These are various bits and pieces that I have enjoyed, learnt from or laughed at. I send out each year’s crop after Christmas by email. If you would like to be included please email me on charlie@charlieellingworth.com.

How do you define a Freudian slip?
When you say one thing and mean your mother. 

The most fascinating thing about dogs is that they are no closer to understanding what it is to be human than they were 10,000 years ago, but they pander to our feelings with an infinite subtlety. It’s like a play where only half the cast understands the language it’s written in. The irrefutable rules of evolution say that there must be something in this relationship for us. And plainly there is: dogs sniff, lead, herd and fetch slippers, but those things don’t account for 1 per cent of dogs. They do something more complex for us. They’re nature’s yes men. A dog is the ultimate lifetime sycophant. A junkie tramp sitting on a pavement in his own wee can have a dog whose look says, ‘You’re a god among men.’ Dogs allow us to be stars in our own lives. They’re an endlessly appreciative audience, our most assiduous fans and obsessive stalkers. It’s not for real, of course. They just read us in the way a wolf reads a caribou, and if the caribou had opposable thumbs and a tin opener then the wolf would probably let it get dinner instead of ripping its throat out.
AA Gill

It’s not so much the things you don’t know that get you into trouble, as the things you do know that ain’t so.
Mark Twain 

If the realisation of communism should require the sacrifice of Jewry in its entirety, this would be the most beautiful mission that could ever fall to the lot of any people.
Leon Trotsky 1930

Wellington and Nelson met only once. This is Wellington’s description of their meeting.

Lord Nelson was, in different circumstances, two quite different men, as I myself can vouch. I only saw him once in my life, and for, perhaps an hour. It was soon after l returned from India that I went to the Colonial Office in Downing Street where I found, also waiting to see Lord Castlereagh, a gentleman, whom I immediately recognised as Lord Nelson. 
He could not know who I was but he entered at once into conversation with me, if I can call it conversation, for it was almost all on his side and all about himself, and in a style so vain and silly as to surprise and almost disgust me. Something that I happened to say may have made him guess that I was somebody and he went out of the room for a moment, no doubt to ask the officekeeper who I was, for when he came back he was altogether a different man. All that charlatan style had vanished, and he talked of the state of the country and affairs on the continent with a good sense, and a knowledge of subjects both at home and abroad; in fact, he talked like an officer and a statesman. 
The Secretary of State kept us long waiting, and certainly, for the last half or three-quarters of an hour, I don't know that I ever had a conversation that interested me more. 
Now, if the Secretary of State had been punctual and admitted Lord Nelson in the first three quarters of an hour, I should have had the same impression of a light and trivial  character that others have had, but luckily I saw enough to be satisfied that he was a very superior man; but certainty a more complete metamorphosis l never saw. 

Rough work, iconoclasm, but the only way to get at truth.
Oliver Wendell Holmes

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing; the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.
Viktor Frankl. Holocaust Survivor

During the modern era, centralised states gradually reduced the level of political violence within their territories, and in the last few decades Western countries managed to eradicate it almost entirely. The citizens of France, Britain or the USA can struggle for control of towns, corporations, organisations and even of the government itself, without any need of an armed force. Command of trillions of dollars, millions of soldiers, and thousands of ships, airplanes and nuclear missiles pass from one group of politicians to another without a single shot being fired. People quickly got used to this, and consider it their natural right. Consequently, even sporadic acts of political violence that kill a few dozen people are seen as a deadly threat to the legitimacy and even survival of the state. A small coin in a big empty jar makes a lot of noise.
This is what makes the theatre of terrorism so successful. The state has created a huge space empty of political violence, which now acts as a sounding board, amplifying the impact of any armed attack, however small. The less political violence in a particular state, the greater the public shock at an act of terrorism. Killing a few people in Belgium draws far more attention than killing hundreds in Nigeria or Iraq. Paradoxically, then, the very success of modern states in preventing political violence makes them particularly vulnerable to terrorism.
Novel Yuval Harare 

I hate writing. I love having written.
Dorothy Parker 

Nothing grows in the shade, honey. 
Dolly Parton on her small feet

How ghastly...I’d rather die!
Karl Lagerfeld on being asked if he’d like a big funeral 

What a splendid city to plunder!
Marshal Blucher on visiting London after Waterloo 

Television is for appearing on, not for looking at.
Noel Coward 

A dentist was about to commence work on a female patient when he paused and said: “You do realise, madam, that you’re holding me in an intimate place?” “Yes,” she replied. “We’re not going to hurt each other, are we?”

Omnia fert aetas, animum quoque
Time takes everything, including memory

Fascism is what happens when nationalism wants to make life too easy for itself by denying all other identities and obligations.
Novel Yuval Harari 

If you want other people to speak well of you, do not speak well of yourself.
Blaise Pascal 

If you are afraid of loneliness, don’t marry.

I find penguins at present the only comfort in life… one can’t be angry when one looks at a penguin.
John Ruskin 

Listening, though, to the muezzin’s call to prayer at noon in the surrounding town, I heard a wail not of assertion but of lament. One once-magnificent world culture squats among the ruins of another at Baalbek; dying in the mess and squalor of the shabby town; dying in the pitiful refugee camps we saw; dying in the ever more violent spasms of its faith as fundamentalist Islam lashes out at economic, scientific and political failure. I used to hear menace in the muezzin’s music. Now I hear melancholy.
Matthew Parris 

When I was a child, my mother said to me, “If you become a soldier, you will become a general. If you become a monk, you’ll be the Pope.” Instead, I became a painter, and wound up as Picasso.
Pablo Picasso

In politics you should never commit suicide as you might live to regret it.

When it comes to political violence — and you cannot say this often enough — what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If you think your anger is “understandable”, then the other side’s anger is understandable. If it’s OK for your side to punch them, then it’s OK for them to punch you. And if you go down that path, we’re all lost.
David Aaronovitch 

I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made.
Franklin  Roosevelt

Choosing a spouse and choosing a career: the two great decisions for which society refuses to set up institutional guidance.
Alain de Botton

If the person you are talking to doesn’t appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear.

The beaten general is disqualified.
Marshal Foch 

When sorrows come, they come not in single spies but in battalions.

AA Gill went to Lampedusa, a small island between Libya and Sicily and first port of call for refugees making that journey. Many drown and are buried on the island. 
The reason the Lampedusans are kind and good to these desperate visitors is because they can be. They’ve met them and they see them; the reason we can talk about ‘them’ as a problem, a plague on our borders, is because we don’t see them. If any of these refugees knocked on any of our front doors and asked for help, we would give it. We would insist they be protected and offered a chance to be doctors and civil engineers, nurses and journalists. We would do it because we are also good and kind. It is only by not looking, by turning our backs, that we can sail away and think this is sad, but it is not our sadness. 
The divers went down to the deep wreck and the boat revealed its last speechless, shocking gasp of despair. The body of a young African woman with her baby, born to the deep, still joined to her by its umbilical cord. In labour, she drowned. Its first breath the great salt tears of the sea. The sailors who formed a chain to bring the infant to the light, used to the horror of this desperate crossing, sobbed for this nameless child of a nameless mother that was born one of us, a European.

 If you wish to glimpse inside a human soul and get to know a man, just watch him laugh.

My understanding of marriage is very simple. We began a conversation in 1983 and have not stopped talking. And we’re still sleeping with each other in the same bed, so I think that kind of says it all.
Richard E Grant 

Michael McIntyre: People with no kids don’t know....

This is from Six Minutes in May by Nicholas Shakespeare. It describes a dinner in October 1939 with Winston Churchill and Neville Chamberlain and their respective wives. Despite being in politics together from the turn of the century, they had never socialised. It gives a fascinating alternative picture of Neville Chamberlain who is so often described as a buttoned up technocrat. At this point in the war Chamberlain was Prime Minister and Churchill First Lord of the Admiralty.

The evening was an eye-opener for Churchill. Perhaps because of the champagne, Chamberlain unwound at the small round table in what his wife thought was a ‘very dingy’ dining room converted from the day nursery. The Prime Minister talked not about the war or politics or Birmingham. Instead, he spoke of his life as a young man struggling to survive in the Bahamas. Mary Churchill observed that ‘my father was gripped’.  Churchill, amazingly, had no knowledge of this aspect of Chamberlain’s past, but from then on he formed a more substantial opinion of his ‘chief’, even if he did not communicate this in The Gathering Storm, other than to say: ‘What a pity Hitler did not know when he met this sober English politician with his umbrella at Berchtesgaden, Godesberg and Munich that he was actually talking to a hard-bitten pioneer from the outer marches of the British Empire!’  

In what Churchill later described as ‘really the only intimate social conversation that I can remember with Neville Chamberlain amid all the business we did together over nearly twenty years’, the Prime Minister spoke of the six years that he had lived on his own on the island of Andros, endeavouring to grow sisal for his father.  As Churchill had done, but two years before him, Chamberlain had visited Cuba, riding through thick forests where sunlight never penetrated. On a sugar plantation in Guantanamo Bay, Chamberlain had discovered ‘the finest cigars in the world’.  The cigars were a defence against the horseflies known as ‘hard to dead’. Chamberlain smoked them from sunup to dusk. The First Lord, it turned out, was not the only member of the War Cabinet who enjoyed Havana cigars, possessed a nose for Chateau Montbrun, had not been to university, had a relative whom he revered and an American mother (Chamberlain’s stepmother was the daughter of a US Secretary of War), and built walls with his bare hands. On a rise near Mastic Point, the twenty-two-year-old Chamberlain had constructed a five-foot stone wall and a thatched dwelling with a wine cellar. The Umbrella Man in pince-nez and wing collar, who had arrived back from Munich fluttering a barren sheet of paper, had dived for conches in nine feet of water. He had caught native octopuses from the deck of his schooner Pride, and an eleven-foot shark that took six men to haul onto the beach. He had grown whiskers and a beard, and worn dirty cotton trousers, which he tied around the leg with string when he walked. ‘Then he ain’t look heah nor dah, but he go right off,’ his labourers muttered, unable to catch up. ‘It want one horse to follow him.’ 

On the 100-mile-long island, there was a white population of three. Days passed, ten at a time, when Chamberlain did not set eyes on another white face. His closest companions were a pet iguana, five foot long, that he fed on bread; a praying mantis which he housed in a glass-topped box; and a Cuban bloodhound, Don Juan. It was on Andros that his biographers first detected a trait: how every dog ‘spontaneously attached itself’ to him.  Followed at heel by Don Juan, Chamberlain strode out at five each morning to oversee a workforce of 250 black Bahamians, labouring alongside them with a machete while they sang, ‘Work away boys, work away,’ and the chorus, ‘Oh Mr Chimblin lumbah!’ With a gift for mimicry that he had succeeded in hiding from Churchill for forty years, Chamberlain recalled his men’s patois. In his six years on Andros, ‘Mr Chimblin’ cleared 7,000 acres to grow sisal for rope. He planted cotton between the sisal rows to choke the weeds. He built a railway –and almost blew himself to smithereens when blasting a two-mile track through the coral. At night, he sat round the campfire with his workers, some of whom baptised their sons after him.

Chamberlain was an enthusiastic amateur naturalist. On Andros, he studied the local birds and learned their calls. He shot and messily skinned the rarer species, scraping away the flesh and hanging them to dry from the rafters out of the reach of rats. Then, following the example of W. H. Hudson who from the Argentine pampas had sent the skins of 500 shot birds to the Smithsonian Institution, Chamberlain presented his Bahamian skins to the British Museum, including a Northrop’s Oriole that had not been found anywhere else. For six years, Chamberlain stuck it out, obedient to the family motto, Je Tiens Ferme, as his father enjoined him. But what he had assured his father was ‘the best site available in the Bahamas’ turned out to be ‘seven thousand acres of worthless land’.  The shed burnt down, with a loss of thirty-two bales. The price of sisal collapsed – a result of Neville growing it so successfully, joked his sisters. In fact, American buyers had rejected his first plants as too stiff. His mature plants turned yellow and shrivelled, the thin layer of soil an exhausted rehearsal for his policy with Hitler. In 1897, he put down his machete and wrote to his family: I’m goin’ ’ome! I’m goin’ ’ome.  My ship is at the shore I’m goin’ to pack my ’aversack I ain’t goin’ back anymore! The failure of the Andros Fibre Company lost his father £ 50,000 (£6 million in today’s prices), but ‘in spite of all the disappointments it was a great experience.’

What did he mean by that?
Metternich - after being told that Talleyrand had died. 

The louder he talked of his honour, the faster we counted our spoons.
Ralph Waldo Emerson 

‘I’ve been wondering what that special place in hell looks like, for those who promote Brexit, without even a sketch of a plan how to carry it  out safely.’ So, famously, said Donald Tusk. Yanis Varoufakis  tweeted in reply....
Probably very similar to the place reserved for those who designed a monetary union without a proper banking union and, once the banking crisis hit, transferred cynically the bankers’ gigantic losses onto the shoulders of the weakest taxpayers.

In many ways the effect of the crash on embezzlement was more significant than on suicide. To the economist, embezzlement is the most interesting of crimes. Alone among the various forms of larceny it has a time parameter. Weeks, months or years may elapse between the commission of the crime and its discovery. (This is a period, incidentally, when the embezzler has his gain and the man who has been embezzled, oddly enough, feels no loss. There is a net increase in psychic wealth.)
At any given time there exists an inventory of undiscovered embezzlement in – or more precisely not in – the country’s business and banks. This inventory – it should perhaps be called the bezzle – amounts at any moment to many millions of dollars. It also varies in size with the business cycle.
In good times people are relaxed, trusting, and money is plentiful. But even though money is plentiful, there are always many people who need more. Under these circumstances the rate of embezzlement grows, the rate of discovery falls off, and the bezzle increases rapidly.
In a depression all this is reversed. Money is watched with a narrow, suspicious eye. The man who handles it is assumed to be dishonest until he proves himself otherwise. Audits are penetrating and meticulous. Commercial morality is enormously improved. The bezzle shrinks.
JK Galbraith: The Great Crash

Choose heaven for the climate, and hell for the company.
Mark Twain 

Grief fills the room up of my absent child, 
Lies in his bed, walks up and down with me, 
Puts on his pretty looks, repeats his words, 
Remembers me of all his gracious parts, 
Stuffs out his vacant garments with his form; 
Then, have I reason to be fond of grief? 
Fare you well: had you such a loss as I, 
I could give better comfort than you do. 
I will not keep this form upon my head, 
When there is such disorder in my wit. 
O Lord! my boy, my Arthur, my fair son! 
My life, my joy, my food, my all the world! 
My widow-comfort, and my sorrows' cure! 
Queen Constance from Shakespeare’s King John. Probably written in 1596 the year Shakespeare’s son, Hamnet, died.

A desk is a dangerous place from which to view the world.
John Le Carre

Our greatest pretences are built up not to hide the evil and the ugly in us, but our emptiness. The hardest thing to hide is something that is not there.
Eric Hoffer

I have treated many hundreds of patients. Among those in the second half of life—that is to say, over thirty five —there has not been one whose problem in the last resort was not that of finding a religious outlook on life.
Carl Jung, Modern Man in Search of a Soul

Viagra: it might not make you James Bond but it will make you Roger Moore.
Sign in a chemist in Frome, Somerset

The British write some of the best doctrine in the world. It is fortunate that their officers do not read it. 
Field Marshall Erwin Rommel 

All the great words were cancelled out for that generation.” Honor, Nobility, Valor, Patriotism, Sacrifice, Beauty: Who could still take such abstractions seriously after the wholesale slaughter of the war?
DH Lawrence 

It was the grasp of detail, of course, which enabled him also to be a big-picture man.
Boris Johnson, The Churchill Factor: How One Man Made History

There is an old-fashionedness about both of them (Corbyn and May). They are of a bygone era. It’s a bit like The Good Life – she’s Margo and he’s Tom. Their politics are so Seventies: it’s hate migrants, love miners. They’re both in this terrible situation where they’re very traditional, very stubborn, bloody difficult people and they can’t assimilate with groups of people who aren’t like them – or admit when they’ve made mistakes.
Jess Phillips MP

Some leftists believe that the socialist world would work well if the ‘good people’ were in charge of it; they do not realise that, by definition, good people do not want to control the live of others.
German Economist Ludvig Von Mises

The Englishman always finds it easy to forgive those he has wronged.
J A Hobson 

The great principle of English law is to make business for itself.

Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying.
Martin Luther

The wolf will hire himself out very cheaply as a shepherd.
Russian Proverb

DIY weather forecasting
These suggestions apply in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, reverse cloud directions:
Stand with your  back to the wind. If the clouds are moving from left to right, the weather will get wetter and windier.
Stand with your back to the wind. If the clouds are moving from right to left, the weather will get calmer and brighter.
Stand with your back to the wind. If the clouds are moving in the same direction as the wind, the weather will stay as it is for a while. 
Stand with your back to the wind. If you are blown flat on your face, heave-to or lie ahull according to your usual hurricane practice.

Peace upon earth!' was said. We sing it,
And pay a million priests to bring it.
After two thousand years of mass
We've got as far as poison-gas.
Thomas Hardy: Christmas 1924

We have a pretty witty king,
Whose word no man relies on.
He never said a foolish thing,
Nor never did a wise one.
The Earl of Rochester on Charles II

From what age, I wonder does he (Michael Morpurgo) think that children should be exposed to sadness in literature? ‘I don’t know the answer to that, but I’ve got a feeling that before the age of nine they won’t understand it and maybe be traumatised. It’s vital that they shouldn’t be. But there is a big ‘however‘. I think it’s fine that children grow up knowing the wonderful glorious things but they have to understand that there is evil in the world and in each of us.’ He tells the story of how, in 1910, the editor of the Times asked readers to answer the question: ‘What’s wrong with the world?‘ And GK Chesterton wrote back, ‘Dear Sir, I am.’ He was right, says Michael. If we keep pointing the finger at others, we’ll get nowhere.’
Maggie Fergusson interviewing Michael Morpurgo

Step by step they were led to things that dispose to vice; the lounge, the bath, the eloquent banquet. Because they did not know better, they called it civilisation when it was part of the slavery.
Tacitus: on how the British embraced the Roman way of life

This is why it is wrong to describe the Spanish Civil War as ‘fratricidal’. The divisiveness of the new ideologies could turn brothers into faceless strangers and trade unionists or shop owners into class enemies. Normal human instincts were overridden. In the tense spring of 1936, on his way to Madrid University, Julián Marías, a disciple of the philosopher José Ortega y Gasset, never forgot the hatred in the expression of a tram-driver at a stop as he watched a beautiful and well-dressed young woman step down onto the pavement. ‘We’ve really had it,’ Marías said to himself. ‘When Marx has more effect than hormones, there is nothing to be done.’ 
Antony Beevor: The Battle for Spain

Monsieur Diderot, I have listened with great pleasure to everything that your brilliant mind has inspired. But your grand principles, which I understand quite well, make for good books and bad actions. You work on paper, which accepts everything. I, a poor Empress, work on human skin, which is rather irritable and sensitive. 
Catherine the Great to Diderot, who visited her in St Petersburg, on the realities of power.

There they are, held like flies in the amber of that moment—click goes the camera and on goes life; the minutes, the days, the years, the decades, taking them further and further from that happiness and promise of youth, from the hopes Aunt Sadie must have had for them, and from the dreams they dreamed for themselves. I often think there is nothing quite so poignantly sad as old family groups.
Nancy Mitford, The Pursuit of Love

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.
Frederick Douglass

Happiness is not an absolute value. It is a state of comparison.
Zadie Smith 

Beyoncé and pathos are strangers. Amy Winehouse and pathos are flatmates - and you should see the kitchen.
Clive James

The original mistake was in trying to create a common currency without a common economic , employment and social policy for all Eurozone member states. The fathers of the euro decided that if they waited for political union to happen first they’d wait forever....we should have taken the bigger steps towards integration earlier on, and now, because we can’t convince the member states to take them, they are unachievable.
Wolfgang Schäuble. Former German Finance minister - and the man who negotiated the unification of Germany.

