Monday-Tuesday, 11-12 June: On each day, I spent half a day going to the dentist. Advice on how to clean your teeth: keep your gums healthy by aiming your brush under the gum and use those little twizzly brushes to clean between the teeth and up into the gum. Try to visit a hygienist for cleaning twice a year – ask your dentist. This way you will keep your teeth.
Wrote up the diary. Made three decisions re Gold Label.
Wednesday, 13 June: I travelled with Cynthia to the ‘Times Cheltenham Science Festival’ at the invitation of Jonathon Porritt and it was out of respect for his work that I accepted. Cynthia writes: Jonathon introduced Vivienne who spoke about our inability to stop climate change because we don’t see that it is deeply connected with our financial system and lack of culture and live our lives accordingly. Jonathon is against the use of nuclear power in principle, he said that as an interim measure he agrees with James Lovelock that we should not shut down nuclear plants already in operation – he was, however, opposed to building more as the need to keep them cool means they need to be built near the sea, a bad idea, he thought, in a world of rising sea levels.
We arrived in Cheltenham just after 2.00 and, as Vivienne was not scheduled to speak until 8.30, we had time to attend two other sessions. The first was ‘Population: How many is too many?’ The big answer was that if the entire planet consumed at the level the western developed nations are now the sustainable number would be just over two billion (compared with the seven billion we have today). We didn’t know that there has been great reluctance to discuss overpopulation. Because of mistakes in the past, birth control and population management has been seen as a tool used by developed countries to ensure the continuing prosperity and consumption of the rich – an unacceptable aspect of racism. The speakers’ consensus was that contraception made accessible, not forced) if we are to achieve a liveable world.
The second was ‘Hacktivism’ – and the difference between cyber terrorism and legitimate political protest. One speaker had been a 14 year old wiz-kid and he was pleased that he had been recruited by the ‘good guys’ instead of criminals. Mischa Glenny talked about the increasing cyber crime.
Back to Vivienne: Over the course of two days, I gave the same talk five times: twice for local BBC Radio stations, twice with live audiences and lastly on the train in an interview for the ‘Independent on Sunday’. The theme of my talks was ‘Get a Life’, 1) for the next generation by preventing mass extinction due to climate change and 2) what about your life right now?
I do get through to people: I focus on them and what they can do. The main point is that the 20th century was an age of consuming, sucking things up – including opinions – the dogma that we would all be better off if we left everything to technology and Big Business; the way out of this is that we have to invest in culture through art, reading and understanding the past and that this knowledge is what gives a purpose in life and creates the individual. Also this individual strength will help you in any fight for the environment.
The most important thing I want people to take away is my mantra: the main cause of climate change is our financial system; the way out of it is by concentrating on human values and the long term instead of financial abstract quick fix.
Cynthia says: After spending the night in Cheltenham, we went off to Bristol the next morning in time for some photos and preparation for the lunchtime session. Vivienne’s message in Bristol was the same as in Cheltenham – and she delivered it to a packed house who really seemed to respond well to what she was saying. Then off on the train back to London and an interview with Sarah Morrison for ‘The Independent on Sunday’.
Back to Vivienne: I think it is important to talk to people face to face. It’s the best chance to influence people and hope they act. Also radio and TV is direct communication. But being interviewed for a newspaper is not direct, it’s up to the journalist and you never know. I was tired during my interview and chatted to the young journalist who, at age 25, had a very important job – she was going to Uganda on Sunday to do research for a story on family planning ahead of the London summit on 11 July held by Marie Stopes International, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK government (DIFED). Representatives from round the world will attend with the aim of getting quality family planning to 215 million women worldwide who want contraception but can’t get it. She told me the highest cause of death in Africa for girls 14-19 years old is pregnancy because they are often too immature and don’t have access to health care.
However, though she had listened to my talk in Bristol as well as doing the interview, she wasted the possibility of saying anything important and just came up with a standard profile. I had said to her, “Here’s a tip. Tell your editors: Give people a choice – sell just the Sunday newspaper without all that bumpf, all that sport and culture chit-chat (people don’t know what culture is any more: non-stop distraction). I would buy it!” She said, “Oh no! That’s where they get the advertising revenue from.”
Thursday night: From the train to our studio in Battersea to pick up Andreas. Thence to a reception at St. James’ Palace to meet Prince Charles and to celebrate ‘English Menswear’. Then on to Festival Hall. Andras Schiff, one of the world’s greatest pianists, conducted the Philharmonic as well as playing the piano in Mozart’s famous piano concerto, Opus 21, and then conducted the Jupiter symphony, perhaps the most well-known and well-loved symphony and certainly Andreas’ favourite: it is total, it is the “all” of music; nothing goes beyond it. It is galactic. Andras Schiff – this music is flesh and blood to him. A small man, every fibre was electrified. He was a conduit for the genius of little Mozart, who died aged 35. The piece is pure bliss and joy but I was sad; for some reason I was thinking of an African girl, about 17, who died during a reality type TV thing where an English nurse spent time in an African hospital. The pregnant girl had been advised by people at home to put certain leaves inside herself but, instead of aborting, she had killed the foetus and it was rotting inside her. She lay on a mattress in the hot hospital, she was a beautiful slender creature, short unkempt hair, wild eyed and out of her mind, never speaking. The hospital had no drugs and no means of operating. After three days, they announced that she had given up her fight for life.
Friday – Sunday, 15-17 June: At home, thinking about Gold Label, reading, writing.
Saturday evening: Intimate dinner hosted by I.D. Magazine. I very much like Terry Jones (Editor-in-Chief) and Trish, his wife.
Sunday, 4.00 pm: Invitation to my granddaughter Cora’s 15th Birthday Tea. One of the classes Cora enjoys at school are discussions on philosophical, ethical and cultural questions, e.g. moral:
You have a choice to save either one great thinker or two people who don’t think.
e.g. cultural: Discuss artists like Damien Hirst: – He’s an artist because he says so/If you called yourself an artist would that make you one?/No, because I’m not Damien Hirst.