Sunday, 27 November 2011

A hundred years hence

This macabre song often runs through my head. It was written at a time when "The year of One Thousand Eight Hundred and Three" was a hundred years in the future. It seems appropriate on the eve of my birthday. The hot girls in 1703 were just as painfully attractive as the ones today, although their breath was less sweet.

1703 is such an interesting moment when modern England is inchoate. The King has been exiled, what Disraeli called Dutch finance has been brought in, the United Kingdom is about to be created and yet we still have the very last Cavalier Poets and the faint traces of the Elizabethan lyrical tradition.


Let us drink and be merry, dance joke and rejoice,
With claret and sherry, the oboe and voice,
This wicked old world, to our joy is unjust,
All treasures uncertain, then down with your dust.
In frolic dispence your pounds, shillings and pence,
For we shall be nothing an hundred years hence.

We will sport and be free with Fran, Betty and Dolly,
Take lobsters and oysters to cure melancholy.
Each dinner we'll take them and spring like a flea
Dame Venus, thus maybe, was born of the sea.
With her an with Bacchus, we'll tickle the sense
For we shall be passed it an hundred years hence.

Your beautiful piece, who has all eyes upon her
Who, her honesty sells, for an hogo of honour,
Whose lightness and brightness doth cause such a splendour
That none are thought fit, but the stars, to attend her.
Although she seems pleasant and sweet to the sense,
She'll be damnably mouldy an hundred years hence.

Your plush coated quack who, his fees to enlarge,
Kills people with licence and at their own charge,
Who builds a vast structure of ill-gotten wealth
from the dregs of a piss-pot and ruins of health.
'Though treasures of life, he pretends to dispense,
He'll be turned into mummy an hundred years hence.

Your usurer who, in one hundred, takes twenty,
Who mourns in his wealth and who pines in his plenty
Saves up for a season he never shall see
The year of One Thousand Eight Hundred and Three
When he'll turn all his bags, all his houses and rents
For a worm eaten coffin an hundred years hence.

Aye, the poet himself, who so loftily sings
That he scorns any subject but Heroes and Kings,
Must to the capricios of Fortune submit
And oft times be thought a fool for his wit.
Thus Beauty, Wit, Wealth, Law, Learning and Sense
Must all come to nothing an hundred years hence.


 Thomas Jordan

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Dr Johnson I love more than any other man I never met.

Friendship, “the wine of life,” should, like a well-stocked cellar, be continually renewed; and it is consolatory to think, that although we can seldom add what will equal the generous first growths of our youth, yet friendship becomes insensibly old in much less time than is commonly imagined, and not many years are required to make it mellow and pleasant. 'If a man does not make new acquaintance as he advances through life, he will soon find himself left alone. A man, Sir, should keep his friendship in constant repair.' 

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Spectator cartoon in 1989 of the Prince of Wales

I periodically remember a Spectator cartoon in 1989 of the Prince of Wales (who had admitted he talked to his plants) with hands behind his back bending over a dahlia and saying, 'And how long have you been a dahlia?'

Primoridial slime somehow turned into Bertrand Russell?

Malcom Muggeridge once asked "Wouldn't it be a dreary story if all there was to existence was that primoridial slime somehow turned into Bertrand Russell?"

The modern equivalent would be to substitute Richard Dawkins for Bertrand Russell.

Bertrand Russell of course
 inherited the earldom bestowed on his grandfather, Lord John Russell, the Liberal Prime Minister, who met Napoleon en route to St. Helena and presided unperturbed over the Irish Famine. I remember passing Bertrand Russell's son each morning sleeping on the red leather benches of the House of Lords behind the throne when I made my way carrier bag in hand  to my first job in the Victoria Tower, when my life was just beginning and, in a sense, certainly as I thought, ending. The fourth Earl Russell  attended daily and slept in the House of Lords but only once spoke in the House, an occasion on which he suggested inter alia that the peers leave London for the south seas and take hallucinogenic drugs. The speech lasted for several hours till the Lords, which has, or had in those days,  no speaker and no closure, finally got him to sit down by barracking. This had been in the 1960s and the speech had been published by a hippy publishing house and enjoyed some success. 


