Shards, Sweepings, Stealings, Sayings, Secrets

Month: December, 2010

Roaming With A Hungry Heart

I was lucky enough to receive three books as Christmas gifts: The Times Concise Atlas Of The World, The Guardian’s How To Write and The Oxford Dictionary Of Phrase, Saying and Quotation. (All ideal for a blogger!) The latter didn’t have a section on ‘Walking’, but here are a few quotes from its ‘Travel’ catagory:

“A man travels the world in search of what he needs and returns home to find it.” George Moore

“To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive, and the true success is to labour.” Robert Louis Stevenson

“A good traveller is one who does not know where he is going to, and a perfect traveller does not know where he came from.” Lin Yutang

“So it is in travelling; a man must carry  knowledge with him, if he must bring home knowledge.” Samuel Johnson

“They change their clime, not their frame of mind, who rush across the sea.” Horace

“I have not told even half of the things that I have seen.”  Marco Polo

So Many Books

“There is a mirror that has seen me for the last time. There is a door I have shut until the end of the world. Among the books in my library (I have them before me) there are some I shall never reopen.” Borges

“Why read? And why write?  After reading one hundred, one thousand, ten thousand books in a lifetime, what have we read?  Nothing. To say ‘I only know that I’ve read nothing,’ after reading thousands of books, is not false modesty. It is strictly accurate, to the first decimal place of zero percent. But is that not perhaps exactly, Socratically, what our embarrassment of books should teach us? To be aware of our ignorance, to fully accept it; to go from being simply ignorant to being consciously ignorant?

Maybe our understanding of our finiteness is the only access we have to the totality that beckons and vanquishes us, that creates an outsize totalizing ambition in us. Maybe all experience of infinity is an illusion, if it is not precisely an experience of finiteness. And maybe the measure of our reading should therefore be, not the number of books we’ve read, but the state in which they leave us.

What does it matter how cultivated and up-to-date we are, or how many thousands of books we’ve read? What matters is how we feel, how we see, what we do after reading; whether the street and the clouds and the existence of others mean anything to us; whether reading makes us, physically, more alive.” [my italics] Gabriel Zaid

The Case For Books

In these days of Kindles, iPads and e-readers, let’s make a case for the good, old-fashioned book:

“Consider the book. It has extraordinary staying power. It has proven to be a marvellous machine – great for packaging information, convenient to thumb through, comfortable to curl up with, superb for storage, and remarkably resistant to damage. It does not need to be downloaded, accessed or booted, plugged into circuits, or extracted from webs. Its design makes it a delight to the eye. Its shape makes it a pleasure to hold in the hand. And its handiness has made it the basic tool of learning for thousands of years.” Robert Darnton The Case For Books

The Zen Of Snow

” I note with distress that the snow is dropping off the leaves as I type, heralding a return to the pre-festive Christmas season hysteria from which the snow afforded us such a welcome break. Think of the alternative to being hunkered-in, gazing idly out of the window at the snow: the aforementioned horror of overheated department stores, the commercial frenzy on every high street, the having to totter about in high heels instead of grip-soled boots, the children demanding new Xbox games rather than spending the day off school going sledging.

I suppose that’s the crux of it: what’s so nice about snow is how old-fashioned it makes us. Snow forces you to pare things down to the bare essentials and in doing so makes you realise how much time you normally waste running about doing things that are neither essential or especially pleasurable.

Snow makes us Zen, unless we stand about shouting futilely about how it’s destroying our schedule. Snow hates schedules and that’s why I love it.” India Knight The Sunday Times

The Practice Of Simplicity

“How, then, can we eliminate the unnecessary things in our lives, so that the life-affirming, necessary things can not only speak, but be heard?” asks George in his reflective, wise and wonderfully inspiring blog Transit-Notes. He offers nine simplicity practices. I liked them so much I hope he won’t mind if I reproduce them here.

Do not make anything larger, more complex, or more serious than it needs to be.

Let nature and solitude be enough for my daily pleasure.

Always remain conscious and present with the task at hand.

Remember that some things are best left undone.

Minimize exposure to ‘news’ and commercial advertising.

Follow Goethe’s advice to ‘hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day …’

Keep nothing that is not either useful or beautiful.

Remember that every act of consumption has environmental and social consequences.

Don’t waste time attempting to rebut the arguments of foolish people.

To quote Alice Longworth Roosevelt, ‘fill what’s empty, empty what’s full, and scratch where it itches.’


The UK is now in debt to the tune of £890 bn, which is 62 per cent of GDP. The  budget deficit is running at £160 bn a year. We have a far bigger deficit now than in 1976, when we were bailed out by the IMF, and at any time during the recessions of the 1980s and the 1990s. It is clear to everyone that we cannot continue maxing out the national credit card. The new Coalition government is relying on economic growth and public spending cuts to deal with this crisis. £80 bn will be taken from the public spending purse within 4 years. But how about doing something about the tax avoidance which is routinely practiced by many if not most private sector companies? It’s estimated this costs the country a staggering £25 bn annually.

Football Isn’t Coming Home

“So Russia gets the 2018 World Cup. Just think: terrible communications, lousy food, bad hotels, awful service, ludicrous prices and an aggressive drinking culture – thank goodness England didn’t win.” Simon Hoggart The Guardian

Always A Bum

“When I was very young and the urge to be some place else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured that greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked. Four hoarse blasts of a ship’s whistle still raise the hair on my neck and set my feet to tapping. The sound of a jet, an engine warming up, even the clopping of shod hooves on pavement brings on the ancient shudder, the dry mouth and vacant eye, the hot palms and the churn of stomach high up under the rib cage. In other words, I don’t improve; in further words, once a bum always a bum. I fear the disease is incurable.”

John Steinbeck  Travels With Charley

Thanks to The Weaver Of Grass for reminding me of Steinbeck’s wonderful travelogue, Travels With Charley – his road trip “in search of America”.

The year after next I will be fifty-eight myself.