I have been reading The Mighty Continent by John Terraine, which is a history of Europe from 1900 to the 1970s when it was published, being a spin-off book from a TV show.
On page 145 of my 1974 paperback edition, Terraine describes yet another example of the tendency of an organisation to lose its way at the very moment it constructs its custom-built headquarters. In this case, it’s the League of Nations, which collapsed into impotence when Italy invaded Ethiopia in 1935 and the League did nothing about this:
The organisation lingered on and, with a final irony, it was now that it assumed the outward shape that is generally associated with it. The Palace of Nations, begun in 1929, was finished in 1936, just in time to become a mausoleum. Here at last were the necessary offices, 700 of them, and the fitting conference rooms for the words that no longer meant anything. There was a floor of Finnish granite, walls and pillars faced with Swedish marble, enigmatic and forbidding murals, depicting Technical Progress, Medical Progress, Social Progress, the Abolition of War, and so on, by the Catalan artist Jose Maria Sert. Under their sombre painted sermons, the Assemblies still met a passed their resolutions; everyone was still very busy. But underneath it all the mainspring was broken.
This building, the Palais des Nations in Geneva, is now occupied by the UN, which has its own custom-built headquarters building in New York. This is also a very busy place.
Yes, the latest recorded conversation between me and Patrick Crozier is up. It’s about sport. My pet theory, that the rise of professional sport and the ending (for now (fingers crossed)) of great wars between great powers are not coincidental events, gets another airing. I expanded because it sounded like Patrick was having his ear bent on this topic for the first time. I swear I’ve mentioned it before. Should also have mentioned a famous earlier peace episode, the Pax Romana, which gave rise to the custom-built sports arena in the first place, gladiators, etc. Forgot.
Our conversation happened just before the Euro2020 (that happened in 2021) semi-finals. Patrick doesn’t care to watch England games because England have disappointed him so often. I resist watching them because I can’t help getting sucked in and my nerves can’t take it, so I keep half an eye, rather than the usual two, on the game, while internet surfing.
Here. In America “top secret” only seems to mean that the details of exactly what it consists of are kept out of sight. If this airplane really was top secret, we’d not even have been told of its existence.
Another metallic/feathered posting. This time the former sort of bird is being likened to the latter sort.
I only started deciding what to put here today quite late on. What should I say here today? Then, to rescue me, incoming from Patrick Crozier, telling me that our latest recorded conversation is now up, at Croziervision. Once again, we are to be heard worrying about what caused World War 1 to start.
I just received an email from Dominic Frisby, plugging his latest aria video, which is entitled I Love Wetherspoons! State of the art culture warfare, which I highly recommend. The aria, not Wetherspoons. I’m not saying that I don’t recommend Wetherspoons, merely clarifying the point I am and am not making there.
So far so good. But the best moment, for me, came right at the end, when I was offered the chance to sample another Frisby musical delight, in the form of something called …:
… Oh, Bollocks.
This is an English word I resort to regularly, and have also already talked about here quite a lot, one of my favourite examples of this word in action being this one, involving taxis. Very satisfying to see bollocks identified by my favourite Dominic as an important English usage. The word communicates a subtle mixture of regret, defiance and hence, consequently, perhaps even a dash (because you never know your luck) of triumph.
The scene with the Angel of Death, right at the end of this video, spoke to me with particular force, what with that personage having recently sat himself down next to me.
Castelnou is a small and impossibly picturesque hill town in the lower reaches of the Pyrenees, in the far south of France. GodDaughter2’s parents and I went by car, just over five years ago now, in May 2016, to check it out. And yes, the weather was as marvellous in Castelnou as it has recently been unmarvellous in London.
Nowadays, I find that my expeditions have as their officially designated destination a spot where I have arranged to meet up with a friend and exchange chat, rather than just a particular physical place I especially want to check out. But as my death approaches, not as fast as I feared it would last Christmas but still faster than I had previously supposed that it would, I find that mere Things, in London or anywhere else, aren’t enough to make me get out of the house at the time previously determined. Partly this is because if I fail to arrive at the Thing at the planned time, the Thing won’t ring me up and ask me where I got to, whereas people are inclined to do just that. And partly because the Internet tells you lots about Things, whereas actually meeting people bestows knowledge and pleasures more profound and subtle than you could obtain by any other communicational means.
