Monthly Archives: January 2017

A Leonardo Sketch Unveiled

Dabbling in art, especially in drawings and paintings, can sometimes bring you an unexpected fortune. A previously unknown drawing by Leonardo Da Vinci has been valued at £12.6 million after being brought in by a retired French doctor.

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Paris auctioneers Tajan said the extraordinary discovery came after the owner pulled out a bundle of unframed sketches. The drawing was nearly missed by Thaddée Prate, director of old masters at the auction house, because he was in a hurry that day. But after consulting other experts he confirmed its identity and it was recently formally unveiled in Paris.

The sketch was one of eight drawings of the martyred Saint Sebastian and marks the first time a Da Vinci work has surfaced since 2000. It sparked shock among art experts who said their eyes jumped out of their sockets when they saw it.

Carmen Bambach, a curator of Italian and Spanish drawings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York who helped in the confirmation said, ‘The attribution is quite incontestable. What we have here is an open and  shut case. It’s an exciting discovery.’

Mr Prate said the fairy-tale story began in March when the doctor came to see him with the drawings, collected by his bibliophile father. He was going through them when he spotted a pen and ink study of Saint Sebastian tied to a tree, inscribed on the mount ‘Michelange’ (Michelangelo). He said he was in a bit of a rush but was intrigued enough to seek a second opinion from Patrick de Bayser, an independent dealer. Mr de Bayser found some smaller scientific drawings on the back of the sheet with tiny Renaissance style notes.

He also deduced the artist – like Da Vinci – was left-handed. Mr Prate also sought Doctor Bambach’s opinion and she confirmed the drawing was by Da Vinci. She said: ‘My heart will always pound when I think about that drawing. It has so many changes of ideas, so much energy in the way he explores the figure. It has a furious spontaneity.’

Little is known about the owner other than he’s a retired doctor from central France. According to the New York Times, when told of the value the owner said: ‘I’m very pleased. But I have other interests in life other than money.’

The most recent discovery of one of Da Vinci’s work was in 2000 when Sotheby’s in London unearthed a black chalk and pen study of Hercules.

The owner of the sketch apparently was so low key when told of the value , he’s certainly a man after my own heart.

Soho Society

In 2008, Quartet launched Soho Society by Bernie Katz otherwise known as the Prince of Soho.

As is customary with the imprint, Quartet was ahead of its time and although the book did extremely well, it should have nevertheless fared much better.

For those who failed to acquire a copy of the book then, it is time they did.

 

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Soho is now the hottest, most sought after spot in our great metropolis that deserves to be more familiar to those visitors to London who seek the adventure that Soho can provide.

The author conducts you through a collection of true stories that involve call girls, rent boys, suckers and thieves. A-list personalities and media hustlers weave their way through these tales of lust, envy, pride, perversion and despair. As if that’s not enough, the book features beautifully reproduced art work specially commissioned for Bernie’s debut. The collection includes Sir Peter Blake, Elk, Tracy Emin, Nina Fowler, Damien Hirst, Carl Hopgood, Rachel Howard, Tony Husband, Minho Kwon, Jim Lambie, Sarah Lucas, John Maybury, Tim Noble & Sue Webster, Marc Quinn, Sam Taylor-Wood,  Triana De Lamo, Terry and Jonathan Yeo.

Here are some of the quotes about the book:

‘There is no gravity, the world sucks! Who better suited to write about the ins and outs of Soho life than Bernie?’

Damien Hirst

‘I have collected Soho literature for thirty years. For the last ten or fifteen I had despaired of ever hearing a new voice who got it, who really understood what Soho is. And now Bernie Katz has produced this collection and I am happy.’

Stephen Fry

‘There is only one man who has the knowledge, experience and respect of Soho. Bernie Katz may be the last of the breed of true London hosts.’

J.J Field

In her interview with Bernie, Roya Nikkhah of the Telegraph says ‘If his book is anything to go by, I tell him, there is still an eclectic mix of hedonistic bohemians in W1 who will keep Soho swinging for years to come. Trust me’ He says ‘it’s quite tame compared to what really goes on.’

Soho Society is a book, the likes of which one rarely sees. For £20 a copy, you will acquire a work of art that will defy the vicissitudes of time and in so doing it will become a jewel that will glow forever more.

