Diary: July 2020. Uncut

Includes: Gothic horror, a slip-up with the Nuclear Trigger, and a drunken duck staggering in the City

Wednesday 1 July 2020, London At a Headway group Zoom I think I noticed for the first time how deeply professionalised the public engagement function has become. This is largely thanks to Catalan Cristina, who has grown into the role and manages to skilfully steer a bunch of brain-injury survivors, all with different temperaments and needs. The members who take part all seem to have adapted and found a way to thrive in the online dislocation. Yoki made a great statement about what she gets from being able to share her experience.

πŸ“Œ My favourite oak shelving unit has been banished to the storage shed in favour of a slimmer model.

πŸ“Œ There is an editorial in the Guardian that illustrates how events such as a pandemic can derail ideologically driven governments and force them into compromises that challenge the Party orthodoxy. The case of our current Conservative government and the role of the State in national life is one such example.

πŸ“Œ I’ve enrolled at the WordPress Blogging University. Day 1 (yesterday) was to write a blog saying “Who I Am and Why I’m Here”. Today’s task is to give your blog a new title and catchline.

πŸ“Œ Listening to the new Bob Dylan album, ‘Rough And Rowdy Ways’, for some reason I picture myself asking Nick Cave if he still doesn’t believe in an interventionist God.

πŸ“Œ Sam sent some more pictures, one of the still life we did in Open Studio last week and one of her Van Gogh framed on the wall.

πŸ“Œ Just when you suspected a drought in diary material…

Thursday 2 July 2020, London Lockdown Catch-up. ‘Spooks’ started with good character stories (Matthew McFadyean, Keeley Hawes), then it drifted into All Plot No Character. Now (series 5) is all fights and chases. The Harry/Ruth romantic mismatch is a weak diversion.

πŸ“Œ British reports are nudging towards a description of China as trying to turn Hong Kong into a prison island. 

πŸ“Œ There’s a story in ‘The Conversation’ that suggests Britain might be on a post-Soviet path to hidden unemployment whereby furloughed workers are put on unpaid leave or no/low pay, but not technically rendered unemployed.

πŸ“Œ In the Headway Open Studio Zoom session, I managed to turn Connie into a gothic horror character.

Friday 3 July 2020, London There’s still the ecstatic feeling of accomplishment when you unsubscribe from a load of email lists.

πŸ“Œ My wife really does have a problem seeing things my way. I de-messer our store rooms and she promptly re-messed then in the most space-inefficient way possible. I stormed off, refusing to attempt any further joint projects and sat brooding with a flask of cold tea and the new Bob Dylan album.

πŸ“Œ We finished ‘Schitt’s’ and there was a great moment when Alexis walked David down the aisle in a brilliant role reversal because Alexis had thoughtfully decided to wear a white wedding dress.

πŸ“Œ Day 4 of Blogging University was all about targeting an archetypal reader. I wrote a post describing how I write with my sister in mind.

 πŸ“Œ Wrote a short piece for Michelle about the Open Studio Zoom sessions during Lockdown. The new studio website will be launched soon, so I also supplied some quotes on what I’ve been busy with at home…

πŸ“Œ The pubs are allowed to open at 6am tomorrow. Can’t wait to see who goes for that…

πŸ“Œ In ‘Spooks’, Adam closed the much anticipated coitus deal with his son’s nanny.

πŸ“Œ Snooping around items in the WordPress Reader, I found a letter written by Nick Cave in which he uses the word “liminal”.

Saturday 4 July 2020, London One of our friends failed to turn up at the Zoom quiz on Thursday. Today we got this…

πŸ“Œ At the Breakfast Club Zoom, the theme was Sport. I spoke about the 2012 London Olympics, especially the Paralympics because it was just before my stroke, after which I was myself disabled. I described the blind triple-jumper crashing into the judges and knocking them off their seats. Jane recalled watching the 2005 Champions League Istanbul final on TV, and we learned from Shirley that the corporate world has its own Olympics and that JP Morgan are the top performers.

πŸ“Œ Locally, the Lockdown liftoff is a gentle reawakening. The Two Brewers had a lone drinker sitting outside, but the sense of release is real. I still want to kill cyclists who use the pavements when the roads are empty. Some prick did it in Beech Street Tunnel, which is still closed to all but zero-emissions traffic and has a dedicated cycle lane.

πŸ“Œ We binged on all 6 episodes of ‘Staged’, a Zoom-style TV Lockdown project starring Michael Sheen and David Tennant. Great, tight drama and special performances with some surprising guest appearances from straight actors doing brilliant comedy.

