November 1963. New York. A book is published that has been called “axial – the most quoted children’s book ever, after Alice in Wonderland”. Perfectly crafted, perfectly illustrated, Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are ushered in the modern age of picture books. Max was born. And has never grown old.
My younger boy turns up reading Dostoyevsky, a bilingual French-Latin version of Spinoza, books on Quantum Physics or 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.
Cillian Murphy has moved the family to Dublin from London. Interviewed, he voices concerns about the Irish education system. It touches a chord: “You get these really bright and creative kids who get eaten up by that system.” Why are we so slow to adopt systems that educate the whole child, celebrate diversity?
Quentin Blake was born in the same year (1932) as Sempé (Le Petit Nicolas) whom he revered (reveres? both are still alive), as he did another French illustrator, André François. François greatly influenced generations of great writer-illustrators, including Maurice Sendak, and was a great friend of the late great Ronald Searle.
Jean-Jacques Sempé has said « Mon enfance n’a pas été follement gaie. Elle était même lugubre et un peu tragique ». It’s often been noted that so many creative greats had difficult childhoods. Indeed, a friend’s daughter laments she may never amount to much, her childhood having been, on balance, very happy.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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
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??
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.
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…
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.
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?!