Cui bono?

honor hominesque honesti floreant

Category: marriage

Speaking to my sister by moonlight

Beauty and its beholders  

A political note

Solution (from an occasional series)                             

What is right?


This North Atlantic island slum, consisting mainly of a row of rain-soaked wooden shacks with one or two storm-battered overambitious would-be villas along the ridge above the harbour, and a congeries of small shops, concrete storehouses and parking lots for all manner of marine gear down around the quays, is to my mind one of the finest spots on earth to live.  Not as well set up with all the inconveniences of modern life as modern homo negotians would like, or indeed insists on, which is undoubtedly part of its attraction.  We are not yet equipped with e-communications reliable enough to be worth using, which at least gives some protection against e-malfeasance.  It is certainly one of the few remaining redoubts in the northern hemisphere not minutely documented and analysed for potential profit – ha! profit?! – by the dark forces of the net.  But there are times when one can welcome some contacts with the outside world.  Yesterday Kevin brought a delightful surprise, along with the rainwater pouring off his anorak and over the notes I had spread out across the floor in preparation for my plea to the senators to have this office granted diplomatic immunity.  It is the first letter in a long time from Isabelita.  For those who have only recently come across this journal, Isabelita of the many talents was for more than a year the effective directrix of the office when it included five irascible journalists (or similar), even though nominally she was just an assistant.  Any remaining traces of order and organisation are owed to her.   Still in remarkably good form to judge from the picture she included, even if it is sexist to say so.  No longer competes internationally, but apparently twice a week leads parties of old age pensioners down to La Playa de los Frailes for two or three hours of beach volleyball.  Ecuadorian academic life’s gain has been the rest of the world’s loss.

            However, it may be that even in plucky little Ecuador the path to ruin may be surveyed to see how it may be opened up.  The mountainous regions of the country are still richly covered with the original forests, not yet seriously damaged by ‘development’, and the forested mountains are inhabited by one of the most splendid arrays of strikingly coloured birds of any country on the planet.  One reaction is to call for this region to be preserved as a wonderful example of a natural environment such as has already been despoiled in many other regions.  Another reaction to such a landscape in many countries has been to ‘monetise’ it, negotiating with the government, or whoever controls a territory de facto, with a view to extracting all extractable resources, mineral, arboreal, or hydrological.  (It has, after centuries, become somewhat harder to exploit human resources, though if you consider the actual conditions of the poor of this earth living in ‘third world’ countries, you will find it easy to doubt that claim.)  There is also a third reaction which in America might well be called ‘monetisation-lite’.  When the attractions of a landscape are undeniable, this can lead to well-fed businessmen staying in expensive hotels in the nearest capital city where they can be heard muttering to one another phrases such as ‘touristic potential’, ‘ecological experience’ and ‘high season occupancy’, and to prove it there are former fishing villages that have irremediably lost their virtue all along the coasts of Spain, and in the islands of Greece and Thailand and the Pacific.  Nobody can know the motive or combination of motives which may have brought forth ideas for one or more chains of pylons allowing passengers to travel along the magnificent Sierra and view the landscape.  I have nothing against pylons in themselves; if you forget the chocolate box associations and conventional attitudes most pylons are without doubt  more graceful than the average castle.  (Would it help if the pylons were built with pre-installed ivy and maybe miniature watchtowers at the summit?)  But why might one want to erect pylons on those mountains?  It may well be a simple unadulterated desire to let foreigners see the beauty of the country, perhaps at cost price only, perhaps even free?  But, however pure the intention, future events remain unpredictable events.  Whoever would have thought that Cameron’s kindly efforts to free the Libyan shore of the Mediterranean from tyranny would lead to the horrors of the past three years?  Let  a destination get some reputation as an interesting or beautiful or famous place to visit (fame alone can be enough of a magnet, with or without historical accuracy – cf many of the alleged ancient battle sites in assorted countries, which now look like perfectly ordinary countryside – and then a trickle of visitors can become a stream, justifying ‘tourist facilities’ which soon let the stream become a torrent, which is followed by the destination featuring temptingly in countless websites selling holidays and travel, and finally local citizens are effectively driven out of their own homes for half the year.  Just ask the inhabitants of Barcelona, or gaze in dismay at the monstrous arks impudently dwarfing the incomparable buildings of Venice which one of them will one day, statistics and cruise ships being what they are, destroy.


