FRIDAY 1 Last night we hit deepest Peckham for an exhibition of artworks by the learning-disabled members of Intoart. Connie, who used to work at Submit to Love, invited us and before my wife had even taken a sip of her free glass of wine she fell in love with a charcoal drawing at £350, plus £20 for delivery.
📌 My wife was struggling to find the words “magic wand” and instead came up with “abracadabra stick”.
📌 The Westfield shopping city in Stratford, east London, looks like it was designed by the same person who created every single airport retail space in the world and then made it 10 times bigger. It was an exhausting experience, made 10 times worse by a bus journey home in the company of The Great Unmasked coughing, sneezing and spluttering like Covid never happened.
📌 Inspired by a recent art-class project on Nature I’ve decided to try a few botanicals in stitchwork. The leaves of different tree species might make a good collection.
📌 I spotted an old collegue from the Guardian working in the lingerie department of Marks & Spencer, Stratford, east London
SATURDAY 2 We arrived home the other day to find my wife’s actor cousin Mike searching desperately for the annotated script he has been using to rehearse the play he will appear in next month. All the careful notes he has made are handwritten on the pages of this script. He’d been looking everywhere but couldn’t find it. It wasn’t in the bathroom or under the sofa. We concluded he must have left it at work, on the set of his upcoming play (he had, it later emerged), but I nevertheless couldn’t resist teasing him with the idea that one of his fellow cast members had stolen it in a fit of rivalry. Over dinner we moulded this dramatic twist into an episode of Midsomer Murders. The perp was an angry young anti-vax Covid denier.
📌 To the Barbican to see Nitram, a film about a disturbed gunman in Tasmania. Not a barrel of laughs. Some great performances in the dense drama based on a real-life case are weighed down by a tonne of psychology as an emotionally illiterate loner with extreme autism is tipped into murder. The film ends with an on-screen message about how the case prompted Australia to reform its gun laws, adding in the next sentence that nobody paid a blind bit of notice.
SUNDAY 3 We’ve just finished the BBC thriller Sherwood with one of those soft sighs that says glad to have made it to the end but sad it’s over. The conflict that came from the police quest to solve the twin murders at the heart of the story was ultimately overtaken by the conflict between past and present as the characters all struggled to come to terms with the wrench of history that pitted striking and non-striking Nottinghamshire mining families against one another in the 1980s. The acting was so good you could see it in each of their faces, the weight of long-gone events pulling their eyes into haunted, hangdog looks.
📌 Somebody wrote a comment on one of my scrapbook postings saying that lying is what politicians do. I didn’t reply, but wondered about the person who wrote it and how they became a cynic.
MONDAY 4 If Labour’s Keir Starmer would like his party and the rest of the nation to forget the Jeremy Corbyn years, he’s not doing a very good job. Today’s LabourList points to two of the policy announcements he will make today as remnants from the 2019 election manifesto that failed to put Labour back in power – a National Care Service and new factories making electric car batteries.
But there’s more… Seumas Milne, Jeremy Corbyn’s aide, used to tell NUJ members at the Guardian, where he was once the union rep, that to move forward in negotiations you must be realistic about the present and not locked in the past. Starmer today utters those words almost verbatim in describing his views on Brexit.
Let me be very clear: with Labour, Britain will not go back into the EU. We will not be joining the single market. We will not be joining a customs union.
Simon Jenkins, however, names Starmer’s plan as a “mouse” of a policy and that only by rejoining the single market from outside the EU can Britain’s economic fortunes improve.
📌 To the Barbican to see Headway members in performance doing spoken word, dance, drama and music. Mathan and Tirzah were brilliant, Jésus was Jésus and Cristina made a suitably glamorous appearance. All the character of Headway was on stage and all the members were true to themselves.
TUESDAY 5 Newspapers are old hat, as are websites and social media. Newsletters are the new thing, delivered regularly to your email inbox. The Guardian has dozens of them catering for every conceivable news diet. The most recent one I’ve signed up for is The Week In Patriarchy.
📌 The New Statesman congratulates the Labour Party in coming up with a 3-word slogan to sell itself to the sceptics. “Make Brexit Work” is straight out of Boris’s “Get Brexit Done” handbook. My wife wishes Brexit would just go away given the misery it has unleashed.
📌 Boris’s new way of wriggling off the hook is to say he “can’t remember”.
