Category Archives: Contemporary society

Why 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day and not 20 books a year?


Yesterday The Independent published a quite noteworthy article by Philip Hensher, Fifty books a year is ideal, but why stop at schoolchildren? The author shares his reflection on the value of reading books. He points out that reading books in a public place is a part of European culture but in many other cultures, reading in that place would be perceived as very rude (in Taiwan, for example). In his opinion ‘reading is as central to the existence of many English people as eating.’

Philip Hensher also mentions the Education Secretary Michael Gove’s ambition to persuade schoolchildren to read 50 books a year, as currently many of them read 2 books for GCSE. The journalist backs Gove’s idea, but he thinks that the Government should also introduce mandatory reading of 20 books a year for adults, similar to eating 5 fruit and vegetables a day.

Reading 50 books a year seems to be a huge challenge, especially for 11-year-old children but personally I’ve never had a problem with reading obligatory school books. Actually, my love of reading started when I was 11 years old – that summer I read 30 books. Since then I’ve read thousands of books, some of them even three times. I’ll never forget books like The Six Bullerby Children by Astrid Lindgren, Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery, Winnetou by Karl May, Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe or The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, and many, many others.

Someone would ask, why mention all these titles or what to read, if we have internet, digital television, and other new technological innovations. Well, maybe it’s necessary. Nowadays, teachers try to teach students how they could extend their imagination and give them tasks such as writing clever similes or metaphors found in Thesaurus in a table. Kids that will watch too much TV will always have this problem – to use their own imagination. The question is how they could do that if their imagination is limited to flat pictures from TV or their computer games? Maybe 50 books for schoolchildren and 20 for adults is a bit of an exaggerated number, but at least 10 would be enough: for children – to develop their own imagination, and for adults – to drag them away from weekly parties.

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Mr Darcy


Sometimes, when I listen to ‘A postcard to Henry Purcell’, which is used on the soundtrack for the film ‘Pride and Prejudice,’ I wonder how many people know that it’s only a contemporary version of Rondeau from the Abdelazer Suite by the English Baroque composer, Henry Purcell (1659 – 1695). Both pieces are significant and beautiful and I would not say, ‘This one is better because it incorporates more instruments, and so on’. Beauty is relative.

Actually, this piece inspired me to contemplate on one of the film’s characters, Mr Darcy. Although Mr. Darcy is a fictional figure and the first adaptation of the movie was made over 70 years ago and the novel was written in 1812, he is still perceived by women as charming, attractive and as a matter of fact, the ideal man. No wonder that Mr Darcy became an object of male jokes.

A few years ago, Australian comedian and member of The Chaser satirical group, Chris Taylor, dressed himself as Mr Darcy and went out into the street to find out if studies saying that Mr Darcy ‘is the number one fantasy for women’ were true. Obviously women whom he accosted did not react positively to him, as the clothing, the language, and gestures were weird. At least Taylor was as smart as a fox, and ‘managed’ to prove that women’s daydreams of Mr Darcy are not real at all.

On one hand, the ideal picture of Mr Darcy is exaggerated, as he was very proud, introverted and rigid. One the other hand, the gentlemen from The Chaser seemed to forget about something else, as women don’t miss nicely dressed gentlemen with good manners. First of all, Mr Darcy represents timeless values which might be invisible, such as: self-sacrifice or unconditional love (he never said to Elizabeth, ‘I love you because…’, and married her although she wasn’t from his social class).

Well, these values are difficult, as they would cost us our ‘ego’. I mean, it concerns both sides: contemporary Mr Darcies and Elizabeths. Why are there so many fake romantic characters around? They love without devotion or run away when their own prejudices appear to be stronger than their feelings.

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