portrait of this blog's author - by Stephen Blackman 2008

Thursday, December 31, 2020




Dr. Joseph Varon hugs and comforts a patient in the COVID-19 intensive-care unit during Thanksgiving at the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas, on November 26, 2020. In the past year, more than 67 million people worldwide have been infected by the new coronavirus, and more than 1.5 million of them have died, taking unimaginable tolls on health-care workers, families, and so many more

So my new hobby is collecting action figures

It was no question a weird year and the Pandemic has thus far infected 65 million people globally and killed 1.5 million of them  (us). . . . . . . . . 

Not least the opportunities granted to the privileged few

By March 2020 we were already making fun of the reactions to a global pandemic

We began to notice that the first world wasn't managing things well and the USA and UK began achieving record highs in infections and death rates.

We were all advised to wear masks which some took more seriously than others . . . . 
 . . . . . . until people started to die

and we began to notice why the death rate was so high . . . . . the snag with the freedom of choice attitude is that it DOESN'T WORK and like Measles in the UK refusing to inoculate ultimately starts to kill other people. If you don't get the science you are cause of the spread and becoming super spreaders rather than having your rights abused

and despite a keeness to applaud we didn't care enough to ensure the NHS nurses pay was duly recompensed as the public would wish it
Clapping was never going to be enough . . . . . . . but the Government whilst accepting their own pay award ensured the medical staffs had a pay increase in no such similar way, falling in the face of public opinion no doubt

Even though the plain facts were staring us in the face . . . . . literally

Superstar support often backfired and humour got darker . . As Gal Godot and pals went viral on social media to sing a song, who wrote it SEEMED to be lost on some (they sang John Lennon's 'Imagine' in support of care staff and Doctors and Nurses)

This was a shame as it tended to overshadow some of the facts around what was really going on behind the scenes 

What I began to find unbearably stressful and unforgivable was the changing in lock down requirements as it applied to small people and how they were meant to adjust to it and even my granddaughter aged three began to show concern over who was safe against the virus. Not being allowed and then being allowed to visit, care bubbles, and numbers allowed to visit confused this 67 year old let alone a three year old and my concern increases for her generation as we set in store for neuroses and possibly worse. 

Violet and Monkey Monk had to don their masks according to my 3 year old granddaughter 


Emily Barker - A Dark Murmuration of Words [Album of The Year]

Bob Dylan - Rough and Rowdy Ways

Amy MacDonald - The Human Demands

Kate Rusby - Hand Me Down

Neil Young - Homegrown

Fiona Apple — Fetch the Bolt Cutters

Fleet Foxes — Shore

Paul Weller — On Sunset

Nick Cave — Idiot Prayer

Laura Marling — Song for Our Daughter

Toots and the Maytals — Got to Be Tough

Leonard Cohen — Thanks for the Dance

Shirley Collins — Heart's Ease

Maria McKee — La Vita Nuova

Dua Lipa — Future Nostalgia

Lucinda Williams — Good Souls Better Angels

The Waterboys — Good Luck, Seeker

Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit — Reunions

'Sonogram' Emily Barker

Emily Barker released what is widely thought of as her finest most sophisticated album to date in the 2020 'A Dark Murmuration of Words'


Bob Dylan - Murder Most Foul

Amy MacDonald - The Hudson/Fire

Emily Barker - Machine EP

Emily Barker - The Woman Who Planted Trees

Richard Thompson - Bloody Noses EP

Billie Eilish - Bad Guy

Amy MacDonald

Richard sings from his EP 'Bloody Noses'


Richard & Linda Thompson :: Hard Luck Stories (Universal)

Their marriage didn’t last, but the music that Richard and Linda Thompson made together stands the test of time—and then some. Hard Luck Stories collects all of the pair’s outstanding studio LPs (remastered to sound better than ever) and adds a healthy dose of essential rarities, demos, live recordings and more. At over a £100 the eight disk set proved more than out of my reach telling as it does the complete story of the talented yet star-crossed UK folk-rock duo, tying up loose ends and illuminating areas previously shrouded in darkness.

