Last post for Whitehorn


© Image  Katharine Whitehorn, writer, journalist, guru, mother & wife

In 2015, for an Iconoclasts mini-series of Theard Side of the Coin, the very gracious Katharine Whitehorn CBE was the subject of one programme. It was announced on Saturday she has died, aged Ninety two.

Interviewed in her basement kitchen, she demonstrated through the pace of her words a consideration which rested across the wide horizon of her long, thrilling, audacious life.

A trail blazer who enjoyed the opportunities Fleet Street afforded to a bright young thing in the 50’s, she took in her stride the sky-high obstacles which convention seemed content to allow. I’m sure they were extremely vexing at the time but when asked, she brushed them aside as merely a reality to be conquered.

Madly in love with her husband long after his death and maternal to her core, Miss Whitehorn was sharp and stylish as a scimitar whose wisdom came from a no-nonsense compartment of kindness while her compassion seemed to slop over the rim.

She did much to promote opportunities for female journalists by getting on with the job, weaving herself into its fabric rather than becoming a knot-to-be-messed-with sort of writer. Deeply feminine, she used her platform to benefit others, not as a shouty plinth.

Hear for yourself what majesty soaked through her voice by a life lived to the outer edge of its generosity of spirit and vitality: a redoubtable, genial, thoughtful writer

God speed, Katharine Whitehorn  17.iii.28 – 8.i.21

All I wannadooo is Dream


Wassily Kandinsky’s Fixed Points, 1942                                                                         The artist who consistently poured the contents of his mind onto canvas

Neuro-science has come a long way in the last twenty years with some neurologists even gaining RockStar status. It continues to be a wildly complex landscape, whose contours remain obliquely unfathomable even to its most intrepid explorers: but leaps across the crevaces wherein lurks ignorance are made daily, narrowing gaps in knowledge [that’s enough metaphor mixage, Ed].

Why, when currently there are so many other things to think about, reflect on the motor of our machine? Ach, call it diversion and for the purposes of this article we will assume that the brain is the motor and separate from the mind, which is a thinking thing.

Pondering a thing until plausibly disproved affords a larger canvas on which to paint one’s life. And dreaming adds colour, depth & sometimes resolution of ambition. So when a brain injury destroys the ability to dream, an important seasoning of life’s flavour evapourates.

In earlier times when neurology was giggery-pokery and dazed-looking patients staggered around in bewildered insularity, received wisdom held that everyone dreams.

Speaking as one who sustained a brain injury destroying, inter alia, the faculty of Dream, I can assert with empirical certainty not everyone is so lucky. It’s as though spark plugs are covered in grime thus unable to bridge the ineffable chasm for ignition of dream in the mind.

Amid the avalanche of lessons taught us by 2020, the importance of having one fixed point has been lit high on the list of priorities. We ponder, therefore we exist.

Dabbing Tiers, bid Farewell to this howling, benighted year; mebbie giving Thanks for 2021, encouraging all humanity in pondering and genial living of their dreams.

Amazin’ foresight


© Madeleine Baird Materials

It’s the thing everyone [well, creatives at least] wants to have: the idea which goes viral, launches crescendo fireworks, assures the bathing in asses milk for life. How to share that?

Entrepreneurs have sizzling ideas: all work their socks off; all surround themselves with clever people possessing the skills they lack; all are convinced theirs is the solution to the intractible problem de nos jours. But those who take their idea into the market place and persuade others to buy [into] it must also have amazin’ luck.

Tapping into the ZeitGeist is a spooky matter of … [clue being in the title] timing. Foresight: a wondrous gift but get there too far ahead of others and prescience evaporates in an wilt of incomprehension. Wait too long and it’s sunk before even being launched.

This has been ‘a rather complicated year’. All of us have been viscerally, physically, financially, intellectually reshaped by medieval blight: the reality of its avalanche, a woeful avalanche.      Though mean-spirited, 2020 vision might be accurately repurposed as 2020’s anakusis in light no executive ear listened to what was crucially foretold: not found credible.

