Monthly Archives: October 2013

Is Hugging Enough?

A new research claims that modern man enjoys a hug as much as women. Since gender differences seem to become less and less pronounced, we tend to behave and feel more in tandem, both physically and emotionally. The gap that once existed is no longer as relevant as it may have been. It diminished as the sexes intermingled and shared common objectives which were at one time associated specifically with either men or women. Even bisexuality has become trendy and no longer carries a stigma in the more traditional echelons of society.

The men of today, far from being macho characters who suppress or conceal their feelings, now admit they frequently need a cuddle amid their busy lifestyles and hectic work schedules, says the study published recently. Other comforts to which men turn to in their hour of need are music, fresh air and a get-together with friends.

I’m not so sure that the comforts the study designates apply to most men. For example, I admit to being tactile, a habitué of warm hugs, a music freak and a compulsive opera addict – not the usual run of the mill. My only way of unwinding after a stressful day at the office is to sit in total seclusion at home, or in the silent company of my wife and watch a concert of classical music on television or a Wagner opera to lift me to the world beyond. Fresh air does nothing but irritate me nor does a getting together with friends, unless I feel totally relaxed and free from the exhaustion of a hard-working day.

Women however, according to the above mentioned research, reach for a cup of tea when they are glum while chatting to a friend on the telephone, or watching their favourite TV programme also featured highly.

The survey suggested that we are more likely to flick the kettle on rather than opting for an alcoholic drink to cheer us up.

The research in what can improve our mood was carried out amongst 5000 adults by the insurance group AXA. Chris Jones, a spokesman, said: ‘We know it’s the little things that mean a lot to people. We often make assumptions that grand gestures are how we cheer each other up, but this shows everyday things are what really makes the difference.’

Donna Dawson, a psychologist, said: ‘Little things mean a lot in life and many of them are free: walking outdoors or lisening to our favourite music both work by calming us, through using our senses of sight, sound , smell and taste… And heightening our senses can in turn lift our spirits, especially on those dark miserable days of winter… As touch is the most powerful sense of them all, this explains why a hug is the number one mood-changer. Also in the top ten was spending time with a partner, comfort food and a call or text from a relative.’

As a man who is physically alert, I would like to add that the best remedy for stress is to feel the warmth of a naked female’s body brushing your own tantalisingly, transporting you to an elixir of sensuality that makes your heart flutter with delight. If anyone is able to prescribe something better than this please come out of your shell and share your secret enigma with your fellow mortals.

You will no doubt be rewarded in heaven.

The Journey to Maturity

In my early twenties I lived in Acton, courtesy of the Polish mother of a good friend of mine at a time when my hedonistic habits were at their most pronounced.

The mother was a notable Polish historian with whom, despite my wayward ways, I struck up a close friendship unimaginably unique for its tolerance and understanding given the wide gap both culturally and ideologically that divided us.

I was unemployed and spent my spare time chasing women in coffee bars, then the places to meet, and the rest of the time indulged in a morose sort of writing. One piece in this sequence of writing, A Pause Among the Graves, was typical in its gothic, over-the-top, possibly hashish-induced imagery:

I thrust at the gate of the dead and walked in the lair of ghosts with lurid face and broken heart. I entered the placid cemetery where the bitter secrets of many poor souls flapped as leaves in the wind.

The phantoms of life, like the nocturnal beasts, quit their dens in the darkness of the night.

They terrified men of feeble heart and abducted their will to a hell of dumbness.

These creatures are the slaves of humanity – the slaves of their passion and enjoyments.

I stepped along the clumsy, sinuous parts and stumbled on the skulls and bones of the wretched people who had died under a veil of pain, love and patriotism…

I sat in the place of rendezvous where I could mourn my beloved and kiss the earth she dwelt in.

I sat and heard the floating whispers of the soft breeze swaying with the flowers mutant with reverence and awe…

There I bent over the grave of my spirit and watered the lilies, the symbol of her soul, with a flood of tears – tears of the fragrant blood of the victims of love.

There was much else in the same vein but the words were signposts on the road to maturity, however obscure the goal remained. In Acton, while I sat for many hours reading and writing, I also pondered philosophically. Were we predestined to follow a given path? Or could we truly be masters of our own destinies, irrespective of time and place? I asked the questions repeatedly. Was a person, cast into the wilderness, ever likely to achieve the small measure of success as someone born into a thriving society which offered opportunities every step of the way?

What could have become of me in Nazareth? Could I have lived happily near to nature and survived the vicissitudes of everyday life as my grandmother and great aunt had done in the past? Times had changed, I argued. Their sort of Spartan existence – pitted against the elements, winning nature’s benefits only through constant struggle was no longer regarded with the same degree of respect and admiration.

At least my tendency to dwell on these things sharpened my awareness and made my mind more analytical. All the time I was adding depth to my perceptions of beauty and ugliness, which to me represented the poles of good and evil. Their contrasting differences were another dimension that I needed to dissect if I were ever to understand the true meaning of life.

The morbidity in my writing sprang from the noticeable change in my lifestyle that happened with my move to Acton. I was perceiving things through the perspective of jazz music intermingled with the occult. It was a weird period in my life when I was lost between distorted imagery and the real world. The one thing I knew was that nothing was forever. The world’s conventional forces must eventually compel one to turn back towards conformity. How this would happen I could not foresee.

Looking back, conformity gradually happened organically, without my being aware of it. The road was rough, but I got there eventually and gained some wisdom as the journey became clearer with the advent of maturity.

A Great Father and His Remarkable Daughter

I was very sorry to learn of the death of Augusto Odone, the father of my friend, Cristina. A celebrated Italian economist, he prolonged the life of his gravely ill son, Lorenzo, by developing a medicine after the young boy had been robbed of his faculties by a devastating progressive degenerative disorder known as ALD.

The Odone’s story was so remarkable that it touched the heart of all those who read it and both Augusto and his wife, Michaela, became famous for their incredible efforts to keep their son alive. It was subsequently made into a Hollywood film, Lorenzo’s Oil, in 1992, starring Susan Sarandon and Nick Nolte as the parents.

At the time the film was made Lorenzo was fourteen. A little over eight years earlier, when he was five, his school reports had highlighted the fact that his attention span was becoming poor. A once bright, precocious child, he had been having violent tantrums, suffering hearing loss and experiencing problems with balance and coordination. By January 1985, he could neither speak nor respond in any way, his mother recalled. His sight was impaired and he could not move as much as a finger. He was incontinent; he could not swallow, and he had been fitted with a nasogastric tube.

Lorenzo miraculously survived until he died of pneumonia in 2008 one day after his thirtieth birthday, having outlived his mother who died eight years earlier.

I had the great privilege of meeting Augusto when Cristina introduced me to him at the premiere of the film in London. I could not help being bowled over by his unsurpassable dedication to keeping his son alive, no matter what the cost and self-sacrifice such a task entailed. Cristina is blessed to have had a father whose faith was rock solid and so supreme that it defied comprehension. In her hour of grief, her great consolation will always be his memory, towering above anyone else she has ever encountered.

For those who have not met Cristina, here is what I wrote about her in 1998 in an article for the Daily Express:

Greatly enjoyed Monday evening when I was invited to the Ivy for cocktails. The occasion marked the publication of Cristina Odone’s second novel, A Perfect Wife, which promises to be a polished successor to The Shrine.

Her first novel was full of passion, dealing intelligently with sex and religion. The sacred and the profane – a combination which has proved irresistible to many writers. Cristina Odone is well placed to write with conviction and authority on the theme. As a Roman Catholic with a strict convent education behind her, she struggles to live a disciplined life. But she is the first to admit that lust can exert a fearsome power, even on the devout. (The men who fall at her feet find it quite powerful too.)

From her Swedish mother and Italian father she has inherited that tantalizing mix of northern poise and Mediterranean ardour. It is the southern heat which prevails, however. She exudes a deep sensuality and flirtatiousness, and has always said that she would be a very bad girl were it not for her faith. Just the sort of statement which is guaranteed to feed a man’s fantasies. Her vocabulary is enchantingly biblical – sin, temptation, evil, grace, are all regulars.

I have always felt a natural sympathy with Cristina Odone. We are both Catholics, highly volatile, both conscious of the challenge of the faith. I also attended a convent where one learnt the seductive power of religion. Indeed, there’s nothing quite like being taught by nuns to put the hormones into overdrive. There is such emphasis on the sinfulness of everyone, the carnality of the world.

Until she resigned last year, Cristina edited the Catholic Herald, a previously moribund organ that she transformed into a smart read. During her reign she fanned the flames of fundamentalist fury against trendy liberals in the Catholic Church… Some might say that Cristina gives Catholicism a bad name. Not me; I think she is its very lifeblood. At thirty-seven, she is still searching for the man of her dreams. The lucky devil who marries her will gain a wonderful wife and excellent breeding potential.