Who would you be, and what would you do, if you weren’t afraid?
David Brooks 


The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.
Milan Kundera

The more one follows his life, the more apparent it becomes that alongside the thread of achievement running through it runs another thread, as dark as the other is bright, and as fraught with consequences for history: a hunger for power in its most naked form, the power not to improve the lives of others but to manipulate and dominate them, to bend them to his will. For the more one learns – from his family, his childhood playmates, his college classmates, his first assistants, his congressional colleagues – about Lyndon Johnson, the more it becomes apparent not only that this hunger was a constant  throughout his life but that it was a hunger so fierce and consuming that no consideration of morality or ethics, no cost to himself - or to anyone else - could stand before it.
Robert Caro: Lyndon Johnson The Path to Power 

As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport.
Gloucester in King Lear 

It must have been strange, Hitler thinks he is God, and my father thinks God sent him to see Hitler. 
Lord Halifax’s son on his father’s meeting with Hitler.

What Orwell feared was that there would those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, because there would be no one who wanted to read one.
Neil Postman: Amusing ourselves to death 

There is a wheel on which the affairs of men revolve, and its mechanism is such that it prevents any man from being always fortunate.
Andrew Carnegie

Clothes make the man. Naked people exercise little or no influence upon society.
Mark Twain

Never keep up with the Joneses. Drag them down to your level. It’s cheaper.
Quentin Crisp

The role of a leader is to define reality and give hope.

The common idea that success spoils people by making them vain, egotistic and self-complacent is erroneous; on the contrary, it makes them for the most part, humble, tolerant and kind. Failure makes people cruel and bitter.
Somerset Maugham

Peter Cook: What are you up to?
Friend: I’m writing a book.
Peter Cook: Nor am I. 

It is the universal weakness of mankind that what we are given to administer we presently imagine we own.
H.G. Wells: Outline of History

Boothby was a great traveller and visited Germany every year between 1925 and 1933, often making the pilgrimage to Bayreuth to hear the music dramas of Richard Wagner. In January 1932, he was in Berlin delivering some lectures on the economic crisis when Hitler, not yet Chancellor, asked to see him. Boothby was taken to a room in the Esplanade Hotel where ‘a short, dark, spare figure with a small moustache and limpid blue eyes’ jumped up, clicked his heels together, raised his arm and shouted ‘Hitler!’ The mischievous MP hardly paused before he clicked his own heels, saluted and yelled ‘Boothby!’
Tim Bouverie: Appeasing Hitler 

The commonest error in politics is sticking to the carcass of dead policies.
Lord Salisbury 

In international discussions the darkest hour is generally before lunch.
Neville Chamberlain 

I feel that people are saying, ‘You’re doing beautiful work’; and that doesn’t interest me, because what they are really saying is, ‘l’m glad you’re doing it, not me’”
Jean Varnier, Founder of the L’Arche Community for the disabled.

A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
Thomas Mann

Reuter’s News Agency was founded in 1850 with a flock of 45 pigeons which were used to fill a gap in the telegraph network between Brussels and Aachen.

Dear Labour,
That was quick,
A Jew 
Matt Lucas on the expulsion of Alastair Campbell after voting Lib Dem in the Euro election 

Lib Dem leadership contests used to be like your grandparents having sex: you assumed it was going on, but you didn’t want to hear about it and you definitely wouldn’t want to watch.
Matt Chorley 

A managed no deal: the moron‘s oxymoron.

Everything except language
knows the meaning of existence.
Trees, planets, rivers, time
know nothing else. They express it
moment by moment as the universe.
Even this fool of a body
lives it in part, and would
have full dignity within it
but for the ignorant freedom
of my talking mind.
Les Murray, Australian poet and polymath who died this year.

Rod Stewart sang to veterans on Sunday as they travelled to celebrate the D-Day’s anniversary and afterwards posed for photos with some of them, including 93-year-old Leonard Williams of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. “It’s just wonderful that you’ve been able to make the trip at your age,” Leonard told Rod.
Giles Coren

Some of the original titles for books that went on to became classics under other names. Would they have made it as big?
Heller: Catch-18
Fitzgerald: The High-Bouncing Lover
Orwell: The Last Man in Europe
Tolstoy: All’s Well that Ends Well

There were three Indian squaws. One slept on a deer skin, one slept on an buffalo skin, and the third slept on a hippopotamus skin. All three became pregnant The first two each had a baby boy. The one who slept on the hippopotamus skin had twin boys. This just goes to prove that... the squaw of the hippopotamus is equal to the sons of the squaws on the other two hides.

Blessed is the man who, having nothing to say, abstains from giving us wordy evidence of the fact. 
George Eliot 

The essential characteristic of a nation is that it’s individuals must have many things in common, and must have forgotten many things as well.
Ernest Renan

Moral wounds have this peculiarity - they may be hidden, but they never close; always painful, always ready to bleed when touched, they remain fresh and open in the heart.
Alexandre Dumas: The Count of Monte Cristo

It’s useless to hold a person to anything he says when he’s in love, drunk or running for office. 
Shirley MacLaine 

Most Labour Party members are middle-class Remainers. Most Labour voters are working-class Leavers.
John Mann MP 

Above all, not too much zeal.
Talleyrand on diplomacy 

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be hated by everyone.
The unofficial UN motto

This is my friend and yoga teacher, Stan, who does yoga and paragliding - at the same time.

Although most people thought the Winklevoss brothers were completely identical, in fact, they were mirror image twins, the result of a fertilized egg splitting later than usual in the process, around the ninth day, and then developing as two separate embryos. Where fraternal twins were dizygotic—developing from two different eggs fertilized by two different sperm - identical twins were monozygotic - a single egg fertilized by a single sperm separating into two viable embryos. Mirror twins began in a similar fashion - a single egg fertilized by a single sperm - but remained intact for much longer; normal identical twins split between the second and fifth day. In fact, it could be said that mirror twins were two individuals who had remained a single entity as long as was biologically possible - beyond the tenth day, a monozygote that split would most likely end up a conjoined twin, attached forever. Like identical twins, mirror twins had the same physical features, but they were perfectly opposed, as if they were staring at each other in a mirror. If one twin had a birthmark on his left thigh, the other would have the exact same mark - on the right thigh. Like two pages in a book torn at the seams: Tyler was right-handed and more left-brained, analytical, measured, and strategy minded. Cameron was left-handed and more right-brained, tactical, operational minded, goofy, artistic, sometimes more empathetic, and sometimes more optimistic.
Ben Mezrich: Bitcoin Billionaires 

Omnium consensu capax imperii, nisi imperasset.
Everyone thought he would be up to the job of ruling - until he did it.
Tacitus on the emperor Galba.

You have to understand that, in the depths of my being, I’m a Scotsman and feel entirely at home in an enlightenment that has failed.
Professor Norman Stone on his 1997 move from Oxford to Ankara

In one of those stars I shall be living. 
In one of them I shall be laughing. 
And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, 
when you look at the sky at night. 
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.
Max Planck 

Perhaps being old is having lighted rooms
Inside your head and people in them, acting.

There are no pleasures in life worth giving up for two years in a care home in Weston-super-Mare.
Kingsley Amis 

When meeting some clients a few weeks ago in Amsterdam, I made my usual remark about the stupidity of running negative interest rates. In response my host told me a sobering story. He manages a pension fund and had recently started to build large cash positions. One day he was called by a pension regulator at the central bank and reminded of a rule that says funds should not hold too much cash because it’s risky; they should instead buy more long-dated bonds. His retort was that most eurozone long bonds had negative yields and so he was sure to lose money. “It doesn’t matter,” came the regulator’s reply: “A rule is a rule, and you must apply it.”
Charles Gave

You never love your children more than when they’re unconscious, but still breathing.
Michael Macintyre 

I like Winston - but not as much as he likes me.
Roosevelt on Churchill - and as good a description of the Special Relationship as you’ll get....

God has given man a stage on which to perform; how the play turns out is up to us.  
Jim Lovell, the Apollo 8 astronaut who took the famous earth-rise photograph.

The more I see of men, the more I like dogs.
Madame de Stael

Do I believe this stuff? Do I care? Will I go on caring?
Philip Larkin on what makes a good novel.

Patient: Doctor, I think I’m turning into a dog. Thanks 
Doctor: I’d better examine you. Go and lie down on the couch.
Patient: I’m not allowed on the couch.

A man who has inhaled his own legend before creating it.
Peter Hennessy on Boris Johnson 

East Germany was not an accretion of strength but, rather, twelve enormous Liverpools, handed over to West Germany in a tatty cardboard box, with a great red ribbon round it, marked ‘From Russia with Love’”.
Norman Stone’s argument to persuade Margaret Thatcher that a united Germany was not going to be a Fourth Reich

Boris Johnson looked like a man coming down from a bad acid trip to discover he has murdered his best friend.
John Crace in the Guardian on the immediate aftermath of the referendum.

What I hadn’t realised is that logic has nothing to do with our reaction to the death of our last surviving parent. First, it’s your mum (or dad). Of course we will miss them but this is also about the passing of generations. Now we are the oldies, the ones who will never be daughters again to anyone, the ones with the living memory. We are the grown-ups.
Anne Treneman 

The goal is not to be better than the other man, but your previous self.
Dalai Lama

And who was it that did your media training - Myra Hindley?
Malcolm Tucker 

The backstop question presently reminds me of one of those impenetrable brain-teaser puzzles they run on Radio 4’s Today show. Theresa agreed to the backstop, but Arlene didn’t, and Arlene was keeping Theresa and now Boris in power. The UK parliament rejected the backstop three times. Leo, however, insists on the backstop, which means the European Union does, too. The backstop is meant to guarantee no hard border between Northern Ireland and the republic, but it is ratcheting up the likelihood of a no-deal Brexit, which oddly makes a hard border ever more likely. What should Boris and Leo do?
Jenny McCartney 

Voting conservative is like buying a James Blunt album. You know millions of people have done it but weirdly you never meet them. 
Geoff Northcott

The Spanish castes are indeed distinct, though hard for the stranger to distinguish because there are no class accents. When great issues are at stake, hatred between them can be cruelly inflamed. Of the fourteen thousand regular officers in the Spanish Army at the beginning of the Civil War, only two hundred chose to fight for the Left: of the eight thousand regular non-commissioned officers, not more than a score chose to fight for the Right.
Jan Morris: Spain

You can stand firm in a fight against anything except kindness.

These jokes all found approval at the Edinburgh Fringe.....

A man kept shouting “broccoli” and “cauliflower”? He thought he might have florets. 
It’s like I’ve always said — jokes about white sugar are rare, jokes about brown sugar, Demerara.
Olaf Falafel 
To be or not to be a horse rider, that is equestrian. 
Mark Simmons
What’s driving Brexit? From here it looks like it’s probably the Duke of Edinburgh. 
Milton Jones

The people who tell you not to worry about money have clearly always had it.
Paul Billingham

Try to get what you want and then want what you actually get.
Alan Alda 

America probably faces historic, gradual and relative long-term decline, but for as far as we can see looks massively solid as an economic and military power. We share a language: an inestimable facilitator. It is possible for post-imperial Britons to take pride in — to feel associated with — the success of those we may see as kith and kin and somehow part of our own cultural history and legacy. We like to call them cousins: it bigs us up, even if (as I believe) Americans are, in their capable, forceful, overconfident, swaggering and sometimes blundering collective soul, Germans who speak English.
Matthew Parris 

I fear some psychological damage. But I won’t know for sure until I get my teeth into a politician.
Andrew Neal after a bicycle accident in France 

What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the winter time. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.
Last words of Blackfoot Warrior Chief Crowfoot

A constitution is like a pair of breeches, which though a cover for lewdness as well as nastiness, can easily be slipped down for the service of both.
Jonathan Swift 

In 1962, Whitehall’s war planners spotted a fatal flaw in their defensive preparations against a surprise nuclear attack. What if the prime minister happened to be on the road when the four-minute warning came? The solution, decided the men from the ministry, was to issue the PM’s driver with a radio link, borrowed from the technology that the AA used to communicate with their mechanics on motorbikes. On receiving the alert, the driver would divert to the nearest public call box, whereupon the PM would phone Whitehall, pass on the nuclear codes, and escalate Armageddon. But what if neither the PM or his driver had the requisite coins to make a call from a phone box? After some back-and-forthing between various departments, Tim Bligh, the principal private secretary, came up with a ruling: if the PM found himself caught short, he should simply reverse the charges. By which time, you can’t help thinking, the four minutes would have passed, and Downing Street would be a handful of radioactive dust. Peter Hennessy has found this glorious moment of Ealing film comedy daftness buried deep in the national archives.
The Guardian

He is in serious danger of believing his own shtick. He is an absolute fraud, he is a living example of what a moderately cut double-breasted suit and a decent tie can do with an ultra-posh voice and a bit of ginger stuck up his arse. You do not behave like that as leader of the House.  I thought it was bloody bad manners and he of all people should know better. He has had all the advantages and frankly nanny made a serious bish. I wanted to kick him firmly in the arse and say, ‘What the hell do you think you are playing at? Sit up!’ His speech in the Brexit debate was the lowest form of student union hackery, insolence and bad manners. 
Nicholas Soames on Jacob Rees Mogg’s lying (down) performance on the front bench

On a similar tack... with thanks to Gilbert and Sullivan....and apologies to Etonians and Catholics

I am the very model of a prejudiced Etonian
My diction is impeccable, my politics draconian,
I’m quite the polar opposite of what you’d call revisionist
And though I went to public school, at least I’m not a Wykehamist
I’m keeping the tradition of the gentry ent’ring politics
How else are we to keep away the Corbynista Bolsheviks
So through my vivid promises of dividends most decorous
I’ve mobilised the Brexiteers to levels quite obstreperous
I whip them up to frenzy in a manner so Pavlovian
They do not seem to see that it’s increasingly dystopian
So here I stand before you like a skeletal Napoleon
I am the very model of a prejudiced Etonian.

I’ve studied all the Classics from Herodotus to Sophocles
How else am I to criticise my colleagues’ etymologies?
Perhaps that’s why I vote against most freedoms and equalities
These authors are about as old as most of my philosophies!
I know of all the backwards Parliament’ry curiosities
Like letting Commons’ priv’lege keep me safe to spout atrocities
I know the terminologies, chronologies and glossaries
And yet I still behave as if we never lost the colonies.
I often drain the public funds to renovate my properties
Although I have more money than some smaller world economies
I never make apologies for lack of reciprocities
Despite the fact that swathes of Britons lack basic commodities!

My views on social issues haven’t changed much since the Tudor times
I rage against the slightest change to long-outdated paradigms
I lack the base ability to sympathise or empathise
My Commons’ sprawl exemplifies the privilege I symbolise
When criticised on Women’s Rights I hide behind Catholicism
Bending it to justify my heart-of-stone Conservatism,
Yet I sound the clarion of fear of fundamentalism
Without seeming to acknowledge this inherent dualism,
I try to paint a picture of a Brexit most utopian
And when they all explain to me the likely pandemonium
I patronise my critics with my methods Ciceronian
I am the very model of a prejudiced Etonian.

So why did the chicken cross the road?  

SARAH PALIN: The chicken crossed the road because, gosh-darn it, he's a maverick!

BARACK OBAMA: Let me be perfectly clear, if the chickens like their eggs they can keep their eggs. No chicken will be required to cross the road to surrender her eggs. Period.

JOHN McCAIN: My friends, the chicken crossed the road because he recognized the need to engage in cooperation and dialogue with all the chickens on the other side of the road.

HILLARY CLINTON: What difference at this point does it make why the chicken crossed the road?

GEORGE W. BUSH: We don't really care why the chicken crossed the road. We just want to know if the chicken is on our side of the road or not. The chicken is either with us or against us. There is no middle ground here.

DICK CHENEY: Where's my gun?

BILL CLINTON: I did not cross the road with that chicken.

AL GORE: I invented the chicken.... and the road.

JOHN KERRY: Although I voted to let the chicken cross the road, I am now against it! It was the wrong road to cross, and I was misled about the chicken's intentions. I am not for it now, and will remain against it.

AL SHARPTON: Why are all the chickens white?

DR. PHIL: The problem we have here is that this chicken won't realize that he must first deal with the problem on this side of the road before it goes after the problem on the other side of the road. What we need to do is help him realize how stupid he is acting by not taking on his current problems before adding any new problems.

OPRAH: Well, I understand that the chicken is having problems, which is why he wants to cross the road so badly. So instead of having the chicken learn from his mistakes and take falls, which is a part of life, I'm going to give this chicken a NEW CAR so that he can just drive across the road and not live his life like the rest of the chickens.

ANDERSON COOPER: We have reason to believe there is a chicken, but we have not yet been allowed to have access to the other side of the road.

NANCY GRACE: That chicken crossed the road because he's guilty! You can see it in his eyes and the way he walks.

PAT BUCHANAN: To steal the job of a decent, hardworking American.

MARTHA STEWART: No one called me to warn me which way the chicken was going. I had a standing order at the Farmer's Market to sell my eggs when the price dropped to a certain level. No little bird gave me any insider information.

DR SEUSS: Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad? Yes, the chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I've not been told.

ERNEST HEMINGWAY: To die in the rain, alone.

GRANDPA: In my day we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road. Somebody told us the chicken crossed the road, and that was good enough for us.

DONALD TRUMP: We should build a wall so the chicken can't cross the road.

BARBARA WALTERS: Isn't that interesting? In a few moments, we will be listening to the chicken tell, for the first time, the heartwarming story of how it experienced a serious case of molting, and went on to accomplish its lifelong dream of crossing the road.

ARISTOTLE: It is the nature of chickens to cross the road.

BILL GATES: I have just released eChicken2014, which will not only cross roads, but will lay eggs, file your important documents and balance your checkbook. Internet Explorer is an integral part of eChicken2014. This new platform is much more stable and will never reboot.

ALBERT EINSTEIN: Did the chicken really cross the road, or did the road move beneath the chicken?

COLONEL SANDERS: Did I miss one?

The broadcaster and author Emma Barnett has a philosophical concern. Asked by a women’s magazine for the one thing that she would like to know before she dies, Barnett reflects: “What if the hokey cokey really is what it’s all about?”
Times Diary

For decades I went to the cinema every week. Now the multiplexes are rammed with Marvel movies, I go once a month, max. A friend asked why I don’t like comic book films, so I explained my 15 per cent rule: this is the exact proportion of fantastical nonsense I can tolerate in a work of art.
I enjoyed Game of Thrones because, however far-fetched, it is 85 per cent about families, revenge, war, politics and sex but only 15 per cent dragons, giants, ice zombies etc. I prefer early Harry Potter books/films because they concern lessons, tuck boxes, teachers, albeit with a magical twist. Whereas the later ones drift further into Death Eaters, time shifts and other daft deus ex machina. Tolkien bores me rigid, being 100 per cent hairy-toed elves on quests.
Nor do I dismiss all comic book movies. Batman is magnificent, being located in a real, if exaggerated, 1970s New York, and Superman was a journalist. Yet the Matrix films and Marvel movies are 70 per cent superpowers and bloodless CGI worlds. My attention falters as a dull, Gradgrindian voice whispers in my head: it’s not real, who cares?
Janice Turner 

It's not whether you're right or wrong, but how much money you make when you're right and how much you lose when you're wrong.
George Soros, Forbes interview, June 1, 2016.

De Valera (Prime Minister of the Irish Free State and enemy of the treaty that partitioned Ireland in 1921) was determined to rout the IRA, still dedicated to fighting for a united Ireland, with a membership of between 10,000 and 12,000 and which had been declared an unlawful organisation by a Fianna Fáil government in June 1936. Seven IRA men were executed by army firing squad during the war; three others were allowed to die on hunger strike, while more than 500 were interned without trial and another 600 were committed under the Offences Against the State Act, which became law in June 1939. 
Ferriter Diarmaid: The Border. The legacy of a century of Anglo-Irish politics. 

Science advances one funeral at a time.
Max Planck

There is no saint without a past - no sinner without a future.
Persian Proverb 

The philosophy of the ruling minority in Nineteen Eighty-Four is a sadism which has been carried to its logical conclusion. Whether in actual fact the policy of the boot-on-the-face can go on indefinitely seems doubtful. My own belief is that the ruling oligarchy will find less arduous and wasteful ways of governing and of satisfying its lust for power . . .Within the next generation I believe that the world’s rulers will discover that infant conditioning and narco-hypnosis are more efficient , as instruments of government, than clubs and prisons, and the the lust for power can be just as completely satisfied by suggesting people into loving their servitude as by flogging and kicking them into obedience. 
Aldous Huxley  

I’m enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge, for knowledge is limited whereas imagination encircles the world.

Take all the worst things about Yorkshire: the “if ever thou does owt for nowt, allus do it for thissen” selfishness; a fetish for “plain-speaking” as a front for rudeness and cruelty; pride in ignorance and philistinism; suspicion  of outsiders; a “where’s my bloody dinner?” view of a woman’s place. Render them all down, leave to congeal and the noxious residue is Geoffrey Boycott.
Janice Turner 

You can tell a weak government by its eagerness to resort to strong measures.

