They say you can’t take it with you when you go. But then they never told that to Chiang Kai-shek, losing generalissimo to Mao in the Chinese civil war. After all, with his retreat to Taiwan in full swing, Chiang took as many of the treasures of Chinese history and art with him as he could. And so should you ever find yourself in Taipei, take my advice and go to the National Palace Museum. My wife and I spent a fabulous few hours there during our two-day Taipei layover en route to Canada for a big extended family Christmas. While at the Palace Museum you’ll see Song dynasty paintings, superb calligraphy, jade wonders (including the Jadeite Cabbage, below at right), and even a cooking pot with Chinese writing from over 3,000 years ago. And a few of the hieroglyphic pictograms from back then are still recognisable by Chinese readers today!
In Canada I did my best to not let Justin Trudeau, with all his inane politically correct mantras, drive me to self-harm. Boy Trudeau was a trust-fund baby and former snowboard instructor before being anointed leader of the Canadian Liberal Party and then becoming PM. Canada’s Liberals, just by the way, used to be different to the Liberal Party in Australia, though many of the current Lib MPs have Black-Handedly done what they can to change that. Now both countries’ “Liberal” parties are left-wing. Trudeau Jr.’s dad, Pierre, was a very smart man and Canadian PM back in the Seventies and Eighties. Sure, Pierre Elliot Trudeau dodged fighting in WWII, played around with some of the lefty authoritarian scum of the world (think Castro, think Mao, think Arafat and you’ll get the idea), had pretty hard-left economic notions (including price and wage controls), was brutal to the oil producing province of Alberta and was the most centralist PM in Canada’s history. But the man was smart.
His son Justin is not smart. There are times you have to wonder if his brain is no better than a festival of clichés, all politically correct in their essence and liable to be spewed out for any occasion. One of my favourites was when, in answering audience questions, he corrected the questioner’s ‘mankind’ to ‘personkind’. Or when, on a state visit to India, he dressed in Indian attire not one day but day after day and proceeded to show off his Bollywood dancing skills. But don’t expect any powerful intellect in this man; certainly nothing like his dad’s.
That said, if you have to choose between a really smart left-wing PM dad (who inflicted all sorts of damage on Canada) or the dumber-than-dishwater lefty PM son, whom everyone knows only got the job because of his last name, well give me Dumbo any day. Sure, Justin and the Libs have massively blown out spending in Canada and they’ve done a Pierre-like hatchet job on the oil-producing province of Alberta, but the man is just too inept to be as politically awful as his dad. Many Justin fans will point out that the man is very good looking, as are his wife and kids. So there’s that, especially if your tastes run to Native American tattoos and two-fisted poseurs.
From Canada my wife and I flew to London via Iceland, where we had a two-day stopover. This seemed a good idea when we saw the cheap flights. What I hadn’t reckoned on, stupidly, was that just below the Arctic Circle in early January there are only about three or four hours of sunlight a day. The Gulf Stream ensures Reykjavik isn’t as cold as Toronto, where we’d come from. But it was cloudy and overcast with driving rain for much of the two days so there was no chance to see the northern lights (which are spectacular when you do get to see them).
Still, we saw the famous geyser (through the driving sideways rain and biting wind) and a world class waterfall (through the driving sideways rain and biting wind). We went to Iceland’s oldest natural hot spring bath about an hour out of the capital. Go there and you are lounging in 40 degree water, with the areas where the geothermal water is actually boiling cordoned off. Above the water it’s raining and miserable. In the hot spring bath it’s marvellous. On a day-trip drive you can also fit in a visit to the spot where two tectonic plates are separating, a few centimetres a year. Doesn’t sound like much, I know, but multiply by 250 million years and then go and look at what the earth’s land mass looked like back when the dinosaurs reigned supreme. Plus it’s nifty to think you’re standing over two diverging tectonic plates.
At any rate, it’s now London for my wife and me for the next half year. I’ll be a visitor at a London law school where I expect every single law school academic to be a Remainer. (That’s ‘balance’ in the ABC sense of the word.) I will also be living through the mess that Theresa May, an instinctive Remainer through and through, has made of Brexit. God help the Tories if they sell-out their core voters on Brexit, but it’s looking quite likely.
Expect the odd update or Letter from London over the next few months.