622

For 60 years, Spain was  Europe and South America’s unofficial “baby supermarket”. The extent of the cover up is mind-blowing: perhaps as many as 30,000 babies were stolen during Franco’s dictatorship, often taken from single, left-leaning mothers, placed with families supportive of the regime.

621

I want a Tardis to travel back to the street where I grew up. In the Sixties, the World’s End was poor, rough, bohemian, the unimaginably hip epicentre of a cultural revolution, a heady mix of mini skirts, beehives, eye liner, high boots, afghan coats and boutiques with names like Granny Takes a Trip

620

Back then, you could buy a lion cub from Harrod’s Exotic Pet department and people did, driving it around in a open top Bentley.   A woman in furs coat took her pet leopard for walks.  I was too young to take it in – the 60s swung right over my head.

619

All those wars to liberate from tyranny, yet recent elections appear to say people no longer want democracy.  Families can be ripped apart, minorities oppressed, opponents jailed, fake news proliferates and “elected” dictators give themselves unlimited powers.  No wonder I disappear into a world of writing and art. 

618

When my older boy was a baby there were billboards along the freeway: “DNA testing? Call 0800….”  and then, aged 9 months, he covered himself in chocolate ice cream and his dad said “DNA testing? No need.”  He’s Scots, with Italian eyebrows but apparently people often asked if he’s Russian. I’m wondering what a DNA test might reveal.

617

Art and colour, great food and quirkiness in abundance: I had lunch at the Ham and Yard and was still there 7 hours later.  Not cheap, but seriously fun. The waiters’ ties picture the owner in a hammock, there’s a bowling alley and libraries rich with read-me! take-me-off-the-shelf! delights.

616

Dumas said all generalisations are dangerous (including this one), but after more than a decade, I’ll generalise that France is a fundamentally reactionary country where thinking experimentally, taking a novel approach, or coaxing people out of comfort zones is met with stiff resistance.  There’s so much to admire, and much to infuriate.

615

I haven’t been to the pictures for ages & broke my fast with a piece formulaic schmalz shot on beautiful location. I kick myself for welling up at something so predictable, fall (as ever) for the period knitwear and wish, yet again, that Penelope Wilton was my mum.

614

Summer means Jazz and Lee Morgan’s The Sidewinder fills the air.  Strawberries and fresh market salad ingredients colour the table in a kitchen filled with light.   A blackbird sings in a garden beyond ours. I have an afternoon ahead of gardening, illustration, walking up into the vineyards and writing. 

613

Weed whacking the wilderness out back, something bit me. My swollen leg is painful. Fearing the worst (& being irrationally neurotic about Lymes’ disease), I Google bites & learn female horseflies need blood to produce eggs.  Their jagged teeth slice open the skin and release an anti-coagulant to stop the blood from clotting.

612

Once I taught improv to French Engineers, now it’s “Transmedia”.  Setting out (tongue-in-cheek) to prove that everything’s connected, I charted a path of references to Hamlet in popular culture, through Stars Trek & Wars, Sesame Street, Dr Who, the Simpsons, Bollywood, cigar ads, a postage stamp, Calvin and Hobbs and Disney.

611

As my younger son leaves school with a report and grades worth framing, I take solace in the face that Einstein’s teachers thought him mentally retarded and Thomas Edison’s thought him too stupid to learn anything.  Carey Mulligan was rejected from every drama school she applied to. There is hope ..!

610

Ireland’s Leo Vandakar said, We voted for the 200,000 Irish women who have travelled to Britain since 1983 to end their pregnancies. We have voted to look reality in the eye and we did not blink.  We have voted to provide compassion where there was once a cold shoulder, and to offer medical care where once we turned a blind eye.

609

Toulouse, midnight. A homeless guy in the rain, barefoot, barelegged, a bearded naive with John Lennon glasses looking confused.  He’s a long way from home and so lost. Spaced out.  I go to an ATM and withdraw cash.  Touched, he in turn gives me a freebie magazine.

608

The neighbour on one side  says my raised beds look like the local tip: “That’s not how you garden. It shows a lack of respect for the neighbours.”  She can only see them if she stands on her drive and peers over the fence.  Could she not chose to feast her eyes on the poppies, peonies, tulips, roses, purple-flowering sage & fruit trees in bloom??

607

I found these notes: What leads to success? Driven by passion; do it for love, not for money; be good at what you do (i.e. practise); focus on one thing; push yourself physically mentally. Don’t give up.  Be a dreamer. Listen, observe, be curious, ask questions, solve problems, make connections. S – are you listening??

606

Cambridge Analytica claims it played a major role in Brexit and Trump’s electoral campaign.  Dyslexic, ADHD, Christopher Wylie left school at 16 without a single qualification. He calls himself the gay Canadian vegan who somehow ended up creating “Steve Bannon’s psychological warfare mindfuck tool”.

605

The veggie restaurant Food for Thought is another victim of London rent hikes. It was full of character – the chef had been there for 40 years & a potwasher married the Littlewood’s heiress he’d met at yoga. Old Covent Garden!  Full of oddballs, specialist craftsmen and Greasy Spoons were theatre hands ate between shows.  To stay in Neal Street, FfT would have had to raise the price of a meal from £5.50 to £9.50.

604

Hiraeth: nostalgia for a place you cannot return to, a place that no longer exists, that perhaps never did exist; a longing, a yearning, a wistfulness; a grief, or sadness for someone, something lost, departed; a Welsh word with no English equivalent, the soul’s longing….

603

Crossing America in the C19th, Robert Louis Stevenson observed that his fellow passengers – emigrants – were hardly brave seekers of the golden land of democracy and equality, but largely life’s failures, despicably racist. Some were fugitives. “The more I saw of my fellow passengers,” he wrote, “the less I was tempted to the lyric note”.