Saturday, February 10, 2018


[NB: First written in July 2012. I was either in Sienna just recovering from my heart attack, or in Hamburg staying with friends right after that, waiting to be allowed to fly long distance again. This was amongst some (I think) unpublished rambles I found in Evernote while tidying up. . Maybe I used some of it in other posts, but I can't find evidence of that right now (and the swimming pool is beckoning). Some attitudes to life from that time are probably not well placed in a post "#metoo" context. Another one or two old unposteds to come, I hope.]


A man who is good for anything ought not to calculate the chance of living or dying; he ought only to consider whether in doing anything he is doing right or wrong -- acting the part of a good man or of a bad.


I'm not suddenly getting philosophical. I've alway been struggling to understand how a knowledge of philosophy can influence my actions (preferably for the better). It's more than just remembering which philosopher said what (and not a chance of me remembering anything correctly), but it's also the implementation of their philosophy into my life. Perhaps I mean the moral code (whatever that means - and epistemology is also an issue) they offer, suggest or demand. Perhaps I am referring to The Meaning Of Life, or perhaps my reasoning leads to that just because there is no god, and no meaning, and one needn't be polite and scrape the mud off one's shoes before entering another's sanctum.

However, in our second by second existence, life moves too fast. Often it is not until after a situation has passed that I realise an opportunity to make a philosophical decision has passed. Sigh. So rather than being proactive, my philosophical thoughts tend therefore to be post hoc, and I end the day contemplating my failures, and kicking myself for such moral recidivism, after the event. I look back at the muddy footprints and hang my head.

Essentially I see myself as a good man who occasionally plays the bad, and then agonises about it in the pub afterwards. Well sometimes I don't agonise, sometimes I tell everyone how brilliant it was, but that's not the real me. Really.

Writing a blog, a public diary, gives you a chance to examine yourself and your life, to lay it all out in public to incomplete strangers (I feel like I know you, all four of you - hey I do know three of you!), which is what I have been doing in many of my posts, whether you've noticed it or not.

And, now, writing after I've recently had a momentously memorable memento mori moment and was mere millimeters of coronary artery lumen from being no more, well, that is most likely to push a ruminative soul into thinking fuzzily about the otherwise petty matters of life and death, right and wrong, love and sex, and Woody Allen movies in general.


Am I lying when I write in my blog? I do try to be honest in essence, even when I am making things up, because it's the general mood underlying the exploits of the composite character that is Bruce that I most wish to convey. The tendency to anger, frustration, and recrimination when you are aware that you (or others, usually the others!) are violating codes that you once held as immutable, but now see as arbitrary. These are out there forever at least until the heat death of the universe, or until something better than the Internet comes along, whichever comes first, so it's too late to go back now.

Not that anyone in the future will give a flying rat's arse. There are already way too many physical books in the universe, let alone all this electronic verbiage. Who would bother? No-one reads the old plays of Voltaire any more, even though these were the basis of his fan base when he was alive (I heard this on podcast - fuck reading them). It cheers me to think this in a way. Because he didn't write Candide until he was 65, and here I am 55 and done fuck all.


"The unexamined life is not worth living.”

That old chestnut. The Unexamined Life - great name for a blog! Do you think about what you are about to do, what you end up doing, what you have done? More than just wondering what a certain hero might have done in a certain situation - what would Bryan Boytano, Jesus Christ, Tyler Durden, Atticus Finch, Timothy Leary, or Calvin/Hobbes do - are there any hesitation any more, any second thoughts? I wonder about my friends sometimes: Have they just given up on thinking about these issues. Am I Robinson Crusoe here? Was I right in doing that, was the outcome for the best? Primum non nocere? Was anyone watching? Is my reputation (hah!) tarnished? If you answer Yes to any of these questions, Press 1.

I don't necessarily approve of certain behaviours that humans get up to given the chance, though I groan at certain excesses, I don't condemn them out of hand and obviously I don't shy from the milder ones either. I just like to think about them. And sigh. And wonder. And take a Xanax if sleep won't come.

Bad is relative. I'm sorry, but it is.


Utilitarianism used to attract me. Simple rules: maximise pleasure and minimise pain, and not just personally but universally. If it doesn't hurt anyone and you are having a ball, why not? Or it does good and you won't injure yourself, (the other way round) why not? I think that utilitarianism is attractive because of my previous employment as a fetal deformity hunter-killer. Hunger Games with an ultrasound probe. For the best it was, Skywalker. The ostensible justification, to minimise suffering and grief, reduce the overall pain and infirmity in the world. The hidden agenda: save precious resources, defend hospital budgets, doctor's time, preclude those expensive surgeries to keep fixing things. (I am only half serious here.) Protect parents from unnecessary grief and diminished freedom or whatever you want to call looking a disabled child, or at least give parents the information to make an slightly less ill-informed decision.

There are so many "push the old man in front of the train to save five young lives" situations in medical ethics. After a while it gets to you. No, that's wrong. After a while it doesn't get to you any more.

[Don't misunderstand though, I am completely pro-choice and my old job - I still justify it this way - was to provide full and accurate information so that, if necessary, a genuine informed choice could be made.]


So I am still happy with that part of my history, mostly. But in the rest of my life, now that these justifications are no longer required every evening as I look in the mirror? I am no longer convinced that the narrow moral calculus of Utilitarianism offers the most realistic way to live, despite its persistence into the present time, such with Peter Singer's tit-for-tat stance on how we should live in a practical, real world.

Kant, not that I understand much of this stuff, whoah, nothing really except this: he proposed a matrix of moral action. One was the Categorical Imperative which - I blur like sotong over this - means something like - whatever should be done when a certain situation arises, must be able to become a universal law: it must be done every time, for everyone, everywhere. (Categorical as in "complete" - I categorically deny those allegations.)

But who or what has the power to define what should be done? God? The Bible? Allah, The Q'uran? Calvin & Hobbes? Kant, being a good Christian, said God.

Are there any universal imperatives, however? Thou shalt not kill? -- Except in war, except in prison, except in self-defence. Not universal then.

Thou shalt not wear thy shoes in the house. Thou shalt not get a rub and tug. Thou shalt not take a girl (or whatever) home from the 4FoWs or Nana Plaza. Thou shalt not push in the train queue or overcharge for a taxi ride. Thou shalt not have sex with family members, or animals. Thou shalt maintain marital fidelity.

Believe it not, almost all of the dilemmas mentioned are taboo in one culture, but not in others. For example, the Targaryens marry siblings in order to keep the blood-line of The Dragon pure. Hey.

Kant also makes the point that it is the act itself which is under consideration for being a categorical imperative. The act of pushing of the old man in front of the train, not the resulting saving of other lives. (That would by the hypothetical imperative, I believe.) So killing, while always wrong, is not always wrong.

While I at once preferred Nietzsche's modification of Kant's CI - you should only do what you would do if you had to do it again, that is, if you had to live your life over again to bring you to the exact same point of decision making. Would you do it over and over again in a Groundhog Day scenario? We know what Phil Conner did. He kept modifying his behaviour until he got it right, and eventually managed to shag Rita. If that is what you consider a successful or ethical life, then there you go. (I'm no longer sure this works for me: Andy MacDowell has aged a lot since then. Those teeth, too?)

And if I was a superman, beyond good and evil, and god was dead, then I could easily and consistently commit an act that those who share my cultural capital (all the benefits that my upbringing in my society and culture has given me) would consider to be wrong, because my will dictates it. I want to do it, and I can do it because I am better man than you. Seig Heil! So maybe not taking it that far.

There are then relativities to Kantian categories - they are not universal, or imperative after all. The utilitarian equation is not straight forward arithmetic. The numbers are weighted. What if, instead of pushing an old man in front of a train to save five young people, you have to push a your girlfriend in front of the engine in order to save five Nazis?

I am not satisfied with Nietzsche or any of the rationalists now, because even when I can see in advance the decision points that are going to arise and I know what I should do according to my reasoning, what I would want to do if it came to this again and again, but I can't stop myself from transgressing.

I am merely the mahout of reason on a untrained elephant of will (desire, urge, emotion).

My elephant is bigger and stronger than me. Rationalizing is what most of the time we consider reasoning: Yeh, that's where I wanted to go anyway, because... *see utilitarianism, above. That rider/elephant metaphor is an old one, but recently reinvented in some books I just read; Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, and The Happiness Myth. Which is partly where this discussion originates, that an Michael Sandel's Justice: What's The Right Thing To Do. Light reading.


Why do I (or Bruce) go Orchard Towers or to Soi Cowboy, or to Kings Cross for that matter, when I know I'll feel bad after going there, for a dozen reasons previously described elsewhere in this blog? Why do I throw my conscience out the window when physical gratification is on offer for a price? The answer is, I try not to any more. And I don't mean any less either - OK, yes I do, I mean less. Not everyone is (i.e. me), wants to be (i.e. me), or can be (i.e. me again) in a sexually satisfying relationship. OK, not everyone cheats in one of those unsatisfying relationship but, in unrelated news, not everyone is happy with their lives (and the utilitarians would say get the fuck out of there - or get out of there and fuck). And when the social pressure is somewhat relaxed thanks to certain cultural differences (real or imagined) in certain parts of the world where concepts such as marital fidelity are not so important, or perhaps more correctly, where infidelity not so disastrously unexpected - every HK Chinese wife expects her man to have his little wife in Shenzen, and her job is to look after the kids, not give BJs all the time - and peer pressure (elephants follow each other) is high, the sprit is willing but the flesh is tumescent.


So I am talking about looking at what you do and what you have done, analysing and judging it: is this the way you want to have spent your life? Is this the way you want to be remembered? When you look back, are you proud of everything? Could you survive a parliamentary enquiry?

Is this how I anticipated living when I was back in Australia? Aren't there better things for me to do with the limited time I have? And this limitedness is feeling particularly real - as I was so unpleasantly reminded a few weeks at the top of the San Gimignano tower in Tuscany when that elephant seemed to be standing on my chest.

Short answer: I have no idea. I balance pleasure with slightly less pleasure, I balance the exploitation of women with the exploitation inherent in my needing to pay for sexual release (not that the money I pay all goes to the person I just screwed) due to urges I have no control over. I balance my guilt at this with the knowledge that my abstinence is not going to change anything; I balance rampant gadget greed with charity; I balance visiting prostitutes with masturbation. Elsewhere in life I balance little white lies with truth; I balance my privacy and my frequent isolation (work travel or angina attacks in Italy) with friendships and Facebook; I balance my atheism with the belief that people are usually good whether they follow a religion or not; I balance the awareness that I am not perfect with the frequent confirmations I see that there a hell of a lot of people out there doing a hell of a lot worse or more outrageous things than I would ever consider.


"It’s only human nature!”
"Nature, Mr Allnut, is what we were put on this earth to rise above!”


I thrash it out, but I do not despair that the answers don't come as easily as the questions. I relax. I shrug. I do what I can. I try makes others smile. I try to enjoy myself. I try to explain myself.


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Going Gently

E@L's  sleepwalking mum's tough questions at 5am: 

"Why are we here?" 

"Is this where we are meant to be?" 

"What are we supposed to do?" 


"I don't understand," she sighed as she settled under the sheets.


E@L's  superficial knowledge of Epicurean philosophy, nicely explained he thought, got her back to bed but obviously didn't help ease her existential concerns. 



His sister, with her own issues, deals with their mum's fading lights every day and every night while E@L cavorts in sultry climes.


Thursday, August 03, 2017

Days Of Past Futured

Classic Question:

What would I say if, knowing what I know now, I could go back in time and, ignoring the possibility of this action fucking the world with a cataclysmic absurdity of looped events which will cause a rupture in the timeline that destroys the possibility of the world developing in such a way that I could go back in time in which case (duh) I could not go back and therefore I would not go back and so I could not cause a rupture in the timeline in which case (sigh) I could go back after all, and give myself one piece of sage advice garnered from the lessons I have learned in the intervening years?


I'd have three pieces of advice to choose from:

Advice One: Do things that will generate sage advice you/I could garner from the lessons you/I will learn in the intervening years so you/I will have something useful to tell your/myself when you/I go back in time to give your/myself said sage advice.

Advice Two: Don't go back in time. It could fuck the world, etc. Don't even think it. It will confuse you and the readers of your blog.

Advice Three: Don't listen to me. It'll be fine.



Also let's ignore the fact that someone, such as yourself, appearing from the future would just blow the standard model of quantum mechanics right out of the water and the world would descend into a panic of chaos, uncertainty, more Tom Cruise movies, not to mention research into time travel which would... (Um, best leave that alone), etc...


Because, let's face it, I have learned nothing of significance over said intervening years. I would have nothing to say. Life has washed over me, the good things and the bad things have come and gone. They've made dents, scratches, and bruises, but big deal. They're not lessons, they're just experiences.

Even though everyday I do something stupid or sometimes something vaguely wise, it doesn't sink in. It might be something stupid I have already done a squidillion (large number of) times. My life is full of bad examples. Repeatedly. There's no point in telling myself to avoid those decisions, those procrastinations, those actions, those inactions, those words, or those silences, because even if I recognise myself doing them again, it would be retrospectively, and I'd still have performed them.

And it wouldn't matter.


