Diary: April 2020. Uncut.

This month includes the big Zoom takeover, making the most of monostitch and Lockdown cabin fever…

Wednesday 1, London We did a pub quiz on Zoom last night, then the first thing I spot in my newsfeed other than a story about Alex Jones breaking down in tears, is one about the sloppy privacy protocols of Zoom. The list of Zoom’s alleged crimes include sneakily sending data to Facebook, tracking those who attend “meetings” once they have left the “room” and something called Zoombombing, where trolls parachute into unprotected meetings and take over, showing porn and “other explicit material”. The FBI are said to be looking into it.

Nevertheless, the quiz we did had many of the characteristics of the one we would do on a Sunday evening in the Artillery Arms in Bunhill Row. 

Quizmaster Pete was our host and our “team” was the usual suspects from the neighbourhood. The theme was “isolation”.

I got quite bored when the old pub-table dynamics kicked in and to compete to be heard was more effort than it was worth. I turned especially sulky during a question about Eleanor Rigby. Pete asked us to name three things she did. Straight away I rattled offโ€ฆ

  • Picked up rice.
  • Lived in a dream. 
  • Waited at the window.
  • Wore a face which she kept in a jar by the door.

But I was roundly ignored by my fellow “team” mates. And that is how I came to be transfixed by the distant, silent vision on the TV of ‘Celebrity GBBO’.

PS Alex Jones might have been in tears because she was accused of crafting a fondant vulva in her appearance on GBBO. Or it could have been some other reason.

๐Ÿ“Œ Mark Steel is giving good Twitter during this pandemic…

I think this changed dramatically with the mass marketing of the mobile phone. Parlaying the “missed call” has become an art form, whereas before it was a casual dodge.

๐Ÿ“Œ I spoke to Keith today, who lives with his wife Kath and dog Blaise in the wilds of the Llyn Peninsula in Wales. The location of their farmhouse is quite remote, so Covid risks for them are minimal. Business for the barn, which has been converted into a holiday rental property called The Granary, has dried up, but they have a lot of land that needs tending, so filling their time is not an issue. The thing that made me smile, though, is that Keith is a scientistic type of guy and revels in analysis. He reckons they have enough food, wine and entertainment to last them 3 months. The funniest bit was when he told me about the lamb he bought before the pandemic hit Britain. It is in the freezer, a maxi-freezer that needed to be bought specially prior to the lamb finding its chilly repose there. 

๐Ÿ“Œ Waterford Whispers is always good for a laugh…

๐Ÿ“Œ I spoke to Michelle and forgot to ask how she was, for which I still, at the time of writing, feel guilty about. Iโ€™m not sure what her fella does exactly, but I think it is something technological, so maybe he can work from home ok. Michelle told me that she is having proper quality conversations with Headway members, in a way she has never spoken with them before. It was the clichรฉ that being apart brings people closer, but clichรฉs are clichรฉs because they always somehow hit on the truth.

๐Ÿ“Œ Paul posted this on Facebook from Brighton. Hinted at lots, but rarely spoken out loud.

Thursday 2 April 2020, London I dug out one of my old pictures and posted it, plus a video close-up to the myscrapbook blog and to Instagram. 

I included this text: “An early attempt at collaborative art. It’s called ‘All The Boys I Ever Kissed’. I randomly asked women to write the names of boys they remember kissing onto a pair of red clipart lips. Each name tells a story that is totally owned by the woman who wrote it.”

๐Ÿ“Œ There is a big worry in the White House that a loss of taste could signal infection by Covid-19. The stories always include a picture of President Trump.

๐Ÿ“Œ I wrote a long, depressing email to Michelle the other day on the theme of fear during the pandemic. We did a Zoom with Chris, Sam, Sandra and Cristina this afternoon, and later Michelle wrote an equally long reply to my email urging positivity through creativity, but concluded with a gem. She recommended a game drive in the Kruger Park in South Africa. Michelle is South African and, when troubled in the middle of the night, visits her native country on YouTube.

๐Ÿ“Œ Someone on Quora is asking what’s the point of he little hole in aircraft windows.

It’s there, apparently, to stop the window steaming up and passengers drawing obscene body parts in the mist. It also seems there are three panes: an inner, a middle and an outer, and the hole does not go through all three. It is confined to the inner pane.

Friday 3 April 2020, London The Morning Star has a column saying Corbyn can comfort himself in the fact that the current government have been forced by circumstances to become crazed socialists. The new Labour leader will be announced tomorrow.

๐Ÿ“Œ I’m getting all my news from Mark Steel from now on.

๐Ÿ“Œ Just heard that the Queen will speak to the nation on Sunday. The joke is that she will make all frontline health-service workers honorary members of the Royal Family so they can get the Covid test.

๐Ÿ“Œ Just as we were about to join a Zoom birthday drink for Sue, I spotted an observation by David Mitchell on Twitter.

๐Ÿ“Œ I could get used to meeting people online. Sue was waiting for her wild boar pasta to arrive from the nearby Italian restaurant that is doing deliveries. Her husband could be heard in the background on the telephone giving instructions to the Deliveroo operative. I suspect this type of lifestyle has been commonplace among younger people for years already. Ordering food for delivery and eating it in online chat rooms isn’t such a strange idea, but it obviously is to my generation.

