Editor of Private Eye giving evidence in a libel action against the magazine
The only things in Private Eye that aren’t true are the apologies.
Editor of Private Eye giving evidence in a libel action against the magazine
The only things in Private Eye that aren’t true are the apologies.
On Boris’ first week at FCO
The foreign secretary spent much of the week looking rather like an old Labrador who has just flushed out a pheasant for the first time and is rather pleased with his unexpected success.
In contrast, his officials looked like children with a new bicycle that they can’t wait to take out for a ride but are worried they might crash.
We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
It is the folly of too many to mistake the echo of a London coffee house for the voice of a kingdom.
99% of expensive punditry is noise not signal, tune it out and think for yourself.
There are three things of such a sort that they produce merciless destruction when they get the upper hand one is a flood of water, another is a raging fire and the third is the lesser people, the common multitude; for they will not be stopped by either reason or by discipline.
This is democracy in action, in all its messy, beautiful, order-upsetting glory. Behold the steadfastness of ordinary people, their willingness to act on their conviction even in the face of the threats and barbs of people with power. We hear a lot these days about how gullible the public is, how malleable are our putty-like minds, play-doh in the hands of demagogues. And yet yesterday, the people thought for themselves; they weighed things up and they decided to reject received wisdom and the Westminster / Washington / Brussels consensus. Such independence of spirit, such freedom of thought, is stirring.
When you feel something is impossible, remind yourself that Leicester won the league.
But also that your thing is probably still impossible
My view of the prevalence of doom-and-gloom in Cambridge is that it is a result of the English class system. In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class. In the nineteenth century, the academic middle class won the battle for power and status. As a child of the academic middle class, I learned to look on the commercial middle class with loathing and contempt. Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher, which was also the revenge of the commercial middle class. The academics lost their power and prestige and the business people took over. The academics never forgave Thatcher and have been gloomy ever since
I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong. But I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in it with me, as I now invite you to do: I know that your support will be unfailingly given. God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it.
21st April 1947
I choose to love you in silence…
For in silence I find no rejection,
I choose to love you in loneliness…
For in loneliness no one owns you but me,
I choose to adore you from a distance…
For distance will shield me from pain,
I choose to kiss you in the wind…
For the wind is gentler than my lips,
I choose to hold you in my dreams…
For in my dreams, you have no end…
What one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life — the life God is sending one day by day.
I strongly object to wrong arguments on the right side. I think I object to them more than to the wrong arguments on the wrong side.
It is no crime to be ignorant of economics, which is, after all, a specialized discipline and one that most people consider to be a ‘dismal science.’ But it is totally irresponsible to have a loud and vociferous opinion on economic subjects while remaining in this state of ignorance.
My policy on cake is pro having it and pro eating it.
I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.
There have been men before…who got so interested in proving the existence of God that they came to care nothing for God himself.
A Copper’s Christmas
And now for something just a little bit different…
…A retelling of the Christmas story using detail drawn from a little known historical source – the Daily Crime Bulletin of the Bethlehem Police Department (known by all as the ‘BPD’ – and by some as the ‘Thin Beige Line’).
Published daily by the local Constabulary, the Bulletin offers a fascinating insight into the work of a hitherto unheralded group of women and men – whilst shining new light on an old tale.
Bethlehem Police Department
Daily Crime Bulletin
Late Turn – Briefing for Operation Census
– Substantial number of migrants arriving at border during past week;
– Limited community tension reported – no incidents of note;
– Large crowds expected in Bethlehem this evening;
– No intelligence re: pre-planned disorder;
– Terrorism Threat Level remains at ‘Severe’;
– 12 officers on duty;
– Roads Policing Chariot in for repairs – no replacement available.
Start of shift;
2 PCs to fixed post at main Town Checkpoint;
2 PCs to ongoing crime scene at Caesar’s Nightclub;
2 PCs to constant watch in the cells;
Remaining officers out on foot.
Routine patrols – High Street.
Town Centre crowded but peaceful.
Call to Civil Dispute in the foyer of the Judea Travelodge.
Apparent misunderstanding regarding double booking of two suites.
Situation deteriorated as it became apparent that there are no other rooms available – anywhere in the neighbourhood.
Suspects became violent. Two arrests. Now lodging with us overnight.
Suspect detained for Theft of Wine from the Bethlehem Brasserie.
Evidence consumed prior to police arrival.
Suspect unfit for interview until tomorrow morning.
Reports of possible UFO sighting.
Claims of a bright light – moving East to West at height of several thousand feet.
Area Search No Trace.
Possible Nuisance Call.
Multiple calls to disturbance on hillside a mile outside town.
