Monday, May 30, 2011

Ring the Bells

I've come across a couple of references to this

in the past few days. 

Oliver Burkeman's "Help!" (a fine antidote to self help books) quotes it in his chapter on the dangers of perfectionism.
And on Start the Week, Andrew Marr; picked up the reference in the title to a philosophy and music festival currently running in Hay-on-Wye.

I was thinking of dropping it into the Facebook group for Abenet and Toby(Sprog2)'s wedding. After all, the rather downbeat opening matches the mood when their beautiful venue burned to the ground.  A week before The Day.

And so they had to start again, forgetting that particular perfect offering. Of course, everyone rallied round and the cracks in the Perfect Plan really did let the light in to a perfect, luminous day.

But when you add up the parts of the song, the sum is desperate hope arising from despair. Which is absolutely not the right message here. We come back to an earlier sage, Chesterton: "An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is an adventure wrongly considered."

Abi & Toby head off to their adventure

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Pipers at the Gates of Dawn

Poor Twisted has been a little tired and depressed of late. Even the wit and wisdom of the web has not drawn him from his despond. But this, too, has passed. As he emerges from is almost subterranean gloom, what should he see but this?

This opening passage fitted Twisted's mood perfectly. Kenneth Grahame's evocation of the golden England of the Edwardian summer starts innocently enough with this homely anthropomorphism. Soon enough it takes a turn for the dark and then the downright mystical. 

I still remember the jolt I got reading it to my children when I got to the title of chapter 7. Not only was  Pink Floyd's early album self indulgent and almost unlistenable as they groped towards their later mastery, but they pinched the title (its only redeeming feature). Later released with the equally awful and beautifully named "A Saucerful of Secrets" as "A Nice Pair". Oh, the wit!

But I digress.

The point of this is that Kenneth Grahame was a very senior banker - secretary to the Bank of England. On the same day that Twisted saw Execupundit's piece, the papers were full of another banker: Fred "the Shred" Goodwin. An aggressive corporate raider who built up the Royal Bank of Scotland to a serious global player before It collapsed with the UK's largest ever corporate loss when the credit crisis hit.

One is tempted to compare and contrast the two bankers: one who produced a string of books culminating in one of the greats (though he never went to university) and one (the first of his family to go to university) who sacked thousands before crashing his bank, bringing misery to tens of millions.

But no-one is beyond redemption. Until his disgrace, Sir Fred chaired The Prince's Trust. This fine organisation works with the young who have not found their way: who got little from school, jobless and hopeless. Young volunteers from the police and fire service take small groups through a twelve week crash course to give them the skills and confidence they need to make their own way. 

As he chose to help many thousands of new dawns, I am inclined to give Sir Fred the benefit of the doubt.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Take flight, my beauty!



Go forth my book into the open day;
Happy, if made so by its garish eye.
O'er earth's wide surface take thy vagrant way,
To imitate thy master's genius try.
The Graces three, the Muses nine salute,
Should those who love them try to con thy lore.
The country, city seek, grand thrones to boot,
With gentle courtesy humbly bow before.
Should nobles gallant, soldiers frank and brave
Seek thy acquaintance, hail their first advance:
From twitch of care thy pleasant vein may save,
May laughter cause or wisdom give perchance.

Neatly put, Robert!
(Ooh, I do like a nice paraphrastic metrical translation: it's the best sort, don't you think?)