And it is these same people, the ones who grew up in their bedrooms playing computer games, who are most likely to find whatever lies the future do-able.

Saturday 4 April 2020, London My wife will protest innocence but whenever we do a joint Zoom, she hogs the screen, placing herself centrally so that I am forced to lurch in every so often with one of my pithy contributions to the conversation.

๐Ÿ“Œ The Mona Lisa’s scarf/wrap thing is finished. Next comes her dress, but I await an Amazon delivery of some suitably exotic thread for that.

๐Ÿ“Œ Keir Starmer won the leadership of the Labour Party. Angela Rayner got the Deputy’s job. I am pleased about the results, if not ecstatic. Let’s watch for shadow chancellor Long Bailey. Unlikely, but it would be a deft move. I’d even think of joining the party if that happened. Here is what the Morning Star said about the results.

Sunday 5 April 2020, London My sister is asking what “furlough” means. I said “laid off”.

๐Ÿ“Œ The Mona Lisa T-shirt project is progressing. I’ve ordered some multicoloured thread for her dress and have been researching “buttonhole” thread, which might be worth trying. The top thread firm appears to be Gutermann. They have some great colours. Maybe Gutermann threads can go on my Christmas list.

๐Ÿ“Œ Shirley posted this in WhatsApp.

Monday 6 April 2020, London The question I am asking myself is: were Copperfield and Steerforth gay lovers? We have two friends in Brighton, Pip and Andy who are a pair of what I will call โ€œPerformance Poofsโ€. They openly flaunt their campness as a double act on Facebook. Andy is an academic who has written a lot about gay issues and I can almost predict his answer to my question. โ€œOf course they were a pair of raving bum-boys. He [Steerforth] calls him [Copperfield] Daisy, for fuckโ€™s sakeโ€ is how I will paraphrase it. He is not a lone academic in this theory. A quick web search uncovers, from 10 years ago, a study by a Leicester University researcher, Polly Furneaux, entitled โ€˜Queer Dickens: Erotics, Families, Masculinitiesโ€™, in which a number of Charlieโ€™s characters are outed.

๐Ÿ“Œ Someone on Radio 2 did a big “shout-out” (what does a shout-in sound like?) thanks to the various people who have continued to work throughout the Lockdown. They included prison screws.

๐Ÿ“Œ While toiling at the Mona Lisa monostitch my left hand went into spasm and I stabbed the needle into my leg. I thought nothing of it for a while but later felt a twinge and checked.

But I soldiered on with the dress because a new batch of thread arrived from Amazon.

๐Ÿ“Œ Belatedly, I got the April photo of the building site outside our front door.

๐Ÿ“Œ The Prime Minister has been moved into Intensive Care at St Thomas’ hospital.

Tuesday 7 April 2020, London Reports are emphasising that the Prime Minister is not on a ventilator.

๐Ÿ“Œ My wife just told me what it was like when I was in ICU. Every patient has a dedicated nurse whose job is to constantly check, monitor and tend to the patient. They study all the monitors constantly. If they go to the toilet, someone else takes over. She said it was simply amazing to witness such an intensity of care.

๐Ÿ“Œ This question appeared in my Quora feed:

‘My wedding ring fell in my neighbourโ€™s Koi pond and one of the fish ate it. I have no idea which fish ate it, how can we figure out which fish? Weโ€™d really rather not have to cut more fish open than necessary.’

The top answer said that the task was impossible since Koi do not have stomachs.

๐Ÿ“Œ I just discovered from a LabourList daily email that new leader Keir Starmer has appointed Rebecca Long Bailey to Education. Ed Miliband returns in RLB’s former job on the Green New Deal.

๐Ÿ“Œ At 8pm nobody on our estate “clapped for Boris”.

๐Ÿ“Œ On GBBO Kelly Brook’s lemon and apricot sandwich biscuit looked like a cheese roll. Paul Hollywood loved it.

๐Ÿ“Œ Lots of people on Twitter seem to think Paul Hollywood wants to shag Kelly Brook.

Wednesday 8 April 2020, London My wife reminded me that before the Lockdown I was booked to do a presentation of my Golden Lane Estate archive collection today in the community centre.

๐Ÿ“Œ I agreed to use Google’s conferencing app, Hangouts, on Tuesday next week with Margaret and Mena. 

๐Ÿ“Œ Isolation project 1 is finished. My wife wants to wash it, but I think it will probably fall apart.

My sister wants me to do Jรผrgen Klopp next, but I’m toying with Hilda Ogden or Chris’s painting of Picasso.

๐Ÿ“Œ Given the pink moon we saw last night I figured I might take up moon watching, so I got the recommended app to help me get to grips with this new hobby. 

Alas, the opening page if the app looks like thisโ€ฆ

I do like the word “gibbous”, though.

๐Ÿ“Œ It has been decided that we need some carrots, so I will step out of the apartment tomorrow. This is what I will look like…

๐Ÿ“Œ Then Shirley posted this on WhatsAppโ€ฆ

Thursday 9 April 2020, London Got a message from Cris to say the Barbican have green-lighted the video with a few additions. I can do those as audio, so no need to talk straight to the camera, which always makes me dry up.

๐Ÿ“Œ Got the balcony ready for sitting outdoors and planted some tomato seeds.

๐Ÿ“Œ Started a new needlework project โ€“ another white T-shirt, featuring Hilda Ogden.

