Is the (male) Working Class Hero dead?

In the last three books I have read, the protaganists have been 23 year old, American, white, female college graduates out in the exciting and frightening wide world for the first time. Is this the new trope for the classic hero’s journey?

My book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind” is also a classic hero’s journey – and my protaganist is indeed 23 years old and white; but male, and from the working class, and not college educated. Nevertheless he feels alienated and guilty because he has abandoned the hard life of his mates in the shipyard, and works as a journalist. He is a foreign correspondent out in the wide world for the first time. And it is probably this guilt that fuels his rage against Britain’s elitist foreign policies, and against his entitled University educated colleagues in the media.

For the working class male – and the cannon-fodder foot- soldier who fights not for Queen and Country, but for his comrades in arms – loyalty to your mates/comrades is central to your sense of masculinity. To rise above it, and break ranks is a betrayal.

But a sense of honour, comradeship, and betrayal is archaic now. We have moved so far away from the social revolution of the 1950s,(when the working class gained “free” access to higher education, and upward mobility), that feelings of guilt and alienation are riseable? And the anti-Viet Nam war riots of the 60s, and the Sexual Revolution, succeeded in putting women and under-25s on an equal footing with their Elders and Betters (who proved to be just older, and not better). And the feminist movement has succeeded in making it possible for 23 year old white females to be heros – and not heroines?

At least, for me, one benefit would be we no longer hear about John Lennon – the working class hero who never did a day’s work in his life.

The female protaganists do feel guilt, but it is because once the adrenaline rush of being out in a violent, unpredictable and squalid world has died, they come to realize that they are not connected. They are priveleged, affluent, healthy and hygenic, and wear nice expensive clothes – and always have a return ticket back to suburbia. This isolates them from the Third World residents they mingle with – for a while.

My protaganist Mick, coming from an underclass that has suffered the consequences of the blunderings of the ruling classes, and dying in the thousands in politicians’ wars, identifies all to easily with the Wretched of the Earth. So my stories are from the bottom up, while these new stories are top down.

Mick’s rage is a primal howl against the possibility of living a decent and honourable life in an increasingly squalid, corrupt and tawdry globalized world. As he says “The World is OK – it’s people who are pricks.”

I make no claim that my stories are better – but they are authentic, and felt, rather than observed. And it is my belief that any art form benefits from being an emotional journey – not intellectual. Perhaps in my next book the protaganist should be a 23 year old Liberalized Muslim woman? But then it would not be authentic. I am not a Muslim or a woman

THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind” is a linked series of character studies of the archetypal expatriates who wash up in the the Arabian/Persian Gulf, victims of powermad politicians wars, and greedy finance houses excesses – and in some cases just victims of shopaholic wives, and out of control teenage children. Welcome to the modern world.

It is based on my 40 years in the international oil industry, most of it spent in The Gulf. You can preview it on:

www.amazon.com

or

www.amazon.co.uk

and download it if you have a Kindle.

If you prefer a real book in your hands, order the paperback direct from my publisher:

www.feedaread.com

Tribal Weaving

One of the criticisms levelled at BREXIT it that it will encourage the rise of nationalism in Europe. The irony of the European Union is that it has already presided over the rise of nationalism, and a descent into tribalism.

First we had the breakup of Yugoslavia, with only Serbia, Slovenia, and Croatia as viable economic entities, and the remainder as dependent entities for the forseeable future. Then Czechoslovakia broke up with Slovakia heavily dependent.

Now it seems that the UK might break up – with Scotland and Northern Ireland wanting to stay in the EU – and leave the UK. The EU encourages disintegration, with its promise of huge regional grants to support peripheral economies that actively encourages ethnic differences.

I am, on my Mother’s side, Anglo Saxon from Middle England, with surnames like Brown, Jackson and Washington, and possible distant realtionships with American Presidents. But on my Father’s side I am a Celt with grandparents from Greenock on Clydeside, and Wrexham, North Wales. I even have a Manx great grandmother, so there is some Viking in there. (And this raises the issue of The Shetlands, which are as much Norwegian in their thinking – UP HELLY Aa festival with Geizer Jarl and a procession of Vikings. And remember, The Shetlands were a gift from the Norwegians to the English Crown so legally does not belong to Scotland).

Where I was born and raised in England our neighbours were predominantly Irish – the Brandons, the Braddocks, the Burkeys and the Hollingsworths – and Welsh, the Williams, the Roberts and Jones’s. And where my grandparents lived they were mostly Scottish – the Lawsons, the McTaggarts, the McCallisters. And the Anglo, Irish, Welsh and Scottish children all freely intermarried. The idea of racial purity is atavistic.

