November 30, 2008

Richmond Park, London

I spent a summer in the late1960's with a friend, and his friends, in Richmond Park. East Sheen to be precise. Then a sheltered backwater with no passing taxis, the nearest shop a car ride away and the journey to the City nerve-rackingly protracted.

My friend was accustomed and much preferred big city life-
‘Why did you buy a house in the country?’ I ask,
‘Well, it’s wild and beautiful and I have never had a house in the country’,
he answered and sighed.
‘What a shame to have the house stay empty all the time.’ I said.

At which my friend remarked that Tartars were extravagant by nature,
and with that curious faculty he possessed for linking a remote past with present life,
he told how Tamerlaine’s daughter-in-law was in the habit of throwing pearls to her goldfish, beating Cleopatra hands down for she, after all, only squandered one pearl on one man.

He also abhorred the ritual of a daily walk, and only reluctantly accompanied me. I had to scout for interesting venues. On our walks I made up stories to go along with the landscape.
Walking through Sheen Common, an area of dense woodland, he said it reminded him of Russia.
‘Let’s pretend we are in the Caucasus,’ I said.
He answered, ‘Your appetite for adventure would at last be satisfied. There’s everything. Danger, beauty, innocence, corruption, small-pox, syphilis, stagnation…’ well, that broke the spell.
I am sure the trees were astonished to hear my version of Richmond’s history.
‘All those walks they are as habit forming as drugs,’ he would say. The ritual still held. A day without a walk was somehow not right.
On one of our excursions we found Eel Pie Island and he was in heaven,
NIGHTLIFE at last!
It may not look like much, but Eel Pie Island was once home to the famous Eel Pie hotel where the Stones, The Who, Pink Floyd etc. all performed between 1962 and 1967.
Starting life as a 19th century tourist attraction, the hotel - with its sprung dance floor - hosted 'tea dances' in the 1920s and 30s.

Weekly jazz dances followed, featuring the likes of
George Melly, Ken Colyer and Kenny Ball before Rhythm & Blues took over in the early 60s.

Eel Pie Island was forced to close after the owner could not meet the £200,000 worth of repairs which the police had deemed necessary.

A brief renaissance saw the premises re-launched as Colonel Barefoot's Rock Garden, with progressive bands like Black Sabbath and the Edgar Broughton Band rocking the joint until a 'mysterious' fire put paid to the club forever in 1971.

Left on my own I went exploring-


With the exception of dockland, there is only one area of London where the River Thames is a constant presence. Running from Hammersmith Bridge south-west, and taking in among many others Richmond, before it rolls into the Surrey golfing suburbs of Virginia Waters

I call it Waterside-not Riverside, for one of the features of this region is the number of ponds and gravel pits towards its western boundaries that are now almost as much a source of recreation as the river itself.

This is largely flat country, which makes the views from such hills as do exist seem more dramatic than you would expect.
The most famous is from the terraces on Richmond Hill. Enjoy the early morning shadows along the Terrace at Richmond.
A prospect that has hardly altered in 200 years.

Walk up Richmond Hill from the town towards the Park in the early morning or at sundown. Below this gravel walk lined with ancient elms the Terrace gardens slope steeply to the Petersham Road, and below that, again is one of the finest views of the Thames to be had anywhere, The gardens used to be part of the grounds belonging to Buccleuch House, which was built on the Petersham Road. They were bought for public use in 1886.

A very different view, looking into London rather than away from it, can be obtained at Runnymede, worth a visit. Set high above the river, the terrace of the RAF war memorial looks out over the whole of south-west London, with a haze of the city center visible on the skyline.

Richmond Park has been used intensively for horse riding since its first designation as a hunting park by Charles I.

I dawdled along the Richmond towpath with the dogs, letting myself out by the blue gate under the fig tree where the wild ducks waited to be fed. I would stop before Cholmondeley House which was, I still believe today, haunted. What scenes, what talks, what exiles Cholmondeley House must have known.

