Scrapbook: January 2023

SUNDAY 1 I’ve never known a New Year’s Day to be special, but today it was, and probably not really. Nine people and a dog got up very late, had breakfast, then eight of them marched across Winchester to a pub called The Queen. There they sat drinking micro-brewery beer, wine, ate several bowls of freshly-cooked chips and walked home in the rain. Oh, the joy, topped by a quick portrait of the dog in our group, Myrtle.

On Kingsgate Road…
After dark on the banks of the River Itchen…

MONDAY 2 The taking down of the Christmas decorations is a reminder that the holiday is over and normal service will soon be resumed. The Guardian’s First Edition newsletter has a postulation on what might happen in Ukraine over the coming year as relentless drone bombing continues. The idea that the conflict is about Ukraine’s relationship with Russia has long since disappeared. It is to do with Vladimir Putin’s hold over the Russian people and his determination to test the resolve of the United States in maintaining its own world-power status. China could end up being the winner in this global conflict that is still sometimes portrayed as a little local squirmish.

πŸ“Œ I was so happy with the AI painting of Jill’s dog Myrtle that I decided to work on some variations.

Myrtle 2…

πŸ“Œ The loaf of soda bread I intended to make this afternoon for our evening “cheese feast” quickly became the loaf of rye bread we had in the freezer from before Christmas.

TUESDAY 3 A running source of irritation in our household recently has been the switchover of ITV Hub to ITV X. The old Hub, which was basically a catchup service for online TV users (ie, Smart TVs, tablets, laptops, etc) was, with the launch of ITV X (a super new streaming service, plus catchup), supposed to happen automatically on all devices. And on our digital devices it did happen automatically (ITV Hub magically became ITV X), but not on our TV. It emerged that some older Smart TVs were not capable of dealing with the supersophistication of this new ITV service and were excluded from the switchover, cast aside, like lepers. The worldwide web quickly became awash with anger. We feared that our 3-year-old TV was one of these leprotic contraptions, but last night, determined to restore TV justice, my wife discovered a backdoor way of updating our TV software to include ITV X. Rejoice. Now we can watch A Spy Among Friends.

πŸ“Œ Alan Bennett’s annual Diary collection for the London Review of Books seems unusually stacked with memoir items. Past installments have included political rage alongside meanderings with Rupert in Yorkshire antique shops. But towards the end of this year’s collection Bennett says that writing about Boris Johnson he found tedious and that Liz Truss had been and gone before he could pick up his pen.

πŸ“Œ The headlines in the Telegraph are free, but if you try to read the stories a threatening subscription demand pops up before you’ve finished the first sentence. Which just makes you determined to get the story elsewhere.

πŸ“Œ Finally finished the Ginkgo tree leaf stitchwork by lacing in some yellow after Michael said the Ginkgo at the end of his road is very yellow. Then I hit on the idea of putting real artworks through the AI generator to see what comes out. Below is an AI Impressionist version of my leaf.

πŸ“Œ My wife started to panic when one of the contestants on Pointless said their name was Alexa. Thankfully, they lost in the first round and exited pronto.

πŸ“Œ Listening to Michelle Obama reading an extract from her book The Light We Carry made me want to look up the word homily.

WEDNESDAY 4 The lessons on the Casio keyboard I got for Christmas are going well. One of the problems I have is holding my fingers in such a way that hitting the right notes in a chord is natural. Today, on fingering the chords A and G, the first and third fingers of my right hand refuse to stay away from the keyboard as the thumb, middle and little fingers strike the chord. My first finger wants to do what the middle finger should be doing. If I persevere and hold my fingers in the correct position very soon all my fingers ache. I guess the pain is part of the progress, as is the pain of reading back the gibberish I’ve just written.

πŸ“Œ I just watched Rishi start his big speech about maths lessons in schools and turned it off immediately. He really is a hopeless div. He knows there’s a national shortage of maths teachers yet he pledges more maths lessons with the wide-eyed look of someone who has just discovered that the sky is in fact green and the fields are blue. He then went on to mouth more unconvincing words about change being tough but it’s worth it, etc, which made me glad I’d decided to switch him off in the first place.

