"for the happy, the sad, I don't want to be, another page in your diary"

Sunday, 7 June 2020

Parasite

Now that the Golf has had its service I install a barrier in the back of the car so that the lad can now ride in the boot and he doesn’t look terribly happy about it.

MD won’t be happy either when he finds out that’ll probably be how he’s travelling as well. His day doesn’t get any better when he falls in the pond at my folks’ house. L is gutted, that she didn’t get a picture of it.

Somehow I manage to run 7k.

We finally catch up with the film Parasite which was the first ever non-English language film to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. Not only did it win Best Picture but it also won Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best International Film.

The film is about two very different families from opposite ends of the spectrum as regards class and wealth etc. Without trying to sound too ‘Family Fortunes’, there is the Kim family who live in a small basement apartment, have jobs as pizza box folders and freeload on other people's wifi and there is the Park family who live in a mansion and have servants.


The paths of these two families cross when the Kim’s son Ki-woo (Choi Woo-shik) is offered the chance to take over a friend’s job as tutor to the wealthy Park’s daughter Da-hye (Jung Ziso). He has no qualifications for this but his artist sister Ki-jung (Park So-dam) is adept at forgery and supplies him with a fake certificate to bluff his way into the job.


Mrs Park is so impressive with him, now known as ‘Kevin’ and not knowing he’s already seduced her daughter, that she asks him if he could recommend an art tutor for their son (Jung Hyun-jun).

Enter Ki-jung, or rather ‘Jessica’, allegedly the cousin of a friend and she is quickly hired too. Together they contrive to frame the family chauffeur, getting him fired for having sex in the family car where ‘Jessica’ has left her underwear. They already have a replacement in mind, their father (Song Kang-ho).


They then remove the family’s housekeeper after they exploit her allergic reaction to peaches but passing it off as tuberculosis. When she is dismissed they install their mum (Chang Hyae-jin) instead.

Although still living mostly in their dank basement apartment, they all seem to scrub up surprisingly well when they need to. However the Park’s Son notices that for a bunch of strangers that claim to not know each other they all smell remarkably alike, and like they have come from a dank basement apartment.


When the Parks leave on a camping trip, the Kim’s all move in and revel in the luxuries of their borrowed abode but the old housekeeper appears at the door saying she has left something in the cellar. This something turns out to be her husband, who has been secretly living there for years, hiding from his debts.


Parasite is a clever black comedy that is set up brilliantly in the first half and which descends into farce and violence in the second half as rain curtails the Park’s camping trip forcing them to return home as a violent battle erupts between the Kims and housekeeper's family for parasitic rites to the mansion.

The violence continues the next day at the Park’s son's birthday party leading to several deaths and eventually a new family moving into the mansion while a new resident hides out in the cellar.

It’s wonderful stuff and best seen before the inevitable Hollywood remake.

(Sunday 7th June)

Saturday, 6 June 2020

Maybe Not An Essential Journey

On Friday I take the Golf in for its first service. The car itself has been nagging me electronically for months but it was hardly an essential journey. I take it to VW Parkway near work in Derby then get the bus back.

The VW Garage is impressively set up as Covid-secure (or whatever the correct phrase is) with screens, a one-way system and tape everywhere. Afterwards they send me a video of the actual car service, which I’ve never had before, then send me code to retrieve by key from a locker when I collect it. I’m impressed but, then again, it wasn’t cheap.

The Red Arrow bus was less impressive with no obvious measures apart from the front seats not being in use and the bus being very clean but that may be just have been through lack of use. There were only five of us on it and everyone was very spaced out but there was an absence of masks. They’re not compulsory until a week on Monday but I thought the drivers would be setting an example but they weren’t.

The Derby Book Festival has put a quiz online. We get the questions on Friday and then the answers on Saturday. I’m not expecting to be much help to L. This week’s beer keg which is Atlas Stout from the Lenton Lane Brewery will see me through it.

Over the weekend we watch a new two part documentary about Lance Armstrong that is on ESPN, which I sign up to for a free week. There is some new information but he’s still keeping a lot of things close to his chest.

The Black Lives Matter protests move to the UK despite a ban against mass gatherings due to the coronavirus. Again there was a shortage of face masks and you suspect that those who were wearing them were wearing them more to stop the cameras identifying them than anything else.

