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Pastieland and Getting Sick

I’ve not posted here for a while. We managed a week-long trip to Cornwall — yes! Leaving home, leaving the city, staying in a rented house. It’s almost like things are getting back to normal.

Though not quite. Mevagissey is a great wee town, but it’s far from fully open yet. Almost none of the restaurants have any outside space, what with it been squeezed in between the bottom of a steep hill, and the sea, so they haven’t reopened yet. The takeaways were open, but it’s a sleepy place, and most things close early.

We stayed in Tregoney House, on the hill of the same name, which I mention here as much for my own records as anything else. Nice house, though.

We got to see family and eat pasties, fudge, and fish & chips. And visit the Lost Gardens of Heligan. It was all quite exciting, really.

Then the day after we got home, I got sick. Not Covid, I’m pleased to say, but it knocked me out for about four or five days. No writing, just some reading.

I’m all better now, though, and starting to buckle down for my dissertation. It’s due in four months time, which suddenly seems perilously short.

Bernard and the Cloth Monkey by Judith Bryan (Books 2021, 6)

This is a story of a family — especially two sisters — and things that brought them together and pushed them apart. It varies between straightforward realist events, and ambiguous, almost fantastic scenes, which may be memories, or partly memories, or a way for the character to deal with memories.

It’s part of a series that Bernardine Evaristo has curated for Penguin, called Black Britain: Writing Back, aiming to bring lost works back into publication. This one won awards back in 1997 (even though, confusingly, the copyright date is 1998). It’s been out of print since.

Worth checking out.

A Dead Cat in Downing Street

This story about Boris Johnson redecorating in Downing Street is too stupid not to be a deliberate distraction. 10 Downing Street, along with 11 and others, are government buildings. Their maintenance should be paid for with government money. And since they are also places where people live, it’s not unreasonable that there should be money available for redecoration when the resident changes.

And I guess it’s also fair that the new resident can pay extra for the work, out of their own money, if they choose to do so. Any money coming from other sources would have to be declared in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

This is all normal. If Johnson has failed to declare contributions from his party or donors, that’s the offence. It’s pretty straightforward.

So the fact that it’s filling the headlines with leaks and all, suggests it’s a smokescreen for something else.

But what?


I just got an invite/reminder email about a service called OnMail. I must have signed up to be notified when it became available. Could have been months ago: they apologise for it taking so long.

They should apologise for being bad for the email infrastructure that binds the world together.

I’m exaggerating, but only a bit. Email remains the most important thing on the internet aside from the web. Whenever you sign up for a service, or order something online, you expect to get an email confirmation.1

Without reliable email, a lot of things would fall apart.

A while back I wrote about Hey, the new email service from Basecamp. There, I was bothered by it not being based on the standard, open protocols that underlie email, at least to the extent that you can’t get your Hey email using a third-party, standard client.

OnMail seems both visually and functionally similar to Hey, and it’s got exactly the same problem.

This trend is bad for email, bad for people who use email. It should be possible to give us the kind of powerful, automated controls over our inboxes that these service offer, without stopping us from using the apps we prefer. It is possible to do that, as companies like SaneBox show.

I do not like this trend.

  1. Oddly, I had this expectation confounded just today, when Birkbeck’s submissions system didn’t send me any confirmations about the pieces that I submitted for assessment. 

This Is England, 2006 - ★★★★

A gritty, realist tale of British skinheads in Thatcher times. We get the good skins — into ska, soul, and having Black friends. And then the bad ones — into ska, soul, racism, and joining the National Front. 

But it’s mainly about a young boy whose dad died in the Falklands.

It’s good. Kate from Line of Duty (Vicky McLure) is in it, too. Disappointing that the Clash song of the same name is not used, but since that was released in 1985 and the film is set in 1983, it wouldn’t have made sense.

See in Letterboxd

Heartburn by Nora Ephron (Books 2021, 5)

When I wrote about watching When Harry Met Sally… last year, I said that ‘Nora Ephron may be my favourite screenwriter after Aaron Sorkin, where dialogue is concerned.’ The dialogue in this novel isn’t so sparkling, but the narration is.

It’s a fictionalisation of the breakdown of her marriage to the journalist Carl Bernstein, and it’s amazing how funny she makes it, considering how painful the experience clearly was.

Seems to be her only novel, which is kind of a shame.

The strangest thing is that the woman Bernstein had an affair with is the daughter of prime minister Jim Callaghan.

Far more interestingly, though, is that, according to Wikipedia, Ephron was one of the few people who knew the identity of Deep Throat.

None of which has anything to do with the book, which you should just read.

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, 2020 - ★★★★

A great story about a competition we all grew up with, and then stopped caring about because it was endlessly uncool, and then started taking an interest in again because it was so daft and fun.

Maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, this film (made with the cooperation of the European Broadcasting Union, which is the body behind Eurovision) pokes fun at the competition in all the right ways, and does it with love and a big heart.

See in Letterboxd