A few shambling notions for New Year’s Eve…

It’s always an odd day, a hinge between what’s gone and what’s to come. Often there is a party with friends, but that idea shrivelled in uncertainty this year. There is a walk instead, Covid tests permitting, as WhatsApp messages ping-pong back and forth with tales of possible scares. Sharing lifts has been ruled out, fresh air ruled in. As for tonight, that’ll just be a musical threesome with Jools Holland.

Here are those shambling notions…

You always hope things will change, then sit back and watch the box set as they don’t. One thing that hasn’t changed is that Boris Johnson is still prime minister: still on holiday while pretending not to be. Still trying to play the loveable clown (editor’s note: are you sure about that?) with silly mussed-up hair and patter as stale as the jokes from last year’s Christmas crackers, mock-Latin edition.

And yet with every event-shunted day he looks more tragic than comical, as if haunted by a gnawing awareness of his own failings while trying to keep up the act.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to The Great British Fake-Off in which our hero (editor’s note: see last note) attempts to cook a post-Brexit mid-pandemic porkies pie while hearing over his shoulder the sound of knives being sharpened.

That’s almost enough of him. And, yes, it is an unhealthy obsession, but there you go. Here is something else. Did you know that Johnson now employs three vanity photographers, paid for by you and me to make him look good or to distract us with snaps of his dog?

A couple of days before Christmas, The Times explained that its policy was “to use such images as sparingly as possible” and to signal their dodgy provenance with the caption “supplied by No 10 official photographer”. It said that the “proliferation of staged images from Downing Street is disquieting”, and so it is.

Let’s give a shout-out to real photographers taking real photographs.

Turning away from what might bring us down, here is something genuinely uplifting. And, no, it’s not creepy Dominic Raab taking chocolates to NHS staff. And, no again, it’s not any number of Tory MPs ‘celebrating’ their local food bank with picture opportunities, gruesomely highlighting the very poverty they have helped to bring about.

Teacher and charity founder Bex Wilson

Teacher and charity founder Bex Wilson (Picture: BBC)

This instead is the story of the Leeds primary teacher Bex Wilson, who was shocked to discover  the reason why a six-year-old boy in her class was always tired.

You may have seen Bex on BBC Look North. She has also just been featured on BBC Breakfast, where she said of that boy: “He was unusually irritated and had been short with one of his friends, I just kept him behind at the end and said, ‘What’s going on? I feel like you’re tired this morning’ and he said, ‘I’m always tired Miss, I don’t have a bed’.”

Instead of sitting back and thinking that’s awful, Bex got that boy a mattress. And from that one act of practical kindness has grown her charity Zarach, which provides beds and furniture to poverty-stricken children in Leeds and elsewhere.

On BBC Look North she has also been seen delivering food parcels to families.

Some people are remarkable, aren’t they? And some people sit typing at the back of the room because that’s all they know. Sometimes it’s possible to worry you should be the one and not the other.

Still, no resolutions from me as I don’t believe in them. And no giving up alcohol for January either, as that was last’s year punishment. I’ll be sticking to steady as she goes, a drink or two here and there, then no drinks for a short spell.

Talking of drinking, here’s a cautionary headline…

Happy New Year and all that.



  1. Julian, you may remember me because we were both on the same English course at Goldsmiths. I was delighted to find your blog, not least because you have always made sane comments in an increasingly insane world. Apart from your acute observations on Johnson and his ghastly party, I particularly wanted to thank you for highlighting Bex Wilson’s efforts which I would have been unaware of. I volunteer for a food bank and each week see people experiencing insuperable difficulties in breaking out of poverty. But I also see people willing to help. We had a donation from a young man of 17 who is on the autistic spectrum. During the early days of the pandemic, he spent his time creating and selling face masks, the money from which he donated to the NHS and food charities like ours. He gave us £700. This kind of selfless action needs to be highlighted whenever it happens. Please keep up the good work. Oh and your blogs are often very funny!. Neil

    • Thank you Neil. How nice to hear a voice from a long way back. And, yes, the work Bex Wilson does is remarkable. Hope you are well and surviving life and all that.

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