(Saturday 6th June)

Thursday, 4 June 2020

The New Normal

L emails me from work, yes actual work and not the next room. She is back in her real office this week. Oh the novelty. They have taped off various things and put a one way system in, all for the few of them who came in. 

Once there she has to face her new computer which she didn’t have chance to finishing setting up before we were locked down. That may well be a stressful experience but luckily for her the chocolate machine has been taken out of use. All part of the new normal I guess.

At least she didn’t have to queue to get in like those poor folks who went to the newly reopened Ikea did. I’m not sure what they were selling that was so essential, and there were queues three hours before they opened, because going to Ikea at any time is my worst nightmare.

While Britain queues American burns in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd with their President looking more and more unhinged with every passing day.

After work I do my first bike ride since mid-March. My knee isn’t up to running at the moment and I need to do something. I bike out to Sandiacre then come back home through Long Eaton. It’s only 24km but it’s something.

As the UK declares more coronavirus deaths in one day than all 27 EU states combined, the Government suspiciously scraps the weekend virus press conferences amid rumours that they're fast running out of scientists prepared to stand beside them.

(Thursday 4th June)

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Two Beaches And A Shaggy Dog Story

The weekend brings a lie in with an earlyish smattering of the Hay Festival which L brings back to bed with her but this isn’t anywhere near as early as the Lad’s breakfast which he still expects at around 5:30am.

Our cultured weekend continues with the film ‘Dunkirk’ on Saturday. Personally, I failed to see why it got such critical acclaim. The film focusses on one boat, skippered by Mark Rylance, which experienced every bit of drama you could possibly have imagined in just one trip. They rescued a shipwrecked solider, a downed Spitfire pilot, the survivors of a Minesweeper and the soldiers who tried to escape the beach in a trawler. All while a lad on deck who’d come with them is dying from a head wound.


It's just the way everything happens to the one boat as if it were the only boat there meanwhile, elsewhere there doesn’t seem to be much of a war going on. There’s a lack of planes from either side and a lack of boats, either British Navy ships or civilian rescue boats. It was more like a disaster film than a war film but perhaps that was deliberate.

Then on Sunday we watch the new live-action remake of Disney’s Lady and the Tramp on Disney+ for which I sign up for a free one week trial purely for this film. I have always had a soft spot for Lady and the Tramp because it’s one of the very first Disneys I saw as a child and also because it’s about dogs. 


It’s been remade because, well, because they remake everything whether they ought to or not. It isn’t great but it’s not totally terrible either. To be honest the original wasn’t Disney’s finest moment either.

In between we go for a drive to test my eyesight. We go to visit my folks and then to see Daughter. L then runs with her while the boys and I head home. The roads are quiet presumably because everyone else has flocked to the South coast to throw themselves off Durdle Door.

(Sunday 31st May)

Friday, 29 May 2020

Time For An Eye Test

Dominic Cummings plays a Bank Holiday Monday gig in the garden at Downing Street to attempt to explain himself. He is heckled by the assembled press and although they are probably tempted to bottle him off sadly they don’t.

It sort of makes you feel sorry for the Neil Ferguson, the epidemiologist who was forced to resign from the Sage committee for not leaving the house but for having his lover round. Perhaps it was because Ferguson was testing more than just his eyesight.

Meanwhile, never one to miss a marketing opportunity, Brewdog launch a new beer 'Barnard Castle Eye Test' a 6% Hazy IPA.


I have a bit of a dodgy knee, so I do tonight’s run without the Lad. I run over the new bridge that connects University Boulevard to the Boots site. It’s quite an interesting route but my knee doesn’t seem to like it and I limp home. A rather disgusted Lad sits on the stairs the whole time waiting for me to return.

As I think I’ve said before, L and I may come out of all this more intelligent. We have now watched the entire first three series of ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’ along with countless later repeats on the Challenge Channel.

Thursday brings the 10th and last Clap for Carers. While L's sister is now working as a contract tracer or rather not working because the system doesn't appear to be ready yet.

On the night when I may well have been off to watch Gene Loves Jezebel on their 40th Anniversary Tour instead I am sat at home watching one of those annoying Meerkats introduce a virtual gig involving four fifths of Take That. I suppose beggars can’t be choosers in Lockdown.

Mercifully they keep it short, to just six songs, with Robbie Williams turning up late and only joining from the third song onwards. Mark Owen, for some reason, sings with a ladder which may or may not have been the replacement for the permanently retired Jason Orange.

