A Psalm for Albion

An Albion of yore in The Hay Wain — John Constable (1821)

“We should be realistic, this is our politics now”

This was the take-home message at the end of Newsnight, the flagship late-night current affairs show of the British Broadcasting Corporation. It was sobering.

The subject of conversation was the increasingly fragmented political discourse in the United Kingdom and, in particular, a series of chants which took place outside Parliament which were aimed at Conservative MP Anna Soubry (who, contrary to most of her party, has campaigned against Brexit).

UK Houses of Parliament

As I work in a hospital on the opposite side of the River Thames, I witnessed some of these chants yesterday.

Anyone who is not very worried about what is going on in our country now is burying their heads in the sand more deeply than a psammophile ostrich. This is very frightening indeed.

Just as much of our media have consistently mimicked Völkischer Beobachter and Der Stürmer of 20s Germany, some of the most vicious and thuggish portions of our society are now more empowered than ever, and police and reporters stand by idly whilst the societal, geopolitical and economic futures of this country is their bully’s playground.

The Daily Mail’s article “Enemies of the People” evokes similarities to naming and shaming of “traitors of the people” in 1933 Nazi newspaper Illustrierter Beobachter, and their own support for fascism and fearmongering against “the other” during that period.

This is your future, your childrens’ future. The kind of country we are about to become unless something alters our path drastrically…

Awake! awake O sleeper of the land of shadows, wake! expand!
I am in you and you in me, mutual in love divine.
Fibres of love from man to man thro Albions pleasant land.
In all the dark Atlantic vale down from the hills of Surrey
A black water accumulates, return Albion! return!

Except from Jerusalem: The Emanation of the Giant — Blake

29th October: International Cyrus The Great Day

Happy International Cyrus The Great (600-530 BC) Day.


He practised tolerance of religion for all faiths within the Persian Empire, wrote the first international charter of human rights and freed the Jewish people to return to their homeland.

I hope world leaders of the current era understand and recognise the value of respecting their own people, and respecting others from around the world.


The Tomb of Cyrus The Great


The Cyrus Cylinder: First International Charter of Human Rights




Have a happy Purim, just don’t believe Bibi’s bunkum

Happy Purim to all the Jewish people around the world, celebrating the day that Queen Esther saved the Jewish people by alerting King Xerxes to the Grand Vizier Haman’s evil plot.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu referenced this whilst speaking to schoolchildren earlier this week:

“In Persia, they wanted to kill us but it didn’t work,” Netanyahu said. “Today, too, Persians are trying to destroy us, but today, too, it will not work.”

Bibi has spent much of the last week selling the lie that Iran’s ruler wanted to kill the Jews. Wrong!  Haman was NOT the ruler. He was the vizier. He was an adviser.  He was this guy:


Netanyahu’s rationale for amending history is logical: A persistent simmering frisson between Iran’s theocratic regime, which does not recognise Israel, and the hawkish Israeli prime minister consolidates the power of both parties.  However, in making this statement, Netanyahu is crushing an important shared Jewish and Persian lore which has been mentioned in numerous historical manuscripts and holy books (The Torah, Bible and Quran).

Chief amongst this is Xerxes’ grandfather Cyrus The Great who liberated the Jewish people enslaved in Babylon, and announced an edict for the rebuilding of the Temple of Jerusalem.


This Persian ruler therefore ushered in a new epoch in the history of the Jewish people, culminating in the temple itself being completed during the reign of Darius II four generations later.


The Cyrus Cylinder, kept at the British Museum, describes how Cyrus allowed captives in Babylon to return to their native territories, which earned him an honoured place in the Jewish faith.


How about Xerxes, who was the grandson of Cyrus and the ruler during the events which are now celebrated in Purim? Does marrying a Jewish maiden, listening to her describe Haman’s plans and condemning the vizier to hang for his tricks mean that this was a ruler who wanted to “annihilate the Jews”. How about issuing a decree which authorized all Jews to defend themselves, and appointing Mordechai the first Jewish prime minister of the Persian Empire? These historical facts were, conveniently, rather missing from Netanyahu’s comments.

This contempt towards history is an insult to both Persian and Jewish History, two ancient cultures who have been intertwined for millenia despite the current challenges. This should be a time for celebrating cultures, and the deep bond which was cemented between Persia and the Jews following those events. Bonds which have persisted for many centuries, and still exist to this day, despite the rhetoric from Iran’s leaders, and perhaps the hawkish elements in Israel.


Abdol Hossein Sardari, known as the “Schindler of Iran” is an example.  A diplomat who saved thousands of Iranian jews from deportation by the Nazi regime, he then began issuing hundreds of Iranian passports for non-Iranian jews to save them from persecution, dying in poverty two years after the Iranian Revolution in 1981. His actions do not fit into Netanyahu’s narrative either, but he exemplifies the courage and the principles of human rights that Cyrus the Great pronounced 25 centuries earlier.


“Nazi Germany of the early 1920s” Snapshot of UK Newspapers 5th October 2016


My boss is of Jewish origin, his parents emigrating from Germany and Poland. He lost relatives in Auschwitz.  He is a phenomenally loyal NHS Doctor. Earlier in the year he said that the language being used by media and politicians is eerily resembling 1920-30s Germany and the rise of the Nazi party.  I wasn’t paying too much attention, but I valued his statement as he is a remarkable observationalist .