Only in that part of England -London- could merchants escape just a few miles from their place of work to homes of remarkable comfort and quiet. You could walk, or bicycle, along the southern bank of the river from Hammersmith to Kingston and for much of the way find it impossible to believe that you are in the middle of a city.

I enjoy English country houses, so five miles of river downstream from Richmond was a must. You could catch Marble Hill house, Ham, Strawberry Hill, and thence to Hampton Court, surrounded by the flatness of Bushy Park, or, a little to the north of Richmond through old Isleworth, Robert Adam’s exquisite Syon House.

East Sheen was not the multi-racial, edgy, yet exciting, London of much of today’s inner city, but there’s no doubt that Waterside had its ‘secret charms’.

November 24, 2008

Autumn, again

Here it is, the rich golden light that announces for the umpteenth time that it’s autumn in the world. We are all hurtling toward a new year, resolved to make a difference, to make sense, to produce something.
After the losses of this year, there seems to be more room in the world, there are voids everywhere.
Two thousand-eight was a particular grievous year. People we loved died, people we love are struck by disease, people we love draw closer in an ever-tightening circle of grief. Dying and illness have a sober set of requirements. How does one say anything? No book can help you with this, because what you say must come from the heart and what’s in your heart is never in books, not even in the best ones.

Our friend Brigitte was the last of those who died recently. The past two years have seen carnage among my contemporaries. Our generation, all gone at once, in a boom, the way we have always been perceived, destination Comet Hale-Bopp.

Fall narrows like a wind tunnel and the end of the year is in sight. If we come out of it we should meet the new exigencies of the future, their faces veiled, their shapes unknown, their mysteries more promising and terrifying than ever. The future always lies in the womb of the autumn-the inevitable fruit of loss and promise. But hard like a seed in the flesh of it is the bitterness of this year.

And it was bitter.

November 22, 2008

Brigitte de Harrault

Today we would have celebrated her 62nd birthday. Brigitte, who so unexpectedly took her exit in September, or as Doris said, turned to ‘cosmic dust’.
How to describe her? How do you hold a rainbow in your hand?
And that is, ultimately, an appropriate question, because Brigitte was, in essence, light.
Like light, her properties were fluid as a wave in some interactions, and as hard-hitting as a particle in others.
Gently warm at times, but incisive when focused and coherent.
Capable of illuminating beauty as well as scorching that which was rotten.
When you got to know her, like light, she was made of a riot of colors and shades and wavelengths. Light, as telecom veterans know, when stimulated and decoded in the right ways, can carry an amazing number of diverse messages, in both directions, simultaneously, instantly, around the world.
We all knew, better than she did, that Brigitte was like light-fundamentally bright.
Brightness measured in what’s:
What were you thinking?
What are you up to?
What about this?
What if?
There is no need to rage against the dying of the light. Light affects us for a long time after it’s fused. We’ll be discovering energy reserves, and experiencing sun spots, for a while yet.
How do you hold a rainbow in your hand? If she were here in a more physical way, she might ask if we were working on the right problem. And if she could have disassociated from herself, a process she would have had fun with, she would ask if things needed to be solved at all.
Brigitte is now part of our experience. And she would tell us to process that experience. Having been brightened, warmed, and occasionally tanned and burned by Brigitte was not an annunciation. But it was an illumination that calls for reflection.
And if any one of us tried to bury what we felt about her, rather than feeling it, she would tell us, tersely, to remove the earth, and grass we had piled on those feelings.
She would command, Sod Off!

