This is my obligatory public service announcement that I’ve now had my second dose of the Covid-19 vaccination. Whoop! Go me/science/go-away pandemic.
And, because I’m also that kind of person, I used it as an excuse to post a number of letters on the way home. That’s right, I’m so productive!
I spent the vaccination part of my appointment talking to the nurse about my fabulous taste in dresses (best two minutes of any girl’s life) and the fifteen minutes wait time afterwards reading a book. I could have taken a photo of either one of these two activities but it really wasn’t that exciting. Posting letters in a pillar box, that was more exciting.
In short, the process to get both my vaccines was so laid back, it was virtually horizontal. All super friendly people, with big smiles and even bigger bottles of hand sanitiser.
I’m not going to get overly-preachy, but I’d highly encourage anyone to get jabbed (*if it’s something that’s offered to you and something you can medically take).
Still unsure? Browse information published on medically recognised websites, log onto your national health webpages (in the UK, anything endorsed by the NHS), talk to medicine women/men. Don’t listen to idiotic turnips, the ones who own little more in the technical department than a cheap keyboard and have way too much time on their hands to write whacky blogs (oh, wait…)
Anyway, this is my little bit to inform people that yes, I’ve had my second dose of the Covid vaccine and yes, that does mean 14 days from now there’s a heightened risk that I’ll start running around and hugging people for no apparent reason. Also, I may start crying. No reason, I just might.
You have been warned.
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It’s not often I hop onto my soapbox, least of all on anything bordering on political. That’s not what 99% of you guys came here for, to be quite honest it’s not really what I came here for. However it has now reached a stage where I cannot sit here in good faith and say nothing.
Back in March 2020, at the start of the first UK wide lockdown, all museums and attractions across England were forced to close. This included Swindon Museum and Art Gallery (SMAG), a small site located in the heart of the town’s oldest district. Like all respecting patrons of art and culture institutions up and down the country, I fully supported this government-enforced directive.
On the ending of the first lockdown in Summer 2020, Swindon Borough Council refused to reopen SMAG. While other heritage sites reopened their doors, awash with safety posters and guidance on basic handwashing, the chains around SMAG’s grand entranceway continued to rust with dejection. Now, in August 2021, dejection has slipped into acceptance, the rust into rot. It feels like culture was never here at all.
Throughout the assorted protests and disjointed cries from local residents, the council has strongly defended their decision, stating this move is only intended as a short-term measure. Other rumours speculate Covid being used as a thin veil of scapegoating the closure on underlying problems the council had been failing to redress for years, including low footfall, costly repairs and accessibility issues. This, and the proposed £33,000 per year saving it would make to the local budget, at a time when the council needs to urgently balance the books.
For the years I have lived in Swindon, I openly admit to being less that a frequent visitor to SMAG. In fact, one of the few visitations I made was on a first date with my (now) ex boyfriend, which dates it very well. It was a long time ago.
But, on the few times I went, I enjoyed it. Aside from the unchanging artefact exhibits (complete with the much-loved “Apsley the Croc”), there was also an extensive art collection which went through frequent rotations. I was never a fan of the 1960s extension, bolted on in the 1960s, but as far as the contents was concerned I respected and enjoyed the contents for what they offered. Only in hindsight do I realise how little I fully appreciated what we had; now it’s gone.
In some ways the council’s decision to close SMAG is predictable. For years, concern was tempered with optimism over plans to relocate the museum to a newly constructed “Cultural Quarter”, proposed as part of a 2019 bid for Heritage Lottery Funding. Housed closer to the train station, the site would also contain a digital media centre, dance studio, and an expanded 1200-seat Wyvern Theatre. It was estimated to cost £80 million to build, create up to 1200 jobs and pump in an estimated £35 million into the local economy. Sadly, this bid proved to be unsuccessful.
At the time of writing (August 2021), all capital investment projects are on hold. Headlines will often cite the pandemic as the main reason, however the pessimist in me would also cite that by the council’s own omission, work on constructing the theatre alone wasn’t due to start until 2025. In other words, this project was always going to be a slow burner.
During the course of writing this article, I’ve discovered Swindon Borough Council are now considering different options, including having an “Art Pavilion”, and/or touring Art and collections in pop-up spaces, in a format being referred to as “Museums Without Walls”. Citing the museum elsewhere is also being considered. But these conversations are incredibly early in the process, and this response is quite possibly driven by community action by the Friends Swindon Museum and Art Gallery group (and local news coverage). Where the preservation of Arts and Culture is concerned, it shouldn’t take a group of people shouting and screaming to force the hand of local government. When the justification reads as “temporary closure, due to Covid”, was the expectation that we’d all forget? That we wouldn’t care?