๐Ÿ“Œ I enjoy Neil Perryโ€™s postings from Norway, where he has lived ever since, hundreds of years ago, he was asked to make a documentary about Jaz Coleman. This one is from today.

๐Ÿ“Œ The Quora feed threw up this:

โ€œCan my husband’s mistress sue me for sending a letter to her neighbors and letting them know the homewrecker that she is?โ€

There were a lot of conflicting responses, but the lengthiest was from a divorce lawyer, who bored me to death before reaching no answer beyond, โ€œask yourself who you want to beโ€. Thanks, dude.

Friday 10 April 2020, London An Opinion article in the Guardian about governments ignoring the warnings of science concludes: “If Covid-19 eventually imbues human beings with some humility, itโ€™s possible that we will, after all, be receptive to the lessons of this lethal pandemic. Or perhaps we will sink back into our culture of complacent exceptionalism and await the next plague that will surely arrive. To go by recent history, that moment will come sooner than we think.”

๐Ÿ“Œ Mark Steel sees it from another angle.

๐Ÿ“Œ We had a Zoom birthday drink for Steve, and later my wife did one with her old college friends while I sorted the edge pieces if a new jigsaw.

๐Ÿ“Œ Earlier, Kate posted on WhatsApp that she’d been rummaging through a box of her mum’s old stuff. She found this in Auntie Jackie’s purseโ€ฆ

Saturday 11 April 2020, London The Morning Star reports that Lisa Nandy is moaning about Dominic Raab, who has taken over from PM Boris Johnson while he continues his Covid recovery in St Thomas’ hospital. Nandy is outraged that Raab has not appointed someone to do his day-job (Foreign Secretary) while he is busy being Boris. This leaves the repatriation of British nationals stranded overseas in suspension. Nandy: โ€œIt is crucial that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) continues to function effectively during this period. This is a global crisis and demands a global response.โ€

๐Ÿ“Œ My daily media intake now includes an online magazine called Medium. I only signed up because it’s free and I thought it might be the source of some laughs during this miserable time. Today, my customised feed opens with the headlineโ€ฆ 7 Reasons Why Smart, Hardworking People Donโ€™t Become Successful.

๐Ÿ“Œ An email from Matt at The Conversation tells me that ‘The Plague’, by Albert Camus, is flying off shelves “as millions of lockdown bookworms drive a surge in pandemic fiction”. Lockdown bookworms. I like that.

๐Ÿ“Œ Martin Freeman was on the radio, once again confirming my view that actors are our best truth-tellers. Dermot O’Leary plays my kind of music.

๐Ÿ“Œ There was a mouse in the trap when I came downstairs this morning. I put it in an old Sainsbury’s bag and left it outside the front door. Later, when I went out to buy Easter Eggs for tomorrow (“essential”), the rodent was in a partial escape manoeuvre from the plastic bag. I quickly gathered it up and dumped it down the garbage chute. Easter Eggs were 3 for ยฃ8 at Tesco. Later, I read this in Marina Hyde’s Guardian column: “Tesco took ยฃ585m bailout tax relief, and promptly paid ยฃ635m dividends to its biggest investors, some of which are the richest institutions on Earth.”

๐Ÿ“Œ In an article about the arrogance and ignorance of Boris Johnson’s Churchillian English “exceptionalism”, Fintan O’Toole concludes: “Covid-19, as Johnson himself discovered in the most awful way, doesnโ€™t make exceptions. The threat is universal. And the shield against it โ€“ the NHS โ€“ is cosmopolitan and global. There are 200 different nationalities represented in its ranks by 150,000 doctors, nurses and ancillary staff. One consolation in this disaster is the realisation that Britain is exceptionally lucky to have them.”

๐Ÿ“Œ Thanks to a tip-off on Twitter from Chris Addison, we watched our favourite ever film this afternoon, Bill Forsythโ€™s โ€˜Local Heroโ€™. 

And therefore I was reminded of a review I once wrote, shortly after my stroke, for the Guardian.

Sunday 12 April 2020, London At a Zoom coffee ‘n’ chat session yesterday, Amanda said there had been a surge in online sales for tops. This, she said, is because lots of people are “dressing” for the social engagements they’re having  via video on apps such as Zoom, Messenger, WhatsApp and Hangouts. Bottoms were irrelevant, and just to prove the point, Shirley stood up to reveal her stripy pyjama bottoms.

๐Ÿ“Œ One of our friends in Brighton, a nurse, has been battling on the frontline of the Covid catastrophe. The stress was growing by the day and the fear of passing on the virus was torture, so he took the option of unpaid leave until retirement, which was due in June. It was an agonising decision, but you could sense the relief after he announced it in a long message in Facebook. Today he posted on Facebook a dream he had. 

“Awoke with a start this morning from a slightly stressful lockdown dream in which Anjuli Daskarolis and Sarah Maddox arrived on the doorstep bearing pots of bamboo, which they plonked down in the hallway and then hit the kitchen, where there was some kind of running finger buffet going on. They were swiftly followed by the arrival of dozens more impromptu guests, including Julie Marriott, Colin Bentley-Mawer and Sharif Mowlabocus, and many more strangers, bearing food and drink of all kinds. All this activity prompted our favourite neighbour (who we simply refer to as “The Cow”) to come over and harangue us for ignoring social distancing. This was swiftly followed by sirens, blue flashing lights and me suddenly being lifted into the air by an overly familiar bodybuilder with bilateral leg amputations, who decided to then try and slip me a cheeky finger, at which point I awoke. Make of all this what you willโ€ฆ”

๐Ÿ“Œ  I boiled up a chicken carcass and made chicken noodle soup. It should last me about 3 days. I will try the “Dutch Oven” technique of breadmaking tomorrow.