November 21, 2008

The life of an English Gentleman

(or: keeping your car dirty and your shoes clean)

THE IDEAL English gentleman has no more than two suits in his closet. He also has one wife and at least one dog. The dog usually sleeps in the same room as the gentleman and his wife.
He has been raised to believe that money is somewhat vulgar, and that a suitable profession would be chicken farming.
These and other morsels were revealed to me on my last trip.
The lecture was well received by all that listened. Everyone seems to be cataloging endangered species these days, and a favorite seems to be the elite Anglo-Saxon Homo sapiens.
Our lecturer’s views, himself a staunch member of this vanishing race, were appropriately witty and ironic. He was on a short foray from his family seat in Perthshire, Scotland.
His further claims – English gentleman do not live in London, and that they concern themselves almost exclusively with hunting and shooting. Life begins on August 12th, he was referring to Scotland’s main summer event-the opening of the grouse season.
In true gentlemanly style, he and his wife live in an inherited, drafty castle (called Hangover Hall by his friends, one of those big turreted piles designed by a committee of architects-oops sorry I let this slip).
What all gentlemen’s houses have in common are long, dark corridors, windows with inside wooden shutters, and a special arrangement whereby the kitchen is situated as far from the dining room as is architecturally possible.
‘That’s the way we live, of course,” he told me rather archly not enjoying my quips.
Women get short shrift from the gents, especially when married to one.
‘Gentlemen simple don’t call their wives sweetheart, or things like that.’
‘No, he refers to me as that gray old bag or whatever, said his wife, Diana, a pleasant, woman with a no-nonsense bearing.
(What is the male equivalent to an old bag?)
Our man is 100 percent Scottish (a fine qualification for an English gentleman).
The aforementioned two suits are: one for formal occasions, the other at the cleaners. His tie was cleverly spotted, and cigar ashes drifted down the lapels.
Suits last many years until they become threadbare, then they should be handed down.
His own models originally came from what he considers London’s finest tailor -Ligour, French & Standbury-not in Saville Row, but on Dover Street. Saville Row has become a habitat for pop stars, he observed.
His shirts come from Turnbull and Asser, on Jermyn Street. His polished shoes (a sparkling neat detail essential to the gentleman) are made by Lobb.
His cologne made popular by Edwards the VIII. ‘Women invariably call it the sexiest they’ve ever come across. So I only wear it when I go on the moors now.’
Flaunting of wealth is something to be avoided at all costs.
The old school tie is de rigueur, of course. But it must be the real thing.
‘You know, I’m not, strictly speaking, a true gentleman. I took up the writing of historical books. Writing is not a gentlemanly profession.’
Earning a living though, is not part of the training of the typical gentleman-a peculiar mixture of nanny-pampered schoolboy and bloodthirsty sportsman.
Gentlemen join wildlife preservations societies, and then devote their lives to keeping down the bird and animal population.
These men also thrive on the occasional war. They stride around in battle as if dressed for a Sunday stroll, convinced that the enemy is a very poor shot indeed.
And dogs do crawl into bed with gentlemen and their wives. This matey approach to dogs can be hazardous to house-watching. Our gentleman had a recent robbery. While his pony-sized Irish wolfhound snoozed peacefully near his master, the master’s lair was relieved of a sizable amount of heirlooms.
But dogs are like nannies, you never put them down.
A permanent nanny is a must. A gent’s wife must put up with the nanny as long as she lasts.
The gentleman’s wife doesn’t usually go shooting, but she is terribly athletic and rides to the hounds. True to form, Diana and I rode for hours, I was exhausted, she, just warmed-up for sundowners.
Furthermore a gentleman belongs to an exclusive club whose purpose is the opposite of sociability.
The car scene is tricky; Rolls-Royces, once acceptable, are now taboo. If the gentleman has inherited one he must make sure that it looks both old and not very clean. Our gentleman drove his into the rhododendron bushes where it sits abandoned. He now drives a suitably spotty and ash-littered Rover.
Gentlemen should be ignorant of things mechanical, except for guns. His, matched Holland and Hollands. The tycoons are buying Purdeys, and there is a 10-year wait.
When I ask about Americans qualifying as gentlemen, he hedges politely. I press on (not very gentlewomanly like). ‘I know several, he said, and they can be very gentlemanly. But the thing about Americans, they’re rather like old Etonians. As individuals, they’re all right; I love them to distraction. But together, they’re unbearable.’
I got news for you, everybody is that way. It’s the herd instinct.
Thanks be to heaven the weather stayed clement, we were not snowed-in. I had avoided the dilemma of trying to figure out how to murder a gentleman in a most gentlewomanly way, of course.