📌 We returned home from the cinema (Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis) to find that two of Boris’s cabinet have resigned. The film’s boring bio-montage at the beginning soon settles into a powerful narrative with sparkling performances. Special congratulations to the film’s prosthetics specialist.
WEDNESDAY 6 Boris is on his knees. The big question is whether he faces death by a thousand cuts – the first two critical lunges coming yesterday from Sunak & Javid – or whether he will rise again with a new trick up his sleeve. Expect both of those things to happen in tandem, in which case a farce unfolds that nobody knows how to finish. I’d like to think something really funny will happen, but this is a government in action, not an amateur theatre group.
📌 Meanwhile, the Labour Party opposition attack appears to be shaping up. Keir Starmer actually made a commanding statement yesterday, backed up by a few neat strokes of sneering derision from Angela Rayner. And this morning came a blisteringly sturdy assault, studs up, from shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves. If Boris really is the magician his supporters say he is, he needs to get in the box and summon up the spirit of Maradona.
📌 Vice has a list of the weirdest things you can buy on Amazon. They include roll-on pheromones, a chicken harness and “a massive, tortilla-inspired blanket”.
📌 The Saj just gave Boris a massive kicking in the House of Commons, the Tory press has turned on him and even members of the 1922 Committee are joining in. His nose might be bloodied but he’s not been knocked out yet. All eyes are now on Michael Gove.
📌 Outgoing Health Secretary Sajid Javid, urging Boris to go, told him there’s only so many times you can press the reset button before you realise the machine is bust.
📌 So many ministers have walked out on Boris that governing a country, whatever that now means, will soon be physically impossible. Newly sacked Michael Gove is waiting with his sharpened knife.
📌 To St Giles church at the centre of the Barbican to watch a polite mob of self-satisfied white nimby’s protest against the City Corporation’s proposal to demolish the Museum of London and replace it with ugly office towers that will obscure their views of St Paul’s Cathedral.
THURSDAY 7 What a gripper! I’m picturing Boris huddled in a darkened room in 10 Downing St like a mad King Lear character stewing in his own stubbornness. He knows that in a short while the men in white coats will replace the men in grey suits. In his final hours of supreme self belief he will be scripting and rehearsing his exit from the political stage. He will cast himself as the victim, bullied by circumstance and a confederacy of cowards into relinquishing his hard-won and rightful place in the hearts of the people who sucked up his lies solely because they wanted him to be Our King.
Millions of people voted for me only two years ago – and I’m going to fight this to the end. I can’t just pack that in.
📌 And then came news from a former lover…
📌 What will a post-Boris Conservative Party look like, asks Martin Kettle.
The Tory party’s dilemma is the country’s dilemma too. There is far more at stake in our politics right now than the future of one disreputable man’s incontinent ego.
09.33 About an hour ago Boris is reported to have agreed to go, but wants to stay on as “caretaker” until the Autumn. Any candidate to become new leader of the Conservative Party would be insane to accept that. More drama to follow…
📌 At Headway Sam said our lunch of cheesy beans, peas and gravy plus cubed roast potatoes was the worst we’ve ever had. I disagreed, referring to multiple occasions when Drab Pasta was the dish of the day.
📌 Poor Boris has fallen on hard times, it seems…
Johnson is used to having his housing, transport and a large part of his living costs covered by the taxpayer on top of his £155,376 salary as prime minister. Now, without even a car of his own to his name, the soon-to-be former prime minister is looking decidedly ill-equipped for life in the outside world.From the Guardian
📌 To Marge’s spectacular Barbican tower-block apartment for finger food and chat about theatre. She’s very inspired by Henry Moore, and it shows in her own artworks.
FRIDAY 8 Once again we face the prospect of the leadership of our government being determined by a very small, narrow group of people, namely the 200,000 members of the Conservative Party.
📌 The Conversation has a quiet and reflective article on how Boris’s political methods have twisted and distorted the principles of UK democracy into something monstrous.
📌 While listing the candidates lined up to replace Boris and offer a cool analysis of their prospects, the New Statesman manages to write a fan letter to Michael Gove, who has lost two previous leadership elections and is currently declining to stand in the next one.
📌 Uniqlo failed me, so my wife suggested I write to Jon Richardson to ask where he buys his cardigans.
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.
SATURDAY 16 Yippeee! Just found out that… A. We can get free Covid lateral flow tests, and… B. The fifth and final series of Better Things starts on TV tomorrow.