In this world of ‘us’ and ‘them’ (a.k.a. tribalism; so that’s what the development of civilised politics has brought us to) Theresa must be thanking her lucky stars, little red stars it seems, that once again as she faced yet another near insurmountable hurdle in keeping her finger-tip hold on 10 Downing Street the Russians came galloping onto the scene to save her bacon.  You might almost think Putin was trying to make sure she stays in office, and if you think that then be cautious; you don’t know what you might catch yourself thinking next.  Monty, our esteemed contact in London, once a bold buccaneer of free speech, is increasingly cautious about saying anything to anybody about any topic but he has given me permission to pass on this observation, that nobody should believe that story about the senior UK ministers being posted to various destinations in Europe over the summer in order to cajole the locals into agreeing to her Chequers plan – a political hologram if ever there was one –  and figs to the Irish.  Those ministers were sent round Europe to keep them out of London and apart, so that they couldn’t gather together and stage a coup against her.


Another of our solutions to longstanding problems

Society may be ready to recognise that it pays a shocking price in terms of accidents for the right to own and drive private cars.  And then there is the air pollution, and the costs to the nation of importing oil, and the massive contribution to climate change.  Some would add the corrosive effects on social cohesion (deliberately stimulated by some of the manufacturers.)  Far less obtrusive but perhaps much more pervasive is another factor often left out of account partly because it is exceedingly difficult to pin down the details of its profile and partly because it has somehow infiltrated society in such a way as to leave the poor harassed citizen assuming it is an inevitable part of modern life.  I am of course referring to stress.  Difficult to pin down it may be, but there will be few readers who do not feel they have more of it than they want.  There will often be dispute as to how far any particular accident or ailment or failure results from stress but few will doubt that stress can be an important and baleful factor in all those situations.  And few will doubt that the acquisition, ownership, maintenance, and use of private cars in their millions has a prime place in the roster of causes.  You don’t need to read this journal to be told that.  What you need is to be offered a remedy, and this journal has one.  It is so obvious that it may have been proposed already elsewhere, but if so the news hasn’t reached this office, and there’s certainly no harm in putting it on view here.  The key is to ban the simple ownership of private cars.  It will be replaced by a system where one buys a car licensed to be on public roads only on a specified day of the week with fierce penalties for any owner whose car breaks that rule.  Thus as Nigel Smith-Farquharson sees his neighbour Jamila Cottesloe walking to the station on Monday morning, does he toot derisively and congratulate himself  on buying a Monday car?  Possibly, but far more likely not, because he knows well that she has a Tuesday car and has always been willing to give him the ride needed.  (In fact the two, from wary beginnings based purely on practicality, have become co-operating friends.  Both help run the same food bank at weekends.)  Naturally there is a special higher-priced category of car to be bought which can be used on both Saturdays and Sundays (but definitely not covering late trips home early Monday morning.  The change of day at midnight and the penalty for cheating will yield impressive improvements in the road safety record).  Identification of cheating drivers will be easy because the license plates for different days of the week will have different colours and shapes.  Needless to say there will be a new richly satisfying income stream for whichever department receives it.  Misers and curmudgeons who cannot work out suitable agreements with other travellers will cycle or walk, with consequent benefit to their physical condition and saving of costs to the health service.  A small proportion of the well-heeled may buy enough cars for the whole week (to the applause of car manufacturers) but overall the effects on air quality, climate change, and so on will all tend to be positive, while congestion and stress with all its ill effects will be vastly reduced


If you did not enjoy that item you may also dislike this:

Presumably certain officials in the  militant/extremist wing of the British Home Office are temporarily keeping their heads below the parapet until the public’s current awareness of injustices perpetrated against the weak, the unimportant and the poor slips back below the headlines and allows them to consider what to do next.  No doubt some will be ruminating on the fact that same-sex marriage is now a fait accompli, and will have noticed that the arguments for accepting solemnly and legally attested relationships between partners of the same sex – consent, adulthood, no objections from previous partners, and so on – would appear to be available for campaigns in favour of polygamy (and polyandry).  Also for interspecies marriage.  (And I leave it to you whether you feel there are any other situations that might be considered relevant.)


The next regular posting is scheduled for 16 October

Speculation fair enough, but where is the prophet?