Sunday 5 July 2020, London Our lawn is routinely colonised these days by a bunch of ground-floor YWPs (Young White Professionals). I’ve started to define them as the elite performers from a “gaming generation”. I ponder their future moves and plan my own accordingly.

πŸ“Œ Shirley sent us a  link to a Zoom presentation from the How To Academy. It was about community and “sacred capital” from a woman called Zita Cobb. It focused on an island off Newfoundland called Fogo and it referenced EF Schumacher, which made me want to re-read ‘Small Is Beautiful’.

πŸ“Œ Donald Trump has become a portrait of insanity. He hysterically defines anyone he doesn’t agree with as a raving commie scarily demanding obedience to the cause.

πŸ“Œ Liverpool beat Aston Villa 2-0 in one of the most boring games in years. If fanless football takes off and the beautiful game loses its stadium identity and becomes a TV sport totally, more of this tedium is likely.

Monday 6 July 2020, London ‘The Poke’ has some very funny items, but sometimes they lack detail, like WHERE? I really want this scene to be in Britain.

πŸ“Œ Luke’s adventures with his rebuilt 1970s RV in America sound dramatic. Last night in Florida he parked his stuttering vehicle in a Taco Bell car park and got ready for bed. Taco Bell staff then told him to piss off so he ended up in a nearby Walmart car park, nursing a dicky fuel filter, a beer and creeping disillusion. 

πŸ“Œ I’m not too pessimistic about post-pandemic Britain because I think British people are secretly quite good at making things up as we go along.

πŸ“Œ We watched Oxford United beat Portsmouth in the League 1 playoffs to reach the final at Wembley against Wycombe. Oxford had cardboard cutouts in the stands. We wondered whether they were pictures of real supporters like Jane’s sister and her mate Pat. Portsmouth’s shirt sponsor is Portsmouth University.

πŸ“Œ Luke is still stranded in Walmart car park, Tallahassee, Florida, under attack from mosquitos.

Tuesday 7 July 2020, London The daily emails from Blogging University are a pest. They look at me, taunting, bullying. Do it now!

πŸ“Œ We’ve started a mega clear-out and reorganisation project to maximise the use of our minimum space. My wife has found someone on the web who might buy some old style magazines from us.

πŸ“Œ There’s a nasty argument raging on Twitter about funding for the arts to help them recover from the pandemic. Someone stupidly remarked that theatres are for middle class people and of no interest to the working classes. This prompted a vigorous response from tweeters saying pantomime is attended mainly by the working classes and its revenue as key to keeping theatres in business.

πŸ“Œ Jan’s grandson has made 14 zines in the past week. This after my efforts last week in pimping their virtues and those of the Wellcome Zine Club.

πŸ“Œ My head is quite fuzzy again today. I could be sickening for something, or I might just need some fresh air.

πŸ“Œ Another ‘Sam’ arrived today. It is a completed version of the portrait of Connie we all did at the Open Studio session last week.

Wednesday 8 July 2020, London The two noisy magpies are in the tree outside, poking beaks with an occasional flutter. I think some kind of ornithological hanky-panky is in progress.

πŸ“Œ Stuart resurfaced after five days with a reference to Haysi Fantayzee and Yip Yip Coyote.

πŸ“Œ As soon as I had posted a short rant about the Gaming Generation, pointing out their many faults, I came across a long article in the Guardian by Luke Harding describing how the identity of the Skripal poisoners was uncovered by a Gamer who went on to launch the investigative Bellingcat site. I said in my rant that talented Gamers make good criminals. They make good Spooks, too.

Thursday 9 July 2020, London Government opponents are struggling to poke holes in Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s emergency measures to get the economy back on its feet. Offering us all Β£10 vouchers to eat out rather than at home, and scrapping the furlough scheme but offering Β£1,000 handouts to businesses who retain jobs are among the measures described as cosmetic. Part of the problem is that those same opponents would probably have done the same in the same situation. With the massive state intervention Sunak is now policing, the Conservatives face being fingered as pioneers of a new style of mixed-market socialism. Blue Socialism. Fascinating.

πŸ“Œ  A teenager on the lawn was doing keepie-uppies. First he used a full-size ball, then switched to a tennis ball. He kicks equally well with both feet.

πŸ“Œ Staff from the Barbican came to the Open Studio session today, plus the curator of the next Curve exhibition of Toyin Ojih Odutola’s images.

