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Posted Friday, February 22, 2008

Keep away from boys, they are bad for you. Have you stopped smoking yet?

click for origin[Previous Radical's Diary]

February 15, 2008 (Friday)
Windsor - Gatwick - Windsor (England)

I DRIVE with Jessica round the M25 to Gatwick to pick up her sister Paloma and Adam, flying in from Madrid; he's almost the same age as Jessica. My family is scattered all round the world now, including four in Australia whom I am not permitted to visit; I wonder if their new prime minister is in the clutches of you-know-who, like his two predecessors.

As we drive past Sutton on the M25 at 5:45 pm, I remark to Jessica, "Mummy is here," and offer up a silent prayer for her.

Back at the manor house around 8:20 pm. Her mother has sent a text message ... I show it silently to Jessica.

The Lunchtime Comment Club has cancelled their December 2007 invitation to me to speak at the RAF Club in Piccadilly:

We should have canvassed members of the Club as to future speakers, which we have now done. Unfortunately a number of the members have [sic] objected to our invitation to you.

Quoi de neuf. No prizes awarded for guessing who they were. I had not even bothered to pencil in their invitation (for October). But [Ireland] has not yet cancelled and students at the LSE are now communicating with me about an invitation. Let's see how tough they are.

Adam makes a beeline for the computers. I instruct him on no account to download stuff without permission.


February 16, 2008 (Saturday)
Windsor (England)

UP early. Adam has downloaded stuff onto my laptop, and restarted it with all the resulting consequences. Fully paid applications for next Saturday have come in very well; London is always a good draw. Security will be no problem -- it's right next to the prime minister's residence.

Coffee in Eton, and read The Times, while Jessica goes over the bridge to shop in Windsor.

Over supper -- Adam leaves his soup untouched -- the boy, whose eyesight seems remarkably acute, spots "something" (he says it is a roach) at the bottom of a champagne flute on the top shelf in the kitchen, and then an insect in the glass next to it. The first turns out indeed to be a roach, recently deceased, and I tip it into the garden with no further comment.


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February 17, 2008 (Sunday)
Windsor (England)

I WRITE to the US ambassador Robert Tuttle in these terms: "Your Excellency! Dear Mr Tuttle,

I take the liberty of enclosing the second volume of my three-volume biography of Churchill for your library, knowing that you are something of an admirer of the man. You may find the chapters on his visits to Washington in 1941, 1942, and 1943 of interest, and particularly pages 168-173, relating the little known dispute between MI6 and your Intelligence bodies in the weeks before Pearl Harbor, which led to each side withholding crucial intercepts from the other. Averell Harriman's and Gil Winant's papers were of particular value to me.

I have used many sources not found by other historians. It has taken thirty-six years so far ... I have lectured at major American universities and the US National Archives ... I have three bikes chained to a tree in a garden at Key West; they are rusting!

More seriously, I need to carry out further research inter alia at the Hoover (their famous archivist Mrs Agnes F Peterson, now at Los Altos, Ca., will certainly vouch for me, as would Arthur Schlesinger and the late Gordon Craig, who gave my Goebbels biography a glowing six page review in The NY Review of Books). In fact the late Bill Casey was also a great admirer of my work; he wrote me, and invited me to visit him in Mclean and gave me an autographed book. [I fear that...] like William Manchester's, my volume III may never appear.

... not that he may care.

The roach mystery continues. Cockroaches cannot climb tall glass flutes, on a top shelf, they are low-down critters; and why would it do so anyway, the glass was clean and empty? The glass was the end one, the most humanly accessible, and nearest the door. The beast had evidently not had very far to crawl. The coincidence between its arrival in the glass and my guests' arrival in the house is noteworthy, as is Adam's remarkable eyesight. ... And the fly just dropped into the very next glass to keep it company? I notice now that the fly has vanished from its glass, the prank, if it was one, evidently having misfired.

Nearly one hundred have so far booked for Saturday's function. I am subsidising them to a small degree.


February 18, 2008 (Monday)
Windsor (England)

I GET an email from Gabriela in South America. She and her teenage friends worked some years ago on mailing out my newsletter from Key West when I was there. She was runner-up in the Miss Peru pageant two years ago. She has not reported in recently -- probably has a new boyfriend. I reply with some advice: "Keep away from boys, they are bad for you. Have you stopped smoking yet?"

Gabriela Marquez and friendA disaster in the kitchen as a freshly-opened litre-bottle of olive oil slides silently off a glass shelf onto some glasses below, splintering everything rather less silently, and generating a spill on the ancient stone floor that rivals the Exxon Valdez episode in Alaska. It takes me over an hour to clean up.

Gabriela rewards my advice with a fetching photo taken a few days ago in Mexico; she's at far right; it was evidently a dress-down day at her office. Her English is improving too.

A reader asks about the figure of Six Million Jews killed in WW2.

I reply: "I think that Walter Laqueur once intimated that the figure had more of a symbolic character than actual statistical truth.

In June 1945 [I continue] Mr Justice Robert H Jackson asked the Jewish leaders in New York to give an estimate, according to his diary, which I used for my book "Nuremberg, the Last Battle", and they came up with the Six Million figure for him; he used it in the Nuremberg Trial, and it has kind of stuck since then. I think it is an over-estimate, quite apart from the statistical problems: what do you mean by kill? If a trainload of deported Jews was going through Dresden that night, would they have counted as Holocaust victims? How many died of old age or illness in the twelve years, were they counted in? What about those who died as a direct result of the deportation, but outside the Reich frontiers? And, most difficult of all, who was a Jew - even they cannot agreed on definitions. I prefer to use just the phrase, 'a lot', without slapping a symbolic number on it.

Jessica says that it was she who removed the insect from the glass. Back to work on Himmler.

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