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w/e 2023-05-14

I’m visiting my folks in Essex, and arrived a day earlier than planned because of two days of train strikes. In theory I was supposed to buy new (expensive) tickets for my day of travel and get a refund on my unused (relatively inexpensive) Advance tickets, which seems like a good wheeze for GWR. But I chanced it with my original tickets and all the ticket gate controllers and ticket inspectors either didn’t care (“It’s not your fault”) or barely even glanced at the phone I waved at them. Ha ha, up the workers!

A photo of a bar on the corner of a street, with walls of tall, narrow windows either side of a blue wooden door. The name Bruff is above the door.
The bar, presumably named after Bruff Terrace, presumably named after Peter Bruff

I popped to Walton-on-the-Naze today which has two new swish vintage clothes shops, a new “sustainable” 50% plant-based restaurant, and a new cocktail bar that, Googling informs me, hosts monthly poetry nights.

This feels like the closest I’ve seen it get a bit gentrified in my whole life of visiting. Who knows if it’ll last – making a living in a sadly declined seaside town must be very, very tough – but it’s nice to see new life.

§ On the recommendation of James A. Reeves, at his excellent blog Atlas Minor, I read James Bachelder’s The Throwback Special which I really enjoyed. Wonderfully written. I won’t go into it in detail because Reeves writes about it better than I would, and Matt Bell – from whom Reeves heard about the book – writes lots more, including:

It is about [American] football—or at least one particular football play—but it’s also about masculinity, about aging and nostalgia, about marriage and parenthood, about all the many small indignities and absurdities of being a person in the middle of your life, with your middle-of-life job and family, your middle-of-life body and mind. It is also not a particularly plotty novel.

Which is true – very little happens but it was absorbing. I found it hard to keep a lot of the many men distinct, and I wanted to know a lot more about them. But doing that would have made it a different novel.

I also remember the moment from 1985 that is the origin of the book’s events – the breaking of Joe Theismann’s leg in a football game. Despite not screening the game live, Channel 4 and the NFL must have decided the footage should be kept in the highlights package and so the vivid moment of Theismann’s leg bending in a very wrong way has lived in my head ever since.

But you definitely don’t need to have that image to enjoy the book.

§ I watched Eurovision, bailing before the voting, and was relieved there was still some social media chatter about it – I wouldn’t bother watching otherwise because I don’t even like any of the music ironically. But sharing a few funny messages with friends elsewhere makes it a worthwhile ridiculous event.

I feared that the decline of Twitter meant there’d be no chat, but enough of my Mastodon friends were watching so I was still able to waste a couple of hours. I had a brief look at Twitter and there were a few friends still using that for #eurovision, but a bit less. Nothing on Bluesky, which I assume is pronounced Bloo-skee.

§ I was reminded by Matt Sheret’s April Things that we’d never got round to watching the two Stewart Lee specials on iPlayer. So this week we did that and they were good. That’s it. Thanks Matt!

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