Plain Sailing

Another week, another talk. This time it was the turn of Sir Robin Knox-Johnston, he of solo, water-based circumnavigation victories.

He spent a great deal of the time talking about his frustrations with technology, which made me think how apt the event's setting was: an old, defiantly dignified theatre - high-ceilinged and awash with smooth curves - rather inelegantly crammed with the accoutrements of modern stage craft - scaffolds, cables, projectors and wonky screens perched on dented stands.

Comparisons with the Ondaatje talk were interesting. When Sir Robin was asked different versions of, "So tell us: HOW do you do it?" he was happy to respond in a detailed, technical manner... although things became less precise when he was asked WHY he does it: "I don't know... because I love it"... which is an absolutely perfect reason, really.

Comparing audiences was equally fascinating. Ondaatje attracted a certain type. Female: big hair; artfully positioned scarf/brooch; paperback glued to palm of hand; tendency to talk too loudly about 'structure' and 'postmodernism'. Male: overlarge, scruffy coat; shuffling walk; eyes to the ground; man-bag under arm in true urban style. Sir Robin's faithful were quite different. They were older, for a start, and they all looked... well, sorry, but they really did look rather wind-swept, all ruddy cheeks and deep wrinkles. The hair of some of the men was a very outdoors-y shade of grey - if such a thing exists - as though the wind had been blowing through their locks for so long, it had actually frozen the colour right out of them.

Unlike Ondaatje, Sir Robin allowed himself to be animated and passionate on a number of topics, which brings me to the main point I took away from the evening. He has absolutely no time for our excessive reliance on and adherence to health and safety rules, claiming that they can actually end up causing more harm than good because they give people a false sense of security.

Cue this morning's news report that 95% of all British children have been the victims of "criminal" action. Whilst I would never wish to belittle the seriousness of the suffering experienced by anybody, I do question the wisdom of a report which counts "low level ... hitting" and "kicking" on school playgrounds as "criminal" activities. The report goes on to say that greater support must be provided for those on the receiving end of such "victimisation".

Had Sir Robin allowed himself to become a victim of the difficulties he's had to cope with over the years, I doubt he would have achieved his many successes. If he'd heard today's news, I suspect he might have been disheartened by the vision of a whole generation of youngsters demanding support for all of life's problems. Then again, he may well have tutted under his breath, turned the page and allowed himself to be inspired by an article on a voyage which relies completely on advanced technology: NASA's New Horizons probe recently flew past Jupiter and the astonishing images it transmitted to Earth have now been released to the public.

Maybe that's what we should do with the world's health and safety pundits: build a probe just for them and launch them into the asteroid belt... you know... just to give them a better perspective on things back at home...


Lorraine said…
See, that's why I read this here blog: the descriptions of the audiences was worth the price of admission.

Which is to say, were one to pay to get in here it would be worth it.

Oh, you know what I mean...
Dariush Alavi said…
Yes, I do, don't worry... and I'll do my best to provide value for money at all times.
Lenka said…
Great work.

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