Does the Nature of Balance laugh at foolish haughtiness of thinking ourselves the controlling arbiter of our surroundings? If we’re lucky, this apocalyptic 2020 will have brought reality into sharper focus; made our planet’s scream audibly discernable; caused a drive to lessen Nature’s suffocating suffering.

It seems we’ve already set the world alight: Australia’s ablaze once more, alas; pestilence months away from beaten-into-submission; unemployment and all mad complications that follow ambushing millions.

May Christmas be bliss and 2021 a bright new Beginning.

Wouldn’t it be amazin’ to leave this year behind wiser, kinder and more empathically disposed than we entered it, cascading out warmth and wellness? Be lucky.

Quelle surprise


Melancholy by Albert Gyorgy                   Absence of good faith makes all void

There can be few who believed in … or that … talks negotiating trading terms between Europe and the islands of Britain would amount to and arrive at an honourable settlement.

Had we listened to the words used last year, we all would have known this is where we’d be after an eleven month window-dressage such as represented by these to-ings and fro-ings which merely highlight the joke these islands are become.

It appears British negotiators have clung to a raft of brinkmanship supposing Europe still gives a flyer once these isles comprised an empire. It seems they actually assumed the 27 would cave because historically, that’s what always happened.

The logical positivist & rational empiricist, Bertrand Russell held that inductive reasoning – which assumes what happened in the past will happen in the future – holds advantages akin to those theft has over toil.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is a rope whose strands include truth, integrity, resilience, reliability, compassion, empathy, sensitivity, foresight and generosity of spirit. In virtue of the absence of any such quality pertaining to the transacted business of this process, we declare Brexit an EQ-free zone. There’s nothing at the heart of it.

The way and one-ness of things


Henry Moore’s Alter at St Stephen’s Walbrook where Chad Varah founded The Samaritans in 1953 in the crypt of … Wren’s prettiest church?

That peacefully delightful moment of realization, when understanding collides with reality and rather than bounce away on impact, they embrace within the other’s outstretched arms and begin to waltz.

The other day, a small and much valued volume broke asunder: it was exhausted from all the opening it’s had and sighed in expiry of oneness.

You won’t be at all surprised that the wee 1978 print of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching separated itself at the 64th chapter of Book One which says

64  When the uncarved block shatters it becomes                 vessels. The sage makes use of these and                         becomes the lord over the officials.                            65  Hence the greatest cutting     Does not sever.

I like that, the greatest cutting does not sever.

It suggests the inseparable nature of Being: that no matter what life throws at us, if we so choose, we can endure and vanquish it.

The longer this indiscriminate blight throttles global well-being, the deeper the need to draw on inner resources of tolerance and kindness to soothe emotions’ panic.

[A version of Lao Tzu’s biography claims his (personal) first name as Ear or Long Ear. Our focus on Listening impells us to find this profoundly comforting. Tra la la.]

Image  Interior of St Stephen’s, site of an earlier church consecrated in 1432

For the Fallen


© History Today                                                  Exhaustion at Passchendaele

A lesson learnt amid the white-knuckle ride of life is that deathness is existentially different from lifeness.

What nonsense is this? The woman’s not been taking her medication, I hear you cry.

Well, for one thing I don’t do pharmaceuticals and for another, if you share the privilege of having been removed temporarily from life, then you’ll know it all makes perfect sense.

On this woeful anniversary when annually we honour those brave souls who, defending our freedom, have been felled by political failure, I am reminded that the very best death is to die for others.

Religions have high-jacked this idea, alas. It makes it no less true. Those who mourn, if they are willing to reflect, might take comfort from knowing the final sacrifice made is passport to another country. Lest we forget, noble deeds matter and in that reckoning, count.

Red Bully loses West Wing


© BBC◇MB mash-up

Over the past four years, these pages have attempted to be interestingly rude about the intriguing US #Resident; Tweetie-Lie, DJ – or do we mean MC – Trump … waddeva.

