Sunday, 2 March 2014

Back Late

Gardening and pet shop window, Wymondham

So, let me recount, as if for myself alone.

Last Sunday I went to Peripatetics, a Norwich group I joined a few years now, comprising professors, professionals and politicians (and the odd poet) who regularly give papers on a subject of their choice at a round of houses. I hadn't been for months, maybe more than a year, for various work-pressure or absence reasons, so felt I had almost fallen through the floor, but this time I could go and was particularly pleased because the paper was being given by Abby Innes of the LSE who specialises in Central European matters. This time though she talked about corruption in Britain, specifically through privatisation and politicans' connections with various large companies that could not be allowed to fail. Not being allowed to fail  meant they had to be propped up with public money so a move that was ostensibly designed to save the state (us) money was, in the end costing us much more and the money was landing up in the pockets of investors, directors and the politicans themselves many of whom sat on the boards of the same private companies that could not be allowed to fail. Figures were produced, chief among them that Britain, now number 17 on the list had fallen precipitously down the corruption index from number 12 and was in fact the fastest falling nation.

It was fine and passionate paper with very well informed discussion afterwards, rambling occasionally, but that is the way things work in any discussion.

Back very late.

The next day to Senate House, London for the board of Poetry London, my first meeting as a member. That's obviously board business, so no discussion here.

Back very late.

On Wednesday I woke late and had to dash to Cambridge for Debating Matters, the debating competition for schools organised by the redoubtable Institute of Ideas. I had agreed to be a judge - one of three on a panel - on one of the dates, having done so once before. This is an non-paying gig and it is fascinating. The debate I was given to judge was about smacking and whether it should be banned. You'd think the banners would win easily on emotion alone but the smackers had a more solid argument and kept their statistical powder dry so finished up winners. I like these counter-intuitive arguments where everyone is assumed to feel one way without discussion, but then people begin to doubt their own certainty because the issue has been intelligently argued from an unexpected yet obvious angle. Nothing is changed by the debate, of course, but the wit is sharpened and you can defend your corner better next time.  Great fun. The lesson is that too great a confidence in your rightness and moral superiority is a recipe for failure. Outside of the debate I would prefer not smacking, though I don't know whether I would go down the legal route to enforce it.

Back middling late.

On Thursday back down to London for a PBS board meeting. Again, this is confidential stuff.

Back very late again.

By Friday I am just about on my feet. Have books to review, another to read, arrangements to fix. I am off to India for a few days on 19 March. Possible trip to USA now postponed to next year. Various invitations to various places. I am reading in Peterborough on Wednesday night.

No doubt back late.

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