A few years ago she found the man of her dreams, married him, and created three children. God bless her.

The Story of Mrs Thatcher’s Bag

My first baptism of fire following my takeover of an ailing Quartet Books in July 1976 happened thirty-five years ago, in 1978 – three years after Mrs Thatcher gained leadership of the Conservative Party, and a year before her election as Britain’s first woman’s prime minister.

The publishing of Mrs Thatcher’s Bag was conceived in the public interest and as a reaction to a wave of adulation that reached messianic proportions. Its intent was to create a satirical parody of her particular brand of political fundamentalism (then a more friendly word than now), which was already dividing political attitudes in the UK into two very clear camps: those who thought her dynamic, potent and brave, and those convinced her conviction in politics were destructive, extreme and all would end in tears. Given the provenance of most of Quartet’s staff and its radical reputation there was little comfort for those who loved her. But few of us could realise then how iconic she would become or what a vivid champion she would be for the poujadist remnants of Great Britannia. Love her or hate her, she was a formidable defender of her class. No wonder it was a handbag that we chose to contain among other things, a guide to managing, a mask and cut-out doll, a poster adorned with her pearls of wisdom and a flexi disk with both her song and that of the Silent Majority.

On publication the handbag caused a torrent of public indignation among the Tory faithful, and placed me in an unenviable position of being cast as a renegade with a left-wing bias which was not the case. I lost many a friendship for a time until the dust eventually settled – and the old English tradition of fair-play emerged when my so called sacrilege was not as it seemed to be.

Things have moved on since then, but Mrs Thatcher’s Bag remains contentious – and is worth regarding in a different light by a new generation whose views are certainly not as rigid as those who worshipped at her altar in a period of radical political change.

The Story of Mrs Thatcher’s Bag, published this month, deserves a much wider circulation than the original – for it packs humour as well as a useful guideline for future politicians whose inflated ambitions might overshadow their true capabilities.

Buy The Story of Mrs Thatcher’s Bag and find out for yourself. You cannot afford to be without it. In a period of political turmoil it might prove the tonic one needs to elevate our spirits in a world gone mad with platitudes and lacking self-parody.

The story of the Bag is a compulsive book to read. It sheds light on how the establishment works and how when it suits its purpose dispenses with its sense of humour once a great British tradition.

Saudi Arabia at Loggerheads with the UN Security Council

Saudi Arabia is not in my view a country that believes in democracy as we understand it or practise it in the West.

They have their own system of government based on tribal allegiances, which is by and large elitist and does not necessarily keep pace with the march of time.

However, their refusal of a seat on the UN Security Council, saying that the Council is unable to resolve international conflicts because of ‘double-standards’ among its five permanent members, rings true and shows a measure of sophistication and courage which had hitherto been lacking in some of their political thinking.

It was the first time that the Kingdom had been elected as one of the ten non-permanent members which sit for two years.

The Saudis are frustrated that since the Syrian conflict began in 2011 Russia and China have vetoed three resolutions to intervene against President Assad. Riyadh also resents the repeated use of the US veto to block calls for Israel to leave the Occupied Territories on the West Bank. It refers to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 without a specific UN resolution as confirmation of the Council’s impotence. ‘The Kingdom has simply no faith in the Security Council as an arbiter in world affairs,’ one Saudi official said. ‘The veto system effectively makes it redundant. And we saw in Iraq in 2003 that the Council can just be ignored anyway.’

Whatever people may think or say the veto system is antiquated and undemocratic and can be, as  is often the case, by-passed by the Big Powers at will.

What a waste of valuable time – to engage in hours of heated debate with the knowledge that, ultimately, nothing would be achieved if one member of the permanent Council was to use their veto to scupper the whole proceedings.

It seems, as always, the concept of justice is invariably dictated by the mighty.

How to Become a Snail Addict…

It’s welcome news that we in Britain are about to export snails to France.

With consumption at home for molluscs booming and the four snail farms in the UK struggling to cope with demand, snail farming could become a most lucrative business for the future.

Sophie Wharton, who owns Aylesbury Escargots of Wendover, Buckinghamshire, with her husband, Mike, reports a massive increase in snails. Having produced 1.7 tonnes last year, they have already reached more than three tonnes this year.

