Music, film and above all books are an important part of my life. I suppose I’d describe my taste as middle-brow, or, more flatteringly, intelligent but accessible. Here’s just a recent selection, my ‘choice of the month’ which has given me pleasure.
Don Henley’s ‘The end of the Innocence” has two great tracks, the title song and ‘The New York Minute’. I first heard the latter during an episode of ‘West Wing’, and couldn’t place it. It stayed on my brain all night. Next morning at work I asked Steve Clark to track it down, which he did: another precious memory from a typical day on the 9th floor of the ‘Caprice des Dieux’
Peter Ackroyd’s ‘Foundation’ is the first of his sweeping History of England volumes. It takes the reader at a great pace from pre-Roman Britain (not as primitive as you might have been led to believe) to the gore of the War of the Roses and on to the relative serenity of Henry VII. This is not just about Kings and barons and the almost uninterrupted political strife. Its about the life of the people, their development, how they were housed, what they ate, their superstitions, how basic administration and the rule of law gradually came to England. It has the most lucid explanation of the emergence of parliamentary practice in the fourteenth century. Most relevant for today is the continuity of so much in English society and life over the centuries which has generated what he calls ‘historical pieties’; a mindset which makes radical change like the pooling of sovereignty with other nations so much more challenging. A real achievement.
You’d need a heart of stone not to be moved by ‘Des Hommes et des Dieux”, based on the true story of the murders of some French monks carrying out their ministry in a remote region of Algeria during the civil war in the 1990s. The final dinner scene is among the most beautifully heart-rending I have ever watched. Lambert Wilson achieves acting magnificence alongside a great cameo from the wondrous Michel Lonsdale