Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Like Webster's Dictionary we're Morocco bound

Marrakech is absolutely wonderful and the part of the huge old city where I'm staying isn't touristy but full of treasures. It reminds me of India or Pakistan but vastly better. I never have enough of Arab countries so long as they are poor.

I bumped into Andrew Roberts in the souk and for some reason feel as if a goose walked across my grave. I wonder why.

Permalien de l'image intégrée

Permalien de l'image intégrée

Now in Taroudant.

I have become corrupt. I sold out. I decided to stay in four star hotel in mediaeval Taroudant city walls (it even has two swimming pools) instead of an unheated bedroom in a friend of a friend's cold house, far from the lavatory which does not have a flush. I feel better knowing its only EUR 50 with breakfast so not irredeemably corrupt.

I am not anyones idea of an ascete. But I told Abdel I'd stay with him and of course pay him something. I am letting him down. I feel comfortable hotels make travel materialistic. And for me I have always tended to think of materialism as the sin of sins though it is not. I tend like Saint-Exupéry to regard adult life with considerable suspicion and materialism is the adult vice.

I came here via a stunningly beautiful road that zigzagged over the Atlas mountains. And made my stomach very queasy. I shall return another way.

Today I woke very happy.

The joy of speaking schoolboy French.

Avez-vous beurre?

I shall spend at least three nights in this hotel.

The other guests are German not French. Anything better than Englishmen. And this town is way off the tourist circuit. Few tourists and few sights though wonderful ancient walls the snow capped Atlas mountains in the distance and wonderful light. A good place.

Coffee with Abdel who said talking of our common friend:

She doesn't believe in God? Then she has no joy.

How I like Muslims.

On the other hand I liked them less when later in the horse and trap he said;

It is better to have four wives than one wife and use bitches.

Perhaps there is something to be said for sexually conservative Englishmen and women. But Abdel said this in reply to my question and was being loyal to his faith. He himself is inhs mid-forties and cannot afford one wife.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Christmas crackers: twelve thoughts about work to enjoy over the holidays

When Sigmund Freud was asked how we can achieve happiness he said two things were necessary: the ability to love and the ability to work.

According to the internet this quotation appears nowhere in Freud’s published work but, even if he did not say it, it is close to things that he did say and, in any case, it is very true. Here are some more thoughts I like on the subject of work.

I don't like work no man does but I like what is in the work the chance to find yourself. Your own reality for yourself not for others what no other man can ever know. They can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means.

Joseph Conrad

They are not only idle who do nothing, but they are idle also who might be better employed.


Work hard, do the best you can, don't ever lose faith in yourself and take no notice of what other people say about you.

Noel Coward

Choose a job that you love, and you will never work a day in your life.


The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.

William James

Things can be done. The people in life who get them done are the ones who know that, and the ones who don't are the rest.

Tony Hawks

A clumsy right hand cannot be trained into a skillful right hand by taking thought, by wishing it were less clumsy, or even by avoiding clumsiness. It can become skillful only by exercise in practical achievements, and the incentive to the achievement must be more deeply felt than the discouragement at the hitherto existent clumsiness.

Alfred Adler

There is no such thing as talent. There is pressure.

Alfred Adler

All happiness depends on courage and work.

Honoré de Balzac

Those who have some means think that the most important thing in the world is love. The poor know that it is money.

Gerald Brenan

I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.

Douglas Adams

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Boswell in Budapest

In Mark Griffith I might have discovered my Boswell. Except that he lives in Budapest.

I didn't have time to blog about my very brief visit to Budapest but Mark did:

December 20th; Saturday. More time with Paul from Romania having leisurely coffees before his flight, discussing ambition, destiny, love & the value of history. On the subject of Portuguese dictator Salazar, he says "He personally intervened to make sure Coca Cola would not be allowed to sell their disgusting drink in Portugal. He truly was the father of his people." At another moment, in between anecdotes about men on trial for having close friendships with their dogs, he wisely avers that "Assassination is the sincerest form of flattery."

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Islamophobia becomes the enemy, not terrorism

A Muslim fanatic took hostages in a Sydney cafe and murdered two innocent people yesterday. Someone on Facebook posted this comment:

Thank God the gunman has been positively identified as Sheikh Man Haron Monis: Well-known to the Australian authorities as a professional lunatic who delights in writing mocking, sadistic letters to the families of dead soldiers. The commentariat can now move on from the "his motives are unclear" phase to the "all religions have their extremists" phase. Proceed.
Soon the story became Islamophobia. Breitbart, which I'm starting to find a very valuable website, has this rather marvellous article by James Delingpole about how this happened. How the far left hijacked the news story for its own ends and how a woman called Tessa Kum sent a hashtag  
that went viral. 

Ideologies often breed hatred. In the 1930s hatred of Jews and hatred of the bourgeoisie were not polar opposites, as they seemed, but parallel currents of thought with quite a lot in common. Goebbels agreed: he said that it was because the Nazis were socialists that they opposed Jews. Miss Kum seems, from the evidence James Delingpole marshals, to dislike white people - as oppressors. She doesn't see that this is really the same as disliking black people. Because from an extreme left-wing point of view it isn't. One is the equivalent of the class enemy, one the revolutionary class.

