I am reading Patrick O’Brian’s Hussein, written when he was only in his twenties. The most moving part of the book is Hussein’s love for his elephant, Jehangir, and the intelligence of the elephant. Animals can be so much more intelligent and trustworthy than we think.

I went swimming in Lundy Bay and William, our Border terrier, insisting on following over the rocks. Then, to my intense annoyance, he got stuck. I had to rescue him by climbing up rocks from breaking waves, something I hate doing. William resolutely refused to climb down but looked at me with baleful eyes. In my vexation I almost made him swim back but I know how he hates water.

But animals are happy because they have no ambition save food, sleep, and affection. It is so distressing to look at Ed Miliband on the news so obviously a man led by ambition into a position he cannot fill. Everyone knows it. He just doesn’t look like a prime minister. It’s not just how he looks and sounds. He is obviously trying too hard. He is at the very limit of his confidence. My advice to him: throw caution to the winds. Be entirely himself and don’t try too hard. Just enjoy yourself. Who knows, some accident or event may then propel him where he wants to go.