It's half-term and I am taking 15 colleagues from Wellington College to learn from great American schools. No sooner have we landed in New York than the texts and emails hit my BlackBerry about serialisation of volume two of my Blair biography. "It's everywhere," my team texts me, and the media are honing in on stories about divisions between Blair and Brown, and Ed Balls shouting at the latter: "You bottled it!" I am not sorry to be 3,000 miles away. I absorb myself in the schools and their oval Harkness tables, where students run lessons and teachers act as facilitators. Much to learn from this. The team forward to me a story on BBC News online. "What have Monica Lewinsky and Blair biographer Anthony Seldon got in common? Consider this. President Clinton once famously declared: 'I did not have sexual relationships with THAT woman.' Gordon Brown's official spokesman, when asked by journalists about Seldon's book, declared: 'I am not going to make any comment on THAT book.'" Another story is from Kevin Maguire in the Daily Mirror. "I am amazed that a head can somehow find enough time away from his day job to write book after book." Oh well. If he wants, he can discover what I do with the money from my writing, and whether I put in an honest day's work.
It's all Balls
Back for a few days in the UK. Ed Balls has been on the warpath, saying on The World at One that what I have written is "fictional", has "no foundation", is "rubbish" and full of "ridiculous" allegations. He flatly denies ever being rude to Blair. I tell students at an evening talk at York University that he is obviously right. They react more when I tell them that every university student should have lessons in wellbeing or happiness. They are not convinced. Back to Brighton briefly before going to Scotland for a family wedding with Joanna, at a youth hostel on the banks of Loch Lomond. Jessica, my eldest daughter, asks: "Why are you writing these things that make people angry?" Fair point. I ignore the continuing serialisation in the press and absorb myself in David Copperfield for some true fiction, and a remarkable book by Larry Culliford, Love, Healing and Happiness. I prefer this enormously to the angry panegyrics of militant atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, brilliant people but lacking in wisdom and compassion. To read Culliford is to learn about oneself and to grow; reading the other books is to confirm one's own prejudices.
Do I want a woman?
Off to Israel to speak at a conference with Richard Layard on "happiness and wealth". I manage a brief stopover in Jerusalem, where I am woken at 4.30 in the morning by a call to prayer from the minaret outside my window. I give thanks for the life of my father at the Western Wall, and try to find stillness in both Muslim and Christian places of worship. Not easy finding peace in the old city. A Bedouin taxi driver regales me with stories of his two wives. Do I want a woman? I have never been asked this before, and don't want to hurt his feelings. "She's Russian," he says. "No, I think not, but thank you," I say, uncertain whether the Russian is one of his wives.
Travel to Kfar Blum for the conference, and find it moving to learn more about the painful worlds in which many are imprisoned, and the headlong rush for acquisition of material wealth to the detriment of mental and physical health. I have everyone meditating for five minutes (no point talking about wellbeing classes without giving a demonstration). One angry delegate condemns the idea of teaching young people the skills of emotional resilience and wellbeing as "manipulation". Catch a small plane with cracked windscreen from Kiryat Shmona, still badly bombed from the Lebanon War. We just miss a large bird as we rise over the hills.
Back in England for television interviews on Sunday morning, and Monday launch party at The Lansdowne Club. I thank my team and especially my brilliant co-authors, Peter Snowdon and Daniel Collings, who would have written a much better book without me. The book has upset both Brownites and Blairites equally. Maybe Jessica was right.