Saturday, 25 April 2015

Armenian Odyssey, 1915

At St Lukes, Exeter, my mathematics tutor Dick Tahta was an Armenian, whose father had decided to leave the country with his family and go to England before the massacre of the Armenians, probably seeing the way the wind was blowing. Some of his other relatives remained. They died.

Yesterday (24th April 2015) marks the 100th anniversary of the day the Ottoman Turkey authorities arrested several hundred Armenian intellectuals in Constantinople, today's Istanbul, most of whom were later killed.

Armenians regard this as the beginning of the Ottoman policy of mass extermination of Christian Armenians suspected of supporting Russia, the Ottoman Empire's World War One enemy. The total number of people killed has been estimated at between 800,000 to 1.5 million

Turkey still denies that it was genocide, but even the Pope Francis has used the term. Turkey promptly recalled its envoy to the Vatican. It is illegal to call it genocide in Turkey. Turkey needs to come to terms with its past.

This poem was originally written by me in 2006, after seeing the film Atom Egoyan's move Ararat, and reading Dick's book reflecting on the film and his own family's past.

It is about one of the ways in which the killing was carried out: the deportation of women, children, the elderly and infirm on forced marches leading to the Syrian desert. Driven forward by military escorts, the deportees were deprived of food and water and subjected to periodic robbery, rape, and massacre

Armenian Odyssey, 1915
Journey's end, the weary traveller's hope:
But for now resettlement, a trial to cope
Along the desert path, a dry and arid land,
Towards the heat and dust, desert sand;
This was the year of exile, year of lying,
Because Turkey's leaders wanted dying,
And sent us into a wilderness, a death
Without shelter or provision, the breath
Of life cannot be sustained; but memory
Of those who escaped, who could see
The parched pilgrimage to destruction,
Because we were in the way, obstruction;
And we still are, Turkey lives in denial
Without justice, and with no fair trial,
To hear the voices of innocent abused,
But the graves ring out to the accused;
An Armenian odyssey, time to mourn,
For families, and children yet unborn,
Bearing witness for them, and for all,
Who trod that road, and came to fall,
Trampled by officialdom, by decree;
Pray that the world may someday see
Ravaged orchards, the houses in ashes,
And a people taken, a terror that lashes
Out, destroying. Agony remains still
In our blood, a testament, a living will,
To all whom we lost, of love and hope,
And future robbed. Perhaps time heals
The blooded history, the scars that feel
Old and sore. And let our God be there,
In the wounded story, in all our fear,
And feel the pain, the deaths, the hate,
And destroy the strands of cursed fate:
That at last forgiveness may be given,
That be our destiny for so long striven.

Friday, 24 April 2015

An Occupation Diary – Part 11

In 1972, the Pilot magazine began an exclusive serialisation of private letters from the late Mrs G Luce de Pre, which had taken the form of letters written to her absent children and grand-children, covering the period July 9 1940 to June 6 1945.

I suspect it has not been read much since then, 45 years ago, so here is a second chance in this special 70th Anniversary year to read some of it.

An Occupation Diary – Part 11
January 12, 1943

I am home again after a very pleasant little holiday. Jim and Harold were so good to me, and I was sorry to leave them. Wilfrid came to take me to Maryland in the "chair ", and it poured with rain all the way. I was well protected with rugs, mackintosh cover, and another over my head, and did not get at all wet, but Wilfrid did, and had to change everything. It's the second time he has had such a wetting through taking me in the chair.

Gertrude gave me a very warm welcome, and a fine lunch of sausages and mashed potatoes, with a steamed pudding and custard to follow. The afternoon passed all too quickly, and the car came for me at five o'clock. I stopped to see Auntie Flo, who was up for a few hours, not looking too well and feeling very weak. Mrs Pearce had come in to see me too, and they thought I was so brave to come in such bad weather, but I am none the worse for it.

Father was very pleased to have me home again as he had not been feeling at all well. He has gone to town today, and always brings me some library books and plenty of news, mostly rumours, but yesterday there was very disquieting news.

All the senior officers, Regular Army, have been called up to be taken to Germany, and probably all " Freemasons ". I am afraid there is a bad time ahead of us, as they seem to be tightening things up, now that the war is going against them. There has been a great number of letters received from the deportees "which are very pitiful to read - many are ill and all almost starving - in fact they seem to be no better off than the Russian prisoners here. It has cast a terrible gloom all over the island, especially as they say the rest of the English-born people will be taken next.