The farm has a one-thousand-square-metre field for the snails, protected by a bird net. The Whartons had previously kept their snails in plastic boxes indoors, but decided that a free range approach would be more natural. ‘As far as we know we are the first doing it on this scale,’ Mrs Wharton said. They currently sell to Michelin-starred chefs and restaurants, but are hoping to expand across the channel – if the French can stomach it.

David Walker, an accountant who became a snail farmer in 2006, said that he was also struggling to keep up with demand for his molluscs produced in Dorset.

For someone like me who relishes this delicacy all this drive and initiative is music to my ears. Whenever I feel the urge to have a plate of twelve escargots, swimming in a delicious sauce of butter and garlic, garnished I presume with a secret herb, I make my way across my office to the sumptuous Le Boudin Blanc in Shepherd Market, Mayfair – which I consider home from home during weekdays – and indulge myself with a glass of Chablis and freshly baked bread and end up with an espresso and two small biscuits to follow.

For those of you who have not had this experience I recommend you ditch any food inhibition you may have and cross the rubicon of this culinary delight. You will not regret it; on the contrary you will become a snail addict.

A Bright Light on the Horizon

ESTHER MCVEY

Oh well, David Cameron has for a change delighted the nation by appointing a cutie as the new employment minister in his recent re-shuffle.

Esther McVey has succeeded in rising swiftly through the political ranks with a lowkey determination. It wasn’t so long ago that it seemed she had little more than bare ambition, which has now propelled her to greater sights.

Photographs of the former GMTV presenter in racy poses were flashed across the pages of the Daily Mail recently for the first time. These were taken to launch her television career at the time.

Miss McVey, forty-five last week, became Iain Duncan Smith’s number two at the Department for Work and Pensions after impressing the PM with her work and her ability to charm all those who meet her.

Law graduate Miss McVey, who was privately educated at Belvedere Girls’ School in Liverpool, modelled for the saucy photo shoot in 1999 soon after landing the spot on the GMTV sofa that made her a household name. She did a four-month stint on the breakfast programme alongside Eamonn Holmes while his co-presenter Fiona Phillips was on maternity leave – and cheekily declared at the time that she was celibate because the 3.45am starts were not conducive to ‘rumpy-pumpy’. Her choice of words, which shows a humorous and appealing side to her character, will no doubt catapult her political aims to much greener pastures.

However, viewers got more than they bargained for when she accidentally flashed her white knickers to the nation courtesy of a rather unfortunate camera angle on her first day. And to add to it all, Miss McVey was unabashed when it came to showing off her slim figure during the photo shoot.

A source said: ‘The pictures were taken when GMTV was at its height really and shoots with the presenters were quite common. Esther was the new girl on the sofa and she agreed to do this rather glamorous and sexy shoot in a studio. The photographer remembers her being charm personified. She was lovely, very down-to-earth and really helpful. She loved the shoot and trying all the different outfits on. She will probably be a bit embarrassed that the pictures have been unearthed, but she shouldn’t be – she looks fantastic in them.’

Miss McVey went on to front BBC’s Heaven and Earth, and made a programme on naturists before deciding to scale down her television career in favour of politics eleven years ago.

Her first try as a Tory MP failed when she was narrowly defeated in the 2005 general election. Five years later, however, Miss McVey was victorious and took the Wirral West seat.

She has had relationships with BBC producer Mal Young, and Conservative culture minister Ed Vaizey, but has never married and is currently single.

She is definitely a woman after my own heart – unlike some women in politics who turn to extreme feminism in order to make their mark and get attention, and in the process be ridiculed. Perhaps the coterie of enlightened women such as Miss McVey will elevate the political scene to a much more popular perspective, while retaining their femininity to allure the rest of us for our full and positive support.

Canton Elegy (A True Story)

My very good friend, the sizzling Ros Milani, who once upon a time worked with me on many a project to do with luxury goods, sent me a most engrossing book about a father’s letter of sacrifice, survival and love.

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Canton Elegy, just out, is set against the backdrop of the events that shaped China in the twentieth century – the Chinese civil war, the Second World War, and the Cultural Revolution.