After the beheading of Drummer Rigby on the streets of London by Muslim fanatics, very many of my Facebook friends (not a disproportionately left-wing bunch) seemed much more worried by the EDL (English Defence League) having a 15 minute heavily policed march near the scene of the crime than by the killers. I said on someone's wall - she was explaining the 'context' of the killings in terms of America's wars - that maybe we should try to understand the 'context' of EDL as well and she unfriended me. 

She wasn't left-wing, by the way. She just wanted to protect the underdogs. 

How decadent the West has become.

Even Tony Abbott, the Australian Prime Minister, who is usually so splendidly unbothered by modish ideas and cant, felt moved to deny any connection between these murders and Islam, in words that David Cameron might have used.
The point I keep making is that the ISIL death cult has nothing to do with any religion, any real religion. It has nothing to do with any particular community. It is something to which sick individuals succumb....
The idea that, you know, ISIL is somehow spawned by any particular religion, frankly, it’s probably even less true than saying that Catholicism spawned the IRA.

Victor Ponta gives up his doctorate

As Metternich said when he heard of Talleyrand's death, 

"What did he mean by that?"

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Things that seem strange to a foreigner about the Romanian presidential election

Why were the opinion polls in the Romanian election so very wrong, with one exception giving Victor Ponta
the PSD (Social Democratic Party) candidate a very healthy lead throughout? 

I have not heard any convincing explanation. Presumably, people are reluctant to say that they are going to vote against the PSD. I wonder if this is in case this information is used against them in some way. The PSD is the reinvented Communist Party, after all. But are there better explanations?

The one rogue poll was published by CCSCC two days before the vote and showed the candidates exactly equal. It was dismissed by almost everyone because it was a telephone poll from a no-name company. That poll was nowhere near the final result, but it was a lot closer than the rest of the polls.

Why did Gabriela Firea attempt to claim moral superiority for Victor Ponta over Klaus Iohannis just because he didn’t have children? Klaus Iohannis, by the way, is a Protestant who is deeply religious, according to his childhood friends, didn't plagiarise his doctoral thesis and didn't leave his pregnant wife for another woman.

Why were Mircea Geoana and Marian Vanghelie expelled from the PSD, rather than the people who were responsible for losing the election - Victor Ponta, Liviu Dragnea, the campaign organiser, and Adrian Nastase? (Nastase's friends, it is said, did not get out the vote because he wanted to get even with Mr Ponta for allowing him to be sent to gaol the second time.) 

In an old-fashioned Western the baddies always start fighting among themselves at the end of the film. It's like that after the PSD lose elections too. 

As Mircea Geoana said,

I lost the presidential election by a very few votes and I got expelled from the party. This guy lost by a lot of votes and I got expelled from the party again.
Mr. Vanghelie was expelled, even though he commands a faithful following of gypsy voters and is very rich. He is considered (fairly accurately) to be a semi-literate buffoon and could be described as the Romanian gypsy equivalent of Tony Blair's deputy, John Prescott. I am told Mr. Vanghelie was expelled 
because he has a big mouth
and so he certainly has, but this should have been a reason for  keeping him in the team. Instead he has been telling us all sorts of things the PSD doesn't want us to know. (I am sure it is not by chance that evidence of corruption is surfacing in the papers about Mr. Vanghelie exactly now.)

Actually, I know the reason why Messrs. Geoana and Vanghelie were expelled, in very rough terms. It was because they were a danger to Victor Ponta. I am told Mr. Geoana compounded his fault by telling Mr. Ponta after the result was known,

At least I believed I was president for a night.

However Mr Ponta's action makes him look weak, not strong (rather like Harold Macmillan's Night of the Long Knives). And those who live by the sword die by the sword.

People allege that over a million fraudulent votes were cast by 'electoral tourists', people bussed from area to give multiple votes for the PSD candidate. The same thing was said in the election of 2004. I don't, of course, know the truth. Nor does anyone for sure. Why were no investigations made then or now? 

Readers who are not familiar with Romanian politics are, I hope, shocked to learn how the votes are rigged and manipulated here. Even so, what is much more shocking is that Romania is, on the whole, a much freer country than England, even though a less democratic one. Western Europe is becoming less free week by week. Romania will one day, I hope soon, get clean elections. She will never have clean politicians, but she will presumably in time have the same restrictions on freedom that, for example, the British and Dutch have.

Friday, 12 December 2014


I've never been in a restaurant I disliked as much as Vacamuuu last night. It was full, the tables are tiny and set very close together and everyone in the restaurant seemed to be shouting to each other to be heard. The ambiance is Spartan and anyway they mostly just serve steak, so what is the point? We had the presence of mind to leave without ordering and go to Divan nearby which felt civilised, not a cattle truck.

These lines of Philip Larkin came to mind:

"Sometimes you hear, fifth-hand,
As epitaph: He chucked up everything
And just cleared off, 
And always the voice will sound
Certain you approve
This audacious, purifying, 
Elemental move.