November 20, 2008

A Lebanese Mountain Oasis

Lebanon is an old land, a well seasoned strip of earth separating the sharp-ridged Lebanon Mountains from the Mediterranean Sea. For thousands of years the region had been a crossroads of the Near East, vulnerable to the attacks of one alien race after another.

Houses, like people, are far more interesting when they have stories to tell. They link us to other times and peoples in a way no history book could.

My friend Larissa and husband Eduard bought an 18th-century house in the Lebanon Mountains. In historical perspective it was relatively modern, an intriguing survivor of a venerable past.
And a designer’s challenge. When the house was bought, only its walls where standing; its labyrinthine chambers where open to the sky. (When originally built, certain rooms were intentionally left unroofed as cool summer spaces.) The architecture was restored to its original design. We made no radical alterations and the results were a timeless oasis of simplicity, comfort, and practicality.

All the windows had a view of the brush-covered highlands. Each room of the house opened onto a central courtyard-enclosed from the world, open to the sky, an oasis within the oasis.

According to a French journalist, Lebanon is a “land of passage, land of refuge”.

Unfortunately, it did not prove so for my friends…

November 15, 2008

Posting from the edge of the canyon


Since you felt at liberty to post your question publicly wondering, among other things, what strange, isolated, and remote part of the universe I inhabit these days.

I feel at liberty to write these thoughts in answer.

I have been thinking and reflecting seriously since the beginning of summer and the resurfacing of some unexpected feelings.

After I left the audio industry I realized fully that 'the one' would live permanently in a save niche in my heart. Many uninvited happenings intruded into my life, and as the years went by I composed to the idea of an impossible love. I could sit for hours trying to remember all the details about him and comfort myself with the feeling that if I died and people examined my heart they would find his name engraved on it.

When I occasionally came at close proximity I was terrified that I might be carried away by an impulsive act of mine. It was during the summer Olympics that my cousin, who was riding with the German Equestrian team, needed something out of the ordinary, urgently. We drove out to the Red Barn feed and saddlery. Bad idea! For weeks I felt devastatingly sad. But, ‘I was fine'.

So I made absolutely certain that in future I would keep a very long and cool distance. I put my heart into the deep freeze and my feelings into mothballs. And, 'I was fine'.

Until this summer, when an innocent conversation brought on this thunderclap from hell and my very emotional reaction (you can add your own adjectives of choice here I'm sure it's appropriate).

I am sorry to confess, that I have not recently allowed my prudent? nature to guide me and for that I apologize. Regardless, today that nature needs to dialog without wanting, or asking for anything, but just to say that all of me, the serene and the emotional, the good and the bad, the relaxed and the tense loves this man most dearly.

November 11, 2008

Real Visit to an Imaginary Country

to my friend Mona, Happy Birthday

I had lived in Germany from 1946 to 1958 and travelled extensively.
But I do not claim to know all of Germany, and East Prussia in particular was to remain terra incognita until the 1960’s.
My paternal Grandfather had always been in love with East Prussia, it was horse country, and as a member of the German cavalry close to his heart. My friend Mona loves horses almost as much as Grandfather did. It was decided to make the trip after Grandpa had reestablished contact with a friend who wanted to see his former home once more.

East Prussia has always played a prestigious and poetically charged role in the German spirit. Nations have long been fond of claiming possessions of distant, legendary lands. Such remote territory functions both as a reservoir for dreams and as a hinterland to which can be packed off mystics, miscreants, and other social misfits. India filled this role for England. America had its fabled Far West. Spain and Portugal had the South American Continent; France the Sahara.

East Prussia was the home of the Teutonic knight and the cradle of Prussia itself-the first Prussian king got his crown at Konigsberg in 1701. It has long retained the wavering aura of a dreamland, with its shifting dunes and lakes speckled by flocks of migrating birds. Its denizens include the European bison, the wolf, and the black swan. East Prussia was also the first German territory claimed by Russian forces in WW II. After the war, East Prussia was divided up between Poland and Russia. Danzig became Gdansk; Königsberg, Kaliningrad.

