Germany fails the Tebbit test

Norman Tebbit: multi-culti isn’t cricket

Back in 1990 Norman Tebbit, arguably the best modern PM Britain has never had, came up with a useful test to determine the extent to which immigrants are integrated.

Which team do they support when England plays the one from their native land?

Tebbit had specifically cricket fans from the Subcontinent in mind, but the test works just as well with any other sport and any other group.

But immigrants, Lord Tebbit? How very 1990s. What about second-generation natives? Where do their allegiances lie?

Two German football players, Özil and Gündogan, had answered the question exhaustively before the World Cup started. And then Germany crashed out at the first stage of the competition. One detects a causal relationship there.

Both players are second-generation Germans of Turkish descent. In the run-up to the World Cup both posed with Erdogan and gave him a Germany jersey inscribed with ‘to our president’.

Any football federation with any backbone at all would have responded in an unequivocal fashion. If Erdogan is your president, then Germany isn’t your team.

But football these days imitates life (and exceedingly vice versa). Reacting that way would be deemed decidedly anti-multi-culti. Who says new arrivals or even people born in Germany have to integrate in German society? Anyone who says so must be in favour of genocide.

To be fair, there was some brouhaha in the wake. After all, Frau Merkel is teetering on the edge of political extinction, mainly because of her open-door policy that supplemented the three-odd million ethnic Turks resident in the country with over a million other Muslims.

But the noise died down quickly, outshouted by the demiurge of political correctness. That Germany’s team was rent asunder as a result goes without question. But was Germany herself? No more than she already is.

Anyone who, like me, has experienced schadenfreude (an appropriate word or what?) at the sight of Germany exiting the World Cup at group stage ought to ponder the wider implications. And they are indeed wide.

When millions of citizens feel loyalty to a country other than the one that is, or is soon to be, their home, the home is no longer a home.

It’s merely a house, or rather a hotel inhabited by unconnected people from all over the world. And few people treat hotel rooms with the same loving care as they treat their homes.

Nationhood is a relatively new concept in European history. Throughout the Middle Ages, Europe was united for real, not in the ersatz (another appropriate word?) way peddled by the EU. What united it for real was Christianity and the culture it was creating.

For example, what was Thomas Aquinas’s nationality? German, because that’s what he mostly was ethnically? Italian, because he grew up in Aquino? French, because he spent most of his life in Paris and is buried in Toulouse?

Any or all of the above, from the modern standpoint. From the contemporaneous standpoint, it didn’t matter one iota.

And even in the seventeenth century Europe was still held together by dynastic more than national ties. The Great Condé, for example, twice led Spanish troops against his own country, ruled by his cousin Louis XIV.

Now imagine for the sake of argument Montgomery or Patton leading Nazi troops against the Allies – and losing. What would happen to them? The mode of execution is the only thing open to debate.

Yet Condé got away with a mild slap on the wrist. He was guilty only of squabbling with his cousin, not of treason – as we understand the word.

However, Europe is no longer held together by either religious or dynastic ties: modernity is innately divisive. Yet no other basis for unity exists, nor can exist. As the EU is finding out, a desire for six-week holidays and 30-hour work weeks doesn’t quite work as the adhesive.

Hence a strong sense of national identity within separate but friendly countries is the only realistic obstacle in the way of anarchy. I for one regret that this is the case. But it is the case.

The suicidal drive towards multi-culti diversity is a bomb under the foundations of what’s left of our civilisation. And the bomb’s action isn’t even particularly delayed.

What happened to Germany’s football team can be seen as a microcosm of a much larger catastrophe looming over Europe’s mountains and plains. In that, other than just purely geographic, sense Britain is a fully paid-up part of Europe for she is susceptible to all the same trends.

I can see that by the example of England’s Russian community, and I don’t mean the recent immigrants with their yachts, football clubs and the urge to ‘whack’ one another. I’m talking about the English equivalents of Özil and Gündogan, native-born Britons of Russian descent.

In the early 90s I encountered many of them at the 1812 Ball, one of the premier events in the London social calendar. Normally I detest such festivities, but that time curiosity got the better of me: all those Golitsyns, Obelenskys and Tolstoys were walking, talking Russian history.

In addition, I admired, and still do, the book Victims of Yalta by Nikolai Tolstoy, who was the MC of the ball. Either he or his co-MC, can’t remember which, opened the proceedings by announcing that the gathering was honoured by the presence of the Russian ambassador. “Our ambassador, ladies and gentlemen!”

Now Count Tolstoy (in the absence of primogeniture, everyone even remotely related to a count has the same title) is about as English as Lord Tebbit, and his accent even more so. He was born in England and educated at some of the best schools. His Russian, on the other hand, is uncertain, not to say practically non-existent.

How was that career KGB ‘diplomat’ Tolstoy’s and his friends’ ambassador? I couldn’t answer that question, so, when the ambassador rose to speak, I demonstratively walked out across the polished floor. He wasn’t my ambassador – even though I lived the first 25 years of my life in Moscow.

I cite this example simply because it’s something I witnessed myself. The Russian community is still small and rather insignificant in Britain. But it’s indicative of the general trend towards particularism and away from national unity.

This is an explosion waiting to happen, and the fallout will be considerably less enjoyable than Germany’s defeat at the World Cup.

It’s not diamorphine. It’s the NHS

First, I’m deeply moved by all the good wishes I’ve received from you. I thank you all collectively, albeit belatedly: the French hospital where I got some on-the-job training in pulmonary embolism had no Internet access.

I’m lucky to be alive, for the time being, said the doctor, to which I replied that some of my readers may not share that assessment. That wasn’t just a weak attempt at a bon mot, but a reflection on experience.

Some seven years ago I wrote something in The Mail that displeased Peter Tatchel, that great champion of homosexuality. He immediately ran my photo, captioned with all the relevant contact details, in his paper PinkNews.

That produced hundreds of abusive e-mails, most describing me metonymically as female genitalia, and some expressing a heartfelt wish that I croak soon, preferably as a result of ingesting faeces (their language was more colloquial). One irate reader, doubtless a diagnostician of no mean attainment, wrote that he’d gladly kill me, but thankfully there was no need. Judging by my photograph, I was going to peg it soon anyway.

He almost got his wish, if seven years too late. I ended up on a different floor in the same hospital I had graced with my presence just a few days earlier.

For once I found myself the youngest member of a group: every other patient there topped me by at least 10 years. Most of them were demented and, with a few exceptions, bed-ridden.

The few exceptions floated around, making tiny steps like Japanese geishas, but not resembling those ladies in any other way. They looked more like characters from a late Fellini film with casting by Goya during his Black period.

