Saturday, 19 April 2008


...back in about two weeks' time. Be good - Dreamy.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008


What actually happened that day in County Powys in South Wales may well remain a subject for debate, but it was all eerily unreal, and the details remain unexplained to this day. The unnerving part of this recollection is, that everything is based on the facts of that day and my very own experience of them.

I occasionally, on a spontaneous impulse, take a drive up on the M4 and across the Severn Bridge, past Tintern Abbey into the heart of Breconshire, or just beyond into County Powys. The Welsh National Park in the vicinity of Tregaron, just across from the great Elan Valley, is where I usually secret my car and grab my binoculars. You can hear the bleating of sheep and the raucous konk of carrion crows. On sunny July days, I may roam the hillsides, foraging for blueberries, or be watching the superb circles of the Red Kite. There’s not a day without the ubiquitous rooks on the rocky crevices abandoning themselves to the balmy caresses of a glorious upward drift, nor without the solitary sky-lark rising in ascending circles.

And at night there is an intensity of stars....

It’s like my idea of fairyland. A dreamy, soulful, poetic landscape with windswept clouds over green valleys. And that day was magical. For the sedentary townie, physical exhaustion is the rarest of experiences. For me it’s central to the pleasure. Accordingly, I was trekking across the high moors, in a great, sweeping detour, skirting cairns and forging brooks, when, at some point in the fading light of the late afternoon, something quite extraordinary happened. I stumbled across a giant boulder of a rock, the size perhaps of a ten-ton truck - freshly disturbed in the soil.

There it stood, silent, dark, and unfathomable, brooding dully in the long shadows of the fading afternoon.
I was greatly mystified in not being able to find any tracks in the soft ground, even though the blessed thing had been violently stirred in the mossy earth. No human could have exerted that kind of force. No animal, not horse nor elephant. There were no footprints and no tire tracks.

And yet, the rock had moved.

That was the haunting part. That and the feeling which emanated from it.I stood mute with doubt and incomprehension. The disturbance was no more than a few hours old, at best, and County Powys is not known for its earthquakes. Suddenly I found myself wishing I had not had come. The air was motionless. The silence so intense it seemed to invade my mind. In fact, I began to feel incredibly alone. Truth to tell, at this point I was beginning to worry about lots of things, but I was also getting the feeling that I was being watched. Wisely, perhaps, I turned and walked away.

And that might have been the end of it.

If my experience of hiking has taught me anything, it is this: Never lose your means of survival. I always take precautions. Without fail. Imagine my surprise, then, when all of a sudden I became aware of the fact that my keys had vanished. The entire bundle. Car keys and all. Lock, stock and barrel. How did this happen? I would now be stranded on a totally moonless night in a lonely, rock-encrusted valley of the Welsh National Park.

One of the strangest of all synchronicities then occurred - was this real. I still ponder on it. Once again, that mystic feeling was present. I almost seemed to be in a trance, it was as if I had switched over to the unconscious. It may sound extravagant or even melodramatic, but I felt I was dreaming with my eyes open. Regardless of diminishing visibility I remembered every stalk I'd ever stepped on, every pebble, every twig, every boulder, every ledge, like the pages of a cryptograph - to use an bizarre analogy. It was touch and go, a wing and a prayer - until, in one of those so strange and still so inexplicable effects, I stumbled across it, like a needle in a haystack: my bundle of keys, tidily secreted in the long, coarse grass.

Contact with my vehicle was resumed at 10 pm local time on a Friday, in the pitch darkness of a moonless night, eight hours after departure. Locals say there is a ghostly presence encamped on the slopes of the Brecon Beacons, watching with eternal vigilance over their terrain. And I’m not sure I want to go there. But all our acts have consequences. And if the universe has engineered, not just its own awareness, but its own comprehension, where does coincidence end and personal synchronicity begin?