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
Walt Whitman 

Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us.
Calvin and Hobbes 

Each has his past shut in him like the leaves of a book known to him by heart and his friends can only read the title.
Virginia Woolf:Jacob’s Room

An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered.
GK Chesterton

It’s gone through the phase of: women are, by their very nature, believable, which anyone who ever went to high school knows isn’t true. The satanic abuse scandal in the United States was based on the false proposition that children always tell the truth. If you’ve ever been a child you’ll know that’s wrong. Are we going to toss the Universal Declaration of Human Rights out the window? If so good luck, because then you’re just into lynch mobs. That’s what you’re left with.
Margaret Atwood on the #MeToo movement 

Rascals, would you live forever?
Frederick the Great to his retreating troops at the Battle of Kolin. There have been better rallying cries...

John (Lennon) and Yoko were is bad as me when it came to shopping. The flats they owned in the Dakota were so full of artworks, antiques and clothes  that I once  sent them a card rewriting the lyrics to Imagine: 
Imagine six apartments
It isn’t hard to do,
One is full of fur coats,
Another’s full of shoes.
Elton John: Me

Alan Coren and and Sandi Toksvig were opposing captains on Call My Bluff for almost a decade from the 1990s, which meant they spent many hours together, often eating burgers in a hotel bedroom, night after night, while they watched television. One night Toksvig even tidied his room and said “Dear God, Alan, we’re almost like an old married couple, except we don’t have sex.” Coren paused, then replied: “No, Sandi. We’re exactly like an old married couple.”

The most savage controversies are those about matters as to which there is no good evidence either way.
Bertrand Russell

In the little world in which children have their existence, whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and finely felt as injustice.
Charles Dickens

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.
HL Mencken 

The real problem of humanity is the following: we have Paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions and godlike technology.
Biologist EO Wilson 

Voluptuous as the first approach of sleep.
Byron describing twilight 

I have not failed. I have found a thousand ways that won’t work.
Thomas Edison 

By a continuing process of inflation, governments can confiscate, secretly and unobserved, an important part of the wealth of the citizens. By this method, they not only confiscate, but they confiscate arbitrarily; and, while the process impoverishes many, it actually enriches some. The sight of this arbitrary rearrangement of riches strikes not only at security, but confidence in the equity of the existing distribution of wealth. Those to whom the system brings windfalls become ‘profiteers’ who are the object of the hatred of the bourgeoisie, who the inflationism has impoverished not less than the proletariat. As the inflation proceeds all permanent relations between debtors and creditors, which form the ultimate foundation of capitalism, become so utterly disordered as to be almost meaningless.
John Maynard Keynes

This is from an In Our Time about the Doctrine of the Trinity. It contained an arresting, and I thought beautiful, explanation of the Orthodox Church’s view of the Trinity - which differs substantially from that of the Western Church. This is not normally my thing - but I was rather taken by it. The speaker was Martin Palmer 

At the heart of it is an understanding of what human beings are. The Orthodox Church does not believe in Original Sin and therefore the role of the Holy Trinity and the role of Christ as Savior in the Orthodox Church is not to rescue us and wrestle us out of the morass of evil and sin that we are in - which is very much what Augustine presents us with - but to fulfill us. And so their understanding of the Holy Trinity, taking that phrase at the beginning of the Bible and Genesis that we are created in the image of God, is to bring out the best within us. The Holy Spirit comes as a light into our lives, into our mind, into our body and illuminates the best within us. There is a wonderful phrase in John the Venerable, a fourth century mystic, who talks about it being like a pearl that we take into  ourselves and the Trinity is a pearl that sheds light and illuminates us from within. It’s very much this notion that our relationship with God is a fulfilling relationship. Is it that this is a set of philosophical notions that works in a hierarchical way - and you work your way through them and they effect salvation on you? Or is this actually something that you are invited into?  There is a famous icon of the Trinity in which the three angels that met Abraham and Sarah as recorded in Genesis are seated round a table on which there is food. As in all Orthodox icons there are no shadows because you are not looking at the picture; you are being observed by the Trinity and the table is not complete. There is a fourth side to the table; that’s where you join the feast. The Orthodox understanding is that you are invited into this relationship and it is not, as the West would suggest, a relationship where you approach on your knees in a position of petition and hope that they will come to your rescue.

A happy man has no past. An unhappy man has nothing else.
Richard Flanegan: A Narrow Road to the Deep North

I don’t think I’ve heard a single member of parliament call for an ever closer union or ever deeper integration or a federal destiny — mon pays Europe.  And there is a whole side of that debate that you hear regularly in other European capitals that is simply absent from our national conversation and I don’t think that has changed much in the past 30 years.
Boris Johnson to Parliament. He has a point...

Beauty is only skin deep, but ugly goes clean to the bone.
Dorothy Parker


Ageing is something to celebrate. If you can avoid debilitating injury and illness, it’s something you have to embrace because the other choice is being dead. So embrace it, grow with it. And that’s what I try and do. I don’t try and write music for the youth. I’m 59. I’m going to write music that’s appropriate to my age. And if younger people want to come along with me, they’re welcome to.
Mick Hucknall of Simply Red

What is wanted is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the exact opposite.
Bertrand Russell

I was really too honest a man to be a politician and live.

Treat the earth well; it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.
Native American Proverb

The intellect has little to do on the road to discovery. There comes a leap in consciousness, call it intuition or what you will, and the solution comes to you and you don’t know how or why.

Each man’s experience starts again from the beginning. Only institutions grow wiser; they accumulate collective experience, and owing to this experience and this wisdom, men subject to the same rules will not see their own nature changing, but their behaviour gradually transformed.
Jean Monnet, founder of the EU 

You cannot change people; only know them.

In what was not a joke, in 2015 Democrat and Republican voters were asked their views on the US bombing Agrabah. A third of Republicans were eager to do this, as were 19 per cent of Democrats. The problem was that Agrabah is a fictional place in the 1992 Disney cartoon film Aladdin. The year before only one in six Americans could place Ukraine on a map, the median response being to locate it in Latin America or Australia.
Michael Burleigh: The Best of Times; the Worst of Times

Their coming together now, after two years of married life, was much more wonderful to them than it had been before. It was the entry into another circle of existence, it was the baptism to another life, it was the complete confirmation. Their feet trod strange ground of knowledge, their footsteps were lit-up with discovery. Wherever they walked, it was well, the world re-echoed round them in discovery. They went gladly and forgetful. Everything was lost, and everything was found. The new world was discovered, it remained only to be explored.
    They had passed through the doorway into the further space, where movement was so big, that it contained bonds and constraints and labours, and still was complete liberty. She was the doorway to him, he to her. At last they had thrown open the doors, each to the other, and had stood in the doorways facing each other, whilst the light flooded out from behind on to each of their faces, it was the transfiguration, the glorification, the admission.
     And always the light of the transfiguration burned on in their hearts. He went his way, as before, she went her way, to the rest of the world there seemed no change. But to the two of them, there was the perpetual wonder of the transfiguration.
DH Lawrence: The Rainbow 

The bodice of her evening gown featured a gold motif that circled each breast before climbing ceilingwards behind her shoulders like a huge menorah. It was a bra mitzvah.
Clive James describing Diana Rigg’s costume in a classical drama.

Your death, near now, is of an easy sort.
So slow a fading out brings no real pain.
Breath growing short
Is just uncomfortable. You feel the drain
Of energy, but thought and sight remain:

Enhanced, in fact. When did you ever see
So much sweet beauty as when fine rain falls
On that small tree
And saturates your brick back garden walls,
So many Amber Rooms and mirror halls?

Ever more lavish as the dusk descends
This glistening illuminates the air.
It never ends.
Whenever the rain comes it will be there,
Beyond my time, but now I take my share.

My daughter’s choice, the maple tree is new.
Come autumn and its leaves will turn to flame.
What I must do
Is live to see that.That will end the game
For me, though life continues all the same:

Filling the double doors to bathe my eyes,
A final flood of colors will live on
As my mind dies,
Burned by my vision of a world that shone
So brightly at the last, and then was gone.
Clive James: Japanese Maple 

Komodo dragons are thought to have evolved in Australia four million years ago but the species disappeared from the island soon after the first humans arrived there.
Adult dragons can weigh as much as 300 pounds, making them ten times heavier than any other lizard species in the world today. They can live for 30 years. The reptiles eat almost anything, including their young. Around 10 per cent of an adult reptile’s diet consists of infant Komodo dragons. As a result, young dragons spend much of their childhood in trees, which heavy, full-grown adults are unable to climb.
Female dragons can reproduce independently of males by a process called parthenogenesis. A Komodo dragon in Chester Zoo performed a “virgin birth” in 2006, laying 11 eggs, seven of which hatched. Dragons born from this process are always male.

Which one of the following solutions would achieve the greatest reduction in carbon emissions by 2050, according to the climate research organisation Project Drawdown?

a) Plant-rich diet
b) Refrigerant management
c) Solar farms
d) Tropical forest restoration

Answer: b. Refrigerant management. According to Project Drawdown, managing leaks and disposal of chemical refrigerants (known as HFCs) used in refrigerators and air conditioners has the highest emissions reduction potential, because HFCs warm the atmosphere 1,000-9,000 times more than carbon dioxide. The Montreal Protocol, ratified by all UN members, calls for the world to phase out HFCs over the next decade. However, 90% of refrigerant emissions happen in the disposal process, so effectively storing the HFCs that would otherwise be released over the next 30 years could avoid emissions equivalent to 89.74 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide. Refrigerant management is ranked first among Project Drawdown’s 80 solutions. A plant-rich diet is ranked fourth, as it reduces the carbon emissions from meat production and deforestation. Tropical forest restoration is ranked fifth for the carbon it sequesters in soil and biomass. Solar farms are ranked eighth, assuming solar power grows from 4% of global electricity generation currently to 10% by 2050.
Deloitte Briefing 

The melancholy of the ancient  world seems to me more profound than that of the moderns, all of whom more or less imply that beyond the dark void lies immortality. But for the ancients that ‘’black hole”was infinity itself; the dreams loom and vanish against the background of immutable ebony. No crying out, no convulsions – nothing but the fixity of a pensive gaze. Just when the gods had ceased to be and the Christ had not yet come, there was a unique moment in history, between Cicero and Marcus Aurelius, when man stood alone. Nowhere else do I find that particular grandeur. 
Flaubert: Letter to Mme Roger des Genettes 1861

Mother-in-law jokes were out as Sir Timothy Laurence, husband of the Princess Royal, addressed a lunch yesterday but he did allow one involving his wife. Princess Anne had been invited to Japan some years ago, he said, where she met a few war veterans. “I was a kamikaze pilot,” one told her. There was a long pause before Anne tactfully asked: “And was navigation not your strength?”
Times Diary 

If you had to choose a moment in history to be born, and you did not know ahead of time who you would be - you didn’t know whether you were going to be born into a wealthy family or a poor family, what country you’d be born in, whether you were going to be a man or a woman - if you had to choose blindly what moment you’d want to be born, you’d choose now.
Barack Obama, 2016

Among artists without talent, Marxism will always be popular, since it enables them to blame society for the fact that nobody wants to hear what they have to say.
Clive James

It is never difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine.
PG Woodhouse 

Ageing is the extraordinary process where you become the person you always should have been.
David Bowie 

Can you imagine Boris Johnson on a pole?
Jennifer Arcuri 

What is the cost of lies? It is not that we will mistake them from the truth. The real danger is that if we hear enough lies, then we no longer recognise the truth at all. What can we do then?
Valery Legasov played by Jared Harris in Chernobyl - just before he committed suicide. 

The life of any man possessing great gifts, would be a sad book to himself. 
Charles Dickens 1869

Provost Phelps (of Oriel College, Oxford) Was in the habit of taking a cold bath each morning. His butler would hear him saying, before he stepped into the icy waters: “be a man, Phelps.” He was also the first Oxford head of house to entertain a puritanical new head of the nonconformist Mansfield College. When the port came round, this prig remarked: “I’d rather commit adultery.” “Wouldn’t we all?” asked Phelps, before liberally refilling his own glass.
AN Wilson 

All the good bits are subconscious – they truly are. It’s one of those things maybe writers like to say themselves or say of their trade, but it’s very seldom that you sit down knowing pretty much what you have to put on this page of paper. It’s much more the case that it creates itself in the doing, almost as though it creates itself in the physical act of writing.
Tom Stoppard 

If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when? 
Rabbi Hillel (died 10AD)

Of course I believe in luck. How else does one explain the success of those you don’t like?
Jean Cocteau 

Of course I believe in magic – what do you think explains how much stuff I’ve sold over the years?
Damien Hirst 

As a child, when his father was in the Marshalsea prison for debt, Dickens was sent to work in Warren’s Blacking Warehouse. This humiliating experience shaped his life and work.
From that hour until this at which I write (a quarter of a century later), no word of that part of my childhood which I have now gladly brought to a close has passed my lips to any human being. I have no idea how long it lasted; whether for a year, or much more, or less. From that hour until this, my father and my mother have been stricken dumb upon it. I have never heard the least allusion, however far off and remote, from either of them. I have never, until now I impart it to this paper, in any burst of confidence with any one, my own wife not excepted, raised the curtain I then dropped, thank God. Until old Hungerford-market was pulled down, until old Hungerford-stairs were destroyed, and the very nature of the ground changed, I never had the courage to go back to the place where my servitude began. I never saw it. I could not endure to go near it. For many years, when I came near to Robert Warren’s in the Strand, I crossed over to the opposite side of the way, to avoid a certain smell of the cement they put upon the blacking-corks, which reminded me of what I once was. It was a very long time before I liked to go up Chandos Street. My old way home by the borough made me cry, after my eldest child could speak.

Can a President who tweets the wrong Theresa May be trusted to nuke the right Korea?
Hugo Rifkind 

The problem with being beautiful is that it’s like being born rich and getting poorer.
Joan Collins

A crucial lesson of my political life is this very simple psychological analysis. When you have two persons in a room, you do not have two, you have six: what each person is; what each person thinks he or she is; and what each person thinks the other is. This is the reason personal relationships are so complex. But what is true for persons is true for groups and countries.
Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary General 

A true liberal is someone who doesn’t take their own side in an argument.
Robert Frost 

Sex is the most compressed set of circumstances we’ve got. Everything is in that collision.
Arthur Miller 

So the world’s most famous smile is inherently and fundamentally elusive,and therein lies Leonardo’s ultimate realization about human nature. His expertise was in depicting the outer manifestation of inner emotions. But here in the Mona Lisa he shows something more important: that we can never fully know true emotion from outer manifestations. There is always a sfumato quality to other people’s emotions, always a veil.
Walter Isaacson, Leonardo da Vinci

For whom, it suddenly occurred to him to wonder, was he writing this diary? For the future, for the unborn. His mind hovered for a moment round the doubtful date on the page, and then fetched up with a bump against the Newspeak word doublethink. For the first time the magnitude of what he had undertaken came home to him. How could you communicate with the future? It was of its nature impossible. Either the future would resemble the present, in which case it would not listen to him: or it would be different from it, and his predicament would be meaningless.
Orwell: 1984

We may stop ourselves when going up, never when going down.

According to Digiconomist’s Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index, as of Monday November 20th, 2017 Bitcoin’s current estimated annual electricity consumption stands at 29.05TWh. That’s the equivalent of 0.13% of total global electricity consumption. While that may not sound like a lot, it means Bitcoin mining is now using more electricity than 159 individual countries. More than Ireland or Nigeria.

It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.
J.K. Rowling

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
Maya Angelou

Fish do not have a back bottom. Like birds they have a cloaca - a single all purpose vent. If you ask me letting evolution do away with our cloacas was a design faux pas. You know how it happened: the architect and the client were looking over the plans for protomammals and the architect said. “….. I’m toying with something radical in the cloaca department. We’ve got space for two, which will avoid confusion and give a great deal of added comfort.” “I don’t know said the client, “wouldn’t it be a lot more work and expense?” “No, no today’s mammal is all about leisure time…. Leisure options that’s the future.” “OK” says the client. “But what are you going to call this new arrangement?” “Well” says the architect, “I thought Piers and Morgan had quite a ring to it".
AA Gill

The personal and the political are today in perfect alignment. Virtually all U.S. senators, and most of the representatives in the House, are members of the top 1 percent when they arrive, are kept in office by money from the top 1 percent, and know that if they serve the top 1 percent well they will be rewarded by the top 1 percent when they leave office.
Joseph Stiglitz

I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return.
WH Auden 

The British are an indecipherable millefeuille of politeness, awkwardness, embarrassment, irony, self-depreciation, arrogance, defensiveness and deflective humour.
Sarah Lyall: The New York Times 

Education is what you get when you read the fine print; experience is what you get if you don’t.
Pete Seeger

Diving is an up and down sport.
Tom Daley

In German, guilt and debt are the same word - ‘shuld’ 

If a political party does not have its foundation in the determination to advance a cause that is right and that is moral, then it is not a political party; it is merely a conspiracy to seize power.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

Moral principle is a looser bond than pecuniary interest.
Abraham Lincoln

I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself. 
Edward Snowden

Truth is not fact, nor is truth the corruption of fact, nor is the corruption of fact equivalent to literary fiction. The privilege that fiction has is that of being able to drop from one mentality to another and for the reader to be persuaded that they are in the presence of another subjectivity. The complexity of truth and the enlargement of sympathy – those are things the novel will do better than anything else.
Edward St Aubyn

Free trade assumes that if you throw men out of work in one direction you re-employ them in another. As soon as that link is broken the whole of the free trade argument breaks down.

Corbyn has brought together some of the most vital forces on the contemporary scene: the anti-capitalist radicalism of young people who are innocent of history, a bourgeois cult of personal authenticity and naked self-interest expressed as self-admiring virtue.
John Gray in the New Statesman

Politics does not consist of saying everything you think all the time. It consists of never saying the opposite of what one thinks, which is different.
Bernard Cazeneuve, former Prime Minister of France 

Write drunk, edit sober.

Friends are not necessarily the the people you like best, they are merely the people who get there first.
Peter Ustinov

Strictly speaking, austerity is the Anglo-Saxon way of describing a solid financial policy, which doesn’t necessarily see more or higher deficits as a good thing.
Wolfgang Schauble, German Finance Minister

The biggest mistake I made in my life was to put all my eggs into one bastard.
Dorothy Parker 

In The Descent of Man, Darwin wrote, "He who was ready to sacrice his life, as many a savage has been, rather than betray his comrades, would often leave no offspring to inherit his noble nature." And yet, as Darwin knew, altruism is everywhere, a stubborn anomaly of nature. Bats feed hungry brethren; honeybees commit suicide with a sting to defend the hive; birds raise offspring that aren't their own; humans leap onto subway tracks to save strangers. The ubiquity of such behavior suggests that kindness is not a losing life strategy.
Jonah Lehrer: The New Yorker

I was young once. I wasn’t very good at it.
Jacob Rees Mogg

Why should young people believe in capitalism when they have no chance of accruing any capital?
Andrew Neil 

Culturally, the more people who are accustomed to mastering their problems and finding answers, the more distressed they are by ambiguous loss. In the void, mastery orientated cultures are more likely to insist on one extreme or the other to stop the pain – either thinking of the disappeared as 'dead to me' or as 'l know he'll return one day'. With ambiguous loss, truth alludes, so neither absolute works to ease the pain. Instead, a more realistic way of thinking helps families of the missing: 'my missing son is probably dead and maybe not'; my mother who has dementia is still here and yet, gone.' Human strength and family resilience emerge not from one absolute truth - because there is none – but from holding two opposing possibilities in one's mind at the same time.
Pauline Boss: Ambiguous Loss 

The life of the series is generated within it.  Less original novelists tenaciously follow their  protagonists. In the Music of Time  we watch through the glass of a tank: one after another various specimens swim towards us; we see them clearly and then, with a barely perceptible flick of the tail or fin, they are off into the murk. That is how our encounters occur in life.
Evelyn Waugh on Anthony Powell's Dance to the Music of Time 

The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must. 
Thucydides: Melian dialogue 

Bicester Village discount shopping centre had 6.4 million visitors in 2016. It was the second most popular tourist destination in Britain only beaten by the British Museum with 6.42 million.

Jeremy Corbyn says that antisemitism is hating Jews for what they are. No. Antisemitism is a conspiracy theory - it's about hating Jews for what they are not. 

