August 6-12, 2022
SATURDAY 6 At my wife’s birthday lunch yesterday I sat next to a friend’s 12-year-old son and noticed a change in our relationship. This character who was once a child in pesky pursuit of his own needs and wants had become a young person, curious and interested in those around him, even if they occasionally bored him. And happy in himself to pass on his findings from his exploration of life so far. He told me useful things, like how many litres of blood can be drawn from a dead cow. He had become someone, aged 12, worth having a conversation with.
📌 Striking Amazon workers at the company’s warehouse in Tilbury staged a sit-in at the works canteen. When canteen staff stopped serving them they ordered their food and drink through Deliveroo and Uber Eats.
📌 This time last week we were at a wedding in Basel, Switzerland. The party afterwards included a quiz about the bride and groom, during which we learned that the Groom was born with three nipples. He also coincidentally looks very like James Bond, circa Pierce Brosnan.
📌 To the Barbican for an Iranian road movie with subtitles. We took a supply of Haribo sweets and wine in readiness for something depressing. But Hit The Road turned out to be that rare species of a story that is both very sad but at the same time uplifting and laced throughout with wit and charm.
SUNDAY 7 It was nice to hear from Bridges again, requesting permission to share some audio from a podcast I did with them years ago about goal-setting during stroke recovery, in which I talked about football and the way goals get scored.
📌 The Spectator was always a traditional supporter of traditional Conservativism. So it’s fascinating to read one of its most senior journalists accusing the current Tory leadership contenders of failure and weasel words on the nation’s perilous state.
📌 The tomato jungle we had created down at our allotments is now a trim plantation. Social Sundays are a great opportunity not just to socialise but to get some real work done on your crops.
MONDAY 8 On a visit to the Guardian after all these years, I was delighted when two of the security staff recognised me instantly. The doorman smiled his genial smile as if it was yesterday, and Big Giuseppe greeted me like a long-lost friend. I’ve not worked there for nearly 10 years. The receptionists greeted me like a special guest and grinned charmingly as they watched me doing some stitchwork before Margaret arrived for our meeting.
📌 When my wife’s new phone was delivered I expected to get sunk in one of our vicious techno bickering exchanges during its set-up. But no, the transition from old to new was seamless and pacific. All I was required to do was test the messaging services and to make a single call to test if everything worked ok. I don’t think I tapped in my wife’s number fast enough, but that was a minor moment of niggling that passed quickly.
📌 RIP, Olivia Newton-John.
TUESDAY 9 Simon Jenkins wonders where all the economists are hiding while Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss slug it out in the Conservative leadership contest. The two candidates have wildly differing views on how Britain’s ailing economy should be revived, but nowhere can an economist be found with an “expert” view. Perhaps the nation’s experts are too scared. They were seriously exposed during the 2008 financial crisis as the passive peddlers of idle theory, so maybe they’ve decided it’s best to keep their lips zipped.
📌 In one of his essays on Humour, the famous satirist Joseph Addison (1672-1719) attempts to describe it in terms of genealogy…
Truth was the founder of the family, and the father of Good Sense. Good Sense was the father of Wit, who married a lady called Mirth, by whom he had Humour. Humour therefore being the youngest of this illustrious family, and descended from parents of such different dispositions, is very various and unequal in his temper; sometimes you see him putting on grave looks and a solemn habit, sometimes airy in his behaviour and fantastic in his dress; insomuch that at different times he appears as serious as a judge, and as jocular as a merry-andrew. But whatever mood he is in, he never fails to make his company laugh.Joseph Addison, True & False Humour
📌 There’s a woman on Platform 2 at East Croydon station who is obviously so embarrassed by the crass slogan on the promotional cotton tote bag she has been gifted that she has turned it inside out to expose the ragged seams instead.
📌 It has become embarrassing for rapacious profit-seeking businesses to be seen rapaciously making profits while ordinary families struggle to pay bills.