๐Ÿ“Œ Isolation stitchwork project 2, another T-shirt, this time featuring Hilda Ogden.

๐Ÿ“Œ I’ve been trying to remember the names of the sons in ‘Friday Night Dinner’. I think one of them might be Adam, but all I can really be sure of is that one is “pussface” and the other “pissface”.

Monday 13 April 2020, London There’s a story in the Hackney Citizen saying that Hackney is blessed with a vast number of different tree species. A writer, aptly named Paul Wood, has dubbed the borough “London’s Urban Arboretum”.

๐Ÿ“Œ Our friend Gill wanders around London taking fab pictures and posting them on Instagram (@gillmee). One recent set was all to do with numbers, and this is the one I liked most.

 ๐Ÿ“Œ Just read an article in Guardian Weekly called ‘What Comes Next’. I like the non-inclusion of a question mark, which makes it a headline with a difference. It talks about how crises shape history and some of the bizarre things that end up passing for normal. It contains the passage: “In such moments, whatever is broken in society gets revealed for just how broken it is, often in the form of haunting little images or stories. In recent weeks, the news has furnished us with countless examples… Prisoners in New York state are getting paid less than a dollar per hour to bottle hand sanitiser that they themselves are not allowed to use (because it contains alcohol), in a prison where they are not given free soap, but must buy it in an on-site shop.”

๐Ÿ“Œ Bev is organising a banner protest to coincide with the return to work on the building site tomorrow. Sue is putting pressure on the council to back down and stop it. I objected to building workers feeling they must return to non-essential work by pressure from the contractor ISG.

๐Ÿ“Œ Someone on Quora asks How will life change in Britain after the coronavirus pandemic? The top answer states 12 ways.

“In no particular order:

  • Grandparents will be treasured more.
  • Divorce rate will rocket.
  • Nine months on we will see a baby boom.
  • People will keep larger stocks of essentials.
  • Larger reserve capacity for ICU beds and ventilators.
  • More funding for the NHS.
  • Far tighter pandemic rules.
  • Greater uptake of flu vaccines and vaccines in general.
  • Less strain on NHS as many health-compromised patients will have died.
  • Tax increases, maybe even ring-fenced for the NHS.
  • Fewer foreign holidays, especially cruises.
  • Endless crappy books, films and documentaries about the virus and its effects.”

Tuesday 14 April 2020, London The Morning Star is apopleptic because a report has been uncovered that details Labour Party staff casually saying horrible things about Jeremy Corbyn behind his back jโ€“ some of it jesty, some of it in bad taste.

๐Ÿ“Œ There’s a rumour on Twitter that new Labour leader Keir Starmer is The Secret Barrister.

๐Ÿ“Œ Shaznay Lewis appeared on the Zoe Ball radio show and said she wrote the lyrics to ‘Pure Shores’ while on a plane over to America to work with producer William Orbit. But she left the lyrics in the plane, so was forced to “remember” them during the recording.

Wednesday 15 April 2020, London One of the weirdest things about this lockdown is that I have started to think of my brain injury as a childโ€ฆ my child. The child is now more than 7 years old and is starting to find its personality. I am looking forward to watching this child grow.

๐Ÿ“Œ There’s a story in the Guardian about how the emergency/recovery of Coronavirus could dovetail into a global emergency mindset around climate change. The article states that since the lockdown in China, air pollution has tanked and the result is that an extra 1,400 children under 5 are still alive, children who would have died had the polluting continued unchecked. The number for adults over 70 is more than 50,000. Later in the piece a writer, Rebecca Solnit, is quoted as stating, about the precariousness of crises such as Covid and Climate, “We don’t even have a language for this emotion [of the newfound solidarity among citizens] in which the wonderful comes wrapped in the terrible”.

๐Ÿ“Œ My breadmaking was a bit more successful today after Paula sent me her Irish auntie Tricia’s secret recipe for soda bread. Gorgeous.

Thursday 16 April 2020, London Did an interview with James Drury at the Barbican about the video tutorial, its purpose and background. No hard questions. I’m still flabbergasted that they are still interested in the project.

๐Ÿ“Œ Got a message saying Guardian Education Centre and Archive staff are to be furloughed from tomorrow until May 31. It wasn’t a huge surprise and possibly a knock-on from the announcement that the UK lockdown has been extended by 3 weeks. 

๐Ÿ“Œ Effected a temporary repair of the Danish chairโ€ฆ with string. I am using it as my office chair at the moment, with the video camera standing at the  ready.

๐Ÿ“Œ Michelle phoned and asked me to make more videos for Instagram. She especially wanted me to talk over the action. I like the idea and might rearrange the workspace to accommodate casual shooting.

๐Ÿ“Œ Sue did a Zoom quiz with us and the Brighton mob. We came second, pipped by one point in the final round by Carol and Scott, aka the North Laine Massive.

