Anton's Ideas

Anton Wills-Eve on world news & random ideas

Month: May, 2016


<a href=””>Blank</a&gt;

a cunningly  concealed prompt

                                                DUMMY RUN

It often strikes me as amusing that many of the followers of my idle thoughts and memories believe me to have had an extraordinary life. A mixture of the greatest love, the most heart breaking tragedy; the enjoyment of celebrity and wealth, the suffering from a horrendous mental illness all my life and the terrible guilt at so seldom being able to live up to my own and my God’s ideas of the the sort of person I should be. And all this played out before the back drop of scenes in four continents and seventy three countries, covering seven wars and a host of peace keeping and diplomatic missions, that on reflection really do read like a novel no one person could possibly have lived. And yet I have, and have survived. Peace has mostly taken the form of dallying in the history libraries of five very old European Universities where five languages were also fully mastered. This was mainly for fun and to satisfy my natural polyglot curiosity,so often soothed into submission by my fingers on the keyboards of so many oddly tuned pianos.

I have been shot twice, survived two helicopter crashes, been blown up so many times I have honestly lost count and yet I have always just gone on to the next scene so that my life has almost been a long running series of films. Except it happened. Well, if I took it all too seriously I would have died of depression by now. Firstly, losing to illness and violence people I never thought I could live on without when they died. And now living with cancer, five strokes and a broken spine to add to my insanity. But I have always been able to see the funny side of existence as well, so I shall concede that I am an anomaly. But two things always help keep me sane; my ability to play music I adore, even If I cannot do this in front of other people, and being blessed with the help of a spiritual side to my life that actually cheers me up when chatting to two special saints who make me laugh when really they should be telling me off. So what is this wonderful build up, this blockbuster’s trailer, leading to? Some of you may have guessed, you have been asking for it for long enough. Yes, I have decided to complete, and be honest in writing, my autobiography. A few eyebrows went up there!

Well, what would you have me do? Hide my bushel in front of a light, thus consigning my life’s story to only the silhouette of its reality? There is no point in that now, for two of the three people whom I had recently promised not to hurt by ‘telling it like it was, is and will be’, have suddenly disappeared from my life. Yes that is sad, hard to take, hard to live with, or rather without, but the final supplicant of my silence has now said ‘Go on’. They did add, ‘it will take you so long to finish it I will probably be gone too by then, anyway!’ So for a while now my blogs may well be shorter than usual, a bit more brief rhyme, and yet everything designed to give me time to finish the most big headed thing a man can think; to assume other people want to read his life story. I often get suicidal at the thought of doing this. A lot of my life, from birth to the age of twenty nine, is already written in verse and yes, chunks of this may well be retained, but do I really want to tell my life story warts and all? Not always, it makes me feel positively suicidal at times. You’ll never guess what I have done to counter this unpleasant possibility.

Just in case I do find I am pressing a self destruct button in myself by determining to complete this literary venture, I have loaded a revolver with six cartridges which I shall keep beside me while I write. Should I feel like ending my life earlier than God would want, he’d stop me anyway, I will pick up that revolver, point it at my head and pull the trigger. The noise should frighten me into having a stiff drink, play a soothing piece of Liszt or Mozart and then resume my tale. I would not need more than six such shocks to finish my story. And I would finish it. I know, I loaded it myself! You see each of those cartridges is a blank.




<a href=””>Orderly</a&gt;

that the third  world may profit from my second class mess. 



I bought a new tablet today

That is a mini mobile computer  OTG

The idea was it would tidy up my work

And make my writing more orderly.

But it hasn’t, I am still a mess

Can’t find even one email address,

So I’ve packed it up and sent it abroad

To educate poor kids who can’t afford

This type of latest digital  luxury

I hope it orders Africa better than it ordered me!




<a href=””>Epitome</a&gt;

a heart wrenching memory  can be the only real epitome of love


As I grew up I always knew that everything I wanted in the girl I loved would have to be exactly as I imagined the epitome of my putative wife. From early, wondering years of innocence, yes even then when I was only ten, for my life-long lover to mean to me and I to she, everything I desired. I knew I could not live with any girl who lacked the following four outstanding qualities.

For a start, I was certain I could not live with someone who never smiled or laughed and, being vain, especially laughed at me. I mean of course in the sense that she should share my sense of humour and fun so that everything we might enjoy we might enjoy as one. I had such a tiny space for shared virtues in that partition of my mental world; there could never be room for more than two of us at once. Well not for another goddess-lover anyway because of my imagined lover’s second requisite quality. She had to be somebody, and this I think I knew beyond doubt when only fifteen, to whom I would want to be always faithful. And she always true to me. I wanted someone I could place upon a pedestal and to whom my wedding vows of love and constancy would not just be words, but the sincerest feelings I had ever felt. Promises that, were I to break them, I might as well have taken a cleaver to my heart, almost smote it in twain with all the strength I had.

Then her third necessary adjunct to her humanity would have had to be the depth of her love for me. How selfish can a man become when all he can see throughout his life is being worshipped and adored by his wife? But I also had a safety valve for this particular emotion, this necessary quality in the object of my devotion. It was this. If ever I should stumble, trip or fall and for a few moments gaze upon another girl. Then, should the wife that I had chosen, out of despair, disappointment, sadness or for whatever reason, take her revenge by similarly deceiving me I would totally and unconditionally forgive her. Providing she never asked me to confront the object of any brief and physical desire, I would absolve her, never query, question ask or threaten her. Just forgive. I could live with such a normal human thing. I could forgive, but only if I realised I too had been capable of setting her aside for the same reason, the same very short season and one that I could know would never last. Indeed, that I would have to know had already passed.

Her fourth quality? I am surprised you have not wondered, well you have not, have you? Why I have not included the beauty of her looks, her personality or her physical attributes. You know, they would mean nothing to me. I firmly believed this from my late teen years as so many girls of beauty, normality, shyness or vivacity had all seemed so alike to me. No, the other thing I knew she would have to have would be a deep and gentle love for her fellow men. In short she would have to come to me unburdened with any type of prejudice arising out of unreasonable hatred or dislike for others. I was sure I would place that quality above any fair features in her face or figure. I could only hold her really close and really love her, if I knew that she loved all humanity as much as I did too. So did I ever find her, this paragon? Or was she just a fairy dream?

