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Editor's Corner:
You Can't Always Get What You Want

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John Dark, MB FRCS
ISHLT Links Senior Editor

Marvel of the Digital Age, Wonder of the Internet.... Thanks to those nice people at Apple, or Microsoft, and lots of others, I can sit at my desk in grey, moist, cool England (yes, summer again) and apparently be immersed in excitement anywhere in the globe.

Big news this week in the UK was the Rolling Stones playing Glastonbury. You know the band, but "Glasto" is a hangover from those 60's Festivals (think Woodstock), still going strong after more than 40 years. Imagine a couple of hundred thousand people in muddy English fields for a weekend of music, soft drugs and rain, and you will have the right idea. As an indication of status, this year the tickets were limited to 135,000 and they were sold in 1 hour 40 minutes!

Whilst the standard image is of mud, on a sunny day or warm night, with warm beer, good company, top music, it's wonderful. And that's the description of last night's set from the 'Stones'. "Best gig I ever saw", "unbelievable"; and from a UK paper, "A raucous, extended Satisfaction sounds like one of rock music's holy relics. It drives home the realisation that the most patiently pursued headliners in Glastonbury's history have finally made it, and they're right here in front of us, and they're very, very good" (link to article).

I watched too, on my iPad, 12 hours later. I had the sounds, some of the scenery. But I had none of the experience, the smell, none of the tribal feel of the 130,000 warm, ecstatic people in the field in front of the stage. Nothing I can tell my grandchildren about.

The same weekend, on the same screen, we have the opening of the Tour de France, beamed from the island of Corsica. Sure, we could see the bikes, and thanks to the helicopter, enjoy a better view of the whole race. Road-race cycling as a spectator sport is a monetary glimpse of blurred colour. But again, Mediterranean Corsica has lots else - warm sun on the skin, the characteristic smell of the maquis dense undergrowth strewn with herbs, unmistakable from the sea as you approach. And the noise of a partisan, informed French crowd; none of that comes across.

So what is the message? The flat screen, despite what the adverts tell you, is a poor second, or even third rate means of enjoying a real event. You have to be there, to be immersed, to leave the rest of life behind! We are familiar with the Lincoln quote, "It's not years in your life that count, it is the life in your years." We know what he meant!

But if you can't be there, maybe read, not watch. A great novelist can capture the essence of a place and time much better than that screen. If you can't be in France, then go to someone like Fitzgerald, in Tender is the Night (a much better book, incidentally, than the overrated Gatsby). You don't get "...above a sea as mysteriously colored as the agates and cornelians of childhood, green as green milk, blue as laundry water, wine dark..." from a flat piece of glass!

Disclosure statement: the author has no conflicts of interest to disclose.

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