Saturday, 19 December 2015

15 pieces of good careers advice and a joke

Find out what you like doing best, and get someone to pay you for it. Katharine Whitehorn

If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life. Abraham Maslow

The chief danger in life is that you may take too many precautions. Alfred Adler

It is never too late to be what you might have been. George Eliot

Providence seldom sends any into the world with an inclination to attempt great things, who have not abilities, likewise, to perform them. Dr. Johnson

All happiness depends on courage and work. Honoré de Balzac

Whatever you can do or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Goethe

Thousands of people have talent. I might as well congratulate you for having eyes in your head. The one and only thing that counts is: Do you have staying power? Noel Coward

The test of a vocation is the love of the drudgery it involves. Logan Pearsall Smith

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Mark Twain

Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working. Pablo Picasso

Never mistake motion for action. Ernest Hemingway

If you always do the next thing that needs to be done, you will go most safely and sure-footedly along the path prescribed by your unconscious. Then it is naturally no help at all to speculate about how you ought to live. … you cannot know it, but quietly do the next and most necessary thing. Carl Jung

Intelligence without ambition is a bird without wings. Salvador Dali

It's only work if somebody makes you do it. Calvin and Hobbes

They all laughed when I said I wanted to be a comedian. Well, they're not laughing now. Bob Monkhouse

Sunday, 6 December 2015

The Dimbovita in December by Octav Dragan

More quotations

Balfour when young - a chaste young bachelor known in the House as Pretty Fanny

He has only half learned the art of reading who has not added to it the more refined art of skipping and skimming.

A. J. Balfour

As you know, I never read a book.

Isaiah Berlin (but Paul Johnson said he was a skimmer of genius). I unfortunately have not really learnt this art with books but on the net I am a skimmer of genius. 

A.J. Balfour pointed out that all the many philosophical arguments for why murder is wrong had nothing in common with each other except their conclusion. It is almost, he said, as if the authors started with the conclusion and worked backwards. I don't have his essays to hand to quote exactly.

The man who loses his temper makes himself ridiculous.

Harold Nicolson


Facebook just reminded me that I posted this picture of Brasov five years ago.

Have I really spent five (six actually) years on Facebook? 

What was life like before Facebook? 

It's a blur.

What an astonishing thing Facebook is -a box of delights - more interesting in its way even than War and Peace. And War and Peace is the novel I have spent all year crawling through, thanks to the attractions of Facebook.

This picture elicited, by the way, a wonderful comment from Dominic Johnson. 
The McDonald's sign is a little like spotting an overturned shopping cart in Constable's The Haywain.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Romania, the last old fashioned country in Europe

I always go to Spain or Greece thinking I am 40 years too late, France 50 years too late but when I came to Romania in 1990 I said to myself 'Paul you are still in time'. Though Patrick Leigh Fermor the same year was horrified by the damage the Communists had done since he was there in the 1930s economic growth changes things much more than Bolshevism. Enoch Powell was right to say that rapid economic growth was the enemy of conservatism.

This is the whole story published in the Times in October 2005, just after the bombings on the London underground by British Muslim terrorists. After the recent terrorist murders in Paris the opening lines are again, alas, timely.

