Monthly Archives: October 2012

Not in My Lifetime

The mediocrity of politics and especially politicians looms high at a time when the world is going through a period of unprecedented harsh financial ectopia.

France, a great literary nation, is a prime example at the moment. An imbecile as president, with a rottweiler as his First Lady, he is an easy target for derision and is being ridiculed by satirists who now yearn for Sarkozy’s return. The tough-talking ex-president so often parodied and portrayed by some as a thug is being missed by a great number of people, some of whom once labelled him dictator and Satan.

They despair of Francois Hollande, the uncharismatic socialist, and think him unfit to hold the most powerful office in the land. How long, they ask, before his credibility vaporises and his tenure in power becomes untenable?

In the meantime the powerful lobby of the rich, who are disillusioned with his financial policies, are deserting the homeland to the few remaining places in Europe where they can keep their wits about them and breathe freely.

Cynics are having a whale of a time, scoffing at the lamentable disorder the world finds itself in. A new political Mafia seems to have taken over the wheels of power in practically every corner of the universe. The few remaining exceptions are struggling to keep themselves immune from being swept away by this destructive tide of moral disintegration.

The USA is now falling prey to the perilous lowering of standards in public life, as we witness President Obama and Mitt Romney battling on television to hoodwink the electorate into believing that their rhetoric encapsulates a deep sincerity to keep their promises if elected.

I personally will only believe them when the Devil is blind.

President Obama is at a disadvantage since he has so far failed to implement what he campaigned for in the last election, and is unlikely to fare better if given a second term. Furthermore his time in the White House has been inept and doddering, to say the least. His foreign policy lacks a positive thrust in areas where it could have benefited the advancement of peace, in the Middle East particularly.

As for Mitt Romney, despite his many gaffes, he remains an unknown quantity capable of scoring points to unseat Obama. Could he be worse than the incumbent president? Only time will tell.

But one thing is for certain: both men are not endowed with the political flair and acumen that will secure them a place in history, as truly men of great stature and integrity whose cherished objectives were of a reformative and humanitarian nature, destined to bring peace to a world ravaged by conflict and dissension.

Will men of greater quality ever emerge to seek public office in the future, and replace those whose monopoly of the political system has gradually degraded it to the point of no return?

My sad riposte would be: not in my lifetime.

The BBC at the Crossroads

The BBC is in crisis on two fronts.

Its image is being badly tarnished and its credibility is in question. The sacred cow is less sanctimonious than we were led to believe, and is found wanting in its internal policy.

Admittedly the corporation’s immense size does not help matters, but its service to the public is so varied as to warrant closer control from within and more accountability than at present.

The majority of its programmes mirror a great degree of excellence and reaffirms the Beeb’s indispensability to the literacy and general knowledge of the nation. And, despite the pickle it finds itself in at the moment, its independence must remain intact.

That is not to say that reforms in some areas are not needed. In fact, they are long overdue.

The Jimmy Savile debacle might prove more entrenched than we thought and not an isolated case, but possibly one of many that the current police investigation is likely to unearth.

But what I find more disturbing is the likes of Mark Thompson, the former Director General of the BBC, when they assume a moral stance as he did to block a Gaza charitable appeal by the BBC in January 2009 – claiming that impartiality would be seriously compromised if such an appeal were to be broadcast. The outcry that followed did little to convince him and he remained obstinate to the very end, despite the pressing humanitarian issues involved.

Hypocrisy manifested its ugly face then and is now replicated when he claims no knowledge whatsoever of the Savile affair during his long tenure in office.

To make matters worse still Lord Patten, the last British governor of Hong Kong and now part-time chairman of the BBC Trust, has been slow to react. He has compounded this failure by putting the culture secretary Maria Miller in her place for expressing concern at the scandalous run of events – and to top it all for bad judgement, his appointment of George Entwistle as his servile consignee to appear before a Parliamentary Select Committee was the mother of all disasters. Entwistle’s performance was a total embarrassment to the BBC.

If this is the calibre of man to do justice to the corporation then its whole structure should be looked at – not in a coup-d’oeil, but much more deeply than we dare contemplate.

As a great supporter of the BBC I hope better men than the useless Entwistle will be asked to guide it to prodigious heights and cleanse it from the rot of this callous scandal.

