Monday 5 July, 2021


This photograph, which shows one of my school friends, Ivan Morris, at the top of his backswing last Wednesday at the 11th hole in Lahinch — for my money the loveliest golf links in the entire world.

The picture brought back all kinds of nice memories. Golf is the only game I was ever hooked on. I played it more or less every day from the age of ten until I went to Cambridge at the age of 22, when I stopped after discovering how time-consuming it would be to join the University golf club. By that stage, my wife and I had a baby son and the idea of being away for many weekends — not to mention for hours on end during weekday afternoons — was repugnant to our feminist souls, and so my clubs went into storage and have been used only on rare occasions ever since. But it’s still the only game that grabs my attention, and the only one that I will watch on TV.

Just for the record… Wednesday was, by all accounts, a balmy day on the Clare coast; the 11th is a 165-yard Par 3, and Ivan’s 5 iron into a right—to-left crosswind smacked down in the heart of the green. Golfers among you will know that it doesn’t get much better than that.

Quote of the Day

“I am reading Henry James and feel myself entombed in a block of smooth amber.”

  • Virginia Woolf

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Venice | The Family Tree


A group that’s new to me.

Thanks to Andrew Ingram who had just been to the funeral of Russ Shipton, author of The Complete Guitar.

Long Read of the Day

Paul Krugman on the relevance of Alexander Hamilton to our Covid experience:

Hamilton called for, among other things, temporary tariffs to protect U.S. industry and give it time to become competitive. Economists then proceeded to spend the next 220 years arguing about whether and when infant industry protection is actually a good policy. But the idea that sometimes temporary protection for an industry makes it competitive in the long run clearly has a lot to it.

What does this have to do with Covid-19? The pandemic produced some extreme forms of de facto infant industry protection, forcing millions of Americans to work differently from the way they had before. And many, though not all, of these changes are likely to stick: Even with the vaccines, many individuals and businesses won’t go back to the way things were before.

Nice column.

Enjoy the restored Night Watch, but don’t ignore the machine behind the Rembrandt

Yesterday’s Observer column:

In the late 1970s I lived and worked briefly in the Netherlands. Often, on Sundays, I would travel to Amsterdam, go to the morning concert in the Spiegelzaal of the Concertgebouw, and afterwards walk over to the Rijksmuseum, Holland’s national gallery, and spend a couple of hours there. The museum is a wonderful storehouse of Dutch art and there was always much to explore. But on nearly every visit I found myself being drawn back to one of Rembrandt’s most famous pictures – The Night Watch – which I guess is to the Rijksmuseum what the Mona Lisa is to the Louvre.

Its official title is Militia Company of District II under the Command of Captain Frans Banninck Cocq. It came to be called The Night Watch because by the end of the 18th century it had darkened considerably through the accumulation of layers of dirt and varnish, leading to the belief that the painted scene had occurred after dusk.

It’s a huge painting (379 x 453cm) and it has an overwhelming presence. One is stunned by its sweep and scale. What I hadn’t known, all those years ago though, was that I was only contemplating a part of the original painting…

Read on  

The legacy of Covid-19

From The Economist

So far it looks as if the legacy of covid-19 will follow the pattern set by past pandemics. Nicholas Christakis of Yale University identifies three shifts: the collective threat prompts a growth in state power; the overturning of everyday life leads to a search for meaning; and the closeness of death which brings caution while the disease rages, spurs audacity when it has passed. Each will mark society in its own way.

Nice economical summary of what lies in store.

The State of the World

Pompous title for a really interesting podcast conversation between Nicholas Colin and Nils Gilman of the Berggruen Institute. Nearly an hour long but worth it just to hear Gilman’s long view.

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