(Friday 29th May)

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Some People Think It’s All Over

The weather gets even more impressive, if you like it hot. I run with the Lad on Monday but it’s far too hot for him (and me) on Wednesday so I take both dogs for a walk instead.

Our great leader tells us we are now into ‘phase two’ of easing the Lockdown. Some people think it’s all over... and if you look at how many people were on the beaches this week... it is now.

There’s been couples entwined on the park for a few weeks now who I’m sure would tell you that they live together if you’d asked them. While some folk have been driving over 200 miles from London to Durham.

Although it turns out that that particular excursion was before even ‘phase one’ of easing the Lockdown never mind ‘phase two’ at a time when the rest of us were feeling like a criminal for nipping the 200 metres to the local Co-Op for a loaf of bread.

On Thursday, things seem a little better at Asda but I think that’s probably because everyone’s still at the beach.

Soon you’ll be able to put an app on your phone that will tell you which one of your fellow beach bums has given you the virus as we hurtle into the second wave on our surfboards.

Some people are worried about the privacy of the new app. Clearly not realising that you are already being tracked simply by carrying a mobile phone and forgetting about all those loyalty cards they have that allow the shops to track them while publicly documenting everything else on their Facebook accounts.

L has always wanted me to take her to the Hay Festival, so this year I spoil her and take her without even leaving the house. The Festival goes online and she can attend as many book events as she likes. I even attend a few myself.

On Sunday we are treated to a film quiz from Broadway. Which you instinctively know is going to be almost impossible and we’re not wrong. 

(Sunday 24th May)

Sunday, 17 May 2020

A Campaign For Freedom

There were demonstrations planned on Saturday from an Anarchist group who are complaining about the Lockdown. There are two planned in Nottingham, one on Wollaton Park and one on Forest Rec. We split up, like a good pair of reporters. L and Daughter stake out Forest Rec while the boys and I cover Wollaton Park.

Apparently no one turns up at Forest Rec but we strike gold at Wollaton Park where about 25 protesters have congregated and ironically they all seem to be social distancing each other. There’s nothing like hedging your bets.


While they are protesting about having their freedom taken away from them, there are hundreds of other folk on Wollaton park embracing the freedom they’ve been granted to work from home or not to work at all.

On Sunday we have a socially distanced meet-up with my parents in their garden where we down a few tinnies and chuck the obligatory balls for the dogs. The unscheduled beer stop means I don’t get to do my run but it’s a good excuse not to.

(Sunday 17th May)

Friday, 15 May 2020

Having Your Chips

From this week you are allowed out to exercise as much as you like and to travel as far as from home as you like but you’re still not allowed to socialise. So if you meet someone you know you have to hide in a hedge or something like that.

At today’s Covid-19 Press Conference someone called Pooja from Solihull, which is the best name ever, asked our great leader why the rules are so vague and why he is do vague?

His answer... ‘Ah, Umm, Ah, Um...

Personally, I think we are in big trouble and I think the Government knows it because suddenly they have stopped showing the daily graph which compares the deaths in each country. The fact that we are now riding so high on it may be the reason and not that it’s ‘not possible to make like-for-like comparisons’. The same like-for-like comparisons they have been making every day up until now.

Next April’s Brighton Marathon opens for entries but with no explanation about whether those of us who are down to run this year’s rearranged race in September will automatically get a place when September’s race is inevitably cancelled.

I am still in light training, just in case. On Monday I go out running with the Lad while L takes MD for an amble on the park, which greatly disrupts our run when our paths cross on the park. So when we do the same thing again a few days later and our paths cross again, I hook MD up to my waist belt alongside the Lad and run them both home for the last kilometre. MD seems to enjoy it and the Lad seems to tolerate the intrusion.

On Friday run, the Lad and I have to run on the road to bypass the dozens of people who are queuing down the street for our local chippy when it opens at 5pm. They are all social distancing so the queue is mega long but... really?

This begs several questions. Are chips really so essential, although I suppose they are at least supporting a local business but then why queue, why not come back later...

As the roads are now a lot busier than they were, I have to wait for a gap in the traffic before running in the road to social distance it.

With it being Friday, our curry is essential obviously. It’s Anoki’s turn this week but they take close on two hours to deliver. So that may be their last order but I assume this means that they now have enough trade to survive without ours.   

