Of course, it’s good to be back after charging round the South of England.
Back at our house, our little cat is delighted that we have returned. Did you know that when cats are happy they stick up their tails and waggle the top – if you didn’t know that, remember you heard it here first! All night the cat snuggled on our bed clearly determined not to let us out of her sight.
Despite the relentless heat both Jane and I (and Moses, who recovered fast!) are well. I have lost a bit of weight but not as much as I thought, presumably because we were so wonderfully looked after by ZANE’s finest hosts. Jane remains the same. I don’t want to overdo the flattery – remember we are English – but I am of the view that ZANE donors form the core of British backbone and its qualities: generosity, kindness, concern for others, commonsense and sheer decency.
So thanks to the hosts all for your many kindnesses.
Thanks also to Markus. It’s not an easy job looking after me/us for nearly three weeks. I get tired and I am often impatient and moody. Markus is imperturpable, full of common sense and great good humour; he is an excellent driver. So many thanks to Markus for keeping us sane and safe.
Last, as ever, thanks to Jane, kind and loving as ever… but tough, as this is an absolutely necessary quality just to keep me/us all going. And her map reading – despite what I said at the time – is excellent.
People can be destroyed by envy and fear. Having retired, they might be envious of their working friends. Or they might be crippled by fear because they have been made redundant, and without the trappings of work, they lose their sense of identity and feel like a failure.
For many people, self-respect relies to a large extent on their status in an organisation or their standing in a profession. Their job gives them not only an income but an identity too; their view of themselves is a reflection of the high regard in which they are held for being a captain of industry, a professor, a head teacher, a general, a cabinet minister, or whatever it might be. When the work stops, these people are vulnerable, stripped of their self-esteem. Without a defined role, they ask themselves, “Am I still a worthwhile human being?”
Why not take a hard look at what “success” really means? I know of a number of people who look supremely “successful” but it’s not until you really get to know them that you can discern the reality: they are locked into an unhappy marriage, their children are in grave difficulties, or they – or their wife – are drinking too much. So never envy others, for we only ever see the polished veneer that hides the deep fissures.
Years ago, I heard the words of US writer and thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson, who coined the wicked aside, “The more he talked of his honour, the faster we counted the spoons.” Freedom of spirit, respect for the individual and wonder at the world’s mysteries are frequent themes in his work. Emerson redefined the word “success”:
To laugh often and much. To win respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.