Me and Plato


I’m always struggling with food issues and a few years ago came up with this idea of two horses in a chariot pulling in different directions – please see my poem The Compromise Chariot.

Like there’s one horse that wants to go on the correct, sensible route, but the other is out of control and pulls off in a different direction.  I am the charioteer who has to control them both and achieve some sort of compromise between their needs.

Now I’ve been sorting out books and by chance the other day came across the following regarding the philosopher Plato (429 – 347 BC), in a book called ‘A Classical Education – The stuff you wish you’d been taught at school’ by Caroline Taggart.

 “Plato … considered humans as … beings in whom reason was always fighting to control desire and emotion (he uses the image of the charioteer – reason – struggling to control two horses, one of whom – emotion – will listen to reason while the other – desire – can be restrained only by force.)”

I was amazed by this.  I absolutely swear I wasn’t aware of it and hadn’t ever come across it before.  So I am now rather stunned and proud of myself – because I have independently come up with the same (or a similar) metaphor to a famous philosopher, writing two and a half thousand years ago!  Okay, perhaps it’s rather an obvious idea for a metaphor and I’m sure lots of other people have thought of it too.

But now I feel like there’s a connection between Plato and me!  (I’ll have to look him up – I’m afraid I didn’t get a classical education.)



So I find myself in the beautiful English countryside, walking along a path through the fields, and for the first time in years, possibly since childhood, I hear a skylark singing.

I scan the sky to try to spot him, so as to watch him plunge, like I used to years ago when I went on walks through the country with my (late) father.  I don’t see him, but the sound is so clear, and like a shock to my system.  In my brain, a dormant file is accessed.  This is such a familiar sound, though I haven’t heard it for decades.

I had a conversation with one of my hosts about city dwellers who have genuinely never seen a cow before; about children who think a cow is one inch high because they’ve only ever seen pictures in books.  I find myself wondering how many Londoners would recognise and identify the sound of a skylark.

My customary profundity kicks in.  Thirty years living in London and never hearing skylarks – and yet the sound feeling so familiar and so special when heard again.  It’s like a sudden reminder that – wow, the countryside is still here!  It’s been here all long, like a parallel universe.  That I can choose to visit, or return to, whenever I wish.

A skylark singing – a joyful, continuous, trilling song, high up in the air, so unlike any other British bird.

The sound of the countryside.
The sound of England.
The sound of Spring.
The sound of my childhood.
The sound of forgotten memories.
The sound of the past.
The sound of life.


Skylark poem

A skylark sings high in the sky
Reminding me of times gone by.
How many men, long years ago,
Have stopped to hear him singing so?
What does he think, as he looks down,
At people heading off to town?
Perhaps he calls on them to stay,
So they can hear him every day.
And as for me, I’ll be back soon
To hear his joyful country tune.