(Friday 15th May)

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Social Distancing Protocol

This year they have moved the May Day Bank Holiday to the Friday to celebrate L’s birthday, which was very nice of them and it wasn’t even a milestone one. It’s also the 75th Anniversary of VE Day which is convenient, not that there are going to be many celebrations this year due to Covid-19.

To be honest VE Day always makes me feel a touch queasy. I'm all for remembering the war effort, both those who died for the cause and those who survived, but I find all this Union Flag waving unsettling.

After all the war was won by a collaboration between over two dozen nations in which, of course, Britain played a major role but alongside huge roles by the United States and the Soviet Union. It may also not be popular to mention the very significant part played by China.

There may not be many celebrations around but, while out on our run, the Lad and I still manage to disrupt a street party. There was a social distanced gap for us to run through.

Daughter comes over with a cake and waves from the end of the drive. That’s for L’s birthday not VE Day, well I assume that’s what it’s for. The Lad rushes out and breaks social distancing protocol to greet her. MD though is still strictly following Government guidelines and refuses to go beyond the front door.

On Saturday L and I watch ‘Kinky Boots’ the film which was made in 2005 starring Joel Edgerton, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Sarah-Jane Potts. I am delighted, and L disappointed, to discover that it isn’t a musical unlike the 2013 Broadway production with music by Cyndi Lauper.

Then on Sunday we watch a film off our unwatched DVD pile. Seven weeks or so into Lockdown and it’s the first one we’ve watched. L produces a short list from which I pick ‘The Clan of the Cave Bear’ from 1986, the fact it stars Daryl Hannah does not influence my decision. She plays the role of a girl raised by a group of Neanderthals. It was considered a box office flop at the time, at least in the US but considering the dialogue is all grunts and sign language which is translated with subtitles perhaps it’s not surprising. It might have gone down better now the Americans are used to trying to understand Trump.

While no one can quite understand most of what comes out of Trump’s mouth, our beloved Boris isn’t a whole lot better. He waffles out a statement telling us we can go to work tomorrow, sort of, apparently, if you can, if you want.

He also unveils a Covid-19 threat level system which is on a scale from one to five. He says the number, illustrated by an accompanying graphic, is derived by adding R, the rate of infection, to the number of infections. R is now, apparently, between 0.5 and 0.9 while the number of infections is around the 220,000 mark. So on a scale of one to five we're at 220,000.5 at best). So it's not looking good them.


(Sunday 10th May)

Thursday, 7 May 2020

We Are So Cultured

So Saturday was streaming an Art House movie while Sunday was streaming from the National Theatre. We are so cultured. The National Theatre's ‘At Home’ series brings us our second home theatre night in Lockdown with Frankenstein starring Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Then in the week, to add yet another cultural dimension, we have a book quiz thanks to ‘Lauren and the Books’ who does a book thing regularly on YouTube along with her bloke Beardy David. Obviously I’m not a lot of use but L gets quite a few right.

Something else I’m not much use with is L’s assorted workouts. This is because I’ve not been participating but the Lad has. Whether it’s PT, yoga or Pilates he’s been there for her. I’m not sure which is his favourite.
 
One thing I have participated in is one of those Facebook '10 Best’ lists, it’s as if people have time on their hands. I was finally snared when a friend dropped me in it and asked me to list ten albums which have greatly influenced my taste in music.

The brief is one album per day for ten consecutive days but as that would be about as many Facebook posts as I've ever done in my life, I do my ten in one go.

Eight come from the eighties - Dare (Human League 1981), Pornography (The Cure 1982), The Hurting (Tears For Fears 1983), Power, Corruption & Lies (New Order 1983), First & Last & Always (Sisters Of Mercy 1985), Dawnrazor (Fields of the Nephilim 1987), Babble (That Petrol Emotion 1987) and Surfer Rosa (The Pixies 1988).

Then there’s one which is a later influence in Yesterday Went Too Soon (Feeder 1999) who have become the band I have most seen live. Oh and one from my childhood, Keep on Wombling (Wombles 1974).

After originally being told that a ‘good outcome’ would be keeping the death toll below 20,000 we now have 30,000 deaths from Covid-19 in the UK. That’s 12 per cent of the worldwide total and rising. We are second only to the United States, never a good look. 