The British are a mongrel nation of Anglo-Celts with dashes of Viking, Norman and even Roman blood – and it was this broad gene pool that produced the hybrid energy and dynamism that changed and enriched the whole world. It is unthinkable that we will go back to the atavistic extremes of nationalism, tribalism and ferocious clan loyalties.

We have just recently emerged from 25 years of the blood letting and brutality of “The Troubles” in Northern Ireland. A battle between two Celtic tribes with the English as “piggy-in-the-middle”. Imagine if Sinn Fein get their wish, and Northern Ireland stays in the EU, and the EU supports the unification of Ireland. How will the Protestant Celts respond? I forsee a civil war with Scottish Protestants joining the fray. It will be The Balkans all over again, with the Americans and the UN joining in and turning a crisis into a disaster.

It is exactly this sort of outside interference and intervention that has caused the sectarian rivalry and tribalism and the apocalyptic and brutal conflicts in the Middle East.

In my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind” there is a story, TRIBAL WEAVING, that appears to support tribalism. In a way it does, because the yearning to return to the simpler nomadic life of a hunter/gather, (the Noble Savage), and escape the boredom of sedentary and tedious suburban living, is very strong, particularly in the hard-pressed Western male. But the story is more serious than that.

Iran had a democratically elected government under Mossadeq – but he was socialist, and so the Americans deposed him and placed the despicable Shah and his cronies in power. They tried to drive the nomadic tribes to settle in towns and villages so that they could seize their lands. And the people revolted and threw out The Shahinshah and replaced him with the Ayatollahs. Out of the frying pan and into . . .

If you want authentic insights into the chaos in the Middle East from 1960 that lead to the events of 9/11, 2001 then read my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind”. Based on 40 years working in the international oil industry it is a collection of stories about expatriates washed up in the Arabian/Persian Gulf. Flotsam and jetsam trying to survive in a rapidly changing and frequently violent world. You can preview it at:

www.amazon.com

or

www.amazon.co.uk

and download it if you have a Kindle.

If you prefer a real book in your hands, order the paperback direct from my publisher:

www.feedaread.com

Second time Farce

The Chilcott report has confirmed what most of us suspected – that Bush and Blair were determined to go to war, and “sexed up” dubious intelligence to justify it. I hope that Dr. David Kelly’s widow gets millions in compensation – of course the relatives of the military personnel who died or were wounded, are not far behind.

Blair’s repeated assertion “I did not lie” is on a par (although much more serious) with his mate Bill Clinton’s “I did not have sex with that woman”. Blair is either the biggest liar that ever existed – or his lying is pathological, and he is unable to distinguish lies from truth. And his assertion that the Middle East is better for his getting rid of Saddam is denial of the highest order. He needs to be sectioned and given electric shock treatment at a very high voltage. Or maybe he should just be “water-boarded”.

But Blair is not only a liar – he is also incompetent. Chilcott points out that the UK had no coherent plan for reorganising Iraq after the war was won. And the same goes for the Americans. If you want to put flesh on the bones of the Chilcott report then read Rory Stewart’s OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS (he was a British interim regional governor in Iraq after the war), and Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s IMPERIAL LIFE IN THE EMERALD CITY. He reports on the delusional triumphalism of State Department Yahoos inside the safety of the Green Zone, while they carefully ignore the chaos and danger outside the walls.

But why be surprised? The Middle East is littered with the delusions of Western politicians causing chaos, and the death and maiming of innocents. The Great Game; Britain’s disastrous forays into Afghanistan; Sykes/Picot; the Balfour Declaration; Suez; the Shah of Iran; the Iran/Iraq war when we backed Saddam – and the First Gulf War.

There was some moral basis for that war – after Saddam invaded Kuwait. But there is strong evidence that the US State Department gave Saddam the green light to invade – and evidence that they wildly exaggerated (sexed up) the strength of Saddam’s Imperial Guard giving them the excuse to massacre hundreds of Iraqi conscripts and civilians (including women and children) as they streamed out of Kuwait towards Baghdad along the “Mile of Death”.

