Monday, 30 June 2014

Mourning Austria Hungary, another casualty of American liberalism

A hundred years since Princip murdered the Archduke Francis Ferdinand in the lovely city of Sarajevo and thereby destroyed the Habsburg Empire Princip so hated.

I asked a Serbian historian friend of mine, Dalibor Denda, when I was in Belgrade recently, why the Austrians wanted more Slavs in 1914 when by then they had more than they knew how to handle already. His one-word answer interested me:
Markets.
The tragedy of the Great War is that it led to the dissolution of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires, though I do not expect Romanians to agree with that, and to the Communist Revolution in Russia in November 1917. Communism was an immeasurable evil which dominated the next seventy years of world history and is by no means defeated yet (certainly not in the universities) and begat two very illegitimate children, fascism and Nazism. 

I have always blamed Austria Hungary for the 1914 war, not Germany, and on the whole still do but recently I have had second thoughts about Austrian guilt, when I compare her casus belli with that of America and Great Britain for invading Afghanistan in 2001. Why exactly was Austria wrong to invade Serbia 1914 and USA right in Afghanistan?

It was Austria-Hungary which kept the balance of power in Europe, prevented Eastern Europe being dominated by Russia and prevented the achievement of the liberal dream of 1848 of a Greater Germany, a dream which the Nazis made come true. The purpose of the European Union is to take the place of Austria Hungary and thereby keep Germany down and Russia out.

Austria Hungary also prevented Greater Romania coming into existence, of course. Here I shall anger many Romanian friends but I think it would have been better for everyone if the Hapsburg Empire in some form had continued to exist. It might have been, for example, that Transylvania and the Banat formed part of a loose, federal, democratic Austrian-Hungarian-Danubian confederation. This is not an opinion I would share with a crowd of Romanian football supporters. The territory that Romania seized from Hungary is meagre compensation for what Romania and Eastern Europe suffered as a result of the dissolution of the Hapsburg monarchy: involvement in the Second World War and, as a direct result of the war, forty years of Bolshevism.

In case readers think I have it in for Romania perhaps I should add that, as a conservative, I very much regret the unification of Germany (who does not?) and Italy too.

I do not deny that the way in which the Hungarians ruled Transylvania between 1867 and 1918 was disgraceful. It would now be called racist and likened, as so many things are, to apartheid. But a democratic federal Austria-Hungary with universal suffrage, where there was no 'people of state' (Staatsvolk), would have allowed each community to exist side by side, not very happily, because ethnic groups very rarely cohabit happily, but in peace and with respect. Similar remarks apply to the other territories that Hungary lost to Romania, like the Banat and the Maramures, and to the territories that were given to Czechoslovakia and to the Voivodina which was given to the the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.

The reason Austria-Hungary did not survive the winter of 1918 was the calamitous legacy of one man, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, the academic turned politician who said that Mr. Gladstone was his great hero. Wilson achieved the dream of the men of 1848 and the implementation - in a very crude way, as Hungarians rightly point out  - of the principle of national self-determination. He therefore created an unworkable international system and made a Second World War hard to avoid. Beyond Hitler and the Second World War, Wilson's legacy includes Harry Truman and the Cold War, Vietnam, Afghanistan and the Second Iraq War. Wilson is comparable only to George W. Bush in terms of his ineptitude and poor judgement. George W. Bush and the Neocons are his heirs and legatees. Wilson and the younger Bush have very much in common, including a disastrous desire to use war to make the world a better place. 

Interestingly, Wilson's liberalism stopped well short of anti-racism, the current liberal obsession. When he was President of Princeton he ruled that black men were not permitted to attend the university and as as a politician he campaigned against admitting immigrants from Asia. In those days the Democrats were the party of racial segregation, which seemed reasonably progressive, as did eugenics, which Wilson also supported (this cause attracted progressives in both parties, like Calvin Coolidge). Prohibition, about which Wilson was not enthusiastic, though he signed it into law, was another progressive though bi-partisan measure. Nowadays racial segregation and eugenics are no longer progressive, though abortion on demand is. Penalising alcohol consumption is becoming very progressive once again. And so it goes.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Rebekah Brooks and Andy Coulson: we should not worry about the tabloids but about the police

There is an outbreak of one of those periodical fits of morality to which the English are prone because one prominent journalist in England  has been found guilty of telephone hacking and another famous one has been acquitted.