The food at Vacamuuu is excellent but it is only steak. The minimalist decor feels international, soulless but good of its kind - but it was so crowded nothing could really be seen at all. It felt like Julian Grenfell's comment on the Battle of the Somme - 

"Oh my dear the noise! the people!" 
Divan is nothing special at all, but human and pleasant and we could hear each other speak and no one was near us. 

Vacamuuu is also overpriced. The menu offers various steaks. The most expensive steak costs RON 400 which is about £70More than a monthly Romanian old age pension.

In Rome restaurants are full of what look like interesting people, some cultured, some eccentric, having interesting conversations. Restaurants in Romania tend to be full of businessmen talking business or courting women - Vacamuuu is business, definitely not courtship. And Vacamuuu is very 'businessman's taste'. So are most fashionable things in Bucharest. I am thankful that nothing in Bucharest is cool but places like Vacamuuu are the corollary.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Winter in the Danube delta

There are few ways in which a man can be more innocently employed than in making money

Dr. Johnson said that 
“There are few ways in which a man can be more innocently employed than in getting money.
Christopher Hollis said this was the most un-Christian remark imaginable (Hollis was the kind of Conservative politician I like) but I am coming round to siding with Dr Johnson. He was being deliberately paradoxical but he was usually right. 

I sympathise with Hollis but working hard is one of the most innocent ways of spending time. 

I always thought a knowledge of Dr Johnson and his best lines was the parole of educated men, to adapt what he said about knowledge of Latin and Greek. But a former master of a Cambridge college told me a few years ago that very few Cambridge undergraduates until recently read the 18th century authors. It reminds me of what Johnson said to Boswell: 
“Sir, they [his college friends] respected me for my literature, and yet it was not great but by comparison. Sir, it is amazing how little literature there is in the world.”
He of course was talking about the classics, not English writers.

I suppose Johnson's most famous joke is
"Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all"
but on whether he was right I cannot comment. I only ever heard one woman preach and she did so in Swedish, in Stockholm Cathedral. She was, or believed she was, a bishop - and what surprised me was that she was very beautiful. And a blonde. That I had not expected.
It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all"
also applies to my ironing a shirt, once every eight or ten years.

I really cannot see why people read Johnson less than Wilde. Johnson is better, in my judgment, and a better Christian - and his philosophy is manlier and more wholesome. He was also a staunch Tory and a great saint. Though he might have been disagreeable in real life, as opposed to in his writings and in the pages of Boswell. His table manners were appalling. He once spat out an entire roast potato that was too hot on to his plate and told the girl beside him
A fool would have swallowed that.
Fox told his nephew, Lord Holland, that he met Johnson only once and thought he was he was 
A very coarse man. He said 
Talk of pleasure, sir, the greatest pleasure is emission.
On the subject of his philosophy I am reminded of his old Oxford friend, Mr. Edwards, whom he met by chance in Fleet St and who told him
You are a philosopher, Dr. Johnson. I have tried too in my time to be a philosopher; but, I don’t know how, cheerfulness was always breaking in.
But to Dr. Johnson stories there is no end, so I stop now. But if you want more, please click here.

If you haven't read Boswell's Johnson, dear reader, you have a great treat awaiting you. A book for a desert island.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Disestablishmentarianism and social order

Church and state were not always separate in the USA.

We assume that separation of church and state is explicitly part of the U.S Constitution but the phrase does not appear in it. What the First Amendment states is that 
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
Justice Joseph Story of the United States Supreme Court in the 1840s was a devout Unitarian (and therefore not a Christian) who argued that the old maxim of Blackstone's that
 'Christianity is parcel of the laws of England' 
was Common Law and part therefore of US law. He also said that blasphemy was an offence in the USA under Common Law.

Joseph Story came from Massachusetts. Massachusetts was the last American state to retain an established religion, which it did until 1833. Connecticut had separated church and state in 1818 and New Hampshire in 1819. 

Story believed that Christianity was a bulwark to the social order. This idea was taken for granted in England and other countries at that time and had been for centuries.  And indeed it is true. It is also true that America's intense Protestant Christianity is her great strength (and weakness). Even though many of the founding fathers, such as Jefferson, were Deists, Protestantism is the bedrock of the USA.

People used to think it important to maintain social order and social hierarchy but now European and American opinion formers seem to be automatically suspicious of both.  - Even though politicians use the phrase social cohesion, they do everything to make society less cohesive and call the result diversity. Human rights is becoming a sort of secular religion - equality is taught in schools in place of scripture lessons - but it is one that does not operate as a bulwark of social order. Rather the contrary. 

Be that as it may, hierarchy and social order are essential and must be accepted and justified if society is to function. Every society has to justify inequality. I am not sure the equal opportunities ideology does this and it certainly leads to a strong sense of victimhood. It also leads to materialism and competitiveness.

The Catholic Church at the Second Vatican Council made peace with many of the ideas of the enlightenment and even some of the ideas of the French Revolution and is now in favour of separation of church and state. I still hope that we do not see separation of church and state in England or Scotland or Scandinavia.

