Some time last year, I called Anand Menon to ask him to write for us at Tortoise. He’s a professor of politics and foreign affairs; he runs the think tank UK in a Changing Europe; and he’s arguably the most granular and rational thinker about Brexit in the country. So I was trying to cajole him into writing about the culture of British politics since the EU referendum; about what Britain’s place in the world might be now. He said he’d be happy to and, just as I was about to thank him and finish up the call, he said: “I’ve been wondering whether I should write about one other thing. I lost my whole family in the course of the last year.”
The Missing Note – the account Anand wrote of losing his father, his brother, his sister and his mother in the course of a year – was first published in print in the Tortoise Quarterly. We put it up online, too. And we have never had a response quite like it. Wave after wave of moved readers. It was a powerful piece that revealed so much about Anand’s courage in writing it; and perhaps as much about the state we are in, about how much fear, frailty and loss we are living with.
So this week the Slow Newscast is a return to The Missing Note – a conversation between Anand and me about family and about loss. He offers his advice for all of us who will face grief in future: “Just pump [your family] for information about everything. Just have those conversations, the ones I used to roll my eyes at… they are the repositories of that information, and then it’s gone.” Please do listen. And please do consider donating to the JustGiving page that Anand has set up for the Marie Curie hospice in Edinburgh, where some of his family members were cared for.
Our ThinkIns this week are about the biggest questions we face:
- Gordon Brown, the UK’s former prime minister, joins us at 6.30pm UK time on Tuesday to discuss no less a subject than the challenges facing humanity – from Covid to climate to conflict.
- Niall Ferguson, the historian and political thinker, is with us on Wednesday evening to talk about the politics of catastrophe, arguments over empire and how we can avoid decades of decline.
- Net Zero Jobs tonight. At 6.30pm, we’ll be asking: is the UK prepared for the green collar revolution?
- The second Tortoise Education Summit is on Thursday: a series of ThinkIns devoted to schooling both during and after the pandemic.
- And Friday’s Sensemaker Live continues our series on China, again with a focus on education: is Beijing buying influence in the UK?
All week, the Sensemaker will be trying to provide some context and insight around the mixed messages on the coronavirus, infections, travel and the lockdown. All in all, lots to think about. We hope you’ll join us.
Editor & co-founder