The Last Word

An eclectic collection that made us pause for thought.

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‘I’m going to get married,’ he heard himself say, and the doors to his future clanged shut in his face.

— Anita Brookner, Incidents in the Rue Laugier

Cartography is another name for stories told by winners.

— Elif Shafak, The Island of Missing Trees

Legends are there to tell us what history has forgotten.

— Elif Shafak, The Island of Missing Trees

The problem with the race to the bottom is that you might win.

— Seth Godwin, Seth’s Blog

I would not say that the future is necessarily less predictable than the past. I think the past was not predictable when it started.

— Donald Rumsfeld.

If I know the answer, I’ll answer you, if I don’t I’ll just respond.

— Donald Rumsfeld, BBC

What’s troubling is not the magnitude of our problems but the smallness of our politics.

— Barack Obama, The Guardian

We are already on the last bus, but if we all got together and acted now and governments followed, then we still have a chance.

— Randal Plunkett, Baron of Dunsany, interviewed on his rewilding of 750 acres at Dunsany, Louise Walshe, Irish Times Feb 2021

Economics, essentially a faith-based discipline, represented itself as a hard science.

— Philip Stephens, FT 20.2.2021

We may be the first species to document our own extinction.

— Lily Cole, author of Who Cares Wins

Donald Trump is a genius, that’s what the J stands for!

— A supporter of President Donald J. Trump interviewed in Washington DC on the day his supporters stormed the Capitol., TV

We have a very Darwinian menu. Whatever sells, we put on the menu; whatever doesn’t sell, we take off.

— Chris Kempczinski, CEO of McDonalds, FT weekend 28/9 Nov 2011 (Lunch with the FT)

I spent a big chunk of my life studying philosophy and I’m still recovering.

— Robert Armstrong, FT Life & Arts 7 November 2020

There is no liberty without morality, and no freedom without responsibility.

— Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks who died 7th November 2020, BBC Radio 4

When a man opens a car door for his wife, it’s either a new car or a new wife.

— Prince Philip

As I sat, strapped in my seat waiting during the countdown, one thought kept crossing my mind … every part of this rocket was supplied by the lowest bidder.

— John Glenn, the first American to orbit the Earth and a US senator for 24 years

I love a shag in the breeding season.

— Chris Packham, Spring Watch BBC 2 11 June 2020

Definition of Social Media: A window for narcissism

— Matthieu Ricard, Lunch with the FT

Eternity is awfully long, especially near the end.

— Yahne le Toumelin (French artist), FT 6 June 2020 – interview with Matthieu Ricard

If governments don’t take care of food security and we leave it to the big private companies, we are going to be in for a very nasty surprise.”

— Jose Andres, chef & food philanthropist, Financial Times – Lunch with the FT – Edward Luce 23/24 May 2020

A liberal is a man who leaves the room when the fight begins.

— Timo Soini, founder of the Finnish populist party, True Finns, Financial Times – Lunch with the FT 16/17 May 2020

I would feel rather more rested after a two-week break if I didn’t have to take myself on holiday with me.

— John Crace, The Guardian

Physics is not a religion, If it were, we would have a much easier time raising money!

— Leon Lederman, physicist, 1922-2018, BBC Radio 4

John Humphrys is the sort of man who, if you lent him five grand and then didn’t see him for some years, you’d think it was money well spent.

— Garry Richardson on the day John Humphrys retired as a presenter of the Today programme on Radio 4., BBC Radio 4

I was fined £60 for straying into a bus lane for five seconds. I thought I’d go to Oxford Circus and lie down for four hours today and get my money’s worth.

— Gary Richardson, BBC Today Programme, Mail on Sunday

The best thing about the Earth Is if you poke holes in it oil and gas comes out.

— US Congressman Steve Stockman, Naomi Klein’s book This Changes Everything

You are never going to be younger or healthier than you are now.

— Michael Martin, investment manager, in the Financial Times

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.
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