Thus, my close encounter of an unknown kind began and ended in a mythical space, a garden of ambiguity. And my only option was to shrug my shoulders and to admit that certainty had no future here...


Monday, 14 April 2008


"The local University runs a creative writing course," says Richard Madeley in his latest bulletin. “I’m tempted to apply for it.”

All my life, I’ve been the idealist type, believing that the driving force of literature is essentially one of inspiration. I rather thought that you had to have a devouring passion for writing, as others have for gambling (after all, the odds are the same).

But perhaps I am simply out of touch.

There are, apparently, alternative ways to learn how to write: one is to sit in a creative writing bubble and live in a time warp - a region whose boundary shrinks to zero if you have nothing else to add - and the other is to set off at a blistering pace, hoping one’s temporal lobes don’t shear off under the sheer thrust of adrenalin. Which is like landing and take-off at the edge of a precipice. Way to go. A kind of literary re-enactment of downfall and salvation, involving a season in hell and a vision of death and rebirth. But it’s the torments of catharsis rather than hours spent with S & W’s Elements of Style that reveal the inner life (even though I’ve always been trying my best to view it as a challenge). Of course, you can always go to the public library and take out The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing Fiction. The inspired sense of the art of the possible which has characterized all the greatest literary movements - the sanguine, the melancholy, the choleric and the phlegmatic - then becomes the limited longing for the literal lust of the language. No thought could be further removed from the notion of catharsis, but it helps to be artless. It could make your fortune.

So here I am, attempting to present myself as an inspiring muse while commiserating on my own experience as an accomplished failure. Alice reckons that if I keep climbing the pole at the
Spearmint Rhino, I’d sooner or later catch the eye of a nifty and resourceful fixer calling himself a literary agent. That’s typical of people who are all about instant gratification. Alice, of course is the protagonist of my latest book, and has opinions as to the pros and cons of literary procedure that no amount of logic can dispel. Quite unlike Richard Madeley who, much like myself, is at heart a humorist, and who very kindly suggested that I should start this blog. That took me by surprise. I doubted anyone was interested. But if I were to return a well-intended piece of advice, that would be to look beyond the agents of today to the agents of tomorrow. You are, commercially speaking, strategically placed, and literary internment is not a desirable condition. Nor is staggering aimlessly around the literary circuit in search of representation, with little more than creative writing seminars or workshops on synopses as your literary heritage.

"Don't loaf and invite inspiration.
"Light out after it with a club." -

Jack London

Thursday, 10 April 2008


“Listen Sweety,” Alice said - she says this frequently - “let me read you something from this wonderful book:
‘There is one dimension common to us all,’” she mouthed the words delicately, “‘a dimension which all humans, without exception, may enter and leave at their leisure. This dimension is called hope. Precious as life itself, this hope is our redemption and it is entirely up to us to preserve it untarnished by doubt or anxiety. Nurse it as you would the apple of your eye.’

Isn’t that beautiful?” She heaved visibly

“Beautiful?” I said. “I repudiate it with contempt. Fool’s gold, if you want to know. More innocent than obtuse, but no less irritating. No substance and all glitter. Any suggestion of entering or leaving the realm of hope at your leisure is simply grotesque. When the world comes crashing down on you, and you are peering into the dwindling prism of the last ray of light reaching you down through dust and rubble, that’s your final court of appeal, honey. Hope is what you cling to, like a pinprick in the sky.”

“Gosh.” Alice said.

“Nursing it as the apple of your eye is not my idea of hope.” I was working myself into a frenzy. “Nor are silly books about nothing that people read habitually and without apparent discomfort.”

“Sheesh.” Alice said.

“Sounds suspiciously like the purple patch of a twenty-something saccharine, cloud-hopping poet,” I was out of limits.

“Of an octogenarian Rabbi, actually.” Alice came back peevishly.

End of conversation. She saw no reason to be emollient. I felt singularly unmoved.

So how about you, folks?