Alcohol gives you unlimited patience for stupidity.
Sammy Davis Jnr 

Don't hit at all if it is honorably possible to avoid hitting; but never hit soft. 
Theodore Roosevelt 

How little money really changes things. It buys  doctors but not health, clothes but not taste, makeup but not beauty. When I was young and didn't have anything, I imagined money had more power.
Suzanne Vega 

Good reality TV exists. Sometimes you also get terrible reality TV, but done so well that the voyeuristic veneer of irony almost makes it worthwhile. This isn't that. This is a lazy and nonsensical idea, executed lazily and nonsensically, with the concept lacking the concentration to concentrate even on itself. And still, the idiots are going to love it. It's their world now.
Hugo Rifkind reviewing The Bromans. The name is the giveaway that he is almost certainly right. 

Fairytales are not about gauzy frocks and ego gratification. They are about  child murder, cannibalism, starvation, deformity, desperate human creatures cast into the form of beasts or chained by spells, or immured alive in thorns.
Hilary Mantel 

Writing is turning life's worst moments into money.
JP Donleavy 

Why I love paragliding - it’s a great tune too.

 If you want to make enemies, change some things. 
Woodrow Wilson 

There is no such thing as conversation. It is an illusion. There are intersecting monologues, that is all. 
Rebecca West 

Nobody will keep the thing he hears to himself, and nobody will repeat just what he hears and no more. 

In any bureaucracy, the people devoted to the benefit of the bureaucracy itself always get in control, and those dedicated to the goals the bureaucracy is supposed to accomplish have less and less influence, and sometimes are eliminated entirely.... In any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representatives who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent. The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions. 
Jerry Pournelle: Pournelle's law of Bureaucracy

'History doesn't repeat itself but it sometimes rhymes' is a much repeated Mark Twain apercu. He also said this - which is rather less elegant...
History never repeats itself, but the kaleidoscopic combinations of the pictured present often seem to be constructed out of the broken fragments of antique legends

It was the nation and the race dwelling all round the globe that had the lion’s heart. I had the luck to be called upon to give the roar. 
Winston Churchill 

Leadership: the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it. 
Dwight D. Eisenhower 

A man has two lives. The second one starts when he realises he only has one.

I loved this short film made by friends. It’s set in Ireland and is intriguing, funny and beautifully shot.
Password: missionfromGod

Addiction is the no man's land between mental illness and bad behaviour.
Sigrid  Rausing 

The Brexit negotiation is the undefined being negotiated by the unprepared in order to get the unspecified for the uninformed.

Say not you know another entirely, till you have divided an inheritance with him. 
Johan Kasper Lavater  

The boom, not the slump, is the right time for austerity at the Treasury. 
John Maynard Keynes 

In the White House I had influence, at Breitbart I had power.
Steve Bannon

Time was not something then we thought of as an item that possessed an ending, but something that would go on forever, all rested and stopped in that moment. Hard to say what I mean by that. You look back at all the endless years when you never had that thought. I am doing that now as I write these words in Tennessee. I am thinking of the days without end of my life. And it is not like that now. I am wondering what words we said so carelessly that night, what vigorous nonsense we spoke, what drunken shouts we shouted, what stupid joy there was in that, and how John Cole was only young then and as handsome as any person that has ever lived. Young, and there would never be a change for that. The heart rising, and the soul singing. Fully alive in life and content as the house-martins under the eaves of the house.
Sebastian Barry: Days without end 

Trump's nothing like Hitler. He couldn't write a book.
Frankie Boyle 

There are many good statements in the world but much of the best part of thought and conversation isn't statement, it's exploration, enquiry, irony. It's feeling something out. You can't feel anything out any more - people think you are saying what you mean.
Howard Jacobson on Twitter 

History is the memory of states. 
Henry Kissinger 

De Rochfoucold 

Italian Proverb 

What3words. Everyone should have this app - useful in so many ways, simple, sophisticated and genius.

George Bush Junior was a genial soul, and much sharper intellectually than the outside world usually reckoned. A friend of mine thinks that at school he would have been a natural towel-flicker in the changing room, rather small, a teaser, difficult to dislike, but probably not someone you would seek to emulate.
Chris Patten: First Confession

Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself, but talent instantly recognizes genius. 
Arthur Conan Doyle 

You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Why waste your money looking up your family tree? Just go into politics and your opponent will do it for you.
Mark Twain 

The growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.
George Elliott: Middlemarch

In politics, before considering malevolence, always assume incompetence.
Steve Duprey

Hear no evil, speak no evil - and you will never be invited to a party.
Oscar Wilde

The man who has begun to live more seriously within begins to live more simply without. 
Ernest Hemingway 

Many people fear nothing more terribly than to take a position which stands out sharply and clearly from the prevailing opinion. The tendency of most is to adopt a view that is so ambiguous that it will include everything and so popular that it will include everybody. Not a few men who cherish lofty and noble ideas hide them under a bushel for fear of being called different. 
Martin Luther King

The median Briton, who is 40, has no recollection of national crisis: no devaluation, no three-day week, no conscript war, none of the floor-to-ceiling greyness of the postwar years, when austerity entailed the rationing of basics and not just tight public-sector pay settlements, none of the little humiliations that came with being poorer than other European countries and shut out from their embryonic project of union. Even the background spectre of a world-ending nuclear exchange had more or less passed by the time this notional citizen became a teenager. The worst ordeals were an invasion of Iraq conducted by an all-volunteer army and a crash in which unemployment peaked at 8 per cent. 
To remain vigilant after such a benign experience of history is too much to ask. The temptation is to treat order and gradual progress as things ordained by nature — to believe that electoral choices cannot threaten these cosmic entitlements. Politics becomes a kind of elevated sport: a means of venting and expressing oneself at low risk. Nor is it a clinching counter-argument that older voters turned out for Brexit. Even they have spent the past few decades in a secure, well-governed country that steered resources to their own generation. Their propensity to take it all for granted will have grown with each of those passing years.
Janan Ganesh in the FT

The dead are invisible, they are not absent.
St Augustine 

Woody Allen: Hardly ever, maybe three times a week.
Diane Keaton: Constantly, I'd say three times a week. 
Annie Hall

Power may or may not corrupt but it always reveals. 
Robert Caro 

The way to love anything is to realize that it may be lost. 
G.K. Chesterson 

I'm not telling you; but I can say it didn't involve pigs or wheatfields. 
David Cameron, when asked what was the naughtiest thing he had done as a child. 

I don’t actually believe in a clash of civilization. I believe in a clash of the civilized and the non-civilized. 
Madeleine Albright,

A great hope fell
You heard no noise
The ruin was within.
Emily Dickinson 

Flattery makes friends, truth enemies. 
Spanish Proverb 

Power is a poison, well known for thousands of years. To the human being who has faith in some  force that holds dominion over all of us and who is therefore conscious of his own limitations, power is not necessarily fatal...But for those, however, who are unaware of anyone higher, power is a deadly poison. For them there is no antidote. 

The young man knows the rules, but the old man knows the exceptions. 
Oliver Wendell Holmes 

Who are  the worst people to be stuck in a lift with? Jeremy Corbyn and Dianne Abbott: she can't remember the floor number - and he won't press the button. .

Evelyn (Waugh), like Max Beerbohm, but probably for different reasons, had decided to drop an iron visor over all his intimate feelings and serious beliefs and by doing so excluded one from any understanding of his true character…. This deep reticence detracted in a sense from his conversation, which was of the highest order, because however brilliant and witty, one always felt that he was playing some elaborate charade which demanded from him constant vigilance and wariness.
Freddy Birkenhead on his friend Evelyn Waugh

The resultant gap between the pace of change altering the nature of society and the creation and oversight of rules for society should be of great concern. When such gaps have existed in the past, as when the Industrial Revolution changed the social order more rapidly than the elites in charge cared to acknowledge, the result was spasm after spasm of revolution stretching from the late eighteenth century through the early twentieth century. We can ill afford such upheavals. But the question is - whether they have already begun. 
David Rothkopf: The Great Questions of Tomorrow

There was some open space between what he knew and what he tried to believe, but nothing could be done about it, and if you can't fix it you've got to stand it.
The last sentence of Annie Proulx's Brokeback Mountain

Drink is, at its dark, pickled heart, a sepia pessimist. It draws curtains, pulls up the counterpane. It smothers and softens and smoothes. The bliss of drinking is that it softens and smoothes. The bliss of drink is that it's a small death. The difference between you and us, you civilian amateur hobbyist drinkers and us professional, committed indentured alcoholics is that you drink for the lightness, we drink for the darkness. You want to feel good, we want to stop feeling so bad. All addictions become not about nirvana but maintenance. Not reaching for the stars but fixing the roof. 
AA Gill: Pour Me 

Our almost-instinct almost true:
What will survive of us is love. 
Larkin: An Arundel Tomb

When pitches began to be made of the new synthetic material Joe Namath, the legendary American Football player, was asked in an interview whether he preferred grass or astroturf. ‘I don't know’, he replied, ‘I've never smoked astroturf.’

Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is an absurd one.

Luck never made a man wise.

And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own 
And where you are is where you are not. 
T.S. Eliot, ‘East Coker’, The Four Quartets

Banks had become too big to fail, too big to sail, and too big to jail.
Melvyn King: The end of alchemy 

Tell him I was too fucking busy - or vice-versa.
Dorothy Parker

From which fake newsagent would you prefer to get your fake news, X's or Z's? Zuckerberg's Facebook is the one now copping all the flak. Indiscriminately hosting terrorist propaganda and Putin's lies (not to mention live streaming of rape and murder), it leaves us the burden of deciding what to spurn and what to accept. No such problems at the fake newsagent down the road: in President Xi's China, even pornography, under Criminal Law  97, is deemed a cybercrime "harmful to public order, social stability and Chinese morality". Xi's system relies on a vast surveillance operation to weed out "damaging" content. Last week it introduced its own version of Wikipedia, to "guide and lead the public and society", as its editor-in-chief put it. However, being "an important cultural decision of central government," this won't involve the public. Xi has had more than 20,000 scholars to write 300,000 entries.
That the unlimited exercise of free speech bothers us more than the strangulation of it   isn't  entirely surprising; we can at least strive to control Z's abuses. It also reflects, I suspect, a dismal tendency to be so awed by the economic and military prowess of the new kid in town, that we keep shtum about the barbarous nature of his politics. It's there, that genuflectory cringe, in the warning  France's new president gave to Britain: "Tomorrow  you'll have to deal on your own with the Chinese. And good luck to you. Because the UK is definitely not relevant to China." The Achilles heel of democracy is this: that in their secret hearts, too many of its citizens prefer Sparta to Athens.
Jeremy O'Grady

Ambition is not a vice of little people.

Charm is the great English blight. It does not exist outside these damp islands. It spots and kills anything it touches. It kills love; it kills art.
Evelyn Waugh: Anthony Blanche in Brideshead Revisited 

It wasn’t until quite late in life that I discovered how easy it is to say “I don’t know!” 
William Somerset Maugham 

Money never made anyone rich. 

Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. 
Matthew 10:16 

How simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea...All that is required to feel that here and now is the happiness of a simple, frugal heart. 
Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek (1946) 

You do not swallow the whole of UKIP at a single sitting without some risk of indigestion.
Matthew Parris

How many Oxford dons does it take to change a light bulb?
What do you mean, change?

No plan survives contact with the enemy.
General Helmuth von Moltke

Change is certain. Peace is followed by disturbances; departure of evil men by their return. Such recurrences should not constitute occasions for sadness but realities for awareness, so that one may be happy in the interim.
Percy Bysshe Shelly - seen written on a notice board in South Kensington Station

What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility. This is a genuinely religious feeling that has nothing to do with mysticism. 
Albert Einstein 

In 2010 senior Goldman Sachs executives appeared before a Senate Committee.
Senator Carl Levine: "When you heard that your employees in these emails and looking at these deals said 'God, what's shitty deal,' God what a piece of crap,' when you hear your own employees or read about these in emails, do you feel anything?"
David Viniar, CFO at Goldman Sachs: "I think that is very unfortunate to have on an email."

No bourgeoisie, no democracy
Barrington Moore 

We who lived in the concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offered sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: The last of his freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances. 
Viktor E. Frankl 

No man can consider himself truly married until he understands every word his wife is not saying. 
Lord Mancroft 

I always thought Roger Moore was a New Year's resolution.
Alan Johnson 

Ever since Rushdie, people have a sense that if you say anything negative about Islam, angry Muslims will protest. But there is a further anxiety that if you insult Muslims, you're a racist. There is a conflation. Both of those anxieties have a chilling effect on questioning a fundamental issue: to what extent is there an ideological dimension to what is being done in Islam's name? It seems there is a considerable ideological dimension. People acknowledge it but are afraid to say it. That played a substantial part in the Dutch and French elections - the feeling of resentment that people aren't allowed to express it. It's better that we open the windows – for the Muslims too. Because all the time, this is metastasising away. This is like refusing to go to the dentist when you have toothache. Sooner or later it will fall out, and your jaw will go rotten.
Tom Holland

When you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing; when you see that money is owing to those who deal not in goods, but in favors; when you see that men get rich more easily by graft than by work, and your laws no longer protect you against them, but protect them against you... you may know that your society is doomed. 
Ayn Rand. Atlas Shrugged 

From far, from eve and morning 
And yon twelve-winded sky, 
The stuff of life to knit me 
Blew hither: here am I. 
A. E. Housman, A Shropshire Lad

The state incurs debts for politics, war, and other higher causes and 'progress'. The assumption is that the future will honor this relationship in perpetuity. The state has learned from the merchants and industrialists how to exploit credit; it defies the nation ever to let it go into bankruptcy. Alongside all swindlers the state now stands there as swindler-in-chief
Jakob Burckhardt

Tell all the truth but tell it slant 
Success in circuit lies 
Emily Dickinson, Poems 

Those persons who comprise the independent classes are dependent upon two things: the industry of their fellow creatures; and injustice, which enables them to command it.
John Gray: A Lecture on Human Happiness, 1825

Cogito, ergo non bibi satis.  I think, therefore I haven't had enough to drink.
Graffiti on a York University wall

This is an article about the French Foreign Legion and its cult of death. I saw them years ago at the Royal Tournament. They were preceded by a bespectacled, pudgy Canadian military band. Then the lights dropped and, to a slow, menacing beat, the Legion appeared chanting their death-march dirge. Every man was V shaped with a shaven head under his white kepi and they were led by men wearing leather aprons and carrying axes. They were terrifying.

All other things to their destruction draw
Only our love hath no decay.
John Donne: The Anniversary 

Whom the gods wish to destroy they first call promising.
Cyril Connelly 

Jobs said America’s education system was hopelessly antiquated and crippled by union work rules. Until the teachers’ unions were broken, there was almost no hope for education reform...Principals should be able to hire and re based on how good teachers are. Schools should be open until at least 6 p.m. and be in session eleven months of the year...All books, learning materials, and assessments should be digital and interactive, tailored to each student and providing feedback in real time. 
Walter Isaacson, Steve Jobs 

Those who know the storm dread the calm before it. 
Chinese Proverb 

If all men knew what others say of them, there would not be four friends in the world. 

It isn't quite the same thing to comment on the bull ring, as to be in the bull ring. 
Spanish Proverb 

One does not laugh about truth or goodness. That is why Christ never laughed. Laughter is a case of doubt.
Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose 

Alexander died, Alexander was buried, 
Alexander returneth to dust, the dust is earth; of Earth we made loam; and why of that loam whereto he was converted might they not stop a beer barrel? 
Imperious Caesar, dead and turn’d to clay, 
Might stop a hole to keep the wind away. 
Shakespeare, Hamlet

If we take the really grand view of life, all other things problems and developments are overshadowed by three interlinked processes: 
1. Science is converging on an all-encompassing dogma, which says that organisms are algorithms, and life is data processing. 
2. Intelligence is decoupling from consciousness. 
3. Non-conscious but highly intelligent algorithms may soon know us better than we know ourselves. 
These three processes raise three key questions....
1. Are organisms really just algorithms, and is life really just data processing? 
2. What’s more valuable – intelligence or consciousness? 
3. What will happen to society, politics and daily life when non-conscious but highly intelligent algorithms know us better than we know ourselves?
Yuval Noah Harare: Homo Deus 

Do not be possessive. It is one of the most dangerous things, especially in relation to sex. A lot of people think it's indecent not to be possessive when you are married. I think it's fatal. Don't let your passion trap you into trying to own the person. The trick is to love them, not to possess them. 
Diana Athill

The problem is not the liars, it's the millions who want to be lied to.
Nick Cohen

I hate housework. You make the beds and wash the dishes - and six months later you have to start all over again.
Joan Rivers 

By hating vices too much, they come to love men too little.
Edmund Burke on fanatics

Here is the president so far out of his depth that all he can see above him, you might imagine, is the murky orange blur of Iain Duncan-Smith's armbands. 
Sam Leith

Reculer pour mieux sauter  Step back for a better leap.
French Proverb

Won’t you come into the garden? I would like my roses to see you. 
Richard Brinsley Sheridan 

As I looked out onto the night sky with all those  infinite number of stars, it made me realise how insignificant they are.
Peter Cook

Untouched by morality and idealism, economics is an arid pursuit, just as politics is an unprofitable one.
RAB Butler 

Always be more that you appear and never appear to be more than you are.
Angela Merkel

Rossi and Marquez have been battling it out to be top dog in the gladiatorial world of superbikes. Their skill and courage is breathtaking - and mad. All this is going on at speeds of more than 150mph with brutal gracefulness. 

The best form of flattery is to master the art of listening. 
Chinese Proverb 

Jealousy is all the fun you think they had.
Erica Jung

The woods decay 
The woods decay and fall 
The vapours weep their burthen to the ground 
Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath
And after many a summer dies the swan 
Tennyson: Tithonus

When a man won’t listen to his conscience, it’s usually because he doesn’t want advice from a stranger. 
Lindsey Stewart 

It is always the secure who are humble. 
GK Chesterton 

When you are in any contest, you should work as if there were - to the very last minute - a chance to lose it. This is battle, this is politics, this is anything. 
Dwight Eisenhower 

Patient: Doctor, when you do the rectal examination, please could you use two fingers rather than one?
Doctor: Why?
Patient: I'd like a second opinion 

America cannot care more for your children’s security than you do.
James Mattis: US Secretary of Defence 

When asked to estimate the Muslim population of their country, Britons guessed it would was 15% (it is 4.8%) the French 31% (it is 7.5%) and Americans 17% (it is 1%).
Ipsos Perils of Perception Survey 2016

To be conservative is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss.
Michael Oakeshott: On Being Conservative 1956

The liabilities are always 100 per cent good. It’s the assets you have to worry about.
Charlie Munger, Warren Buffett's partner 

This is from The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis. Danny is the Behavioural Psychologist Daniel Kahneman who grew up as a Jew in Paris during the war.
In Paris, in their old prewar apartment, Danny and his mother found only two battered green chairs. Still, they stayed. For the first time in five years Danny attended school without having to disguise who he was. For years he carried a fond memory of the friendship he struck up there with a pair of tall, handsome Russian aristocrats. The memory was so insistent, perhaps, because he had gone so long without friends. Much later in life, he tested his memory by tracking down the aristocratic Russian brothers and sending them a note. One brother had become an architect, the other a doctor. The brothers wrote back to say that they remembered him, and sent him a picture of them all together. Danny wasn’t in the picture: They must have been thinking he was somebody else. His lone friendship was imagined, not real.

When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red-hot cinder, a second seems like an hour. That’s relativity. 
Albert Einstein 

No person who is enthusiastic about his work has anything to fear from life. 
Samuel Goldwyn


Was there any before, before the Big Bang?

