by Lang Reid
1000 years of annoying the French
re-read this book 1000 years of Annoying the
French (ISBN 978-0-552-77575-5, Bantam
Press, 2010) by Stephen Clarke, a writer who
these days lives in Paris, and found it just as
enjoyable as the first time. After 12 months of
book reviews, this book gets my ‘pick of the
My dear Scottish mother detested the French. She
forgave the Germans for their couple of hiccups.
She was sympathetic to the Poles. She tolerated
the Spanish. But the French? Even French cheeses
were not welcome in her house.
So along comes a book, which I thought might
give me the answer to my Mother’s antipathy to
all things Gallic.
The early years were mainly military skirmishes,
with France and England taking it in turns;
however, despite French history books, the Brits
seemed to be on top, which did not please the
French at all.
When you come to notable figures in British
history, there is Mary Queen of Scots. According
to Clarke the historian, “Mary Queen of Scots
was a French creation. She was as Scottish as
foie-gras flavored haggis.” Mother would not
have been as amused as I was.
Champagne and Dom Perignon get their mention on
the French side of the ledger, but historian
Clarke claims that it was an English chap by the
name of Merret who worked out how to keep the
bubbles (and in fact manufacture some with the
second fermentation in the bottle) from
exploding in the bottle. So there. Methode
champenoise was invented not by the Dom, but by
Interestingly, at the court of Louis XIV,
courtiers were obliged to bribe palace officials
for any little favors. Did the French then bring
this to Thailand via Ayutthaya, I wonder!
The infamous Ponzi schemes and similar rackets
in 1720 led to the British South Sea Bubble, but
this was only following what the French had done
earlier that year. It would seem that greed is
universal on either side of the English Channel.
By the time we have the Americans getting
involved with both sides, Clarke writes about
Benjamin Franklin’s eccentricity thus, “…to
develop his theory that the best protection
against sexually transmitted disease was a
hearty post-coital pee. Not one of his better
And that Oh so French decapitation machine, the
Guillotine, turns out not to be French at all,
but was invented in Halifax, Northern England as
early as 1286. Dr. Guillotin might have
popularized it in France, but France cannot
claim bragging rights. The first to experience
this machine in France was an unfortunate robber
in 1792 called Nicolas-Jacques Pelletier, lucky
I suppose that it was not called a Pelletier,
though Pierre-Andre Pelletier, of the Amari
Watergate might perhaps know more.
This book is the equivalent of Bill Bryson’s
travelogues, but historical (and hysterical). I
laughed all the way through this book and you
will too. Unless you are French! It will still
be available through the Bookazine outlets. This
is an ideal book to read in a hammock nestled
under a shady tree. We all can use a little
Don’t Worry - Be Grumpy
author of the book reviewed this week is a Buddhist monk, Ajahn
Brahmavamso Mahathera (known to most as Ajahn Brahm). He was
born Peter Betts in London, United Kingdom in August 7, 1951,
and came from a working-class background, but won a scholarship
to study Theoretical Physics at Cambridge University in the late
1960s. At Cambridge he joined the university’s Buddhist Society
and after a few weeks at the age of 18, he saw a monk for the
first time. He knew then that was what he wanted to be. After
graduating from Cambridge he taught in a school for one year
before travelling to Thailand to become a monk and train with
the Venerable Ajahn Chah Bodhinyana Mahathera.
Whilst still in his years as a junior monk, he was asked to
undertake the compilation of an English-language guide to the
Buddhist monastic code - the Vinaya - which later became the
basis for monastic discipline in many Theravadan monasteries in
It does seem to go together well - a Buddhist monk and a
self-help treatise. After all, Buddhism promotes the concept of
personal enlightenment through meditation.
This new book (ISBN 978-1-61429-167-1, Wisdom Publications,
2014) adds to his three other books, and again he suggests ways
that the ordinary man or woman can separate the mind from the
difficulties surrounding it.
