Monday, 28 June 2010


Thinking about fairness we spent Saturday with our 'outlaws', Anthony and Ruth Dunnett. The pretext was our annual visit to Stratford, this year to see Antony and Cleopatra. A beautiful sunny day, and so I was grateful for the Yeti's air-conditioning. The RSC is good at providing for the disabled. Good parking round the corner and good cheap view-points for wheel-chairs, and of course well-equipped disabled toilets. I've not seen A & C before. A mixture of high politics and high passion. You could never tell when characters were telling the truth or lying 'with a view'. In fact I wondered whether they themselves knew. Did Antony believe he'd be faithful to Octavia with Cleopatra beckoning from Egypt? Did Caesar mean any of the assurances he gave Cleopatra? Did she mean any of the amorous vows she made to her successive lovers, or was she merely in love with power? It felt like walking on marbles. Anyway it was a brilliant production - minimal set, strong performances: Caesar a chilling constantly polite politician, Cleopatra a mercurial manipulator, Antony a soldier ruled by his heart - to say nothing of the minor characters, like Enobarbus and Charmian.
This is not Charmian or Enobarbus, but Ruth and Anthony, when we wandered round the refurbished (almost) Memorial Theatre in the hot sunshine, where the British and foreign public mingled contentedly. A & R work with International Health Partners UK, which takes them to some of the direst places in the world, such as Haiti after the earthquake and Kyrgyzstan. Which brings me back to fairness. Although Haiti has disappeared from our TV screens, things there are still awful, they told us. You can't get around the island except in a 4x4 because of degradation of the roads (the potholes are so deep you drive in and out of them). I think they said two-thirds of the dead bodies are still under the rubble. But it's not all bad news. For example, there's a refugee camp financed and maintained by a Hollywood star - and IHP has been supplying medical supplies.
Here they are being audited. 

It did bring home to me what a huge amount we take for granted. Much of the world has so little. Although many people in Haiti lost their legs in the earthquake, wheelchairs are no good because the roads and paths are in no condition to use. We can't do anything about earthquakes, but we can do something about their aftermath. We can care, but we don't. I don't know how much of their fortunes footballers give away to charities, but I'm certain it's not as much as they could. That's not fair. I receive amazing treatment thanks to the NHS - that's not fair either. I'm grateful for what I have, of course, but wish that as a country we whinged less and gave more. We have SO MUCH to be thankful for.


  1. Just before our daughter started secondary school, we spent a day visiting her pen friend, in a township outside Harare. It was twenty years ago - I still remember the warmth of our welcome. My most vivid recollection, though, is that, at that time, paracetamol tablets were the equivilent of 25p each and school fees for a whole term were £3. I felt, still feel, very fortunate.

  2. Yes, and the great thing about IHP's work is they get the medicines where they're needed - free at the point of need.

    We are incredibly blessed with the NHS. People with MND in the States face a real burden, over and above their illness.