We all tried one of Toyin’s story images of a woman at a table in a cafΓ©. I said that while doing it I was writing the story in my head about how the woman was receiving bad news.

πŸ“Œ We won the Brighton Zoom quiz by half a point. A group of giraffes is called a Tower.

πŸ“Œ Chris K has a Facebook friend with the surname Fulleylove.

Friday 10 July 2020, London Richard Herring has broken out into a light sweat on Twitter during some rough and tumble with a dope claiming that stand-up comedy will bounce back stronger than ever once the Pandemic has passed.

πŸ“Œ An article in the Guardian depicts a government determined to seize power from local areas and regions. It argues that the Tory party has remarkably become the party of the uber-state. It triggers the image of a kind of pale, stale, male Stalinism in a shaggy blonde wig.

πŸ“Œ One of the most useful effects of the widespread support of the Black Lives Matter movement is that it flushes out racism so that it is clearly visible. This isn’t useful for those such as the Brent MP who has been forced to close her constituency office after violent attacks and death threats, but it does at least point up that racism is a criminal matter that cannot be ignored.

πŸ“Œ On a walk around old Hoxton, Shoreditch and the Regent’s Canal it is hard not to notice the vast amount of land and property once in public ownership now exclusively private, with little or no public access.

πŸ“Œ Sam’s versions of botanical drawings are fabulous.

πŸ“Œ Stuart, nursing a broken hip, reconnected with a helpful dictionary definition of a Scally, which unusually referenced a school head girl from Birkenhead.

Saturday 11 July 2020, London The conclusion of Schitt’s Creek left a hole in our lives. It was our evening mealtime companion. We groped around for a replacement using the obvious search term “if you liked Schitt’s Creek…” and one of the possibilities was Arrested Development. We’d tried it before in recommendation from Sue, but gave up. So we started again and the spark has become a flame.

πŸ“Œ Marina Hyde has nailed it again with a piece about Chris Grayling and his ability to “fail upwards”. She concocts a scene in which Grayling walks unscathed from a Chernobyl-type disaster of his own creation, “a sort of Terminator of shitness”.

πŸ“Œ Memory. Cashing something called a Giro cheque at the Post Office. This was an unemployment benefit. You signed the cheque, handed it across the counter and got your money. I remember it stating on the cheque “sign on receipt of payment”. When I pointed this out to the cashier, and demanded the money BEFORE signing, they told me to fuck off.

πŸ“Œ Not done any of the Thames Path on the north side of the river.

πŸ“Œ Some shops, bars and restaurants are obviously opening just to show they are open.

πŸ“Œ The overlaid soundtrack on Cardinal is so loud you don’t hear all of the dialogue. Is this a new technique? Gapped dialogue?

Sunday 12 July, 2020, London One of my new blog followers runs a flash-fiction workshop. Today, the prompt was for a horror story about someone who couldn’t remember who they were. I wrote this one in the bath.

πŸ“Œ The newspapers are asking what will happen when Boris realises his chancellor, Rishi Sunak, is greasing a comfortable path to his job. Will he turn nasty, or will he make sure Rishi screws up before he needs to?

Monday 13 July 2020, London Bumped into Debs in the allotments. She is a primary-school teacher, has complex health issues and has been on furlough. The allotments have been a life-saver for her, but if she doesn’t return to work now she will lose her job. She spoke about being economically forced into the role of risk-taker. She also said we need to remove the nets from our tomato plants and trim the plants from the bottom to get plenty of tomatoes at the top.

πŸ“Œ Universities could be at the centre of the next big labour war. The business people are struggling how to build a profitable model in the post-Covid world. Should teaching be in person or online? Where will the money come from and what kind of service can be delivered and at what price? It’s a minefield, but at the moment the teachers have some power in numbers. It is a very old-fashioned labour conflict with management.

πŸ“Œ The outfall of this crisis is likely to last for decades, and not only in the shape if chronic lung problems and mental-health issues.

πŸ“Œ As Wycombe scored against Oxford after 12 minutes in a crucial League1 playoff game, my wife pointed out that the Wycombe shirt sponsor is Cherry Red Records.

πŸ“Œ In an article about mapping the ocean floor, two of the key facts in the early section are that the “ocean economy” employs 31 million people full-time and that the income generated is $1.5tn a year.

πŸ“Œ Memory. My first full-time job was as a computer operator at the Institute of Oceanographic Sciences. It was located in an observatory on the top of a hill.