Thursday is my fortnightly sortie into the war zone that is Asda. The lack of social distancing seems to be getting worse and when I get home I email a complaint. Although first I have to ring up to get an email address to complain to as their customer service one just rejects it. They give me the CEO’s and to their credit they do answer the next day.

On the way to take my parents' shopping over to them the Astra breaks down in Borrowash. I suspect a snapped timing belt. L has to head over to rescue the dogs, my Dad has to come to fetch his own shopping while I eventually come home on the back of a lorry.
 
(Thursday 7th May)

Saturday, 2 May 2020

The Assistant

Jane (Julia Garner) is college graduate who finds herself working as the most junior of junior assistants for an entertainment mogul in New York. She is first in, last out every day and spends the day doing mostly menial duties - making coffee, photocopying, ordering lunch, arranging travel and accommodation for everyone.

She also gets to clean out her boss’s office which involving wiping the white powder off his desk, retrieving used syringes, scrubbing the casting couch, and picking lost earrings up off the carpet which she then attempts to reunite with their owners.


Then she has to fields irate phone calls from her boss’s wife before then getting yelled at by him for interfering in his personal affairs. We see her write two emails of apology pledging to not let him down again, in which she is assisted by her two male colleagues (Jon Orsini and Noah Robbins) who advise her on the content. 


She is concerned when a young actress is flown in from Idaho and Jane is asked to bring her to a local hotel for a ‘meeting’ with her boss which has been moved from the afternoon to evening. She feels she should say something and visits her HR manager (Matthew Macfadyen).


He gives it to her straight and tells her that no one is interested in her concerns. Basically she should turn a blind eye if she wants to keep her job. Keep her head down, like everyone else.

That is the thing. It has been suggested that this film is highlighting the 'MeToo' issue but does it really?

She is treated unpleasantly by everyone in the company, not just by her male colleagues but by her female ones too. Her boss is a sexist, selfish low life but he’s a low life to everyone. Mostly, as suggested, despite a few jokey comments everyone is keeping their heads down which does I suppose make them complicit.


Basically this is a toxic working environment that no one should work in, male or female. I’m not actually sure what Jane thinks she’s going to get out of the job and HR has already told her she’s not her boss’s type! The problem is that she hasn't quit and nobody else has either. Or perhaps I’m just not getting it.

Generally I enjoy slow burning films like this one but it perhaps tries to be a little too subtle and should have dug deeper. While it's obvious who her boss’s character is modelled on, I don’t think there's anything particularly enlightening here. 

(Saturday 2nd May)

Friday, 1 May 2020

Murky Waters

Monday is my birthday and, as a treat to myself, a little lockdown birthday present to myself arrives - a set of Sonos speakers for my ‘new office’. I receive a keg from Daughter to go with my two from L. At the same time L’s new Garmin watch arrives, that I’ve contributed to for her birthday in two weeks’ time.

Later we both go for a run, dog free, meet up with Daughter, and run through the deserted city centre which actually isn’t anywhere near as deserted as I thought it would be.

By Wednesday the Government is further muddying the already murky waters that are the Covid-19 death figures by including care homes in the number for first time and presumably back dating them but I can’t find any official figures that would confirm this.

Meanwhile the angry folk on the internet don’t know how to deal with everything that is going on. The virus seems to not only be racist but quite possibly sexist as well. Outrage. By the normal way of things the virus should have both apologised and resigned by now. Sadly, for the angry folk, it doesn’t even appear to be on Twitter.

Throughout the week I binge watch ‘Normal People’ which is the new TV series everyone is talking about. Oh how it is to be populist for once. L gives it a brief disparaging eye and leaves me to it. She’s read the book but didn’t rate it. Obviously I haven’t read the book but I watch all twelve half hour episodes over three nights.

It does start off with you wanting to club both of the main characters around the head with progressively larger and more painful objects. Of course this may be why people can relate to it. I can recall plenty of people who extracted that particular desire from me as I passed through the School to University to Post-University period that the series documents. Then it slides more into my traditional territory as it gets progressively darker and miserable in the second half.

We have a wet few days, so the Lad doesn’t get a run until Thursday. The joy of not having any plans is that I can run whenever and not just when there are gaps in my schedule. Schedules are so last year. Naturally, it starts to rain five minutes after we’ve left the house.

We’re back in time for Jay’s Quiz, which is still going strong, but The Times quiz doesn't reappear having, I think, disappeared under the weight of its own technological failures. 

(Friday 1st May)

Sunday, 26 April 2020

Toilet Roll Challenge

Everybody seems to have been doing a ‘Toilet Roll’ challenge during Lockdown. This is where someone snips together videos of a group of you chucking a toilet roll to each other (if you can get hold of one) from your bolt holes. My dog club does one and it's great fun to film our segment and the finished product is indeed hilarious.

My run with the Lad is a little longer tonight and takes us one minute over Gove time (allegedly one hour).

I reach 1999 with my Tour de France reruns which is of course the start of the Armstrong years. The main thing I forgot about 1999 was that the organisers initially banned serial doper Richard Virenque from the race but were forced to accept him after being overruled by the UCI, the Cycling authorities.

They said charges against him had not been proven because his case hadn’t gone to court yet. This is despite the fact that the rest of his previous team, Festina, had already admitted to drug use going back years.

Virenque went on to win the Polka Dot jersey again in 1999, for the 5th time, before coming 3rd the following year before his case finally came to court a few months later where confessed to years of doping. He was banned for just nine months, returning to the Tour in 2002 before winning the jersey again in 2003 and 2004.

If the world wasn’t even looking at the obviously guilty (and they weren't) then it’s perhaps not surprising that Armstrong and others got such a free pass.

(Sunday 26th April)

Saturday, 25 April 2020

Who You Think I Am

Tonight I book ‘Who You Think I Am’ through Curzon Home Cinema. It’s a subtitled French film, adapted from the novel by Camille Laurens, and for the first time I’m seeing our TV as perhaps too small e.g. I’m struggling to read the subtitles on it.

Claire Millaud (Juliette Binoche) is a divorcee with two children, who teaches literature and we see her analysing ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ with her class. She is seeing a therapist Dr Catherine Bormans (Nicole Garcia) whom she tells that she feels invisible to society now that she is in her fifties but this is a little misleading.


Despite claiming to be ‘invisible to society’ Claire is in a sexual relationship with a much younger man, Ludo (Guillaume Gouix). Yes he is basically using her for sex and doesn’t want to get romantically involved with her but it’s hardly being ‘invisible’. Clearly he finds her desirable and it’s hard to imagine Binoche herself struggling on this front. However, that’s perhaps not the point. Claire clearly has issues, hence the therapist.

One evening Ludo starts ghosting her, leaving his flatmate Alex (François Civil) to field
her phone calls. Her response to being so unceremoniously dumped is to create a fake online profile as a 24-year-old fashion intern called Clara, complete with stolen profile pictures and to then sends a friend request to Alex with a view to stalking Ludo. Pictures that later turn out to be of her niece, whom her husband left her for.


When Alex starts communicating with her, she becomes more and more obsessed with him and he with the image she portrays of herself. Soon they are texting and talking on the phone but for obvious reasons she refuses to meet him.

Their online relationship throws up a rather large plot flaw. That neither of them proposes to turn their cameras on when they chat or, hey, maybe download Zoom. To be fair they probably hadn't heard of Zoom when they filmed this, as hardly anyone had until a few weeks ago.


As Alex grows every insistent on meeting, Claire decides to call off the relationship rather than risk him being disappointed with her middle-aged self but then who’s to say that if they had met who’s to say she wouldn’t have pulled another young boy. Which is where the film goes in an imagined alternative finale which is submitted to her therapist as a manuscript.


In this the real Claire meets Alex post-Clara and they have a full blown relationship. Claire however still doubt herself even in her own fantasy and revives the Clara persona to test his live for her. This has tragic results, that ends up which Claire in an institution for mental disorders and I haven’t even mentioned what supposedly happened to the real Alex after Clara dumped him.

It’s an intriguing film that may or may not be having an almighty dig at social media and the alternative images of themselves that almost everyone creates online but Claire, I’m sure you realise that being young is wasted on the young. With hindsight and experience us oldies are just so much better at it.

(Saturday 25th April)

Friday, 24 April 2020

Something For The Weekend

In Sainsburys this week, while bread is now plentiful they still have no pitta. Well they haven’t now after I had the last pack of white ones but it’s the first pack of pitta I’ve seen since the Covid-19 crisis started.

I can’t say I’m impressed with the Government’s handling of it all. For a start, their ‘Daily Death’ figure is a sham because this figure is newly reported deaths whenever they occurred. They do issue a spreadsheet with the figures detailing exactly when the deaths occurred and some of these are from over a month ago.

