Monthly Archives: June 2016

A MUST READ

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A MAN WITH A MISSION…

For those of you who have not yet bought a copy of Shaukat Aziz’s book From Banking to the Thorny World of Politics, a remarkable memoir of his tenure as a most successful banker with Citibank then as finance minister of Pakistan, culminating in his appointment as prime minister, I suggest you grab a copy of this bestselling book which seems unstoppable.

There is much to learn about finance and politics, especially today, when instability in both sectors is causing grave consternation worldwide.

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY

Brazil is a country which is facing economic and political instability, threatening a complete breakdown of the rule of law. It would be disastrous if the present crisis is not contained and the very fabric of its multicultural society is left in tatters. A country, which should be a magnet for tourism with its gigantic river, rainforests and beautiful women noted for their amazing bodies, crafted to perfection by the Old Master in the sky, is left to disintegrate because of corruption in high places.

As a well-wisher, I hope that common sense will eventually prevail, and men and women of goodwill will rally and save this vast country and its rich resources, not only for the benefit of its people exclusively but also for the benefit of the world at large.

There is so much to learn from the indigenous peoples who inhabit the wild Amazon region, whose craft and history goes back thousands of years, and from whom we can gain much knowledge as to the mysterious aspects of nature.

Let us not forget that human beings are invariably responsible for the tragedies that befall the earth we live on. It’s time we realized that fate is often self-inflicted and can be positively harboured if we really want it to be.

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GEMS FROM OUR BACKLIST ONE

August 1984 saw the publication of Nicholas Coleridge’s TunnelVision, the product of five years’ professional eavesdropping, and the first book which he ever wrote. During this period Nicholas had basked by swimming pools at Tuscan villas, hitchhiked to Yazd, worked as a waiter in San Lorenzo, snooped backstage at both the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Brompton Oratory, run with the paparazzi pack which hounded Lady Diana Spencer, shared dahl with hippies and bull-shots with playboys, and survived to write it all down. Tunnel Vision could be described as a hit-and-run report.

That month also saw the publication of The Music Monster, a biography by Charles Reid of James William Davison, the music critic of The Times between 1846 and 1878, with excerpts from his critical writings. These threw a sometimes startling light on the abrasive opinions of the most influential music critic of his era. Davison came across as a true monster in critical terms: Chopin was a flea, he declared; Schubert an impostor; Berlioz a lunatic; Wagner was merely puerile while Tchaikovsky was hideous. The extracts – outrageous, exasperating and uproariously amusing by turn – were taken either from his daily column in The Times, which he turned out for over thirty years, or from now forgotten weeklies, such as the Musical World, which he edited himself for forty years.

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The Aftermath

Instead of celebrating the disastrous outcome of the referendum we should now seriously ponder the future of our country and where we go from here. Choosing isolation from the rest of Europe is the worst decision that Britain has made, like cutting off our nose to spite our face.

The Scottish people have already announced that they want to remain in the EU, refusing to follow Britain into the wilderness. This, in my view, is the beginning of the disintegration of the nation we love and cherish. Others, like Northern Ireland, will follow the example of Scotland and Wales may do the same.

The Brexit lot have shown their true colours during the campaign. Even in places where refugees from the Commonwealth are a majority, they have shamelessly opted to join forces with right-wing politicians who lack the benevolence and humanitarian feelings they claim to have. It is a masquerade of the worst kind and time will tell how we shall pay dearly for their policies and lack of true vision.

David Cameron took an unnecessary risk in suggesting a referendum in the first place, but at least he had real grit and fought dearly for what he believed was the most viable course for a prosperous Britain. He was betrayed by his closest friends in the Conservative Party and he was right to resign rather than join forces with his adversaries. For that, he has earned my admiration and will always be remembered as a great prime minister. He fought relentlessly to keep Britain the envy of the world.

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I sincerely hope that we shall survive the traumas of the next few months and find a way to salvage the hurt that has been inflicted on the nation to satisfy the political ambitions of the very few.

May God guide us so that we keep our sanity in such difficult times.

 

 

 

A Measure of Abnormality Can Still Be Fun

There has always been a controversy about dieting, particularly when normal sized people try to shed more weight in order to look good. This especially applies to women who tend to take it to extremes.

 But scientists in their wisdom believe there are good reasons for going on a diet even for those people who may not look like they need to. They are convinced that dropping a few pounds can improve your sleep, mood and sex life.