Oh, I found her once. Then twice, then thrice and am settled now with my fourth wife. But every time the severance I had to undergo was due to the ending of her human life, and each widowing hurt me unbearably. But were they all the epitome of all those qualities I so innocently insisted I could not live without? Yes, of course, they each predominantly had one. My first brief Italian love loved me so much she would have given me up rather than fail in her duty to her suffering family. Lucia, of the four, was the closest to a saint in her love of others. My second, my deepest love, was in Vietnam. Anh, gave her life to nursing the destitute and in her way gave me the strongest reason to pray for another human being. She and my baby daughter were killed in a war, it tore the heart out of me. Of all my loves she was the epitome of selflessly devoting every second of her life to me. She left me the softest smile I ever craved.

My third wife Anne, left suddenly of a cardiac disease. Ours was the briefest, oddest joining of two people. Before she died so suddenly she was the cause and the epitome of total forgiveness between two normal, morally fragile human beings. Her parting present in atonement, one for one, was my eldest son. Lucia ‘s gift was twin daughters, their families still and always a part of me, though living many lands away. Anh offers me herself every day with memories of our lovely little girl. And finally my fourth, my longest, my most enduring love is still the epitome of everything that cheers, shares laughter and loves how much she loves loving me. Her gift is my last and youngest son. The epitome of any happy union with anyone.



<a href=””>Fork</a&gt;

for those who have eyes’ let them hear!


it was all alone when there it lay,

unremarked by all and sundry on a lovely sunny day.

just a picnic fork on a plastic tray.

cast aside, nonchalantly I suppose,

by a greedy, sated, bloated nobleman one of those

rich wayside revellers who chose

to quaff Champagne, kept cold on ice

by his ageing, faithful, travelling butler, on whose advice

they had already met there to dally; twice.

she, versed in the art of coquetry not amour,

and hoping to seduce him, through her fake passion once more

and so gain his wealth by pretending to adore

his bold masculine charm, his figure and his face

lauding his charismatic, haunting looks and aristocratic grace.

why else would they keep a tryst in such a place?

poor lass, his secret was well hidden from her mind

she had no idea he was a vile philanderer, a Don Juan so unkind

who wished only to enjoy ravishing his new ‘find’.

like the fork in the road, though without any tray,

on the grass verge, by a little copse, they most immoderately lay

he taking his pleasure ; she hoping ultimately he’d pay

for the rest of her days, and for all that she might need

while he never even thought, perhaps he might plant a seed

that would flourish soon in her and not satisfy her greed.

thus the harsh moral of my story, it is amoral after all,

is never picnic by a road, with a butler watching, or you’ll fall

for a vile lecher who will leave you with what you call

its father, when he reduces you to total destitution

unable to afford a fork to perform on him the type of execution,

 you daily contemplate in your sad state of prostitution.



Charles II<a href=””>Countless</a&gt;

a lovely prompt for a mind like mine!


In Mediaeval central France, around the time King Saint Louis IX died in 1270 while on crusade, a small territory in the centre of the Loire valley found itself in a most unfortunate situation. Its countless peasants, merchants, burghers and noblemen found themselves literally Countless. Le Comte Pierre le Pauvre had died in penury, and being a bald bachelor had left no hair or heir.

It was by no means a huge Comté, indeed more like one of the small English counties which abounded at that time, still do. The size of Wiltshire? Yes, maybe so. But, although of little significance politically or strategically, it had one asset which every inhabitant knew  could make them very rich if properly managed. The wine grown on those few banks of the Loire  was of a magnificent quality. Indeed the seven vineyards which claimed to produce the finest wine all insisted that the Knight, Nobleman, merchant or Esquire who owned them should be crowned and consecrated the new Comte. The king was, dead they had heard, so if they arranged things fast enough their new ruler would be in place before any royal command could name another claimant to the title. But two serious problems faced them, one legal, one regal.

The legal one was simple. A scroll in the local cathedral, with copies in the largest chateau  and modest castle, dated back four hundred years to 873 laying down the rules for a Comte to obey  from the day of succession to the title. It said, en bref, that if the incumbent died childless and with no spouse, then whoever was appointed in his place, should both be married reasonably young and be expected to have children to succeed him in abundance. In short it was intended by king Charles II that the title should be hereditary. By an odd coincidence he was also bald, at least history has always given him the nickname  ‘Charles the bald’, but the coincidence ended there for he was succeeded by his son.

But the regal problem was much more in line with  typical French concern for the  taste of the grape than the defence of the realm. Or at least that part of it which produced fine wines. The Comte had to provide the monarch with a cask of the region’s finest vintage, voted by the seven vine growers, every three months. So how did the inhabitants of this typically sleepy Comté resolve the appointment and choice of a new Comte? Well first let us meet the seven owners of the vineyards. To start with by far the wealthiest and, under normal circumstances, the likeliest man to lead the countless people was Sire Robert Bonchance, who lived in the castle. His vineyard produced a really excellent dry, crisp white with a nose of strawberries and wild peaches mixed with gooseberry flavours, which had the added aroma of a South Australian eucalyptus. You know the sort of wine. Goes well with poached white fish and creamed potatoes. It would have been an absolute certain choice  except for the unfortunate fact that neither South Australia nor potatoes had at that time been made known to Western Europe. And Robert had another problem. His wife Mathilde was a positive shrew. She may have had four sturdy sons in five years but the locals all recoiled at the idea of her being given any higher social status than she had.

The two knights of the king’s bodyguard, honorary, who dwelt on that part of the Loire were twins. They each owned a vineyard and loved playfully trying to outdo each other every year when the grapes were trodden. Pierre and Jean-Claude Jumelles  were aged twenty nine, good soldiers, vintners and pals. But there the similarity ended. Much as they loved each other they also loved the same young lady, pretty nineteen year old Hélène Damnaçion daughter of a Basque merchant and his wife who had moved there when she was small.

“Eh alors?” sighed Pierre.

“Quoi, donc!” replied his sibling.”Nous allons ….”

