A upright, elderly man wearing a flat cap outside the National Westminster Bank, is smoking a cigarette, and enjoying it. He has a walking stick with a steel spike. His aquiline face and moustache and tall, narrow frame makes me want to photograph him. Do people mind if you ask to photograph them? Some might be flattered. Others might be suspicious. Others hostile. It is worth thinking up a strategy to approach suitable subjects. They can always say "no", but if one in five says "yes", it could add a new dimension to my blogging procedure.
Reading something written five centuries ago, which strikes you as being as beautifully expressed and accurate now, as it was then, can, because of its longevity, give all the more pleasure for its double edge of truth. It is for that reason that I turn, from time to time, to the Essays of Michel de Montaigne. He wrote openly and honestly about himself, about his doubts and his failings, in a style, which reveals him as an enchanting companion, never didactic, never pious, often witty and seldom other than entertaining. Today I find him talking about rhetoric, in modern language, "spin". Writing on The Vanity of Words, he quotes Aristo, who defined rhetoric as the science of persuading people" and Socrates and Plato, who called it the art of deceiving and flattering". Montaigne himself concludes: " It is an instrument invented to manipulate and agitate a crowd and disorderly populace and an instrument that is employed only in a sick state, in the same way as medicine". Confronted, as we are nowadays, with a constant stream of words designed to persuade and manipulate a weak and fickle public, I find some consolation in the thought that today's excesses are not necessarily new to our mode of life.