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In praise of fire

Money, sex and politics: these three topics were banned from dinner party conversation in my childhood home.

The first my parents never had enough of to warrant a discussion - and I presumed this to be true of the second topic also. Don’t go there. But the ban on politics, I noticed, after the odd glass of red wine, was lifted, and many a fiery and argument ensued. Politics, it seemed, generated a lot of heat.

Later, I marched to support the miners, to ban the bomb, to support the women at Greenham Common and to lend a hand to CND. Dinner parties then were noisy, tearful and never dull. How could I agree with someone who supported unemployment, cuts in the National Health Service or war in the Falklands? You knew your enemy by his colours from afar: true Tory was true blue and the red flag of Labour flew flaming high.

The excellent play This House recreates this enormous polarity of politics. The Left fought the Right literally and metaphorically in the House of Commons in the 70s. There was no common ground and no one desired it. The late Margaret Thatcher said Tony Blair and New Labour were her greatest achievements; and the annihilation of the Left (and concomitant greying of British politics) has made political discussion anodyne too. Sans fire, we live in a tepid world.

This month we are celebrating the fire of creativity that burns locally: in May Merrie, IYAF, food festivals and celebrations. Without creative people in our world, who breathe the flame of creation into others, our world would be a dull place indeed. So raise a glass to fire this May, and see you in Flaming June.

Sarah Hodgson is Editor-in-Chief at Time & Leisure Media Group