Reports of strobe lighting and loud music.
Initial suspicions of an illegal rave in progress.
On arrival, met by gang of Shepherds and a large quantity of sheep. Shepherds claiming to been visited by angels.
Despite lengthy enquiries and thorough searches, no sound system or lighting equipment found – and no evidence of alcohol or illegal substances. Not even a spliff.
Initially threatened Shepherds with arrest for wasting police time – but settled for a Verbal Warning when they explained that they were leaving anyway.
Last seen running towards Bethlehem Town Centre.
Call from Judea Border Patrol.
They have stopped a group of Travellers who claim to have come from ‘afar’.
Have yet to establish where this is.
The three who appear to be in charge are well dressed and claim to know something about the earlier UFO report.
Search of luggage has revealed a quantity of gold and a container filled with an aromatic and suspicious looking resin.
Update from Border Patrol.
Travellers able to prove ownership of gold – and the resin turns out to be something called Myrrh. Checks confirm this isn’t a Controlled Drug.
Allowed on their way.
Call to believed Child Protection case.
Reports of newborn baby being cared for in wholly unsuitable circumstances – apparently in a stable, surrounded by livestock and with no heating or running water.
Unmarried teenage mother with no obvious means of support aside from someone claiming – without documentation – to be her ‘betrothed’.
On arrival, found earlier group of Shepherds in street outside.
Initially threatened them with arrest for Obstructing Police – then saw expression on their faces.
Decided to see for myself what was going on.
Ma’am, I’ve walked this beat for more than 20 years and I’ve seen most things that this line of work puts your way – but I have no words to describe what I saw last night.
No arrests necessary. No explanation adequate. But everything is different now.
By the time you read this, I’ll have finished my shift. If you have any questions about this report, you’ll find me back at the stable door.
If I may Ma’am – and if you have time – you really ought to come and see for yourself.
All this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered.
‘Rat!’ he found breath to whisper, shaking. ‘Are you afraid?’
‘Afraid?’ murmured the Rat, his eyes shining with unutterable love. ‘Afraid! Of Him? O, never, never! And yet— and yet— O, Mole, I am afraid!’
Then the two animals, crouching to the earth, bowed their heads and did worship.
He will come like last leaf’s fall.
One night when the November wind
has flayed the trees to the bone, and earth
wakes choking on the mould,
the soft shroud’s folding.
He will come like frost.
One morning when the shrinking earth
opens on mist, to find itself
arrested in the net
of alien, sword-set beauty.
He will come like dark.
One evening when the bursting red
December sun draws up the sheet
and penny-masks its eye to yield
the star-snowed fields of sky.
He will come, will come,
will come like crying in the night,
like blood, like breaking,
as the earth writhes to toss him free.
He will come like child.
The problem is systemic. The tolerable price of democracy is its pesky resistance to strategic government. Every policy is an amendment upon an improvisation upon a half-forgotten contingency, agreed by quarrelling interest groups amid the blare of the electorate.
the following poem was submitted as the Earl’s Candidature Statement for election as one of the 92 hereditary peers to have a seat in the House of Lords following a vacancy
The Upper House knows none so queer
A creature as the Seatless Peer.
Flamingo-like he stands all day
With no support to hold his sway.
And waits with covert eagerness
For ninety-two to be one less.
Then on to hustings he must pace
Once more to plead his special case.
Noble Lordships, spare a thought
For one so vertically distraught,
And from your seats so well entrenched,
Please vote that mine may be embenched.
Worst Day Ever?
Today was the absolute worst day ever
And don’t try to convince me that
There’s something good in every day
Because, when you take a closer look,
This world is a pretty evil place.
Some goodness does shine through once in a while
Satisfaction and happiness don’t last.
And it’s not true that
It’s all in the mind and heart
True happiness can be attained
Only if one’s surroundings are good
It’s not true that good exists
I’m sure you can agree that
It’s all beyond my control
And you’ll never in a million years hear me say
Today was a very good day
Now read it from bottom to top, the other way,
And see what I really feel about my day.
Because half a dozen grasshoppers under a fern make the field ring with their importunate chink, whilst thousands of great cattle, reposed beneath the shadow of the British oak, chew the cud and are silent, pray do not imagine that those who make the noise are the only inhabitants of the field.
In the old days the monarch led his soldiers on the battlefield and his leadership at all times was close and personal.
Today things are very different. I cannot lead you into battle, I do not give you laws or administer justice but I can do something else, I can give you my heart and my devotion to these old islands and to all the peoples of our brotherhood of nations.
I believe in our qualities and in our strength, I believe that together we can set an example to the world which will encourage upright people everywhere.
