Radio review: Free Thinking in the Summer - Love is a many-splendoured catflap


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The Independent Culture

Love has been compared to many things but rarely, I suspect, to a catflap. More precisely, believes the author A L Kennedy, “a catdoor in your soul”: it allows your beloved pet to come in, but also allows it to go out again and abandon you – “and you get foxes and badgers and burglars …”.

Kennedy represented the love-as-an-affliction school in Free Thinking in the Summer, Radio 3’s ideas fest which presented “The Problem with Love”, a discussion chaired by Philip Dodd at the How The Light Gets In philosophy festival at Hay. They were joined by behavioural scientist Dylan Evans, writer and former singer Pat Kane and Esther Rantzen, who needs no introduction. Evans cheerfully admitted that science doesn’t have masses to say about love, beyond our knowing which neurotransmitters fire when we’re smitten and which chemicals are released – which make it, essentially, he said,  an addiction (“Yes,” murmured Kennedy fervently).

Rantzen was moving on the subject of her late husband Desmond Wilcox and how the pain of loss never goes away, while the mightily intellectual Kane depicted a future in which we’ll literally be able to live in each other’s heads (what a nightmare), after he’d sung some of “When I Fall In Love” as an example of the “inter-subjectivity” which he said lies at the core of love. Ably chaired by Dodd, it was a kind of Saturday-night variety show for thinkers, except that it was on Wednesday, and it didn’t feature Ant and Dec.

There was deep love of a filial kind in It’s My Story: Living in the Memory Room, in which Kim Normanton described how she’s dealt with her mother’s dementia by using the latest technique, what you might call historical immersion – collecting items that might spark a memory and a conversation, reaching her mother by delving into her past.

She visited Hogeway near Amsterdam, “Dementia Village”, which has constructed, a bit like The Truman Show, an entire environment, in this case one rooted in the clients’ past. But isn’t it essentially lying to them, she asked the village’s director? “Well, it’s a white lie,” she replied gently. “Sometimes you lie to help people.”