My mother came for dinner on Tuesday, as she was in London for one night to take a course on how to use her extremely fancy, capable, and complex new sewing machine.

I made some more progress on my mandolin banjo rebuild. I went down to the makerspace and sawed up a big plank of sapele that I’d had lying around into blocks with 22½° angles that will be glued together into a block rim. This should withstand the string tension better than my failed attempt using laminated ply. I hope.

I met a couple of university friends to celebrate two of our birthdays. We went to a new board games café near Waterloo. The table wasn’t ready at the time we’d booked, but in exchange for the short wait they gave us free churros and a round of drinks. We had some beer, chatted, and played a few games, starting with a couple of rounds of Jenga, both of which I won.

Poetry for Neanderthals (basic premise, Pictionary-style charades but you must describe the prompt using only one syllable words) was silly and fun, but I think you could play it without any of the equipment as long as you had a source of prompts. In fact, that might even be easier, as the game was full of American words and phrases that aren’t current here. A lot of my turns started with, “it Yank word, not use word here”.

The Mind is a sort of collaborative poker game that sounds impossible but turned out to be fun and intriguing.

At last, Henry Kissinger died. There aren’t many deaths that really deserve celebration, but when you’re talking about one of the great villains of our time, someone with a seven-figure body count, it’s appropriate to feel glad.

There was never any chance that Kissinger would be held to account for his crimes in the corporeal realm, but what his death has given us is the opportunity to learn a lot about people from the way they responded.

Rolling Stone managed the best headline in “Henry Kissinger, War Criminal Beloved by America’s Ruling Class, Finally Dies”, although Teen Vogue was a close second with the tersely informative “Henry Kissinger Was a War Criminal Responsible for Millions of Deaths”.

Rishi Sunak reported that he had “had the great pleasure of spending time with [Kissinger]” earlier in the year, while Tony Blair praised him as “an artist” of diplomacy. But a man who helped to organise on a flimsy pretext a war that killed hundreds of thousands of people was never going to focus on the deaths, was he?

We saw the RSC’s production of Hamnet at the Garrick Theatre on Friday. That’s not a typo: it’s based on Maggie O’Farrell’s novel of the same name, about Shakespeare’s only son.

The Garrick as a venue suffers from noise from the Underground trains passing below, and we were once disturbed by the obnoxious ringtone of a nearby audience member who spent a long time working out how to stop it. Apart from that, the play was engrossing despite its length. I appreciated the West Midlands accents: you don’t often hear that in London, and it made the Stratford setting credible.

On Saturday, we went to a sing-along screening of the Muppet Christmas Carol at the Prince Charles Cinema and followed it with dinner at Mildred’s in Covent Garden. The meal was excellent. The free birthday bottle of prosecco was welcome, but they forgot to remove it from the bill, and I paid before we realised, and to refund us they need to contact head office, so now we’re waiting for that.

I took up Chris’s spare ticket for Hainbach at Iklectik on Sunday evening.

A man leans over a table full of electronic music equipment. In the
foreground many tape loops hang on a microphone stand.

Hainbach and tape loops

The first piece was tuned to the resonance of the space, and it certainly found it. At one point, while breathing out, I could hear the interference between my own breath and the resonant pressure waves. I was glad that I had my gig earplugs to protect my ears.

The rest of the set was less intense, and I spent much of it with my eyes closed, just enjoying the immersive sound he built out of tape loops.

It’s a tragedy that we’ll be losing the venue at the end of the year.

The Christmas feast has begun. I have bought several vegan Christmas puddings from Lidl (nothing special about them, they’re just the regular Christmas puddings that are also clearly marked as vegan) and we’ve already finished off a few boxes of mince pies. I’ve bottled the foraged liqueurs I started in August – one made with blackberries in vodka, the other with mirabelles in brandy – and verified that both are delicious.


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