Scrapbook: March, 2023

WEDNESDAY 1 On the radio Farming Today reveals that while the DUP are still trying to find fault with Rishi’s Windsor Framework, Northern Irish sheep farmers have already finished the job. Any of them looking to improve the blood stock of their herds by importing breeds from other parts of the UK are disappointed to learn that they are stuck in Rishi’s new Red Lane.

πŸ“Œ Rishi might be hoping the DUP gives his Windsor Framework the thumbs down so he can show some muscle and press on regardless, making him look more prime ministerial. Watch out for the way he now nails his authority by offing Braverman and Raab. The moderate rump of the party senses a comeback, but when Rishi went on the radio saying his deal transforms Northern Ireland into an unique semi-detached member of the European market he was attacked for being a Remainer in Brexiteer clothing. Notice how I brought sheep back into the story there?

πŸ“Œ The official title of the Conservative Party is the Conservative & Unionist Party.

πŸ“Œ In Art Class the project was to depict something red because, we were told, it was National Wear Red Day. I chose one of my blingier lapel pins.

THURSDAY 2 At Headway Horatio told us a flash story he dreamed up last week called The Fraudulent Fisherman. The yarn told of a man who faked being a fishing enthusiast just so he could stare into space and do nothing. The story gets complicated when he tries to bluff knowing anything about bait, lines, hooks etc. The fisherman just wants to be left alone to do nothing, but the modern world has progressively closed down all the possibilities for doing that.

πŸ“Œ To Barbican Cinema 1 for All The Beauty & The Bloodshed, an old-school one-sided documentary about an old-school people protest against the Sackler family, evil pharma magnates and philanthropists whose success in peddling opioids enabled them to occupy the upper echelons of the art world.

FRIDAY 3 Boris has jumped out of the traps to slag off Rishi’s newly-minted friendship with the EU. Rishi will probably now be forced to put his Northern Ireland Protocol plan to a parliamentary vote. The media will back him and there’s no chance of him not winning the vote, but how much support does Boris still have? And will the DUP stand by him? This is now a big test for Boris. Can he rise again and become PM, or is he sunk, splashing madly in the same political pool as Nigel Farage?

πŸ“Œ Marxism is being rebranded as “degrowth communism” and the answer to the climate emergency.

πŸ“Œ Actors must tell their agents, “I need a holiday… Get me a job on Death In Paradise.”

πŸ“Œ The painful political death of Boris just started.

SATURDAY 4 The UK food shortages are the result of price and contract rigging by supermarkets, says Henry Dimbleby, in a roundabout way of course.

πŸ“Œ The City of London stitchwork project I contributed to is now assembled and complete. An outline of each of the City’s 25 wards was allocated to City residents to create a composite stitchwork. I did Cripplegate, where we live, and the neighbouring ward of Aldersgate. I’m very pleased with the result. It is a classic piece of London folk craft.

πŸ“Œ Our friend, a university teacher, told us about a meeting she had with a third-year undergraduate whose excuse for not completing an assignment was that she couldn’t read.

πŸ“Œ I’m doing a stitchwork emoji depicting sadness. The reverse side makes the sad guy look like he’s having a mental-health meltdown.

Upside: sad…
Reverse side: in need of psychiatry

SUNDAY 5 Kept wide awake in the middle of the night by The Stopping Places, a radio exploration of the gypsy-traveller world.

πŸ“Œ A joyous, rampaging victory over an old enemy…

Read the match report here…

πŸ“Œ I’ve been asked to talk to some special-needs schoolchildren about my stitchwork projects and the benefits of doing craft. So much is all I can say.

πŸ“Œ To the Barbican to hear songs from Paul Simon’s 1986 Graceland album performed by the London African Gospel Choir. I remember well the album’s original release and the criticism Paul Simon faced for working with South African musicians during the international anti-apartheid cultural boycott of South Africa. In the Barbican Main Hall there were 23 black faces on stage entertaining a sell-out audience of middle-class white people. If this was meant to be an exercise in stealing back something that was stolen in the first place (re-appropriating the appropriated) it was quite hollow.

At the Barbican…

MONDAY 6 Completely distracted from anything I should be doing by the City of London’s Lady Mayoress. She is to visit our community Stitch & Bitch group for a cup of tea at the end of the month and a gold satin tote bag is the gift we intend to present to her.

Luxury tote bag in progress…

πŸ“Œ My wife visited our 96-year-old neighbour, who is back in hospital after another fall. When she tells the nurses she’d like to visit the toilet they tell her to wet the bed and they’ll deal with it when they have time.

