June 2008

There is currently much public ambivalence about privacy and surveillance. People on the street typically tell interviewers, either that they have nothing to hide and welcome protection from criminals, or that, like David Davis, they fear the encroachment of the Big Brother Society. Often both emotions lurk in the same breast.


This situation needs to be understood in its long historical context, beginning with Matthew Arnold standing on Dover Beach listening to the “melancholy long withdrawing roar” of institutional Anglicanism. Though the majority today seem to harbour religious attitudes, there is little in the way of affiliation or commitment. Accordingly, we inhabit a public space of secular consumerism, a world from which meaning continues to drain.


The most important corollary of this is what I have called elsewhere the great lie of outwardness. The outside world, dominated by the irresistible currents of popular culture (football, the X-Factor, Heroes, Grey’s Anatomy, pop music, Big Brother series 9), has not only captured schools and our children, but is routinely invited into our living rooms, where our household gods have been replaced on their altar by the enormous, digital television screen.


Everywhere privacy is in retreat. This is not just a matter of surveillance. It is the precondition for surveillance. While individuals are accorded every privilege as consumers, they experiences an interminable identity crisis, commonly defining themselves with the coarse categories favoured by the Left (black, female, gay, disabled, this or that ‘class’).


Such abstraction is the characteristic weakness of the modern mind. It is an excuse for imprecision: abstract ideas are not used precisely. ‘Inclusive terms’ – e.g. partner – are more general, abstract and vague. The modern mind is enfeebled by abstraction, infatuated by categories. The categorical approach to people is like handwriting in which everything is written in capitals. This sort of thing is the small change of contemporary intellectual ferment — if ferment is not putting it too strongly.


With real culture under threat, in the universities the humanities are in retreat, defending themselves against the inexorable advance of science and technology by resorting to “theory” — typically psychoanalysis, Marxism or some debased form of anthropology. In the arts, especially the visual and plastic arts, there is paralysis over the sheer definition of what counts as art (everything). Religion similarly is fazed by the dark vacuum populated and popularised by the new machinery.


This, then, is the context in which, even in a democracy, galloping technology is placing in the hands of governments daunting powers of control over individual lives. One does not have to have anything to hide — and who does not? — to feel that the space formerly accorded to privacy and individuality is under extreme threat.


Fortunately, governments are highly incompetent, allergic to computers, prone to losing all this individual data and unimaginative. But this state of affairs could change overnight in ways which are alarming to consider.


Governments are good only at extracting taxation. They are bad at owning and running things. (Almost anything works better in the private sector.) Awareness of privacy as an issue comes at a most delicate moment in our political evolution, when both ends of the spectrum seem unable to grapple with the underlying issue: whether or not, in a democracy, the gradual increase of state control is reversible. This is what makes taxation such a symbolic issue for the twenty-first century.


It is difficult to have confidence in public debate, given the level of information about, for instance, DNA. Even in the House of Commons this seems to be treated as something akin to a fingerprint, rather than a comprehensive account of an individual’s ancestry and, potentially, his or her entire psychological and physical profile, rather than merely “identity”.


The case against surveillance, then, draws on some spirited form of resistance to technological totalitarianism. This is not to deny the value to us all of many of the newer measures of fighting crime and securing court convictions. But beyond the precious gains in rape cases, there lies an empty plateau of “freedom” in which we are hemmed in by hostile spiritual forces unwittingly unleashed by naive governments. Already, political correctness has enormously extended the grip of conformism. The homogenisation of society seems too high a price to pay for marginal gains in security.




From the plane we are met by our friends. A limousine with cellular radio. Helsinki airport is tiny. The journey from Gatwick is quicker than the slog by road to Wales!

A first night in the ranch-style Lappio. Fine wood interiors, spacious rooms, suitcases disgorging things for overnight baby needs.

But we do not sleep. Instead we seem to glide through the night on a glacier of half-dream, a momentum of anticipation, a crest of foreknowledge.



We rose like trout

through one of the thin

walls of the night,

at nearly 5 am.


I, with a line – “…not snatched like old

Jews from the streets of Moscow…” –

you with heated legs

writhing in their stride,


she, baby girl, sitting up

before she knew it. An electric

storm, all the needles swinging

on the dials.


Damage of flood and fire,

breakage, wear and tear,

all uninsured losses,

made good, sewn,


restored, repaired,

in the salving rituals of the night

of nibble and heave,

stretch and sigh,


easily begun,

renewed, shared:

her hand at your mouth,

my nose behind your ear.





With Tiina and Jyrke straight onto a company-owned launch at Lapeenranta, from where we reach into the whole network of lakes and waterways: Saimaan Vesisto. There are thirty-six thousand islands in the Finnish interior, not to mention many more, sea-islands in the gulfs of Bothnia and Finland. Lake Saimaa is “makea vesi” – sweet water. Our furthest point will be Savonlinna in mid-opera-season with performances in the castle standing  over the lakeside.


Depression, as always, at the release from the pressure-pot of work at the start of a holiday.


A nerve of misery, signalling despair.


M., after getting an abnormally large amount of breast while on holiday, is now mad to get at F., pinching and struggling to attain more. That is how the flesh is, as my evangelical friends would say.


Breaking cover.





To a fishing-cottage on an island. The sand around the door has been combed by the previous occupants, like a Japanese garden.

There are quite a few people secluded on beaches and in coves around here but they scrupulously avoid each other and do nothing to attract the attention which would fracture privacy. Finnish nature. Occasionally we catch sight of a flank of lime-green tent or see an orange triangle of windsurfer’s sail. Reticence is measured in tens of kilometres.

Pale nights of the northern summer. I take a photograph in natural light at 10.45 pm.


