Why this Blog?

A place where I can lament the changing times; for eccentric comments on current affairs and for unfashionable views, expressed I hope, in cogent style; also occasional cris de coeur largely concerned, I regret to say, with myself.


I welcome your comments, so do please write. Please note however that all comments are moderated prior to publication. Whilst I fully appreciate that life can be frustrating, nevertheless, abuse, SMS language and illiteracy will not be tolerated!

Thursday 27 February 2014

627: The Murderers of Drummer Lee Rigby

After some reflection, I have decided that the sentences handed down to these vermin (a whole-life sentence for one and 45 years behind bars for the other) are entirely appropriate and correct.  I'll explain.

My initial feeling was that a KGB-style execution i.e. a 9mm bullet into the back of the neck would be the correct treatment.

Later I thought that perhaps a small-calibre, flat-nosed, low-velocity round at the base of the spine might be better. But despite the appalling cost to the taxpayer to keep these fanatics in prison for donkey's years, I am now content.

What changed my mind?  Two things: first, the idea that they will have to wait for years for their reward of 72 virgins, which apparently their debased version of Islam promises so called "martyrs" and second, the possibility that their fellow prisoners might feel inclined to give the revolting pair the thorough kicking that they so richly deserve.

I cannot remember what silly names the unpronounceable pair adopted as part of their laughably-named holy war campaign and I certainly will not bring myself even to attempt it nor to include their original absurd names. How about "Abou al prat" and Ahmed al Shithead?  Sums it up eh?

Until the next time

Tuesday 25 February 2014

626: A Quick "Thank You"

To my friend Matthew, for introducing me to the amazing work of Gustave Doré who produced the wonderful illustration of the River Styx which now forms the background to the title of this blog.

In the event that any of you miss the original picture, here it is:

Andrew Findlater 1995
Until the next time

Monday 24 February 2014

625: Ukraine II

It is reported today that Russian Prime minister (and sometime president) M. Dimitri Medvedev has questioned the legitimacy of the current rulers in Ukraine following last week's upheaval; "an armed mutiny" he calls it.  It is a typically one-sided statement - so common from the Russians (and indeed from the Chinese on occasion).  When the so-called democratically-elected president and his cronies choose to employ snipers to shoot dead unarmed (note that word) protestors, how are the people expected to react M. Medvedev? Another Russian commentator described the result as "mob rule," not bad shorthand for democracy eh!

And I expect that certain persons in the Russian ruling class are perhaps feeling a little uncomfortable at the revelations that on his reported modest salary, the erstwhile president of the Ukraine found himself in a position to acquire a remarkably luxurious country residence.

People stare through windows of Mezhyhirya residence
M. Yanukovich's Dining-Room (BBC Image)

And then there are the cars that have been uncovered!

I recall a news item about a year or so ago concerning a vast palace being constructed in Russia; I suppose that we can all guess who commissioned that one! (N.B. whilst they can sometimes be synonymous, there is a vast difference in modern usage at least, between the terms a "ruling class" and an "aristocracy"; the latter term will not be seen hereabouts in regard to Russia - ever - except of course in an historical context).

It is perhaps surprising to the Russian P.M. that the Ukrainian Parliament actually voted for these changes which were were not imposed by means of tanks and/or "Spetsnaz" forces...

Finally, I note with interest that the pro-Russian supporters in Kharkov have cordoned off the statue of Lenin that stands in the main square.  Good God! And I thought that I was a reactionary!

And on that point, I see that "they" are doing it again: Lvov is now Lviv and Kharkov is now Kharkiv; file with Beijing, Innuits, Myanmar, Mao Ze Dong, Mumbai, "Ken-ya" and all the rest of that revisionist crap, which I do my best to ignore.

Until the next time.

Sunday 23 February 2014

625: Sochi 2014

Sochi 2014
My congratulations to the Russians for a stunning show in closing the 2014 Winter Olympic Games; what a superb display it was; the producers, performers and technicians have much to be proud of.

Being not what the French call sportif, I generally ignore athletics, football, rugby and pretty much all sports except F1 and snooker (!) and it was really only accidental that I watched the closing ceremony.  Of course I offer my compliments to all those who took part in the numerous sports; I am sure that they deserve them.

The music, ballet, the celebration of Russian literature and finally the great Russian circus tradition were wonderfully presented and performed - the ballet segment, Scheherazade, was so beautifully done that I had tears in my eyes.  The Russians have plenty to celebrate in these areas.

It is tragic however that I found it necessary to write here about the brutality of the Cossack security guards regarding their maltreatment of the very harmless Pussy Riot members; what a pity...
I hope that there will be a video that I can attach to this post - I would love to see Scheherazade again.  Should such videos become available, I shall certainly add them to this post.

Until the next time

Post scriptum:

In his closing speech, the president of the International Olympic Committee, M. Bach said "Thank you to the volunteers. Through you, everybody with an open mind could see the face of a new Russia: efficient and friendly, patriotic and open to the world..." 

I suppose that many of those living in the Crimea and eastern Ukraine might believe this, but bearing in mind those Cossacks, I fear that a little more needs to be done.

Saturday 22 February 2014

624: Ukraine

One can only be awed by the determination of the Ukrainian populace to express themselves in the face of three months of freezing weather and the violent attempts by the Interior Ministry police to break up the protests.

Once again we have seen that a peaceful demonstration (as so many begin) has gradually become violent; the causes of course are 1) the obduracy of the government and 2) the probable influx of tougher elements amongst the protestors.
I'd be willing to bet that Tsar Putin, no doubt depressed by recent events, must have been grinding his teeth, reflecting on the glory days of the KGB, when those be-medalled thugs knew how to deal with protests - oh yes!  Tanks, tanks, tanks. In his present role, I suppose he has considered turning off the gas or at least applying one of his price rises!

Anyway it seems as though the protestors are gradually getting their way, with the President, Yanukovich, apparently in hiding somewhere in the east of the country and other high-rankers having sloped off carrying their suitcases of cash - rather like the sort of events that used to occur in certain South American republics.

Very heartwarming is the news that all over the country, statues of mass-murderer and tyrant Lenin have been pulled down.  One wonders why they remained upright so long.

My hope is that the protestors' organisation will have sufficient integrity and control to ensure that the extreme elements are not permitted to influence the outcome.

In the meantime, best wishes to them.

Wednesday 19 February 2014

623: Sylvia von Harden: THAT Image

Nearly four years ago, I wrote a piece about Otto Dix's famous portrait of journalist Sylvia von Harden.  Now, I find that many of my visitors here seem to have picked on that particular post when visiting these erratic pages.  What is this fascination with this famous image I wonder; why has Dix's painting impressed so many?

As I reported in my original post, the image has been a popular inspiration for the parodists; for example here's the original with the Barbie version:

Daily Mail

 And inevitably there are some even more bizarre versions:



And finally (for now):

And there are many, many more, which tells me that with this iconic portrait, Otto Dix created a truly classic image.  Sadly I have no talent in the artistic line, otherwise perhaps I would have a go!

Until the next time.

622: Disgusting

Horrified I am, to read about the brutal treatment meted out to members of Pussy Riot, by Cossack security guards at Sochi.

I had always understood that the Cossacks were robust, but equally men of honour.  This, if the reports are true as they appear to be, is obviously no longer applicable.  And if there is some sort of hierarchy amongst the Cossacks, I expect an immediate statement disassociating the "order" from these dreadful people.

They are obviously scum: the lowest of the low.  After all it takes a really big man to beat up a girl.

'Stinking vermin' is the description that these people deserve - or perhaps 'Stalin' Putin's lap-dogs and arse-kissers?

If I were one of Britain's athletes competing in the Winter Olympic Games, I would feel distinctly uncomfortable.

Until the next time

621: A Powerful Ally

Today,  the  BBC tells us that Mrs Charlie Brooks, currently up before the beak as a consequence of the phone-hacking revelations, has had recourse to advice from the Great Panjandrum himself, Mr Tony Bliar, conspicuous for having made an enormous pile of money, for his exceptional capacity for economy with the actualité, and for his outstanding achievements as Middle East Peace Envoy.

With Bliar on side, then it must be a definite "Not Guilty" surely?

As the Eye loves to add in such circumstances, "Trebles all round!"

Until the next time.

Tuesday 18 February 2014

620: A Little Gem


Yes a beauty from my heroine, (Dora) Carrington, done when she was 16.

Delightful I think.

Until the next time.