The Last Peasants
"The country is holding its breath today," read The Times. “Tension and nerves will be felt by millions who know that the bombers have chosen Thursday as a day of atrocity.”
The world has been rewritten by the writers of cheap thrillers. And not necessarily present day thrillers. We feel as if we are in the neurotic pre-1914 landscape of William Le Queux or early Edgar Wallace.
While Londoners were waiting pensively in the tube I was in another kind of pre-1914 landscape, driving through villages in the Maramures, the northern edge of Transylvania bordering on Ukraine. Here life hasn’t changed very much in centuries but it will soon change utterly. Here in the most conservative part of Romania, Europe’s least modern country, peasants have not completely given up traditional costumes, for example. Such tractors as were to be found here under Communism were long ago sold off and horse-drawn ploughs are universal. Old women in black scatter seed in the fields. This is subsistence farming of a kind which had disappeared elsewhere and must soon disappear here too.
It took me fifteen years to get to Maramures. In 1990 when everyone in the Transylvanian countryside wore traditional costume to Mass and cars were scarcely seen, I asked my Romanian companion, ‘Is this the poorest part of Romania?’ It was my first day here. ‘No, it’s the richest. Can’t you tell?” A disconcerting reply. ‘If you want to see somewhere poor and old fashioned you should go to Maramures. In Maramures they’re still living in the Stone Age.’
In those fifteen years Maramures has changed like the rest of Romania. Gloucestershire has been bought up by stockbrokers wanting weekend cottages and Maramures I had read was full of villas built by customs officers and police colonels.  And there are plenty of big new houses around. A lot fewer people wear costume every day than did when I missed my first chance to visit. Tourism is bigger business now than it was then and there is a steady stream of foreign visitors but the area still feels pretty undiscovered, well protected by its inaccessibility. You can’t get there easily from anywhere by car, train or plane.
In Maramures villages men in hats and women with scarves, aged from thirty upwards, spend a lot of time sitting on roadside benches. They look attentively at each car or pedestrian that passes and conversation languishes. Tranquil is I suppose the word. The bomb explosions in London seemed unreal to Londoners but less real in Maramures.
Agrotourism, putting up with peasants, is the joy of travelling in Romania. This is tourism on a human scale, bespoke. You are a lodger but treated as a friend.  Catch it before its innocence has been lost and before Romania enters the E.U. in 2007. Your hosts who are subsistence farmers provide milk for your coffee fresh from the cow at the end of the garden. How much will be lost when EU health regulations bring all this to an end.
The priest’s wife in the village of Botiza, Mrs Victoria Berdecaru, has revived the carpet making industry in the village, organised a very neat crafts museum and organises accommodation for visitors. I stayed with Vasile the handsome 40 year-old local carpenter and handyman who built the museum and who told me ‘I do everything except dig graves. I won’t dig graves.’
I came on a chance impulse to see the 38th edition of the Hora La Prislop festival. Horas  are traditional Romanian dances and every village has its dances. Hora La Prislop is held on a mountainside and participants from villages throughout the Maramures compete for prizes. It attracts a big well-mannered audience who sit on the grass watching the stage neither eating, drinking nor talking. I also noticed three or four foreigners, one bestrewn with two large and expensive cameras. The festival is great fun on a sunny Sunday afternoon if you repress the adage about trying everything once except incest or Morris dancing.
The date of the first festival, 1968, is telling. Nicolae Ceausescu was just beginning to wrap himself in the flag and emphasise the traditions of the Romanian peasantry, twenty years before he began to knock down villages to make way for agro-industrial complexes. We were back in the 1970s and you expected to see local party dignitaries in crimplene suits make speeches praising agricultural output.
This was the eve of Assumption Day. In Romania as in much of Southern Europe the Assumption of the Virgin is one of the most important days of the year. It is treated in the countryside as an unofficial holiday. The roads were full of processions, adults in full costume, and angelic girls in white as for a first Holy Communion.
People from all over the area and the two biggest processions converged on the Monastery of Moisei where Mass in the open lasted from early evening till midday. Until 1989 these processions were forbidden by the police and had to be held under cover of night but today every ex-Communist politician wants to be photographed on the Assumption at some famous monastery. Moisei was crowded with visitors and stalls selling refreshments. Long before the first procession was near the narrow road to the monastery was blocked and impassible by car.
Wooden churches are what Maramures is renowned for, with spires, steep roofs and wall paintings. I attended Mass the next morning in a Greek Catholic church in Iaud or rather in the graveyard amid hollyhocks and brightly painted crucifixes with most of the congregation. The women stood together in the front, the men together at the rear. Most of the women wore scarves and traditional blouses and skirts but there were a few in blue jeans and loose hair. Each year the numbers of the latter increase.
The priest at the close read out the names and size of the contributions made by parishioners to the cost of building the new church. (“€100 on the part of Mrs Ionela Ghica, €100 on the part of Vlad Dumitriu…”) Everywhere you go in Maramures new churches have been or are being built alongside the houses of incomers.  A few miles away an impressive Orthodox monastery complex has been built on the site of one suppressed in the eighteenth century.
Iaud is a village where half the population is Greek Catholic. The Greek Catholic rite resembles that of the Orthodox but the Greek Catholics, also known as ‘Uniates’, recognise the authority of Rome. Iaud boasts several fine wooden churches and a reputation for large families.  It seems that the inhabitants observe the Church’s teaching better than in richer parts of Europe. According to Vasile: ‘If you have three children here people think you’re impotent.’
Sighet, a pleasant Austro-Hungarian town a mile from the Ukrainian border, houses the infamous prison where after the Communist takeover the leading politicians and opinion-formers were incarcerated, tortured and in many cases killed. Today the prison is a well-designed museum that explains the Stalin era. When I visited the museum had plenty of customers. Children ran around noisily. I got a slight sense in the exercise yard of the horrors of the recent past, I stood in the little cell in which democrat Iuliu Maniu had died and I went out. I was pleased that President Ion Iliescu, a leading member of the Communist Party’s youth wing during the years when the prison was busiest, had not been to see it.
Vasile told me that the secret of a happy life is preserving tradition. ‘You have to change but you should keep the traditions.’ I thought of life in London where traditions have been dissolved by affluence, technology, pop culture and multiculturalism. In the Maramures past and present are seamless, the existence of God is assumed rather like the sun rising each morning, neighbours know everything about each other and no man is an island.
But the numbers of cars we saw everywhere with Italian driving licenses testify to the exodus of Moreseni to work abroad. In the locality where I was staying everyone went to Northern Italy, where the discipline of Italian life was irksome but the money was very good. In other parts of the Maramures I am told everyone goes to Spain. Maramures is beautiful but desperately poor and an economic impossibility. As Vasile said to me ‘When you say agriculture you say poverty.’ Europe no longer has room for subsistence farmers and even if people like Vasile would never swap their lives for anyone else’s, his three daughters will go to college and not return to live their mother’s way of life. Vasile has no regrets. ‘They must fulfill their destiny. I hope they will return here when they are old.’
© Paul Wood 2005

