5 x 15 or how to keep one’s brain fresh

When you are looking after kids full time or are working from home, your social skills might take a beating and your brain might go stale- women who are stuck doing routine tasks will understand what I am talking about. But what if that doesn’t work for you, what if you want to continue being ‘current’ and social and you want your brain to be creatively stimulated?

I have found a perfect solution and I would highly recommend it to any man or woman for that matter. Intelligence Squared organises events called 5 x 15, where interesting people talk about a chosen subject for yes, you guessed it, 15 minutes. The latest event, that I attended, took place in Notting Hill, at a place called Tabernacle where you sit comfortably on your own or with a girlfriend or friends, have a lovely Spanish snack and a glass of wine and listen to completely different people talk about politics, life, humour, music, economics, books-the possibilities are endless as are the subjects for stimulating conversation.

The evening started with a beautiful and self-depreciating, albeit the chosen subject-history of political assassinations-Fatima Bhutto, niece of belated Benazir. She talked about political dynasties, politics and violence, the unique silence when it comes to violence in Pakistan and the nuclear power that has deprived the country of resources and where polio remains uneradicated.

She was followed by a very dapper Andrew O’Hagan who talked about his new book, called ‘The Life and Opinions of Maf the Dog and his friend Marilyn Monroe’-if that doesn’t intrigue you, I would be quite surprised….

15 or so minutes later Terence Blackercame on stage and reduced the audience to piles of laughter with his smart and soulful songs, the one in particular about Brit Anglais who desperately wants to be Francais was beyond words in its originality and humour.

Frances Stonor Saunders added a serious note to the evening with her story of Violet Gibsonwho failed to assassinate Mussolini but was declared insane and put into asylum until the day that she died. The story was sad, evocative and emotional.

Yotam Ottolenghi, the chef who started Ottolenghi in Notting Hill talked about growing up in Jerusalem and a relationship between food and politics. I was fascinated and have to admit that I love the seared tuna and the cakes from his restaurant. There are people who are vegetarian and I am a carnivore who hardly eats vegetables but when you are queuing to buy food and your eyes feast on beautifully presented salads it’s almost hard not to give in.

The evening ended with a sweetly charming Maureen Lipmanand I left the venue to have dinner with my husband and his colleagues, feeling elated, brimming with ideas and emotions evoked by those very different and immensely unique people. In one evening you touch many subject, listen to very different people and get educated in the process. Are you inspired? I was!!



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