Musical events online:

Folk On Foot- Folk in The Front Room 2 

The award-winning podcast Folk on Foot has announced the line-up for a second Front Room Festival to take place on Spring Bank Holiday Monday, May 25th. It follows the success of the first festival on Easter Monday which raised an amazing £110,000 through a crowdfunding appeal to support musicians who can’t play gigs during the lockdown.

Folk on Foot Front Room Festival 2 will start at 2pm BST and run for 7 hours on YouTube and Facebook, featuring 30-minute sets recorded in their front rooms by Cara Dillon and Sam Lakeman, Chris Wood, Duncan Chisholm, Eliza Carthy, Frank Turner and Jess Guise, Gwilym Bowen Rhys, John Smith, Johnny Flynn, Kate Rusby and Damien O’Kane, Kathryn Tickell, Kitty Macfarlane, O’Hooley and Tidow, Richard Thompson and Zara Phillips and Rioghnach Connolly and Ellis Davies. The festival will also feature the online premiere of a behind the scenes film showing The Unthanks and their families on tour, featuring beautiful unaccompanied performances recorded at London’s Union Chapel.

Tribute to John Prine

and one’s we couldn’t afford!

Richard Thompson 70th at The RAH (£100 a ticket)

Best TV & Film


Puzzler of the Year?! . . .  is it good? Is it scary? Is it terrible or terrifying? INDUSTRY

*I May Destroy You (HBO)

see my posts on 'I May Destroy You' for my initial response to my TV programme of the year

*Normal People (Hulu)


with more bosom per square footage than any other TV series EVER
 . . . most it has to be said by the superb Sam Morton who acts her usual heady way here alongside Liv Tyler and Lesley Manville with ease and star billing . . . . written, produced and acted by women

with a largely wasted Liv Tyler but a screen stealing baddie from the ever brilliant Julian Rhind-Tutt

Mrs. America (FX on Hulu) was watchable but unusual somehow

The Salisbury Poisonings - uniformly excellent and ever so slightly scary!

Dracula (by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat) - such FUN!

Fleabag  of course . . . . . . it's a given isn't it?

Fleabag author and Killing Eve creators though not the writer for 3 Phoebe Waller-Bridge

Des (David Tennant as Dennis Neilson)Tennant proves he can act his socks off and BECOMES Neilson here in one of the creepiest and most intelligent portrayals of the 21stC bogeyman par excellence

Life (BBC) Alison Steadman, Adrian Lester, Rachael Stirling, Victoria Hamilton, Saira Choudhry and Peter Davison . . . . all human life is here in this block of suitably middle class apartments 

SPOILER: She's not really there . . . . 

This Country (3rd series) - I wept with laughter and nearly had an accident several times!  . . . . 

 . . . . . . wear your Tenna pants!!!

Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads - I felt like they were all new (only two were in actuality!) but the remaster/remakes were little short of superb and TV at its best!

Killing Eve 3rd and final series (BBC One, April-June) hhmmmmm not sure here, no room for another series I fear and noticeable for not being written by Phoebe Waller-Bridge but Jodie Comer spellbinds as ever

Also rans that we watched this year and thoroughly enjoyed:

Trigonometry - speaking of relationships! This was a beautiful and convincing story of a triad , a trio, a triumvirate yes alright a 'new' relationship drama portraying the realities of a three way. BRILLIANT!

A Suitable Boy - gorgeously done and worth watching alone for the music but the realisation of the book was exemplary here and I heard very little about it. I thought it was superb!  Note: never trust a man who is prettier than the women in it!

Black Narcissus - starring Gemma Arterton and featuring a fine cast including Dame Diana Rigg's last appearance, Arterton finally convinces beyond all doubt she can truly act and then some. Beautifully done and expertly carried out in the run up to Christmas. 

The Sister - more drama to have you gripped but disappointed somehow and if it weren't for being stolen by the mesmerising Bertie Cavel I might have given up on this and found the usually 'funny' and entertaining Russel Tovey somehow out of his depth here. The women actors too here were superb mind you. Simone Ashley and the stunning Amrita Acharia with the ever watchable gorgeous Nina Toussaint White acted the chaps off the screen except for Bertie's ominous and disturbing 'baddy' Scary!