 Research reveals that adults with an ideal body mass index (BMI) – or those who are overweight but not obese – felt happier, less stressed and had more energy after slimming down.

 The benefits also extended into the bedroom, with libido and relationships both receiving a boost when calories were cut by a quarter over two years. British experts have previously argued that adults should aim to be at the lower end of the ‘ideal weight’ range to prevent health problems, including cancer.

 The most recent study from the US suggest that counting the calories can also bring many psychological and lifestyle benefits. Researchers from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Louisiana tracked the health of 216 men and women for two years. Volunteers were either normal weight or overweight but not obese, with a BMI of 22 to 28. The BMI of an overweight person is between 25.2 and 29.9 while that of obese people is over 30.

 Two-thirds of the group were asked to cut back on their daily calorie intake by one-quarter – the equivalent of two bars of chocolate for women, and three pints of lager and a slice of buttered toast for men. The rest were told to eat as usual.

 After two years the dieters had lost more weight – an average of more than a stone – and were happier and healthier. The exact reasons for their findings are unclear, but decades of research in animals suggests that a severe restriction in calories leads to the body switching to a ‘survival mode’ that slows ageing and improves health.

 The volunteers may also have got a psychological boost from their slimmer figures. Presenting their findings in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, the researchers said: ‘In obese adults calorie restrictions can be undertaken with little concern about negative effects on quality of life, mood, sexual function and sleep.’

 But Professor David Haslam of the National Obesity Forum said many of the changes in the study seem to be brought about by simply eating more healthily. He said: ‘It’s odd people of normal weight should be counting calories and much more sensible for them to be eating healthily.’ 

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For me eating healthily and sensibly is by far the best attitude to take whatever your weight. Contrary to most studies, some obese people are happier and lighter on their feet and sexually more vociferous than most of the macho men of today who brag about their performance in the bedroom. Exceptions are sometimes more attractive than we give them credit for.

 

 

REMEMBERING CHRISTINA FOYLE

In January 1991 Publishing News reported that Christina Foyle, a favourite of mine, had just finished reading Singular Encounters and found it quite diverting. Christina and I had got on remarkably well when I interviewed her for Women. She told me how she had adored her father and how much she had learned from him.

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My father was really rather a gambler. He was always up to something. Once, coming back from America, he kept playing cards with some rather sharp people. First of all, he won quite a lot, about a thousand pounds a day – this was in the 1930s – and then he lost it all and a lot more besides. He told these men – they were real sharpers – that he couldn’t pay, but they accepted a cheque. Then I had to get off the boat very quickly at Southampton to stop the cheque. He used to give me all those sorts of things to do. And then there was a lot of money owing him from the Soviet Union, with all kinds of bad debts, and he sent me over there to collect them. I went to Russia, by myself, when I was twenty-one. I went all over Russia, but most of the people who owed us money had either been executed or gone to Siberia. I didn’t have much luck.

Christina was very entertaining and a good raconteur:

When I first came to Foyle’s, it was a wonderful time. There were very many great writers about: Bernard Shaw and Wells and Kipling, Conan Doyle. They all used to come into the shop, and they were charming to me. That’s why I started my luncheons, because customers used to say you’re so lucky, you meet all these great people, I wish I had your opportunities. So I said to my father, we ought to give a luncheon and let our customers come and meet these writers. So my father said, well, you’ve nothing much to do, why don’t you arrange it? That’s how our luncheons came about. But I found that, although I was so young, they never patronized me or talked down to me at all. I used to go round and call on these people, asking them to come and speak, and they always said yes. And we’ve had them from that day to this. The first lunch we gave was for Lord Darling, the famous Lord Chief Justice, and Lord Alfred Douglas came, who had been involved in the Wilde affair years before; and then our most recent lunch was for Jeffrey Archer, who wasn’t born when we started them. So it’s been marvellous, and I can hardly think of a time when I’ve had any unpleasant experiences.

She was a woman to whom I could relate. She often invited me to a Foyle’s luncheon, usually held at Grosvenor House Hotel, and invariably seated me next to her. She was worldly and gossipy and it was enchanting to be in her company. On one occasion she told me how Colonel Gadaffi of Libya would send Foyle’s a cheque for two hundred and fifty thousand dollars and ask her to chose the books for him. She loved her profession and she loved people.The two strands were completely interlinked in her life.

WHERE I STAND

As the EU referendum is about to take place tomorrow and both sides are nervously dreading the outcome, those who want Out will certainly rejoice if they win, but inwardly they must have their doubts. They should certainly speculate on the reaction to Brexit worldwide, and consider what measures, if any, the EU will take in retaliation.