OWE, n. To have (and to hold) a debt. The word formerly signified not indebtedness, but possession; it means "own," and in the minds of debtors there is still a good deal of confusion between assets and liabilities. 
Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary 

Friendships, like marriage, depend on avoiding the unforgivable. 
John D. MacDonald 

Of course, if we had succeeded in losing two world wars, wrote off all our debts – instead of having nearly £30 billion in debt – got rid of all our foreign obligations, and kept no force overseas, then we might be as rich as the Germans.
Harold Macmillan

You seldom improve quality by cutting costs, but you can often cut costs by improving quality. 
Karl Albrecht, founder of the supermarket chain Aldi 

Behind every failure there is an opportunity someone wishes they missed.
Lily Tomlin

The fundamental phenomenon that distinguishes the future from the past is that heat passes from things that are hotter to things that are colder - the direction is sheer chance.
Carlo Rovelli: Seven Brief Lessons in Physics

Wondering if you're happy is a great shortcut to being depressed.
Annette Benning: 20th Century Women

The dictatorships of tomorrow will deprive men of their freedom, but will give them in exchange a happiness none the less real, as a subjective experience, for being chemically induced,’ Huxley later wrote in The Saturday Evening Post. ‘The pursuit of happiness is one of the traditional rights of man; unfortunately, the achievement of happiness may turn out to be incompatible with another of man’s rights – liberty.’ 
Aldous Huxley 

Diligence is the mother of good luck
Benjamin Franklin 

Whenever you are fed up with life, just remember that you will be dead soon and forgotten forever and you won't even notice. Hope that helps :)
Ricky Gervais

He kissed the plump mellow yellow smellor melons of her rump, on each plumpmelonous hemisphere, in their mellow yellow furrow, with obscure prolonged provocative melonsmellonous osculation.
James Joyce

What you do when you don’t have to, determines what you will be when you can no longer help it. 
Rudyard Kipling 

If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.
De Lampedusa: The Leopard

For as at a great distance of place, that which wee look at, appears dimme, and without distinction of the smaller parts; and as voyces grow weak, and inarticulate: so also after great distance of time, our imagination of the past is weak: and wee lose (for example) of cities wee have seen, many particular streets; and of actions many particular circumstances. This decaying sense, when wee would express the thing it selfe, (I mean fancy it selfe) we call Imagination, as I said before: But when we would express the decay, and signify the Sense is fading, old, and past, it is called Memory. So that Imagination and Memory are but one thing....
Hobbes: Leviathan

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring 
Will be to arrive where we started 
And know the place for the first time. 
Through the unknown, remembered gate 
When the last of earth left to discover 
Is that which was the beginning; 
At the source of the longest river 
The voice of the hidden waterfall 
And the children in the apple-tree 
Not known, because not looked for 
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness 
Between two waves of the sea. 
Quick now, here, now, always –
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything) 
And all shall be well and 
All manner of thing shall be well 
When the tongues of flame are in-folded 
Into the crowned knot of fire 
And the fire and the rose are one.
TS Elliott: Little Gidding

Other novels served as a kind of foil — something to argue with. V. S. Naipaul’s novel “A Bend in the River,” Mr. Obama recalls, “starts with the line ‘The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.’ And I always think about that line and I think about his novels when I’m thinking about the hardness of the world sometimes, particularly in foreign policy, and I resist and fight against sometimes that very cynical, more realistic view of the world. And yet, there are times where it feels as if that may be true.”
Mishiko Kakutani interviewing Barak Obama about the role of books in his life 

They made a wasteland and called it peace. 

One of the symptoms of an approaching  breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important. 
Bertrand Russell 

Governments never learn. Only people learn. 
Milton Friedman 

As democracy is perfected, the office of President represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their hearts' desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.
H.L. Mencken, The Baltimore Evening Sun, 1920

Politeness is an avowedly false coin, with which it is foolish to be stingy.

All men should strive to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why. 
James Thurber 

Thatcher wanted a society of people like her father, but produced a society of people like her son.
Eliza Filby

I don't consider myself a pessimist. I think of a pessimist as someone who is waiting for it to rain - and I feel soaked to the skin.
Leonard Cohen 

We ourselves shall be loved for awhile and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them. Even memory is not necessary for love. There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.
Thornton Wilder: The Bridge of St Luis Re

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.
Leonard Cohen: Anthem

George Michael gave an interview in 1990 confessing that fame made him 'miserable'. Frank Sinatra wasn't having any of it....
When I saw your cover  today about George Michael, "reluctant popstar,'' my reaction was he should thank the good lord every morning when he wakes up to have all that he has. And that will make two of us thanking God every morning for all that we have.
I don't understand a guy who lives "in hopes of reducing the strain of his celebrity status." Here is a kid who "wanted to be a popstar since I was about seven years old". And now that he is a smash performer and songwriter at 27 he wants to quit doing what tons of gifted youngsters all over the world would shoot grandma for – just one crack at what he's complaining about.
Come on George, loosen up. Swing, man. Dust off those gossamer wings and fly yourself to the moon of your choice, be grateful to carry the baggage we've all had to carry since those lean nights of sleeping on buses and helping the driver unload the instruments.
No more of that talk about the tragedy of fame. The tragedy of fame is when no one shows up and and you're singing to the cleaning lady in some empty joint that hasn't seen a paying customer since since St Swithan's Day. And you're nowhere near that; the top dog on the top rung of the tall ladder called Stardom, which in Latin means thanks-to-the-fans who were there when it was lonely.

What is life? It is the flash of the firefly in the night. It is the breath of the buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow, which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.
Crowfoot, Chief of the Blackfoot Nation

A book is your greatest friend and will be there through death, divorce and desperation. A book lies on the pillow next to you without snoring. It's something on which I often reflect from the spare room.
Gyles Brandreth

My father road a camel. I drive a car. My son flies a jet airplane. His son will ride a camel.
Saudi Aphorism

The blunt truth, however, is that the implicit intergenerational cooperation that represents the best outcome is supported by trust, not money. If the younger generation decides not to support the elder, the existence of tokens will make no difference. And if the older generation has invested in, say, housing, they too could renege on the implicit intergenerational transfer by ‘consuming’ the value of their housing capital by selling it to foreigners or a minority of the wealthy, leaving the young unable to afford to buy the housing stock. That is exactly the intergenerational bargain on which, David Willetts argues, the post-war baby-boomer generation has reneged. Trust obviates the need for money, and money without trust has no value. Perhaps it is trust that makes the world go round.
Mervyn King: The End of Alchemy 

America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.
De Tocqueville 

A condescending English foreman decides to test the intelligence of an Irish builder.
''What's the difference between a girder and a joist?"
"Girder wrote Faust and Joist wrote Ulysses."

Dance scene from Stormy Weather 1941

The opposite of love is not hatred, it is indifference.
Elie Wiesel

Our promises....were a series of possibilities.
Iain Duncan Smith 

She's the sort of woman who lives for others - you can always tell the others by their haunted expression.
CS Lewis 

Why it was fun to be Leonard Cohen... 
A reputation once broken may possibly be repaired, but the world will always keep their eyes on the spot where the crack was.
Bishop Joseph Hall in the 17th century

Twin miracles of mascara, her eyes looked like the corpses of two small crows that had crashed into a chalk cliff. 
Clive James describing Barbara Cartland 

A developed country is not a place where poor people have cars. It's where the rich use public transportation.
Enrique Penalosa, mayor of Bogota 

I had terrible angina while having sex. I didn't know whether I was coming or going.
Dudley Moore 

A fanatic is someone who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.

At my back I always hear 
Time's winged chariot hurrying near 
Andrew Marvell - translated as
Better get your arse in gear
Before you need a Zimmer, dear

Democracy is a system that relies on the wisdom of people to know that they don't know everything.

Meadowfied:  somewhere between cowed and sheepish 

Once the game is over, the King and the pawn go back into the same box. 
Italian Proverb 

I never knew a man who had better motives for all the trouble he caused. 
Graham Greene: The Quiet American 

I am not an economist but I've come to the conclusion that central banks collectively have now indeed lost the plot. The whole point of their independence was that they could be brave enough to make people confront reality. Yet in reality they are blowing up a bubble of make-believe money to avoid immediate pain, except for penalising the poor and prudent… I have bad news for them. The accumulating effects of loose monetary policy globally are intensely political. When pension funds renege on promises, or inequality widens further, or savers become desperate, huge public and political anger is going to burst over the heads of the world's central banks.
William Hague

Advertising is based on one thing. Happiness. You want to know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It's freedom from fear. It's a billboard on the side of the road that screams reassurance. Whatever you are doing, it's ok. You are ok.
Don Draper: Mad Men 

We are entirely made up of bits and pieces, woven together so diversely and so shapelessly that each one of them pulls its own way at every moment. And there is as much difference between us and ourselves as there is between us and other people.

The endless cycle of idea and action, 
Endless invention, endless experiment, 
Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness; 
Knowledge of speech, but not of silence; 
Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? 
Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? 
T.S. Eliot, The Rock, 1934

When men are pure, laws are useless; when men are corrupt, laws are broken. 

Three things are necessary for government: weapons, food and trust. If a ruler cannot hold on to all three, he should give up weapons first and food next. Trust should be guarded to the end: without trust we cannot stand.

Grief is is an iceberg of a word concealing beneath its innocent simplicity a dangerous mass of 
confusion and rage. Bereavement follows stages and if a cycle can be identified within these stages then the comfort found in reaching the final stage is often dashed with realisation that circles have no ending.
Juliet Nicolson: The Great Silence

The trouble with socialism is that there aren't enough evenings in the week.
Oscar Wilde

In a year where liberal democratic values have been challenged and questioned, I re-read a blog I wrote in 2012 on Jonathan Heidt's The Righteous Mind, a book that had some interesting observations on the cultural clash that has come home to roost in 2016
David Goodhart was the founder of Prospect and is now an editor at large. His review of Jonathan Haidt's new book The Righteous Mind starts with a vignette of a party that he attended during the dog-days of the Brown government. The party was of the bien pensents of the left who were all deprecating the Prime Minister's speech which had spoken of 'British jobs for British people' - not, it is important to note, 'British jobs for white people'. Goodhart was greatly struck by this as a 'liberal' himself. It occurred to him that if he had asked 90% of the people on the street outside about Brown's speech none would have thought it exceptional - and agreed with the sentiment. What it made him realise was that the people in the room were the 'odd' ones. They, in Haidt's acronym, were WEIRD - western, educated, industrialised, rich and democratic. They were a relatively small, but highly influential, subset of the population that saw the world in a rather limited, but certainly not bad, way that had difficulty understanding the mindset of the 'conservative' - note the small 'c'.
       Haidt is a moral psychologist who studies why we, as humans do they things we do as a group. Morality, he posits, makes groups outside kinship possible - a unique thing in the animal kingdom. He studies how we operate mentally, particularly the balance between intuition and intellect, concluding that we primarily think intuitively - and then engage our intellect to justify that intuition. 
       He believes that the WEIRD's view of the world and morality is formed around 'harm' and 'rights'. If anyone is harmed by someone else that is, ipso facto, wrong and everyone has certain rights. Note that these are all supranational ideas: the job or the wellbeing of someone in Sierra Leone is as important as someone in Glasgow. The logic of this is that if you don't harm anyone, or interfere with their rights, then anything goes. 
        He goes on to ask whether this is a rather limited view of morality. What, he asks of loyalty to smaller groups - patriotism or a sense of the sacred, religion or the flag, or authority? These are dismissed by the WEIRD as relics - but have great resonance with 'conservatives'. What is wrong with having a crucifix in an art gallery covered in feces? No one is harmed and no one's rights have been impinged the 'liberal' would say. The artist has the 'right' to make this statement and no person has suffered 'harm'. This logic is fine until you conceive of a statue of Martin Luther King covered in excrement - when the worm turns.
       The point that Haidt makes, as a 'liberal' himself, is that the WEIRD only hear the world in a limited register of harm and rights and fail to hear the extended register of 'conservatives' who have a sense of the sacred and loyalty to smaller groups and a ingrained respect for tradition and authority. Neither is right - in the sense of correct - but this deafness is the cause of much misunderstanding and inability to conceive of another point of view. The WEIRD have won the cultural argument over the past half-century - but their dominance may be ending unless they hear, even if they don't share, the others' point of view.

Life starts with everyone clapping when you take a poo - and goes downhill from there.
Sloane Crosley

One should never forbid what one lacks the power to prevent. 

Just as the 19th century created the working class, the coming century will create the useless class. Billions of people are likely to have no military or economic function. Providing food and shelter should be possible, but how to give meaning to their lives will be the huge political question.
Yuval Noah Harari 

To die in wisdom having lived in folly.
The epitaph of Don Quixote

Better they wonder why you do not speak, than wonder why you do.

Nature smiles at the union of freedom and equality in our utopias. For freedom and equality are sworn and everlasting enemies, and when one prevails the other dies. Leave men free and their natural inequalities will multiply almost geometrically, as in England and America in the nineteenth century under laissez-faire. To check the growth of inequality, liberty must be sacrificed, as in Russia after 1917.
Will and Ariel Durant

Labour is still fumbling with its flies while the Tories are enjoying their post-coital cigarette after withdrawing our massive Johnson.
Ruth Davidson on the Tory leadership contest

Glenn Close? That's an address, not a name.
Maggie Smith

If anyone tells you that a certain person speaks ill of you, do not make excuses about what is said of you, but answer: “He was ignorant of my other faults, else he would not have mentioned  these alone.”

For Van Gogh nature was something exquisite and terrible. It consoled him but it was his judge. It was the fingerprint of God, but the finger was always pointed at him.
Robert Hughes 

At a young age, a Quaker friend told Ben Franklin a few harsh truths: 
"Ben, you are impossible. Your opinions have a slap in them for everyone who differs with you. They have become so offensive that nobody cares for them... You know so much that no man can tell you anything. Indeed, no man is going to try...So you are not likely ever to know any more than you do now, which is very little.''
Franklin realized the truth of this and changed abruptly. As he wrote: 
"I made it a rule, to forbear all direct contradiction to the sentiment of others, and all positive assertion of my own. I even forbade myself the use of every word or expression in the language that imported a x’d opinion, such as “certainly,” “undoubtedly,” etc., and I adopted, instead of them, “I conceive,” I apprehend,” or “I imagine” a thing to be so or so, or “it so appears to me at present.” 
When another asserted something that I thought an error, I deny’d myself the pleasure of contradicting him abruptly, and of showing immediately some absurdity in his proposition: and in answering I began by observing that in certain cases or circumstances his opinion would be right, but in the present case there appear’d or seem’d to me some difference, etc. I soon found the advantage of this change in my manner; the conversations I engag’d in went on more pleasantly. The modest way in which I propos’d my opinions procur’d them a readier reception and less contradiction; I had less mortification when I was found to be in the wrong, and I more easily prevail’d with others to give up their mistakes and join with me when I happened to be in the right. And this mode, which I at first put on with some violence to natural inclination, became at length so easy, and so habitual to me, that perhaps for these fifty years past no one has ever heard a dogmatical expression escape me. And to this habit (after my character of integrity) I think it principally owing that I had earned so much weight with my fellow citizens when I proposed new institutions, or alterations in the old, and so much influence in public councils when I became a member; for I was but a bad speaker, never eloquent, subject to much hesitation in my choice of words, hardly correct in language, and yet I generally carried my points."

Innocence ends when one is stripped of the delusion that one likes oneself.
Joan Didion

Bullshit slides you further than gravel. 
Irish saying

"I'm afraid you've got Altzeimers and Cancer."
"Well, at least I haven't got cancer"
Billy Wilder 

The worst thing you can do for those you love are the things they could and should do for themselves. 
Abraham Lincoln 

In an exchange with attorney Samuel Untermyer over a century ago, John Pierpont (“JP”) Morgan stated the problem of bank solvency correctly and for all time. In those days, bear in mind, the Fed did not exist and JPMorgan & Co was the de facto central bank. Because Morgan was not a member of the New York Clearinghouse, other banks had to stand in line inside the bank’s lobby to transact business:
Untermyer: "Is not commercial credit based primarily upon money or property?”
Morgan: “No sir. The first thing is character.”
Untermyer: “Before money or property?”
Morgan: “Before money or property or anything else. Money cannot buy it ... because a man I do not trust could not get money from me for all the bonds in Christendom.”

Every revolution evaporates and leaves behind only the slime of a new bureaucracy. 
Franz Kafka 

The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism. 
Norman Vincent Peale 

The people you love become ghosts inside of you and like this you keep them alive
Robert Montgomery, conceptual artist

Ever wondered where the word 'scram' came from? This is from Peter Hennessy's The Deep Below, a history of the Navy's submarine service since WW2
Every six months or so Tireless’s team train for a ‘scram’ on a simulator in either Devonport or Faslane. A ‘scram’ means the reactor has to be shut down to maintain core safety. The word ‘scram’ goes right back to the very first nuclear reactor that went critical, on 2 December 1942 in the West Stand Squash Court at the University of Chicago’s Stagg Field sports ground which housed it. The great Enrico Fermi had a cunning plan to prevent disaster if the core overheated. Cadmium control rods would be dropped down from above. If it happened (which it did not), Fermi would shout ‘scram’ to a man above the pile holding an axe ready to cut the ropes supporting the cadmium. So ‘scram’ originally stood for ‘safety cut rope axe man’. Nowadays, the control rods drop down automatically; axes are not required.

Better a total control freak than a totally out of control freak.
Tina Brown on Clinton and Trump

No man can save his brother’s soul, or pay his brother’s debt. 
Matthew Arnold 

Peel has committed great and grievous mistakes in omitting to call his friends frequently together to state his desires and rouse their zeal. A few minutes and a few words would have sufficed; men would have felt they were companions in arms; they now have the sentiment of being followers in drill.
Lord Shaftsbury on Sir Robert Peel and his neglecting to cultivate his backbenchers. Remind you of anyone?

The true rule, in determining to embrace or reject anything, is not whether it has any evil in it; but whether it has more of evil than of good. There are few things wholly evil or wholly good. Almost everything...is an inseparable compound of the two; so that our best judgment of the preponderance between them is continually demanded. 
Abraham Lincoln 

It is a great thing when two souls are united to support each other in their work, in their successes and misfortunes, until the last silent minutes of the last good-bye. 
George Eliot 

How much more grievous are the consequences of our anger than the acts which arouse it. 
Marcus Aurelius 

Well, Marianne, it's come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that  I am so close behind you that, if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine.
Leonard Cohen's final letter to his lover Marianne Ihlen who inspired the 1967 song 'So long, Marianne'

At its best, Twitter is like being at a great party, full of people who share your concerns, fill you in on the latest gossip, tell you about cool things to read and fire out witty one-liners. Whenever I was bored, I could pop in to the party and pick up an interesting observation. But of late, logging onto Twitter seems more akin to going back to the same party and finding that the only people left are the Judaean People's front and the People's front of Judaea. You know your friends must be there somewhere but the only people you can see are standing in the centre of the room yelling 'Splitters!' at each other.
Robert Shrimsley

Christianity has done a great deal for love by making a sin of it.
Anatole France

The police knew what they were doing throwing Cliff Richard — unmarried, an evangelical Christian, who has always sidestepped questions about his sexuality — to the tabloids. The insinuation of “predatory homosexual” was just below the surface, as it was with the openly gay Paul Gambaccini, who spent a year on bail without being charged. Indeed none of those accused of gay rather than heterosexual assaults — including Lord Bramall, Harvey Proctor and Leon Brittan — were ever charged. Operation Midland which sought to expose the “gay paedophile ring at the heart of government”, only ever had one witness, a man called “Nick”, and was abandoned.
The route to securing sex abuse prosecutions is grunt work, not grandstanding. Rather than dynamiting fish, South Yorkshire police could have caught them in a barrel. For more than a decade in Rotherham, youth worker Jayne Senior presented officers with names, car registration numbers, witnesses, bruised bodies. “Yes, but you don’t have enough proof,” they’d always say. Men caught with underage girls in their beds were let go. Yet the weight of evidence required for pursuing those who hurt “dirty little slags” appears to be overwhelming: for a famous singer less so.
Janice Turner

The principal  task of civilisation, its actual raison d'etre, is to defend us against nature. 

The Queen takes the Queen very seriously indeed. The Queen doesn't take herself very seriously at all. 
Andrew Marr

Who discovered we could get milk from cows, and what did he think he was doing at the time?
Billy Connolly

In Prussia and then Germany, the landed Junker class, from which Bismarck came and which dominated the upper ranks of the German army, brought up its children to be brave and uncomplaining. Manfred von Nostitz, a friend of mine from the University of Toronto who is a descendant of Bismarck, remembers the last moments of that now-vanished world. He was a little boy during the Second World War, on the Bismarck estate in the eastern part of Germany. His great-grandmother, whom he and his cousins had to address as Excellenz, made the boys learn to use their knives and forks with either hand. When you grow up, she told them, you will be soldiers and may lose an arm, but you will always need to eat politely. As the Soviet troops advanced ever closer, she refused to leave with the rest of the family and the estate workers. She made her preparations: she gave orders that her grave should be dug in the grounds, because once the Soviets arrived “there would be nobody left to do this job,” and she shot her beloved dogs with her hunting rifle. She waited only to show the Soviet commander around the house before she killed herself.
History's people: Margaret Macmillan

To be candid, I think the death of a child is never really to be regretted, when one reflects on what he has escaped.
Thomas Hardy writing a condolence letter the Rider Haggard on the death of his only son. Why did he bother to write?