Of course telephone hacking is a crime - and I suppose it is moderately serious - but nothing like the monstrous thing people pretend. 

I was appalled that The News of the World hacked the Prince and Princess of Wales's lines all those years ago and printed what they heard, but no-one else in England cared about this - it was hacking the voicemail of the parents of a murdered child that incensed my countrymen and brought this out into the open.

A raft of journalists have recently been  arrested for corruption, not telephone hacking, under a nineteenth century law that has hardly ever been enforced. Journalists have been paying the police and public servants ever since there was a police and a press. Every media organisation has done this forever. The Telegraph did it to gain insider knowledge of the MPs' expenses scandal and everyone is pleased they did, except the MPs. 

The Met were anxious to pin something on Rupert Murdoch after Sir Paul Stephenson was forced to  resign as commissioner on account of the scandal. This is the reason Andy Coulson was indicted and is going to gaol.

The important conclusion to draw from this is that the press does not need regulating. Things like hacking are already illegal. The second important important conclusion to draw is that the police in England are very much driven by a desire to enhance their own image. This is why, after their appalling their inability to bring to book people like Jimmy Savile a flurry of ageing celebrities have been brought to trail for interfering with minors. Many of them have got off because of insufficient evidence but the conviction of Rolf Harris and Max Clifford makes this look less like a way of saving the police's face. It is clear that the police nowadays, to use a cliche, have their own agenda. We saw that with the police conspiracy to destroy the career of a  cabinet minister, Andrew Mitchell, by telling a pack of lies. 

The police force now seems highly politicised and very authoritarian. Britain is becoming a democratic police state (democratic in the sense that elections are unrigged but not in the sense that common law English freedoms are in good health).



Everything dances

“Everything in the universe has a rhythm, everything dances.” (Maya Angelou) 

This is very true. Except for me. 

I try to dance but give up when as inevitably happens someone takes me by the shoulders and tells me 'Paul, let me teach you how to dance'. 

I was also told by two people recently that I clap against the beat of the music. Both commented that they had never observed anyone do that before. It seems that I am aryhthmic.

I do not repine. It seems that I am different from everyone else in many ways. I speak, hold my pen and think in a way that is unlike other people. This I see is a huge privilege. Not being about to whistle or dance are of no importance in comparison.

The nicest compliment I ever received was from someone who told me I was 
'born in outer space and have never landed on earth'. 
But that was many years ago and Romania was the earth on which I have sort-of landed.

As for dancing, it has always been clear to me that life is a dance, not an algorythm, whatever that is, or a rational chain of logic. Politics is a dance and so is love, so is history. A dance to the music of time, in Poussin's words.

The bullring in Barcelona may become Europe's biggest mosque

The Emir of Qatar is said to have agreed to pay two billion pounds to convert Barcelona's bullring into a 40,000-capacity mosque, the biggest in Europe, by 2020, if the city council approves the project.  

The Islamic reconquest of Spain is to be by cheque book not sword. It is probably inevitable now, but it is very sad.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Gypsygate: the President's brother and the underworld


The Romanian presidency was created in 1992 to allow Ion Iliescu to dominate politics without the dictatorial powers of his predecessor, Nicolae Ceausescu. 
On paper, Romania’s president has only circumscribed powers (foreign policy, defence and the intelligence services are his domains) but because he is elected directly by the people, in the same way that the French president is, he has a great deal of political authority. 

Romanian politics is therefore eternally about the friction between the Prime Minister and the President who appoints him, even where they come from the same political camp. When they belong to different parties (the president is required to resign from his party on election to office, but it is a legal fiction that he is non-partisan) the friction becomes all-out war. At least, it has in the case of the current President Traian Basescu.

Twice this had led to his suspension from office, impeachment and a referendum on whether to dismiss him. In both cases Basescu hung on. Mr. Basescu is a political Houdini who won the presidency by a whisker when everyone expected him to lose in 2004 and held onto it after his rival declared victory five years later. He almost seems politically indestructible but he will leave the presidency for the last time at the end of this year. 


