Singapore Sling

I am not a Trump fan. He is a misogynist, showman, bully, and a protectionist. Those are verifiable. There is worse I call him in private. I am never sure of his motives. Nor am I a Kim Jong-un fan. He, his father and grandfather have run a totalitarian society that has led to almost three million of his countrymen dying of starvation while their regime survives.

However, in Singapore, these two most unlikely leaders have met and done something today that is hard to take in. It may just have changed the world.

Jaw, Jaw is always better than War, War and the meeting of President Trump and North Korean leader Chairman Kim Jong-un should be seen as very special. If it carries on and leads to a new peace on the Korean peninsula then rightly it will be hailed as a great breakthrough and even miraculous. In many ways it is.

We need to remember where we have come from.

There is an hostility between the two countries going back over 65 years. The Americans dropped more bombs on North Korea than they did on Germany during WW2, and although a technicality, you could argue that the USA and North Korea are still at war. In 1953 Military commanders from North Korea and the US-led United Nations Command only signed an armistice agreement. The armistice was only ever intended as a temporary measure.

Take this meeting at face value and it is a great step forward in world peace. However, cynics will say there is nothing concrete. I agree. Nothing much has changed. North Korea still has nuclear weapons and there are still draconian sanctions. But the agreement document shows intent and a direction. Let’s take the glass half full stance and be positive.

We know it is the beginning of a long and difficult process. We know that Presidents Obama and Ford have got this far with initial agreements but what is different this time is that by meeting the President and Chairman have given peace a momentum not previously generated.

As I said I don’t like President Trump. I thought his behaviour and attitude at the G7 was crass and possibly a greater threat to world order than North Korea, but today I will give him credit.

If this initiative is successful then the unusual, disruptive management style of late-night tweets to ‘rocket man’ will have been more successful than the old, cold diplomacy of the past.

Yet, despite my muted admiration President Trump has again managed to wind me up. I thank the BBC for extracting the following from his last Singapore press conference.

On the need to check notes from his meeting: “I have one of the great memories of all time. I don’t have to do that.”

On apologising if things don’t go as planned: “I think he’s gonna do these things. I may be wrong. I may stand before you in six months and say, hey, I was wrong,” he said, before adding: “I don’t know that I’ll ever admit that. But I’ll find some kind of an excuse.”

On why he thinks experts are wrong about denuclearisation taking 15 years: “I think whoever wrote that is wrong… There will be a point at which when you are 20%  through you can’t go back. I had an uncle who was a great professor for, I believe, 40 years at MIT. And I used to discuss nuclear with him all the time. He was a great expert. He was a great brilliant genius.”

Oh, well, I guess we can’t have both peace and humility.

A Big Orange Stain

There is enough political commentary in the news you don’t need me to add to it with my observations, but love or loathe him you can’t keep Trump out of the news and I have to respond.

This might be old news, but I have only just found it.

The New York City Parks Department has banned a statue of Trump in the City with the press release, Our wardens have removed a naked statue of Donald Trump from Union Square. The NYCP stands firmly against any unpermitted erections, no matter how small.

I don’t know if Stormy Daniels has authenticated the realism of statue, but it is also being reported that Trump and Melania now live almost totally separate lives. Could this be one reason?

And, not content with recently saying that ‘everyone thinks I should get Nobel peace prize’ (no we don’t) I read that in another matter Trump he has now gone over the top and gone too far.

You need some background.

On Friday, July 13th he is planning to visit the UK. There is not much love for him and there is much speculation that he won’t visit London for fear of there being too many noisy demonstrations. Personally, I think he should come here so that he can see the strength of a real democracy.

I haven’t been to a demonstration for a very long time, but I might just take a day off work to express my disdain even though that gives me a philological problem. Do I show disdain by deliberately going to the pub and ignoring him and if I demonstrate am I showing something else? I have a couple of months to resolve that.

I think what Trump really wants is to ride in a big horse pulled, gold carriage sitting next to the Queen. It might be what he wants but it isn’t going to happen. Our Queen is very tolerant and a wonderful symbol of restraint and equanimity, but she is also old. There is only so much we can ask her to suffer.