Much to my wife’s amazement, one chap mistook her for a nurse and asked for a yoghurt. “You’re lucky he didn’t ask for an enema,” I told her. The same patient, his eyes popping out of their orbits, would occasionally wander into my room and say ‘Bonjour’ in a way that made me fear he’d then introduce himself as ‘the Auxerre slasher’.

Not the best 10 days in my life, all in all. But hey, at least I wasn’t in an NHS hospital with a syringe driver pumping diamorphine (purified heroin) into my vein.

Actually, my vast medical experience (on the receiving end) includes a month spent on just such a driver. But that was at a private hospital, where the medical staff had no murderous designs on my person.

That apparently wasn’t the case at Gosport Hospital, Hampshire, where close to 650 patients were killed by diamorphine overdose during the 90s.

Now, any druggie will tell you that heroin is a dangerous drug. As Dr Shipman could have testified, it kills if administered in overdose. That’s why it’s banned in many countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, and it’s only ever used in Britain as part of palliative care, when the patient is in agonising pain.

Even then care must be exercised not to OD the recipient accidentally, due to a faulty driver, for example, or a wrongly calculated dose. No such care was taken at Gosport.

Moreover, only about 45 per cent of the victims were in any pain at all. Apparently, in many cases the doctors prescribed, and the nursing staff administered, diamorphine to some patients not because they needed it, but because they were ‘difficult’.

The patients got the message: many tried not to make excessive demands for fear that the medics would kill them. They were old people, like those I met at Auxerre, but many of them were lucid and perfectly able to enjoy what was left of their lives.

They certainly hadn’t consented to euthanasia, which in common parlance means killing and, when done the Gosport way, murder. (Actually, I see no valid moral difference between any type of euthanasia and murder, but my state of health is making me more mellow.)

The report on the final solution practised at Gosport didn’t mention any other NHS hospitals, but the residual cynic in me refuses to believe it’s an isolated case – while the realist is certain it isn’t.

Why would it be? State-run Leviathans like the NHS are congenitally incapable of realising that every human life, no matter how miserable and predictably short, has an intrinsic value.

The big, omnipotent state is self-serving and self-perpetuating. Individuals are seen in that light, and they become expendable should they interfere with the innate imperative of the big state.

Such is the underlying impetus, and obviously it’s manifested to various degrees in different types of state. But manifested it invariably is, and the NHS is a prime example.

Any state tries to brainwash its subjects in the noble motives animating its actions. But frankly, this side of the USSR, I’ve never seen this effort succeed as spectacularly as with the NHS.

The British believe in overwhelming numbers that it’s the NHS that puts the Great into Britain. They also believe that other countries are turning green with envy watching the NHS in action.

If so, they manage to contain the urge to follow suit admirably: Britain is the only European country with fully nationalised medical care. All others use some combination of public and private financing, and the results – certainly in France – are much better.

For that’s what the NHS is: a method of financing medical care. That’s all. It doesn’t occupy a high moral plateau, which socialism never does. It’s not a surrogate deity to be worshiped instead of God. And it’s emphatically not free, which is a common misconception.

‘Free’ means something one doesn’t have to pay for. Yet somebody has to pay for all those MRI scans and mastectomies. Such things are expensive; and the more inefficiently provided, the dearer they get.

If patients don’t pay for them directly, the payment comes from the government, which makes most of its money from taxes. ‘Free’ thus means that the transfer of money from patient to hospital is mediated by the state acting as a general contractor with megalomania.

But governments are less efficient than private enterprise. Thus we must assume that, say, mastectomies are more expensive when one pays for them through the government, whether one needs them or not, than they would be if one paid for them direct, and only when one needed them.

(In this regard, I wish Europeans spared me their tales about poor Americans dying in the streets because they can’t afford hospitals. If that were the case, life expectancy in the US would be much lower than in Europe – but it isn’t.

I visited enough friends in American municipal hospitals, where poor people are treated, to know that they are infinitely superior to the NHS. The US system isn’t perfect; no human institution is. And it’s being made more and more imperfect by the litigiousness endemic in America. But people don’t die by the roadside because their bank balance is too low.)

Yet when we pay for state medicine we don’t just pay for mastectomies and scans. An ever-growing proportion of our money pays for the ever-growing state bureaucracy required to administer ‘free’ medical care, something for which they would pay less if medical care were not ‘free’.

Moreover, since steady growth of nationalised medicine is tantamount to the state extorting increasingly larger sums from the people, ‘free’ medical care places an ever-growing proportion of the nation’s finances and labour force under state control, thus increasing the power of the state over the individual.

The NHS is already the biggest employer in the world, and its fans seem to hope it’ll eventually become the only one in Britain. They’re prepared to throw more billions down that bottomless pit even if it means neglecting defence of the realm.

In other words, ‘free’, translated from the NHS, means “serving the state, not the citizen, and therefore being more expensive than it otherwise would be, not to mention less efficient”.

I’m not qualified to pass judgement on the desirability of using diamorphine. On my own example, I know it’s used effectively even in the country’s best private hospitals, but that’s only one man’s experience.

Yet any drug can kill if used inappropriately, either by accident or with malice aforethought. If used correctly, aspirin can make your headache go away. If used wrongly, it can make you bleed to death.

And of course diamorphine is a killer in the wrong hands – such as the hands of the NHS.

Another heinous crime against women

“Listen up, class.

“Which four-letter word describes the worst thing that can happen to a woman? Nothing from you, Peter, I know what you’re going to say. I’ll give you a clue: it starts with an R.

“Splendid, it is indeed ‘rape’. Does everybody know how to spell it? Well done, Sharon. R-A-P-E.

“Now I’m going to ask you a tougher question. What’s the second worst thing?

“No, Andrew, it’s not having every bone in her body broken, and I’ll thank you for not indulging your gruesome fantasies. And neither is it being murdered, thank you very much.

“No, Fiona, it’s not losing a husband, a child, an eye or a limb. Anyone else?

“Well, it’s upskirting, and I bet you don’t know what it is. Nothing from you, Peter, I know what you’re going to say.”

Actually, I can well imagine myself being one of the pupils. For until the other day I had never heard of upskirting and hadn’t had the foggiest idea what it meant.

Now I’ve learned. Upskirting describes the crime of chaps photographing the knickers of unaware women in public places.

Sky TV showed some footage of a shop where that crime was caught on camera. A young man carrying a camera furtively approached a woman wearing a short skirt, bent down quickly, aimed the camera under that garment, snapped a shot and ran away.