Knowledge may give weight, but accomplishments give luster, and many more people see than weigh.
Measured in terms of enchantment, is there anything can compare with a chartroom?
What I learned on my own I still remember.
The Bright Field
I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the
pearl of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realise now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.
But the most obvious fact about praise – whether of God or anything – strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honour. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless . . . shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it. The world rings with praise – lovers praising their mistresses [Romeo praising Juliet and vice versa], readers their favourite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favourite game – praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars
My whole, more general, difficulty about praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can’t help doing, about everything else we value.
I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It’s not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are, the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.
I am much more interested in the great poem than great poetry.
The American, is the Englishman left to himself.
You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.
If you see fraud, and do not say fraud, you are a fraud.
For things to remain the same, everything must change.
England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution, from horse racing to suet puddings. It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during “God save the King” than of stealing from a poor box.
Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.
The election in 2015 could be one in which a traditional left-wing party competes with a traditional right-wing party, with the traditional result
I think there are two aspects of it, I think it needs to be 90% luck and 10% skill but I give you a very strict warning don’t try it without the skill.
Prosperity knits a man to the world. He feels that he is finding his place in it, while really it is finding its place in him.
On Commissary Goldie’s Brains
Lord, to account who dares thee call,
Or e’er dispute thy pleasure?
Else why, within so thick a wall,
Enclose so poor a treasure?
Religion can get on with any sort of astronomy, geology, biology, physics. But it cannot get on with a purposeless and meaningless universe. If the scheme of things is purposeless and meaningless, then the life of man is purposeless and meaningless too. Everything is futile, all effort is in the end worthless. A man may, of course, still pursue disconnected ends, money, fame, art, science, and may gain pleasure from them. But his life is hollow at the center. Hence the dissatisfied, disillusioned, restless, spirit of modern man.
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
The 10 Rules of Detective Fiction
1. The criminal must be someone mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow.
2. All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.
3. Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.
4. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.
5. No Chinaman must figure in the story.
6. No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.
7. The detective must not himself commit the crime.
8. The detective must not light on any clues which are not instantly produced for the inspection of the reader.
9. The stupid friend of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal any thoughts which pass through his mind; his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.
10. Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.
To remember wrongdoing untruthfully is to act unjustly.
Tolkien has become a monster, devoured by his own popularity and absorbed into the absurdity of our time. The chasm between the beauty and seriousness of the work, and what it has become, has overwhelmed me. The commercialization has reduced the aesthetic and philosophical impact of the creation to nothing. There is only one solution for me: to turn my head away.
Drop English earth on him beneath
Do our sons; and their sons bequeath
His glories and our pride and grief
For Lionheart that lies below
That feared not toil nor tears nor foe.
Let the oak stand tho’ tempests blow
So Churchill sleeps, yet surely wakes
Old Warrior where the morning breaks
On sunlit uplands. But the heart aches
People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.
Nothing is as dangerous for the state as those who would govern kingdoms with maxims found in books
Mighty rivers can be easily leaped at their source
be of love(a little)
Than of everything
guard her perhaps only
A trifle less
(merely beyond how very)
Nothing,remember love by
Her least never with most
memory)give entirely each
Forever its freedom
(Dare until a flower,
Open what thousandth why
There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.
“Stravinsky (I think) said, in a most elaborate jibe, that ‘Richard Strauss is the Puccini of music’. Well, James Callaghan is the Harold Wilson of politics.”
Be Britain still to Britain true,
Among ourselves united;
For never but by British hands
Must British wrongs be righted!
on the human condition
Truly we must pronounce him “majestic though in ruin”.
In any argument every time the word “clearly” is used apply the following definition.
Clearly: (adverb) an incantation uttered in the hope that a reader or listener will not notice that, whilst the truth of the statement that follows it is essential to case being posited, there is in fact no evidence for the truth of that statement nor does it follow logically from any premise already established. Synonyms “undoubtedly”, “naturally”.
I never practice, I always play.
“Your adorable” she texted
“No YOU’RE adorable” I texted back
and now she thinks I like her and all I was doing was correcting her English.
[Apple’s] strategy is really simple. What we want to do is we want to put an incredibly great computer in a book that you can carry around with you and learn how to use in 20 minutes … and we really want to do it with a radio link in it so you don’t have to hook up to anything and you’re in communication with all of these larger databases and other computers.
One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.
An idealist is one who, on noticing that a rose smells better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup.
Einstein: What I most admire about your art, is your universality. You don’t say a word, yet the world understands you.
Chaplin: It is true but your glory is even greater: The whole world admires you, even though they don’t understand a word of what you say.
