Monday, February 28, 2005



The giant, curving sensuous leaves, lit from behind by the sun, shone bright amber, mauve and lemon.

"What about these trees?" I said to Rahayu as we walked along a path through some rainforest.

"Pretty big and solid, eh?" "Not solid," said Rahayu.

"The Darma, the Law of Nature, is the only solid thing we have."

"The tree looks solid to me!"

"The trees and our bodies are made up of subatomic particles and empty space. You probably know the subatomic particles are not really solid. They exist only for a trillionth of a second."


"The particles continuously arise and then vanish. They come in and out of existence. the trees have no real being."

"They look real to me." I touched a tree to make sure.

"That's because you can't see what's really happening."

A large colourful spider was perched in a web just above us. "What about all the suffering in nature?" I asked.

"Suffering is not due to chance. There are causes. Our actions are the cause of suffering."

"Isn't it possible," I said, "that everything has come about by chance?"

"No. Mind precedes all phenomena. Everything is mind-made."

"When a baby dies, or an insect is swallowed up, couldn't it just be bad luck?"

"Everything must have a cause," said Rahayu.

"But what about a baby that dies? How can you say its actions are the cause of its suffering?"

"Karma. The baby's previous life. People who cause pain to other living things experience a lot of sickness. There's a path leading to happiness and one that leads to suffering..."

"Sounds a bit different from Christianity," I commented.

"It's possible to be a Christian and a Buddhist. Because Buddhism is not strictly speaking a religion in the same way as Islam or Christianity."

Well, I thought I should read more about Buddhism. And took a look at BUDDHISM by Christmas Humphreys.

Christmas Humphreys, born in london in 1901, was a judge, a Buddhist, and the founder of the Buddhist Society of London.

His famous book is quite simply about Buddhism, its teachings (in all its forms, and its history. For anyone interested in the meaning of life, it's a 'must'.

But, it does use language which is quite chewy : for example "All things are One and have no life apart from it; the One is all things and is incomplete without the least of them. Yet the parts are parts within the whole, not merged in it..."


Humphreys explains that everything we are is the result of our thoughts.

All forms of life are interrelated in a complex web. Light and dark, ultimately, are one.

The Universe includes but is not limited by causation. There is no First Cause; no ultimate End.

The cause of misery? The belief that the self, the part, can pit its separate self against the will and welfare of the whole.

For the law is love. Compassion is the Law.

If all that we are is the result of what we have thought, all that we shall be is the result of what we are thinking now. We are building now our tomorrow. We are predestined now by the previous exercise of our own free will.

Do we survive death? What walks on is consciousness. Life is ever seeking self-expression in new forms.


Humphreys gives us a life of Buddha and a history of what followed Buddha's death. He deals with Theravada Buddhism in great detail, and other schools in less detail. There are chapters on Zen, Tibeta n Buddhism, Mahayana and so on. The style tends to be intellectual.


Buddhism, according to Humphreys, teaches 'Love your neighbour.' How can anyone rest content while his brother's life is filled with suffering?

True happiness is only to be found in ceaseless effort on behalf of suffering mankind.

Sounds like Christianity? Yes. But Humphreys points out that Buddhism has nothing to do with the sacrificing of animals, or, other people, as a way of appeasing some angry old man in the sky. And, Buddhism does not believe in what the typical churchgoer might conceive of as God.

Now, I have a worry here. If there is no God, in that traditional sense, how come we get reincarnated? Who or what makes the system work? This is where Buddhism and Humphreys start to use big words that confuse my simple mind.

At one point Humphreys uses the words Ultimate Reality in place of God.

He writes, "If there is a Causeless Cause of all causes, an ultimate reality, a Boundless Light, must clearly be infinite, unlimited, unconditioned and without attributes. We on the other hand are clearly finite... It follows then that we can neither define, describe, nor usefully discuss the nature of that which is beyond the comprehension of our finite consciousness."

Buddha maintained about God/Ultimate Reality 'a noble silence.'


Young boys were an interest for novelist Graham Greene, Emperor Tiberius, German industrialist Friedrich Alfred Krupp and many others who made their homes on Capri.

This island of satyrs has a licentious reputation.

'For occasional homosexual adventures', novelist Graham Greene used to take young Italian boys to Villa Rossaio, his home on the island (Source: Graham Greene, The Man Within, by Michael Shelden, publ.Heinemann.)

Greene's friend Doctor Elizabeth Moor confided in her friend Gitta Bittorf that the boys used to stay with Greene on Capri for one or two days; and postman Attilo Scoppa found that Greene often had boys, aged 14-16, staying at Villa Rossaio.

People in the town of Anacapri told Scoppa "the boys came for sex."

Greene was sufficiently well liked by his fellow citizens to be given the title of Honorary Citizen of Anacapri.

Emperor Tiberius, who retired to Capri around 30 AD, is reported to have indulged in endless orgies with boy concubines.

It is said that the walls of his villa were covered with huge pornographic paintings.

According to some sources he enjoyed having mullet nibble his crumb-coated genitals as he relaxed in rock pools; and he used to have his organ covered in milk and honey so that babies would suckle his glans.

There were stories, put about by his enemies, that Tiberius had boys flung into the sea from the high cliffs beneath his villa.

One of the hundreds of boys who lived with Tiberius was Vitellius, who after working as catamite for Caligula, Claudius and Nero, became Emperor in 69 AD. So they can't all have been flung from the cliffs.

Multimillionaire German industrialist Friedrich Alfred Krupp (1854-1902) set up a comfortable 'palace' in a grotto on Capri, where he entertained underage Italian boys, mostly the sons of local fishermen. Sex was performed to the accompaniment of a string quartet, and orgasms were celebrated with bursts of fireworks.

When Krupp's wife heard rumours of what was going on, she went to the Kaiser, who had her put into an insane asylum. The Krupp military-industrial empire was too vital to Germany. However, the German press eventually found out about Krupp's activities, and printed the whole story, complete with photographs taken by Krupp himself inside the grotto.