That’s not how I’d do it. I’d attach a camera to one of those selfie sticks so favoured by Japanese tourists. That would obviate the need for bending, making concealment easier.

And I confess to having done something similar, minus photographic devices. When I was 11 or so, I’d occupy a strategic position under the school staircase to peak under the skirts of girls walking up.

Now a long way from 11, I don’t see the point of either looking or photographing. After all, by the time they reach their late teens, most boys have had a few opportunities to relish the sight of girls’ knickers without having to resort to subterfuge.

And let’s face it, though perhaps not all women accessorise miniskirts with underwear, I’m sure most do. So where’s the fun in taking those snaps? The transgressors won’t see anything they can’t see on a beach, especially if volleyball is being played.

At least exhibitionists derive some sexual satisfaction from flashing, though I don’t immediately see how. Really, life must have passed me by.

Now the question is, what should be done to discourage such acts of petty puerile voyeurism?

A woman would be well-justified to slap the infantile moron in the face. If she’s accompanied by a man, he couldn’t be blamed for punching the idiot.

And if the police get involved, they’ll have any number of charges to bring on the basis of existing laws. One such could be OPD (Outraging Public Decency), although these days public decency must be sufficiently calloused by things like Gay Day parades not to be outraged too easily.

That’s how it would be in a sane world. In our world, an upskirted woman feels “violated, distressed and traumatised for life”. And women can’t be violated, distressed and traumatised for life without creating political pressure groups and launching national campaigns.

Now I don’t see how such a boorish trick can possibly cause life-long trauma. Suppose for the sake of argument that the upskirting picture ends up on the net. Considering that the camera angle doesn’t allow capturing the victim’s knickers and face at the same time, who’s to know that’s her?

Such identification would be impossible unless there’s something extraordinary about the woman’s upper thighs (if, for example, she’s Serena Williams). So, though some harm was done, it wasn’t very much, was it?

I’m being deliberately crass here. I realise that these days a woman is traumatised if she says she is. And if several of them say they are, we need a new law making the act a specific criminal offence.

Such a law was proposed in a private member’s bill the other day, and enthusiastically supported by the government – led by that upskirtable person. Happy snappers would get up to two years in prison and enter the sex offenders’ register for life. I’m amazed the reintroduction of the death penalty wasn’t mooted, just this once.

To everyone’s amazement, the bill didn’t pass: Sir Christopher Chope, the one-eyed man among the blind, shouted “object” and the bill was derailed for the time being, to be reintroduced in a few weeks.

There were screams of “shame!” in the Commons and much other vitriol aimed at Sir Christopher, enough to traumatise him as badly as upskirting could ever traumatise a woman.

Mrs May, doubtless holding on to her own skirt tightly, expressed her dismay: “Upskirting is an invasion of privacy which leaves victims feeling degraded and distressed,” she said. “I am disappointed the Bill didn’t make progress in the Commons today, and I want to see these measures pass through Parliament – with Government support – soon.”

I feel secure in the knowledge that things are going so swimmingly in Britain that our government has the time and energy to throw its weight behind this kind of legislation. I must have been reading the wrong newspapers.

At the same time, I’m outraged (without necessarily feeling violated, distressed and traumatised) at this flagrant display of sex discrimination. My thoughts and prayers go (if that’s the right phrase) to all those Scotsmen who wear kilts with nothing underneath.

What if our liberated females began to commit the heinous crime of upkilting? Perhaps that’s why Sir Christopher stopped the bill from passing – it didn’t cover all eventualities, as it were.

The reason upskirting has received so much attention is that it isn’t just a crime against person. It’s a crime against the ruling ethos, replacing millennia-old certitudes with ersatz nonsense whose sole purpose is to perpetuate the power of the ruling spivocracy.

While crimes against person and property routinely go unpunished and indeed uninvestigated, crimes against the ethos are punished quickly and surely.

How long before an admittedly flippant article like this one is criminalised for making light of people’s suffering? Nothing from you, Peter, I know what you’re going to say.

Is Trump going to annex Canada?

All smiles now, but…

Few countries ever annex the territory of their weaker neighbours and then tell the world to grin and bear it. They always offer some justification, however flimsy.

The most widespread pretext is a territorial claim presented as valid for historical, ethnic, linguistic and philosophical reasons. The aggressor is both the star and the referee in this game: it’s he who establishes the rules by which the weaker country is supposed to play, but blithely refuses to.

However, if the world accepts the new set of rules in theory, they become a model for everyone else to follow in practice.

For example, once it was accepted, on rather shaky grounds, that every Third World country was entitled to independence, they all claimed it – even those like Algeria, which was an equal province of France, rather than her colony.

That’s why we should sit up and listen whenever a world leader formulates a geopolitical philosophy justifying annexation. As often as not, action may follow.

Donald Trump can’t be easily confused with the philosopher king of Plato’s fancy. His intellectual prowess doesn’t quite stretch to the point where philosophy begins and, though his role is modelled on that of a monarch, he isn’t exactly king.

But, to give him his due, he has strong principles and tends to act on them, God and Congress willing. Hence, whenever he proposes embellishments on geopolitical doctrine, his words ought to be heeded.

His recent contribution to geopolitical theory was to tell G7 leaders that Russia was entitled to help herself to the Crimea because everyone in that peninsula speaks Russian.

Never before had annexation been justified by linguistic commonality alone, although the Anschluss came pretty close.

However, Trump tends to act on his ideas. Hence one has to assume that, rather than limiting that startling discovery to Russia, he believes it has a practical significance for the conduct of US foreign policy.

So if I were a Canadian, I’d be worried. Actually, I’m already worried even as a British subject but, if I were a Canadian, I’d worry even more.

For the fact is that everyone in both Canada and Britain speaks English, although those who’ve heard Sir Kenny Dalglish might disagree. And Canada has the added disadvantage of being right on Trump’s doorstep.

Since the US also enjoys an overwhelming military superiority over Canada, and since Trump is known to hold a dim view of Justin Trudeau and his policies, the stage is set.

Before long the US will annex most of Canada, granting an independent status only to the Francophone Quebec. By the same logic, that province must be claimed by France.

And why stop there? After all, many countries of Africa and Asia speak English too. Some of them do so incomprehensibly, but then no one understands Sir Kenny Dalglish either. This linguistic proclivity makes them ripe for American conquest, presumably led by Trump astride a white steed.

Also, to be fair, the same principle should be extended to other languages as well. For example, every South American country except Brazil speaks Spanish.