Yesterday an American bomber flew right over the town, and all the big guns let go at it, but did not hit it. I will wait now and see what news Father brings back from town.

The American bomber that came over strewed mines all round the Harbour, so now no boats can get out till they are all cleared away, and they will not be able to send away any deportees.

February 7

Nothing much has happened lately until last week.

When we got up on Friday morning we found that thieves had visited us, not in the house fortunately, but in the sheds which were locked, but they managed to get in, and simply ransacked the place. We had a lot of trunks packed with pictures, china and curtains, also a lot of dried beans, which form a great part of our diet as there is so little else.

All our seeds for sowing had gone which we had so carefully saved. My velvet curtains had gone, and lots of china and pictures broken. They seem to look mostly for food and clothing and tip everything out on the floor; you never saw such a mess. There isn't a house round here that hasn't been burgled; all the evacuated houses have been stripped, and this house would have been the same if we had not been here. It has made me feel very nervous, as I fear they may get into the house, and if Father heard them and got up, they would probably attack him. One cannot get help, and no one is allowed out after curfew, which is nine o'clock now.

We hear that about fifty men are being sent to Germany this week, mostly people who are in the Germans' bad books. As the news gets better, the more they retaliate on us. Lots of farmers take their seed potatoes up to their bedrooms at night, also their food and valuables, and lock themselves in.

Last week Dulcie and Ada came to see us and told us about a German ill-treating a Russian who was using a spade at the time, and he turned and hit the German such a blow that it cut off his head - another German guard came up . and he too got his head cut off. Then the Germans arrested forty Russians, hung them up and shot them.

Several people still have their wireless sets and listen into the news, and some are caught, but only when someone gives them away. Jennifer's form mistress has been arrested and imprisoned for spreading the news, but I do not know for how long. Anyway she will now be on the "black list ".

It was Nigel's birthday last week, and I am sure he is a fine little fellow- Violet Beep has had a message from Kathleen giving the date of baby's birth, and his name. We are very amused that she has called him "Eric Houguet " as that makes three " Erics " and three "Kathleens ". There has been such a lot of letters come in, but we haven't had any, and I am now anxious to hear from Peggy, and if her baby has arrived yet. I do hope it's not a false report, as we have not heard of it from any of the family.

February 14

Dear Emmie's birthday today, and I am wishing her many more happier days - how I miss her and long for her return.

It is also Doreen's Philip's birthday, and our loving thoughts go out to them all, hoping it will not be long before we see them.

I do hope they are getting on well in their new home, but perhaps Ray has had to join up. Dulcie has had a letter from Olive who says Dick has not to go abroad again, which we are very glad to hear, and that the children are still with Essie. I should like to hear from Essie.

February 22

Last week Major Ogier's son Dick was arrested by the Germans. It appears he got talking to someone and showed them a map of the Island on which he had marked all the big gun emplacements. It was reported and he was arrested as a Spy and is liable to be shot. His Father went to the Commandant and told him the boy was "mentally deficient ". The reply to that was, the Father was responsible, and he also was arrested, and now they have both been sent to Paris for trial.

Jennifer's form mistress and Mother have got ten months' Imprisonment, and the Father twelve months.

Quite a number of people have lately been sent to Germany, and I'm sorry to say Harold Poole is one of them. It makes one very anxious, as one never knows who will be the next to go.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Past and Present: A Review of Senator Ozouf's Statements

“"We are keeping our spending targets, we can trim some budgets because of lower inflation and we are delivering on our strategic plan priorities." (Senator Philip Ozouf, July 2014)

My thanks to former Deputy Sean Power for pointing this out on Facebook. Below is an extract from the Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel, dated 18th July 2014. It shows Senator Ozouf saying that Deputy Le Fondre was wrong to suggest a projected £100 million deficit, and the position was not nearly as bad. In fact, it was very much worse.

A sign of the times, however, was the proposed cut in the marginal rate which was shelved from the 2015 budget presented just before the election 2014. This should have been a warning sign that the States finances were deteriorating.

Read the Scrutiny Panel dialogue carefully in full and ask this: how can Senator Ozouf have been so positive about the budget in July 2014 and now we are facing a projected £130 million deficit? I think he certainly has a lot of explaining to do because this £130 black hole did not appear overnight, and it certainly did not suddenly appear after the election last year.

