Sunday 4 September 2011


Beautiful weather today but my autumnal pictures were taken before the sun burnt off the dawn mist. I've taken to walking out early with a tiny radio and this morning's news kicks off the new political season with three startling stories.

Alastair Darling's revelations about trench warfare in Downing Street in the dying days of the last UK government is trumped by the serious project announced last night to disband the Scottish Conservative Party; this in turn looks a small thing compared with the news that British intelligence services exchanged Christmas presents (and possibly prisoners) with Gadaffi's torturers and sadists.

These are troubling times but I reflect that it doesn't do to dwell too much on these matters. Over the weekend I read Hesketh Pearson's "Lives of the Wits" (1962) in which I learn that Jonathan Swift became so enraged by corrupt politics and injustice that it literally drove him to insanity; and Dr Johnson, arguably Swift's successor as the most humane voice of his time, said: "I'd as soon have a man break my bones as talk to me of public affairs, internal or external". Both men not only talked the talk but also impoverished themselves through tireless support of the poor and oppressed.