Hope is not about mental, nor physical, preference. As I have found many times in my own life, hope is the most vital life force after hunger. Hope is religion in its most profound and mysterious sense; and nobody knows that better than God himself. Hope is...

.. the thing with feathers,
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune--
without the words,
And never stops at all ...

It’s got to be - because every time I look at this verse, my tears are welling up - thanks to Emily Dickinson who, by all accounts, was a tall, bony, American spinster, with an unhappy life and a difficult character. And thanks, too, to the immensely enlightened person whose name presently escapes me, but who posted this verse for Nige on Bryan Appleyard’s excellent blog - (to which I am unable to link or access at the moment of this posting, since it appears to have crashed).

All is not lost though, there’s HOPE!


Monday, 7 April 2008


# 1 In Britain, one in five children - 2.2m - now live in households entirely dependent on state benefits
# 2 About one in eight children in Britain are growing up in homes with parents who are alcohol abusers or habitual drug users.
# 3 More than 20 children and teenagers are being treated in hospital every day for alcohol-related, and/or mental disorders
# 4 600 children under the age of 10 have been charged with serious offences in 2006.
# 5 The number of those under 18 found guilty of possessing an offensive weapon rose by 82%, from 648 in 1997 to 1,181 in 2004.
# 6 The number of prescriptions for anti-depressants hit a record high of more than 31 million in England in 2006
# 7 Britons drink 11 litres of pure alcohol a head each year, the equivalent of 28 bottles of vodka
# 8 One in five adults in Britain is "functionally illiterate",
# 9 Four out of ten Britons suffer from some sort of personality disorder.
# 10 There are 1.55 million untaxed vehicles in Britain.
# 11 Three out of four untaxed vehicles are used by people involved in some other criminal activity
# 12 In the 12 months to March 2007 police recorded 89,200 robberies,
#13 Britain has the highest prison population in Europe
# 14 Britain also has 4.2m public CCTV cameras, or one for every 14 people, and 8,000 automatic number-plate recognition devices
# 15 In 2004 more than 150,000 cases of harassment were reported to the police nationwide. (A 26% increase on the previous year).
# 16 One in four nurses has been attacked at work.
# 17 The number of patients in British hospitals dying from superbug infections has reached more than 10,000 per annum.
# 18 England is about to be the most overcrowded European nation. Ready to overtake Holland, leaving only the tiny island of Malta with a higher population density

No sentiment is more firmly rooted in the English national character than a distrust of foreigners. And for decades, at every socio-economic level, whites have fled their incoming non-white neighbours. People who lack a sense of community put up fences thinking they are living in safety, when actually they are living in a prison of fear, having succeeded merely in swapping one form of captivity for another. For while the indigenous birth-rate continues to fall, ethnic figures steadily increase, making them an integral and irreversible part of Britain’s racial structure. The result has been communities segregated by race, religion and culture. And here perhaps lies the real danger to the liberties of England: an increasingly divisive population among whom animosity to Albion is a sacred creed.

Once having been the arbiters of nations, grounded in a profound sense of what it meant to be homo britannicus, now but an appendage of a centralising European super-state, Britain has met the full force of an inherent schizophrenia in her domestic culture. And the statistics you’ve seen above are nothing, if not reflective of the dejected spirit of a people once infected with ideas of conquest and exploration, now marked out for the moment of their final humiliation.

Not unlike the Viking conquests, this moment will remain sculpted in the history of the moral, political and social regeneration of perfidious Albion. This migration will bury the old England, together with its civilization as it existed to date, and England will never be England again, or I am much mistaken.


Immigration - The Inconvenient Truth. Tonight on Channel 4, at 8 p.m.

Friday, 4 April 2008


To redeem the past and to transform every ‘it was’ into an ‘I
wanted it thus!’ - that alone I call redemption!
Nietzsche, Zarathustra

Africa’s agony is far from over!

