Exercising the grey matter
A weekend with friends at the Cheltenham Literature Festival is one to look forward to and it always leaves me with all kinds of assorted thoughts churning over in my mind for several days afterwards. This year was no exception, even though I opted out of the history/politics theme of Friday and simply offered chauffeuse services and joined everyone for a pizza in the evening.
A slightly different layout this year concentrated all the venues in Montpellier Gardens, reducing the "festival" theme in the town generally, we thought. Though the actual venues were similar/the same as previously, none of us were keen on the numerous food carts which have appeared this year, giving a kind of fairground atmosphere to the place.
I'd enjoyed a couple of good presentations earlier in the week; Andrew Marr spoke passionately about his painting and Bettany Hughes barely drew breath in her enthusiastic response to questions about her work on Istanbul. Paddy O'Connell chaired a really amusing discussion about the Archers and I was happy with my choices.
But our plans for Saturday needed revision. I received notice that the planned discussion with Richard Rogers had been cancelled due to illness and had to call and reschedule. "Oh yes, " the voice at the end of the phone replied, "Roger Richardson (sic) has cancelled" ! Our day had been carefully planned and only one alternative remained: Marcus Brigstocke, speaking about being part of the "Liberal Metropolitan Elite". Well, not really someone or something to float my boat, but I chose to be brave - and how pleased I was! Marcus delivered the most thought-provoking, passionate and heartfelt presentation we heard all week and the four of us left buzzing. It's not that I agreed with everything he said. I'm not sure I particularly liked his style or his manner either. But he had some very good points to make and my goodness, he made those points very well indeed. Last but not least, a questioner at the very end of the event raised the subject of the Backfire effect which set us off on another tack altogether.
What better way to end the day than with Die Zauberflöte , live from the Met, then?