Sunday, 31 July 2011

Patrick Leigh Fermor in 1966 lamenting tourism at its outset in Greece

It is the same everywhere. The Athenians look on this constant change with a mixture of abstract pride and private bewilderment. Much of this architectural restlessness may spring from the sudden boom in tourism. One's first reaction to this new windfall is delight: Greek economy needs these revenues; one's second is sorrow. Economists rejoice, but many an old Athenian, aware of the havoc that tourism has spread in Spain and France and Italy, lament that this gregarious passion, which destroys the object of its love, should have chosen Greece as its most recent, most beautiful, perhaps its most fragile victim. They know that in a few years it has turned dignified islands and serene coasts into pullulating hells. In Athens itself, many a delightful old tavern has become an alien nightmare of bastard folklore and bad wine. Docile flocks converge on them, herded by button-eyed guides, Mentors and Stentors too, with all Manchester, all Lyons, all Cologne and half the Middle-West at heel. The Athenians who ate there for generations have long since fled. (Fortunately, many inns survive unpolluted; but for how long? The works of writers mentioning these places by name should be publicly burnt by the common hangman.) Greece is suffering its most dangerous invasion since the time of Xerxes.

..In dark moments I see bay after lonely bay and island after island as they are today and as they may become … The shore is enlivened with fifty jukeboxes and a thousand transistor wirelesses. Each house is now an artistic bar, a boutique or a curio shop; new hotels tower and concrete villas multiply. (From Roumeli which I just read in memoriam and loved )

Friday, 29 July 2011

The passing of Vasile the porter

It is Vasile the porter's last day, aetat 77 (he looks 67). 'There are few things not purely evil, of which we can say, without some emotion of uneasiness, this is the last.' (Dr. Johnson.) No man is an island and every man's retirement diminishes me.
 Dr. Johnson also said: "All change is of itself an evil, which ought not to be hazarded but for evident advantage." Why do people no longer say things like this?

Sunday, 24 July 2011

No-one ever understands a foreign country.

No-one ever understands a foreign country. 

Unless one moves there in adolescence or childhood. 

After the start of old fogeyhood which William James put at the age of 25 it is impossible. 

The longer one stays the more and the less one understands.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Charters and Caldicott arrive in Bandrika

Image result for Charters and Caldicott arrive in Bandrika
Charters: If only we hadn't missed that train at Budapest. 

Caldicott: Well, I don't want to rub it in, but if you hadn't insisted on standing up until they'd finished their national anthem... 

Charters: Yes, but you must show respect, Caldicott. If I'd known it was going to last twenty minutes... 

Caldicott: It has always been my contention that the Hungarian Rhapsody is not their national anthem. In any case, we were the only ones standing.

The Lady Vanishes is one of the small number of films which is deeply engraved on my soul. 

Charters and Caldicott who became the heroes of a television series years in the late 1980s are archetypal upper middle class chaste cricket-mad English bachelor clubmen, an archetype that exists in our national collective unconscious but not any more in real life. 

Later in the civil service I found chaste well-bred public school men who were confirmed bachelors and seemed to me to have something from black and white films about them but they preferred books to cricket. 

Bandrika I'd like to fancy is Romania but it probably owes more to Czechoslovakia or Jugoslavia (it has mountains and borders Hungary).

Cecil Parker is an appeaser avant la lettre and ends up dead. Even dear old Basil Radford tries to make up to the commandant who stops the train and discovers they were both at Oxford. 

When Michael Redgrave KO-s the commandant and says, nonchalantly, 'I went to Cambridge myself', the Cambridge Arts Cinema raised the roof.

In Night Train to Munich made during the war the pair are on a train going through Germany when they are told war has been declared and they have only an hour to leave the country. Charters and Caldicott look at one another sharing a silent sombre thought until Wayne says 'You know what this means.' And Radford replies, 'We'll never see those golf clubs we left in Berlin again.' Such things made the British laugh in 1940.

Basil Radford, who played the pompous Charters, was born in 1897. He was 41 or 42 when the film was made. I can no longer disguise from myself that I am middle-aged. And I am older than The Three Musketeers were in Twenty Years After and they seemed so very old when I read that book aged 11. Where did the last twenty years go? I seem to have mislaid them like an umbrella left behind somewhere. I remember a misty eyed man in his seventies whom I saw walking around Old Court at College deep in reflection. How very old he seemed then and how very far away his undergraduate years in the 1920s or 30s.

But I cheer myself up by calculating that D'Artagnan and the musketeers would have been my age when they restored King Charles II to the throne of England in The Vicomte de Bragelonne. I still have time.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

“Otto — a mortal, sinful man!” “Let him be admitted."

I just watched these questions put and answered on television. They were very moving, from a religious and historical point of view,  though less moving to watch on television than to read.  The Capuchin monk looked nervous as he answered and glanced at the television camera. The end of a very old song.


Capuchin Friar : “Who desires admission?”