Hilaire Belloc said 
'Europe is the Faith and the Faith is Europe' 
but according to a man I know, who is has a post-graduate degree in Immigration Studies (I dislike the sound of all 'disciplines' which have 'Studies' in the name) and therefore knows, Europe will not be considered Christian in twenty years. I suppose it will be Christian-Muslim-Hindu-secular-feminist-relativist. It is an indescribably sad story.

I am not sure how much of a bulwark against the infidels the Church of Sweden is. The four candidates to be Archbishop of Uppsala were interviewed in front of the media and, among other questions, were asked, 
“Does Jesus provide a truer picture of God than Muhammad?” 
Only one of the candidates said that He does - and, you knew it, that candidate was not chosen. But despite this and a hundred thousand other stories, I still want Sweden and England to retain state churches. We need to preserve every link we can between European public culture and Christianity.  

Friday, 5 December 2014

Winter in Romania

Romania is the Orient dreaming that it is France

I am proud of a line I coined many years ago

Romania is the Orient dreaming that it is France
and repeated it to a British diplomat friend this week. His rejoinder was to quote a British diplomat in Paris who told him,
It's taken me years to see that France is the Middle East with a very thin veneer of civilisation. Paris is essentially Cairo.
It's good to know that we still have diplomats like that.  

Heresy on the BBC

I never watch television or listen to the radio and so I miss a lot. So thinking, I switched on the BBC World Service this morning for a few minutes.

Apparently today's the first anniversary of Mandela's death and a reprise by the BBC of the mourning for him - rather like the mourning for the death of the Great Leader in North Korea. Will this become an annual festival? There followed a long conversation with someone else criticising the American police for killing black men, then another with an Australian, who didn't sound very bright, complaining about the plight of political refugees given asylum in Australia (they have to leave Australia after three years). And so it goes on. I wonder why our rulers are so obsessed by race.

Future historians will explain it, but by the time historians explain things it's too late too change them.

Put simply, the history of the First World since 1945 is a meditation on the murder of the Jews by the Germans - but I am never satisfied with monocausal explanations for very important phenomena. And the obsession with discrimination and racism is the most important historical phenomenon not since the end of Communism but since the 1960s. It has had huge consequences, some good, many of them very bad, such as restrictions on freedom, a large expansion of the powers of the state and a general sense that Western civilisation is oppressive. Perhaps it a morphing of the never-ending desire to remake society along Utopian lines that gave us many bad things, from Cromwell's puritan dictatorship to the French Revolution and the student unrest of 1968. I refer to the left-wing unrest that took place in 1968 in Paris and the West, which made a very strong contrast to the Prague Spring of that year and Czech hopes for freedom from Utopianism.

It is the American nervous breakdown about race, itself largely a reaction to the racism of the Nazis, that is mostly responsible for the obsession I am talking about. Communist ideas were one stream that contributed to the Civil Rights movement and to the anti-racist movement. The ideas of the Marxist Frankfurt School were particularly influential in the 1960s and remain so now. 

Racial discrimination is an ugly thing. There is nothing wrong and everything right with opposing racism but the West's current huge obsession with discrimination, racial, sexual, on the grounds of 'sexual orientation' and the rest, is clearly a religious phenomenon. Perhaps we should look at the history of the Albigenisan heresy to try to understand our age.

Heresies are truths got out of proportion and  anti-discrimination and anti-nationalism are in this sense heresies. Marxism has been called a Christian heresy but, though there is some truth in this, it is in the final analysis false. The Albigenisan heresy was not a heresy at all but a completely different religion from Christianity and so was Marxism and the racial theories of the Nazis. 

I wrote more about Christianity and anti-racism here.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Gabi Firea thinks not having children is a deficiency - she is entitled to her opinion

One more comment on the Romanian presidential election.

Psychopaths have a very strong urge to reproduce but I'm certainly not saying Gabriela Firea is a psychopath. I'm simply saying that psychopaths feel this biological imperative for which there might be an evolutionary explanation. 

Gabi Firea was Victor Ponta's spokesman during the presidential election and earned a lot of disapproval for her remarks about the childlessness of Mr. Ponta's opponent, now the President-elect, Klaus Iohannis. She said,
“From my point of view, a person is complete when he raises a child from his first days up to maturity. A man living in a cold house, without hearing baby’s chatter, without seeing his first steps, his first grades, cannot feel all these things … You can adopt a child if you want to have a complete family … In all civilised countries, all aspirants to the presidency  belong to complete families, they are married with children and grandchildren..."

Asked by a journalist if having no children was a defect in a president, she said,

A particularly stupid remark, even in a particularly stupid PSD election campaign. Romanians want an efficient president, not one who has children. I wonder how many childless people were impressed. I wonder what the last PSD President, Ion Iliescu, made of it. He is childless, which cynics say is the reason why he famously did not steal from the country (unlike those around him). 

Perhaps if Adrian Nastase, the PSD's failed presidential candidate in 2004, had not wanted to provide for his son he might have avoided going to gaol for corruption. But this is taking alternate history too far. Let's just say that childless politicians have their advantages.