Capri was where Oscar Wilde was reunited with Lord Alfred Douglas after being released from jail.

Noel Coward took the title of his song 'A Bar on the Piccola Marina' from the island's favourite meeting place for 'free spirits'.

Capri was home to paedophile Norman Douglas, who was Greene's best friend on the island in the late 1940's and early 1950's. Norman Douglas was the author of 'South Wind' which captured the air of sensuality associated with Capri and Southern Italy.

Famous Scot, Campton Mackenzie, was apparently another boylover who fell for Capri. He moved there with his wife in 1913 and remained about ten years. Two of his books were set on Capri: 'Vestal Fire' and 'Extraordinary Women.' According to biographers, he bought a small villa in the plain of Cetrella, 'where he used to hold his amorous encounters with young boys.' In 1918, the arrival in Capri of a group of lesbians, gave Mackenzie the inspiration to write 'Extraordinary Women.'

"I sprang from the Sorrento sailing-boat onto the little beach. Swarms of BOYS were playing about among the upturned boats or bathing their shining bronze bodies in the surf....." So wrote the famous Swede, Axel Munthe.

Munthe's autobiographical "The History of S. Michele" was published for the first time in English in 1929. Since then this book about Capri has been translated into many languages and is now among the most read books after the Bible. It was in 1887 that Munthe decided to settle on Capri and work as the municipal doctor.

Munthe's first visit to Capri had been in 1884 at the time of a cholera outbreak in Naples. As soon as he had landed on the island, he had fallen in love with the ruins of a little medieval chapel dedicated to S. Michele, surrounded by a large vineyard hiding the ruins of a Roman villa.

He decided to create his dream villa called San Michele and bought a whole mountain to make this possible. "My house must be open to the sun, to the wind, to the sea, like a Greek temple, and light, light everywhere".

Munthe was a lover of the arts, a philanthropist, and a great lover of animals.

Baron Fersen of Adeswarde, born in Paris in 1880 of a family of steel industrialists, was another lover of Capri. On 10 June 1903, the day of Fersen's engagement to the Viscount of Moupeou's daughter, he was arrested under charges of gross indecency and corruption of young boys. After that disaster he decided to take up permanent residence on his favourite island of Capri. Here he rented Villa Certosella.

Just what are the attractions of Capri to the rich, the famous and the cognoscenti?

It could be the Alma-Tadema seas, the erect cliffs and stacks, the little white Mediterranean villas, the narrow Venetian-style lanes, and all the perfume and colour of lemon trees, nasturtiums, lavender, rosemary, and honeysuckle.

It could be the grilled buffalo-milk mozzarella, the dark red wine, the chic shopping or the little beaches reached by steep paths.

It is no longer the sons of local fishermen.

HOW TO GET TO CAPRI. A ferry or a hydrofoil takes you from NAPLES or SORRENTO. In Naples the best point of departure is MOLO BEVERELLO. From Naples the ferry takes 80 minutes and costs about £3. The hydrofoil takes 40 minutes and costs about £6. From Sorrento the ferry takes about 40 minutes and costs just under £3, while the hydrofoil takes 20 minutes and costs about £4.


Capri is 6,7 Km in length and its width varies between 2,7 Km and 1,2 Km. The islands highest point is Mount Solaro - 589 metres. There are two towns: Capri and Anacapri. About 8000 people live in Capri and 7000 in Anacapri. The town of Capri is located on the eastern side of the island, Marina Grande (the port) to the North and Marina Piccola to the South. Anacapri is on the western side of the island and is separated from Capri town by the imposing slopes of Mount Solaro. The climate is Mediterranean. The temperature varies from 10ºC in February - the coldest month - to 28ºC in August. Spring and Autumn are the milder seasons during which it is certainly more pleasant to visit the island.

A TOUR OF CAPRI Your boat arrives in Marina Grande (in the north). This is a pleasant little port, with a small rocky beach. To get to Capri town, you set off uphill by funicular, or on foot, or by taxi.

Capri is the name of the main village/town and it has most of the shops and restaurants. You can drink or dine in the famous Piazzetta the small square in the centre of town. Prices tend to be high.

Higher up in the hills is another village/town called Anacapri (it can be reached by bus or cab).

Anacapri has the stunning Villa San Michele which houses the art collection of Swedish doctor Axel Munthe, author of the autobiography 'The Story of San Michele.' Imagine a light and airy villa, full of ancient statues, and pe rched high above the sea. You will be overwhelmed by the magic of this place.

From Anacapri you can take a chairlift to the summit of one of the highest peaks on the island, Mount Solaro, to enjoy the wonderful view over the sea and the Bay of Naples.

You can visit the famous Blue Grotto (a big blue cave reached by boat; the sunlight passing through an underwater cavity, creates the blueness) and the Natural Arch (caused by a cave collapsing) and the Faraglioni (the world famous stacks/rock formations off the eastern tip of the island. )

It is also possible to tour the lesser-known grottoes of Capri by hiring a boat from Marina Piccola.

There are no sandy beaches on Capri, but there are flat rocks at Marina Piccola and at the Faraglioni where one can sunbathe and swim safely; and there is a small stone beach called Bagni di Tiberio within walking distance from Marina Grande.

Via Krupp is a favourite of mine. It is a walk that takes you along a narrow routeway past villas, orange trees and bougainvillea. The views are sheer Alma Tadema and the road has been called 'the world's most beautiful.'

The Gardens of Augustus, built on top of Roman ruins, were built by Krupp. Take your camera!

The best example of typical Capri architecture (little domes and flat roofs) is found at the Charterhouse of San Giacomo, built in 1371-74, by the secretary to the Queen of Naples. Another place for photos.

Villa Jovis is a favourite place. This is the island's largest Roman villa and was built for Tiberius. The ruins were only discovered in the 1700's. What is so sublime about it is the feeling of being up in the sky, looking down at faraway mountains, cliffs and rocks; and thinking: Tiberius held orgies here!