I say if Russia is entitled to the Crimea, Spain is entitled to Uruguay. And it’s not just the language either. Uruguay used to belong to Spain, just like the Crimea used to belong to Russia. What better reason for annexation can there be? And fine, Portugal is welcome to Brazil.

Mr Trump added a few glints to his shining concept of linguistic expansionism. We might as well forget Putin’s annexation of the Crimea, he offered magnanimously, because it “happened a while ago”. That’s like a football referee playing advantage, allowing the play to continue after a foul.

This simplifies the task facing the US in Canada, Spain in Uruguay and – as the patriot in me insists on adding – Britain in India. Should these countries claim what’s rightfully theirs, they wouldn’t have to fight a permanent war.

They’d only have to hold on to their acquisitions for four years, after which no arguments against the annexations would have any force.

And speaking of Britain and India, have you noticed a direct parallel with Russia and the Crimea? India belonged to Britain from 1757 to 1948, which is almost exactly the period during which the Crimea belonged to Russia (1783-1954).

Call me a British nationalist and report me to Jean-Claude Juncker, but this makes our claim to India unassailable – especially since most Indians speak English, some of them better than most Englishmen and most of them better than Sir Kenny Dalglish.

Nor is it just about language and prior ownership. According to our philosopher king, the Ukraine is entitled neither to our support nor, by inference, to the Crimea because she’s “one of the most corrupt countries in the world.”

That’s true. The Ukraine is indeed one of the world’s most corrupt nations, finding herself at around Number 130 on that score. Yet Russia, at 195 out of 198 countries in the Verisk Maplecroft corruption rating, is even more corrupt, finding herself next to Sudan and Burma.

My head is beginning to spin. For both Sudan and Burma are largely Anglophone and both used to belong to Britain. If we had the ships to transport a sizeable expeditionary force, I’d say let’s sail and claim what’s ours.

And shouldn’t the Ukraine annex parts of the Russian territory on the basis of being less corrupt than Russia? She should, if she could.

Jokes aside, all 14 former Soviet republics were ruled by Russia until 1991. They all speak Russian and they’re all corrupt, both accomplishments being the inheritance of communism added to some indigenous proclivities.

President Trump seems to be issuing his friend Vlad a carte blanche to recreate the Soviet Union, which is exactly what friend Vlad wants. Nor does Trump seem to see Russia’s aggression as a disqualification from re-entering the civilised community or having all sanctions against her repealed.

I’m not going to add my own collusion stone to those being thrown at Trump, but it increasingly seems that his foreign policy isn’t so much America First as Russia First.

The overriding stratagem appears to be punching holes in all Western alliances, both military and economic – which is Putin’s policy too. Trump clearly sees both NATO and G7 in his sights, and he allows Putin to control the temperature and duration of the Syrian war. That pushes oil prices high and keeps the hydrocarbon-centred Russian economy afloat.

I’m not sure an American invasion of Canada is on the cards, but I wouldn’t bet against more Russian aggression against the neighbouring states. If that happens, Vlad should send a letter of thanks to his friend Donald.

Long live populism

The blurb outside the ruins of this Cluny abbey at Donzy, at the edge of Burgundy, gives the dry facts.

Built in 1103. Destroyed by the Protestants in 1569, then during the Revolution in 1793 and again at the end of XIX century.

Similar stories with similar dates are told by other ruins all over France. That is, when ruins survive.

According to the eminent medievalist Régine Pernoud, some 80 per cent of France’s Romanesque and Gothic buildings were demolished either by the Huguenots or the revolutionaries and their heirs.

One can’t begin to imagine the glory of France as she was when 100 per cent of those buildings were still standing – considering that few countries can match even the 20 per cent she has left. I shan’t even try to strain my imagination.

Instead I’d like to offer those ruins as yet another reminder of what happens when mob instincts are no longer restrained by civilisation. For civilisation is the tether that fetters the beast in us, preventing it from leaping out, fangs bared.

That beast has never been defanged, much less put down. It can only be provisionally tamed by civility, which is a cognate of civilisation. But it’s always there in the background, growling and awaiting its opening.

You don’t have to believe in Original Sin to verify this observation. Empirical evidence over history ought to suffice.

Once some group of people, usually small, always driven, find a way of exploiting mob instincts for their own purposes, the beast pounces and devours all before it – not just the original target against which it was let loose.

Both the rationalisation and post-rationalisation are never in short supply. The people were driven to despair, the typical story goes, by legitimate grievances they could no longer tolerate.

They weren’t. They were driven to overt beastliness by some clever rabble-rousers who knew how to suppress civilisational constraints and appeal to the feral part of human nature.

This isn’t to say that the grievances used as the pretext weren’t legitimate. Since all human institutions are operated by people who are fallen and therefore fallible, none can be held up to absolute standards of goodness. It’s always possible to find something wrong, at times very wrong.

In the run-up to the Reformation the Church indeed indulged in some corrupt practices, although not nearly on the scale claimed by the reformers. But some priests, monks and nuns were indeed as venal, lustful and gluttonous as those depicted by Boccaccio and Rabelais.

Nor was the Church hierarchy free of blame, although, when its enemies wish to attack the Church, it’s always the Borgias they talk about, never Augustine, Leo I or Gregory the Great.

By the same token, Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette weren’t ideal monarchs, even though the latter never really suggested that infamous dietary change to the starving people. Yet neither were they the sadistic mass murderers that their enemies proved to be.

Whatever problems existed should have been pointed out and, if possible, solved – though not by the mob, but by the same groups that were the sole guardians of civilisation.

But even if left unsolved, those problems would have had no calamitous effects in France to match the wanton destruction that began at the Reformation, continued through that great misnomer of the Enlightenment, culminated in the horrors of the Revolution and Napoleonic wars, and still radiated its tectonic waves throughout the nineteenth century.

The same, mutatis mutandis, can be said about every mass popular uprising, whatever its pretext and however expertly it’s enveloped in noble-sounding demagoguery.

Once the beast slips its chain, walls will tumble and blood will flow. Clipping the chain back on may sometimes be possible, eventually, but it’s never easy. And it always takes a long time.

If you look at the great popular revolts of the last 600 years, the Reformation, the two English Revolutions and those in France, America and Russia, each did more harm than good. And even those that did do some good, didn’t do enough to compensate for the blood spilled, destruction wreaked and social order obliterated.

Looking at l’Abbaye Notre Dame du Pré at Donzy, it’s hard to think of anything that has made up for its demise, and especially for what it signifies. That is, unless you regard as sufficient compensation the wind farms that have replaced the wind mills.

