Worthwhile Work

October 31 2020

Two quotes from a novel written in 1871 seem particularly apposite:

You must have a pride in your own work and in learning to do it well, and not be always saying ‘There’s this and there’s that – if I had this or that to do, I might make something of it.’ No matter what a man is – I wouldn’t give twopence for him, whether he was the prime minister or the rick-thatcher – if he didn’t do well what he undertook to do.”

“But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

Perhaps after this strange year we might learn to value and reward not just the “stars” and those who shout the loudest about their worth (which owes more to good fortune than they will ever admit, publicly anyway) but also all those doing well every day their unhistoric acts.

And the novel? Well, there’s a riddle to solve during idle lockdown hours.

Photo by Sofia Geada on Unsplash

Lives Well Lived

September 30 2020

Earlier this year, Richard “Tigger” Hoare died, sadly one of this year’s many Covid fatalities. His Times obituary can be found here. A highly capable banker of the old school, coming from a long-standing banking family who still own the family bank established in 1672, he was proud to state: “I have never minded challenging things, if there is something that needs to be challenged.”  And he meant it too, as the last paragraph of his obituary makes clear –

“When the regulators interviewed the partners 20 years ago, they asked me what I thought was the greatest threat to the bank, and rather foolishly I said, ‘I think you are.’ They were very cross!

Well, even regulators, maybe especially them, need to be challenged now and again.

Sir Harry Evans, journalist and editor of the Sunday Times at a time when investigative journalism rather than clickbait articles was valued, who died last week, was another who understood very well the need to challenge those in authority. During his time as editor he won famous victories over those who tried to stop the publication of diaries by Cabinet Ministers (Richard Crossman) explaining what really goes on in government and those seeking to cover up what was known about the thalidomide drug which caused such misery to so many families.

There is a lovely line in his obituary – “Evans combined technical proficiency with moral passion to an unusual degree.

A combination of technical proficiency, challenge and moral passion: if only we had more people in positions of power and authority of whom this could be said.



Photo by author.

The Light of Knowledge

August 30 2020

It was Thomas Jefferson who in 1813 compared the passing on of knowledge to one candle being lit from another.

He who receives an idea from me receives instruction himself without lessening mine, as he who lights his taper off mine receives light without darkening me.”

It is a luminously expressed description of the way learning and ideas and experience are passed on, and of the importance of doing so, no matter how it is done: face to face, at a distance, via clever media, books or just by listening and observing.

We are all, in some small way, both teachers and learners throughout our lives. Passing it on, keeping that candle burning, that’s what matters.



Photo by Hitanshu Patel on Unsplash