I am no fan of Gabi. I have been no fan of the television presenter turned politician since she said back in 2002 or 2003 that calls from the Presidential office at the Cotroceni, ordering television companies not to run certain news stories, happened in President Emil Constantinescu's time as well as after Ion Iliescu regained the presidency. I never believed that.

But I am equally not a fan of the the National Council for Combating Discrimination. The National Council ruled during the election campaign that Gabi's remarks were "discriminatory" and breached Mr. Iohannis's "right to dignity" (what on earth is a right to dignity?) 

This is almost very funny, but it is not - it is in fact very disturbing. 

The Council is a deeply authoritarian and illiberal institution at the best of times, but when an unelected body seeks to curb free speech during an election campaign things are very bad indeed.

I don't like referring to a politician's lack of children in a political fight. Nor did Romanians. I didn't like it when people said the same thing about Condeleeza Rice. I didn't like it because it is irrelevant, has nothing to do with politics, is none of the public's business and may cause pain. But people are perfectly free to disagree with me and say that not being married or not having children does have a bearing on whether a man would make a good leader of his country. 
It is of incalculable importance that  people should be free to express this or any other opinion that is not defamatory or calculated to lead to what the Common Law calls a breach of the peace. 

None of this should even need saying, but it seems it does.

Here are some unmarried leaders, to refute Gabi's idea that in civilised countries presidents have children, though some of these do have children and not all of them lead particularly civilised countries. Pope Francis is one ruler whom the list omits.

Bucharest is beautiful in December - as seen by Vlad Eftenie (and reproduced with his permission)

The larger Bucharest roads in rain and snow become unfordable rivers.

Nastase was never angry with Traian Basescu; SOV says he deserved much longer in prison; Victor Ponta asks for pardon

Perhaps because it is Advent, in a very Christian spirit Sorin Ovidiu Vintu and Prime Minster Victor Ponta have publicly acknowledged their sins and former Prime Minister Adrian Nastase has said he holds no grudge against President Traian Basescu, whom Nastase must consider is responsible for his having gone to gaol. Nastase (I drop the 'Mr.' since he is a gaolbird) said yesterday:

"Angry? I was never angry with [Traian Basescu]. It's not about anger..... Life is very complicated." 

Read more here.

Sorin Ovidiu Vintu was very frank:
“If the state had caught me with everything I’ve done, I would have been in prison for life. The state has no idea what I’ve done and what I would have deserved to be imprisoned,” said Vantu in his interview for Adevarul. He added that the prosecutors invented some causes to arrest him. 

“I don’t claim that I shouldn’t have been in jail, I deserved it. Thank God, I got away cheap. And not only I. There are many people who you see today in business, politics, administration, who would deserve to serve tens of years in prison.”

More here.

And Victor Ponta has also caught the modern habit of apologising for his mistakes, as shown in this mea culpa delivered to his foe Dan Andronic, in an interview published yesterday in Evenimentul Zilei.

"Certainly I made ​​many mistakes but at 42 I have the ability to recognise them. Not only to recognise them but also to learn from them, regardless of the position that I have on the public stage! What are my regrets? It's a pretty long list, but everything I did wrong was human! I do not want anyone to endure the amount of negative energy, even the hatred, that was directed against me in the recent past. I think we all need to understand that hatred and passion leaves wounds that are very hard to heal. I would say that once again I apologise to those who were offended by my words and to those who supported me. I often used words that I wanted to be able to avoid. This I truly regret! "

I don't like politicians saying sorry, for some reason. It makes me distrust them more than if they didn't, though I prefer them to say sorry for their own mistakes rather than for the Amritsar massacre or the slave trade. But it somehow seems slippery to me - like that boy in an H.G. Well novel (which one?) who instead of standing and fighting asked for forgiveness.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Was Russian money behind the anti-fracking protests in Romania?

A very interesting story in the New York Times suggests that Russian money was behind the anti-fracking protests in Romania. It sounds extremely likely to me.

The Romanian Prime Minister, Victor Ponta, announced three weeks ago that Romania does not have shale gas and so there was no need to argue over the issue. But Chevron is not so sure.

Parliament illuminated to mark the Romanian national day

December 1 was chosen as the National Day in 1990. Only two or three MPs in 1990 had the wit to argue that 10 May should be the national day as it was before Communism. It's both the day King Carol I proclaimed Romania's independence in 1877 and the also day he first set foot in Romania in 1865. And is a sunny day, warm but not too hot. 

They chose instead a day in December because the 1989 Revolution happened in December. One politician suggested the National Day should be December 25 because that was the day Ceausescu was shot.

December 1 has dreadful weather and Romanians take off to the mountains then to eat and drink too much and trudge tipsily through the snow. I could have gone but preferred to stay snug in Bucharest.

Snow and autochthony in Romania

Yesterday we awoke to snow in Romania.

The picture below shows a a Romanian girl in peasant costume blowing a bucium, a horn of Dacian origin made of linden that was traditionally used by mountaineers (I use the word in its original sense of mountain dwellers) to signal their location in battle. A bucium sounds like this.

