The Last Word

An eclectic collection that made us pause for thought.

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Preserving a facade and rebuilding a new building behind it is like keeping your dead grandmother’s false teeth on the mantelpiece in her memory.

— Michael Manser RA, Building magazine

I’m very much down to earth, just not this earth.

— Karl Lagerfeld, who died 19 February 2019

People who think they know everything are profoundly annoying to those of us who actually do.

— Anon: a barrister, Law Society Gazette

Mother to 4 year old daughter: “Why are you crying?”

Daughter: “I’m a child and I am meant to cry.”

— Anon

Not to find joy in difference is a surrender to ignorance.

— Howard Jacobson, BBC Radio 4

Dates are the pegs on which to hang your history

— Alan Long schoolmaster

Prejudice, a dirty word, and faith, a clean one, have something in common: they both begin where reason ends.

— Harper Lee, Go Set a Watchman

When a thousand people believe some made-up story for a month – that’s fake news. When a billion people believe it for a thousand years – that’s a religion.

— Yuval Noah Harari, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

Questions you cannot answer are usually far better for you than answers you cannot question.

— Yuval Noah Harar, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

Clichés are where the truth goes to die.

— David Runciman, from his book How Democracy Ends

La démocratie est le système le plus bottom up de la terre. (Democracy is the most bottom-up system in the world)

— Emmanuel Macron, President of France

Jewish imagination is paranoia confirmed by history.

— Unknown, Simon Schama BBC4

I regard the brain as a computer which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.

— Stephen Hawking

A widow in search of a new man should look for one who has a full head of hair – and a full bank account.

— anon

My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus.

— Stephen Hawking

Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it.

— Stephen Hawking

You enter time when you enter a town – you rush through it. In a village time enters you slowly, naturally.

— An unnamed poet, Akenfield by Ronald Blythe. (published 1937)

Wall Street wants to combine its experience with the clients’ money and turn that into Wall Street’s money and the clients’ experience.

— Anon, Bill Priest interview in FT

At Kew on the right bank of the river, man created a garden of Eden, at Brentford on the left, he created a Hell.

— Cecil Roberts, The Road to Bath

Our backs have to be against the wall before we can read the writing on it!

— Helen Zille, prime minister, Western Cape, BBC Newsnight, discussing the Cape Town drought.

I’ve been able to have a very relaxed philosophy, which is to enjoy yourself as much as you can without damaging other people.

— Diana Athill at 100, Guardian interview 16.12.17

A Palestinian and an Israeli asked God whether there would ever be peace between them. He replied “Of course, but not in my lifetime.”

— With thanks to Simon Schama

“It was so cold in Ottawa last winter that I even saw a lawyer with his hands in his own pockets!”

— W.P.

“I never wanted to be old, but I couldn’t stop it.”

— Edna O’Brien, Interview in FT July 2017

The day you are not angry any more, you are getting old and you will die.

— Matthieu Pigasse, Interview in FT

Religion is the frozen thought of man out of which they build temples.

— J Krishnamurti, With thanks to Harry Eyres, FT

Indecision is the key to flexibility.

“Did you have a good holiday?”
“Well, there’s no point in having a bad one, is there.”
(Overheard on a ship-to-shore radio, Doubtful Sound, New Zealand.)

Christmas Day – that special day for spending with those we love – or,failing that, our families.

— Julie Burchill, The Guardian

People who live by a riverside have always two pleasures to command: they can look both upstream and down.

— Freya Stark Baghdad Sketches 1937

“Available” means “Not Unavailable”.’
Definition in a PFI contract prepared by a City law firm.

I used to think I would like to be rich, but now that I’ve met some rich people I’m not so sure about that.

— Mma Makuti in The Kalahari Typing School for Men by Alexander McCall Smith

I always respect other people’s opinions, even when I think they are talking bollocks.

— Mick Channon – from his biography

Definition of a Commission: “A group of men that keep minutes and waste hours”

Definition of a lawyer: “A lawyer is like a rhinoceros – shortsighted, thick-skinned, and ever ready to charge”.

— Sir Malcolm Rifkind

If a law is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then I say, break the law.

— Henry David Thoreau

Overheard at a funeral: “Are you a friend of the corpse?”

A retreat from the rule of law, human rights and civil liberties is short-sighted and unthinkable. Yet such a retreat is precisely what is taking place. A quiet and relentless war is being waged on our rights.

— From the opening chapter of Just Law by Helena Kennedy QC

A weed is a flower in the wrong place.

— Anon

The evil heart of humankind is the cause, religion is the excuse.

— Angela Dixon

Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.

— Plato (427-347 B.C.)

The difference between a good garden and a bad one is a fortnight.

— Attributed to Bob Flowerdew on Gardener’s Question Time, BBC Radio 4

“How do you make God laugh?”
“Tell him your plans for the future.”

— Ken Dodd on BBC Radio 4

The greater the number of species that become extinct, the closer we become to extinction.

— Gerald Durrell

Life is too short to stuff a mushroom.

— Shirley Conran

All science is either physics or stamp collecting.

— Ernest Rutherford

Jean Paul Sartre to waitress in cafe: “Coffee with no cream, please.”
Waitress: “We have no cream today, monsieur”.
Sartre: “How about coffee with no milk?”

— With thanks to Duncan Campbell in The Guardian

Every garden, however small, should have at least 20 acres of rough woodland.

— Lord Rothschild

A verbal contract is not worth the paper it is written on.

— Samuel Goldwyn

Married woman, overheard at a party: “When one of us dies, I’m going to live in the south of France.”

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