Tuesday 14 July 2020, London Yippeee! I won the Horror House flash-fiction contest. My prize was a picture of a kitchen knife.

πŸ“Œ My wife says she is relieved that wearing masks is to be made mandatory. Others see it differently.

πŸ“Œ My wife knows all the technical terms for the TV game show Tipping Point. A “Rider” is when two of the plastic discs sit on top of each other, thus halving the possibility of a successful tip.

πŸ“Œ An article in the LRB enlarges on the role of the state in democracies over the past 100ish years and how even super-selfish capitalist nations sought to nurture the “social state”, that little bit of socialism that all societies need to breathe properly. It’s relevant now because Trump and Johnson seem determined to abandon the idea for a more despotic approach. The bit about Germany is especially fascinating.

πŸ“Œ I confused the TV weather forecaster’s name with the place name of the viewer’s photograph that popped up next to her (eg, Clee Hill, Shropshire). My wife rolled her eyeballs, but the moment had accidentally given birth to a game in which place names can be people’s names. Tomorrow I intend to see how many I can get from the London Underground map.

Wednesday 15 July 2020, London There’s a lot of chatter about the type of person that is objecting to the mandatory wearing of masks.

πŸ“Œ In the Headway Steering Group meeting Dave and I hatched a promo idea for Three Billboards Outside Haggerston to punt the HEL brand.

πŸ“Œ Today’s Creative Challenge from Michelle was all about Nature, so I retold an old story about me and Stuart gassing about music (again).

πŸ“Œ James Brown got in touch via Messenger about something I wrote in the NME nearly 40 years ago. We went over some old memories and he told me that Ron Rom is now a successful film director.

πŸ“Œ Lockdown catchup. In Spooks, Adam and Roz are stuck in Turkey chasing the nuclear trigger nicked in a daring airport heist by Iran.

Thursday 16 July 2020, London The Guardian has released a fab ‘dance’ documentary about two black brothers on an estate in Hackney. There’s one scene in which two guys, one black, ine white, share a park bench. The action is all in their body language and the physical ‘gap’ they ‘unconsciously’ place between one other. Social distancing of another kind.

πŸ“Œ I started a new blog strand today. Artwork Archives is my chance to jibber-jabber about some of my old pictures. I started with Can Isaac, so I guess the next one should be Toulouse.  Or is that too repetitive? 

Top tip: doing places allows you to add the TRAVEL tag, which pulls in the viewers.

πŸ“ŒAt today’s Open Studio Zoom session, Kat brought along her pet, Mr Lizard, for us to draw. He is a He, she said.  He is anally incontinent in front of a camera. He eats rocket. He is a Bearded Dragon, originally from Australia. And most surprising of all, he is about the size of a small boot, not one of the tiny things you see scampering around your terrace while on holiday in a Mediterranean country.

And my version…

πŸ“Œ The sarcastic replies on Quora are always the best…

Is it safe to walk in Glasgow at night?

“Good heavens, no! Last time I was in Glasgow I wandered into a pub and the people were friendly enough – we even started buying rounds for one another: β€œBrilliant!” I thought. Then, several hours later I walked out onto the street, happy and unsuspecting, darkness had fallen during my time inside the pub and almost immediately

I was hit – without provocation – by a lamp post, standing aggressively on the pavement. A pcouple of passersby came over to offer me help and hailed a cab for me and it was just a fiver to be taken home, but no sooner had the cab pulled up in front of my house and I’d opened the door to get out when the top of the taxi door frame clobbered me in the forehead. I somehow managed to stagger to the door of the house and when I explained to my Glaswegian wife what had happened I didn’t get an ounce of sympathy – it was if what I’d experienced was just what was to be expected there!”

πŸ“Œ In Spooks, Adam brought a very dead Roz back to life with a single kiss. It was like the bath scene in Fatal Attraction, without the knife. Her eyes popped open as if even she was surprised she was still alive. Then she slipped away carrying a big red suitcase, right in front of all the mourners at her churchyard graveside. Never to be seen again, until the revival of Cold Feet.

Friday 17 July 2020, London There’s a bit in The Conversation saying public transport is badder for the environment than cars.

“When running at normal capacity, public transport is more environmentally friendly than travelling by car. But under social distancing conditions, and assuming that any unfilled seats correspond to a commuter driving to work instead, diesel-powered public transport produces more C0β‚‚ emissions per passenger than a small car.”