Leader of funeral party:  “Otto of Austria, former Crown Prince of Austria-Hungary, Prince Royal of Hungary, Croatia and Bohemia, of Dalmatia, Croatia, Slavonia, Galicia, Lodomeria and Illyria; Grand Duke of Tuscany and Cracow; Duke of Lorraine, Salzburg, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola and Bukowina; Grand Prince of Transylvania, Margrave of Moravia; Duke of Upper and Lower Silesia, Modena, Parma, Piacenza and Guastalla, of Osweicim and Zator, of Teschen, Friaul, Dubrovnik and Zadar; Princely Count of Habsburg and Tyrol, of Kyburg, Gorizia and Gradisca; Prince of Trento and Brixen; Margrave of Upper and Lower Lusatia and Istria: Count of Hohenems, Feldkirch, Bregenz, Sonnenburg; Lord of Trieste, Kotor and Windic March; Grand Voivod of the Voivodship of Serbia” But in fact he skipped some of these and ended “etc etc”

Friar : “We do not know him!”


Friar : “Who desires admission?”
Leader  : “Dr Otto von Habsburg; President and Honorary President of the Pan-European Union; Member and Father of the House of the European Parliament; Holder of honorary doctorates from countless universities and freeman of many communities in Central Europe; Member of numerous noble academies and institutes; Bearer of high and highest awards, decorations and honours of church and state made to him in recognition of his decade-long struggle for the freedom of peoples, for right and justice.”

Friar: “We do not know him!”


Friar : “Who desires admission?”
Leader  : “Otto — a mortal, sinful man!”
Friar: “Let him be admitted."

I might have been in Vienna today to line the streets for Otto von Habsburg's funeral. I remember Andrew Roberts making me very jealous by telling me he was there for the Empress Zita’s in 1989 just as Communism came to an end and now I have let a second chance slip by.

"In the hour of grief over this tragic loss, I associate myself with you and the entire imperial family in prayer for the deceased." — Pope Benedict XVI

Do not stay at the Hotel Del Mar, Sozopol

The Hotel Del Mar  opened a week before I arrived so I hate to be critical but don't stay there....

My shower did not have hot running water. When I told the manager he came to my room and told me three times that the shower was working fine before I arrived. I didn’t pay this remark any attention but when I went to pay he repeated this twice with the pugnacity that short men have. I said: 'Why do you keep saying that? Are you suggesting I broke it?'  'Yes!' And he told me he would charge me to have it repaired. I told him to call the police which he promised to do. He said that the maid cleaned the bathroom with the shower every day so it was certain it had been working without a problem until I arrived. Then he added a piece of clinching evidence that the  maid had told him there was water on the bathroom floor. To save time I condescended to explain to him that the shower emitted only cold water not hot. He vanished and after ten minutes returned and said without apology or explanation that I would not be charged for the damage.  

Rather unpleasant, actually.

I asked if there was someone I could write to to complain but there was not so I am writing this instead. 

Otherwise, depressingly tacky furniture and furnishings, a disappointing breakfast, good sea views. There are much better places in Sozopol to stay. Very much better to get a private room in a lovely old National Revival house with a vine-strewn garden as I had done the night before, for a mere 12 euros. I stayed in a lovely place with a lovely landlady and will post her address when I find the card

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Romanian education

I wrote this in 2005. Much has changed since then.

Romania’s greatest resources are not her mineral or agricultural resources but her human resources. But like her physical resources her human resources are poorly developed

Before Communism, Romania was what would today be described as a Third World country, with a tiny rich elite, a small educated middle-class (many of whom were Jewish or belonged to other ethnic minorities) and a mass of impoverished and mostly illiterate peasants. Industrialisation was imposed from above, as a result of the application of Marxist-Leninist principles, rather than occurring organically and Romania today retains in many ways a pre-industrial culture yoked to an ill-conceived and chaotic industrial base. In common with most agrarian or industrialising countries with large peasant populations (Ireland springs to mind and many countries outside Europe) the key social division in Romanian society is between ‘intellectuals’ and the mass of the population. In the countryside, where life has not changed much over centuries, the status of the intellectual is particularly important. In the villages the priest, the schoolmaster and the doctor form the intellectual class, subscribe to magazines from Bucharest and are looked on by their neighbours as sources of guidance and illumination on most subjects.

The word ‘intellectuals’ was recently defined by the commentator, Mircea Toma, to mean ‘free-thinkers’ but it is usually used in Romania as a catch-all expression (Marxist in origin) meaning, essentially, graduates. Between graduates and those who did not attend university there yawns an abyss almost comparable with that between the races in apartheid South Africa.

Before the Revolution Communist doctrine emphasised the dignity of manual labour and the importance of vocational training in order to produce workers, technicians and managers as quickly as possible in order to build socialism. Romania therefore restricted the numbers receiving university education especially in arts subjects. It was difficult to be accepted to study the humanities at university without a satisfactory ‘file’. In other words in order to be politically correct university students were generally expected to be the children of Party members (usually both parents had to carry Party cards).

