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Laurence Inman’s Blog

QUESTIONS, QUESTIONS

09-10-2008

questions

The usual profound ruminations on the nature of existence. Prompted on this occasion by a trip to see Radio 4's Any Questions being recorded.

I spent a very pleasant hour or two at the Adrian Boult Hall last Friday night, in the audience of Radio 4’s Any Questions.

This show has now been going for sixty years. Its present chairman, Jonathan Dimbleby, has been doing the job since 1986 and is quite possibly the longest-serving of a line that includes Freddie Grisewood, Franklin Engleman and David Jacobs.

On the panel were Liam Byrne, rising star of the younger generation of Labour ministers; Alan Duncan, Tory spokesman for something or other and quite good mimic; Julia Goldsworthy, a Lib-Dem from Cornwall; and local playwright David Edgar.

Before the show I had a chance to survey the audience. They were easily identifiable as a Radio 4 crowd. In fact, I should think if you put them next to an audience for any other Radio 4 show, you might be able to pick them out as an Any Questions crowd. I don’t know why I should say that and I’m not going into it here.

I had a front-row seat once the show started. This was because my question, about the weasel-brained bastards who objected to those teachers going to Spain, was picked as one of those to be given the panel. It wasn’t in the end.

I drifted off to contemplate the nature of experience when things got going proper, and had to listen to the repeat on Saturday to find out what went on. The three politicals each said that only their leader/party/view of things could possibly get us out of the current mess. David Edgar was consistently witty and relevant throughout. I must read his plays again.

One interesting thing: the 8 pm news was broadcast quite loudly to the hall just before Jonathan kicked off and it sounded really funny, even the serious items raising more than a titter in the audience. It just goes to show; context is everything.

I sat there thinking: would it really matter if my question was read out or not? Would it matter even if I was actually on the panel? Or the chairman? They’re all forgotten, very quickly in most cases.

I read a great thing in a story by Alice Munro the other week a character is wondering whether to stay with her lover or try to get her husband back. She says

What nonsense it is to suppose one man so different from another when all that life really boils down to is getting a decent cup of coffee and room to stretch out in?

Did I not think that even if Nelson were sitting here beside me, he would have turned into a gray-faced stranger whose desolation and unease merely extended my own?

Yeats could have written that.

So much of the meaning or happiness we think we take out of life is down to our own investment. When we get married, for instance, we start off with a script of the story we hope will develop. Our chosen one passed the casting, but we don’t know how the production will go once the audience see it. It’s all luck. Nobody really knows anything.

It’s probably fairly easy for most people to insulate themselves against the fantasies created by those who want to sell us things, if they cared to make the effort.

What’s most dangerous are our very own stories, the ones only we make up and tell ourselves. They can kill all happiness.

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