TUESDAY 7 We went to the local election hustings last night to support our friend Dawn, who is standing to become a councillor for our City of London ward. She is up against two men from the Barbican. One, who claims to work in IT project management, is without personality, totally dim and painfully boring. The other claims to be a student now working as a cab-driver for City bigwigs. His pomposity is pure Boris, oozing privilege and overcooked self-confidence from every pore. Fingers crossed for Dawn, a working-class single mother of two who works as a primary-school administrator.

πŸ“Œ What does it mean? I dreamt last night that I was a contestant in a radio quiz show. I was so bad that half way through, the show’s producers replaced me with someone else and the presenter glided seamlessly to the new contestant, as if I was never there in the first place. ‘Listeners’ (it’s a dream, remember) must have been confused as to how Billy became Dave.

πŸ“Œ The attempted nailing of Boris continues with the first of a juicy series of three podcasts from the Tortoise, investigating his dodgy dealings with money.

WEDNESDAY 8 I suspected Rishi of setting up Suella to take the rap if his Illegal Migration Bill doesn’t get through parliament. He needs to get rid of this toxic character if he wants to have a genuine chance if winning at the next election. But it looks like I might be wrong, because Rishi says he is “up for the fight” with the rest of the civilised world by defending a bill that would have seen Mo Farah deported to Rwanda. The Tortoise has a telling analysis of his tough talk, with emphasis on the cold fact that talk is all it is.

πŸ“Œ Art Class was all about touching and seeing, an extension of the braille project we did a few months ago. The task was to feel what’s in a paper bag and to draw the sensation. Then you could peep at the mystery item inside the bag and create a representational drawing. In my bag was an empty medication blister pack.

L-R: Feel and see...

THURSDAY 9 I had two minutes before the Headway Writing Group to knock off a 100-word story with the title Who’s Got Covid? I wrote: “He wasn’t super sure, but it was probably around 2,000 people in London. That isn’t a big figure compared with ones from the recent past, but it did mean the spiky monster had not been slain. Getting that message across had become more and more difficult. His job got harder and harder each day. Lockdown gave people the chance to fight something. But now the threat had retreated. Out of sight, out of mind. It’s behind you is a line from pantomimes, not from public-health messages. So he stole one from a colleague and Fight COVID became Outwit COVID

πŸ“Œ I’m trying to see it as a stroke of good fortune that I only just started this stitchwork before I noticed it was the wrong size.

Big head…

FRIDAY 10 Suella’s been caught tampering with the facts again to promote her hate-filled cause.

πŸ“Œ Heard on the radio last night that Woody Harrelson’s dad was a hitman.

πŸ“Œ The daily newsletter from the New Statesman (an email summarising the top stories) really is one of the best of its type.

πŸ“Œ We’re trying to work out which is the worst TV quiz show for prize money, The Chase or The Bridge.

πŸ“Œ Back in Brighton feels comfortable.

SATURDAY 11 Was Gary Lineker correct in comparing Rishi’s immigration law to the banishment of Jews in 1930s Germany? Yes, says the Socialist Worker, spot on. No, says Jonathan Freedland in the Guardian. The language and policies of 1930s Germany were far worse.

Lineker erred by making the one comparison that makes this government look less bad than the alternative.

πŸ“Œ Rafael Behr says Putin’s Russia has become a nation that sees itself as waging a holy war.

Putin gambled on a quick military smash-and-grab raid [on Ukraine], lost, and is now committed to thorough tyranny and war as a way of life.

πŸ“Œ Suspect there are plenty of people sharing Danny Baker’s views right now…

SUNDAY 12 While everyone else is struggling to pay inflated electricity bills Rishi privately had the network upgraded to meet the needs of his heated swimming pool.

πŸ“Œ Gary Lineker seems to be the only available topic of conversation today.

πŸ“Œ Arriving home from Brighton we discovered that one of my purple socks has gone missing.

MONDAY 13 The BBC cave-in starts today as reports emerge that Gary Lineker will be back on the telly soon. Rishi is pretending the whole mess is Boris’s handiwork.

πŸ“Œ We emptied stuff from our Brighton flat at the weekend in advance of the new owner moving in. In the back of a cupboard I found my old “portable” typewriter (manual). That too is likely to go up for sale soon as an identical model in worse condition was found to be selling on Etsy for Β£240.

Old friend… To be sold

πŸ“Œ The Gary Lineker saga is over for the time being. The BBC backed down and grovelled, promising a renewal of its social-media guidelines. It’s hard to believe in the sincerity of any BBC pronouncements now and Garygate was a home-made, hand-made crisis crafted by bungling BBC bigwigs.