πŸ“Œ An article by Simon Jenkins about an Iraq-war documentary came with a fabulous Ben Jennings illustration.

πŸ“ŒOverlooked in the big push to β€œget back to normal” are people with pre-existing health conditions who will be forever compromised by the threat of the virus until a safe vaccine has been developed and made available to all.

πŸ“Œ In Spooks, whenever an actor leaves the series, their character does, too. But the women spooks all disappear with a new identity, but the men get killed off.

πŸ“Œ Stuttering progress continues on the latest stitchwork project.

Saturday 18 July 2020 Patsy recently posted a warning in the Baggers WhatsApp group about dodgy courgette seeds.

This unfortunate situation escalated to another seed supplier and with a seemingly drastic outcome.

πŸ“Œ Got lost in a walk around the City. I headed first to Bunhill Fields burial ground.

Then along Moorgate to Finsbury Circus, where my orientation went on the blink. I exited, thinking I knew where I was and ended up at the wrong end of London Wall in front of the Gherkin. Only just got back to the Barbican in time for our first in-the-flesh Saturday  Breakfast Club meeting in 4 months. Gill is madly enthusiastic about Blade Runner. 

πŸ“ŒIf the City of London Corporation had any real interest in the Arts it would employ Theatre Deli in Broadgate to act as a laboratory for the council’s much-vaunted Culture Mile project.

πŸ“Œ Maybe she should be blonde.

Sunday 19 July 2020, London Annie Nightingale was on the radio news saying that she knew about John & Yoko’s relationship before the rest of the Beatles.

πŸ“Œ Nick Cohen in the Observer is talking about how nasty Boris can get if you piss him off. “Conservative politicians talk about Johnson with a venom few socialists can match. It’s not that he’s a criminal like Putin, they say. He doesn’t have the balls to be truly evil. Rather, he is a pathetically insecure narcissist who turns on you if you don’t feed his craving for applause.”

πŸ“Œ To Parsons Green where d depressingly we found a majority with the view that the government has done OK with the pandemic.  We also witnessed two sisters comparing the number of marriage proposals they’d each had.

πŸ“Œ Stuart and I have been sharing a great enthusiasm for Lulu’s To Sir With Love.

Monday 20 July 2020, London Protest outside offices on Bunhill Row opposite the Wetherspoons. BA recently announced it was to retire its entire fleet of 747 Jumbo Jets.

πŸ“Œ I sent a shot of an article I wrote decades to James Brown.

πŸ“Œ My wife is refusing to help me. Her birthday is in the first week of August and she says she cannot give me any ideas for a gift. I will feel like a total failure and a bad husband if I don’t come up with a solution soon, even though she insists she wants nothing. 

Tuesday 21 July 2020, London I didn’t write much here yesterday because I was feeling queasy. I went for a morning walk up to the canal basin, but that didn’t help. In fact, later, while we were down in the basement sorting stuff in the storage rooms, I was forced to quickly locate a plastic bag and throw up. The sick bag contained a disgusting cocktail of half-digested cold garlic bread and a banana.

πŸ“Œ There is an article in the latest issue of Positive News pointing to post-Covid bright spots, one of which is the Wellbeing And Future Generations bill currently before parliament. It’s the work of Caroline Lucas.

πŸ“Œ My wife swears there are pigeons nesting somewhere on our roof. She bases this on the sqwalking we hear from our bedroom first thing in the morning.

πŸ“Œ I got an official letter saying our lovely financial adviser Katie has moved on to “a different opportunity”. This was distressing because it was Katie rather than the firm she worked for that inspired us with confidence and assurance about our money matters.  So I decided to find her, but by the time I did (she’s on Instagram as the_money_mum) my wife had already contacted her by text.

πŸ“Œ Sam sent me her latest, finished from last week’s Open Studio session.

πŸ“Œ I gave up on David Copperfield at 70%. I’d read it before anyway. My wife said watch the film instead. I’m not sure there is one. I wanted to move onto the Bob Paisley biography I got off Carol.

πŸ“Œ Agreed with Stuart that the best Spanish translation of Headway is El MΓ©todo de la Cabeza.

Wednesday 22 July 2020, London The wi-fi boosters arrived from Lithuania. This is great news. We’d almost given up on them ever appearing.

πŸ“Œ Then came the TV adapter to use our old DVD player, and the discovery in the back of the cupboard of an old Sony Discman, which still works perfectly.

