My name is Jason Bermingham and you know me best as the voice that introduces Speak Up each month. As well as speaking on the CD, I sometimes write for the magazine. If you were reading Speak Up one hundred issues ago, you may remember “Interamericas”, a travel series that took you on a road trip from the
I’ll be watching for you on the side of the road.
All the best, Jason Bermingham
PS: Please write “BR-
March 8th is the 101st International Women’s Day and it will be celebrated with a series of special events. Watch this promotional video which features South African civil rights campaigner (and Nobel Peace Prize winner) Archbishop Desmond Tutu, head of UN Women (and former Chilean president) Michelle Bachelet and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon:
Archbishop Desmond Tutu (African accent)
Women are gathering in every village and city around the world to celebrate more than 100 years of progress on International Women’s Day. Join us for Women’s Day Live!
A group of women (American accent)
Women’s Day Live! Empower Women! Change the World!
Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Join us at this pivotal moment in history, to celebrate the transformative power of women in global society, and seize the clear opportunity to make poverty history by empowering women and girls in the world today.
Michelle Bachelet (Chilean accent)
My own experience has taught me that there’s no limit to what women can do. The neglect of women’s right(s) means lack of progress on gender equality, but (it) also means that that enormous social and economic potential of half of the population is so under-utilised. Women’s rights are human rights!
Ban Ki-moon (Korean accent)
The campaign to establish UN Women is a part of a larger international drive to promote gender equality, empower women and demand an end to sexual violence. UN Women will help turn this global strategy into a worldwide reality.
For more, visit www.womensdaylive.com
John Young (Standard British accent):
Ireland is a land with many mysteries. One of the more intriguing is Newgrange, a Neolithic site in County Meath. Claire Tuffy, manager of the Newgrange Visitor Centre, thinks it is a special place:
Claire Tuffy (Irish accent)
It’s special because it’s 5,000 years old. There are very few opportunities anywhere to stand in a room which was built so long ago and see it exactly like they did back then. It’s wonderful to be at Newgrange at the winter solstice, when the sun shines into the chamber, and know that, when you’re waiting for dawn, that 5,000 years ago people stood on the same hill waiting for the same event. Now, there’s no doubt, but for them it had a completely different meaning than it would have for us, but we’re still waiting, glancing towards the same bit of sky, looking around at the gorgeous Boyne Valley and waiting for the sun to rise on the shortest day. So it’s a great opportunity to be able to share an experience with your remote ancestors — and feel pride in their achievement.
Needless to say, there are many theories as to why these remote ancestors built Newgrange:
The entrance stone itself is a barrier between the world of the living and the world of the dead. It’s rather like a threshold or doorway, and it’s covered in five spirals and lots of swirly lines and zigzags and diamond shapes. And some people suggest that the swirls and the spirals are to confuse the entrance into the spirit world, that it is somehow is to make things more convoluted. Other people suggest that it represents the sun and the stars, because, of course, we know that astronomy was extremely important to the people who built these monuments. And it is interesting that, at the winter solstice, when the sun is directly opposite the entrance of Newgrange, the light, because the sun is opposite the entrance, the art on the entrance stone seems quite flat, it almost disappears, there are no shadows, so perhaps on those days the barriers are down between the world of the living and the world of the dead.
But there’s an even stranger theory:
Other people suggest that the people who carved the stones used halluc(in)-ogenic drugs so that they could enter into the spirit world and communicate with the ancestors. And tests that have been carried out by scientists using halluc(in)ogens report that these are the images, they’re called entoptic images, that are reported from, being seen from all over the world, not just in our culture, but from all over the world. And that might solve some of the queries, like how come sometimes, when you look at the art of our Neolithic tombs, it’s so similar to something you’d see in Aboriginal Australia, or in the Maori, or South America, that all over the world we use the same symbols in different combinations, so perhaps all of these holy men and women were using halluc(in)ogens to represent this spirit world!
A visit to Newgrange is one of the highlights of any trip to Ireland. Constructed around 5,000 years ago, the passage tomb of Newgrange predates the Egyptian Pyramids! The monument consists of a large mound of grass with a spectacular wall of white quartz and granite. Newgrange was built by a Stone Age community to house and honour the dead. The famous large stone in front of the entrance is engraved with beautiful spirals and lozenges. The designs have been interpreted in many different ways: as representations of the sun and moon, as an astronomical chart, as a map of the area, as a meditation aid, and as the effect of hallucinogenic drugs! A narrow passageway leads to the burial chamber. This is not for the claustrophobic. But then the chamber opens up. One of the designs in the stone, a beautiful tri-spiral, has become the symbol of Newgrange. Look up to the roof: the interlacing stones were put in place some 5,000 years ago and the roof is still waterproof today!
