Monthly Archives: June 2017

IT’S THE SMELL, DUMMY…

Are good looks the key for sexual attraction? In fact, in most cases, it is not. Romantic novels often claim that when eyes meet across a crowded room they signal love at first sight. But fiction and love sometimes inhabit different spheres. Researchers have found that a first sniff may actually activate the process of falling in love.

Psychologists, looking through three decades of research, discovered how a prospective partner smells is key. Someone’s scent forms an important part of our first impressions of them as it can give us clues about them. Also, while we tend to pick a partner with a face similar to our own, they must smell different to us – an evolutionary safeguard to avoid inbreeding, as those who are related to us tend to smell similar. The sound of someone’s voice is also important, with women tending to pick men with deep masculine-sounding voices, especially when looking for a shorter relationship, while men often listen out for high-pitched voices.

A report, by Polish and British scientists, says we form our first impressions on others based on sound and smell, even from a distance. How someone smells can give hints about their personality, age and how healthy and fertile they are. Women appear to care more about how someone smells than men, according to the review which was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

Meanwhile, we use vocal stresses to judge a person’s emotional state and dominance. The authors suggest the brain is hard-wired to process faces and voices together. Speaking about the role of voices while looking for love, study co-author, Katarzyne Pisanski, from the University of Sussex, said: ‘Woman are attracted to very masculine voices because they associate them with a larger body size and dominance, but how much they prefer them varies. Women want a masculine voice in a short-term relationship, but in a longer term relationship they appear to want someone who sounds relatively less masculine. This might be because women think they might be more likely to stick around. How much people prefer a certain smell or voice can depend on the individual, and whether perfume and aftershaves can cloud or enhance a person’s natural smell is still debated – which raises the question for future research of whether people could fake their sound or smell to attract others.’

The study’s lead author, Agata Groyacka, from the University of Wroclaw in Poland, said: ‘Recently, most reviews have focused on visual attractiveness, but literature about other senses and their role in social relationships has grown rapidly and should not be neglected.’ She added, ‘Perceiving others through all three channels gives a more reliable and broader variety of information about them.’

From my own experience I view smell as the most dominant feature that determines eventually the coupling process and keeps sexual attraction alive and throbbing.

A REAL TICK TOCK

If I were fabulously rich and not a miser I would treat myself to this extraordinary watch by Franck Muller, a Swiss watchmaker, considered by the watch industry as a very talented innovator whose latest creation is known to be the most complicated timepiece in the world.

The Aeternitas Mega Watch took 5 years to develop, has 36 functions and around 1,500 individual components. With a case made from 18 carat white gold and a hand-sewn alligator strap, it is any millionaire lover’s dream. With this on his wrist, Dad will never again whinge at you for asking what time it is.

Having seen the picture of the timepiece I probably will spend sleepless nights wishing I was endowed with limitless wealth to acquire it. Watch collectors are a new breed that I’m sure will now clamber to own it. At around £1.8 million, it’s truly a bargain. Its price tag will keep rising with the passage of time. It is an investment that has no parallel. The lucky blackguard who will own it will be laughing all the way to the bank.

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DOWN MEMORY LANE THIRTEEN

My final account of Quartet’s Encounters series was in the end of my autobiography, Fulfilment & Betrayal. It’s a sobering thought to realise that 2017 will be the 10th anniversary of the book’s publication on my birthday in May. And here’s the extract:

In parallel with these other developments, the Quartet Encounters list, presided over by Stephen Pickles, continued to grow prodigiously. It kept to its literary focus in the main, though widened its scope to bring in other items of international cultural interest. Lou Andreas-Salomé’s The Freud Journal (translated by Stanley W. Leavy and introduced by Mary-Kay Wilmers) was a personal view of Freud’s studies and relations with colleagues against the background of a literary coterie that included the poet Rilke; Rilke himself was represented by Rodin and Other Prose Pieces, he having at one time been secretary to the great sculptor (translated by G. Craig Huston and introduced by William Tucker), Early Prose, which included memories as well short fiction pieces, and his Selected Letters 1902–1926 (translated by R. F. C. Hull and introduced by John Bayley). Gaston Bachelard’s The Psychoanalysis of Fire (translated by Alan M. C. Ross and introduced by Northrop Frye) was an idiosyncratic exploration of ideas concerning fire in human evolution and their symbolic and subconscious connotations. Bruno Walter’s Gustav Mahler (translated by Lotte Walter Lindt and introduced by Michael Tanner) was an indispensable source book for any study of the composer, coming from the foremost interpreter of his music, who had been deeply and personally involved in realizing much of it in performance.

