After the heat in Greece, the Alps are cool and green and very comfortable. My sensei Richard Amos is over here and we squeezed two weeks of intensive karate training into three days. Nothing makes me feel better than the sense of total exhaustion after a hard day’s fighting. We do kihon, kata, and then we let fly in kumite. Except that recently I’ve caught him diving, as they call it in the ugly game. Fight like a man, I say, through gritted teeth. He picks up the tempo but my suspicions remain. The sensei (teacher) is taking it easy on the sempai (senior). I hate it but it’s the way of our world, the best one there is, the world of martial arts and of the bushido spirit.
Otherwise it’s been a lousy year, what with Nick Scott, Aleko Goulandris, Alistair Horne, David Beaufort and David Tang all leaving a place that’s becoming cruder and more brutal by the minute. Perhaps they’re the lucky ones. When I see some of the Gulf lot that pollute Gstaad I have to go back up to my house and pound the makiwara for a while. Then I have a stiff drink. And think of that poor Christian white girl who was placed with a foster carer who allegedly wore a burqa, and, according to a confidential local authority report, didn’t speak English and took away the cross the girl was wearing. Sense prevailed and a judge ruled that she live with a family member, but still… This in London 2017; Heaven help us.
And it gets much worse: the Saudi war crimes being committed with American help in Yemen dwarf the alleged crimes of the Syrian regime, yet the Saudis continue to slaughter children and innocents without a peep coming from, say, the EU or Washington, London or Berlin. Saudi money has a strange effect on those who govern us. It makes their moral compass go haywire. Here is what Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s latest Napoleon, has managed to achieve: three million Yemenis displaced, half a million infected with cholera, 5,000 being infected daily. The Saudi blockade is strangling Yemen, and children, dying of malnutrition, are the main victims. A UN report that threatened to expose Saudi atrocities was redacted when the camel-drivers-turned-royals countered by threatening to withhold funds. Ban Ki-moon folded quicker than you can say chicken shit.
The war in Yemen began as a local conflict three years ago, and then the glorious Saudi regime decided to intervene in case the Iranians got a foothold. They bombed hospitals and schools and civilians non-stop, yet the Houthi rebels have somehow survived despite American military help and air-attack guidance. Twenty million Yemenis are now in need of emergency assistance but the glorious Saudi army and air force say nyet. Watching my boy Trump kiss Saudi ass on his first overseas trip made me reach for the sick bag, but are any of his detractors any better? In fact, they’re more complicit in Yemen war crimes because they were around when the Saudis started murdering children 30 months ago.
Fifty years ago, America lost a war in south-east Asia because it refused to conduct indiscriminate bombing of civilian population centres. Even the warmongers in Congress knew that Uncle Sam would never recover if he played dirty. Today the neocons are cheering whenever a Yemeni hospital is bombed, or a Yemeni child is burnt to death. So who is more evil? The Russians helping Assad remain in power, or the Americans helping the Saudis interfere in another country’s civil war? King Solomon would say that both are in the wrong, but the Americans ten times more so than the Russkies.
Bringing up the subject at a chic dinner party in Gstaad the other night almost ended in tears. When a tiny Brit art dealer excused the Saudis, I became Orlando Furioso, but as he correctly pointed out, if Prince Charles kowtows to them, so can the rest of us. So I’ll change the subject and go on to far more pleasant matters than Saudi scum.
Two loyal Spectator readers have contacted me and sent me goodies. Andrew Johnston is the managing director of Quiller Publishing, and he gave me a book called The Enigma of Kidson (reviewed in The Speccie Books pages on 5 August) about an Eton beak known for being rude, insulting, eccentric and completely non-PC. He was also adored by his students, and he mentored and guided many of the well-known establishment names of today. It’s a great read about a great man and I learned something about some good friends in their youth. I thank him and also Dr Ian Olson, a poet and author of Facing the Persians, in which Dr Olson starts out rooting for Athens vs Sparta but finds himself wondering about what veterans of Thermopylae would have been thinking as they waited before the Hot Gates. I loved the poems and found myself thinking how, 3,000 years later, we have regressed. I thank both senders very, very much. Buy both books and see for yourselves what a mess we’ve got ourselves into.