● Here is a poem about that everyday, dogged, faithful sort of love which is not the subject of many poems but which gives everlasting depths to all adorations. The poem is by E U Fanthorpe, an old English lady who began to write poems late in her life and who in my mind had an extraordinary ability to discover what is wondrous in the ordinary.
There is a kind of love called maintenance
Which stores the WD40 and knows when to use it;
Which checks the insurance, and doesn’t forget
The milkman; which remembers to plant bulbs;
Which answers letters; which knows the way
The money goes; which deals with dentists
And Road Fund Tax and meeting trains,
And postcards to the lonely; which upholds
The permanently rickety elaborate
Structures of living; which is Atlas.
And maintenance is the sensible side of love,
Which knows what time and weather are doing
To my brickwork; insulates my family wiring;
Laughs at my dry rotten jokes; remembers
My need for gloss and grouting; which keeps
My suspect edifice upright in air,
As Atlas did the sky.
● The population of the world, in spite of slower growth and even declining numbers in some countries, will continue to rise and rise towards 11 billion in this century. Here is what John Stuart Mill wrote on the subject in his Principles of Political Economy first published in 1848 when the world’s population was not more than a sixth of what it is now.
“It is not good for man to be kept perforce at all times in the presence of his species. A world from which solitude is extirpated, is a very poor ideal…Nor is there much satisfaction in contemplating the world with nothing left to the spontaneous activity of nature; with every rood of land brought into cultivation, which is capable of growing food for human beings: every flowery waste or natural pasture ploughed up, all quadrupeds or birds which are not domesticated for man’s use exterminated as his rivals for food, every hedgerow or superfluous tree rooted out, and scarcely a place left where a wild shrub or flower could grow without being eradicated as a weed in the name of improved agriculture. If the earth must lose that great portion of its pleasantness which it owes to things that the unlimited increase of wealth and population would extirpate from it, for the mere purpose of enabling it to support a larger but not a better or a happier population, I sincerely hope, for the sake of posterity, that they will content to be stationery, long before necessity compels them to it.”
● How can we be informed justly, properly? The trouble with news is its need to be newsworthy – it focuses on the exceptional, most often the exceptionally awful. G K Chesterton long, long ago pointed out that when we read that a window-cleaner fell to his death our general understanding of window-cleaning is distorted. The information that 35,000 window-cleaners did not fall to their death would have given a much more balanced view of the matter but would make a most peculiar headline.
● West Indians again and again lament over the failure of our cricketers when we want so much to reclaim the glories of the not so distant past. Everyone has a reason for the repeated failures: bad administration at the top; lack of full professional fitness; material greed replacing devotion to a sacred cause; sheer absence of outstanding talent; uninspiring leadership; too few trained minds; badly prepared pitches. I don’t know what is true. But I read an article by Timothy O’Grady about the great golfer Arnold Palmer and it ends with an insight which I believe applies to West Indian cricket in its current phase. The article ends with O’Grady trying to discover in his interview with Arnold Palmer what we all want to know about champions: “Before I left I asked him what he thought his greatest strength as a player had been. Year after year, golf magazines judged him the best long iron player in the game. He was renowned for his power, his attacking play, his ability to escape from trouble and his fearless putting. But he didn’t pause before answering. “Desire”, he said. “Desire”.
● A poem by Robert Bly read last night made me think how much of life is made up of love of our children and the help of our friends and deep memories of our parents. Here are three stanzas of Robert Bly’s poem ‘I Have Daughters and I Have Sons’:
I have daughters and I have sons.
When one of them lays a hand
On my shoulder, shining fish
Turn suddenly in the deep sea.
Perhaps our life is made of struts
And paper, like those early
Wright Brothers planes. Neighbors
Run along holding the wingtips.
I’ve always loved Yeats’s fierceness
As he jumped into a poem,
And that lovely calm in my father’s
Hands as he buttoned his coat.