Ashby de la Zouch - when a gentleman gets some intimate hairs caught in his zipper.
Meaning of Liff by John Lloyd and Douglas Adams 

The consolation is losing your libido. It's like being unchained from a lunatic.
George Melly on getting old

You could hardly imagine two men so diverse as Curzon and Lloyd George. Temperament, prejudices, environment, upbringing, mental processes were utterly different and markedly antagonistic. There never of course was any comparison in weight and force between the two. The offspring of the Welsh village who's whole youth had been rebellion against the aristocracy, who had skipped indignant out of the path of the local Tory magnate driving his four-in-hand, and revenged himself at night upon that magnate's  rabbits had a priceless gift. It was the very gift which the product of Eton and Balliol always lacked – the one blessing denied him by his fairy godmothers, the one without which all other gifts are so frightfully cheapened. He had the 'seeing eye'. He had that deep original instinct which peers through the surface of words and things – the vision which sees dimly but surely the other side of the brick wall or which follows the hunt two fields before the throng. Against this, industry, learning, scholarship, eloquence, social influence, wealth, reputation, and ordered mind, plenty of pluck, counted for less than nothing. Put the two men together in any circumstances of equality and the one would eat the other.
Churchill: Great Contemporaries

Always remember that the crowd that applauds your coronation is the same crowd that will applaud your beheading. People like a show.
Terry Pratchett

The only thing we can try to do is is influence the direction scientists are taking. But since we might soon be able to engineer our desires too, the real question facing us is not 'What do we want to become?, but 'What do we want to want?' Those who are not spooked by this question probably haven't given it enough thought.
Yuval Noah Harari: Sapiens

One of the finest minds in Britain - until he makes it up.
About Enoch Powell

I have been increasingly conscious, for the last ten years or so, of deaths among my contemporaries. My generation is on the way out, and each death I have felt as an abruption, a tearing away of part of myself. There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever. When People die, they cannot be replaced. They have  holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate—the genetic and neural fate—of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death. I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers. Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.
Oliver Sacks: My own life 

Writers aren't people exactly. Or, if they're any good, they're a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The love of the Last Tycoon

I’ve got principles. And if you don’t like them, I’ve got others.
Groucho Marx

He tries to get off with women because he can't get on with them.
About Ian Fleming - but recycled for Russell Brand 

You only live twice: Once when you are born and once when you look death in the face. 
Matsuo Basho 

Ask yourself the question when you read it through: would you approve of your young sons, young daughters – because girls can read as well as boys – reading this book? Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?
Mervyn Griffith-Jones QC, Prosecuting Council in the Lady Chatterley's Lover case 1960

If you know nothing about people, you can believe anything about them.
Dervla Murphy on people's attitude to slum dwellers 

They are agreeable enough - but if they had been books I shouldn't have read them.
Goethe on his fellow dinner guests 

Me - and a damned good head waiter.
Calouste Gulbenkian when asked his ideal number for dinner

Who breathes must suffer,
Who thinks must mourn,
And he alone is blest
Who ne're was born.
A note left with a child by its mother at the Corum Foundling Hospital in the 18th Century.

If you do not know how to die, never mind. Nature will tell you how to do it on the spot, plainly and adequately.

I like to play chess with old men in the park, although it's hard to find thirty-two of them.
Emi Philips

One doctor to another
"I need your opinion about a termination. Father syphilitic, mother tuberculous, one child born blind, second died, third deaf and dumb and the forth tuberculous. What would you have done?" 
"Ended the pregnancy."
"Then you'd have killed Beethoven."

If you hadn't done all that running around playing football, do you think you would have been as thirsty?
Caroline Aherne/Mrs Merton to George Best

An anagram of Andrea Leadsom CV is A scandal removed 

Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.

Cancel the kitchen scraps for lepers and orphans, no more merciful beheadings, and call off Christmas!
Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Life is full of misery, loneliness and suffering - and it's all over much too soon.
Woody Allen

Seafarers love Singapore because food and drink and goods are cheap. Visitors and expats love Singapore because the money is good and food and drink and sex and shopping are cheap. Clifton likes Singapore because it is safe, and he says it is not corrupt, and the money he makes with his taxi is good. I absolutely loathe Singapore because if this is the triumph of order and money it is also the end of taste, the suffocation of soul, the death of feeling, the humiliation of spirit and the murder of freedom. Singapore is unutterably dreadful, a gussied-up nightmare, the dominion of emptiness. Sooner be anywhere, sooner be in a hot swamp . .
Down to the sea in ships. Horatio Clare

No one ever listened their way out of a job.
Calvin Coolidg

The two black holes that collided, which the LIGO experiment claimed to have detected, were immense. One was about 36 times the mass of our sun, the other 29 times that mass. The collision and merger produced a black hole 62 times our sun's mass. If your elementary arithmetic suggests that something is wrong, you're right. Where did the extra three solar masses disappear to?
Into pure energy in the form of gravitational waves. Our sun will burn for 10 billion years, with the intensity of over 10 billion thermonuclear weapons going off every second. In the process, only a small fraction of its total mass will be turned into energy, according to Einstein's famous equation, E=mc2. But when those black holes collided, three time the entire mass of our sun disappeared in less than a second, transformed into pure energy. During that time, the collision generated more energy than was being generated by all the rest of the stars in the observable universe combined.
Lawrence Kraus

The first rule of wisdom is to know thyself. However, this is the most difficult thing to do. The first rule of virtue is to be happy with little things; this, too, is hard to do. Only those people who follow these rules can be strong enough to be a virtuous example for others. 
John Ruskin

Most of us don't listen with the intent to understand, we listen with the intent to reply.
Stephen Covey

They looking back, all th'eastern side beheld 
Of paradise, so late their happy seat, 
Waved over by that flaming brand, the gate 
With dreadful faces thronged and fiery arms: 
Some natural tears they dropped, but wiped them soon; 
The world was all before them, where to choose 
Their place of rest, and providence their guide: 
They hand in hand with wand'ring steps and slow, 
Through Eden took their solitary way.
John Milton: Paradise Lost

The soul that denies true love as its motto 
Were better unborn; its existence is dishonour. 
So be drunk with love, for love is all there is. 
Unless you deal with love, the way to God is closed.
Rumi, the 13th century Sufi poet

Early aviation was lethal, and no more so than during WW1.....
Once again Louis Strange supplies a vivid example. On 10th May 1915 he was at 8,500 feet in his single-seat Martinsyde biplane trying to shoot down an Aviatik of Bruno Loerzer’s squadron with the Lewis gun mounted on his upper wing. Strange was annoyed by the German ‘Franz’ taking rather too accurate pot shots at him with his pistol. Provoked, he shot off an entire drum of ammunition at the Aviatik but without discernible effect. When he tried to replace the empty drum it jammed and refused to come loose. What happened next is best told in Strange's own words, bearing in mind that like every other airman of the day he had no parachute: 
"After one or two fruitless efforts I raised myself out of my seat in order to get a better grip, and I suppose my safety belt must have slipped down at the critical moment. Anyhow, my knees loosened their grip on the stick just as the Martinsyde, which was already climbing at its maximum angle, stalled and flicked over into a spin. As I was more than half out of the cockpit at the time, the spin threw me clean out of the machine, but I still kept both my hands on the drum of the Lewis gun. 
Only a few seconds previously I had been cursing because I could not get that drum off, but now I prayed fervently that it would stay on for ever. I knew it might come off at any moment, however, and as its edge was cutting my fingers badly I had to get a firmer hold of something more reliable. The first thing I thought of was the top of the centre section strut, which at that time was behind and below the Lewis gun, but as the machine was now flying upside down I had sufficient wits left to realize that it was behind and above me, though where exactly I could not tell. Dare I let go the drum with one hand and make a grab for it? There was nothing else for it but to take the risk. Having achieved this firmer handhold I found my chin rammed against the top plane [wing] beside the gun while my legs were waving about in empty air. The Martinsyde was upside down in a flat spin, and from my precarious position the only thing I could see was the propeller (which seemed unpleasantly close to my face), the town of Menin, and the adjacent countryside revolving apparently above me and getting larger with every turn. I kept on kicking upwards behind me until at last I got first one foot and then the other hooked inside the cockpit. Somehow I got the stick between my legs again and jammed on full aileron and elevator. The machine came over the right way up and I fell off the top plane into my seat with a bump. I grabbed at the stick with both hands but to my surprise found myself unable to move it. I suddenly realized that I was sitting much lower than usual inside the cockpit; in fact, I was so low down I could not see over the edge at all. 
The bump of my fall had sent me right through my seat, with the result that I was sitting on the floor of the machine as well as on the control cables, which I was jamming. Something had to be done quickly as the engine was roaring away merrily and taking me down in a dive which looked likely to end in the wood to the north of Menin. So I throttled back and braced my shoulders against the top of the fuselage and my feet against the rudder bar, pulled out the broken bits of seat and freed the controls. I was then able to put the machine’s nose up and open the throttle again. I rose and cleared the trees on the Menin road with very little to spare. I felt happy to be alive and thought it simply marvellous that I was still able to control the machine. I went to bed early that night and slept for a good solid twelve hours, but Lord! how stiff I was the next day! It took a long time before I was able to move about with any comfort."
James Hamilton-Patterson: Marked for Death

Good sex is like good Bridge. If you don't have a good partner, you'd better have a good hand.
Mae West

If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties. 
Francis Bacon 

Law cannot restrain evil; for the freedom of man is such that he can make the keeping of the law the instrument of evil. 
Reinhold Niebuhr 

Young men thought they could do anything. 
Albert H. Gordon, who ran Kidder Peabody for decades and worked until the age of 105, asked to comment on the cause of the 1929 crash. 

Democracy is more vindictive than Cabinets. The war of peoples will be more terrible than the war of kings.

The stormy wind of pride and confidence sweeping over Europe [in the early 20th century] brought clouds with it. Perhaps the upward movement had come too fast, states and cities had made themselves powerful too swiftly—and an awareness of having power always leads states, like men, to use or misuse. France was extremely wealthy, yet it wanted still more, it wanted another colony although it did not have enough people for the old ones, and it almost went to war over Morocco. Italy had its eye on Cyrenaica; Austria annexed Bosnia; Serbia and Bulgaria advanced on Turkey; and Germany, although inactive for the moment, was flexing its claws to strike in anger. All the states were suffering a rush of blood to the head. Everywhere, and at the same time, the productive wish for consolidation at home began to develop, like an infectious illness, into a greedy desire for expansion. High-earning    French industrialists agitated against their German counterparts, who were also rolling in riches, because both Krupp and Schneider-Creusot wanted to be able to supply more artillery. The Hamburg shipping industry, which earned huge dividends, was vying with shipping based in Southampton, Hungarian and Bulgarian agriculture were in competition, one group of companies was set against all the rest—the economic situation had maddened them all in their frantic wish to get their hands on more and more. If today, thinking it over calmly, we wonder why Europe went to war in 1914, there is not one sensible reason to be found, nor even any real occasion for the war. There were no ideas involved, it was not really about drawing minor borderlines; I can explain it only, thinking of that excess of power, by seeing it as a tragic consequence of the internal dynamism that had built up during those forty years of peace, and now demanded release. Every state suddenly felt that it was strong, and forgot that other states felt exactly the same; all states wanted even more, and wanted some of what the others already had. The worst of it was that the very thing we loved most, our common optimism, betrayed us, for everyone thought that everyone else would back down at the last minute, and so the diplomats began their game of mutual bluff. In four or five instances, for instance in Agadir and in the Balkan Wars, it was still only a game, but the great coalitions drew closer and closer together and became increasingly militant. Germany introduced a war tax in the middle of peacetime, France extended its term of military service. Finally the accumulated head of steam had to be released. And the weather over the Balkans showed the way the wind was blowing as the clouds approached Europe. 
Stefan Zweig: The world of yesterday

This is an article by Maggie Fergusson in Intelligent Life on how to have a good death. It had me in tears a couple of times

Italians lose wars as if they were football matches and football matches as is if they were wars.

On  July 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the surface of the moon. In the months leading up to their expedition, the Apollo 11 astronauts trained in a remote moon-like desert in the western United States. The area is home to several Native American communities, and there is a story - or legend - describing an encounter between the astronauts and one of the locals. One day as they were training, the astronauts came across an old Native American. The man asked them what they were doing there. They replied that they were part of a research expedidon that would shortly travel to explore the moon. When the old man heard that, he fell silent 
for a few moments, and then asked the astronauts if they could do him a favour. 'What do you want?' they asked. 'Well,' said the old man, 'the people of my tribe believe that holy spirits live on the moon. I was wondering if you could pass an important message to them from my people.' 'What's the message?' asked the astronauts. The man uttered something in his tribal language, and then asked the astronauts to repeat it again and again until they had memorised it correedy. 'What does it mean?' asked the astronauts.'Oh, I cannot tell you. It's a secret that only our tribe and the moon spirits are allowed to know.' 
When they returned to their base, the astronauts searched and searched until they found someone who could speak the tribal language, and asked him to translate the secret message. When they repeated what they had memorised, the translator started to laugh uproariously. When he calmed down, the astronauts asked him what it meant. The man explained that the sentence they had memorised so carefully meant 'Don't believe a single word these people are telling you. They have come to steal your lands.' 
Youval Noah Harari: Sapiens

A happy man has no past. An unhappy man has nothing else.
Richard Flanegan. The Narrow Road to the Deep North (surely this is right?)

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.
Tolstoy: the first line of Anna Karenina (surely this is wrong?)

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
 There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
 Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me--
 That ever with a frolic welcome took
 The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
 Free hearts, free foreheads--you and I are old;
 Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;                    
 Death closes all: but something ere the end,
 Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
 Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
 The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
 The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
 Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
 'T is not too late to seek a newer world.
 Push off, and sitting well in order smite
 The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
 To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths                     
 Of all the western stars, until I die.
 It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
 It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
 And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
 Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
 We are not now that strength which in old days
 Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
 One equal temper of heroic hearts,
 Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
 To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.               
Tennyson: Ulysses

Coming to terms with Donal Trump as the Republican nominee is like being told you have Stage 1 or Stage 2 cancer. You know you will probably survive, but one way or the other, there's going to be a lot of throwing up.
Christopher Buckley

The “rightness” of the Parthenon is located somewhere between the beauty of science and the science of beauty.  
Christopher Hitchens

Remember your humanity and forget the rest.

It’s a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one’s life and at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than “try to be a little kinder.”

Aldous Huxley 

Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too? 
Douglas Adams

Monsieur Géricault, your shipwreck is certainly no disaster.
Louis XVIII to Gericault after seeing the Raft of Medusa

God gave man a brain and a penis - but only enough blood to run one at a time.
Robin Williams

Diligence is the mother of good luck.
Benjamin Franklin

Then felt I like some watcher of the skies, 
When a new planet swims into his ken; 
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes 
He star’d at the Pacific –and all his men  
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise – 
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
Keats on reading Chapman's translation of Homer

If women ran the world we wouldn't have wars, just intense negotiations every 28 days.
Robin Williams

The brilliance of Sartre’s invention lay in the fact that he did indeed turn phenomenology into a philosophy of apricot cocktails –and of the waiters who served them. Also a philosophy of expectation, tiredness, apprehensiveness, excitement, a walk up a hill, the passion for a desired lover, the revulsion from an unwanted one, Parisian gardens, the cold autumn sea at Le Havre, the feeling of sitting on overstuffed upholstery, the way a woman’s breasts pool as she lies on her back, the thrill of a boxing match, a film, a jazz song, a glimpse of two strangers meeting under a street lamp. He made philosophy out of vertigo, voyeurism, shame, sadism, revolution, music and sex. Lots of sex. 
Where philosophers before him had written in careful propositions and arguments, Sartre wrote like a novelist –not surprisingly, since he was one. In his novels, short stories and plays as well as in his philosophical treatises, he wrote about the physical sensations of the world and the structures and moods of human life. Above all, he wrote about one big subject: what it meant to be free. 
Freedom, for him, lay at the heart of all human experience, and this set humans apart from all other kinds of object. Other things merely sit in place, waiting to be pushed or pulled around. Even non-human animals mostly follow the instincts and behaviours that characterise their species, Sartre believed. But as a human being, I have no predefined nature at all. I create that nature through what I choose to do. Of course I may be influenced by my biology, or by aspects of my culture and personal background, but none of this adds up to a complete blueprint for producing me. I am always one step ahead of myself, making myself up as I go along. 
Sartre put this principle into a three-word slogan, which for him defined existentialism: ‘Existence precedes essence’. What this formula gains in brevity it loses in comprehensibility. But roughly it means that, having found myself thrown into the world, I go on to create my own definition (or nature, or essence), in a way that never happens with other objects or life forms. You might think you have defined me by some label, but you are wrong, for I am always a work in progress. I create myself constantly through action, and this is so fundamental to my human condition that, for Sartre, it is the human condition, from the moment of first consciousness to the moment when death wipes it out. I am my own freedom: no more, no less.
Sarah Bakewell: At the Existentialist Cafe

You can give without loving, but you can never love without giving. 
Robert Louis Stevenson

When he lay dying at the age of sixty-five, Delacroix lamented the fact that he still had another forty years of work in him. As for posterity, he several times expressed the wistful hope that he might be allowed to return in a hundred years’ time and find out what was thought of him then. When he mentioned this desire to Du Camp, the latter stopped himself from saying what he really felt: ‘They will place you between Tiepolo and Jouvenet.’ This unspoken remark tells us much about the taste and opinion of the time, which Delacroix had spent so many decades trying to overcome.
Julian Barnes: Keeping an eye open

People don’t have cancer: They are reported to be battling cancer. No well-wisher omits the combative image: You can beat this. It’s even in obituaries for cancer losers, as if one might reasonably say of someone that they died after a long and brave struggle with mortality. You don’t hear it about long-term sufferers from heart disease or kidney failure. Myself, I love the imagery of struggle. I sometimes wish I were suffering in a good cause, or risking my life for the good of others, instead of just being a gravely endangered patient. Allow me to inform you, though, that when you sit in a room with a set of other finalists, and kindly people bring a huge transparent bag of poison and plug it into your arm, and you either read or don’t read a book while the venom sack gradually empties itself into your system, the image of the ardent soldier or revolutionary is the very last one that will occur to you. You feel swamped with passivity and impotence: dissolving in powerlessness like a sugar lump in water.
Christopher Hitchens: Mortality 

London's architecture has become laughably boorish, confidently uncouth and flashily arid. Neomodern bling and meretricious trash are the current norms. Without exception, big-name architects turn out to be horizontals who happily put their knees behind their ears at the first sight of an oligarch, a Gulf princeling, a Central Asian dictator, a modern slave-driver or a property swine, while lecturing us on sustainability, low emissions, affordability, bicycles, ethical regeneration and whatever other right-on shibboleths are in the air this week. London is a magnet for a caste of designers who seem hardly to notice that the milieu they inhabit is chasmically remote from the lives of those affected and afflicted by their creations. It is the city - sorry, global city - where reputations built through decades of imagination and toil, strict image control and rigorous PR are frittered away in a blizzard of self-parody and voracious cupidity. The tectonic gerontocrats Rogers, Vinoly, Piano, Foster, Nouvel, and so on are apparently locked in a competition to vandalise the sky with banality. There are outsiders in there too, architectural practices that, all too evidently never had a reputation to lose - for instance, the incompetents culpable of the Strata building in Elephant and Castle, or those at Broadway Malyan, whose destruction of Vauxhall  deprived London of valuable terrain vague. A few hundred metres west, the ineffable Gehry has his head in the corpse of Battersea Power Station Iike a vulture in a lamb's ribcage. 
Jonathan Meades

True ignorance is not the absence off knowledge, but the refusal to acquire it.
Karl Popper

Too large a proportion of recent “mathematical” economics are mere concoctions, as imprecise as the initial assumptions they arrest on, which allow the author to lose sight of the complexities and interdependencies of the real world in a maze of pretentious and unhelpful symbols. 
John Maynard Keynes 

And what am I doing it for?
Mainly for fun, partly for a half believed in
Principle, a core
Of fact in a pulp of verbiage,
Remembering that this crude and so-called obsolete
Top-heavy tedious parliamentary system
Is our only ready weapon to defeat
the legions’ eagles and the lictors’ axes;
And remembering that those who by their habit hate
Politics can no longer keep their private
Values unless they open the public Gate
To a better political system.
That Rome was not built in a day is no excuse
For laissez-faire, for bowing to the odds against us;
What is the use
Of asking what is the use of one brick only:
The perfectionist stands for ever in a fog
Waiting for the fog to clear
Louis MacNeice in 1938, about voting in an Oxford by-election 

Above-average precipitation is slightly more probable than below-average. The probability of the wettest of our five categories is 25 percent. The driest category is 15 to 20 percent. The level of risk includes the potential for storms or heavy rain."
The Met Office three month forecast. Well that's clear then...

