Archive for the ‘Diary’ Category
Bedales School – a progressive, co-educational public school in the heart of Hampshire – is well-known for its famous alumni. Lily Allen, Sophie Dahl and Minnie Driver were all educated there, and celebrity parents include Mick Jagger, Jude Law, Jeremy Paxman and Boris Johnson.
Such an institution, and such a clientele, will inevitably attract media attention. It is no surprise, therefore, that the school frequently has to endure the ignominy of having its dirty laundry made public. When six students were thrown out for drugs offences last year, the story made the national headlines; when two more were expelled last summer for “having sex in a sandpit,” it caused even more of a furore.
The novelist Amanda Craig – who herself went to Bedales forty years ago – was among the most vociferous critics of her former school. Writing in the Daily Mail, she recounted how she was sexually assaulted by a gang of boys while walking back from an evening assembly. From then on, she writes, she was “relentlessly bullied,” and became “tense, white-faced and desperately lonely.”
Last week, as Bedales’ writer-in-residence, I had the opportunity to assess it from the inside. I spent five days leading workshops, speaking to the literary societies, meeting children of all ages for one-to-one tutorials, lecturing and advising staff. And although I concede that my time there was limited, what I saw had little in common with the Bedales of Amanda Craig four decades ago. Continue reading on the Independent website
JWS and the Kindertransport survivor Walter Kammerling, Ayot Festival 2011
A couple of weeks back, I appeared at a festival at Ayot. (That sounds a bit like I’m a wizard. But I kind of like it.) I read from my new novel, The English German Girl, which is about the Kindertrasport. I’ve done quite a lot of readings recently while promoting the book. But this one was different. Appearing on the stage alongside me was Walter Kammerling, a Kindertransport survivor whom I interviewed six years ago, when I was just starting to write the novel. Walter was whisked out of Vienna at the age of fifteen, which is the same age as my protagonist, Rosa, leaves Berlin.
Needless to say, it was an honour to share a platform with such a courageous and inspiring man. At one point, the host, Fiona MacIntosh, asked me to read a few paragraphs from the novel. Then she turned to Walter. “Did that extract ring true?” she asked. “Has Jake accurately captured the mood of the period?” There was a long pause. This was, as they say, the 64,000 dollar question. (What does that phrase actually mean? 64,000 dollar question? Should I google it? Can’t be bothered.) Anyway, my heart was in my mouth. Walter took a breath. “Yes,” he said, decisively. “Jake captured the atmosphere very well.” Relief doesn’t even begin to describe what I felt at that moment.
At the same time, what I felt was deeper than relief. Walter had brought home to me more vividly than ever before the greater meaning of my novel, which is to keep the memory of the Kindertransport alive in the minds of future generations. Or, on an even more fundamental level, to allow people to empathise with the persecuted and oppressed. Walter had travelled halfway across the country to appear at Ayot, determined – even at the age of 91 – to spread his message of pluralism and tolerance. My book, in some very small (and perhaps incomparable) way, is contributing to this effort.
After the event, there was a signing. A few people asked Walter to sign the novel as well. Before long this became the form; I would sign it, then he would sign below. I was humbled. This seemed to be exactly the right way to end such a very unique event.
Four Thought combines big ideas and evocative storytelling in a series of personal viewpoints – speakers take to the stage ready to air their latest thinking on the trends, ideas, interests and passions that affect our culture and society.
Recorded live at the RSA in London, these talks are unscripted, thought-provoking and entertaining, with a personal dimension.
Join Jake Wallis Simons at P&G Wells — the iconic bookshop that nestles snugly between Winchester College and Winchester Cathedral — to celebrate the publication of his new novel, The English German Girl. The evening will feature readings, discussions, and wine flowing like water. An event not to be missed.
6:30pm, P&G Wells, 11 College Street, Winchester | 01962 852016 | firstname.lastname@example.org
On April 7, Jake Wallis Simons will be speaking at the Royal Society of Arts as part of Radio 4′s exciting new series FOUR THOUGHT. He will be talking, unscripted, for 15 minutes on the subject of “what you didn’t know about Tibetan Buddhism”. Other speakers include Jonathan Sumption QC, the Independent columnist Christina Patterson, and the political scientist Professor Phil Cowley.