The editor writes: For reasons explained in the last item of this distribution, it does not begin with a piece by Old Boore, despite the requests.  We are still unable, also, to forward items from Luddites’ Gazette.  Their people have been granted an extra month to get to the hearing {see Late News, 30-11-12}, but having had trouble with punctures (the tyres on their bikes, all bought second-hand, were worryingly thin when they set off), with the French police who thought they were Germans, and the snow in France they are still only in Dijon, and may not arrive in time.  We wish them well.  Today   1) Isabelita’s good news   2) shorts   3)  the truth about Old Boore     Next scheduled distribution 31-1-13


Isabelita is being jolly, most unlike her normal cool, controlled self.  She has had a letter confirming the safe return of the ‘Beast’ (a tribute to his strength, not his personality), three weeks overdue.  It was only six months ago we discovered that on her mother’s side she is related to a large and well-connected English family.  It seems she had long been in contact by letter and telephone in particular with one of them, a divorced fellow fifteen years her senior, formerly in the army, and now apparently running some sort of commercial outfit with the strange name of Intellectual Glass Manufactory.  We naturally suspect there is personal warmth in the relationship although she insists it is purely based on shared technical interests, and it is true her subject was chemistry when she was lecturing in Ecuador.  Nevertheless our suspicions are strengthened by her reaction to the news today, when she went so far as to show everyone the relevant page of the letter.  Jeremy managed to take a photocopy of it when she went upstairs with the whalemeat for the dog:

            I left on the Friday at 8 am for my walking tour in the Yemen, and almost immediately met a preposterous example of the nonsense that gets in the way of reasonable daily life and leaves this country having to struggle like a giant to wade through a kind of metaphorical rubbish dump of regulations, petty pomposity, and sheer bloody stupidity.  Imported from Brussels, half of it.  Bureaucratic arrogance and lazy inefficiency.  The bureaucratic arrogance kicked in at the second security checkpoint in the airport, the one where they take your watch, x-ray your belt, and require you to demonstrate that your teeth are your own and not attached to a plate with a false palate containing high explosive.  I was moved to remark quietly ‘Is all this really necessary?’ and next minute I was all but frogmarched off by three uniformed louts to a tiny windowless room and locked in.  What would have been happening if I’d been black, I wonder.  Anyway I was there for about an hour before a sour-faced young woman came in and proposed to start interrogating me, but I cut her short with a roster of some of my very senior friends and colleagues.  The Interior Minister’s name, I was surprised to notice got only a slight contemptuous smile, but then I mentioned the Deputy Commandant.  ‘May I ask how you are acquainted with our commander?’  I flattened her with my answer, ‘To begin with, he is my brother-in-law and I was best man at his wedding.’  Although she tried not to scramble off her pomp too obviously there was an instant change of atmosphere from You will do what we tell you in favour of We appreciate it’s difficult but we do have to follow the rules sir.  A short phone call, and next moment a pimpled youth in a peaked cap was at the door with my belt, watch, and other stuff in a plastic bag, and my travelling holdall.  He sped me off to where another couple of irritated travellers were being held, trilled ‘Follow me’ and led us at a brisk trot down some stairs marked ‘restricted access’ and out onto the open tarmac, where we piled into a small bus which hurtled half across the airport, stopping with a skid by a set of steps, up which we climbed.  The plane was half empty but even before we had all found seats they slammed the door shut and we taxied out for take-off.  About an hour later I was conning my list of things to say in traveller’s Arabic to the stewardess working her way towards me with a drinks trolley, when one of the other delayed passengers came up the aisle and asked me where I was going.  ‘Yemen, of course.’  ‘That’s where I thought I was going,’ he answered, ‘but we’re both wrong.  This plane is going to Yerevan, in Armenia.’

            Yerevan could be considered a rather charming place – if judged by the standard of ‘other-ranks’ cities round the east of the Mediterranean, but its air services, even when functioning according to schedule, are not very frequent.  Even with the first flight I could book, to any airport where I could then count on making a further booking to take me Yemenwards, there was no chance of being able to take the walking tour as projected, so I faxed my pals in the Embassy and asked them for further instructions.  They came back with some rude remarks, totally unjustified, and a plan which looked oddly as though it had already been worked out, to get myself into Turkey (nerve-wracking plane flight), buy a bike and  follow a specified route to Istanbul with half a dozen stop-offs at places indicated.  So I had a 3½ week cycling tour.  Tough work on the legs, but absolutely fascinating and as a bonus I was able to take in Boghazköy and Konya.  Beautiful country, amazing architecture; fine people if we discount the brutality of the peasant cattle herders (though I should add that much of the region of my tour is ‘ethnically inhabited’ – whatever that means – by Kurds, not Turks).  The people seemed most refreshingly different from the consumerist masses of western Europe, more like peasant Australians you might say.  Was favourably impressed when I left the camera and lens bag on a chair in a busy eating booth; three hours later coming back into town, an unshaven dishevelled fellow came up to me, and jabbered away incomprehensibly obviously trying to get me to go somewhere.  From one or two words I caught I think he was under the impression he was speaking German, but anyway once I realised he wasn’t a beggar I thought he might have something useful to offer so I went with him.  Led me along to the ‘restaurant’ and pointed to my camera, still sitting on the chair where I had left it.  I thought it only right to tip him a few coins.  Why the Turks should ever have wanted to ‘join Europe’ is a baffling enigma.


