In My Own Time

2nd December 2011 at 00:00
Ben Davis, Depute head, St Joseph's Academy, Kilmarnock

Books

I am gripped by Iain McGilchrist's magisterial The Master and his Emissary, a peregrination on the brain's hemispheres that is erudite, sparkling and seismic in its conclusions. An eternal favourite is Christopher J Koch's The Year of Living Dangerously, which evokes the torrid world of 1960s Indonesia and lit within me a fascination with tumultuous events in dusty, far-off lands. Graham Greene and F Scott Fitzgerald have accompanied me since my teens; the former's aversion to the "beastly adverb" has always challenged and intrigued me. I have never read a book of such dense beauty and lavish prose as Robert Macfarlane's paean to wilderness, The Wild Places.

Music

The thumping triumvirate of The Beatles, Queen and The Rolling Stones has provided a bedrock for my listening. What a treasury of songwriters, guitarists and riffs - a platonic ideal of rock! Brian May inspired me to construct my own guitar (I still have it and it works). Neil Finn and Crowded House are favourites, anchored in my mind to warm summers and languorous Cornish beaches. Then there's my regular (misplaced) overexcitement at believing I've discovered a band no one else has heard of - most recently, Everything Everything.

TV, film and radio

I'm not a fan of box sets - I like a week of anticipation between episodes. Mad Men was all the better for it, and glories in its lack of political rectitude as much as my current comedy favourite, Fresh Meat. Peter Weir's Gallipoli never loses one pixel of poignancy. Every time I watch it, I feel my heart beat and my legs run with Archy across that wretched no man's land. In the absence of the moving image, it has to be Test Match Special, especially in winter, with England in trouble. Is there a better sound than leather and willow relayed from a faraway summer?

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