With over a score of other titles to choose from, the following list can only be highly selective, but will show the consistency of quality achieved by Pickles. Hermann Broch, the son of a Jewish textile manufacturer in Vienna, was an industrialist, mathematician and philosopher who came to literature reluctantly as the only way of expressing his thoughts and feelings. The Guiltless (translated by Ralph Manheim with an afterword by the author) was a book he called ‘a novel in eleven stories’; it portrayed a group of eleven lives in the pre-Hitler period. The Sleepwalkers, one of his major achievements (translated by Willa and Edwin Muir and introduced by Michael Tanner), was a trilogy that traced from the 1880s the social erosion and dissolution that culminated in the Nazi era. Another Viennese novelist of stature was Heimito von Doderer, who was an active Nazi up to 1938. His vast trilogy, The Demons (translated by Willa and Edwin Muir and introduced by Michael Hamburger), explored every strand of life possible in Vienna, both comic and tragic, where the ‘demons’ concerned arose from people’s minds in the tumultuous years between the two world wars. Thomas Bernhard was born in Holland but grew up in Austria and wrote in German, becoming, George Steiner considered, ‘one of the masters of contemporary European fiction’ in the post-war years. Concrete (translated by Martin McLintock and introduced by Martin Chalmers) was a story in his ‘black idyll’ style about a writer who goes away to start a project but finds himself obsessively following an altogether different line of inquiry set off by a tragic memory. On the Mountain (translated by Russell Stockman with an afterword by Sophie Wilkins) showed him working in parallel with themes to be found in Kafka and Beckett in a novel written as one sentence.

E. M. Cioran had been born in Romania in 1911, but had won a scholarship in Paris and subsequently made the decision to live in France and write in French, though he said he had no nationality – ‘the best possible status for an intellectual’. He was regarded as a foremost contemporary European thinker, the heir of Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Wittgenstein, who wrote incomparable, elegantly styled essays on the state of man in the modern world. Five of his collections found a place on the list (four of them being translated by Richard Howard): Anathemas and Admirations (introduced by Tom McGonigle), in which incisive estimates of literary figures were interspersed with caustic aphorisms; A Short History of Decay (introduced by Michael Tanner), whose theme was the ‘philosophical viruses’ of the twentieth century; The Temptation to Exist (introduced by Susan Sontag), a ‘dance of ideas and debates’ on ‘impossible states of being’; and The Trouble with Being Born (introduced by Benjamin Ivry), which started out with the proposition that the disaster of life begins with the fact of birth, ‘that laughable accident’. The fifth title (translated and introduced by Ilinca Zarifopol-Johnston) was On the Heights of Despair, a youthful work, written in Romania, which showed him to be already a ‘theoretician of despair’.

Representing Swedish literature was, first, Stig Dagerman, whom Michael Meyer thought to be ‘the best writer of his generation in Sweden and one of the best in Europe’. A Burnt Child (translated by Alan Blair and introduced by Laurie Thompson) was set in Stockholm in a family where the mother has died, the drama being played out between the husband and son and, respectively, the father’s ageing mistress and the son’s timid fiancée. German Autumn (translated and introduced by Robin Fulton) gave a documentary portrait of the Germans in defeat immediately after the fall of the Third Reich which courageously saw them as suffering individuals. The Games of Night (translated by Naomi Walford and introduced by Michael Meyer) was a collection of stories showing his versatility. The Snake (translated by Laurie Thompson) was a tour de force where the threads of disparate stories, arising from a conscript army camp, are brought together in a denouement. Then came Sweden’s Nobel Prize-winning Pär Lagerkvist who had two titles in the list: The Dwarf (translated by Alexandra Dick and introduced by Quentin Crewe), a dark historical tale of a Machiavellian dwarf at the court of a Renaissance prince; and Guest of Reality (translated and introduced by Robin Fulton), a set of three stories linking the growing of a boy into a young man. A major novel of social concern from Sweden was Per Olov Enquist’s The March of the Musicians (translated by Joan Tate), which told about the political uprising of the workers in a remote northern part of the country against their exploitation by sawmill owners and browbeating by hellfire preachers on Sundays; the author’s profound empathy with his characters gave this small episode in Sweden’s labour history a universal resonance.