Friday 17 April 2020, London I reworked the workspace to accommodate Michelle’s request for short, Instagram-friendly clips of me doing my art with voiceover.

๐Ÿ“Œ We did a video chat with Graham, Dominique, Liz and Bill for Dom’s birthday. It is already a given that if you are Zooming or whatever with anyone over 50, the first 15 minutes will just be a lot of geriatric stuttered discovery as to how to get the sound to work and the picture the right way up.

๐Ÿ“Œ The burn I got from the oven while baking Tricia’s “secret soda bread” two days ago has started to hurt and blister.

๐Ÿ“Œ The Hilda Ogden monostitch is progressing. I agonised over the pattern of her housecoat, but finally settled on stripes. I’ve got a bad feeling about this already. It’s starting to look a bit too Bertie Wooster.

๐Ÿ“Œ Did a video of the brain wax monoprint to test the new workstation arrangement. Too many colours, I think. My wife and I did some banter during the filming. She cracked a joke about Sarah Bellum. Some stupid TV show is playing in the background featuring Arthur Smith and an over-jolly woman in a refuse dump.

๐Ÿ“Œ Did a Family Zoom and all the others were quite mizz and desperate about the Lockdown, especially as it has now officially been extended for at least 3 more weeks. I felt a bit guilty. I think I went through that doom stuff right at the beginning. Iโ€™ve sort of arrived at an accommodation and worked out how to soldier on with hope in my heart, etc.

๐Ÿ“Œ There have been incriminating videos of a crowded Westminster Bridge in which distancing guidelines are being flouted willy-nilly. Then this appearedโ€ฆ

Saturday 18 April 2020, London Even though I get a notification every Friday when Marina Hyde’s column appears, I always wait until Saturday to read it. Today it includes the passage: “Supply prime minister Dominic Raab  gives the 5pm press conference with the air of a man who strongly suspects thereโ€™s a chalk penis drawn on his back, but is just going to butch it out by facing forward till the bell goes.”

๐Ÿ“ŒThere was someone on the radio talking about Gramsci. They said he wasn’t surprised, as others were, when Italy embraced Fascism. Gramsci, they said, believed that Russia was “not ready” for a revolution and ended up with Totalitarianism. He thought Italy was the country that was ready, and it ended up instead with Fascism.

๐Ÿ“ŒMy cousin Helen posted a message saying the footie magazine The Blizzard is now online, and has a Zoom-type quiz.

๐Ÿ“ŒMy bread-making burn wound felt uncomfortable last night, so we took the dressing off to have a look.

๐Ÿ“Œ We did a Zoom with the Saturday coffee crew and I exhibited my latest stab at surrealism.

I think this could be better, but it is so bad it’s good, in a way. I think I look like a psycho killer from one of those edgy dystopian American films.

๐Ÿ“Œ Our neighbour Anne, a ๐ŸŽพ tennis fanatic, laid out her tribute on the lawn outside our flats.

๐Ÿ“Œ In ‘Twin’, the Norwegian TV drama, Erik has discovered his ‘dead’ brother Adam’s gay past. Erik is desperate to rekindle his long-buried romance with Adam’s ‘struggling’ wife Ingrid. And Ingrid and Adam’s wayward daughter Karin is beginning to comprehend the real roots of her waywardness.

Sunday 19 April 2020, London I’ve just discovered a meme app called ‘Break Your Own News’, in which you can make this kind of thingโ€ฆ

I haven’t tried it yet, but I spotted it on The Poke and it looked like fun for Tweets and Instagram postings.

๐Ÿ“Œ In the Guardian, Andy Beckett explains how the Tories have got and have held on to power for 10 years. He speculates on whether this “one-party democracy” they have cornered is actually a natural state of affairs. It is an intriguing idea. If that IS the case, Effective Opposition becomes even more important. Corbyn, I believe, was a very effective antagonist; can Starmer The Charmer pick up the gauntlet and do likewise?

๐Ÿ“Œ The bread-making burn wound is healing, so I decided to get right back in the saddle and knock off another one of Auntie Triciaโ€™s soda-bread loaves.

๐Ÿ“Œ It didn’t take longโ€ฆ

๐Ÿ“Œ There is a lot of discussion in the media on what the government failed to do early in the Coronavirus crisis. And mutterings on Twitter that a legal outfall is inevitable. The European Convention on Human Rights seemingly insists that “avoidable deaths” should be investigated fully. One Tweet  says this will lead to “the Mother of All Inquiries into UK policy failureโ€ฆ Like Hillsborough multiplied by Chilcot” and beyond.

๐Ÿ“Œ And the anti-governnent piledriver slips into gearโ€ฆ

A neighbour whose son is getting chemo for a brain tumour was one such example. I just got a message saying he had “finally” been put on the register and they had a Tesco delivery slot. Is there anything you need? they asked. I said bread flour.

Monday 20 April 2020, London In ‘Meet The Huggetts’ on the radio, Joe and Fred decided to “teach their wives a lesson” by hiding their vacuum cleaners in the garden shed.

๐Ÿ“Œ A thought: when all this has passed, will youngsters name their career goal as “working for the nhs”. Not “to be a nurse” or a surgeon, but to be part of the thing everyone clapped and hit pans for.

๐Ÿ“Œ It’s OK to do odd things these days. Socks & Crocs is one of my current favourites.

