Oh dear. Nearly two weeks since the last blog. Terrible! I blame general busy-ness, and too much going on in the world. My brain has been full and that makes it harder to write. Too much to say.
In these two weeks I have been mostly thinking about:
- How lucky I am to get to talk to years 6 to 9 in a variety of schools across the country. My school visits are over for the term and I’ll miss them. Every school and class is different, but the energy of the staff and students is much the same. We have lots and lots of fabulous young people in this country. Thank goodness we do, because …
- We also live in a world of earthquakes and tsunamis, and a nuclear industry that never seems to have the energy to properly dispose of its spent fuel rods – leaving them to lie around in dangerous places, where they can make a bad situation worse. We’ve all seen the pictures and heard the stories from Japan. One of my writing friends, Keris, has done something about it and arranged a fabulous auction of books and writing support to raise over £10,00 to help. Sometimes, people make an amazing difference.
- Which is even more amazing when they do it en masse. Of course I’m watching the populations in north Africa as they change the political face of their region. What’s happened in Tunisia and Egypt so far is very wonderful. Government of the people, by the people. Good luck to everyone who’s trying to create a representative, democratic system. It might not be one we entirely like or approve of when it’s finished, but that’s our problem, not theirs.
- And what happens to the dictators and their cronies now? What happens to the money they’ve been diligently syphoning off from their people for decades? A question that fascinates me as a writer and is building itself into the plot of a new book that I’m writing in my head.
- Also, what happens to resistance fighters who aren’t lucky enough to win in swift, bloodless revolutions? Well, we know more or less what happens because the journalists who were captured by Gaddafi’s soldiers in Libya for 27 hours or so told us. They get tortured, consistently, for days on end, with their wrists and feet tightly bound and their bloated faces covered in tight face masks to the point of suffocation. That’s what happens. It’s happening now and no amount of ‘no fly zone’ imposition by the UN is going to stop it. It’s on my mind a lot. My 10 year-old regularly asks me what my superpowers would be, if I could choose my top 3. I know the answer now. I would choose only one and it would be to stop torture. Everywhere. Now.
- As it happens, on one of my school visits I met someone who worked with Helen Bamber, who went into the Belsen concentration camp to help survivors aged 20, and has been helping victims of torture ever since. She’s one of my heroines: brave, sad, making a difference, never giving up. I saw her talk once, at a conference in London for survivors from Rwanda. She was in her 80s, and was riveting. She may not actually have superpowers, but she has superhuman mental strength.
- And art. I’ve been thinking about art. When we’re not being overwhelmed by earthquakes, or tsunamis, or nuclear meltdowns, or revolution, or torture, what are we doing? What is it all for? What is the light that balances out all this dark?
- Well, this weekend, some of the light was red. We went to the Tate Modern to see the new Picasso loan in temporary situ ($106 million, most expensive painting in the world, reportedly bought by Roman Abramovitch, very nice too) and as usual, we ended up on the 5th floor in the Energy and Process display. It’s up high and has the best light in the gallery, and the best views across the wobbly bridge to St Paul’s. In one of the rooms, red nylon tenting is stretched across the ceiling. Below it, a staircase is suspended in mid-air. It’s weird and thought-provoking and strangely beautiful. Conceptual art that stops you in your tracks, holds you for a moment and changes your perspective. In a good way. Much more affecting than the Picasso that day.
- Later on, I found this sign on the ground, protecting another sculpture. Unintentional art. I found myself wishing we could apply it to would-be torturers with helpless rebel fighters in their clutches.
- I’m now off to make some art of my own, in the form of the new book. If you need me, I’ll be in the library …