If he wants a coach ride he should do up one of the carriages in Central Park and get Melania to wear a crown. Tell you what he can wear the crown if he wants.

If not to London, it is suggested instead that he will meet dignitaries in Scotland. That may be a good idea but I can’t see a Scotish reception being any kinder to him. The UK is not a very large country and for the dedicated protestor, Edinburgh really isn’t very far away. If you are already planning your trip from Derby or Nottingham heading North instead of South is no big deal.

But now we don’t have to rely on travelling protestors to show our feelings because Trump has managed to offend the Scots directly by attacking the very heart of their culture. Trump owns the Scottish resort and famous golf course at Turnberry and there, guests have been forbidden from drinking Irn-Bru.

For those that don’t know Irn-Bru is a bright orange coloured,  soft drink and is one of Scotland’s favourites. It is at the heart of all things Scotish. Turnberry’s concern, which has led to the ban, comes from their fears of its luminous orange colouring staining the carpets.

They may have expensive carpets. They say that replacing the one in the ballroom alone would cost a cool half million pounds, but come on, it can’t be that bad. Surely, even the Scots are more likely to spill wine or beer than Irn-Bru?

It’s a disturbing thought that in future the only luminous orange colouring staining the carpets of Turnberry is Trump’s fake tan.

Trump has gone too far and as one Twitter writer said, “The President of the United States has just declared war on Scotland.”. We can be sure now the reception in Scotland will be just as vocal as anything London could muster.

Trump can’t come to London, and now he can’t go to Scotland. His own orange tan is far too Protestant political for any Catholic to allow any visit to Northern Ireland. That only leaves Wales but as a proper democracy, they will follow the lead of 75% of the Union.

So that is it. The only orange stain we will tolerate in the UK is Irn-Bru on Turnberry’s carpets.

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The Great Dictator

One of the great joys of this job is having an excuse every day to search the internet for interesting and stimulating stories. Over the last 24 hours, I have read about exploding buses in Rome. Apparently, more than 22 caught fire last year and already this year another 7 have self-combusted. It is a rare city where a vehicle catching fire is shrugged off and the first reaction is not to call for an anti-terrorist squad. Thankfully no one has been hurt.

I have also read about Kendall Jenner, model and half-sister to the Kardashians, pushing assistants out of the way on a red-carpet event so that the photographers could get a better shot of her latest dress. Sadly, it wasn’t even the prettiest, most outrageous, or most transparent. It was generally described as a dress made of toilet roll paper. Ah well.

These are fluff and trivia. Of far more seriousness was the Victory Day parade in Red Square, Moscow. If you know me at all well, or better still read my first novel, The Masterful Manipulation of George Cove, you will also know that I have a long lasting and huge admiration for the people of Eastern Europe in all that they did defending us from Hitler.

I have written about this many times so I won’t ramble but just say that the Western allies had losses of 2 million while the combined Eastern Allies of Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia lost 10 times that number with more than 20 million deaths. America didn’t win the war. The West didn’t defeat Hitler. It was the bravery and sacrifice of the Eastern allies that gave their lives to defeat tyranny.

Today’s Moscow parade of soldiers and arms may say as much about Putin as it is a reflection of the past. However, it does reflect the patriotism of a country and its people. Patriotism is at the core of the Brexit argument as it gives us the opportunity to control our own laws, or so it is said, but patriotism can be as much a  negative influence, particularly in our hyper-interconnected world.

President Trump has used the ‘Put America First’ slogan extensively over the last three years as an excuse for many a bad policy. Trade protectionism was the first issue and that will impact the global economy but now it has become far more dangerous.

President Trump has withdrawn America from the Iran Nuclear deal and that puts the whole world in crisis.

It may not be a great deal. It may not be the best of deals but it was the best that could be done at the time. It was never meant to be a zero-sum deal but a win-win. Both sides had to gain something. Yes, it has deficiencies and doesn’t cover what happens in 15 years when it runs out and maybe it could be stronger on ballistic missile development but it was a deal for the time.

Taking America out of the deal puts us all at greater risk and Trump did it unilaterally.

