Weeknotes #15

My colleague Laura noticed a theme. Be it my interest in the failed brutalist architecture of Newcastle, my fears of Parliament burning down in tandem with the Queen dying and Britain leaving the EU, or choosing to spend a weekend in Margate, she wondered if I enjoyed revelling in the more melancholy aspects of life. She may be onto something — it would certainly explain last week’s note — but as I retorted, it’s always done with a wry smile. And with that in mind, here’s a (belated) grab bag of occurrences from the last week.


On Monday I caught up with Andy in the Basketmakers over a few beers to hear how he’s coping with being a new father — surprisingly well, it would seem. Our conversation invariably turned to that evening’s fire at Notre-Dame, for which I shared little of the heartache others were expressing (so much for revelling in melancholy). Perhaps it’s because ancient buildings like Notre-Dame have such storied histories that I saw this as just another chapter, albeit a tragic one. Even as the flames brought down the spire, for it not to be restored seemed unthinkable. With Macron offering the prize of a reimagined reconstruction to the usual glut of ego-driven architects, and with France’s well-to-do rushing to offer tax-deductible pledges to fund it, only now do my emotions stir.


Seven weeks into my contract with the DfE, and I’m starting to feel more confident with my understanding of the project and my place within the team. This week I agreed an extension to my contract that will take me up to the end of August, ushering in a welcome period of predictable employment. On Wednesday I presented our latest research findings at the fortnightly show and tell; my capacity for ad-libbing during presentations hasn’t dimmed.


For much of the week, I held back from engaging in the latest round of drama to take place on Twitter. What I wanted to say may have been interesting, but almost certainly unhelpful given the broader context. As mentioned previously, writing regular weeknotes has helped me withdraw from Twitter and sidestep its endless debates, relegating it to a place where I simply retweet funny dog videos. The system works.


Easter always has a habit of creeping up on me, and again I was without a plan for how to spend this four day public holiday and take advantage of the record-breaking, planet extinguishing weather. In the end, I opted to spend Friday in the garden, where I’m slowly making progress re-landscaping its meagre dimensions. Saturday saw me cross a few items off from my to-do list, including getting a beautiful Otl Aicher print from the 1972 Munich Olympic Games framed. I spent Sunday with my family in Carshalton, the sort of gathering that takes on greater significance since my parents and aunt have all suffered various trips and falls over the past few months.


Having watched In Bruges in Bruges, and Groundhog Day inspired series Russian Doll on Groundhog Day, on Good Friday I watched The Long Good Friday. Featuring a host of familiar British actors, not least Derek ‘Charlie from Casualty’ Thompson in a supporting role, I lapped up every moment of this gangster film. Its plot – with references to Britain’s membership of the EEC and Irish terrorism – remains remarkably contemporary. The penultimate scene is especially on point.

I also streamed After Life. Having listened to Chris and Rifa talk about the series on their excellent Refigure podcast, I found myself in a position similar to Chris, expecting to hate it. But, aside from its chocolate-box depiction of England and a few overly saccharine moments, I came to the conclusion that this might be Gervais’ finest work since The Office. As vehicles for his opinions go, it’s surprisingly thoughtful.

Just after I published my previous note last Sunday, I sat down to watch Bros: After the Screaming Stops. Described as “Spinal Tap by way of Smash Hits”, the unintentional hilarity of this documentary was just the tonic; the perfect means of expunging the malignant melancholy of Margate.