No, look they both spoke perfect Oxford English  …”I say old chap we’d better decide who has the hand of the fair belle Hélène by a feat of arms.” He meant literally by feet and arms. “You game?” His brother was and so they raced each other for a few milia passuum down the Loire in rowing boats. Hélène stood on the bank cheering them on and shouting such loving remarks as, 

“Drown the bastard, Pierre, I never could stand him!”

Her prayers of pious devotion were heard and her knight errant won by a league as their two premierships skimmed the water. However, Jean-Claude took it well and made this proclamation to the crowds on the tow path. “Whatever fair maid shall cross my palm with two groats and a flagon of mead shall have me for a night!” On hearing this Lucette  Geaux whispered to Virginie Cémois,

“Je tink ‘e means knight.” But she was too slow, Charolotte Isine  had rushed forward, mead and groats at the ready, and told him she was already his. One might say she was ready maid and his luck was in. Unfortunately three of the older wine growers, while rich in money and with superior fruit, were all at least forty years old. Albert Orl, Pascale Planche  and Guy de la Musée all had good wives too and fine young boys, but their only hope of conquering the countless inhabitants was by somehow rigging the vote, for none had the bearing or  brains of a Comte. And then they all stared at the owner of the seventh vineyard. They had forgotten the rules or else, in the excitement of the chase for ça qui Comte, had not realised their dilemma. 

The seventh contestant was Blanche Neige, the most beautiful girl in the kingdom, let alone the Comté. What on earth were the countless countless to do. They could make her a Comptesse too, but did she have to be married to a noble? The scroll said nothing about gender, it had been hand copied by a scribe called  N.Carolina. So the six wine growers decided to ask her if she would be prepared to pick any handsome man of her choice, give him her grapes and then they would agree her wine would be the best and they would all withdraw in favour of her suitor. Blanche was staggered at their effrontery. “But, mes amis, ‘ow you say? I would win for my wine’s best anyway. I’ll be LA COMTE et mon mari”  (French for hubby bur she forgot, it was an English speaking plot) will be LE COMTESSE, what’s wrong with that?

Well of course nowadays nothing at all. But in France, some seven hundred and fifty years ago, transgendering the aristocracy was almost as bad as publicly admitting the nobles already had. So the vintners put it to two votes. First which was the superior wine because if a man won everything would be fine. And secondly, in case it was Blanche, they decided to create the first female Comte. In truth the countless countless could not wait to see what the new king’s reaction would be. But Blanche still had to find a hubby and suddenly had a super plan, hastening to the king’s coronation up North. He took one look at her and cried, “Ma Cherie!” which basically meant would she be queen? She agreed and told him she was also Le Comtesse, de somewhere on the Loire. He could not care less. He just took down her title and added it to his own and added her possessions to the crown.

So that left the countless countless countless still. But at least they did not have to cross dress every time they wished to relieve themselves in a public place.
























<a href=””>Grain</a&gt;

couldn’t resist this for the one or maybe two people who have a clue what I’m on about.keeps to the prompt though!


in France quite a lot of people eat

‘un grain de blė’, as we say, wheat.

many more on ‘grain d’orge” gorge,

that is barleycorn, at mill or forge.

but medically ‘grains d’orge’ mean

seeds in joints which can’t be seen.

in ‘grains de moutarde, ou de grenade’,

‘mustard or pomegranate seed’ is had.

to speak really posh, refined, you say

‘le bon grain finit toujours par lever’.

meaning quality always rises to the top

and ‘la récolte de blé’ is the harvest crop.

‘un entrepôt des grains’ we call a granary

‘un poulet de grain’, a corn fed chick for me.

être en grain’ pigs love all the world over

it simply means to find oneself in clover.

‘un grain de café‘ is a brown coffee bean

‘un grain de poivre’, a pepper corn green.

‘un grain de raisin’ is a grape, pip, the lot.

‘un grain de beauté’ a patch or beauty spot.

‘un grain de poussière is a speck of dust

for a grain of salt ‘un grain de sel’ is a must.

if physics in science, however, turns you on

‘un grain d’électricté‘ is just one electron.

‘avoir son grain’ tells us he’s drunk in his bed

and ‘il a un grain’ means he’s gone off his head.

‘côté grain de cuir’ is leather’s grainy side too

‘gros grain’ is coarse, or pock marks, a few.

‘ruban gros grain’ is the rough side of photographs

‘temps à grain’, a sea squall, won’t bring any laughs

there are so many variations of using ‘grain’ that we

avoid getting soaked by rain in a ‘fort grain de pluie’,

or being blown off the road and then onto the grass

by a strong gust of wind that’s called a ‘grainasse’.

but from nice folk we might ‘en prendre de la grain’,

benefit from their example, or simply ‘casser le grain’

that’s just eating as much as we think that we’ll need

until we all ‘monter en grain’, that means run to seed.




<a href=””>Dream</a&gt;

Ah! a chance to ramble in aphasia and still be sane.


To sleep, perchance to wake up with cramp or the ageing need to use the loo. And it is still only about half past two in the morning. Still, I think I shall take a pill. One of those strong one’s that won’t let me stir. Six hours of solid snoring through, what wonders for such a span of time will my mind prepare?

First I saw that I was very handsome, was it really me? Well the beauties chasing after me seemed to think so, and oh  the pleasure I would get to know  when they descended on my bed.  But half-life is not like that; as the first girl who sat beside me was squat and fat.

Toothless she grinned saying “Ullo, dearie.” My soul was clean but so uneasy. In fantasy it had wanted to play with fire, and satisfy its lustful desire. But we all know dreams are not so accommodating, they twist and turn and leave  us waiting for all we want to appear before us while asleep. This must be lest awake we might sin, you cannot do that when your will’s not plugged in, for God only punishes sinners who know what they are doing.

Then my mind took a bellicose turn, and sword in hand, I confronted a fearsome cut  throat band of desperadoes with one aim, to cut me down and expunge my name from the list of people their kingdom  feared. A jungle of sorts, with temples and palm trees then appeared, surrounding me and the band all cleared. Wandering through falling fruit as my uncontrolled mind, asleep in a waking world, went on its unreasonable yet exciting way. Next I was invited to play a piano concerto , an orchestra was there already and the conductor beckoned with his baton. I asked what he wanted me to play, Mozart number 21 was what he said but the noise from the orchestra filled me with dread, and the piano keys numbered three hundred and four.  But The cut throats returned and to loud applause I bowed and returned to my earlier dream

This time a fair beauty with lips like peaches and cream, have you ever tasted them even in a dream? They were lovely , but melted as she then melted all over me, and the pills ceased working as I rose for a pee.