Learn with Rishi…

πŸ“Œ We finished the TV series Stonehouse bewildered that we’d failed at the time to spot the absurd humour in the John Stonehouse affair. It all seemed quite serious at the time (and we were very young). Or maybe Matthew MacFadyen’s portrayal of Stonehouse juiced up the ridiculousness of this dimwitted MP into a comedy character for the times we live in. Whatever the case, Stonehouse’s daughter Julia is not a fan of the series.

THURSDAY 5 Writing about his famous 87th Street Precinct crime stories the author Ed McBain (aka Evan Hunter) identified what he called the “conglomerate hero”. Once his publisher had commissioned him to write a series of stories rather than a one-off single story, he developed the idea of the hero as a thing rather than an individual. In each of the 87th Precinct stories the main character, or principal detective, changes, but the environment (McBain’s “mythical city” Isola), the crimes and the police procedures stay fixed. The idea of the conglomerate hero is fascinating and it reminds me that once, while discussing the film Local Hero with my wife, I pompously claimed that the “hero” of Bill Forsyth’s classic 1983 film was not Burt Lancaster but Scotland (and the Scottish).

πŸ“Œ If for one moment Rishi gets to grips with the job and actually wants to do something the country might one day thank him for, he could start by reading Larry Elliott’s piercing gaze into the future.

Central banks are raising interest rates, exposing the vulnerability of β€œzombie” companies that have survived only thanks to a prolonged period of low interest rates. 

Larry Elliot, the Guardian

πŸ“Œ At Headway Sean, an ex BT engineer, told us he fitted the TV cable to Bob The Builder‘s house. He said Bob (aka actor Neil Morrissey) had a curvy front door that induced a feeling of drunkenness.

πŸ“Œ Merry, our neighbour’s cat who went missing on Christmas Eve, has been found alive and unharmed.

πŸ“Œ As I got on the 243 bus at Laburnum Street, the driver was telling the man behind me to pick up the plastic cup he’d just thrown on the ground and to put it in the nearby bin. The driver waited until the man did as he was told, then allowed him to board the bus. Later the same driver actually got off the bus to help a lost passenger locate the correct bus stop for her destination.

πŸ“Œ To the Barbican for the hightly-rated film Corsage, which we found so dull my wife actually fell asleep. She missed a whole suicide attempt.

πŸ“Œ Looks like the US Republican Party is following the British Conservative Party.

FRIDAY 6 Corsage, the boring film we saw at the cinema last night, which was basically about a 19th-Century rad-fem empress trapped inside the Austro-Hungarian monarchy (with subtitles), included wacky references to the present day. There were modern pop songs adapted and played on the lute, and at one point the disgruntled empress showed the middle finger to her husband’s dinner guests. But the modern touch I liked most was posh Austrians from the 1870s guzzling pints of lager with their breakfast. It was like an advert for Wetherspoons made by the same agency that does the M&S food ads.

Vicky Krieps in Corsage…

πŸ“Œ I had a dream that I revisited the office of the magazine at the Guardian I worked on for 20 years before my brain injury. It was now a shop in a mall with loud music, selling all the clothes and homewares featured in the magazine.

πŸ“Œ The Guardian has a gripping photo gallery showing its top close-up photographs of the year. My favourite is the one of two drops of oil merging to create the image of a shocked alien.

SATURDAY 7 The Guardian sings the praise of groundbreaking working-class TV comedies such as The Likely Lads, Early Doors and The Royle Family. When I worked at the Guardian I urged executives to include class on its annual diversity survey questionnaire. It never did.

πŸ“Œ The actor Amanda Abbington shares a posting and helpfully illustrates (on Twitter) why users continue to abandon Twitter.

πŸ“Œ I’ve started too many stitchwork projects and the task now is to finish them and limit the number I start in future. Our council has a giant map project underway and has asked for contributions from each of its 25 wards. Cripplegate is where we live.

πŸ“Œ Watching FA Cup soccer on TV today, the goal-time celebrations revealed that lots of footballers now wear sports bras.

πŸ“Œ I think I might have been over-sarcastic with the checkout person in Waitrose who didn’t ask me if I wanted a receipt.

