Of speed and stillness

Of speed and stillness

A beautiful evocation of swiftness resembling stillness, of things moving so fast that they seem stationary.And all this great universe that seems so still is but like a spinning top, that looks still from very swiftness. Source: Mary Webb, Precious Bane...
A laughing owl

A laughing owl

No idea if owls laugh, but I like this phrase.  Next time someone says something too daft to credit, feel free to deploy it.It was enough to make an owl laugh. Source: Mary Webb, Precious Bane (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981), p. 98Photo credit: MiRUTH_de at...
Questions like skewers

Questions like skewers

A fun way to comment on someone asking a lot of questions, likening them to an attorney sticking interrogative skewers into defendents. ‘I’m thinking you were an attorney once,’ he says, ‘and stuck questions into poor men like skewers before...
Of great men and kindness

Of great men and kindness

An interesting take on greatness as an obstacle to kindness, since kindness requires swerving from your path.  Something to think about with our sometimes obsessive focus on focus and purpose and being ‘results-oriented’.  And if it prevents taking time...
First encounter

First encounter

A first meeting between lovers comes less as an encounter with a stranger than a recognition of someone you’ve been waiting for. And just as we were singing that, and the wheels going like churn-owls, there was a quick footfall without, and a rush of fresh air,...
Intimations of radiance

Intimations of radiance

Listening time: 3 minutes.An intricate description of the effect an ancient temple can work on the spirit – a falling away of complication and anxiety and a spilling over of clarity and hope.  I had such a feeling when a handful of us were allowed to roam...
The past as precious

The past as precious

The opening lines of a less well known novel, Mary Webb’s engaging Precious Bane.  She opens her foreword with a defence of the mute and invisible past before telling the story as a recollection by the protagonist. The past is only the present become invisible...
And I shall teach the boy

And I shall teach the boy

Listening time: under 4 minutes.The Countess of Gormenghast ponders her personal curriculum for her newborn son Titus, soon after despatching him to a régime of nanny-care for the first five years of his life.  She clearly has higher hopes for him than for his...
Meet the Barone

Meet the Barone

Listening time: under 4 minutes. Casting back across the sweep of history, there is only a handful of creatures, human and otherwise, whom I regret not being able to meet, pending the perfection of the time travel machine I’m building in the (mental) shed.  Of...
Playfulness across the divide

Playfulness across the divide

Listening time: under 5 minutes.We play with dogs and cats and some other creatures.  I used to play with a fox in our garden in London: he made a show of taking my abandoned fleece delicately in his mouth and began pulling it off the table where I’d left it,...
The components of story

The components of story

This idea keeps coming back to me, and even though I question the components featured, intuitively it sounds right.  Another pithy commentary on the nature of stories. What story can be conceived without a tear, without song, without a book or a prayer? See also our...
Made up and yet true

Made up and yet true

A piercing rationale for the arts, if a rationale is needed.  They are made up, but …The paradox of the arts is that they are all made up and yet they allow us to get at truths about who and what we are or might be.  Source: Seamus Heaney, Finders Keepers:...

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