a week in December

A packed week, which started, startlingly and hilariously, with James Naughtie’s now infamous slip-up just before 8 o’clock on Monday morning. Then the gratifying announcement that Susan Philipsz had won the Turner Prize (see my post about her installation Surround Me). Also tickled to hear about the campaign Cage Against the Machine, which aims to get a new recording of John Cage’s 4’33” to be the Christmas No. 1. I’ll sign up to that!

On Thursday, at 11:48 a.m., I finished the first (very rough) draft of a short novel. Phew. But that’s only a small milestone along the way (hm, project-speak creeping in there…). In the evening, we went to the British Museum to hear Bettany Hughes give a talk about her latest book The Hemlock Cup: Socrates, Athens and the Search for the Good Life. Hughes is an immensely engaging speaker, bringing her subject alive and drawing vivid parallels to show how relevant Socrates still is to our daily lives. One Socratic gem, that seems particularly appropriate in the run up to the annual consumerist orgy of Christmas, is his remark (wandering the Agora, viewing all the goods for sale): How many things do I not need.

While we were listening to and being inspired by Bettany Hughes, the student protesters were running riot through streets not too far away, and sending shivers down a royalist spine or two. On Saturday, I took part in a protest on a much smaller scale, but the injustice more than warranting a chilly march through Battersea. The rally was calling for the release of Battersea resident Shaker Aamer, who has been held in Guantanamo since 2002, without any charges being laid, and having been cleared for release in 2007. But he’s still detained, and held in isolation. This gathering of local residents and community groups reminded me again of how important it is to speak out against injustice.




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