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BARBICAN LIFE


Did you know that GNH is a phrase initially coined by the King of Bhutan?


Maureen Lipmann as


The Wire in an episode of Dr Who


Dartington Hall gardens


that.... is there a remedy? Skidelsky waited for a moment, and then said that what was needed was a change in the consciousness of people in the country – so, can a purely secular philosophy be a catalyst for making this kind of change? Quietly, almost denying that such a thought should be allowed into his head, as an eminent professor of economics, Lord Skidelsky murmured that he had his doubts. The Dartington audience let him off the hook. After all, a man has to keep faith with his professional peers. Talking of peers, one of Skidelsky's friends from the Lords, David Owen, stood at the lectern later on, and gave us as fine an exposition as one could expect from outside the Government on what the coalition’s main tasks should be. Better analyses than mine will have arrived in the press, so I will restrict my comments to one telling statement: when asked where the coalition had failed, Dr Owen pointed out a paradox : today we are borrowing more per quarter to fund the government’s business, but the talk of cuts and NHS reorganisations has so swamped the media, that the City is spooked (not quite his words) into believing that they are actually happening! Is this entirely true? I doubt it – but the Bank of England has taken to printing money to help out, and that cannot surely be a good sign?


Bring back the Glass-Steigall act, then – at least reform the banks we inadvertently own – but the Genie is out of the bottle, sir, someone whispered. The hall was packed, and not just because he used to be a local MP. 'Nice to see a man stand up straight' said one of the stalwarts. It was indeed. One of us asked him his views on Skidelsky – and whether a secular change of philosophy would suffice to change our consciousness. Suavely, Owen consigned that one to the bishops. Take heed, please, ye bishops of the realm – you have been given a formidable task. Formal religion crept into odd places this year. Mary Warnock said that the professional churchman’s certitude of belief is clearly the basis of his authority and the depth of his following – but asked ‘does that make him an expert on morality? Should he not ‘declare his hand’ as a believer, when pronouncing on matters of legislation? Well, different world views were not mentioned, but the Abrahamic traditions took a bashing – warnings were issued against theocracies, and rule of law passed by


of state benefits cripples India, we heard from Patrick French, in the Barn Theatre, one of the smaller venues at Dartington. This isn’t news - the Samaritans were the ‘Dalits’ of their times. These are the tribal caste-less people of India, who are now gaining ground in politics and public life through quotas and other liberal policies – they have historically been the marginalised, the oppressed. And then we were told about not-


very-new technology : this is what is going on now – one of the former innovators at Intel, a South Indian man, is heading up the UID Authority in Bangalore – they scan the irises of targeted government benefit recipients and then make sure that only they get the benefits assigned to them by the government, making ‘taking a cut’ by middle men pretty much impossible. So far, 10,000 irises have been scanned. French was cheerful, and positive about India, which put me in a great mood for Maureen Lipman – who made us all laugh out loud. But, then, that isn't news either. She has been writing monologues for women recently;


due process upheld. Ah good, all is well with the world, then. Actually, I liked her rather, because her analysis did not lose sight of the limits of laws – she was moved to declare that if we are motivated by compassion we get it right more often – it is definitely better than ‘claiming a right’. The good Samaritan lives large in her life – Lord Skidelsky, you might take note – is this one aspect of the Good Life, that you are missing in your definition, perhaps ?


The Good Life of course is far from ubiquitous, and to my delight, I found that technology 'helps' in unexpected places. Corruption in the distribution


16


Alan Bennett was mentioned obliquely in the one she read out. We cried with laughter – incisive, sad and funny – what a wonderful way to end the weekend. On the long drive back to the Barbican in time to start school on Monday morning, I told my son about Ms Lipman – but he knew her anyway, from Dr Who!! Joyce Grenfell herself might have taken off her prim little hat at the delivery of her 'posting a rabbit' story – that's the Lipman I choose to remember. But you mustn’t encourage me to rabbit on – I have a meal to cook, a meeting to attend, and clothes to fold on the way . . . and you must have better things to do too.


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