The other is buying empty tea bags off the internet and filling them with all that loose tea and other rubbish at the back of the cupboard.

I’m nearly done with the bags of horse-strength turmeric powder my wife got off a friend as an anti-inflammatory. Next I will tackle an old packet of  “Christmas Tea”, whatever that is.

๐Ÿ“Œ I’ve recently started posting snippets of these diaries on Twitter. The drawback is that I’ve been bombarded by big-breasted pornographers. One asked if I’d like to screw my bolt into her nut. Or it might have been the other way round, my nut into her bolt, but that doesn’t make sense. I’m reluctant to verify, in case my Twitter behaviour ends up on a post-Covid government hit-list of people not worthy of a heart operation.

๐Ÿ“Œ We did a Zoom with an old friend in Winchester, who until recently had been struggling with an undiagnosed broken ankle (a dancing injury). She said her recovery was going well, and that the chief indicator of progress was that she can now put her knickers on without sitting on the bed.

๐Ÿ“Œ I noticed that the garlic press had some old stubborn residue lodged inside its pressing cavity. I scrubbed and scraped until my wife told me I was wasting my time. She said the discoloration was corroded metal, not decaying garlic skin.

Tuesday 21 April 2020, London Conversations these days often end with a guess at what our lives will be like in the months and years to come. An article in Guardian Weekly quotes a graffito in Hong Kong stating, โ€œThere can be no return to normal because normal was the problem in the first place.โ€

Another clue arrived via Twitter.

The Guardian article includes the following passage about the British experience.

“The definition of public service has been extended to include the delivery driver and the humble corner shop owner. Indeed, to be โ€œa nation of shopkeepersโ€, the great Napoleonic insult, no longer looks so bad.”

๐Ÿ“Œ Obviously, I am trying out some illustrations to make on my phone, including this one plugging an extract from my March Diary.

Or thisโ€ฆ

๐Ÿ“Œ My Twitter pest pornographer today is Amanda, who wants to take me on a trip to Planet Orgasm.

๐Ÿ“Œ We did a birthday Zoom with Rosie. She is being schooled at home and told us how Pandora changed the world forever by opening the box.

๐Ÿ“Œ My cousin Helen appears to have it sorted!

๐Ÿ“Œ Then I spotted this, which was a jolt…

๐Ÿ“Œ I got a too-long email from a character signing the name โ€œDoug Gurr Amazon UK Country Managerโ€, which tells me how great Amazon has been during the Covid crisis. It finishes with a grand boast: โ€œNothing is more important to us than the wellbeing of our employeesโ€ฆ in recognition of their incredible contribution, weโ€™ve increased the pay for employees in our fulfilment centres and delivery roles, adding a further ยฃ2 per hour on top of our current starting rateโ€ฆ in addition, 5,000 new full and part-time positions and delivery jobs have opened across the UK to provide job opportunities for people impacted by the pandemic.โ€ My underlining.

๐Ÿ“Œ There is a girl outside learning to ride her bike. An overweight male adult is running (with effort) alongside her, making sure she doesnโ€™t fall off.

๐Ÿ“Œ The media is really going in heavy on government failures over Coronavirus, especially the lack of PPE and a desperate health service staffed by immigrant heroes. The narrative is sticking.

Wednesday 22 April 2020, London My return to digital illustration has coincided with a greater use of Twitter. Whenever I’m in the mood, I make a picture, using text and copyright-free pictures, to accompany a Tweet. This one goes with Tweet to plug my Diary. It features an extract in which I burble on about the Nordic Noir TV series ‘Twin’.

๐Ÿ“ŒI just had a really nice Zoom with Cristina and Dave about the Barbican video, then came downstairs to the most horrible drilling noise imaginable. So bad was it that I took my rage straight to the place it should never goโ€ฆ

๐Ÿ“Œ Getting a (scarce) supermarket delivery slot is the new national sport. My wife just nabbed one from Tesco on Wednesday next week (3-4pm).

๐Ÿ“Œ We will be seeing a lot more of these messages in the near future.

๐Ÿ“Œ The Poke is poking a funny Twitter feed in which people report on mispronunciations. Things such as, “I was 15 years old before I knew that picturesque wasnโ€™t pronounced ‘picture-skew’โ€ฆ”

Thursday 23 April 2020, London An article in the Guardian seems to state quite strongly that our government put its obsessive Little-England  political aims before UK citizens’ lives by deliberately rebuffing an offer to join a pan-European effort to get ventilators into hospitals struggling with the virus. Earlier it had claimed it did not join the scheme because of “communication problems” in Brussels. In fact, it had told them to piss off with their life-saving equipment. My reading of the article’s bottom line was that Boris and his bootboys weren’t going to let a few thousand prematurely dead Britons stand in the way of a Hard Brexit.

๐Ÿ“Œ And it gets worse. Labour has now claimed the government ignored offers of the PPE health workers have been screaming for.

๐Ÿ“Œ I thought I’d lost this epic and timely quote on Facebook by Andy, but then I found it and primped it up in PicsArt.

Then I spotted this refreshing bit of honesty on Twitter from a copywriter.

๐Ÿ“Œ At the Brighton Zoom quiz, Janet & Dave joined, complaining that daughter Rhona was upstairs “sucking all the bandwidth”. They won. The best question was in the Food & Drink section: “What is Arachibutyrophobia?” The answer is, a fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth.