πŸ“Œ My wife seems to have enrolled us into an unofficial mutual support programme among friends and neighbours. A Bangladeshi friend delivered a chickpea and tomato curry with onion rice, crafted by her mum. And a neighbour is paying us with fresh ground coffee for some old potting compost we have left over.

πŸ“Œ The release of the report into how the Russian spies did some cyber-fiddling with the Brexit and Scottish Independence elections sounds like the episode from Series 7 of Spooks we watched last night. It finished with Harry putting a bullet into the Russian baddy.

πŸ“Œ Kate posted Jordan Henderson’s full speech on the family WhatsApp group.

πŸ“Œ Baggies promoted. Pete relieved.

πŸ“Œ Judy Murray got kicked off Celebrity Masterchef. Her rice was undercooked and my wife said her sauce looked horrible.

Thursday 23 July 2020, London When the Moon app accidentally popped open on my phone, I noticed that Apollo 11 appears to have landed in the Sea of Tranquility. Then I discovered that the Moon’s seas are not seas at all, they are basaltic plains.

πŸ“Œ I missed the Open Studio session today with the intention of taking a longish walk. But I lay in the bath too long, an activity prolonged further by a speaker-phone call with someone called Jack about knocking Β£10 a month off our broadband bill. So the walk was replaced with some reading for an Artwork Archive blog post I have in the pipeline. More of Mrs Islam’s curry for lunch weighed me further to the spot.

πŸ“Œ The Prime Minister is in Scotland trying to convince the Scots that they should stick with him and stay part of the union. This is because opinion polls show a big drift towards a support for independence. Needless to say, the Wee Ginger Dug has an opinion on the visit: “He’s like one of those lecherous auld drunks at a party who thinks that the reason you are not succumbing to his dubious charms is because he’s not pawing at you enough.”

πŸ“Œ Then someone on Quora added to the debate: “I don’t understand the fervour with which nationalists deny reality. I’m amazed they manage to get out of bed in the morning without convincing themselves the floor doesn’t exist and is an illusion created by Evil English people.”

πŸ“Œ Lockdown Catchup. Series 7 of Spooks has become predictably predictable. Every episode ends with a chase and/or an attempt to defuse a terrorist bomb. Some of these dramatic devices are laughable. In Episode 4, the spooks stopped the bomb from exploding by zapping it in a microwave oven for 20 seconds on full power. You wanted it to go PING! at the end, but it didn’t.

Friday 24 July 2020, London New strand: ‘Only in the Barbican’.

πŸ“Œ Face coverings are mandatory in shope from today. This is a good move, but it’s still hard not to think we are in the Summer school holidays of this crisis and soon the weather will change.

πŸ“Œ The Daily Mirror has been told off by Full Fact for overestimating the amount of unpaid hours health service workers do.

πŸ“Œ My wife returned from Marks & Spencer to say that 80% of customers not wearing face coverings were men. Most of the shoppers had complied with the new rule.

πŸ“Œ I did an online photography workshop with the Barbican based on the Masculinities exhibition. We had to picture something that signified masculinity to us. I chose some tools from the bottom drawer in the kitchen.

Saturday 25 July 2020, London Marina Hyde in the Guardian has got another column out of Brexit.

“If we press ahead with no deal on the back of a pandemic, viewers all over the world will be tuning in to our national soap opera every week, just to see what crazy shit we’ll do to ourselves next.”

πŸ“Œ That phrase “upstairs stuff” sounds like a euphemism.

πŸ“Œ I’ve started following the blog of a young Polish woman called Roxy as she sets off on a round-the-world trip on a motorbike, starting in Glasgow. She’s got as far south as Peterborough and there’s smoke coming out from under the seat of the bike.

πŸ“ŒI just read a blog post from a photographer, John Wreford, who was going through some dusty old boxes and found some Graham Greene novels, which were, he says… “just for amusement, escapism, beautifully written and laced with humour and pathos, they were never read to inspire, at no point did I put one down and think I really must dash off to the Colonies.”  He then goes on to tell a story from the past about “being followed” in Damascus and how it has left him with a lifelong paranoia.

πŸ“Œ At the Breakfast Club Zoom, we each told 3 things about ourselves, one of which was a lie. No one guessed that I once went camping with 9 lesbians.

πŸ“Œ Only in the Barbican… or in this case the Golden Lane Estate.

See the video: Drunken Duck Staggers Hone.

πŸ“Œ One of my Diary entries from this day last year.

This image was meant to capture some kind of hazy gloom, a blue funk that lurks undetected in the mists of your mind. I sent it to Michelle and she posted some studio pictures of Quentin on Instagram.