Doubtless, we’ve fallen short of the mark as trans-Atlantic litigation isn’t one of our strong suits and unleashing the full contempt rolled up in our curled lip would be both counter-productive and entirely contrary to genially rational notions of emotionally resilient intellect.

So it is with shattering relief the American Electorate has removed that irresistible temptation to laugh at their Joke and installed a fresh attempt to join in with the Globe’s serious, thought-full circulation.

We wish the Biden-Harris Presidency all the discerning strength it will need to restore authority, dignity and calm to this great Office and hope the abboration of these past four years will be swept quietly away as the plangent debris of an unfortunate experiment.

As an aside, recently we’ve been catching up on Aaron Sorkin’s The West Wing which aired 154 episodes between 2002 & 06 in the UK (somehow missed first time round). In light of that depiction, how would it be were some clever soul to write a reflection of the revolving door juvenalia – or even a flight of fancy – mapped over the West Wing’s excumbent flapper?

Water waste*


© Flash Parker                       Red Sand Dunes, Mui Ne, Vietnam

What a waste.

We’ve been a spinning centrifuge, powered by steam emanating ears, nose … [we’ll leave it there] … since yesterday’s discussion on the radio.

Rachel Fletcher, Ofwat’s Chief Exec, was wheeled onto a business slot on @BBCr4today to talk about pricing, dividends, shareholder value et al.

Not once … NOT ONCE … was the infinite preciousness of resource mentioned. What a wasted opportunity.

Sorry to be shouty.

When the Body’s figurehead tasked to monitor and regulate management of water is unable to think beyond how much water we can use rather than how little we should waste, surely it’s time for a review of priorities, focus and best practice?

One need not be the sainted Attenborough to be aware of the implosion of natural resilience of the natural world. Everything there is, is already here. There will be no galactic-sized, inter-galaxy super-tanker dropping off a load of sweetly fresh, aerated water while gliding past the Globe.

Be fair: it was the Business slot, we hear you wail.

Yes: in order to conduct business Goods or Services are traded. When there are no Goods, it’s no good bleating about disappointed shareholders: we should wail over the catastrophic, venal mis-management of the planet’s precious resources.

The value of a thing is it’s worth. How we value a thing is worth thinking about. Water’s worth the effort. Nuff said?

[* Wattawaste, growled in Ian Dury’s particularly asphalty burr is how this headline ought be read.]

Ardent sincerity


© USA Today

A while ago, an aspiring politican told me he thought compassion, empathy and emotional intelligence was a load of rubbish. I wasn’t sure at the time whether this was said to shock, prod or truely reflected his thoughts.

Happily, he is young enough for the maturing of his ideas to shape themselves into something deeper. For as Jacinda Ardern’s victory in New Zealand shows, those qualities do appear to be making greater sense to Electorates around the world.

Strength of character incorporates flexibility, kindness, honesty, forebearance, vision.

At a distance, it seems Ms Ardern’s Leadership is what has transformed a Coalition into a majority Government, the first such since New Zealand’s current political system of proportional representation was instigated in 1996. While there’ll be a hard-working team around her, it seems her vision telescopes a more understanding perspective into hearts of stone to transform ambition from something ebrasive into an embrace.

© The Independent Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern acknowledging Victory

Reflection on timeliness


© CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform                            The cover of Dr William O. Sass’ novel: pertinent to this day

In virtue of it being World Mental Health Day, we offer this in bliss of soothing equilibrium.


Clearly, we at The Materials are not the only ones excited about the date today: 10 • x • 2020?

The previous such symmetry being 8 • viii • 1616 and before that 6 • vi • 1212. Need we go on? It’s a rarity: every 404 years in other words. This is the last such event. Ever.

[Well, unless they decide to add a few more months to the Lunar Calendar which might mark more than a tidal surge in astro-physics, mathematics and geometry!]

A new day: choose the self-fulfilling prophesy of wellness.

© Adrian Ashworth                      Higger Tor Sunrise Mist

♡ As an aside, we also love the fact that it’s a rare occasion when European and American dates can’t be confused … x • 10 • 2020 !