The war of words has so far proved more acrimonious than first envisaged and has so far proved to be a muddle between fact and fiction, for each side has been guilty of watering the lily to prove their dreamlike contention that what they preach is good for Britain, but omitting any tangible analysis to back their theories.

Whereas those who want to remain are familiar with what they know they will face if they win – at least they are not treading on foreign ground. They will have trouble at home unless they win with a large majority, which is not foreseen according to the polls. But their presence within the EU will afford them the chance to try to reform it, for they will possibly gain the clout they need from other members of the EU who are as disgruntled as Britain with the whiff of autocracy in running the conglomerate by civil servants who seem to be overbearing, and not democratic in the true sense of the word.

Despite these misgivings, I feel strongly that we should not be swayed by the made-up statistics of politicians whose sole motive is to grab power within the Conservative party, no matter what it takes, and leave us to bear the consequences as a nation. They have even involved Hitler in the melee of it all to frighten the life out of us.

Therefore, without further ado, I will certainly cast my vote to remain and pray that others will do the same.

Last evening, saw the launch of James Hanratty book “ The Making Of An Immigration Judge” to a crowded audience at The Athenaeum Club in Pall Mall. Here is my address to mark this memorable occasion.

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Distinguished guests, ladies and gentleman, this  evening’s gathering today cannot be more timely or topical. As more and more migrants fleeing tyranny and war arrive on the shores of Europe causing havoc, the continent is facing an unprecedented crisis that is likely to destabilise the whole region. With such huge numbers hoping to be resettled and start a new life, how should the UK respond? The quandary is not an easy one to resolve.

With 16 years’ experience as an immigration judge, James Hanratty has seen the plight of migrants first hand and made decisions that changed lives forever. Part memoir, part meditation, The Making of an Immigration Judge is written by a man who is fully versed with the country’s courtrooms and the realities of the immigration conundrum.

Drawing on a lifetime spent in the justice world, from his early days as a law clerk in Derbyshire to working at the House of Lords and the Royal Courts of Justice, James Hanratty’s story is at once personal and profound. He vividly recalls life in the law with a unique and authoritative insight into the ongoing debate dividing our politicians and troubling the conscience of both the UK and Europe. To add to his vast experience, he was instrumental in the British Handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997.

To enlighten the reader further, he says: ‘It is important for a judge, even in unmeritorious cases, to be kind, charitable and compassionate to those involved. As Seneca observed, invective against a man in his trial is disgraceful. One cannot blame half the world for wanting a better life but that is not sufficient reason in law for a person to be allowed to enter or stay here. Being kind and compassionate does not mean that the judge must leave common sense at the door of the court and be gullible and frankly stupid on the bench. There is a vast industry out there of people smugglers, agents and bent lawyers taking advantage of appellants. Some appellants play the system themselves.’

His words bring a sombre reality to the present situation which, quite frankly, we cannot ignore.

To mark the publication of this book, I can only urge everyone assembled here today to kindly dip deep in their pockets and pay tribute to the judge by arming themselves with more than one copy. This will enable them to spread the good word and make the author feel appreciated and content.

 

 

 

TIME’S FLEETING ARROW

When one is young the perception of the slowness of time is universally accepted as an irritant, whilst over the age of 50, time gallops away to the consternation of those who believe that their life is now on a fast lane, in conspiracy with the mechanical clock. At least, that’s what appears to be the case.

A study has now revealed that as we get older we perceive a set period of time as passing much more quickly than when we were younger. However, it is not clear why but possible explanations range from age-related changes in brain chemistry to a feeling of having seen it all before, or even the thought that we have less time left to live.

Whatever the explanation, the discovery by Brazilian scientists help explain why summer holidays seem to last forever when we are children, but pass in the blink of an eye by the time we are middle-aged. To measure how the passage of time is perceived, 233 men and women aged between 15 and 89 were asked to close their eyes and mentally count the passing of 120 seconds. All ages perceived the 2 minutes as passing more quickly than it actually did, but the oldest people were the most inaccurate.

The men and women in the 15-29 age group counted down the 120 seconds in 115 seconds on average. The 30-49 age group took just 86 seconds. This meant the oldest group perceived time as passing 25 per cent more quickly than the youngest did. The researchers said: ‘Our study aimed to estimate the passage of time in different age groups, to test the truth of the saying that time passes faster in older people. Our results indicated that the perception of time passage was accelerated in ageing.’

