Apparently, Mike Nichols “was expert at crafting anecdotes that satisfied a craving while sealing off further inquiry.” Elaine May, it turns out, was (or is) terrible at this: all of her stories about how she and Nichols met and worked together and fought and worked together again just invite more speculation or worry. Possibly closer to how I write, that.

Last weekend, I managed to type this:

I’ve been interviewing people and doing a lot of talking this week. I should be able to recall what I’ve done, more, but there’s something about being on an endless number of Teams’…


A short note after a very short week. Had a holiday to celebrate a couple of Big Life Events, which was wonderful.

Work

Had an at-work away day. Husna, Grace and Holly ran it. Away days can be tricky at the best of times, and especially online and on a limited budget, so I took to Twitter for inspiration. Natalie and Jo at Citizens Advice gave some great ideas for work-ier exercises, as did Sam at NHS Digital. In the end, we ended up doing a combination of some of their suggestions — going into smaller groups to look at a…


I haven’t seen In the Mood for Love for 20 years, but had a long phone chat with my younger sister about it this week. Maggie Cheung’s outfits and pain, the deep, withholding loneliness of the script, the lingering camerawork, almost too on the nose but still works, the confidence of the set design and the transcendent hotness of Tony Leung smoking. Such a film.

I still love Hong Kong. Just finished The Honourable Schoolboy, which is partially set there. It reminded me that, for all of John le Carré’s brilliance, his descriptions of non-Western characters echo what I’d…


Bumper issue because I couldn’t press “publish” last week.

I’ve been thinking about the unnecessary, inaccurate, anecdote, and what it says about the teller.

I went through a deep Desert Island discs phase last summer, trying to understand more about UK culture. The most recent attempt of many. They’ve ranged from successful — quiz machines and pub chat — to outright failures — joining a 6-person rugby 7s team in 1999. (It’s a weird sport, and having the correct number of players really does matter, it turns out.)

So. Desert Island discs. Conclusion: many very boring, unmusical people become famous…


Welcome back to the sweet, sweet office! Starting off 2021 with new lockdowns, new riots and new reasons to google “fascism, definition of”.

Going back to work, from home, when I’d basically been in the same home for two weeks not-working is a strange thing. I could only get my head into work by remodelling my workspace — calling the activity “tidying” would be misleading — and moving a bunch of houseplants to envelop my desk.

I better not be turning into one of those “your desk is a reflection of your mind” people.

I considered not picking up the…


I’m bad at good habits — other than American standards of dental care — so I almost skipped this week’s weeknotes. I got a Christmas tree, though, so the winter solstice is saved.

But here we are. I discovered a new, useful term this week: “hope labour”. According to the article I read, it’s about the sort of work that you do in the hope of exposure, and perhaps even an interesting job at the end. The article’s from 2013, so misses out on the ways that centralising platforms undermine the promises of hope labor. …


Are you looking for a grown-up advent calendar? Amy has curated and edited (this matters, later) a list of 24 short essays about things people thought about a lot in 2020. Lovely design by Sonia, too. I had one in it the other day, about ambition and aging and Caroline Quentin.

It reminded me, as well, of what the joy of working with an editor — and if you *are* an editor yourself, it’s one of those things that don’t happen very often. It’s one of those roles that the internet and financial crashes largely caused to fade. I suspect…


My headphones are broken! While that wouldn’t have been a problem a year ago, it is now. (Working from home, sonic spaces, etc.) I’ve ordered new ones, but they’re lost in Black Friday postal disasters, somewhere. Or stolen. My current headphones only work if I sit very still and wrap them around my phone, tightly, to keep the cables connected, and don’t make any sudden movements. It means that I’m ending up listening to some slightly unexpected things. …


So here’s the thing: I listened to an interview with Taffy Brodesser-Akner, and she said that when she was stuck with writing, she starts typing “So here’s the thing” and then the rest follows. (If you don’t know who she is: she writes really good celebrity profiles for GQ.) Maybe it’s from this one.

For what it’s worth, her novel Fleischmann is in Trouble is fun and smart, especially if you’ve met a lot of men like the main character. Which I have. The reviewer that compared it to Teju Cole’s Open City is drunk, though.

In other excellent advice…


Didn’t know about Parkinson’s Law, that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”, but I know it in my bones. Thanks to Russell for introducing me to the author of the bikeshedding theory, C. Northcote Parkinson which led to this vital discovery. Solid Wikipedia page, too

Looking for old editions of the Straits Times to see other things by Parkinson reminded me of discovering, a couple of years ago, that my great-grandfather had been the editor of the “Bangkok Sport and Gossip” magazine in the 1930s, which sounds like a great gig. Only controversial because…

Ella Fitzsimmons

one foot online

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