📌 Bored with the Tory leadership race; they’re all despicable in one way or another. Just hope that an early general election comes out if it.
SUNDAY 17 Andrew Rawnsley puts Penny Mordaunt under the microscope, sneering at a political career so far based on knob jokes, only to conclude that her best qualification to be the country’s next prime minister is that she isn’t one the others.
Three years of Boris Johnson is a warning to the Conservative party about any more experiments with politics as a branch of light entertainment.
📌 In an essay in the London Review of Books, Iain Sinclair ponders on a future when there is “an unbridgeable chasm” between lowly millionaires and billionaires, the Haves vs the Have-Yachts…
…And bigger yachts. And yachts with helipads and missile-launch systems. With Picassos and Warhols and Bacons. Yachts bigger than many tax-avoidance islands. When the ice has all melted and the animals have been drowned or burned, the great ghost fleet of oligarchs will rule the ocean.
📌 I’ve been browsing some of my old drawings and photos for details that would make standalone artworks…
MONDAY 18 In last night’s Tory leadership TV debate, Rishi Sunak accused Penny Mordaunt of coming on like Jeremy Corbyn with taxation. Calling someone in the Conservative party a “Corbyn” is obviously a big insult.
📌 All of the leadership contenders apparently said that if they won they would not call an early general election. Polly Toynbee says don’t believe them. If a moment of “new broom” popularity with the public pops up they will go for it like a rat up a drainpipe.
📌 Excited to discover that Uniqlo Amsterdam is very close to the hotel we will be in next week. Emergency clothing replenishment at your fingertips.
📌 Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss have pulled out of tonight’s scheduled TV debate. They clashed badly in last night’s debate and have decided their conduct is embarrassing the party.
TUESDAY 19 In my online art class the teacher talks about “minimal depiction”. A human eye, for example can be a simple dot, or a nose a triangle. Understanding the minimal depiction, she says, enables you to establish the form on which you can build the detail (pupil, iris, lid, etc). This sounds obvious, but finding the minimal depiction in the first place is a project all by itself. Today we did noses.
Next comes ears, where I will learn all about the helix, the tragus and the concha.
WEDNESDAY 20 There are three candidates remaining in the contest to replace Boris as leader of the Conservative party and prime minister. This afternoon they will become two. Of the three, two (Rishi Sunak and Luz Truss) are stained by Boris’s antics, the other (Penny Mordaunt) is the only “change” candidate remaining. I’m wondering how mischievous Conservative party members really are. Mordaunt is flaky, vain and inexperienced. Installing such a person as prime minister is possibly the only chance of the Conservatives staying in office, but it is a big risk. In one sense it is a chance to bury the Boris years, but in another sense it would be yet another leap of wishful thinking, as it was when they appointed Boris leader.
THURSDAY 21 After two days of oppressive heat in which the will to move evaporated, temperatures are more temperate and I even managed to sort some laundry in anticipation of our travels to Holland and Switzerland next week. I’m tempted to move on to the unruly jungle of tomato plants in our allotment but have decided to delegate the task of bringing some order to a dense mass of green, sweet-smelling foliage that somewhere in its midst contains just one single young tomato.
📌 Being an optimist means I’m often wrong these days, so pessimism it is from now on and the horrible thought that Liz Truss (whose famous Cheese Speech has gone viral on social media) will probably be our next prime minister. She told the nation that if she becomes PM she will “hit the ground from day one”.
📌 In a last gasp of optimism it was exciting to see that The Lionesses are through to the semi-finals of the Euro 2022 competition. They beat Spain at the Amex stadium in Brighton and their coach is Dutch.
📌 The internet is rammed with pictures of Liz Truss in Margaret Thatcher copycat outfits.
📌 Lunch at Headway was exceptional – chicken pie with petit pois followed by Sam’s peanut butter and chocolate cookies.
FRIDAY 22 We’ve spotted an irritating development in TV thrillers, exemplified most recently in the Netflix series Pieces of Her. The trend is to make the story as confusing as possible to a logical mind, then to insert, often using tricksy flashbacks, details with which the viewer can hopefully work out what’s going on. Good luck with that. BBC’s The Control Room was similarly annoying.
📌 According to the Socialist Worker, a new report shows the Labour party as ridiculously monolithic, entrenched in bitter factionalism and a big turn-off for voters.
📌 Ironing linen shirts must be one of the most pointless and unrewarding things anyone can spend time on. So why did I just waste two hours doing just that?