SUNDAY 8 This is a key moment for Rishi. If he can get the nurses back to work and keep the bulk of his party onside he will go up in the popular estimation. We are about to find out if he really is a prime minister in anything other than name.

πŸ“Œ I retreated to a safe distance as a fevered discussion unfolded among our allotment committee on how best to employ eight corporate volunteers who will arrive at 9am tomorrow. I eventually agreed to make tea, make merry and to supervise the reconditioning of the water butt.

πŸ“Œ The opening pages of The Stepney Doorstep Society, by Kate Thompson (on loan from our friend Sue) reports on the rent strikes of 1930s London, and it doesn’t take a massive leap of the imagination to picture a repetition 100 years later.

MONDAY 9 I feel sorry for plastic. It is a perfectly good and useful human invention that has been demonised and punished because humans have failed to invent a safe way to dispose of it.

πŸ“Œ The Socialist Worker mockingly refers to the Tory government as a “Toy” government.

πŸ“Œ To fuel my fantasy of writing a mega series of police procedurals and become stupidly rich I have been swotting up on the police force that will solve all the crimes in The Barbican Murders. The City of London Police is a spooky sub-masonic outfit that operates independently of London’s main Metropolitan Police Force. But I’ve found a useful anchor for my blockbuster stories in the MIR (Major Incident Room) in Bishopsgate. This is where all the brainstorming, interrogations and collegiate banter among the detectives will happen. I think also my hero detective inspector will have a hatred of cowboy capitalism and a love of iffy tribute bands such as Nearly Dan, which he will see regularly performing in shady City basement bars frequented by intoxicated hedge-funders (aka, murder suspects).

πŸ“Œ My wife asked me why I thought there were so few black British goalkeepers in the professional football leagues. I didn’t know. The only keeper I could name was David James, and he is more non-white than black, and retired. But I was determined to find an answer, and the The Athletic came up with six depressingly predictable ones.

TUESDAY 10 Labour has started to drip-feed some of its brighter policies into the public sphere. Some of them suggest it knows exactly what to do when it gets its hands on the wheel. Unlike the last time it came to power.

πŸ“Œ My greatest achievement at yesterday’s session with corporate volunteers sprucing up our allotments was to demonstrate the door-jamb method for removing stubborn lids from bottles.

πŸ“Œ The Tortoise has launched a nifty new search tool, the Westminster Accounts, which allows you to check the bungs your MP has been taking from various groups, national and international, interested in buying British parliamentary influence. And there’s a podcast to go with it by way of explanation that unhesitatingly names names and points fingers.

Over Β£183 million of outside funds has flowed into this parliament alone, with no way of fully understanding who’s getting what, from whom, and why. Until now. This is the story of the money flowing into our politics, hidden in plain sight.

WEDNESDAY 11 The Mirror has a gripping story about the naked confessions of Prince Harry. They took place in the presence of upside-down door handles.

πŸ“Œ Rafael Behr reckons Conservative thinking on industrial relations hasn’t shifted since the 1970s, while those of the unions clearly has.

A government that responds to trade union pressure by breaking the legal levers by which that pressure is applied is not serious about negotiation.

Rafael Behr, the Guardian

Behr also coins a neat phrase for Rishi. He is the Placeholder Prime Minister “averting his eyes from the past, silent on the future, marooned in the present and shrinking every day.”

THURSDAY 12 I used the AI generator to make a pop-art version of a weather map of Europe showing abnormally high temperatures for this time of year.

πŸ“Œ Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mark Rowley was on the radio this morning complaining that he is powerless to sack police officers who have broken the law. The story took off with its standout quote: β€œWe have some very worrying cases with officers who’ve committed criminality whilst police officers and yet I’m not allowed to sack them. It’s sort of, it’s crazy.” What’s more crazy is that Rowley sees his priority as sacking the offenders rather than arresting and convicting them.

πŸ“Œ I missed Art Class yesterday but caught up with the project at home, which was to collage a 6-in tile design using recycled materials. I recycled photographs of an art project I did last year (subject: white on white) to create my beautiful tile, which I then enhanced using lots of different filters.