 

 

 

SURVIVING FLU PANDEMIC IS LINKED TO WHEN YOU WERE BORN

As we get older we tend to follow new scientific discoveries which can explain our vulnerability to all kinds of disease simply because we feel that our immunity becomes weaker with age. Now we are told that our age might determine whether we have immunity to a global flu pandemic, a study has found. Getting infected with a certain flu virus as a child could affect an individual’s resistance to new strains emerging from animals, researchers have said. The scientists also discovered that people born before a pandemic in 1968, known as Hong Kong Flu, are protected from different strains compared with those born later.

They analysed data of the 1,400 so far infected with two strains of Bird Flu seen in Asia. Children and young people have tended to get the H5NI strain, while H7N9 mainly affects older people. Although both types are very different, they have similarities to more common strains that are widely circulating. Scientists found that the strain people were first infected with as children determined which of the new strains they were protected against.

‘The first infections set you up for either success or failure in a huge way, even against “novel” flu strains,’ said Michael Worobey of the University of Arizona, the senior author of the paper. ‘We’re not a completely blank slate when it comes to how susceptible we are to these emerging flu viruses. Even if we have never been exposed to H5 or H7 viruses we have some kick-ass protection against one or the other.’ Writing in the journal Science he said that people were 75-80% protected against a new strain if they had been exposed to a similar type as children. ‘If either of these viruses was to successfully jump from birds into humans we now know something about the age groups that would be hit the hardest,’ Dr Worobey said.

Global health experts fear a repeat of the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic if animal strains mutate to spread quickly between humans. The outbreak killed tens of millions and young people were particularly badly hit. Dr Worobey said:

‘Those young adults were killed by an H1 virus and from blood analysed many decades later, there is a pretty strong indication that those individuals had been exposed to a mismatched H3 as children and were therefore not protected against H1. The fact that we are seeing exactly the same pattern with current H5N1 and HSN9 cases suggest that the same fundamental processes may govern both the historic 1918 pandemic and today’s contenders for the next big flu pandemic.’

The more one learns about the various strains of flu the more vigilant one must be. The only protection one can take is to keep your immune system in good shape, lead a healthy life with as little excesses as possible and ask the Good Lord for his protection.

Is Testosterone The Answer?

The problems for women start when their libido shows signs of flagging. However, a leading doctor claims that their lives could easily be transformed by a simple testosterone prescription.  A single daily pill giving a low dose of testosterone costing less than £10 per month can increase desire in menopausal women but many family doctors fail to offer it.

National guidance recommends that the hormone, which is routinely prescribed to men whose sex drives have fallen, can be given to women ‘off-label’, but complex dosage adjustments mean that the majority of GPs are unable to provide it.

Nick Panay of the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, an expert on the menopause, said that licensed testosterone drugs should be made available to women immediately.

‘This is not just about a lack of sex drive,’ he told the Times. ‘These women have lost their joie de vivre, zest for life, and testosterone can help them get it back.

‘Low libido is a serious relationship damaging problem that affects around 15% of menopausal women – that’s hundreds of thousands of women.

‘Despite clinical evidence that testosterone can be life-changing for menopausal women there is no product licensed for female use.

‘Doctors must adjust dosage levels of male products which many GPs are not qualified to do,’ Doctor Panay said.

Women produce testosterone naturally and it is essential to hormonal balance but the menopause, a hysterectomy or the removal of ovaries can make levels fall. As well as damaging the sex drive this can cause muscle loss, a lack of energy and low mood.

‘I have patients who are on low levels of testosterone who report huge increases in their mood, their energy, wellbeing, muscle strength and stamina,’ Doctor Panay said.

The hormone can be taken through a patch the size of a postage stamp worn under the arm and changed every three days, at a cost of £400 per year. As a pill, doctors recommend 40mg taken daily at a cost of £8.50 for 30 pills.

There are scores of ‘natural’ libido-enhancing substances available in health shops and pharmacies but little evidence that they are effective. Ashley Grossman, an endocrinologist at the University of Oxford, said more research was needed into female desire so that effective testosterone products could be made. ‘Libido in the sex drive of men is reasonably clear cut, in women it is much more complicated,’ he said.

Professor Grossman, who routinely prescribes testosterone off-label to women with diminished sex-drives when other causes have been ruled out, dismissed concerns about possible side effects.

‘People think women will suddenly grow a beard, develop a deep voice or more masculine behaviour but these are myths,’ he said. ‘It can cause a little acne or excess hair growth but these disappear when the dosage is adjusted.’

