Suddenly I am 85 years old. I find that ridiculous but chronologically it is a fact.
In last week’s column I wrote about a pervasive anxiety about the state of things in general which currently focuses on the seemingly unstoppable spread of criminal activity and violent crime in society.
The golden shower orchids in my wife’s garden are particularly lovely just now.
I am not at all sure how many readers understand my love of poetry, and I have a distinct feeling that the great majority are puzzled, if not bored, by my inclination to illustrate many of these columns with poems I like.
I cannot think why, but politicians take themselves very seriously indeed. I thought I might see what the Oxford Dictionary of Humorous Quotations (obtained at Austin’s excellent bookstore which every thinking citizen should visit at least once a week) has to say about them.
More than once I have quoted what the great historian Edward Gibbon wrote in his Decline And Fall of the Roman Empire: history, he wrote, is “little more than the register of the crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind.” The latest crimes are as bad as ever.
Sometimes, not often enough I suppose, amidst the ordinary joys and tribulations of everyday living – the problems of planning for the immediate future, keeping track of what is going on in this beautiful and hideous world, enjoying a few drinks and laughter with the boys, the abundant joys and occasional trials of family life, the harassment of daily living – the mind does occasionally set upon great questions of life and death.
Quite often I am told – reprimanded even – for writing columns seen as deeply depressing because they deal with death, its inevitability, the fact that what we enjoy in a lifetime is gone in a blink of history never to return and soon to be forgotten.
The rapidly proliferating presence of the social media in our lives is transforming how society works – and creating dangers which need to be addressed.
Having spent 52 years of my life in the sugar industry, including working closely with governments and regional institutions along the way, if there is one thing I have learned it is the extreme frailty of all grand plans.
It makes no sense trying to measure the joy which our grandchildren Jacob and Zoey give to my wife and I.
When I was a child I had as good Christmases as any child ever had – the love of parents which anchored life, the tree with the star and the gleam of lights, the gifts in white pillow-cases found mysteriously early morning, the fat balloons flying and the decorated crèche, the spread of food and sweets and aromatic cake and even sips of wine allowed, the fragrances of Christmas, the hugs of old grands and aunts and tobaccoey uncles, the carols and immortal songs of Christmas, the sights and sounds of happiness.
Earlier this year, in May, I wrote a column entitled ‘The miniaturisation of sugar’ which commented on the planned future of the sugar industry previously announced.
Some time ago when our young son was struck by agonising abdominal pains in the middle of the night and we had to rush him to Emergency at York Central Hospital in Toronto.
The staff and members of the History Department of the University of Guyana used to produce a feature in Stabroek News called History This Week.
My father died twenty years ago at the age of 89. He was a good man and a beloved father.
The writer must teach himself that the basest of all things is to be afraid and, teaching himself that, forget it forever, leaving no room in his workshop for anything but the old verities and truths of the heart, the old universal truths lacking which any story is ephemeral and doomed – love and honour and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice.