A Very Peculiar Choice – PATRICK BRIGHAM LIVE

I have been strangely quiet over the Christmas holiday, New Year and my birthday in January, but having now returned home to Greece from London, I have a few final remarks to make about Brexit, and the moral decline of the political classes in the House of Commons. I won’t go over old grounds – my views are very clear – but why do people like Theresa May and her cohorts, continue to insult the intelligence of the British MPs? Unless she is a good judge of character, and they are really quite stupid, what is so terrible about remaining in the European Union, and of openly discussing it?

I have likened it to a very short play, called A Very Peculiar Choice:-

I have watched the debate in Parliament with interest, and in each and every speech, either for or against PM Mays horrifying EU draft agreement, none have had the guts to try and kick it into touch, despite Party whips, mandates or policies. They all seem to want to engage in elegant and contrived rhetoric, where their thin and ambiguous words, hardly touch the sides. Are they all jobs-worths?

In or out of the horrid deal, does not mean the end of life as we know it, it means UK stays where it is in the EU, and to prosper as before. Before we had to listen to speculative, mendacious, and the downright lies of certain politicians – excluding Michael Gove who seems to have a brass neck – who seem to have gone away on holiday; and if they had any sense at all, would bloody well stay there.

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On To The Next Book – PATRICK BRIGHAM LIVE

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Autumn is nearly over in Northern Greece, the signs of winter are approaching, and I now have to light my pellet stove in the evening, to keep warm. But that is not the only change, because once again as an author, I am moving away from my usual murder mystery genre with another stand-alone novel, and into the realms of literary fiction. Why the change, I should explain?

I had a life before moving to South Eastern Europe, and I had a life before I moved to London in the 70s. In fact, when I seriously started writing in the late 80s, I believed that the past was all there was. My then warts and all novel was to be about my early life, a rather haphazard marriage, the tragedy of an early divorce, the consequence of near bankruptcy, and my ultimate comeback.

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As a young man, it was hard enough for me to deal with all these problems then, but later on it became even harder for me to write about it; I was still far too close. This all happened nearly forty years ago, well before my first attempt at this cathartic novel, which I fondly imagined was going to knock the world of publishing dead. But then I put it away, filed it under the past, and then promptly forgot about it.

Recently opening a bulging box file, having first removed the dust and cobwebs, I rediscovered the early attempt of my great novel, only to find that – far from being cathartic and serious – it was rather funny. From the typed foxed pages, there seemed to be a very little tragedy in my early life, just change. Through the consoling prism of maturity, it now transpires that things which once hurt me, now only amuse me. ‘Did that really happen? What a fool I must have been?’

What was good, was to rediscover strong characterization, and even a good plot. After all, it was my fictionalized history, so there must have an element of truth in it, although, my warts and all prospectus seemed very little like the new me. Perhaps, after all,  the book is about misplaced ambition, youthful endeavour, romantic fantasy, jealousy, rage and intrigue? Or maybe, it is a book that explains how we all feel when we are young, fall in love and make mistakes. I will ask you again in a few months time when it is finished!

The Meddlesome Mr Khashoggi – PATRICK BRIGHAM LIVE

 

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In Jean Anouilh original stage play Becket: The Honour of God, and ultimately his 1964 film – with Peter O’Toole as Norman, King Henery II and Richard Burton as Saxon, Archbishop Thomas O’ Becket – it describes how two young men; who as inseparable friends, in later life become enemies.

The secular versus the Catholic Church, Mr Fixit Thomas, has turned into The Church of Romes henchman, by aligning himself with the Pope against Henry, and against his disagreements with Rome. Surely an analogy with present Saudi royalty; in Anouilh’s script, Henry – who still harbours great affection for his onetime cohort and drinking companion, Thomas – says in desperation: “Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?”

More a rhetorical question than an order, it is enough to encourage some dimwitted Norman Barons to go to Canterbury Catedral, where they butcher Archbishop Thomas. Full of regret, and in the final scene Henry has himself flogged by Saxon monks, in retribution for causing the death of his friend.