Why does it matter?
I get it, not everyone is big into History; not everyone enjoys stuffy old exhibits and random bits of art. And that’s absolutely fine. But here’s the thing, when you’re sat in a boxy little room, planning ahead for the future, it becomes increasingly harder to pitch your town as being a “place to be”, “up and coming” or a “desirable” if with the other hand, you’re eroding the cultural bedrock on which it stands.
It’s why most towns in the UK will have a heritage centre of some size. It celebrates and brings communities together or, to be a bit more cold-hearted, it adds to the sales pitch. “Move to Swindon, we have…houses”, it doesn’t quite butter the parsnips.
Yes, the museum had a small footfall and yes, there were many areas in which it was crying out for improvement, but we’ve slept-walked into losing another thing that celebrated this town for what it was. With it, and an increasing trend of young professionals adopting WFB (Work From Bedroom) jobs, I fear we’ll start losing the point of why any of us are here at all.
So, where does this place the arts and culture in this sprawling town? It seems the future is set to remain uncertain indefinitely. And this post only relates to one type of cultural attraction; novels could be written of the erosion of a good deal of other services (libraries, community groups etc) in the years leading up to 2020.
In light of all this, I have only one thing to ask of the local council; don’t use Covid-19 as an excuse for a move that can only be described as closure culture. Because, at the end of the day, I think we’re all smarter than that, don’t you?
There is more to the humble spam folder than missed opportunities and utter junk. Exactly, there’s missed junk opportunities!
Ladies and gentleman, may I kindly introduce to you this email…
I admit, it’s not the easiest to read on the photo. Let me detail it below:
HiAeb I am glad to know your demand for the tissue market. We have specialized in providing customized tissues for more than 8 years, and have provided sources of supply for many domestic companies. We are eager to expand channels and we are eager to cooperate with you. Samples will be sent to you for evaluation. Thanks, and best wishes
Ms Luo (General Manager) Chengdu Dixuan Trading Company
I know! Cutomized tissue paper?! Where have these opportunities been in my life? In my spam folder, that’s where!
Oh my, I think I’m getting giddy with all the possibilities. “Expanding my channels” – I can see it now, my face in toilet cubicles up and down the country. No, not the country, THE WORLD!!
I’ll be quite honest with you, I can’t think of anything much better.
Or, I could do as my email provider recommends and just delete the email, or, do nothing and let my email provider automatically delete it for me. (I’ll let you guess which I ended up doing.)
And people say I excited over nothing…oh hey, a shiny bit of foil blowing down the street!
Back when I was living in London I had the absolute pleasure of attending the Tate Modern’s critically appraised exhibition Picasso 1932: Love, Fame, Tragedy. It ran between 8th March – 9th September 2018.
I didn’t attend “1932…” until late on, days before it was due to close. Why? Because I’ll be honest, Picasso had never really been my bag. I appreciated his reputation and there’s no denying Guernica is a masterpiece of political demonstration, but otherwise I just saw the man as someone who took a lot of credit for not a lot.
Don’t shoot me.
In the end, it was a little voice inside my head that urged me to go, that I’d only regret it if I didn’t. (Also, because at the time I could get in for £5. Minor detail.)
I’m so very glad I went. For one, turns out the man is just as trigger happy on the paint brushes as I am on my blog. In one year he produced over 100 works of art (mostly of his mistress). Secondly, some of his work isn’t too shabby.
Don’t get me wrong, I still had questions. Most of my secondary school art projects were on par with Yellow Belt.
And yet God knows, you never saw my Art teacher praising me as the Second Coming. I took a snapshot and sent it to my Mum, she still insisted I keep the day job.
So what has all this got to do with socks? Well, sometime after the exhibition I was browsing the wonderful world of Far Eastern shopping when I came across some socks printed with the iconic painting The Dream.
I’ll spare you my cobble-dash description on this painting but yep, the way he painted the face is intentional (classic playboy Picasso). More information here.
Short story, shorter, I found a pair of socks online depicting this masterpiece (or, as the sellers called them, “style #3 sleeping lady”). Don’t ask how or why, it’ll be easier for us both. Neither did I enquire as to the copyright, given the same people were also selling “magic man” socks of Jesus.