The fourth Earl, whose beard reached to his torso and who dressed like a tramp (but was I was told a man of some means), lived in a squalid caravan in, I think, St. Austell. What a terrible shame the Labour Party reformed the Lords.

Tempora non mutantur

A thought-provoking quote from Livy's "History of Rome": "I would have [the reader] trace the process of our moral decline, to watch, first, the sinking of the foundations of morality as the old teaching was allowed to lapse, then the rapidly increasing disintegration, then the final collapse of the whole edifice, and the dark dawning of our modern day when we can neither endure our vices nor face the remedies needed to cure them. The study of history is the best medicine for a sick mind; for in history you have a record of the infinite variety of human experience plainly set out for all to see; and in that record you can find for yourself and your country both examples and warnings: fine things to take as models, base things, rotten through and through, to avoid."


It could have been written this year. When I read these lines aged 13 they did not seem topical but surely they do now or have I grown old? 


(I wish I did not have the misfortune to study the Cambridge Latin course - I got grade A in A Level but cannot read a word because I was not taught to write it.)

Imperialism

I started writing a book called Imperialism when I was 7. I still have it complete with many maps. It did not win the prize which went to a project on motorbikes which won because, the headmaster said frowning at me, it was not taken out of books. He was a red. What a great conservative polemicist was lost in me.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

St. Edmund King and Martyr, pray for us

I learnt today that Sunday was St Edmund's Day.  My patron saint and I did not know. I had forgotten that he was patron saint of England before St. Edward the Confessor and then latterly St. George. I have sometimes wondered - although I chose him at my confirmation - how saintly those warrior saints really were. St Stephen the Great, recently canonised by the Romanian Orthodox Church, is said to have fathered a child in every town he conquered or laid siege to. But St. Edmund was a great hero certainly.  I am not convinced of the Confessor's sanctity either which seems to be based on his not having children, thus allowing William I to invade and conquer England. . And I am not sure who St George was but am old enough to remember him being decanonised much to the indignation of patriotic Anglican Englishmen. That really was Papal Aggression.

Congolese independence 50 years later: an idea whose time has come and gone

A Congolese telling the BBC this morning how much better things were under colonialism. He brushed aside the BBC man's objection that the Belgians were self-interested. 'The people who made Britain rich were not acting in the interests of the workers.'




The BBC does allow pro-colonial views, it seems, if expressed by Africans.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Books Read This Year of Grace 2011




The Fry Chronicles                                            Stephen Fry
When the Lights Went Out                                  Andy Beckett
Any Souvenirs?*                                               George Mikes
How to Make Friends and Influence People             Dale Carnegie
Origins of the Cold War (1983 ed.)                        Martin McCauley
Precarious Living                                                Dr. Martin Israel
The Crisis of Islam                                              Bernard Lewis
Yezidism in Europe                                    Philip G. Kreyenbroek 
With Friends Like These                                     Larry L. Watts
Ataturk                                                            Andrew Mango
Snow                                                                       Orhan Pamuk
The Balkans*                                                          Mark Mazower
The Yezidis                                                              Eszter Spat
Roumeli: Travels in Northern Greece                   Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor
Black Mischief*                                              Evelyn Waugh
The Transformation of British Life 1950-2000     Andrew Rosen
The Comedians                                               Graham  Greene
Reflections on the Impact of the French Revolution  Alexandru Zub
The Spy who Came in from the Cold                 John Le Carre
From the Holy Mountain                                        William Dalrymple
The Lady in the Lake*                                      Raymond Chandler
The Catholic Church And Nazi Germany                   Guenter Lewy
Farewell, My Lovely*                                        Raymond Chandler