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Hardly a flogging matter in Saudi Arabia, and to misquote William Shakespeare, one wonders whether ‘heads will now roll,” as these two historical incidents seem to coalesce, despite the passage of time.

I cannot understand why these incompetent assassins went to all the trouble they did to kill Jamal Khashoggi in this brutal way, when a swift stab wound with a stiletto in a car park or a muffled pistol shot, would have been far more effective; unless of course, they were acting under direct orders. But, under the direct orders of whom; an idiot?

Other than a general comment about Saudi freedom of speech, women’s rights, the ownership of property and assets, the marriage and divorce laws, and who gets the kids – most of which is sacred and established in our modern western society – it is hard to say why Khashoggi offended the Saudi state so much. Many western journalists are also concerned by certain inequalities in Saudi Arabia, a country where little value is put on servants and indentured workers – many who are treated like slaves – but we western journalists don’t seem to get bumped off.

All bad? Yes, but it is not news to anyone who has taken an iota of interest in the Middle East, or since reading TE Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom at school. I expect that the reason for this bloody murder was more tribal than anything else, and getting back to Laurence, it was probably an infringement of some obscure Arab moral code.

In the foreseeable future, and established by Arab custom, there will be a fairly unjust court case, where the minor players will be harshly punished. The major instigators will be severely admonished, whilst forced to pay huge amounts in blood money to the Khashoggi’s family – who in turn will profit greatly from Jamal’s death – and without a hint of sorrow or regret, it will all have been wrapped up neatly and forgotten about!

My Random Road to Sofia 2 – PATRICK BRIGHAM LIVE

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THOSE WERE THE DAYS!

Part 2

A few years had passed by since my first visit to Sofia, but not a lot had changed by the time I arrived in 1993, together with permanent residence in mind. Although everyone seemed welcoming, there remained an ominous doubt in my thoughts about the wisdom of my move, even though the smiles of my hosts seemed genuine enough. A lot had happened between my first visit to Bulgaria in 1985, including my marriage in London – to the daughter of a noted Bulgarian Communist philosopher –  and my addition to her family, which could only be described as ‘The Red Bourgeoisie.’ In the past, whole university departments had been named after this academic family, which even to this day is viewed with considerable respect despite the changes in the political landscape and its constant photoshop alterations.

Five years of marriage had not been an easy matter in London, as the contrasts in our cultural backgrounds morphed into daily annoyance, and frustration. You don’t have to be a creative genius to notice the disappointments which occur when people have exaggerated expectations; which was something that Ksenia obviously had. With great swaths of glowing translated references; from many well known Sofia university factions, they were viewed with disdain by the then British authorities, and contemptuously put to one side.

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First Introductions 

Much to do with years of propaganda on either side of the so-called ‘iron curtain,’ UK academia was totally unprepared to accept her glowing references, as she also was with their often unfounded and arrogant attitude. And so, despite many attempts – and even knowing the presiding Professor of Slavonic Studies at the University of London – she had to be content with teaching French to four-year-olds, as her only viable means of employment.

Rejection, and the frustration of being academically stymied, it wasn’t long before she chose to return home to Sofia, to try and reclaim the remnants of her previous life, her university career, and her love of English and American literature. And my disappointment?

Because – by the way, this story is supposed to be about me – mine was the usual naive response that you might expect from anybody who has felt used in some way, and – as bad for my ego as it might have been – unfortunately, I had to accept that from the beginning, my presence in London must have seemed very convenient indeed.

This was when I became just a little less forthright in my thinking, and when I was determined to get to grips with the so-called changes in Eastern Europe and to get something from these changes for myself.

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Hot on the trail for the Sofia Western News magazine

Having let my London flat, and with the assistance of my trusty Series Three Landrover, I decided to move along the Thames to Wallingford, where I kept a small caravan, and spent a few delightful months there, until such time that I felt up to towing my caravan to Bulgaria; which I did one bright September morning in 1993.

