When newspapers run out of ideas to shove in their ‘lifestyle’ pages, they like to resort to dinner party games, and one of the favourites is to ask somebody — a passing fly, bat or a so-called celeb – who they would invite to their dinner party.
I was thinking about this one for myself and according to the rules of this game, you have five guests, and they can be alive or dead, so I went for a mixture of the two. I started out with Noel Coward, because of his elegant use of language, music, and wit. A beautiful and fascinating contrast, with mastery of words in a different way would be Carol Ann Duffy, our great poet laureate, whose compassion and humanity are in a class of their own. The late John O’Donohue, is undoubtedly the next one to be seated at the table; his writing, spirituality and understanding of beauty are a constant source of inspiration to me. Caroline Lucas has to be there, because she is of this world, right now. But choosing the last guest was tricky, because I want lots of people at the table – particularly all sorts of dead and delightful souls — my sister Professor Julia Briggs, Jane Austen, Bill Evans and Elizabeth Kubler Ross, to name but a few. In the end I chose Kubler Ross.
So why do I call this the Believers Dinner Party Game? Because all these people knew or know about belief in one way or another. The son of a piano salesman, Noel Coward only went to school for a year or two but was the epitome of literary creativity and sophistication, he said “I believe in doing what I can, in crying when I must, and in laughing when I choose”. Duffy decided to be a poet when she was 14. Apparently, John O’Donohue became famous because he believed “we should all transform our fear of death – and that would enable us to fear little else.” Caroline Lucas and I share the same beliefs when it comes to the survival of planet, and she would be a good thing at such an eclectic gathering. The great Elizabeth Kubler Ross just knew so much about life and death and lived it so courageously. She made ground-breaking changes to the way we deal with death in the West. I know this from experience, having witnessed my father’s death as a child, when nobody was allowed the dignity of knowing that they were going to die… and then, in contrast, just over 10 years ago, watching my sister die so beautifully, so elegantly and so spiritually prepared, thanks to the legacy Kubler Ross.