Tag: Evelyn Waugh

Waugh on travel and terror

Friday, 24 March, 2017 1 Comment

“I See Nothing But Boredom… Everywhere” was the ominous title of a piece by Evelyn Waugh that appeared in the Daily Mail on 28 December 1959. The future of travel was the great man’s theme. Like all newspaper prophesy, it was ignored as soon as it was read, and because Waugh was extremely contrary, his predictions were dismissed as the bitter reproaches of an ageing man (he died in 1966). A rereading, however, shows that he had imagined our future with incredible prescience and was rightly appalled by the vista.

He said: “One went abroad to observe other ways of living, to eat unfamiliar foods and see strange buildings,” but in the future, he foretold, the world would be divided, on the one hand, into “zones of insecurity” dominated by terrorism and, on the other, vulgar tourist traps consisting of “chain hotels, hygienic, costly, and second rate,” to which people would be transported by the uniform jet. Well, we’ve got the terror now, we’ve all stayed in ghastly, modern hotels and air travel began its journey towards industrial conformity and security nightmare some while ago.

Today’s increasingly uncomfortable, stressful, fearful flying experience stands in remarkable contrast to what was once charming and civilized. On a flight in the 1930s, the great traveller and writer Paul Bowles observed: “I had my own cabin with a bed in it, and under sheet and blankets I slept during most of the flight.”

What to do about our dystopia? Stop travelling altogether is one option. Preferable, though, is to document and publish the horrors in the hope that the travel business can be brought to its senses and the good fight against terror will be won.


Under that high and insolent dome

Thursday, 21 July, 2016 0 Comments

There’s a lot of history in the baroque wrinkles of Kloster Schäftlarn, the Bavarian Benedictine abbey where monks continue a tradition that stretches back 1,500 years to what Saint Benedict of Nursia started at Subiaco in 529. According to legend, the Benedictine motto is Ora est labora, which would mean “Pray equals work.”; the actual motto, however, is Ora et labora, meaning “Pray and work.” Daily life in the monastery is governed by The Rule of Saint Benedict, which emphasizes prayer, work, study, hospitality and renewal. The result is a legacy of enduring value.

Kloster Schäftlarn

“This was my conversion to the baroque. Here under that high and insolent dome, under those tricky ceilings; here, as I passed through those arches and broken pediments to the pillared shade beyond and sat, hour by hour, before the fountain, probing its shadows, tracing its lingering echoes, rejoicing in all its clustered feats of daring and invention, I felt a whole new system of nerves alive within me, as though the water that spurted and bubbled among its stones was indeed a life-giving spring.” — Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited


The Three Kings

Wednesday, 26 December, 2012 0 Comments

Dame Muriel Spark was born in Edinburgh in 1918 and educated at the city’s James Gillespie’s High School for Girls, where she studied English, French, Chemistry, Greek, Physics, Latin and Logic. She converted to Catholicism in 1954, and the Catholic writers, Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh, gave her support and encouragement as she pursued her literary career. She began by writing biographies of Emily Brontë, Mary Shelley and John Masefield, but it was not until 1957 when she published The Comforters, her first novel, that she achieved recognition.

The Three Kings

Where do we go from here?
We left our country,
Bore gifts,
Followed a star.
We were questioned.
We answered.
We reached our objective.
We enjoyed the trip.
Then we came back by a different way.
And now the people are demonstrating in the streets.
They say they don’t need the Kings any more.
They did very well in our absence.
Everything was all right without us.
They are out on the streets with placards:
Wise Men? What’s wise about them?
There are plenty of Wise Men,
And who needs them? — and so on.

Perhaps they will be better off without us,
But where do we go from here?

Dame Muriel Spark (February 1918 – April 2006)