It was difficult to totally predict how my presence in Bulgaria would be viewed, due to an understandable ambivalence, but Ksenia’s mother seemed fond of me, and so on arrival in Sofia late one night, I was greeted with some enthusiasm. By then  I was rather tired, due to the condition of roads in Bulgaria – which in those days were almost medieval – and driving at night was quite horrifying.

An argument with a border official didn’t help my frame of mind much. He behaved so absurdly – and clearly bent on humiliating another detested bloody foreigner – I began to doubt my good judgment of going there in the first place. But by mocking this twerp, I reduced the other weary travellers to hopeless laughter when I locked my vehicle, and told him that I was going to walk to Romania – leaving my jeep and caravan blocking the entrance to this dark peoples republic – in order to use the other entrance.

Self-important moron’s don’t like being laughed at, and this one became so agitated that he jumped up and down like a child when I refused to move. The argument – about a fee due in order to use the dreadful Bulgarian roads – I finally agreed on a sum in Swedish Krona, by exchanging some local cash with a fellow motorist. Welcome to Bulgaria? It didn’t seem very welcoming to me.

What’s Happening in The Balkans? – PATRICK BRIGHAM LIVE

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Bulgarian President Ruman Radev

A reader of The Balkan News Magazine, recently remarked that the magazine doesn’t seem to have much to say about the Balkans. The BNM is a continuous magazine and added to as time permits, it also reflects the lack of news, or perhaps you may not have noticed? Unlike the EU or America, where things seem to happen in abundance, Balkan news is mainly about long forgotten promises, and a strange 21st century phenomenon called Macro Economics. Often quoted by professional pundits in the Balkans, where an improvement in the Macro-Economic forecast for the region really means that very little is actually happening at all, it remains a good old journalistic standby.

Bulgarian President, and retired Bulgarian Air Force General, Ruman Radev recently stated – “Today, hundreds of thousands of Bulgarians live in poverty and social exclusion. They are placed in humiliating conditions unable to meet their basic human needs.”

Announced by President Radev when he opened a discussion with more than 60 representatives of  business, trade unions, and the academic community – former ministers, and Presidential Secretaries – it was called, “Inequities and Poverty In Bulgaria.”

Probably of little interest to many expats living in Bulgaria; because Bulgaria is well known to be the poorest member of the European Union, he made an important statement to Bulgaria – and to the wider EU – which could affect the very future of Europe, especially in the knowledge that Vladimir Putin is not far away.

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There is only one thing worse than being a failure in the Balkans, and that is being a success, and whilst foreigners pontificate about the dearth of news, they might dwell for a moment on the drivel which appears daily in the yellow press, and the sort of news on offer. You see, Balkan people frequently like to push each other’s heads down, and the how and why this is actually achieved doesn’t really matter.

Well, it is a cross between Trump’s seedy view of politics, and partly a hangover from Communism, together with its well-founded conspiracy theories. Not to mention squabbling politicians and their gangster friends, a large helping of treachery and of course the usual plethora of unfounded lies. A good read? Hardly!

As one view’s – as I have for some thirty years – the metamorphosis of the Balkans one might easily imagine that one was observing Dante’s Inferno and the antics of the Devils Children. But we are not, because it is how the people of South Eastern Europe have had to live forever.

Many Balkan people have given up their hopes for a better future, because, since the changes in 1990, they have seen little improvement in their lives. Okay, things look better, and there are plenty of places for foreigners to go for entertainment – or even a bit of “How’s Yer Father” if that’s their wish – but most ordinary Balkan people have to rely entirely on themselves to get by.

The old Communist-era maxim – “the government pretends to pay us, we pretend to work, and we all steal the rest – has a great deal of truth in it, and there are many leftovers from the past that an expat might miss, one of which is the total lack of information. And that dear readers, is because everything in the Balkans is a secret!