Having said that, I am in a pretty good place. Sure, I haven't won a Nobel Prize, or made the newspapers for the wrong reasons, written a novel about E@L and his action-adventures, nor completely fucked the world (certainly not by going back in time). But I am financially comfortable, in a nice apartment in a nice part of a nice (at least very clean) town, with every possible kitchen appliance, condiment, book, creature comfort, and absence of life-partner that I could possibly desire.

I've brought some pleasure to some people ("It's twins!" is one example, "Thanks, that's a really nice wine," is another), but I've brought pain to other people ("The Doctor will come and talk to you in a minute" - meaning that you have lost the baby, or you have a bad cancer).  I've even seen dumb people and not (always) said something judgemental behind their backs, and I've seen smart persons and envied their ability to do dexterous things, to have passion about what they are doing, to remember things (like names, face, and... something else I can't remember), and not always not praised them. They've got by, with or without me.

It used to take me a long time to say sorry, but I'm better at that now. I have also learned to not say sorry at the beginning of a talk or presentation, so that balances out.

I've fucked up an average number of times, I guess. There are the ones that keep me awake on restless, sweaty nights, and those that make me shout "Fuck" out loud as I walk down the street, and there are those I've not heard about. These have not been bad or frequent enough to require restraining orders, or a hearing for negligence or incompetence, or a prison sentence. Best to leave that alone.


How should I know what I'll be, I who don't know what I am?

Alvaro De Campos (Fernando Pessoa)


It's probably best that, if I was made to go back (what could possibly go wrong?), I avoid my young self and let that naive man just get on with it.  And then, when I come back to the present (presuming I could), and I see my other untouched self (see above re: fucking up the world) having a London Pride during during happy hour at sQue, by the Singapore River, with a bunch of argumentative, annoying, funny, smart, supportive, and loveable best friends, in order to avoid fucking up an unknown future, I'd again avoid any contact with


Saturday, July 01, 2017

On-Line Shopping? Unimpressed

Hmmm. The perils of on-line shopping if you are a big fella...


The old 3XL Jack Wolfskin rainproof jacket I used to use when skiing in Austria back in the day still fits nicely, but it is falling apart. Well, some part of the inner lining is shedding like dandruff. So I ordered a replacement 3XL one, in as similar a style as I could find on-line, from their store in Amsterdam and had it delivered to Izzy's place in The Hague.

JW is a German brand, but they don't sell them in Singapore or Australia at the moment, and they don't deliver internationally at all, which is why I had to use the Amsterdam store.

Warning bells.

I thought I'd better bring my even older LaFuma 2XL jacket (from Canada, back when I used to ski Whistler/Blackcomb) as a back-up, just in case. It's a tight fit, but it does zip up at least, so long as I have thinnish layers underneath.

I am not normally this wise.


Here I am in Holland, off to Iceland in two days, and I try on the new 3XL jacket... It is EVEN SMALLER than the 2XL LaFuma. I cannot zip it up with losing some hair from my belly. Seriously. This sucks. Iceland, where the wind doth howl and the rain doth fall. It's probably warmer than it is in Melbourne at the moment, but... wind, rain. Need a good jacket.

And here we are. Same alleged 3XL size as the previous one (4XL Asian size), and it is not even equivalent to a Canadian XXL.

Maybe Germans are shrinking. Maybe

E@L is not.

[Addendum: Two hours later. Izzy walks me to a sports/camping store in wintery, summer, downtown Den Hague...

That 2XL Northface jacket that DID NOT fit me in Singapore, not even close is now --- Nice And Comfy with plenty of room for lots of layers...

I need to go to Vietnam and give these  JW clothes-makers a severe talking to...

p.s. The LaFuma, which almost fits, was made in Hungary. The NorthFace that DOES fits was put together in Bangladesh. Now these people know how make to a 2XL!]

Friday, April 21, 2017

Want of Dexterity

When I was blogging more frequently, all those joyous years ago, my not-so-subtle (and no-so-secret, and not-at-all-unique) plan was get a grunch (new word) of posts together with a similarity of theme and tone that I could put into a coherent order, so that I'd have less of the discontinuous non-narrative that blogs inevitably are - rants, pseudo-essays, and shady stories all over the place - and with a little bit of fiddling and tweaking and filling in of gaps, I'd create a readable, unitary, written/typed object - aka a book.



Still on about The Trip TV show... In the second series, in Italy, Rob Bryden is forever chasing "Byron slept (well, he went to bed) here", and "Shelley punched someone out here" landmarks for him to be photographed at, and I was wondering where he found his information on this their last, epic Grand Tour (which included Lausanne, as mentioned in the previous post).

So I searched for a book about those rapscallion poets on the loose.

The book that Rob had most likely read was Edward John Trelawny's 1858 first hand account, Recollections From The Last Days Of Shelley And Byron. There is a NYRB edition out, but they don't have it, or any other edition, in stock in Singapore at the moment*. I was thinking to pick it up this weekend, before I fly off again: Tokyo this time (I'm currently in KL). I searched for an eBook to hold me over, but none is available.

It is not on Gutenberg Press either.

But there is a scanned copy at Scribd, the on-line eBook library, but that requires a subsription to read off-line or on a mobile app.

ANYWAY, point of story...

One the first page of the preface I found this:

"I wrote what is now printed, not systematically, but just as the incidents occurred to me, thinking that with the rough draft before me it would be an easy, if not agreeable, task to re-write the whole in a connected form; but my plan is marred by my idleness or want of literary dexterity."


Idle and wanting literary dexterity. So it's not just


* This is the sort of book you'd be rummaging for ceaselessly in dusty second-hand bookstores, and loving every minute of it.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Gimme One Reason...

Here's a line from the TV series, The Trip, with Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan (Series 2, Italy), which works well for expats in Asia. As it does for comedians in Italy, I guess:

- She only wants to sleep with you because you're rich.
- I only want to sleep with her because she is young and beautiful.

Steve throws arms up in air... implying one reason is as good as another.


(Don't have a clip of this, but they are hilarious.)

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Savoyard - ambiguation

Interesting. Not ironic, merely coincidental. Merely an example of Littlewood's Law, roughly: "A person can expect what appears to be a "miracle", that is, something with odds of around a million to one, to happen to them about once a month."

What is this rare, nay, semi-miraculous proto-religico/mathematico occurrence, you ask. What has brought once prolific and popular blogger E@L back from the brink, yea, from staring into the blind, echoless abyss of not writing much these days?

E@L has come across the word "Savoyard" twice in as many weeks. It was a new one on him, as are most references to cultural things.

Wow! hey?


In his semi-autobiographical 1964 novel My Brother Jack, the Australian writer George Johnston* has his proto-self, proto-agonist David Meredith, working at an elite printing firm in Melbourne (as did Johnston). The printers were more than mere craftsmen: they were also artists, designing and etching the posters and advertisements themselves, as commissioned.

But they had other, dare I say cultural** interests:

"... because every one of them was a fanatical Savoyard, and at any hour of the working day would be as likely as not to burst into a chorus from HMS Pinafore or Yeomen of the Guard or Pirates of Penzance, then everyone would join and the whole studio would rock to Gilbert and Sullivan airs..."
(approx location 1210 of 6276 on Kindle)

Savoyard: 2: a person enthusiastic about or connected with Gilbert and Sullivan operas: so called from the Savoy Theater in London, where the operas were first presented. (


In her most-amusing 2004 novel (and aren't they all?) The Finishing School", Muriel Spark arranges it so that the students of College Sunrise in Ouchy, a lakeside town just out of Lausanne, leave their laptops and knapsacks behind and head off on a ferry down Lake Geneva to the Chateau of Chillon.

It was while he was in Ouchy itself, in 1816, that Lord Byron, who was with Shelley on holidays [i.e. fucking whomever they could catch], wrote an allegedly well-know poem [not to E@L] about a certain prisoner who was kept in a dungeon there (Chillon) for six years. François Bonivard, the Prisoner of Chillon, was imprisoned (with his two brothers, according to Byron) in an underground cell because of his radical political views, espousing the independence of the Genevese area from The Duchy of Savoy. The Duchy at the time of Bonivard's incarceration [1530's or so] included a chunk of what is now eastern Switzerland: all the shores of Lake Geneva, from Geneva around to Lausanne, and then to Montreux. Chambery, in what is now France (Savoie or Haute-Savoie, can't be fucked looking it up - E@L is 6hrs into this post already) was then the capital, but Savoy included the Piedmontese area around Turin, and down to the Mediterranean at Nice. Lots of geo-politics going on as you would imagine. But of that, more later.

OK, so the students are told to ponder on Byron's poem while they were at the Chillon chateau.

