Sunday 16 February 2014

Inspirational Quotes 51

Be a creature like no other

Sam Leith claims that Orwell’s essay ‘Such, such were the joys’ is ‘soaked in self-pity’ (8 Feb) It really isn’t. What impresses me is Orwell’s willingness, 30 years on, to tease out the lasting impact of such conditioning on him. For heaven’s sake, the headmaster breaks a riding crop whilst caning the eight-year-old Orwell for bed-wetting. Orwell doesn’t describe this with self pity so much as builds a powerful and moving case as to why he’s thereafter incapable of love and trust. Orwell acknowledges that the damage is lasting, deep and profound, and it is Leith’s failure not to acknowledge that retrospective insight. Boarding schools remain powerfully divisive, anti-democratic, inegalitarian forces within British society, that maim their ‘beneficiaries’ every bit as much as they confer privileged access to the establishment. That’s what Orwell’s 65-year-old essay expresses, and it’s as true today as it was in 1974. Mark Smalley, Bristol, The Guardian 15 Feb 2014 (I’m quoting this in full because I can’t find it on the Guardian site. Their new, app-like, device-friendly search now works LESS well than before they tinkered with it. Leith actually wrote “sodden” with self-pity. Leith is a public-school product.)

Scott Adams, in The Joy of Work, recommends not saying anything at all around witty people that they can use to make fun of you. He gives an example in which a speaker says they watched a movie last night, is called a "couch potato", and despite their best efforts is nicknamed "Spud". (

Many human beings will be a complete jerk to people they don't know. In some institutions, hazing or bullying a newcomer is standard practice. (Thanks for warning us, wonderful Parents and mentors usually say something pointless and untrue like “people will take you at your own valuation”.)

Internet dating, which in some respects has revolutionised the dating process, has, up till now, failed to challenge the antiquated taboo about full and open disclosure about people’s baby desires.
Online profiles of both men and women are filled with claims about fun-loving, care-free, spontaneous personality traits. But the make-or-break subject of breeding intentions is conspicuously absent from profiles or at best mentioned in the vaguest of terms… Being coy about children is a bizarre and counter-productive custom.

Just because you own half the county doesn't mean you have the power to run the rest of us. For twenty-three years, I've been dying to tell you what I thought of you. And now, well, being a Christian woman, I can't say it. (The Wizard of Oz)

Outgoing, conscientious, friendly people who are open to new experiences tend to be happier than those who are more shy, unadventurous, neurotic and unfriendly. BPS Digest

Most of us want to fit in,
few want to be the shunned loner forced to live outside the city limits in a den made of moss, but we also want to have a feeling of individuality… As creatures with a fear of social judgement, we can keep things in. (Robin Ince Forget about being a tall poppy, a unique snowflake or a creature like no other. Unless you hang out in the cantina in Star Wars.)

I thought I would be married with kids by now. (Actor Matthew Rhys, 39)

In Los Angeles you can be one job away from finding success. Then you meet those people who have been chasing that dream for 50 years… Quite early on in my career, my agent suggested I come out to LA to audition. I got a role in Titus alongside Sir Anthony Hopkins and thought, “This is great.” Then I went out again every year for the next ten years and all I got was a suntan. (Actor Matthew Rhys)

It's not the despair, Laura. I can take the despair. It's the hope. (John Cleese in Clockwise)

I like nothing more than the sound of the dressmaking scissors slicing through fabric! (

Failure: Over-rated and often boring. And please, stop quoting Samuel Beckett about it: what would he know? (@frieze_magazine)

One individual can usually make little difference. But a million individuals can; and a million individuals are made up of one million single individuals. (MB)

More here, and links to the rest.


  1. I was glad to see that letter in the Guardian. People's childhood memoirs might or not be realistic or exaggerated, but it is surely NEVER an argument to say (as Leith did) 'plenty of other people were very happy at that school, and loved the teachers' and conclude from that that Orwell wasn't to be trusted. It is odious and stupid. Jessica Mitford said she was unhappy as a child: biographers find cousins who visited the house now and again who say 'it was a happy household, Decca seemed fine to us' and biography concludes Jessica was making it up. Can they really not see what is wrong with that conclusion? Drives me mad.

  2. I had a long (long!) online argument with some people about public schools. Their stance: "I went to boarding school and I was happy and I am undamaged." (Unfortunately those damaged by boarding school may be unaware of it, and the schools themselves do a grand job of brainwashing inmates. I may be damaged, but at least the brainwashing didn't work.) And, yes, he quotes an old friend who says "Eric was such a happy soul" - 50 years later.