📌 Sarcasm is still one of Quora’s great strengths…
📌 A writer in The Critic observes that Boris has a habit of scratching his arse during Prime Ministers Questions, and especially in his final outing during which he teased Labour leader Keir Starmer if having a “funny wooden flapping gesture”.
What is it that draws his hand back to his rump during almost every question? An untucked shirt? A nasty rash? Worms? He scratched his arse as he answered Marco Longhi, as he discussed the Windrush Scandal, and as he talked about legacy prosecutions of soldiers in Northern Ireland. He did it when he talked about fisheries and when he discussed student loans.Robert Hutton, The Critic
📌 If ever a psycho became a national treasure, it would be Chris Eubank. He is so psychologically disabled that all you can do is give thanks that he is still allowed to exist.
SATURDAY 23 Paul Whiteley notes in the Conversation that Liz Truss wins the popularity contest among Conservative party members, but Rishi Sunak comes top among Tory voters.
📌 “If your life depended on it,” I asked my wife, “who would you vote for: Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak?” She chose death.
📌 At Anne’s end-of-term drinks party we heard lurid stories about Liz Truss and our former MP, Mark Field, and that the latest way to get high is to inhale nitrous oxide from an inflated balloon.
SUNDAY 24 In South Korea they put their solar panels down the central reservation of motorways, pitched to form a canopy beneath which cyclists can journey safely.
📌 Lots of reports saying Boris has Liz Truss eating out of his hand.
MONDAY 25 The imagined crowd surge at the Eurostar terminal in St Pancras became a real one as we arrived two hours prior to departure for Amsterdam. Being disabled can be very helpful in situations like this and we were duly whisked through the mêleé and escorted to our train by a friendly assistant. On board my wife swears she saw “Stanley Tucci” checking tickets.
📌 The Eurostar leg from Brussels to Rotterdam is a bit of a slog, so it was such a pleasure when a joyous picture from Sam arrived.
📌 Amsterdam is windy, and predictably full of militant and delinquent cyclists, cheese shops and wonky buildings. We found a “local bar” quickly and felt comfortable from then on and not too stressed about the measly number of coathangers in the hotel.
📌 Our hotel is right outside the railway station for ease of travelling to Basel early on Friday morning. Such areas are never in my experience a city’s most genteel. Beggars congregate, pickpockets loiter and cheap souvenir shops proliferate. And so it is with Amsterdam and our first encounter with local life was to amble along a human cesspit called Damrak. Not far, however, is a gentler area called Jordaan, which is apparently more reminiscent of scenes from the recently reinvented TV detective show Van der Valk, starring Marc Warren. We will explore there tomorrow.
TUESDAY 26 The No2 tram covers an awful lot of Amsterdam’s major attractions, if museums, art galleries and canals are your thing. A canal boat trip took us on a fascinating exploration of Amsterdam’s maritime heritage, then a stroll around the “Nine Streets” area of Jordaan in the western canal zone took its toll on our legs.
📌 Chips and mayonnaise are a thing, a big thing, on the streets of Amsterdam, serviced by an outlet called Chipsy King.
WEDNESDAY 27 The time difference is between London and Amsterdam is only one hour, yet it is causing disruption. Last night we lost track of time in a stylish American cocktail bar and forgot to eat. We ended up with fast food and the final minutes of women’s football on the TV. England beat Sweden 4-0 in the semi-finals of the Euro 22 competition. England’s coach is Dutch and looks like a female Sven-Göran Eriksson.
📌 The Amsterdam tram system is a remarkable feat of engineering in action. Except when one breaks down and it’s the one in front of yours.
📌 Dutch can be a surprisingly beautiful language. The word for juice is sap (plural sappen). Tomato juice is tomatensap.
📌 The Rijksmuseum was rammed with tourists and only the sharpest elbows were in contention to see the Dutch masters. My wife expressed a preference for Vermeer over Rembrandt, though Rembrandt did up his rating a bit when she discovered that unlike many other artists known by a single name (Picasso, Goya, Van Gogh) the name Rembrandt is not a surname. It is his first name (imagine Pablo, Francisco, Vincent). Rembrandt’s surname is Van Rijn. We found peace in two smaller galleries housing 20th Century Dutch masterpieces, which surprisingly echoed the best of British art from the same period.
📌 Nearly got run over by a cyclist so was pleased to spot another form of death while strolling the canals. It coincided with a big story in the Guardian about how many bikes end up in canals.