I'll love you, dear, I'll love you
Till China and Africa meet
And the river jumps over the mountain
And the salmon sing in the street.

I'll love you till the ocean 
Is folded and hung up to dry
And the seven stars go squawking
Like geese about the sky.

The years shall run like rabbits 
For in my arms I hold
The Flower of the Ages
And the first love of the world.

In recent years, as people began to rethink human–animal relations, such practices (factory farming) have come under increasing criticism. We are suddenly showing unprecedented interest in the fate of so-called lower life forms, perhaps because we are about to become one. If and when computer programs attain superhuman intelligence and unprecedented power, should we begin valuing these programs more than we value humans? Would it be okay, for example, for an artificial intelligence to exploit humans and even kill them to further its own needs and desires? If it should never be allowed to do that, despite its superior intelligence and power, why is it ethical for humans to exploit and kill pigs? Do humans have some magical spark, in addition to higher intelligence and greater power, which distinguishes them from pigs, chickens, chimpanzees and computer programs alike? If yes, where did that spark come from, and why are we certain that an AI could never acquire it? If there is no such spark, would there be any reason to continue assigning special value to human life even after computers surpass humans in intelligence and power? Indeed, what exactly is it about humans that make us so intelligent and powerful in the first place, and how likely is it that non-human entities will ever rival and surpass us?
Yuval Noah Harari: Homo Deus

The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts. 
Bertrand Russell 

It never ceases to amaze me: we all love ourselves more than other people, but care more about their opinions than our own.
Marcus Aurelius 

Experience is the one thing you can't get for nothing.
Oscar Wilde

I have spent most of my life as a musician measuring the difference between the American dream and the American reality.
Bruce Springsteen 

There are so many realities that trying to render all of them visible one ends up in the dark. That's why, when one paints a portrait there comes a point where one  ought to stop having attained  a form of caricature. Otherwise, at the end, there would be nothing at all.
Picasso in conversation with Daniel-Henri Kahnweiller 

Whenever you are fed up with life, just remember that you will be dead soon and forgotten forever and you won't even notice. Hope that helps :)
Ricky Gervais

He kissed the plump mellow yellow smellor melons of her rump, on each plumpmelonous hemisphere, in their mellow yellow furrow, with obscure prolonged provocative melonsmellonous osculation.
James Joyce

What you do when you don’t have to, determines what you will be when you can no longer help it. 
Rudyard Kipling 

If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change.
De Lampedusa: The Leopard

For as at a great distance of place, that which wee look at, appears dimme, and without distinction of the smaller parts; and as voyces grow weak, and inarticulate: so also after great distance of time, our imagination of the past is weak: and wee lose (for example) of cities wee have seen, many particular streets; and of actions many particular circumstances. This decaying sense, when wee would express the thing it selfe, (I mean fancy it selfe) we call Imagination, as I said before: But when we would express the decay, and signify the Sense is fading, old, and past, it is called Memory. So that Imagination and Memory are but one thing....
Hobbes: Leviathan

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring 
Will be to arrive where we started 
And know the place for the first time. 
Through the unknown, remembered gate 
When the last of earth left to discover 
Is that which was the beginning; 
At the source of the longest river 
The voice of the hidden waterfall 
And the children in the apple-tree 
Not known, because not looked for 
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness 
Between two waves of the sea. 
Quick now, here, now, always –
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything) 
And all shall be well and 
All manner of thing shall be well 
When the tongues of flame are in-folded 
Into the crowned knot of fire 
And the fire and the rose are one.
TS Elliott: Little Gidding

Other novels served as a kind of foil — something to argue with. V. S. Naipaul’s novel “A Bend in the River,” Mr. Obama recalls, “starts with the line ‘The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.’ And I always think about that line and I think about his novels when I’m thinking about the hardness of the world sometimes, particularly in foreign policy, and I resist and fight against sometimes that very cynical, more realistic view of the world. And yet, there are times where it feels as if that may be true.”
Mishiko Kakutani interviewing Barak Obama about the role of books in his life 

They made a wasteland and called it peace. 

One of the symptoms of an approaching  breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important. 
Bertrand Russell 

Governments never learn. Only people learn. 
Milton Friedman 

If I am not for myself, who is for me? And if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when? 
Rabbi Hillel
You know you're getting old when you buy a sexy sheer nightgown and don't know anyone who can see through it
Joan Rivers

No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome; if you believe theologians, nothing is innocent; if you believe soldiers, nothing is safe.
Lord Salisbury

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald was the worthy winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize and the Costa. It is primarily about a woman training a goshawk – the Mike Tyson of the skies. It is also an account of grief - and a beautifully written natural history and literary biography.

It is bright, after heavy rain, and the crowds of closing time gone. On this second expedition from the house Mabel grips the glove more tightly than ever. She is tense. She looks smaller and feels heavier in this mood, as it fear had a weight to it, as if pewter had been poured into her long and airy bones. The raindrop marks on her tight–feathered front run together into long lines like those around a downturned mouth. She picks fitfully at her food, but mostly she stares, taut with reserve, about her.  She follows bicycles with her eyes. She hunches ready to spring when people come too close. Children alarm her. She is unsure about dogs. Big dogs, that is. Small dogs fascinate her for other reasons.

After ten minutes of haunted apprehension, the goshawk decides that she's not going to be eaten, or beaten to death, by any of these things. She rouses and begins to eat. Cars and buses rattle fumily past, and when the food is gone she stands staring at the strange world around her.  So do I. I've been with my hawk so long, just her and me, that I'm seeing my city through her eyes. She watches a woman throwing a ball to her dog on the grass, and I watch too, as baffled by what she's doing as the hawk is. I stare at traffic lights before I remember what they are. Bicycles are spinning mysteries of glittering metal. The buses going past are walls with wheels. What's salient to the hawk in the city is not what is salient to man. The things she sees are uninteresting to her. Irrelevant. Until there's a clatter of wings. We both look up. There's a pigeon, a wood-pigeon, sailing down to roost in a lime tree above us. Time slows. The air thickens and the hawk is transformed. It's as if all her weapons systems were suddenly engaged. Red cross-hairs. She stands on her toes and cranes her neck. This. This flight path. This thing, she thinks. This is fascinating. Some part of the hawk's young brain has just worked something out, and it has everything to do with death.

How to dance

Leisure, robots and the meaning of money; three views:

There is no country and no people who can look forward to the age of leisure and of abundance without a dread. It is a fearful problem for the ordinary person, with no special talents, to occupy himself, especially if he no longer has roots in the soil or in custom or in the beloved conventions of a traditional society.

The ultimate effect of technology, it has been said, will be a factory run by one man and a dog: the man to feed the dog, and the dog to bite the man if he touches the machinery. That sounds fine to me: while patting his dog and watching machine whirr, he could read a book.
Ben Macintyre

We have reached that time of year when we traditionally turn from the turmoil of the markets and the troubles with money, to the good life. From the rubble of the rouble, to a sizzling turkey, to re-discover the signal from the noise. But what is the good life?

The journey takes us back in time and to the ends of the earth, to St Helena, where we find a famous prisoner, Napoleon Bonaparte, who is in the midst of a furious fight over the size of his rose garden.  Believing himself to be absolute ruler of all that he surveys, he naturally wants to make his garden larger, but the Governor of St Helena is absolutely opposed to this land grab. He had seen its consequences. Napoleon, Ex-Emperor of France and Ruler of Europe, who had commanded vast armies now couldn’t even enlarge his own garden parterre a centimetre. His personality blindspot meant that he had lost the plot. His insatiable desire for  “more and more”  resulted in  “less and less”. He went from ruler to loser because he didn’t know when “enough was enough”.

So how much is enough? Economists cannot provide the answer. In society, insatiable appetites are considered pathological, and yet economists treat this mental illness as the norm. To economists we are all psychopaths mindlessly pursuing money, with seemingly  insatiable consumption. Don’t believe me - if your kitchen ceiling lights look even vaguely like those of Heathrow airport’s landing lights, then you will need to think again.

Keynes himself was aware of these limitations and had expected economists to become as useful as dentists. Their marginal utility putting them at the very margins of life. Yet strangely, their inability to say anything useful seems to have increased their importance.  Believing that money is the measure of one’s worth, makes no more sense than to believe that GDP is the measure of one’s economy.  Why still use a value that is increased by prostitution and yet decreased by voluntary work, like childcare?  That fails to subtract the cost of pollution and ascribes no value to leisure?  It is like measuring Christmas only by its tinsel and trinkets, which is of course exactly what they do.

Keynes  believed by 2030, we would 4x richer, and given the marginal return on income, work for only a quarter of the time.  As productivity increased, working hours would decrease. He expected us to work only 15 hours rather than the 50 or 60 hours per week we actually work.  He mistakenly believed that once we had satisfied our material needs, then we would enjoy our leisure, spending less time at work and more time enjoying ourselves. But the reverse is true - the richer you are, the more likely you are to work even longer hours.  Money has become the competitive yardstick, the way of keeping score. To the Swedish Economist, Staffan Linder - leisure is both a benefit and a cost, the cost of not working. This cost grows as productivity grows - thus the cost of lying in the grass for an executive is higher than that of a student. Weirdly, lower paid workers are working less than they want to and the richer ones are working more than they need to. The workaholic rich have replaced the idle rich or those fabled aristocrats.

Keynes believed 4-8x the average income was enough for the professional classes to live the good life and the equivalent of Euro 46,000 per annum was enough to satisfy average needs. Sums echoed by Balzac and Austen.  Russian oligarch’s might think this sum is derisory. Putin himself said he works like a galley slave - but he certainly doesn’t live like one. He is rumoured to have  20 residences, including the  Constantine Palace, a Czarist-era estate, a ski lodge in the Caucasus Mountains and a Gothic revival palace in the Moscow region.  He has 15 helicopters, 4  yachts and 43 aircraft. Surely in aircraft at least, he has reached  a marginal return, given you can only fly in one at a time. This desire for more and more looks distinctly Napoleonic - especially given his description of ‘Eastern Ukraine, with the Czarist term “New Russia.” It is not as if Russia is short of land.

There is an old saying: as soon as a man get rich he goes bad and as soon as a woman goes bad, she becomes rich. Echoed by Mandeville’s view: “you can have riches and vice, poverty and virtue - but you can’t have riches and virtue.” Money, according to Robert and Edward Skidelsky, should only be the background noise. A means to help you achieve the good life. The good life is defined by seven basic goods: health, security, respect, personality, harmony with nature, friendship and leisure. The good life balances these needs.  This is the signal among the noise. According to Cicero - “if you have a garden and a library you have all you need.”
Andrew Nason

In 1934 Robert Pirosh, who went on to win an academy award, left his job as copywriter in New York to try and become scriptwriter in Hollywood. He wrote this letter to any contact he could muster in Tinseltown.

Dear Sir:

I like words. I like fat buttery words, such as ooze, turpitude, glutinous, toady. I like solemn, angular, creaky words, such as straitlaced, cantankerous, pecunious, valedictory. I like spurious, black-is-white words, such as mortician, liquidate, tonsorial, demi-monde. I like suave "V" words, such as Svengali, svelte, bravura, verve. I like crunchy, brittle, crackly words, such as splinter, grapple, jostle, crusty. I like sullen, crabbed, scowling words, such as skulk, glower, scabby, churl. I like Oh-Heavens, my-gracious, land's-sake words, such as tricksy, tucker, genteel, horrid. I like elegant, flowery words, such as estivate, peregrinate, elysium, halcyon. I like wormy, squirmy, mealy words, such as crawl, blubber, squeal, drip. I like sniggly, chuckling words, such as cowlick, gurgle, bubble and burp.

I like the word screenwriter better than copywriter, so I decided to quit my job in a New York advertising agency and try my luck in Hollywood, but before taking the plunge I went to Europe for a year of study, contemplation and horsing around.

I have just returned and I still like words.

May I have a few with you?

No one has ever worn more brilliantly the mask of anarchy to conceal the true face of tradition.
Vernon Watkins on Dylan Thomas

The trouble is, you think you have time

Europe was created by history.
America was created by philosophy.
Margaret Thatcher

Perhaps if more people were aware of the first wave and second wave extinctions, they'd be less nonchalant about the third wave they are part of. If we knew how many species we've already eradicated, we might be more motivated to protect those that still survive. This is especially relevant to the large animals of the oceans. Unlike their terrestrial counterparts, the large sea animals suffered relatively little from the cognitive and agricultural revolutions. But many of them are on the brink of extinction now as a result of industrial pollution and human overuse of oceanic resources. If things continue at the present pace, it is likely that whales, sharks, tuna and dolphins will follow the diprotodons, ground sloths and mammoths to oblivion. Among all the world's large creatures, the only survivors of the human flood will be humans themselves, and the final animals those that serve as galley slaves in the Noah's Ark.
Yuval Noah Harari: Sapiens

Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels.
Kate Moss

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who guards the guards?

Henry James would be vastly improved as a novelist by few whiffs of the Chicago stockyard.
HL Mencken

Captain James Cook learnt his trade on a Whitby collier running coal from Newcastle to London. Both his ships, the Endeavour and Resolution were built as colliers in Whitby by his friend John Walker. This letter of 1775, to Walker, was after his second voyage. On his third and fatal voyage he was reputed to have been exhausted and not quite of right mind. This doesn’t seem to be borne out by the words here.

Dear Sir,

As I have not now time to draw up an account of such occurrences of the voyage as I wish to communicate to you, I can only thank you for your obliging letter and kind enquiry after me during my absence. I must however tell you that the Resolution was found to answer on all occasions even beyond my expectations and is so little injured by the voyage that she will soon be sent out again, but I shall not command her.  My fate drives me from one extreme to another. A few months ago the whole southern hemisphere was hardly big enough for me and now I'm going to be confined within the limits of Greenwich Hospital which are far too small for an active mind like mine. I must however confess it is a fine retreat and a pretty income, but whether I can bring myself to like ease and retirement time will show.

Your most affectionate friend

James Cook

He either fears his fate too much,
Or his deserts are small,
Who does not put it to the touch,
To win or lose it all.
The Marquis of Montrose on the eve of his execution

When two things travel together, it is tempting to assume that one causes the other. Married people, for instance, are demonstrably happier than single people; does this mean that marriage causes happiness? Not necessarily. The data suggest that happy people are more likely to get married in the first place. As one researcher memorably put it, "if you're grumpy, who the hell wants to marry you?"                                  
Levitt & Dubner Think like a Freak

It is not what have, but what we enjoy, that constitutes our abundance.  

As we grow old…the beauty steals inward.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is no lonelier man in death, except the suicide, than a man who has lived many years with a good wife and then outlived her. If two people love each other there can be no happy end to it.
Ernest Hemingway

Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities. 

Pablo Casals, aged eighty, decided to get married to a twenty-year old. In reply to someone who questioned the wisdom of such an age discrepancy….

Well, if she dies, she dies.

We sailed to the Black Sea last year via Istanbul and the Bosporus. I wrote this blog about that nexus of civilizations. 

The modern Istanbul is vast – the sixth largest city in the world – and the outline becomes distinct on the horizon six hours before you finally round the point of the old city with the Topkapi Palace framed by the Blue Mosque and Haghia Sophia – surely one of the world’s great views. A sense of history would need to be cauterized for you not to gaze in wonder; and wonder also at the inhabitants of the ancient city of Chalcedon on the Asian shore who were known as ‘the blind ones’ for not seeing the site of Byzantium as a perfect place for a city. The stretch across the mouth of the Golden Horn up to the Bosporus Bridge is testing on the nerves of the helmsman. I counted at one moment twenty-three ferries – not to mention five small fishing boats and three leviathan oil tankers all crisscrossing the waters opposite the Golden Horn. They are all pros – and I’m not.

The Bosporus itself is, in geological terms, a modern waterway. In early settled history – from about 10,000 BC to about 6500 BC the Black Sea was cut off from a Mediterranean whose sea level was lower than now as a result of the last ice age. The Black Sea was a fresh water lake fed, as now, by five great rivers including the Danube, Don and Dnieper, which are the second third and forth largest rivers in Europe, and it was about a hundred metres lower than at present. In contrast the much bigger Mediterranean has only three major rivers draining in to it. Somewhere around 6500 BC the rising waters of the Mediterranean, perhaps abetted by an earthquake, spilled over into the Black Sea and the force of water routed a canyon between Europe and Asia creating a cascade probably a hundred times larger than Niagara Falls. For the inhabitants of the lakeshore littoral this was a catastrophe as the lake, now rapidly becoming a sea, encroached on their settlements at an estimated half a mile a day. It was a flood of epic proportions and it is surely no accident that Noah’s Arc in legend came to rest on Mount Ararat on the borders between Armenia and Georgia at the Eastern edge of the Black Sea.

All this has been attested by geologists and biologists who have found in core samples evidence of changes in the salinity of the water and the type of marine life: fresh water species could not survive in the new saline environment though the huge existing body of fresh water would have taken some time to have mixed completely – resulting in a few making the transition. Robert Ballard, famous for finding the Titanic, discovered remains of human settlement about three hundred feet below the current sea level off the Turkish Coast. There is argument about the violence of the flood – but the fact of it seems highly likely.

The Black Sea’s strangeness doesn’t stop there. It is a continental drain for both Europe and the Russian Steppe. The Danube rises in Germany and is the final destination of most of the rivers of Eastern Europe. With the water has come a vast quantity of vegetable material that has changed the chemistry of the Black Sea. The surface layer is saline H2O down to about two hundred metres. Below that – and the abyssal depths go down to two thousand metres – it is H2S, Hydrogen Sulphide, a poisonous and lifeless environment. Two possibilities flow from this. Because neither worm nor wood-eating biology can survive in that environment, Ballard found a 5th century Byzantine ship with its rigging intact. There is also a possibility, remote thankfully, that the marine layers could perform an inversion and the Hydrogen Sulphide rise to the top. The poison gas released would kill everything around the sea’s edge and the explosion, if it caught fire, would be one of the biggest the world has seen.

Even though, famously, the Black Sea provides Russia with a warm water port, with its reduced salinity and continental climate the Black Sea forms ice. It seems strange to think of Istanbul and icebergs but in the 8th Century AD the famous walls of Byzantium were badly damaged by ice floes. Jason and his Argonauts on their quest for the Golden Fleece in Colchis - modern Georgia - had to pass the Clashing Rocks which threatened to crush their fragile craft. Could these have been icebergs?

The modern journey down the historic waterway of the Bosporus is rather less eventful but still memorable. The traffic for big ships is one way. As you drive from the Istanbul airport along the Sea of Marmora there are scores of ship lying at anchor almost as far as the eye can see, waiting their turn to transit. Once the metaphorical lights change they process their way through in single file and head east – the majority being tankers in ballast on their way to the Caspian Sea pipeline terminals that provide much of Europe’s oil. As an aside, the time taken to extract the oil that has lain for millions of years below the Caspian, pipe it to the Black Sea, tanker it to the Adriatic, pipe it to a refinery in Bavaria and put the resulting petrol into a BMW in Munich is twenty-two days. For obvious reasons you give these behemoths a wide berth, favouring the European shore where the current is less fierce. The surface current flows from the Black Sea towards the Sea of Marmara but there is also a strong current at the bottom flowing the other way. In the days before engines, fishermen in the Bosporus – and maybe Jason on his way to Colchis – used to sling a net of stones on a rope over the side and be dragged against the surface current.

