My week: Peter Stanford on his office floor

Peter Stanford laments the slow progress of the paperless office before his latest trustee meeting and considers Tony Blair's decision over whether to become a Catholic.


As the world gears itself up for the seventh and final Harry Potter book, the attendant hoo-ha no doubt gives most people a distorted impression of what a standard book launch actually entails.

My own latest modest offering has just come out and, far from midnight readings and queues hundreds deep, I am in Edwinstowe in Nottinghamshire, where my subject, the Poet Laureate Cecil Day-Lewis, grew up. I'm addressing the local history society, book group and parish (Day-Lewis's father was the vicar), all rolled into one. Or 50.

Two thoughts occur to me as I pontificate. First, how remarkable it is to meet a couple in the audience, both of whom are in their 80s, who remember his dad, who has been dead since 1937. You can almost reach back into history in such moments.

And, second, how right Gordon Brown was recently to point to the plethora of book readings, groups, launches, festivals et al as a sign that our national cultural life embraces more than Wags, X-Factor and Big Brother 'celebrities'.


I keep remembering all the articles that I have read about the demise of the printed word and paper documents while I'm crawling around on my office floor, sorting out seven sets of copies for my trustees of the 50 or so applications for our annual Longford Scholarships. These are given to young(ish) ex-prisoners to enable them to continue their rehabilitation outside prison by studying for a degree.

Thanks to a generous three-year package of support received from the Rank Foundation, we are in a position this year to help more individuals than ever. Which is just as well, because our politicians seem to be intent on locking up more people than ever.


There are more reports that our departing Prime Minister is to become a Catholic on leaving office. Can't help wondering why, if he really wants to do it, he couldn't have 'come over' any time during the past 10 years. Does he believe that the anti-Catholic prejudice that stripped us of our civil liberties from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries is alive and well? I come from the generation that was educated (by Christian Brothers) to handle such prejudice, but have never met any.


Back on the office floor, sending out offer letters to the 12 successful applicants for scholarships. On the radio is a debate about a Joseph Rowntree Foundation report highlighting the under-achievement of white working class boys at school. Many of our 'graduates' emerged from school with no qualifications at all and it took prison and another decade for them to realise that they'd missed a trick.

Peter Stanford is a writer and broadcaster, chairman of Aspire and director of the Frank Longford Charitable Trust.

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