* =  reread
bold = I loved it


I am proud I read five novels (one recent) instead of the usual one a year. All the books were worth reading except for the Stephen Fry book which interested me  a lot for personal reasons. Two I read on-line. Dale Carnegie and Martin israel are the ones I most recommend but I haven't nearly finished either. I wonder why I only liked From the Holy Mountain a great deal rather than loving it. Larry Watts' magnum opus is very good. Black Mischief is a book to read in your teens or early 20s. At 13 I wept copiously. With The Comedians you can hear the wheels turning. Raymond Chandler never fails to exhilarate even on a fourth reading. Like a great ballet dancer doing pirouettes.Eszter Spat's slim book was the one I liked best, partly because she writes well, partly because of the subject matter, partly as an aide memoire of an afternoon spent in Lalish in March


 I also - an unusual achievement for me - manged to see two films, both dire, both set in Paris: To Catch a Thief and the new Woody Allen.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

The Kray twins were always good to their mum

Himmler's postcards to his mother were auctioned this week and reveal him to be a mother's boy.

Richard Westwood-Brookes, of Mullock's auctioneers in Ludlow, Shropshire, which is selling the postcards, said: "Himmler was a devout Catholic and his mother had a big influence over him in his upbringing. 

"He kept in regular contact with his elderly mother during the war and judging by these postcards he was a bit of a mummy's boy. The messages are quite short and don't go into a lot of detail but the postcards clearly show Himmler was very thoughtful towards his mother."
No surprise here- very many of the Nazis were mothers' boys. Mothers' boys typically become torturers and extremists.

Marie Louise von Frank the leading authority on mothers' boys says most SS stormtroopers were complexed and fixated on mothers, not tough at all and would almost always be reduced by British interrogators to tears by being asked - with quaver in voice - 'When did you last see your .. mother?' 
Homosexuals also have mother problems or complexes and it is well documented that many Nazis were homosexual.



Martin and the Women

Amanda Craig reviews Martin Amis: The Biography, By Richard Bradford and discovers Amis minor is to be pitied.  

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/martin-amis-the-biography-by-richard-bradford-6261274.html


Novelists tend to be forged by the experience of anguish, but the "endless cocktail party" in which the three Amis children were brought up would, in a lesser writer, fill a misery memoir. His father, the near-alcoholic Kingsley Amis had, as Richard Bradford puts it, a "limitless taste for adultery" and if his naive young wife Hilly provided their children with love, then the chaos evinced by these pages explains much about his son's fiction. Certainly by the end of this first biography, the old joke about "Mein Kampf by Martin Amis" being the least likely combination of author and title looks a bitter one.

She writes about Amis's lack of literary prizes as if this is evidence of anything which for the literary set it probably is. As if the Booker prize winners will be remembered in a century. 'Boozy male braggadocio' gives away that it is Amis's masculinity and un-feminist attitude to women that are much of the problem though they have nothing to do with whether he is a good writer anymore than Larkin's racism. Amis Minor is equally dismissive of people who vote Conservative or believe in God by the way. He is a great writer, much better than almost any of his male or female contemporaries, to their annoyance, but I never finished London Fields and haven't felt tempted to try him again. ( I bought Money the morning it came out.) But he is probably the sexiest writer since Laclos.

Amanda Craig and all the other women writers dislike Amis because they are feminists and he makes remarks like (unwisely, in an interview with Lynne Barber) 'Look at the tits on that!'


Feminism is now a very dangerous ideology. (I think all ideologies are about justifying smallish groups of of people getting power, in this case clever university educated women who are allowed to do so under the guise of victims.) I just read a disgraceful article by Mary Beard from five years ago in LRB in which she describes Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor as blokish. A war hero, chevalier sans raproche, polyglot, polymath and sublime prose stylist but blokish.

Thank God I live in Romania where feminism has not arrived but it will. Unless some miracle happens like the Angels of Ypres to turn the cultural tide flowing from the West.

