Date Archives October 2009

“In Dependence” by Sarah Ladipo Manyika

I love the opening line of this book: “One could begin with the dust, the heat and the purple bougainvillea. One might even begin with the smell of rotting mangos tossed by the side of the road where the flies hummed and green-bellied lizards bobbed their orange heads while loitering in the sun. But why start there when Tayo walked in silence, oblivious to his surroundings.” Sarah Ladipo Manyika’s concern is with character, not with exoticism. If a Londoner like me went to Nigeria, I’m sure I would notice the… Read More

Follow the money

Saw an interesting little table in New Internationalist October 2008. It answers the question of why, despite billions of dollars in aid, poor countries keep getting poorer. For example, although we talk about foreign aid so much, it’s actually not that much – while the North sends $84 billion a year to countries in the global South, it then takes back $456 billion a year in debt service alone. And $619bn is lost to illicit outflows. South/North financial flows, average per year 2002-06 ($bn) Inflow Aid 84 Migrant remittances 167… Read More

“Birchwood” by John Banville

This book has very clear echoes of Proust, both in the writing style and in the sense of nostalgia that pervades the story of aristocratic decline. The references are clear and deliberate – in the very first chapter, Banville’s narrator refers to his fragments of memory as “madeleines” and talks of his “search for time misplaced.” None of this boded very well for the novel – I had Proust on my night-table for ages, but every time I read it I fell asleep so quickly that I seemed to go… Read More

Monday morning inspiration

“Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.” – Eddie Cantor

The ingredients of success

In my meanderings across the internet I just came across a great post on the nature of success and the influence of practice and external circumstances in achieving it. I’d recommend it – and also wanted to link to it for my own benefit so I can find it again! (am I the only person who bookmarks things obsessively and then never visits the bookmarked pages ever again??)

End of the sea code

Saw this very sad snippet of news in the 29 August edition of Freedom magazine: At least 73 migrants have died at sea after ships repeatedly passed them by despite their being in difficulty after their dinghy ran out of fuel. Commercial vessels have largely dropped the sea code of helping such vessels if they’re in trouble since a series of incidents in which countries have argued over who should take in saved migrants.

“Fire Horses” by Mark Liam Piggott

Joe Noone seems to have it all – a beautiful house built into a Mallorca hillside, a comfortable lifestyle, a beautiful girlfriend. Yet it’s New Year’s Eve 2007 and as fireworks go off around him and people celebrate, he seems sad and, despite being in the middle of a party, strangely lonely. In the rest of the book, through a series of extended flashbacks to various events over the previous 25 years, we gradually discover why. It’s interesting that what hooked me about this book from the first page was… Read More

“T.S. Eliot” by Peter Ackroyd

I hardly ever read poetry, but for some reason T.S. Eliot’s poetry speaks to me. Perhaps it’s because, like Eliot, I used to work at a bank in the City of London, and the feeling of his poems is the exact feeling I had as a ‘Hollow Man’ looking at the masses of other Hollow Men crossing London Bridge to the Waste Land of the City. “I had not thought death had undone so many” – lines like that just express so much for me. So I was happy to… Read More

Monday morning inspiration

“To know what you prefer, instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive.” – Robert Louis Stevenson