Read the story ‘IF YOU DON’T, SOMEONE ELSE WILL’ in my book THE GULF  “Reaping the Whirlwind”. Very little of that story is fiction. I met the US Colonel who was responsible for re-supplying Desert Storm – and I was working for ARAMCO in Saudi Arabia during that war responsible for jet fuel quality. My description of the helicopter Forward Operating Base is from personal experience. And my description of the sickening massacre along the “Mile of Death” comes from TV footage shown in Saudi Arabia – and the reports of one of the few journalists allowed in.

The tag line for my book reads “It’s all about oil…” but that really only applies to the 20th century. The Middle East is the cradle of our civilization, and the crossroads of our world – and has always been the scene of conflict. Mesopotamia, The Fertile Crescent, The Silk Road, the Ur of Chaldea, the birth of monotheastic religions, Jerusalem and the rise of Islam and the bloody Christian Crusades. And I am quite sure that those atavistic struggles have always been littered with the lies and incompetence of vainglorious and narcissitic politicans. History repeats itself – first time tragedy – second time farce.

If you want authentic insights into the chaos in the Middle East from 1960 to the events of 9/11, 2001 then read my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind”. Based on 40 years working in the international oil industry it is a collection of stories about expatriates washed up in the Arabian/Persian Gulf. Flotsam and jetsam trying to survive in a rapidly changing and frequently violent world. You can preview it at:

www.amazon.com

or

www.amazon.co.uk

and download it if you have a Kindle. Or if you prefer a real book order the paperback direct from my publisher:

www.feedaread.com

Death to Drug Dealers

Living in Australia as I do I have been caught up in the wave of sympathy for the Bali Bombers sitting on Death Row as desperate measures are taken to prevent their execution by firing squad BUT – and there is always a but I guess – not anymore.

My grandaughter who is only just 5 years old came home from school using the F word. So now the evil tentacles of the “Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll crowd” otherwise known as the foul mouthed Showbusiness reprobates (or the friends of Jimmie Saville) are reaching into the school playground and my grandaughter, and other children, are being robbed of their childhood innocence.

I flew into a rage at this, and the thought that in the not too distant future of them being offered drugs in the school playground and having their innocent young lives permanently blighted as is happening in America.

So now I believe that those who spread this poison through society should face the death penalty. And I believe that those weak souls who fall victim to drugs should be treated with firmness too – as they are in Saudi Arabia.

There is a drug problem there as there is in The West. About sixty percent of the 50 or so beheadings that take place every year are for drug smuggling. But the victims of the drug trade, the addicts it has created, are quietly removed from society and put through an enforced rehab program, and only released when the authorities are satisfied they are cured.

Once again the Saudis demonstrate that social stability is more important than a weak kneed concern for an individual’s civil rights.

If you want insights into the Middle East and its harsh and apparently barbaric societies, based on my 40 years experience there from the perspective of the weird and wonderful oilfield trash, expatriate characters who washed up there in the oil patch from 1960 to 2001, preview my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind” at:

www.amazon.com

and download it if you have a Kindle.

Or if you prefer a real book you can order the paperback edition from:

www.thebookdepository.co.uk

Using the ISBN number is 978-1908147097

They offer free delivery worldwide.

Treating the Symptoms . . .

Anybody who has been reading my blogs will know my favourite saying by now. After spending 25 years in The British Library analysing World History Karl Marx’s succinct analysis was:

“History repeats itself – first time tragedy, second time farce.”

The bloody French, of course, express it more elegantly:
“Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose”
(The more things change, the more they stay the same)

And here down under in Australia among the Bogans and the Blodgers the Think Tanks are postulating (predicting) that the War on Terror will last the whole of the 21st century, and maybe beyond.
What they are talking about of course is not a war on terror but the Clash of Cultures between Islam and America’s neo-Con free market capitalism. And that war will continue as long as the USA persists in its unconditional support for Israel; its attempt to impose their barbaric “survival of the fittest” society on the World to crack open markets for their Coca Cola Big Mac culture; the pillage of the natural resources of the Third World (oil, hardwood, white fish etc.) – and in the process assassinating elected leaders, deposing legitimate governments, and bombing the sh*t out of anybody who dares to oppose them.
Saddam Hussein, by Middle Eastern standards an enlightened and secular despot, was deposed and replaced with an atavistic and vengeful Shia government that has split the country wide open on religious and tribal fault lines. Al-Qa’eda was degraded and rendered manageable (but not defeated) – but in its place like a Phoenix (or more exactly like the Lernaean HYDRA, the multi headed serpent of Greek mythology that protected the gates of Hades) has grown the much more ferocious and well organized ISIS. And when ISIS is finally downgraded (but not defeated) by a ferocious assault that will kill thousands and maim and shatter the lives of millions (reminiscent of Israel’s ferocious assaults on The Gaza Strip) that will only deepen the hatred of all things American, what will rise in its place will be an even more barbaric and fervent fundamental version of Islam.
My book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind” that was first published 3 years ago grew out of a play that I wrote 16 years ago when I was living in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In spite of a successful rehearsed reading at the Soho Theatre in London, theatre managers would not produce it because they found the climax (the honour killing of a young Muslim woman and the beheading of an American) far too violent. Yet a few years later we had the grisly beheading of Daniel Pearle, and honour killings and female suicide bombers are commonplace, and the barbaric actions of ISIS, including crucifixions, now make my play look tame.
If you want an insight into the disease that afflicts The West’s relationship with the Middle East and its complexity from an expatriate perspective, preview my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind” at:
http://www.amazon.com/author/mikerichards
and download it if you have a Kindle.
Or if you prefer a real book you can order the paperback edition from:
http://www.thebookdepository.co.uk
The ISBN number is 978-1908147097
They offer free delivery worldwide.

