Miss Mann’s yearning

Miss Mann’s yearning

Charlotte Bronte reminds us of a deep longing often hidden beneath layers of life.  A few weeks ago, we visited a medieval hamlet in Sardinia, which despite a few tourists and sights, was apparently showing signs of abandonment.  We saw an old man sitting on a bench. ...
On good nature

On good nature

Fielding’s comment first appeared on my radar about 35 years ago, then I forgot about it, then found it again when re-reading Joseph Andrews.  Much of Fielding’s writing promotes such uncomplicated good nature.  Good-nature is that benevolent and amiable...
Out of all proportion

Out of all proportion

The arch-realist Thucydides reminds us, in this as in other things, of a timeless truth, namely that kindness can pay generous dividends.  It got me thinking of moments when we could have flipped a situation to a more positive outcome if we’d surprised someone...
A delicate attention

A delicate attention

Shirley’s self-doubting friend Caroline renders herself ill to the point that her uncle, the Rector, decides to feed her himself.  Showing her with his words the same tenderness he displays in his actions.  ‘Lift her up, and put a shawl over her.  On my...
Dogged kindness

Dogged kindness

Vasily Grossman had a genius for writing about animals with empathy and respect, whether it was war horses and mules, or dogs.  Here he dedicated a short story to imagining the experience and mind of the first dog sent into space.  This little creature, grabbed from...
I was loved!

I was loved!

After spending most of her childhood exiled in Siberia, much of it as a half-starved orphan, Maria is finally rescued by a distant aunt who takes her in and gives her a loving home for the first time in her life. “Oh my little birdie …” my aunt would...
A bouquet of kindness

A bouquet of kindness

This Russian writer remembers moments in her harsh Siberian childhood where someone showed passing kindness and in so doing, made her and her sister feel they were recognised as human beings.  Coming as they did from a family of political exiles, in a system where the...
Of open gates

Of open gates

An image of both friendliness and security, a place where you can leave your gate open. Eventually they reached an open gate – open because in those days life in the country was so secure that a closed gate signified either unfriendliness or else that the owners...
First taste of freedom

First taste of freedom

Freed from labour camp in September 1953, following the demise of Stalin, the few survivors still standing left the camp and headed for the nearby village, where they were given a simple, spontaneous and sensitive welcome.As I was thinking this a girl between eight...
Of sweets and violets

Of sweets and violets

How about this loving description of a driver who charms Golding in Istanbul, handing him and his companion endearing gifts.  None of which prevented him charging them a pile of dosh for his services. His heart was as golden as his teeth, for we had not been in the...
More please

More please

As many who dip into some social media realms may have noticed, there’s plenty of absolutes, extremes and anger out there.  Peace.  Breathe.  Reset.  Kindness, compromise, balance.  Bring ’em on. I am tired of absolutes and extremes and the angriness of...
Man has a long time to go

Man has a long time to go

Some wise words from Aaron Copland to a young Leonard Bernstein.  They maintained a close friendship and correspondence for decades, and I like the advice.  It reminds me of a word from a father to a daughter in an American novel: ‘Slow down, Ivy, slow...
Intelligence in the service of love

Intelligence in the service of love

Saint-Exupéry is one of the most lapidary writers I’ve come across, particularly when commenting on vast human complexities such as love, peace, or war.   I liked this pithy and purposeful view of the validity and value of intelligence. Intelligence is valid...
Because love is kindness

Because love is kindness

After decades in a concentration camp, this man finds love in kindness.  After being released from the clutches of the gulag, he rents a room in the flat where she lives with her son.  Over time, he sees her kindness, and in it, beauty, and finds a period of love,...
Exchange of gifts

Exchange of gifts

What a lovely moment, the exchange of small, loving gifts, with Golding and his friend receiving a bunch of fresh picked garden flowers. We enjoy such exchanges with one of our neighbours in the form of food gifts – when either of us bakes, something gets taken...
A luminous human

A luminous human

Certainly the strongest and most loving influence on Gorky’s troubled childhood was his grandmother.  Her capacity to maintain her belief in life and humanity despite repeated evidence of its worst aspects, is astonishing.  Here Gorky pays tribute to the power...
Life surprises

Life surprises

An impressively positive assertion coming from someone who both witnessed and directly suffered from the ‘seething layer of bestial refuse’ of which humans are capable.  Gorky’s childhood memoir is a testimony to emotional and physical resilience in...
Special gratitude

Special gratitude

This is the first time I have seen this thought articulated, that we reserve a particular gratitude to those who have helped us develop confidence.  For me, they would include a number of teachers, from primary school up to post-graduate research, a village doctor who...
A matter of infinite concern

A matter of infinite concern

As Seamus Heaney describes it, this is a ‘heavenly father’ who makes wonderful use of the quality of omnipotence, by drawing on his boundless attention, energy and bandwidth to cherish every fallen sparrow, egg or other fragile life form, through all...

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