5 December 2021

It’s been a week. Just imagine that! We had a few days away at the end of the previous week and have spent most of the rest of the time trying to keep warm. My goodness it’s been cold!

We had our first batch of snow at the beginning of the week. It snowed on Sunday through Monday morning and then again on Wednesday night/Thursday morning, all courtesy of Storm Arwen. Thankfully, we’ve had but a mere smattering. As usual, it’s Scotland and the North which got hammered. Lots and lots of snow and exceedingly high winds which brought down power lines and left thousands with no power for almost a week. Pity the poor punters who got snowed in at the Tan Hill Inn in North Yorkshire over the weekend. They had turned up to see/hear an Oasis tribute band and ended up getting stuck for three nights. At first glance it might seem enjoyable to be stuck in a pub for three nights. But, stuck for three nights with an Oasis tribute band? Or is that just me?

We spent the end of the previous week with friends on the south coast. On Thursday night we all trotted off to see Miriam Margolyes’ “show” at the Dome in Brighton. She is currently on a tour promoting her new book This Much is True and on this occasion was in “conversation” with Jo Brand. It was not quite what we had anticipated but very enjoyable nonetheless. During the course of the evening we learned, amongst other things, that Miriam posed nude at the age of 17 (or 19 – it depends on the source) for Augustus John with her mother’s permission and encouragement. With apologies for the lengthy extract:

Having already had some experience of life modelling for students at the Ruskin (she grew up in Oxford), the teenage Margolyes looked up John’s address and wrote to him, offering her (free) services as a model. A few days later John’s wife Dorelia was on the phone, and managed to charm Margolyes’ mother into letting her daughter pose nude for the artist. When the day came at Fordingbridge in Hampshire, Margolyes recounts: ‘Augustus John came to the door and opened it. He was smoking a pipe, and he was tall and imposing with that full white beard and the shock of straggling snow-white hair I remembered from the television. He wore what I used to call dungarees – it was a boiler suit made out of denim – and he had a little, dark, flat cap like a beret on his head.’ Margolyes was given bread and jam by Dorelia in the kitchen, and when John saw her admiring a painting on the wall, he said: ‘My sister Gwen painted that, and one day people will come to realise she was a much better painter than I am.’

In John’s modernist studio – ‘Like the house, it was higgledy-piggledy and not at all tidy’ – the artist wasted no time: ‘I’m doing a study of bathers by the sea. You might as well take your clothes off now.’ And, having practised the swift removal of her polka-dot dress in her bedroom beforehand, Margolyes obliged without fuss, before being put to work clambering up and down a ladder and striking other poses ‘for a couple of hours’. ‘He didn’t talk much when he was drawing as he was concentrating, but he was always avuncular, like a humorous uncle, gentle and so sweet. It was a wonderful experience and I cherish it.’

But, true to form, Margolyes doesn’t leave it there: ‘I’m not sure that I shouldn’t be insulted that he didn’t attempt at least a quick grope, or whether it was Dorelia’s watchful eye that ruled out any unseemly advances, because I later discovered that Augustus John’s insatiable sexual appetite had allegedly resulted in his fathering up to one hundred offspring. Supposedly, whenever he walked down the Kings’ Road in Chelsea, he would pat any passing ragamuffin on the head “in case it’s one of mine”.’
Apollo Magazine

It’s always good to get away for a bit and spend quality time with good friends. I would heartily recommend it.

My relentless (virtual) slog along Route 66 continues apace. I am sure glad that this is a virtual tour rather than the real McCoy. Imagine cycling across the Texas panhandle into the teeth of an incessant wind with, at this time of year, snow flurries.

This week’s highlight was a visit to the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas. Why not?

And, as it happens, the Cadillac Ranch also happens to be almost exactly the half way point on my trek – 1142 miles down, a mere 1143 miles to go. Looks like I will cycle up to Santa Monica pier in about five months time.

I was disappointed this week to miss an opportunity to visit with another dear friend, a school mate from California who was in London for a few days. We had tentatively arranged to catch lunch at Wahaca, our “go to” restaurant in London. However, the sudden and ominous arrival of the Omicron coronavirus variant in the UK meant that he decided to cut his trip short and fly back to the States before we could get together. I can fully understand his decision – imagine being stuck in the UK if the variant created travel problems. Nightmare! That visit to Wahaca will have to wait for his next trip.

The arrival of the Omicron variant has certainly put the cat amongst the pigeons within the government. They announced that masks would (finally) become compulsory again on public transport and in shops but not, apparently, in the House of Commons where so many on the Conservative side choose not to offer even a modest degree of protection to their fellow MPs. Nor in any other contexts.

According to the measures introduced by this government, coronavirus seemingly only spreads in shops and on public transport and also only amongst people who do not know one another. So, no need to cancel or cut back on any Christmas parties and certainly no need to wear a mask whilst jumping about on a hot, sweaty, crowded dance floor or in other entertainment venues. And, of course, no need to “prove” that you’ve been vaccinated before being allowed in.

I read an article in the Guardian some days ago about a world-wide study collating all the available data which concluded that mask wearing reduced the incidence of new coronavirus cases by 53%.

Mask-wearing is the single most effective public health measure at tackling Covid, according to the first global study of its kind, which found that the measure was linked to a 53% fall in the incidence of the disease.

The Guardian

By that reckoning one could estimate that about half of the 15,000 who have died since “Freedom Day” (when the government abandoned all Covid restrictions including compulsory mask wearing) might still be alive today. But, according to Boris, that’s a price worth paying, I guess. Needless to say, our idiot MP is one who regularly chooses not to wear a mask when in the House of Commons. And our Prime Minister, the leader of the nation, can’t seem to take his mask off quickly enough whenever the thinks no one is watching. Apparently, he attended the theatre the other night and took his mask off as soon as the lights went down.

Not surprisingly, the government’s main strategy is to accelerate the booster programme largely because it generates good soundbites on the evening news. As if that will solve everything and keep the country safe. It’s a great idea – getting more people jabbed in as short a time as possible. But, even at the breakneck speed the government is “promising” (with a knackered and exhausted NHS carrying out the programme) it will be the middle of February before most people are protected. Sadly, the Omicron variant is with us now. So, why not introduce a few other measures now? Nope, that would infringe our freedom to do what we like so tens of thousands more will probably die unnecessarily.

You could not make it up.

Meanwhile, keep happy, keep smiling, keep isolating as much as you can, wear a f**king facemask when you go out and keep your distance. And keep safe.

Lots of love to you all,

Greg

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