This Way Up (Aisling Bea and Sharon Horgan) comedy got a look in too. A masterclass from two favourites Sharon and Aisling in a comedic delight

Game Face - the under used and always hysterically funny Roisin Connaty wrote this for us and can't wait for more . . . . . . more Roisin more!

'Staged' with David Tennant & Michael Sheen was hilarious . . . more please!

Staged, Series 1:https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episodes/p08dnl67/staged

Jodie Comer in 'Killing Eve III'

Jodie in Alan Bennet's 'Talking Heads' reissue

Series: British Film Premiere: New Films From New Voices

  • Apostasy - writer/director Daniel Kokotajlo
  • Make Up - writer/director Claire Oakley
  • Perfect 10 - writer/director Eva Riley
  • Lynn + Lucy – writer/director Fyzal Boulifa
  • Monsoon - writer/director Hong Khaou
  • One Man And His Shoes - director Yemi Bamiro
  • Dirty God - writer/director Sacha Polak

Steve McQueen’s new five-part Amazon anthology series, Small Axe

  • Mangrove
  • Lover’s Rock
  • Red White and Blue
    Alex Wheatle
  • Education

'Disobedience' with Rachel Weiss and Rachel McAdams and the stellar Anton Lesser - ever seen him in something where he DIDN’T deliver the most mesmerising often scene stealing performance? His Fagin was unmissable (‘Dickensian’, which yes, yes, I didn’t expect to like, let alone love, as it was a confection not a Dickens. I LOVED it!) he’s one of those folk who frankly I could listen to reading the telephone directory!

Love it and both women excel in this fascinating complex relationship drama



Confused by ‘Industry’ produced by Lena Dunham as there seemed to be nobody to identify with. All vacuous money grabbing, indeed grubbing, shallow shysters with no moral compass and yet whilst I understood not one jot or word of what they did during the day to see unseen and tantalising amounts of cold hard bitcoin etc (the jingo in the first few episodes is difficult to say the least, at night their casual sex 'hook up' lifestyle began to show cracks and we slowly developed sympathy, if not quite empathy ever, for at least 'Harper' our heroine but precious few others, the series did seep and worming it's way inside my head, began to really grow on me. Especially the lead actor who played Harper who we will see a whole lot more from I predict. 


Well that about settled THAT. The ending is awful, truly dreadful and hatefueled characters come to their end here. Feels like its written as they went along, a la 2004s 'Lost', we are suckered into eventually liking Yasmine and Harper the only characters with any depth and drawn in 3D especially since Harper plays her final card and proves beyond all doubt, if you actually had any, that she is prepared to play the corporate rat race game and then some. Selling her soul to get 'Eric' his job back after his 'abusive behaviour' when she got him the sack and ensuring her line manager is got rid of with not a second thought, no compunction whatsoever. No truth, no trust, no honesty or integrity, no care, no share or real engagement with any of the players.

The programme should really be called G.M.T (short for Gross Moral Turpitude) or maybe Broken Compass, as the total lack of ANY moral compass comes to its true finale as our heroine is clearly capable of doing anything, especially as a young black woman, in order to succeed and gain a place in the company that makes its living from selling hedge fund packaging to the greedy and super-rich, profiteering, money for money's sake, bringing on the overarching subtext of Gordon Gecko's true message, 'I'm all right Jack and the Devil take the hindmost' . . . .even the denouement with our gay black character (Gus) is bitter sweet as he throws it all back in their faces as you just KNOW he's had a better offer. Hardly the moral high ground . . . just another opportunist  F**K Bitcoin! precisely!

TRULY AWFUL writing, (or is it a sign for the times and actually brilliant? I can't tell! I just ended up hating everyone! Well done) well acted and watchable but the story engages us for all the wrong reasons. I didn't want to wind up angry at the end of my few weeks entertainment! No-one here is of any merit or value or conscience or positive human traits WHATSOEVER! Enjoy!

Myha'la Herrold as 'Harper' from Industry

(*What do all the best of the above have in common? All written, produced and starring central characters acted by women)

High points of the year: 

Machine by Emily Barker

Drum Off between Nandi and Dave Grohl who had to concede and record a tribute to her!!! 

