At Wimpole Hall

Jonathan Saul Freedland, British journalist, who writes a weekly column for The Guardian. He presents BBC Radio 4's contemporary history series, The Long View. Freedland also writes best-selling thrillers, mainly under the pseudonym Sam Bourne - photographed here on the podium at the Wimpole Hall History Festival

Jonathan Saul Freedland is a British journalist, who writes a weekly column for The Guardian. He presents BBC Radio 4’s contemporary history series, The Long View, and also writes thrillers under the pseudonym Sam Bourne.

I photographed him on the podium at the Wimpole Hall History Festival. Tamara and I went to hear him talk.

He was standing in front of a black backcloth. As you can see from the original here below. I masked out the other things caught in the frame, and cleaned up the colours in Photoshop.

Specifically, I cleaned up the colour of his face in the mixed lighting in the tent. I took a true black from the iris in his eye, and everything fell into place from that.

By the way, you can’t do that trick with the iris of many animals. That’s because, unlike humans, they catch, reflect, and bounce light around inside their eyes to maximise the light they can use to see. So pegging a colour in their iris is not going to show black, but instead a melange of whatever they are looking at.

Freedland was talking about the lessons of history. Tamara asked him what lessons we could learn that would help guide us in the uncharted territory of global warming. He said he didn’t have an answer, but said that the world had come together to ban CFCs, to cure the holes in the ozone layer. So, he said, perhaps the world will work together to reduce harmful outputs.

Mostly he talked about the hijacking of truth and the necessity of well-researched, ethical journalism.

I just finished reading 1984. I recognised a lot of it, but I don’t know whether it is from reading it when I was a teenager, or whether I never finished it and I imagined I am recognising it.

It’s a chilling book. The goodies don’t win.

And it has spawned so many stories. Terry Gilliam’s film Brazil, for example, where escape from the system is revealed to be just a desperate wish, a hope, and an illusion.

There’s The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, where the system callously betrays its assets.

I guess 1984 can trace its roots back to Kafka, and The Trial. Or The Castle, although it is so long since I read he Castle that I should re-read it.

You could say that The Talented Mr Ripley is seen on the other side of the mirror – from the point of view of the amoral actor in his own society of one. Except instead of faceless and uncaring, we see angst-ridden and yet ultimately uncaring.

Farming At Wimpole

We also listened to a talk by the farm manager at Wimpole.

Wimpole is owned by the National Trust, and the farm is run as an organic farm. The manager explained that the creed of the farm was to be, in so far as possible, a circular system rather than a linear one. That means buying in as little as possible and wasting as little as possible.

He made an interesting point about the true cost of farming, giving the example of the artificial fertilisers that run off the land, get into the water system and have to be cleaned up by the Local Authority. If farmers had to contribute to the cost of that clean-up, then non-organic, linear farming would be seen to not make the profit it claims.

In answer to the question of how organic farms can compete when they cannot produce the yields of non-organic farms, he said that the problem today is not one of sufficient production. We in Britain already produce enough. The question was of sustainability and the long-term health of the land and of nature.

On that note, I recall knowing someone who lived in a farmhouse in the middle of a huge field. The field was about two feet lower than the stockyard and the farmhouse and barns. The reason was that over the years, the soil structure had been destroyed by fertilisers and insecticides and had simply collapsed.


  1. writemeow says:

    I read 1984 as a teenager too, but I don’t feel any urge to reread it. I do remember it as being scary … creepy, just as the present time.


    1. Yes, ‘the present time’ has a lot to do with why I read it just now.


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