Sunday 26 February 2023

There is a bird whispering in the King's ear


Clever - but it should be Carolus III not Charles III. 

Saturday 25 February 2023

At last some solid information about how Putin planned to invade Ukraine and what he expected to happen

A very interesting article in the FT confirms what we all assumed. A number of confidantes of President Vladimir Putin and former senior officials have told the FT that they are privately opposed to the war in Ukraine. I imagine that they all are. Like most wars, it is not just a crime but a blunder. 

It's the result of a series of terrible blunders by Vladimir Putin and by others. 

The Americans and Ukrainians also blundered very badly in the way they handled this dangerous man of blood. This does not reduce his personal responsibility for the war.

"It's really a unique war in world history, when all the elite is against it," said one former senior official to the FT.

Putin trusted only a tiny group with his plans for invasion. Even the  foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, only learnt about it hours before it happened.

'Later that day, several dozen oligarchs gathered at the Kremlin for a meeting arranged only the day before, aware that the invasion would trigger western sanctions that could destroy their empires. “Everyone was completely losing it,” says a person who attended the event. While they waited, one of the oligarchs spied Lavrov exiting another meeting and pressed him for an explanation about why Putin had decided to invade. Lavrov had no answer: the officials he was there to see in the Kremlin had known less about it than he did. Stunned, the oligarch asked Lavrov how Putin could have planned such an enormous invasion in such a tiny circle — so much so that most of the senior officials at the Kremlin, Russia’s economic cabinet and its business elite had not believed it was even possible. “He has three advisers,” Lavrov replied, according to the oligarch. “Ivan the Terrible. Peter the Great. And Catherine the Great.” Under Putin’s invasion plan, Russia’s troops were to seize Kyiv within a matter of days in a brilliant, comparatively bloodless blitzkrieg. Instead, the war has proved to be a quagmire of historic proportions for Russia.

'“....The idea was never for hundreds of thousands of people to die. It’s all gone horribly wrong,” a former senior Russian official says. With the

Friday 24 February 2023

Arundel castle is so ugly it makes your ears bleed

Being a duke does not mean you have good taste. Being a dustman does not mean you don't.

I spent two nights in Arundel last August and intended to blog about it but didn't. The town is sweet, Catholic, Tory and Surteesian, though very touristy (British middle aged tourists and the racing crowd). The parish church, divided between Protestants and Catholics, is wonderful. The Catholic Cathedral is charming, though a 19th century imitation of a 14th century French town church out of place in Sussex. 

Hitler's alliance with Mussolini

Albert Speer recalled after the war that President von Hindenburg asked Adolf Hitler never to enter into an alliance with Italy. 

The old man was right, of course. The alliance with Italy cost the Germans dear. Having to intervene to rescue the Italians after they invaded Greece delayed the invasion of the USSR and may have lost Germany the war.

Italy soon came to regret going to war with the Allies in 1940 (taking Nice and Savoy was the motive). 

Mussolini ended up dismissed in 1943 and shot in 1945. Had he remained non-belligerent he'd probably have been in power till his death, like Franco, and Italy would have been spared a calamitous invasion. 

(Fascists would add that she would have been spared Americanisation, but Italy has not really been Americanised.)

For Romania the consequences of Italian entry into the war were as calamitous. Had Italy stayed out, England and America might well have invaded the continent via the Balkans (Yugoslavia, to be exact) and Romania and Bulgaria might have been spared Communism.

Hitler up to 1937 wanted England as an ally, but that was impossible because of ideological differences, on England's side, and because (according to Richard Overy) we were not prepared to give Germany a free hand in the east. 

Baldwin in 1936, on the other hand, was in favour of letting Germany attack the Soviet union and so was his successor Neville Chamberlain. Somehow this was lost sight of and Chamberlain ended up committed to Czechoslovakia, Poland and Romania. 

To use an analogy from the game of rugby, Chamberlain and the Foreign Secretary the Earl of Halifax fumbled the ball.

Hitler also hoped up to 31 March 1939, when England gave her fateful guarantee to Poland, for an alliance with Poland. That, surprisingly, would have made sense. Had it happened the German and Polish armies might have marched in a victory parade in Moscow. Instead, both countries were devastated.  

Germany would have invaded the Soviet Union at some point in any likely scenario, so long as Hitler remained in power.

Wednesday 22 February 2023


"Nur das Beispiel führt zum Licht;
vieles Reden thut es nicht."

"Don't seek rules too much.
Only the example leads to the light;
Much talk does not do it."
Anonymous. The epigraph of Joseph Wright, The English Dialect Dictionary (1905), quoted by Laudator Temporis Acti

"Most men are convinced that the nations around us have made their sudden incursions against our borders, these wild unexpected inroads, for the first time in our day, but I myself hold a different view. I believe the house is doomed when the mortar that binds its bricks together becomes loose, and, although the start of the trouble passed unnoticed by the majority, there is no doubt that it developed and gathered strength from that first cause. In fact, the gathering of the clouds in those days presaged the mighty deluge we are suffering today."