๐Ÿ“Œ A plug from the Economist on the current global positioning in the New World Order opened with the observation: “Perhaps it was a coincidence that China chose this moment to arrest the most prominent democrats in Hong Kong.”

Friday 24 April 2020, London Itโ€™s such a pleasure to see Maya and Nina out playing on the lawn with Jez.

๐Ÿ“Œ Still trying to avoid the news, but one story refuses to stop dripping. It looks like Donald Trump has told his countrymen and women that the best way to not get Covid-19 is to neck a bottle of Mr Muscle.

And from The Pokeโ€ฆ

๐Ÿ“Œ I used the Movie function in Google photos today for the first time, a compilation of diary snippets to some funky free electronic music.

๐Ÿ“Œ A lot of people in our Zoom chats seem quite miserable. I can understand that, but having escaped the “foul and ugly mists of vapour that did seem to strangle me” (Prince Hal) back in March, I just wish they’d just get on with it and start living again. I always did have very high expectations of others.

๐Ÿ“Œ Strange Lockdown experience. I was on the toilet, writing in my diary; my wife was downstairs Zooming with friends. I suddenly thought, maybe I should finish in the bathroom in case one of my wife’s friends wants to use itโ€ฆ

Saturday 25 April 2020, London The woman who says “Hello Moto” whenever I turn on my phone sounds like Yoki.

๐Ÿ“Œ For reasons I’m still trying to work out, ads like this are popping up.

๐Ÿ“Œ We went out for a short walk and bought some veg from the safe-distancing roadside greengrocer. The emptiness of the city is eerie, but I guess that’s what the future is now. Cities will be reinvented. Their previous density was a necessary part of their economic and environmental survival. I can almost hear the words “Smart Cities” chiming in the background to the crisis. It is an interesting challenge for a younger generation, to uninvent and reinvent all at the same time, on schedule and to budget.

๐Ÿ“Œ Andy Medhurst celebrated Ken Barlow’s 88th birthday with thisโ€ฆ

๐Ÿ“Œ During a Zoom with the family for Rosie and Erika’s birthdays the conversation glanced on how event and holiday companies might behave if the Lockdown us relaxed. They will renew their offers in the hope that the customer will initiate a cancellation, thereby freeing them of the obligation to offer a full refund. This is an issue we are caught up in at the moment with Ryanair. We asked for a refund and they have persisted in trying to convert the request into a deferred booking. They have stopped answering emails. They want customers to phone so that they can bluster. 

๐Ÿ“Œ I was “sucking the bandwidth” last night downloading some home video so the All4 app would not play ‘Friday Night Dinner’ in catchup. So we watched the final two episodes of ‘Twin’ instead, and with half an hour to go were gripped by a ‘would-they-wouldn’t-they?’ In this case it was all about whether the concluding drama was greasing us up for Series 2.

Sunday 26 April 2020, London While strolling through Beech Gardens in the Barbican yesterday, my wife remarked that the virus will have put certain types of criminals out of action โ€“ burglars and protection racketeers hitting small retailers, for example (“there’s nothing to protect”). Then this appeared…

๐Ÿ“Œ What I like a lot about Zoom is its inbuilt safe-distancing regulation, which means you don’t have to suffer anyone annoying for too long.

๐Ÿ“Œ It seems like a statement of the obvious, but much of the Coronavirus crisis is about money. People want to get back to work quickly because they can’t afford not to. The government wants to end the Lockdown because the public purse can’t afford to keep it going.

๐Ÿ“Œ We finally got the All4 app to work on the telly and watched ‘Friday Night Dinner’. Auntie Val accidentally got locked in Milson’s new cage while waiting for a hot date off Tinder to arrive. BTW, Adam is “Pussface” and Jonny is “Pissface”.

Monday 27 April 2020, London My wife has finished her latest jigsaw, which is the image of The Beatles crossing the road on the Abbey Road album. She now likes to drop a fun quiz question into conversations. “Which Beatle leads the other three across Abbey Road?” The clue is, “He is in a white suit”  and the answer is John. Later we were Zooming with Rachel C and a very noisy Alfie (cockapoo) and she has a very crowded beach-scene jigsaw on the go, by Cold War Steve. I was very envious about that.

๐Ÿ“Œ I was reading late last night and my wife came into the bedroom with a grim look on her face and the words “There’s been a terrible accident” on her lips. It turned out that the chicken stock I’d made earlier and carefully decanted into an old orange-juice bottle was ruined. The paper grease-sucking techno-pad I’d inserted loosely into the neck of the bottle had dropped right inside, gorged itself on excess fat and exploded, depositing its magical absorbent grains into the rich, chickeny liquid. The stock was contaminated. I didn’t really think this mishap classed as a “terrible accident” and said so, laughed, and went back to my book. 

๐Ÿ“Œ It looks from the PM’s speech like the government will be using divide and rule to bring the country out of the Coronavirus crisis. It appears to reveal a bigger, stricter system of regulation as businesses and industries will emerge, one by one, out of the Lockdown. But the suspicion of course is that this ushers in a new era of corrupt practices in which rules are relaxed, bent and bought off as time goes on. This puts the Labour movement back to where it was roughly 100 years ago. 

๐Ÿ“Œ This was my lunchtime Twitterpic from last week’s diary.