Catholic atheists

When Catholics do not believe in God they know exactly what God it is in Whom they do not believe. As a Spaniard said to George Barrow, why should I believe in your God when I do not believe in my own, Who is the one true God?

Friday, 4 December 2015

Quotations, mostly discovered this weekend

If Turkey were not a member of NATO, today the Dardanelles and Istanbul would have been Russian.

Lidia Wolanskyj, Russian politician

Like addressing sheeted tombstones by moonlight.

Sidney, Lord Herbert of Lea, after speaking in the House of Lords in the 1860s, quoted by Jeremy Paxman in the FT.

Without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods; even rich men and those in possession of office and of dominating power are thought to need friends most of all; for what is the use of such prosperity without the opportunity of beneficence, which is exercised chiefly and in its most laudable form towards friends? Or how can prosperity be guarded and preserved without friends? The greater it is, the more exposed is it to risk. And in poverty and in other misfortunes men think friends are the only refuge. It helps the young, too, to keep from error; it aids older people by ministering to their needs and supplementing the activities that are failing from weakness; those in the prime of life it stimulates to noble actions -- 'two going together' -- for with friends men are more able both to think and to act.


When women kiss I am always reminded of boxers shaking hands after they enter the ring.


(A schoolfriend read out Schopenhauer's aphorisms on women to me when we were 12.)

The famous book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus should really have been Men are like Dogs, Women are like Cats, in so far as e.g. women only ever seem to take other women seriously. 

Dominic Johnson (he's a vet.)

It is unfortunate, considering that enthusiasm moves the world, that so few enthusiasts can be trusted to speak the truth.

A.J. Balfour

Society is constantly persecuting.

A.J. Balfour

my sweet old etcetera
aunt lucy during the recent

war could and what
is more did tell you just
what everybody was fighting

my sister

isabel created hundreds
hundreds) of socks not to
mention shirts fleaproof earwarmers

etcetera wristers etcetera, my
mother hoped that

i would die etcetera
bravely of course my father used
to become hoarse talking about how it was
a privilege and if only he
could meanwhile my

self etcetera lay quietly
in the deep mud et

cetera, of
Your smile
eyes knees and of your Etcetera)

ee cummings 

When we shed our empire we forgot to shed our arrogance.

Enoch Powell, opposing Britain fighting over Kuwait in 1991. I disagreed with him about that war and about intervening in the former Yugoslavia but about Iraq and Libya his remark is apposite. And Syria?

Our society will change. Our society will change radically. In 20-30 years there will no longer be a German majority. We will live in a supercultural society. This is what we will have in the future. And I want to make it very clear, especially to right-wingers: This is a good thing!

Dr. Stefanie von Berg, German Green Party politician.  I quoted this before, but it deserves repeating.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

American black killers oppressing whites

We hear a lot recently about whites in the USA killing blacks but in 2013 there were 409 black on white homicides, while 189 blacks were killed by whites - despite blacks being only 13% of the population and whites still being 74% of population.

Why American blacks commit so many violent crimes compared to other groups, even making allowance for their social class, I have no idea. But oppression works two ways. Judging by homicide statistics, American blacks are more oppressing than oppressed.