619: Overdue

Posts on Jour après Jour are sadly rather rare these days, but today's report that two members of the rather harmless band Pussy Riot have been arrested in Sochi, reminded me that I meant to post something here that CM posted on her blog.

Where she found this I don't know, but I think it's excellent.  

(To enlarge, right-click, open in new window and then 
enlargement is possible - sorry I don't know how to do this on this page!)

Here's a link to the original article.

Until the next time.

Monday 17 February 2014

618: An Independent Scotland

I was much amused today by the ridiculous posturings of Mr Alex Salmond of the Scottish National Party (= Labour in a Kilt).  I think that he is a little desperate.

The BBC news carried an extract in which Salmond said that "George Osborne" (Mr Osborne to you, pleb.) had "no right" to exclude Scotland from the pound sterling.

Bollocks.  It is the Treasury, not the politicians who have issued this ruling.  

In fact I doubt very much if the Scots would be foolish enough to seek independence.  Who will then pay for their outrageously generous policies?

His reaction to Signor Barroso, big chief of the EU, who stated that for an independent Scotland to join the EU would be "difficult" was even funnier. The increasingly unstable First Minister claimed that Scotland was already a member!

Sorry Mr Salmond; the UK is indeed a member, much to the regret of many British subjects; Scotland is not.

Time for the reality pills Mr Salmond; after all, I believe that prescriptions are free in Scotland are they not?

Until the next time

617: Paxman, the BBC and the First World War

Two weeks ago, I wrote a very sceptical piece about the BBC's First World War series presented by Mr Jeremy Paxman.

Having watched this evening the final programme in the series, I must say that Paxman's presentation had great sensitivity, and slightly to my surprise, due credit was given in respect of the appalling sacrifice made by Britain's great landed families.  Please understand that I in no way wish to belittle the enormous suffering and sacrifice made by the millions of others involved in the terrible carnage.  However the fact remains that as Paxman pointed out, the young lieutenants, many of whom came from the upper classes were five times more likely to die than the average "Tommy," as of course the junior officers were required to lead from the front.  And further to his credit, Paxman pointed out that for we who can have no conception of what the times were like, it is too easy to "snigger" at these sometimes seemingly foolhardy gestures of patriotism, whereas in fact enormous courage and bravery prevailed.  This was well said.

All well and good, but then I got angry when he told us about the "1,000,000 acres that went under the hammer" as a result of death duties. Great: you go over to France or Flanders to fight for your country, lead from the front, get shot or blown up and then the government confiscates your family's estates.
And we end up with him telling us that the country after the war was "more democratic."

Oh really?  No it wasn't:  all that happened over the years was that the traditions of class and duty were replaced with a lot of nasty, grasping, greasy pole merchants, many of whom rule us today.

Reflect on the past and weep my friends.

Yes it does make me bitter.

Until the next time.

616: Dresden

Dresden: Brutality and Vandalism

Once again I offer humble apologies for missing the black anniversary - 12th February - of the Allies' great war crime: the fire-bombing of beautiful Dresden FOR NO JUSTIFIABLE REASON AT ALL.

And in making this post I also ask that the outrage of Pforzeim a short while after (17,000 murdered) be remembered.

 Another war crime: Pforzheim

Despite what the apologists say, these were not military targets; as I wrote four years ago, I suspect that they were merely done (as were the nuclear attacks on Japan) to impress mass-murderer and tyrant, Josef Vissiaronovich Stalin.

In shame...

Until the next time

Saturday 15 February 2014

615: Smoke, Smoke, Smoke that Cigarette

(Written whilst in the throes of insomnia).

The picture above is of Princess Caroline of Monaco, which I found on a blog called The LooseLeaf Report, which I discovered whilst researching Iris Tree for a recent piece about Dora Carrington.

During a recent edition of  The Moral Maze on BBC Radio 4 which concerned itself with the ever-increasing government interference in our lives, I was disappointed to hear former government minister Michael Portillo remark "If you smoke I get lung cancer from your second-hand smoke."

Bollocks of course, and I am very disappointed to discover that Portillo, whom I generally consider to be a reasonable man,  has joined, or belongs to, the ranks of the health fascists and national nannies.

And interestingly during the course of the programme we were told that smoking is really only practised by the lower 20% or so of society; the "underclass."

That statement is obviously as fatuous as Portillo's.  I suppose I must accept that the example of Princess Caroline will be cited by my innumerable opponents as an exception, but I 'd be willing to bet a substantial sum that there are plenty more in the upper echelons, and perhaps even in the aristocracy (God bless 'em).