Ah, and there's also a scrumptious little open-air restaurant nearbye.

Churches: There are many beautiful little churche s to visit when you feel like getting some shade and thinking about the impossibility of all this beauty coming about by accident.

Walks in general. There are many little tracks and paths to follow that will take you to places of enchantment. You may encounter fuschias and poppies and a lighthouse and......

The people (Capresi) are pleasant and helpful.

If you don't like people, then the best months to visit Capri are May, June and September. In July and August parts of the island, such as Capri town, tend to be crowded with huge tour groups on short day trips.

And finally, RESTAURANTS. Capri - Faraglioni, Via Camerelle 75, does tasty filetto con patate e peperoni (meat and potatoes). This restaurant is very central. Anacapri - Il Solitario Via Timpone 1 (closed Mondays) has fantastic pasta which can be eaten in the garden. Anacapri - Lido del Faro on the seaside promenade has excellent risotto and beautiful views.

Will you like Capri? It's a place for artists, romantics and dreamers......

Happiness - according to Oswald and Layard


Sleeping around does not make people happier, according to some recent research; a monogamous relationship was the best way to maximise happiness.

see -

Richard Layard has written a book called 'Happiness.'

Layard says that a study of 50 countries has found that six factors can account for 80% of the variations in happiness.

These are
1. the divorce rate,
2. the unemployment rate,
3. the level of trust,
4. membership of non-religious organisations,
5. the quality of government
6. the fraction of the population that believes in God.

In the United Kingdom:
1. Divorce and unemployment are higher than they were 40 years ago,
2. the levels of trust, memberships of societies and religious belief are down.

Layard says happiness should become the overarching goal of government policy and comes up with a number of novel ideas for how this might be done, including:
1. compulsory classes in parenting at school,
2. lessons in emotional intelligence from the age of five,
3. greater security from being fired,
4. a more sceptical approach to the question of labour market flexibility.

· Happiness: Richard Layard; Allen Lane;
· Andrew Oswald's papers on happiness:

Sunday, February 27, 2005


The secret of cows,,2087-1502933,00.html

Scientists have discovered that cows can make friends and become excited over intellectual challenges.

Cows are capable of feeling pain, fear and even anxiety. They worry about the future.

If farmers provide good conditions, cows can feel great happiness.

The findings are from studies of farm animals that have found similar traits in pigs, goats, chickens and other livestock.

Christine Nicol, professor of animal welfare at Bristol University, said: “Remarkable cognitive abilities and cultural innovations have been revealed. Our challenge is to teach others that every animal we intend to eat or use is a complex individual, and to adjust our farming culture accordingly.”

John Webster, professor of animal husbandry at Bristol, has just published a book, Animal Welfare: Limping Towards Eden. “People have assumed that intelligence is linked to the ability to suffer and that because animals have smaller brains they suffer less than humans. That is a pathetic piece of logic,” he said.

“Cows look calm, but really they are gay nymphomaniacs,” said Walters.

Studies have shown how sheep can form strong affections for particular humans, becoming depressed by long separations and greeting them enthusiastically even after three years.

“Sentient animals have the capacity to experience pleasure and are motivated to seek it,” said Webster. “You only have to watch how cows and lambs both seek and enjoy pleasure when they lie with their heads raised to the sun on a perfect English summer’s day. Just like humans.”

Bisexual Hollywood?


It's Oscars night. Can we believe the rumours?


In 2001, a court declared that Tom Cruise "is not, and never has been, homosexual and has never had a homosexual affair". Cruise then dropped a $100 million defamation suit against the publisher of Bold Magazine for claiming to have a picture of Cruise having sex with another man.

In 1956, Liberace sued a London columnist for suggesting he was gay. Liberace swore he was not.

Hollywood does not generally like its stars to be known as bisexual or gay.

Rudolf Valentino's career suffered after he was called gay. Singer Johnny Ray suffered as the result of an article in Confidential Magazine that suggested he had attempted a drunken pass on a man.

On the other hand, it has been reported that Errol Flynn did not seem to mind being labeled bisexual. Tab Hunter was reportedly arrested at a gay drag party, but survived. Laurence Olivier, rumoured to be bisexual, became a Lord. Cary Grant's career thrived while living openly with Randolph Scott. Rock Hudson was widely known to cruise gay bars, but continued to make films. In his autobiography, Marlon Brando related that he had had homosexual affairs. Tyrone Power, Gary Cooper, John Wayne and Clark Gable were alleged to be bisexual, but contined to be big stars. Barbara Walters asked Ricky Martin whether or not he is gay. Martin replied that his sexuality is private. Ben Affleck and Matt Damon have allowed themselves to be photographed on the same bed.


Which stars were rumoured to be bisexual?


James Dean, Errol Flynn, Cary Grant, Rock Hudson, Charles Laughton, Danny Kay, Luchino Visconti, Montgomery Clift, Rudolph Valentino, Richard Burton....


Among those who have acknowledged having had a same-sex experiencesource:

Dirk Bogarde, Marlon Brando...


'Open Secret: Gay Hollywood' by David Ehrenstein refers to a number of 'bisexual' stars such as, allegedly, Richard Chamberlain.

It also refers to alleged star couples:

Montgomery Clift and Jack Larson, Farley Granger and Arthur Laurents, Tab Hunter and Anthony Perkins, Cary Grant and Randolph Scott.


More names:


Fatty Arbuckle's career 'was wrecked when it was revealed that he had buggered all twelve Keystone Cops.'

Raymond Burr 'was well known for his homosexual liaisons with rent-boys.'

There are allegedly tales of John Wayne wearing women's clothes, the young Clarke Gable being being involved with William Haines and John Wayne having an affair with Gable.Wayne and Clarke Gable reportedly 'became lovers in 1936.'


Film historian Kevin Brownwing, author of 'The Golden Grope - A History of Hollywood Harassment' writes about John Wayne's use of casting sessions to seduce young males.

"During the 1940s the outwardly conservative and heterosexual Wayne would regularly attend screen tests with director John Ford, in order to size up potential conquests. He'd get Ford to order the young hopefuls to take off their shirts and enact scenes which required them to lift heavy objects or bend over a lot."

Wayne's conquests allegedly included Randolph Scott, Joel McCrea and Montgomery Clift, 'with whom he had a torrid affair during the making of Red River in 1948'.

Friday, February 25, 2005


Enid Blyton has sold at least 300 million books and her work is translated into 130 languages!

Why so successful?

She wrote like a ten year-old.

Ask an average ten year-old to write an adventure story and it might read something like this:

"Four children go to stay in an old house at the coast. They make tree houses. They ride bikes and have picnics and go swimming. They find some dark caves with secret passages. They take a boat out to a mysterious island. They are captured by smugglers. Without any help from adults, they escape from their incompetent and silly captors and tell their story to the grateful police."

The vocabulary is simple. The story is simple. The prose is child-like. There are no boring descriptions of people or scenery, but there are some details of things like tree houses and picnics and caves.

Blyton has been accused by the horrid PC world of being racist, sexist and snobbish. But, note well that Blyton's books do not encourage kids to overdose on heroin or commit gang rape. They encourage kids to enjoy being kids, and they encourage kids to read. Both adults and children can enjoy the books.

Let's take THE ISLAND OF ADVENTURE as an example.

Chapter 1 The Beginning of Things.

A young boy called Philip normally lives with his impatient Aunt, his non-child-loving Uncle, his sister Dinah, and a "stupid" black servant, at a house on the coast called Craggy Tops. But during the summer holidays Philip, is getting extra tuition at the home of one of his teachers, a Mr Roy. While staying with Mr Roy, Philip makes friends with a boy called Jack and his sister Lucy-Ann. Jack and Lucy-Ann are looked after by an uncle. Note that the children do not have straighforward family backgrounds. Blyton's parents were divorced, and she herself got divorced.

Chapter 2. Making Friends.

As there were only four boys to coach, Mr Roy gives them each individual attention. Philip tells Lucy-Anne that Craggy Tops is "wild" and "queer". Philip takes a hedgehog out of his pocket. "It was a baby one, whose prickles were not yet hardened. Observe that the Blyton world was a world free of child abusers and serial killers. Instead it was a world of harmless teachers and hedgehogs in pockets. Did you know that hedgehogs are bisexual?

Chapter 3. Two Letters and a Plan.

"Uncle doesn't want us back," says Jack. Philip decides that Jack and Lucy-Ann should escape with them to Craggy Tops. As you can see, the children do some pretty risky things, but nothing cruel and nasty.

Chapter 4. Craggy Tops.

The children arrive at Craggy Tops. "It was a queer place." There has still been no violence!

Chapter 5. Settling in at Craggy Tops.

"Lucy-Ann wished she was sleeping nearer to Jack." Isn't she sweet and innocent.

Chapter 6. The Days Go By.

"It was a queer place to sleep for the first time at Craggy tops." Jack shares a mattress with Philip. "Jack soon got warm, cuddled up against Philip's back." Blyton has suspected paedophile tendencies?

Chapter 7. A Queer Discovery.

The children explore the damp dark caves, some of which have "queer holes in their roofs." Dinah pushed Philip. "She had certainly meant to give philip a hard blow." Philip falls into a hole. What would Freud think?

Chapter 8 . In the Cellars.

A secret passage is discovered.

Chapter 9. A Strange Boat.

Philip - "Even when he was wearing bathing-drawers he seemed able to secrete some kind of creature about his body. Yesterday it had been a couple of friendly crabs. But when he had accidentally sat down on one, and it had nipped him....." Is this why kids love Blyton?

Chapter 10. Night Adventure.

The black servant is involved in some dark doings.

Chapter 11. Bill Smuggs.

The four children visit a cove. "The children slipped off their jerseys and shorts and went into the water to bathe." They spy a boat. "What a queer place to keep a boat, " says Philip. Is the pace too fast? Are you embarrased by the strip-tease?

I won't describe all 29 chapters, as I'm sure you've got the idea.

Blyton is gentle innocent fun for both adults and children.

Monday, February 21, 2005


Five years ago, Bhutan became the last nation on earth to introduce television. All too soon came Bhutan's first crime wave - murder, fraud, drug offences.

A Bhutanese newspaper warned warned: "We are seeing for the first time broken families, school dropouts and other negative youth crimes.",3605,975769,00.html

Did Jackie Ashley of the Guardian read about the coming of Rupert Murdoch and cable TV to Bhutan?

Jackie Ashley, in the Guardian February 3, 2005, was worried about teenagers:,3604,1404546,00.html

"Depression, eating disorders, addiction, self-harm and the experience of frightening street violence ... This child, so bright and optimistic so recently, is sunk in grey depression and won't go to school. That one, so athletic and cocky, has been violently mugged and now avoids walking anywhere, lurking inside his bedroom. Another cuts herself. Another suffers extreme bullying and has ballooned in size. Another was stabbed while walking the dog.

"The papers are full of stories of the extreme edges of teenage trauma - the 12-year-old fathers and the child mothers; the suicide pacts made on the internet; the very young binge drinking; those who walk out and never come back.

"The Mental Health Foundation estimates that nearly half a million teenagers are self-harming. According to the Office for National Statistics, some 10% of children aged between 11 and 15 have a clinically recognised mental disorder. Among 16- to 19-year-olds, it is even worse - 13% have neurotic disorders...

" Some highlight a single issue, from the growing evidence of a link between cannabis, particularly the modern super-strength varieties, and psychosis. Others focus particularly on the ready availability of high-proof alcohol and the now notorious culture of binge drinking... Perhaps the move of more women into the labour market in recent decades, with fathers not compensating for the time lost with children, is also a factor...