TUESDAY 14 I was flabbergasted to learn that someone we know, probably still in their 30s who works for a community advice service did not know what a council house is. It emerged that her parents bought a council flat in Marylebone on the right-to-buy scheme in the 1980s. So why did their daughter know so little about local-authority housing. Were they ashamed of having been council tenants and sought to scrub the stigma from their past?

πŸ“Œ In the book I’m reading Inspector Chen of the Shanghai Police is hunting for a missing person snared by triads and trying to stop himself falling for a glamorous American cop because he has an on-off long-distance posh girlfriend in Beijing. Good luck with that, Chen.

WEDNESDAY 15 Google tells me that a photo I took three years ago of some old discarded oil-paint tubes has been viewed by 50,000 people. And Facebook suggests two groups I might be interested in, Chingford & Highams Park Life and Roger Mellie’s Profanisaurus.

Old photo…

πŸ“Œ Even Theresa “Hostile Environment” May voted against Suella’s Stop The Boats bill.

πŸ“Œ I couldn’t attend Art Class today. Our subject was water. I’m not sure my picture of a running tap will add to the sum of human understanding. Marge’s, on the other hand was a masterpiece.

A Running Tap, by Me
A Running Tap, by Marge…

THURSDAY 16 Jeremy Hunt’s budget doesn’t do much to disguise it’s real intention, which is to nail down inequality once and for all.

πŸ“Œ Was very pleasantly surprised, excited even, with the presentation by PUP Architects to design the Headway exhibition in the Barbican’s Curve gallery (early August). It was strong on ideas, open to new ones and they clearly have the skills to pull everything together into a rich experience. It made the marathon stitchwork I’m working on (a big text story) seem so much more worth doing.

The grand stitchwork project…

πŸ“Œ The seed for this week’s Headway Writing Group 100-word challenge was any interpretation of the expression Talking Heads. Mine was… “The beginning was easy. Eight words from a Talking Heads song: β€œTwo fools in love. So beautiful and strong.” It happens like that sometimes; open your window and a story flies in. The middle was harder. Who were the fools? Romeo and Juliet? Dolce and Gabbana? What kind of love did they share? What made them/it strong? He churned through the five Ws (Who, What, Where When, Why) to put flesh on the bones of this story. Then he hit a problem. The original eight words from Talking Heads was a story with no ending. He’d have to write one.”

πŸ“Œ Rishi keeps stealing Labour plans, which is probably best seen as a form of flattery. His problem is that if the voting public can’t tell the difference between his childcare policy and the almost identical one offered by Labour, they are likely to go with Labour because they haven’t been in power for 13 years and screwed up everything else.

πŸ“Œ Doh! It’s taken me three series of The Bay to twig that it’s about a police-force Family Liaison Officer (FLO) who has a screwed-up family life.

FRIDAY 17 Our friends in Winchester have been busy vacuuming up an infestation of ladybirds.

Colony of ladybirds inside
vacuum cleaner…

πŸ“Œ Filed my 100-word story early for next week’s Headway Writing Group (now officially renamed Babyshoes after the famous six-word story supposedly by Ernest Hemingway) as we will be in Liverpool. The nominated title was Lucille, and my story is… “When Jules saw the voicemail notification pop up on her phone she started to believe this could be her Big Day. Congratulations! You have won the Elvis Presley Make Me A Winner competition. To select your prize, press 1 for the money, 2 for the show. In her head she started to sing, and to laugh, laughing so hard she missed her step, keeled forward and connected with concrete. Splat. She looked back to check the damage and saw she’d lost a heel. Then the song inside her head switched: You picked a fine time to leave me, loose heel.

πŸ“Œ My wife spotted someone on our neighbourhood online message board asking if anyone was in need of “cash in handjobs”.

SATURDAY 18 Lily, my Duolingo French teacher, never looks terribly excited when I successfully complete a lesson, but today she celebrated with a slow handclap and a look that says she’d be happy to stamp on my testicles.

πŸ“Œ Donald Trump says he will be arrested next Tuesday. What’s so special about Tuesday is unknown.

SUNDAY 19 The ginger curly hair on the man in my latest stitchwork is testing my ability to weave stitches together in a way that doesn’t look neat.

The beauty is that if your stitches start to accidentally knot you can easily turn the error into something that looks like unkempt red hair.

MONDAY 20 A Hampshire man on the radio said he got a call while on a family day out to London that a rare shark had washed up on his beach. By the time he got home someone had decapitated the shark and stolen the head.

πŸ“Œ Boris’s much anticipated appearance before the Commons Privileges Committee this week is said to be costing him around Β£220,000 in legal bills. Not that he’s bothered, because he’s not paying. The UK taxpayer is.

