Monday, 29 August 2016

Quotations to start the week

Rejoicing in our joy, not suffering over our suffering, makes someone a friend. 


From our human experience and history, at least as far as I am informed, I know that everything essential and great has only emerged when human beings had a home and were rooted in a tradition.
Heigegger (in an interview in 1966)

An idea isn’t responsible for the people who believe in it.
Don Marquis

At its best, the sensation of writing is that of any unmerited grace. It is handed to you, but only if you look for it. You search, you break your heart, your back, your brain, and then — and only then — it is handed to you.
Annie Dillard

The puritan hated bear baiting, not because it gave pain to the bear, but because it gave pleasure to the spectators.
Lord Macaulay

The Judge: After all that, Mr Smith, I am none the wiser. 

F.E. Smith: No, my lord, but you are better informed.

Thursday, 25 August 2016


Churchill, God and the Bomb

I thought Winston Churchill was Godless. I didn't know, until I read this article, that he intended to argue with God after his death about the morality of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Racism in England

A Romanian in England complains to me that the English are racists because they think Romanians are gypsies. I sense there is some illogicality here.

Brexit will change souls

As Margaret Thatcher said - one of the few things she said that I liked - economics is only the method. The object is to change the soul. 

Clearly, Brexit is primarily about independence, national self respect and democracy but it will also change souls.

Eliot Cohen, an American journalist put it well.
The London of today was sliding into becoming a bigger, brighter, and more lively Brussels—so international that it had no discernible identity; so cosmopolitan in its self-understanding that it had no pride in its own history and unique character; so unwilling to accept the burdens of self-government that it preferred the administration of well-meaning but unaccountable bureaucrats to the crash and bang of democracy in action. The poison of Brussels-style Euro-politics had clearly infected those Londoners whose first impulse was to do what European politicians have done for decades: compel the lower classes who have voted the wrong way to vote again until they do the thing their betters thought they ought to have done in the first place.
Nietzsche said that all philosophy is disguised psychology. Remainers' arguments about why leaving the EU will be a disaster or why the popular will should be disregarded, for the sake of cheap roaming charges, are not to be taken very seriously. They are a sort of therapy, a way of dealing with their grief. We must be sympathetic. 

In fact the European project, so called, is very much about dealing with the neuroses of France and Germany.

It feeds into the zeitgeist which sees Western history as oppressive. It's an attempt to escape from history into a non historical non ethnic space, like the place beyond the stars where Lucretius's gods dwelt impervious to our hopes and pain.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Talking to people in England about Brexit

I thought of going to Iran but in the end I decided that the most interesting place to go, since I like holidaying in political hotspots, was England – with a two day stop in Nice where eighty innocent people had been mowed down by a Tunisian immigrant a few days earlier.

And, of course, England is the most astonishingly beautiful country. It has the most beautiful countryside in Europe, even more beautiful than Romania’s. It has wonderful summer weather. Meaning temperate. I speak the language, better than my compatriots. And it has so many wonderful cathedrals and churches, albeit much damaged by the Reformation. And full of such nice people, much nicer than in the 1980s.

So, my first summer holiday in England after emigrating to Romania eighteen years ago.
But I wanted to know what people thought of Brexit. I arrived a month after the referendum, when people were almost getting used to the result. It almost felt old news except people were still in shock

What did I find?

My very inscientific survey. Most (not all) nice people were Brexit. The nice people who voted Remain tended to do so mostly from fear not enthusiasm, pragmatism not ideals.

Monday, 22 August 2016

You've got to string these blighters up

I heard General Zia, the dictator of Pakistan in the 1970s, on ITN say these words, an antiquated cliché
 that I hadn't think anyone had ever really uttered.
"You've got to string these blighters up. It's the only language they understand."
He looked exactly like Terry-Thomas except brown - the same moustache and grin, and clipped Sandhurst way of speaking. I don't remember whom he was talking about. Probably Bhutto.


I suppose Mrs. Merkel is not actually the worst German leader since Hitler. One has, grudgingly, to admit that Ulbricht and Honecker were even worse than her.

Before Facebook

There was a time, wasn't there, when Facebook didn't exist?

So the elders tell us.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Monaco is expensively cheap - Nice is nice - Vermiglia is heaven

I spent two days in Nice on my way to England to check out the reasons for the massacre there. There were several more killings by Muslims in Europe before and after I arrived.

Nice is enchanting, even though seaside resorts usually repel me, but I missed the opportunity to go to the public housing areas or talk to enough people about the massacre that had taken place so recently. Flowers piled up at the grandstand at a memorial for the dead. My waiter at the Hotel Negresco was traumatised by seeing children killed before his eyes as he served guests in the garden beside
the Promenade des Anglais

What did I expect to learn?  It seemed the France of films, books and paintings. Some women in headscarves. Not very many. I was told Muslims do not live in a specific part of town. I should have found out more but I was on holiday and it was very hot.