For it’s not just the Abbey that lies in ruins. It’s our Western civilisation, debauched, prostituted and systematically supplanted by a vulgar impostor that has the gall to call itself by the same name.

P.S. I’d like to apologise to the Duchess of Sussex (aka Meghan Markle). When the subject of her erotic photos came up at a dinner party the other day, I inadvertently stated it was nothing compared to the scandal involving her maternal great-great-grandmother who had posed nude for National Geographic. That rumour, which I accidentally spread and indeed originated, has no basis in reality.

What does God look like?

This is what I think God looks like, and I’m entitled to my opinion, aren’t I?

Ask a stupid question, get a stupid answer. This old saw was amply vindicated by the question scientists in North Carolina posed to a sample group of US Christians.

Their answers to the question in the title were used to create a composite ‘e-fit’ picture of God’s face.

Turns out God isn’t at all like he’s usually depicted, a muscular old chap whose shaggy beard neatly matches the cloud he sits on. God, according to those Christians, was an effeminate lad with vaguely black features.

How effeminate and how black depended on the respondents’ own characteristics and also on their politics. In essence, they reversed the generally accepted roles by creating God in the image and likeness of themselves. Everybody was his own God.

This makes me want to ask a different question. Just how Christian is America anyway? Her piety is often held up as an example for all of us to follow, but is it actually true?

I’ve always had my doubts, ever since I lived there (1973-1988), first in Texas then in New York. Being new both to the West and to freedom of worship, I often discussed God with my co-workers.

In Texas, almost the whole staff were self-described Christians. One of them noticed that I looked the worse for wear one morning. Replying to his inquiry, I admitted that I had had a few too many the night before.

“How could you, Al?” asked my devout colleague. “Jesus didn’t drink, you know.”

I objected by offering a few scriptural references testifying to the opposite, from the wedding at Cana, to the Son of Man who drinketh, to the fruit of the vine that was imbibed at every paschal meal, such as the Last Supper.

“That was non-alcoholic wine,” explained the co-worker, aghast at my downfall. “How do you know that?” I wondered. “How can you ask this question, Al? Don’t y’all know what kind of guy Jesus was?”

I honestly admitted I probably didn’t, though he didn’t reciprocate by acknowledging a similar ignorance. However, the thought crossed my mind that he and many other believers I met in the Bible Belt had a tad primitive, not to say vulgar, notion of Christ.

My co-worker in New York was an atheist with strong ideas about the appearance of God in whom she didn’t believe.

That aggressive woman with breasts to match was unequivocal on the subject: “God is a woman and she’s black.” “So do you believe in her?” I wanted to know. “Of course I don’t,” she replied, undeterred by a touch of logical inconsistency there somewhere.

By then I had learned enough about America to know that most of her pious Christians, the Catholic and Episcopalian minorities apart, were sectarians. They belonged to some of the 30,000 sects sprouted by Protestantism over time.

Now, along with Hilaire Belloc, I regard even mainstream Protestantism as a heresy. That makes those American sects heresies of a heresy, with predictable consequences.

One such consequence is ignorant vulgarisation. Encouraged to interpret God as they see fit, those alternative Christians create multiple Gods, reflecting the diversity of human nature. They thereby get perilously close to paganism, replacing worship with idolatry.

Neither doctrine nor dogma means anything to those dubious Christians. They make up their own as they go along.

They do read the Bible, but in the absence of qualified teachers and interpreters they don’t understand what they read. And of course the First Amendment discourages teaching Christianity at state schools. Comparative religion is the best the tots get: Which do you prefer, Johnny, Christianity or Taoism? And have you considered totemism?

Hence we shouldn’t be surprised that the question those North Carolina researchers posed was illiterate. Anyone who can ask such a question, or agree to answer it, hasn’t a clue about Christianity or for that matter any other Abrahamic religion.

The question about God’s appearance presupposes the crude anthropomorphism of primitive creeds. What the inquirer sees in his mind is a demiurge like Zeus or Odin, not the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

The God Christians worship is outside time and space, which means he can’t have a physical shape. He is the creator and essence of being and existence, but he himself doesn’t exist, in the sense in which we understand the word. It’s because of God that everything else exists.

Since a lower system can’t fathom a higher one, we can’t approach God so closely as to attach any physical characteristics to him. The best we can hope for is a mystical, metaphysical vision, which isn’t a gift given to many.

However, the God worshipped by real Christians (as opposed to, say, Unitarians and Jehovah’s Witnesses) is Trinitarian, comprising three distinct hypostases, one of which lived as a man for some 33 years.

Because during that time Jesus was not only fully divine but also fully human, it would have been perfectly legitimate to ask those respondents to describe their idea of his appearance. There they could have unshackled their fancy because the Gospels left no physical descriptions of Jesus.

This is sometimes put forth as proof that he never existed (otherwise surely one of his disciples would have sketched his verbal portrait). Such beliefs show a poor grasp of human psychology, which can be demonstrated quite easily.

When you next go away from home for a few days, try to remember in detail the face of someone you love (say, your spouse) and someone you merely know well (say, your colleague). You’ll find the second task much easier.

Because our relationship with those we merely know is skin-deep, their outer shell is what we recall instantly. However, our relationship with someone we love goes to the soul of that person, beyond and deeper than the outer shell, which is then pushed into the farther recesses of memory.

The apostles loved Jesus more than life itself, which is why most of his features receded to the back of their minds. They remembered so little because they loved so much.

But Jesus did have a human face, and it can be depicted. However, even there one’s fecund imagination ought to be reined in by some basic knowledge.

Thus it’s yet another exercise in self-deification for the Chinese to portray Jesus with Mongoloid features, for the Scandinavians with Nordic ones or for the Africans with Negroid ones.

Considering where the Incarnation occurred and who his mother was, Jesus had to look Semitic, and his appearance had to reflect the local mores. For example, contrary to Caravaggio’s portrayal of him, he had to have a beard. But other than such details, one’s visual creativity needn’t be restrained in any way.

Had I been one of the respondents in the North Carolina exercise, I would have sketched God as Anubis, the Egyptian deity usually depicted as a man with a canine head. That would have done wonders for their composite image.

Football shows the way (back to the caves)

In the good if relatively recent tradition, I must declare a personal interest, which in this case may be tantamount to committing social suicide: I like football.

Though I don’t support any particular team other than England, I find the game exciting, when it’s played well. Actually, I wasn’t accurate: I also support any team Chelsea FC play.

I dislike Chelsea because it’s a vehicle for laundering mob money. I also hate its fans, who once a fortnight cover my otherwise nice neighbourhood with burgher wrappers, empty bottles and vomit.