Who Dunnit to JFK?

On this the 50th Anniversary of the Assassination of JFK there is still no reliable answer to Who Dunnit. The ridiculous lone gunman single bullet Warren Commission whitewash has long ago been debunked leaving the field wide open for all sorts of conspiracy theories. One of the most credible for me is the one told to me by a VietNam Vet who was a sharpshooter (sniper) during that war and I used this as the starter for my story

YA HEAR WHAT AH’M SAYIN. 

The conversation went like this:

You were in Viet Nam?” Mick asked.

Sure was . . . did three tours In Country,” Buddy said loudly and proudly. “Ah didn’t wait for no Draft neither. Dropped out of Aggie – Texas Agricultural & Mechanical to you Limies . . . and volunteered.”

You must feel bad you lost that war?”

It were McNamara and his bean counter brain that lost it. How does yawl fight a war gradually? Yah hit them with everythin ya got from the get go.”

Even when you went all out for total war you didn’t defeat the Viet Cong.”

Charlie don’t value life like us Christian folks . . . he didn’t care how many people he lost . . . and JFK didn’t help neither. No wonder the Army got rid of him and replaced him with a good ole boy like LBJ.”

Mick’s was now on full alert. While he had never accepted the ridiculous lone assassin single bullet findings of the Warren Commission he found it impossible to believe that the US Army had pulled a Coup d’Etat. But no matter how much scorn Mick heaped on Buddy’s theory he remained adamant. JFK had been triangulated by army sharpshooters:

Shitt, the Army is real proud of what they done. At the end of mah training they showed us a film of sharpshooters boarding a train in Dallas the day after Kennedy’s assassination. That dadgum Yankee pinko liberal was doin’ deals with the Commies to get us out of Nam.”

What gives my story credence is that Eisenhower in his final speech as President warned Kennedy to beware  of the mighty military/industrial machine in the USA: and Nixon, the Vice President and later President, firmly believed that LBJ was behind the assassination.

The full story is in my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind” and like all 10 stories in my book it is journalistic. They are all fictionalized accounts of events I witnessed, or were reported to me by a reliable source. They illuminate the fascinating region of the Arabian/Persian Gulf as seen through the eyes of  expatriates like myself who lead highly paid, but isolated, dangerous and lonely lives in the search for black gold – the crude oil that made the region mega-rich, and a target for all the greedy chancers in the Western World

You can preview my book at:

www.amazon.com/author/mikerichards

And download it if you have a Kindle. If you do not, or prefer a paperback, you can order from:

www.thebookdepository.co.uk

They offer free shipping worldwide.

 

 

See Cordoba . . . and live . . . and let live.

My final trip in Spain, to Cordoba, confirmed what I have always felt—that it is the 700 years of Moorish rule that makes Spain unique and different. The deeply felt Catholicism that exists in Spain also exists in many European and Latin countries; but nowhere in the Western World has the imprint of the Middle Eastern/North African Muslim Caliphates been left so indelibly.

In my last blog I dealt with the world famous Mezquita or Al Jama mosque in Cordoba that rivalled Damascus and Baghdad in its day with its mesmerizing endless avenues of hundreds of interlinked arches of alternate pink and cream stripes that are stylized palm trees dimly lit by bronze lanterns that hang on chains. And 8 kms outside Cordoba are the remains of Medinah Azahara (Brilliant Town) a beautifully planned and built city  for the religious, social, cultural and political administration of Al-Andalus (Andalucia)—a Moorish Spain that stretched to the banks of the Duero River.

