On Saturday, I ducked into Barnes Books and picked up a copy of Philip Kerr‘s latest Bernie Gunther novel, Greeks Bearing Gifts – having read his obituaries in recent days. Have bought in hardback, read and adored all 12 previous Gunther books.
Wondered whether 13 was indeed an unlucky number, though a silver lining in the gloom was the news that he had recently handed in a fourteenth Gunther novel.
More on Kerr here.
Having spotted a Financial Times review of the new Light L16 camera last year, I ordered one – and it arrived a few days back. Bigger and heavier than I had expected, but am very much enjoying testing it out – with its 16 lenses. It looks like the compound eye of some form of alien spider. An algorithm combines 10 or more images to produce the final one. More anon.
Very much enjoying The Durrells. Only met Gerry Durrell once, but loved him. This series very much in his spirit, as far as I can see.
Otherwise have spent the Easter break developing the new book – and keeping track of developments at Hill House, where things seem to be on a slightly more even keel.
Spotted the image at top of Lizzie Long Wolf via a link on Hania’s Facebook page today. Long Wolf image surfaced in further browsing. Struck by the lower photo, too, of a Kiowa girl in 1892. Grim to recall what their peoples had been through – and still faced.
The photo of Lizzie Long Wolf brought to mind a happier memory from 1977, when I went to visit the Hammersmith Registrar of Birth & Deaths, to record Gaia’s birth.
He was intrigued by her third name, Onawa, which I explained was Choctaw. He said that he could recall only one other Native American Indian (or maybe First Peoples) name in the register. Long Wolf.
The Sioux leader and his daughter had been travelling with Buffalo Bill’s Travelling Circus when he died in Hammersmith, also in 1892. The story of his death, long stay in a London cemetery and then repatriation to the Plains is told here.
Long Wolf’s body was apparently covered in battle scars. He was said to have been at the Battle of the Little Big Horn. And earlier this week I had seen and tweeted a link to this extraordinary account of the destruction of Custer’s command based on accounts from some of those who were there, on the other side. It has the ring of truth to it.
One aspect of the encounter that I hadn’t heard of before was the role played by the Suicide Boys in Custer’s troopers falling back to join Major Reno’s force – which would largely survive the battle.
Volans is ten years old today. Happy birthday to all who have helped get us far, which is now a cast of characters pushing towards the 100 mark, I would think
Meanwhile, with the trip to Brazil; with so much happening in the office, including interviews of potential new recruits; with my brother-in-law’s funeral and my mother in poor health; and with the new book in gestation, among other things, there has been little time to do personal blogs – though tweets I have managed.
Among recent highlights have been a Volans Salon on shareholder primacy, featuring Judy Samuelson from The Aspen Institute; a session at the Wallacespace near Liverpool Street convened by Gavin Starks and focusing on climate change; a story workshop for the team with Will Hill of Long Run Works; a session with the Admissions Panel of the Social Stock Exchange; a dinner in Cambridge at Sidney Sussex College on the subject of artificial intelligence and corporate reporting; and, ahead of the Easter break, a delightful team final supper at Brindisa Soho.
Born on 2 January 1927, my brother-in-law Michael Green died on 25 February this year. Best known to the world for his ‘The Art of Coarse …’ books, covering rugby, sailing, acting and a bunch of other subjects. Elaine’s sister Christine is generally acknowledged to have helped him enjoy what he called the happiest years of his life, from 1982.
The papers have been spilling over with glowing obituaries. And the thanksgiving service today, at the Church of St. Mary with St. Alban, Teddington, was the funniest, jolliest I have yet taken part in. Quite remarkable.
We started out at the crematorium nearby, which was pretty much par for the course for such things, though the vicar, the Reverend Joe Moffatt, was delightful. Introducing the thanksgiving service later in the day, he noted that he was pondering resorting to ‘The Art of Coarse Christianity’.
The service started with Franz Schubert’s Piano quintet in A, ‘Trout’, op. 114 D667. I may be illiterate when it comes to classical music, but I recognised this one – having bought the Trout Quintet album back in the early 1980s.
A huge congregation, with Gaia doing the flowers and Paul singing ‘Love is the Sweetest Thing’ by Ray Noble, accompanied by nonagenarianHarold Britton on piano. Then on to The Wharf Restaurant for a wonderful reception overlooking the Thames.
Flew to Brasilia for the latest Nestlé Creating Shared Value Forum, themed this time around water. My last meeting, alongside six others – including Michael Porter. Nine years. What a ride it has been. Some extraordinary people on the CSV Council, a number of whom I would now count as friends.