That, however, is no reflection on football itself. I used to play it to a reasonable standard, and I always watch it.

In England, however, affection for footie attaches an indelible social stigma among the PLUs (People Like Us). Rugby, yes. Cricket, most definitely. Football? It’s worse than drinking whisky-and-Coke, wearing legible clothes or driving a brand-new car with extra speakers.

In France, the only other European country I know well, the situation is roughly the same. If you confess you like footie, your best bet is to laugh at yourself before others do. You may just get away with it.

During the previous World Cup I was talking to an old French aristocrat whose title goes back to the Carolingians. When I mentioned that I had just seen a cracking game, a slight shadow came across his face.

“But of course I’m a proletarian,” I hastily added with double-bluff self-deprecation. “Oui, mon cher,” smiled the aristo forgivingly. “Moi aussi”. That turned the whole thing into a joke and saved my social face until the next faux pas.

The reason football can evoke such strong social responses is that it’s no longer just a game. It has evolved not only into a class indicator, but also into a microcosm of society, a living study in social anthropology. Society looks at football and sees itself in this mirror.

Thus if you don’t think we’re reverting to barbarism, look no further than football.

And don’t just look at it synchronically, as football is now. It’s more instructive to examine it diachronically, over time. This sort of cognitive methodology is bound to produce a melancholy conclusion: an age of savagery is upon us.

For footballers don’t exist in a vacuum. Like everyone else they’re a reflection of their time, and these days their time is increasingly a reflection of them.

Comparing the way football is now and the way it was back in the fifties and sixties, one notices that the value society attaches to the game has increased no end.

If Stanley Matthews, England’s top player of the post-war era, earned £5 a week and travelled to matches by bus, today’s equivalent may pocket £500,000 a week and travel to matches by a supercharged Bentley.

TV money and commercial supply-demand don’t quite explain such disparity. If they did, most top clubs wouldn’t be operating at a huge loss. And Sir Stanley wouldn’t have been paid 100,000 times less than today’s equivalent, considering that the pound was then worth only about 30 times more.

This has to affect not just football. If a ball kicker earns in a week what a good teacher earns in 15 years, then the issue is wider than football. If the habitually naked ‘artist’ Rihanna collects $1,000,000 for an hour-long gig, the problem isn’t economical – it’s cultural and social.

Preoccupation with panem et circenses has since time immemorial been regarded as suicidal decadence, something that can destroy a civilisation more surely than any barbarians. When they’re at the door, they can be repelled. When they’re inside the walls, a massacre ensues.

Rome fell not because Alaric was a great military leader, but because chariot racers merited vast fees. This even though, unlike our lovers of football, their fans didn’t use mobile phones to prearrange post-race punch-ups after a few amphorae of Falerno.

If you look at most footballers of Matthews’s generation and the next, the one that won England’s solitary World Cup in 1966, the contrast to today’s lot is striking.

The odd rotten apple aside, they were good working-class lads, modest, well-behaved, neatly dressed, usually taciturn, with a good sense of humour and a strong sense of right and wrong. In other words, they were just like their fans, the salt of the British earth.

If you look at the newsreel of any match from that period, watch the fans. Most of them wear their Sunday best, and they support their team with enthusiasm but without any visible malice towards its opponents.

Unlike them, most of today’s fans are lumpen middle class, affecting what they think are appropriate working-class mannerisms. Hence they wear prole clothes, push their accents down a notch, swear non-stop and look at the other team and its supporters with genuine hatred. And they drink themselves to a stupor both before and after the game.

Then there are the tattoos. Looking at the photograph of the 1966 England team, I can’t spot a single one. I may be missing a couple, but certainly no more.

These days you’ll hardly find a footballer not treating his flesh as a canvas for body art. Some morons, like David Beckham, are densely covered from head to toe.

That stands to reason: it’s hard to expect the general social decline to leave aesthetics untouched. It’s also hard not to notice that tattoos are now seen as the norm, not an unpleasantly asocial eccentricity.

Probably 80 per cent of Premier League players, wherever they come from, sport visible tattoos. The corresponding percentage among the fans is probably lower, but still high.

Nor is this abomination restricted to football. Every other young person one sees in the street has either tattoos or facial metal or both – and that’s just on the visible parts of their bodies.

Such adornments aren’t the exclusive property of the proletariat, lumpen or otherwise. The middle classes, lumpen or otherwise, are close behind.

I don’t know what message body art communicates in places like Easter Island or Sub-Saharan Africa. In the West, this side of gangs and prisons at any rate, it betokens nothing but a cretinous disdain for a civilisation about which the bearers know next to nothing and understand even less.

This is evil, sociopathic anomie, yet no one in the mainstream press will ever dare say so. It’s as if there were nothing wrong with millions desperate to jump backwards into our cave past, or sideways into cultures alien to ours.

The other day the England footballer Raheem Sterling caused an outrage by adding a tattoo of an assault rifle to his existing gallery. Yet every indignant gasp in the press was about the bellicose theme, not the revolting practice itself.

As a British subject, I feel proud of the influence our culture exerts on the world. Though one still doesn’t see as many tattooed yahoos in France, they’re catching up, and many of their textual tattoos are in English.

Here in Auxerre there wasn’t a single tattoo parlour 20 years ago. Now there are five, with most sited in gorgeous medieval timber-framed houses. They were built at a time when people adorned their towns, not their bodies.

Well, to each civilisation its own.

Populism isn’t all it’s cut out to be

When a government or a single politician goes over the head of the institutions to appeal to the public directly, do we call it populism or rabble-rousing?

The difference is usually determined by how we feel about the result of this stratagem. If we hate it, it’s rabble-rousing. If we like it, it’s populism.

The difference is clear enough, but it’s a subjective difference. Objectively, populism and rabble-rousing are the same thing in their unadulterated form.

In both instances politicians appeal to the base instincts of the mob, for the simple reason that the mob has no other. This was brilliantly shown back in 1895 by Gustave Le Bon in his book Psychology of Crowds, and confirmed by many scholars, not to mention empirical evidence, since then.

No matter how lovely the people in a mob are individually, the mob itself has neither collective morality nor collective reason. The American comedian George Carlin once expressed this in a quip: “You know how dumb the average person is? Well, I’ve got news for you: half the people are even dumber than that.” (Cf. Churchill: “The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.”)

That’s why, when Lincoln orated about government for the people, he was being sensible and appropriately idealistic: this is indeed what government ought to be. But when he talked about government by the people, he was spouting pure demagoguery.

