Frédéric Chopin in Majorca


December 3rd, 1838, Majorca (to Jules Fontana)

I have not been able to send you the manuscripts since they are not ready. For the past three weeks I have been as sick as a dog, despite a heat of 18 degrees, despite the roses, orange trees, palms, and flowering fig-trees. I caught a bad cold. The three most celebrated doctors of the island met for a consultation. One peered at what I had expectorated, the second sounded the organs of expectoration, the third listened while I expectorated again. The first said that I would die, the second that I was dying, the third that I was already dead. And yet I live as I used to live in the past. I cannot pardon Jeannot for failing to give me any advice on the treatment of acute bronchitis from which he must have been perfectly aware that I suffered. I had great difficulty in escaping leeches, cuppings, and similar operations. Thank God I am now myself again. But my illness interfered with my Preludes, which you will receive God knows when.

After a few days I shall be living in the loveliest spot on earth: sea, mountains… all one could wish. We are going to live in an old, ruined, abandoned Carthusian monastery, from which Mendizábal seems to have expelled the monks especially for my sake. It is quite near Palma and nothing could be more charming: cells, a most poetic cemetery… in fact, I am convinced that I shall feel well there. The one thing I still lack is my piano. I have written to Pleyel. Ask him about it and say that I fell ill on the day after I arrived here, but that I am getting better. Say little, generally, about my manuscripts. Write to me. So far I haven’t had a single letter from you. Tell Leo that I haven’t yet sent the Preludes to Albrecht, but that I love them well and will write soon. Post the enclosed letter to my parents yourself, and write as soon as possible. Greetings to Jeannot. Tell nobody that I have been ill; it could only encourage gossip.

Your Chopin

The letter was a footnote in the 1956 Valledemosa Edition Mallorca of George Sand’s Winter in Majorca, translated and annotated by Robert Graves

Photograph by Louis-Auguste Bisson, 1849

The title FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL does not work for a number of reasons.

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“1.  It could turn off men. I can’t think of anything men would rather do less than go to four weddings back to back.

2.  The title is not as funny or as intriguing as the film. This film is funny, romantic, and poignant. Much more than the present title implies.

3.  The title does not convey what I think are the real and potentially more commercial themes of what the film is about.

4. The title resonates back to a number of films that did not work in the past (Altman’s The Wedding, Betsy’s Wedding), or the small art films (The Wedding Banquet). Father of the Bride worked but that was Steve Martin.

5. The title implies an episodic structure which historically have not done well.

6. It gives the audience the opportunity of ‘counting down’ if they lose interest while watching the film.

I ask your creative team to address my concerns not only from the viewpoint of America, but from the world as well. Save for point 4, I feel many of the points addressed above resonate internationally.”

A fax from the U.S. distributor of the film Four Weddings and a Funeral outlining their concerns with the title.  Alternative titles proposed were Loitering in Sacred Places, Skulking Around, True Love and Near Misses, and Rolling in the Aisles.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in the Antipodes


“Prince William was just a little overwhelmed with how many babies there were. He said he hoped we weren’t going to ask him to baby sit.”

“She said it was the most amount of babies they’d ever had in a room with George.”

“He told me that being in a hall full of aircraft made him long to be flying again.”

“She said she grows her own vegetables at home.”

“When it gets very cold we use helicopters to stop the frost over the vines by hovering above and stirring up the cold air. William exclaimed: ‘You’re joking? That’s an expensive way to do it! Wow! If you ever need a spare pilot, I’m here!'”

“Kate says she follows William’s wine advice.”

“William kept on shouting at me, ‘Go closer, Wayne, go closer’. Kate was amazed that the boats could go over such shallow water but the prince was very knowledgeable about how they worked.”

“Catherine told me she played cricket at school which was pretty interesting, she didn’t say when.”


“William said sleeping and distracting him was the best thing to get over jet-lag and that’s what they’d done with George.”

“The Duchess said she played goal shooter and preferred netball to hockey because she didn’t have to wear a mouth guard.”

“He said he would love to come back another time without so much attention and do some abseiling himself. He seemed quite confident and eager to have a go.”

“We had a little chat about George- she asked how big wombats really are, as the Governor General had given him a large stuffed toy wombat yesterday.”

“The prince just said that they were very sorry that I lost my house. It was built by my husband and I- we actually built it brick by brick. He said that when my house is rebuilt they are going to come back for a cup of tea with me.”

“Kate said it was beautiful and it was amazing, she asked how far you can see and I told her about 100 kilometres. She was amazed how far you could see.”

“He said he goes down to Cornwall and has done some surfing there, and a little bit in Portugal, but he said he just flounders in the shallows. We talked about George being a bit messy and drooling everywhere.”Image

“I complimented her on her green dress. She said she liked it but Prince William thought it was a bit bright.”

“He said that Jindi couldn’t have had its head any more into that termite mound.”

“The Duchess said, ‘Oh good, we’re looking forward to being able to use it, because we all love the water.'”

“They talked about the weather and that it was a lot better than when they were in New Zealand.”

“They said they loved coming to Queensland to see some sun.”

“She talked to Kerri about the two boys. I think that showed a real human touch.”

“He said he really appreciates Aboriginal culture.”


“She came up to us and we shook hands with her and we asked for a photo. We asked how she was and she asked how we were so it was awesome. I think we were just awestruck about how stunning and phenomenal she was.”

“The prince was really interested in what the echidnas were feeding on, which was a mixture of mince-meat, raw eggs, vitamins, and actually some dirt.”

“She said she’s going to say hello to Birmingham when she goes there. I thought that was wonderful.”