But to go beyond the stunning physical beauty of Moorish Spain perhaps the true inheritance of the Moors is that Jews, and Christians, lived in harmony with their Muslim rulers, who allowed them their own laws, business and religious life, and their own districts, and left them in peace and prosperity provided they paid their taxes. And that heritage lives on today in the well mannered, elegant and courteous people of Cordoba.

It was Christian persecution that drove the Sephardic Jews from Spain, and the Reyes Catolicas (Christian Monarchs) who finally drove out the Caliphs from their beautiful cities like Cordoba, Granada, and Sevilla.

“History repeats itself” so the saying goes. Is it we Christians who are the cause of the conflict between the Semitic tribes of Jews and Arabs in the Middle East? Or at the very least are we, with our millions of petro-dollars and our greedy search for cheap oil, the catalysts?

In my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind” you can read how our greed has been the cause of so much of the trouble in the Near and Middle East. It’s all about the search for cheap oil supplies, and the effects that this has on the expatriates who live highly paid, but isolated, dangerous and lonely lives in order to fulfil this greed.

You can preview my book at:

http://amazon.com/author/mikerichards

and download it if you have a KINDLE.

From Friday November 15, 2013 my book is on a promotion by Amazon. For the first 36 hours you can download it for just $0.99, for the next 36 hours for $1.99, for the next 36 hours $2.99, and for the next 36 hours $3.99. Finally it will revert back to its recommended price of $4.99.

Hurry and get a real bargain. If nothing else my character driven stories are authentic (read the 5 star reviews of previous readers who have experience of working and living in THE GULF). To paraphrase a more famous author than me “I may not have written the whole truth; but I have not written anything that is not the truth.”

Good reading.

Enjoy

Are Cathedrals Christian?

The long farewell to my Spanish home is coming rapidly to a close, so I decided to visit Sevilla and Cordoba—the heart and the soul of Spain in Andalucia—and of course in addition to touring the tapas bars, and watching a flamenco puro show complete with virtuoso guitarist, emotional cante jondo singer, and passionate dancer—I visited the cathedrals in both cities.

Seville Cathedral is an architectural mess. The third largest in the world after St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Paul’s in London, it took 400 years to build and matches the ambitions of the builders (they wanted to be thought of as mad). It is a hotchpotch of styles—only the Giralda, the tower in one corner that resembles an ornate Doges Palace, has any grace. And inside it is like all the cathedrals I have ever visited—an exercise in the overwhelming arrogance of power and wealth.

A high altar of huge proportions, ornate and heavily decorated with gold leaf, and all around the walls various chapels competing with each other in their opulence.  And a Treasury that contains solid gold chalices, headdresses and altar pieces made from solid gold presumably stolen from the Incas. This is not exactly what Christ taught is it? “It is more difficult for a rich man . . . camel through the eye of a needle etc . . .”

And Cordoba was even worse because they have built the cathedral on top of the pre-existing mosque—the world famous Mezquita or Al Jama mosque. At eye level the Mezquita is mesmerizing, hundreds of interlinked arches of alternate pink and cream stripes that are stylized palm trees dimly lit by bronze lanterns that hang on chains. But when you raise your eyes you are into Christian Cathedral Gothic. Soaring columns and vaulted ceilings that make you giddy built on top of the delicate Moorish arches. And at the centre they have added a huge high altar with plaster images of saints and virgins. Sacrilege, or whatever is the Arabic equivalent.

What is worse they have bricked up the Mihrab, the holy place where the Imam led prayers, and you can only look above the wall and see the brilliant Ajulejos (colourful and intricate tilework that is yet another legacy of the Moors) and delicate filigree of carvings in clay that have survived for more than 1,000 years. And even here the Christians have added a plaster saint on one wall of the Mihrab. Is triumphalism a Christian virtue?

In my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind” you can read how another Western sin—Greed—has been the cause of so much of the trouble between Arabs, and Jews, and the Western world. It’s all about the search for cheap oil supplies, and the effects that the endless flow of petro-dollars has had on the expatriates who live highly paid, but isolated, dangerous and lonely lives in order to fulfil this greed.

You can preview my book at:

http://amazon.com/author/mikerichards

and download it if you have a KINDLE. If you do not, or you prefer a real book, you can order from:

http://thebookdepositry.co.uk

They offer free delivery worldwide

 

When did the Circus leave town?