Period drama



In the 80s I deplored the loss of traditional England but now it seems indistinguishable from the Edwardian age. Pretty Tory secretaries disapproved of too many women in Parliament, politicians did not live in sin, a great deal of freedom of speech still existed, habeas corpus, double jeopardy rule, nobs in the Commons, vicars were men....


How priggish not to live in ones age. The typical trick of Peter Pan or Puer Aeternus, who does not want to be bound to time or place but to float free.

Style

Style? 

"When Hemingway put his brains to the wall with a shotgun, that was style. Or sometimes people give you style Joan of Arc had style John the Baptist Jesus Socrates Caesar GarcĂ­a Lorca. I have met men in jail with style. I have met more men in jail with style than men out of jail. Style is the difference, a way of doing, a way of being done." 

Charles Bukowski

Who has style? I suddenly realise I do!

Who else?

Raymond Chandler.


And ].... err...


Two in three Britons cannot speak a SINGLE foreign word

Headline in the Daily Mail:


Non, we no speak your lingo: Two in three Britons cannot speak a SINGLE foreign word
  • A fifth don't even know what 'bonjour' means
  • Revealingly, of those that can speak languages almost half knew ‘una cerveza por favor’ meant ‘a beer please’ in Spanish
I think insularity is a beautiful thing. Unfortunately we are not insular vis a vis American culture.


It would be much better to teach German to English people - we could pronounce it, the biggest stumbling block with French. But since even street cleaners in Zurich can speak English...
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2062982/Two-Britons-speak-SINGLE-foreign-word.html#ixzz1eATTavgo

Save Britain's public libraries - cut overseas aid and Trident and a hundred other things instead

Local Councils should just do the things they did in 1950, including good (silent) public libraries presided over by gorgons (not cultural Marxists educated at ex-polytechnics who stock them with PC propaganda), but not including lesbian outreach officers or hundred of other non-jobs.


(Perhaps we all should just do the things they did in 1950, but with central heating and modern dentistry.)

Where are the terrifying parkies, librarians and Catholic priests of old? Where are the snows of winter, where are they?

Poetry is what gets lost in the translation




Dr. Johnson said, "You may translate books of science exactly. You may also translate history, in so far as it is not embellished with oratory, which is poetical. Poetry, indeed, cannot be translated; and, therefore, it is the poets that preserve languages; for we would not be at the trouble to learn a language, if we could have all that is written in it just as well in a translation. but as the beauties of poetry cannot be preserved in any language except that in which it was originally written, we learn the language."


Poetry is what gets lost in the translation is how Robert Frost put it.



Many verse translations are good poems but none are great translations.



But until a few years ago few read poems like Chapman's Homer because they are translations. Reading them always puts me in mind of walking round fine Victorian churches which no-one visits because they are not old (Victorian churches too are now given more attention than twenty years ago). The very good Oxford Book of Classical Verse in Translation edited by Adrian Poole is the place to start.



One of my favourites is Horace - Odes, Book 3, Verse 29: Happy the Man - translated by Dryden but the poem is all Dryden.


Happy the man, and happy he alone,

He who can call today his own:

He who, secure within, can say,

Tomorrow do thy worst, for I have lived today.



Be fair or foul or rain or shine

The joys I have possessed, in spite of fate, are mine.

Not Heav'n itself upon the past has power,

But what has been, has been, and I have had my hour.


O tempora! O mores! Juvenal would have had fun with Sally Bercow's sex toy

I am having the experience people said they had when Diana died and the English went wild with grief, that they no longer recognised their country.

Quentin Letts today in the Daily Mail:


Asked by 'Total Politics' magazine to name her favourite gadget, she did not, as some might have done, mention the Corby trouser press or the Teasmade.
She opted for a certain type of battery-operated sex toy. Classy.


Michael Wharton could not have invented it (and anyway would have considered it very much too rude for a family newspaper). That whirring sound is Selwyn Lloyd and George Thomas, unmarried men, spinning in their graves. 