Insects fly for the eyes.

After nightfall moths blunder, fall heavily, huddle their wings, totter towards the candle base.

The lingering deaths of flies startle the dark.


Bubbles of poetry falter upwards from inconsolable depths. Focus. A stream of composing.

Reading poetry: decomposing it.





Still lakes, brushed pines.

Lone sail as bare as a curved bone.

A blade of light glides in the steep red

waters of Saimaa lake.


Acres of booms straddle the flat

surface of lake, marshalled for pulp.

Vibrant pine-masts ring to the knock.

A white yacht with double sail,


beautiful as a telephone,

scoops hot air. Evening brims.

Islands fuming after rain

cloud a bandstand sunset.


A boat’s passing furrow leaves

ribbons of water idling.

Evening spreads. We lay our nets

down the flightpath of the sun.


Reeds nod in flocks, all

leaning and pointing the same way.

Nylon fishnets, like old woman’s hair,

spill a rainbow helix.


Swamp-cotton shines

in the smoky light of spaced pines.

Their pink and ash-grey pools of fine

mottling peel away in scales


from high necks, salmon-grained.

Below are darker trunks and roots.

Our steps spring on coral rock,

spongy with moss. Evening swarms.


Horseflies mothy as owls burn

ridged ulcers into scars:

we bare our bodies to the tiny barbs,

root sea-legs in a rocking sauna.


Then after dark the heart pumps

its waves on the ear’s shore.

Solitude comes into bloom

round a bulb of candle-flame.






The tall pine for the cabin’s whole, straight beams.

The silver birch for the sweet-smelling “vihtas”, leafy twig-bunches for skin-slapping in the sauna.

The “visakoivo”, smaller, rarer silver birch, for the knife-handle with its weaving seams.

Only birch burns with the intense heat for the sauna oven.

The water-lining “leppa” smokes and flavours the fresh fish.


Morning walk through the island.

Clouds in rows, springy as rolled-up blinds.

We walk on silver moss to the beach.

Lift elk’s droppings.


A brown-winged gull, is poised in observation, then plummets to a metre’s depth in the sea after a fish.


Jyrke describes how he waits to feel the thoughts swarming and circling in the minds of the men he does business with, sometimes Russians, just as now he feels how the fish are moving. He seizes and fastens on an opponent’s moment of weakness to clinch a deal. Riding Tiina like that, too, to keep on top. Knowing her moods and ways. A hunter’s animal magic.

“I feel sorry for her because she doesn’t have any parents.”


Smoked reindeer meat for breakfast. White-tailed deer soup for lunch.


Kerlukka-lukka. M. is learning Finnish. It should be kala-kala, says Jyrke. Kala is a fish.

The way to speak a foreign language is as Tiina does: with aplomb!


Handling a boat, a shotgun, sharpening a knife. One fish we catch is the “made”, a snake-fish. It must be hung up and its skin rolled off.

“Like undressing a woman”, says Tiina.





Picking and planning each step with care in the shared small spaces of the boat.

Soon we accumulate a multitude of plastic cups, forks, knives, teaspoons and paper plates.

Nearby appears a flotilla of logs stretching down half the lake, pulled by one tug, herded by another nuzzling deep into an outlying raft.

M. waves to passing boats – with both hands if sufficiently excited.


We now have the gleaming skin of faces restored by sauna, wind, some “jerking”.


English language news is at 11.10 pm. We listen once. Some musicians and horses blown to pieces.





Gypsies in the market at Savonlinna. Women in colourful traditional rig, very Amerindian-looking, with deep harsh voices. Men unshaven, in high boots, waistcoats. Selling us lace, but lace they themselves had just bought.

“Kuinka paljon?” – How much?

The gypsies are traditional horsemen but now they ride big Swedish cows. The government builds them houses but they are not wanted as neighbours. Hordes of relatives arrive on extended visits at a house let only to one family initially. They operate a lot with booze on the black market.

One man, employed by Tiina’s stepfather, took a week off work: “My uncle’s horse was having a foal and we all went there to see what would come out.”

We offer strawberries to a shy and angry gypsy girl, Nina, who passes in her antique pushchair and stares a lot at M. in hers. She thrusts her fists in her eyes but peeps out from behind them.


Wolves came and took eight calves this week here, near Savonlinna, it says in the local paper.


On the jetty at Puumala a little boy, about nine, is fishing in his jaunty white cap, changing his place every few casts. For his efforts a couple of “ahven” (perch) to show the men from the boats.





Germans seem to be universally unpopular. “Don’t give them matches”, the Finns still say, remembering how the Germans burned every house in the land on their passage north to the Ice Sea, where their boats were waiting. The chalets and cabins of timber fired easily.


Finnish children are almost silver-blonde and as babies have little hair at all.

“We have only one colour”, says Tiina.


In marriage the individual features fall away. The sticky business is with the universal woman.


To F.: “What’s a little creature like you doing producing such a big baby?”

“If we’d had the light on we’d have seen better what we were doing.”


Wheeling M.’s pushchair I feel all the eyes of the women we pass drawn to her. M. shamelessly exploits this baby-power of hers and wherever we go she attracts new friends by smiling flirtations. Only once before did I experience anything similar, when I walked down a street just a step or two behind a very beautiful girl. I felt all eyes drawn to us. Perhaps, in the way in which we long for our unknown futures, men look at women and women look at babies.





Bedtime squalling.


The radio left on pumps out anything: non-silence.


A round of activities, twitching like a nerve, delays the stilling of the face in the pool.





Fine-eared Naiad with vacant fish-stare

sweeps the open reeds.

