How to deal with terrorism

The world is terror-stricken. A condition of advanced paranoia is spreading everywhere. The fastest growing business in country after country is the security business.

The truth about love

At thirteen, I think it was, I was reading love poetry. At seventeen, love-lorn often, I was writing it – very badly, full of inconsolable sighs and lamentation, but at least I was trying.

Travelling

My tutor at Cambridge, Professor Nick Hammond, authority on the history of ancient Macedonia and on the life of Alexander the Great, used to coach me on what he called “exercises of the mind.” He knew I played tennis for the University and he put it to me that just as I trained hard for the tennis so should I stretch to exhaustion the muscles of the mind.

The end of the world

This is an easy column to write. A previous column I wrote about the great Polish poet, Czeslaw Milosz, drew a lovely response from readers who told me by notes, emails, even phone calls, overseas and at home, that they enjoyed this poet very much.

Deaths that tear the heart

Of all the expressions of unconsolable loss I have read concerning the death of anyone greatly loved, the following lament by Henry James, the novelist, when his older brother, William James, the scientist and philosopher, died is the most heartfelt: “I sit heavily stricken and in darkness – for from far aback in dimmest childhood he had been my Elder Brother; and I still, through all the years, saw in him, even as a small timorous boy yet, my protector, my backer, my authority and my pride. 

No fort is strong enough

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.

Fear of crime

The word angst derives from the German meaning fear, but signifying something a lot more than simple fear. 

A life-long love of poetry

I love poetry. It is the quiet passion of my life. When I was a child my mother read me old nursery rhymes at bedtime and they had the lilt of poetry in them which stayed with me forever.

The poetry collector

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.

Laughing at our masters

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.

Inhumankind

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.

The grit that makes the pearl

I am currently sorting old files and papers with a view to bringing some semblance of order into my chaotic personal archive and to preserve what may deserve preserving.

The great perhaps

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.

The sweetness of life

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.

What is real progress?

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.

The New Year

It makes no sense trying to measure the joy which our grandchildren Jacob and Zoey give to my wife and I.

Love, of course, it is love

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.

What we can agree on

Who can doubt that in Guyana in 2018 clenched fists of the past must be opened so that hands can reach out across embattled ground for the good of the nation.

What is going to happen to sugar?

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.

Why God did what he did

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.

Transience

My father died twenty years ago at the age of 89. He was a good man and a beloved father.

What really counts

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.

Try to remember the importance of small causes

A long time ago when I was with GuySuCo there was an occasion when I found myself growing irritated because my secretary was urging me to find time for an interview with an old man, a pensioner from the old sugar times, who had been trying to see me for a couple of days. 

Thoughts from my diary

Why does anyone keep a diary?  For a man conscientious about his career perhaps it is in order to keep a record of his mounting success and developing ambition. 

Leaders must be told unvarnished truth

Sveinsson Knut, Canute the Great, King of England from 1016, King of Denmark from 1018 and King of Norway from 1030 until he died in 1035, was perhaps the most successful and effective of the early rulers of England.

Beware the self-righteous

One of the worst aspects of the self-righteous is that those most guilty of it most vociferously deny that they are guilty at all.

Brexit

It is tragic to see a great nation bringing itself to its knees.

Thinking, already, about the next general election

In a vibrant democracy elections should be a cause for celebration, an ever welcome occasion regularly marking the successful outcome of what in any country’s history has always been a long struggle to overcome authoritarian, and often brutal, rule.

Misfortune

In a long life I have on a number of occasions been asked to address various groups graduating from school or university or making the transition from one stage of life to another – for instance, new recruits in a company or first-time members of a national sports team.

Travelling by the book

My tutor at Cambridge, Professor Nick Hammond, authority on the history of ancient Macedonia and on the life of Alexander the Great, used to coach me on what he called “exercises of the mind.” He knew I played tennis for the university and he put it to me that just as I trained hard for the tennis so should I stretch to exhaustion the muscles of the mind.

Adventures in words

These days, as increasing age makes the discovery of new lands much less likely, it remains perfectly possible to voyage in the mind as adventurously as ever by reading books and talking to good friends.

‘A dreadful spirit of division rends the society’

Winston Churchill, exasperated by opposition politicians constantly questioning his policies and his own credentials and frustrated by having to consult and compromise on measures which in his judgement were straightforward and ripe for introduction without hesitation, once exploded: “Democracy is the worst kind of government!” Then he paused, thought a little bit, considered the alternatives and ruefully concluded – “Except all the others.” Democracy ensures, or should ensure, that the differing views, varied cultural persuasions and diverging concepts of how the people’s affairs should be managed are allowed expression and none ever squeezed into resentful, and eventually festering, silence.