It seems to me the Government has taken advantage of this delay in reporting to keep the daily figure low initially, thereby avoiding hitting the feared 1000 a day, but are now slotting in the deaths that it ‘missed’ now that we’re passed the theoretical peak (which was as long ago as the 8th April) or perhaps I’m just a sceptic.

I get an email from Trent Barton saying that they are starting to increase their bus services again with a view to getting back to normal. Even though the Government insist there is no plan to phase out the lockdown and Trent Barton currently have very few customers. Something is clearly afoot.

Meanwhile Germany has banned all events before the end of August and any events of more than 5000 people before end of October, hence the Berlin Marathon is off. As Germany have far fewer cases than here, something similar is going to be coming our way but no one seems willing to admit it.

Not that the French seem any different. They seem to be certain that the Tour de France will go ahead from 29th August. Seems unlikely to me.

We have a new quiz on Tuesday from Beer Bods, who I get some of my beer from. Technically it is the best quiz so far as they have an online entry sheet that is slick and easy to use. Although I don’t like the fact that there is a time limit on answering and the longer you take the less points you get for a correct answer. Also the presenters, in common will all quiz hosts, talk too much.

On Thursday I head over to Asda in West Bridgford to shop for my parents. Social Distancing has yet to catch on in West Bridgford and it is the easily the unhealthiest environment I’ve been in for some time and that probably includes before lockdown. My Dad’s bank card is declined at the till meaning he will again want to pay me in cash. Cash isn’t much good to me as I’ve stopped using it and I can’t see me using any this side of Christmas, if ever.

There is also a new quiz from The Times. It is the most ambitious one yet but unfortunately the technology doesn’t work and loads of people (including us) complain of not being able to submit our answers. The first round is also incredibly niche, being about The Times itself, but it does get better. Unfortunately the host, Matt Chorley whose Red Box column I enjoy, sets a new world record for inane chatter by a quiz host.

On Friday, the weekend arrives in the shape of two kegs from the Magpie Brewery, purchased by L for my Birthday. I start on the Cherry Raven and we order out from Anoki who unfortunately, and to the dogs’ disgust, forget the poppadums. 

(Friday 24th April)

Sunday, 19 April 2020

1998 Tour de France

It’s really interesting to re-watch the coverage from twelve years ago to see how the Channel 4 commentary team (who held the TV rights then) dealt with the drug scandal that engulfed the 1998 Tour de France. With great indifference is the answer. If they and others in the media had taken it a bit more seriously at the time maybe the following decade or so may have panned out differently.

Long before the Tour started trouble was brewing. In March, a TVM team vehicle had been seized by French customs and found to be containing vials of the drug EPO. While Christophe Moreau of Festina failed a drugs test for anabolic steroids at the Dauphiné immediately before the Tour but bizarrely was still allowed to start the race.

Then three days before the start of the Tour itself, a staff member of the same Festina team was arrested at the French border with EPO in his car. The race started in Dublin that year and nothing more happened until the race hit French soil for stage 3. Meanwhile Chris Boardman again won the prologue.

On arrival in France, the management of Festina were arrested and four days later they admitted to doping resulting in them being thrown out of the race. The French police weren’t done though and as they continued to look for evidence against other teams, the majority of the peloton staged a sit down protest before the start of stage 12 and then again midway through stage 17 causing that stage to be annulled.

After the stage five teams walked out of the race in protest at the police raiding the TVM Team’s hotel or perhaps they were just trying to evade arrest as the police took Rodolfo Massi, who was wearing the Polka Dot jersey, in to custody causing him to miss the next stage. Meanwhile the remaining riders of the TVM team took the opportunity to quit the race on Swiss soil and so avoiding facing the French police when the race returned to France the next day.

In the end only half the field finished the race with Marco Pantani winning and Jan Ullrich second, as both managed to avoid getting arrested. Ironically only two teams - Ullrich’s Telekom and US Postal who were about to be fronted by Lance Armstrong, ended the Tour with a full complement of riders. Both teams were pioneers of doping.

Ironically, as many riders later admitted that the investigation had caused them to dispose of their doping products either before the race started or soon afterwards, it may well have been the cleanest Tour for some years and certainly cleaner than the next ten or so. 