And while it is hardly an extreme position for an African statesman - such as Mugabe - to take, that it is legitimate for Africa to preserve her identity as a black continent, I am, personally, deeply disturbed by this development. And not least because it indicates a catastrophic discontinuity in what was clearly a subversion of a natural Darwinian law:

That of successive historical evolution!

It is, I believe, a mistake to say that Englishmen had a contemptuous attitude to the proprieties of global colonization. If global colonization was an Anglo-Saxon idea which might appear sinister to post-colonial minds, it was also part of the cut-and-thrust of historical evolution. And within the limits imposed by mans inhumanity to man the British Empire was well enough executed in welding over five-hundred million disparate peoples into something like a commonwealth of nations. It meant as much to have extended the frontiers of western genius, than those, indeed, of its empires. In fact, it is the peculiar distinction of England to have bequeathed a constitutional ethic which, today, covers almost the entire globe.

Moral hindsight, by contrast, is the cheapest intellectual function available to posterity.

This may seem curiously heretical, but it is worth remarking that the result of the vastly premature emancipation of sub-Saharan Africa resulted in economic disaster and human tragedy on a colossal scale. The abolition of slavery in 1834 was perhaps the greatest civilizing culmination in human history. But the sudden colonial independence movement that had its inception some six decades ago, has in fact destroyed Africa’s commercial agriculture and turned a continent which should export food to the entire world into a basket case whose main export are destitute political immigrants.

This reversal is unique in human history!

It is also based on a moral misapprehension. Upon a distortion of the terms nations use in their Declarations of Independence. Moreover, I also find that, if not legally invalid, it is in fact illegal under the Articles of International Law, that it should be more important for justice to be seen to be done than to be in any sense effective. For that is not just bad or wrong - it is deceitfully, historically disastrous. It would be an omission to describe it as anything else. In a matter of decades, three-hundred years of European settlement in Africa came to an end as tens of thousands of settlers abandoned their holdings. The Empire was closed down, on the politically correct grounds that it was considered ‘predatory’ or worse, an ‘anachronism‘. The most presumptuous part of this exercise was the presentation of Africans themselves in the role of builders and reformers, the legislators and indigenous organiser, who perceived in their freedom not just the salvation of Africa and the black race, but the basis for a great new confederate Pan-African dispensation.

I, too, admire freedom and I believe in equity. And that the most abhorrent and devastatingly exploitative of all European acts of aggression were perpetrated against Africans, I would not even attempt to deny. But what is truly abhorrent and devastating about this freedom, is that African history not only ground to a halt but started juddering backwards. The once impressive communications infrastructure left behind by the European colonisers has been allowed to fall into almost total disrepair. It is virtually impossible to believe that Western politicians ever tolerated, much less condoned such a reversal. Instead of redeeming their empires, by creating a true commonwealth of independent nations, these spineless rascals rendered tens of millions of people dependent upon UN handhouts, and - in an irony not to be surpassed - had the temerity to apologised for past injuries, while adding insult to new-fangled ones.

We no longer have an industry to talk about,” said Callisto Jokonya, the head of the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries. “We have de-industrialised ourselves." The enormous problem of self-determination remained only partly answered with the eviction of the white man. It was too early, at least by fifty or a hundred years, even to talk of setting up purely native states as part of the process of political emancipation. It simply led to massacre, loss of freedom and greater tyrannies than those that preceded them. Fraud was rampant. Political office an invitation to plunder! Once the most affluent country in Africa, Zimbabwe now has the world's lowest life expectancy's. Leprosy and malaria are back and flourishing, along with the new kid on the block, Aids. The streets with their Mandela statues and fading colonial mansions are being reclaimed by vegetation. Once-fertile fields now lie scorched or weed-ridden. Steam trains are being re-commissioned, and ambulances are being pulled by donkeys.

