Monday, 25 November 2019


There’s general agreement amongst the great and the good that the most important element in a successful life is resilience. JK Rowling spun this idea neatly by saying her success was built on a solid foundation of being at rock bottom. Nelson Mandela put it like this:-
“Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

This attitude helps shape my scepticism about public schools and efforts to give children a ‘great start’ in life. Let the little ones struggle a bit to discover their own inner-strength. I was talking recently to a mother who was lamenting the problems of her six year old son’s keeping focus in exams. At six I was reading Enid Blyton, drawing things (rather badly) and going on nature walks. Now, to misquote AA Milne, it’s like this:
“But now I am six,
I'm as clever as clever”…
And he’ll  be doing exams forever and ever

For real resilience we need to look at Venice.

As many of you know I am besotted with the place by its looking (mostly) today as it did over 500 years ago. The alleys through which Tintoretto scurried are the same through which I now stroll. Until Vasco Da Gama discovered the sea route to India in the late 16th century Venice held the keys to European trade to and from the East. Thereafter the hangover from a lost monopoly rankled and the resilience and historically austere control of the common purse loosened. The rest is history and the encounter with Napoleon.

Today Venice is once more under the threat of disaster.

The floods of the last weeks resemble those of 1966 reaching tidal-highs 184 cm above an average high tide for November (the “acqua alta”.) Venice, however, has always been resilient. Restaurants remain open, waiters wear wellington boots, service is full of smiles and shrugged shoulders. At times like this Venice reminds me of the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail who having had both his arms cut off in combat says “it’s just a flesh wound”.

As well as being indefatigable Venice has always been skilled at marketing itself . ‘Venice in Peril’ launched in 1966 has raised billions. Today money is flooding in as rapidly as the water did. Because like the recently restored-to-glory José Mourinho (now Manager of Tottenham Hotspur FC @ £13 million a year) Venice is unique. Venice indeed is the special one.

Finally politics, American politics.

 I’ve always loved its eloquence and power to change the world.  America brought us “West Wing” the most influential TV series of the last century. Netflix gives you “the Crown” hugely entertaining but more upmarket Downton Abbey than really consequential.  I love this from PJ O’Rourke.

“The Democrats are operating on the premise that nobody can lose to Donald Trump. 
And by God are they going to find that nobody”.

That’s resilient, funny and self-deprecating. I salute you America.

No comments: