Turned out the first restyle of my site since for ever, to turn it into less of a blog and more of a personal home page. I do most of my web writing on Facebook or Twitter or TeleRead anyway. Not the most Gothic format, but working on that. Happy with it anyway.
One hundred years ago today, Europe went to war. A century later, Europe is at war again. The only question is how limited or how general, how cold or how hot. There’s no question about when: it has already started. Flight MH17 was the Lusitania of our time: a neutral passenger carrier blown up without warning in neutral space. European casualties have fallen on European soil (from a height). Nations went to war for far less in 1914. And appeasement is useless when the missiles are already flying.
I have two young half-Hungarian daughters. I don’t want them to become victims of this war like so many of their forebears were of the last. Therefore, I’d rather not hide my head in the sand or leave anyone else the luxury of doing so.
War will continue because Putin and his clique simply do not want peace. It doesn’t serve their political or their ideological interests. Autocracy requires it. Autocracy depends on it. Already Russian Facebook buddies are sharing stirring pictures of the Russian military in training which could have been taken straight from Nazi propaganda of the Thirties. Already we have tinpot authoritarians like Viktor Orban grooming themselves to be the new Quislings of a putative Russian Reich. And already we have useful idiots like the current French establishment trying to indulge their pompier fantasies of independence in the middle ground, in a polarized world where autonomy at the national level will be as fraudulent as Russia’s mini-statelets.
Sadly, Europe’s ailing democracies will probably need a few more lessons in threat management before they are really ready to face up to what is going on. European political establishments are Marshal Plan babies, whose diplomatic and strategic skills have withered under American protection, even if they ever could have supported much of an effort by themselves in the era of the Superpowers. And their resolve and commitment is fatally sapped by an era where they relied on the premise that freedom was about wealth. Having sold that to their electorates for generations, they are sadly inept and late to the game when it comes to rediscovering what freedom is really about.
However, they will probably not be given too much chance to disgrace themselves because the issues are so stark. There is no accommodation simply because, Russia and Israel are both demonstrating beautifully that anti-democratic governments need to shoot other people in order to stay in power. War is what props them up. And yes, Russia could develop a perverse self-interest in a Europe on a permanent cold war footing, since this would justify the autocracy staying in power, just as it did previously. Business could be done under those conditions – but with a very long spoon. And as for Russia’s liberals and more pacific elements, they may be casualties of history and their own heritage, but that is no reason to add the rest of Europe to the casualty list.
Containment is workable. It kept the peace in Europe for almost 50 years post the last war. Maybe it can keep this one within bounds too. If it has to be a permanent cold war, fine: it will be. And as for peace? An awful lot of reality is going to have to dawn for that to happen.[Top]
The Arrival of Autumn
Red gates open in the hills,
gold gates bound in bronze and copper
on oiled hinges, massive valves
knobbed with bosses of ripe apples;
the sighing handmaidens of wind
strewing the processional route
with quilted gilt arras of leaves.
Reaper in the Garden
Tasked to garner the cut grass,
I take down the blunt rusty scythe
hung behind the drain on the back wall
and, wetted by pear beer,
whistling over stony ground,
I toil under the sweltering sun,
the bearded chine a stork skull’s beak
mounted on a coarse-grained snath
lopping barbed false barley ears
and purple clover heads dried to dark blue;
like Oppy at Trinity,
‘I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.’
The mown mow stacked against the fence,
I flag, salute a passing magpie;
Laura the collie rolls in the hay;
Death withdraws into the clouds,
pleased I shared his attributes for a while.
I close the black note book, pocket my pen;
caught you: reading over my shoulder.
Seeing the showers start outside
in this unseasonable cold spell,
on the way out I grabbed my Barbour
– relic of my pretentious teens –
and hurried bare-headed through the rain;
the durable waterproofed waxed cloth
shedding water like off a duck’s back,
still unchanged, while I have changed so much
through heartbreak, childbirth, severance, divorce:
a good coat stays with you through the years.
My first collection, The Golden Age, is out again on Kindle after 15 years languishing in limbo![Top]
Got interviewed on Xpatloop:
White ships on the skyline
out beyond the islands
and the beach’s crescent
lie at anchor between
dovetailed bays and headlands,
shown by the bus’s ascent
drawing back the curtain
of the crumpled uplands,
ready and expectant
to voyage to the pure land
over the horizon.
and again …[Top]
Another picture poem
Bones of Venice
From Canaletto’s sketchbook, a
perspective view in black and white
of the Piazzetta, shows
the bare bones of those famous oils,
a wireframe scaffolding to hang
luxurious canvas on, across
the walls of chilly stately homes,
anatomizing all that pomp
drying on stretchers overseas.
The camera obscura trace
reveals the working methods of
the celebrated scene painter
who looked beneath the flimsy myth
to the hidden vanishing point
between the Doge’s Palace and
the Marciana Library,
still the same basic fabric as
Byron and Casanova saw,
stripped bleak as a De Chirico,
the flocks of culture vultures flown.
If the Serene Republic proved
so ephemeral, then what price all
those hordes of tourists passing through
the drawing room of Europe? There
for a brief whiff of their own demise
in that gorgeous catafalque
sheltering relics strewn across
the marshy Adriatic shore,
shored up by piles sunk in the mud.