πŸ“Œ The DUP has rejected, the Windsor Framework, Rishi’s big plan to restore relations with the EU and to get government in Northern Ireland back up and running. Even if large numbers of Conservative MPs now join them, Rishi can still win the parliamentary vote easily, but it won’t look good. And the DUP might even still opt to defy parliament and refuse to work with Sinn Fein. That will make them look like sore losers, but I guess they don’t care.

TUESDAY 21 Is another global banking crisis just around the corner? The experts say not, but with very few exceptions they said that back in 2008.

πŸ“Œ Boris is saying yes, he misled Parliament but didn’t mean to. Is ignorance a reasonable defence when you are a prime minister?

πŸ“Œ At a meeting to choose the design team for the Headway exhibition at the Barbican this Summer I discovered I have five paintings and a stitchwork listed to appear. Whether they will still be included when the time comes, I don’t know. Can’t be sure they’ll make the cut as “less is more” is the prevailing ideology.

WEDNESDAY 22 It’s hard not to see the state of disgrace within the Metropolitan Police as a mirror image of the ugliness of British society in general. I pity other hard-working police forces around the country whose image is stained by the rotten Met.

πŸ“Œ I’ve joined a new Facebook group called Terrible Art In Charity Shops, mainly because it gives me a sense of belonging.

I’m with the band…

πŸ“Œ Boris and Liz have both said they’ll vote against Rishi and his Windsor Framework solution to the potholes in the Northern Ireland Protocol. A new Ultra Brexit splinter group is forming fast. Can Rishi hold his nerve in putting pragmatism before party politics? I don’t think he’s got much choice.

πŸ“Œ The journey north to Liverpool will be punctuated…

First stop Hayes & Harlington…
Book bank at services on M40…
Lunch, somewhere in the
middle of Cannock Chase
Welcome to Hanover Street,  Liverpool…

πŸ“Œ Tuesday came and went and Donald Trump wasn’t arrested. Now he says he wants to be marched into court wearing handcuffs.

πŸ“Œ Boris looked and sounded quite rattled during his grilling by the Commons Privileges Committee (clenched fists, lots of pointing, high blink rate, hectoring tone).

Boris rattled…

THURSDAY 23 Return visits to Liverpool always throw up a few new experiences, or memories that have lain dormant for so long they almost slipped into extinction. The ferocious currents and swirls of the Mersey at high tide, for example.

River Mersey from
Tate Liverpool…

πŸ“Œ Never been that much of a Turner fan, but the exhibition at Tate Liverpool set his tempestuous seascapes to an electro-symphonic soundtrack by the musician Lamin Fofana. This translates as a weirdly haunting rendition of Rivers of Babylon echoing through the gallery. The exhibition is made even more exciting by the inclusion of Turner sketchbooks, which to me are obviously more impressive than the paintings.

Turner sketches at Tate Liverpool

πŸ“Œ My wife sent me a photo from the Elton John gig she’s at with her friend Rachel and it made me slightly thankful I decided not to go with them.

Waiting for Elton John at the
Echo Arena, Liverpool

πŸ“Œ Every time we stay in an aparthotel we come away with a list of faults/improvements that we pledge to post on Trip Advisor. We never do it. This one, StayCity, had plenty, but the worst was a bedroom that included the tiniest of wardrobes, with two of its three shelves missing. The remaining shelf then collapsed under the weight of two bras and four pairs of knickers. I went to Poundland for extra hangers; I stored my socks in a colander (the kitchen was ok) under the bed.

The offending wardrobe…
Did I say the kitchen was ok?

πŸ“Œ My wife returned from the Elton John gig in a state of frenzied excitement, wanting to drink champagne and dance. Then news came though that our friend Dawn got elected to the council with a massive win over her two rivals.

FRIDAY 24 Secret gift from wife: SuperLambBanana lapel pin.

πŸ“Œ A man came to fix the busted light in our bathroom, so now I can shave before our evening meal at Italian Club Fish.

πŸ“Œ At Crosby Beach to see Anthony Gormley’s cast-iron figures we were driven back by sand blast so intense we only got to see two of the 100 sculptures before retreating to safety and the onward journey to Southport for lunch.

πŸ“Œ We knew it was Friday when we arrived back at our aparthotel because the reception was a rolling mawl of hen-party excitement.

πŸ“Œ Down at the Albert Dock the buildings started to move in mysterious ways.

SATURDAY 25 Only on the lunatic fringes of the chatterati can you find anyone saying Boris is anything other than a busted flush.