Partly for this reason, partly because investment in capital projects was at the cutting edge of the Communist economic policy and partly because the hard sciences were taught objectively without a Marxist slant, engineering was a highly popular subject, studied not at university but at the polytechnics. From this derives the old chestnut that Romanians fell into two categories: intellectuals and engineers. After December 1989 Romania lurched toward the modern world with great numbers of well-qualified and talented engineering graduates and little use to which to put them. Today engineering graduates dominate much of business and have amongst other things produced the ingenious IT professionals who are more plentiful here than in any other European country.

From 1990 the universities did an about-turn to serve the new Romania and lecturers who had taught Leninist economic theory had to reinvent themselves and their courses in a hurry. But the numbers of school-leavers who aspired to a university education or, at least, to a university degree, far outran the number of places available at the state universities. As a result, many people pay to study for degrees full-time or at night-school or by distance learning from the plethora of private universities that have been set up since the Revolution (with varying reputations, some cowboy outfits, others excellent, but all viewed as inferior by proud graduates of the state universities).  Some TV presenters and singers study at private universities, their fees sponsored by lovers of the arts, in something of the spirit in which they accept cars or diamond rings. In fairness, Romania is not the only country where students who are not naturally intended for academic education pursue degrees of questionable value. In Great Britain the trend has gone much further and graduates there emerge with far less general knowledge or high culture. And in Romania as elsewhere the wider availability of university education has made society less hierarchical than would otherwise be the case.

Partly because educational qualifications are seen as the key to a successful career as well as social status, partly because in the 1980s the country benefited from the inestimable boon of having only two hours television per day, Romanians are exceptionally erudite in contrast to their contemporaries in Western Europe and even more markedly in contrast with those in North America. They are highly cultured and excel at the art of conversation. They read a lot, know a lot of facts and absorb a great deal of technical detail. Unfortunately, the educational system can also tend to encourage rote learning and conformism at the expense of originality and independent thinking, rather as in Japan. This is reflected in marking students out of 10 in each exam. Exams are frequent from the age of seven until graduation at 23. Marks over 9 are a source of pride, 8s a cause for anguish, in contrast with the ubiquitous ‘2:1’s of British graduates. Although university teachers use seminars, the large classes and frequency of examinations put the emphasis on training at the expense of true education.

Very many young Romanian will have or intend to have two, three or more degrees, perhaps having studied for two simultaneously or taken further degrees while working. Students also frequently hold down demanding jobs while undergraduates. Very often they still manage to pass their exams with flying colours as a result of hard work and dedication. Where hard work and dedication are not enough sometimes a discreet present to an examiner can make up for deficiencies caused by lack of time for revision. But university in Western Europe is above all a time for personal growth, the only time in most people’s lives when one has (unless one is rich) freedom without responsibility. In the West that freedom is sometime abused and more often wasted but in Romania it does not exist. It is very difficult for overworked and hard-up students to pass the endless exams and gain a true education at the same time. Some female students even take the route of thinly-disguised prostitution to make ends meet. Many tens of thousands more simply do not take up courses in order to make a meagre living in jobs which do not utilise their potential.

Because the emphasis in Romanian universities is too often on training rather than education Romanian employers and employees alike expect the subject an employee studies at university to be directly related to the profession he chooses. But because in fact the teaching at university is theoretical rather than vocational, a graduate aspiring to enter his first job will be asked to show experience of the real world as well as high exam marks, a combination difficult to achieve. Romanian universities too often therefore fall between two stools. They are apt to fail both as genuine universities which exist to develop minds by the disinterested pursuit of truth and as effective vocational training institutes preparing their students for the challenges that will face them on leaving. However, cheating in exams and bribery of examiners, although the frequency of both can be exaggerated, will teach the graduate that there is more than one way to make ones career. In a job market dominated by personal connections and where in some sectors female graduates are routinely expected to have romantic liaisons with decision-makers  before they can be given an entry-level job, perhaps these lessons are a good preparation for the real world after all.

ASE, to  name the most distinguished teaching body in the sphere of business education, produces thousands of graduates with competent technical skills but the teachers often fail to teach students how to think for themselves, how to communicate ideas, how to solve problems and how to work as a team. Perhaps we should not judge the teachers too harshly as the older ones were teaching Marxist-Leninist theory until the Revolution and all the lecturers were themselves the products of Marxist education. Certainly things are beginning to change and educational ideas from abroad are beginning to oxidize the teaching system here at all levels. Nevertheless, the multinationals, for which the majority of good graduates aspire to work, can and do provide excellent vocational training on the job. What the Romanian economy urgently needs and lacks are creative and even iconoclastic minds.

Since 1990 marketing, economics and business administration are the most popular subjects at state and private universities alike for hard-headed economic reasons, along with law. MBAs abound nowadays but Romanian graduates are still often required to memorise what they are taught rather than question it. The result is that, as on previous occasions in her history, Romania tries to adopt the forms of Western behaviour without completely accepting or understanding the ethos behind them.   ©Paul Wood 2011

The Psychopath in the Office

The Psychopath in the Office
How many do you know?