The Battle of the Boyne in 1690, the victory of the Protestant William III (William of Orange) over the Catholic James II, changed Irish history, and the history of Newgrange. New settlers came into the area. Until 1699, the tomb had been undisturbed for hundreds of years. Superstition kept the monument intact. Newgrange was discovered when a local landlord needed stone for some building work and accidentally found the entrance.
WHO BUILT NEWGRANGE?
We know the builders of Newgrange were a Stone Age farming community on some of the richest agricultural land in Ireland. They had competence in architecture, engineering, geology, art and astronomy. For example, they aligned the passageway so that every year, at winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, the first sunlight entered the passage tomb. Thousands of years later a ray of light still makes its way through the rooftop box above the entrance. The first archaeologist to excavate Newgrange in the early 1960s was the first person for centuries to witness this natural spectacle. Today, the guides replicate this effect for visitors with a torch. Even this artificial version is powerful. Every year, a few lucky people are permitted to attend winter solstice in the passage tomb.
There are still plenty of mysteries to be solved in this bend of the River Boyne. For example, archaeologists continue to look for evidence of the houses of the people who moved 200,000 tons of stone. 5,000 years on, Newgrange is as fascinating as ever.
We have lost a great president, a great American, and a great man, and I have lost a dear friend.
In his lifetime, Ronald Reagan was such a cheerful and invigorating presence that it was easy to forget what daunting historic tasks he set himself. He sought to mend America’s wounded spirit, to restore the strength of the free world, and to free the slaves of communism. These were causes hard to accomplish and heavy with risk, yet they were pursued with almost a lightness of spirit, for Ronald Reagan also embodied another great cause, what Arnold Bennett once called “the great cause of cheering us all up”. His politics had a freshness and optimism that won converts from every class and every nation, and ultimately, from the very heart of the “evil empire.”
Yet his humour often had a purpose beyond humour. In the terrible hours after the attempt on his life, his easy jokes gave reassurance to an anxious world. They were evidence that in the aftermath of terror and in the midst of hysteria one great heart at least remained sane and jocular. They were truly grace under pressure. And perhaps they signified grace of a deeper kind. Ronnie himself certainly believed that he had been given back his life for a purpose. As he told a priest after his recovery, “Whatever time I’ve got left now belongs to the big fella upstairs.” And surely, it is hard to deny that Ronald Reagan’s life was providential when we look at what he achieved in the eight years that followed.
For more, visit: www.margaretthatcher.org/speeches/displaydocument.asp?docid=110366
The satirical magazine Private Eye recently celebrated its 50th anniversary. One of its great traditions is the “Private Eye lunch,” which takes place once a fortnight in an upstairs room in the Coaches and Horses pub in Soho. As deputy editor Francis Wheen explains, the idea is that you invite public figures, give them too much to drink and then wait for them to reveal their secrets:
Francis Wheen (Standard British accent)
That’s always been my policy, except it doesn’t always work because what tends to happen is that I get them drunk, but then I get myself drunk as well and by the next morning I can’t remember a single story they told me! But… we now actually, Ian Hislop, the editor and I, have a… sort of good cop/bad cop – well, actually sober cop/drunk cop more – routine, I think, so he’s very abstemious, he might have one glass of wine, but no more than that, so he can usually, even if I can’t remember… what’s gone on, after a 10-hour lunch, Ian has usually managed to pick it up himself. I do scribble it down before oblivion takes over completely! Now I’m afraid it’s the… last refuge of drinking hacks because all newspapers in the days of Fleet Street, 20 or 30… 30 years ago certainly, Fleet Street was notorious for… most journalists spending their day in pubs and wine bars, in Fleet Street, whereas now journalists in London come into work, log on to their computer, stare at the screen all day and then go straight home again, and all that, the long lunches and the drinking have gone and I’m sure it’s a very good thing, but once every two weeks we try to keep the… the flame burning a bit longer… It would be impossible if you did it every day, but once every two weeks, it’s just about bearable!
(Francis Wheen was talking to Mark Worden)
For more on Private Eye, visit: www.private-eye.co.uk