Did you vote for him? Would you have voted for him if you had known the scale of the problem? Why didn’t he mention it in any election speeches?

Is it amazing that we didn’t get told this before? Did he mislead the electorate? And did he mislead the Scrutiny panel? These are questions which need answers.

According to the JEP, “Former Treasury Minister Philip Ozouf remains adamant that his record at the Treasury is unimpeachable, and that Jersey is still in a very strong economic position that few jurisdictions could dream of.”

It is rather a pity that States members cannot be impeached!

Read this, and ask yourself - where is any sight at all of the looming black hole in Philip Ozouf's replies?

"Corporate Services Scrutiny Panel

Draft 2015 Budget Statement -

FRIDAY, 18th JULY 2014

The Minister for Treasury and Resources:

....Yes, income forecasts are slightly down. They are slightly down from where we thought they were in terms of that dotted line. We are always prudent, that is the right thing to be...

Senator S.C. Ferguson:

...Yes, there are what? Let us not go into details, it is only £100 million here or there, is it not?

The Minister for Treasury and Resources:

Sarah, please, do not add up figures and cast aspersions like that. You have added up, as Deputy Le Fondré did, 3 numbers, this is a number that was an extrapolation that is wrong. Deputy Le Fondré was wrong to add those figures up and somehow come up with another £100 million problem. Because of planning, because of these measures we are taking we are not going to have a £34 million deficit. We are going to be running a surplus this year and we are planning to have a balanced Budget next year .....

Senator S.C. Ferguson:

I do not think we are ever going to agree on this one, Minister, but thank you for your time...."

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Making Waves

Deputy Steve Luce @DeputySteveLuce on Twitter:

Travelling to Alderney today with @MurrayNorton to discuss CI Renewable energy...hoping for some electrifying discussion....‪#‎workingtogether

Rob Duhamel talked a lot about renewable energy, but I don’t recall him every going to Alderney. It’s good that Steve Luce is going to see what is happening, because this kind of renewable energy could well be part of Jersey’s future as well.

The three main kinds of renewable energy sources available for Jersey are:

Solar – needs light, sunlight is best, but in fact any light can generate electricity, as people with watches or calculators powered by light will testify. This is the photoelectric effect which uses the property that some metals emit electrons when light shines upon them.

Light can eject electrons even if its intensity is low, a fact explained by Einstein in a paper published in 1905, and for which he received the Nobel Prize for Science in 1921. C.P. Snow attributes this to the theory of relativity (special and general) being relatively too new for the Nobel committee at the time.

The advantage of solar power is that it requires relatively little maintenance, as it has no moving parts.

Wind power – which is dependent on the fickle nature of the weather. That’s the main drawback, as well as the fact that it has moving parts, which are likely to wear out.

Wave power – the tides and currents follow pretty regular patterns, so tidal power systems are much more ideal as they can supply a much more regular power than wind. They do have parts that can wear out, and cabling is needed undersea to carry the power, so the technology has tended to lag behind wind turbines, which are relatively easy to throw up and connect into existing land systems.

Regarding Alderney, in June 2014, Michael Lewis, project managerof development projects, OpenHydro, stated that:

“OpenHydro and Alderney Renewable Energy (ARE) have recently formed Race Tidal Ltd to do just that. Together, these two companies intend to harness the energy in the waters around Alderney in order to generate enough electricity to power 150,000 homes. The formation of Race Tidal is the first step in a complex and challenging process to develop a 300 MW tidal energy array. This will be one of the largest tidal energy arrays in the world when it is constructed in 2020.”

The engineer also throws in a fascinating nugget of history:

"Taking advantage of the energy stored in the tides is certainly not a new concept. In fact, there is evidence that tidal barrage-style mills were in operation as far back as Roman times. These mills made use of the tide by trapping water in reservoirs when the tide was high, and then allowing the water to exit through waterwheels as the tide went out. The waterwheels provided the mechanical power to mill grain.”

The difference is that the new system uses “in stream” tidal power generation. It is explained as follows:

“These turbines are located in the tidal flow, where they extract energy from the flow of water associated with the tides. This resolves many of the environmental issues associated with barrage generation, as there is minimal impact on the flows around the turbines and there is no requirement for significant civil works like dams or reservoirs. In the case of the OpenHydro technology, no infrastructure is visible above the surface of the water.”

How is the project planned?

The first thing to do is to put down “acoustic doppler current profilers” around Alderney – these are tidal flow measuring devices which look at the waves and turbulence and build up a picture of what is going on beneath the surface. The data collected can - with modern technology - feed into 3D models to see where it is best to site turbines.

The seabed will also be checked by surveys which use multi-beam echo sounders, side scan sonar and magnetometer. This means that a picture can be built up of the underwater depth of the sea floor (which is termed “bathymetry” and the geological characteristics of the area can also be noted. It will also look for the presence of any metallic objects on or under the seabed, such as cables, shipwrecks or unexploded ordinance!

And over a two year period there will also be a baseline assessment of the marine environment, looking at marine life on the seabed, the abundance of seabirds above, different kinds of fish and mammals in the waters, and general marine traffic through the area. Any sites of archeological interest will also be noted. It is important to make sure that there is minimal environmental impact resulting from the project..

The power generated would be far in excess of that needed for Alderney, and most of the electricity will go to the South of England and France via an interconnector link.

This is, of necessity, a long term project, not an instant one set up overnight, and OpenHydro is also working on two other similar projects in Northern Ireland and Scotland. But it is important to lay secure groundwork, as Michael Lewis says:

“In an environment such as the Alderney Race, preparation is absolutely integral to the overall success of the project. In devoting time and resources to the development phase, we can harness the unique conditions that the Alderney Race provides and in doing so provide renewable energy that is silent, invisible and predictable, for generations to come.”

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Planning Thoughts

Deputy Steve Luce, the Planning Minister has recently spoken about some very good changes which he intends to make at Planning. I propose to look at three of these in turn.

Planning Creep

“On too many occasions I see plans approved only for applicants to come back later with amendments. If you want something then apply for it. If you play the system by continually trying to modify your approval you may be in for a surprise.” (Steve Luce)

Stricter controls on this would be a great improvement. Here is how the drip, drip process of planning creep works:

1. Proposals are put in to planning, and ultimately ‘toned-down’ after lobbying.
2. The mass and scale of a developed is reduced, to make it seem more tolerable
3. The revised scheme is recommended for approval by the Planning Application Panel on that basis.

And then we get phase two, because the developer and architects are not content with the revised plans.

4. Submission of a revision which in effect increases the footprint or height.
5. A series of additional revisions over a year or more all of which were approved.

The result is that bit by bit the scheme is brought back to close to the original application which had raised concerns in the first place.

Because the revisions are gradual, and work does not start at once, each is reviewed by a different body of people; and the planning officer is often different

The small increments are assessed in relation to the scheme approved so far, rather than by relation to the original plans approved, so that only small changes are perceived instead of a widening gap.

As a result, the developers get what they want one way or another.

A proper mechanism to stop playing the system would be to assess any revisions not against the last approved step, but always against the original scheme approved. It will be interesting to see if Steve Luce introduces controls like that.

But credit to him for seeing it this process of planning creep. It makes you wonder what the previous planning Ministers did and why no one else raised it – either the Minister (Cohen, Duhamel) or the members of the previous Planning Application Committee.

Planning gambles

The other method of playing the game, of course, is for the developer to go for more than you want in the hope of modifying the application to a “compromise” which really gives the developer exactly what they want!

Allegedly the housing estate in St Lawrence was an example of that, and I’m sure numerous other instances come to mind. It is less likely with smaller developments or smaller single houses, and more likely with large-scale developments, where the number of residential units allows a reduction to still keep a profit.

It’s a kind of gamble – where the player has a fall back position which they are sure they will eventually appear to be driven to, but which they are actually content to accept.

As far as game theory goes, it’s a good strategy for the developer, but one which wastes time of the planning department and those protesting, as they have to go over the protest again after the reduced plans have been put in place.

It’s difficult to see what mechanism could prevent this, but if it is a modus operandi of particular architects or developers, at least the culprits can be exposed by the number of times they have done this.

Time Limits on Planning Applications

According to the JEP, Steve Luce has said that “the current five-year time-limit under which a planning permission remains active could be reduced to deter speculative development that left sites empty.”

“Extending permissions currently does not cost anything and is a ‘rubber stamp’ exercise, according to Deputy Luce. Now, he is also considering adding a charge for planning permission extensions.”