The word ‘psychopath’ instills a pleasurable ripple of fear into anyone who saw a conscienceless killer in a Hollywood film such as Basic Instinct or The Silence of the Lambs.  But psychopaths exist outside the movies. Only a fairly small minority are violent criminals, more are confidence tricksters but most are not criminals at all. Many hold positions of power (think of Saddam Hussein or Slobodan ). Psychopaths are also known as sociopaths and the syndrome is also named Anti-Social Behaviour Disorder. The Victorians used the term ‘moral insanity’ but in fact psychopaths are exceptionally sane. They simply have no consciences and no empathy. Every reader of this article has knowingly or otherwise met some. Long-term their goal is always to accumulate power or money by any means available and to damage and abuse those over whom their power extends.

 ‘Industrial psychopaths’ is the term recently coined by psychologist Paul Babiak, author of Snakes in Suits: When Psychopaths Go To Work,  for psychopaths who hold good jobs. They can be priests, academics, charity workers, actors or media stars, HR managers or accountants but very frequently  they are found in professions that enable them to have power over others: in particular, the medical and legal professions (they are especially attracted to becoming judges and prosecutors), the police and armed services and, most irresistible of all to psychopaths, in politics.
How do you recognise a psychopath in a social or business setting? You probably wouldn’t. They are pathological liars, masters of dissimulation and excel at interviews, the perfect theatres for their talents. In the West‘s increasingly atomised and competitive world, where ambitious go-getters are valued and efficiency sometimes prized above moral scruples, the psychopath’s qualities resemble those of the successful business leader. In developing economies where power structures are fluid and standards of business and political ethics are hazy psychopaths thrive. Present-day Romania is a perfect breeding ground for the species.
The psychopath thrives in situations of rapid change. The industrial psychopath identifies and ingratiates himself with the people whom he identifies as easily manipulated and those with power who can help him reach the top. According to Professor Babiak, 'During the manipulation stage, the psychopath spreads disinformation to enhance his image and disparage others. He is adept at creating conflict between those who might pool negative information about him. This is followed by a confrontation stage in which he abandons the pawns who are no longer useful to him and takes steps to neutralise detractors. Finally, the most successful psychopath enters an ascension phase during which he abandons his patrons - those who have helped his rise to power.' In the Romanian expression “treading on dead bodies to the top”.
No-one knows what are the causes of the condition although research suggests that the psychopath’s brain functions abnormally and that a lobe may be missing. There is no cure. No-one can be given a conscience transplant.
Professor Robert Hare, Professor of Psychology at Vancouver University, is the world’s  leading authority on psychopaths. He estimates that about 1% of the population are psychopaths. Hare says they are "amusing and entertaining conversationalists, ready with a quick and clever comeback, and can tell unlikely but convincing stories...They can be very effective in presenting themselves well and are often very likeable and charming. To some people, however, they seem too slick and smooth, too  insincere and superficial. Astute observers often get the impression that psychopaths are play-acting, mechanically ‘reading their lines.’  
Psychopaths are always highly intelligent (a parallel can be drawn with autists) and often possess photographic memories but their knowledge tends to be wide but superficial. They can be superb linguists and readily assimilate the latest jargon expressions as they emerge. Lacking normal human feelings, they are actors who learn how to behave by mimicking those around them. They may therefore come across as affected, insincere or false. Hare says they have a "narcissistic and grossly inflated view of their self-worth and importance, a truly astounding egocentricity and sense of entitlement, and see themselves as the centre of the universe, as superior beings who are justified in living according to their own rules.” They can seem very  charismatic but are rarely popular with those who work or interact with them closely. A few perceptive people sense at once that they are evil.
The psychopath will always prefer what he can gain by trickery, dishonesty or force majeure to the fruits of honest toil, which bores him. He  is usually lazy and unfocused where routine work is concerned  although at networking or marketing he can be a workaholic. As a boss he will steal his subordinates’ ideas, pick on victims to bully and very often sexually harass staff but also use manipulative skills to retain subordinates’ loyalty (Adolf Hitler remembering his secretaries’ birthdays).  In business psychopaths will take pride in using every dishonest subterfuge from bribes to blackmail to acquire mandates or retainers, happily getting away with  substandard work as a result. They are exceptionally astute at reading others and are adept at gleaning  information about those around them to feed their sense of power and enable them to exploit others. If they judge it safe to do so, they will delight in hurting those whom they can injure (I know of one HR Manager who framed a series of staff members with no ulterior object beyond the fun of sabotaging their careers). Psychopaths inhabit a Hobbesian universe where power is the only value and love of power means love of mischief.

The female psychopath (there are thought to be roughly two male psychopaths for every one female psychopath) is exactly as pitiless as her male counterpart but will use the advantages open to her as a woman to help her career path. If attractive she will exploits her looks, sleep her way to promotion or with clients to make deals happen, while at the same time she may be ready to concoct false charges that she herself is the victim of sexual harassment rather than the perpetrator. If appropriate she will cultivate the image of a devoted wife or mother as a useful cover.

Industrial psychopaths of either sex can be very effective at PR, at sales and marketing and their management techniques can be effective in the short or medium term but in the long term their business enterprises are likely to founder, their companies fail, their partners part ways from them or their employees vote with their feet. Psychopathy causes enormous damage in all our lives. We have seen in recent years the consequences when a succession of fraudulent businesses have collapsed. Who will psychoanalyse Enron or Worldcom, Bancorex or FNI?