Nice is cheap to get to and its gracious early nineteenth century architecture is exhilarating. A great, quick and very beautiful train ride takes you along wonderful coast to Monaco, Menton and Italy.

Monaco I had been warned was awful and it is dull and ugly, slightly like Durres in Albania, but with less interesting people. A friend who grew up in Monaco told me it was

Friday, 19 August 2016

Putin and Cromwell

Worrying about Russia feels like Cromwell fighting Spain when France was the threat.

in 1943 Churchill suddenly said to Macmillan late one night: 

'Cromwell was a great man, wasn't he?' 'Yes, sir, a very great man.' 'Ah, but he made one terrible mistake. Obsessed in his youth by fear of the power of Spain, he failed to observe the rise of France.'
After posting this, I discover Putin has said,
Cromwell was just as much of a bloody dictator, as was Stalin.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Il Brexito: synopsis

This synopsis of the opera Il Brexito isn't by me (I wish) but was posted on Facebook. I don't know the author and hope he doesn't object to my borrowing it.

Act 1: The Ducal Palace. Davide, Duke of Mantova, has summoned the peasants to the marketplace to vote on his plans to allow the citizens of Verona and Vicenza to continue to offer goods for sale in the Duchy. He sings of his love for Samantha. Michele, the Judge, enters. He tells the Duke that his plan is against the ancient constitution. Boris (the Duke's half-brother) appears: he too, he says, will be opposing the Duke. Outside a hubbub is heard: it is the Corbinistas, local brigands arguing about who should be their leader.

Act 2: The Marketplace. The peasants are gathering. Davide sings from his balcony 'Guarda questi idioti' (look how stupid they are). Michele and Boris move through the crowd. When the time comes for the vote, to the Duke's horror his motion is defeated. With a howl, he runs back into the palace.

Act 3: The Palace. Giorgio, the Duke's Treasurer, is busy packing gold coins into sacks ready to flee Mantova. He sings 'Erectione straodinario' (what an amazing c8ck up). Boris enters the room and goes out onto the balcony to speak to the crowd in the marketplace below. Michele creeps up behind him and stabs him in the back. As Boris lies, apparently dying, he sees to his delight Teresa, head of the police force, come in and stab Michele in his turn. He collapses as Andrea, a scullery maid, enters the room. She taunts Teresa with the aria 'Your ovaries are frozen', but then as the crowd below starts to chant Teresa's name, stabs herself, and falls dead over the corpse of Michele. Boris rises: he was wounded but not killed, and Teresa tells him that he must be her Ambassador to the other Italian cities. She drives Giorgio from the room, and the opera ends with Teresa and Boris singing the duet 'Panforte per tutti - ma senza tariffi', while outside the window the Corbinistas can be heard, still arguing.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Back in the Paris of the East

I just woke up in the Paris of the East, after two and a half weeks away, and as always it's exciting to come back. (To Str. Blanari - would it be less exciting did I live in a block?) 

It was 36°  yesterday here, the taxi driver said. I miss British summers, too. 36°  Celsius, which means 97° Farenheit. Will England go back to Farenheit now?
My Ryanair plane delayed was delayed two hours. I'd fly Tarom or BA except I want to leave from Stansted.

The description Paris of the East, by the way, has been applied to a large number of locations, including: Baku, Bandung, Beirut, Budapest, Esfahan, Hanoi, Irkutsk, Kabul, Jaipur, Leipzig, Manila, Pondicherry, Ross Island, one of the Andaman Islands, Saigon, Shanghai, Smyrna (Izmir) and Warsaw. 

Antananarivo was called the Paris of the South, which it really really is not. Yaki in The Balkan Trilogy aptly calls Athens the Edinburgh of the South. Though I imagine Edinburgh is more interesting and much older. Lvov/Lviv is well called the Florence of the East.

Romanians don't like 'the Paris of the East' which suggests they are, well, Eastern. They infinitely prefer 'the little Paris' with its suggestion that they are Western. Some liked but many others were very angry with my brilliant aphorism: Romania is the Middle East dreaming that it is France.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

England, My England

When does one realise one know longer understands the world? The first intimation was the grief for Diana and sense that the monarchy might tumble, but then I went off to Romania. There have been further signs (books in the Bucharest British Council being replaced by DVDs, Donald Trump, transgender lavatories) but coming into Norwich public library where Blue Moon is playing rather loudly settles the matter.

I failed to blog day by day about my recent travels - to Nice to investigate the massacre and to England to find about Brexit. Maybe I shall.

Impressions of England. Many young fat, often very fat, mothers, rather attractive in their way.

Southend my native town yesterday, after twenty years stirred deep emotions. A surprising number of burqa clad and veiled women on the seafront. Tomassi's on the High St still does gingerbocker glories but the places has moved position, the High St is pedestrianised and all the waitresses come from Eastern Europe. My Polish waitress says he prefers Southend to London which has far too many Third World people. I speak Romania to a gypsy selling gold rings in the street but do not buy one.