8 years ago today I was in the Republic of Transnistria, a country that does not exist

and wrote this.

Tony Fekete and I just enjoyed a maslenita dinner, with lots of pancakes, at the flat of Andri our Transnistrian guide. It's the Russian equivalent of pancake day but on Sunday not Tuesday. Tiraspol is poor, though no-one's destitute. Poverty like affluence can be corrupting and no doubt much is bad here, especially in business and politics, but a lot seems better here than in the West. As my British friend of Ukrainian parentage Olivia says, people think like human beings here. Not that much Americana, dissatisfaction with the politicians, nostalgia for the USSR, longing to join the EU. Mostly life goes on, people living the lives their parents did. A good place. Dull yes, very, but dull is another word for peaceful.

Sunday 19 February 2023

From Caitlin Johnstone's latest substack piece "Imagine If China Did To The US What The US Is Doing To China"

Senator Josh Hawley: "Imagine a world where Chinese warships patrol Hawaiian waters, and Chinese submarines stalk the California coastline. A world where the People’s Liberation Army has military bases in Central and South America. A world where Chinese forces operate freely in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean."

Yeah, imagine that Josh. Imagine a strange, dark timeline where China is encircling the US with military bases and weapons of war. You know, in literally the exact same way the US is doing to China right now.
I recently did a write-up on a freakish bit of war propaganda put out by Sky News Australia about the threat of "China's aggression" provoking a third world war. Hilariously, about halfway through the special, Sky News flashes a graphic showing the immense sprawling military presence that the US has built up around China in "a vast network of operations that extend from Hawaii all the way to India."
The Sky News special is titled "China's aggression could start new world war," but your brain would have to be made of soup not to look at that graphic and understand who the real aggressor is here.

The whole thing is here. I know she is very left-wing but the left and the right are impossible to distinguish writing about foreign afairs.

Saturday 18 February 2023


"I've known three people I've considered geniuses and all three were completely socially inept." 

I don't know who said that. I only knew one person I considered a genius and he had excellent social skills, but played Russian roulette and lost. Probably Enoch Powell was also a genius. I lunched with him and thought him pretty odd.

Thursday 16 February 2023


Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.

Jeremiah 6:16

“Much time is lost in regretting the time which had been lost before."

Dr. Johnson

"You will never be able to experience everything. So, please, do poetical justice to your soul and simply experience yourself."

Sunday 12 February 2023


'Essentially a person consists of memories.' Tom Richards

'People stood around, eating pastry or drinking coffee, others having a late-morning spritz. How wonderful, yet how terrible, to emerge from [the mortuary] and enter here, amidst the click of cups on saucers, and come face to face with this reminder of what we all know… that life plugs along, no matter what happens to any of us. It puts one foot in front of the other, whistling a tune that is dreary or merry by turn, but it always puts one foot in front of the other and moves on.’ From Drawing Conclusions by Donna Leon (American crime novelist) quoted by Bel Mooney

'The Church of England hasn’t believed in Christianity for some time. I’ve met three Bishops and not one gave any credence to the Resurrection.' Petronella Wyatt



Nationalism in the French Revolutionary sense - a derivation of 'fraternité', implies people have the right to rebel against a foreign monarch or ruler. It is something I certainly reject. It leads to all sorts of bad things like the American revolution and other insurrections. It leads to people like Gandhi, Nehru, the Stern Gang, etc. People sometimes nowadays seem to confuse nationalism, a revolutionary doctrine, with putting the nation in first place in one's list of political priorities, something all patriots do.

Wednesday 8 February 2023

Homer is new this morning

Homère est nouveau ce matin, et rien n'est peut-être aussi vieux que le journal d'aujourd-hui.

Homer is original this morning, and nothing is perhaps so old as today's newspaper.

From Charles Péguy's 'Notes on Bergson and Descartes' (courtesy of Laudator Temporis Acti.)

Quoted by Marina Warner in her essay in this week's New York Review of Books


St Thomas Aquinas: “The whole of nature is like a work of art created by the divine mind.”

al-Ghazali, an 11th century Persian writer: “In all that is possible there is nothing more wondrous than what is.”

Tuesday 7 February 2023


Ronald Blythe, Akenfield: Portrait of an English Village (Marjorie Jope, retired district nurse, speaking):
People think of me as the person who is present at the beginning of their lives but in most cases I have been present at the end of them too. I used to stay up one night or several nights when they were passing. Some talked of God, but very, very few. Even the people who had been brought up in chapel or church rarely talked of God as they died. It is a fact. What can you make of it? I was with them as they passed. Not much talk of God at the last.

Letter to the Guardian from Tim Worstall of the Adam Smith Institute, 31 January:
Nesrine Malik tells us the system is rigged in favour of the 1% by wealth (Opinion, 23 January). Entry into the global 1%, by the definition used by Oxfam, requires $1m in assets. As the Office for National Statistics tells us, that’s around the 75th percentile of British households by wealth. In other words, 25% of British households are in the top 1% of the global wealth distribution. I’d be willing to bet a substantial sum that 25% of the Guardian’s readership is too. As Pogo said in Walt Kelly’s strip cartoon for Earth Day in 1971: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Mayo Clinic Staff:
Think of forgiveness more about how it can change your life — by bringing you peace, happiness, and emotional and spiritual healing. Forgiveness can take away the power the other person continues to wield in your life.

