Scrapbook: Week 35

August 27-September 2, 2022

SATURDAY 27 We finished Marriage, the Stefan Golaszewski drama starring Nicola Walker and Sean Bean. Its billing as a conventional TV drama and its scheduling on BBC1 obviously led to disappointment for some viewers, since nothing extraordinary happens and your understanding of what “drama” means is always being stretched. Two people sitting side by side, one of them reading a long letter, is not what many would call drama. But in this case it is riveting, made more so by actors who have only silence and proximity as their tools. Such is the power of this writer’s and those actors ability. Walker and Bean are two characters crippled by their inability to communicate, psychologically paralysed but yearning for release. That’s the tension that makes this the best kind of drama you can imagine.

📌 Another birthday present arrived today – an appointment with Mimi, a podiatrist with a dog called Gromit, who dutifully scraped away all the dead skin on the big toe of my right foot.

📌 We’ve started to sketch out our plans for the cold bleak Winter when energy prices go through the roof. Our living room faces South, so we intend to maximise the greenhouse effect of daylight sunshine and huddle indoors under an electric overblanket. Other rooms in the apartment will be closed up to preserve the heating we will be forced to pay astronomical prices for.

📌 To the Barbican for the superb Official Competition, a film about acting and actors that pings you back and forth between laughter and intrigue. Starring the ever-dependable Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas, it interrogates the space between acting and lying, good acting and bad. Is acting pretending, and is the difference between good and bad acting how convincing the pretence is? And are some audiences easier to convince than others?

SUNDAY 28 In his Observer column today Andrew Rawnsley points to a fact of our current political predicament too many people prefer to look away from…

Many Tory members remain entranced by the Johnson cult and have fallen for the fiction that he was a colossus brought down by treacherous colleagues.

Andrew Rawnsley, the Observer

📌 Someone posted a picture of a restaurant in Belfast. It sums up a strand of British humour that probably isn’t shared anywhere else in the world.

📌 To the Barbican for the exhibition Our Time On Earth in the Curve gallery, which aims to convince mankind that humans are just one of the multifarious species that occupies our planet and that only a harmonious coexistence between all living creatures and their environments will see use through catastrophe. The exhibition was overpopulated by both humans, CGI trickery, daft photographs of people dressed up as trees and games-arcade sound effects. We gave up and went to the lakeside bar.

MONDAY 29 I caught a haunting story on Poetry Extra about the painful life and early death (age 5) of Lord Byron‘s “bastard” daughter Allegra. Byron himself emerges as the bastard and his friend Shelley as a hero, of sorts.

📌 Update: The Interesting Ways To Walk To Aldi project has hit a snag. Basically, there are only two ways to walk to Aldi unless you contrive a massive detour to invent some more. So it is simply a choice of which way to go and which way to return.

📌 I already knew all about the legend of the French volcano nerds Katia and Maurice Krafft from my geology studies at school, but finally seeing their work on the big screen in Fire Of Love reminded me of all the primitive life lessons geology taught me all those years ago.

📌 Our friend’s husband is in one of those horrible profiteering care homes who treat their guests like animals and charge £6,000 a month for it. He is currently in a 4th-floor room – as far as you can get from any excitement – but our friend has noticed that a ground-floor room has recently become empty and is hoping, fingers crossed, that the emptiness is permanent, so that she can request a transfer for her husband. The downside of this thought is that the former resident of the ground-floor room has probably died.

TUESDAY 30 On the radio a top Royal Navy commander aptly described HMS Prince of Wales, the £3bn aircraft carrier that just broke down and limped pathetically back to port in the UK, as a “massive chunk of sovereignty”.

📌 Thatcher was the milk snatcher and now it looks like the spawn of Thatcher, Liz Truss, will have the pubs shut down by Christmas. It could be a tipping point. Or a tippling point.

📌 Liz Truss is facing “cluck, cluck” jibes after dodging an interview with the BBC.

📌 Every once in a while I like to set myself a school essay title to churn around in my head while I try to find interesting ways to walk to Aldi. Today’s essay title was Surnames, Their Use And Significance in TV’s Big Bang Theory. This tedious excursion basically hangs on the observation that all the scientists in Big Bang Theory are awarded surnames (Cooper, Hofstader, etc), but other key characters are not. Penny is Penny From The Cheesecake Factory; Stuart is Stuart From The Comic Book Store. But the “essay” (it’s just a title) is really an excuse for me to search the internet to discover that Penny’s surname (pre-marriage to Leonard Hofstader) was Teller, and that Stuart’s surname is Bloom.

📌 Our neighbour Brian, 76, is learning to swim. Today he completed 5 metres.

📌 It took me a while to sift the Top 12 Nose Hair Trimmers for 2022, but settled eventually on the Wahl at £10.99, down from £14.99.

WEDNESDAY 31 It looks like any possibility of Russia living in cooperation with the West died alongside Mikhail Gorbachev.

📌 I won’t be surprised if Winter power cuts are announced soon. Some of us have been fondly recollecting our experiences in the 1970s of playing Monopoly by candlelight.

📌 While walking to Aldi a fantasy film story came to mind. It went something like this… “Geneticists decide to fire bullets of human DNA into space so that any other life forms out there will be able to see what we humans were like long after we had been made extinct on Earth. They make a global request for specimens, sift them for adequate representation of the human species and eventually shoot two of them deep into the universe. Eventually they land on a distant planet and the native life-forms succeed in reconstituting the human DNA into living creatures. The two specimens that emerge are Penelope Cruz and Bradley Cooper, both of whom do light irony really well on the big screen.” I think that Barbican exhibition Our Time On Earth got to me after all.

📌 Vera’s terrapin, Leonardo, escaped. She found it hiding under her bed and lured it out with a Weetabix.

THURSDAY 1 Sparkling piece by Rafael Behr in the Guardian about the unspoken role of Brexit in Britain’s current state of near-catastrophe.

📌 Britain is under-insulated and far too reliant on gas, the price of which is set globally and not locally. Sure makes the “take back control” Brexit argument look lame.

📌 Spoke to Claire about the possibility of getting some of the wall space just outside the exit to the Barbican’s Curve Gallery. Quite fancy putting together a collection of Chris’s portraits under the title Just People, or better still Us Lot… Chris’s minimal depiction is something I’ve admired for a long time.

Zoom Meeting, by Chris Miller…

📌 At a dinner table in Holloway we all predicted A: When the next general election would be (me = January 2023) and B: When the Queen will breathe her last breath. (me = same as above). One of my informants tells me that three full days of mourning are already planned for the Queen’s eventual departure. The country will effectively close down in sadness. So be careful when you book that wedding, birthday party, trip to visit your aged relative somewhere far away requiring a train or fuel.

FRIDAY 2 The announcement of a new prime minister could feasibly coincide with the ultimate de-frocking of Boris, leaving no scope whatsoever for a political resurrection.

From the Daily Mail…

📌 I honestly can’t work out how America can justify the extradition of Julian Assange when its 45th President stole classified documents from the White House and hid them in his holiday home.

📌 Russia turning off its gas supply to Europe leaves no doubt that its intention is to put all of its recent history in a box marked “done”. It will not live comfortably alongside western Europe for many years to come. It needs an enemy to sustain its rabid nationalism and I can’t help thinking this is Putin’s way of carving a deep scar of communism into the arm of the liberal democracies.

Read all of my scrapbook diaries…


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