Seventy-odd years earlier, Edmund Burke encapsulated the way a representative government should work. Parliamentarians, he wrote in his Reflections, should be people’s representatives, not their delegates. They should act according to people’s interests (government for the people), but not according to their wishes (government by the people).

That’s why Western countries have wisely, and Britain extremely wisely, over centuries created an intricate lattice of institutions designed to translate people’s interests into action. This is the essence of parliamentarism, practised with various modifications by all Western countries.

The vigour with which it has been practised, however, has steadily abated over the centuries, for reasons too numerous and complex to go into here. (I write about this at length in my Democracy as a Neocon Trick.)

More and more, politicians have begun to give people what they want, not what they need, while peddling the self-serving lie that the two are identical. Our modern government by focus group is a bright example of this political perversion, with governing spivs (the dominant type in modern politics) acting not as statesmen but as sales executives.

This is akin to doctors basing their treatment on what the patient desires. If a patient thinks his cancer can be cured by eating dried apricot kernels, then that’s what the doctor prescribes.

That populism is on the rise all over the West is testimony to the failure of the people who man our traditional institutions, not of the institutions themselves. These institutions were lovingly put together by generations of sages who put public good before their own and, even more important, knew what public good was.

Their only serious mistake was to expect that situation to continue in perpetuity. They didn’t envisage the avalanche of the Tony-Gordon-Dave-Theresa-Jeremys (or their equivalents from any other Western country you care to name) burying traditional government at the bottom of an abyss.

Hence the rise of populism all over the West, with the mob feeling hard done by, and with all sorts of ‘leaders’ appealing to the mob for all sorts of ends, some advisable, some less so, some downright wicked. Hence also the rise of plebiscitary democracy, replacing representative government with a direct appeal to the mob.

When the result pleases us, we applaud, as we did with Brexit. Few of us realise that there’s a downside even to such an obvious upside.

All good and sensible people should despise the EU. There’s every rational reason to feel that way, and not a single rational reason to think otherwise.

The trouble is that many people who feel the right way do so for the wrong reasons. They are neither good nor sensible, and nor are they capable of rational thought.

Good and sensible people are opposed to a loss of sovereignty and too much immigration because such abominations lead to irreversible changes in the nation’s government, demographics, economy, culture, laws, social life and even language: all those things that make up a nation.

Empowering such people may not be a bad thing, for they can be counted on to use their power prudently and wisely.

People who are neither good nor sensible may feel about the EU and immigration the same way, but mainly because they hate other races and foreigners in general. They aren’t patriots, like the other, smaller, group, but jingoists.

A patriot loves his country, a jingoist idolises it and usually hates or at least despises all others. Empowering such people, even on an ad hoc basis, is not only dangerous but potentially catastrophic: once they’ve gained power, they seldom relinquish it – and they’re likely to use it for nefarious purposes.

True enough, decent people have joined forces with diabolical ones throughout history. Witness, for example, the wartime anti-Hitler alliance between the Anglophone West and Stalin. One can argue in favour of it with greater conviction than against.

However, while that alliance defeated Nazi satanism, Soviet satanism was extended to half the world, and it’s still exerting diabolical effects posthumously. When supping with the devil, no spoon is ever long enough.

That our institutions are tottering is beyond doubt. But if we have faith, as we should, in the sound principles on which they’re based, then our efforts must be aimed at restoring them, rebuilding if necessary. Destroying them by rabble-rousing for the sake of an immediate political gain is the kind of cure that’s worse than the disease.

For that reason, even though I’m happy the Brexit referendum came out the way I myself voted, I grieve rather than cheer the rise of ‘populism’ all over the West. “If you open that Pandora’s Box you never know what Trojan ‘orses will jump out,” as Ernest Bevin once said with the rhetorical flourish one expects from socialists.

The Trojan ‘orses galloping around the West now have a distinct piebald tint, with brown spots strewn about lavishly. The rabble has been roused by an appeal to its resentments and hatreds, which is never a good thing – even if good people happen to hate and resent the same things.

The recent wave of protests against mass immigration has brought on its crest governments either run or greatly influenced by faschisoid parties. Hungary, Czechia, Poland, Italy, Germany, France, Slovenia, Sweden, Austria all fall into that category.

In common with all parties that derive political capital out of hatreds, these groups are clear on what they wish to destroy, but hazy on what they’d like to build in its stead. A febrile animus towards not only the ugly contrivance of the EU but also against Western tradition is easy to discern.

Witness the fact that all such parties adore Putin and his kleptofascist state. What exactly do they have in common? Do they think Putin is their fellow populist?

Surely even they can’t be so ignorant. Putin and his KGB Mafia run a gangster state, and criminal organisations don’t care about the public. They may manipulate it by using totalitarian zombifying propaganda to whip up mass enthusiasm, but they don’t count on it for electoral support. They have no elections other than sham ones.

So why this affection for Putin? Some ‘useful idiots’ no doubt buy the image expertly peddled by Putin’s Goebbelses, of a Russia that’s “the only conservative, religious and patriotic country left in Europe,” in the words of my favourite columnist who has few equals in the strident idiocy stakes.

But most, I guess, detect a kinship based not on common loves but on shared hates, with the traditional West taking pride of place among them. Their nerve endings thus excited, they’re prepared to throw out the baby of Europe with the bath water of the European Union.

They don’t realise that, while they may distinguish between the two, Putin doesn’t. The psychosis of hatred for the West being whipped up in Russia now outstrips by a wide margin everything I saw back in the old days.

Those fascisoid parties are greatly helped by assorted PMs and presidents who may love the EU, but are cravenly prepared to do the Faustian deal with Putin, trading their souls for a few barrels of oil. Putin’s hydrocarbons flow into Europe’s economies like heroin mainlined into an addict’s vein, and the euphoria of votes follows.

Hence the West’s commitment to punishing Russia’s crimes with sanctions is growing from tepid to stone-cold. Already Italy’s ‘populist’ government has come out in favour of repealing them, and young Manny Macron, though no populist, is moving the same way.

To refresh their memory, the sanctions were imposed following Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, her waging ‘hybrid’ electronic war against the West and trying to subvert its political institutions (we can do it ourselves, no outside help necessary thank you very much) and practising gangland hits in the West.

So what exactly has changed? Has Russia withdrawn from the Ukraine? Called a truce in the hybrid war? Forsworn ‘whackings’? Stopped helping Iran and North Korea develop their nuclear and ICBM arsenals?