12 million months later my socks arrived, looking something like this:
First observation – no way in hell were these made for a ladies foot-size 5 (EU 38). Definitely men’s socks. But still, the print detailing was alright and the image had been flipped. Without disclosing the price, (*cough* 99p), you get what you pay for.
I couldn’t wait to try them on.
Then I looked down…
Because the socks were bigger in size than expected, I’d had to pull them up higher, and because my calves are the size of tree trunks, the print was stretched-out even more.
Far from looking mellowed after a bit of artist lovin’, Marie looks genuinely pained from having her face stretched to that of a horse. And let’s not even go there with where that places Picasso’s perceived manhood.
I’m still gonna wear them though. I mean, Picasso socks! How cool is that?!
Minding my own business on emails (aka clearing out my junk folder, because, you know, what else is there to do right now?)
Anyway, I was doing that when something on the side bar caught my eye. This, the side bar which is always filled by random advertisements. For example, I’ve been invited to take out over 50s life insurance for far too long…a product of my enjoyment of Classic FM perhaps; other times it’s linked to the websites I’ve been loitering on.
Amazon, eBay, that Scientology website I once browsed at stupid o’clock. Even if the targeted adverts are sometimes questionable, it’s rare I look at these and go “where the Hell did that come from?” I’ve yet to take out the insurance, and last time I checked I hadn’t joined a cult…I think…
Right, so, what’s the point of all this preamble, you say? Well, despite all of the above, one day I got this in the side bar:
No, that’s it. Nothing more below, save the rest of the boot-shoe.
First off, how are any of these items linked? Hosiery/half a mannequin (I’ll be honest, I don’t know which it is), a balaclava and two types of shoe? It’s honestly the most mixed-up selection of clothing items one could buy, let alone for a lockdown fatkins like me.
Secondly, and probably the bigger question I should be asking, WHY AM I GETTING THIS?
I’m a lazy sod who hasn’t had a need for football boots since I played hockey for the school team in 2009. Plus, I couldn’t give a rat’s patootie what my rat’s patootie looks like. (I’ve just revisited that image, it looks like shapewear in the first thumbnail.)
Ain’t no shapewear containing this level of awesome!
So, the million cent question, did I click on the link to learn more, or possibly even purchase some of these dazzling products?
Am I however now racing to go back through all my browsing history and clearing out the tracking cookies. It has lead me to wonder though, have I been hacked by the Scientologists?
I mean, it would certainly explain the randomness of items (can you understand a word he’s saying?)
Also, Tom Cruise.
(I think I’m going to like inserting this sound effect into my work very much.)
This post is dedicated to my lovely little sister, Bubba B.
It’s also dedicated to my old photo achieves I’ve been trawling through with zero regard to common decency. She let me take these photographs, she knew what she was signing herself up to five/six years later.
(At least that’s what my lawyers will say.)
*Cough* anyway, here we go.
My Sister, On…
My Sister, On…Contemporary Art
My Sister, On…Prehistory
(My Sister, On…World Domination of Prehistory)
My Sister, On…Geology
India On…Hipster Coffee
My Sister, On…Making Friends
My Sister, On…Interior Design
My Sister, On…Cultural Portrayals of the Female Body
My Sister, On…Wine Tasting
My Sister, On…Home Removals
My Sister, On…Interpretive Dance
My Sister, On…Travel
My Sister, On…Motivational Talks
(And finally – for now) My Sister, On…Questionable Photography
There you have it! Stay awesome, sister of the sea.
(PS, because no one is perfect…)
Yeah, I’ve no idea either.
(There may be an “Alice On…” sequel, or two, coming soon.)
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“The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there” – L.P. Hartley
A year ago today, I returned from a London city break and published my first post. I’d spent a year living in the UK capital, so for me it marked a refresh of the best bits of city-living, including art galleries, theatre performances and catching up with old friends.
Days after my return I was left encumbered, battling a mystery illness. Those following weeks I pressed on the best I could, putting it down as another one of those viruses which circulate in densely populated environments. A year later I’m no closer knowing what struck me down; we all have our theories.
Back then, my friends and I had whimsically noted the high-adoption of face coverings being worn by the predominantly Asian tourist base. We mused on the foreign illness that was gripping other continents, but to comprehend the possibility that our own country could already be rife with disease was a step too far. We were better than that, we were British. Instead, we continued to pack ourselves into dense sweats to watch live music, feasted in noisy restaurants and embraced fondly.
If only we’d known.
So, with perhaps a naively romanticised view of what were truly the last days of normality (late January 2020), here are all four parts of London Recalling.