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Ian McMillan's Saturday Morning Free Thoughts

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Ian McMillan Ian McMillan | 11:14 UK Time, Saturday, 5 November 2011


Picture of Ian McMillan


I wake up early, like I always do, my eyelids opening with a clang that probably disturbs the people in the room next door. According to my phone, it's 05.16. The hotel bedside clock says 05.21. The clock on the hotel TV says 05.11. My trusty bedside clock says 05.26. That's it with time. It changes, it's never constant. It fits in beautifully with the theme of this year's Free Thinking: CHANGE.


My head is still buzzing from last night's words and music, a perfect juxtaposition of spoken and musical languages. Two pieces stand out for me: Shakespeare's seven ages of man, and a beautifully poised solo flute piece by Debussy. They both reminded me that I'm changing, I'm getting older. Hairs are sprouting from my nose. Change.

A few 55-year-old's exercises in my room then a shower then down for breakfast just after they start serving. I'm not the first. Margaret Drabble is there, gazing out at the river - she's on first today, in the Books at Breakfast slot.

After breakfast, a stroll on the waterfront. Change: old industries, old certainties, gone. The Sage Gateshead, glowing with confidence. And if you'd have told them years ago that there would have been a Gateshead Hilton, they'd have laughed in your face. Blokes are fishing and a man on a bike pauses to use his inhaler. I know how he feels sometimes.

Then something beautiful: at first I think it's a perfect circle of mushrooms on the grass by the path but then I see that it's a crop of mushrooms that someone has manipulated into the shape of a heart. Change: the human capacity for creativity, for art.

And it's only a small step from a heart made of mushrooms to a flute solo by Debussy, isn't it?

Back in my room. I'll start preparing for tonight's recording of The Verb ... you can hear what we said and did next Friday, 11 November at 10pm on BBC Radio 3!

Ian McMillan presents BBC Radio 3's The Verb and is omnipresent at Free Thinking, where amongst other things he comperes Speed Dating with a Thinker and introduces the Young Ranters ...



  • Comment number 1.

    Mid-Life Crisis

    I'm fifty and I'm overweight, my best years have gone by.
    I hanker for the days when as a youth my feet could fly;
    Gymnastic skills came easily to one who was so lean,
    But now my waistline measurement has gone beyond obscene.
    I want to do a cartwheel, execute a back handspring,
    And fly with double somersault; a bird upon the wing.
    I'd love to do a pirouette and hold an arabesque,
    A muscled leg inclined behind, without looking grotesque.
    I wish I was more supple, acrobatic, lithe and fit,
    But in this frilly leotard, I look a proper twit.



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