So what should we look for as pointers to alert us against this dangerous breed of people when for example conducting interviews? The tell-tale signs include contradictory lies, oleaginous flattery, haughty body language, the penetrating and prolonged ‘psychopathic stare’ with which they fix their victims, poor spelling, an excessive interest in status and material things, their love of belittling others, boasting particularly about their lack of scruples and all sorts of unusual ways of talking, dressing or behaving, designed to draw attention to themselves.

Hare and Babiak have joined forces to create a new diagnostic tool, the “B-scan”  intended to help businesses keep psychopath- is a series of questions asked of referees rather than candidates, looking for sixteen key qualities including: insincere, arrogant, insensitive, remorseless, shallow, impatient, , unfocused, parasitic, dramatic, unethical and bullying.

How many do you know?

©Paul Wood 2011

Monday, 4 July 2011

Romanians in the museum

Andrei Plesu writing in Dilema in 2006: 

Much less numerous and not at all willing to invest their money into a paid visit, they organise themselves by criteria that are other than the usual ones. One of their characteristics is their interest in the other visitors; in what those wear, or how they behave, or what their taste options are. “Let’s see what those ones are looking at!” is a current strategic principle as well as, paradoxically, its opposite: “Quick, let’s go to Mona Lisa while there’s no crowd!”. Individualists, Romanians prefer the solitary visit or the small group (family or work colleagues), a situation in which hierarchies of expertise are born spontaneously and are as firm as they are arbitrary: one of the persons becomes, by some mysterious decanting of authority, the other ones’ guide.
Before 1989, I saw such a commando of my compatriots, made up of three of them, piously walking through the halls of the “Van Gogh” Museum in Amsterdam. Pleasantly impressed by their cultural zeal (especially since at the time, I wasn’t in too much doubt about their professional background), I followed them, discreetly and sentimentally, to enjoy their enjoyment. One of them promptly took up the role of the guide: in front of each work of art, he would take an efficient fencing-like lunge towards the label, to then communicate to his comrades the essential piece of information. For some reason, the fellow had decided that in the case at hand, the essential piece of information was the date. He would therefore lean over to read the inscription next to the image, after which he would reveal to his fellows what they were to retain: 1884! The fellows would nod meditatively, with a well-sensed mixture of comprehension and perplexity. In the next moment, the triad would take a lateral step to the right, our man would lean forward again, he would read the label and would whisper, troubled: 1884! The same reaction, the same manoeuvre to the right, and again: 1884! The coincidence started to be revealing. One of the other two couldn’t hold it within himself any more and, stolen by sublime effusion, he moaned aporetically*: “Did that man paint a lot in 1884!” At which point it was the consecrated “guide”'s turn to re-enter his rights: “What do you expect; he wasn’t a colossus for nothing!” This episode, just as our country’s entire history, is untranslatable!

I think Romanians - both rich and middling class - do like to go on holiday in often very large groups. This may be a transitory phenomenon. Until twenty years ago one only saw Japanese tourists in large coach parties but now solitary Japanese travellers are rather common and coach parties rare. Maybe it is  legacy of communism. Certainly looking at museums is about intellectual, social and racial hierarchy and could furnish material for a book. Anglo-Saxons are looking, Latins were previously looked at. The Japanese tourist is sub-consciously resented by Europeans because he looks at Europeans rather than is looked at by them, an inversion of the colonial order of things. 

A friend of mine was in the Louvre standing behind a couple from Northern England looking at a painting by one of the Impressionists. The man turned to the woman and said in a Yorkshire accent,  'See that painting? That painting's over a hundred years old.'

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Women tomatoes and the decline of the West

When I ate a tomato in Belgrade in 1992 I asked what the amazing dressing was on it - I said it was the best I'd ever tasted. I received no reply but later in the meal I repeated my remark and was told there is no dressing on it. It was my first real tomato. Real women and real fruit existed in Communist Europe long after they had disappeared further west and now both are being modernised.‎

Review of Snow by Orhan Pamuk

A very moving, poetic, dense book which explains much I did not know about contemporary Turkey. If only British writers could write interestingly about modern Britain (one thinks of people like David Hare and Carol Churchill etc whose critique of England is a two dimensional caricature). I wonder if Pamuk has read Joseph Conrad; Pamuk's narrative shifts and treatment of idealists remind me of Conrad occasionally. The dead Armenians and the suppressed Kurds colour the background of this story which a makes me want to visit Kars probably en route to Armenia. A very beautiful novel and intensely topical in its description of the crisis in Islam and the world crisis caused by Islam.