📌 In The Monogram Murders, a Poirot mystery not written by Agatha Christie (it’s by Sophie Hannah), the big reveal at the end, during which Poirot assembles all the story’s characters and names the perp, is dragging on annoyingly over several chapters.
📌 Chichester has rubbish phone network coverage. It hasn’t changed from its sleepy conservative demeanour of three years ago when we last visited. We were returning for Sing Yer Heart Out For The Lads, which was itself returning to Chichester, at the Minerva theatre. My wife’s cousin Mike plays an evil Enoch Powell type in a working-class “white” pub during England’s defeat to Germany in a World Cup qualifier in 2002, so we got to hang out with the actors (one of whom was Paul Temple‘s grandson) after the show for a lock-in at The Bell pub, which has a vintage Space Invader machine.
WEDNESDAY 10 Chichester has a solid relationship with art and craft of all types. Pallant House Gallery has a fab collection of 20th Century British Art and is the home of British Outsider Art, but sideshow exhibitions pop up all over the place. Even Banksy and Stik have paid visits. We surprisingly bumped into Jennifer, who had three of her artists in a small compendium exhibition at the Oxmarket, which included a very strange portrait of TV wildlife pundit Chris Packham.
📌 Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak are playing to different audiences. Truss is digging in hard for the support of the Conservative membership and their deep prejudices. Sunak is courting the country as a whole with promises of support for families struggling in the energy crisis. He hopes it will appeal to members as their only chance of getting the Tories re-elected. But will the members see it that way?
📌 One of the bloggers I follow, Lakshmi in India, reported a mouse habitually breaking into their car. It took them a while and several failed attempts at entrapment to catch the mouse and release it in a nearby field. I imagined a comical scene in which the mouse finds its way back to their car and manages to hide, undetected, for several years, coming and going whenever the coast was clear.
📌 Chichester Cathedral is a very typical English Cathedral, but the inclusion of curious artworks alongside ancient holy relics somehow make it a more thought-provoking and less obedient spiritual environment.
📌 In an essay on capitalism in the London Review of Books, John Lanchester notes…
Singapore consistently tops lists of free-market societies on a range of metrics, but also has one of the largest provisions of state housing in the world.Fraudpocalypse, LRB
THURSDAY 11 The Conversation has a fascinating article about the prospect of a meat tax and how it might work.
The article points inevitably to massive price hikes on meat in developed countries and doesn’t flinch from calling this policy idea what it really is – an environment tax. Where it does fail is in its assessment of the will in government corridors to make it happen and on the equally inevitable debate on how taxes are redustributed.
📌 You get the sense that Donald Trump is on the run now. US state law has become the tripwire he will be forced to dodge at every turn. Eventually he will be holed up in a sympathetic state from where he can drop his message bombs on the rest of the world.
📌 Unbeknown to me a baby sketch I did in the studio many years ago, when a new pregnancy was announced, was turned into a lino-cut, which was then used to make a clay print, which was glazed and fired. It was such a surprise to see something beautiful made from something so incidental. I’d love to say it was all my own work, but nothing could be further from the truth.
📌 Money-saving expert Martin Lewis is becoming more and more politically vocal. Celebrities dabbling in political posturing is no new thing, but unlike other celebrities, Lewis does not sing songs or cut a mean look in the latest film or TV series. His celebrity comes from mastering the economic nuts and bolts of the average family. It’s a difference ordinary citizens are well aware of.
FRIDAY 12 Full Fact has a report revealing that…
It is possible for people who are not British citizens and do not live in the UK (and so would not be eligible to vote in a UK general election) to be eligible to vote in the upcoming Conservative leadership contest.Full Fact
📌 To Tate Modern for the “visual hallucinations” of Yayoi Kusama.
The weird Infinity Mirrored Room Filled With The Brilliance Of Life was indeed spectacular, but the rest of the exhibition featured me-me-me images of Kusama the exhibitionist, plus mirrors and polka dots. And judging from the photo-timeline that opens the exhibition, something transformative appears to have happened in Kusama’s life when she was around 30 years old.