Monday 6 February 2023

How will the Ukrainian war and new cold war end?

I am trying to avoid the news and insightful articles about the war in Ukraine. As King Solomon almost said, of making many articles there is no end. But I did happen tonight on what I thought was a very interesting discussion about the war in the Spectator 'This Week in 60 minutes' podcast.

Owen Matthews, who is half Russian, thinks the war will end in a Ukrainian victory or a stalemate. 

I can't see how a Ukrainian victory is possible or what it would mean. 

He thinks that Russia is much stronger than people think (this is certainly true) and that pushing Russia out of the Crimea and the Donbass is fraught with dangers, not least because those territories have large Russian or pro-Russian majorities. 

This is partly because the people who did not want Russian rule mostly fled.

Talking to him is a fascinating ex-KGB man called Dmitri Trenin, who explains the objectives of the invasion. 

He's the sort of pro-Kremlin voice that the mainstream press normally suppresses, but the Spectator is a maverick. 

He says he was told that the plan was for some Ukrainian politicians and part of the Ukrainian army to take over Ukraine.

Friday 3 February 2023

Africa begins at Naples

I am reading with delight Curzio Malaparte's Kaputt, and am especially delighted to learn that Lord Rosebery said Naples was "the only eastern city in the world that lacks a European quarter". 

In Rosebery's day European meant white. Now, trying to find a source for the quotation I find the Wikipedia entry for 'European Quarter' says,
A European Quarter (also: "European District", "EU Quarter" and other variations or by the French: Quartier européen) usually refers to an area of a city containing a concentration of pan-European institutions (notably, those of the European Union and Council of Europe). At present, there are three such quarters;
The European Quarter of Brussels, Belgium
The European Quarter of Strasbourg, France
The European Quarter of the city of Luxembourg, Luxembourg
I find this dispiriting. 

I know that Italians say that Africa begins at Naples. I am also reminded of a callow passage in a letter from the very young Ernest Hemingway to Edmund Wilson in 1921, in which he wrote, “The negroid streak creeps northward to defile the Nordic race. Already the Italians have the souls of blackamoors.”

Both those two were or became Marxists.

For many years I was only interested in visiting the post-Communist countries. Western countries seemed old hat. Then I asked myself if there was anywhere else that interested me and I remembered that Naples once seemed attractive, impossibly louche and wicked, so I went and loved it. But it was disappointingly Western, modern, spick and span. 

European, in fact.



“That England, that was wont to conquer others / Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.” John of Gaunt in Richard II.

"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.

"He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.” - Oscar Wilde

Ernest Hemingway

"We all get broken. That's how the light gets in." 

"I drink to make other people more interesting." 

"Prose is architecture, not interior decoration." 

Sarah, Duchess of York on writing a novel: 'I tried to channel Ernest Hemingway by using a Montegrappa pen from Italy.'

Yalta has almost no significance

Yalta did not give Russia a third of Europe, including Romania. She won it by much blood and no-one could have prevented it, except possibly Germany.

There was nothing the UK or US could do to stop the USSR treating the countries it had occupied as it pleased. What difference did Yalta make? Had the Allies invaded Greece not Sicily things might have been different. Or had the Allies gone straight for Berlin instead of liberating Paris more of Germany would have been democratic. Likewise the Allies could have liberated Prague.

Nor did the USSR adhere to the Yalta agreement which gave the UK 50% influence for example in Hungary.

Tony Judt in his great book 'Postwar' said:

"But Yalta actually mattered little...Nothing was decided at Yalta that had not already been agreed at Teheran or elsewhere. ...

..For by then Stalin scarcely needed Western permission to do whatever he wished in Eastern Europe, as the British at least understood perfectly well." 

Judt was a great historian and 'Postwar' is very good (even though left-wing and EUrophile) but here he is merely stating the obvious.

No decision at Yalta could have helped Romania only Stalin's good will. Actually this good will or whim allowed Finland to be democratic, though allied to the USSR, but this was not a decison at Yalta. The West did begin the Cold War quickly after VE Day. Some historians today argue that the Cold War was an overreaction but it certainly was not doing nothing. Yes Churchill wanted to save the Balkans and only saved Greece, not helped by FDR at all, (FDR like George W. Bush was a Wilsonian) but Churchill had very little leverage. Luckily Stalin who was a child of the 19th century thought it was unthinkable that Britain would allow Greece to go Communist and did little to help the Greek Communists take power there in the civil war. He also did not seriously hope France or Italy would become Communist though this seemed possible in 1945 and did not do much to help the Comunists there. Unlike Hitler Stalin was not bent on dominating Europe but on protecting his country from invasion.

A missed opportunity was not agreeing to Khrushchev's plan in 1955 to unite and demilitarise Germany but the UK and USA could not have helped Romania or Bulgaria.