Friday 27 May 2016

When friends succeed

Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something inside me dies. Gore Vidal

Failure is not the only penalty for sloth - there is also the success of ones friends. Anon.

Failure, so despicable in others, in oneself the only dignified thing. Claude Cockburn
And everyone knows:
We all of us have the fortitude to bear a friend's misfortune. La Rochefoucauld

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Quotations for Wednesday

Eternity is not the very ancient, which existed before time began, but the entirely other, which is related to every passing age as its today and is really contemporary with it; it is not barred off into a 'before' and 'after'; it is much more the power of the present in all time.

Pope Benedict XVI

We have been most secure when we kept out of Europe. Meddling with European affairs has brought us nothing but toil and suffering. The greatest age of British economic achievement was in the nineteenth century. Then we were truly the workshop of the world. The sole principle of our foreign policy was Splendid Isolation. This was the basis for our prosperity.

A.J.P. Taylor

There are people in Europe who, confounding together the different characteristics of the sexes, would make man and woman into beings not only equal but alike. They would give to both the same functions, impose on both the same duties, and grant to both the same rights; they would mix them in all things ~ their occupations, their pleasures, their business. 

Monday 23 May 2016

Britain is Non-U

I haven't read Alan Ross's Essay in Sociological Linguistics republished in Nancy Mitford's Noblesse Oblige since I was in my first year at university. I am very ashamed to say that avoiding Non-U (i.e. non-upper class) words and phrases is the most lasting effect of my university education. However I am delighted to discover it is U (upper class) to say England to mean the UK and Non-U to say Britain.

Saying England instead of Britain is that's going out (though Romanians keep up the tradition and talk about the English Ambassador). It's a good thing to do for several reasons - for example it annoys false pedants.

I mean absolutely no disrespect to Scotland, a great country that I love with all my heart and hope one day to visit. But England has been used far more often than Great Britain (or worse Britain)  to mean Great Britain or the UK since 1707 when the two countries merged and therefore England is slightly more correct than Britain. Disraeli signed the Treaty of Berlin as 'Prime Minister of England' and Churchill always spoke of England not of Britain. So did most people, apart from the Scots, the Welsh, Northern Irishmen and Americans, until fifty years ago. 

Sunday 22 May 2016

Facing it, always facing it, that's the way to get through. Face it. Joseph Conrad

Facing it, always facing it, that's the way to get through. Face it.

Joseph Conrad

If you must have motivation, think of your pay cheque on Friday.

Noel Coward

Each blade of grass has its spot on earth whence it draws its life, its strength; and so is man rooted to the land from which he draws his faith together with his life. 

Joseph Conrad

They talk of a man betraying his country, his friends, his sweetheart. There must be a moral bond first. All a man can betray is his conscience. 

Joseph Conrad

It’s just so strange.
You used to love me,
and now you’re a stranger
who happens to know all
of my secrets.

Clementine von Radics

Despite my pro-abortion stance (I call the term pro-choice “a cowardly euphemism”), I profoundly respect the pro-life viewpoint, which I think has the moral high ground. I wrote in “No Law in the Arena”: “We career women are arguing from expedience: it is personally and professionally inconvenient or onerous to bear an unwanted child. The pro-life movement, in contrast, is arguing that every conception is sacred and that society has a responsibility to protect the defenseless.” The silence from second-wave feminists about the ethical ambiguities in their pro-choice belief system has been deafening.

Camille Paglia

Faith means deciding for the view that thought and meaning do not just form a chance by-product of being; that, on the contrary, all being is a product of thought and, indeed, in its innermost structure is itself thought.

Pope Benedict XVI

Tuesday 17 May 2016

Churchill would have campaigned for Britain to stay in the EU

Boris Johnson says that Churchill wanted a united Europe but not for Great Britain to be part of it. This might have been his thinking in 1945 when he, with Stalin and Roosevelt, then Truman, was one of the Big Three, but in his last years he supported Macmillan's application to join the E.E.C. So he told his constituency association chairman.

Of course, by then he had partly lost his faculties, but he was still acute at times. For example, at his last birthday celebration, he accurately told his daughters,

'I have achieved a great deal to achieve nothing at all.'

Monday 16 May 2016

UN says Syrian refugees are mostly economic migrants

Michael Møller, Director-General of the United Nations Office in Geneva, speaking to the Huffington Post, admits,
“The number one reason why people leave Syria is not the bombs or the food or the cold, it’s because they want to find educational opportunities for their children."
In other words, most Syrian refugees are primarily economic migrants.

You might think that that can hardly come as a surprise, but to very many innocent people it will be one.

Nevertheless, Mr. Møller thinks migrants are a "good thing for every country" and points out that the current wave adds a mere 0.2% to the population of Europe. So nothing to worry about. He also deplores widespread antipathy to migrants settling in Europe caused by the fact that 80% are Muslims and the 'completely unacceptable' depiction of 'every Muslim' as either a terrorist or criminal.  