What next befell me then and there
I know not well—I never knew—
First came the loss of light, and air,
And then of darkness too:
I had no thought, no feeling—none—
Among the stones I stood a stone,
And was, scarce conscious what I wist,
As shrubless crags within the mist;
For all was blank, and bleak, and grey;
It was not night—it was not day;
It was not even the dungeon-light,
So hateful to my heavy sight,
But vacancy absorbing space,
And fixedness—without a place;
There were no stars, no earth, no time,
No check, no change, no good, no crime
But silence, and a stirless breath
Which neither was of life nor death;
A sea of stagnant idleness,
Blind, boundless, mute, and motionless!...

Listen: Chris, one of the more precocious students is writing a novel about Mary Queen of Scots, the murder of her husband Lord Darnley, and the assassination of her recently repositioned personal seckertary and alleged boy-toy, David Rizzio, formerly of, wait for it, the Duchy of Savoy - he was born near Turin. When Rizzio was stabbed 56 times in 1566, Lord Darnley was then estranged from Mary, an 'orrible 'usband [marry in haste, repent in hell not long after] who had been buggering none other than Rizzio for many a moon previously. He feared most murderously that his (Rizzio's) ascendancy in her (Mary's) eyes threatened him (Darnley) both politically and romantically. [E@L is toying most flagrantly with history here, having only half-remembered pieces of the story from a recent Melvyn Bragg podcast, and less-than-half-read Googled snippets to go on]. After Rizzio's body is disposed of, Darnley, King of Scotland, gets, naturally enough for those days, back with his once-hated and conspired-against Queen. But he is murdered himself next year by the Earl of Bothwell, who marries MQoS after raping her [rape in haste, marry and murder at leisure], and the rest is history. But Chris's "excitingly written" twist on the story is that Darnley was in fact murdered by assassins sent from Savoy by Rizzio's family of diplomats (aka spies). Whoof.

Anyway, [are you still with me?] Chris, the aforesaid precocious student and inchoate novelist at the Swiss finishing school of the novel's (Spark's) title, was on the ferry, thinking of Bonivard and Rizzio, who were, #foreheadslap, roughly contemporaries:

"They might have met. They lived in different worlds yet it was not impossible that the lordly Savoyard should encounter the young Piedmontese diplomat who won his way into the courts of Europe." (Pg 23.)

Savoyard: 1: a native or inhabitant of Savoy. (


But of course, checking the maps of the region, although it was difficult to pin down exactly the gerrymandering going on over the centuries with Google and not a proper historical atlas, E@L has discovered a possible misfiring in Spark's research/reasoning.

Turin was, as mentioned, in the Duchy of Savoy during the 16th century, and became the capital in 1563. It had been part of Savoy for six centuries and would remain so for two or more, um, more. Rizzio would have considered himself as much a Savoyard as Bonivard, rather than just a Piedmontese. [Perhaps, but for the sake of spectacularly iconoclastic blogging, let's say, Yes]. And, more controversially, Bonivard, imprisoned as a Genovese secessionist, might justly bristle at being called a Savoyard, when he most devoutly wished to be anything but one.

The history of the area is complex, to say the least at this time of night. Lausanne and Geneva did not remain in Savoy much longer. Those of the House Savoy became, firstly, the Kings of Sardinia (which included a state of Savoy that commenced below Lake Geneva, and had Piemonte as a separate state), and then the Kings of Italy, reigning from Turin, after the unification (also once called the "Piedmontisation") of Italy.


As another aside, while Muriel was writing this, her last novel, in a little village in Tuscany (about 60km from where E@L experienced the infamous "angina incident" of 2012), a political group in Savoie and Haute Savoie, the areas of France around Chambery (former capital of the Duchy, remember?), The Savoyan League, were calling for the unification and independence of the French speaking regions of l'ancien duché de Savoie. They gained 5.39% of the vote in the area in 1998, but failed to turn up at the 2004 elections.


Fascinating. Maybe not in your opinion, certainly in the opinion of



* E@L is reading My Brother Jack (he should have done so many years ago) because George Johnston is mentioned, photographed even, with his wife Charmian Clift, in
So Long, Marianne: A Love Story, the bio-story of the muse of Leonard Cohen's classic song, which E@L found in Kinokuniya and still hasn't started reading because: see above.

This had prompted E@L to pull out his almost as unread copy of Garry Kinnane's wonderfully titled 1986 biography of George Johnston, George Johnston: A Biography. Inside of which, E@L found four mysterious pressed flowers.

After some Facebook sleuthing, it turns out that it was the Ex who had placed the flowers there when she was reading the book back in the day - we are talking nearly 30 years ago.

** "Culture" and "Gilbert and Sullivan" - uncomfortable bedfellows, some snobs might say.

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