Tuesday 28 March 2017

Bitter Lemons of Cyprus

“Journeys, like artists, are born and not made. A thousand differing circumstances contribute to them, few of them willed or determined by the will - whatever we may think. They flower spontaneously out of the demands of our natures - and the best of them lead us not only outwards in space, but inwards as well. Travel can be one of the most rewarding forms of introspection...”
Lawrence Durrell, Bitter Lemons of Cyprus

Raki is so hard to get right but this one is neither too strong nor too weak. The secret, I realise, is eschewing ice. 

I am sitting outside Niazi's restaurant in Kyrenia, across the road from the elegant colonial Dome Hotel, blogging with my clumsy thumbs on my mobile. 

Kyrenia (Girne is its guttural and rather ugly name in Turkish) is a beautiful port on the north coast of Cyprus. It was a mostly Greek town which, since 1974, has been wholly occupied by Turkish Cypriots and incomers from mainland Turkey.

Cyprus was on my short list of countries I didn't want to visit, but this is my second long weekend in nine weeks. I am not sure why. Mostly because, for some reason, it seems so very easy. 

Wednesday 22 March 2017

Well happ'd on, brother-ranger of the brine!

A mixed bag of quotations today.

Formerly no one was allowed to think freely; now it is permitted, but no one is capable of it any more. Now people want to think only what they are supposed to think, and this they consider freedom. Oswald Spengler

A true friend is the greatest of all blessings, and that which we take the least care of all to acquire. Duc De La Rochefoucauld

Saturday 18 March 2017

Emil Cioran predicts the end of European civilisation

Vacillating instincts, corroded beliefs, obsessions, and anility: everywhere conquerors in retreat, rentiers of heroism confronting the young Alarics who lie in wait for Rome and Athens; everywhere paradoxes of the lymphatic. There was a time when salon sallies traversed whole countries, foiled stupidity or refined it. Europe, coquettish and intractable, was in the flower of her age; — decrepit today, Europe excites no one. Even so, certain barbarians await their chance to inherit the finery, impatient at her long agony.
The Romanian aphorist Emil Cioran, in Syllogismes d’Amerture (1952) - the English translation of the book is here. 

It's interesting that he said this before the Algerian War, when Algeria still constituted three departments of France.

Pessimism was to Cioran what daffodils were to Wordsworth or butlers to P.G. Wodehouse. Cioran even achieved the feat of being too pessimistic for Samuel Beckett. This broke up their friendship.

Thursday 9 March 2017

Carl Jung on good and evil

Filling the conscious mind with ideal conceptions is a characteristic of Western theosophy, but not the confrontation with the shadow and the world of darkness. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.

It is a fact that cannot be denied: the wickedness of others becomes our own wickedness because it kindles something evil in our own hearts.

Wednesday 8 March 2017

Why I don't like International Women's Day

A week ago sunny weather arrived in time for Mărţişor. Time to walk
hatless and scarfless along Calea Victoriei in the spring

Romanians consider that spring starts on March 1 (
Mărţişor) and men here
celebrate it by offering mărţişoare to women. A mărţişor is a trinket,
usually by peasants who come to Bucharest to sell them,
though some fortunate ladies receive expensive versions of mărţişoare
encrusted with gems.

If you failed to invite a lady for dinner on Mărţişor today you have a
second chance, because March 8th is International Women's Day. It is a day which, if it is noticed at all in the West, is marked by left-wingers and feminists. In Romania it is a very big thing but, after more than forty years of left-wing ideas and political correctness, it is simply about giving women presents and inviting them to dinner.

A very pleasant custom but, still, I dislike IWD because it is Marxist.

Saturday 4 March 2017

Chamberlain, Churchill and the End of Glory

If I am to manage to continue reading books I probably have to give up fiction. Having taken almost two years with 'War and Peace' (do read it if you haven't), I returned with relish to John Charmley's 'Churchill: the End of Glory'.

The book caused great controversy when it appeared 25 years ago because it portrayed Churchill in a new and unflattering light. It is sceptical about Chamberlain and Deladier's decision to go to war with Germany in 1939 and the British cabinet's decision not to find out the details of Hitler's peace overtures after the fall of France in 1940. Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax wanted to. Churchill, the new Prime Minister, and the Labour leader Attlee convinced the (all-party) war cabinet not to do so.

Having been lucky to evacuate the army from France in time and having ruled out negotiations, Churchill had no plan for defeating Germany nor any means of doing so.

As Professor Charmley points out:
The Americans were not about to enter the war in December 1941, as Churchill's despair in November showed. They came in because they were forced to, just as the Soviets had done; only the British and the French were mad enough to volunteer for war.
I followed 'Churchill: the End of Glory' with Professor Charmley's 'Chamberlain and the Lost Peace', which dissects the way in which England came to go to war.

Neville Chamberlain and Benito Mussolini at the Führerbau building in München, Germany, 19 Sep 1938, photo 2 of 2:
Neville Chamberlain and Benito Mussolini at Munich, 19 September 1938

I recommend both books very highly.

They tell a very sad story about the end of British greatness.

I admire Churchill as a great Englishman, comparable with Nelson, Wellington and Dr Johnson. I have come to think, however, that Neville Chamberlain and Halifax were wiser statesmen.

Yet it was they, not Churchill, who took us to war.

The crucial decision that led to war was the decision to give a guarantee to Poland and, oddly, Romania. It was taken by Chamberlain in March 1939, under pressure from Halifax, after Germany seized the Czech lands.

Friday 3 March 2017

Quotations for the weekend

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

Nanny's philosophy of life was to do what seemed like a good idea at the time, and do it as hard as possible. It had never let her down. Terry Pratchett