Gabriele D’Annunzio was a leading writer of the so-called Decadent school. The Flame (translated and introduced by Susan Bassnett) was his scandalous novel about a passionate affair between a young writer and a great actress, in which they battle for supremacy in love and art; it was scandalous because based on his own relationship with Eleanora Duse. Nocturne and Five Tales of Love and Death (translated and introduced by Raymond Rosenthal) was a selection of his prose fiction demonstrating what a formidable pioneer D’Annunzio had been as a writer. Equally pioneering was his compatriot and contemporary Luigi Pirandello, known mainly for his experimental plays, though his short stories were also among the greatest in literature. Those selected for Short Stories (translated and introduced by Frederick May) showed his concern with the masks people use socially and their interplay with the reality behind them. Elio Vittorini was a writer from Sicily who aimed for ‘neo-realism’ in his work and produced an undisputed masterpiece in Conversations in Sicily (translated by Wilfrid David and introduced by Stephen Spender): first published in 1939, the censorship it was constrained by gave it an underlying power in the story of a young man’s journey back to Sicily to console his mother after his father had deserted her. From the next generation, Pier Paolo Pasolini was seen primarily as a film-maker of originality in Britain, though in his native Italy he was regarded rather more as a poet, critic and novelist. Helping to rectify our view were A Dream of Something (translated and introduced by Stuart Hood), a story about three friends from northern Italy whose search for money takes them abroad, though they return home to political violence and an end to their carefree roistering; Theorem (translated and introduced by Stuart Hood), which was written in tandem with the making of a film of the same title, in which Terence Stamp played the young man gaining a sexual, emotional and intellectual hold over a rich bourgeois family; and Roman Nights and Other Stories (translated by John Shepley and introduced by Jonathan Keates), a selection of five stories from Pasolini’s miscellaneous writings that reflected the cultural changes taking place in post-war Italian society.

Yevgeny Zamyatin chose exile from Soviet Russia in 1931, foreseeing the clash between writers and the state that lay ahead. A Soviet Heretic (translated by Mirra Ginsburg and introduced by Alex M. Shane) was a collection of his writings on fellow writers and the condition of literature in the Soviet Union, as well as his letter to Stalin, seeking voluntary exile, and his letter of resignation from the Soviet Writers’ Union. The status of Osip Mandelstam as the pre-eminent Russian poet of the twentieth century gave him no protection from murderous NKVD brutality. The Noise of Time and Other Prose Pieces (collected, translated and introduced by Clarence Brown) was a selection from the range of his writing, including a work of invective and outrage against the state’s official campaign against him. Yury Tynyanov’s Lieutenant Kijé & Young Vitushishnikov (translated and introduced by Mirra Ginsburg) were two glittering novellas by a Russian master satirist about abuses in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries which allowed him to be obliquely critical of those of the Soviet regime. Abram Tertz, the nom de plume for Andrei Synyavsky in his samisdat publications (that won him hard labour and exile), wrote Little Jinx (translated by Larry P. Joseph and Rachel May and introduced by Edward J. Brown) as a black farce containing the line: ‘Were we not guilty, neither Hitler nor Stalin could have surfaced among us.’ The Fatal Eggs & Other Soviet Satire (translated, edited and introduced by Mirra Ginsburg) was a famous subversive anthology by seventeen boldly comic writers, including Mikhail Bulgakov, Ilf and Petrov and Zamyatin.

There were also the stories of Aharon Appelfeld, with their subtle and profound recreations of life in Europe’s Jewish communities as they moved into the gathering shadows of the Holocaust; and Giorgio Bassani’s artistic account of the impact on a Jewish family in Italy as Mussolini’s fascism geared up the anti-Semitic component in its laws under pressure from Nazi Germany. Those titles have been given earlier, with the list of Jewish authors published by Quartet. Another important aspect of the Quartet Encounters list was the way it demonstrated the importance of literature in delineating the dimensions of human experience and suffering within the history of the twentieth century’s traumatic events. While this summary of the list has not by any means been comprehensive, it is enough to show there was a spirit of adventure at work in Goodge Street for which it would have been hard to find an equivalent elsewhere in British publishing at the time.