The Bosporus is in some ways a sketch of modern Turkey. Old, decaying wooden yalis - though many less of them now - sit alongside the new weekend retreats of wealthy Istambulis. Fishing boats line the quays of harbours that also contain marinas filled with the plastic pleasure craft of the rich. The Second Bosporus Bridge overshadows the fortress built by Mehemet the Conqueror in an astonishing four months as a prelude to the final assault on Constantinople in 1453. The fort was then known as The Throat Cutter as it cut off beleaguered Byzantium from the Black Sea. And finally, as the Bosporus opens out and you feel the swell of the five hundred mile stretch of seawater ahead under the yacht’s keel, there is a new bridge under construction that frames the location of the catastrophic cataract of eight millennia ago. In the small fishing town that overlooks the straight, under the flashing of an Ottoman lighthouse, there is also the traditional Turkey: no alcohol for sale and no women amongst the evening gatherings in the town square.

I've never understood why people consider youth a time of freedom and joy. It's probably because they've forgotten their own.
George Bernard Shaw

But then I sigh, and with a piece of scripture, tell them that God bids us do good for evil. And thus I clothe my naked villainy with odd old ends stolen forth of holy writ, and seem I a saint, when most I play the Devil.
Richard III, Act 1 Scene 3

We can be knowledgeable with other men’s knowledge, but we can’t be wise with other men’s wisdom.

People of privilege will always risk their complete destruction rather than surrender any material part of their advantage. Intellectual myopia, often called stupidity, is no doubt a reason. But the privileged also feel that their privileges, however egregious they may seem to others, are a solemn, basic, God-given right. The sensitivity of the poor to injustice is a trivial thing compared with that of the rich.
John Galbraith, The Age of Uncertainty

A Scottish Romance

Peecrastinate v. To lie in bed pretending that you are going sleep when you need to pee.

To succeed in the world, it is much more necessary to possess the penetration to discern who is a fool, than to discover who is a clever man.

Be still my heart; thou has known worse than this.

Two dogs dining

The individual human mind is like a computer terminal connected to a giant database. The database is human consciousness itself, of which our own cognizance is merely an individual expression, but with its roots in the common consciousness of all mankind. This database is the realm of genius; because to be human is to participate in the database, everyone, by virtue of his birth, has access to genius. The unlimited information contained in the database has now been shown to be readily available to anyone in a few seconds, at any time and in any place. This is indeed an astonishing discovery, bearing the power to change lives, both individually and collectively, to a degree never yet anticipated.
David Hawkings. Power vs Force

How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.

Concision in style, precision in thought, decision in life.
Victor Hugo

I re-read some De Toqueville last  year and was re-astonished about how sharp and relevant his observations of the USA of nearly two hundred years ago are today.

The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money.

The surface of American society is covered with a layer of democratic paint, but from time to time one can see the old aristocratic colours breaking through.

There is hardly a political question in the United States which does not sooner or later turn into a judicial one.

What is most important for democracy is not that great fortunes should not exist, but that great fortunes should not remain in the same hands. In that way there are rich men, but they do not form a class.

Complete abstinence is easier than perfect moderation
St Augustine

De Rochefoucauld was the prince of aphorists. He also rationed himself to one laugh a year - though the court of Louis XIV was not exactly a giggle a minute.

Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue
There are few virtuous women who are not bored with their trade.
We can forgive those that bore us but not those that find us boring.
People often complain about their memories, never about their minds.
Virtue would go far if vanity did not keep it company.
Many men are contemptuous of riches; few can give them away.

The BBC is run by twerps who all have degrees in Media Studies - which is like having a degree in stationary
Jonathan Miller

Build your enemy a golden bridge to retreat across.

Never drink to feel better. Only drink to feel even better.

The advent of the Internet of things, which could reach 50 billion connected devices by 2020, will exponentially multiply the cyber criminal’s target opportunities, because more connections equal more vulnerability. Today’s Internet infrastructure is based on IPV4 protocol, which is in the process of being upgraded to IPV6, increasing the number of potential IP addresses from 4.3 billion to 340 trillion, trillion, trillion. In other words, today’s Internet is the size of a golf ball. But, tomorrow’s Internet will be the size of the Sun.

The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor.

I solemnly prophesy that this accursed man [Adolf Hitler] will cast our Reich into the abyss and bring our nation to inconceivable misery. Future generations will damn you in your grave for what you have done.
Erich von Ludendorff, to Reich president Hindenburg, end of January 1933

There is still—and I say this with a heart full of sorrow—no Iraqi people, but an unimaginable mass of human beings devoid of any patriotic ideas, imbued with religious traditions and absurdities, prone to anarchy and perpetually ready to rise against any government whatsoever.
King Faisal I, 1934

Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.
Carl Jung

A man is already halfway in love with any woman who listens to him.
Brendan Francis

Why do you weep? Did you think I was immortal?
Louis XIV, on his deathbed

A gentleman is someone who can play the bagpipes - but doesn't.

I don't like country music, but I don't mean to denigrate those who do. And for the people who like country music, denigrate means 'put down'.
Bob Newhart

Big whirls have little whirls that feed on their velocity, and little whirls have lesser whirls, and so on to viscosity.
Lewis Fry Richardson; Meteorologist

Crashes don’t destroy wealth; they just reveal the wealth you thought you had never really existed.
No one worth possessing can be quite possessed.
Sara Teasdale

What a trillion looks like

Skinny, introverted, obsessed equally with his bowels and his soul, attuned always to the political currents in India but listening as much to his own complicated heart, he was an unlikely political genius.
Margaret Macmillan on Gandhi. The Peacemakers

The Bubonic Plagiarist
Jonathan Miller on David Frost

He rose without trace
Peter Cook on David Frost

All the world is a birthday cake, so take a piece - but not too much.
George Harrison

All writing is writers' block; it's all so hard. But not tragically hard
Alan Bennett

If people aren't paying you for what you do, they don't value you. It is a really strange thing that you have to charge really high prices or people don't listen to what you have to say. You could be giving the exact same advice, but the more you charge, the more people are going to follow your advice.
Steven Levitt Author of Freakonomics

Like it or not, we're part of Gaia, and like citizens of a great nation we draw power from our membership. In common with all animals we have breathed in oxygen from plants and used it to recycle, as carbon dioxide, the food that the plants provided. Now, through our intelligence, we've allowed our planet to become aware of its environment in space and not only to see its place in the cosmos, but also to grow aware of potential threats, such as that posed by an incoming planetesimal, one of the kind believed to have ended the reign of the dinosaurs. Because we are alive, in a rudimentary way the system has, through us, become sentient. Before this, life existed without knowing what it was, how old it was, or anything about its future. We are now travelling along a path that could lead us to become the citizens of a live, intelligent planet, which might in turn become a citizen of the galaxy. With such a future ahead of us how could we possibly be gloomy, or believe, as today's puritans keep telling us, that we are guilty of some great harm? We merely have to stop making mistakes, or better – because mistakes are inevitable – learn from them and keep our eyes on the path ahead.
James Lovelock from A Rough Ride to the Future

If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?
Pope Francis

Never eat more than you can lift.
Miss Piggy

Not new - but however your day is going, it will feel better after watching this.

Equality may perhaps be a right, but no power on earth can ever turn it into a fact.
Laws are spider webs through which the big flies pass and the little ones get caught.

Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery

It's good to die in your own bed; better still to die in your boots.

You cannot always tell what keeps you confined, what immures you, what seems to bury you, and yet you can feel those elusive bars, railings, walls. Is all this illusion, imagination? I don't think so. And then one asks: My God! will it be for long, will it be for ever, will it be for eternity?
Do you know what makes the prison disappear? Every deep, genuine affection. Being friends, being brothers, loving, that is what opens the prison, with supreme power, by some magic force. Without these one stays dead. But whenever affection is revived, there life revives.
Extract from a letter by Vincent van Gogh to his brother Theo dated July 1880

He had a genius for backing into the limelight
Lowell Thomas on Lawrence of Arabia

Too many people spend money they haven’t earned to buy things they don’t want to impress people they don’t like.
Will Rogers

When you're wondering whether she's his daughter or his girlfriend, she's his girlfriend.
Pamela Druckerman

The answer to the question of what sustained Churchill and the British in the darkest days is that it was his own words. From them the people took hope and Churchill drew inspiration. Bad at many things, Churchill had early made himself a master of language, and it was through that mastery that his career and self-esteem had been nurtured. By the practice of speaking and writing, particularly the writing of a heroicized history of his own nation, he had built up a great reserve of imagery upon which he now drew to forge what would indeed prove to be tools of battle.

Churchill’s words did not only touch his people’s hearts and move the emotions of their future American allies; they also set the moral climate of the war. Hitler, a mob orator, spoke little after 1939. When he did so, it was to utter threats and insults, glorifying aggression, deriding his enemies. Churchill, by contrast, avoided threats, condemned few...instead he appealed to a commonality and nobility of sentiment that took liberty as its ideal and humanity as its spirit. He always spoke, moreover, as if the ideal of liberty, though particularly incarnate in war-time Britain, was shared by all who did not actively oppose it, in this way reaching out to embrace as allies, actual or potential, all those not on Hitler’s side...Churchill’s message triumphed. It was perhaps the greatest of all his achievements. In 1940 his words captured the hearts of his people. And in 1941, and in the years that followed, his words drowned out the drumbeat of totalitarianism that had dominated the airwaves of the dictator years, revived belief in democracy among the downtrodden, inspired a new patriotism in the defeated, created a new confidence, and transmitted a promise of victory that was believed. Morally, Churchill set the agenda of the Second World War. Its realization determined, after 1945, the future of the world.
John Keegan

We learn geology the morning after the earthquake.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Consideration by the Way,” The Conduct of Life

Every parent is at some time the father of the unreturned prodigal, with nothing to do but keep his house open to hope.
John Anthony Ciardi

Never ruin an apology with an excuse.
Benjamin Franklin

A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past; he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future.
Sydney J. Harris, On the Contrary

How to get to Mars

Love is a beautiful liar
The Paris Wife, Paula McLain

Fear is the parent of cruelty.
James Anthony Froude

Greatness of name in the father oft-times helps not forth, but overwhelms the son; they stand too near one another. The shadow kills the growth: so much, that we see the grandchild come more and oftener to be heir of the first.
Ben Johnson

It is a profitable thing, if one is wise, to seem foolish.

Implacable vengeance rising from a frozen pity. His sympathies cold and wide as the Arctic Ocean; his hatreds tight as the hangman’s noose. His purpose to save the world; his method to blow it up.
Churchill on Lenin

I have never been disabled in my dreams.
Christopher Reeve

The only way to tell the truth is to speak with kindness. Only the words of a loving man can be heard.
Henry David Thoreau

Two nations, between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts, and feelings as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets; who are formed by a different breeding, are fed by a different food, are ordered by different manners, and are not governed by the same laws . . . the rich and the poor.
Disraeli. Sybil 

The reputation of a thousand years may be determined by the conduct of one hour.
Japanese proverb

In January 2008, there were 12 triple A-rated companies in the world. At the same time, there were 64,000 structured finance instruments, such as collateralised debt obligations, rated triple A. 

The more that people of different origins and values come in contact with one another, the more they become aware of not just how similar they are, but of how different they are. Proximity, whether real or virtual, can ignite the deepest animosities.
Robert Kaplan The Lure of Nationalism

Plumber's Sex - you stay in all day and no one comes.

A wise man changes his mind. A fool never does.

The optimists ended up in the gas chambers, the pessimists have pools in Beverly Hills.
Billy Wilder

Today, of Americans officially designated as 'poor,' 99 per cent have electricity, running water, flush toilets, and a refrigerator; 95 per cent have a television, 88 per cent a telephone, 71 per cent a car and 70 percent air conditioning. Cornelius Vanderbilt had none of these.
Matt Ridley. The Rational Optimist

Keith Richards: A turtle that's lost its shell.

Losing his middle finger in a childhood accident rendered Rahm practically mute.
Obama on his famously belligerent former chief of staff and now Mayor of Chicargo, Rahm Emmanuel

Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets.
Arthur Miller

Plain women know more about men than beautiful women do.
Katharine  Hepburn

Supporters of the European project have always held the view that a transnational political union of a democratic kind, which poses problems that are extremely difficult, will be resolved through crises. I heard a private talk by Joschka Fischer back in the early Nineties, that’s to say twenty years ago, in which he said there’ll be huge crises, it’s absolutely inevitable, but each crisis will bring us closer to the goal. It’s a kind of classical position. Gorbachev actually held similar views at one time about the Soviet Union. I think myself that the project of creating democracy at a supra national level in Europe, even perhaps with a slightly smaller number of countries, remains in the realm of impossibility. But you see, if it is a folly, then it’s not going to be abandoned because of rational argument. It’s not going to be abandoned because we’ve learned from mistakes. It’ll be abandoned only in a crisis larger than the ones we’ve seen so far. And that may come many years hence.
John N Gray

A bull market is like sex. It feels best just before it ends.
Barton Biggs

A wonderful fact to reflect upon: that every human creature is a profound secret and mystery to every other. 

Live so that your friends can defend you, but never have to.
Arnold Glasow

Friendship needs no words—it is solitude delivered from the anguish of loneliness.
Dag Hammarskjold

If he be a man indeed, he must always go on, he must always endure. Death is an end to torture, to struggle, to suffering, but it is also an end to warmth, light, the beauty of a running horse, the smell of damp leaves, of gunpowder, the walk of a woman when she knows someone watches.
Louis L’Amour, Galloway

I do not believe that any peacock envies another peacock his tail, because every peacock is persuaded that his own tail is the finest in the world. The consequence of this is that peacocks are peaceable birds.
Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness

Vanity is a static thing. It puts its faith in what it has, and is easily wounded. Pride is active, and satisfied only with what it can do, hence accustomed not to feel small stings.
Jacques Barzun, The House of Intellect

While there's death, there's hope. 
On inheritance

All too many people who think they hit a home-run in life - started at third base.

Whosoever plants a tree
Winks at immortality
Felix Dennis

A married couple should be the guardians of each other's solitude.

A definition of eternity: two people and a ham.

When we ask advice we are usually looking for an accomplice.
Charles Varlet de La Gra

Man is equally incapable of seeing the nothingness from which he emerges and the infinity in which he is engulfed.
Blaise Pascal

It is well, when one is judging a friend, to remember that he is judging you with the same godlike and superior impartiality.
Arnold Bennett

When you don't have money you can't say where it's coming from; when you have money, you don't know where it's going to.
Countess Rostov in War and Peace

The rich think that love makes the world go round; the poor know it's money.

The international space station

The approval presents me with the opportunity to create a balanced and logically laid-out family home, whilst restoring the architectural heritage of the building and also incorporating modern-day features and facilities.”
fair. John Caudwell, the mobile phone entrepreneur on being granted planning permission to add a 10,000 sq ft linking basement to his existing 40,000 sq ft house in Mayfair. Has he had an irony bypass?
I am king of the Romans and above grammar
Sigismund of Hungary

Never speak ill of yourself; your friends will always say enough on that subject.
She is such a good friend that she would throw all her acquaintances into the water for the pleasure of fishing them out again.

No great man ever complains of want of opportunity.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Illness is the doctor to whom we pay most heed; to kindness, to knowledge, we make promises only; pain we obey.
Marcel Proust

Martin Amis being interviewed at a literary festival.

"You get ugly when you get old. It’s all perfectly simple. In fact I can tell you how it’s going to go. Everything seems fine until you’re about 40. Then something is definitely beginning to go wrong. And you look in the mirror with your old habit of thinking, “While I accept that everyone grows old and dies, it’s a funny thing, but I’m an exception to that rule.”

Then it becomes a full-time job trying to convince yourself that it’s true. And you can actually feel your youth depart. In your mid-forties when you look in the mirror this idea that you’re an exception evaporates.

Then, you think life is going to get thinner and thinner until it dwindles into nothing. But a very strange thing happens to you, a very good thing happens to you, in your early fifties, and I’m assuming – this is what novelists do, they assume their case is typical: a poet can’t be typical about anything, but a novelist is an everyman, and an innocent and literary being – but you assume that how you feel is how everyone feels, and it’s like discovering another continent on the globe.

What happens is you’re suddenly visited by the past, and it’s like a huge palace in your mind, and you can go and visit all these different rooms and staircases and chambers. It’s particularly the erotic, the amatory past. And if you have children they somehow are very present in this palace of the past.

I say to my sons (I don’t say it to my daughters), “When you’re having an affair, keep notes. Hold it in the fist of your soul. Try and remember everything about it, because this is what you’re going to need when you’re old. You’re going to need these rooms, with a girl in each one.”

Nabokov said the big difference between people is those who sleep well, and those who don’t. And Nabokov was of course a champion insomniac. He has a lovely line in a late novella which is, “Night is always a giant but this one was especially terrible.”

Zadie Smith says that people divide into the organised and the disorganised. And she’s disorganised. But my father, Kingsley Amis, said that a huge division is between those who have a good time with the opposite sex, and those who don’t. And you will know in your early fifties how that balance sheet works.

Just to go a little bit later, because I’m 62 now... Another feeling comes on you when you’re 60, which can be expressed by the thought, “This can’t turn out well.” And that’s the bit I’m at at the moment. And really that’s the arrival of fear. In my case not fear of death, but fear of getting there.

So to go back to your question, yes you do look back with wonder at your youth, and you know all youth is automatically beautiful in a way. It’s said that youth is wasted on the young, and that’s perhaps true because you don’t feel your beauty until it’s gone.

It is like being as isolated as a man who failed to get onto the Titanic
Terry Smith on being out of the eurozone

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read.
Groucho Marx

Reading Edward St Aubyn has been likened to eating chocolate-covered scorpions. Delicious.

With her curling blond hair and her slender limbs and her beautiful clothes, Inez was alluring in an obvious way, and yet it was easy enough to see that her slightly protruding blue eyes were blank screens of self-love on which a small selection of fake emotions was allowed to flicker. She made rather haphazard impersonations of someone who has relationships with others. Based on the gossip of her courtiers, a diet of Hollywood movies and the projection of her own cunning calculations, these guesses might be sentimental or nasty, but were always vulgar and melodramatic. Since she hadn’t the least interest in the answer, she was inclined to ask, “How are you?” with great gravity, at least half a dozen times. She was often exhausted by the thought of how generous she was, whereas the exhaustion really stemmed from the strain of not giving away anything at all.

As a guest, Emily Price had three main drawbacks: she was incapable of saying please, incapable of saying thank you, and incapable of saying sorry, all the while creating a surge in the demand for these expressions.

A celebrity these days is somebody you’ve never heard of . . . just as j’arrive is what a French waiter says as he hurries away from you in a Paris café.

Above all, he wanted to stop being a child without using the cheap disguise of being a parent.

You start reading a novel with no idea where this thing is going to go; you should finish it feeling that it could have gone no other way.
Penelope Lively

The  Washington Post's Mensa Invitational invited readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.

1. Cashtration (n.):  The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period of time.

2. Ignoranus : A person who's both stupid and an asshole.

3. Intaxicaton : Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

4.Reintarnation : Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

5. Bozone ( n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign  of breaking down in the near future.

6. Foreploy : Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

7. Giraffiti :  Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

8. Sarchasm : The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

9. Inoculatte : To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

10. Osteopornosis : A degenerate disease.

11. Karmageddon : It's like, when everybody is sending  off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.

12. Decafalon (n.):  The gruelling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you!

13. Glibido : All talk and no action.

14. Dopeler Effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

15. Arachnoleptic  Fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

16. Beelzebug (n.):  Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

17. Caterpallor ( n.): The colour you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.

The Washington Post has also published the winning submissions to its yearly contest in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words.

1. Coffee, n. The person upon whom one coughs.

2. Flabbergasted, adj.   Appalled by discovering how much weight one has gained.

3. Abdicate, v. To give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.

4. Esplanade, v. To attempt an explanation while drunk.

5. Willy-nilly, adj. Impotent.

6. Negligent, adj.  Absentmindedly answering the door when wearing only a nightgown.

7. Lymph, v. To walk with a lisp.

8.  Frisbeetarianism, n. The belief  that, after death, the soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

9. Balderdash, n. A rapidly receding hairline.

10. Testicle, n. A humorous question on an exam.
I didn't know then, of course, that trial separations are nearly always a great success.
Martin Amis

Chess is the conflict between the pain of thinking and the pain of losing.

Everyone's got a plan - until they get punched in the throat.
Mike Tyson

A bachelor is a guy who never made the same mistake once.
Phylis Diller

Technology is the knack of so arranging the world that we don't have to experience it.
Max Frisch

Lord Kitchener had four dogs called Shot, Bang, Miss and Damn.

Everyone takes the limits of his own vision for the limits of the world.

The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.
George Bernard Shaw

Quinlan Terry’s villas are exterior decoration of the age of Cecil Parkinson.
Jonathan Meads

Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.
Abraham Lincoln


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