That’s another area – look at Le Masuriers – keeping planning permission on those St Brelade sites opposite the La Moye school open for decades, and then deciding to use them – no appeal because permission had been given, regardless of what other changes might come along

And changes there were, as the Links Halt development must have changed the value of the land opposite it – from a run-down and tired pub to residential and shop.

Le Masuriers also have Milano Bars as an “open site” but have problems there because the permission is restricted to another hotel, and they’d like housing!

The question is how many “long term” planning permissions are out there, forgotten about, just awaiting the opportune moment to be re-activated?

When I wanted to a garage conversion, incidentally, I was given one year to do it, with no extensions. Evidently the five year limit doesn’t apply to small minnows!

My correspondent Adam Gardiner has some interesting ideas for dealing with long term plans kept on ice, and I finish with his suggestions, which I think have considerable merit:

Sites kept empty for protracted periods should also be discouraged in some way. Personally I would consider:

1. A rates surcharge on a brown field site with existing buildings while it remained undeveloped and/or unoccupied and

2. An incremental charge applied to any development site if an planning application was not submitted within 2 years.

I believe that some parts of the UK local authorities apply surcharged rates on re-development projects to discourage what are called ‘holding applications’.

Tesco have recently fallen foul of this - plans approved for supermarkets that have never been built. The reason is surprisingly simple. Holding applications deny the local authority the rateable value from the site had it been developed. I don’t see why that strategy could not be adopted in Jersey.

Monday, 20 April 2015

An Occupation Diary – Part 10

In 1972, the Pilot magazine began an exclusive serialisation of private letters from the late Mrs G Luce de Pre, which had taken the form of letters written to her absent children and grand-children, covering the period July 9 1940 to June 6 1945.

I suspect it has not been read much since then, 45 years ago, so here is a second chance in this special 70th Anniversary year to read it.

An Occupation Diary – Part 10

December 22, 1943

I have not told you that we have a "baby grand" piano. It belongs to the Parsonage at St Aubin's, and, as the Vicar evacuated, Mr Balleine said we might borrow it. You can. imagine what a pleasure it is to have some music especially since we had to give up our wireless. Both Nancy and Jennifer play and sing so nicely,

We were to have gone to Les Vagues on Boxing Day, and Frank was going to hire a car for us, but the Commandant would not allow any cars out for the holidays,, so we are going in the New Year.

One afternoon a little while ago, we heard some very. sharp and heavy shooting quite close, but we did not know till afterwards what had happened.

If we had only -one across the road, and got on the bank, we should have had a front seat view of a wonderful sight, There was a convoy of ships passing St Brelade's Bay, and a flight of eight RAF planes came over, dropped bombs and machine gunned tlne ships, sunk two and set another on fire. It was all over in a few minutes and hundreds of Germans were drowned.

Last week Gertrude and Wilfrid came to spend a day with us. Father made some lovely bean rissoles and we had quite a nice lunch. Wilfrid brought his flute and the two men spent most of the afternoon at the piano playing and singing.

Last Saturday, Jim came and brought a few pounds of white flour, which one cannot get except by black market, and it is such a treat to have some.

Dorothy came after lunch in pouring rain, to bring me a present from Mrs Pearce, such a beautiful foot muff, which she had made, in ruby velvet lined with fur, and trimmed with skunk. I don't know why she should give me such a lovely present, and I feel quite overwhelmed with it. Dorothy also brought a pudding and some jam from Auntie Flo.

December 23

This morning a German came to the door and asked to see Mr Dupre. I was rather nervous, as, generally when they came like that, it is to arrest someone, or to look at the house, but he was quite harmless and wanted Father to play the organ for them at St Aubin's Church on Christmas Day, an hour before our own service. He was quite a young clergyman, and Father consented. It would not be prudent to refuse, as one would very likely be on their Black List at once.

December 27

Christmas is over once more, and I would hardly believe it was Christmas Day until Father played some carols before he went to Church. We were quite alone, and had a small piece of pork for dinner in the evening, which was a bit of black market, and cost a pretty penny. Mrs Le Neveu sent us a fowl as usual, and we are having that next Tuesday, as we are expecting Percy for the day. Flo was to have come as well, but is not well enough to do so - we are very disappointed, for it had been a long-standing engagement.

They are all spending Christmas at Holmhurst with Harold and Jim as well, and I hear they are having a lovely one.

