June 28-30: Doctor Fischer, Strunz, Boris Effect


Friday, June 28

A frustrating day.

Having walked the dog, I return to yesterday’s gentle rewrites in order to quickly finesse the changes prior to attacking the main body of work with gusto. Fatal mistake. I find myself embroiled in a life-or-death struggle with an explanatory paragraph, and the next thing I know it is time to walk the dog again.

Finish Doctor Fischer of Geneva, which I picked up for washers at a charity book stall at Carlisle railway station to make me look intellectual on the train journey to London last month. I read somewhere that Graham Greene wrote no more than 500 words a day, which means it must have taken him about three weeks to finish this particular novella. I have to admit, I’m surprised it took him so long. Check online to see if anyone else thinks it’s a load of old tosh, but find it is universally praised as a work of allegorical genius and they also made a film out of it.

Take a deep breath and finally start Grossman’s Life and Fate – which by my calculations would have taken Graham Greene over two and a half years to write. The lengthy introduction alone would have taken him at least a month.  The last book I really enjoyed was Don Winslow’s The Border.


Saturday, June 29

Three seasons into the Gomorrah binge and the effects are beginning to show. This morning I purchase an Italian-style stove-top espresso maker on Amazon, then later a driver pulls out in front of me without looking and I call him “Strunz”. Had it been season four, I may well have emptied a clip through his windscreen and spat on his twitching corpse.

Attempt to absolve my sinfulness with 30 miles on the bike in punishing heat and up some vertiginous hills, while listening to 13 Minutes To The Moon, Kevin Fong’s gripping audio series about the Apollo 11 landing 50 years ago. The average age of the mission control team was 25, which is only a year older than the average age of this year’s Love Island contestants.

Back on Earth the photos from Thursday’s shoot have dropped, and it’s worse than I thought.


Sunday, June 30

Rebecca Long-Bailey: Bojo antidote?

Rip through the increasingly dire Sunday Times in record time.  Do it again, but there is nothing that catches my attention. Indeed many of the stories in the main body of the paper are simply digested rewrites of interviews in the magazine, and the star columnists – Rod Liddle, Camilla Long, Jeremy Clarkson – all sound the same. Maybe I’m getting old, but if it wasn’t for the sport and the Culture section, and the fact I’ve got a subscription, I might not bother.

That said, yesterday’s Times had  an entertainingly scurrilous spread about Corbyn – he’s losing his marbles, he is a puppet of his Stalinesque apparatchiks etc – and  surprisingly today’s Observer has it in for Magic Grandpa as well. A front page report claims even some of his most loyal front benchers have had it with his alleged antisemitism and his dithering.

This is clearly the Boris Effect. Labour fears that if Johnson becomes PM, he will sweep to victory in a General Election. But who will replace Corbyn? The smart money appears to be on Rebecca Long-Bailey, who is currently Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. On the few occasions I have seen her, she strikes me as a rather earnest and humourless individual – the polar opposite of Bojo, which is perhaps the point.

To bed with Grossman, and realise that Glastonbury has passed me by again this year.



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