Culture, Nature, and liberal issues

Page 2 of all posts

A spiritualism serendipity

An odd and touching synchronicity occurred whilst I was going through my father ‘s bookshelves with an eye to downsizing the collection I inherited from him. I had seen a book of his, inscribed by hand as belonging to Vera Bax (his mother) in 1951 (additionally she wrote: “First read… Read more...

Published

11 March 2022

Filed in

Mind & body, On books, Shrink-a-library

The inspiring story of a mental institution

This is a layman's review of Better Courts Than Coroners: Memoirs of a duty of care, Volume 1, 2011, by Barone Hopper (1937-2019). It's a marvellous book (BCTC, in Hopper's shorthand): a memoir both of its author, a psychiatric nurse, and of Graylingwell, the Chichester mental institution (1897-2002) in which he worked for several years from the 1960s and of which he became an informal but diligent historian and archivist. I had not heard of Graylingwell until I read in the Annals of the Chichester Carmelite convent at Hunston that in 1929 the community's handyman gardener went to be treated, and eventually died, there. (More on that towards the end of this post.) So here was a link between Chichester institutions which share late 19th Century formation and a similar lifespan before dissolution. Both were fascinating communities. Read more...

Published

10 March 2022

Filed in

Mind & body, On books

Hunston Carmel: archive material

These notes are a partial account of the Roman Catholic Arundel and Brighton Diocese’s archive of various records of the life of the Chichester Carmel at Hunston. For convenience, I have appended some data on the community's post-Hunston diaspora. I am very open to amending any of this material if it proves inaccurate or inappropriate. This work is undertaken in the hope that it may be useful for future researchers. Read more...

Published

08 March 2022

Filed in

Mind & body

21st C “stained-glass” innovation

This is an account of innovative "stained-glass" work done by youngsters in a Sunday School in the first decade of the 21st Century. Designed for their parish church, it deploys plastics technology and was undertaken partly in reparation of mid-20th Century arson damage to its Victorian glass. I love this body of work because it shows great respect for the medieval. It is at once muscular, naive, and feeling: I risk saying that it leaps across centuries, just as great Old Stained Glass does. Read more...

Published

08 March 2022

Filed in

Mind & body, On art

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
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