Monday, 17 February 2020


John Milton wrote this in Comus (1634):
“Was I deceived or did a sable cloud 
Turn forth her silver lining on the night?”

No John you were not deceived.

Your verse led to a homily that every cloud had a silver lining. Our world, today, is awash it would seem with apocalyptic events. How easy it is to be a journalist when there’s drama about. Murder, mayhem, Armageddon. Bring it on if you’re a writer. The Jo Nesbo in every author begs release and permission to melodramatise and this is currently being offered free of charge to them...courtesy of Silver Linings Inc.

All over the world biochemists are having the time of their lives looking for the Coronavirus antidote. (Apparently the experts in this disease aren’t happy with the new name COVID19 so storm clouds there for the time being).  Being a biochemical researcher in 2020 is to be a rock star – so eat your heart out Massive Wagons (no, me neither but check them out. They’re massive.)

Or you’re a folk star like a Dylan or Leonard Cohen if you’re one of the leading authority voices on climate change. Science is the place to be if you want fame.

As headline seekers like Phil Green hit hard times as the new film released this week called  ‘Greed’  starring Steve Coogan shows;  satire and derision is heaped on them. It’s those  ladies and gentlemen in white coats who’ve become the real celebrities. Be it locusts ravaging East Africa, fires and dust storms destroying Australia or the Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica that’s melting at such an incredible pace it’s scientists not poets or protest marches that will help mitigate these catastrophes. The kings and queens in Silver Linings Inc. are like Ghostbusters ready to solve the problem and save us.

The best silver lining story of my week came in an interview on Radio 4 with a brilliantly fluent English-speaking businessman in the virtually deserted Wuhan (see above), where the coronavirus epidemic kicked off. He’s been pretty much housebound since mid-January. The interviewer expressed sympathy and said how ghastly this incarceration must have been. “Not at all”, the Wuhan man said. “It’s been fabulous. Glorious family-time. We watch films. Play games. I teach my young children. We’re having a really lovely break.

I also hear there’s been a massive increase in condom sales in Hubei Province of which Wuhan is capital. I  just love how human beings always make the best out of problems.

The silver lining I’d been anticipating as the result of the big getting bigger and less resilient with their supply chains - vulnerable to tariff changes, global epidemics and sophisticated hacking of corporate computer systems - is the rise of simple start-ups equipped to cope in a challenging word because they carry no baggage, just talent and creativity.

That sable cloud, dark, stormy and destructive has been building up but simple human ingenuity  and goodwill will win. Silver linings are what we deserve.


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