Trump opened the G7 meeting with the regret of not having Russia there, and Macron closed it with the wish to have her at the next one. Why? Expelling Russia was a response to her refusing to act in a civilised manner. Logically she should only be readmitted if she changes her ways. Surely Messrs Donny and Manny don’t think she has?

When talking about Trump’s relations with Putin, the word ‘collusion’ has been bandied about so freely that it has become devalued. Without coming down on either side of the debate, I’d like to point out that everything Trump has said and, more important, done seems to promote Putin’s policy of divide and conquer.

So far Trump hasn’t uttered a single word against Putin, though he has said a few perfunctory ones against some of his policies. Trump was opposed to imposing sanctions, and would certainly have vetoed them had Congress been unable to override the veto.

While Trump’s criticism of the European Nato members is justified, it’s clear he has misgivings about keeping up collective security anyhow. That system is far from perfect, but it has worked so far. Does he not want it to work?

Trump’s first shots in the trade war with Europe are music to Putin’s ears: sowing discord within the West is the crux of his global strategy. And Trump as good as invited Putin to enter the Syrian civil war, on the pretext of combatting terrorism.

At the risk of sounding like a scaremonger, I think’s it’s possible that Trump may be prepared to strike a Yalta-like deal with Putin, dividing the world into spheres of influence. To the populists’ cheers, Europe may well find itself under Putin’s aegis.

They may not realise that, but such a fate would be incomparably worse than anything we can suffer under the EU. It’ll take some more doing, but these chaps may eventually succeed in turning me into a Remainer.

Where to find pretty girls

Piece of cake, you’ll say if you live in any large city, especially London. You just walk out into the street in the city centre, and there they are. Whole bevies of them.

Tactile delights may be out of your reach in most instances. But there’s no shortage of visual ones. Aesthetics trumps carnality everywhere.

But notice I said ‘any large city’. I could have said ‘anywhere’ but didn’t, advisedly. For I spend almost half my time in the north-western corner of Burgundy. Between Sancerre and Chablis, to put it into your frame of reference.

Yet there’s no wine industry where we are. Nor, actually, much of any other. Welfare is the biggest industry, with timber perhaps a distant second. Since we don’t get many tourists, there aren’t many service jobs either.

This means youngsters with anything on the ball leave the moment they’re old enough and sometimes before that. The clever boys go where jobs are, and so do the pretty girls. The girls also go where eligible men are, which is usually the same places that have jobs.

The locals who stay do nothing much but drink and sleep with their next of kin, which activity is called le cinéma des pauvres in these parts. That, I’m sure, is a most enjoyable cinematic genre, but it tends to be rather detrimental to the gene pool.

Hence at 5’7” I tower over most local men, and the women tend to be broader than they’re tall. In both sexes the hairline is almost contiguous with the eyebrows, and the chins with the sternums. Both sexes are badly shaven.

This explains my sense of acute visual deprivation whenever I’m here, sometimes three months at a time. There are gorgeous birds everywhere, but strictly of the avian variety.

After a week so, I in my desperation try to espy any good-looking person, regardless of sex. But casting the net wider doesn’t produce a greater catch. The locals are all lovely, courteous people, but they don’t add much to the serene beauty of the undulating landscape.

Our closest big city is Auxerre, and it’s big only by French standards, 30,000 souls or thereabouts. Still, since it’s one of Burgundy’s five regional centres and one of the most beautiful cities this size I’ve seen anywhere, one would expect the situation to improve there.

It doesn’t, not enough to make a difference. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a beautiful girl there, and even pretty ones are a rarity.

Now I know why. They’re all, dozens of them, nurses at the Auxerre Hospital, and they probably stay there all the time.

I found myself in a position to make this observation some four days ago, as a result of suffering a TIA, which the French perversely call AIT. They do have this tendency to get things the wrong way around: NATO is OTAN to them, fancy that.

Anyway, whether you call it Transient Ischemic Attack or Attaque Ischémique Transitoire, it amounts to the next best thing before stroke. Hence, for once, my wife overcame my staunch resistance and dragged me 30 miles to Auxerre.

Penelope probably wouldn’t have managed the feat had she not drawn reinforcements in the person of our charming doctor friend. She magically diagnosed the condition over the phone and explained that I’d be a con if I didn’t go to les urgences immediately. (If you don’t know what con means, I’ll let you guess.)

So I did, partly out of curiosity. This would give me the opportunity, I thought, to compare French healthcare with ours, of which I have rich experience at both the public and private ends.

The Auxerre Hospital is public, but in everything that matters it’s much closer to our private hospitals than to the NHS. Within 10 minutes of arriving at les urgences, I was seen by several nurses, each fit to feature in G&Q magazine.

Another five minutes later I was on a scanner, with several more beauties in attendance. They all called me Monsieur Boot, whereas NHS staff always refer to me as Alex or, if they’re feeling especially diffident, Alexander. I only become Mr Boot in private hospitals, or, as I once found out at High Wycombe, when moved to the private wing of the same hospital.

Half an hour later, I was on a gurney in the corridor, talking to three other gorgeous nurses and a stern-looking doctor. They were ganging up on me, trying to explain why not staying in for a few days would put my life in imminent jeopardy.

After some vigorous resistance I agreed: they were giving me both the chance to go on living and a reason to do so.

Over the next few days I gathered even more basis for comparison. The only aspect of healthcare in which Auxerre Hospital approaches the NHS is the food. Surprisingly for France it was inedible, and I gratefully lost five pounds while there.

But all rooms on my floor were private or semi-private. Some of the semi-private ones, including mine, housed men, some women, but never the two together.

I once spent several nights in an NHS hospital, when the NHS almost succeeded in killing me. I had been delivered there by an ambulance after an attack of gall stones.

When brought up to the ward, I saw something I’d never seen even in Russia, never mind the US: men and women were all jammed together in an open plan room. Those weren’t the circumstances under which I normally like to share a bedroom with a woman.

As to my problem, it wasn’t diagnosed, nor the pain relieved, in the three days I spent there. Eventually I fled for my life, and I don’t mean this figuratively.

The next day a private consultant diagnosed the condition before I finished the first sentence. When they operated on me, they found that gangrene had already set in. Another day at the Chelsea & Westminster, and you wouldn’t be reading my scurrilous prose now.

Nothing like that could ever have happened at Auxerre. If anything, I got as much attention as I needed and more than I could cope with, both from the excellent doctors and the efficient nurses. The latter numbered at least 20 on my floor, with their appearance only covering the range from pretty to beautiful.

So here’s my advice. If you find yourself in this neck of the woods and don’t see any good-looking women around, visit the hospital. You never know your luck.