Wind sinks her nipples. She is pinned

in a jet of actions issuing like shocks.

Her companion’s gaze


bulges at the flags, long lashes like sparks,

his mouth an unoffending fish-pout.

A straying roach he eyes through a soft lens.

No fine quiver betrays

his neutrally enquiring approach.





Living for days on the island without money, without wristwatches. Concerned instead about fresh water.


Lexicon: palette, keyboard – for sprinkling practice dabs.


My poetry is literally squeezed out from the seams and edges of a tiresome life, all tides pulling away from the pole. Hence its density, concentration.

Dropped in an illicit still.

I tread the measure of my anger, kneading with lips and fingers the bread of the flute.





From tonight, M., no more of Daddy’s storms. No-one emerges from a power-struggle otherwise than withered and evil. The power-ballet distends the family net like Lobachevsky’s planar geometry.

Your hand sleeps like a starfish on the towel that serves as a sheet on your bed on the floor of this boat. The wind that dropped when the sun burst over ladies fragrant for the opera, here where night hardly falls, has pulled your lungs like canvas and lowered your eyelids.

Gone, and sufficient, are the day’s rollercoaster jerks of mummy-coming, mummy-gone. We have clucked in Finnish: WE STOCK LOTS OF COCKLES AND A LOCKED POCKET CLOCK.

In the sauna you crawled and slithered, your naked chubby body large as a child’s, baby no longer, our gene-fusion, the being caused by us, now with a life of its own. You rocked on a firm sauna bench, “a bit boaty”, as you did after your leg-plaster was removed.

Puumula, Savonlinna. Here I make my covenant to venture deeper in love, this point a point to return to, to begin again from the journey that must be begun again.





A revolution is a kind of overwhelming.

The post-revolutionary is the geopolitical equivalent of the schizoid state. The split is finally achieved between reality and abstract ideal but at the same time the two are fatally confused. The continual implicit directive is to the rejection of reality, the reckless embracing of the lie.


Soviet freighters with coals from Leningrad, tankers with oil. Not allowed to stop. An unsupervised wave.


A day overcast – intermittent rain. A sense of doom, of indecision, a succession of small things going wrong.





The water is a wedding-cake iced with diamonds under clusters of tightly-scrolled clouds.

Again an island and deep-water anchorage close to the rock, moored to a pine.

We roast over a fire a perch caught this morning, its two sides opened out, as if on a hinge, and transparent before the flames.

Mainly pink rocks, granite, with spongy moss so that each step springs.

Everything’s pristine.





The objectification of the self? Or the subjectification of the world?

My way – scared as hell of the romantic ego -, and also the way of Pasternak, is the second.

Yesterday in an art gallery decor shop I was given a long explanation – seconds after acquaintance and in immaculate English – of the subjective and therapeutic meanings of the superb textile series done by the artist, a friend of my interlocutor and a recent widow, exhibited downstairs, which I then went down, much moved, to look at. This is the first way: it woke me up to the power of the artist’s vision, the singleness of eye, wrung from dedication. Yet I felt eventually that perhaps it was not mine. Mine was less personal, more incidental. Perhaps, chameleon-like still, I must continue to reflect my surroundings.


Lappeenranta, Suur-Saimaan Komakyla, Ristina, Puumala, Savonlinna, Rauhalinna (“peace castle”, where the snowy Varykino scenes in “Zhivago” were filmed).


Finndecor. Pure as air, water, stone, clouds, leaves, bone.





Those who are sceptical about books, who see them only as physical entities (“Haven’t you got enough of them?” – “As if they were ties!”), must also be sceptical about words. Words without meanings belong in books without words. Missing, always, the interior dimension.


A stream leaps from the sudden peace of focus.


And you can write for paper, for the rinsed margin, or speak still within the axial spin of the very dream that woke you.


Mölandet, in Swedish: “virgin land”.





Firs fin through the blue

map of the sky. Cormorants dive

as the boat churns in attack.

Clouds, spilt like skittles, spread

or like water-lilies, broken up,

float apart. The full moon,

its Africas and Newfoundlands complete,

smiles drily on a tideless ocean.


Driving curves of vermilion leap

the boat, refilling on two-stroke,

stalled on the flood. Boats’ lights

come on to wink. And across the night

voices cough in mild thought.

Unmoving triangles of sail

prick at the edges of islands.

A slow gull wags over a floating moon.


The sun waves tin daggers as

the horizon slides to a band of pink.

Lank cranes, defunct, hinged in stooped crooks,

lurk in the sky of a fitters’ yard.

Boats are grilled on hot spikes.

Gulls creak by or veer

in surprise at a motionless figure.

Suns clash. Moons collide.


A fire’s sparks on the beach

light a welcome and gift of fish,

“turska” smoking at the water’s edge

with alder and juniper in a tin oven,

torn trousers, bare feet,

a mouth smiling in a nest of lines.

The sun swings a razor pendulum,

the moon a slow stepladder.


Black arrowheads of pine saw

at the belly of the passing sun,

jag the swirl of spoilt glass

that spills in cooling stripes

through the oily pool. Mosquitoes mew

in the ear like sulky kittens.

A wind mops at pecking reeds.

The sun descends steps. The moon is bent.


We pour salt water and sweat beer

at ninety degrees. Then in the sea

douse, toes nibbling for rocks.

A callow moon blazes over naked feet.

Unearthed, a vanished sun’s steam

has spread in a yellow stain.

A child stirs in her jacket of sleep,

a small tumult under the moon.



July-August 1982; January 1987.

At last, after 24 years of reflection, Professor Flynn has felt able to disburden himself of a ambitious general book[1] aimed at explaining the “massive rise in IQ” during the 20th century, an effect which now carries his name.