๐Ÿ“Œ We were Zooming for Sรฉan’s 10th birthday, and half way through he announced he was leaving because “adult conversation” (kitchen tips) had taken over the session. My wife and I were still wearing our inflatable royal crowns.

๐Ÿ“Œ This is the evening Twitterpic to pimp last week’s diary. I’m not sure these images are working in the way I’d hoped.

Tuesday 28 April 2020, London We watched a mesmerising new TV drama last night called ‘Normal People’. It is a class teenage love story and it’s a teenage love story about class, set in Ireland. Much of the first episode took place in a classroom, the rest of in middle-class girl’s comfortable detached empty home and involved super-inelligent, intellectually snotty adolescent girl copulating with super-perceptive lower-class insecure adolescent boy, who’s very good at gaelic football. Brilliant performances. Unswitchoffable.

๐Ÿ“Œ This is the Midday Twitterpic.

๐Ÿ“Œ Realised during an online coffee with the Guardian Foundation crew that the common preoccupations are: getting a supermarket delivery slot, not reading very much of the book-group book, being able to leave the house, the rules and restrictions of the furlough scheme, what the neighbours are up to, online courses. J passes unwanted ice cream over the garden fence to a neighbour and P has “developed a strange relationship with the [vulnerable] woman over the road”, who posts empty packages through their letterbox to show what items she’d like them to get her from the shops.

๐Ÿ“Œ The unsayable thing no one wants to say is that in the past, international warfare reduced national populations. The statistics for every nation will show how that population shift shaped the politics that came after the trauma. In the past it was soldiers, young men, that lost their lives. The population shift resulting from the virus will be more complex. In the Guardian today, Simon Jenkins reflects on a Prime Minister incapable and possibly unwilling to embrace the truth of the trauma and plan a way out of it.

๐Ÿ“Œ This is the Evening Twitterpic.

Wednesday 29 April 2020, London Headway’s radio show wanted me to plug the video tutorial I’ve done for the Barbican, so I did a Zoom interview with Alex. It was fun, and much less stress than trying to monologue it, which is my worst nightmare.

I noticed a lovely ceramic on the shelf behind her and she told me it was part of a project she did with her partner Dave (genius editor of the video tutorial). Together they made 12 dozen egg cups in 12 months. This is my favourite, which I have named the ‘Buckaroo Egg Cup’.

๐Ÿ“Œ Disinfecting and quarantining your mail still feels very weird. All instinct tells you to open that non-junk letter NOW! The one from Headway in a brown A4 envelope looked interesting but not urgent. A box of 12 coloured pencils poked out of a ripped hole. It was a Sam Jevon colouring book and it will keep me in rapture during the dark hours ahead.

๐Ÿ“Œ I’m getting better at the Answer Smash section of Richard Osman’s ‘House of Games’. I got “guinea pigneous” and “Ed Milibandontherun” today.

๐Ÿ“Œ Our friend Sarah came up with two treats: an easy banana ice cream, and a streamed gig of Palestinian jazzer Faraj Suleiman from Kings Place. Both at the same time more than doubled the pleasure.

๐Ÿ“Œ The TV adaptation of ‘Normal People’ has started to bore me. The early part, in which Connell attached to “the group” more easily and to the exclusion of his love for Marianne, has passed into a reversal. In college, Marianne is the “groupie” and Connell the loner. Too much sex with bad sound simulation has started to dilute the power of the story. I’m looking for other things to do while it’s on.

๐Ÿ“Œ The news that BA is to cut tens of thousands of jobs is one we are likely to hear more often from now on. The statement that their business now needs to be “reimagined” makes mass  unemployment sound like the start of a new Enlightenment.

Thursday 30 April 2020, London From a column in the Guardian by Marina Hyde.

Every second youโ€™re having the lockdown debate is a second youโ€™re not having the debate that starts, “how in the name of our necrotic self-respect are we on course to be the worst-hit country in Europe when we had so much warning?โ€

๐Ÿ“Œ There’s been an amusing trickle of stories on what people have used as makeshift face coverings when venturing outdoors. One friend in Brighton re-purposed an insomniac’s eye mask. Now I discover that the comedian Richard Herring, when stranded in his local village, Hitchin in Hertfordshire, used his runner’s bum bag, “which worked pretty well as it was made of breathable material and the zip looked like a big smile.”

๐Ÿ“Œ Michelle hosted an Open Studio Zoom today. It was fun and a great pleasure to see some of the other Headway members, plus Emily, Laura J and Alex. Tony A joined in and it was a joy to see that old Arsenal shirt again. He had made a new sign for the latest hashtagโ€ฆ

We all did some pictures on the theme of the sea. Ken did a brilliant octopus next to seaweed. 

๐Ÿ“Œ I was browsing my outstanding Amazon purchases when my wife remarked that the list would make a good visual diary for Lockdown. So I made one.

๐Ÿ“Œ At the Brighton Zoom quiz, Janet & Dave’s hosting/quizmastering was interrupted by a massive off-screen clatter, scream and the sound of breaking glass. Their daughter had fallen down the stairs, was bleeding lightly but otherwise ok. After a short pause, Janet & Dave continued, but got increasingly confused about the order of the questions.

๐Ÿ“Œ In ‘Young Sheldon’, Pastor Jeff is thinking about moving into the house next door to the Coopers.

โ™ฆ๏ธ Read my March diary.


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