Having retired years ago after 52 years 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.
In 1991 and 1992, when I was working with the West Indian Commission, a feature of many of the presentations made by scores of experts and academics and businessmen and educators was how often they cited other countries as influences we needed to recall or examples we should strive to emulate.
I have said before, and will keep on saying until my strength gives out, that there is nothing more important in society than teaching the growing generations to express themselves in good, clear, concise, forceful English.
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.
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.
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.
“You gave me gifts, God-Enchanter. I give you thanks for good and ill.
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.
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.
My heart has grown heavy and heavier yet in recent times, as I have contemplated what seems to be the fading of the dream of West Indian unity.
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.
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.
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.
In any given situation we assume that people, including ourselves, will act sensibly.
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.