The results are curious. To be sure, Flynn has wished to write a popular book of general interest, not devoid of some philosophical self-indulgence, and to achieve both “critical acumen” (a pet concept) and judicious inoffensiveness. He includes for aficionados much of the psychometric test data which support his finding of long-term secular gains in IQ in tabular form.


Many debates regarding intelligence are both vexed and thorny, so it is helpful that his general account is careful to avoid animosity and welcomes the contending parties within the congenial circle of his “humane egalitarianism”.


However, I do have some criticisms:  

  1. It is actually quite difficult to discover what he does think. Eventually he admits — in the final chapter — to what must be described as an extreme form of environmentalism (an increasingly complex post-industrial society has amplified cognitive skills). This is partly because his manner of exposition is amazingly diffuse.
  2.  Flynn seems surprisingly uninterested in psychometrics and test construction as such. What is universally known as the ACID profile he calls, for some reason, the AICD profile. Yet, as I will argue, these topics may contain a large part of the relevant explanation.
  3. Flynn mentions his background as a moral philosopher and seems disinclined to do any original research into the questions that interest him (though he is generous in suggesting research designs to others). The consequence is that the book is a hash of opinions, mostly unsupported by factual evidence. This does not detract from its stimulating properties but cumulatively leads to some confusion and frustration in the specialist reader.
  4. The book is quite carelessly written, much of it apparently dictated, and poorly proofed: words are missing and the expression is often rough. It reads like a draft. Though often amusing and direct, the manner is frequently somewhat crackerbarrel.


Missing not only from Flynn’s account, but from most other discussions of this topic which has excited so many experts, is any discussion of the vastly changed technology of psychometric assessment. We expect a car built in 2000 to be a great deal more powerful than one built in 1910. Particularly since 1960, when Georg Rasch published his innovative account of test construction theory,[2] and 1980 when, after a 20 year lag during which the penny dropped, the technology of item response theory (IRT) has radically streamlined test administration. Older tests now look like what they are — museum pieces — simply because of their gross superfluity of items. We no longer find it acceptable that a new test should be published that does not utilise IRT-based scaling.


For instance, the family of Raven tests — the Coloured Progressive Matrices,[3] Standard Progressive Matrices[4] and Advanced Progressive Matrices[5]  between them offer 108 items, probably enough for three equivalent all-age tests. Using Andrich’s Rasch analysis of the difficulty values,[6] it is possible to select every third item, once ranked for difficulty, and come up with something like an economic modern test.[7]


Because of the worldwide establishment and acceptance of the Wechsler tests, there has been a sustained reluctance to modernise them. The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children – 3rd edition (WISC-III)[8]  was a remarkably tame revision and, even with one new test added, psychologists continued to give the test as if it were the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children – Revised (WISC-R),[9]  omitting Symbol Search — the new addition — and reporting subtests in their old order. They even continued hunting for the subjectively-perceived ACID profiles even when provided with the quantitatively based factor or Index scores.[10]


Things changed, however, when the Psychological Corporation assembled a team to revise the WAIS. Originally known as the Wechsler-Bellevue and first published in 1939, this was standardised in the most limited way on a single convenience sample of adults in a suburb of New York, but became the progenitor of the entire family of Wechsler tests. Desiring a downward extension for children, David Wechsler produced the first WISC in 1949. Although now better sampled, all the children were white:


The national standardization sample for the WISC, stratified by geographic region and parental occupation, consisted of 2200 white children (1100 boys, 1100 girls): 100 boys and 100 girls at each age from 5 to 15 years inclusive […] Miele (1958 ) reported the mean raw scores obtained by the examinees in the WISC standardization sample for each subtest by age and sex. Because standard deviations for WISC raw scores were never reported, total raw-score variability had to be estimated from the tables of norms in the WISC manual, which were used to calculate the interquartile range (the difference between the score at the 25th percentile and the 75th percentile in a normal distribution of scores) … [T]he standard deviation is 25% smaller than the interquartile range in a normal distribution of scores (Rosenthal & Rosnow, 1984) […] [11]


The test was to prove a permanent success in that it added the vital dimension of visuospatial problem-solving ability to the heavily verbal emphasis embodied in the older Stanford-Binet (Terman Merrill) test.


Flynn does not seem to appreciate the extent to which the content of subtests was revised with each new edition, nor the progressive refinement of technical standards indicated above. By the time the team got to work to produce the Wechsler Adult Scale of Intelligence (WAIS-III),[12] the courage to modernise radically had at last been found;[13] the same team was shortly afterwards responsible for the WISC-IV revision also.[14]  The latter two tests give Flynn a problem because of the radical extent of the alterations. Yet if one accepts the factorial logic of g — the statistical general factor in such tests — it should not really matter how it is measured.  In particular, he overlooks the case lying within his own data that modernisation seems to result in more intelligence.[15]


The technological argument must be that, as the measurement of intelligence threw off its historical legacy of sensory-motor testing,[16] so the tests revealed more and more of what we might nowadays regard as true intelligence, namely higher-order abstract logical reasoning and novel problem-solving. Engineers speak of signal-to-noise ratio and the history of psychometric technology is one of increasing signal and decreasing noise. In particular, the Wechsler tests included an enormous contamination of fine motor skills (especially timed tests) in what seems a mélange of sensorimotor activities. The most streamlined modern tests of general cognitive ability, such as the Differential Ability Scales – Second Edition,[17]  are virtually free of such noise and show why such psychometric testing is now regarded as virtually a finished technology. This may indeed result in a cessation of further upward movement in population IQs, as is apparently already evident in the Scandinavian countries.


