December 17-23, 2022
SATURDAY 17 Restorers have mutilated a 550-year-old masterpiece, says Jonathan Jones in a withering put-down of the National Gallery’s best efforts to make Pietro Della Francesca’s Nativity attractive to a modern viewer by painting in cross-eyed half-wit shepherds and boosting the colours. One of the shepherds is singled out for his exquisite gormlessness: “It’s like he’s trying to remember where he parked the donkey.”
📌 Right on cue with the nurses, rail workers and even Amazon staff in Coventry going on strike, the Socialist Worker wonders how Karl Marx would have viewed the nation’s predicament. It appears in a long but not boring potted history of Marx, his theories and how they operate in modern-day capitalism.
SUNDAY 18 The children’s carol concert in our local community centre yesterday was a delight, even though only five members of the children’s choir were able to perform. The heartbreaking sight of one of them frozen in fear at having to sing to a room full of strangers meant that only four squeaky voices were left to raise our spirits and spread some seasonal good cheer. Then Santa appeared to hand out the gifts and all hell broke loose. I retreated into several cups of mulled wine, mince pies and sausage rolls.
📌 We’ve been invited by our friend Sandra to a sleazy local jazz bar for cocktails and music next week, so we’re checking out the artiste Liane Carroll in preparation. She does some nice cover versions, wrapping a bit of melancholy around songs you never saw that way.
📌 We finished Series 3 of Sex Education and wondered whether there would be a Series 4. The worldwide web soon provided the answer, yes, and it will be worth watching how the series’ makers can spin out a saga of youth that has already appeared to have come to an end.
MONDAY 19 I have a habit of stupidly agreeing to mend busted contraptions. The current project is an electronic sewing machine. And although I appear to have got it to work, I can’t be sure it is working properly. The stitches are very lose. Is this a malfunction or a wrong setting? The elimination process is slow.
📌 The desperate struggle to find a Christmas gift for my wife continues. Then there are the obligatory novelty stocking fillers that come naturally to happy shoppers but not to shopophobics.
📌 My wife relented last night and watched the gripping end to this year’s World Cup (Argentina vs France). I stayed in the kitchen. The Mail reports today that defeated French soccer ace Kiliyan Mbappé snubbed the French president Emmanuel Macron when he offered a consoling hug.
📌 Dark clouds are gathering above the head of Elon Musk.
📌 I stupidly took the sewing machine apart and couldn’t get it back together. To be continued…
TUESDAY 20 Britain isn’t the only place where health workers are on strike. The World Socialist website says that France, Germany, Spain, Greece and even the sleepy Canary Islands are similarly inflicted with doctors and nurses who’ve battled through the covid crisis only to find their employers expecting more of the same for little reward and longer hours. In France, GPs even bypassed their union and organised their strike on Facebook, a trend you’d never have expected to see in France.
📌 RIP Terry Hall. Same age as me.
📌 The white-heat of excitement for AI art has diminished, but the holding image (the circle at the top) for this scrapbook will continue to feature AI images, but otherwise I think they’re rubbish. I asked for a Picasso version of the words “December 2022” and the AI generator gave me this…
📌 Andy Beckett has a strong argument for higher wages, which probably resonates in the private sector. But coaxing the present government to think this way about the public sector is pure heresy.
Workers might be more motivated and efficient, lessening Britain’s productivity crisis. Some employees would be able to work fewer hours, and families might benefit as a result.Andy Beckett, the Guardian
📌 Our friend’s son arrived from America for Christmas, felt unwell and promptly tested positive for Covid.
WEDNESDAY 21 Last night our neighbour Jacqueline told me her husband had suffered an eye injury that required surgery. Luckily Moorfields Eye Hospital is not far away. As they made their way along Bath Street to the hospital they saw two people in the distance staggering then collapsing to the ground in unison. They suspected them to be drunks or drug addicts, but on attending and questioning the grounded couple they discovered that they were sight impaired and looking for Moorfields Eye Hospital. Together they all went in search of the hospital, cracking jokes on the way about the blind leading the blind.
📌 Rishi’s lining himself up for what he believes will be his Miner’s Strike moment, refusing to discuss pay with striking nurses and sending out his loyal troops to cast striking ambulance workers as heartless killers.
📌 Rishi really doesn’t give a toss about young people, says the Guardian. They were never likely to vote Conservative anyway, and the way the present government is screwing their prospects, they never will.
THURSDAY 22 Not surprisingly The Traitors has become a TV hit. Its noxious chemistry of vicious rivalry is a symbol of the times we live in. What is perhaps most sickening is that the contestants all seem to have noble reasons for wanting to kill their opponents in the game and win the prize money (“up to” £120,000). One of them simply wants to help Mum pay off the mortgage and retire debt free. Another wants to develop a social enterprise supporting young people to become model citizens. The BBC are the big winners, because what started out as an experiment in human behaviour quickly became a TV spectacle of nastiness. It risks going the way of Great British Bake Off and being stolen by a commercial channel, but it nevertheless illustrates that the BBC still knows how to craft out a uniquely British TV mutation.
📌 On Tuesday my wife came home worried about the life prospects of a frail 95-year-old neighbour. Early yesterday morning we went to check if the neighbour was still alive. The answer was yes, and later in the day a doctor had visited and medication delivered. Today begins the challenge of engaging a remote relative to take up caring duties and to make sure the neighbour actually takes the medicines prescribed. That is easier said than done because her home is a masterpiece of clutter, a seemingly chaotic compendium of her long, rich life.
📌 Brussels sprouts have as much vitamin C as oranges, say a pair of academics in the Conversation.
📌 My Duolingo French studies have arrived at the chapter on The Family. The French words for brother, sister, husband, wife, grandfather, grandmother, etc, are easy to absorb. But the lesson doesn’t stop at people. The Duolingo French Family includes pets (animaux de compagnie), one of which is an owl. The word for owl in French is chouette, and every time I say it I think of Harry Potter and Hedwig. Then the worldwide web told me that chouette = cool, as in “Dude, that’s so owl!”
FRIDAY 23 We discovered last night in the sleazy jazz bar in Smithfield that our friend chats with a man in the gym who is a top Clerkenwell gangster. The basement bar was full of ageing jazz bores in Shetland jumpers playing Wordle on their phones before the singer, Liane Carroll, came on stage. Liane is both a talented singer and good at banter. She told a joke about her hometown, Hastings: “It’s a small drug town with a big fishing problem.” One of Liane’s biggest fans, and here tonight, is Jessie Wallace, who plays Kat Slater in TV’s EastEnders.
📌 The roof terrace at One New Change was astonishingly free of drunk City workers, which opened up a photo opportunity.
📌 At the Barbican Art Gallery I fully expected the Carolee Schneemann exhibition to be an orgy of breasts, vaginas and a trip down that 1960s art road called “The Happening”. There was plenty of that, but it was Schneemann’s paintings that stole the show, plus her fascinating though impenetrable film work.