To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest. Otherwise you are doomed to a routine traverse, the kind known to yachtsmen, who play with their boats at sea — “cruising,” it is called. Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about.
The growth of the Internet will slow drastically, as the flaw in “Metcalfe’s law”–which states that the number of potential connections in a network is proportional to the square of the number of participants–becomes apparent: most people have nothing to say to each other! By 2005 or so, it will become clear that the Internet’s impact on the economy has been no greater than the fax machine’s.
Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtle; natural philosophy, deep; morals, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend.
The sun looks down on nothing half so good as a household laughing together over a meal.
As human freedoms go, the freedom to take your custom elsewhere is not a grand or noble one – but neither is it one that we should abandon without a fight.
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still.
All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did.
If one meets a powerful person – Rupert Murdoch, perhaps, or Joe Stalin or Hitler – one can ask five questions: what power do you have; where did you get it; in whose interests do you exercise it; to whom are you accountable; and, how can we get rid of you? Anyone who cannot answer the last of those questions does not live in a democratic system.
We have come to the cross-roads
And I must either leave or come with you.
I lingered over the choice
But in the darkness of my doubts
You lifted the lamp of love
And I saw in your face
The road that I should take.
We are half-hearted creatures,
fooling about with drink and sex and
ambition when infinite joy is offered us,
like an ignorant child who wants to go on
making mud pies in a slum because he
cannot imagine what is meant by the offer
of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily
For E to equal
The only ultimate disaster that can befall us, I have come to realise, is to feel ourselves to be at home here on earth.
Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard.
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.
The Bus Driver’s Prayer
Who art in Hendon
Harrow Road be Thy name
Thy Kingston come
In Erith as it is in Hendon.
Give us this day our Berkhamsted
And forgive us our Westminsters
As we forgive those who Westminster against us.
Lead us not into Temple Station
And deliver us from Ealing,
For thine is the Kingston
The Purley and the Crawley,
For Iver and Iver.
No sun – no moon!
No morn – no noon –
No dawn – no dusk – no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member –
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! –
Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people; that they, plenteously bringing forth the fruit of good works, may of thee be plenteously rewarded; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle field of that war; we are met to dedicate a portion of it as the final resting place of those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this, but in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground.
The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or to detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here; but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work that they have thus far so nobly carried on. It is rather for us here to be dedicated to the great task remaining before us; that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that the dead shall not have died in vain. That the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom, and that the government of the people, by the people and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
Lamb’s Conduit Street
A world in miniature; a universe in a grain of sand.
You can look from one end and see the other end.
You couldn’t call it majestic. It isn’t very grand
And yet I think it’s monumental. A nuanced blend
Of shops and popups and café’s you can pop in,
Slip out of carrying coffee that makes everything clear
And somehow this street quietens the city’s din
And concentrates the careworn mind to the sheer
Pleasure of simply walking down a welcoming street
That asks you to pause, take your time, have a look
And follow a different, independent, subtle beat.
Buy a shirt. Buy a croissant. Meet your mate. Buy a book.
I went there with my son and he turned to me and said
‘This is the perfect street. I’ll always live here in my head.’
To a Friend in Search of Rural Seclusion
When all else fails,
The frugality and industry of private people can repair the breaches which the extravagance of government makes in society’s capital.
It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.
Women sitting next to him at dinner: Oh Mr President my friend bet me I wouldn’t be able to get you to say three words to me tonight.
Coolidge: You lose
We economists don’t know much, but we do know how to create a shortage. If you want to create a shortage of tomatoes, for example, just pass a law that retailers can’t sell tomatoes for more than two cents per pound. Instantly you’ll have a tomato shortage. It’s the same with oil or gas.
Meeting at Night
The grey sea and the long black land;
And the yellow half-moon large and low;
And the startled little waves that leap
In fiery ringlets from their sleep,
As I gain the cove with pushing prow,
And quench its speed i’ the slushy sand.
Then a mile of warm sea-scented beach;
Three fields to cross till a farm appears;
A tap at the pane, the quick sharp scratch
And blue spurt of a lighted match,
And a voice less loud, thro’ its joys and fears,
Than the two hearts beating each to each.
10 Rules of Good Writing
1 Never open a book with weather.
2 Avoid prologues.
3 Never use a verb other than “said” to carry dialogue.
4 Never use an adverb to modify the verb “said” … he admonished gravely.
5 Keep your exclamation points under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose.
6 Never use the words “suddenly” or “all hell broke loose.”
7 Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8 Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9 Don’t go into great detail describing places and things.
10 Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.
The most important rule is one that sums up the 10, if it sounds like writing, rewrite it.