There will be a live studio audience. Find out more
My latest novel, The English German Girl, which comes out in April, took around five years to complete. For at least three of those years, in the back of my head I had a piece of music by the French composer Maurice Ravel. Written in 1914, it is part of a two-song set called “Deux mélodies hébraïques;” the first of these, “Kaddish,” seems to capture perfectly the mood of the novel. Here is is played beautifully and movingly by the wonderful British cellist Steven Isserlis. –JWS
I was so chuffed and honoured to receive a personal email from David Cameron the other day that I decided to post it here. See below. –JWS
OFFICE OF THE PRIME MINISTER
TREASURY AND MINISTER FOR CIVIL SERVICE,
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM.
Our ref: ATM/13470/IDR Your ref:…
IMMEDIATE PAYMENT NOTIFICATION.
I am The Rt Hon David Cameron, Prime Minister British Government. This letter is to officially inform you that (ATM Card Number 4900101775551222) has been accredited with your favor. Your Personal Identification Number is 413. The VISA Card Value is Ј3,000,000.00(Three Million Great British Pounds Sterling).
This office will send to you a Visa/ATM CARD that you will use to withdraw your funds in any ATM MACHINE CENTER or Visa card outlet in the world with a maximum of Ј10,000 Pounds daily. Further more,You will be required to re-confirm the following information to enable;The Rt Hon William Hague Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. begin in processing of your VISA CARD.
(1)Full names: (2)Address: (3)Country: (4)Nationality: (5)Phone #: (6)Age: (7)Occupation:
Forward Reply To: email@example.com
TAKE NOTICE: That you are warned to stop further communications with any other person(s) or office(s) different from the staff of the State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs to avoid hitches in receiving your payment.
The Rt Hon David Cameron MP
My iPhone is Shit
iPhone, my iPhone:
Back when I upgraded, you seemed like such a blessing
So I’m completely mortified and guilty about confessing
It’s all hype, I can’t type on a tiny pain of glass;
Sending texts and emails is really quite an arse.
Every day you’re causing me embarrassment with typos.
“Thanks for the birthday ‘pressure’?” You make me look a psycho.
You act all slick and cool but actually you’re phoney.
My friend named her son Toby — you renamed him “Tony.”
What’s the point of a phone that drops important calls?
How can you hold your head up when your camera’s a load of balls?
It freezes really badly when I try to take a pic,
I’ve lost so many memories, I’m feeling like a prick.
My temper has expired
I finally got a piece of kit that everyone admired
But it’s shit
I should flush it down the loo.
Followed by my iMac and my iPad too.
But then again, my Blackberry isn’t that much better.
Maybe I should pack it in, write a fucking letter.
Upgrade — or Unbearable Naivete
Blackberry, O my Blackberry,
No longer shall I suckle at thy tarry teat,
No longer shall I trackpad.
With my iPad,
And my iPhone 4,
I will touchscreen.
Perhaps (with all the apps).
But now I’m Schnaps, no longer Snapple;
I’m not a berry,
I’m an apple.
We were sitting on the sofa, surrounded by glossy wedding bumph, when my fiancée Isobel had a moment of clarity. “These people are thieves,” she said, tossing aside a brochure for Blenheim Palace advertising two wedding packages – a no-frills option for £16,400 and a standard for £23,900. “We don’t have that kind of money. Let’s set ourselves the challenge of having a lovely wedding for less than £5,000.”
I smiled encouragingly. It was late at night. Within a few hours, I thought, she would recognise this idea for the tomfoolery it was.
The next morning, however, Isobel was fired up. “I’ll do the catering myself,” she said over breakfast. “It will be a really characterful wedding.” I pulled out the Blenheim Palace brochure from my pocket. “But what about the magnificent setting?” I said, mournfully. “What about the after-dinner Belgian pralines?” She regarded me steadily. “We can do it,” she said.
According to the consumer watchdog Which?, the average cost of a wedding in the UK is around £17,000. Moreover, a recent report suggests that couples are being exploited when they tie the knot. “Hotels, florists and hairdressers are being really unfair,” says Lisa Barber, deputy editor of Which? Magazine. “They charge 25 per cent more for weddings than they do for other similar events.” Read the rest of this entry »