Sunday, 5 August: We left the chalet and said goodbye to the family on the way as we drove down to the station. We took a two hour train journey to spend two or three days with Iris, who lives on the edge of Lake Constance.
Monday, 6 August: The train followed the River Inn for much of the way. Its bed lies in a narrow strip of land left by a glacier cut between great walls of the Alps. The soil is so rich, the land so cultivated and the total view so mind blowingly spectacular. There used to be silver mines in the mountains. Iris and the boys, Aamon, 9 and Hatto, 7, met us – all in bare feet. This whole area is green hills, rising up to the mountains and it is like a garden. Andreas said you probably would not find anywhere equal to it in the world – not in Italy – for such rich land. It was full of apples and now with climate change there are also peaches.
Iris drove us to Dornbirn, half an hour away. It is famous for its old houses and hotels, chalet-style, all in wood. The museum there is in memory of the slave children who, from the 17th century until 1950, came to work in the region. Children as young as five were bought and sold and walked here through the mountain passes – some from Italy, many from the poor farms in the Tyrol, some killed by avalanches. Yet everybody in those days had large families. Why did they buy children? 1) The land here is rich, 2) Primogeniture: here only the firstborn inherited so other children worked away from the farm. In e.g. the Tyrol, the land was divided among all the children and the land could not support them (This is what happened in Rwanda), 3) Maria Theresa passed a law that all the children must go to school but this did not apply to immigrant children. Most children suffered because the farmers were mean and though in the area around Dornbirn the people were kinder, children sometimes drowned themselves in the lake.
The museum is a house traditionally furnished with pre-industrial wooden “machines” and tools for carpentry and other skills. Of interest were the short beds because people slept propped up sitting and were only laid flat at death; behind the bed were doors so that the corpse could exit without passing through the living room which was holy because the family shrine was there – children were not allowed in this room. The traditional costumes are still worn on special days – the women’s dress is made from fine linen coated with shiny tar then fine pleated. It was strange to see a family photo of a farmer and his wife in shoes and all his children wearing their best clothes, the boys in suits, yet barefoot.
At the museum there was also an exhibition of the work of the most famous woman painter – a very good one – Angelica Kauffmann. She was a child prodigy who at the age of 15 painted the frescos in the local grand church.
From Iris’ house you just walk 30 yards down the road in your bare feet and onto a patch of grass beside Lake Constance – it’s like having your own private lake. They are a sporty family. Without warning, three years ago an avalanche on Mont Blanc swept Iris’ husband, a doctor and a climber, to his death. She is glad she had two boys, they helped each other and are very close friends.
There is a boat for sailing on the lake, surf boards, skateboards, skis, a trampoline. Aamon is a wonderful gymnast and Hatto is strong and trying to copy him. Each summer evening they jump and dive off the pier into the lake. Iris says they’re on the move all day. They are also creative, like her. They go to a school in the woods and are allowed freedom with responsibility. They have ceremonies to honour the natural world and the world of the spirit at important times of year. Iris is very much involved (she also teaches yoga there). I think all schools should be community schools providing social facilities and discussion in world involvement for the whole community.
I had a lovely time at Iris’ house. One day I stayed reading while the others went out. Otherwise we talked, ate and drank (one night her friend Roland came and prepared us a delicate meal fit for gods), swam in the warm lake, played games and watched the Olympics on telly. I felt like we all had a party.
Tuesday, 7 August: Came home.
Anna Piaggi died. Dear Anna. What a lovely person! Had she been ill? We missed her at the last show because she always came. She was one of the first important fashion people to come in my shop, then called “Let it Rock” in the World’s End in 1970. She worked in Italian Vogue but she loved London and some of her best friends lived here: Gene Krell from “Granny Takes a Trip”; I’ll have to tell you about Gene one day – he came from New York, his personal style influenced the whole look of the “Swinging 60’s”, especially the Rolling Stones. He told me, meeting Anna in London, she came out of the taxi with seven suitcases of clothes for the weekend. She liked to try things on and experiment, every time she went out she had a different ensemble. Gene is now fashion editor of Vogue Nippon and Korean Vogue; Manolo and especially Vern Lambert, who had another very influential shop in Chelsea Antique Market, e.g. he bought up a load of bell bottoms from the Navy and bell bottom trousers became the whole style right through the 70’s (when we were selling drain pipes). Vern went to live with Anna and her husband in Italy. Anna did five or six terrific ad campaigns with us. She was really, really talented and her personality and work helped to give the fashion world its identity for us. Andreas and I will miss her.
