2001: how it really turned out

I have just been to see 2001: A Space Odyssey with my family: part of a Darwin season – yes, really – at our new local cinema. The film itself provoked a storm of discussion within our little group with opinion divided between those who pronounced it ‘complete and utter tosh’ and those who argued that it was ‘ glorious, original film making, working to a different timescale.’ ( The film is very slow by modern standards.) Let’s just say, I was in a minority of one in enjoying its explosion of colour and concepts, its imaginative recreation of The Dawn of Man as well as Jupiter, Infinity and beyond. Everyone else was bored rigid.

But to return to the central question of time. I about ten years old when I first saw the film and like so many, saw it as a serious attempt to predict the future in terms of space travel, computer technology, furnishings and clothing and so on. It didn’t do badly, as it happens, with the imaginative projection of a a Skype like arrangement for telephone communication and some strange free standing raspberry furniture I am sure I have seen in several modern office blocks recently.

But of course the once distant future becomes the recent past. 2001 is now nearly a decade ago, a year that created its own story, its own extraordinary history. To watch now this projection of a far flung future is to feel the forceful limitation of prediction. As we, the viewer, free wheel through space to the strains of Wagner and Strauss ( amazing music, I thought) all I could think of was the Twin Towers burning and the bodies falling and the resilience and grief of New York.

Who could have guessed all that or understood what it meant? Who also could have guessed that interest in space travel would wane as the new century unfolded? That, in fact, there would be no regular package tours to the moon, in fact few missions to the moon at all, let alone a mission to Jupiter………………

Latest news and views…………….

Listen to an interview with Melissa Benn on the website of poet and writer James Nash……………….and later this month, on November 21st at 8pm, Melissa is one of a number of contributors to a special programme on Radio Four, written and presented by Mark Lawson, on the representation of politics in fiction and the arts. The Radio Times are doing a special feature on the programme. Check out the Radio Four website for more details nearer the time.

How forgiveness really works

Read here the extraordinary story of Mary Foley, a forty six year old mother of three whose fifteen year old daughter Charlotte was stabbed at a party in 2005 and who went on to forgive her daughter’s killer.

Mary came to speak to a year 11 group at QPCS, our local secondary school yesterday. A group of parents at QPCS bring in visiting speakers and writers on a regular basis, so that students can listen to the experience of adults from a wide range of backgrounds, life experience and work.

For obvious reasons, Mary’s story was of particular interest. You could have heard a pin drop in that class, as she spoke for half an hour or more, and then took questions for another half an hour.

Perhaps the most moving moment was when, in among the searching questions, one of the students said simply and directly to Mary, ” I think we all want to say, we are very sorry for your loss.”