At the Royal College of GPs conference recently, Dr Panay said that until a female product was available more is needed to be done to educate doctors on specialised off-label prescribing. ‘We’re not saying that female antigen replacement is a universal panacea, we’re not saying it is a female Viagra,’ he said.

‘Women are, after all, much more complex creatures than men and don’t respond to the on-off button that Viagra offers but I think that it should be part of the counselling process.’

Although women are in my view more delicate creatures, they are built of sterner stuff than men and yet they need more attention due to the complexities of their makeup. Sex to them is more complicated and requires special concentrated study to ensure that their wellbeing is carefully looked after, for their sensibility is a prime factor that controls almost every part of their bodies.

Unlike men they are supreme creatures without whom the very essence of life disintegrates.

 

 

Publishing Unravelled

With the recent deaths of both Emma Tennant and Hilary Bailey, it is perhaps appropriate to remind the readers of Quartet Books of a small but rather informative compendium under the title Did We Meet on Grub Street?

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Part memoir, self-help manual and polemic, this assortment of pieces mostly written by three ancient practitioners of the literary trade, whose professional lives all started when typewriters were scarcely electrified, posits a belief that publishing is more than just part of a global media division in massive entertainment conglomerates.

With a combined age of over two hundred years and with more than fifty books written between them, three toilers in the literary furrows reflect on the ‘literary life’: anecdotes; memories; short fictions; reminiscences; critiques of feminist writing – even a list of Dos and Don’ts for Future Writers – create a perfect companion for those who still consider books have covers and live on shelves and is essential reading for all graduates on creative writing courses or in media study groups.

Our own David Elliott, a whizz kid of his generation, contributed an introduction as well as a chapter under the heading ‘The Chairman Publishes’.

If you happen to be interested in publishing and what goes on behind the scenes then this book at £12.99 is worth a more serious look. Buy a copy and find out for yourself.

 

The Devil Incarnate or a Political Messiah?

Donald Trump is the man of the hour. Open any newspaper or switch on the news on television or radio and you will find him, larger than life, looking as if he’s ready to intimidate you or perhaps devour you if you happen to give him any sign of dissent or lack of animated respect or admiration.

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He has become a phenomenon who has attained the impossible by finding himself the most powerful man on the planet. No one would have predicted his sensational rise to the highest, most prestigious job in the world in a nation which ridiculed him when he announced his intention to run for the presidency. People were astounded by, as well as dismissive of, his chances of being seriously considered by the electorate for such a venerable post.

Well, the whole world was wrong and I was one of them. The reason for my original dismay is that I happen to know the man himself. He is certainly a businessman of unusual merits; his practices are untraditional to put it mildly.

I met him prior to his undertakings to build the Trump Tower on 5th Avenue in New York. I was then the CEO of the Asprey Group of companies in London and had an apartment in New York where I spent ten days of every month attending to my publishing activities as well as those of Asprey’s.

The purpose of our meeting was whether Asprey would take premises in his planned building and open a branch as part of our international expansion of trading activities at the time.

Having acceded to his proposal I spent many an hour with him while the building was being constructed. I got to know the man rather well, with his bombastic behaviour and his unpredictability which often revealed multiple facets of his personality giving rise to a worrying dishevelment as to his real intentions.

However, although I still have my doubts about his ability to steer the nation as he says he will into an equal society, and to stamp out corruption as he sees it in the political system, his right-wing views and racism have so far made it unlikely that his rhetoric will prove anything more than a crowd-pleasing drivel.

Having said that, the man must be given a chance to prove his worth and demonstrate to the world at large that despite the platitudes that seem to come out of his mouth on many an occasion, will he ever become the messiah he claims to be?

Only time will tell and I will be the first to eat my words if his advent to the political scene proves to be a miraculous and wondrous four-year period – and perhaps beyond!

SEX WITHOUT PARALLEL

I have good news ladies! Apparently the experts – and there are many of them these days on every subject you can think of – are saying that the key to a healthy memory is – believe it or not – regular sex, if you are a woman. So never mind Sudoku, crossword puzzles or so-called brain training games; a study has found that women who enjoy an active love life scored better in tests measuring the working memory.

