Two things have caught my eye today. The first is an article in the Telegraph about a company in Russia selling corporate entertainment packages with a difference (free registration required). The clients are Moscow’s super-rich elite, bored of the excess. The packages include a monthly begging trip, complete with radish-stained clothing; another shindig saw the clients playing soldier with army tanks. The latter is more like the sort of thing that goes on in the West, but in a peculiarly Russian twist the day included (a.) live firing, and (b.) caviar for the squaddies, but combat rations for the clients to ‘add to the authenticity.’
The second piece is this parent’s perspective on anorexia from Salon. A decade ago, I saw freshers torn apart by the pressure and unfamiliarity of Cambridge, unable to cope with (comprehend?) all that goes along with the transition from being the brightest kid in the neighbourhood, to being a below-average student. Chuck in social pressures they’ve no framework for understanding, and you’ve a recipe for disaster.
I saw peers reduced to gibbering wrecks, and while I helped when I could, I had no perspective myself that allowed me to judge where the firmer ground was, that I could stand on. One very close friend changed so much, I essentially never saw her again. However, Cambridge’s dropout rate is reassuringly low, and indeed most students eventually regain an even keel, chalk one up to experience, and get on with their lives. The article’s quoted 15% mortality for anorexia patients is far more terrifying.
I never saw anorexia, but I’m unlikely to have understood it then and am barely more likely to do so now. I hope everything works out for the writer of the Salon piece, and particularly for his daughter. Meanwhile, this is simple but very personal journalism of the highest order, for which I’m eternally grateful.