I was distressed to read this in The Times today:
CHIEF SCIENTIST SPEAKS OUT TO SUPPORT SACKED ADVISER'S STANCE ON CANNABIS
It wasn't anything to do with drugs that worried me. It was that the headline made me realise that in all my long and fruitless life I don't think that I have ever spoken out. Not once. I'm not even sure what speaking out is or how it would differ from simply speaking. I've spoken up more times than I can remember. Indeed I've spoken up, of, about, over (other people), in (tongues and bad French), down (to everybody), under (my breath and caution), from (experience), on, to, and even - I think - at; but never out.
This is, I realise, a failing in me and I'm going to do my best to rectify it. I may be in the gutter, but I'm dreaming of a bigger, better gutter.
1,195 people speak, spoke or have spoken out in British news in the last week although a fair proportion of these outspeakers seem to be one young lady with the implausible name of Rihanna.
Well, folks, I'm going to change, starting today. I'm going to start speaking out. As of now I promise to become a lot less like me and a lot more like Rihanna.
I feel particularly guilty about the whole speaking-out thing because as a child my favourite poem was Horatius by Lord Macaulay about the dauntless three defending the bridge over the Tiber. I used to sit on my father's knee and he would read it to me.
Then out spake Spurius Lartius; a Ramnian proud was he:
"Lo, I will stand at thy right hand and keep the bridge with thee."
And out spake strong Herminius; of Titian blood was he:
"I will abide on thy left side, and keep the bridge with thee."
Yet out I have never spake. Were those happy days of my infancy wasted? I think we both know the answer is yes.
I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son."
Then Rihanna and I will go and defend bridges. Rihanna ought to be good at that. She's even proficient with ancient weaponry, apparently she FELT LIKE SPEARS AFTER ATTACK.
When I finally got over the Times headline and read down to the first sentence of the article I discovered that "divisions" had "deepened", and at that point I despaired.
Rihanna and me at work