Daily Archives: May 6, 2011

”Around the world in 80 days”

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I read this Jules Vernes novel back in September. It is fast moving and that always appeals to me. It is richly descriptive if a little turgid by modern standards. Vernes obviously knew a lot about British life judging from the depth of his narrative. It was almost science fiction when it was written. All this technology was so modern.

I noticed how some words are antiquated such as ”vise”. I read it in English. I remember aged 7 watching the film at my auntie Stefania’s house. I could not understand how he thought he had lost the wager but turned out to have won it. Stefania’s husband Bryan tried to enlighten me.

It is a classic tale. Phileas Fogg is so fearless and decisive. He is not an archetypal hero – his coldness, anti-social nature and pedantry marked him out as an oddball. It is predictable that he wed the Parsee widow whom Passepourtout helped to rescue from suttee.

I wonder why Vernes made a Britisher and not a Frenchman accomplish this feat. Maybe the British were more into technology. Moreover, so much of the world was British territory.

The tone of the narrative is so authoritative – like a lecture. It is so knowing and almost condescending  – very factual. The inter-splicing of plots is intriguing. There is the subplot of the theft and the bet is said to be Fogg’s alibi for haring off around the globe. Highly recommended. This is so with most books I read as I do not open them unless I judge it probable that I will enjoy digesting them. If they are tedious I discard them.

George Walden ex-MP.

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I have been reading ”Luck George.” This is his autobiography. It is deeply engaging. It has a pace and readability of a good novel. That said there are episodes I skimmed over as they concerned subjects that I found dry.

Walden is a linguist. He mastered French, Latin, German, Russian, Hungarian and Mandarin. This shows in his work. He uses the odd foreign language phrase. He has a very wide English vocabulary. He is too intellectually self-assured to feel any need to show off by using obscure words. However, he always has the perfect word handy. His pithy pen portraits of public figures are droll and evocative.

Walden grew up in a middle class family that sunk into working class when his father left his mother without a backward glance. He won a scholarship to Latymer Upper School in London. As has been observed he had an exceptional flair for languages. He went to Cambridge and took a first. He spent a year in Moscow University. His pages on his time in the Soviet Union are especially revealing. He had a Russian girlfriend named Lara. He mentions that he later discovered that she terminated their child. He makes no comment on that. It gave me the feeling that had he known he would strongly have approved and in the circumstances it is difficult to disagree with him. He writes of his sexual encounters with girls in a cheery style but is never salacious, unfortunately. He seems to have been rather a lothario. He is gentlemanly enough not to name names.

He had a harrowing time in China but according to himself bore up admirably. I could not have handled the isolation, the overt hostility and the repeated humiliation to which diplomats from the West or the Soviet Bloc were subjected to in Beijing at the time.

I thoroughly recommend this. It is witty and opinionated without ever being preachy, self-justifying or partisan. His insights into the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are scintillating.

His daughter Celia lived in France when she was little. She grew up bilingual. She went to a French and English speaking school in the United STates. He recalled reading her work. The English was full of solecisms – very few of them highlighted by her teacher yet the girl still got a smiley face and warm praise for such drivel. Celia’s French compositions were much longer, grammatically accurate and couched in sophisticated vocabulary. Her rare errors were all brought to her attention. For high quality work she would get only an avergae grade. Walden asked his daughter why. Her answers is, as he rightly says, something that ought to be rammed down the throats of trainee teachers. If I am forced to get it right I will. If the teacher does not care if it is nonsense then neither do I. It is like playing a sport. One plays a poor opposition and beats them but that makes one play badly because the other team was easy to best. Playing against a strong opposition raises one’s game. Even if one loses one was compelled to play one’s level best.

Partly this is due to American positivity. To be upbeat and optimistic is good within reasons but sometimes American take it to the fair. I most confess that such American diseases cross the Atlantic a few years later.

Sadly the elementary lesson that Walden drew from his child was lost on him in practise. He was a junior Minister for Education under M. Thatcher. The rot set in under him. The over expansion of universities and dumbing down. He has a lot for answer for. Admittedly these problems metastasized under Labour.

He comes across as very clubbable, genuine, independent-minded, humorous and sunny.

The inglorious birthday of the European Loonion.

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I must confess to being a Eurorealist. It was once a deeply unfashionable opinion but I have had much the same stance since 1992. I remember then, being but a child, hotly debating this topic with my dear cousin Edgar. He is of a europhile bent. I was dead set against the Republic of Ireland acceding to the Treaty of Maastricht. Notably this was the site of a worse battle in 1944.

I support UKIP but still harbour fantasies of a career in the Conservative and Unionist Party. Daniel Hannan MEP is the one thing that anchors me in the Tory Party. It is like Michael Foot said to Old Labourites – stay and fight.

The EU is not such a bad idea for those who like it. However, it is about degrading nationality and I like mine as it is. It is about taking power away from ordinary folk and giving it to elites. To enter the elite on has to have a liberal left worldview. They denounce demagoguery by which they mean democracy when it does not go their way. \

They hold referenda and disregard the result when they dislike it. The EU uses any excuse to grab power. It does not like individual rights except for gays and to stop the death penalty. I am favourable to both of those. However, it likes secrecy and gagging whistleblowers. It is very inefficient and corrupt. It believes in over regulation which I detest.

I would like the British Isles to secede from the EU. The UK should sign a trade treaty with India and then get automatically expelled. The EU would probably try to make and example of the UK and punish her.

The EU breaks it own rules all the time – witness the Growth and Stability Pact.

Europhiles try to conflate Europe the place with europhilia. They say one should be a europhile if one has ever eaten pizza. Eurosceptics sometimes fall into the same trap by being xenophobic. Some europhiles are xenophobic towards the US, Turkey and others.

I am implacably opposed to Turkish entry into the EU. I would not even have let the Czech Republic in. I looked at the example of German reunification. This created a drag on West Germany. The same would be true of the Western EU. Lo and behold millions of migrants went west. This was entirely predictable. The Irish Rep and the UK were the inly states rash enough to led in all the people of the new 10 states. We need the workers, bosses said. Yes, that is because we made being on benefit a career path. Anyway from this month people from the new EU states can claim benefit in the UK.

Turkey is much poorer than the others. There will be a stampede west. Let us face it people have very old-fashioned attitudes there. Germany has the biggest population in the EU and this is falling fast. It is the same picture in most EU states. Turkey’s population is growing and it would have more and more political control. Many people in Turkey dislike gays, dislike the permissive society, dislike alcohol and gambling. The judicial and educational system of this country has very little integrity. A deeply corrupt country, Romania, was allowed to join the EU and this is scandalous.

I do not condemn people from migrating legally. I have done so. I ask people to be aware of it. We should face up to the fact that immigration is a mixed blessing instead of burying our collective head in the sand and pretending that it is all good news. People are afraid of being branded racialist if they observe certain negative repercussions of mass immigration.