The word comes from the Latin bucinum, from which we get the English word "bugle". The Hutsuls of Ukraine have the same horn which they call the trembita.

Writing this, I suddenly feel as if I am Patrick Campbell or Frank Muir on the very long-running British TV show, 'Call My Bluff', where people gave true and false definitions of highly unusual words.

It all brings to mind something important that Mircea Eliade said:

“Until recently there persisted among Europeans the obscure awareness of a mystic solidarity with the land of one’s birth. It was not a commonplace love of country or province; it was not admiration of ancestors buried, generation after generation, around the village church. It was something entirely different: the mystic experience of autochthony, of being indigenous, the profound sense of having emerged from the local ground, the sense that the earth had given birth to us, much as it had given birth, in its inexhaustible fertility, to rocks and stream and flowers…"

This applies much more to Romania, where most people are a couple of generations from the plough, than to English townies. In the New World it applies only to the Indians. It applies in Europe much less than a hundred years ago because of the huge movement of people in most of Europe from the country to the towns. It will apply very much less in a century's time, because of the huge migration of peoples from Africa and Asia into Europe.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Politics and philosophy are a means of self expression

Politics and philosophy are a means of self expression - as Nietzsche said, all philosophy is disguised psychology.

People without imagination should make money

People without imagination should pursue well paid careers. For them money supplies poetry.

Robert Graves was told by his publisher

There's no money in poetry

To which he replied 

There's no poetry in money. 

But in fact it depends on what poetry means to you. 

A. H. Clough's Spectator ab Extra expresses many people's philosophy, including that of quite a few nouveaux-riches I know in Bucharest (almost all the riche here are nouveaux)

They may talk as they please about what they call pelf, 

And how one ought never to think of one’s self, 

How pleasures of thought surpass eating and drinking— 

My pleasure of thought is the pleasure of thinking 

How pleasant it is to have money, heigh-ho! 

How pleasant it is to have money. 

Schopenhauer was characteristically bleaker:

"Money is happiness in abstracto; he, therefore, who is no longer capable of enjoying happiness in the concrete pursues money.

But Schopenhauer was wrong. Lots of people find great happiness in money. 

Do you remember the two in the poster?

If so, you are probably too old to wear jeans.

Kind hearts are more than coronets and simple faith than Norman blood

The name Howard means hog-herd. The Duke of Norfok's ancestor when surnames were given out was one.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

The man who mistook Westminster Cathedral for a mosque

Westminster Cathedral.

Somebody in the South Thanet constituency association of UKIP referred on Twitter to a photograph of Westminster Cathedral as a mosque. The Guardian and many others are taking this slip terribly seriously. How much UKIP is hated - the verb is exact - and feared. Our rulers are very insecure about their hegemony.

It is an understandable mistake - nothing looks less English than neo-Byzantine Westminster Cathedral and after the Hagia Sofia in Constantinople was turned into a mosque this great Byzantine church became the model for the design of mosques to the present day.

In fact Catholic churches can never be national monuments. We are an odd, subversive foreign institution in the eyes of our Protestant compatriots, not part of English life, though we created England. I like this, the feeling of being an outsider that we share with Communists (it's not the only thing).

Of course Pugin, the fanatically Catholic architect who designed the Houses of Parliament, thought Gothic was the only true Catholic architectural style but it is not accidental that the two most famous and most loved Catholic churches in London, the Brompton Oratory and Westminster Cathedral, are not English Gothic but Italian baroque and Italian Byzantine respectively.

I love Westminster Cathedral more than any church in England, even though it is not nearly the most beautiful. Even though someone aptly said the interior resembles the bathroom department in Harrod's.

I loved it since I went there aged three for the first time. Even though the Masses are mostly in English it does not feel like the modern low church Catholic Church. It is intensely, giddily spiritual, unlike the much more beautiful St. Paul's, which is as spiritual as a garden shed. The Abbey, like other medieval Anglican churches, has the faintest trace of spirituality, which is all that remains of its Catholic origins, buried by restraint, good taste, national monuments and moth-eaten flags. 

I go to Westminster Cathedral whenever I am in London, even on brief visits. Possibly its un-Englishness it part of what draws me. Perhaps it reminds me that the only genuinely religious emotion that the English ever experience is hatred of Catholicism.

I wonder which is hated more, Catholicism or UKIP.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Is Sibiu salami made of horse?

I was told by someone who loves Sibiu salami that it's made of horse. Is it? In any case, I read that it may be made an EU protected product.

The Little Black Boy

The best thing said on the subject of race, about which far, far too much is said these days. It goes through my head very often and contrasts very well with the cant written on this subject in our time. It was written by a very theologically liberal Protestant and profoundly religious man:

My mother bore me in the southern wild,
And I am black, but O! my soul is white;
White as an angel is the English child: 
But I am black as if bereav'd of light.

My mother taught me underneath a tree 
And sitting down before the heat of day,
She took me on her lap and kissed me,
And pointing to the east began to say. 

Look on the rising sun: there God does live 
And gives his light, and gives his heat away. 
And flowers and trees and beasts and men receive
Comfort in morning joy in the noonday.

