Thinking Points – 14/11

1. Quote of the week

“When money rules, we remember the price of things and forget the value of things, and that is dangerous.” — Jonathan Sacks

I was sad to hear that Jonathan Sacks died this week after discovering he had cancer. He was due to speak with Douglas Murray at a Spectator event which had to be cancelled – they did not say which of the speakers was ill, but given that Douglas was active elsewhere, it was obviously Jonathan. From the outside looking in, he has led a good life, if a little controversial for those around him. He spoke on Tim Ferriss’s podcast very recently.

2. What I’m reading

Last Sunday morning I finished How Not to Be Wrong by James O’Brien. It is rare for me to read a book so quickly. I read over half of it in one sitting. As I wrote last week, James presents examples in his life where he has changed his mind and examines why he thinks the way he does, largely due to upbringing and childhood. I do not agree with everything he says in the book but it is an open-minded account towards the understanding of other people and their points of view. The context of the book may well date it, however – it talks of Trump, Corona and Brexit.

And finally, with much relief, I have finished Thatcher: The Downing Street Years. I had thought that I’d started this book in January, but Goodreads tells me that I started reading this book in August last year… so it’s taken me over a year. A book of over 800 pages needs some commitment to get through it. I struggled a bit with Tony Blair’s biography too.

As I’ve written here previously, the book gives an insight into Thatcher’s view of the politics between 1979 and 1990. Towards the end of the book, I felt a hint of bitterness, perhaps understandable given the. complete change of dynamic in the party towards her leadership. The world was a very different place at the end of her office – most of the eastern bloc had gained their independence of the USSR and the Gulf War was beginning.

Many people cannot stomach her or her politics. It’s worth a read to get insight. I don’t think I will be undertaking a large book for some time… I’m relieved to finish it. It also means I have no books in progress at the moment, other than a few books that are designed to be read daily.

3. What I’m doing in my free time/enjoying

In a lockdown, there isn’t much to do other than what is at home. We have been going out for walks with our dog. This week we drove to Laindon, walked the dog, then drove on to Leigh-on-sea to get there just before the sun was coming down. There were some takeaways open and lots of people had the same idea. It’s nice to get out in the air.

We were watching some things on Netflix and Prime over the weekend and we couldn’t settle on them. We watched a modern version of David Copperfield and I found it depressing. Then we found My Sweet Little Village on Prime, a Czechoslovakian film from the mid-1980s when Czechoslovakia was a communist country and part of the eastern bloc. I travelled to Prague many times since 2005 and I lived there on and off for 3 years. My Czech is shockingly basic but my wife is fluent. Fortunately, there were subtitles and I’m told some Slovakian as well. The film is about a village idiot, how someone is trying to exploit him and how eventually the town stands up and protects him. The underdog wins – it’s a feel-good movie.

4. What I’m learning more about

It’s been a week of catching up with my Russian study. Revision is essential to learning. For once, I’m actually ahead and I’ve completed my homework for next week. If only my speaking reflected the effort that I have put in.

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