Two hours more sleep I had had, some good and some bad. But none of it memorable or if it was, I have no recall and think that such dreams are  far from what I expected at all. So disconnected, and the book that had fallen on the floor, with the light still on just by the door, was entitled “How to write poetry when you are asleep”.

Time for my alarm by the bed to  bleep. The stupid thing thinks I’m still asleep!




<a href=””>Brick</a&gt;

Sorry I’ve been silent for a week, my wife has had a major operation and everything’s been upside down. But she’s getting on well. Now to resume with the one word prompt , Brick.


When first reflecting on the single word brick, most people imagine many of them stacked together in all sorts of shapes and sizes to form buildings, towns and cities. But oddly I have never thought of a brick as anything other than just that, a single brick.

The first one I ever saw on its own was near the orchard wall on the side of our garden. It was very old. I was two so it probably had three hundred years more life than I, but it fascinated me by its dirty pinky brown colour and the bit chipped out of its side. I tentatively turned it over with my foot and recoiled in a toddler’s yucky horror. Stuck to its underneath was a nest of newly born beetles and two snails with slightly cracked shells. I felt sorry for them but was loath to touch them in case they might bite me. Insects and little life was something to be wary of at such an age. My sister, fifteen months older, was worse. She screamed and jumped backwards, tripped and fell over, ending up sitting in a patch of damp grass.

At that age I didn’t know how to tell her  “You’ve wet your arse”.

The second brick to challenge me all alone came much later when I had grown to nearly nine. There it sat on the garden path, between two sticks. But something was wrong. It was pristine, new unmarked and looking as though it had just been made and placed there on the gravel. My mind by now was curious and loved solving mysteries. Where had it come from, what was its purpose for no building work was going on at home. I was not afraid of bricks by then and picked it up to inspect it. The maker’s name, Thos James and Son. was clear to see,written on it’s gutter side. This had been embossed and stamped on it after leaving the kiln in which it was given life.  That made me wonder. Did it have parents, a whole family. Who were its kith and did its kiln have kin?

As I turned over in my hand the mason’s object, which he would coat with cement and change into an artefact of his trade with a triangular shaped tool, to add to many thousands more, I had a thought. Had this single brick been bought for its outstanding beauty, was it a pearl of its culture, cultured as pearls so often were? I only knew I had heard these words, I had no idea what one did to culture a pearl or anything else. But my boy’s mind wound magic properties round that brick, was it made uniquely for a jugglers  trick? Or had some foul felon commissioned just such a weapon, to throw at a millionaire’s window and gain entrance to priceless jewels in a study safe? That would be done by night, so was this brick fashioned by an alchemist at dusk and sold to some fiendish foe of Sherlock Holmes, whose tomes of detection were just entering the realm of my greedy young reader’s devouring mind? I dropped it on the ground, and later wondered was it ever found?

The next sole brick I used aged sixteen and for a sole purpose. I placed it oblong shape up beneath a window to peep in. My sister had taken a new boy friend into the withdrawing room and my mother forbade me to join them. What could they be doing? I had to see, so after a late tea I went round the side of the house and thought. ‘I’ll pick a brick’. First brushing off a lazy louse, I placed it at the perfect angle, stood on its top one footed and stretched up until I could see. They were only drinking cups of tea. In my chagrin I lost my balance as well, twisting my ankle very painfully. I watched it swell but could never say how I had injured myself that stupidly innocent day.

You would think as I grew older I would lose my interest in mundane things. Well on the whole I did, but on one glorious day at university I had my greatest encounter with a single brick. I was twenty years old and the college walls were half as old as time. The same one where someone wrote that famous Newdigate prize rhyme. The porter was helping to erect a wall,  just by the master’s lodge, to stop any bat or ball from breaking  downstairs windows. When from his wheelbarrow a brick fell free and, of course, it fell near me. Remembering my ancient passion for all things ‘brick’ I picked it up and took it back to my student rooms. There, amid  objets d’art and books,  I put it in a place of honour and soon it became a talking point. “That brick anything special, John?” I was asked.

“Worth several thousand,” I replied looking at its admirer’s aghast face.

“You paid that much just for a brick?” I nodded, but demurely refused to comment on what was the significance of the scratched engraving on it. Soon students came from all around to examine, marvel and shake their heads. It really was a wondrous hoax, that I kept up until the day I left. That was when  a rich American girl took me aside and offered me an enormous sum to buy it for her antique collection. When she left I had pocketed twenty thousand pounds, I never did hear if it was seen again. But I rather think not, for she took it home to Idaho. Where it’s probably got pride of place on her family’s old piano.




<a href=””>Vision</a&gt;


I had a vision today of the world in about 75 years time. Some 25% of the population of today’s poorer or oppressed nations were living happily in the modern, Western, developed world enjoying bringing up their children to a happy, healthy and generally useful and well educated life. Some 20% more of the really lucky ones had managed to bring about such happy changes in their native lands.

Are we all really so selfish today that we don’t want to help such people find a better life, a life nearer to that which we live ourselves? What threat do impoverished, destitute migrants pose that is so great we would rather see them starving, down trodden and basically ignored? None that I can see. 

Just think back to our colonial centuries of living off the less fortunate peoples on earth. We owe them everything we have. And in the US what was wrong about poor or persecuted Europeans of 250 years ago wanting to find a better life and so crossing the Atlantic to set up what we now call the United States? They were the very migrants that so called civilised, cultured people want to turn away because they  do not want to share their wealth and social advantages. 

I would so much rather go to my maker content in the belief that the vision I really want to see at the end of this century is one which will actually be there, be real. In Britain we don’t want to stop helping our friends in Europe. In America nobody wants a wall to keep out Mexicans when they are hard up and basically ordinary, pleasant people. Very few Europeans want to be forever arguing with each other, and the rest of the world, about who should have the highest salaries and the most modern gadgets in their homes.