THE FUTURE LOOKS GRIM

Theresa May, one could possibly refer to as the Prime Minister who seems to be ill-fated. Whatever she does seems as if the Greek gods of ancient times have cast their doom-like curse to disrupt her evangelical efforts to save the British nation from utter collapse. Yet she so easily had grabbed the Conservative crown to what her admirers had hoped would signal the emergence of a dynamic, stubborn-driven politician. But she viewed her role with over-confidence and proved to lack empathy when the chips were down and the heat rose beyond her capacity to control.

Inflated by a press who embarked on a campaign to elevate her as the new Messiah of British politics, when in fact their overblown campaign to idolise her simply had the opposite effect in the end. Humiliated to a point unseen perhaps by any prime minister before her, she remains resilient to carry on, leading the nation, to what no one in his or her right mind seems to comprehend or analyse with some degree of probability.

Her latest hopes for an early migrant deal on the rights of EU migrants suffered a significant setback last Friday after what she called her ‘fair’ offer was declared ‘insufficient’ and ‘below expectations’ by European leaders. Her election campaign to gain more stability in dealing with the EU is now a pipe-dream which is unlikely to materialise.

People like Charles Moore, Mrs Thatcher’s biographer, in his column in the Daily Telegraph on Saturday, clearly admits that although the country has come through many a crisis, this present one ‘is a true shemozzle for which not even the close study of the past can prepare us.’ These are wise words indeed by a man who clearly admits the gravity of our present situation.

Confidence in our economy is bound to suffer as a result, with the Pound rapidly deteriorating, whereas both the US Dollar and the Euro are showing signs of strengthening further. The City, despite its show of solidarity, is nervously keeping its fingers crossed, but the question is for how long. The stability we were promised is nowhere to be found and unless the government conjures up a Houdini act in the months that come, I am afraid matters can get worse. Let us therefore pray for enlightenment from whatever source it emerges.

ONCE MORE UNTO THE BREACH…

Prince Harry, apart from Prince Philip, is one of my favourite royals. Prince Philip for his cheeky sense of humour and his unusual turn of phrase when conversing with the public and whose personality seems to endear him wherever he goes, whereas the young Prince Harry for his adventurous life and his courage to serve the nation whenever called upon.

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Above all his joie de vivre and his love of women, which make him ‘a bit of a lad’, determined to live his life to the full. His latest girlfriend, Meghan Markle, to whom he’s apparently seriously involved, strikes me as a woman equally devoted to him and has the same characteristics. She would consequently be his perfect consort should they decide to tie the knot.

 

A successful actress, whose popularity is clearly well-established, casual and sultry, the two sides of her are eye-pleasing to say the least. Here they show Ms Markle pouting at the camera as she seductively lifts up a low cut black dress to reveal her legs. In another pose, taken in 2013 for Sharp magazine, she is draped across a leather sofa with only one button done up on her black shirt.

Relaxed as always, she looks stunningly and impassively a fun companion to be with. I hope the Prince will not let her go for she’s without doubt a replica of his own image and would as a result be a perfect woman to give him the stability that every man ultimately desires.

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Go for it Harry and give the nation cause for jubilation!

From Steeplejack to Hospital Porter

During my stint as a steeplejack I was too exhausted to go out in the evenings, and so remained a total celibate during the three months that I stuck with the job. I could not have afforded the time to devote to a girlfriend, even if there was one readily available. It was like being in a desert with no oasis in sight. My entire bank of energy was used up in the effort to survive. I decided that my nerve was going to go completely unless I could change the work where I could at least keep my feet on the ground. The Home Office agreed to my being allowed to look for something less hazardous. When a vacancy for a porter at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital, near Kings Cross, came to my attention, I applied. I also found alternative lodgings – a room in Sydney Street.

Elizabeth Garret Anderson had been the first woman to qualify as a medical doctor in Britain and she founded the hospital, originally a dispensary for women, in 1866.

The establishment was meant for women and was staffed entirely by women, except for the portering staff, who were exclusively male.