When I was  child I loved it when the circus came to town. I loved the skills of the tumblers and acrobats, the skill and daring of the pretty girls bareback riding—and of course the heart- stopping daring and courage of the lion tamers who went alone into a cage full of wild beasts of the jungle. But the slapstick of clowns frightened me, it seemed cruel and heartless, and I hated the freak shows that clustered around the circus.

And if the world of Politics can be seen as a circus, then the skilful tumblers and acrobats, the pretty and skilful bare-back riders, and the brave and fearless lion tamers have gone, leaving behind the clowns and the freaks—vain, incompetent, corrupt, egotistical and damaged personalities jostling for their place in the limelight, and more than their share of the action, leaving a trail of devastation in their wake.

I cannot even bring myself to write about the freaks, although most literature and drama these days seems to concentrate on dysfunctional and bizarre people as though in some way this illuminates human nature. I prefer to write about normal people in abnormal situations that force them to act “out of character”—or perhaps enables them to reveal their true nature?   

But you can read about a 20th Century clown, Captain Bob, in my  story FALSE ECONOMY that is part of a collection of stories in my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind” set in The Arabian/Persian Gulf from the 1960s until the events of 9/11 changed everything.

You can preview my book at:

http://amazon.com/author/mikerichards

and download it if you have a KINDLE. If you do not, or you prefer a real book, you can order from:

http://thebookdepositry.co.uk

They offer free delivery worldwide

 

Stupid Women 2 . . . Hell on Earth

          Perhaps, more than the threat of Hell’s Fire and Damnation in the afterlife women should fear the Hell on Earth of looking back in old age at their young, attractive and innocent selves, and wondering where it went all wrong.

          At the present moment there is a picture circulating on the Internet of a decrepit bag lady in a shabby mackintosh in down-at-heel sandals with thin stringy hair, corpulent and multi-chinned pulling a shopping trolley. The caption is “Guess Who?”

          Cruelly, the first picture is then backed up by pictures of a stunningly beautiful young woman, and the answer is “Christine Keeler”. This is the woman who as a barely legal teen slept with a British Minister of State, a Russian KGB colonel, and numerous Society people—and eventually brought down the government of the patrician Harold MacMillan.

          In kindness I have to say she was silly and star struck rather than stupid. Why was this poor little uneducated and rather dim village girl invited to orgiastic parties at the poolside of Lord Astor at his stately home, Clivenden, attended by politicians, diplomats, crooked property developers and members of so-called High Society? Because they are always on the lookout for something fresh to perk up their jaded appetites?

          I had some peripheral involvement in the Christine Keeler affair because I was for a year the Manager of SHELL’s aviation laboratory in Egham, the Thameside village where she lived. I never met her, but some of my lab assistants went to school with her. They say that she was unfortunate that at early puberty she transformed from a gawky ugly duckling that attracted nobody into a beautiful swan who attracted everybody. A child in a woman’s body.

         A year previously, when I was an RAF officer, and before the scandal broke, I was introduced to Antigoni the Royal portrait painter who was one of her clients. And I attended parties at Powis Terrace, a Peter Rachman (who was involved with Keeler through his girlfriend Mandy Rice-Davis) development in the then unfashionable and raffish Notting Hill.

          Now Christine is indigent and living on benefits, and is doomed to look at pictures of her young self and wonder what might have been if she had mixed with better company—like Layla, the Palestinian air hostess in my book THE GULF “Reaping the Whirlwind”.

          Yes Layla in her teens escaped the Palestinian refugee camps and hung out around the American University in Beirut working as a waitress and used her beauty to gain favours. But she passed herself off as a Lebanese Christian, made sure she learned good English, and never ever let her milk white skin turn brown in the sun. And so she landed a job with Middle East Airlines, had a hymen repair and snagged a rich Saudi husband fascinated by her apparent sophistication, and virginity.

          But life is cruel even for the young and beautiful. She could not produce a son, and so her Saudi husband divorced her. She went back to Palestine, converted to Christianity, and like most Levantine women ran to fat in her middle age. But she tried bravely to make a difference by running a Church of England orphanage near Ramallah—and was hassled by the Israelis and the Palestinians alike, her only ally a broken down old English expatriate.

        You can preview my book at:

www.amazon.com/author/mikerichards

and download it if you have a KINDLE. If you do not, or you prefer a real book you can order from:

www.thebookdepository.co.uk

They offer free delivery worldwide