None of us want any of these things for the world at the expense of peace and friendship among nations. We want a world  that our children and grandchildren will be able to stand up in and proudly say ,”this is what I helped create.” We all owe everyone a happy future, a loving future; not a world  of wars, hatred and ‘exits’ from all regions where we should be helping others instead of running away. 










<a href=””>Survival</a&gt;

my survival of having a mother like mine is the only art I ever fully mastered.


We all have mothers, of course we do. But learning to live, love and survive with them can be the most difficult thing in one’s life. It certainly is if she was was like mine. Survival in Mama’s world was a heroic and necessary act of devotion. Listen to this.

Quite honestly only my sister and I can probably truly have claimed to survive her at all. In 1940, after she had spent nearly fifteen years as one of the best known and highest paid female entertainers in the country, she was diagnosed with four terminal illnesses. She had already undergone major pioneering surgery for its time, 1937, having her thyroid gland removed, and half her bowel replaced by a plastic one. She was told she would never have children and would be unlikely to live for more than five more years.

But mama was a generous woman who wanted to share three things in life. Firstly her wit, which was fast, original, clever, hilarious and kept half the country rolling about laughing for some ten years. Secondly was her love of God which she never forced on anyone, just told it like a story which made people want to hear it. As a Scots/Irish Glasgow Catholic, with a very strong personality, people tended to listen. They predominantly did not agree with her, but she ignored this and just assumed they would accept her words as Gospel. Why on earth should they? After all she did not expect audiences to believe her jokes, and she certainly never expected anyone to think of her as anything but a very attractive woman, even if she was the best male impersonator on the British stage and half the country assumed she must be a lesbian, which she very definitely was not.

The third thing she wanted to share was her genes. My father was eight years her junior but really loved her. When she said “I am having a boy and a girl, she meant it and told her physicians what they could do with their protestations of horror about how she was planning to kill herself. Well early in 1941 my adorable sister was born in the middle of the blitz, just about every natural law of survival was broken that day. She is still going strong, healthy, happy and extremely successful. Mum certainly won her case in that argument. However, my sister has far more of my father’s natural traits than my mother’s so perhaps her next quest for a son was justifiable. Nobody in the family or the medical world thought so. But she and dad must have done because, against all the odds, I saw the light of day in May 1942. But with me her luck ran out.

My birth took far more out of her than just me. All her reproductive bits were removed and she nearly died. She had seven more major abdominal operations by l949, describing her stomach as a map of the London Underground, and twice during that period my sister and I were told she had died. I have still got a copy of one obviously precocious obituary on her written in an early edition of the London Evening News; hastily taken down before the next edition. Her only complaint about this was that someone had said she was the first female to top the bill on a live radio broadcast of a Royal Variety show in front of King George the Vth. She said she wasn’t she was the second as her sister, the female half of their act, spoke the first word. I have heard a recording of the show and actually you cannot tell!

But there were two very, very difficult aspects of being brought up by mum in one’s young life, let’s say three to eight  years. Firstly she did not argue with her children. She told them what she wanted them to know, right from wrong true from false, autobiographical and theatrical reminiscences. If either of us disbelieved her or pointed out that other people’s accounts of many events she recounted did not tally with hers, she simply looked at us as though you were mad and changed the subject. My aunt, the other half of the act, always told a different version of everything but if you got them together, in the hope of making one concede, they simply turned the moment into an ad-libbed, cross-patter sketch that was as funny as anything you could ever hope to hear. Truth in retrospect was a complete non-starter in their world then. Actually when my aunt did write her autobiography in 1966 she got her own birthday wrong, the place she was born wrong and the ages of both her sons wrong. We never even bothered to tell her, she had her own highly successful weekly radio show by then and it was pointless.

The worst thing about living with mum, though, was her love of acting like a raving idiot whenever she was out in public with my sister and I. This was not often as she was bed ridden for two thirds of  the time throughout the whole of her life after my birth. But imagine getting on a bus with a mother who was often recognised by many passengers and who might tell the conductor that she was bankrupt and was taking her poor children to a shop in Kensington to sell their shoes. Then asking to be excused paying the fare. On that occasion she got away with it, but imagine what we went through aged seven and eight! That sort of behaviour went on all her life and probably the days which really tested my ability to survive maternal embarrassment was when I was thirteen and she was well enough to be invited to give out the prizes on school speech day. As she handed a handsomely bound, gold embossed complete set of Dickens to a boy who was top scholar in his year, she turned to the headmaster and remarked, “You can’t think much of this poor fellow, Father, if you expect him to wade through all this rubbish.” The audience liked it, I curled up.

But poor Mama really did suffer dreadfully and in 1957 developed chronic emphysema, a breathing congestion of the lungs which stopped her singing and greatly reduced her talking. She had to give up smoking and drinking. With her other illnesses, it also started to change her basically humorous and loving personality. She knew she was dying but just refused. She became very possessive of my sister and me and tried to run our lives. She would totally annihilate our boyfriends or girlfriends, so much so that at sixteen my sister told her she was never bringing a boy home again. She never did until she married very shortly before mum finally died. I had one girl who simply put up with mum for my sake, pitying her more than anything. “Oh, Ton,” her pet name for me, “Why does Ermyntrude (a character mum invented) still smoke  and drink like she does, she must know it’s hastening the end.” It was true, but Mama’s will power was phenomenal.  She managed to break us up when we wanted to marry later, but by then her mind had gone. It was still quite terrible.

In the interim period my father had been posted to Paris and I went to university at the Sorbonne and my sister in England. We had one last great family holiday in October 1961 which I have recounted elsewhere. That was the time we met the Pope (St.John XXIII) as a family and was the greatest reward she ever received for her constant faith. But through all those weird days of wealth, fame, embarrassment, love and suffering for all of us, I still managed to keep sane and survive the extraordinary part of my life I shared with her. I flew back from Saigon and was the only person with her when she died 28 years after giving me life. My only regret is that she never believed I had a dreadful phobia and anxiety neurosis from birth. I can only live with this because I genuinely think she both knew and recognised my torment yet blamed herself for it.



