Apple, Half-Peeled on a Black Plate (1976) by Avigdor Arikha is on display at Marlborough Fine Art, London, as part of the first major posthumous retrospective of the great Jewish artist, who died in April last year. The exhibition Avigdor Arikha: Works from the Estate traces the long career of the painter, printmaker, draughtsman and art historian, who survived the Holocaust, moved to Israel and settled in Paris Cou nter poi nts that, he might just as well go on fighting: “The same arts that did gain/ A power, must it maintain.” Gaddafi may have thought so. A ruler in a corner—he is only the latest—may con- clude that he has Hobson’s choice. If he believes that the “fight or flight dilemma” is a real one, he could think about fleeing and decide that this would suit him better, as, indeed, it might suit everybody else. It would be in the general interest to make that choice attractive. If only Saddam Hussein’s prospective enemies had of- fered him a safe and snug retirement, somewhere far from Baghdad! How many lives would have been saved, his own, of course, included. President George W. Bush gave him 48 hours to leave the country, and he might have found refuge in Belarus, but nothing came of it. Brooding on this missed opportunity, I have been minded to propose a home or club for rulers who have passed their sell-by date. Dismounting from their high horse, as they always find, is the hardest part, and this would help them down. It would have suited Ben-Ali and Mubarak and might yet suit Mugabe. With their offshore wealth, the candidates would buy annuities, which would pay for life subscriptions and enable their club to offer every comfort. Golf would be available, and bridge, and shooting, within limits. An appropriate location would be St Helena, and this would be Britain’s contribution.
Over time, no doubt, the club would become overcrowded, and there might have to be a waiting list, but that would be a problem for another day. The immediate need is to apply the skills of statecraft so as to rebalance the next fight-or-flight dilemma—or indeed the current one—in favour of flight. The statesmen might then find that peace had its victories. After the War of Independence, Washington, to King George III’s surprise and admiration, laid down his command, retired to Mount Vernon and cultivated his garden.
A vanished world
By j.W.M. Thompson
Peter Paterson, the author of an engaging memoir (Much More Of This, Old Boy…? Scenes from A Reporter’s Life, Muswell Press, £12.99), has had a successful career as a London journalist lasting more than half a century. Although he writes of it in a lively enough fashion, the world he describes has already ceased to exist. It is as distant today as the London of Pepys or Johnson.
What was conveniently referred to as “Fleet Street” was in fact a community, embracing not only that par- ticular thoroughfare but also its neighbourhood. There, in a network of lesser streets and alleyways, a variety of newspapers, periodicals and magazines was produced— and there the journalists who created them worked and drank and lived their (often irregular) lives. Although it has all gone now, swept away by the invincible forces of new technology and trade union blackmail, Paterson’s enjoyable account brings that whole scene back to life.
It certainly had its disreputable aspects, but it was unquestionably fun to belong to that world, something which probably cannot be said of very many working communities today. It was peopled by a ripe assortment of characters, some of them brilliant, others decidedly not so; all of them, it has to be admitted, were inclined to drink immoderate amounts of alcohol, either in the fabled wine bar El Vino or in the numerous old-established pubs of the district. An easygoing camaraderie prevailed, spiced by keen rivalries and exuberant conversation. Paterson clearly enjoyed the environment as much as anyone.
His entry to that world came about in the old-fashioned manner, by way of a spell on a local weekly paper. He had the talent and versatility to flourish subsequently in a variety of roles, not always in his chosen category of reporter. He was the Sunday Telegraph’s industrial correspondent at a time when Britain’s industries resembled a battlefield. Later he switched to political punditry for the New Statesman and the Spectator. He ended up as television critic for the Daily Mail, an abrupt change of direction by no means surprising in what is an often comically unpredictable environment.
Paterson writes informatively about the inevitable disappearance of that world. He describes the gangster-like customs of some print workers who conspired to squeeze the newspapers of their last penny, using threats of wildcat strikes and blatant corruption as their weapons, while resisting the new technology which had transformed the publishing world away from Fleet Street. When the old state of affairs was finally ended, and Fleet Street was abandoned by the newspapers, there was a sense that a longoverdue cleansing had occurred. For many of the scribblers and the pundits of print, however, it was a melancholy end.
It should be noted that Paterson depicts in this book one other, entirely different kind of existence which has also (or so one hopes) now vanished into history. His own childhood had an almost Dickensian flavour. Abandoned by his mother as an infant, he was shortly afterwards abandoned by the aunt to whom he had been entrusted. She placed him in a London orphanage where a harsh regime of praying and thrashing was enforced. That he emerged from that incarceration to embark with gusto on the life here recorded is something of a marvel.
By alev scot
Beneath the towering domes of Hagia Sophia and the Blue Mosque, and the glittering uptown skyline, a seedy side of Istanbul is making far more profit than the sale of souvenir aphrodisiacs in the stalls of the touristfilled Grand Bazaar.
Prostitution is legal in Turkey, and far more widespread than most people let on. While some of the brothels are controlled by the government, many more are run by a mafia of pimps and brothel empire-owners, some of whom are extremely rich individuals. One of them, the late Madame Manukyan, was the top taxpayer in Turkey for five years in the 1990s. In Istanbul, the main hub of prostitution is where it has been throughout history—the Tarlabasi district, just round the corner from the British Consulate. It’s like Amsterdam’s red-light district, only without the sex shops. Sultry voices invite passers-by to their less-thansumptuous quarters, trying out all the major tourist languages until they get a response. In Galata, there is an extraordinarily well-organised brothel that has all the hallmarks of government support—there is a security check at the entrance, complete with uniformed guard and metal detector, a sign prohibiting under-18s and a lengthy queue winding down the street, particularly at weekends. Wicker baskets full of condoms stand outside the nearby newsagents’ shops.
Transvestite prostitutes are a common sight in Tarlabasi. In one particular street (affectionately known as “Tranny Alley”) sturdy-calved ladies with suspiciously narrow hips and enviable manes of hair loiter throughout the day. One afternoon, I counted five, arrayed side by side in true sisterly fashion. There is an interesting theory e