πŸ“Œ It was meant to be a quiet day: visit my old hometown neighbourhood, have a drink in the local pub, then head back into the city centre and an evening meal at a Chinese restaurant.

Anfield Road, Liverpool, my old neighbourhood, on match day…

But while we waited for a bus on Oakfield Road a loud crash was followed by our friend Rachel screaming “Oh my God!” Then I saw the bus shelter we were standing in collapsing on top of us to a slow soundtrack of clank and crunch. An out-of-control truck had ploughed into the shelter (a policeman told us later the driver had suffered a “medical incident”). Caving in beneath the wreckage I tried to hold up the debris while my wife crawled free. Our friend Rachel was flat out, bleeding badly. Somehow, with help of quick-witted muscular bystanders, I escaped with a cut leg and a damaged shoulder. My wife had cuts to her head, and Rachel is in hospital awaiting an operation for a badly broken leg.

The flattened bus shelter (and runaway truck), from beneath which we all somehow managed to escape with our lives…
As first reported in the local newspaper. Updates followed…
That fella was me…

SUNDAY 26 At the hospital yesterday, a doctor told my wife to focus on the positives of yesterday’s horrific event, but that is easier said than done and low emotions are never far beneath the surface. We’ve already told the story several times to several different police officers, paramedics and hospital staff. It will be difficult to shake off the nightmares, especially when dark humour intervenes. This morning I found shards of broken glass in my jacket pocket. In the right setting they look like uncut diamonds.

Glass diamonds…

MONDAY 27 We decided to stay an extra day in Liverpool because our friend is still in hospital awaiting a decision on when her broken leg can be operated on. When we return to London I will get my damaged shoulder (in sling) checked out, but at the moment painkillers seem to be doing the job.

πŸ“Œ Ageing southern English taxi drivers are a rare breed. The one driving us to the railway station in Liverpool spent 10 minutes whingeing about “whingeing scousers” and what a pathetic bunch they are. He didn’t get a tip.

πŸ“Œ Our friend Rachel was in a much cheerier mood today, settling into a lengthy stay in hospital (surgery then physio) with a request for nail-polish remover.

TUESDAY 28 Tortoise says Humza Yousaf offers the people of Scotland a “beguiling picnic of promises”.

πŸ“Œ To the Lyric theatre in Hammersmith with Marge for the latest adaptation of Accidental Death of an Anarchist, a gloriously skilful romp around police corruption and the politics of “truth”.

At the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith…

WEDNESDAY 29 It was consoling in the light of recent events to be kept awake in the middle of the night not just by my injured shoulder but by the repeat of a fabulous radio documentary about Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive.

πŸ“Œ At the Minor Injuries Unit at Bart’s Hospital in Smithfield they told me I had a fractured scapular and to expect a call from the Fractures Clinic for further treatment.

A fractured scapular is somewhere in there…

THURSDAY 30 With plenty of time to do nothing I am very much enjoying listening to old movie soundtracks and reading A Loyal Character Dancer, the second of the 12 Inspector Chen Cao Shanghai-based crime stories by Qiu Xiaolong. Chen is currently being chased around the city by triads who want to stop him finding a missing person. At his side is a glamorous American cop, whose obvious charms are doing their thing on the 35-year-old poet-policeman.

πŸ“Œ The impression I get from dealing with the police over our recent brush with death tells me that an awful lot of it is boring admin, filling in forms, following procedure and being anonymous. In the hospital, all the staff were the amazing people that gives the NHS its prized place in the nation’s heart. The mind boggles at their skills and strength of character, but there simply aren’t enough of them and there is no sign that there ever will be. If ever there was a vocation for the nation, the NHS is it.

FRIDAY 31 It’s been a varied week politically, but much of it has passed me by in a whirlwind of otherness. There is a body of opinion that says the SNP is a spent force in Scottish politics now that the wee iron lassie (Nichola Sturgeon) has gone. And Donald Trump finally got himself arrested a week later than he said he would. But the political event of the week, which wasn’t really one at all, was the government’s newly announced green strategy, which flies in the face of conventional wisdom and the adopted policies of Europe, the US and China. While the rest of the world opts for investment in non-fossil, renewable fuels and their associated technologies, our government is gambling on carbon capture and wants to rig its carbon output by pumping it into vast caves beneath the floor of the North Sea.

πŸ“Œ To the Curve gallery at the Barbican to see the latest exhibition, Them’s The Breaks, which builds a series of human environments from the junk thrown out after office refits. It was a good chance to re-examine the space for when the Headway exhibition moves in at the end of July. If anything, I got more excited about it than I already was.

Read all of my scrapbook diaries…


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