(Sunday 19th April)

Saturday, 18 April 2020

Smell The Fresh Coffee

One thing I’ve discovered in Lockdown is that I actually much prefer working from home to going into work. For a start you end up with a longer day when the commute takes less than a minute rather than an hour each way and I actually feel I’m getting more work done.

We’re missing going out in the evenings but some of our favourite pubs and some of our favourite restaurants\takeaways are delivering. Some takeaways have been closed but are now back open and we return to the Park Tandoori this week.

There are some advantages to no longer having a social life. I'm cooking every night (bar takeaway night) which means I can buy more fresh ingredients as things don't go off. I'm also really enjoying experimenting with my cooking and I’m also doing a pot of fresh coffee every day because I’ve got time to do so.

Meanwhile I’m playing more music which is actually costing me a fortune because I’m not only buying new music but also buying digital versions of stuff I’d previously only got on vinyl.

On the film front I watch The Secretary which is a 'classic' of sorts from 2002 and is about a young woman Lee (Maggie Gyllenhaal) who is into self-mutilation and has only recently been released from a mental institution. She gets a job as secretary to the original Mr Grey (James Spader). He’s a lawyer who is demanding in many ways and their relationship takes a sadomasochistic turn but after a while it becomes unclear who is the demanding one.

My TV consumption has rather worryingly gone up during Lockdown. This is partly due to L and I getting slightly addicted to reruns of ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’ on the Sony Channel and we also watched Quiz, the series about Charles Ingram’s Millionaire ‘win’.

At least with all that and the various other quizzes we’re doing we may come out of lockdown more intelligent. We’re still enjoying Jay’s Quiz on a Thursday but his ‘Celebrity’ one at the weekend was a bit of a let-down.

Then there’s my Tour de France reruns. 1997 was fairly straightforward. Chris Boardman won the Prologue while Jan Ullrich won the whole thing by a massive nine minutes. 1997 was the calm before the storm of the 1998 Tour although the cycling authorities had already, sort of, admitted they had a drugs problem with EPO use by introducing a test for a rider's Hematocrit level because riders were starting to drop dead because their blood was like treacle.

No rider was allowed to race with a red blood cell count of over 50% and this rule probably explained why Bjarne Riss failed to defend his title in 1997 as he was rumoured to be mad enough to ride at levels well in excess of this when he won the previous year.

There was, at this point, no test for EPO so there was little else the cycling authorities could do but in 1998 the French Police were about to take matters into their own hands.

(Saturday 18th April)

Sunday, 12 April 2020

Perfect Candidate

On Sunday we watch the film ‘Perfect Candidate’ on the Modern Films website with a commission going to Broadway Cinema. It was a pain to stream though but we finally got it working from my Macbook to our Roku box.

Maryam (Mila al-Zahrani) is a young doctor in a Saudi Arabian hospital. We see her struggling to treat a man who has an arm injury because he refuses to be examined by a woman and he demands a male doctor, even though she is the most qualified medic available.


She is also concerned about the state of the road that leads down to the hospital but nobody in authority is interested in getting it fixed.

Maryam lives at home with her sisters, Selma (Dae al-Hilali) and Sara (Nora al-Awadh), and her father Abdulaziz (Khalid Abdulraheem). He is a respected musician who is struggling to get over the death of his wife and goes on tour with his band to take his mind off her.


While he is away, Maryam tries to take advantage by flying to a medical conference in Dubai where she hopes to put herself forward for a better job. However when she gets to the airport she is refused permission to fly because her father has failed to renew her travel permit and without his permission, she can’t fly.


She tries to see an official, who also happens to be her cousin, to get this rectified but she can’t even get an appointment with him. His secretary tells her he’s only seeing those who are signing up to be candidates to be a local councillor. So in order to see him, she signs up as a candidate herself. However, even when she sees him he still won’t budge on her permit.

Having signed up as candidate she decides to go ahead with it and armed with a googled checklist of how to win an election, she launches her campaign despite having no chance because she is female. 


We then get a lesson on political life in Saudi, particularly if you’re a woman, where the gender divide denies women a voice. Yet Maryam manages to get her political speech heard because she doesn’t focus on women’s rights like they all expected her to and instead turns her attention to the damaged road outside her hospital. This doesn’t improve her chances of winning but she does at least win that argument and the road is fixed.

(Sunday 12th April)