. I've been mulling this remark over for a few weeks, and it definitely has something to it. The writing is truly inspired in places in the way it drifts in small-boy fashion between his complaints about the everyday world, his sudden flights of fantasy, and adult interruptions which seem to overwrite his thoughts (or is that Molesworth sneeringly repeating grown-up speech forms?) Hard not to see the central character's name in Sue Townsend's 1980s Adrian Mole diaries as a nod to Willans' hero, and the main protagonist in 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' has a similar juvenile world-weariness - though unlikely to be an imitation. This was much better than those two.
Wednesday. Read a book I find in Robin's house - a set of large drawings and odd text musings by Ralph Steadman on Freud, and on 'Sigmund Freud' and jokes in particular. Wrong of me probably to think of Ralph Steadman as the poor man's Ronald Searle. Yet although this picture book has some handsome sketches of 1900 Vienna and Freud with his beard in various mad states of scratchy-pen spikeyness (one senses Steadman's Marx would look almost exactly the same) I think I can safely say Steadman has never really been funny. His drawings, when they're enjoyable, are something more like interestingly vicious. While Searle often drew pictures of bullies and people being bullied, Steadman seems to just directly bully whoever or whatever he draws. He's drawn to Freud's thoughts on jokes, and quotes him at length in a few parts of the book. The overall result is refreshingly different, but still doesn't quite work.
Boxing Day, Tuesday. Robin, Jessica, and I watch the 1971 film 'Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory'. I'd never seen either version. Am startled by the closing scene bringing back memories from a small hotel in Blackpool where, aged 4 or 5, I drew a comic strip in which a rising lift bursts out of the top of a building.
Christmas Day. We watch Christopher Nolan's '2nd Batman movie' at the suggestion of Jessica, who points out with her film-maker's eye what she believes to be the single best shot of the film, one towards the end where Nolan turns the sound down to silence for 5 or 6 seconds. In terms of dialogue & character, the centre of interest in the film is definitely Heath Ledger's Joker.
Christmas Eve. Jessica urges us to watch Christopher Nolan's mind-probing sci-fi movie 'Inception'. This involves multiple levels of someone's mind (a dream within a dream within a dream). This clearly owes a debt to the dream theory of the fictitious guru 'Don Juan' in Carlos Castaneda's books. Leo de Caprio and his team in 'Inception' do very much what Jake was hoping to accomplish with the dream group he recruited us for 15 years ago.
Saturday. After driving into the desolate emptiness of the Great Plain on Saturday evening, by about 3am on Sunday morning Robin & I stand in the small building with the summer kitchen on his farm, both our arms filled with bedding. This is in the small low-ceilinged bedroom where Marika neni and later on Lacko & Joli used to sleep. With a spare couple of fingers he is also smoking his second roll-up of the evening. I'm saying it seems fine (his studio where I usually sleep has no electric light for some reason). After around four seconds we both realise at about the same moment that the summer-kitchen bedroom (in fact entire building) is filled with the overpowering aroma of three dozen five-foot-long freshly spiced macrosausages hanging over a horizontal broomstick near the window. Robin declares it unsuitable, predicting I will have nightmares about giant man-eating cold-cuts, so we walk across to the barn-sized studio with the bedding, plumping for the candle option. I prepare for bed up on the sofa in the gallery space with five huge butter-coloured candles flickering in an arc around my pillow-to-be, like a Satanic scene in a 70s or 80s film.
Friday. British diplomats predict a Trump victory in 2020. Jerusalem recognition problem all fault of Obama, says German newspaper. Article (in castellano) about a Spanish woman economist surveying lawyers, finding women lawyers get promoted less because they're less ambitious and work shorter hours.
Thursday. A Briton cements head to microwave oven.
Wednesday. Back at Hallowe'en, some stag-partying British men disguise themselves as traffic cones so as to randomly stop traffic.
Tuesday. Interesting piece corrects more than a century of romantic myths about hunter-gatherers. Anthropologists still searching for Montaigne's Noble Savage, plainly.
Monday. Two different anti-immigrant, Brussels-sceptic parties form Austria's new government. Bermuda becomes the first state in the world to allow same-sex marriage and then ban it again inside a single year (in fact 7 months). Last of all, the wonderfully-named Galen Strawson (son of PF, no less) dismisses the strangeness of consciousness with bright-eyed breeziness. While many scientists think that by explaining something they've explained away any puzzle about it, if our Galen is anything to go by, Oxford philosophers still think the opposite - that explaining something away is explaining it.
Sunday. Today's goodness-gracious articles: 1) British engineers send broadband over wet string to see if they can; 2) Smart women in Victorian/Edwardian London had special clubs for smoking hash; 3) There is now a suit you can wear that turns your body heat into cryptocurrency; 4) A man in western England for several hours refuses to leave the hole he has dug in his garden.