This week’s book recommendation:

   Oswald Spengler’s Der Untergang des Abendlandes.  For the benefit of those readers not equipped with German we can cite the English edition translated by C.Atkinson and edited by A.Helps and H.Werner: The decline of the west : published by Oxford University Press.  1991   isbn 0-19-506751-7

‘A wonderful enriching experience; if the Nazis liked it, they did not understand it’ (Jervois Fitzroland)

If you do not enjoy this book, you may also fail to enjoy

E.Gibbon  The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire various editions including  Penguin   London   1995   isbn  978-071399124-6)


Uncertainty of the week (contributed by Simon).  “How many American troops will remain in Afghanistan after the American forces have withdrawn? (You see, I’ve read that after the withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq in 2010, six brigades and 94 bases remained there, and I do not really understand.)”


Small Ad appeal

Are you a reader living in the UK?  Do you think that satire is enough to make human beings observe the practice of fair play?  Whether you do or not, please read the article by Charlie Cooper in the Independent online, 11 January (obtainable after that date by later search); also the comments on the article, the same day, by Peggy Lloyd and Hadic Spelm; then try anger.  [Caution: this technique can be dangerous if not properly used; must not be employed in conjunction with violence; should be combined with adequate supply of intelligence for best effect; to be kept away from the immature and the deranged]


Editorial note:

The amount of mail that reaches us in Guernsey is one of the problems obstructing our efforts to cast pearls before the public.  The great majority is variously, too long, too obscure, too pornographic (those items are kept in a special padlocked box labelled ‘used bandages’) or too illegible to peruse at length.  Some is put into our collection as evidence of the astounding gamut of human misunderstanding.  One or two are kept in case they may one day serve for a public-spirited  exercise in blackmail.  But in the last week or so, there has been a veritable flood (thirteen) of appeals for more contributions from Old Boore, which is as many will have guessed a pseudonym, in fact a pseudonym for a redoubtable lady in Hampshire.  Aged 91 she goes sea-bathing every day of the year whatever the weather, and still manages her own pack of pitbull draghounds, and runs with them.  Living here in Guernsey when the Germans invaded she was the one who welded a submachine gun to the handlebars of her bicycle.  (It was only a gesture, since she could not get hold of any ammunition; still, she was summoned to a meeting with Gussek himself, where she argued vehemently that her action was in the spirit of any aryan woman faced by a foreign occupying force.  After an hour Gussek gave up, ordered her out, and took no further action except for confiscating the bicycle and ordering a bottle of schnapps.)

   Now I have no intention of letting an amateur edge herself into my position of eminence in this office; ever since I was a pupil at Lady Wilhelmina’s School for children of gentlefolk, in darkest Wales, I have been aware of the need for sharp elbows to hold one’s place by the trough while there are still any sausages left in the tray.  So I can perhaps dampen the enthusiasm of those who want her to replace me in the editorial chair by revealing her views on the current uproar about forms of marriage, as expounded at an office party last year.  (1a) The age for consensual sexual relations to be immediately lowered to 14 ‘since they are all at it anyway and there is no point in giving them a criminal record as well and after all Shakespeare’s Juliet was only 13’ (to which my own rejoinder was ‘see what happened to her!’  (1b) Ferocious penalties for any default on consensuality by the male, up to and not excluding compulsory chemically enforced impotence.  (1c) An obligatory programme of information about medical problems, such as pregnancy and its consequences, to replace all other school subjects until the student passes a rigorous examination.  (2a) The age for marriage for women to be reduced to 14 (2b) The minimum age for marriage for men to be 58, on the grounds that this is the youngest age at which they could have reached the necessary maturity.  (2c) Women to be allowed to marry men only if  they can be certified sane by two independent fully qualified psychiatrists.


honor hominesque honesti floreant