Words fail me.

Image:abdulla 18.jpg
Proper Cigarettes - sadly no longer available; Thank you Brussels (UGH)

Until the next time.

Friday 14 February 2014

614: Last Word on Love This February 14th

At The Ball

I chanced to see you. Music played,
Vain chatter filled the place
It seemed as though a veil were laid,
 Across your secret face.

Your eyes alone were sad; your way
Of speaking ravished me,
As though I heard a far pipe play,
And on the shores, the sea.

How welcome was your look of thought,
Your figure tall and slight;
And that clear laugh with sadness fraught
Is in my heart tonight.

And when the noise of day is stilled
Once more they come to me,
Those eyes with so much sadness filled,
That voice, with gaiety.

Down to the depths of sleep I go,
Where dreams uncaptured move.
But do I love you? Who can know?
Yet this, I think, is love.

Alexei Konstanovich Tolstoy (1817-1875)

This little gem appears in a slim volume published in 1943 (by Faber & Faber Ltd) and found today.  The translation is credited to Frances Cornford and E. Polianowsky Salaman.  

The italics are mine - and mine alone...

Until the next time.

Thursday 13 February 2014

613: Love Story

Dora Carrington, Lytton Strachey (1916)
Lytton Strachey, painted by Carrington
My sweet companion and my gentle peer,
Why has thou left me thus unkindly here?
Thy end forever and thy life to moan,
O thou has left me all alone.
Thy soul and body when Death's agony
Besieged around thy noble heart,
Did not with more reluctance part,
Than I, my dearest friend, part from thee?

My dearest friend, would I have died for thee?
Life in this world henceforth will tedious be.
Nor shall I know hereafter what to do,
If once my griefs prove tedious too.
Silent and sad I walk about each day,
As sullen ghosts stalk speechless by.
Where their hid treasures lie;
Alas! My treasure's gone. Where do I stay?

No, it's not great poetry in the conventional sense, and for all I know it might even be derivative - my poetry education being almost entirely lacking. But it cannot be criticised for lack of emotional power; I was in tears when today, I read it for the first time.

These lines were written by (Dora) Carrington into her diary following the death early in 1932 of Lytton Strachey, whom she had loved for 17 years - entirely platonically of course - with great passion and commitment.  Two months later she shot herself.

As those of you who read these posts will guess, the poem is quoted in Gretchen Gerzina's biography, Carrington.  This was a true love story - complicated by other affaires (as Carrington called them) - though always paramount, and by the complexity of her nature.  The biography is sensitively written and very moving; I recommend it.

Carrington: The Farm at Watendlath

Rosamond Lehmann, a writer I respect enormously (you will find references to her in this blog) was extremely fond of Carrington.  After her suicide, Lehmann wrote:

"It was such an exciting joy to be with her, always, for me.  Nobody has ever enriched me as she did, and I counted much too much on her love and support - and the intimacy I thought I had with her.  And to think how many others felt the same!"*

Forty years later Rosamond Lehmann wrote to David Garnett, "I never loved any woman as I loved her."*

It would seem that despite her intermittent yearnings for solitude and privacy, Carrington's heart was large and generous indeed.

There you are: a proper love story for this (unfortunate) time of year, and infinitely better than a pink, plastic, heart on a card eh?

By the way, should my scribblings about Carrington give you the impression that she has certain characteristics in common with someone I know (and love) then you would be perfectly correct (see Lehmann quotations above).

* Quoted from Rosamond Lehmann by Selina Hastings (Vintage 2003).

Until the next time.

612:That Time of Year

Once again February 14th looms. Some of you may already be aware of what to me is a grime "feast day."

This of course relates to events of over two years ago, promises of infinite love, given and received. There were no tacky, pinky, satiny, plasticky greetings cards, no "champagne supper for two" but this was the real thing,

In defiance of all advice and logic, I am keeping my promise; there will be no change - change is not an option.

This year in place of Rupert Brooke I have chosen Percy Shelley:

And the sunlight clasps the earth,
And the moonbeams kiss the sea;--
What are all these kissings worth,
If thou kiss not me?

 And John Donne:

Such wilt thou be to mee, who must
Like th' other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end, where I begun.

Until the next time