It is an opportunity that should not be missed.

My Weekend Review

Notwithstanding the fawning acolytes who trail celebrities and those connected to the royals through marriage, Pippa Middleton’s highly anticipated book has not so far met with the success her publishers anticipated.

Her slim figure, her pert bottom, her feigned shyness, her glittering wardrobe – all these contributing factors to an orchestrated ‘low-key’ publicity campaign will probably boomerang in the end if she fails the scrutiny of her made-up image for these occasions.

She’s been derided in certain quarters for her sudden elevation to prominence due in the main to her sister’s marriage and her harmonious, wriggly bottom which appears to be her most promotable asset. It seems the battle between the book and the bottom will eventually decide which one will win at the expense of the other.

The very principle of going through the back door for privileges which are not available to ordinary people is not the best way to achieve honest success. The Establishment should know better and refrain from encouraging celebrities to take advantage of their apparent popularity and skin the system.

Talent must always be the key, and nothing else.

* * *

Men are generally moronic when it comes to sex.

Their brain stops functioning and their penis takes over. They sell their soul to the Devil and begin the fatal descent into ruination. They betray friends, threaten their own livelihood, sacrifice their dignity and end up decrepit and forlorn.

What is it about sex that blinds their clear perception, and renders them captive to their own insatiable desires? In brief, it is their manic and indiscriminate pursuit of women to prove their manhood and demonstrate their power.

Take the case of the Japanese gentleman whose bid at an auction to de-virgin a Brazilian student, aged twenty, reached the sum of £483,000. Catarina Migliorini had offered her virginity to the highest bidder and he topped the list. It is a preposterous auction in the first instance and the sum paid must rank as the ultima Thulli.

As for the girl herself, she is to be pitied for her ignorance. Her virginity is a symbol of great pride for any young woman and for womanhood in particular. It is bestowed to someone you love and is considered a sacred emblem of chastity in every religion and assembly the world over. To demean it, let alone have it ravaged for money in this horrible fashion, is the cesspit in vulgarity and should be looked upon as the most despicable kind of impudicity.

‘If you only do it once in your life then you are not a prostitute, just like if you take one amazing photograph, it does not automatically make you a photographer,’ she reasons loquaciously.

What a load of dross this misguided woman rattles on to defend her actions. Let’s face it, she’s nothing but a laced mutton.

The stupid Catarina will be marked for life for abusing herself and her body, and as for the gentleman he should be whipped until he bleeds for committing such a crude and messy act that shames men of quality and stature in every strata of a civilised society.

May the penis of the perpetrator shrink in perpetuity.

* * *

The Middleton saga continues.

Hardly a day passes by without the public being served a whopping dish of the Middletons. If it isn’t the Duchess of Cambridge, it is her sister Pippa, or their mother with her latest youngish dress, or for that matter their brother James who looks dazed but half pleased with himself for being treated as a second-class royal. Poor little twerp.

What are we going to expect next? The Middletons seem unstoppable. The only person to keep his sanity appears to be the head of the family, who has until now shown some restraint by shunning the limelight.

The rest are all for the take. The most noticeable is Pippa who has cleverly manipulated her image to have the best of two worlds. As a result, she’s feted wherever she goes, especially by the upper echelons of society, given police protection as if she’s one of the royals, and making a mint in the process. Good work for someone who is in the opinion of that great guru of fashion Karl Lagerfeld better seen from the back rather than the front.

Despite such disparaging remarks, I am in no doubt that she will be crying with one eye and laughing with the other.

* * *

Former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was sentenced last Thursday to four years in jail by a Milano court for tax evasion.

Will he ever serve his time, is the talking point among Italians, the majority of whom believe that he will somehow avoid going to prison.

Unlike Lord Black, if Berlusconi is incarcerated he will rob the nation of a rich source of sexual scandal that keeps the world on tenterhooks to what will follow.

People of his age and especially Italians are in awe of him, for he lives his life to the full, fornicating his way right left and centre to keep himself trim and make the young generation envious of his sexual exploits.

He’s certainly an astute politician, a very clever and ruthless businessman, a figure of fun among his enemies, but also feared by the Italian Establishment for his inveterate determination to remain an almighty thorn in Italian politics.

He might be a rogue, but the world will be a much duller place without him. My message to him: please hang on for a while longer and make us look at you through green glasses, for our envy might rekindle our long lost libido.

Brian Sewell

Brian Sewell is a most remarkable man.

Born on the wrong side of the bed, he grew dramatically in stature to become one of the world’s most renowned and feared art critics of his generation.

Some enlightened scholars might go so far as acknowledging that his wealth of information on the complex subject of art is hardly surpassable by any chosen criteria.

I first met him in 1990 when he so kindly agreed to be interviewed for my book Dialogues. At the risk of repeating myself, having previously mentioned some of my reactions to our first encounter, I was both dazzled and intrigued by his analytical mind and his fluency of language. It was almost a rhapsody of sorts that in a way cemented a secret admiration for the man and his work.

OutsiderBut then as fate would have it I became the publisher of his first book of memoirs, Outsider, which was universally applauded by the critics – even those who were the target of his assiduous and sometimes waspish tongue.

They could not resist paying tribute to a man who has become a legend in his own lifetime.

Now his second volume is to be published on 1st November, and will I am sure receive the same acclaim as his first.

Outsider IIWhat makes the man tick? What drives him on relentlessly to enthral his readers with his brilliant and intellectually challenging articles, which he pens for the Evening Standard every Thursday? Where does he get the energy and the inspiration to come up with a breadth of information and an exposé of his subject, which is so clearly presented and lucidly absorbing?

The man is a phenomenon of his time, and the life of Brian will always glow whatever he does and wherever he is.

Militancy puts Femininity to Shame

Is women’s militancy a thing of the past or are we still seeing traces of it when it suits?

I recently encountered a barrage of scurrilous abuse because I dared suggest in an article I had written that I was pleased some heterosexual women contestants did very well in the London Olympics.

Hell broke loose as a result and I was accused of being a bigot among other more vociferous names which were hurled at me.

The outcry centred around the use of the word ‘heterosexual’ which they found totally demeaning and unacceptable. Why mention their sexuality? they howled, as if I had committed a mortal sin. Are they necessarily better, I retorted, than women with different sexual preferences?

On the contrary, lesbians are often more successful and competitive in sport, and normally physically stronger. It is simply a matter of fact – something which appears to have eluded this bandette of protesters.

I mention this incident only because I notice occasionally to my utter dismay that militancy is not restricted to men alone but is often as pronounced in women, who I might add have achieved a remarkable ascendancy in our liberal and equitable society over the past few decades.

As sexuality in all its dimensions is not sneered at any longer, why is this uncalled for sensitivity beginning to surface when so much has been done to eradicate prejudice and create a climate of tolerance never achieved before?

Are we by any stretch of the imagination determined to wreck all that by flexing our muscles and causing dissension for the hell of it?

Political correctness, I’m sorry to say, has not helped matters. Its intentions might have been admirably conceived but in practice has gagged free speech and dented some of the tenets of a free society. It has also encouraged militancy as a means to air and protect their God-given right to dictate and interpret what seems to them as a smear on their class, which in reality is not the case.

Even J.K. Rowling in her latest novel has, despite her wealth and privilege, sought to stir up hostility towards the middle classes who, as she has now revealed, she despises.

If that is not militancy what is it then?

Lord Black, the Unrepentant Fraudster

Conrad Black has returned to our shores like a triumphant hero threatening to level anyone who dares cross his path.

The convicted fraudster is not short of admirers among the coterie of friends who rally round his Lordship, as they consider him one of their own.

He’s being invited to lunch by the Spectator on the grounds that he has served his jail sentence, according to Mary Killen, the magazine’s advice columnist.

That, I do understand.

However, his behaviour since his release from jail is not one that will gain him sympathy from the majority of people who have no axe to grind with him.

His pomposity and arrogance have if anything multiplied, and his lack of remorse or admittance of any mistakes committed or guilt are unlikely to redeem him in the public eye.

His interviews with Jeremy Paxman and Sky’s Adam Boulton did nothing to endear him to a viewing public who must have thought the worst of him. Black wondered aloud if he should smash Paxman’s face, and asked Boulton to remind him of his name.

For a convicted man his rudeness is beyond the realm of bad behaviour. It is simply too insolent to put up with – or, for that matter, hard to reprieve.