πŸ“Œ To the Barbican for Till, a film based on the real-life lynching of 14-year-old Emmet Till in 1955 Mississippi. It’s a story that might have been better served by a quality documentary rather than a heart-strings feature film, but I guess racist torture and murder is a blunt subject that demands an emotionally powerful touch.

Read the Guardian review here…

πŸ“Œ I tried to initiate a conversation about euphemisms for breasts (boobs, baps, knockers, etc) but my wife said I was being silly.

FRIDAY 13 I woke up in the very early hours with a thought: “I must catch up on what’s happening in Haiti.” The urgency of this need was quickly erased by an article in the Conversation about a tiny village in Wales that celebrates New Year’s Day on January 14, perpetuating the legend of the “11 Lost Days Of 1752′. Needless to say, begging children and the tax man make an appearance in this gripping tale.

πŸ“Œ Fascinating discussion on the News Agents podcast about Northern Ireland, Brexit, etc, which threw up the idea that Rishi is looking to neuter the swivel-eyed loons on the right of his party by accepting the offer of votes in Parliament from Keir Starmer’s Labour.

πŸ“Œ One of the finalists on TV’s Pointless said that if they won the Β£1,250 prize money they’d spend their share on new cello strings, because they are very expensive. Their first answer (of three) was Pointless.

SATURDAY 14 Users of Mastodon refer to Twitter as “the bird”, as if even naming it is an act of treachery.

πŸ“Œ The lurid circle above with the words “week 3” inside is created by an AI art generator set to “psychedelic pop”. It is what the algorithm made from the words WEEK 3 2023. The same words set on “oil painting” resulted in…

And on a second attempt…

πŸ“Œ My wife returned from the supermarket with the news that there had been a run on eggs. Not a single half-dozen to be had. Use them sparingly from now on, she instructed: “No random porridge experiments.”

πŸ“Œ The invitation to a friend’s Civil Ceremony in Brighton came just before we left for an early-evening birthday party featuring lots of music from the 1970s, which peaked dramatically with three drunken women of a certain age singing Islands In The Stream.

Shortly before Dolly Parton arrived…
A son laughs in embarrassment
at his mother’s drunken dancing…

πŸ“Œ Alison lived in Chelsea in the 1960s and tells of the time Mick Jagger drove his car over her foot.

SUNDAY 15 The current crisis in the NHS has given birth to a bizarre trend in soundbiting. Tories are daily telling Rishi that Margaret Thatcher would never have tried to pull the macho stunts he has in dealing with the wave of industrial unrest.

πŸ“Œ TΓ‘r is another film rated highly by the critics that proved disappointing. It is slow and laboured in parts, its alleged “psychological drama” quite flat. All the tense moments seem so cleverly studied. Cate Blanchett is nevertheless superb in the lead role of orchestra maestro and toxic monster Lydia TΓ‘r, who in what is in effect a modern tragedy meets her fate at the hands of the cancel-culture mob.

MONDAY 16 Looks like Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has tickled Serbia into having another go at Kosovo.

πŸ“Œ RIP Gina Lollobrigida, without question the sexiest woman in the world, according to my dad.

TUESDAY 17 I have a Note To Self that says “make a breakthrough with the dog”. This refers to a stitchwork I am currently on that features a young man and a dog standing on its hind legs embracing him. The breakthrough refers to my failure so far to find a stitch style that suits the dog. I gaze in envy at the work of stitch artists such as Shimunia and hope soon a sort of raggy doggy stitch will come to me.

Dog needs attention…

πŸ“Œ My Duolingo French teacher Lily was sending sarcastic messages about my progress and my wife wondered what “whatevs” was in French. It is “Quoi qu’il en soit”, which needs to be said with a dismissive shrug. Lily is good at that.

πŸ“Œ While exchanging messages about fictional detectives, one of the bloggers I follow, Isobel, recommended the Inspector Chen series by Qiu Xiaolong. I’ve never visited Shanghai but now feel I have. I had the same experience with Donna Leon’s Brunetti series. I’ve only visited Venice once but imagine I know it like the back of my hand. Isobel would add, incidentally, that both detectives are seasoned foodies.