I remember when I was in Dubai I was deeply impressed by the leadership of  Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The UAE is not a democracy yet President Bush supported the UAE while simultaneously preaching a sermon that democracy was the only way forward. In fact, he used it as a basis for many of the disastrous, war-mongering, Middle East policies.

President Trump may have been properly elected (we can discuss that on another day) but he is now acting as a dictator. We do not know how much support he has in Congress for his actions but from the outside, it does look that he sits in the Oval Office making his own decisions. He is behaving just like the Chairman and CEO of a company where he owns 100% of the shares. In his company, he treats it like a fiefdom. Now he treats the United States of America just the same.

If this had been President Putin the world would have been talking tyrant or autocrat.

In the UK we are now going through Brexit and I am sure that Prime Minister May would like the same freedoms as Trump to decide and commit. She doesn’t.  She has the oversight of a Cabinet and Parliament. In a democracy, there are checks and balances on every corner.

We can and will argue about the route that President Trump has taken. I think it is wrong. Many others think it is wrong. In a real democracy, there would be a debate, discussion, and a vote. Not so in America.

Charlie Chaplin’s greatest film was possibly The Great Dictator. It was a satire and comedy. Oh, how I wish it was so now and in 90 minutes the popcorn would be done, the credits have rolled, it has all finished and it was time to go home with a smile.

The problem is that with this action from Trump everything may just finish in 90 minutes.

God Bless American Women

In my 20s I was a radio DJ. Once every week for three hours the patients of the Whittington Hospital in North London had the pleasure to listen to me and my selection of music. I can imagine my children cringing at this thought, but I would point out to them that this was long before they were even a twinkle and once even your dad could rock.

Except it wasn’t rock but middle of the road and the biggest challenge was sorting out requests put into the list by colleagues as a test. I avoided an early pitfall when the card said Hang on in there Baby, by Johnny Bristol for everyone in Maternity. I moved on easily to somewhere else

One of the skills encouraged by my peers was the segue, moving seamlessly from one thought to another, from one track to the next.

I have not tried to do any segue with these essays but today I see the opportunity. Just sit back and marvel at the ease of this!

Last week was Ben and Hannah’s marriage which took place in the chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge. As well as Hannah, there have been many great Trinity Men, and among the greatest must be Issac Newton and his whole academic life, from 1661 to 1696, was spent there, first as an undergraduate and then as a Fellow from 1667.

Newton’s most known achievement was stating the three laws of motion which have been taught ever since as the basis of classical mechanics. Half of all the maths exams I took at school, right up to A level were based on understanding them.

It’s the third law, paraphrased as every action causes a reaction, that is the subject of this essay, and the segue is complete.

Before we get into the meat we need some background. Here are some quotes from someone quite famous, starting in the early 90s to current days.

“You know, it doesn’t really matter what women write as long as you’ve got a young and beautiful piece of ass.”

You’ve probably guessed it already. These are words of wisdom from the now President Trump. I am not sure how long I need to go on to make the point.

“I have days where, if I come home — and I don’t want to sound too much like a chauvinist,” the President said, “but when I come home and dinner’s not ready, I go through the roof.”

“All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.”

“If Hilary can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America”

Trump hit a new low after the emergence of a video in which he discusses “grabbing (women) by the p****” and states that “when you’re a star, they let you do it”.

I probably didn’t need to go through so many quotes (and the selection is huge) but what I am trying to show is that America has elected a misogynist, sexist, and oaf of a President.

If that was the action we have now started to see the reaction and boy, what a reaction it has been.

To show you the strength of the response we need to go and look at an organisation called Emily’s List. ( whose mission iswe ignite change by getting pro-choice Democratic women elected to office’ 

In 2016, they supported 900 applications from women who wanted to get into representative office. By 2018 and the upcoming mid-terms they have had 38,000 applications.

‘Emily’s List isn’t just about funding elections to get women elected. Our focus is on putting the right .. women into office who will balance the face of the government and make decisions that really improve societies across the country.’

It’s about time we saw this change.

I won’t get into a discussion about Hilary Clinton’s credentials to be President, but she was the first female candidate from a major party to run the Presidential race. Of course, there has not been a female President.

Americans spend much of their time going on and on about equality, the rights of minorities, freedom, and democracy yet when it comes to balancing their government with gender equality they have been useless.