The Society for the Prevention of Progress

The Society for the Prevention of Progress would now be considered racist, sexist and homophobic (although not Islamophobic). Fiscal conservatism though no doubt wicked can be discussed in public but social conservatism is no longer acceptable and possibly a hate crime.


The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Vol. II: Books, Broadcasts, and the War, 1931-1949, ed. Walter Hooper (HarperSanFrancisco, 2004), pp. 613-614, with the editor's introductory note (in italics) and footnotes:
In his unpublished 'biography' of his brother, which later became the 'Memoir' to Letters of C.S. Lewis, Warnie wrote:

In May 1944 Jack received an amusing letter from the Society for the Prevention of Progress, of Walnut Creek, California, inviting him to become a member and requesting him to forward his credentials. The signature on his reply was instigated by one of the Society's rules to which his attention had been called:—Membership and the privileges of the Society are denied to such individuals as Henry A. Wallace30and this fellow Beveridge.31


TO THE SOCIETY FOR THE PREVENTION OF PROGRESS (L):

[Magdalen College
May 1944]

Dear Sir,

While feeling that I was born a member of your Society, I am nevertheless honoured to receive the outward seal of membership. I shall hope by continued orthodoxy and the unremitting practice of Reaction, Obstruction, and Stagnation to give you no reason for repenting your favour.

I humbly submit that in my Riddell Lectures entitled The Abolition of Man you will find another work not at all unworthy of consideration for admission to the canon.

Yours regressively,
C.S. Lewis

Beverages not Beveridges
(my motto) 

 

There is a tide in the affairs of men

Matthew Parris behind the paywall in the Times makes a good point which I have read him make several times over the years about how one act can decided a government's fate. Leaving the ERM did for Major,the Winter of Discontent for Callaghan, Falklands War made Mrs. Thatcher. Brown was tumbled as a ditherer when he did not go to the country in 2007. His Gestalt analogy reminded me of what John Biffen said about fall of Mrs. T.: “You know those maps on the Paris Metro that light up when you press a button to go from A to B? Well, it was like that. Someone pressed a button, and all the connections lit up.”'


Groan now as I return yet again to Gestalt psychology, a theory whose best everyday illustration is provided by the children’s game of joining up the dots. From the philosopher David Hume onwards, thinkers and psychologists have noted the human brain’s predilection for finding — in apparently random or even contradictory data — pattern, form and explanation; a predilection for reading a sharper picture from a scatter of data than the scatter may seem to insist.
Political news is composed of such a scatter. Are we to draw a lion or a crab in that night-sky miscellany of points of light? We journalists want to make stories out of news points as astrologers make zodiac signs out of stars. So do politicians. So do you. Humans want to interpret. We’ll link things, brush aside the contrary evidence, invest significance in what confirms our pattern, ignore the rest. Sometimes there really are trends, overarching themes, underlying tides; and sometimes the construction is fanciful. And we do this not only with politics and economics, but with personality as well.
With Cameron & Co (for some of this applies to Mr Osborne too) there are some dots we’ve joined together already. Let me throw a word cloud at you that’s already suggestive of part of a possible picture. Breezy, smooth, imperious, confidence, command, sleek, superior, genial, unflappable, cool, relaxed, calm. These (many would say) are kingly qualities: the attributes of a natural leader.
But now let me throw another word cloud at you: vague, waffly, dismissive, windy, inactive, unclear, “don’t know what he stands for”, equivocal, bland, blank-seeming: some of these are potentially weakness words, others more suggestive of genuine bafflement as to a leader’s intentions. All (like the kingly attributes) may be read from the existing data by those who wish to do so.
Joining together these dots in the firmament, I suggest, two quite contrasting constellations can be drawn. One is of a prince, the other of what Shakespeare would call a pantaloon. Aloof because commanding, or aloof because out of touch? Calm or just paralysed? Low-key or just lazy? Unhurried or just directionless? Unforthcoming because quietly confident, or unforthcoming because clueless? Unflustered or just dilatory? Which picture are Britain and its news media going to lock into place? On which picture will we close the book or begin the movie?
It may happen quite soon. We’re teetering. People await a nudge, one way or the other. The coalition’s leadership urgently needs to signal something strong and something big.

