Monthnote January 2021

A new year, a new attempt to return to semi-regular blogging. I’m trying to post little things often, rather than getting trapped into writing long posts that never get finished or published. You may have noticed I posted a video from Janet Hughes and a note on using CloudReady to bring an old laptop back to life.

The photo adorning this post was taken on my phone on the fens near The Wash at Gedney Drove End, near the RAF bombing practice site. Yep, it’s as bleak as it sounds. Beautiful in its way though.

The start to this year has been interesting, continuing the carnage from 2020. Having been in a ‘tier 4’ location before the festive break, the new lockdown barely affected me. I’m pretty used now to the limited world I inhabit.

Work has been challenging and the issues at Croydon are fairly well documented. Even people not existing in the bubble of local government are aware of it, so it must be bad. However, we keep on keeping on, making things a little bit better everyday whilst dealing with some of the more unpleasant cost-cutting measures that are being introduced.

One of the good things about lockdown is the sheer amount of cultural stuff I’ve been consuming. 2020 was a bit of a record in terms of book reading for me, 58 books read in total. In January 2021 I got through five, which is a good start:

  • Our Game, John Le Carré – classic Le Carré: middle aged bloke reads things and thinks. Gripping but I have no idea how he makes it so
  • An Introduction to English Poetry, James Fenton – a wonderful introduction to reading poetry, makes it all seem so simple
  • A Very British Coup, Chris Mullin – fast paced thriller, no Proust by any stretch but it rattles along
  • The Dancer at the Gai-Moulin, Georges Simenon – another brilliant Maigret (last year I started reading them in order – this is number 10 of 70 odd)
  • The Hatred of Poetry, Ben Lerner – interesting book length essay, the main thrust of which is that poems always fail because they aim so high

At least three of those are very short, you may notice, which certainly helps with the numbers. But it also helps with the flow – too many long reads one after the other does affect one’s motivation to read, I find. Also a weird mixture of thrillers and literary criticism. Hey ho!

Music-wise I have been utterly obsessed lately with Taylor Swift’s two albums from 2020, Folklore and Evermore. Have had them on almost permanent repeat for the last few months. Special mentions though to the re-release of the KLF’s better known tracks, and Four Tet’s Parallel.

Lockdown is also great for watching films. This month I saw some really good ones, most for the first time:

  • Synedoche, New York – absolutely baffling, I have watched so many YouTube videos explaining what this is all about, but I still am not really sure!
  • Frances Ha – nice, short, heartwarming and quirky
  • The Royal Tenembaums – I’ve never watched this all the way through before and I am pleased I put the time into doing so. Lots of whimsy but the time passed by very quickly and there were a fair few laugh out loud moments
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Overall I really liked it, had the feeling of everybody knowing what they were doing. I found the Damascene conversion of one character a little hard to take though.
  • Away We Go – slightly smug, somewhat whimsical, but fun overall
  • Burn Before Reading – a brilliant way to absolutely waste an hour and a half. A tale of idiocy in which nobody learns anything.

All in all, a decent start to the year on various fronts.