Rwanda had the highest number of women parliamentarians worldwide. There, women have won 63.8% of seats in the lower house. Around the world, as of October 2017, 11 women are serving as Head of State and 12 are serving as Head of Government.

If you rank the countries of the world in order of women’s representation America comes 100th on the list. Come on America you can do better than that.

Unless he is re-elected or impeached, President Trump has 1,003 more days in office and only then will we properly be able to assess his achievements. It is just possible that his greatest success will be finally convincing American women and the electorate that they need women in the heart of Government to be able to change attitudes such as his.

This might be the perfect reaction to his actions.

The USA: Historically Protectionist

America is the bastion of free trade. It is the heart of cowboy, buccaneering, capitalism. It is what the Right-wing love about America.

It may be what they like to love but it is wrong. That’s right, wrong.

The major part of American history is protectionist. What President Trump is doing now with his new trade war against China, and for that matter, almost every other country is a continuation of US policy since its very earliest years.

You will probably have heard of Adam Smith the Scottish economist, philosopher, author, moral philosopher, and a pioneer of political economy. You will probably also know Smith as the original exponent of free trade. Free trade is the opposite of protectionism.

During the Industrial Revolution, Britain embraced free trade and Smith’s laissez-faire economics, and via the British Empire, used its power to spread a broadly liberal economic model around the world. It was characterised by open markets and relatively barrier-free domestic and international trade.

But it was also colonial economics that suited Britain’s new industrially revolutionised economy. But we will come to that.

At Mount Rushmore, there are sculptures of the heads of four United States presidents. There are good arguments that all were protectionists, but we need to start with the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, George Washington.

Smith died in 1790 and 1791 is the next important date. Alexander Hamilton served as the first US Secretary of the Treasury. You will know what Hamilton looks like. It is his portrait on the US $10 bill.

Hamilton was with Washington during the War. He recognised that there was very limited production capacity to manufacture weapons. The British were restricting growth and he feared that they would stay as the leading manufacturer and condemn the US to a bits and pieces producer.

Come 1791 this is what Hamilton said:

The superiority antecedently enjoyed by nations who have preoccupied and perfected a branch of industry ….

To be honest, he goes on a bit, but the outcome was he came up with a dozen or so measures which included, tariffs, export subsidies, and even modern ideas such as R&D tax credits and subsidies. These were all in his Report on Manufactures, submitted to Congress in 1791. That was the start of American protectionism.

This where we can start to take a long view of history. With the war finished American tariffs rose to 40% while the British were dumping manufactured goods into the US to deliberately asphyxiate American manufacturing.

By 1847 Lincoln, best known for fighting slavery also said: Give us a protective tariff, and we will have the greatest nation on earth.

As the century progressed Karl Marx favoured free trade because he believed in its damaging potential to capitalism. In January 1848 he delivered a speech at the Democratic Association of Brussels, titled On the Question of Free Trade.

It took until the 1960s and the cold war for the change in American policy as they attempt to tie in allies into its anti-Soviet stand. They encouraged open US trade, building an enormous deficit.  It was such a good policy that it led to the downfall of a Soviet empire.

But, now we go full circle.

The core of any Brexit success will come down to the ability to strike free trade agreements around the world at a time Trump has started a trade war with China and all his Western allies, reverting the US to type.

We’re doing things for this country that should have been done for many, many years,” the President said before signing a memorandum setting in motion the trade actions.

Is free trade an important issue in a world where there is so much blatant aggressive behaviour between nations? Should we care? Yes, and it most certainly is because countries that trade openly are likely to be both richer and less likely to fight.

And so, we get back to Adam Smith, the original 18th-century proponent of free trade.

There is a lot of research that confirms the benefits Smith suggested. I have chosen one of many from the internet (  because it is supported with studies. It makes the following assertions:

  • Trade boosts economic growth and reduces poverty.
  • Trade reduces unemployment.
  • Trade increases compliance with labour standards.
  • Trade reduces the likelihood of war.
  • Trade makes increases life expectancy and reduces infant mortality.