"In all the talk about the rise in violent street crime, hardly anyone seems to notice that it is teenagers who are often the scared-witless victims. Adult society moans about the fashion-model waifs, but nothing is done and it is teenage girls who suffer the consequences..."


An independent group of Bhutanese academics has found that cable television has caused "dramatic changes" to society, being responsible for increasing crime, corruption, an uncontrolled desire for western products, and changing attitudes to love and relationships. Dorji Penjore, one of the researchers involved in the study, says: "Even my children are changing. They are fighting in the playground...",3605,975769,00.html

Sunday, February 20, 2005



Saskia's slim figure is "curiously like that of a boy in a school blazer." Saskia's eyes are as grave and candid as a boy's".

She has a "delicate figure, exquisite colouring, eyes both arrogant and charming" and a "little face...more square than oval". She is "a tall child", she has a loveliness "greater than imagined by the Almighty." She is a Russian princess, forced to flee from Russia to Rome as a result of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.

Dougal has the "stature of a boy of twelve." He has a "pale freckled countenance, a snub nose, sulky grey-green eyes and a wide mouth." He wears an oversize Boy Scout hat, "an ancient khaki shirt, a massive belt, a kilt of home manufacture, the remnant of what had once been a silk bandanna, bare legs and bare feet."

Dougal and his fellow Gorbals Die-Hards are on a camping expedition financed partly by a retired Glasgow grocer (The Gorbals is a slum area of Glasgow). Dougal is brave, honest and a good scout.

There is a mysterious young man: tall, lean, "fine drawn, deeply sunburnt, pale blue eyes..." He is apparently an Australian. "There's nothing else so lean and fine produced on the globe today...Lord! Such men!...most look like Phoebus Apollo," says John Heritage.

Heritage is a young Englishman, a paper-maker, a would-be modern poet, an admirer of the Bolsheviks. In 1918 he had briefly met Saskia in Rome and fallen in love with her slim figure. Now he is on a walking holiday in scotland.

To Dickson McCunn, Heritage is "a queer poet" and Dougal "a queerer urchin" (words often had different meanings in the 1920's).

Dickson, the main hero of John Buchan's 'Huntingtower', is a wealthy retired Glasgow grocer who looks like "a wise plump schoolboy." He is a reader of Izaak walton and Defoe, an elder of the kirk and a conservative with absolutely no sloppy sentimental liberal ideas about the working man or Bolshevism.

Dickson has conceived the Great Plan : while his wife is enjoying herself at the hydro, he is having an adventurous walking holiday in South West Scotland.

He is staying in inns, places with "bright fires, old soft leather armchairs, an aroma of good food and giant trout in glass cases."

By chance Dickson meets up with Heritage. Together they come across a mysterious mansion called Huntingtower, a group of evil and ugly villains and Dougal....

"Dougal...squatted down on the patchwork rug by the hearth, and warmed his blue-black shins... 'Lean's after me wi' a gun. He had a shot at me two days syne.' Dickson exclaimed, and Dougal with morose pride showed a rent in his kilt... 'Ive found out some queer things,' said Dougal...."

Dougal and Heritage want Dickson to help them commit an act of burglary. Conformist Dickson has a sleepless night. "Heritage a yard distant appeared also to be sleepless, for the bed creaked with his turning..."

Dickson finds himself not running away from adventure. He finds himself crawling on all fours through the countryside.

"From a clump of elders...Dougal emerged. A barefoot boy, dressed in much the same parody of a Boy Scout's uniform, but with corduroy shorts instead of a kilt, stood before him at rigid attention..."


Huntingtower is a Glasgow Fairy Tale. A beautiful princess is locked in a tower. A lovelorn suitor attempts to rescue her. There is a world-wide conspiracy penetrating to every level of British society, and which the forces of law and order are powerless to defeat. But the Gorbals kids will help save the day. The Die-Hards are clever, determined and fascinating characters.

Take Dougal who is fond of singing: "Class conscious we are and class conscious will be Till our fit's on the neck of the Boorjoyzee."

And Thomas Yownie.Poor Thomas has no parents. He is a street child. But Thomas is a hero. Ye'll no fickle Thomas Yownie!

And Wee Jaikie. "Don't be mistook about Wee Jaikie. He's terrible fond of greetin', but it's no fright with him but excitement. It's just a habit he's gotten. When ye see Jaikie begin to greet, ye may be sure that Jaikie's getting dangerous."


So, what are we to make of author John Buchan's Huntingtower?

This is an adventure story to rank with Treasure Island, Wind in the Willows and Lord of the Rings.

The style is literary as in Wind in the Willows, the pace is fast as in Treasure Island, and the tone is romantic as in Lord of the Rings.

It can be claimed that Buchan helped invent a new genre of adventure story, a genre typified by Thirty Nine Steps and Greenmantle, thrillers full of spies and international politics.

What about the language? Sometimes it is beautifully poetic; but critics have considered it occasionally a little stilted.

I haven't noticed the stiltedness (well, apart from this one odd sentence: "He was intoxicated with the resurgence of youth and felt a rapture of audacity which he never remembered in his decorous boyhood.")

But I think that for non-Scottish readers, some of Dougal's conversation might pose problems.

And the ideas? Sometimes Buchan seems like an out-of-date conservative. Yet he had the good sense in the 1920's to see the communist leaders of the Russian Revolution as less than perfect.

Dickson, when talking to Heritage about Russia's leaders, says "the power - the true power - lies with madmen and degenerates." Russia is a "nursery of crime" (Hence the Russian Gulags or concentration camps).

Buchan has been accused by some critics of being a repressed bisexual, a snob, and an anti-semite. Let's look a little at his life.



Born in Perth in 1875, John Buchan was the son of a minister who belonged to the Calvinist 'Free Church'. Did he have a sexually repressed upbringing under a tough Calvinist father? Buchan's papa was evidently a kindly man with a good education.

Buchan suffered from an almost life-long duodenal ulcer, something which might have been an indicator of hidden conflicts in his life.