To make up for my lack of knowledge of the region I carried off all I could find in way of maps, photographs, memoirs, historical studies, and travel guides. My best find was the publishing house of Grafe & Unzer, formerly located in Königsberg. Moved to Munich, and continued stocking the memoirs of 2 million eastern refugees, with an imperturbable production of picture albums, memoirs, calendars, local recipes, and short stories written in the dialect of the lost land.

I also had the good fortune of finding the memoirs of Walter Frevert, the last keeper of the Rominten preserve. Rominten was the site of Göring’s chalet, the Jägerhof. Romingten became Russian territory, Fervert relocated to Baden-Baden in Germany. We met and talked and exchanged many interesting stories.

In Summer of 1968 we finally got to see it. I call came trough from Grandpa’s friend, he was leaving for East Prussia there was room for us in his car. We immediately accepted.

He welcomed us with all the cordiality his natural timidity and reserve permitted. He was as I had imagined, only more so. I had expected him tall and thin. He was very tall-6feet, 4inches, (2 inches taller than Grandpa)-and skinny as a rail.

I knew that his only reason for becoming a surgeon had been to devote his life to helping others. It was said that the royalties from his books-including an East Prussian diary that sold over 500,000 copies in Germany-went to the ecumenical monastery of Taizé, France.

This voyage into Poland (formerly East Prussia) had the quality of a film. This was due partly to my total passivity. Seated in the back of the big car with Mona, intermittently dozing and only half conscious of the talk coming from the front seat, I let myself be carried along without concern for itinerary or stops, as inactive as a moviegoer. Whence too, I suppose, the seeming unreality of it all. For our actions alone give reality its weight.

Our first stop was Berlin. It was not my first visit to the pseudo-capital, that absurd and tragic symbol of the gash the ideological war had cut between East and West.

The next day, we sped along the Autobahn towards Pomerania and the Baltic shore. East Germany was crossed with little fuss, and Poland entered with still less. First conclusion: the Eastern countries are easier to get into than out of. (We were to verify that on our return).

Our main destination was Olsztyn (formerly Allenstein) on the edge of Masuria. Once there we conducted forays through the countryside trying to locate the castles and subjects of our friend. These were surprising expeditions ending more often at charred walls and desecrated tombs. Our friend was most disturbed by the transformation of the grounds. After 35 years, old trees had fallen, new trees had grown. Some path had vanished and others had appeared.

Once, we walked for hours in a forest while searching for a manor. Three times we met living souls, as the expression goes, but the souls were in bodies so odd and twisted that doubt and alarm held us back. What manner of evil forest was this? The building loomed at last, handsome, well maintained, and haunted-but by most contemporary ghosts: the manor had been turned into an insane asylum. Steinort Castle, where Heinrich von Lehndorff was arrested in 1944, was being restored with considerable care, as was Preussisch Holland; as a matter of fact, a painter was in the process of restoring, high on the façade, the arms of the Dönhoff family, to which Preussisch Holland had belonged. On the other hand, homes more famous than these had been reduce to cinders by the Russians before they handed the sector over to Poland. This was true of Finkelstein Castle, where Napoleon stayed in 1812, and of the Teutonic fortress of Schönberg. At Rastenburg, bombs had devastated Hitler’s Wolfschanze, an imposing, windowless structure that seem to lean in all directions, at once off-balance and absolutely indestructible.

Our friend’s reunion with the woodsmen, craftsmen, and peasants of his estate completed his moral exhaustion. After an emotional exchange of greetings and old memories, he would have to accept their hospitality and spend the night. We returned to our comfortable hotel in Olsztyn, leaving our friend to fold his big frame into a sagging sofa. These people were Germans, naturalized as Poles. The elders said that they had never been able to learn the new language. The 40-year-olds spoke both languages fairly well. The children spoke only Polish. Their extreme poverty was neither worse nor better than before the war. It is easy to think that political regimes and economic fluctuation have little to do with everyday life at this level of simplicity, but such proposition is probably false. A rise of a few cents in the price of milk and potatoes can have an immediate effect on the very existence of these families.