Friday 13 May 2016

Civilisation and the West

By the middle twentieth century, few European nation-states had not at one time or another figured themselves as 'the outpost of Western Christian civilisation': France, imperial Germany, the Habsburg Reich, Poland with its self-image as przedmurze (bastion), even tsarist Russia. Each of these nation-state myths identified "barbarism" as the condition or ethic of their immediate eastward neighbour: for the French, the Germans were barbarous, for the Germans it was the Slavs, for the Poles the Russians, for the Russians the Mongol and Turkic peoples of Central Asia and eventually the Chinese.

Neal Ascherson

Logically speaking, they might all have been right. Discuss. 

Neal Ascherson's mental universe is Poland -centric. This is from his book Black Sea in which mentions Romania on one page and talks a very great deal about Poland.

As an Englishman I think of France as more civilised than us- in all the bad senses of the word 'civilised', at least. We English seem and feel provincial compared to France and Italy. But when we look westwards we feel like wise Europeans from an old continent.  

As Evelyn Waugh said

We are all born American - we die French. 

Vampires do exist II

Vampires, incidentally, do exist, even if Vlad was not one of them. I well remember the Hamburg Vampire in the middle 1960s. He climbed into a flat and drank the blood of a young woman, who asserted that before he came through the window she had felt a deadly chill and become unable to move. The skeptical police took her off to the hospital, where the Vampire was actually caught halfway up the creepers on the wall, on his way to have one more for the road. He ended up in a mental clinic. The victim and the police officer in the case ended up telling their story in convincing detail on German television.

NEAL ASCHERSON, "Dracula in Britain", Games with Shadows

More about real life vampires here and about Vlad the Impaler here.


Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself: Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them. Every day begin the task anew. How can you reprove any one with gentleness, when you correct yourself with asperity?

St Francis de Sales

The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery. 

Francis Bacon (the artist, not the essayist, philosopher, statesman and crook)

You haven't I suppose ever mixed with politicians at close quarters. They're awful...their stupidity is inhuman.

Lord (Robert) Skidelsky

More than half a century ago, while I was still a child, I recall hearing a number of older people offer the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia: Men have forgotten God; that's why all this has happened.

Sanders’s campaign manager said in an email that a Clinton nomination could be a “disaster simply to protect the status quo”. That sounds promising. And Trump, despite his un-PC language, is a centrist, even left-of-centre, not remotely fascistic. We can live with either. Now let's think about the British referendum and hope Britain votes to leave the EU, even though I am sure we shall not. Almost sure.

Sunday 8 May 2016

Sex and Culture

In Sex and Culture (1934), Professor J.D. Unwin a British social anthropologist, studied eighty primitive tribes and Roman, Greek, Sumerian, Moorish, Babylonian, and Anglo-Saxon civilizations. He found a strong positive correlation between the cultural achievement of a people and the chastity of its women. He said:

'These societies lived in different geographical environments; they belonged to different racial stocks; but the history of their marriage customs is the same. In the beginning each society had the same ideas in regard to sexual regulations. Then the same struggles took place; the same sentiments were expressed; the same changes were made; the same results ensued. Each society reduced its sexual opportunity to a minimum and displaying great social energy, flourished greatly. Then it extended its sexual opportunity; its energy decreased, and faded away.'
Unwin, who was a sort of Freudian, and not writing from a religious or moralistic point of view, offered 'no opinion about the rightness or wrongness' of female chastity or sexual

Saturday 7 May 2016

Johnson told the rally: “You know the most depressing thing about the campaign to Bremain? It is that there is not a shred of idealism.
“Not a single one of them will stand up and admit that it is political. No one will say: ‘You know what, I love the idea of a federal Europe’, because that is the true logic of their position.
“But that is not what they say – oh no. They keep saying that they are Eurosceptics, but we have no choice. We agree with you about the democratic problem, they say – but it’s the price we have to pay.”

Jeremy Corbyn has been forced to abandon plans to give a speech calling for all Turkish citizens to gain access to the UK amid fears that it could push Britain out of the European Union.
Senior Labour party sources told this newspaper that Mr Corbyn had planned a major intervention this month in Istanbul calling for Turkey to join the EU, allowing it's 75 million people access to Britain under freedom of movement rules.
Sources inside the leader's office are understood to have intervened to get the speech scrapped, triggering a furious row.

Some interesting things people are saying about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

The most pernicious aspect of this Democratic campaign is the way the field was cleared long in advance for Hillary, a flawed candidate from the get-go, while an entire generation of able Democratic politicians in their 40s was muscled aside, on pain of implied severance from future party support.

Camille Paglia

Despite their show of bravado, most savvy Democratic strategists have surely known for months that Trump was by far the most formidable of Hillary Clinton’s potential opponents—which is why they’ve been playing the race and riot cards against him to the max.

Friday 6 May 2016

Taking back the USA is out of the question - they made their bed from 1776 to 1783, now they must lie in it

For some time now, Buckingham Palace has been getting letters from Americans begging the Queen to take the US back and end the Trump-Clinton pantomime. Here's the reply received by one of them.

What a pity that President Obama does not adopt the same policy of non-interferemce in the British state, rather than trying to persuade us to vote in the forthcoming referendum to stay in the European Union. 

