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William James on being alive

RDN's credo, as at New Year, 2022 is culled from William James and, being paraphrased, runs: Humanity is a worthwhile joint enterprise and being useful to it makes sense of each of us. Read more...

Published

01 January 2022

Filed in

Civilised Right-wing, Mind & body, On books

Heiresses, art, and the Midlands

Subtitle: Female affluence and patronage, or the vicissitudes of compulsive collectors. Or: Abbesses, arrivistes, aristocrats and art.

Context: Last October my wife and I broke a round trip to Northumbria with overnights in the English Midlands and came across fabulous artistic treats. I was guided partly by a Matthew Parris… Read more...

Published

12 December 2021

Filed in

Mind & body, On art, On books

Stoppard comes to Leopoldstadt

Tom Stoppard is the indispensable playwright of my generation. He is rather more: he is one of the key British cultural figures of my times. He ranks with the other knights Sir Mick Jagger and Sir Roy Strong as a person of style. As a creative talent, he ranks with… Read more...

Published

12 December 2021

Filed in

Civilised Right-wing, Mind & body, On theatre, Politics & campaigns

WW1: still relevant as the right war, well-fought

I always resisted the Oh! What a Lovely War (1969), Blackadder account of WW1. I took it to be a product of the 1960s generation who thought everything inherited from their parents and grandparents (except their money) should be rejected.

At least one of my great-grandparents fought (and at least one of my grandparents avoided) fighting in WW1. My father served in WW2, and his two half-brothers were killed on active service during it.

The essay which follows below is largely an account of various books, most of which I have read recently, which have, I am relieved to say, reinforced my long-standing belief that this country (and, most of the time, most of its allies) fought honourably and rather intelligently during the 20th Century. Read more...

Published

21 July 2020

Filed in

Civilised Right-wing, Mind & body, On books

“Scrap the BBC!”, 2020

In 2007 I wrote "Scrap the BBC!" for the Social Affairs Unit. It was subtitled, "10 years to set broadcasters free". Well, that didn't happen. The next big though interim discussion about the Corporation's future is set for 2022, preparatory for a new charter in 2027. What are the odds of major change within ten years?

I wouldn't bet on it, not with my record. Anyway, a much bigger set of questions arises. How are we to handle the new world of media? Read more...

Published

22 January 2020

Filed in

National Media Trust, On books, On TV & Radio, Politics & campaigns, RDN's media outings

Nature Writing Interrogated

You will find here a free download of a PDF, entitled Nature Writing Interrogated: 5000 years of nostalgia.

It's a longish essay (about 40,000 words) and explores the long history of writing about nature, beginning very roughly with the Gilgamesh epic and romping through to pieces in last month's Guardian. I have undertaken this task because for half a longish lifetime I have been growing in unease about the way nature has always been used as a repository for civilised mankind's regrets and yearnings. My feeling has been that it was ever thus and that in recent decades the result has worked against, rather than toward, a proper appreciation of nature. Read more...

Published

12 January 2020

Filed in

Mind & body, On books, Politics & campaigns

“Rojo” (2018): over-rated

I have not written what follows in the hopes of steering unsuspecting people away from watching this movie. I don't think it's dangerous or really bad. Rather, it bemused me. And then looking around online for reviews of it puzzled me some more. I can't find anyone who didn't rate it. Even Mark Kermode was in line, and he often sniffs out inadequacy and spots awkward quality. It reminded me of the UK's Supreme Court in one of the Brexit cases: there was a unanimity amongst the judges and its main effect was to erode confidence in their opinion. I lightly wonder if this is the arts equivalent: maybe an omerta of wokeness. Anyway, this is written in case someone who didn't like the film does a search in the hopes of finding someone else out there who didn't respond well to Rojo. Read more...

Published

26 October 2019

Filed in

On movies, Politics & campaigns

Hunston Convent and Chichester Free School

Chichester Free School has taken over Hunston Convent, a 19th Century Carmelite monastery to the south of the city, on the threshold of the Manhood Peninsula. It's a brilliant and exciting adventure, since the school is a mint-fresh sort of institution and the convent building was a Victorian classic. The Chichester Carmel, as the Hunston community were known, had roots which go centuries deep, and all over the world. An offshoot of the Chichester Carmel is now to be found amongst the Carmelites of Terre Haute, Indiana. Vestiges of the old convent's fabric have been reborn, and its footprint largely preserved, in spectacular fashion. I hope something of the community's spirit lives on, too. Read more...

Published

14 October 2019

Filed in

Mind & body

Stained glass: Brighton & Hove and beyond

I have become a stained glass nut and hunt it down wherever I may. It is a crucial add-on focus for any trips. It is an addition to the spiritual tourism I am prone to as some sort of secular pilgrim. It is worth saying that this can be virtual… Read more...

Published

07 October 2019

Filed in

Mind & body, On art

Liminality: An interrogation

Liminal is a lovely word for what I find a very moving and rewarding set of ideas. Much as I like it, though, I find its use, including even my own use of it, may have got out of hand. This piece explores some of all that. I want to… Read more...

Published

26 September 2019

Filed in

Mind & body, On art, On books
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