Laurence Peacock

essays, extracts, misc.

Page 3

Who will save the NHS?

Lorna Finlayson in the LRB blog, Friday 3rd October.

In his speech to the Conservative Party Conference, David Cameron vowed to protect current levels of health spending. He also stressed that ‘you can only have a strong NHS if you have a strong economy’ – something Labour ‘will never understand’. In other words, the salvation of the NHS depends on a Conservative victory at the next election. That sentence has a strange ring to it.

Full blog post here:

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from Donald MacKenzie’s essay Be Grateful for Drizzle in the London Review of Books

Not so long ago there was a vogue for asserting that globalisation had ‘ended geography’ and created a ‘flat world’. When financial trading was a matter of human beings looking at screens, that had a certain plausibility, because the intrinsic slowness of humans’ eyes and brains easily masked the small disparities in the time taken to transfer data between different geographic locations. But now that computers, not humans, are doing the trading, geography matters exquisitely. With any of these technologies – fibre-optic cable, microwave, millimetre wave, laser transmission through the atmosphere – the exact route taken is crucial.

Link to the full essay here:

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Cheering Words from Sigmund

from Civilisation and Its Discontents by Sigmund Freud

Anyone who has been born with a particularly unfavourable instinctual constitution and who has not properly undergone the transformation and reordering of the components of his libido - a process that is indispensable for later achievements - will find it hard to derive happiness from his external situation, especially if he is faced with fairly difficult tasks. As a last technique for living, which at least promises him substitutive satisfactions, he may take refuge in neurotic illness; this usually happens early in life. Anyone who sees his quest for happiness frustrated in later years can still find consolation in the pleasure gained from chronic intoxication, or make a desperate attempt at rebellion and become psychotic.

Well, that’s all right, then.

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Shelley Lover

from The Memoirs of Lord Byron by Byron, obviously.

Alas, my masters, here’s a pretty plot. Shelley came two days ago, as threatened. The same strange Shelley, he never changes - tall, gangling, hair standing up as if he has just this minute given himself an electric shock, pale but blushing crimson at any embarrassment, talking nineteen to the dozen even as he dashes two steps a time up the stairs of the palazzo to greet me, a book of Greek verse in his left hand, that shrill familiar laugh like the scream of a peacock, eyes like blue bonfires of saints’ bones, red lips always slightly agape, the awkward stumbling rush and peculiar baby-powderish smell of him, that pea-green schoolboy jacket a size too small and his silly sailor trousers flaring out at the ankles. ‘Albé!’ he cried, and then, falling forwards, he kissed me. I recoiled from that kiss. I was right. There was Judas in...

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The Finest Renaissance Revenge Tragedy Never Written…

from The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

She had to wait until the fourth act. The second was largely spent in the protracted torture and eventual murder of a prince of the church who prefers martyrdom to sanctioning Francesca’s marriage to her son. The only interruptions come when Ercole, spying on the cardinal’s agony, dispatches couriers to the good-guy element back in Faggio who have it in for Pasquale, telling them to spread the word that Pasquale’s planning to marry his mother, calculating this ought to rifle up public opinion some; and another scene in which Niccolo, passing the time of day with one of Duke Angelo’s couriers, hears the tale of the Lost Guard, a body of some fifty hand-picked knights, the flower of Faggian youth, who once rode as protection for the good Duke. One day, out on manoeuvres near the frontiers of Squamuglia, they all vanished without a trace, and...

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In Search of Slippery Stones

an essay

On the edge of a small rocky pool somewhere in the hills above Howden reservoir, I am standing completely naked. Water the ruby brown of malt beer gushes into one side of my newly discovered sink. On the other, the cascade continues down the water course, filling the reservoir system below. From a distance (or was it my imagination?) the stream sparkled a rich dark blue. Up close, it is brown. Very brown. And cold. I am about to swim, I tell myself – again. Moments ago the sun was shining, beaming out the last few days of August brightness. Now it has hidden itself behind the darkening clouds of a rain filled sky. It is getting rather chilly and I’m having second thoughts. Wouldn’t it be rude, I ponder, to interrupt the water’s journey from moor to bathtub? Dangerous, even? I could always just retrace my steps. I know exactly how I got here, after all. It’s the why that has...

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