SPIRITED THINKING SINCE 1888
Quentin de la Bedoyere

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November 07, 2019
I seem to have had a quiet life. Yes, it began with deciding the proximity of the next Nazi bomb through the tune of its whistle or seeing how many doodlebugs I could count in a day. Then 10 years of a Jesuit education, a long marriage, a 40-year career, and some 23 descendants.  
September 26, 2019
I recently attended a weekly Mass in my parish – to commemorate an important family occasion. My housekeeper came with me. Being a big parish, we often have a foreign priest – as we had on this occasion. When we left, my housekeeper asked me what the lengthy sermon was about. Given that she is
August 01, 2019
It may seem strange to write a column about the experience of bereavement, but I learnt so much from it that I think it may be helpful for others. I want to describe some of the issues for which I should have been properly prepared, and so may remind others. But I start by looking
July 11, 2019
The Human Tide By Paul Morland John Murray, 352pp, £25/$28 Demography, as a subject, does not excite many minds, yet this book adds as its subtitle How Population Shaped the Modern World. And that is more appropriate. The author does not claim that demography is the only cause of change in our societies, but it
June 20, 2019
I like to think of myself as a reasonably intelligent person. After all, I have had a long life, following a Jesuit education, being married for 60 years, having five children and a career in high-level finance. I am confident that my decisions and choices are well founded. But I am aware that people have
May 23, 2019
Some 50 years ago my son came to me for help. He was preparing for his A-level history examination. But his mind was so cluttered with facts that he feared he could never compress them into an examination answer. So I taught him how to use a brain chart. Nowadays he is a Fellow of
May 16, 2019
The Poetry and Music of Science By Tom McLeish OUP, 384pp, £25/$35 This book attracted my eye because I combine my role as a science columnist with writing a fair amount of poetry. At first sight I could not see the connection. But then I made the mistake of allowing myself to think about it.
May 02, 2019
Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia means a fear of long words. I can cope with sesquipedalian, which means containing long words, because I can see that it’s from the Latin for a foot and a half; but how “hippo” got into the former word I have no idea. Phobias are many and with splendid names. How about hierophobia: a
March 28, 2019
Professor Maxwell’s Duplicitous Demon By Brain Clegg Icon Books, 304pp, £16.99/$25 Names like Albert Einstein and Isaac Newton spring easily to mind but while we recognise James Clerk Maxwell as a scientist of importance, what he actually taught may elude many of us. That could be because his work was essentially to demonstrate that magnetism,
March 21, 2019
If, like me, you have millennial granddaughters, you will have encountered vegetarianism. What several years ago was regarded as an eccentricity has become a commonplace. And, more than widespread: it appears to carry moral overtones. It is no longer a simple preference; it approaches an obligation. Fortunately my obvious senility excuses me. Of course I
February 28, 2019
Before he was elected pope, Joseph Ratzinger spoke of Socrates as “in a certain respect the prophet of Jesus Christ”. He saw him as a philosopher who was concerned with the fundamental questions of whether man alone sets standards for himself or whether we can be confident of man’s capacity for objective truth. Socrates never
February 07, 2019
Why is the first paragraph of this column so important? That is easy to answer: if the first paragraph sounds sufficiently interesting you are more likely to read on. And, providing that your interest continues as we get into the thick of it, you will read to the end. But we may not be aware