<a href=””>Chaos</a&gt;


In France today parliament is debating a new  labour law which includes this clause. ‘It will be illegal for employees of companies with over 50 workers to allow them to send or answer work related texts or emails outside normal working hours, especially at home’. The level of work related stress at home is apparently causing serious illnesses throughout the country.

It will probably be passed. Great, good idea, hear hear we cry. But hang on, it’s in France ! Do you know what the law also says?

‘This will be the law of the land, but no company or employee may be prosecuted for breaking it as it is agreed that it will be unenforceable’. (My translation). I love France, always have and as long as they go on passing measures like this I always will!



<a href=””>Diverse</a&gt;

five very diverse celebrations


I’m not always 100% honest on this site, try as I might, but today I am. It’s my birthday. More importantly this is my 300th post – coincidence – and is also My Feast day (the reason my mother chose my name) – not a coincidence! Now be honest, did ANY of you know it was the feast of Saint Anton? Which of us do you want to hear about first? Let’s make it me.

These are just five of my most memorable birthdays in chronological order. My tenth birthday in 1952 stands out for lovely spring weather, the great fun in our huge mansion and grounds with 20 boys and girls at the party, and the first time I really felt I could not live without always being with one adorable person. The food and party were great, the games indoors and out were super, but then there was Glenda. We had known each other for five years by then and, when we crept away into the orchard and kissed properly for the first time in either of our lives, that day became simply unforgetable.

The next was in 1963, my twenty first. I was at University in Paris and also working in my spare time as a journalist. The family lived on the Ile St Louis behind Notre Dame in the middle of the Seine. Dad offered me money or a fairly expensive party for my 21st. You know me, I went for the party. The day was free, he paid for three of my best friends to come over from London and we had a whale of a time. My parents and sister and three friends had lunch at my favourite restaurant in the centre of Paris. We were well known there and it just went on and on until around four pm. The evening section was an enlarged party in our apartment at home and in the fashionable brasserie on the ground floor and corner of the street overlooking the river. It was Fairyland. We even threw tomatoes at passing gendarmes who could see it was a celebration and just waved. Not like today, children. But wonderful!

My next memorable celebration was only five years later. By then, 1968, I was Reuters’ News Editor for Indo China and living in Saigon. On April the 30th I flew to Vientiane in Laos to help set up the first diplomatic contacts which led to the Paris peace talks on Vietnam. I could not have written that fact at the time, everyone thought it was just a journalistic assignment, but I fortuitously happened to know the North Vietnamese consul in Laos from my university days. I could speak fluently to him, to the South Vietnamese representatives and of course the US negotiator, who the next year held a senior post in President Nixon’s administration. We thrashed out a format for both sides to at least start talking to each other. As a neutral, and the only person in the group who could understand all the others, I was almost Shanghaied into joining the diplomatic teams of three incredibly diverse sets of people. I liked my work too much to accept. But while away a major offensive broke out in Saigon on May 5th and four journalists, including three of my close friends, were killed that Sunday. I flew straight back. There followed two months of hell; running a major news service, arranging two funerals and writing to relatives of dead friends, making sure new staff understood what to do, and only one senior member of the company there with me. My May tenth that year would normally have passed unnoticed. But I had a lot of civilian friends in the British embassy, not least the  ambassador, a Scotsman who had known my mother when they were children, who would not hear of ignoring it. They all insisted we had a really great champagne knees-up round the embassy compound swimming pool to celebrate the most extraordinary birthday in my life.

And briefly two more birthdays that matter an credible amount to me. The first in 1990, the significance of which only became clear much later. My wife and I set out on a pleasant break to include my 48th birthday.  But when we settled down for a drink before dinner that evening she found she had gone off alcohol. Almost impossible. But it made her think and she told me she might, just might, be pregnant.  What a present! She soon found out she was and a fifteen year old prayer was later to be answered in the form of my youngest son. That whole story is more incredible than anything on this page and is told elsewhere. And fifth and most different to any celebration was my birthday in 2,000 ad. That was the day I received confirmation after a biopsy that I had a serious form of cancer. It changed the rest of my life completely when added to the other major illnesses I was fighting. But in one sense this is the perfect point at which to tell you about Saint Anton, or Antoninus as he is in Latin and as I was baptised.

Florence in 1446 was the centre of the Renaissance world. The greatest poets, philosophers emerging painters and  humanist statesmen were starting to question the Church’s right to make pronouncements on science and factual knowledge and political ideas which many wanted to see overthrown. As The Medici family in Florence were the richest people in Italy, probably Europe, and had even started using modern international banking techniques when trading, the world of the high middle ages and its spiritual obedience were coming to an end, as was the universal acceptance of Papal authority in affairs of state. But Florence had just lost its archbishop and fully expected Pope Eugene IV to appoint a princely, rich prelate to the very important post. He didn’t. He remembered regularly chatting to a Dominican Friar who so often pulled him up and advised him when he was about to sanction developments which might not be in the Church’s best interests. He told the City fathers and the Medici family that he was appointing a Dominican preacher whom they might not at first appreciate, but would eventually come to love.

Following one of the most inspired papal appointments of all time, Friar Antonino devoted the next thirteen years to teaching, by prayer, example and above all preaching the rich and somewhat ungodly renaissance Florentines what Christianity was really about. He kept a household of only four regular people. He sold all the cathedral treasures and gave the money to the poor. He housed beggars and the destitute in the vast cathedral rooms and built a huge new hostel for the sick and unfortunate in his city. But above all, by preaching quietly, with sincerity and conviction he managed to turn half the rich families of the magnificent city into the greatest philanthropists Tuscany has ever known. When he died, worn out through neglecting himself, in 1459, Pope Pius II insisted on personally conducting his funeral service. He was canonised sixty four years after his death. My mother knew absolutely nothing about him when she thought that the Anglicised version of Antoninus would be fine for her son.

To have a model like that to live up to is impossible. I pray every day of my life to be worthy to share his name, but I have to say that I have only succeeded in one way. I cannot turn away anyone in need, because God loves them. Be they saint or sinner, believer or infidel, this is the greatest virtue I have been blessed with thanks to all I know of what Saint Anton taught and did. I could never have devoted my life to God as he did, I have not got the will power needed to be that much of a saint. But the example of one man who did have has stayed with me every day of my life.


