“Don’t Worry - Be Grumpy” is perhaps a (sub) conscious play by
Ajahn Brahm on the pop song “Don’t worry - Be Happy”, a song by
musician Bobby McFerrin. Released in September 1988, it became
the first a cappella song to reach number one on the Billboard
Hot 100 chart, a position it held for two weeks. The song's
title is taken from a famous quotation by the mystic Meher Baba.
Ajahn Brahm calls the contents of his book, “Inspiring stories
for making the most of each moment.” This promise comes in the
108 brief stories with titles like “The Bad Elephant,”
“Girlfriend Power,” and “The Happiness License”. Ajahn Brahm
offers up more timeless wisdom that will speak to people from
all walks of life. Drawing from his own experiences, stories
shared by his students, and old chestnuts that he delivers with
a fresh twist, Ajahn Brahm shows he knows his way around the
humorous parable, delighting even as he surprises us with
unexpected depth and inspiration.
For someone who is having problems with the everyday mental
clutter that one engenders, this book may help you get the
mind’s house in order with a few humorous chapters.
One of the short chapters deals with negative thoughts and
memories, and Ajahn Brahm exhorts the reader to banish those
thoughts, and replace with happy ones instead. Whilst the
principle reads well, it is not quite as simple as he suggests,
One chapter deals with low self-esteem and Ajahn Brahm shows a
very concrete way of attacking the problem, complete with
reinforcement to “save you spending a lot of money on therapy!”
Expensive at B. 633 on the Bookazine shelves, but for those
looking for this kind of publication and its uplifting messages,
it is probably cheap therapy.
The Age of Dis-Consent
G Moore is one of Thailand’s foremost authors. His Vincent Calvino series
has 15 titles, his other novels 11 titles, non-fiction has five and he has
three anthologies which he has edited as well as contributed items to them.
This new book, The Age of Dis-Consent (ISBN 978-616-7503-31-8, Heaven
Lake Press, 2015) was literally hot off the press when it arrived on the
He has split the book into seven sections, beginning with Thailand in the
Age of Dis-Consent, followed by Thai law enforcement and cultural mindset,
Evolution of violence and the border-less world, Crime investigation in a
changing world, Space, Time Technology and Cultural gravity, Information and
theory of mind and finally, On writing and authors.
Moore discusses neutrality as a remedy for political stalemate in Thailand,
looking objectively at the options, and coming to the conclusion that
mindset and culture has to change in Thailand for there to be resolution of
political differences. He opines, “We are a long way from reaching that
point. Meanwhile we remain hostages to personalities who will never be
expected to pay for their crimes.”
The book’s content is current, as the chapter on Mitsutoki Shigeta discusses
the background and future as presented by this wealthy Japanese who is
building up an empire of his children. “A thousand children would be the
ultimate immortality-vanity project. Leaving a legacy population of
genetically related people who will shape the political, social, economic
and demographic fate of more than one country.”
His final essay looks at the “persona” as committed to posterity by painters
such as Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon notating them as two of the most
important painters in England over the past hundred years.
Moore looks at the commitment artists have in recording all the details, in
one instance, Martin Gayford sat for one and a half years for a portrait by
Lucian Freud and penned a memoir “Man with a Blue Scarf: On Sitting for a
Portrait by Lucian Freud.” A commitment by both the artist and the sitter.
What becomes very obvious in these essays is the fact the Moore is far more
than just a good story teller. He is a thinker who is able to transfer his
thoughts into the written word. This is not an attribute that all thinkers
Moore shows something of his own intellectual reasoning with: “If there is a
single reason why I continue to write books and essays, it is to continue on
a journey of exploration of what is in front of me …”
For B. 495 (Bookazine) you have the starting point for hours of discussion,
at which good essayists excel. It would be nice to hammer points out in a
one on one with him; however, since that would be difficult to arrange,
suggest that one of your own literary sparring partners buy the book as well
and set aside several weekends and several bottles of red (try Stonefish
shiraz) and thrash out the discussion points one by one!.