February 18-24, 2023
SATURDAY 18 A New Statesman article reports journalists quitting the BBC in droves after chair Richard Sharp was revealed to have been Boris’s favourite financial advisor. What the article doesn’t say but suggests is that government toadies such as Sharp are deliberately placed inside public institutions not to innovate or to develop the enterprise but to suffocate it. The article describes a rotting process at work. What this means for the future of public-service broadcasting is hard to say. It would be nice to think that all the TV and radio stars nurtured by the BBC would coalesce into a public-service broadcasting equivalent of United Artists, the US film corporation started in the 1920s by Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and DW Griffith. It would be nice also to think that any new talent-led broadcasting collective did not suffer the same fate (SOLD) as UA did.
📌 At our neighbour Dave’s birthday party in Fish Central he told us about working as a civil engineer on the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine, which he says was built too close to an area of seismic activity. Dave also told us he warned of the possible collapse of the Gerard’s Cross Tunnel but was ignored.
SUNDAY 19 We finished the TV detective series The Gold last night. The story centred on the 1983 Brink’s-Mat bullion robbery but stretched its limbs to become a fabulous study of British class using gold as the signifier.
📌 Labour has its work cut out if it is to benefit from the resignation of Nicola Sturgeon and win the hearts of Scottish voters, writes Andrew Rawnsley. Watch out for the re-emergence of veteran Scottish Labour people such as Gordon Brown and Douglas Alexander. But don’t assume Scottish Independence has been buried with Sturgeon’s departure.
There is a chunky majority for independence among Scots who are younger than 50. There’s also evidence that Scots don’t change pro-independence views as they get older. If demography is destiny, and if something big does not change, Scotland is on a trajectory towards separation at some point.Andrew Rawnsley, the Observer
Scottish Independence is coming one day, so Labour needs to soft-land it by finding a way to dress up Unionism in a way that makes it look very like Independence.
📌 The Angry Man stitchwork emoji is finished and about the size of a coaster… Or a sew-on patch.
MONDAY 20 The Netflix film All Quiet on the Western Front has won a heap of Baftas. In Germany it has been ridiculed as over-simplistic and “horny for Oscars”. Dramatising the power of pacifism might not be an entirely bad thing, says an article in the New Statesman, and the film’s success, plus the unfolding Russia-Ukraine conflict, is an opportunity to reflect more deeply on how German attitudes to peace and war have evolved through the 20th Century into the 21st.
📌 Rishi is dithering over the Northern Ireland Protocol. If he pushes on with his new deal with the EU he will alienate the DUP and the lunatic fringe of the Conservative Party. If he doesn’t he will miss the chance to remake the Conservative Party in a form that might one day make it fit for a return to government.
TUESDAY 21 Yesterday my wife felt slightly unwell, did a COVID test and watched the dreaded two lines appear on the test strip. Today I will be banished to the spare bedroom to practice scales on my Casio keyboard and devise meals made from whatever is in the freezer. Fingers crossed I don’t get infected. My wife’s temperament always takes an annoying dip when she’s ill, so if I get infected too, there will be two bad moods in competition.
📌 Sam is back working in colour with a very cuddly specimen.
📌 According to a Tortoise podcast, the main point of Prince Harry’s book Spare has been missed. Yes, he had a scrap with his brother. Yes, he had it off with a posh woman in a field behind a pub. But the real thrust of Spare, says the Tortoise reporter, is Harry’s psycho revenge mission against the British tabloid press, who he blames for killing his mother when he was just 12 years old.
WEDNESDAY 22 Doing Art Class remotely (wife has COVID). The project is to draw/paint one of our classmates. I had an old photo of Sheila, so she became my subject…
📌 The government is trying to pull a divide-and-conquer stunt with striking health-service workers. It is targeting elite workers and their unions hoping they will betray their colleagues further down the chain. If the RCN (Royal College of Nurses) caves in, the doctors will be next. But higher pay for select groups, even if accepted, will not end the long queues of ambulances sat outside hospitals or move patients from hospitals to social care any faster. But it might give Rishi a good-news story to tell ahead of the May elections.
THURSDAY 23 Interested to learn that the V&A has “acquired” a vast collection of David Bowie memorabilia and is to use it to launch a new gallery of the performing arts in east London. This is good news and let’s hope the definition of the performing arts stretches down into popular culture. It would be fitting for the V&A to host an exhibition of, say, the costumes worn on TV’s Strictly Come Dancing. But that is unlikely. Interesting also to note that the planned David Bowie wing of the V&A has attracted funding from the controversial Len Blavatnik, a slippery philanthropist who likes to have his surname added to important cultural buildings.
📌 Boris is determined to leave British politics with a bang. If he pitches himself against Rishi over Northern Ireland there really can be only one winner.
📌 We’re visiting Liverpool in March so my wife and her friend can see Elton John in concert. The date got bumped to make way for the Eurovision Song Contest, which Liverpool is hosting on behalf of Ukraine. We’ll be in the city for five days, with plenty of time to explore, but the habit of roaming the streets alone with open eyes as I did in when I was 17 will look suspicious now I am no longer an impressionable youth. It might even look creepy.
FRIDAY 24 Rishi should stand firm against the lunatics in his own party and push his Northern Ireland Protocol plan through parliament, writes David Gauke in the New Statesman, echoing what I wrote here on Monday.
📌 When my wife tested positive for Covid on Sunday we knew we’d be locked indoors with makeshift meals and TV box sets. We’re at the end of Season 1 of The Morning Show and things are looking positive. Or negative.
📌 To the Barbican for a talking shop on how arts institutions can do power sharing with communities.
📌 There is general agreement in our house that Ralf Little is the worst ever Death In Paradise cop.
Read all of my scrapbook diaries…
PLEASE MESSAGE WITH ANY CORRECTIONS, BIG OR SMALL.