Yet this is counterintuitive. We are all familiar with the antique tests, beloved of Mensa, which happily produce IQs of 180.[18] Is it therefore the case that older tests inflate, and more rigorous modern tests deflate, IQ? This would not constitute an explanation of the Flynn Effect! I believe the opposite is the case. Because of the poor technical standards — to our contemporary eyes — of the older tests, there was poor targeting of intellectual ability and a greater element of randomness. Paradoxically, the more rigorous modern technology actually reveals more of the intelligence that is there. Thus we do not overestimate contemporaries but underestimate, for technical reasons, previous generations.


The special case here, and the counterargument which must be addressed, is that of the Raven tests. If only raw scores were reported in the literature, as they often are by experimental psychologists typically reporting highly focused enquiries, we should be on firm ground. But the massive gains that show up on this test of non-verbal reasoning typically involve feeding raw scores through the wholly inadequate apparatus of the various standardisations published since the 1930s[19] in order to report derived scores of some kind. None of these standardisations has ever commanded general acceptance, with the partial exception of the 1979 norms for the SPM.


Nevertheless, I remain open to the very considerable evidence of the Flynn effect, to which some reliable Raven raw score data must powerfully contribute, but suggest that many of the competing explanations at present remain unsatisfactory. The most parsimonious explanation, or part-explanation, should concern the measurement technology itself — before we start speculating about the complexity of modern society and the scientific training of modern populations. Flynn certainly reveals the extent to which so-called IQ tests are relativistic from top to bottom, though he does not choose to emphasise their powerful clinical accuracy and utility. But he seems unwilling to recognize their central role in contributing to his undoubted effect.


We are left, then, with widely accepted and scarcely challenged evidence of “massive IQ gains” ever since such tests were invented, together with an excessive number of explanations and non-explanations. Though we may feel more sympathy for this one, and less for that, I suggest that a modest but fundamental source of influence lies in the progress of the technology itself. Before we resort to Bonapartist social explanations, we ought surely to consider the little black boxes from which the grand effect arises.


[1] Flynn, J.R. What Is Intelligence? New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

[2] Rasch, G. Probabilistic Models For Some Intelligence And Attainment Tests. Expanded edition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960/1980.

[3] Raven, J.C. Coloured Progressive Matrices (CPM). London: H.K. Lewis, 1956, 1962.

[4] Raven, J.C. Standard Progressive Matrices (SPM). London: H.K. Lewis, 1958.

[5] Raven, J.C. Advanced Progressive Matrices (APM). London: H.K. Lewis, 1947.

[6] Andrich, D. and Dawes, I. Conversion Tables CPM/SPM/APM. Chapter 4 in Raven, J. and Court, J.H. Manual For Raven’s Progressive Matrices And Vocabulary Scales, Research Supplement No. 4. London: H.K. Lewis, 1989.

[7] Sadly, it appears that the 2008 Pearson UK standardisation of Raven’s classical tests, although the first proper standardisation they have ever received, has missed the opportunity for the radical restructuring needed.

[8] Wechsler, D. Wechsler Intelligence Scale For Children – Third Edition UK (WISC-III). New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovitch, The Psychological Corporation, 1992.

[9] Wechsler, D. The Wechsler Intelligence Scale For Children – Revised (WISC-R). San Antonio, Texas: The Psychological Corporation, 1974.

[10] A simple spreadsheet, using published values and weightings, was sufficient to convert the valuable ACID profile, unique to the WISC-R, into an objective third, LD (or FD) factor which could be evaluated according to gradated criteria.

[11] Feingold, A. Cognitive gender differences: a developmental perspective. In: Sex Roles: A Journal of Research,  July 1993.

[12] Wechsler, D. Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale – Third Edition (WAIS-III). New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovitch, The Psychological Corporation, 1997.

[13] The first public presentation of the revised test produced a standing ovation in San Diego from their professional audience.

[14] Wechsler, D. Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children – 4th UK edition. (WISC-IVUK). London NW1 7BY: The Psychological Corporation, 2004.

[15] See Flynn (2007), p. 185, last paragraph.

[16] Because of their sensorimotor, timed aspects, the subtests which were among those showing the greatest gains in Flynn (2007), Appendix 1, Table 1 (Object Assembly, Coding, Picture Arrangement) were among those dropped or sidelined in the revisions: Full Scale IQ was no longer based on these as core tests.

[17] Elliott, C. Differential Scales – 2nd ed’n (DAS-II). San Antonio, Texas: Harcourt Assessment/Psychological Corporation, 2007.

[18] In real life, IQs above 145 are vanishingly rare.

[19] These often involve a few hundred males living in the Dumfries district.


I and my large family seemed to be touring southern England, with maps, destinations and high points,  presumably in at least a minibus; but in order to host a cultural evening it was necessary to return home. Many guests arrived and an evening of music and poetry commenced. A printed programme told me I was to play on the piano a piece written in four flats. I asked the assembled company what four flats might mean but was disappointed that even C., a quietly brilliant boy I remember from prep school, could not give me a satisfactory answer. Happily I abandoned this, confessing that I had not sight-read a piece of music for a least 45 years. The programme rolled onwards; more guests arrived, dishevelled and awkward but nevertheless welcome, including a youngish child who managed to vomit all over a coffee table and carpet. For some reason this did not seem to bother me or anybody else.



My most attentive cousin has been very keen that I should read a 1992 novel All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy. I was sorry not to have heard of this — by all accounts — substantial American author. This evening, moved and absorbed, I finished the book.


