May 29, 2007

So little time…

Filed under: Anecdote — duncan @ 9:26 pm

It turns out it’s almost impossible to write one of these blogs while doing anything else in your life. Posts might become from now on a little more intermittent. (Possibly no bad thing.)

A couple of Churchill factoids. In the early years of the twentieth century Home Secretaries were obliged to write a letter to the monarch describing the parliamentary events of the day. This was a ridiculous anachronism: as Home Secretary Churchill wrote to George V, “He [Churchill] ventures however to point out that very excellent summaries of the debates, far better than he could write in the time and space available, appear in all the newspapers, and that the use of the Parly letter has greatly diminished from this modern cause.” But Churchill was stuck with the letters, so he approached them with his usual energy. Jenkins: “What he did was to pour out a stream of uninhibited consciousness interspersed with whatever aphorisms came into his mind as he went along.” E.g.: “Friday was consumed in a very thin discussion of the remaining Army Estimates required at the present. The House assumed that listless air which indicated that the questions of interest lay outside the debates. Captains and Majors talked mildly to each other and the other Members took refuge in the smoking rooms.” Or: “As for tramps and wastrels there ought to be proper Labour Colonies where they could be sent for considerable periods and made to realize their duty to the state… It must not however be forgotten that there are idlers and wastrels at both ends of the social scale.” The latter produced a perhaps predictable eruption of fury from the King.

Churchill is certainly never short of an aphorism. His best so far is reported by Asquith’s daughter Violet, who met the young Churchill at a dinner party. Churchill, after lapsing for many minutes into gloomy abstraction, began holding forth on the brevity of human life – and his determination to achieve great things. “We are all worms. But I do believe that I am a glow-worm.”

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