Members of the Garrick are scandalised by the prospect of a looming fist fight between two of their most high profile members: the former convict Black, and his waspish biographer Tom Bower.

Black has made it amply clear that he’s determined to get even with Bower and will stop at nothing to achieve his objective. He has even threatened to take the fillings out of Bower’s teeth and the roof off his house when he finally drags him into court. To him Bower is already a dead man.

I have met Conrad Black on two occasions in the early nineties. I found him very clever, full of his own glory, and rather shifty. Nothing about him surprises me; his elevation to the House of Lords, his extravagant life with his wife, the insatiable Barbara Amiel, his pomposity, and eventually his conviction.

Our corrupt system of rewarding men of his ilk is a damning reflection of what’s wrong with our society. I would not be in the least bit astonished if Lord Black is back in demand and in no time at all given a badge of honour for his contribution to the ethics of the nation.

Husband & Wife In Focus

Elton John, who squanders money like there is no tomorrow and is reputed to have said once about his manic habit of spending ‘I am not a rainy day person’, is planning the ultimate fiftieth birthday celebration for his husband David Furnish.

His budget for such an extravagant bash is rumoured to be in excess of £2million. Four days of celebrations in Los Angeles and Las Vegas will herald a milestone in a spending spree that will grip the showbiz fraternity with its ostentatious decadence at a time when the world is shaken by unrest and a global financial crisis.

The rich live in a different sphere than ours and are not bashful in displaying insensitivity to gratify a whimsical desire to demonstrate their stardom, whatever the cost.

But what’s beyond doubt is the close love between these two men, who seem to be so romantically attached as to make heterosexual love pale into insignificance. They write love letters to each other every week and are proud to call themselves husband and wife.

Gay love seems to have no boundaries. It can be so intense and overwhelming, often marked by fits of jealousy and tantrums, reminiscent of the great love stories in the historical archives of romantic tragedies normally between people of different genders – rarely between two men or for that matter women.

Human passion and sexuality are both a complex subject that has bewildered men and women of letters throughout the ages, and will continue to do so until the end of time.

Elton John is at least aware of his mortality, unlike a lot of the miserly rich, who refuse to part with any of their wealth even when death is at the door. Elton seems to know better. He spends his money while he can and leaves his fate to destiny and the hereafter.

Good luck to him, and happy landing.

My Weekend Review

The arrogance of our politicians has hit new heights recently and become intolerably crass.

We had first Andrew Mitchell, the Chief Whip, who taunted a policeman guarding the gates to 10 Downing Street with abusive language for not allowing him to ride his bicycle for the rest of the short distance.

Mitchell remained defiant despite the uproar that followed this undignified fracas with the policeman, who was simply doing his duty, until last Friday evening when he tendered his resignation to the PM.

Hardly had we got over this respite, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne created a fresh indignity by travelling first class while holding a standard class ticket.

When apprehended for sitting in the wrong carriage and asked to move his female assistant tried to persuade the guard to let him keep his first class seat, without paying the extra fare. It didn’t work. He was forced to pay £160 for the upgrade.

The fuss that ensued when the press got hold of the story was predictable, since members of this government behave as if they are above the law in view of their position.

This latest smear was followed by yet another. The army minister, Mr Andrew Robathan, was accused of insulting war veterans when  he demanded their eviction from the Commons public gallery because they were too noisy. To boot them out would have been an unforgivable affront to the brave soldiers who sacrificed their lives serving the nation.

‘Who do they think they are?’ was the headline in Saturday’s Daily Mail, referring to the three ministers above.

This clique of elitist men chosen by the PM have no shame whatsoever, and unless they are brought to heel very quickly will cause irreparable damage to the shaky government whose members are a motley of bunglers, who suffer delusions of grandeur, and are incapable of restraining their fully blown egotism.

* * *

I can’t for the life of me throw light on what people see in Rylan Clark, one of the contestants on The X Factor, to keep him on the show at the expense of others who are more worthy than him.

Is it because they saw his bare bottom in the newspapers following a jaunty night out with his X Factor pal Lucy Spraggan, who managed at least to cover up his man bits? I sincerely hope that his penis will not be in full view the next time round – otherwise the public might decide to back him all the way to the finals.

Judge Gary Barlow, who is much more competent than I’ll ever be regarding modern musical talent – being an accomplished pop star himself – hates his act with a passion I have rarely seen.