But let’s be just a little more parochial. According to contemporary reports, The White House expects the new taxes, which could reach up to 1,300 specific imports, will have a “minimal impact” on consumers.

There is no way to impose $50 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports without it having a negative impact on American consumers. Make no mistake, these tariffs may be aimed at China, but the bill will be charged to American consumers who will pay more at the checkout for the items they shop for every day,” said Hun Quach, vice president for international trade at the Retail Industry Leaders Association.

And for the investing class, this was a Reuters headline from March 22nd: Stocks tumble to worst day in six weeks after Trump tariff action

Again, it looks like I am out on a limb and disagree with President Trump.

Time will tell.

Leaders: They’re all the same

This is the start of a BBC News item yesterday. The UK will expel 23 Russian diplomats after Moscow refused to explain how a Russian-made nerve agent was used on a former spy in Salisbury, the PM says. Theresa May said the diplomats, who have a week to leave, were identified as “undeclared intelligence officers”. The UK later told the UN Security Council that Russia had used “a weapon so horrific that it is banned in war” in a “peaceful” British city. Russia denies attempted murder and says it will respond appropriately.

I am sure you know all the background and if not, then where have you been?

I am extraordinarily worried, and I don’t believe the West fully understands the scale of the ‘war’ that Russia is waging. There have been intrusions in Georgia and Ukraine, cyber attacks across the western democracies and now the use of Russian produced nerve gas on the streets of a sleepy British city. We still wait to see if the Kremlin was directly involved or just very forgetful and can’t remember where they left phials of one the world’s deadliest poisons.

This is not the first time that Russia has been accused of murder. A public inquiry in the UK into the killing of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko concluded that President Putin probably approved his assassination.

The former spy was killed in November 2006. The 43-year-old had been an officer with the Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the KGB, but he fled to Britain where he became a fierce critic of the Kremlin. In his final years, he also became a British citizen. After he was killed by radioactive polonium-210, believed to have been administered in a cup of tea, it emerged he was being paid by the British secret service MI6.

What Russia has done is despicable, but they are not alone in State-sponsored oversea assassinations. Russia is not the only pariah State.

On 17 December 2011, the supreme leader of North Korea Kim Jong-il died from a heart attack. His youngest son Kim Jong-un was announced as his successor, and in February 2017 he had his half-brother, Kim Jong Nam, poisoned at Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur International Airport before an outbound flight to Macau.

I am sure you have your own opinions and that is enough commentary from me. I don’t think I can add meaningfully to all the very many articles already on the web.

However, what does interest me is the drive and motivation of global leaders to take such huge responsibility and all the slings and arrows. I have two ideas. First is that it can be a very profitable job and secondly, and it won’t surprise you, simply it appeals to their megalomania.

I am going to quote from the UK newspaper The Daily Mail with the caveat that its anti-Putin rhetoric is well known. Take this with a pinch of salt but the drift will be right.

Russian President Vladimir Putin might be the richest man in the world, according to experts who believe he could have a net worth of $200billion.

During his nearly two decades in power, Putin’s net worth has been widely speculated, with the former KGB agent likely having private assets in real estate and company holdings. One of the most quoted guesses of the 64-year-old’s net worth is political analyst Stanslav Belkovsky’s 2007 estimation of $40billion, but Bill Browder, author and a former fund manager in Russia, has said the president has a higher worth – upwards of $200billion

Belkovsky said that much of Putin’s net worth was thanks to the oil business, saying the Russian president controlled 37 percent of the oil company Surgutneftegaz, 4.5 percent of the natural gas company Gazprom, and had holdings in the commodities trader, Gunvor but Gunvor denies that Putin ever had any ownership in the company, which made $93billion in revenue in 2012, according to TIME.

A well-known sign of wealth for Putin is his $35million superyacht named Olympia. Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich is claimed to have given Putin the yacht after he became president of Russia. 

But perhaps one of Putin’s most visible signs of wealth is a palace on the Black Sea that’s reportedly worth $1billion. According to a dossier written by a political rival of the Russian president, Putin could have access to up to 58 planes and helicopters, a $500,000 watch collection and 20 palaces and country retreats. The report also claimed he uses a private jet with a $137million cabin which has a bathroom with gold fittings and a $62,000 toilet. Other perks include a 2,300-acre residence on Lake Valdai in north-west Russia.