And we are put on earth a little space,
That we may learn to bear the beams of love, 
And these black bodies and this sun-burnt face
Is but a cloud, and like a shady grove.

For when our souls have learn'd the heat to bear 
The cloud will vanish we shall hear his voice. 
Saying: come out from the grove my love & care,
And round my golden tent like lambs rejoice.

Thus did my mother say and kissed me, 
And thus I say to little English boy. 
When I from black and he from white cloud free,
And round the tent of God like lambs we joy: 

Ill shade him from the heat till he can bear, 
To lean in joy upon our fathers knee. 
And then I'll stand and stroke his silver hair,
And be like him and he will then love me.

I know little about and have not read very much of Blake who was so fashionable when I was up at university, as he had been since the 1960s. I am much more a lover of Pope and Cowper - or much better Chaucer. But speaking of Blake's religious views I know, from Bagehot's essay, that he startled Henry Crabb Robinson by telling him: 
'Jesus Christ is the only God. And so am I and so are you.'

Black Americans persecuting other black Americans

Black people in the American town of Ferguson, Missouri, are rioting because a policeman who shot dead an unarmed black man was released after the grand jury ruled he had no case to answer.

This man's death was very unfortunate, but while people protest about one white man killing a black man, in self-defence the jury evidently thought, why do they not talk about the very large numbers of people murdered by blacks? There are far fewer American blacks killed by whites than vice versa, despite the fact that blacks make up only 13% of the population of the USA. 

Nor are blacks killed more often by the police. Interestingly, almost twice as many whites are shot dead by the police than blacks. Between 1999 and 2011 the CDC figures show that 
2,151 whites died by being shot by police compared to 1,130 blacks.
The following figures date from 2008 but are telling. According to the US Department of Justice, 52.5% of homicides were committed by blacks. The offending rate for blacks was almost 8 times higher than whites and the victim rate 6 times higher. 84% of white homicide victims were murdered by whites and 93% of black victims murdered by blacks.

Many white liberal Americans prefer to blame whites than blacks because sub-consciously they see the latter as Rousseau's noble savages, innately good. This is not true. Savages are not noble and the rioters in Ferguson are not protesting against communism but are looting and destroying. Yet well-off clever people consider rioting romantic. This is the story of the Scarman Report after the Brixton race riots in London in 1981.

Having written this I find that the politician that I admire most in the world, Rudy Giuliani, agrees with me.

It is depressing how many educated, reasonably intelligent people feel they can criticise the jury's decision in the Ferguson trial. Clearly only people who attended the whole court hearing are justified in doing so. It is, in any case, much better an innocent man goes free than a guilty one goes down. Had the policeman not been arraigned, as has happened many times when the police killed unarmed people in the UK, that might indeed have been scandalous but the grand jury (I wish we had not abolished them in England) sat on the case and ruled against a trial. However, the Federal Government may still reopen the case.

An oldster from the American South posted this comment on somebody's Facebook wall yesterday, which is worth thinking about.
There's that lynching thing again. We don't need any self-hating whites any more. We have the true nature of the beast on display right here. It is and always has been a fact that if a black person has been victimized the best place to look is among the blacks. Even during the civil rights days the biggest offender was the black community. The media only showed the atrocities of the very few radical whites. I was there and we did not have black folk swinging from every other tree but it sure was worth your life to walk through the dark side of town being black or white yet a black man might get the looks but he could walk through the white side of town without any injury. 
What is the solution to all this? I do not think that there is one. The problems are not caused by lack of religious belief or lack of will on the part of the American state to impose, on the one hand, law and order and, on the other, racial equality. 

I think it partly comes down to the fact that it is usually difficult for different peoples to live side by side. The more different, the more difficult.

It puts me in mind of something Thomas Jefferson said, which is inscribed on the Jefferson Memorial.
Nothing is more certainly written in the book of fate than that these people shall be free; nor is it less certain that the two races, equally free, cannot live under the same government.
Actually, only the first half of this sentence is inscribed on the Memorial. 

The early 19th century progressives' solution, the idea of moving American freed slaves to Liberia, turned out to be a bad one. Overwhelmingly the  freed American slaves did not want to leave America and the few who settled Liberia did not intermarry with the natives but treated the indigenous inhabitants as coolies and regarded themselves as representatives of a higher civilisation, which, of course, they were.  I remember back in the 1970s people wrote about Liberia as the first free black African country, when it was in fact the last colony. The rule of the 'Americo-Liberians', the tiny elite made up of descendants of the black colonists, was only ended in 1980, by a military coup.

Monday, 24 November 2014

The mystery of the electoral tourists

What do you make of this, Holmes? 66% of Romanians say they voted for Klaus Iohannis in Sunday's presidential election, but he won only 54% of the vote.

Opinion polls are not be trusted. All but one poll prior to the second round of the election said Ponta would win and even the exit polls after the polls closed on Sunday suggested that he had a wafer-thin lead, though I was told that Mr. Iliescu called him at 3 p.m. to tell him that he had lost. And we know that people often convince themselves that they voted for the winning party even when they voted the other way.