Review of Andrew Mango’s Ataturk

A good workmanlike introduction to modern Turkish history. Kemal (Ataturk) was born two years after Stalin, and was fighting for the Ottoman Empire in Libya in 1911 as his home city of Salonica was captured by Greece. He died in his fifties but lived long enough to deflower Zsa Zsa Gabor who is still with us. To many especially in the Turkey he created he is a hero who founded a secular state in a Muslim country but he is not a hero to the Greeks, Armenians or Kurds. He is the father of his country but I cannot enthuse over someone who overthrew his monarch. I wish some multi-ethnic Ottoman Empire had survived - Muslims were minorities in Constantinople and Salonica - but it may have been impossible to prevent ethnic cleansing in which Christians and Muslims were both guilty. To me he is a Turkish Oliver Cromwell whom Clarendon called a bold, bad man and to others is a hero. But every hero, if that is what he is, becomes a bore at last. Still Lloyd George is the real villain of this story, who did for the Greeks by encouraging their irredentist ambitions.

Romania does not have an underclass

Childhood those long empty days and dull places and nothing happening. In retrospect Westcliff-on-Sea Essex still feels unliterary and not very interesting but Tilbury and Gravesend where I  passed through as  a child once a year en route to see an uncle in Kent are truly eery place places, settings for a gritty film noir. East  Tilbury and especially Stanford le Hope the most depressing places in the world. Much more depressing than the forests of jerry-built tower blocks in Bucharest. Gravesend cries out to be written about by Peter Ackroyd, except I think Peter Ackroyd pretty talentless. I suppose Joseph Conrad did it on the first pages of Heart of Darkness. Not a place I would like to live (unlike the rather cheerful council estate in Woolwich which I enjoyed living in).

The biggest difference between tower block life in England and in Bucharest is that Romania (like Eastern Europe in general) doesn’t have an underclass. Not much street crime or drugs though both are becoming more common. There are still child beggars who make a decent income for those running them and some children are preyed on by foreign or native child molesters. No  yobs or hoodies though there are plenty of sad soft faced louts burying their faces into plastic bags filled with glue. Almost everyone except the secret police and senior party members and lucky remnants of the old upper middle classes until a few years ago lived in tower blocks. They are not class ghettoes but places where Romanians preserved the gentility of pre-Communist life. The  children are well brought up, play in the street  and unafraid to tap the arm of a passing middle-aged gentleman and say ‘Ghinion’ which means ‘You’re it.’ A good country to bring up children.  

A self-portrait in quotations

Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Peter McWilliams

Enjoy each moment. Appreciate what is. Be completely here and now. That is where eternity is found.

J.G. Gorton

I am always prepared to recognize that there can be two points of view- mine, and one that is probably wrong.

Gerald Brenan

Those who have some means think that the most important thing in the world is love. The poor know that it is money.


What you think of yourself is much more important than what others think of you. 

Lee Marvin 

One of the good things about getting older is that you find you’re more interesting than most of the people you meet. 

Ken Wilber
The measure of a man is his unflappability - but this comes not from hardening and defending against painful thoughts, emotions and experiences but by being willing to experience it all.

Hilaire Belloc

Every major question in history is a religious question.

Charters: If only we hadn't missed that train at Budapest.
Caldicott: Well, I don't want to rub it in, but if you hadn't insisted on standing up until they'd finished their national anthem...
Charters: Yes, but you must show respect, Caldicott. If I'd known it was going to last twenty minutes...
Caldicott: It has always been my contention that the Hungarian Rhapsody is not their national anthem. In any case, we were the only ones standing

Ralph Waldo Emerson
To have laughed often and much; won the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; earned the appreciation of honest critics and endured the betrayal of false friends; appreciated beauty; found the best in others; left the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded. -

Well, then, eliminate the people, curtail them, force them to be silent, because the European enlightenment is more important than people.

William James
Acceptance of what has happened is the first step to overcoming the consequences of any misfortune. 

Houari Boumediene, President of Algeria, at the United Nations, 1974
One day, millions of men will leave the Southern Hemisphere to go to the Northern Hemisphere. And they will not go there as friends. Because they will go there to conquer it. And they will conquer it with their sons. The wombs of our women will give us victory.

Julie Burchill’s top five things that make her happy: (1) my marriage, (2) my faith, (3) getting trashed, (4) going on holiday, (5) my friends

Orhan Pamuk
When I look at Istanbul, which becomes a little more complex and cosmopolitan with every passing year, and which now attracts immigrants from all over Asia and Africa, I have no trouble reaching this conclusion: the poor, unemployed and undefended of Asia and Africa who are looking for new places to live and work cannot be kept out of Europe indefinitely.

Soren Kierkegaard
There is nothing with which every man is so afraid as getting to know how enormously much he is capable of doing and becoming.

Richard Halliburton
Youth – nothing else worth having in the world… and I had youth, the transitory, the fugitive, now, completely and abundantly. Yet what was I going to do with it? Certainly not squander its gold on the commonplace quest for riches and respectability, and then secretly lament the price that had to be paid for these futile ideals. Let those who wish have their respectability —I wanted freedom, freedom to indulge in whatever caprice struck my fancy, freedom to search in the farthermost corners of the Earth for the beautiful, the joyous and the romantic.   

Nadia Comaneci
Do not pray to have an easy life; pray to be a strong person!
Henry Miller
Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music-the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself. 

W.B. Yeats
The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.

Rodney Dangerfield
My mother didnt breast feed me. She said she only liked me as a friend.

