Saturday, 2 July 2011


The Chinese Prime Minister is on another shoping trip, I see. Having bought America and most of Africa he has his eye on Ruritania - sorry, England. I expect he wants to buy us for the same reason those odd men buy old cars to renovate. I go part of the way myself. I used to buy vintage cars, have them restored at great expense and then sell them for a loss. Started with an Austin 7, in which, Wynford Vaughan Thomas told me, changing gear was like milking a mouse. Next came a Lagonda LG6, after which I mainlined on Series One Land Rovers. But I didn't make the same mistake (selling at a loss) with my MGTD. I loaned it to a chum who sold it for a £10,000 profit and I haven't seen him since.

Hope the Chinese PM does better with us.

I became especially fond of the race when I learned they had a caligraphic character for “horse farting in a field of corn”. Plainly the Chinese have a word for it - whatever IT is.

I do regret not visiting China. The country has fascinated me since, as a young soldier, I read Lin Yutang’s delightful book “The Importance of Living”. That led me to its poets and painters and scholars and to mavelllous novels like the Monkey Epic. It was an obsession shared with my much loved father-in-law, Dr Joe, who when he was in is late sixties learned Cantonese Chinese so that he could deal with his patients in Chinatown.At the same time he did a Spanish O level

Through him, I made many Chinese friends. One couldn’t speak English when he arrived in this country, aged 14. By the time he was sixteen he had gathered a harvest of distinctions in his “A” levels and, at 23, had a mathematical theorem named after him. He has just retired as a much respected professor.

His great-grandfather had been a bureaucrat in the court of the Manchus but had fallen under the spell of the opium which the Brtitish introduced. As a result, he became so poor that he could not afford to buy the classics which his son needed for school. His solution was to come out of his opium induced semi-coma to write out the entire canon of Chinese classics from memory.

I had another friend who served on the China squadron in the Thirties when public beheadings were a daily occurrence and the peasants were treated like animals. The Tiger of Chi’n, who unified China, decreed that the world started with his reign and ordered that every manuscript and painting be destroyed. Nothing changes. Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution had similar aims.

There are four Chinese languages. The ancient style in which the classics are written, the literary style, the business style and the colloquial. China’s system of law was formulated in the time of Yao (2357 to 2255 BC). It hs been described as “if not the most just and equitable, at least the most comprehensive, uniform and suited to the genius of the people for whom it is designed, perhaps of any that ever existed”.

To a Chinaman the civilised world is China. Anything or anyone beyond its frontiers is barbarian.
The Chinese are different. The Chinese see nothing wrong with slave labour; they believe Tibet is part of China. They are suspicious of the West and with good reason. We did our best to wreck the country by flooding it with opium. We also invaded Tibet, supporting the dictatorship of monks and aristocratic families from whom it had suffered throughout its history.

It has taken China twenty years to move from the Middle Ages to leading the 21st cenury world. Perhaps smog does hang over their capital. Very much like the Potteries in the sixties, in fact.


Llandudno is my favourite seaside town – and its picture is on our calendar for July. Sadly it has allowed its links with Alice in Wonderland to decay. Alice was the daughter of the Dean of Christchurch College in Oxford who had a holiday home on the foreshore. Once a hotel, it is about to be demolished to make way for a block of flats. The statue of the White Rabbit nearby has been vandalised and the Rabbit Hole, a wonderful “museum” of Aliceobilia has closed.

For over a century the town has gloriously ignored the sad truth that Charles Dodgson is unlikely to have visited Llandudno - and certainly THAT book was neither written nor inspired there. One might just as well celebrate Arnold Bennett who set in Llandudno an exciting part of “The Card” where Denry is launched as an entrepreneur.

The truth is that the Alice link had long been an embrarrasment to the Nationalists who now run the country.Quite out of the question for a country where holidaymakers are handed leaflets saying “Enjoy your holiday but don’t come to Live Here”. Without its tourist industry North Wales would collapse. But Nationalists are still uneasy that their fame rests on an English second-homer.

Fantasy is essential to Nationalism. It enables people to forget that the road to Nationalism leads to the gates of Belsen. As Scotland prepares to go it alone I heard a so-called Scots intellectul explain that it is time to end English oppression. We stole their king, he said, and they remember Culloden. The fact is that all the Scottish regiments fought on the Hanoverian side and we got lumbered with an appalling drunken series of Jameses. But 'twas ever thus. Davy Crockett and the brave defenders of the Alamo from the rascally Mexicans were in fact American slave owners, reacting and rioting against Mexican legislation outlawing slavery.

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