Archive for September 1st, 2013|Daily archive page

The Write Stuff

soul singerThe first morning of going freelance in 1997 I went to the gym then walked round to Our Price record shop in Muswell Hill and bought New World Order, the recently released record by Curtis Mayfield. I was drawing a line. If I was giving up the financial stability of a proper job (a stability I’d enjoyed for the nine years of my working life to date), I was going to make darn good use of the flexibility of freelance.

Tomorrow morning represents a similar day. After a decade at Channel 4, I’m taking four months of sabbatical to write, of which today is technically Day One. And to not walk down to the tube; travel to Embankment; change to St James’s; walk past New Scotland Yard;  down Strutton Ground; up the stairs coloured Golden State Bridge red by Richard Rogers. That red ought to delight me. It will again come January by which time the Pacific salt air and San Francisco fog will have returned. Not least because among others I’ll be writing about Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady.

I’m doing 9 to 5, Monday to Friday until the New Year writing about creativity and creative networks. So today’s not officially a work day but I wanted to talk to one last person before diving in, so headed over to Hampstead to meet my old colleague and friend Jan Younghusband, Head of Music at BBC and former Arts Commissioning Editor at Channel 4. She kindly took time out from the Proms etc. to bounce a few ideas around with me which was reassuring and encouraging. In her tranquil garden overlooking an Edwardian  school campus, we talked about a variety of creatives from Joan Littlewood to Nicholas Hytner, from Chris Blackwell to Nadia Boulanger. And, having written a book about Jacqueline du Pre, Jan was able to provide some very practical advice about how to organise my writing day. So tomorrow I put that into action at 9am.

Postscript:

When you publish a post on WordPress, you are rewarded with a quote and here’s the one I just got on publishing this, my 349th post:

The best way to become acquainted with a subject is to write a book about it.

Benjamin Disraeli

Honest Serving People


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The debate about Syria and the use of chemical weapons as conducted in the UK and beyond these last few days has been marked by lack of clarity and thoroughness in the thinking. In such circumstances it never hurts to fall back on Kipling’s Six Honest Serving Men to make sure you have the basics addressed:

I KEEP six honest serving-men
(They taught me all I knew);
Their names are What and Why and When
And How and Where and Who.

  • What happened in Syria last week? Were chemical weapons used?
  • Who used them?
  • What can be done about it?
  • Who should carry out the response? Where is it most in the national interest to get involved?
  • How will military action help?
  • What will happen as a result? And when will it end?

I’ve traded in my Why for an extra What because the Why is very complex in itself: Why should we respond to the use of Chemical Weapons? Why do we distinguish them from say cluster bombing? Why do the current lead voices reckon they have moral authority when they have used napalm, agent orange, white phosphorus, depleted uranium and the like themselves, even in recent times?

I have a strong conviction, for these and other reasons, that any action to be taken, diplomatic/political or military, needs to be multilateral, preferably through the UN. Whether the United Nations Security Council is up to the job will be tested again. With two major powers who seem to conduct their foreign affairs consistently with no moral dimension it’s a body which really needs to justify its existence. It would be good to find a way to get Russia and China to actually suggest solutions. Likewise it would be good to put a bit more of the onus on the Arab League to see if they can contribute something positive to the world.

In the meantime I’d strongly encourage UK citizens to make their views clearly known by writing to their Member of Parliament via MySociety’s brilliant Write to Them service, the easiest way to get an email off to your elected representative in a matter of moments.

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