Rylan’s display is too camp for my liking, his voice much too ordinary to be competitive, and his gestures and movement of the body too seedy to beguile those of us who worship elegance through a life-enhancing entertainment.

Or, am I becoming a boring old fart, unappreciative of an avant-garde presentation of a new generation of performers whose art falls foul of a long-held perception that an eye-pleasing display is the pivot of any enduring form of entertainment?

I might have to eat my words if by a freak of nature I find myself cast away for failing to recognise the vagaries of a fast-moving trend, which I find totally alien.

* * *

Have we become a nation of sycophants, who can’t tell the difference between real talent and one created by the media for purely commercial reasons?

Why would a publisher pay an astronomical advance of £400,000 to Pippa Middleton to write a silly book about a planning guide for parties, when the book trade is suffering the most severe recession the likes of which I have not experienced for nearly four decades?

What does that tell you – except that flippancy and frivolity coupled with royal connections have invaded a distinguished trade where quality was at one time the defining factor.

Would the same publisher have accepted the book if she were a plain Miss Middleton, let alone given her such a disgraceful advance?

What would also be the reaction of talented writers who’d be lucky to have a book published for a meagre advance of less than £1,000? These are potentially the stars of the future whose contribution to the literary wealth of the nation will be immense and far beyond what we are seeing today.

Maeve Binchy, whose first three books were published by Quartet, was paid a mere pittance and rose to become one of the greatest writers of her generation.

But I doubt if Pippa Middleton will be able to achieve the same kind of accolade with her book, Celebrate. In fact I feel very strongly that such a ridiculous advance will send the wrong signal to the majority of young writers who are struggling for recognition despite their budding talent.

The greed for money should not derail the basic principles of publishing, which are quality and durability.

I hope publishers will dust themselves down from publishing such trash in order to follow the vogue of the day, wake up from their slumber and revert to the old traditions that have outlasted the variegation of time.

A Personal Reflection on Old Age

These days I seem to peg away at writing, which has taken over an important part of my life.

I have become more observant and diligent, less prone to discard the minutest of detail when it comes to analysis, and very alert to what goes on in the world in general. There is no subject that I find intolerably tedious, or odiously forbidding.

I have come to appreciate knowledge and value it more than ever before as the twilight of my years approaches. The awareness of time becomes addictive, and the speed of its passing profoundly significant.

Some would say that it is a sign that old age beckons, unless you embrace it with open arms and turn it to your advantage. Forget the physical inabilities that might invade your body and learn to cope with them. Your bonus comes in the serenity that follows and the exciting new adventures that meander on the horizon.

Your remaining years on the planet become more fulfilling as a result, and assiduously gratifying.

Make the most of it while you can, for the duration of life is like a capricious woman who sneaks in the darkness of the night to frisk you away to the never-never land.

My Friend George Zakhem

I became friends with George Zakhem around five years ago. We seemed to gel well from the very outset of our encounter.

men who dream can doThen I published his autobiography, Men Who Dream Can Doand this event proved the catalyst in consolidating our close friendship which to this day remains as strong as ever.

He is a man I admire for many reasons. He’s self-made, had to endure in his youth a Spartan environment where tough village life became a constant reminder that success must be earned through hard toil and a steely determination to rise above his surroundings for a much higher objective.

His dream of attaining the success he sought did not come easy. His story is one to galvanise a new generation who aspire to make their mark beyond the limited confines of their communities and forge ahead irrespective of the odds stacked against them.

The book is simply written, has a natural flow and records events as they happened without any pretensions or self-aggrandisement that so often blight many autobiographies.

I won’t expound further on his many qualities for fear of spoiling the reader’s anticipation but would like, nevertheless, to include below the contents of a letter that Sir David Miers, ex-British ambassador to the Lebanon 1983-5, wrote about George Zakhem’s book:

‘This modestly written autobiography of a successful and enlightened Lebanese entrepreneur ought to be compulsory reading at any self-respecting business school. It is also for students considering their careers and parents with ambitions for their children. It offers many lessons: the payback from investing in education; the value of a professional qualification; the importance of hard, thorough and reliable work to win the early confidence of contacts, colleagues, and employers; and the respect to be derived from integrity and fairness. It is also beautifully written and commendably short.’