The point of this Castelnou expedition was that it was with GodDaughter2’s parents, not that it was to Castelnou. Castelnou was just an excuse for us all to spend time with each other, plus it gave us things to talk about.
But of course, once in Castelnou, I photoed photos galore, of which these are just a few:
A few more things to say.
First, there are cats and dogs involved (as well as a bird statue), hence this posting appearing here on a Friday. The cats were very friendly and sociable. The dogs were more cautiously proprietorial, but none were aggressive. Which I think reflects well on us tourists. We all behave well towards these creatures, and they behaved towards us accordingly.
Second, what’s wrong with being a tourist? I am sure that “tourists” have been featured on the popular TV show Room 101. But if I was ever on Room 101 I would want to banish from the world “tourists who complain about all the other tourists”. Tourism is a fine thing, enjoyable for those of us who do it or we wouldn’t keep doing it, and profitable for those who cater to our needs. Many good things happen because of us tourists. Besides all the deserving people who get to earn a living from it, there are the conversations that tourists have with the locals whom they encounter, and with each other, which can sometimes have have wonderfully creative consequences. Many an economic success story has started with a conversation involving tourists. Tourists bring the world, as it were, to particular places, and places into contact with other places, and thereby are able to provoke creative thoughts that would otherwise not have occurred to anyone.
Does tourism “spoil” places like Castelnou? Hardly. I’ll bet you Castelnou is a much happier, prettier and more interesting place than it was before it started attracting tourists.
And finally, Castelnou is a fine example of an aesthetic process that fascinates me more and more, which is the way that when an architectural style first erupts, it is hated, but then when it settles back into being only a few surviving ruins, people find that same style, to quote my own words in the first sentence of this posting, impossibly picturesque. Castelnou began as a castle, which then gathered dwellings around it. And you can bet that the people in the vicinity of this castle hated it and feared it, that being the whole idea. But once the castles stopped being built in such numbers and when the castles that survived began turning into ruins, they then also turned into objects of affection, first for locals, and then, even more, for visitors from many miles away.
Tangenting somewhat, I was yesterday predicting that the next wave of architectural fashion is going to be a lot more colourful. And it is. But, lots of people will, for as long as this new fashion lasts and seems to be on the march (the military metaphor is deliberate), hate that fashion, and regret the passing of the drearily monochromatic tedium that they now only grumble about (because that is now still on the march).
Is Castelnou perchance the French, or maybe the Catalan, for Newcastle? Sounds like it to me.
We had already decided that our chat today would be about what kicked off World War One. However, as part of my homework for this, I listened again to this earlier conversation we recorded about World War One, way back in 2017, and I was reminded that we’d already had quite a lot to say about the causes of World War One. This was the very first of these conversations of the most recent clutch, and I was agreeably surprised by how much sense it made, and by how relatively little irrelevant tangenting and general repetition and waffling I inflicted upon Patrick.
All of which meant that we needed to steer the chat towards things we hadn’t said in that previous one. We went into a bit more of the detail this time, about how Russian military reaction to defeat in 1905 by Japan might have made Germany nervous. And we also talked more about how Britain was, in the years before World War One, threatening to tear itself apart over how to answer the Irish Question, which meant that in 1914 Britain consequently seemed very weak, compared to how strong it eventually turned out to be.
I also added some attempted generalisations, about how nothing on its own can cause anything else (I blamed and have long blamed Sherlock Holmes for immortalising the error that consists of contradicting this fact), and for how a multipolar world made that world vulnerable to a cascade of escalating declarations of war, all of them restrained, but not restrained enough, by the fact that this huge war was actually much feared, but not feared enough. Which is all quite orthodox, but I feel I understand all this stuff a bit better than before. However, I did digress rather wildly into giving this book about Brexit a plug, because it illustrates well how the cleverest people can react to events really quite intelligently, and still get, for them, a very bad result.