Buchan was no cloistered aesthete. He was an aesthete who climbed mountains and got involved in true-life adventures from an early age.

Buchan's heroines tend to be slim, boyish (like boys in school blazers) and slightly vaguely drawn. Some critics have found this odd. However, according to biographers, although Buchan would forget his wife's birthday, his marriage was a happy one.

And consider this, when worrying about the sexuality of Shakespeare or Da Vinci: research (observing the pupil's of people's eyes) done for the advertising industry in the 1970's indicates that the 'image' which has the most universal appeal (appealing to male and female, old and young, black and white) is ....someone like Pamela Anderson? No. Tarzan? No..... the image which proves to have the most universal appeal is that of twelve year old image like that of Saskia or Dougal or some of the kids in adverts for bulding societies and toothpaste. Makes Buchan seem normal.

Does Dickson McCunn give us any clues? Dickson's wife has gone off to the hydro. "There was a letter from his wife...she reported that her health was improving, and she had met various people who had known somebody....Mr McCunn read the dutiful pages...he knew that for his wife the earthly paradise was a hydropathic...For his part he rancorously hated hydropathics, having once spent a black week under the roof of one in his wife's company." We must not jump to conclusions. Authors often put words with which they do not necessarily agree into the mouths of their characters.

Was Buchan a snob? One of the heroes of Buchan's first adventure story 'Prester John' was a black man. Radical indeed! And the Gorbals Die-Hards, of whom Buchan writes so lovingly, were children of the slums. "The Die Hards are so tiny, so poor, so pitifully handicapped, and yet so bold in their meagerness...Their few years have been spent in kennels (Glasgow children have it rough) and closes, always hungry and hunted, with none to care for them; their childish ears have been habituated to every coarseness, their small minds filled with the desperate shifts of living...and yet, what a heavenly spark was in them!"

Buchan, who had lived in a better part of the Gorbals during part of his childhood, was apparently happy to mix with all sorts. He had taught kids like Dougal in Sunday school. On the other hand, Buchan was a Tory MP who allegedly loved to mingle with the high and mighty. It is possible that Buchan's views on the working man were not all that different from those of Dickson McCunn. In conversation with heritage, McCunn says of the working man that he is "only looking for a drink and a rise in wages." But wait! At one point, near the end of Huntingtower, Dickson says to the Die-Hards: "There's stuff in you to make Generals and provosts - ay, and Prime Ministers..." Buchan was against sentimental liberalism, but, he may have had no objection to a Dougal ending up in Downing Street. Radical again!

Anti-Semitism? Some of Buchan's books are notorious for containing anti-semitic statements uttered by certain char acters(Anti-Black and Anti-Semitic views were common among some people in the 1920's). In Huntingtower, heritage says to Dickson that the Bolsheviks "are doing a great work in their own fashion. we needn't imitate all their methods - they're a trifle crude and have too many Jews among them..." Buchan's fans point out that Chaim Weizmann, founder of Israel, was one of Buchan's best friends, and that Buchan's name is inscribed in the Golden Book of the Jewish National Fund of Israel.

Were Buchan's ideas old-fashioned and out of date? Buchan had read Henri bergson's 'Time and Free Will' and Drayton Thomas's 'Some New Evidence for Human Survival'. In Buchan's group of stories called 'The Gap in the Curtain', a character called Professor Moe states, "Time is not a straight line, but full of kinks and coils...the Future is here with us now, if only we knew how to look for it. Buchan explores ideas such as the redemptive power of love, resurrection, reincarnation, the nature of Free Will and predetination. Radical!

Enough of speculation. Huntingtower is meant to be an exciting adventure story and indeed it is. Whether you are seated on the beach in Spain, or in a tavern in Galloway, you will enjoy reading this thrilling, humourous and romantic tale, written by a sensitive and kindly genius who is in the same league as Barrie and Stevenson.


Postcript: from that excellent biography JOHN BUCHAN, THE PRESBYTERIAN CAVALIER by Andrew Lownie (Constable) - "Men like T E Lawrence appealed to him because he saw much of himself in Lawrence... A Calvinist drawn to paganism, an admirer of both Plato and Theocritus, a Romantic Conservative who felt towards the end of his life that he had become a Gladstonian Liberal, Buchan was full of paradoxes. Many of these contradict ions he suppressed in his own life and attempted to reconcile in his writing and much of his personality and views can be found by judicious reading of his books, for as he wrote in his memoirs 'a writer must inevitably keep the best of himself for his own secret creative world.'"

Thursday, February 03, 2005


Thomas Mann, author of Magic Mountain, was married, produced many children, and was considered to be ultra-respectable. His novels were best sellers, won him a Nobel Prize, and made him extremely rich and famous. When Mann came to live in America in the 1930's, Time and Life magazines welcomed Mann as "the greatest living author."

If you enjoy the likes of Proust, Gide, or Joyce, Mann's novel Magic Mountain may be the sort of 'serious literature' to please you.

In the Magic Mountain, Hans, a perpetual adolescent, visiting his handsome cousin Joachim in a TB sanatarium in the Swiss Alps, becomes attracted to Claudia. Claudia reminds him of a schoolboy he had once been sexually attracted to while a child.

Thomas Mann had had schoolboy crushes on other boys. When he was 14, Mann had fallen in love with a classmate, Armin Martens.

In his popular 1903 masterpiece, Tonio Kroger, Mann describes one schoolboy's love for another - shy awkward Tonio's platonic love for handsome Hans Hansen. Tonio eventually realises that love causes "sadness and humiliation" and that he must transform his energies into literature. Mann saw himself as Tonio.

In Magic Mountain, Hans discovers he has TB and ends up staying in the sanatarium for seven years. He finds this does not displease him as he can be near to Claudia and he can continue studying his fellow patients and their different ideas about life and its meaning.