It may be that his political reputation of this most divisive of figures will be so tarnished by the latest scandal that he will be for his last few months a lame duck. But Mr. Basescu does not have a lame duck sort of personality. Nor is Romania a country that is easily shocked. The great historian Nicolae Iorga was not far wrong when he said 
‘In Romania it is impossible to lose your reputation’.
So it will probably prove with Traian Basescu.

It seems that the president’s brother Mircea was running a thriving business in Constanta, Romania’s notoriously corrupt port on the Black Sea, using his access to political power. At one time his telephone did not stop ringing but latterly he had not been doing so well. He has now been arrested for allegedly receiving €250,000 in order to influence the judges to release a convicted underworld figure, Sandu Anghel, a gypsy known to those in the circles in which he moves as ‘Bercea Mondial’. Anghel was convicted in May 2011 for attempting to kill his nephew, Ionut Anghel, known as ‘Mercedes’ after a family argument at Anghel's bar. Anghel's son Florin, known as 'Ambasador' was gaoled as an accomplice to the crime. Mircea Basescu does not deny receiving the money from Florin Angel – he was taped doing so – but says it was a repayment of a loan.

No-one seems surprised or shocked – Romanians expect this kind of thing from their politicians.


Mircea Basescu’s wife apologised publically to the president and the country for her and her husband’s inability to “live up to the level of the office and rank” they reached and explained that the reason that she and her husband were close friends with Anghel and his family was in an attempt to combat racial prejudice against gypsies. Mircea Basescu became godfather (a very close, familial role in Romania) in 2010 to Bercea Mondial’s granddaughter, a fact that was in the papers, along with a list of serious criminal allegations as long as your arm against Mr Anghel and members of his family.

Mircea Basescu looks as if he is a (very) Romanian version of a long tradition of embarrassing relatives of political leaders. One thinks, if one is old enough, of Billy Carter, as well as of Roger Clinton and Tony Blair’s father-in-law, Tony Booth. But it is not only in Romania that  family members profit from 
politicians. Sir Mark Thatcher made his career working for Middle Eastern businessmen because of who his mother was. Gordon Brown's brother, quite innocently, worked in public relations lobbying for nuclear power.

An audio-tape of Mircea Basescu accepting the alleged bribe came to light on a TV channel owned by Mr. Basescu’s great foe the controversial businessman Dan Voiculescu and has led the Prime Minister to demand the president’s resignation. In fact, there is no smoking gun, no evidence that the president did anything to help Anghel and the fact that Anghel remains behind bars is circumstantial evidence in the other direction. (I wouldn't give much for his chances of early release now.) However, the story is being used not just to wound or destroy the president – he will soon leave the political stage anyway - but to break the anti-corruption prosecutors who have succeeded in securing the conviction of a long list of very rich and powerful people for corruption including the former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase and many others. Anghel is said to have claimed to have bribed the new head of the anti-corruption agency DNA) herself. DNA is the organisation which is arresting and successfully prosecuting so many famous and powerful establishment figures.

Even if the story that the gypsies tell about bribing the president’s brother were to be proven true it would not reflect well on them, but this has not stopped the flamboyant Mayor of Constanta, Radu Mazare, from publicly thanking the gypsies for having saved Romania. As a token of his esteem he has allowed gypsy vendors who sell corn puffs on the seafront of Constanta to do so free of tax. Mr. Mazare, who has a lurid reputation, was himself recently arrested on charges of corruption.

This is the paradox of Traian Basescu’s presidency. Under his leadership a lot has been done to reduce corruption, a lot of powerful and famous people who were guilty have been sent to gaol, yet very few indeed of those people belonged to the President’s camp or the political parties he favours.

