January 2012


 

William Rees-Mogg is one of the pivotal figures of post-war Britain. In this memoir he recounts the story of a colourful life, and reflects on the key figures and events of his time.

As editor of The Times (his glory years), journalist, commentator, Chairman of the Arts Council, and, later, Chairman of the Broadcasting Standards Council (when he was accused of censorship), William Rees-Mogg has spent his life at the centre of events in politics and journalism.

Often controversial, he has always had the courage to hold strong, fiercely defended opinions which go to the heart of the problems of the day. From his famous defence of Mick Jagger on a charge of possessing cannabis when he attacked the ‘primitive’ impulse to ‘break a butterfly on a wheel’, to his recent criticism of the morality behind the war in Kosovo and defence of monetarism, his writing has demanded attention, to the point of becoming newsworthy in itself.

He knew and knows most of the people who have shaped public events, from royalty to prime ministers, presidents, business magnates and religious leaders, and uses his unique insider perspective to great effect, with perceptive, sometimes provocative, recollections of people such as Rab Butler, Margaret Thatcher, Anthony Eden, Shirley Williams, Roy Jenkins, Robin Day, Rupert Murdoch and many more.

From an early age his life was filled with incident – among the many anecdotes are the stories of the Bristol Blitz; his doomed attempts to enter politics; writing speeches for Anthony Eden during Suez; hiring burglars to uncover corruption in the Met; an eventful stay at Chequers with Harold Wilson; how Rupert Murdoch amused the Queen at lunch; and how Harold Macmillan impressed Ronald Reagan at dinner.

These are colourful and illuminating memoirs.

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Unmasking Age: The significance of age for social research

Social Research

Bill Bytheway Policy Press 2011

 

When the history of social gerontology is written, the chapter devoted to the contribution of individual researchers to the field, will certainly feature Bill Bytheway. This book is a brilliant overview of age. It is readable, stimulating and also challenging to the reader as it demands that we engage with our own views of age, older people and the ageing process. Bytheway also demonstrates the art of being able to present complex material in an accessible form. The book is carefully organised with a comprehensive biography and index.

Key to the distinctive quality of this narrative is the use of the authors own reflections on his experience of growing older. The lived experience of ageing lies at the heart of the book. The author draws upon interviews, diaries, letters and novels as the meanings of age are discussed.

The book is divided into ten chapters. In chapter one age is introduced, concepts and definitions discussed and the rationale of the book set out. Chapter two informs the reader of research methods and opens up a critical question for social gerontology ‘How old are you?’ chapter three illuminates the relationship between age and time. Chapter four examines representations of age through words and images and pictures. Chapter five and six explore the diversity of experiences of growing and being older. These include looking at the body and ‘markers’ of age such as birthdays. All of these perceptions and experiences are placed within the context of family and the often complex set of interrelationships and disconnections that make up family life today. Chapter seven is a fascinating examination of ‘a great age’ (being a centurion) and shows the readers how some older people approach their 100th birthday. The remaining chapters offer us an overview of the main features of an ageing population and the role of gerontology today especially in supporting social change.

Throughout the text the author always opens up new questions and avenues of research. There are helpful figures and tables of statistics and summaries of information.

This book bridges that often wide gap between the theoretical and the practical, the academic and the popular. It is a sheer delight to read. It is a book for pondering on and using if we want to develop wisdom in our understanding of how we grow older.

 

One morning–and so soon!–the first flower
has opened when you wake. Or you catch it poised
in a single, brief
moment of hesitation.
Next day, another,
shy at first like a foal,
even a third, a fourth,
carried triumphantly at the summit
of those strong columns, and each
a Juno, calm in brilliance,
a maiden giantess in modest splendor.
If humans could be
that intensely whole, undistracted, unhurried,
swift from sheer
unswerving impetus! If we could blossom
out of ourselves, giving
nothing imperfect, withholding nothing!

Denise Levertov, The Métier of Blossoming

I am surrounded by lists at the moment and preparing to go fly off to Canada – intrigued and interested to see what I shall discover. Monoday morning shall take me in Heathrow (soem advantages of living in Windsor!) to fly to Ottawa, Ontario

St Matthews Anglican Church are my hosts and I shall be having a week thinking and speaking and listening to a range of people there. My subjects? Pastoral Care, Death (of course) and theological reflection.

I am look forward to meeting staff and students at St Paul University

and meeting people at St Matthews Institute

I will keep you posted as the adventure unfolds!!

 

 

“Adam, where are you?”
God’s hands
palpate darkness, the void
that is Adam’s inattention,
his confused attention to everything,
impassioned by multiplicity, his despair.

Multiplicity, his despair;
God’s hands
enacting blindness. Like a child
at a barbaric fairground —
noise, lights, the violent odors —
Adam fragments himself. The whirling rides!

Fragmented Adam stares.
God’s hands
unseen, the whirling rides
dazzle, the lights blind him. Fragmented,
he is not present to himself. God
suffers the void that is his absence.

 

Denise Levertov, On a Theme by Thomas Merton

 

  1. Is it absurd to suggest that the tick of the clock is relevant to understanding age?
  2. Picture it: a landscape, a family enjoying a picnic, rolling hills in the distance; Can you think of an equivalent timescape?
  3. How routine is your daily life? Do you think it is becoming more routine as you grow older?

 

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the middle of the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

 

Wendell Berry, The peace of wild things

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