πŸ“Œ This week’s Art Class is a study in touch and feel. We have been asked to come up with something using braille. The first of the two pieces I’ve opted to do is an imaginary restaurant napkin signed by Picasso in raised metallic stitching. The actual napkin I stole from a restaurant in Lyon.

πŸ“Œ To St Giles church in the Barbican for a meeting of residents who object to the City of London Corporation plan to demolish and develop the site of the Museum of London, which has been relocated to the old derelict Poultry Market building in Smithfield. Nimby arguments aside (plenty), the case against demolition and for refitting and repurposing the building is strong. But that’s not in the Corporation’s DNA. It is a hungry, profit-seeking monster and to expect it to behave like Bambi is just naive.

WEDNESDAY 18 In Art Class I did another piece using braille, inspired by a visit last night to Marge’s place. She fed us wine and crisps and showed us the piece she was working on: a poppy field with the word poppy spelled out in braille. I stole her setting and made a painting with the ghostly image of a disrobing woman (courtesy Toulouse-Lautrec) planted among the poppies. The raised white dots in the sky spell LAUTREC in braille.

Marge’s poppy field…
My fantasy poppy field…

πŸ“Œ City of London Social Services say they are unable to help our frail 96-year-old neighbour (3 falls already this year, the last one requiring 5 stitches to face) because she says she doesn’t need help, when she so obviously does need help and is not getting it from her family.

πŸ“Œ Sam is back on “Queen of Wonky” form with an epic skyscraper.

Skyscraper, by Sam Jevon

πŸ“Œ I always start off despising the privileged little brats that contest the annual Junior Bake Off on TV. Then something happens and I end up rooting for one of them.

πŸ“Œ To the Barbican for Dreaming Walls, a documentary made in the poetic light-touch style you thought had disappeared into history. Much like its subject, Manhattan’s famous Chelsea Hotel. Its renovation is pushing it to the edge of a vertiginous drop into nostalgia. And the plunge is likely to take with it its last few eccentric residents.

THURSDAY 19 One of the problems of the monarch being a king and not a queen is that King is also a surname, so that when a headline announces that King is doing this, that or the other, you can never be sure you are reading about the King of England or some other random with the surname King.

πŸ“Œ Rishi’s been caught pumping public money into his own constituency.

πŸ“Œ I got my irregular verb conjugations wrong in Duolingo and was forced by my French mistress Lily to do them again.

πŸ“Œ Been swotting up on Goblin Mode, a new expression to enter the dictionary and the subject of next week’s Art Class. From what I can tell, in the broad sense it is an outward statement of nonconformity. More narrowly it is a new way to talk about slobs and slobbing.

FRIDAY 20 Rishi is collecting enemies faster than Boris ever did. He lacks a winning personality, which is not essentially a bad thing in a politician. But it doesn’t bode well for being a winner come polling day.

πŸ“Œ At a soda-bread workshop I learned that it is better to weigh your milk rather than use a measuring jug. I also learned the importance of getting the loaf into the oven quickly after mixing.

πŸ“Œ Borough Market has grown and changed dramatically since we were last here more than 10 years ago, but so has the London Bridge area.

At Borough Market…

SATURDAY 21 Welsh soccer just closed the gender pay gap. Men and women international footballers will get the same wages.

πŸ“Œ Venturing into the Barbican’s lakeside Foyer these days is like walking into an episode of Motherland.

SUNDAY 22 Andrew Rawnsley drones on about Brexit again: three years and nothing to show for the Great Flouncing out of Europe. Facts are still getting lost in emotions. The UK under the Conservatives never had the political skill or will to work within the confines of the EU. And outside of it that same political disability is now a feature of its relations with the devolved nations of the union.

πŸ“Œ Navigating the chatter on whether Boris plans to unseat Rishi is to play poker with a hand full of what-ifs. What is certain is that Boris’s chances of regaining the Tory crown are fading daily. Andrew Marr sees a further snag (and especially for Rishi) in the rise of Reform UK, which is UKIP with a change of hats. This is the party that will ultimately steal votes from the Conservatives.