Why The Dance of Dimitrios? – PATRICK BRIGHAM LIVE

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The old man Dimitrios is a flawed character in many respects, but while his riverside café is treated with derision by the local village people, he seems to have more love and compassion running through his veins, than most others. Eccentric, and perhaps a little mad, his dreams clearly embody the true soul of Greece; a fast disappearing and caring world, as well as an abiding memory of his beloved wife Marta. With his dreams intact, and by discovering the English woman’s floating corpse in the river, he walks the reader into a murder story involving various police forces, as well as the UK’s secret service, and MI6.

My story is initially about a ‘floored’ cash-strapped nation, racked with corruption, and suffering from the blight of illegal immigration. Far more than the puny Greek government can cope with, or the European Union for that matter – which has largely turned its back to Greece – the devil seems to be in the details, most of which have been conveniently ignored.

A case of mistaken identity like no other, Majory Braithwaits body has been cast into a communal grave. Believed to be just one more Islamic casualty dragged from the River Ardas, and treated like many other nameless people found drowned, she is swiftly forgotten about. Sargeant Electra Boulos, on the other hand, is a little bit more conscientious than her colleagues. Discovering some matching fingerprints, she is able to identify the English woman and to open up a complicated new and revealing case for DCI Michael Lambert and Europol.

“With arms held out straight, his fingers clicking, his face stern and full of the emotion which only Greek men can truly display when they weep, Dimitrios Pantzos would slowly twirl, jump and spin amongst the assorted tables and chairs, and in so doing he would reverently display the deep and painful loss he felt for his beloved Marta, and pray that one day they would finally be reunited in heaven.”

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Feel Left Out and Impotent? – PATRICK BRIGHAM LIVE

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“A Disastrous Brexit but which one is Boris?”

One of the remarkable things about Brexit is the way that expats in the Balkans follow the official British Foreign Office line, and accept willy-nilly the often conflicting statements made to local British Embassy’s, by their masters in London. Although, under orders from Whitehall or Westminster, these embassies are clearly bound to announce these proclamations worldwide.

The question is, are these edicts really official, or worse still, are they just a lot of random and glib announcements, trickling out of some cynical Tory press office? Finally, are these statements simply a report of some forgettable debate in Parliament, where desperate ministers have made ridiculous promises, in order to maintain their public image?

Patriotism is a good thing, but in my experience – and in the Balkans generally – many British expats become so attached to their local embassy, that they confuse objective thought, with loyalty to embassy friends and acquaintances, who have become part of their social life. It is almost as though, despite moving their lives and homes abroad, they are still living in Midsomer Naughton, and relying on the ‘Mendip Post,’ to provide them with facts concerning important political change. Or, will they be invited to the next, ‘Queens Birthday Bash,’ that is always another good question?

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This happens quite often in countries where expats congregate after retirement or are in expat employment, and especially now that Brexit has become a major consideration. On which account, they might well be concerned with what Mr Michel Barnier or Mr Junker may have to say, and to watch Euronews, instead of some absurd report on the BBC, unless of course, they are still recovering from a love tryst with Bojo – a habitual philanderer and liar.

As a long-term expat, I have often wondered why some people even leave the UK – other than for their love of sex, sand, and Sangria – and especially now, when this Tory government is intent of putting the wind up their own nationals. As pensions deplete, due to a fall in the Pound, these bozo’s seem quite happy that two million Brits living abroad have no place in their argument, other than a trivializing remark about British goods and services being cheaper. And whilst expats may have been past taxpayers, who have obviously worked hard in order to retire abroad, it seems they are not worth mentioning at all.