Nandi won! and graciously said 

It was an honour to be part of the most #EPIC #ROCK in battle in history! With the most awesome, fun, kind and legendary Dave Grohl! Thank you for giving me this incredible opportunity. I am extremely grateful. The Rock Gods of old are happy! @davestruestories @foofighters

Greta Thunberg changing F/B name to Sharon and why!


David Dee Delgado / Getty

Deaths This Year - those we have lost

Albert Griffiths, 74, Jamaican reggae musician (The Gladiators)

John le Carré, 89, British author (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Night Manager, The Little Drummer Girl), pneumonia

Charley Pride, 86, American Hall of Fame singer 

Dame Barbara Windsor, 83, English actress (EastEnders, Carry On, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang),

Harold Budd, 84, American avant-garde composer and poet, complications from COVID-19

Pamela Tiffin, 78, American actress (One, Two, Three, Harper, Summer and Smoke) and model

John Baldessari, 88, American conceptual artist.

Elizabeth Wurtzel, 52, American author (Prozac Nation), LMD as a complication of breast cancer

Robert Parker, 89, American R&B singer

Terry Jones, 77, Welsh comic actor, screenwriter and film director (Monty Python)

Caroline Flack, 40, English television and radio presenter (The X Factor, Love Island, I'm a Celebrity: Extra Camp), suicide by hanging

Simon Posthuma Designer of The Fool who designed much poster art and products for The Beatles Apple Store, died on 28 February 2020, aged 81.

Simon (or Seemon) and Marijke of The Fool

Ulay, 76, German performance artist

Max von Sydow, 90, Swedish-born French actor (The Seventh Seal, The Exorcist, Pelle the Conqueror)

Genesis P-Orridge, 70, English musician (Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV) and performance artist 

Roy Hudd, 83, English actor (The Blood Beast Terror, Up the Chastity Belt, Coronation Street) and comedian

Manu Dibango, 86, Cameroonian saxophonist ("Soul Makossa"), COVID-19

Bob Andy, 75, Jamaican reggae singer (The Paragons, Bob and Marcia), songwriter and actor

Bill Withers, 81, American Hall of Fame singer-songwriter ("Lean on Me", "Ain't No Sunshine", "Lovely Day"),

Eddie Large, 78, British comedian (Little and Large), heart failure and COVID-19

Honor Blackman, 94, English actress (The Avengers, Goldfinger, Jason and the Argonauts)

John Prine, 73, American singer-songwriter ("Sam Stone", Angel from Montgomery), Grammy winner (1992, 2006), COVID-19

Many in Nashville celebrated Prine's life and achievements this year. An all-star virtual tribute — featuring Jason Isbell, Kurt Vile, Bonnie Raitt, Sturgill Simpson and Amanda Shires, Kacey Musgraves, Eric Church, Bill Murray and others — debuted via YouTube in June. Voters for the annual Americana Honors & Awards named Prine "Artist of the Year" in 2020. 

Nipper Read, 95, British police officer and boxing administrator, COVID-19

Hal Willner, 64, American music producer (Saturday Night Live, Stay Awake), COVID-19

Tim Brooke-Taylor, 79, English comedian (The Goodies) and panellist (I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue), COVID-19

Sue Davies, 87, British gallery director (The Photographers' Gallery)

Florian Schneider, 73, German electronic musician (Kraftwerk), cancer

Jill Gascoine, 83, British actress (The Gentle Touch, C.A.T.S. Eyes, The Onedin Line), Alzheimer's disease

Michael McClure, 87, American poet and writer, complications from a stroke

Kirk Douglas (born Issur Danielovitch; December 9, 1916 – February 5, 2020) 

Alfred "Uganda" Roberts, 77, American percussionist (Professor Longhair, Dr. John), lung cancer

Millie Small, 72, Jamaican singer ("My Boy Lollipop"), stroke

Dame Olivia Mary de Havilland DBE (/də ˈhævɪlənd/; July 1, 1916 – July 26, 2020) 

Little Richard, 87, American Hall of Fame rock and roll singer ("Tutti Frutti", "Long Tall Sally", "Lucille"), pianist and songwriter, bone cancer