We spend a week at the Liski stud farm, a veritable village serving the last breeding ranch for the Trakehnen horses; over 5,000 acres, including 2,000 in pastures, to feed 600 animals. We rode in hunting carriage-the driver in livery-around the splendid estate. Its large, traditional farm abounded with calves, cows, pigs, flocks of geese, turkeys, ducks and even storks astride great nests of branches balanced on chimney tops. The old-fashioned Polish farm, a hymn to the peaceful and bucolic life, is doubtless the equivalent of French farm 100 years ago.
The horse remained king in Poland (there were some 2,500.000). Cars were constantly held up on narrow roads behind teams of horses driven by women, their muscular forearms bared and brightly colored scarves on their heads. Wherever you went, the familiar, hypnotic clatter of shod hooves was never far out of earshot. It would be unfair, though, to say that progress had made no inroads: all carriage wheels had air tires.

A landscape is a state of mind. Ensconced in a big car laden with food for a king, we saw East Prussia as a gentle rolling countryside, fertile and sensuous, studded with majestic trees and dotted with picturesque lakes.

I have mentioned the storks, which plant their familiar angular forms on chimney tops and strut cautiously in the marshy prairies. We also saw black swans. From a lakeshore, we saw an island wholly given over the cormorants perched in black –and-white clusters in trees-big beeches that their droppings had stripped to resemble gallows. They go south every autumn, but when spring comes they return to take over that island in that lake, and none other in the entire region.

Our excursion led one day to Mohrungen, now Morag, a small town that boast a Herder museum in a big square house flanked by bronze cannon from Napoleon’s Russian retreat. Johann Gottfried von Herder-philosopher, critic, and leading theoretician of German romanticism-was born in Mohrungen in 1744. The letters, manuscripts, engravings, and maps in the little museum testify to his refusal, shared by other early romantics, ever to choose between science and poetry, mechanics and mysticism. With the same impassioned curiosity as Diderot, Lessing, d’Alembert, and other encyclopedists, Herder was to claim all of his life as his subject matter.
As we were leaving, a boy approached; clearly he had been waiting for us. With his long blond hair, blue eyes, and a Madonna-like face with salient cheekbones and pointed chin, he reminded of Novalis, the angled mechanic who had so well mixed metaphysical dreaming with his profession as mining engineer. The boy fell into step with us, insistently repeating a word we had trouble understanding. The mystery cleared when we reached the car. Motor! Said the young Pole, pointing at the hood of the car. He wanted to see the engine.

The hood was raised, and half of the angel disappeared from view as he plunged into the engine’s greasy, smoking entrails, and he caressed with loving respect, the still warm sides of the crankcase.

Our voyage ended in Krakow, once the royal residence and religious capital, and now a living museum miraculously spared in the war. We witnessed the remarkable turnout for Sunday morning Mass. We were told that for Poles, the church was the old and unconquerable fatherland, and impregnable camp that foreign-dictated political power could never invade. We heard a story that had circulated a few years ago when Archbishop Felton of Paris visited Warsaw. He had attended Sunday mass and been impressed by the crowd that overflowed into the square outside.”How do you attract so many people to church?” he asked the priest. “Me?’ the priest answered. “ I ring the bell.”

The next day we were on our way back to the West.

November 09, 2008

Birthday reminiscing - The Good Ol’ Days

If you’ve lived more than forty years, chances are you’ve seen a lot of changes. In my lifetime I’ve seen the advent of the personal computer, the information highway, e-mail, the fax machine, the cell phone, 8-track, cassettes, VHS, BETA, cd’s, dvd’s, space travel,
and pet rocks.

I’ve seen changes in clothing, too. I’ve watched bell-bottoms come into style, go out of style, and come back in again. I’ve seen torn and holey jeans graduate from being a financial statement to a fashion one. I’ve seen hemlines go up, down, and even shred themselves.