Experts – here we go again – think it may partly be due to the effect sex has on the brain. And if the results are surprising, what’s even more of a shock is that only one of the three scientists who came up with them is a man. For the research, the team of experts at McGill University in Montreal recruited 78 young women, aged 18-29. They were quizzed on their sex lives before undergoing a series of memory tests. The tests involved looking at a group of 60 words and faces, before later being asked to pick them out from a larger group of 90 words and faces. The idea was to measure their short term recall, a measure of memory function.

The results, published in Archives of Sexual Behaviour, revealed the women who enjoyed the most frequent sex registered the highest scores on the memory tests. But the effect was much more noticeable when it came to remembering words rather than faces, researchers said. This was probably because word recall is largely handled by the hippocampus, while other brain regions control facial memory.

Scientists said this lent support to the theory that regular sex bolsters neurons in the hippocampal region. In a report on their findings researchers said:

Neurogenesis in the hippocampus is higher in those women with a higher frequency of intercourse. These results suggest sex may indeed have beneficial effects on memory function in healthy young women. They support the hypothesis that frequency of sex is positively associated with memory scores.

Although the studies only recruited women, previous research has hinted men’s’ brains benefit as much, if not more, from plentiful sex. Animal studies have previously suggested frequent sex stimulates a process called neurogenesis, the growth of new cells and tissue in the hippocampus – the part of the brain heavily involved in controlling memory.

And a healthy love life also boosts levels of feel-good chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters. Earlier this year, experts at Coventry University found men and women in their 50s, 60s and 70s, who had an active love life, had a lower risk of dementia. The study of nearly 7, 000 older people showed women who had regular sex scored up to 14% higher marks in word challenges, while the more sexually active men scored 23% more than their rivals.

With Britain’s population ageing, scientists are desperately trying to find ways to preserve brain function in old age. Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia recently emerged as the UK’s biggest killer, pushing heart disease into second place. The ‘epidemic’ has triggered a booming sale of trendy brain-training computer games to those terrified of future illness. But a recent major review of 137 studies found little good evidence that exercising the brain has long-term benefits.

Until another way is found that keeps memory in good working order, sex seems to be the only available means that can guard us from turning into a dreaded vegetable. So let us bless the Lord for giving us this great gift for which man has so far found no parallel.

DOWN MEMORY LANE ELEVEN

Following on from my last trip down memory lane, I thought I’d mention Quartet’s list for Autumn 1992. As my memoir said, we had finished the year well:

Quartet also ended 1992 on a high note. We had published an amazing number of books that year, which makes it extremely difficult to select for mention any in preference over others. Under the direction of Stephen Pickles, our literary output was phenomenal, though not always profitable. Nevertheless he managed to give Quartet an intellectual edge rarely found in commercial publishing. Here are a few examples:

All the World’s Mornings by Pascal Quignard had been translated from the French by James Kirkup. It was a novel based on the romantic and tragic story of the real-life Sainte Colombe, a composer of genius and player of the bass viol in the France of Louis XIV. Disquiet was introduced into his life and those of his two daughters through his gifted, ambitious young protégé Marin Marais. In the same year the book became a notable film, Tout les matins du monde, starring Gérard Depardieu.
Richard Wagner’s Visit to Rossini and An Evening at Rossini’s in Beau-Sejour by Edmond Michotte were a pair of short memoirs translated by Herbert Weinstock and reprinted together to mark the bicentenary of Rossini’s birth. Michotte had effected and been present at a meeting between Wagner and Rossini in Paris. He made notes on this, as well as on a later evening with Rossini when the composer expounded his views on singers and bel canto.

Maria Callas by Jürgen Kesting was translated by John Hunt. It was a major biography that took the focus away from the drama of Callas’s life to concentrate on her art. As the Luzerner Tagesblatt had written, Kesting was primarily interested in ‘her place in the tradition of operatic singing’ and her ability ‘to transform suffering, love, hate, in short the entire gamut of human emotions, into sound and vocal shape’.

Saracen Chronicles: A Selection of Literary Essays by Juan Goytisolo, translated by Helen Lane, joined the two volumes of memoirs by this important Spanish writer of the anti-Franco intelligentsia that were already in the Quartet list, Forbidden Territory and Realms of Strife. It consisted of twelve essays that linked Goytisolo’s own thought in a masterly sweep with the themes that ran through Spanish and Latin American literature as revealed in the work of such writers as Octavio Paz, Vargas Llosa and Carlos Fuentes.

