Blog Number 28 [Friday 5th June]
Some people [Paddy] asked what the difference is between a Blog and a Mini-Blog. The clue is in the name. You might as well ask what the difference is between a van and a minivan or a bar and a minibar or a mouse and Minnie Mouse. Okay, not the last. Paddy also wanted to know – though surely you have better things to wonder about, Paddy – why the Mini-Blogs do not appear on my website. They will. In the course of time. Soon. Okay, when I work out how to create a sub-heading. Advice welcome on that score though it must be couched in terms that the very simple, and I mean President Trump level of simplicity, can understand.
M offers me her reading group book to read, saying she won’t need to read it yet as their next meeting is on 15th June.
‘That’s just 10 days away,’ I say. ‘Shouldn’t you start it now?’
‘Far too soon. I’ll read a potboiler first.’
I look at the book. It is Amy & Isabelle by Elizabeth Strout. It’s over 400 pages long.
‘That’s cutting it fine, don’t you think?’
For some reason this annoys me. ‘Don’t you think a good book needs to be savoured like a good claret?’ [I admit this remark may sound pretentious. Okay, not ‘may’, it does.]
‘You don’t drink claret. Anyway, what does ‘savoured’ mean? Have you ever savoured anything?’
I search my befuddled brain. ‘Our morning conversations?’
‘Really? Then I would have thought they might have lasted longer and involved more than what we are going to eat for dinner.’
‘Well, that’s often something savoury.’ I grin at M in what I take to be a disarming way.
‘You are such a witty man,’ she says as she leaves the room.
I am glad she appreciates my worth.
Julian Barnes’s first novel, Metroland, was published in 1980. I read it again last year. I thought the idea of moving Parliament to a theme park on the Isle of Wight was farfetched. Then came Brexit, Boris, Cummings, Rees Mogg, COVID-19 and Alok Sharma. Who? The Business Secretary who has had to isolate following the return of Parliament this week as he began to experience symptoms of the virus. Did you see the photos of the MPs standing in a theme park like queue to go into Parliament? I think they would have been better off going to Ikea. At least they could have bought something cheap and cheerful for their pains. As it was the turkeys voted for Christmas, supporting the bill that made their life more difficult and more dangerous. I mean it’s not as though there’s an obvious alternative to walking into a lobby to vote, is there?
Wouldn’t it be great if a large swathe of what passes for the Government became stricken with the virus and were forced to self-isolate? If so, I can safely recommend taking a 260 mile drive first, preferably driving west or east from London and not stopping anywhere. The virus is not known to live in the sea after all. Returning to the unfortunate Sharma. The government put up some minion to the Today programme who was asked about his showing signs of coronavirus symptoms in Parliament. “Might be hay fever,” the man said in desperation. I have hay fever. Sweating is not a symptom of it. Then the man was quizzed about why Pritti Patel was introducing quarantine for all arrivals to the UK just at this moment. “We said we would do it when the infection rate here was low,” he said. “So as not to risk exposure from those countries with higher rates.” Don’t we have the second highest rate of infection in Europe [after Russia] and the most COVID-19 deaths? “It’s coming down,” he said, desperate again. Yes, but it’s still the second highest in Europe and we still have the highest Covid-19 death rate.
It is obvious to all except the most blinkered [HMG] that we are exiting lockdown too early and this will inevitably result in a second peak. As Keir Starmer pointed out in PMQs, the Alert Level remains at 4 and the R rate is still high. The same as weeks ago. To which, Bojo could only rant and rave, accusing Starmer of attacking the ‘good work’ the government has been doing. Starmer came back smartly: scrutiny is not the same as attack, he said. To Bojo though, scrutiny is actually worse. He has lived his life evading scrutiny, whether it’s about the cost of a failed garden bridge over the Thames and other vanity projects he did as London mayor, or the ‘business meetings’ at the delectable Jennifer Arcuri’s flat, or simply how many offspring he has fathered. For a man who likes to duck and dive, being in charge of the country during a pandemic is a nightmare. There are only so many COBRA meetings, Select Committee sessions, PMQs and daily briefings he can miss before he has to appear, hair dishevelled, clothes rumpled, face hollowed out, eyes small as pinpricks, and respond to questions by desperately searching for words like ‘exegesis’ and ‘octothorpe’ that will mask his inability to string a meaningful sentence together. Far from being the famed communicator people say he is, he’s a hopeless, hapless one. I am almost beginning to feel sorry for him. And then I remember that he wrote two speeches on Brexit, one in favour, one against, choosing the one he thought would be most likely to get him to be Prime Minister. He made the rod for his own back and if he’s now feeling the pain, he has no one else to blame but himself.
And Trump. What more is there to say?
Rowan Atkinson interviews Elton John, or is it John Elton?