The researchers, from the So Jose Faculty of Medicine in Brazil, said that it is possible the phenomenon is due to age-related changes in levels of brain chemicals involved in the concentration and memory, both of which are involved in estimating the passage of time. It is already known that these changes interfere with levels of dopamine which is key to concentration affecting the perception of time. It is also possible the knowledge and experience we gather as we go through life alters our ability to estimate the passage of time.

So when we are young and trying something for the first time we savour every moment, but as we get older we have fewer new experiences and so time seems to run away from us. Writing in the journal Arquivos de Neuro-Psiquiatria, the researchers said:

Novelty has a strong impact on memory. The time it takes to learn something new is always subjectively prolonged, such as the first sexual relationship, the first job, the first trip without parents or the first experience of living away from home. When we are reminded of school holidays or when we learn to swim or fly a kite the memory seems endless. Most experiences are new to children and most experiences are repetitive for adults. Adulthood does not hold the constant, never ending discovery of new things that are inherent in childhood. However, others argue that as we get older we simply want to make the most of the time we have left.This need to cram in as much as possible leads to us rushing through things including tasks such as counting seconds.

Health psychologist Sir Cary Cooper of Manchester University said: ‘As we get older we have limited time left, so we don’t want to linger. Older people also have more disposable time and want to get on and use it. I’m 75. I still work full time and I’m impatient. If you ask me to count to 120 I would do it so fast.’

How right is the professor! I am 85, ten year’s older than he is. I work full time and have become more impatient than I dare to confess or admit. All I can say in this regard is ‘Long Live the Oldies.’

DOWN MEMORY LANE ONE

A book Quartet published in 1984 made headlines in September that year and its message is still relevant: The Nouveaux Pauvres: A Guide to Downward Mobility by Nicholas Monson and Debra Scott.

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Its theme was the expanding tribe of the financially deprived aristocracy and gentry of Britain, beset by death duties, costly divorces and inflation. Debra was a journalist and Nicholas, then the heir to a peerage and baronetcy, could himself claim to be pure nouveau pauvre. He was the founder editor of a magazine called The Magazine, in which the article the book was based on first appeared. ‘Being nouveau pauvre,’ he said, ‘is the art of selective poverty. Collapsed sofas and cracked loos are now quite permissible so long as the sofa is antique and the crack in the porcelain is just a hairline.’ Education was one of the main preoccupations of social sinkers. He had put down his son and heir to his overdraft, for Eton, and then had the anxiety of fearing his cheque for the twenty-pound registration fee might bounce. Among those he interviewed for the book were the premier baron of Ireland, who worked as a silage-pit builder and had a son and heir who was a municipal-drains inspector, and a royal relation with economical party tips to offer to the paupered posh.

For the book’s launch party at the Chelsea Town Hall, we adopted the strategy that had proved so successful with Derek Jarman’s Dancing Ledgeeach guest was required to buy a copy at the concessionary price of five pounds as their entry ticket. It was an occasion for the ‘not so very hard up’, the Standard commented. ‘The nouveaux pauvres may be having us on. After all hundreds of them shelled out a fiver each without a murmur. There was plenty of goodish champagne, some diamonds and not a hired dinner jacket in sight.’ In the reporter’s view the prize for the most poorly dressed individual was most ill judged. It went to an estate agent, Charles Oliver (‘my family gave all their money away to the church’), who so far as he could see did not look at all poor. Close examination revealed a Burberry cashmere jacket, a smart green body-warmer, a striped shirt from Gieves & Hawkes and, on his feet, a pair of Guccis. ‘I bought the shoes at least thirteen years ago,’ their owner pleaded in mitigation.

The party was full of good-tempered jollity and the bar did a lively trade. There was a buzz of optimistic talk about a new class called the encore richesThe highlight of the evening came when the ‘Namara Follies’ took to the floor to entertain the guests. The line-up was recruited from within the Namara Group: Lucinda Rivett-Carnac (now Lulu Guinness), Virge Gilchrist and Emma Lancaster, an editor at Quartet. Their sizzling cabaret act included a dance routine and, most notably, the song ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?’ I had been to watch the routine in rehearsal and found it highly amusing, though I teasingly suggested that, to raise the temperature at the finale, they could throw their knickers into the assembly as a gesture of liberating defiance. The expressions on their faces told me the idea fell on stony ground. ‘We’re not taking our knickers off,’ they assured each other, and that was that!