Sunday 26 July 2020, London My wife tells me I’m about two weeks late on this story, but it has only just come to my attention as I browsed my blog reader. The saga of two celebrities making a show of their hate for one another didn’t interest me until the word β€œPoo” plopped into the headline. This is childish in the extreme, and something I should be ashamed of. Should be.

πŸ“Œ Liverpool beat Newcastle 3-1. The brilliant simplicity of their  football hangs on the letter P: possession, position, passing, patience, persistence. 

πŸ“Œ We went round to Anne’s for an  “end of term” drink. She’s off to Ireland on Tuesday. She told us the hilarious story of her pedalling urgently to the pet undertaker in Islington with a dead and rigid Lulu in her pannier, shrouded in a white quilted pillowcase. She’s convinced Lulu died because of her diet of cheese and chocolate. I told the story of Priss Fotheringham and her blue plaque in Whitecross Street. That brought on fits of laughter, especially when Sarah read out the Wikipedia section on “chucking”.

πŸ“Œ Anne told us there were a lot of young sex workers lurking in the City. And that employers with home workers are devising more and more sophisticated ways to spy on them.

Monday 27 July 2020, London The Morning Star has been doing a series on leftist and anti-fascist (“antifa”) footie clubs around the world. They included Clapton CFC, the most famous one here in London.

πŸ“Œ The blogger My Life As A Piece Of String is getting up steam on the drift “back to normal”. I especially liked the use of  the phrase “leaky cliches” in reference to Brexit. ‘String’ also predicts that “face masks will become the new socks”, which I like, too. Here on Golden Lane, City of London, our chief councillor, aka Alderman, is also resisting the drift back to normal by refusing to hand in his “letter of surrender” (resignation), which signals the end of his natural term in office. He claims he is not “refusing” but “deferring” until the pandemic has passed.

πŸ“Œ My latest stitchwork project has progressed in fits and starts, but a breakthrough moment came when today I actually felt like I was drawing and painting with thread, as pretentious as that might sound.

Tuesday 28 July 2020, London Lockdown Catch-up. Malcolm was at it again last night in Spooks (Series 7). He fired up his computer, ran a few of his wizard programs and Hey Presto, Connie is outed as the Russian spy in MI5. Unfortunately, she’d already slit Ben’s throat with a razor wire she’d cunningly hidden in her bra strap.

πŸ“Œ There’s an article in The Conversation saying that most of the funding to invent a Covid vaccine quickly has come from the public purse, whereas the distribution is in the hands of private profiteers.

πŸ“Œ I posted the Story of Twiggy and immediately began to regret it.

πŸ“Œ I now suspect the Labour Party is keeping quiet about government screw-ups because it would most likely have done pretty much the same. It will be telling when the tsunami of mass unemployment (and maybe a second or third virus spike) hits. Will the government, which has already stolen an awful lot of socialist policies (nationalisation, state intervention), continue on that path to Blue Socialism. If it does, all Labour can then argue is that “we could do it better”, which isn’t much of a rallying cry.

πŸ“Œ My wife’s birthday present arrived while she was out, which was a relief.

πŸ“Œ Our new fold-down balcony table arrived, too.

πŸ“Œ My wife visited a department store and returned to say all the mask refuseniks were men.  She also did an offline, real-world yoga session. She was in a class of 3.

πŸ“Œ Spoke to Margaret, Jan and Philippa. Jan has been out in the new campervan, which has all the trimmings inc toilet, shower, microwave, comfy bed. Later sent Margaret a message to put in Mena’s card as she goes off to have her baby. I have missed the Big Event entirely.

πŸ“Œ Sam sent me her picture of Kat’s pet lizard. Sam’s niece named it Lenny. Kat told us it was a boy.

Wednesday 29 July 2020, London Taxes could be another deadly blow to businesses if urgent reforms of the business rates system is not introduced. Businesses cannot scale down to safe operations at the current cost of this local tax. Businesses have already had massive support from the state, but the economics of enterprise is no longer sustainable. Business collapse is inevitable unless the Chancellor announces something drastic soon.

πŸ“Œ The blogger My Life As A Piece Of String (aka String) has a post in which he imagines a gig at which old-times tribute band The New Normal (“please form an orderly queue for the mosh-pit”) are supported by the Badly Worn Face Masks. 