Back in Bucharest

Back in Bucharest after a short trip abroad, celebrating yet another birthday, my taxi driver is a Catholic who very sweetly at the end of the journey asks me if I am a priest. A great compliment and the nicest thing that was said to me since another taxi driver asked me if I were an artist. 'Why do you ask?' 'Because you don't seem to have your feet on the ground.' 

Tonight's taxi driver was a furrier until his employer went out of business because people started to think furs immoral. In Romania where everyone wears them. I am sad about this and love furs, but remember that an ecological friend told me that bears are killed for their furs by having hot pokers inserted in their anuses. Even very sexy girls in furs do but justify this. Shades of King Edward II's death. 

[Do you remember Dr. Fagan's remark about King Edward II – “a perverse life, Pennyfeather, and an unseemly death”?]

Should the UK bomb ISIS? I need to think about it

I have been too busy to think about whether or not I want us to bomb Syria but I know these things. 1. The ISIS attack in Paris is a lot less worrying than Germany letting in maybe millions of migrants settle in Germany. 2. For reasons i do not understand the UK and France (and USA) will use intervention in Syria to try to overthrow the Syrian government. 3. The Syrian government though utterly vile and disgusting is better than the realistic alternatives. 4. The problem is not in the Middle East but in Europe and the other rich countries. 5. ISIS will have done Europe a huge favour if people see the danger of islamisation. 6. This is unlikely to happen because of high minded, kind hearted, articulate people with good intentions. 7. I am angry with those good people rather than with ISIS.

Fascism, sometimes but rarely a useful word

in the early 1970s Tony Benn's son Hilary, as a teenager, pushed his father, who did not want to be outflanked by his son, to the hard left. Now grown to mature years, Hilary Benn turned out not share his father's barmy extremism and be fairly moderate. He has thrilled his party and the British left by describing ISIS last night, in the House of Commons, as fascist. Martin Kettle, in the Guardian, gushed.
Fascism was the pivotal word in Benn’s speech, held back until nearly the end, as a great conductor does with the climax of a symphonic argument. Fascism is still a morally and historically charged word unlike any others, especially in a chamber where Churchill’s ghost still lurks on occasions such as these. Yet Benn’s final sentences skilfully invoked other traditions too – not least the plain, unvarnished English dissenting culture from which he himself springs.
It was a good, persuasive speech - click here to watch it. Though, in my opinion, the Labour party's internationalism is one of its worse and most dangerous features, not as Mr. Benn said, its best feature. And he was utterly, unpardonably wrong when he said all refugees wanted to return to Syria. 

I am guilty of bandying the word fascism around - I have described England as increasingly fascist - but what is the point of using the word to blacken Saudi Arabia or ISIS, etc? They are not remotely fascist, if by fascist you mean resembling Mussolini's system and they are quite as bad or in fact much worse. And if Assad is a fascist, and ISIS are fascists and for sure the non-ISIS allegedly moderate rebels are fascists it seems Syria has three fascist choices and a negligible number of democrats. And a democratic election would be a disaster anyway as it would bring to power Sunni Islamists and for sure they are not democrats.

Fascism is not a problem any more but everyone wants to prepare for the last war. Evil morphs. Atheistic ideologies and racism gave rise to much evil in my father's day - now Islam and anti-racism are the problem.

Note. Historian Niall Ferguson rightly pointed out today [Sunday 6 December] that fascism was hierarchical in structure, as well as national in appeal, but today's Islamism is both [a] a network in structure, as well as [b] International in appeal. Quite.


'"Do you believe," said Candide, "that men have always massacred each other as they do to-day, that they have always been liars, cheats, traitors, ingrates, brigands, idiots, thieves, scoundrels, gluttons, drunkards, misers, envious, ambitious, bloody-minded, calumniators, debauchees, fanatics, hypocrites, and fools?

"Do you believe," said Martin, "that hawks have always eaten pigeons when they have found them?"'

Voltaire, 'Candide'

“He was one of the numerous and varied legion of dullards, of half-animated abortions, conceited, half-educated coxcombs, who attach themselves to the idea most in fashion only to vulgarize it and who caricature every cause they serve, however sincerely.”

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Crime and Punishment

“I am an excitable person who only understands life lyrically, musically, in whom feelings are much stronger as reason. I am so thirsty for the marvelous that only the marvelous has power over me. Anything I can not transform into something marvelous, I let go. Reality doesn't impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls.”

Anaïs Nin