July 30-August 5, 2022
SATURDAY 30 At breakfast we were handed a glass of something containing “apple, spinach and celery”.
📌 Our hotel in Basel 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 a character 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 that the Conservatives will get rid of 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.
MONDAY 1 Leaving Basel came with some relief. The heat was an intense 32C, which is way out of my comfort zone. My feet had swollen so badly I was forced to remove the laces from my trainers and wear them instead like slippers.
📌 The image of England’s winning goalscorer Chloe Kelly celebrating topless is being touted as a feminist moment.
The HuffPost puts some context to Kelly’s audacious reveal as a nod to USA player Brandi Chastain, now 54, who likewise stripped off her shirt in the 1999 final of the Women’s World Cup.
📌 The Tortoise has a superb number-crunching analysis by Paul Hayward on the England victory at Wembley in the Euro 22 Women’s competition, drawing a cool comparison with the men’s game. Hayward states (maybe sarcastically) at one point that football is not all about money and as I read those words I could hear in my ears a chorus of disagreement from a lot of people I know. One of the big standouts from Hayward’s analysis was the gender pay gap, which he did not name as such but referenced in the hard fact that some top male footballers get paid in a week what top female ones earn in a year.
TUESDAY 2 Wonder of Science has a fabulous piece of drone video showing the moment when magma becomes lava, ie when molten rock inside the earth (magma) erupts on to the surface to become lava.
📌 It looks like the ban the FA slapped on women’s football in the early 20th Century was motivated as much by class as misogyny: crowd-pulling teams formed by factory women raised massive funds for working-class causes. The ban didn’t stop the slow rise of women’s football, so it will be fascinating to watch the FA try to control the formidable crop of newly crowned England players.
WEDNESDAY 3 Last night we finished the 8-part Netflix thriller Pieces of Her. Toni Collette, Bella Heathcote and Jessica Barden all shone as three (two?) women in a plotty murder story story in which we concluded that revenge scored a close win over justice. A clumsy attempt to make the contest more exciting in the final episode saw a neatly concealed twist and a corny stab at redemption (involving a piano) snuggle together uncomfortably on the same sofa.
📌 The internet seems on the surface to be the perfect incubator for the co-operative. It is, and yet the crazed monopolies of the tech giants manage to keep it hidden from view. But as an article in the Conversation states, consumers are sickening of the modes and methods used by the giants to get their hands on our money and out data. New platforms such as Gener8 are emerging to put some power back in the hands of the consumer.
THURSDAY 4 Excellent summary by Simon Jenkins of the reasons Britain should back off from conflict and disputes between other countries (Russia/Ukraine, China/Taiwan), the main ones being that Britain is bad at intervention and has little to gain from it.
Never in my lifetime has the Ministry of Defence had to defend my country against a remotely plausible overseas threat, least of all from Russia or China. Instead, in the cause of “interests and values” it has killed untold thousands of foreigners in my name.Simon Jenkins, the Guardian
📌 According to an article in Vice the Earth just recorded its shortest day since atomic clocks began. It span 1.59 milliseconds faster for reasons unknown, which won’t rob anyone of their beauty sleep but has led to intense speculation in the science community about shifting magnetic poles and something called the Chandler Wobble.
📌 Vera told us that her daughters intend to buy her terrapins for her birthday. My wife thinks this is a dangerous gift for an 83-year-old woman.
📌 The stitchwork botanicals series continues with the elm leaf. Quite relishing the prospect of a sycamore.
📌 RIP Stephen. Your voice will echo in my head for a long time to come, mainly because it was so loud.
📌 We started watching The Newsreader on iPlayer. It is based in 1986 and reflects the gender politics of a TV newsroom at the time. But it also looks like it was made in 1986, which somehow adds spice to the plot and character twists, which are very contemporary.
FRIDAY 5 On our way to a pre-theatre restaurant meal last night my wife bumped into Simon Callow.
He later showed his versatility as an actor playing the dim millionaire Elisha Whitney in the return of the comedy musical we saw at the same time last year. It was hard not to compare the two versions, especially in the character of gangster Moonface Martin, played by Robert Lindsay in the original and by Denis Lawson this time. Last night’s show somehow lacked the sparkle and charm of last year’s. My wife thought the Reno Sweeney character “too brassy”.
📌 It was disappointing to discover that the gift I’d ordered online for my wife’s birthday had not arrived by the time she started opening all her other gifts and cards. In small consolation I told her what the gift was. One hour later it arrived.
📌 At my wife’s birthday lunch in a local Middle-Eastern restaurant she was forced to wear a stupid hat while everyone sang Happy Birthday.