📌 We dined in a very busy Italian restaurant, Lucca Due, in the north end of Jordaan, which was a microcosm of Italian family role-play. All the staff had specific roles and one man, who my wife believed to be Lucca himself, smarmed all the guests but ran the operation, and his subordinates, with an iron fist.
📌 Germany beat France in the women’s Euros. They will play England, aka The Lionesses, in the final on Sunday. A campaign to have The Lionesses degendered to The Lions is kicking off.
THURSDAY 28 Amsterdam seems to have successfully made some kind of civil settlement with vice. The smell of marijuana is everywhere, but nowhere do you see sallow, sunken-eyed junkies or even bottom-shelf stoners. Sex working is obvious but also obviously regulated. As contentious as that might be, at least it is some kind of civic deal that allows a permissive society to putter along. Yesterday on Damrak we saw what passes for a police incident: one short, tubby man standing barefoot with his back to the wall surrounded by six police officers, three of them women, all socially distanced, all stock still. The “criminal” was talking, the cops looked bored. Nobody knew what all the fuss was about and carried on as normal. It was the least aggressive crime scene you could ever imagine.
📌 In the Van Gogh Museum my wife spotted “Alan Bennett” in shorts, mooching around the drinks cabinet in the cafe. He plumped for a small bottle of red wine and a small tart. We spotted him later in the room containing 14 of Van Gogh’s self portraits talking loudly on his mobile phone.
📌 A message from Stuart arrived and for once I never knew how to reply…
Hi there, u shameless hedonistic heathen. Just to report I’ve just returned from The Way [Headway] where there was much talk of your having moved to Amsterdam to start your new job as a window-seated mannequin luring punters off the streets to admire your pornographic silk-screen prints, including the ever popular Laars And His Banana.
📌 Back to bar Louis for a farewell drink and a massive bowl of cheesy nachos.
In the corner I spotted what I call a real-life still-life, which my wife didn’t like (“too colonial”). The bust reminded me of George Formby.
FRIDAY 29 The memory that lingers most as we leave Amsterdam for Basel is that its disabled access is appalling for a modern European country. The big galleries and museums are an exception, but most of the neighbourhood bars, restaurants and shops make no effort whatsoever. Wheelchair users, forget it.
📌 Far too many people on our train to Basel did not wear face coverings. And many of them broke into fits of coughing.
📌 At a cafe table outside our hotel on the River Rhine in Basel my wife swears she spotted “Simon Rattle” guzzling deep-fried calamari.
📌 There’s a weird punk bar next door to our hotel in Basel, where tattooed degenerates and random exhibitionists dance to bad euro new-wave music that never managed to escape Switzerland.
SATURDAY 30 At breakfast we were handed a glass of something containing “apple, spinach and celery”.
📌 Our hotel has a staircase that is reminiscent of scenes from Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.
📌 It would be hard to overstate the quality of the collections in the Kunstmuseum.
📌 No wedding can call itself a wedding if doesn’t have crying babies.
📌 At the wedding Pete and I spoke with a TV editor who told us that the current buzzword in the editing teams of popular television is jeopardy. I mentioned that I once knew a TV soap script editor who used the word cliff as a verb. Editors would search the footage of a drama series for the best place to “cliff it”.
📌 In sometimes odd ways, I start to feel as if I’m in a documentary. When I mentioned this to a fellow guest at today’s wedding in Switzerland, he replied: “directed by Martin Parr”.
SUNDAY 31 In the river outside our hotel is a steady trickle of people swimming in the Rhine, with “drybags” attached carrying their towel and dry clothes. It’s called the Rhine Swim, though on closer inspection it should be called the Rhine Float as the river current is gently powerful enough to perform the necessary transportation from A to B without the need to expend any effort.
📌 In the centre of Basel today it is like an old-fashioned British Sunday. The streets are empty, the shops are closed. A pin dropping might constitute a major disturbance.
📌 Some visionary on Twitter predicts that being PM will be so far outside Liz Truss’s skill-set the Conservatives will get rid if her before the next election and reinstall Boris.
📌 August 1 is Swiss National Day, which commemorates the signing of a treaty back in 1291. So on the evening of July 31, Basel’s streets fill with marching bands, weird costumery and lots smiley happy people. At 11pm to 11.15pm precisely, fireworks fill the sky and onlookers shout whoop whoop.