Traian Basescu has always been a very destructive rather than a creative politician. Many usually well-informed people I have spoken to say that he himself is no saint – in the Romanian expression ‘is not the church 
door’. My view is that the political parties are really all one party which exists largely to enrich the politicians and their clients. They are pockets in the same pair of trousers. However, Mr. Basescu’s inability to get on peaceably with much or most of the political class, or the shadowy ‘structures of power’ which took over Romania after 1989, is his great merit. Let us hope that creative destruction continues after he retires.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Ed Miliband is not a man


Somebody in England - I remember it was a woman - said recently that the trouble with Ed Miliband, the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition, was that he did not yet entirely know who he was. I think this is right.

This, I think, is the quality I most look for in candidates when I interview them. It is closely linked to being 'a man' or 'a woman' - as opposed to not having grown up.

I remember I read once, and was greatly irked by it, that the world needs more grown-ups. It is, alas, true. I still love free spirits, as I did in my twenties, but to be a truly free spirit you must be a man or a woman, a grown-up. You might not understand yourself but you must know who you are. What you are determines what you do and is determined by what you have done.


The only other British politician, that I can remember, who was similarly unimpressive as a man (many were equally unimpressive as politicians) was Norman Lamont. Like Ed Miliband Norman Lamont was 'uncooked'. He always seemed like a student politician even when Chancellor of the Exchequer. 

Ed Miliband, though a former Cabinet minister, is a nerd and he is almost a jerk. 

Michael Dukakis may have been too. When John Major became Prime Minister a writer in the Guardian likened  him to Major Major in 'Catch 22' whose 


only impressive quality was his unimpressiveness - in a room full of unimpressive people Major Major stood out as less impressive than the rest.

But John Major seemed benign, whereas Ed Miliband does not. Someone on Twitter said
Ed Miliband is exactly the kind of nerd who, once he's in with the cool kids, would egg them on to stick the boot into someone weaker.
As I lived abroad for so many years, it is hard for me to comment on British politicians since 1997 but I heard the astonishing interview on the radio when Foreign Secretary David Miliband simply giggled when asked if he was trying to oust Prime Minister Gordon Brown. It may be that nerdiness and other bad qualities are in the Miliband genes. We know that their father was a bad 'un.



Why I don't believe in evolution

I don't believe in evolution. Before language nothing existed. Except God, if we accept the hypothesis that He exists, as we must.

What is most interesting is not evolution, or how the heavens were made, because they only exist in human consciousness, but how language came to be and with it thought and with thought consciousness. That is the greatest miracle.

Or, as St. John puts it, in the beginning was the Word.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Bucharest continues to lose its shabbiness, which for me is its charm

I am so sorry that my beloved Cismigiu, that deeply unfashionable park that Olivia Manning said was popular with soldiers and servants - and always despised by all self-respecting Bucuresteni - is losing its shabbiness. Like everything in Bucharest these days. I even saw a tourist horse and car there today.

Antonescu made walking in the street in shirt sleeves a crime

Last night before going out for a delightful dinner with Dennis Deletant I reread part of his book on Marshal Antonescu, Hitler's Forgotten Ally. It's very good and I recommend it.

I had forgotten that Marshal Antonescu made walking in the street in shirt sleeves an offence punishable by imprisonment. Several people went to gaol for this. Part of me (the fascist part that was a little boy in the 1960s and disliked long hair and floral shirts) almost approves, but no, this was wrong.

On the other hand I shall always love Dr. Salazar for preventing Coca Cola from selling their revolting drink in Portugal. 

I can't help being pleased, too, that that bloodstained old brute General Franco refused to let Protestants build churches in Spain on the ground that they were heretics. 

A propos of Franco my views are nuanced. Unlike Salazar, Franco was a bad man, even if he did go to Mass every day, but his Republican enemies were worse. 

The Spanish Civil War was a test run for the same Communists who took power in Eastern Europe after 1945. More than 500 out of the fairly small total number of Romanian Communists fought on the Republican side, including Walter Roman, Petre Roman's father, and Petre Borilă. If you doubt that Franco was greatly superior to the Communists, compare how Franco left Spain in 1975 with how the Communists left Romania.

King Philip VI , NOT Felipe

The new King Spain, who was crowned yesterday is King Philip VI , NOT Felipe.

The Spanish call our queen Isabel II and to them Prince Charles of course is Carlos. 

