Archive for the ‘gandhi’ Tag

Golden Afternoon (Day 13)

Had to deal with some practical shit first thing – our TalkTalk broadband is reaching the head-spinning speed of 4.85 Mbps download (service billed as “Up to 24 Mbps” – amazing what those short words “up to” let you get away with). Once I’d come through the dark morning of the soul which is trying to speak to TalkTalk customer services (did I mention my shit broadband is courtesy of TalkTalk?) I got straight down to writing and ploughed on with my faithful companion, Chapter One. Had to sacrifice a rather neat end of chapter because I couldn’t squeeze the new stuff I was covering into what I’d already written, it’s quite a tight structure where each paragraph flows into the next meaning I can’t make big insertions without messing up that flow. But who knows, there’s loads more to go into it so the neat ending may yet make it to the end.

Clarion Awards 2013

Helen holding my reflection

I used a tube journey into town to do some more reading about Robert McAlmon. Fascinating man (so far), drinking buddy of James Joyce while he was finishing Ulysses in Paris. My excursion was to attend the Clarion Awards at the kind invitation of the Bedtime Live team at Twofour Productions. These awards focus on communications in the ethical, enviromental, CSR and social engagement areas. Happily Bedtime Live Multiplatform won the Digital category so drinking kicked in relatively early for a Friday afternoon in a way Joyce would have approved of. The event took place in the BMA Building in Tavistock Square, designed by Lutyens, so it was good to get a sneaky peak at a London interior I’d not yet had the pleasure of. It is also on the site of one of Dickens’ homes. Across the square is a bust of Virginia Woolf located within her Bloomsbury manor. At least there was some writerliness about the afternoon.

And so the writing week petered out in a glow of autumn sunshine bathing cross-legged Gandhi in the Tavistock Square gardens. He’s one of the case-study subjects of Creating Minds by Howard Gardner, recommended to me by the very supportive Mark Earls (author of Herd). That tome (Gardner’s)  blows apart the unalloyed saintliness of Gandhi, highlighting how his genius was in relating on a mass political scale while his ability to relate to family in particular on a one-to-one basis was abject failure and hard-hearted. I headed home to relate to family on a one-to-one basis.

My younger brother came round with his boys and I took delight in sharing my favourite drummer with my ten year old nephew who drums. I showed him (and my step-father who also drums, of the Archer Street generation) Michael Shreeve’s solo at Woodstock with Santana. One of the best ever and he was only n-n-nineteen.

Virginia Woolf


Natasha Richardson and her mother Vanessa Redgrave
Natasha Richardson and her mother Vanessa Redgrave

Delicate beauty

Watching the Six Nations rugby this weekend (the Ireland victory sporting theatre at its best) I couldn’t help seeing the incidents when players’ heads hit the ground (that happened in both the England and Ireland matches, with stretchers sent into action) in a new light, with a frisson emanating from our fragility. Our fragility as spotlighted by the genuinely sad news of Natasha Richardson’s accident and her rapid decline over just half a week.

I only encountered Natasha once, at a recent party of the old friend of mine who I met my wife through. The party was appropriately theatrical, with the historical venue done out like Mandalay (complete with Mrs Danvers), and Natasha appeared in a glittery outfit fitting the surroundings and her star quality. She looked fabulous.

Her poor husband Liam Neeson I’ve also only met once. It was in sad circumstances too. It was at the memorial for another old friend, actor John Keegan, at the Tricycle Theatre, Kilburn. I was introduced to Liam by Adie Dunbar. We had a ridiculous conversation about Dundalk and I found myself talking about the Four Lanterns take-away when what I actually wanted to say was “Liam, I think you did a cracking job with Oskar Schindler.” (It was the reverse of an encounter I had with Ralph Fiennes in the bar at the Almeida where I had the opportunity to say “Ralph/Rafe/whatever you call yourself, I think you did a cracking job with Amon Goeth” – and did.)

What can you take from a tragedy like this? To enjoy each and every day. To cherish the simple pleasures. To be conscious of everything you have, every privilege and happiness.

Watching the first episode of the new series of The Secret Millionaire last night, featuring ex-Rover boss Kevin Morley, you couldn’t help but detect that Kevin’s journey into the dark heart of Hackney has brought him back in touch with what really matters – he came to recognise the true value of his home and family, clearly regretting that his children’s growing up had passed him by while he was in the office. The one thing that seemed to escape him was that things like his collection of sports cars, which he showed off at the beginning of the programme with reference to shiny little models in a cabinet, come at a cost – beyond the readies he shelled out. Someone, somewhere pays for it ultimately. It could be a homeless person in Hackney. Or a starving family in southern Africa. Someone, somewhere always pays.

As Liam Neeson wakes his beloved wife and comforts their children none of the Hollywood glitz adds up to much. As my Irish mother-in-law always says (not a million miles from Liam’s home town of Ballymena): your health’s your wealth. Gandhi, much though I admire him, was more long-winded than Mrs Murphy: “It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.”

This morning I was involved in launching the government’s new White Paper on informal adult learning (doing a case study around Picture This and illustrating how Channel 4 brings motivation, purpose and inspiration to networked media), so with both learning and fragility in mind another Gandhi quote rounds things off: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

Update 30.iii.09:

Bumped into Adie Dunbar at The Pigalle Club watching an intimate performance by Sinead O’Connor. Adie hails from Enniskillen, not a milion miles from Ballymena, and knows fellow thesps Liam and Natasha well. He underlined the great tragedy here by describing the powerful, positive energy the pair of them radiated together. In the words of the great Matt Johnson: “Love is Stronger than Death.”

In our lives we hunger for those we cannot touch.
All the thoughts unuttered and all the feelings unexpressed
Play upon our hearts like the mist upon our breath.
But, awoken by grief, our spirits speak
How could you believe that the life within the seed
That grew arms that reached
And a heart that beat
And lips that smiled
And eyes that cried
Could ever die?

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