Living with Beelzebub by Gael Elton Mayo was the second volume of memoirs by this author to be published by Quartet, the first being The Mad Mosaic, which we had kept in print since 1983. Both were books of a very special character. ‘What a life! But above all . . . what courage!’ David Niven had declared spontaneously of Living with Beelzebub, just before his own battle with motor neuron disease made it impossible for him to read any more. Alastair Forbes defined its quality in his review in the Spectator on 24 October, saying that Gael Mayo had ‘well named her carcinoma-wielding spook Beelzebub’.

IS DRINKING SLOPS GOOD FOR HUMANS?

People who want to slim are often under an illusion that there is a miraculous way to shed weight by simply finding some magical formulae, whilst devouring  the same quantity of food that made them fat in the first place. Now we are told that drinking the cooking water from sweet potatoes could help you to shed the pounds. Quaffing the starchy liquid has been found to significantly lower body weight after just a month, scientists have discovered. Not only that, drinking the water can also cut cholesterol by more than 7 percent.

The liquid contains a key protein left over from cooking the vegetable, which may play a role in digesting fat. The suggestion the sweet potato waste water could be a slimming aid comes from the National Agricultural and Food Research Organization in Japan.
As yet, the benefits have only been seen in mice but more research may show its effectiveness in humans. The jury is out on how good sweet potatoes are for us when eaten regularly. They contain beta-carotine, which boosts the immune system and keeps the skin healthy. But while this makes them more nutritious than regular potatoes, the sweet variety has a high glycaemic load, meaning large portions cause a spike in blood sugar.

However, the study, published in the journal Heliyon, suggests we may have been pouring the main health benefits down the sink. The researchers fed three groups of mice high-fat diets, giving one group the protein called ‘sweet potatoes peptide’ (SPP), at a high concentration and one group at a lower concentration. The peptide was made by enzyme digestion of the sweet potato protein from waste cooking water. These mice ate the ingredient as 5 percent of their diet over 28 days.

After that they were weighed and their liver mass and fatty tissues were measured, as well as levels of fats and hormones. The mice on high-fat diets, given the highest level of sweet potato peptide, saw their cholesterol drop 7.2 percent compared with those who were denied it. Triglycerides, which come from fat in the diet and put people at risk of diabetes, fell more than 40 percent. The results also showed they lost fat around their middle and were less likely to get fatty liver disease.
Researcher Dr Koji Ishiguro said: ‘We were surprised that SPP reduced the levels of fat molecules in the mice and that it appears to be involved in controlling appetites suppression molecules. These results are very promising providing new options for using the waste water instead of discarding it.’

As I believe the Japanese, when they do research of this kind, are to be taken very seriously, I still reckon that humans are unlikely to appreciate being fed like mice, for the culinary thrills enjoyed by humans are hard to discard even when it comes to shedding the extra pounds.

As I said at the outset, the best way to tackle this problem is to control greed by eating less and leading a healthy life. Mice, I am sure, would opt to do the same if given the options that humans have.

The Resurgence of Helen Flanagan

Helen Flanagan’s latest photographic images are cheeky to say the least and will certainly incense the feminist brigade who are unlikely to see the humorous side of it all.

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Lusty men will evaluate the sexual projection of the images as opposed to any of their artistic or aphoristic compositions. Apparently she is now looking forward to reprise her role as wild Rosie Webster in ITV’s Coronation Street Show after a five year break. She is then exposed as a coke smuggler when she gets caught up in a drug raid in her soap comeback.

ITV bosses can’t wait to welcome her back where she truly belongs.

The actress, 26, will apparently pick up £30,000 for an initial three months back on the cobbles. Show bosses have been trying to get her back when she left in 2012 to take part in I’m a Celebrity…They are desperate to inject some drama back into the soap after Georgia May Foote, 25 and Michelle Kegan, 29 left in quick succession.

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Bury -born Helen will start filming her return as Rosie early in the year. She is then due to appear on screen alongside sister Sophie, played by Brooke Vincent, 24. Helen said ‘I am so excited to be returning to Coronation Street and being part of the Webster family again.’

Those addicted to the long running soap will welcome back Helen whose absence was sorely missed for the last five years. She has everything going for her and is a fine actress with a strong sex appeal
and is hardly reluctant to share her curvy body in its natural state to her league of admirers.

Although I have never watched Coronation Street, I wish her luck in what will turn out to be her triumphant return.

All that’s left for me to say – Helen Flanagan sock it to them!

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