He doesn't seem like a Carlos, though perhaps he might if he wore shades.


Friday, 20 June 2014

Who are today's good writers?


Who are the good writers writing today whom I haven't heard of?

Jonathan Meades is probably a very good writer. He is only known to me from a television programme he made years ago about modern architecture where he visited a modern church and described its architectural style - it might have been Catholic or Protestant and was built in the universal modern style, meaning white, bare, and the unstained glass let in plenty of light. 
He said it embodied the idea of 
'God the unmighty, God the ever such a nice bloke'. 
I thought that was brilliant. It is at 1 minute, 56 seconds on this clip.

(By the way, there is no theological reason, as far as I know, why modern churches are not dark and gloomy. I think, to quote Iris Murdoch, that they let too much light in on mystery.)


Here in Romania there is a wonderful novelist called Mircea Cartarescu whom I heard on Monday say that the universe is one thing and we are all its eyes. He is a genius.

I am very out of touch because away from my country for fifteen years. When i was in England ideas were constantly being bounced off me. Here in Romania nothing of the sort happens because I am a foreigner in a country where I only half understand the language, even though I am fluent - and also because the internet takes up the time I once spent on books and on TV so I do not read much. Television which I haven't watched for at least ten years is terribly valuable -it keeps you in touch with reality. The internet does not, because the internet lets you choose what to read.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Mircea Eliade on the myth of Aryans


I am finally reading Mircea Eliade's short but brilliant essay 'The Fate of Romanian Culture ' and - as whenever I dip into Eliade - I am lost in wonder at his genius. I do not know if he is a reactionary or a modernist or both but I think I can learn much from his ideas about tradition.


I was also fascinated to read this from Eliade's diary about the origins of the stupid idea of Aryans.


stig wikander told us some fascinating things on the history of “aryanism” in europe. he found the origin of the idea of the superiority of the aryans in the anti-clericalism of jules michelet and edgar quinet. it is because they wanted to disparage christianity (directly or indirectly) that michelet and quinet exalted the vedas and “aryan wisdom”. their anti-semitism and that of their admirers was only a reflection of their anticlericalism. their aryanophilia was of a religious nature. the brother of the celebrated sanskritist eugène burnouf, emile, who was a professor at nantes, wrote a history of religions in which he demonstrated the important and the antiquity of the vedas. the book had an enormous influence. even mallarmè read it and affirmed that homer had ruined epic poetry. but what came before homer? he was asked. the vedas, answered mallarmè.
The aryanising anticlericalism had no connection with the political anti-semitism that arose later. the origins of this anti-semitic current are located in austria-hungary and in the germany of the second half of the nineteenth century.

This is so interesting. I suppose it vaguely supports my assumption (I am very ignorant about them) that the nineteenth century racists like Gobineau, who was a philo-Semite and a freethinker, were not conservatives but progressives. 

Eliade I believe took Gobineau seriously as a thinker, at least in an essay he wrote in 1930 - in which he took seriously later anti-semites like H.S. Chamberlain and even Alfred Rosenberg. There is more about this here but, as always on the net, one does not know whether what one reads is true.

Chamberlain and the Social Darwinians were very different indeed from liberals like Michelet but they were progressives of a sort and, like Marx, they were pseudo-scientists. Isaiah Berlin claimed De Maistre as the forefather of the fascists but the arch-reactionary De Maistre (another philo-Semite) would have abominated all the Nazis stood for and all Chamberlains's theories about Aryan superiority over Jews.

The Nazis were certainly not conservative. They were certainly not left-wing either, at least not for the reasons American conservatives assert that they were, assuming as the latter foolishly do that conservatism is about freedom and free market economics. They were, however, so it has always seemed to me, progressives, believers in modernity and change, in eugenics and science. As nationalists, even though Goebbels said in 1933 that 
'This is the end of 1789'
they were, in fact, heirs to the French Revolution.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Rod Liddle's Selfish Whining Monkeys

The changes in London since I lived there in the 1980s are not so enormous as I would expect - or perhaps I didn't see them. In Hatchard's, I bought Rod Liddle's new book 'Selfish Whining Monkeys' to see how someone my age saw things. I think Liddle is a writer of genius, but the book is very disappointing. I had no idea he could write badly. People who think him right-wing do not know him, of course, but his socialism is not the reason why the book fails. It is baggy and badly written, like sitting next to someone garrulous, foul-mouthed and pretty dull at a pub or, more likely, at a media party. It is sad because Liddle can write astonishingly well and does, week after week, in The Spectator.