Mumm from Egypt and Fishers and Changemakers from the Philippines were the joint winners of the 2018 Creating Shared Value Prize. The two social entrepreneurs won CHF 150’000 each for their outstanding work in nutrition and rural development. More details here.
Then flew back to São Paulo for a fascinating meeting with the chairman of Fibria, José Luciano Penido. Maybe 15 years since I visited Aracruz eucalyptus plantations that later became part of Fibria. And now, a day before my visit this time, Fibria itself has been merged with its competitor Suzano, to the surprise of at least some of those I was meeting.
Spent the Sunday holed up in a hotel, working on the new book.
Quite the week.
Most dramatic, moving element was Thursday afternoon and evening spent driving to and from Little Rissington, to spend time with my mother (who is very ill) and family.
Pat drugged on morphine, but as I sat at her bedside she would periodically surface with humorous or insightful one-liners. Extraordinary state of being, but so grateful to my siblings for their continuous support for our nonagenarian parents.
Strangely, perhaps, a joy and a privilege to be there. Tess and I spoke across Pat’s reclining form, reviewing our lives, knowing that she could probably hear at least some elements of the conversation. And, again, Pat would periodically surface into the flow, like a mysterious fish, and then slip beneath the water again.
One thing she said to me when we were on our own was that she had heard nightingales. I assumed that these were acoustic hallucinations from her childhood, until I discovered when back in London that there are indeed nightingales in Gloucestershire.
Here’s what they sound like.
The snow is long since gone from London, but there were still pale streaks as I drove through the Cotswolds. As I left Hill House late on Thursday evening, and walked through the yard, I was stunned by the starry, starry night sky. Went back into the kitchen to turn the lights off and just stood watching.
Then in today’s (Saturday’s) Financial Times, I came across John Gapper’s ‘Lunch with the FT’ interview with author Michael Morpurgo. Apparently poet Ted Hughes counselled Morpurgo that, when he was feeling gloomy: “Remember, if there’s one child feeling this place, stomping through puddles and looking up at stars for the first time, he won’t know a wonderful thing is happening but it will soak into his life, one way or another.”
It did, it has.
As for the rest of the week, a fascinating session with The Crowd on Monday evening, featuring Novozymes CEO Peder Holk-Nielsen. I spoke at EcoBuild conference on Tuesday morning. Bit of a nightmare getting to the ExCel site, but great people on our panel from organisations like Bioregional and the World Resources Institute.
On Tuesday, I met Candice Reffe, Chief Impact & Innovation Officer at Eileen Fisher. Among other things, she is a poet – and among the people we talked about were Gary Snyder and Ted Hughes (see below). That same evening, Elaine and I went across to South Kensington for a riveting panel discussion on Superbugs: The Fight For Our Lives at the Science Museum.
Fabulous Volans Salon on Wednesday, featuring Judy Samuelson of the Aspen Institute, and with over 20 participants, on the issue of shareholder primacy. And then my annual 2-hour session with Mike Tennant‘s Imperial College MSc students on Thursday morning – invigorating.
Then the big one, and the reason I had to come back to London, we did the third in our 3-city series of events with Innovate UK, focusing on decarbonisation of the built environment. Wonderful top floor venue provided by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) at Savoy Place, overlooking the Thames.
I chaired a panel session with Agamemnon Otero of Repowering London, Alastair Mant of the UK Green Building Council and Priya Prakash of Design for Social Change (D4SC) in the morning, and then did a after-lunch on-stage interview with biomimicry architect Michael Pawlyn. If you haven’t seen his 2010 TED talk, it is well worth a viewing.
And now off to see a great friend from California, Will Rosenzweig.
Here is a link to our latest blog for Fast Company, this time focusing on breakthrough business models – with an embedded video on the theme produced by our wonderful friends at Atlas for the Future. Co-authored with Richard Johnson, with another now in the pipeline.
Rather more personal theme in my latest blog in GreenBiz, published today. Spurred by a couple of conversations last week in which outsiders commented that Volans can be slightly mysterious at times. This is an initial attempt to lift the roof on our hive.
I began this blog with an entry reporting on a visit to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution on Cape Cod, on 30 September 2003. The blog element of the website has gone through several iterations since, with older material still available on this site.
Like so many things in my life, blog entries blur the boundaries between the personal and the professional. As explained on the Home Page, the website and the blog are part platform for ongoing projects, part autobiography, and part accountability mechanism.
In this new iteration of the site, the ‘Comments’ function has been reanimated. Please do make use of it.