There is no doubt that the strength of the narrative lies in the consistent focus on the moral progress of the main character, John Grady Cole, who in addition to natural gifts, such as his way with horses, is brave and truthful, loyal and ingenious in adversity. Given that he seems to be about 17, his sinews and fibres, all of which are ultimately laid pretty bare, are all the more impressive. He is allowed three encounters in the course of the book — with Alejandra, the great-aunt and the judge — which must suffice for him, since there is no ‘home’ to go back to, only divorce and death, and he must be always ‘heading out.’


However, there is always the question of style that does not quite dissolve (the best style is unnoticeable) but remains to bug the reader. The Hemingway style has, 60 years later, become merely an affectation, though it is taught as orthodoxy in all American creative writing classes. (Even in Hemingway’s own later works there had entered in an element of self-parody.) The style adopted by McCarthy is sub-Hemingway and one finds, for instance, nine ands in eleven lines. (If a school child produced this, he would be told to rewrite the passage in self-contained sentences.) The early pages of any book contains much self-consciousness, as if the author were clearing his throat; here McCarthy seems to need to establish his illiteracy as one of this democratic credentials (dont, wont without punctuation) before exploiting his very considerable poetic and descriptive gifts. So the affected style both restricts and frees the writing in complex ways.


In the 1920s or 30s there was a famous spat between Hemingway and Aldous Huxley, subsequently analysed as “vernacular” versus “mandarin” by Cyril Connolly in Enemies Of Promise. And there is no doubt that there is a real difference in educational standards at stake, which surfaced again in “Redskins” (Ginsberg) versus “palefaces” (Lowell).


But in spite of his flourishing of these credentials there is no doubt — for instance in the monologues of the great-aunt and in the more “European” sections — McCarthy can handle and originate complex ideas in a compelling manner. These passages are among the least obscure in the book. But still the stylistic tic remains, the punchy rhythms, the unspoken dialogue, the show of inside knowledge of Spanish and horsecraft, the occasional portentous (but meaningless) sentences that can hardly convince anyone above high school level.


There is less of this literary static as the book unfolds but it never altogether goes away. The author seems attached to the style as a camouflage which allows him to get away with unmanly things like descriptions of moonlight. His successes of this kind may well validate his positioning of himself as a boll weevil in the great tree of Hemingway.  Still more, it may protect him against the overwhelming pressure on a writer of our time — what Virginia Woolf called “the spirit of the age” — the lure of journalism.[1] One only has to look, today, at the line-up presented as pioneers alongside the late Norman Mailer — Joan Didion, Tom Wolfe, Truman Capote and Hunter S Thompson — to see the dangers. The result is that in the USA Ezra Pound is considered a poet, though he wrote no poems, and Mailer is considered a novelist, though he wrote no novels.


So far be it from me to unpick this instinctive writerly strategy of Cormac McCarthy, given that the result is a true novel, authentically compelling, absorbing and, no doubt, difficult to shake off.


But one cannot fail to wonder at the continuing influence — the prevailing orthodoxy — of the “school of Hemingway”.




[1] Media, publicity, celebrity, the dwindling of the “private” sphere to the advantage of the “public”.



[… ] in the shadow of thy wings I sing for joy,

My soul clings to thee: thy right hand upholds me.


Psalm 63, verses 7b and 8. RSV.




Night Prayer, to be spoken on a rooftop under the Sky.


My God and my Lord, eyes are at rest, stars are setting, hushed are the movements of birds in their nests, of monsters in the deep. And Thou art the Just who knowest no change, the Equity that swerveth not, the Everlasting that passeth not away. The doors of kings are locked, watched by their body-guards; but Thy door is open to him who calls on Thee. My Lord, each lover is now alone with his beloved, and Thou art for me the Beloved!


Night Prayer. From Muslim Devotions, by Constance Padwick, SPCK., 1969.




Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the silent hours of this night, so that we who are fatigued by the changes and chances of this fleeting world, may repose upon Thy eternal changelessness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Final prayer from the Office of Compline (Ambrosian).




Elisabeth‘s prayer.


O God of unchangeable power and eternal light, look favourably on thy whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery, and by the tranquil operation of thy perpetual providence carry out the work of man’s salvation, and let the whole world feel and see that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and all things are returning to perfection through him from whom they took their origin, even Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


From the end of the Shorter Litany II – Scottish Prayer Book.




Solzhenitsyn‘s Prayer


How easy for me to live with you, O Lord! How easy for me to believe in You! When my mind parts in bewilderment or falters, when the most intelligent people see no further than this day’s end and do not know what must be done tomorrow, You grant me the serene certitude that You exist and that You will take care that not all the paths of good be closed. Atop the ridge of earthly fame I look back in wonder at the path which I alone could never have found, a wondrous path through despair to this point from which I too could transmit to mankind a reflection of Your rays. And as much as I must still reflect You will give me. But as much as I cannot take up You will have already assigned to others.


Solzhenitsyn’s prayer, circulated at the time of his expulsion from the Soviet Union.




Lord, you have examined me and you know me.

You know everything I do; from far away you understand all my thoughts; you see me whether I am working or resting; you know all my actions.

Even before I speak you already know what I will say.

You are all round me, on every side; you protect me with your  power.

Your knowledge of me is overwhelming; it is too deep for me to understand.

Where could I go to escape from your spirit? Where could I get away from your presence?

If I went up to heaven you would be there; if I lay down

in the world of the dead You would be there.

If I flew away beyond the East, or lived in the farthest place in the West, You would be there to lead me, you would be there to help me.

I could ask the darkness to hide me, or the light round me to turn into night,

But even the darkness is not dark for you, and the night is as bright as the day.

Darkness and light are the same to you.

You created every part of me; you put me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because you are to be feared; all you do is strange and wonderful.

I know it with all my heart. You saw my bones being formed, carefully put together in my mother’s womb, when I was growing there in secret.

You saw me before I was born. The days that had been created for me had all been recorded in your book, before any of them had ever begun.

O God, how difficult your thoughts are for me; how many of them there are!

If I counted them, they would be more than the grains of sand. When I awake, I am still with you.

Examine me, O Lord, and know my mind; test me and discover my thoughts.

Find out if there is any deceit in me, and guide me in the eternal way.


Psalm 139. TEV.




O God, thou art my God, early will I seek thee.

My soul thirsts for thee, my flesh longs for thee, in a dry and weary land where no water is.

Let me look upon thee in the sanctuary and behold thy power and glory!

Because thy steadfast love is better than life my lips will praise thee and thus will I bless thee: I will lift up my hands and call on thy name!


Psalm 63, verses 1-4.




When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart,

I was stupid and ignorant, I was like a beast toward thee.

Nevertheless I am continually with thee: thou dost hold my right hand.

Thou dost guide me with thy counsel, and afterwards thou wilt receive me to glory.

Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides thee.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.


Psalm 73, v.21-26. RSV.




I, for my part, like an olive tree growing in the house of God,

put my trust in God’s love for ever and ever.

I mean to thank you constantly for doing what you did,

and put my hope in your name, that is so full of kindness,

in the presence of those who love you.


Psalm 52, v.8-9. JB.




Father of all, we give you thanks and praise, that when we were still far off you met us in your Son and brought us home. Dying and living, he declared your love, gave us grace, and opened the gate of glory. May we who share Christ’s body live his risen life; we who drink his cup bring life to others; we whom the Spirit lights give light to the world. Keep us in this hope that we have grasped; so we and all your children shall be free, and the whole earth live to praise your name; through Christ our Lord, Amen.


Communion prayer, Series 3.




We do not presume to come to this thy Holy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table: but thou art the same Lord, whose property is always to have mercy. Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his blood, that our sinful bodies may be made clean by his most sacred Body, and our souls washed through his most precious Blood, and that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.


Communion prayer, Scottish Episcopal Liturgy. Series 2.




I confess to thee, O Lord, my .God and Creator; glorified and worshipped, One in holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, all my sins which I have committed every day of my life and every hour, and at this present time, in deed, word, thought, sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and all my feelings of soul and body alike, wherein I have offended thee, my God and Creator, and done wrong to my neighbour. In sorrow for these I present my guilty self to thee, my God, and desire to repent: only do thou, O Lord my God, help me, I humbly pray thee with tears; of thy mercy forgive my past transgressions, and absolve me from them all; for thou art gracious and lovest all men.


Daily Confession of Sins. Morning Prayers, from the Eastern Church.




O Lord, I know not what to ask of thee. Thou alone knowest what are my true needs. Thou lovest me more than I myself know how to love. Help me to see my real needs which are concealed from me. I dare not ask either a cross or consolation. I can only wait on thee. My heart is open to thee. Visit and help me, for thy great mercy’s sake. Strike me and heal me, cast me down and raise me up. I worship in silence thy holy will and thine inscrutable ways. I offer myself as a sacrifice to thee. I put all my trust in thee. I have no other desire than to fulfil thy will. Teach me how to pray. Pray thou thyself in me.


Prayer for the Acceptance of God’s Will, Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, d. 1867.




Prayer of Abandonment to God



I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will.

Whatever you may do, I thank you: I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures.

I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul; I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands, without reserve, and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father.


Prayer of abandonment to God. Charles de Foucauld, for the Little Brothers of Jesus.




Out of his infinite glory, may he give you the power through his Spirit for your hidden self to grow strong, so that Christ may live in your hearts through faith, and then, planted in love and built on love, you will with all the saints have strength to grasp the breadth and the length, the height and the depth; until, knowing the love of Christ, which is beyond all knowledge, you are filled with the utter fullness of God.


Paul’s prayer, given by Dr Winifred Rushforth; from Ephesians chapter 3, verses 16-19.




O God appoint for me light in my heart and light in my tomb and light before me and light behind me; light on my right hand and light on my left; light above me and light below me; light in my sight and light in my perception; light in my countenance and light in my flesh; light in my blood and light in my bones. Increase to me light, and give me light, and appoint for me light, and give me more light, give me more light, give me more light!


Islamic traditional Prayer of Light, from Padwick op. cit.




The Old Age Prayer


O Lord may the end of my life be the best of it,

may my closing acts be my best acts,

and make the best of my days the day

when I shall meet Thee.


The Old Age Prayer, traditional Islamic, from Padwick, op. cit. The prayer of an Arab whom the Prophet overheard in passing.




O Lord, we have waited for thee; the desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee. With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early.


Isaiah ch. 26, vv. 8,9.




O Heavenly King, O Comforter, O Spirit of Truth, who art in all places and fillest all things, treasure of blessings and giver of life, come and abide in us. Cleanse us from all impurities, and of thy goodness save our souls.


Eastern Orthodox imprecation to the Holy Spirit.




O God, Thou knowest that Paradise weighs not with me so much as the wing of a gnat. If Thou befriendest me by Thy recollection, and sustainest me with Thy love, and makest it easy for me to obey Thee, then give Thou Paradise to whomsoever Thou wilt.


Prayer attributed to Ibrahim b. Adham, Sufi ascetic, d. 777 A.D.




The Secret Prayer.


“May He who knows that which is hidden accept our call for help and listen to our cry.”


This is how Rabbi Uri expounded the words of the prayer: “We know very well how we ought to pray; and still we cry for help in the need of the moment. The soul wishes us to cry out in spiritual need, but we are not able to express what the soul means. And so we pray that God may accept our call for help, but also that he, who knows that which is hidden, may hear the silent cry of the soul.”


