It doesn't happen very often, as you regulars have learned the hard way, but the fact is that this morning I have nothing to say. (No need to applaud!) So, without a word of apology, I shall, instead, quote the words of others. There is no plan or design to these quotations, I am simply picking books off my shelves, opening them and quoting what I fancy. Alas, gentlemen, Fifty Shades of Grey has not yet entered these hallowed halls!
In the early stages of the Industrial Revolution, the Reverent Robert Southey, the then Poet Laureate of England, declared in two volumes of passionate prose that manufacturing was all some terrible mistake. Not only were the new factories and worker row houses laying waste to the pastoral harmonies of British town and countryside, but Watt, Arkwright, Stephenson and the other heroes of innovation had plunged the poor into a new form of slavery to immiserating machines. Wealth, it was clear to Southey, as to many subsequent seers, peering squeamishly through the smoke and soot of industry, creates poverty.
Two thoughts arise in my mind. First, why are so many of our Poet Laureates such total tits? Second, the non-seeing seers are still with us despite having been proved wrong over and over again. The quote comes from the 'Introduction to the British Edition' of George Gilder's book Wealth & Poverty. I first read it in the early '80s and it remains a favourite in my memory.
It chanced on that very evening that Sir Nigel Loring having supped before sunset, as was his custom, and having himself seen that Pommers and Cadsand, his two war-horses, with the thirteen hacks, the five jennets, my lady's three palfreys, and the great dapple-grey roussin, had all their needs supplied, had taken his dogs for an evening breather. Sixty or seventy of them, large and small, smooth and shaggy - deer-hound, boar-hound, blood-hound, wolf-hound, mastiff, alaun, talbot, lurcher, terrier, spaniel - snapping, yelling and whining, with score of lolling tongues and waving tails, came surging down the narrow lane which leads from Twynham kennels to the bank of Avon. Two russet-clad varlets, with loud halloo and cracking whips, walked thigh-deep amid the swarm, guiding, controlling, and urging. Behind came Sir Nigel himself, with Lady Loring upon his arm, the pair walking slowly and sedately, as befitted both their age and their condition, while they watched with a smile in their eyes the scrambling crowd in front of them. They paused, however, at the bridge, and, leaning their elbows upon the stonework, they stood looking down at their own faces in the glassy stream, and at the swift flash of speckled trout against the tawny gravel.
From The White Company by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a book I was given to study at my Grammar School in 1951 and which I loved so much that I stole it - mea culpa! The irony that I learned more about moral behaviour from that single book than all the churches I have ever attended and yet I stole the damned thing, is not lost on me! If you have children or grand children around the age of eleven, give them a copy for Xmas.
When they had eaten he took the boy out on the gravelbar below the bridge and he pushed away the thin shore ice with a stick and they knelt there while he washed the boy's face and his hair. The water was so cold the boy was crying. They moved down the gravel to find fresh water and he washed his hair again as well as he could and finally stopped because the boy was moaning with the cold of it. He dried him with the blanket, kneeling there in the glow of the light with the shadow of the bridge's understructure broken across the palisade of treetrunks beyond the creek. This is my child, he said. I wash a dead man's brains out of his hair. That is my job. Then he wrapped him in the blanket and carried him to the fire.
A random passage from Cormac McCarthy's cataclysmic novel The Road. A grueling read but worth every minute of it. In fact, having hooked it out I may have to re-read it!
'Right there,' I said, and started to to point at the moniter. But I was pointing with both hands and they didn't make it to the screen. My right hand stopped at his neck. My left took the gun out of his left. It dropped on the floor and sounded exactly like a pound of steel hitting the a plywood board covered with linoleum. I kept my eyes on the office window. Beck and Duke still had their backs to me. I got both hands round Doll's neck and squeezed. He thrashed around wildly. Fought back. I shifted my grip. The chair fell over under him. I squeezed harder. Watched the window. Beck and Duke were just standing there. Their backs to me. Their breath was misting in front of them. Doll started clawing at my wrists. I squeezed harder still. His tongue came out of his mouth. Then he did the smart thing and gave up on my wrists and reached up behind him and went for my eyes. I pulled my head back and hooked one hand under his jaw and put the other flat against the side of his head. Wrenched his jaw hard to the right and smashed his downward to the left and broke his neck.
If I had a thousand sons, the first human principle I would teach them should be, to forswear thin potations.
Cheers, Sir Jack Falstaff, make mine a double sack on the rocks with a splash of sherris!