Saturday. About a fortnight ago saw two engineers overseeing the hanging of giant decorations in the main atrium of the nearby shopping centre as I walked through. This year, a nice antique touch is given by two symbolic gift symbols dangling in this space - a wooden rocking horse and a giant walking-stick-shaped rod of red-and-white-striped candy - both of which instantly say Christmas (or at least Xmas) and yet are unlikely to be given to a single child in Budapest in 2017. Under these dangling objects is a stretch of fake green turf and a sort of playzone for small infants policed by girls in their twenties dressed as Santa's helpers. Their costume is a shiny green satin frock coat with red piping, and red-and-white-striped stockings, presumably to match with the candy walking sticks. The zone is designated optimistically in big signs as "Chocolate Land". All this seemed closely designed but something went slightly wrong with casting. One might expect pixie-type girls notable for winsome curls and perhaps red-cheeked jolliness. They got the pert petite damsel bit right, but the first day's shift of happy fairies in the chocolate forest was crewed entirely by sex-witch brunettes with hangovers. Not clear if weary mothers hesitated to park their toddler with a bunch of sly-looking mascaraed minxes, but these things happen. Over subsequent days, the ratio of sweet-and-smiley teacher-type girls in the pixie patrol gradually increased, so perhaps management responds well to ongoing feedback.
Friday. The Church of England appears to have rather mishandled a child-abuse allegation against a dead bishop.
Thursday. Poignant image of heroic prewar futurism: the rooftop testing race track Fiat's Agnelli put at the top of a helical production line spiralling up inside the factory building in Turin.
Wednesday. At the gym, the slender girl with the blood-sugar catheter pointedly looks straight past me on every occasion as if I'm not there, while her friend the small lithe redhead behind the counter glares at me from under an angry brow. Suppose I should be flattered (*rolls eyes*).
Here's an interesting piece about the academic background to feminism.
Tuesday. Some 2018 financial predictions, cleverly disowned as "outrageous".
Monday. During long multi-topic chat over coffee & tea, cheerful Jessica shows me her copy of a how-to-control-men book, jauntily titled 'The Power of The Pussy'.
Sunday. Meet Zoe & Mark at a restaurant for seasonal good cheer & groaning board. Our discussion touches on France's secret 1950s request for political union with Britain. This was before the Treaty of Rome in 1957, whose cover story was preventing another war - although in fact intended to create a currency much stronger than sterling was at Suez in 1956, so as to facilitate new wars.
Saturday Science! Interesting botany piece about complex ancient trees. Sensible American neatly skewers metric measures. Someone argues that work on quantum artificial life is already underway, albeit without tackling The Fishtank Problem. And a brand-new optical illusion.
Friday. Two interesting articles about the attempted impeachment putsch in progress for a year now in the US against President Honey Monster. Glenn Greenwald points out the media's failings. Someone else praises Greenwald.
Thursday. Hallowe'en offer still open of demonic Kentish gin. Haunted apples cursed by a friendly local witch.
Wednesday. Wait for a student inside the 'Economics University', standing outside the new library, looking into a brightly-lit classroom through a slanting wall of glass. In the room a slim bearded man in a lilac button-up shirt is lecturing to 3 students. He's giving a slide show. For ten minutes as I wait, the slide on the screen has English headline 'Word Processors vs Document Preparation Systems (2)'. Just before my student arrives, the slide switches (back?) to 'Word Processors vs Document Preparation Systems (1)'. A wave of compassion for those 3 students washes over me.
Tuesday. Wake, very cheerful, out of a detailed dream in which I was happily wandering around in some large park in England in sunshine, encountering a large yellow-wood set of doors, cathedral size, not fixed properly to the doorway they're in. I move them bodily aside and lean them against the doorframe. Then a jovial English woman explains to me that wood from the "burling" tree was used a lot for doors and gates between 1590 and 1980, but was now considered not optimal in buildings. To my surprise, I later find after waking up that it's a real wood word, though not a type of tree.
Monday. Spirited rendition of 'I Don't Need No Doctor' by the Chocolate Watchband. Somehow better with that tinny-sounding cheap-studio echo.
Sunday. On the subway escalator I glide past a poster for a show, some kind of operetta or musical, now on at the Erkel Opera House, bearing the name Englebert Humperdinck. As it flashes past, I struggle to imagine the 1960s and 70s crooner alive now and singing on stage in the same borough I live in. This name I recall from listening to my new transistor radio in my bedroom aged 7 some decades ago. Somehow I decided at that date - probably based on his stage name and his singing which (even when I was in single figures) sounded tiresomely old-fashioned - that he must have been around 50 and therefore almost dead. I briefly grapple with the image of him still alive before grasping he might have been only 30ish then. Eastern Europe does appear to be where old pop stars go to die. Then another vague memory stirs of a 19th-century German composer whose name the singer took. He is of course the man referred to on the Christmas operetta poster. Then yet another recollection stirs in the back of my head where I, aged 7, mention Englebert the Leicester-born schlager singer - a sort of rival of Tom Jones - to my mother over breakfast. Whereupon she rolls her eyes at the ceiling, does a tinkly laugh, and tells me the real Englebert Humperdinck was a Victorian Wagnerian composer while of course 'Tom Jones' was an 18th-century novel. Still inside this freshly unearthed memory, I re-engage thoughtfully with my breakfast cereal, munching and mulling over these intriguing revelations of borrowed names spanning centuries. Back in the present, find that - though more likely to be doing Vegas than Budapest's second opera house - the already dated-sounding Englebert I heard on the radio as a child is remarkably still alive. He seems even to have been singing in public quite recently while approaching eighty. A man born just 15 years after that German composer died.
Saturday. Perhaps the most important article seen in months: simulated-society research has ethnocentrics dominating again and again.
Friday. Sad article about being a single woman.
Mark Griffith, site administrator /
markgriffith at yahoo.com