He was right, this style of rhetoric and the undercurrent behind the statements echoes Das Reich and Das Shwarze Korps. I’ve never employed Godwin’s law before – but we are veering on the abyss which leads to National Socialism.


Why wine is integral to Persian culture



Source: http://www.economist.com/blogs/prospero/2016/09/shiraz-shiraz

IT IS easy to assume that Iran has never been a site of drunken revelries. Westerners imagine Iranians to be a homogenously pious and modest group, and so suppose that viticulture is wholly foreign to them. This image is not helped by recent legislative action; in January, the government banned the printing of the word “wine” in all books as it deemed the beverage an element of a “Western cultural onslaught”. Yet suggesting that drinking is a quasi-blasphemous act obfuscates the fact that alcohol—and wine in particular—has been an inextricable part of Iranian culture and identity for millennia. Indeed, current estimates suggest that Iranians imbibe around 60m litres of alcohol a year despite the government crackdown.

During the heady reign of the Pahlavis (1925-79) Iranians freely indulged in drinking as it was legally permissible to do so. While it is true that legislation was much more liberal before the Revolution than it is today (one need only take a glance at popular pre-Revolution Iranian cinema and advertisements of the era), the Pahlavi dynasty was far from the first to openly tolerate drinking. Indeed, the oldest-known traces of grape wine—found in the Zagros Mountains in western Iran—date back some 7,000 years.

In Aryan times (the early part of the second millennium B.C. onwards), it is said that with the wine given to him by the Prophet Zarathustra, King Vishtaspa beheld God in a vision and thus became the Prophet’s first convert. Herodotus stated that wine played a key political role in the Achaemenid Empire (550-330 B.C.): “It is their custom to deliberate the gravest matters when they are drunk…and if, being sober, they still approve it, they act on it.” The opposite was also true; “if they have deliberated about a matter when sober, they decide upon it when they are drunk.”

It was not because of its practical and prophetical uses that wine left an indelible mark on the Iranian psyche, however. In the wake of the Arab invasion in the seventh century A.D., Iran experienced its most profound cultural renaissance. Longing for a revival of the suppressed Persian language and Iranian culture, the Samanids (819-999 A.D.) were patrons of the poets who brought about a renaissance of Persian literature. Rudaki extolled wine, and Daqiqi, in doing so, praised the Zoroastrian faith of his ancestors and the House of Sassan (224-651 A.D.), in which wine was imbibed in no small measure. “Four things there are dear, which I so need,” Daqiqi famously declared. “The ruby-coloured lip, the harp’s lament, the blood-red wine and Zarathustra’s creed.” In longing for the drink that had once fuelled the Persian Empire, the poet revealed an affection for Iran’s pre-Islamic past.

Later poets would come to be synonymous with wine-swigging and bacchanalia. Omar Khayyam’s “Robaiyat” (1048–1131 A.D.) is a celebration of wine in the face of transience. “Drink wine,” Khayyam exhorted, “for long under the earth shall you sleep”. Hafez’s odes, too, brim with references to wine. “Sick I am of the hypocrite’s cloak and his shrine”, he complained. “Where is the Magian temple and its pure wine?” Some scholars have posited that Hafez uses wine as a symbol of divine, not earthly, intoxication, but his vivid descriptions of both wine and drunkenness suggest an intimacy with his source material. To such an extent did these poets exalt alcohol that it has arguably been the image most associated with Persian poetry. Goethe, who, like many other European writers of the age had been charmed by Persian poetry and philosophy, wrote in his “West-East Diwan”: “Hafiz…to love like thee, like thee to drink, shall be my pride, shall be my life.” It was a tribute both to the medieval Persian sage and to his choice of subject.

European accounts of Safavid and Qajar-era Iran (1785-1925) dispel any doubt about the longstanding Iranian penchant for wine. Early adventurers such as John Ussher, Charles James Wills and Henry Austen Layard, told far less of “Mahometan” piety in their travelogues than they did of debauchery and dissolution. Orgies, topless female musicians and boozing were very much “the order of the day”, according to Ussher. Even mullahs instructed foreigners in the Iranian art of winemaking. So enamoured of wine were these Iranians that many of the travellers who encountered them could hardly fathom that they were pious. “The people were a laughing, careless set, devoid of fanaticism, having indeed very little religion,” wrote Wills. “Nearly all drank wine to excess.”

Whether for divine revelation, administration of empire or simply a good time, Iranians have long tippled wine. What would Persian poetry be without Khayyam’s drunken verses and Hafez’s Magian wine? What decisions would the Achaemenids have made without it? What little would remain of the Qajar portraits of topless wine-tippling belles and the Safavid frescoes of Esfahan’s palaces, brimming with scenes of drunken revelry, had there not been any cupbearers? The word may be exorcised from Persian schoolbooks today, but, try as some might, wine can never be washed from the Iranian soul. Iranian history paints a purple-stained picture that some, perhaps, would rather leave bottled up.