<a href=””>Chaos</a&gt;

OED definition: Chaos; complete disorder or confusion.


 Ticking the register.

“Present Miss Lear”


“Amy, where’s Dane?

“Oh no, not again.

“Anyone see him disappear?”

“Having a fag!”

“Giving Jane a shag”

“Behind the gym

“Smoking with Tim,

“Reading a porno mag.”

“With that tart in the third!”

“Don’t be absurd,

“She’s far too dear,

“But really fab gear.”

“Yeah. Rich, bitch that bird.”

“Probably gone to the game,

“Every week it’s the same.

“His bag, ciggies and booze

“Are behind the boys’ loos.

“Taking Linda this week. Shame.”

The chaos was too much for Miss Lear.

“Headmaster, I’m sorry. I fear

“After hockey today,

“I’ll be on my way.

“I’m resigning. I can’t take any more.

“The class register’s under your door.”

“Er. Miss Lear”, as the bell went,

“Is this really what you meant !?”

The Head read out, with a cough,

“The little sod’s buggered off!”

“I prefer;  Dane, Peter. Absent.”



<a href=””>Stroll</a&gt;


The social networking site decided to copy several popular ideas currently on line because so many youngsters watched them. It meant a huge increase in their advertising revenue from companies selling clothes and cosmetics to eleven to fourteen year olds. They called the site “Ten Little Ladies.” They were not disappointed.

Within six months some five to six million young girls were following the site daily to see the latest antics, laughs and problems of each of them. They were all dreadful actors, but that did not matter. They were brash, loud mouthed, told their parents what to do and made up obviously far fetched stories about themselves. But they always kept inside the bounds of good behaviour as far as any kind of personal relationships were concerned. Also nobody could ever ask  who they really were or where they lived. Dozens of episodes were filmed about each of them individually mostly in their homes, schools and gardens.

As the series’ popularity increased the company filmed one special video which included all of them. It was called “Ten Little Ladies Go For A Stroll.” Now that day two of their keenest fans, Mary and Raylene, who watched everyday on their laptops in Australia, noticed something odd. Mary asked her friend,

“Ray, tell me. Why are their eleven of them when it is called TEN little girls?” Her friend agreed with her observation and they typed their question into the comment box section under the video. Came the reply:

‘We had to add a slightly different one, because they all are very alike and we have been accused of discrimination.’

Mary was not having this and replied back indignantly, “What do you mean? They are all white, all rich, all spoilt, all terrible actresses with the same gestures, and can all afford many things we could never have and just dream about. That’s why we watch!  Also they all have American accents.”

Two hours later came the second reply from the site manager. ‘The one, four from the left in the title picture, who you now probably know as Jo or Josephine, has been added to avoid discrimination charges.  Can’t you see the scene outdoors where she is strolling with two of the others? Well the traffic is on the wrong side of the road?  It’s in England’.















<a href=””>Shadow</a&gt;

an apology if I’ve upset anyone


My briefest ever post. If I upset you with my true story a few minutes ago, A Shadow of his Former Self, I apologise. It is just a subject I feel so incredibly strongly about that I would ask all of you to pray for help for all children and adults caught up in such a situation. There are far too many cases in Britain.



<a href=””>Shadow</a&gt;

A true story with all the names changed but the ages kept.


James was a shy little boy in many ways and for many reasons. He and his twin brother John had lived the first seven years of their lives always getting on well, laughing and playing but even so John thought his brother was often wistfully very sad.

“Hey, Jamie,” he asked him one day when they were seven and four months, “are you all right? You look fed up and frankly a bit frightened. I think mum and dad are starting to notice it too because they asked me the other day if you were being bullied. Are you?” Jamie took an enormous gulp, hung on tight to his twin’s hand and managed to say,

“Don’t be cross, Johnny. Please. I’ve got an awful problem that’s been getting worse and worse for over a year now. Please tell me what to do.”

“Well tell me the problem first,” John said in exasperation. There came another gulp.

“Very well, but you won’t like it. For ages now, Johnny, I’ve kept wanting to try on girls’ clothes. Whenever we go shopping I just look at them and wish they were for me. And I don’t like some of our rough boys games either.” John just stared at his twin. He had heard vague rumours, as one does at school at that age, that some children did not like the sex they were born with. However, he did not understand the subject at all. He was lost.

“But Jamie, how can you? What’s happened to you? Please try and tell me. I will help if I can.” His twin looked very relieved. “Well I’ve already put some of mum’s lipstick on. It felt great, Johnny. But I wiped it off at once in case anyone saw me. It’s the awful feeling I’ve got in my head, Johnny. It feels as though I’ll never be happy until I become a girl. I get so nervous about it too because it may be wrong. Then what will happen?”

John knew he had to do something, but what.”Shall I tell mum and dad that you are ill, would that help? You see you may be and then you really would have to explain your worries to people who can cure you. Dad told me once that people who get very worried always have to go to doctors. But they would understand if they thought you were very ill.”

That conversation was the start of an incredible nine months at the Smiths’ home. Peter and Esther had always been proud of their twin sons and had mapped out all sorts of fantastic plans for their futures. Peter was a successful tax accountant and his wife a leading member of the local SOS  group, an organisation that anonymously helped people in almost suicidal situations. She had already dealt with two such cases. She and her husband had several long talks with James, and Esther became really concerned that he had indeed got a serious anxiety neurosis about his gender and they agreed he should see a specialist in the field. Peter was frankly distraught at the thought of his son evincing such tendencies at the age of seven.

But worse was to come. First a health service specialist was appointed to supervise James’ case and became more and more certain that he should be allowed to cross dress if he wanted to. Peter said no, Esther said yes and the head master at their children’s prep school for mixed infants suggested that perhaps they could start by just letting James dress up at home but not in public. This only made the little boy more anxious and physically frustrated. So eventually, after Jamie had embarrassed his twin at school by telling his friends he dressed as a girl at home, the school relented and said he could change his sex and be legally registered as a girl at school. A special assembly, for the ten and eleven  years only, was arranged at which they were told of James’ illness. They were shown biological diagrams and were told gender change was normal. From the following week James would be coming to school dressed in a skirt and tights and would use his new legal name, Jennifer. How many children understood nobody knew, but they all promised not to bully ‘her’, as he would be, nor make fun of her.