πŸ“Œ Started the second series of Slow Horses, which is filmed in our neighbourhood. Gary Oldman makes a superb job of the slobby MI5 reject Jackson Lamb.

πŸ“Œ The Working Class History feed on Mastodon reports that on this day in 1880 “French anarchist and metalworker, Alphonse Tricheux, was born. In his lifetime of activism, spanning revolutionary unionism and solidarity with Spanish Civil War refugees, he was also jailed for 8 months for publishing articles against colonial war in Morocco.”

Alphonse Tricheux…

MONDAY 23 I’ve been trying to work out what I dislike about Times Radio. On the surface it is an acceptably professional enterprise. It follows the media agenda slavishly and dishes up a passable chatterbox service, delivered with skill and high competence. There’s not much to not like, if political news and cultural wallpaper is your thing. But its presenters are without personality and the station lacks any charm. It is very professionally and busily dull.

πŸ“Œ I don’t know why, but I wondered how old Kath is these days. In 2001 we sat together in horror watching New York’s Twin Towers collapse on TV and speculated on who was responsible. Kath dismissed “the Pallies” as not being resourced enough for such an audacious act. “Could it be that Bin Laden fella?” she mused. When I googled her this morning to find her age I learned that last year she got married to Adrian Chiles.

πŸ“Œ The walls are closing in on Nadhim Zahawi, writes Rachel Wearmouth in the New Statesman. It’s a sign of the gross double standards that course through the present government that immunity from the rules that apply to all other citizens do not apply to ministers of the realm.

TUESDAY 24 Every day the government looks more and more like a consortium of clownish popinjays from the 17th Century. Nadhim Zahawi’s carefully bunch-wrapped woolly scarves have become a signifier.

πŸ“Œ Sam returns to colour after a recent switch back to her classic mono.

Egyptian Headdress, by Sam Jevon

πŸ“Œ Larry Elliott’s routine report on the UK’s growing debt burden depicts a nation that has failed to build an economy that can sustain its population.

πŸ“Œ The countdown is officially on for Zahawi’s exit.

πŸ“Œ Whenever my wife returns from visiting our frail 96-year-old neighbour, she reeks of cigarettes.

πŸ“Œ Whenever a contestant in Junior Bake Off muses, “I think I’m in with a chance of winning Star Baker” they do win it.

WEDNESDAY 25 A story on the radio told of a 4th Century Welsh goddess of love, St Dwynwen, and today being the Welsh equivalent of Valentine’s Day. Dwynwen didn’t have much luck with boyfriends so she became a nun and prayed for others to not suffer the same fate.

St Dwynwen…

πŸ“Œ We arrived in Art Class to find around a dozen folding chairs stacked randomly in the middle of the room. Today’s illustrative subject was “Goblin Mode”, a new expression to enter the dictionary and one our art teacher Sara interpreted as Chaos. She referenced her slovenly teenage daughter’s bedroom as further inspiration. I opted to go full Goblin Mode and created some casually fluid digital paintings alongside photographs showing the slobby side of my life – eating beans straight from the tin and a box of surplus electrical wires and plugs.

Digital paintings of stacked chairs…

Goblin Mode photographs…

THURSDAY 26 The Conversation has an article saying that striking workers are very likely to be starved back to work by soaring prices and debt repayment costs.

The very thing that has has triggered today’s strikes – the cost of living – could also bring about an end to this action.

The Conversation

πŸ“Œ Sam has updated her famous Legs drawing with a creaky pair of pins showing signs of wear and tear.

Legs, by Sam Jevon
More Legs…

πŸ“Œ At Headway some musicians from the City of London Sinfonia turned up to play improvised experimental music. I put my ear buds in and settled into an iPad portrait of the cellist. It looks like she’s operating a road drill in a cartoon.

Road drill cellist…
Missile cellist…

πŸ“Œ Quordle is becoming stupidly addictive. Most of the time my scores are 25+, but recently I had a phase of 22s, and last night I had one last shot before turning the light out and scored 18.