Each of the patients represents a type of thinking found in pre-World-War-One Germany:

Claudia is a hedonist.
Hans is fascinated by death.
Settembrini is a humanist who believes the world can be made better by reason.
Leo believes that sickness is in men's nature and is the source of all progress.
Peeperkorn is an imperialist and buccaneer.....

Magic Mountain gives Mann the opportunity to write about the human condition and the human spirit.

The novel also allows Mann to think about the dark forces within the human mind. At one point in the novel, Hans begins to hallucinate. First he sees a pastoral scene where a boy smiles at him shyly. Then the dream shifts to a temple where witches dismember a child...

Magic Mountain is about Mann's private obsessions, such as homosexuality, fetishism, necrophilia, and forbidden love. The novel deals with the conflict between lust and love.

The central character, Hans, had once had a schoolboy crush on the Slavic lad called Pribislav. For a long time Hans loved Pribislav in silence. Then one day in school he asked to borrow Pribislav's pencil. Holding and stroking his friend's pencil gives him a thrill. The pencil shavings excite him.

Prabislav's resemblance to Claudia, according to biographer Anthony Heilbut, allows Hans to love a boy in the image of a woman, just as Proust probably disguised Albert as Albertine.

Claudia and Hans spend the night together. Next morning she leaves, unpersuaded by his ardor. When Claudia returns some years later, she is with a Mr Peeperkorn, and she seems to criticise Hans for not acting on his desires. Man intended the novel to have something of a light and homely touch, and to contain a touch of irony and humour. When the patients attend a seance, the female medium assumes the guise of a demure lad with "beautiful brown, brown curls."

Is there any message in the book? "What Hans came to understand," said Mann, "is that one must go through the deep experience of sickness and death to arrive at a higher sanity and health..."

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


Neuropsychologist James Prescott believes that the greatest threat to world peace comes from those nations which have 'the most depriving environments for their children and which are most repressive of sexual affection and female sexuality'.

Prescott supported research programs that documented how the failure of "Mother Love" in infant monkeys adversely affected the biological development of their brains. These astonishing abnormal brain changes underlie the behaviors of depression, impulse dyscontrol and violence that result from mother-infant separations.

Brandt F. Steele and C. B. Pollock, psychiatrists at the University of Colorado, studied child abuse in three generations of families who physically abused their children. They found that parents who abused their children were invariably deprived of physical affection themselves during childhood and that their adult sex life was extremely poor. Steele noted that almost without exception the women who abused their children had never experienced orgasm.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Amsterdam - Haunting

A Balinese is selling jewellery; A Javanese is offering batik shirts; a South American has a pile trinkets from Peru. There are bits of bikes, mildewed books, designer undergarments, second hand watches, wads of Third World currency; and all the usual car-boot-sale stuff. This is Amsterdam's wonderful Waterlooplein flea market, open Monday-Saturday 9-5. To get there, take the Metro to Waterlooplein Station; or tram 9, 14, 20.

Waterlooplein was originally a manmade island. It became a popular neighbourhood for Jews. During the Nazi occupation convoys of trucks would drive into the market and ferry away hundreds of people at a time. It wasn't until the 1960's that squatters began to bring a bit of life back to the place.
(Source: 'Cadogan City Guide, Amsterdam', by Rodney Bolt)


"Someone tried to break my neck," said Herman, a normal-looking 18 year-old I'd started chatting to in a coffee shop. His arm was in a sling and nobody else was talking to him, or me.

"What happened?" I asked.

"It was at the place where I work," said Herman.

"This German tried to break my neck. I went to the police."

"Where do you work?"

"It's a club. Gay brothel."

"Good heavens. What makes you work in a place like that?"

"Problems. My dad walked out. My mum's an alcoholic. I met this guy."

"I hope the police will take action," I said.

I made my excuses and left. Alone.

That was several years ago. I wonder what happened to Herman.



Mime artists in Vondelpark, flea markets selling second hand clothes, canals full of bikes and bodies, bicycle thieves, illegal drugs, legal prostitution, and a high crime rate...

Spiky towers, grey skies, trees, canals, fancy brickwork, fancy step-gables and bell gables, facades with elevated cornices, gardens, warehouses...



Hire a bike and cycle round the city. (But watch your bike and it's lock don't get stolen. Thieves carry clippers to cut chains) Take your passport and a deposit when you hire a bike.

Amsterdam has loads of bicycle lanes

Go to the entrance of VVV.Amsterdam Tourist Office opposite Central Station. Ask about getting a train to Volendam/Edam and the hire of a bike, guide etc. Then you see Holland's best sites : fishing villages, dikes, windmills....



My favourite thing to do in Amsterdam is walk, sometimes outside the main tourist areas. Set off, with a map and a camera, and enjoy the tree lined streets, the graceful buildings, the houseboats, the churches, the gardens...

It's a haunting city.

How about a walk that starts with Van Gogh at the Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh/ Van Gogh Museum, Paulus Potterstraat 7. (not the Rijksmuseum), mon-sat 10am-5pm/sun 1-5). (Best to get a FALK map) Tram 2,3,5,12.

Van Gogh was mainly self-taught and all the better for that. Wonderful bright blues and yellows and reds and greens and lots of lively jazzy lines. Look close and see the complex weave of colours.

Leaving the museum, turn right out of the museum and walk to Coster Diamonds (daily 9-5) to see how diamonds are cut.

Then to Pieter Cornelisz Hoofstraat for the poshest of shops.

On to nearby Vondelpark, with its English landscaping. Listen to "Tulips from Amsterdam" on an accordion or watch jugglers playing with whatever jugglers play with.

Leave by the gate next to the film museum and take a look at the Vondelkerk, a 19th century Gothic church turned into offices. Carry on along Vondelstraat and head for leidseplein and the art nouveau American Hotel. Try the Cafe Americain.

Onwards to Leidseplein with its English tourists and buskers and the sort of restaurants best avoided. Watch a tram doesn't run you over.

Using your Falk map, head for Spiegelstraat and Nieuwe Spiegelstraat. Enjoy the antique shops of Spiegelkwartier. Enter the Metz Department Store on Keizersgracht. Go to the cafe at the top for a great view.