There was a common room where the porters could sit and here they would stay, waiting to be dispatched to one part of the hospital or another when a suitable job needed doing. The task they were called on to deal with included collecting rubbish or waste, wheeling patients between departments and removing dead bodies from the ward to the mortuary.

There were occasions when a summons came for a porter to go to the operating theatre to lug heavy equipment about. If this happened, the man was required to gown up in the same outfit as theatre staff and surgeons and observe the same rigorous hygiene precautions to ensure a bacteria-free area around any patient on the operating table.

Mondays were the day for women to attend as out-patients for minor gynaecological surgery. Although they were put to sleep with anaesthetic for any surgical procedure, they were expected to go home again by evening. On Mondays I was often asked to attend the theatre in my porter capacity, to stand by in case of an emergency.
It was an odd situation for me to occupy in an all-female establishment. I was completely untrained in medical matters, yet found myself witnessing the laying bare of women’s intimate parts on a regular basis.

It was as if I became a pair of eyes that was expected to see nothing, though it was impossible for me to ignore the activity that formed the centre of attention in the operating theatre.

My own affinity with the female anatomy suffered a minor setback after the shock of observing the technique used for stretching the vagina in a woman where the passage had been too tight to allow proper examination.

The effects of this did not last long however. I was leaving home at 6am each morning to catch the first tube that ran from South Kensington to Kings Cross and starting my day at the hospital by having breakfast with a host of foreign maids. I was soon making up for my months of celibacy when working on the power lines. Suddenly it was bonanza time. I could select from among the number of girls in the evening and was spoilt for choice. I was back in my element and thanked the benevolent lord for my good fortune. Not only had I survived the traumas of my steeplejack days but here I was, landed in the most enviable situation of being looked after both physically and emotionally by a bevy of women with whom I had a great deal in common.

They, too, were having to cope with personal difficulties to preserve their sense of identity while working in the hospital. The work they did was not so much out of choice but out of necessity, so they could learn English and familiarise themselves with a new environment in a strange country. Their future was as uncertain as mine, and the common factor between them was a determination to make a better life for themselves.

My dreams and those of the girls coincided, with the result that they gave each other encouragement and enjoyed a serenity in each other’s company that was hard to define.

Then there was more good news. When I came to make my application to have my annual residency permit renewed, I was told by the Home Office that I no longer needed to observe the original restriction. I was being accorded permanent residency in the United Kingdom and could now seek any job I wanted. The dawn of better days in store was beginning to come true. Hallelujah!

A WELL-DESERVED HONOUR

Olivia de Havilland, who I interviewed in 1986 for my tome Women, has become the oldest recipient of a damehood at the age of 100, in the centenary of the honour itself. The actress, who is approaching her 101st birthday and lives in Paris, said she was extremely proud to be made a dame for her services to drama, in recognition of her glittering Hollywood career.

13-2.jpgWith her daughter Gisele at the Golden Globe Awards in 1979. Giselle was her only daughter to husband Pierre Galante.

The Gone with the Wind star, a double Oscar winner who will celebrate her birthday in July, is 11 months older than the Order of the British Empire itself, which was founded in 1917 by George V. ‘I’m extremely proud that The Queen has appointed me a Dame Commander of the British Empire,’ Dame Olivia said last Friday. ‘To receive this honour as my 101st birthday approaches is the most gratifying of birthday presents.’
She joins an illustrious group of older recipients, with Dame Vera Lynn last year made a member of the Order of the Companions of Honour at the age of 99.

Dame Olivia is known for her on-screen collaborations with Errol Flynn in films including The Charge of the Light Brigade in 1936 and The Adventures of Robin Hood in 1938. She was born to British parents in Tokyo, but moved to California when she was young. She won Oscars for To Each His Own (1946) and The Heiress (1949).

When I met her for the first time I was enchanted by her warmth, her straight talking and somehow, unexpectedly, we hit a common chord. She then introduced me to her daughter Gisèlle Gallante, born in 1956, who I interviewed at length for the same book and was much taken by her frank exposition of her relationship with her mother in the early days of her childhood.

Needless to say, I still hold a nostalgic memory of my encounters with both mother and daughter and would like to wish them all the contentment that the future will undoubtedly hold for them, and to Olivia my congratulations on her damehood.