892

My younger boy turns up reading Dostoyevsky, a bilingual French-Latin version of Spinoza, books on Quantum Physics and String Theory. Conversation is fascinating. He has a brilliant, original mind. For years though a rigid education system failed to recognise, let alone nurture his talent. It still seems a miracle we both survived.

891

He’s given such delight to generations of children, but Jean-Jacques Sempé has said « Mon enfance n’a pas été follement gaie. Elle était même lugubre et un peu tragique ».  Creative greats often had difficult childhoods. A a friend’s daughter wonders if she’ll ever amount to much, her childhood having been, on balance, very happy.

890

I can’t imagine what women like Zaha Hadid had to overcome or sacrifice to rise to the top of the male-dominated architectural field. Organic, unconventional, sensual, Hadid’s buildings are dramatic, beautiful, literally fantastic, defying, sometimes, gravity itself. A visionary, she pushed boundaries in the way we perceive and use space.

889

I was going to take my mother up Calton Hill. The climb is steep, she has a lung condition, so she chose to go to the cinema instead. Probably just as well, given the weather. I only just managed to withstand gusting winds, enjoying spectacular 360° views of the city, of Arthur’s Seat & over  the Firth of Forth to Fife.

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The Parthenon-esque National Monument on Calton Hill commemorates those killed in the Napoleonic Wars. It’s also an Incentive to the Future Heroism of the Men – and I hope women -of Scotland.  Goodness knows how they got the foundation stone up there. It weighed 6 tons. On a windy day it was challenging enough getting myself to the top!

887

Money ran out, Edinburgh’s National Monument was never finished and though it’s been called a “folly” and a “disgrace”, I think it a wonderful landmark, part of the movement in which Edinburgh fashioned itself “the Athens of the North”, centre of philosophical, economic and medical enlightenment.

886

I’m on a bus leaving Waverley for Edinburgh Airport. Distant fog & moody weather render the city grey, atmospheric, seemingly unchanged since trips into town with my grandfather in the early 1970s. In fact, approaching an almost deserted Atholl Crescent the scene could be a late C19th photograph. 

885

The back entrance to Waverley Station on Calton Street takes me whooshing back decades to when my grandfather used to meet me off the London train. He stood in the end-of-platform distance, tall & ramrod straight (one leg couldn’t bend, a childhood misadventure), finger tips in jacket pockets, an unusual stance.

884

Older son has (at last) an inspired teacher of English who’s introduced a theatre class for 3rd year medics. The emphasis is heavily on finding/exploring empathy. The class should be mandatory for all trainee medics. Especially in a country where the selection system favours ultra-left brain functioning.

883

It’s Patrimoine – the weekend when Museums all over France open to the public for free.  “Préparateurs” look after, restore, mount and sometimes replicate objects on display.  On a hugely informative back stage tour of the Natural History Museum in Toulouse we saw where animals are stuffed (with expanding foam), printed (in 3D), made to look lifelike, or chilled (to kill parasites).

882

In a car, it’s easy to believe this town is flat. Get on a bike and suddenly there are hills everywhere.  I’ve just walked up then freewheeled down a dangerously steep one. Luckily no cars came towards me. At that speed brakes wouldn’t have stood a chance – bike and rider would have been right-offs.  It was incredibly good fun though.

881

Heavily made up, hair dyed blonde, buxom Jennifer Arcuri managed to elicit tens of thousands of pounds of British tax-payers’ money and some very useful business contacts thanks to Boris Johnson. Priti Patel (who was forced to resign as international development secretary following a conflict of interest arising from secret meetings with the Israeli government) is now Johnson’s Home Secretary.  #integrity

880

Apparently Université Toulouse III (Paul Sabatier) was founded in 1229, making it one of the world’s oldest universities (along with Oxford & the Sorbonne). Dreary, soulless it’s endless, functional concrete blocks could be from a Communist era. History and grandeur are notably absent. 31,000 students – but where are the cafés, the restaurants, the places to hang out and have fun?? 

879

Bugatti turned up again yesterday, sadly not in good shape.  He disappeared during extended weeks of heatwave.  His shell is cracked and something horrible has happened to his front left leg – all claws missing. I have no idea what happened and can’t find a vet who will look at a tortoise. 

878

First we had Dutch elm disease, now it’s ash dieback, sudden- acute- & chronic oak death, chestnut leaf miner, red band needle blight and bleeding canker. Whole species of trees are disappearing.  But it’s not just fungi -insects are wrecking havoc: longhorn and spruce bark beetles, pine weevils, lappet moths, emerald ash and bronze birch borers…

877

Carol Rutter believes Shakespeare himself might have played the part of Margaret in Henry VI.iii – a fascinating idea. What a terrific role! York says she has a tiger’s heart wrapped in a woman’s hide. Willing to risk all to see her son inherit the throne, she straps on armour and takes up arms while her husband sits praying. 

876

Carol Rutter suggests the reason Shakespeare wrote so well for women is that he was taught, at school, to think emotionally by understanding the structure of Latin texts. The Greek work “ethopoeia” involves studying emotion to create a character.  Would that not be a profitable use of school time – developing an understanding of the workings of women’s minds?!  

875

He could be an extra in a  film – an old geezer up North down on his luck in a betting shop, a bloke having a pint in an early episode of Corrie. Why does Jeremy Corbyn think he has a chance of being elected? I can only think he suffers, like Johnson, from Hubris.

874

Polly Toynbee in The Guardian: “Passionate politicians took us into Europe. A poisonous press is dragging us out.” We are indeed living through an utterly bleak period of British political history which looks set to worsen drastically. Scotland though is being proactive, offering vision, challenging populists and those hell-bent on destruction.  Here’s to a second Scottish Enlightenment. 

873

Favourite playlist show? Cillian Murphy on R6. Not every track’s a winner, but it’s eclectic and Murphy’s an intelligent, very likeable DJ/compère. And that accent has you in the palm of his hand.  I like the twists: instead of Velvet Underground, he takes two Underground legends and plays tracks by Lou Reed followed by Charlie Cale.