As a passing aside, you might remember that much of Putin’s power was derived by, or certainly consolidated when he broke up the cabal of great oligarchs whom he claimed were stealing money from the State and so totally corrupt.

I want to be balanced and so let’s move back across the Atlantic. Trump made money from the Presidential campaign by hiring his own plane to the Republican party to ferry him around. I know he has set up all sorts of blind trusts but with his whole family so closely involved in the Presidency can we really believe they are effective? But whatever, his tax cuts significantly benefit him. I guess we will never know how profitable it is to be President of the USA.

So there we have one very reason to become a world leader. It is very profitable!

Tyranny and autocracy are unlikely to be the initial intention. More probably the leader thinks they can do good for the State but eventually the dopamine kick just isn’t just big enough. As we know power corrupts but absolute power corrupts absolutely.

President Trump this week sacked Rex Tillerson. First, he did it on Twitter and as Tillerson wasn’t on Twitter it was left to one of his aids to tell him. We might never know the reasons why he was sacked but there is good evidence to suggest it was because he wouldn’t do or agree with Trump’s views. The thought is that Trump only wants people around him who will do his bidding.

I have already said enough about Putin.

Interestingly Putin and Trump have similarities. Despite their obvious failings they still have large numbers of followers in their own countries.

Whatever Putin has done to Crimea there are even Ukrainians I know who rate him because he is seen to be strong and working to rebuild the Russian State to what he believes is its rightfully, predominant position.

The Russian people still love him. We will know in a few days how many Russian voters want him again as President. It will be a very large percentage even accounting for all viable opposition candidates taken out of the race.

While Trump’s popularity has declined there is still significant support for him and don’t be too sure that he won’t be re-elected.

Just like Putin’s increasing popularity in Russia, Trump’s appeal is based on building nationalist pride. The ‘America First’ campaign could have the same impact while Putin’s cry could be ‘Russia First’.

Who knows where all this will take us. Putin has his new ultra-supersonic, unstoppable nuclear missiles, and Trump wants an economically crippling trade war, Rocket Man and the Dotard want to talk about North Korea playing with its killer toys.

What a wonderful world we live in.

The Seven Deadly Sins: #3 Lust

When I look at the reading statistics for these small pieces it is interesting that the first two in the series of the Seven Deadly Sins, are at the top and now that we are in the murky waters of sex and lust I know I have a chart winner. The pressure is on!!

It is also going to be the most difficult of the seven to write. Nothing raises the hackles of the moral battalions more than sex. Nothing sells as well as sex. Whatever our starting position sex and lust have a compelling fascination. The most natural act has become the focus of continuing discussion and debate. Whatever I write, someone will disagree.

Lust is the need to fulfil all unspiritual desires and not just sexual urges although this is the usual association. For example, we often say we lust after money, but I am not going to disappoint, and I will stay firmly with all things carnal.

I should set out my stall early. I come from the libertarian wing of society and I am not easily offended. I set out my opinions in the book Blah Blah:

‘In a really free society we all have the right to live our lives by whatever code we want. If I want to smoke grass and not cigarettes, that’s my choice. If I want to pay for sex with someone who wants to sell it – my choice. I think there are only a few basic rules of a functioning society. I think there are only two, as I see it. Never do anything that harms another person or that undermines the integrity of the State. Within that, you should be able to do whatever you like but harm is the key word.’

‘So,’ I started to frame a reply, ‘what happens if what I do offends you?’

‘Such as? Test the rules.’

‘Okay. I walk naked down the street,’ I said.

‘Offends but does no harm. It’s okay.’

’Rob a bank?’

‘Undermines the integrity of the State and usually harms an individual or two. Wrong.’

‘Don’t pay my taxes?’

‘Undermines the State.’

If I ever went to a confessional, which is very, very unlikely, I cannot imagine saying, ‘Forgive me Father because I have committed the sin of lust.’ Greed, envy, pride, or wrath are all possible but not lust. I see the problems and issues of all the other six sins, but in lust I see significant virtues. I can’t condemn it all.