Freedom in Syria and England

We have far far too much international law which is a great threat to democracy and to freedom (two separate things). I was reading an account of the Assad regime in Syria and came across this: ‎"The Assad regime, like most Arab dictatorships, also quashed any religious or cultural identities, primarily to establish tight control over society." This sounded very familiar and I was reminded of and given a very telling insight into the way the EU and the governments of the EU member states work against the people of Europe. No doubt the Europhiles are convinced they act from the highest motives. 




Daniel Hannan blogged a few days ago:


The past twenty years have witnessed a revolution. It has been carried out quietly and bloodlessly, but it is, in its way, as far-reaching a revolution as those of 1789, 1917 or 1979. The rule that had governed relations between states since the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648 – the principle that each government was responsible for its internal affairs, and that crimes were the responsibility of the state on whose territory they were committed – has been overturned. A new legal order has been established, outside and above the nations.The new order does not take its authority from a single treaty or charter. It is protean, residing in the hundreds of international accords, conventions and declarations that national courts treat as precedent. Nor is it limited in scope. Far from restricting itself to international questions, it presumes to regulate all manner of internal matters: the rights of refugees, the status of children, employment law, religious freedom and so on.
A corpus of law has been created without debate, without ratification by national legislatures, without democratic approval. Its motive force has been the activism of judges and the intimidating fervour of the human rights professionals.
So far, supra-nationalists have had it almost all their own way. In plush conference venues around the world, out from under the public eye, they have enlarged and developed their jurisdiction. Funded by the global NGOs and by UN agencies, they have had time and resources, motive and opportunity. Hardly anyone, by contrast, has much incentive to speak up for the majority.

That’s what makes John Fonte’s book, Sovereignty or Submission, so valuable. Here, for the first time, is a comprehensive case for souverainisme in a single volume. Fonte traces the intellectual origins of trans-nationalism. He looks in detail at the way in which NGOs, unable to get their agenda through national parliaments, turn instead to international conventions. They are, indeed, quite overt about this. The UN's conference on racism at Durban was held at the initiative of a number of Leftist pressure groups which called openly on the UN to implement policies that had been rejected at the ballot box.


Hannan makes a very important point:  the true engine of integration has been the European Court of Justice. I hope people begin to see judicial activism in Britain and in the EU as a threat to democracy and to freedom.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Donald Dunham on the Romanians

(Donald Dunham an American diplomat stationed in Bucharest submitted his doctoral dissertation Rumanian Profile: A Study of National Character as Reflected in the Visual Arts, on May 20th, 1948, in the midst of the Communist takeover. It begins magnificently. I wish I could find a copy of the book whcih someone once lent me.)

The Romanians are a social phenomenon. As a nation among nations, they are westerners evolved in the East. They are Latins surrounded by Slavs. They are Romans two thousand years away from Rome. They are contemporaries re-produced on Trajan’s Column. 

They are peasants with the utmost in sophistication. They farm instinctively, but are suspicious of machinery. They speak a language like Italian but the majority of their words are Slavonic. They are superstitious but religious at the same time. They are astutely intelligent, but refuse to be intellectual. They submit to invasion but preserve their identity. They support great wealth and extreme poverty. They produce striking beauty yet can live in filth. 

As a collective personality, the Romanians are Oriental in their souls although Latin on the surface. Their patience is almost unending but they are quick to explode in argument; they are peace-loving yet would disintegrate without controversy. They are passive but strong in their resistance; spontaneously adaptable, still difficult t influence. They are romantic but never escape from reality. 

They are charming yet cruel in their ridicule, warmly emotional but calculating, generous yet concentrate on the ‘main chance.’ They are opportunistic but lose interest after they have gained the advantage; they seize the moment, still adopt the long view. 

