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    In Our Time: Montaigne

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    Editor's note: In Thursday's programme Melvyn Bragg and his guests discussed Montaigne. As always the programme is available to listen to online or to download and keep.



    It was generally agreed after the programme that the English particularly had taken much more keenly to the works of Montaigne than the French. This, it was explained, was because the French, resting their last few hundred years of civilisation on Reason, did not like him because he was too ill-organised for them. The English liked him especially because he was ill-organised.

    I'm glad the idea of the two towers in the chateau was brought in. It's always seemed to me that this would be the perfect arrangement: a tower at one end of the house and a tower at the other end of the house and a vast middle space, though not necessarily occupied by either a mother or a mother-in-law. On the other hand, who could get a house like that?

    It's been a very busy week indeed. Went to see A Doll's House at the Young Vic last week. I have never, ever, seen a better production of an Ibsen play. The Young Vic is in such furiously good form. It was such a wonderful production; so brilliant in its conception. Everything from the way the stage was managed to the way the choreography was arranged and particularly the way that the text was, as it were, updated, without, in my view, taking away one iota from the force and poetry of Ibsen. The performances were all extraordinary and in one case beyond praise. What a roll it's on at the moment.

    Wandering around London a lot. Over the wobbly bridge in the sun, walking towards St Paul's across the river, feeling as if you're walking across the Sea of Galilee. The South Bank Show now going out on television every week and fussing over the programmes every day – are they getting enough attention, the right sort of attention, what's the reaction ...David Hare exceptionally articulate, Tim Minchin remarkably witty and eclectic ...the interview with the Archbishop of Canterbury in the House of Lords on Monday in front of about 150 of their lordships. We did it in the Queen's Robing Room. An intriguing mixture of candour and total conviction. His modesty is both disarming and deeply clever. His candour is charming and very engaging. The certainty of his beliefs and his sense of mission are to be deeply admired.

    Very difficult to keep out of the parks in these few days of real spring weather. Is it the older you get that the more wonderful the blossom seems to be? St James's Park is a-blossom. The geese look more sparkly. The French children (it is always French children) are more animated and exuberant. It is almost impossible to walk on the pavement in the area of Westminster because they are so crowded, so a lot of us are taking to walking on the road. Cars will soon be banned.

    To the Royal Society on Thursday evening to talk about – among other things – William and Lawrence Bragg and the work that they did in various universities: Adelaide, Leeds, Manchester and Cambridge, to push forward some of the most important discoveries in twentieth century science. Lawrence Bragg also went to the Front in the First World War, spent four years there and invented a system of detecting the German big guns, which, historians now think, was one of the factors which allowed the Allies to move forward as effectively and as early as they did.

    And now to Cambridge with Tom Morris who is producing a programme on the Braggs, to that great crucible of scientific thought over the centuries and to the Cavendish itself, once attended by William and then his son, Lawrence Bragg – both of whom did work a hundred years ago which led to their being awarded a Nobel Prize together, the only father and son to have that distinction.

    Best wishes

    Melvyn Bragg (some sort of – very distant – relation)

    PS: In London, I'm afraid, spring is signalled not so much by blossom as by crowds. It is a time when literally hundreds of young people stand on narrow pavements outside pubs, clutching glasses and jostling against each other as tightly as if they were in an old scratching shed at a Third Division football ground in the 1940s. Is there anywhere in the world where the youth of the country who can afford a drink after work stand in such uncomfortable places, in such numbers, to enjoy themselves on a spring evening?


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