Apologies for the gap in posting. I have been in beautiful Istanbul, swimming the Bosphorus with 2000 others, and it was awesome. I have blogged about it for Swimtrek, with whom I travelled, and will publish my efforts here tomorrow.
So, Latitude. After ten years I have occasionally wondered whether I should keep on going. It is the Law of Sod that every year it clashes with one of my favourite South London Swimming Club events, a one mile swim down the Thames followed by a barbecue. I say one of my favourite events; this is an assumption, because I’ve never actually been, as it always clashes with Latitude,but it sounds wonderful.
However, Latitude is wonderful too, each year in different ways. There’s the joy of discovery, of seeing things you would never have planned to see. This year, I didn’t get to see either of the things which were my two main picks, Ruby Wax and Nina Conti, the former because I left it too long to get into the queue for the theatre tent to see her, and therefore had a Mark Thomas moment, and the latter because she was performing on Sunday when I had to leave. But I still saw three extraordinary things which I would not have seen otherwise.
The first was the National Youth Theatre performing Carol Ann Duffy’s poems from her collection “The World’s Wife”. Five young women with minimal costumes, accompanied by cheesy recorded music (carefully chosen – it went perfectly with the subject matter) doing an unbelievably great job of bringing these brilliant poems to life. That was on the first morning, and I was a happy bunny right then. And then the next day I saw Luke Wright (the poet, not the cricketer 😊), who compères the Poetry Tent, largely on the strength of watching him recite a couple of poems after The World’s Wife and thinking he was great.
I wasn’t disappointed. He recited a long monologue poem, Everything I Know I Learned From Johnny Bevan, about a university friendship between Nick, from a middle-class home in Chelmsford , and Johnny Bevan, a boy from a sink estate in East London. But it’s not just about their friendship, it’s also about the rise and fall of New Labour and the crisis in the Labour party. One of the drivers of the story is Johnny’s dysfunctional relationship with his ignorant and lazy stepfather Keith, and it’s after Johnny’s mother takes Keith back that the friendship withers on the vine. Later in life Nick, now a cynical, worldly-wise journalist, tracks Johnny down to a squat in Chelmsford. It’s during this final conversation that Johnny, remembering the Labour victory in 1997, cries out “We always knew you’d turn into your dad and I’d turn into Keith. They were meant to change all that!” They were meant to change all that. How many of us, remembering the incredulous joy of the night of 1st May 1997, the cheers you could hear rising from so many homes at the words “Labour majority”, could echo those words. They were, indeed, meant to change all that.