It reminded me of what some reviewer said about Roger Scruton's book, 'England: an Elegy', another book I confidently expected to like but didn't, 
There is always a danger of confusing one's childhood with the universe.
In fact what interested me most about the book were not the politics or the modern social history but the reflections on being in your early fifties. 

In the book Rod Liddle carefully avoided the subject of immigration and race, on which his views raise eyebrows and hackles among some people, but this did not stop his book being the occasion for this wonderful interview where two very rational women try to sweep the floor with him and fail completely. 

The book also led to a character assassination review by a bad writer, Will Self, which also concentrated on opinions about race and immigration which are not in the book. The review in The Guardian was not insightful and not well-written but it garnered many eulogies for its literary skill on Twitter and this bemuses and depresses me. However, Rod Liddle had it coming to him by making heretical statements such as this article on the dangers of increasing numbers of Muslims in Europe.

The Guardian published this week an interview with Rod Liddle in which they asked him about all this. You can judge for yourself what you think. The interview elicited the following letter from a reader.
Is the non-bigoted Rod Liddle interviewed by Simon Hattenstone (Citizen Liddle, Weekend, 14 June) the same Rod Liddle who offered the following gems in the Sun's jingoistic supplement last week: "Obviously, the best thing about being English is not being French. Or Belgian. Can you imagine that? Waking up every morning to the realisation that you're Belgian? You'd go out of your mind." And: "Apparently, the Romanians are just as proud of being Romanian as we are of being English. I know, hard to imagine. But it's true."

Personally, I think Rod Liddle is a Good Thing, though I think he has written a rather bad book.

On the other hand the man from The Independent liked it.


The Holy Land and the chosen people


An interesting observation by Steven Sizer.

Contrary to popular assumption, the Scriptures repeatedly insist that the [Holy] land belongs to God and that residence was always conditional. For example, God said to his people, “‘The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers” (Leviticus 25:23). 

London twenty years after

Kensington And Chelsea Street, Egerton Crescent Named Most Expensive For Second Year Running

I just got back from London, which is the best place in the world to spend a holiday. It has comparatively cool weather in summer, intelligent people, churches, art galleries, the best museum in the world, good food, every attraction a holiday place can have except tranquillity. And, if you are lucky enough to belong to or have the use of a London club, their libraries are the calmest places on the face of the earth. And ringing a bell produces a toasted teacake. 

My enjoyment of London, though, is tinged by a constant sense of shock at how much time had passed since I lived there. I remember spending most of my life there but in fact it was just five years: 1985 to 1990. If William James is right about people becoming old fogeys around the age of 26 then is my now. In fact as a young fogey I am immune from becoming an old fogey.

London, so I read, has become very cosmopolitan. White British people are now a minority. This saddens me very much, but, though I am constantly meeting charming East Europeans, the West End and central London do not seem greatly changed and the biggest change one notices is how much more polite and friendly people are. And not just the Eastern Europeans. 


However this impression is misleading and London has changed and is changing - into a city for the very rich from all round the world. London is now very expensive, glamorous and careerist. It never was a calm place but it is much less so now. Alexander Chancellor, who must be getting on, since he was editing the Spectator when I read it as a schoolboy, writes interestingly about how London has become unbelievably expensive here. 

Clearly rising house prices are the biggest problem everywhere in the developed world and I presume they will kill London. Not only by stuffing the capital with dull people with good jobs (the rich themselves can be interesting but people with good jobs less often are) but by the materialism and money-obsession that expensive property prices engender. That's to say nothing of the atmosphere of greed and anxiety that are always found in casinos - property bubbles are, after all, a form of roulette.