Wednesday, 8 August: Work
Thursday, 9 August: Evening. Naomi hosted a party at Cipriani’s in Mayfair to mark the Olympics. Naomi’s in great shape. Tall and slim in black with black fine straight hair falling over her shoulders and down to her waist. She is happy and we liked her man – he seems a serious person. Yes, lots of our friends were there, Kate especially and Sarah Ferguson. She is doing work in the Congo – Sarah’s very capable, always doing charity work. We must see if her activities there tie in with Cool Earth. At the party, we watched Usain Bolt win the 200m. I had seen him win the 100m at Iris’. Cool! I also watched some of the opening ceremony at home where Andreas has his TV at the top of the house. What I really liked about Danny Boyle was his inclusiveness – we’re all ordinary people, including the Queen, and we all share what it means to be British. Thanks, Danny, for the comfort. We’d better wake up to reality, get rid of our complacency and confront climate change – or die.
Friday, 10 August: Andreas got up early to do some work in Vienne as we’re opening a shop there. Then he joined the men of his family in Turkey to go sailing around the Greek islands on his uncle’s boat.
Evening. Went with Peter Olive to the Royal Court to see “Ten Billion”. He began by saying that the forecast figure of 10 billion people at some point in this century was really 28 billion if we reproduce at the present rate (we know already that the present population is unsustainable, i.e. we will wreck the planet unless we change our behaviour and reduce population growth). It takes 3,000 litres of water to produce a Big Mac.
He was Stephen Emmott, Professor of Computational Science at Cambridge. I have never been in the presence of a more attractive human – warm, intelligent, intense, kind – the word “kind” comes from the same root as “kin” and it means to care for someone as much as you do for your family.
He said that the stage décor was a replica of his office; of course, he wasn’t an actor.
To support population growth – among the list of statistics he mentioned – we would need over 100 dams the size of the one in China (I think the number was 180). This would be impossible but my heart sank to think we would build even one more dam, let alone 5 or 10. If the world’s general public knew the effect of such things – the loss of habitat, the loss of biodiversity, if they knew what would happen to them if they were evacuated, things would be different – it’s like telling people to drink their own blood to survive. He made a firm point of saying it was not only the loss of species but the loss of Biodiversity itself that was the biggest threat to the planet. And – the world’s largest polluter is Agribusiness.
On two screens in his stage office various graphics appeared to back up his points: two maps of the world showed 1) dotted lines moving thick as a blizzard over the whole surface constantly 24 hours representing aeroplanes – I didn’t know it was so bad; it’s increasing all the time, 2) the same thing but with streaks representing shipping and cars. We are constantly moving stuff (my business does). He explained what umpteen things are transported to the factory before you can start to make a car – the uncosted cost to the environment. (Later, he brushed away with a smile the idea of electric cars.)
The talk lasted 75 minutes. He had given his talk over 50 times already to small audiences – we were less than 100 in the Royal Court. Katie Mitchell (director), you are so clever to have got this on. I really believe in theatre and face to face communication. But how can we reach a wider audience? We could fill a stadium – he could hold any audience – but we’d have to attract them first with a pop group.
Two things that he mentioned which were important to me because they point to clear immediate action: the absolute necessity of preserving the Rainforest and the only possible energy solution right now is nuclear.
Governments are doing nothing (we know they’re just helping corporations to wreck the planet, not help people at all). He went through a list of proposed technical solutions’ also of what we each can do: nothing happening in relation to the problem. Emmott also drew the parallel between now and 65 million years ago when the dinosaurs vanished. He talked of a time when the earth would be mostly uninhabitable, how the habitable parts would have to defend themselves from climate migrants. He mentioned that recently, when he attends top meetings about climate change, he notices that the military are always present. He asked a younger colleague, if there was one thing he could do what would it be. “Teach my son to use a gun.”
Saturday, 11 August: Wrote up Friday’s diary. Yoga. Sleep. By bicycle to a friend’s party, a secret space near London Bridge where we had a fire and a barbeque (I ate vegetarian barbeque – delicious). She is leaving to live in Brazil so that her family can help look after her two children. Yet she and her husband will be travelling here often because they both work here. Crazy world – crazy environment!
Sunday, 12 August: Did nothing until about 5 pm except some desultory reading. So downhearted apropos the overwhelming extent of the wrecking of Gaia as set out by the unflinching assessment at Friday’s theatre. Emmott didn’t mention the NGO’s who really are doing things, but we have to find out ways for the public to know and to face the problem when the whole plutocracy/bureaucracy conspires to deceive us. I worry what I can do in my company. I’ve begun to do it re Q v. Q, which must start with climate change but I need extra help.
At 5 p.m. I made a good salad and cooked some corn on the cob and decided I don’t need depression to help me with the world’s problems. But I’ve always thought the world’s problems are my problems. We might have a chance if only more people knew. I still think “Climate Revolution” is the way forward. Identify the enemy: the two big ones, the Fossil Fuel Industry and Agribusiness.