From Martin Buber, Tales of the Hasidim – Later Masters, p. 145 – Uri of Strelisk.




Night Prayer


O God, You who remember and are remembered, O Lord, You who are the aim and desire of my heart, this servant of Yours now lies down to sleep, close by Your goodness, in safety under Your loving kindness. I pray that Your eyes may not close, but by their gaze hold mine from resting on anything that is not You. Increase the brightness of my eyes that they may look for the traces of You in Your creation, and view what is revealed of You to the fullest extent. Truly You are the source of strength. When you appear, how weak then are all other powers! You alone are God, You alone choose and act by right, sovereign over all, all-powerful God. 


Bahá’i Night Prayer. Translation from the Arabic, Martin and Farah Turner, 3-Jan-1981.




If once in my life

I spent a moment

without Thee,

from that time

and from that hour

I repent

of my life.


From: ‘What is to be done, O Muslims, for I do not recognise myself?’ Rumi, tr. RA Nicholson.




Prayer of Dedication


Behold, King of all and Lord of the Universe, though totally unworthy yet trusting in your grace and your power, I make my spiritual offering to you and dedicate my entire will to yours. This I do in the presence of your own infinite goodness, in the sight of your glorious Virgin Mother and of all the court of heaven, making this my soul’s true desire, this my deepest resolve (providing only that this is for your greater service and praise) to follow your example in bearing all injuries, all insults and poverty itself, as well as spiritual poverty, so long as your most holy majesty is pleased to call and receive me to such a state of life.


Saint Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556)




I can tell you: Simply stay –

whether in God or close to God;

and ask nothing more,

unless he prompts you.


Francis de Sales. In Wisdom of the Cloister: A Monastic Reader ed. John Skinner. New York: Doubleday (Image Books), 1999, p. 252.




My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.


­Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude




Great teacher, who is fully enlightened, you listen to my stumbling words, in which I express my spiritual knowledge and insights. I beg you to be patient with my faults, my ignorance, and my errors. Please correct them according to the Way.

Your compassion is like the sun. Its rays burn up my faults, my ignorance, and my errors. Its warmth and light open the lotus of my soul. And as the lotus opens, so I release the fragrance of my gratitude. No fragrance is sweeter than my gratitude for your teaching. To you I render perpetual homage.

Under your guidance I shall strive towards the limit of perfection. May my meditation bear fruit for all living beings.

You, great teacher, are good news. I bow before you. Yes, you are like the sun rising on the dark, snowy mountains.


Milarepa 2.4. In Robert van der Weyer (ed). 366 Readings from Buddhism. Cleveland, Ohio: The Pilgrim Press and New Alresford, Hampshire: Arthur James, 2OOO, reading for September 14th.




LOVE, who created me to be the image of Thy Godhead;

Love, who in Thy mercy has brought me back after the Fall:

Love, I give myself to Thee to remain Thine for ever.


Love, who has chosen me before I was made,

Love, who was born as man and became like me in every way:

Love, I give myself to Thee to remain Thine for ever.


Love, who in this temporal world did suffer and die for me,

Love, who has won for me eternal joy and bliss,

Love, I give myself to Thee to remain Thine for ever.


Love, who loves me for ever, who intercedes for my soul,

Love, who gives the ransom and are my powerful advocate,

Love, I give myself to Thee to remain Thine for ever.


Love, who will wake me out of the grave of mortality,

Love, who will adorn me with the garland of glory,

Love, I give myself to Thee to remain Thine for ever.


Angelus Silesius (Johannes Scheffler), 1624-1677.






  • O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come. Ps 65:2 AV
  •  O Lord, we have waited for thee; the desire of our soul is to thy name, and to the remembrance of thee. With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: Is 26:8-9 AV
  •  I shall be satisfied when I awake, with thy likeness. Ps 17:15 AV
  •  Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help. Ps 22:11 AV
  •  Oh God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land where no water is; To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. Because thy loving-kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee. Thus will I bless thee while I live: I will lift up my hands in thy name. Ps 63:1-4 AV
  •  .. .in the shadow of thy wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to thee; thy right hand upholds me. Ps 63:7-8 RSV
  •  When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was stupid and ignorant, I was like a beast toward thee. Nevertheless I am continually with thee; thou dost hold my right hand. Thou dost guide me with thy counsel, and afterward thou wilt receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides thee. Ps 73:21-25 RSV
  •  … you know I have not desired the day of despair. Jer 17:16 NIV
  •  Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke, I do not forget your decrees. Ps 119:83 NIV
  •  my heart trembles at your word. Ps 119:161 NIV
  •  I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ Lam 3:24 NIV
  •  Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe into these slain, that they may live. Ez 37:9 NIV
  •  May my prayer be set before you like incense. Ps 141:2 NIV
  •  Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love. Ps 143:8 NIV
  •  A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench. Mt 12:2O AV





God be in my head, and in my understanding;

God be in mine eyes, and in my looking;

God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;

God be in my heart, and in my thinking;

God be at mine end, and at my departing.


Sarum Primer, 1558





O my God, give yourself unto me; restore yourself to me. Behold I love you; and if my love is too slight, let me love you more strongly. I cannot measure my love so that I may come to know how much there is yet wanting in me before my life may run into your embrace, and not be turned away until it is hidden in the secret of your face. This only I know, that I am wretched except in you – not only in external things, but even also within. And all plenty which is not my God is poverty to me.


St Augustine, Confessions tr. J.G. Pilkington, ed. J Lovill, Book 13, ch. 8. London: Folio Society, 1993, p. 263.