Tuesday 27 September, 2022


The Old Man of Coniston, the famous Lakeland peak, seen on Saturday from John Ruskin’s estate at Brentwood on the other side of the lake.

The heroines and heroes of Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons christened it Katchenchunga. Nowadays, it frequently crops up in crossword clues.

Quote of the Day

”Goodby, Mr Zanuck. It certainly has been a pleasure working for 16th Century Fox.”

  • Jean Renoir, on leaving Hollywood,

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Van Morrison | Have I Told You Lately


Long Read of the Day

To the Depths and Back

Christopher Sandford’s utterly compelling review in The Hedgehog Review of Kevin Birmingham’s biography of Dostoevsky. Here’s how it opens…

Shortly after dawn on the morning of Saturday, December 22, 1849, the twenty-eight-year-old Dostoevsky stood on a black-draped scaffold erected on the drilling ground at Semyonovsky Square in his native St. Petersburg, and prepared to die at the hands of a firing squad. It was a cold, overcast, Russian winter day, with flakes of snow falling at the condemned man’s feet. Dostoevsky was bound to a stake between two other men, a biblical trinity he would have recognized, with nine more prisoners awaiting their turn in the wings. All of them had been convicted of what the presiding court called a “conspiracy of ideas” to undermine the tsarist regime. On the frozen ground behind the scaffold stood a row of carts laden with twelve empty coffins.

A black-robed priest mounted the scaffold and faced the first group of prisoners at the stake. He quoted Romans 6: “The wages of sin is death.” Yet by acknowledging their sins, the condemned could still hope to inherit eternal life. All three of the bound men silently kissed the priest’s cross when it was offered to them. It’s said that Dostoevsky remained calm, remarking to the man next to him on the scaffold that he had recently read Le dernier jour d’un condamné, Victor Hugo’s novel about a criminal facing the guillotine who believes that in the end Christ’s law will replace that of man. Perhaps it was one of those timeless moments, when eternity intrudes into the world and we catch a glimpse of what the life of man was meant to be and, by the grace of God, may yet be.

There was a drumroll. No fewer than forty-five soldiers, in three rows of fifteen, shuffled into position in front of the scaffold, their rifles cocked…

I was hooked right to the end.

My commonplace booklet

The problem with rowing your own boat…

… is that you can’t see where you’re going.

But now there’a a solution. And Quentin saw it at the Southampton Boat Show.

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