I’ve seen hairstyles go from long to short to blue to purple to spiked to bald. And that’s just the women.

Body piercing used to be something you only saw on National Geographic or when you accidentally pierced yourself putting on a new shirt before taking out all the straight pins. Now people are piercing every body part the can think of. I don’t get it. I had a few spinal taps, and that was all the body piercing I needed for a lifetime.

I’ve witnessed a lot of changes on the political scene, too. I’ve seen a president impeached, a president resign, a president assassinated, and one lose his meal in a dignitary’s lap at an overseas state dinner.

We’ve traveled to the moon and we had plenty of public figures we’d like to send there.

I’ve watched dissatisfied, unfulfilled stay-at-home moms join the work force and dissatisfied career women quit their jobs to become stay-at-home moms.

I’ve seen dads become Mr. Moms when they realized that their children are only young once.

I’ve seen good changes and some that weren’t so good. Changes we’ve fought against and plenty we’ve had to learn to accept. But if life is about anything, it’s about change. We don’t have a choice in that. We do, however, have a choice as to how much we change with it.
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November 02, 2008

In praise of ample women…

la belle Morphise (Mme Marie-Louise O’Murphy)

…for Frances

The struggle is with fashion and food, mores and men, and more than mores, machines like mini-cars and machinations of the medical devil like ‘fat’s a killer’. What a battle! It makes Balaclava sound like a gentle pony-trek.
However, if men had any say in the matter-which they hardly seem to have, at least neither openly nor operatively-the pendulum from bones to embonpoint could well be on the swing, the charge of the very light brigade be over. For years we have heard the old grumble: ’I like something to get hold of.’ But now it is becoming more sinister, even young men are heard to snarl and mutter, ‘We’re sick of the spiders…’ So, ladies, it may be the time to pop another chocolate in, have a dozen cakes and eat them; to watch the calories rise like flies, and give those carbohydrates the freedom of your well-curved kingdom.

Your reward will be a mile of flashing white ivories. An old English saying once went: ‘What she wants in up and down, she hath in round about.’ Let it be said again. Pay, though, less attention to another proverbial Englishman’s requirements of a woman: ’Fat, fair and fourty.’ You can as well be young, dark and just delectably plump. But always remember, another old English phrase: ‘The fat’s in the fire’. Reflect, as you pop another soft-centre in, that sexually speaking the fat is the fire.
The connection between plumpness and food are not only those between the chocolate box and you. They are more general. " I’d like to eat you,’ he says-not meaning your bones. And he is talking not only of his love for your violet eyes but of his love for the eyeballs themselves and more, of his natural and healthy appetite for all the fine rounded flow of flesh mounted about them and below. Who ever heard of a fine, lean partridge? Plump’s the word, the sensory connection are obvious.
If courtship is a sweet and soulful aperitif the act of love itself is a dual mastication. In which case why not give him a good meal, mother’s-apple-pie-wise?
When Ivan Bunin wrote:’…but he was already intoxicated by the size and whiteness of that naked body..’ he was not describing a possibly quite charming fifteen-stoner full of triplets, but more a good helping from the generous platter of the day. Flesh was then flesh, as it had been for centuries before, and welcomed as such. But the flesh, I should think, was Boucher flesh rather than the heavier Rubens cut of meat: in other words, it is well rounded and plump, delineated by the most delightful dimples and creases.

Anyway, over-slimming is as much of a killer, or as wearying, as too much tissue. Moderation must surely be the means. François Boucher, one feels, well knew. A court painter, and French, he lived from 1703 until 1770, drawing and painting hundred of plump divinities and comfortably missing the Revolution by almost a round score of years. Fortunate fellow, one might think, though perhaps a little lacking in breastwork by Hollywood’s best standards. And it may be salutary to reflect that one of Boucher’s most famous nudes, the little lady lying on her stomach in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, is called Miss Morphise O’Murphy.
Could one thus be drawn to conclude that those pinkly limbs, those pretty plump cheeks-are all potato?