Some African countries were so far from being qualified , in fact, to govern themselves, that any such efforts did little to alter the fundamentally tribal character of the hunter-gatherer communities. The conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which is hugely rich in mineral resources, to this very day still exacts a monthly tally of some 45,000 lives. Indeed, we can argue about numbers, but it remains indisputable nevertheless that the murderous number of contemporary deaths in Africa is by far surpassing the levels of colonial casualties under Imperial stewardship. It may seem lacking in a sense of discretion to mention these two projects in the same breath, and yet it is amply justified, because in terms of self-inflicted African casualties there simply is no comparison.

With roadblocks made of skulls and human intestines, Africa’s physical degradation is complete. The philanthropic view of the African as a converted native is metaphorically striking, but untruthful. His belligerent tribal nature seems hard-wired, unchanged and unchangeable. Survival requires exceptional cunning, shrewdness, and a complete lack of moral scruples. Above all her catharsis is incomplete. Part of her destiny ended up in the hands of infant soldiers who became notorious for murder, rape and hacking off limbs. What’s more, a million children are dying from malnutrition. Truth to tell, children are fighting children in guerrilla wars that are entering the third decade. Rwanda’s genocide, at its peak claimed 8,000 lives a day, a rate faster than the Holocaust. Governmental forces invariably are either incompetent or implicated in the very casualties that are compounding the sectarian conflicts. And so the genocide grinds on, with no chance of victory.

But if victory is impossible and peace unimaginable, where can Africa go?

Far from having given leave to Africa, The Empire, today, stands at the receiving end of the intercontinental migration from poor to rich countries that is comparable in scale only to the great resettlement of the classical past. As the Romans themselves found out, democratic engagement with the world became an inescapable cause of their own demise. Roman identity had always been plagued by a sense of her own adulteration, and if the Babel of foreign languages in her public places, was bound to cause demographic apprehension as well as considerable cosmopolitan pride - then, Europe today, must assume the same swagger at her peril.


Tuesday, 1 April 2008


Horoscope for Robert Gabriel Mugabe. President of Zimbabwe. Born February 21.1924:

Once the breadbasket of sub-Saharan Africa, Zimbabwe has experienced an economic and humanitarian melt-down of unprecedented proportions.

And since late February, when the belligerent Mars moved into the most reflective angle of your chart, you, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, have been reviewing how past political directives and concerns have ensnared you and those who plead allegiance to your cause. Indeed, this will be the eighth consecutive year of food shortages since you launched your ill-fated programme of seizing white-owned farms. Part of this was pure terror. In fact, terror has been your principal weapon.

But as Jupiter, the planet of truth and mystery is presently involved, you are forced to address the consequences.

It is a moment devoted to the ecstasy of iconoclasm, the demolition of all kinds of authoritarian hope, a time for discarding old beliefs and ushering in new ones. And if anyone tells you this time will be easy, don't believe them. Indeed, you will be plagued by the visible presence, not of spirits, but of demons from African mythological pre-history, who will show themselves in a thousand different guises, compromising your own political exit and forcing you to recommit to those solutions that are still available.

While voters have been driven away with tear-gas and batons, the World Food Programme has been distributing food aid to more than 1.5m people, nearly 10% of the population. But in the end they will be left with nothing. No obstacles, no standards, no values, no sense of continuity with the past or purpose for the future. And one night when the moon is blood - subsequently to be known as The Night of the Long Knives - rampaging mobs throughout Zimbabwe will attack Zanu-Pf affiliates in the streets, in their homes, and at their places of work. Dozens of your party cronies will be bludgeoned to death and hundreds more maimed; more than a thousand homes will be burned; almost as many businesses ransacked, cemeteries and government offices vandalized, and thousands arrested, sent to detention camps, or put before international human rights tribunals...

And with that in mind, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, when it is time to resolve whether you ought to stay in government or leave office, you should have no problem in making up your mind.

(Miss Dreamy’s astrological analyses are spontaneous and available to members of national governments worldwide).