New Year's Day, January 1, 1943

We have had a party today, Father invited all his young choir boys and girls to come and sing their Christmas carols to me, just a dozen of them, and we gave them tea. I managed to make a cake, and Father made a lot of chocolate biscuits, and we gave them bread and butter. jam and potted meat, which they seemed to enjoy very much. We used three pounds of bread and a quart of milk, and so had to economise the rest of the week. They sang beautifully and I did enjoy it all, but feel very tired now. January 6

We heard today that a boat was sunk last night, just off Portelet; there were three hundred and fifty Germans on board, and only seventy saved. It was a very dark night, and they struck a rock and sank in a few minutes, as they had a cargo of cement on board. They are using the Star Hotel as a mortuary - I suppose they will all be buried at St Brelade's churchyard.

January 8

We spent yesterday at Les Vagues; Frank sent a lovely comfy car for me, and Father came on his cycle, as he wanted it for getting back home today. I broke my journey at Samares to see Auntie Flo, who I am sorry to say has been ill with bladder trouble, and had to stay in bed and keep warm, and you may be sure that she has had the best attention from Dr and Dorothy. I quite envy Flo having a daughter at home. We all hope she will soon be quite well again, but she will have to be very careful. She and I are getting to be quite old ladies, but I don't feel like one.

We had a very warm welcome from all at Les Vagues, and the dinner was simply lovely, just like pre-war. We had roast chicken with all the etceteras except hang and sausages, then a wonderful mock plum pudding which Nancy had made, and a room. rich trifle, and coffee afterwards in the sitting room.

Nancy gave me a pair of mitten gloves which she had made, the backs were rabbit skin and the inner part was knitted. They are just what I wanted, as I cannot get proper gloves on. my hands being so crippled. Jennifer gave me a bottle of lavender water, which I am very fond of, and Dulcie gave me a lovely silk scarf and hankie.

We were a big party for tea, as Dulcie had invited Gertrude and Wilfrid and Jim and Harold. We had a very fine tea.

Jim had very kindly asked me to spend a long weekend with them, and I am now at " The Little White House ". I am being thoroughly spoilt here, a fire in my bedroom, and waited on hand and foot, I don't like giving so much trouble, but Jim insists on doing it, and I must say I can stand a lot of spoiling.

Father spent the night at Uncle Wilfrid's and expect they sat up talking nearly all night. He was going home today and fears he will be very quiet and lonely. It is such a nice change for me, and I am thoroughly enjoying myself.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

The Chimera of Potential

There are so many self-help books out there, all about how you can reach your full potential, and I always think they are missing something. Potential is actually a noun derived from an adjective, and as an adjective it makes a lot of sense.

For instance, if I said that someone should reach their full potential as a tennis player, or someone failed to reach their potential as a piano player, I am saying something quite definite. You have a standard, a goal, and the potential as opposed to the actual is to reach that goal. It implies moving towards a limit.

We all know individuals who are focused on doing something. They have a set goal – to be the best footballer in the world, to be Prime Minister, to walk on the moon.

But in the world of wishy-washy pop-psychology, “potential” is co-opted as a noun, and it is a very bad noun, as if it is always something positive. You could say of a schoolboy – he has a wicked glint in his eye – I think he could be a potential troublemaker. Would you encourage him to live up to that potential? Of course not! To paraphrase Chesterton, potential is a comparative of which we have not settled the superlative.

The best safeguard against all the pop-psychology about “reaching your full potential” has to come from comedian Dylan Moran, who suggests that the reality of our potential may well not live up to expectations. Alas, I am not going to ever be a world class pianist, or even a second rate one. And here is what he has to say about potential:

“You should stay away from your potential. I mean, that is something you should leave absolutely alone! You’ll mess it up! It’s potential, leave it! And anyway, it’s like your bank balance, you know - you always have much less than you think. Leave it as the locked door within yourself and then at least, in your mind, the interior will always be palatial. “

“Wonderful gleaming marble floors, brocaded drapes. Mullioned windows, covered in mullions, whatever they are. Flamingos serving drinks. Pianos shooting out canapés into the mouths of elegant men and women who are exchanging witticisms... "Oh yes, this reminds me of the time I was in BudaPESHT with Binky... We were trying to steal a goose from the casino, muahahaha..."

“But it won’t be like that! You don't want to find out that the most you could possibly achieve, if you gave it your all, if you harvested every screed of energy within you, and devoted yourself to improving yourself, that all you would get to, would be maybe eating less cheesy snacks.”