My first job was in the House of Lords answering letters received by the Lord Chancellor and I am sure that the Deputy Correspondence Coordinator wrote that reply with a smile.

Britain is not a conservative country any more

Britain's real abortion scandal is how hard it is for some women to have one

This is a headline in today's Daily Telegraph. It is terribly shocking how very un-conservative the supposedly Conservative Daily Telegraph now is on so many subjects. It worries constantly about sexism and homophobia.

Tony Blair's achievement is to make Britain, whose centre of gravity used always to be moderate conservative, left of centre.

"Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?"

This week's political scandal about antisemitism in the British Labour Party has put the Holocaust in the news, but then the Holocaust is always in the news (very much more so than in the 1970s or 1980s). I think it wise not to wade into the discussion about what the malign Ken Livingstone (a man I detest) said about the Haavath Agreement. If you want to know about it, Andrew Roberts assails Ken here, though my views are different from Andrew's. But I have already stirred the waters in this article and, anyway, the story bores me. 

However, surfing the net (my besotting vice), I came across this interesting synopsis by Stefan Ihrig of his book Justifying Genocide: Germany and the Armenians from Bismarck to

Thursday 5 May 2016

Donald Trump really might be the next POTUS. At least he'd be better than Bernie Sanders.

What to think of Donald Trump? 

Odi et amo. My feelings verge from love to hate. He's a bully, a coarse braggart and a thrice married, casino-owning philanderer whom Evangelicals love, but if he could modify in part the left-wing zeitgeist that rules our lives?

I have decided to watch how things pan out and hope for the best. I start to have a feeling that, though Hillary is the favourite, the one I'd probably put money on, the Donald might do it. He's a politician of genius and she has a political tin ear for the music of the

Wednesday 4 May 2016

Politicians should dissolve the electorate and choose a new one. Oh wait, they have.

Ted Cruz admits defeat, a wise move, and Donald Trump is Republican nominee presumptive. I just heard a Wall St Journal journalist just explained on the BBC that Donald Trump appeals to 'certain populist elements in the Republican Party'. A revealing slip. He meant the voters in the Republican primaries, I suppose. 

So voters can be populist. This reminds me that someone on Facebook last year accused Ed Miliband of 'pandering to the electorate'. It would have been better for him if he had done a better job of it.

Then the BBC moves on with its diet of pro-immigration propaganda. A woman explains

Tuesday 3 May 2016

On this day in 1915 General Von Mackensen drove Russia from the Northern Carpathians

On this day in 1915,General August von Mackensen led a combined Austro-German force in defeating the Russian army near the Dunajec River (a tributary of the Vistula which runs through what is now Slovakia and Poland) and decisively ended nine months of victorious Russian advances in the region since August 1914. It was a key turning point in the war.

After Romania declared war on Austro-Hungary on 15 August 1916, Mackensen conquered Romania and on December 6 1915 Bucharest fell to him. Norman Stone said that by entering the First World War on the Allied side Romania delayed Allied victory by a year.  

At the end of the war Mackensen complained when he left Bucharest that
"I came to Bucharest two years ago with a legion of conquering heroes. I leave with a troupe of gigolos and racketeers.”
Matt Ridley's article from behind Times paywall. Key lines: "Fragmentation is not necessarily a bad thing. As David Hume was one of the first to point out, Europe’s overtaking of China after 1500 owed much to the fact that its peninsulas, straits, mountain ranges and islands meant it could not be unified for long, with the result that innovators and experimenters could escape uncongenial regimes by crossing borders. From Gutenberg to Voltaire to Otto Frisch, they did so."

Monday 2 May 2016

Back in Bucharest with Fu Manchu, the greatest threat to the white race

What a delight to be back from the Far East.

Bucharest is so much nicer, more poetic, more human and more exotic than Peking or Seoul.

It is always wonderful to be back in Bucharest. I felt this when I returned after Christmas after I had been here only three months. Many foreigners lucky enough to live here told me they felt it was home immediately. Is there a more welcoming, friendly city or people anywhere?

This weekend was the Orthodox Easter. On Friday, the Orthodox Good Friday, the town was full of possessions for the Burial of the Lord . On Saturday at midnight everyone stands outside a church with a candle and then cracks eggs. This is much more interesting than China, because it is Christian.

A long weekend at home alone is the perfect antidote to my travels in the East and I'm finally reading The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu. Fu Manchu seemed trash when I bought a paperback in Cambridge market as an undergraduate and bad trash, worse than Dracula. Now I found him on Google books and it's actually rather fun. Who knew? 

The world of Fu Manchu is a very engaging world of lascars, dacoits and seductive but evil oriental women. References to rare poisons in Burma make me so proud that I know Burma.

Dr. Fu Manchu himself is the prototypical evil genius, 'the yellow peril' and 'the greatest threat to the white race'. 

Fu Manchu comes after Professor Moriarty but before a whole series of evil geniuses. Osama bin Laden is part of the line. Osama came from a very Westernised, rich Saudi family and will have seen the Bond films and the Pink Panther film where Herbert Lom threatens to blow up the world. 
The world has been remade by William Le Queux 
says the protagonist of Graham Greene's wonderful thriller The Ministry of Fear which is