All come to look for America

Taking a moment recently to vote in the  TimeOut poll on the best Christmas single ever, I could have chosen half a dozen but couldn’t resist voting for Mary’s Boy Child by the great American singer Harry Belafonte – a voice I grew up with, mainly because his immortal version of There’s a hole in my bucket (yes, really!) was on the BBC’s Children’s Favourites just about every Saturday morning.

Mary’s Boy Child – I love the song anyway, not because I’m a conventional believer but because of its sincerity, simplicity, directness, storytelling and great tune. Belafonte’s version gets all those things right, doesn’t outstay its welcome and still sounds contemporary. And he is a man of humanity, thoughtfulness and compassion. Recently a dear American friend of ours drew my attention to this piece he had written in the New York Times. Click on the link to read it.

I can’t add to what he says. He is far more qualified, far more eloquent and far more entitled than I am to write about the present state of his troubled country. Read it and ponder.

As we step out of the alarming year 2016, hoping against both logic and experience that things will somehow be not only different but better three weeks from now, I am going to fall back, as you know I do, on a few quotations which give me something to cling to, trusting that wisdom from the past will somehow give pointers in a world more uncertain and difficult to interpret than I have known in my lifetime.

I make no comment on any of these, and will leave you to reflect on what can be found in each of them. I am going to sign off from blogging for a spell: time to recharge, refresh, rethink and renew. Lately I’ve been rather more active on Twitter, doing what little I can to promote sensible thinking in the wake of this year’s preposterous, destructive and unnecessary referendum.

My best wishes to all.

I had the great advantage of being born at a time when the greatest events which agitated the world occurred, and such have continued to occur during my long life … Thus have I attained results and insight impossible to those who are born now and must learn these things from books that they will not understand … What the next years will bring I cannot predict; but I fear we shall not soon have repose. It is not given to the world to be contented; the great are not such that there will be no abuse of power; the masses are not such that, in hope of gradual improvement, they will be content with a moderate condition.


Better be roughly right than precisely wrong.

John Maynard Keynes

I am more and more Christian as I walk the unchristian ways of Christendom. Already I have comprehended a light which never will filter into the dogma of any national church: namely that one of Christ’s essential commands was: Passivity at any price! Suffer dishonour and disgrace; but never resort to arms. Be bullied, be outraged, be killed; but do not kill. It may be a chimerical and an ignominious principle, but there it is. It can only be ignored; and I think pulpit professionals are ignoring it very skilfully and successfully indeed.

Wilfred Owen

The noble art of losing face may some day save the human race

Danish  proverb

On what principle is it, that when we see nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us?

Lord Macauley

The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.

Abraham Lincoln

It is curious that physical courage should be so common in the world, and moral courage so rare.

Mark Twain

Before you set off on revenge, dig two graves.

Old Chinese saying

We have just enough religion to make us hate one another and not quite enough to make us love one another.

Jonathan Swift

Those who make you believe in absurdities can also make you commit atrocities


Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.

Mark Twain (again)

You do not exist to impress the world. You exist to live your life in a way that will make you happy.

Richard Bach

If you can’t be kind, be quiet.


I’ve tried to be kind. It’s for others to say whether I’ve succeeded. For now, I’ll take the other option, and be quiet. Bye for now.



2 thoughts on “All come to look for America

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