“I said, ‘It’s fantastic to meet you,’ and he said, ‘I’ve got to keep moving.'”

“You feel like you know them, and they treat you like they do.”

The Best Insults in Conrad Black’s “A Matter of Principle”


Conrad Black has a special gift for scathing insults. Black’s description of his ertswhile partner in the dock could have been written by Honoré de Balzac, while his use of gruesome words is reminiscent of another French author, Emile Zola. His recollection of the jury selection at his trial read like an updated addition to the Rougon-Macquart series.

“As he was brought through the court by the government handlers, or from the elevators to the holding room, he appeared an outcast, even to himself. Hunched, furtive, with darting, fearful eyes, he looked like a man bound for the gallows, worn down as much by a knowledge of his own wretchedness as by the impending punishment.”

“This putrefied gossip’s preoccupation with such lurid public ruminations was apparently inexhaustible.”

“He was a minor pestilence who had festered and pustullated on the edges of journalism and trash books and emerged like the expectant undertaker whenever any prominent financier was under siege.”

“Her rather high hair appeared to be set with magic glue, and her wax-works face was not well served by dollops of red lipstick like Anne Hathaway’s in The Devil Wears Prada.”

“His little porcine face was so puffy it made his spectacles seem smaller, like those of a Stalin apparatchik.”

“The judge wanted twelve jurors and six alternates. I had been conditioned to expect some leftish and podgy housewives, reactionary postal or local government workers, and some utter cretins. These groups were out in numerical strength.”

World Class Big Game Trophy & Western Auction


“A full body Hippopotamus hunting trophy, whose hide alone likely weighed half a ton, is one of 700 exotic and unusual taxidermy mounts being liquidated at auction in Fort Worth, Texas. The hunting trophies, animal rugs, fish and bird mounts being offered to the general public at the World Class Big Game Trophy & Western Auction are from private collections of three renowned big game hunters and two natural history museums.

What could be more stylish and ‘hip’ than an enormous Hippo in your game room? ‘Your friends will likely talk about it for some time,’ said John Brommel, owner of the Corner Shoppe in Austin and sale organizer. Other enormous mounts are a huge shoulder mount Elephant and a 15 ½ foot Marlin. ‘It is twice as big as anything I have ever seen,’ said Brommel

… Of the hundreds of species offered there are 10 bears, including a standing full height Polar Bear, a standing Boone & Crockett Brown Bear and full body Black and Grizzly Bears. The sale contains about 40 full body mounts such as Bengal Tiger, Bongo, Baboon, Leopard, Civet Cat, Velvet and Colobus Monkeys, and African Lion.

…The rare and unusual items are suitable for display over a pool table or in beach homes, cabins, restaurants and bars. ‘There is such a tremendous amount of stuff at this auction, it is a sure bet there will be lots of bargains,’ said Brommel.

In the collectibles grouping are African swords and spears, lots of carved ivory, and skulls including Giraffe, African Lion, and Cape Buffalo. There are numerous high quality hides: Zebra, Springbok, Axis Deer, Alpaca, cowhides, sheep skins, Eel and Snake skins plus Grizzly Bear, Polar Bear and Lion rugs. The sale has an excellent selection of furniture and accessories such as framed art, trunks, cowhorn chairs, couches and footstools; coffee tables, blankets, bar stools, antler chandeliers and lamps, metal art, wagon wheels, cowboy and Indian collectibles like arrowheads, rattles and spears; Indian jewelry, knives, antlers and horns, Remington, Winchester and Weatherby firearms, chaps, spurs, saddles and fossils.”

Fort Worth, Texas, PRWEB, April 10, 2009

Photograph: Dr. Wilmer M. Tanner examines a tiger trophy received by the Brigham Young University Life Science Museum, 1973

Kim Philby Meets His KGB Controller in Moscow, 1964


“As for me, I had to wait until 1964 to meet Kim Philby, at which time I was detailed by the KGB to work with him on his autobiography. The idea was to write an official KGB version of his life, for distribution in Russia and other Iron Curtain nations. The moment I had waited for so long had finally come.

Philby was quartered not far from the center of Moscow, in a new, nondescript but well-maintained building. I climbed three flights of stairs and rang the bell. A man in his fifties appeared at the door: he was of average height, slightly stout, but still handsome and distinguished-looking.

I introduced myself, and he grasped my hand, grinning.

‘You and I are old friends Peter. Come in!’

We sat down with a bottle of vodka and began to talk. It was a strange sensation to have so much in common with a man I had never spoken to in my life, and I believe he shared this feeling. As we talked on, an image rose up in my mind. I had the impression that together we were piecing together two halves of a puzzle. When he spoke of a given even or recounted an anecdote, I responded with my own version of it, drawing on memories of my times in Moscow (1944-47) and London (1947-55). Each of us could reveal to the other the part of the picture that had been hidden from him.”

My Five Cambridge Friends: Philby, Burgess, Maclean, Blunt, and Cairncross by their KGB Controller, Yuri Modin, with Jean-Charles Deniau and Aguieszka Ziarek, translated by Anthony Roberts, Ballantine Books, 1994.

Prince Charles Dancing


Britain’s Prince Charles has danced in front of audiences his entire adult life– sword dancing in Saudi Arabia, breakdancing in London, discoing at Rio’s Carnaval, and tangoing in Argentina. He loves doing the Funky Chicken, and he’s never afraid to go low. He evinces real joy when he’s dancing with a partner. Is it permissible  to be simultaneously opposed to hereditary rule and in favour of Prince Charles dancing? I hope so.