I once rented a vast room in a vast old house off Cheyne Row for £50 a week, with a Kneller in it. But Chelsea by 1986 was considered much, much too expensive for anyone but the rich. Long gone and forgotten were the days when painters and writers lived there, though once Chelsea was working class and had Liberal MPs. (Like the meteoric Sir Charles Dilke whose name was ruined in the Three Beds Scandal). By 1985 Fulham had long been gentrified and much but not all of Islington.

I loved London but it wasn't at all glamorous, except perhaps in Chelsea, South Kensington and Belgravia. In the late 1980s one was very well aware that rent was far far higher than it had been a decade or two earlier and that consequently the city had lost much of its flavour, but people who had bought when things were affordable were still around. For a very happy year in 1989 I lived in Primrose Hill. Near me had settled famous writers and arts types like Kingsley Amis, Jonathan Miller, Ralph Miliband, Alan Bennett and the rest in the 60s when things were affordable but Primrose Hill still had a working class element. In around 1994 when I revisited the rather rough pubs had been replaced by women-friendly bars with large plate glass windows.

                                       
                                                                             *


I went to a charity ball on Thursday at the Waldorf for a very good cause, the Casa Speranta hospice in Romania. I spent a lot of time in clubland and deplored the sight of women and, at the weekend,  men in open neck shirts and jeans. Brooks's where a friend took me to lunch was the only club that felt like a club.

                                     
                                                                           *


A pagan friend of mine, a bachelor who is worth some millions, seemed happy in his calm flat off Kensington High St and quoted his favourite philosopher Epicurus to me:
The past is full of regrets, the future full of dangers. Instead, unpack what you have in the present.

A friend who is a Fleet Street journalist told me she did not let losing her money make her unhappy and that she has a happy disposition. 


                                                                           *

I met a lot of old friends, had a great time, fitted in the British Museum and the National Gallery briefly, saw my niece and nephew confirmed, and ate a lot of wonderful meals, especially but not only breakfasts. 

Somerset Maugham said,
'You can eat better in England than in any other country in the world if you have breakfast three times a day. 
I ate well for lunch and supper too - what is better than game pie or roast beef and Yorkshire pudding or summer pudding? - but breakfasts are still England's glory.


Egyptian mummy painting from first century after Christ, in British Museum. These mummy paintings are the oldest realistic paintings in the world and one of the most interesting things in London.



Tuesday, 3 June 2014

This week's quotations


“Be a loner. That gives you time to wonder, to search for the truth. Have holy curiosity. Make your life worth living.”

Albert Einstein


“It's a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you're ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There's almost no such thing as ready. There's only now. And you may as well do it now. I mean, I say that confidently as if I'm about to go bungee jumping or something - I'm not. I'm not a crazed risk taker. But I do think that, generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.”


Hugh Laurie (a sex symbol who was two years above me at university)


“We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian Darwinian theory he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.”

Richard Buckminster Fuller


"One of the things Tim Leary said in the 1960s
that I always remembered
but I never heard anybody talk about
or ever really heard him quote.
It was a great rallying cry.
It was much better than
Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out;
and it was this:
“Find the others.”
“Find the others,
and then you will know what to do.”
Well now you can find the others.
You don’t have to stick a flower in your hair
and go to San Francisco.
You just go to the web."

Terence McKenna



"The first thing that must strike any outside observer is that Socialism, in its developed form is a theory confined entirely to the middle classes. The typical Socialist is not, as tremulous old ladies imagine, a ferocious-looking working man with greasy overalls and a raucous voice. He is either a youthful snob-Bolshevik who in five years time will quite probably have made a wealthy marriage and been converted to Roman Catholicism; or, still more typically, a prim little man with a white-collar job, usually a secret teetotaller and often with vegetarian leanings, with a history of Nonconformity behind him, and, above all, with a social position which he has no intention of forfeiting. This last type is surprisingly common in Socialist parties of every shade; it has perhaps been taken over en bloc from the old Liberal Party. In addition to this there is the horrible —- the really disquieting —- prevalence of cranks wherever Socialists are gathered together. One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words ‘Socialism’ and ‘Communism’ draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, ‘Nature Cure’ quack, pacifist, and feminist in England."


George Orwell