Thursday 18 August, 2022

The Little Mermaid

Famous statue in Copenhagen. This photograph was taken by my wife while I was pontificating in the National Library.

Quote of the Day

“I never was a boy, never played at cricket; it is better to let Nature take her course.”

  • John Stuart Mill

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

J.S. Bach | Concerto No.5 in F-Minor for Harpsichord and Strings (BWV 1056) | Largo | Maria Joao Pires


If you want a peaceful start to your day, then this is the right accompaniment.

Long Read of the Day

On Rich Friends and Poor Friends

Extraordinary memoir by Rob Henderson.

Is making the right kinds of friends the secret to upward mobility? Did having friends who—like me—grew up in poor and dysfunctional environments lead me to make bad decisions in my own early life? And if I had remained friends only with my childhood cohort would I remain poor?

A new book called Friends: Understanding the Power of our Most Important Relationships, by the evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar, and some recent studies about how one’s childhood fri influence one’s income later in life, have caused me to look at why my earliest friends once meant so much to me—and to reflect on why we have drifted so far apart.

Now in his 70s, Dunbar has an almost melancholic sense of the nature of our friendships. Most friendships are “fickle things,” he writes but “special friendships are very few in number.” They are “the ones with whom we shared the ups and downs and traumas of early adult life, whose advice we sought in those moments of deep crisis, the ones we sat up with late into the night,” he says. “It’s as though this small number of special friendships are carved in stone into our psyches precisely because we engaged in such intense, emotionally passionate interactions.”

I can attest to that truth…

Do read on, it’s terrific.

My commonplace booklet

Quick ripostés

I admire people who are quick on their feet, and collect anecdotes about them.

Here’s one about Robert Menzies, once Prime Minister of Australia, and a formidable politician. When he was campaigning in an election once a woman shouted “I wouldn’t vote for you if you was the Angel Gabriel!”

Menzies turned to her, beamed, and said:

“Madam, if I were the Angel Gabriel, you would not be in my constituency.”

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