It is a love story punctuated by numerous adventures and an intimate and gruelling portrait of a family bound together by devotion as they struggled to survive against unthinkable odds. With his wife Belle and their four young children, Stephen Jin-Nom Lee braves famine and flood, corruption and the devastation of war, to make a home and a life for the ones he holds dear. From the three-hundred-mile journey Belle undertakes on foot when she and the children are trapped behind enemy lines in Hong Kong, to the night when he stands at his window watching Canton burn, Stephen observes his world with an artist’s sensibility, pouring out his emotions with a torrent of anguish and yet is able to tell the family’s story with great tenderness and without rancour – all so that his children may understand their history and remember their father’s love.

Looking across the years towards a time when he himself will be gone and their own lives may be drawing to a close he articulates his desire simply and powerfully: ‘I want my heart to have a voice so that I can love you louder.’

It is a book full of pathos, of a litany of tragic events of a determination to overcome the bestiality and ravages of a cruel and senseless war, and of an everlasting example of a family whose faith in love and unity surpass anything I have experienced or seen before.

Although at times I felt deeply overcome by its painful narrative, I was nevertheless elated at the end to realise that the dark clouds on the horizon gave way to clearer skies and a promise of a better future.

An unputdownable book for those who believe in the power of love and the human capacity to survive the convolutions of time.

The Saga Continues…

Sally Bercow appears to be a woman with a destructive mission. Rarely out of the limelight, she never fails to shock.

Her  latest escapade is perhaps her most damaging.

Undignified pictures of her, dishevelled, with her black skirt riding up to her thighs and with a peeping view of her knickers, are surely unworthy of the wife of the Speaker of the House of Commons. Her posture when negotiating a black cab, looking like a tart on the loose with a rude gesture of her middle finger, is much too degrading for any woman – let alone one of her status (through marriage).

It would have been better for her when going on a relentless bash such as this to have dispensed with her knickers, feigning support for the naturists, who perhaps take comfort in airing their private parts.

Her suffering husband, who must feel dwarfed by her towering height and her often uncouth comportment, is hopefully now at the end of his tether and will act forthwith, with steely determination, to limit the damage of his uncontrollable publicity-mad wife – by clipping her wings once and for all.

His extreme indulgence towards her has proved totally unworkable, unless of course he’s a glutton for punishment and revels in the notoriety of her antics. Only time will tell. A possible measure, as an interim solution, would be to restrict her dress-code to a burka.

The Wages of Sin and Enlightenment (in Three Parts): Part Three – Paris

Paris was the next and final stop on our European tour; from there I would be heading home to London.

As we travelled together, we seemed to all outward appearances a contented couple despite the age gap. We demonstrably shared a mutual affection; differences there may have been in private, especially in the confines of the bedroom, but in our quieter moments we were aware we had achieved an intimacy of rare quality.

Paris brought with it a new range of experiences. I at once felt at home there because I could speak the language fluently. The great metropolis, with its magnificent avenues and boulevards, famous river embankments and cosmopolitan atmosphere, was a city universally celebrated and admired. To be able to stroll along the Champs-Élysées was the fulfilment of a dream for me. The traffic, the cafés, the multitudes of people promenading, made the air vibrate with excitement. Impressive monuments, depicting the glory of the history and culture of a great nation, were to be seen everywhere.

We travelled by foot, by metro, by taxi. We went everywhere in a sort of frenzy, racing against the clock to absorb everything we could in the little time we had left. At the outset sightseeing became our priority and sex was put on hold. Even the delicious French cuisine, to be discovered at its best in so many back-street bistros, was accorded scant attention.

For two days our relationship was relaxed and harmonious. Then, without warning, the doctor’s carnal demons returned with redoubled force. Love in the afternoon was back and making imperious demands. Her attitude changed and her focus became predatory. I sensed I was being called on to service something that was more of an addiction than a need. I was naturally attracted towards sexual activity, but by now I had experienced a surfeit of it with the doctor.

The relationship was starting to have a disturbing effect on my psyche. The bedroom rows that followed began to brew up into an unpleasant atmosphere. My instincts told me that, however skilled the seduction, these emotional cohesions to make love when I was exhausted, or in an inappropriate state of mind, could leave me with a legacy of damage. The adventure had to be terminated; it was a matter of self-preservation.

One day I went back to the hotel alone and packed my only suitcase. I did not wait for her so that we could say goodbye; a parting in those circumstances was not something I could handle. I left for the boat train but all the way, as the journey put distance between us, the doctor from Latin America and the unexpected way we had become lovers dominated my thoughts. I recalled her generosity with affection, and was grateful for the way she had looked after me during the ten days we had spent together. But in the end I had had no alternative except to run away. I was being drained physically and mentally and had grown fearful of where it all might lead.