FRIDAY 27 Every week an email arrives from The Economist pimping the contents of that week’s magazine. It’s a teaser to encourage readers to cough up for a subscription. But the teaser is often all I want, so the plea to subscribe will never succeed. Today, for example, Economist editor-in-chief Zanny Minton Beddoes attempts to promote a cover story about the declining fortunes of investment bank Goldman Sachs. In the short pitch, Zanny quotes an old article from Rolling Stone magazine in which Goldman Sachs is described as…

A great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money.

That told me as much about Goldman Sachs as I need. The picky detail of how it has recently been performing badly in the squid game of global finance and outperformed by nimble younger squids is more than I care to know.

πŸ“Œ Buffing up the grouting in the kitchen of our Brighton flat (goes on sale Monday) made me glad I now have a ready-made excuse not to do DIY any longer.

πŸ“Œ On Junior Bake Off we are always heartened to see the young contestants helping and supporting one another. In this series there is one player who does not offer or ask for help. And he is conspicuously ignored by the others. This is the one who will likely end up as our Prime Minister.

πŸ“Œ And just to prove how professionally dull it is, in the dead of night Times Radio ran a ridiculously long interview with Bear Grylls.

SATURDAY 28 Rod Stewart, a lifelong Conservatives, says we need a Labour government.

πŸ“Œ Tom Verlaine, RIP.

πŸ“Œ Maybe the next Liverpool dream team will be a management partnership of Steven Gerrard and Xabi Alonso.

SUNDAY 29 Rishi sacked Zahawi at 8.58am. The timing is interesting: just in time for the 9am broadcast news, too late for the Sunday newspapers.

πŸ“Œ Rishi obviously tried to keep his opponents in the Tory leadership contest onside. He’s now been forced to sack Zahawi, and Braverman at least will surely follow soon, especially if she continues to ignore the kidnapping of asylum-seeking children from Home Office hotels. On Twitter Mike White speculates that Rishi is lining up a policy clash with Braverman on the assumption that she will flounce out of office.

πŸ“Œ My Motorola phone has the very useful gesture of tapping the screen with three fingers to get a screenshot. Very useful until you want to play chord triads on the piano app.

Chord triad screenshot…

MONDAY 30 Totally screwed up the ingredients for a loaf and ended up with a half-baked clump. Sadly it looked really good.

πŸ“Œ When my wife and I first got together 35 years ago, we nearly fell out in a blazing row about local taxes. I claimed that local councils were being starved of funds because central government held the purse strings on what was called the Rate Support Grant. This is taxpayers money that tops up local-authority revenue (local taxes, business rates, etc) as required. It allows local governments to run local economies according to the needs of its local population. The system worked OK until central governments decided they didn’t like what local governments were spending the money on and started to restrict the flow of cash. Or feed it to the local councils it favoured. Now the idea of a fairer system of funding for local councils is back on the table, prompted by the progressive interventions of Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and a new local transport network aimed at kick-starting economic growth in the north of England. Thirty-six years later, my wife and I are in total agreement about something.

πŸ“Œ Tried to salvage the half-baked clump of bread by putting it back in the oven. Will eat with soup.

Bread resurrection…

TUESDAY 31 There’s a nice simile in the latest installment of the News Agents podcast. In describing the distressed nature of the Conservative Party with its litany of scandals, sleaze and inquiries pending, Jon Sopel says it’s like Boris Johnson became leader, dropped a stink bomb, left the room and now the smell just won’t go away.

πŸ“Œ Rishi is getting slapped in the media for not knifing Zahawi sooner. There might be another reason for his tardiness. By handing Zahawi to his new Ethics Adviser, Laurie Magnus, he gave him an open goal with which to open his account in the job. This makes Rishi look like he’s living up to his pledge to get rid of the Tory stink left behind by Boris and Liz Truss.

πŸ“Œ As universities get to grips with the business of being cut-throat businesses, Nature reports a colossal drop in the number of students from EU countries applying for university places in the UK (Brexit pushed the fees up) and a colossal rise in the numbers arriving from India and China.

πŸ“Œ My wife announced proudly that she had completed Quordle in 17. I replied that I wouldn’t even try to compete with that, even though I will when she’s not looking.

Read all of my scrapbook diaries…


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