No apology for returning to this vexed subject. I mean, historically, could there be a more important question?
This latest effort will arrive at Croziervision, whenever it arrives, presumably accompanied by the very helpful notes that Patrick now likes to introduce these conversations with. Nothing we said can’t happily wait a couple of weeks, or whatever the wait turns out to be.
I am starting to take exercise by doing exercises, which I have not done since my school days, which put me right off the whole idea. I am being supervised and guided and advised and encouraged by a physiotherapist attached to the Royal Marsden. This morning I attended (virtually) one of his group exercise sessions, and it was a real effort, lasting more than half an hour. Then, after only brief lie-down, I went out on a big shopping expedition, and of course bought too much stuff for me to carry in comfort and am now totally knackered. But, I still owed this blog its daily feed.
For the last few weeks, a strange glitch has been afflicting this blog, involving spacing. If I stick up just the one photo, stretching all the way across the width of the blog’s column of text, all is well. But if I stick up a gallery of photos, which is something I very much like doing, there has been a problem. Too much space was suddenly, ever since a recent software update or some such thing, created below the gallery. Any attempt I made to remove this space only resulted in further spatial havoc below, in the form of too much space between subsequent paragraphs of text.
But now, either because the guardians of this software have sorted this out, or because the technical curator of this blog, Michael Jennings, has sorted this out, things are back to how they were. Good. Very good. I attach great importance to how this blog looks. If it looks wrong, I hate that. It demoralises me and makes me want to ignore the damn thing rather than keep on updating it the way I actually do. This was especially so given that galleries look so very good when they are working properly.
Well, as I say, things have now reverted to their previous state of visual just-so-ness. And I will now celebrate, with yet another gallery:
The above gallery, however, is not a gallery of my photos, but rather a gallery of photos photoed by Michael Jennings, all, I believe, with his mobile phone. Not having got out much lately, I have found the photos Michael has photoed while taking exercise, and then stuck up on Facebook, reminding me of how my beloved London has been looking, to be a great source of comfort during the last few months. And I actually like photoing in his part of London more than I do in my own part. This may just be familiarity breeding something like contempt, but is still a definite thing with me.
I started out having in mind to pick just four photos, which makes a convenient gallery. Then I thought, make it nine. I ended up with twenty four. It would have been twenty five (also a convenient number), except that one of the ones I chose was a different shape, which might have complicated things, so I scrubbed that one from the gallery.
But you can still look at that one. Because none of this means that you need be confined only to my particular favourites. Go here and keep on right clicking to see all of them.
I have displayed my picks here in chronological order, the first of the above photos having been photoed in October of last year. The final photo (which is what you get to if you follow the second link in the previous paragraph), of the church, which I learned of today, and which is the only one done outside London, is something of a celebration, of the fact that Michael is now able to travel outside London without breaking any rules, or such is my understanding. (Plus, I like those unnatural trees (see also photo number 9)).
Patrick Crozier, the man I do recorded conversations with (see the previous post), is a particular fan of Viscount Alanbrooke, Churchill’s long suffering chief military adviser during WW2. So he’ll like that this church is where Alanbrooke is buried.
The latest Patrick Crozier/Brian Micklethwait recorded conversation is now up and listenable-to. We talk about Enoch Powell, of whom Patrick writes:
Enoch Powell was a prominent politician in the 1960s and 1970s. He is best known for his views on immigration although he was also friendly towards libertarian ideas especially on economics. While a large part of our chat is inevitably taken up with immigration we also discuss Margaret Thatcher, Steve Baker and the end of Empire.
I embarked upon this conversation fearing that I had not done enough homework. But during Powell’s career itself I was paying attention, and, stimulated by Patrick, I found myself remembering a lot more, of the sort that I had not, so to speak, remembered remembering beforehand.
Also, I wasn’t expecting to notice the Powell/Steve Baker parallels. Both took/take ideas more seriously than they took the mere achievement of office, and both consequently had/have a big Parliamentary impact. Baker also resembles Powell in being extremely clever and extremely industrious. (Baker also resembles Powell in not being a racist.)
This is the biography of Powell that Patrick had been reading.