Well, that day at school was called ‘skirt day’ and Jennifer was welcomed by everyone. She was over the moon. John had gradually got used to his brother’s serious mental illness, as the health service was legally obliged to categorise it until she was eighteen, and tried very hard to help her through the ordeal of their first ‘Jennifer’ day. The seven and eight year old girls in their year thought Jennifer was very brave and all wanted to play with her. Esther and Peter had arranged to be at home early to make sure everything had gone all right. Esther picked the twins up from school, and when they got home Jennifer could not help rushing upstairs to the study shouting, “Daddy! Daddy, it was great wearing a skirt at school today.” She dashed into the study, then stopped and looked at her father.

He was hanging, stone dead, with a rope round his neck from the ceiling light, swinging to and fro’, followed by the shadow of his former self. 












<a href=””>Beach</a&gt;


Asif felt the tiny make-shift raft bob up and down on the waters of the Aegean Sea. Land was in the distance, but far, far off. As far as he could see. Only his sister’s hand in his, as she slept, kept him in touch with any sort of reality. His mother and father had thrown them on their hastily assembled craft shouting “We love you. May Allah bring you safely to some foreign shore.”

Asif was only five years old and had lived all his days surrounded by angry shouting men, and ran rather than danced to the beat of guns. He knew he had to pray to Allah, but he had never been taught how. His kinsfolk had never had the time for luxuries like teaching between their daily forages for food in a land of mortar shells and flying stones. He looked at little Samia, a year younger than himself, and felt a glow of strength as he held her hand.

“Allah, whoever you are, wherever you are, don’t let my little sister die,” was all the little boy could ask and then, despite his new found valour, started to cry. A day and a night, a night and a day the little raft zig-zagged over the waves but Asif was sure the land was getting near. Samia had given him the few drops of water from the plastic bottle in her pocket and any crumbs that were left from their parents’ meagre pouch. Her big brown, sunken eyes looked pleadingly at her brother.

“Asif, I am hot and cold and hungry. Tell Allah for me, please.”  Once more the little boy begged his only source of hope to save them both, then brother and sister clung to each other all night for warmth. As daylight dawned on the third day they stared in amazement at the land ahead. A sandy beach was getting nearer every second. Their spirits rose as salvation seemed at hand. But a final hazard still delayed them. The wind got up and several yards short of sanctuary the raft at last gave out and sank. Samia could not swim but Asif made her cling to him, her arms round his neck as he made for the shallow waters from which he finally could walk to the beach. On land they both smiled and collapsed.

Father Francisco was taking his morning stroll along the sand before returning to say Mass as he did every morning on the tiny island with its hermit’s cell and altar. Other brothers would not visit him before lunchtime. Suddenly he blinked in disbelief, rubbed his eyes and stared again. He thought it was a mirage at first, a trick of the green sea light, but no, a little boy and girl lay on the beach. Blessing himself, thanking God and guessing their origin he thanked his Lord again  for teaching him some basic Arabic as well as Italian. He knelt and offered his hands to the little waifs.

Asif stared at this strange figure clad all in brown with a circle cut in his hair. He had but one thought in his head and, barely audibly, asked the hermit,

“Are you Allah? I asked you to help little Samia and me, and you did. Thank you Allah. Thank you.”

Tears streaming down his cheeks Father Francisco replied  in the little boy’s own tongue. “It was the will of Allah that you should be found, I am merely the person he chose to help Him. Come, I will find you some food.” As they walked towards his dwelling he  went on, “Children, there is only one God. He made us all. You call him Allah, I Christ, many people use many other names. But He does not mind. He is just glad that he has been able to show you how much he loves you by bringing you safely to this beach, this heavenly shore.”



<a href=””>Hope</a&gt;

the gift of never giving up


When cancer of the blood is at first diagnosed,

And a fairly short further life span is supposed,

Sufferers often just pray for not too much pain

Believing they’ll not see winter or spring again.


But thanks to modern drugs, and new techniques

This condition can be reversed for years not weeks.

And expectation of a longer life patients thus regain

Through intravenously giving them new hope in vein.




<a href=””>Abandoned</a&gt;


James was feeling really lonely. Christine had promised to meet him after school and that was an hour ago now. It was the third day in a row she had stood him up and he had had enough. No way was he going to give her a fourth chance. They were both 18, both very much in love, he thought, but now he felt his world crumbling. Bob was obviously her preferred choice and James shrugged his sad shoulders and slouched his way back home dejected and abandoned.

Bob had always known how James felt about Christine and supposed he did not really have a hope of getting the opportunity to tell her how he felt. She must have picked up something from the words and hints he had dropped, and she was pleasant and never made fun of him. But did she have to stand him up for the third day in a row? That was cruel and unnecessary. Finally he slung his bag over his back and walked slowly home, dejected and abandoned.

Christine did not know what to do. She was feeling dreadful about both James and Bob because she liked them both and wanted either of them to help her. But how could she ask? She kept choking at the last minute, agreeing to meet one and then the other and now it was three days in a row that she had disappointed them both. Oh Lord, what should she do? Her best friend Maddy was just coming out of the school gates. Finally Christine plucked up the courage and decided to ask her advice.

“Maddy. Look, I’ve got a real problem and I’m hurting two people badly what shall I do? They both have said they really want to help me and I’ve said I want them to, but I just can’t bring myself to talk to either of them about you.”

“I wouldn’t worry about that,” said Maddy, shrugging in apparent unconcern. “You’ve become a clinging bore,Chris, and I’m going out with Sarah this weekend. Sorry, loser, but it’s finished.”

Christine stared in disbelief and sat down on the nearest bench to assess the situation. That was three really loving, presumed friends she’d lost in a week. She saw Harry leaving. Slow shy, gawky Harry, always the last in everything. Oh, what the hell, she was that fed up.

“Hey, Harry. You doing anything? Like to come for a coffee?”

“With you?” he replied in almost disgusted surprise.”Give us a break.”

Christine wandered back home, sad, dejected and abandoned.