Thursday, 23 February 2012

Invite round for dinner.

In an idle moment I was listening to Radio Sheffield and the phone in topic was - who would you like to invite round for dinner. This started me mind musing about ten people who I would like to invite around the dinner table and why.

There would be several instant choices that I would make. The man I admire most of all in the World was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and he would be my first choice. Better known as 'Mahatma' (great soul), or Bapu the Hindi word for 'Father'. Gandhi was the leader of the Indian nationalist movement against British rule. Gandhi is widely considered the father of his country. Gandhi's doctrine of non-violent protest to achieve political and social progress set him out above all others. I have always found him to be inspirational.

My next choice would be writer, poet, and playwright Wystan Hugh Auden a witty and technically accomplished writer. In the 1930's Auden married Erika Mann, the daughter of the German novelist Thomas Mann. It was a marriage of convenience to enable her to gain British citizenship and escape Nazi Germany - Auden was himself homosexual. Auden continued to publish his poetry including 'The Age of Anxiety' for which he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize. From 1956 to 1961 Auden was professor of poetry at Oxford University. After his death, some of his poems, notably 'Funeral Blues' became widely known through films, broadcasts and popular media. Funeral Blues was the poem read by Matthew (played by John Hannah) at the funeral of his partner Gareth (played by Simon Callow) in the film Four Weddings and a Funeral.

Arthur Conan Doyle trained as a doctor at  Edinburgh University. He worked as a surgeon on a whaling boat and also as a medical officer on a steamer. He then divided his time between medicine and writing. Sherlock Holmes made his first appearance in 'A Study of Scarlet'. Its success encouraged Conan Doyle to write more stories involving Holmes. However, Conan Doyle killed off Holmes, hoping to concentrate on more serious writing. A public outcry later made him resurrect Holmes. In addition, Conan Doyle wrote a number of other novels, including 'The Lost World' and various non-fictional works.

I would also invite Charles John Huffam Dickens for his great contribution to English literature. He was the quintessential Victorian author. His epic stories, vivid characters and depiction of Victorian life are unforgettable. His own story is one of rags to riches. Dickens was sent to work in a blacking factory and endured appalling conditions as well as loneliness and despair. The experience was never forgotten and became fictionalised in two of his better-known novels 'David Copperfield' and 'Great Expectations'. As well as a huge list of novels he published autobiography, wrote travel books and administered charitable organisations. He is buried at Westminster Abbey.

Nelson (Rolihlahla) Mandela led the struggle to replace the apartheid regime of South Africa with a multi-racial democracy. He was imprisoned for 27 years and went on to become his country's first black president. Educated at the University of Fort Hare and later at the University of Witwatersrand, qualifying in law. He became increasingly involved with the African National Congress (ANC), a multi-racial nationalist movement trying to bring about political change in South Africa. In 1948, the National Party came to power and began to implement a policy of 'apartheid', or forced segregation on the basis of race. Mandela was tried for treason in 1956, but acquitted after a five-year trial. On his return he was arrested and sentenced to five years in prison. During his years in prison he became an international symbol of resistance to apartheid.. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

My next choice was famous for her work in the military hospitals of the Crimea. Florence Nightingale established nursing as a respectable profession for women. Sidney Herbert, the war minister asked her to oversee a team of nurses in the military hospitals in Turkey. In November 1854, she arrived in Scutari in Turkey. With her nurses, she greatly improved the conditions and substantially reduced the mortality rate. She established the Nightingale Training School for nurses at St Thomas' Hospital in London. Once the nurses were trained, they were sent to hospitals all over Britain, where they introduced the ideas they had learned, and established nursing training on the Nightingale model. Nightingale's theories, published in 'Notes on Nursing', were hugely influential and her concerns for sanitation and hospital planning established practises which are still in existence today.

Thursday 6 February 1958 is the date of the Munich air disaster when a number of the Busby Babes lost their lives. My next dinner guest would be Duncan Edwards. As a ten year old ManU fan I wanted to be Duncan Edwards. A great deal has been written about the team and what might have been but it is all speculation. However United have gone on to create a football reputation that is second to none.

I have two other sporting legends that I would like to invite. William (Joey) Joseph Dunlop MBE OBE the greatest TT rider of all time. His spirit will live on at the TT for as long as there is a TT.  His achievements include a hat-trick of hat-tricks at the Isle of Man TT. Where he won a record 26 races in total. During his career he won the Ulster Grand Prix 24 times. In 1986 he won a fifth consecutive TT Formula One world title. He was awarded the MBE in 1986 for his services to the sport, and in 1996 he was awarded the OBE for his humanitarian work for children in Romanian orphanages. Joey would often load up his race transporter and deliver clothing and food to the trouble spots of Bosnia and Romania. His humanitarian work was done without ever drawing attention to himself.

John Surtees is truly unique in motorsport. Riding for the celebrated MV Agusta team, he won seven World Championships between 1956 and 1960. Then - with nothing left to prove - he made the transition from two wheels to four, winning the Formula One World Championship with Ferrari in 1964. To this day his feat of winning World Championships on two and four wheels remains unparalleled.

My next guest would be Dame Hellen MacArthur. Because of her attempt to break the solo record for sailing non-stop around the world in 2004. During her circumnavigation, she set records for the fastest solo voyage to the equator, past the Cape of Good Hope, past Cape Horn and back to the equator again. She crossed the finishing line near the French coast at Ushant beating the previous record by 1 day, 8 hours, 35 minutes, 49 seconds. Her time of 71 days, 14 hours, 18 minutes 33 seconds is world record for the 27,354 nautical miles (50,660 km) covered. This is an average speed of 15.9 knots (29.4 km/h). On her return to England, it was announced that she was to be appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of her achievement. It is believed that she is the youngest ever recipient of this honour. Coming immediately after the event being recognised, rather than appearing in due course in the New Year's or Birthday honours lists, this recognition was reminiscent of the knighthoods conferred upon Francis Drake and Francis Chichester upon arrival home after their respective circumnavigations in 1580 and 1967. MacArthur was also made an honorary Lieutenant Commander of the Royal Naval Reserve on the same day. In recognition of her achievement she was awarded the French L├ęgion d'Honneur Knight by Nicolas Sarkozy in March 2008. MacArthur was also the last record holder on Star in a Reasonably-Priced Car on the BBC's Top Gear television driving programme until the eighth series, when the car and rules were changed, and previous records were removed.

Which ten people would you invite?


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