Monday, May 25, 2020

And Then There Were None

I left my old school Beaumont College in 1962 or 1963, I really can't remember which, and not surprisingly the school itself closed down in 1967. I am now 75 and by my calculations this means that any survivors must be at least 70 today. When an "old boy" dies, one can usually rely on a family member or contemporary to inform the excellent Robert (or is it  Richard ?) Wilkinson to inform other survivors of the demise in the pages of the Beaumont Union Newsletter.

The trouble is, there are fewer contemporaries around to pass on the news. If, for example, I were to die for any reason, I should think it most unlikely that my passing would be publicised in the Newsletter. Indeed, the day will soon come when there will be nobody left to read or write the Newsletter. I suppose I can live or let die with that.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Another Example of Ambiguity

Writing about the demise of Byzantium in his A Short History of the World, Andrew Marr says "Every desperate appeal for help from the rulers of Europe had gone unanswered".

Who was appealing for help - Byzantium or the rulers of Europe? 

Thursday, May 14, 2020

New Directions

Any hope of stringing together a cogent, not to say coherent, post these days is unfortunately quite beyond me, so I shall try to content myself with short entries of about this length.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Mea Culpa 2

When I wrote in Mea Culpa "I cannot think of a single opinion that was not at odds with the accepted argument of the time", what I really meant to write was "I cannot think of a single opinion that was at odds with the accepted argument of the time". My God! Why do I bother?

The English Contribution to Civilisation

Full English Breakfast

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Demented Mr Dunn

As I am more demented than subliminal these days, I thought I might change the title of this blog.

I'm reading Stephen King's latest effort, If It Bleeds. I must say, I never thought I would live to see the day when I turned to Stephen King for light relief.

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

A Book Review

I thought you might like to know what I’ve been reading recently. I don’t know about you, but I find it virtually impossible to read a “serious” work of fiction at the moment, fluctuating between history books, sociological studies and Stephen King. 

In the former category, I was very impressed and moved by Tightrope by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. Although it was written before the outbreak of the coronavirus, the book sets out in graphic terms the plight of the American poor today, even more starkly exposed by the present crisis. It is easy for me to judge from a distance, but I think that this wonderful country, the source of so much happiness and the stuff of our dreams, has gone badly awry since in particular the time of Reagan. I am not talking about its endemic racism as expressed by white supremacy (we in Europe are hardly in a position to point the finger), but about the “technical” decision, motivated largely by greed, to turn its back on the “big government” of the Roosevelt era and beyond, and to sink into the deregulation marking the Seventies up to  the present day, the consequences of which we are living with today. 

It is sobering to see how the victors of World War II - the USA and the United Kingdom- have become the most unequal democracies of the modern world.

NEXT: Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell. What we should know about the people we don’t know.

Monday, May 04, 2020

Mea Culpa

Just as Robert Graves once wrote words to the effect that we cannot take life, as it were, “neat”, that is to say without the the addition of one drug or another, be it love, sex, money, etc, so do I think it is impossible to get through life without having a reasonably good opinion of oneself, even if thet opinion is objectively unjustified!

This thought came to me in reading Andrew Marr’s truly excellent A History of Modern Britain. The book covers almost exactly the years of my own lifetime, and as I survey the series of events depicted in it, I am struck by the fact that my views at the time  on such issues as Suez, the Common Market, Enoch Powell, apartheid, nuclear disarmament, racism and so on, reflected unquestioningly the “establishment” thinking of the times. I cannot think of a single opinion that was not at odds with the accepted argument of the time. Nowadays, I hold completely different views on every single subject! Indeed, I remember how angry I was when one of my schoolmates - Paul Burden, I think his name was, voiced a virulent anti-Americanism. I do not know whether his attitude was the result of clear thinking or rather the reflection of personal circumstances. 

This is what I mean when I say that I need a good opinion of myself in spite of everything, otherwise I would go out and cut my throat!

A simpler way of arriving at the same conclusion would be to say that we are what we are.

Nature and nurture have conspired to make what I am, though it’s taken me the whole of my life to realise that! On the nurture or environment side, there is no doubt that boarding school and a tense atmosphere at home,  had much more effect on me than I was prepared to admit.

Back to Normal

  • Do something about coronavirus
  • Do something about climate warming

Further Reading
    Notre-Dame. An Insider’s view by Victor Hugo
Biggles Gets it on by Captain W.E. Johns
Bulldog Drummond and the Curse of the Swastika  by Rapper
Dangerous Curves by Peter Cheyney
I’ll Say She does by Peter Cheyney
Ladies Won’t Wait by Peter Cheyney
Donald or Boris? The Choice is Yours (anon)