Nearby Metz are lots of lanes with shops selling posh second hand clothes.


Buy a strip ticket at a newsagent or station.



(1) Vondelpark is superb:
Concerts, acrobats, cycling paths, children's
(2) Amstelpark is ideal for kids as it has a maze, pony rides and a miniature train.



(1) Verzetsmuseum, Museum of the Resistance.
plantage Kerklaan 61, tram 6,9,14,20, Open Tues-frid 10-5 Sat & Sun 1-5. Closed mondays and Sat/Sun mornings. Here you can see spy gadgets, a secret door,....

(2) Tropenmuseum, Tropical Museum.
Linnaeeustraat 2, tram 9,10,14, Mone-Frid 10-5 Sat& Sun 12-5. Closed sat/sun mornings)
This is the place to view an Indonesian village and much more fro m the former Dutch empire.

(3)Museum Fodor, Keizersgrachts 609,, daily 11-5, has modern art of the sort you might find in the Tate.

(4)Museum van Loon, Keizergracht 672 Open only on Mondays! 10-5. If you want to see a canal side house, this is the place.

(5)NINT Technology Museum,
Tolstraat 129, Mon-Frid 10-5 Sat &Sun 12-5,
Lots of hands on buttons and levers and games. Kids should enjoy it.



Albert Cuypmarkt, (tram 4,15,24,25, Mon-Frid)
Dappermakt (tram3,6,10,14 Mon-Sat) are recommended for second hand clothes. But there are lots of other wonderful markets.
Plus Waterlooplein (see above)



De Ijsbreker, Weesperzijde 23, has modern music and a riverside setting.

Nol, Westerstraat 109, has gangsters and sing-songs and kitsch.



Well, I like Indonesian food. Coriander, ginger, lemon grass, peanut sauce......
Kantjil & De Tijger, Spuistraat 291, (tel 020 620 0994) has top class Indonesian food (Dutch style) and good service. Tastes better than in Indonesia! And the staff look so beautiful.

For cheap food, try The Pancake Bakery, Prinsengracht 191 (Westerkerk), where you can eat typical Dutch fare.

More expensive Dutch food can be had at Die Port van Cleve, Nieuwezijds Voorburgwal 178 (Dam).

Best to book. No tips required in Holland (it's included in the price).
The Dutch eat early!

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Anne Frank Huis. prinsengracht 263. Sept-May Mon-Sat 9-5 Sun 10-5. June-Aug Mon-Sat 9-7 Sun 10-7. Check for changes.

104,000 Dutch Jews were exterminated during the Nazi occupation.
Hollandse Schowburg, an old and grand theatre, was the assembly point for the 70,000 of Amsterdam's Jews who were sent off to concentration camps.



The wettest months are March and October.



Het Canal House
Keizergracht 148, 1015 CX. Tel 6225182. Tastefully decorated canal house. Moderate price, not cheap.



Amsterdam is made up of 90 islands separated by canals.
52 dead bodies are pulled out of the canal each year.



The media has reported a series of apparently random violent attacks. Many large companies, such as Kwik Fit and Gentronics, have closed down in certain Amsterdam districts, because they think they are too dangerous. Gentronics left BIJLMER neighbourhood after five of its employers were robbed. Former Amsterdam police chief Jelle Kuiper was reported as saying, "Violence used to be confined to certain places... many civilians still feel unsafe, probably because violence is more widespread and violent acts are not only performed by outcasts...."



Estimated number of Hard Drug users in Holland :
1977 5,000
1982 15,000
1993 21,000-25,000

Cannabis is not legal in Holland. It is criminal to import, export, sell, produce or process any kind of drug. But you will not be arrested for taking cannabis in one of the 'cannabis' coffee shops. No more than 5 grams can be sold to anyone in one day.

In Amsterdam, about 30% of drug users who use needles are HIV positive (1990 figures).



Estimated % of the population who are victims of crime in one year (International Crime Victims Survey 1995)
Austria 18% Belgium 19%
Scotland 25% France 25%
USA 24%
Netherlands 31%



"Avoid the following streets after dark, the alleyways of NIEUWENDDIJK - A MUGGER'S DELIGHT, AND PRETTY FOUL; the southern end of ZEEDIJK and the streets off are sleazy and riddled with miserable looking junkies; DAMRAK - "the worst, tackiest, neon-infested tourist excess in the country."



In November, 2000, the award winning GUARDIAN journalist NICK DAVIES wrote :


"Bristol detectives...found an informant....whom we will call Terry...

"He had come across some paedophiles the detectives were investigating - in Amsterdam, where he said they had become involved with a group of exiled British child abusers...

"One of the boys had simply been shot in the head...

"Another, he believed, had been thrown into one of the canals.


For the record, I have nothing against Amsterdam (lovely city), or Amsterdam nightlife, or .... but, wouldn't Amsterdam be a lot more attractive if its unique selling point was cycling rather than prostitution?




In Amsterdam, immigrants outnumber the native Dutch among under-20-year-olds. They will soon be an absolute majority.

Some immigrants came from former Dutch colonies. The two largest groups, however, Turkish and Moroccan, had no historic links with the Netherlands.

Last month a young Dutch Moroccan was killed. A driver had run him over, reversing into him after he had stolen her bag.

Among the people who have to live with bodyguards are Ahmed Aboutaleb, a Dutch Moroccan on the Amsterdam council, Cohen the mayor of Amsterdam, and Verdonk, the immigration minister.

Respect the animal kingdom

Dolphins can follow complex instructions.

Orangutans can learn complex tasks, such as washing clothes by hand, after just a few tries.

And even pigeons can recognize, count, or name different objects.

Dr. Irene Pepperberg of the University of Arizona has been studying Alex and several other African Greys, parrots that are remarkable mimics.

Alex can name more than 40 objects and understands the concepts of "same" and "different," "absence," "quantity," and "size."