With that out of the way and my bias clear, we can carry on.

Among the most important artworks at The Uffizi Gallery, Florence is the, Venus of Urbino, by Titian. This what a web site says of the work:

The best and most famous of Titian’s nudes, the Venus of Urbino is a masterwork of the form and one of the most alluring women in the history of art. Its frank and shameless eroticism was shocking for its time…… Many, including the writer Mark Twain, see the painting as an obscenity, a pornographic blot in Titian’s faultless career, whilst many others admire the mastery of flesh Titian achieves.

The nude is at the centre of high art and we admire the beauty of the painting as much as we recognise that our perception of beauty more often than not driven by lustful desires.

In those first few seconds and minutes when I first met Sasha, or for that matter Annie, my initial reactions were not love.

Thirty years ago, when I saw Annie standing at a first-floor window of a house in Lordship Lane I didn’t start dreaming about Christmas with our three children and a grandson.

I met Sasha first in a restaurant in Kiev and while it is romantic to think of love at first sight I didn’t immediately think this was the person I wanted to spend many decades of my life with. Our first conversations were not about building a home, the colour of the bedroom curtains, or blissfully happy days together pushing a trolley around a supermarket deciding what we were going to cook.

No, my first thoughts were simply; she is beautiful, I want to hold her, and I want to make love to her. Maybe I should be even more specific. My first thoughts were simply that I want to have sex with her.

It takes time for lust to add love and the more we knew about each other increasingly romantic thoughts became mixed with the initial lust and a loving relationship developed.

Sasha and I still have lustful thoughts which we share with each other (but not here). We find sharing our lust (as we do writing to each other every day) is important because shared, lustful fantasies are essential to a good and strong relationship. We don’t think of these as guilty pleasures but as an integral part of our multi-faceted love.

Furthermore, our lust is shared and not just mine. Sasha, is every bit into lust as I am. I have recently cooperated with a psychologist in Ukraine who specialises in women’s erotic fantasies. If you want to know more it is there for all to read on her web site and it is apparent that fantasies are not confined to men. Women share lustful, but different, thoughts to men.

Most men and women, have lustful thoughts most of the time. Indeed, the survey on the  web site says that 50% of women have erotic fantasies at least once a day. I have no data about how often men think about sex but the study, The Social Organisation of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States, has identified similar statistics with men 54% of men thinking about sex at least once a day, very similar to my much smaller survey of women.

But this is not a carte blanche for everyone to live their lives with unbridled lust. Far from it. The biggest stories of 2017 were about the alleged sexual misconduct of, among many others, President Trump, Harvey Weinstein, and Kevin Spacey.

What differentiates most of us from those accused with sexual misconduct is that we have restraint. We can separate our behaviour from our lust. Not surprisingly the press has only reported the cases of the celebrities and powerful and not the middle managers or abusive husbands. The common factor in the cases is that the accused have power, of sorts, and need to demonstrate that power by controlling women, sexually.

As we report these terrible cases we should always condemn the abuse of power as much as the genetic frailty and sin of lust.  Lust is not always a sin. We must not confuse lust with misogyny, or abuse of power in the office or home, as the sin.

I have been talking about lust within a relationship. I have been talking about ‘consensual lust’. The real question is this. Are we going to condemn much of the great art because its theme or representation is lustful? Are we going to limit the full range of emotions in a loving relationship because we condemn lust as sin?

We can’t all be sinners and I am all in favour of ‘consensual lust’. I would go as far as saying it is at the centre of healthy, loving relationship.

I, for one, like to look at Titian and other famous nudes in the galleries. I don’t want great works of art condemned for provocative nakedness. A pretty woman will always turn my head. Just the thought of those days when Sasha walks around the house naked because she forgot to get dressed are provocative and stir base and lustful thoughts. I want Sasha to keep dressing to excite me. I love being able to tell her how beautiful she is when we go to dinner and how sexy she looks in a bikini on the beach. I don’t want to curtail my lust.

Lust is part of what has been encoded into my DNA but unlike the Weinsteins and Trumps, and those yet to be found out of sexual misconduct, and like most of the world I have managed my lust.

If we took lust out of our lives it would be a very grey world.

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