In Praise of Idleness

Bernard Russell wrote a piece with this title in 1932 at the nadir of the world depression. Perhaps he was trying to put an optimistic spin on mass unemployment, but he was also making a valid point, namely that we work too hard.

More recently Rutger Bregman wrote ‘The Solution to Everything: Work Less’. In the same spirit, he notes that that our work-life balance is too unevenly positioned.

I wrote ‘Mind Reader’, inspired by the opening of Russell’s piece, as a reflection of the relationship between crime and savings.


Thirteen-year old James O’Brien walked with a limp. Passers-by ignored him.

Yet he had a rare gift, a sixth sense his mother called it right after he came home, and announced, ‘Mum, today, I saw a traveller regard twelve beggars lying in the sun. He offered a dollar to the laziest of them. I knew which one would get it even before it happened.’… Continue reading “In Praise of Idleness”

The Leader

Written in response to a Critique Circle challenge. Your character is the dictator of an arising nation. They’re charismatic, intelligent, emotional, and extremely deadly. Explain their motives and rational behind their terrible deeds (whatever they may be) in a convincing, realistic manner.

The Leader
With his mini tape recorder running, Peter Jones, Head of CNRBC’s overseas news operations said, ‘Now Mr. President, could we start the interview?’
Andilpe Zoomba waved his carved-ivory, horse-tail, fly swatter at an imaginary insect in the air-conditioned room overlooking one of Africa’s largest waterfalls.
Handsome Andilpe looked impressive. He was impeccably dressed in a pressed white suit with a red handkerchief puffed out of a breast pocket. Blood on a white body thought Peter Jones wondering about the symbolism of his attire…. Continue reading “The Leader”

We Come in Peace…Maybe

An alien species has landed on Earth but communication has come to a standstill. The aliens have not indicated any aggressive tendencies and the world leaders hope to keep it that way.
Who can save the Earth and talk to these aliens?

IMG_2539 Mamalapuram

Professor Henry Higgins (Jnr.) was the son of Henry Higgins, the teacher of elocution made famous by George Bernard Shaw in his play Pygmalion. He was just ending his lecture on communications to the third year students of Stanford University, California, when an assistant walked onto the stage.
‘Call for you, Professor’, said the assistant. ‘Sounds important, the White House.’
The professor gathered up his papers and went to the telephone…. Continue reading “We Come in Peace…Maybe”

William Wordsworth

I went out blackberrying today.
A westerly wind hummed and hawed
Amid the blackthorn and the nettles
Where brambles grew aplenty.
My September delight on southern hedges
Ripe with sloes and long-eared grasses
To pick most carefully brambles black and round.

The wind, my companion ushered the sounds
Of rolling waves from the shore below
While gulls and crows called and cawed
To partners and their pals.
O! to be out under the troubled sky
Of blues and blacks, of whites and greys
Amid the swords of sunshine and my punnet full.

Thanks to a fellow Participant (Alathea Anderssohn) I noticed a poem by Wilfred Owen:


Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields unsown.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know.

Think how it wakes the seeds—
Woke, once, the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs so dear-achieved, are sides
Full-nerved,—still warm,—too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
—O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth’s sleep at all?

And her comparison to Wordworth’s opening lines of The Prelude: Book 1: Childhood and School-time.

—Was it for this
That one, the fairest of all Rivers, lov’d
To blend his murmurs with my Nurse’s song,
And from his alder shades and rocky falls,
And from his fords and shallows, sent a voice
That flow’d along my dreams?

A most disturbing image – a dead child on a Turkish beach

We are used to beaches being happy places, sandy havens of fun amid gentle waves on hot sunny days, places where children play with sand and spades and splash in the sea.

Not so on a Turkish beach last week as a dead Syrian boy, Aylan Kurdi, aged just three, lay face down on the wet sand at the water’s edge. In another picture a grim faced policeman in a green beret and short sleeved khaki shirt carried the little bundle gently, carefully, as if it were alive to his final sanctuary.

So sad, so moving.

We are all humans, even David Cameron changed his policy on refugees as a result, a small gesture to the tragic image.

It got me to thinking about The Power of Pictures and Words

Yet even better is Brian Smith’s (SEH 1965) contribution in the form of a Christmas carol, sung to the  Kirkpatrick’s 1895 tune for “Away in a manger”.

Away from his mother , just stones for his bed
The three -year-old Aylan lies on a beach, dead.
The stars in the bright sky look down where he lies
A drowned refugee boy attracting the flies.

A camera is waiting , the media awake:
This poor little Syrian no percentage will take.
A scoop for the papers, more drama for Sky —
They’ll stay by his side till the deadline is nigh.

Remember his family. I ask you to keep
Their pain in your memory whenever you weep.
Bless all these dear children in our tender care
And bring them to Europe to live with us here.

A Penfold Box


A rare sight on Durham’s Palace Green.

In the mid 80’s with his friend Dangermouse, Penfold was one of the most famous characters beloved by children around the world, but especially in Britain. Taking his name from a Victorian inventor born in 1828, and code named ‘The Jigsaw’, – because when faced with a problem he went to pieces – Penfold helped the famous mouse characterised by a black eye patch over his left eye. Excited children cross-legged on the floor sat and watched enthralled as the duo tackled the world’s greatest villains.
But yesterday on Palace Green, Durham, I saw a different Penfold…. Continue reading “A Penfold Box”