I don’t want to suf­fer my anx­i­ety in si­lence John Crace’s di­gested week

The Guardian - - NATIONAL -


I spent the week­end in Ice­land as a guest of the Reyk­javik in­ter­na­tional lit­er­ary fes­ti­val. As so of­ten, I had as much – if not more – fun meet­ing read­ers and au­thors from other coun­tries as I did talk­ing at my own events. High­lights also in­cluded whale watch­ing and avoid­ing the lo­cal del­i­ca­cies of foal, whale and puf­fin. I had din­ner with Yrsa Sig­urðardót­tir and, as you would ex­pect of one of Ice­land’s top crime writ­ers, she was a fund of great sto­ries. As well as be­ing kept up to speed on ever more in­ven­tive ways of killing peo­ple with house­hold ap­pli­ances, Yrsa told me that Ice­land’s main mortuary is so full of tourists whose bod­ies have been un­claimed that of­fi­cials plan to build an ex­ten­sion. Un­for­tu­nately for fans of Ice­landic noir, there is no great mys­tery. Many are just peo­ple who went out un­pre­pared for the weather. They are un­claimed be­cause Ice­land is fiendishly ex­pen­sive and their rel­a­tives can’t af­ford to pay the stor­age charges and have the bod­ies flown home.


In a new report from the Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Eco­nomic Co-op­er­a­tion and Devel­op­ment, Britain ranks sev­enth in the league table of de­pres­sion. While I am ob­vi­ously thrilled that my cur­rent state of anx­i­ety, which is of­ten a pre­cur­sor to a bout of de­pres­sion, may have helped to push Britain above France, Greece, Poland and Slo­vakia in the rank­ings – if it gets much worse we could nudge ahead of Ice­land, Ire­land and Ger­many – I have reser­va­tions about the data. In many cases men­tal ill­ness goes un­di­ag­nosed as so of­ten it re­lies on pa­tients self-re­port­ing their con­di­tion. So a coun­try with fewer peo­ple iden­ti­fy­ing them­selves as de­pressed may be a worse place to live for those with a men­tal ill­ness as the pres­sure to pre­tend ev­ery­thing is OK may be greater. I’d rather live in a coun­try where be­ing de­pressed was no big deal than in one where I was ex­pected to suf­fer in si­lence.


Britain has been criticised for its slow re­sponse to the dev­as­ta­tion caused through­out the Caribbean by Hur­ri­cane Irma. Whether res­i­dents of the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands wanted a visit from Boris John­son is open to ques­tion, but they did be­lat­edly get one, along with some rather grudg­ing of­fers of fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance from the UK gov­ern­ment. With so much re­build­ing re­quired and com­par­a­tively lit­tle cash seem­ingly avail­able, it is sur­pris­ing that some MPs haven’t put their hands into their pock­ets to help out. Both Ni­cholas Soames and An­drew Mitchell have ben­e­fited from hav­ing off­shore com­pa­nies in the Bri­tish Vir­gin Is­lands and it shouldn’t be be­yond them to find a few quid to re­place the build­ings that housed their ac­coun­tants. The Cay­man Is­lands, where Ja­cob Rees-Mogg has an off­shore com­pany, did not es­cape un­scathed so per­haps he might think about pay­ing for one of the food banks of which he has re­cently be­come so fond.


It’s been re­vealed that Theresa May’s de­ci­sion to call a snap elec­tion cost the coun­try £140m. I am happy to have con­trib­uted £2 to an elec­tion that de­stroyed her strong and sta­ble ma­jor­ity but can see not ev­ery­one will feel the same. You would think the prime min­is­ter might now think twice about spend­ing other peo­ple’s money on point­less van­ity projects, but ap­par­ently not. The lat­est is a two-and-a-half minute an­i­mated video ex­plain­ing why Brexit is go­ing to be bril­liantly sim­ple that has ap­peared on No 10’s Twit­ter feed. Not only is the video lu­di­crously am­a­teur and up­beat – it wouldn’t be out of place along­side one of those 1960s public in­for­ma­tion films ex­plain­ing how to sur­vive a nu­clear at­tack by hid­ing un­der a table – it also sug­gests we’re only go­ing to bother to trade with one coun­try in Africa and a cou­ple in South Amer­ica, and man­ages to over­look the fact that Croa­tia is a mem­ber of the EU. It’s you that paid for all this. So that’s all right then.


Si­mon Rat­tle’s re­turn to Britain, af­ter 15 years at the Ber­lin Phil­har­monic, to take over the ba­ton of the Lon­don Sym­phony Orches­tra has come with a lot of hype. There are large por­traits of him on al­most ev­ery spare piece of blank wall at the Bar­bican. But the first con­cert more than lived up to ex­pec­ta­tions and Rat­tle and the orches­tra fully de­served their five-minute stand­ing ova­tion. For me, the un­doubted highlight was El­gar’s Enigma Vari­a­tions, which can sound like a Last Night of the Proms’ old fa­mil­iar but in Rat­tle’s hands reached mo­ments of sub­lime beauty. At my fa­ther’s funeral nearly 20 years ago, the or­gan­ist played the Nim­rod vari­a­tion – quite badly – and it left me al­most un­moved: I couldn’t think why my dad had asked for it. But this time the open­ing bars seemed to emerge as if from an­other world and grew into some­thing tran­scen­dent. My whole body came out in goose­bumps, tears came to my eyes and I felt closer to my fa­ther than at any time since he died. Thank you, Si­mon. And welcome home.

Di­gested week, di­gested The dys­func­tional tin-pot dic­ta­tor­ship

‘We’ve all got tick­ets for Florence and the Ma­chine’

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