Despite the intimacy I had known with the Argentinian doctor, she remained a rather mysterious figure in my mind. I had learnt nothing about her family background, except that it was quite obvious that she had been born in to a moneyed, cultured household. She rarely talked about herself and was evasive if I ever tried to probe for information. It was as though she had somehow wanted to remain anonymous. She never even discussed her work as a doctor, except that she mentioned tending the poor free of charge once a week to make a contribution to society. Every item about her person reflected wealth, style and good taste, yet she refused to flaunt it or draw attention to it in any way. She was very diffident in herself, but her personality was striking. Her elegant bearing and animated features made her a centre of attention, though it was nothing she sought or wished for. It simply happened that her physical presence defined her in any setting and she seemed to draw everything to her without making the slightest effort. She remained composed, disciplined, and self-assured in every public situation.

Her politics were a topic that she did freely discuss with me. She showed a sympathetic understanding of the plight of the unprivileged, and cited the Palestinians as a prime example among those who had lost out in the international game of realpolitik. She was certainly with the underdog and it was clear on which side of the barricades she would fight if ever it came to revolution.

Nevertheless, she was completely unselfconscious about enjoying the comforts of her status and wealth. The contradiction, if it even existed, was somehow not an issue in her case. When her excessive physical demands were in abeyance, it was a delight to be in her company. I learnt so much from her in such a brief period of time. It was a tutoring of a rare and special kind that few young men have the good fortune to encounter in their formative years. I knew it. During those few days, my life was enriched in ways that ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime, and stoically I accepted that both extremes were necessary. I could not have one without the other. In a unique way they became strangely complementary.

I had grown up in an essentially puritan society. Sex was never discussed in my family or my social milieu – it was certainly not looked on as a joyful function, worthy of exploration, and it remained the forbidden fruit. The Roman Catholic Church accepted it only grudgingly as the means of creating new life, since no other method of procreation was possible. The one exception had been in the case of the Virgin Mary, the mother of Christ, who was impregnated by the Holy Spirit without any intervention on the part of her husband Joseph. The mere fact that, among the saints, the Virgin Mary was the most revered just went to illustrate how the tenets of the New Testament were anti-sex in their underlying emphasis. What logic was there in a view that abstention and suffering rather than joy and well-being lay at the core of salvation? Throughout my adolescence I had struggled to understand how it was that sex must be condemned to be hedged about with guilt and frowned upon as a necessary evil when it was the lifeblood of existence, something to be celebrated rather than rejected. I could never arrive at a convincing answer; without sex, the world would come to an end; without sex to fuel it, the drive to achieve ever greater objectives and ambitions must run down and fizzle out. The joys of nurturing a life conceived in the fulfilling act of love would be unknown and humanity robbed of the essence of its reason for being.

My upbringing had failed to brainwash me into denying the value of my sexuality. It always seemed to me that sex was beyond question – the supreme mechanism for maintaining a healthy body and giving it energy and direction. In my childhood, I had desperately sought to plumb the depths of the religious mysteries, but I always came back to the truth of the fact that if I accidentally caught a glimpse of the sparkling white flesh of a woman’s inner thighs my male organ would start to rise and expand; or if I touched myself in a state of arousal, the liquid that stained my trousers represented the relief that came so strangely and was not to be denied. In this way, I acquired an inkling of the joys sex had to offer before I knew what they really meant or could exploit them to the full.

My initiation into the higher subtleties of sex at the hands of the Argentinian doctor came not only as a revelation but also as a unique experience that would mould my sexuality for all the years that lay ahead. She taught me everything she could about the female form, its secret urges and the way it functions. She showed me how to respond to its needs and how not to be selfish or self-engrossed in seeking the ends of desire.

Admittedly, she made me suffer at times. I was not up to the task, despite being, at my age, at the height of my sexual powers. Her needs, at that stage of her evolution in life, were greater than mine. It was often a struggle for me to merge her energy and to keep her satisfied; my body would reach a point where it could no longer take the strain and I felt physical pain from excessive gratification.

But the negative aspects of this epic sexual adventure, pursued through three great European cities, were more than counter-balanced by the deep knowledge with which she imbued me. I never denied that I remained grateful to her, for she had shaped me into the man I was to become; a man who liked and trusted women and was never to feel uncomfortable in their company.

Alas, I never saw her again.