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

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)