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.
It is tragic to see a great nation bringing itself to its knees.
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.
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.
I find it difficult to convince friends – or anyone – that poetry is worth reading.
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.
There are few problems in Guyana which are more intractable than the problem of bureaucracy in all its deadly guises.
In a recent column I mentioned Nick Hammond who was my tutor at Cambridge.
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.
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.
There is a book of great beauty given to me as a Christmas gift by my wife: A River Runs Through It, by Norman Fitzroy Maclean published first in 1976.
Frederick Winslow Taylor, who as a young foreman in a Philadelphia steelworks in 1880 started measuring work performance compared with time taken to do the work, was the first time and motion study expert, the man who pioneered the science of efficiency in management.
These are not my own insights but I make them my own and am pleased to pass them on.
Isaiah Berlin was in my view the most distinguished political philosopher and historian of ideas of the 20th century.
Seamus Heaney, the great Irish poet, whose marvellous collection of essays The Redress of Poetry I like to re-read, writes that W H Auden’s elegy for Yeats was “a rallying cry that celebrates poetry for being on the side of life, and continuity of effort, and enlargement of the spirit.” Heaney believes that one function of poetry is to act as a counterweight to hostile and oppressive forces in the world: he calls this “the imagination pressing back against the pressure of reality.” This is what he calls “redress”, whereby “the poetic imagination seems to redress whatever is wrong or exacerbating in the prevailing conditions,” offering “a response to reality which has a liberating and verifying effort upon the individual spirit…tilting the scales of reality towards some transcendent equilibrium…This redressing effect of poetry comes from its being a glimpsed
Amidst my most surprising possessions are 66 letters from Don Bradman. Let me be more precise since readers may get the wrong idea.
One of the most serious aspects of life today is the widening gap between talk and action.
It is hard to claim that GuySuCo’s losses on the scale now obtaining – leading to the diversion of precious taxpayer’s revenue from education and health for instance – can be sustained much longer.
In Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Edward Gibbon, writing about the reign of Titus Pius, commented in passing that history was “little more than the register of the crimes, follies, and misfortunes of mankind.” That judgment seems true.
At a time when one is still shaken by the death of Derek Walcott – the thought which diminishes us that he will never again decipher the beauty of the world for us – let us celebrate poetry – “the bread that lasts when systems have decayed.” And today I do so by recalling a poet whom Walcott loved – I remember talking with Walcott about him when Walcott visited Guyana a few years ago.
“You have been watching West Indies cricket for 70 years – give me three outstanding memories,” a friend asks me.
Leave aside the interminable bungling and set-in-stone ill-will which to one’s endless dismay characterise Guyana’s public space – and concentrate instead for your soul’s content on the many wonders which cross the mind on a daily basis.
I am 84, I have lived through a couple of valleys of death.
Many people go to the ends of the earth to find beauty. And certainly beauty can be found at the ends of the earth.
Good poems are instantly recognizable. They startle, shock new life into old ideas, impress on the mind patterns of beauty and truth previously unnoticed.
We have to look forward to an age of increasing and fearsome devastation.
By what values should we strive to live in order to achieve a community in which differences are accommodated, a community where there is diversity of discourse but a recognition of the common good regardless of politics, religion, race and personal beliefs?
I have slowed down considerably, to say the least, but the fire in the mind still lights my world.
I remember a very long time ago, in the era of Prime Minister, not even then President LFS Burnham, when I was a Director in the sugar industry, I had occasion to enquire from an official at the then State Planning Commission about a request made months before for approval for the introduction of a new incentive scheme in the industry.
I worked in the Guyana sugar industry for decades, ending my career in 1999 as a Director of GuySuCo specifically in charge of marketing.
The photography of Bobby Fernandes has been a grace and glory in this land for decades.
If you can, every now and then it is good to escape the reality which you have settled into.
Many days I pass our National Library, and I never fail to bestow a silent blessing on those who work within its rooms quietly, rendering service of inestimable value.
The world of reading – I mean actual ‘flesh and blood’ books alive in my hand – is full of countless wonders and perceptions and images that spark the imagination as long as one is alive.
It is no longer in the natural order of things to tell the truth in public affairs.
There was once a visitor to Dublin, lost somewhere near the city centre who stopped and asked a passer-by for directions.
We live in terrible times. And, being human, we shake our heads and wring our hands and swear that never have the times been worse.
It happens all the time in small, closely-knit groups – cabinets, party executives, boards of directors, church congregations or club committees.
Even at this Christmas time, the spirit grows weary with the weight of woe in the world at large and at home in Guyana.
The great poets are easily recognizable; in a moment the minds knows, the heart feels, the spirit senses a quality involving silence and attention.
The debate on improving educational standards never ends. And in this debate I am glad to see it is generally realised that new school buildings and classroom furniture are only a very small part of what matters.
I have been re-reading Seamus Heaney, great Irish poet and Nobel Laureate. He was a wonderful, life-enhancing writer.
I do not like reminiscing about the old days; that immediately marks you as entering your dotage.