The Romanians are a people of colorful contrasts and extreme extremes, born in classic times, ravaged by barbarians, indentured to the Turks, dominated by the Byzantines, the Greeks, dictated to by the Hungarians, Poles, Austrians and others, seduced by the French and not recognized as a country until 1878. Yet they emerge with a character that defies this confusion, that is definitely, emphatically, unmistakably Romanian. This character was born of a Dacian shepherd and a Roman lass, whose progeny became dwellers with nature itself, epicureans with earthy values and a tough constitution. 

It developed in composition and grew in strength under the invasions of waves of barbarians. Slavs were added to the original Dacians and the Roman colonizers. Christianization was extended in Wallachia and Moldavia by the Byzantine Church and intrigue was introduced as a science by the Greek ruling emissaries of the Sublime Porte. With the intrigue came the Greek culture of the mind – the analytical clarity of the Mediterraneans – which evaporated as Greek, as it was quickly absorbed as Romanian. Following this permeation came the magnetic seduction by Paris and the synthetic adoption of French-Western artistic values, by those classes who would afford to visit the “Rive Gauche” and return. 

Today you find the cult of the mind imbedded as an element of character in all classes second only to emotional spontaneity as a national characteristic. The Greeks were more successful than the French because they came to Romania and did not make Romanians come to them, and because their main influence was middle class and thereby could infect those classes both above and below them. The French appealed to aristocracy; the upper and wealthy classes of Romania went to Paris yearning to prove themselves by Gallic standards, perhaps eventually to return to the country of their birth to demonstrate their cultural acquisitions.



At my age I know this is profoundly true

"HERE are two things in which all men are manifestly and unmistakably equal. They are not equally clever or equally muscular or equally fat, as the sages of the modern reaction (with piercing insight) perceive. But this is a spiritual certainty, that all men are tragic. And this again is an equally sublime spiritual certainty that all men are comic." G.K. Chesterton

"Britain's oldest family business opened when Henry VIII ruled"

RJ Balson and Sons, a butchers based in Bridport, Dorset, boasts an astonishing history that is almost 500 years old.
Experts have traced the businesses roots back through 25 generations to when founder John Balson opened a stall in the town's market on South Street in 1535.
Since then dozens of family members have worked as butchers in the market town, passing their skills down the generations.
This is the England I love. Not the out of town shopping centres and fitness centres and DIY centres and motorways and flyovers and and and..

I suppose Lord Mandelson would decry the fact that generations of butchers were not given the opportunity to be High Court judges or investment bankers.

Macmillanana

Lord Kilmuir, who heard about his dismissal on the wireless: You have given me less notice than I would a housekeeper. Harold Macmillan: But good housekeepers are so hard to find.

My mind is chock full of anecdotes and sometimes one has to repeat one. Neither Kilmuir nor Harold Macmillan was terribly nice. Macmillan when asked why his son Maurice whom I knew and loved did not get further in politics said because he was not a shit. 

My favourite of my scores and scores of Macmillan stories is of when the Queen, Mrs. Thatcher and the five living former ‘Prime Ministers  had dinner at No. 10 to celebrate 300 years since it was built. As the famous photograph was being taken James Callaghan said: I wonder what is the collective noun of Prime Ministers. To which Lord Stockton who was 91 instantly replied: a lack of principals.

Oh and the Maharajah school friend of Macmillan who came to tea at No. 10 on one of his rare visits to the UK. Maurice told me: They overran their time and Papa’s private secretary came in and said I’m sorry to disturb you, Prime Minister, but you are due to meet the Finnish Ambassador in five minutes. To which the Maharajah looked at my father and said ‘But Harold, dear boy, you never told me you’d gone into politics.’

God loves to see us happy

“Behold the rain which descends from heaven upon our vineyards; there it enters the roots of the vines, to be changed into wine; a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.” -- Benjamin Franklin.  C.S. Lewis thought God does not wish us to be happy (happiness is beside the point according to Lewis), but  sex suggests He does.