Alexander Pope
The peoples voice is odd,/It is and it is not the voice of God.

Barry Kolodkin
The most luxurious thing in the world has nothing to do with aristocracy or attractiveness. Its time. Being able to take a nap on a Sunday or having the opportunity to enjoy a glass of wine in a beautiful setting at 16.00 are luxuries well beyond any palace poshness.

Daniel Patrick Moynihan
The amount of violations of human rights in a country is always an inverse function of the amount of complaints about human rights violations heard from there., former US Ambassador to the United Nations.

Carl Jung
Where love rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates, there, love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other.

Marie Louise von Frank

 You have to be lonely so that the unconscious becomes stronger.

There are many people who are not in analysis, but if they are naturally gifted - which I would call if they are honest - they can find these things without analysis.

... the devouring aspect of the unconscious, which suffocates life and prevents the human being from developing. It is the swallowing or the regressive aspect of the unconscious, the looking-backward tendency, which grips when one is overcome by the unconscious.

The ego must be able to listen attentively and to give itself, without any further design or purpose, to that inner urge toward growth. ... People living in cultures more securely rooted than our own have less trouble in understanding that it is necessary to give up the utilitarian attitude of conscious planning in order to make way for the inner growth of the personality.

Jules Romains
Friendship without the everyday becomes an allegory.

Mike Tyson
Everyone has a plan till they get punched in the mouth.


Love is only a seeking for love in return, Do, ut des (I give, that thou shalt give). If the patient notices that love is not given in return or that it has not reached that degree which he expected, defiance enters in place of the love, which in turn manifests itself as active resistance.

People who do not understand themselves have a craving for understanding.

Paul Theroux’s 3 rules of travel: Travel on the ground — avoiding air travel. Travel alone when possible. Keep notes. That’s it.

Mark Steyn
Federally funded cowboy poetry. That phrase has never existed in any language in the entire course of human history. Thats an innovation of our time and the fact that that combination of words can be used with all seriousness by the Senate majority leader of the worlds superpower is an indication of the depths were in. -

R.L. Stevenson
I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.

Ronnie Smith
Be where you are and look forward. That is where contentment and happiness live.

Martin Israel
Antichrist is not a demonic figure typified in our own century by the person of a fascist or communist dictator or one of his henchmen....Antichrist reveals himself much more subtly and plausibly than this. He appears as an outwardly enlightened man of apparent good nature and well-disposed to his fellows, who takes charge of the world and usurps the place of God. He organises the world into the form of an advanced welfare state and makes everyone happy provided they bow down and worship him. All who co-operate with him live pleasant, uneventful lives, have plenty of possessions, and strive for the maintenance of their present status. Their inner eye is no longer lifted up to the Figure on the cross, who is the way, the truth and the life in God. Therefore they are not themselves transformed. They remain comfortable, complacent people, selfish and blind to the greater world, living like intelligent animals. They do not respond to the existential problems of life until they disappear, like the followers of Korah, swallowed up by the earth that splits and opens to receive their mortal bodies (Numbers 16:31). This is the way of Antichrist, that great deceiver, who promises us all the kingdoms of the world in their glory if we will only fall down and do him homage (Matthew 4:9).
Where there is an ebullient sense of humour, the holy spirit cannot be far away.
Of one thing I have no doubt: until we can love ourselves there is no possibility of our loving anyone else, even a person as close to us in physical relationship as a parent, spouse or child. Only when we love ourselves with the intensity of charity that will accept all aspects of ourselves as infinitely treasurable, even when they are palpably immature if not frankly perverse, can we be still and flow out in charity to all around us.
If, on the other hand, I acknowledge the darkness that is mine and lift it up to God in prayer, He will, through His healing grace, effect an inner transformation of my psyche, so that I will be driven by love and compassion for others and not by motives of self-improvement. The paradox about self-awareness is that once we have achieved it we should let it go. It is far removed from the self consciousness of the selfish man grasping for material or spiritual gifts to boost the self that he really hates, or that of the neurotic person enslaved by the imagined contempt of others for the self that he despises.
....every relationship is sacred. This applies especially to the most intimate of all relationships, the sexual one. It is a sacrament, and is defiled to the detriment of all participating in it. It is worth remembering that in the properly consummated sexual act, an act in which both parties have lost themselves in love for each other, each experiences a new reality, one that transcends the narrow isolation of personal gratification. Such an experience is the glimpse of mystical union destined for Everyman - by which I mean the person who does not aspire to great spiritual understanding but lives in a useful mundane way - by Gods grace. I believe that this is the primary purpose of sexual union; the other two, growth into a full person and the procreation of the race, are secondary to it. It follows from this that sexual intercourse is a holy action, and should not be contemplated except in a spirit of awe and gratitude. How far man has fallen from this understanding is a measure of his distance from the divine nature implanted in him. I should add at the same time, that those exceptional people called to the state of celibacy in the cause of a greater love for all mankind, may also experience mystical union in their unceasing self-giving to others.
The wise person delays marriage until he has attained sufficient intellectual and emotional balance to judge clearly how he wishes to order his life. The practice of self-control, which is the last fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5.z2), should govern all physical explorations of sex until there is a deep love for the other person.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
Skill to do comes of doing.