Betty Wright, 66, American soul and R&B singer ("Clean Up Woman"), Grammy winner (1976), cancer

Astrid Kirchherr, 81, German photographer (The Beatles), cancer

Phil May, 75, English singer (The Pretty Things), complications following hip surgery

Bucky Baxter, 65, American guitarist (Bob Dylan, Steve Earle, Ryan Adams)

George Floyd, 46, American police detainee, asphyxia, murdered

Christo, 84, Bulgarian-born American artist 

Bonnie Pointer, 69, American singer (The Pointer Sisters), cardiac arrest

Bonnie styles it out

Sir Ian Holm, 88, English actor (Alien, Chariots of Fire, The Lord of the Rings), BAFTA winner (1982)

Ennio Morricone, 91, Italian film composer (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Once Upon a Time in the West, The Hateful Eight), Oscar winner (2016),

Wayne Fontana, 74, English singer ("The Game of Love"), cancer.

Justin Townes Earle, 38, American singer-songwriter

Dame Diana Rigg, 82, English actress (The Avengers, On Her Majesty's Secret Service, Game of Thrones), Tony winner (1994), cancer

Dame Diana Rigg - not above making a fool of herself, this classical trained actor became synonymous with The Avengers character Emma Peel

Toots Hibbert, 77, Jamaican singer (Toots and the Maytals) and songwriter ("54-46 That's My Number", "Pressure Drop"), COVID-19

the wonderful Toots Hibbert was astonished to feel the reaction of a community when he walked the streets of his first Notting Hill Carnival

Ron Cobb, 83, American-Australian editorial cartoonist and prop and set designer (Star Wars, Back to the Future, Conan the Barbarian), Lewy body dementia.

Margaret Nolan, 76, English actress (Goldfinger, Carry On at Your Convenience, A Hard Day's Night), model, and artist

Johnny Nash, 80, American singer-songwriter ("I Can See Clearly Now", "Hold Me Tight", "Tears on My Pillow")

Chris Killip, 74, Manx photographer, lung cancer

Spencer Davis, 81, Welsh singer and guitarist (The Spencer Davis Group), pneumonia

James Randi, 92, Canadian-American magician and skeptic, founder of the JREF and co-founder of the CSI.

Jerry Jeff Walker, 78, American singer-songwriter ("Mr. Bojangles"), throat cancer.

Bobby Ball, 76, English comedian (Cannon and Ball), actor (Mount Pleasant, Not Going Out), and television host, COVID-19

Sir Sean Connery, 90, Scottish actor (Dr. No, The Untouchables, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), Oscar winner (1988), heart failure and pneumonia.

Luke Rhinehart, 87, American author (The Dice Man)

David Prowse, 85, English actor (Star Wars, A Clockwork Orange, Jabberwocky) and bodybuilder, COVID-19

Dawn Wells, Pin-up and Gilliagns Island star most recently passed away

                                                                 _  _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 

The Future

Noah Berger / AP

Next year we may well remember THIS . . . . . . . . 

Plinths appeared as if by magic and completely randomly 

 _  _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ 

'Who Was That Masked Man?'
The author taken by his 40 year old son

And there were highpoint too . . . . . . I leave it til last to say, with my son turning forty on New Year's Eve eve his year was even more extraordinary working hard as he does with his wonderful partner in crime, his wife Elaine, they were and hence his Grandparents were blessed beyond measure with an addition to the grandchildren amidst this chaos and madness. Nervous and scared for them and little one forever knowing he was born amidst a pandemic is the strangest of starts for the long journey of his arrival.

 I have said before and I will say it again but one is truly lucky to be brought up by parents and siblings that love you unconditionally and then if we grow we are truly lucky to have the love of a partner, if it befalls us the next love is to the birth of our own children oh wonderment of wonderments, and little did I know there was another love, that for our grandchildren. Both my granddaughter from my daughter and now my grandson from my son are the light that guides me to an even deeper love if such a thing is even possible . . . . . . . . I worry for their futures and hope beyond hope for their safety amidst this madness, I wish them strength and independence to carry on the torch that they may illuminate their way. They will need it

Happy New Year!