mordaunt and Rishi Sunak have already done their version of the Granita Deal.
FRIDAY 15 Rail union boss Mick Lynch gave a proper pasting to a pushy BBC radio presenter, saying the rail workers’ dispute over pay is everyone’s dispute – “even media workers” – and confidently slapped down the interviewer’s claims that public support for strikes is starting to wane.
📌 To Henry Moore’s house in Hertfordshire with Sandra and Gill to stroll in fields and pastoral meadows tastefully adorned with the master sculptor’s huge bronze creations. It was idyllic, in a strange, otherworldly way. The scale was mindboggling, the way bronze softens highlights was a revelation, the engineering was awesome. And Sandra’s cousin, who works there, got us in free.