Paulo Coelho
Life is short. Kiss slowly, laugh insanely, love truly and forgive quickly.
Benjamin Disraeli.
Mr. Kremlin was distinguished for ignorance for he had only one idea and that was wrong.
No man is forgotten when it is convenient to remember him.

Alfred North Whitehead   
Civilization advances by extending the number of important operations which we can perform without thinking of them.

Dag Hammarskjöld
Silence is the language of God;
It is also the language of the heart.

Yogi Berra
In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.

That in woman which inspires respect and fundamentally fear is her nature, which is more natural than that of man, her genuine, cunning, beast-of-prey suppleness, the tigers claws beneath the glove, the naivety of her egoism, her ineducability and inner savagery, and how incomprehensible, capacious and prowling her desires and virtues are.

Anthony Haden-Guest
I choose my friends for their good looks, my acquaintances for their good characters, and my enemies for their good intellects. A man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies.

Margaret Thatcher
Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.

Hendrik Ibsen
Live, work, act. Dont sit here and brood and grope among insoluble enigmas.

William James
The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.
I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do. Leonardo da Vinci

George Bernard Shaw
 Life isnt about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself. Better keep yourself clean and bright; you are the window through which you must see the world.

Dr Johnson
When the famous actor David Garrick asked what was the greatest pleasure in life, Johnson answered fucking and second was drinking. And therefore he wondered why there were not more drunkards, for all could drink though all could not fuck

All philosophy is disguised psychology

Camille Paglia:
If civilization had been left in female hands, we would still be living in grass huts. 

Edward Norman
The age is described by welfare: it occupies the space for sacral values once filled by the churches. Indeed the neo-Puritanism of the times promotes welfare considerations as exclusively important.
Extraordinarily enough, the leaders of the Church manage to identify the present welfare idealism - which is based in Humanist materialism - as fundamental Christianity, an application of the love of neighbour enjoined by Christ. But preoccupation with material welfare, whatever higher considerations may become attached to it, cultivates worldliness, and is an enemy of authentic faith.
Through contact with liberal and Christian values the other world religions were sanitised and made acceptable to Western sensibilities: widows were no longer incinerated alive on their husbands funeral pyres, and the way was opened for that late-20th-century phenomenon, the Western idealising of Oriental religiosity, beads and mantras in Californian condominiums.
The Churches themselves, in fact, have rushed to acclaim the new humanism - the `caring society - as the very essence of Christianity. But it is actually quite pagan, concentrating as it does on the merely worldly needs of people in a way which is plainly contrary to the renunciations indicated in the teachings of Christ. This is not an academic matter. For when Christians identify the present secular enthusiasm for humanity as basic Christianity - the love of neighbour - they are in reality acclaiming and legitimising their own replacement.
If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader.-John Quincy Adams
Saint Augustine
Seek not to understand that you may believe, but believe that you may understand. ~
Lord Salisbury
People are fully alive to the danger of superstition in course of time they may find out that professors may be just as bad.
‎Evelyn Waugh
I believe that inequalities of wealth and position are inevitable and therefore it is meaningless to discuss the advantages of their elimination.
The last Duke of Cambridge
They say I am against reform. I am not against reform. There is a time for everything. And the time for reform is when it can no longer be resisted.
The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.
George Orwell
 At any given moment, there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas, which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that, or the other, but it is not done to say it . . . [And] anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, whether in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals.
Knowledge which is divorced from justice, may be called cunning rather than wisdom.
Without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods.
‎Cities have sexes: London is a man, Paris a woman, and New York a well-adjusted transsexual. Angela Carter
‎William Trevor
Personally the last person I want to know about is myself.
Its a dry quality that you get with English eccentricity at its best; Irish eccentricity is much more outlandish. Crazier. English eccentricity is something you hardly notice until all of a sudden you realize that youre in the presence of an eccentric mind. Its not like that at all with an Irish eccentric; you know about it all very easily and quickly. English eccentricity has a suburban quality—its like a very neatly trimmed garden in which you suddenly realize that the flower beds arent what they seem to be. Theres a kind of well-turned-out quality about English eccentricity, whereas the Irish equivalent is higgledy-piggledy, and sometimes even noisy. The marvel of the English version is that its almost secretive. Ive never quite believed in the obvious English eccentric, the man who comes into the pub every night and is known to be a dear old eccentric. I always suspect that that is probably self-invention. What I do believe in is the person who scarcely knows hes eccentric at all. Then he says something so extraordinary and you realize he perhaps lives in a world that is untouched by the world you share with him.

I don’t like the Church of England. I feel much more drawn towards Catholicism when I’m in England—not that Id do anything about it. I always feel that Protestantism in England is strangely connected with the military. All the cathedrals here are full of military honors. Its part of an establishment with the armed forces; tombs, rolls of honor, that sort of thing.

Thomas Mann
I’m talking nonsense, I know, but I would rather babble away and at least partially express something difficult than reproduce impeccable clich√©s.