December 24-31, 2022
She was the wrong person with the right message.The Critic
📌 The Christmas Eve schedule was laid out clearly: Deliver cards to neighbours; visit Somerset House and the newly refurbished Courtauld Gallery; cocktails at The Savoy; dinner at Belanger in Islington; home for chocolate and TV. It all went like clockwork and was pure joy, spiced by an evening visit from Shirley with gifts. Highlights were the impressive make-over at the Courtauld. What was always our favourite art collection (vast and rich) is now even better for having a simple neat structure with delightful surprises sprinkled around (eg, special Bloomsbury Group room; Room 8 is all Rubens). The Vorticist Helen Saunders we’d never heard of, which wasn’t surprising since her flatmate (Wyndham Lewis) painted over one of her canvases and only recently using X-rays did art detectives at the Courtauld find what lay beneath Lewis’s famous Praxitella painting.
SUNDAY 25 If any single person could be credited with putting the beauty into the beautiful game it is Pelé.
📌 A Christmas-Eve shooting in Wallasey has been credited to Liverpool.
📌 Epic bit of comedy writing in the Guardian by Diane Morgan on the useless delivery companies who fail to deliver your goods.
📌 Dream gift for Christmas: an electronic keyboard.
📌 I put the words “Christmas Day 2022” into the AI art generator four times.
MONDAY 26 Naomi’s pride and joy is a personal handwritten letter from Clementine Churchill. It sits encased in a sturdy glass frame on the box shelves next to her dining table.
📌 Delighted to have domestic football back after the drama of the controversial Qatari World Cup. Hearing the final scores come in is a rare pleasure, as league after league of big and small teams are dutifully listed by the BBC, their match-day fortunes pored over by experts in loving detail and the fans pictured in agony and ecstasy.
📌 Brighton & Hove Albion’s new manager, Roberto De Zerbi, was working in Ukraine until Russia invaded.
TUESDAY 27 Yesterday BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme was edited by ageing cricket legend Ian Botham, who used the opportunity to promote the view that quality international cricket has fallen prey to the excitement of the fast one-day/limited overs game. By quality I mean slow, five-day test matches that unfold in the manner of a drama. Botham was referred to throughout the radio show as “Beefy”, a nickname that was uttered just like it was a proper first name. And test cricket was referred to as the “red-ball” game as opposed to its “white-ball” upstart rival.
📌 In his diary collection A Carnival Of Snackery, David Sedaris reports getting sent a magazine article from his sister Lisa featuring people who crave amputation. In one instance a man craved amputation so much he chopped off his leg with a chainsaw. Disappointment set in when he woke up in hospital and was told “Great news, we can sew it back on”.
📌 Discussing group Wordling with our friend Liz, she said: “We had a phase of using PENIS as our start word.”
📌 My attempt to start learning the piano was impeded by the need of a software file to drive the video lessons.
WEDNESDAY 28 Last night we were all ready, coats on, to go see some neighbours when my wife couldn’t find her Motorola phone. She upended the sofa cushions and searched her multiple handbags. Then she asked me to call her number on my Motorola phone. Her phone was in my jacket pocket.
📌 I know all about Middle C and A played in 4/4 Common Time (whole notes and half notes) with the thumb of the right hand. The electronic keyboard I got for Christmas has a talking manual. And a vicar on YouTube showed me how to put reverb on the organ setting to give a deeply satisfying funereal sound. He said the sound you can get from my keyboard is better than the one from the organ in his church.
📌 I tried to make a bread roll with some leftover dough from two days ago. It was rock hard on the outside and half-baked on the inside.
📌 I caught the end of a radio programme called The Fake Paralympians, made by the British swimmer Dan Pepper. At the Sydney 2000 Paralympic Games, Spain cheated by using non-disabled basketball players to win gold. This resulted in a blanket ban on intellectually impaired athletes from competing in all future Paralympic events. Pepper was one of them.
📌 To the Royal Academy in the rain for the superb Making Modernism, a exhibition majoring on four early 20th-Century German women artists so full of magical pieces and rich in psychology that we pledged immediately to return before the exhibition ends in February.
THURSDAY 29 There’s never much political news at this time of year because parliament is closed for the holiday. Stuff still happens, obviously, but the news loses its potency generally because no-one can be bothered. Last night at Marge’s she commented on what little attention her daughter and the family paid to the news over Christmas while she was there. Not even the murder stories. I can’t say I’ve paid much more attention myself. Something leaked out yesterday about Kier Starmer having had an oven-ready government standing by during Boris’s demise in case he called a snap election. And yesterday came something about Rishi being in search of an exit strategy from the deepening strike action by public-service workers. But otherwise, no news is the news.
📌 Every morning we wake up, decide who’s turn it is to make the coffee and tell the Alexa in the bedroom to play a certain radio station. Every evening after dark we tell the Alexa in the living room to “turn on Switch One” which fires up a vintage spot lamp. This morning I got the command sequence mixed up. I went downstairs to make the coffee and the vintage lamp was beaming proudly in the living room.
📌 From her performance on TV’s House Of Games, Scarlett Moffatt is not as dim as many people think she is.
📌 To Barbican Cinema 1 for the overlong Whitney Houston biopic I Wanna Dance With Somebody. I can think of worse ways to spend two and a half hours than listening to Whitney Houston songs, but this film annoyed me constantly with cliché after cliché. Men were always the problem/temporary solution in this film. Typical also how the entertainment industry deals with anything bad about itself by retelling the story in a way that makes it look excusable. It takes ownership of its badness and polishes it.
📌 RIP Vivienne Westwood, 81. My wife reckons lots of people die at this time of year from over-eating.
FRIDAY 30 Merry, our neighbours’ pet cat, has been missing since Christmas Eve. Since I’m allergic to cats, and all cats seem to know it and persecute me, I can’t raise much sadness about Merry’s disappearance, despite knowing its owners. If Merry were hiding in the back of one of our cupboards, I think I’d know about it. It’s more likely, from conversations I’ve had with other cat owners, that Merry has abandoned its owners for a new family with nicer cat food.
SATURDAY 31 In the early hours, playing an after-dinner game in which we competed to guess the introductions to songs I was performing so badly that I downloaded Shazam and cheated. I also realised that as a youngster I was massively indoctrinated into the complete works of The Beatles. I can scarcely recall any other music from my childhood years.
📌 Even hardline Conservatives believe the government is broken, writes Katy Balls (a Tory) and 2023 will be a tortured continuation of the chaos of 2022.
📌 New Year’s Eve at Magdalen House, Winchester…