πŸ“Œ I think there must be a debate about weight going on that I’ve missed…

πŸ“Œ Geologists have been speculating as to what the Covid-19 fossil record will look like to horny-handed excavators of the distant future. The virus itself will leave no geological trace, but discarded face masks and rubber gloves will be neatly preserved as fossils in the layers of sandstone and shale that will come under scientific scrutiny millions of years hence.

πŸ“Œ I got a Like from a blog called The Drabble, and when I investigated, it turns out that a Drabble is a story in exactly 100 words and a genuine literary genre. The Drabble has loads of them so I decided to give it a try.

πŸ“Œ Got an email from James reminding me about the meeting with a disability designer on Friday to discuss making some face masks you can put on with one hand. These are my designs.

πŸ“Œ News that Ruth Davidson is to be given a seat in the House of Lords has really pissed off the Wee Ginger Dug.

πŸ“Œ I asked Stuart what he imagined Neil Young meant when he sang, “I was thinking about what a friend had said. I was hoping it was a lie.”  He offered: “β€˜Hey Neil, I just saw your lady in the laundromat washing some β€˜his and hers’ lurex bondage suits with a moustachioed Mexican called Sebastian.”

Thursday 30 July 2020, London The Hackney Citizen has an absurdly long piece about the backlash against the decision not to remove the statue of slave-trader and philanthropist Sir Robert Getfrye from the Museum.

πŸ“Œ A nice motto appeared buried in a page from It’s Nice That. It comes from photographic artist Izumi Miyazaki, who is interviewed as their Midweek Mentor. In one line she says, “Think about something fun and ridiculous and get some sun through the window”.

πŸ“Œ Today’s Open Studio theme came from Headway support worker and artist Nancy, who showed us some of her drawings and paintings. She says she likes to depict the emotion of a scene as much as the physical content. She then asked us to find an object that symbolised peace for us. I chose a picture of me and my wife being happy at a party. I chose it because last night we’d had the most ridiculously petty argument, and now needed to restore some peace. β€œStick to the abstracts,” was her response. 

πŸ“Œ Window cleaners are dangling from ropes attached to the roof.

πŸ“Œ Sam sent me the picture of the candle she chose to draw in the Open Studio session.

πŸ“Œ The government seems to be on a crash-course to conflict over its decision to end “shielding” on 1 August and order people back to work.

πŸ“Œ You know you’re getting old when you hear Story of the Blues on Radio 2.

Friday 31 July 2020, London It’s almost too hot to do anything, but I managed to write a blog review and do some prep for the Mask Task design meeting

πŸ“Œ The Mask Task meeting wasn’t too demanding. We “designers” have been asked to dream big and develop crackpot ideas. Dave said he wanted a different mask for every outfit. Tirzah drew vampire fangs with dripping blood on her mask template. JΓ©sus used sequins. That wasn’t a surprise. I started to wonder about the possibilities of fragrance impregnation, as you do.

πŸ“Œ I think Boris might be building up to the reintroduction of full-blown Lockdown. His government once again has failed to get its message across. In fact, all evidence suggests nobody knows what the message is, or even if there is one. A friend in Brighton tried to work out what was going on. “Just checking I’ve got this right: Go out and eat and drink in pubs and restaurants to ‘eat out to help out’ and protect the economy, but don’t do that cos you’ll get fat and die of the Covids you’re helping to spread. But we’ll give you 50% off in the really cheap shit places, but don’t take up our offer, you greedy fat fucks. If you’re in the north, you can go to the pub and meet your mates and family, but you can’t meet them in your garden. Any worsening of coronavirus in the UK will be you and Europe’s fault due the ‘second wave’, despite the UK still having more deaths every week than the rest of the EU combined. And we’re really just still in the first wave. Go on a foreign holiday to help the travel industry, but if you come back with the Covids, it’ll be your fault. And if you can’t quarantine when you come back because you’ll starve or get fired, that’s also your fault. Anything I’ve missed?

πŸ“Œ The Wee Ginger Dug has a very witty name for the ousted Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw. He calls him Surname Surname. The Dug also hints that Ruth Davidson’s tipped appointment to the House of Lords is a bribe for her return to leadership.

πŸ“Œ We’ve started watching Dead To Me on Netflix, from the beginning. My wife thinks Judy is a psychopath. I think that’s probably what she’s meant to think.

πŸ“Œ I asked the family on Zoom who they were supporting in the FA Cup final (Arsenal v Chelsea). The verdict was Arsenal, but Kate added jokingly that she wanted “mass casualties” so that neither team is a threat to Liverpool next season.

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