But we know that 1.2 million Romanians (according to Associated Press) voted on 'supplementary lists', because they were away from home. Some were bona fide but many or most, I should guess, were 'electoral tourists' taken out in PSD busses from place to place, often depopulated villages, to vote several times with the connivance of corrupt officials. When you vote, the polling officer puts a sticker on your ID card (you don't have to be a registered voter) but if you go and vote for a second or third time elsewhere, officials may turn a blind eye to the fact your ID card is already stamped. This happened mostly in the deep South: counties like Gorj, Dolj, Teleorman and Giurgiu.

On Sunday 100,000 people decided to go to the dreary country of Teleorman to vote. A friend of mine who comes from Teleorman tells me that even he, whose family are there, only goes there with a sinking heart and that it has no charms. I am absolutely certain that like every county in Romania it does have its charms but on a cold November Sunday, come on.

 An Anglo-Romanian friend of mine said to me on Friday that Mr Iohannis's victory is
the end of eighteenth century Romania.
By which, of course, my friend did not have in mind aristocratic dinner parties, Meissen porcelain, Chippendale chairs or Mozart operas but very corrupt British elections. 

Over a million votes cast fraudulently should be investigated and the culprits put behind bars for many years but the same things happened, I recall, in the 2004 election and nothing happened then, even though the PSD government lost office. Obviously postal votes are the answer to this problem and they would enable the diaspora to exercise their right to vote, but postal votes in Romania will lead to a lot of fraud, as  they have even in law-abiding England.

Sunday, 23 November 2014


Typing Iliescu my telephone wrote: I lied constantly. And yet some people don't believe God exists.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Liberalism redivivus: UKIP are liberals

The Liberal Democrats got 0.87% of the vote in the Rochester by-election in the UK - some 349 votes. But they are not liberals - UKIP, who won the seat, are. Real, classical liberals.

The Lib Dems scored a lower percentage than any major party in a British by-election since 1918. Lower than any Liberal in the 1950s or 60s. Anywhere in the UK. 
I have three times as many Facebook friends as there were Lib Dem voters in Rochester. Isn't that absolutely wonderful? 

It restores ones faith in human nature.

What are liberals? Sir William Harcourt in 1872 gave the best definition, forty years before the Liberal Party decided to embrace the state.
Liberty does not consist in making others do what you think right. The difference between a free Government and a Government which is not free is principally this—that a Government which is not free interferes with everything it can, and a free Government interferes with nothing except what it must. A despotic Government tries to make everybody do what it wishes, a Liberal Government tries, so far as the safety of society will permit, to allow everybody to do what he wishes. It has been the function of the Liberal Party consistently to maintain the doctrine of individual liberty. It is because they have done so that England is the country where people can do more what they please than in any country in the world.
Admittedly, the Gladstonian liberals were internationalists, not isolationists, but it would be anachronistic to decide that this would therefore make Gladstone or his followers admirers of the EU, which seems to me to interfere with everything it can. Nor would John Stuart Mill have favoured mass immigration. He said in his Essay on Representative Government:
Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities. Among a people without fellow-feeling, especially if they read and speak different languages, the united public opinion, necessary to the working of representative government, cannot exist. The influences which form opinions and decide political acts are different in the different sections of the country. An altogether different set of leaders have the confidence of one part of the country and of another. The same books, newspapers, pamphlets, speeches, do not reach them. One section does not know what opinions, or what instigations, are circulating in another. The same incidents, the same acts, the same system of government, affect them in different ways; and each fears more injury to itself from the other nationalities than from the common arbiter, the state.
I am not a liberal but esteem liberals - true 19th century ones like UKIP - and there is very little difference nowadays between them and true conservatives. Single-sex marriage might have appealed to John Stuart Mill but not to the Protestant strain in liberalism exemplified by Gladstone and it does not to UKIP. But there are very few liberal or conservative politicians these days. Some people in England are still interested in freedom, the liberal idea, or tradition, the conservative idea - but very many of the English are not very interested in either. This is especially true in the universities, as the very estimable Brendan O'Neill, who is a Trotskyite, reports here. 

In place of freedom, more and more the British are concerned by money, the welfare state and avoiding discrimination. For many these things are not only more important than freedom but have taken the place of the sacred

By the way, I have no idea why Emily Thornberry MP's tweet of a photograph of a white van in front of a house garlanded with St. George's flags should be a 'gaffe'. Her photograph was not mocking in any way. What a fool Ed Miliband is to have sacked her for it and to have said that he felt a sense of “respect” whenever he saw a white van. Mr. Miliband is a nerd and the press are bullies who see he is afraid of them. He is also an ass and too small a man to lead his party.

He managed to turn a news story about a Conservative defeat into a defeat for him. It all seems to have taken leave of reality and moved into an alternative time-space continuum. The writer Jeremy Duns tweeted:
I tried to explain Thornberry to my wife (Swedish-Finn). Got to point Ed said he respected white vans and she asked if it was a real story.

On this subject one last, elegaic point. I liked it when - twenty years ago - the English flag was only seen flying on the towers of country churches and was redolent of rural calm.