Who is Running The UK? – PATRICK BRIGHAM LIVE

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I see the Pound has fallen again today and is now valued at 1.13 GBP to the Euro. Just about every pundit knows that this is caused by the disastrous Brexit negotiations, and therefore the responsibility of the present Tory government. Tories, always at the helm of a floundering ship, when disaster strikes – read Ted Heath, Margaret Thatcher, and now Theresa May – I find it very hard to understand why people continue to support this myopic Prime Minister, and her disastrous policies. Now she is claiming that Brexit is 95% done? True, or not true, this is a statement of fiction and meant to calm rough waters. What happened to, “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed?”

If you forget all the brinkmanship, and the endlessly encouraging statements, made by past and present cabinet ministers – quite a long list of forgettable individuals by the way – it might seem that the current quality required in order to become a potential minister of state, is catatonic amnesia. Being in denial is one thing, but is ignoring the truth; to the extent and degree that the current Tory cabinet has managed to do, simply due to downright carelessness?

Pompous, self important, and lost in a cloud of their own rhetoric, should these party stalwarts be held responsible for what they say? We are all aware that a certain American president has devalued the currency of truth to a resounding zero, but Brits do not have to follow his example.

The problem now is, that politics has superseded all reasonable governmental checks and balances, to the point where running Great Britain PLC has become a kind of secondary back story. But why has this happened?

The roots of the British theatre are to be found in the church, the law courts, and Parliament. The House of Commons is one of the few places, where individuals can remain uncensored for spouting off irrelevant, unprovable, and misleading drivel, without the possibility of being cautioned by the odd rotten egg, ripe tomato, or turnip. And the confusion does not stop there, because during the past two years, and mainly due to Brexit, the British nation has been subjected to so much political rumpus, that the nation does not know if it is standing on its head or its heels; nor the truth.

But what is becoming very clear, is that the country is suffering, British business is ‘losing’ confidence – largely reflected in recent official statistics, and a Bank of England report – and although the falling Pound is good for some, for others it is a living nightmare. So, why not resign Theresa May; have a new election, put some fresh faces on the negotiators bench, and organize a referendum?

“No, I am afraid that would never do!”

Clinging on to power is a vanity issue. Calling it democracy; based almost entirely on lies and innuendo, it is clearly no longer people’s wish to pursue a tragic and destructive Brexit. Partly due to the whim of cotton tops suffering from commonwealth nostalgia – and the tribal instincts of hardcore Tory Brexit supporters – it baffles me that these people can remain so delusional, when black country UKIP supporters have completely changed their minds.

Is it something to do with appearing to be middle class? Are the home county views of the English to be honed into some sort of political psychosis by a bunch of obsessive, and incompetent Westminster political gnomes?

Perhaps Michel Barnier is right, and the UK has finally reached the status of a small country? You know what they say?

Little countries and little people, think everything is a big deal!

 

Why Judas Goat? – PATRICK BRIGHAM LIVE

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The Judas Goat, is a well trained goat, who leads lambs to their slaughter. In central and eastern Europe, sheepherders often have mixed herds, because the goat is quite a clever animal, and sheep; being rather stupid, are inclined to follow them. And people can also play this part, and lead others to their doom. Especially if their victims are greedy, selfish and vain – imagining themselves far too powerful to be manipulated – and bigger mugs than they think.

In my book Judas Goat: The Kennet Narrow Boat Mystery, just such a thing happens. It begins with the discovery of a dead man on a narrow boat, sitting in a Loyd Loom caned chair, staring into oblivion, and ends with the daylight assassination of a Chinese merchant banker on the streets of London. Why? Because this is a story about arms dealing!

Not about gun running, which is a much lesser crime, but – involving millions of dollars in international trade – the arms deals which I write about, go under the radar every day, and involve politicians, disreputable banks, and the scum of the earth.

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And, although fictionalized, my story is also based in fact, because it involved the then president of Peru, president Fujimori, and his cohorts. In my book Judas Goat, I fictionalize the purchase of a squadron of defunct MIG 29s – although only one of them flew and that crashed – and a consignment of small arms for the then FARC terrorists in Ecuador. But all is not well, because DCI Michael Lambert is on the case.

There is nothing glamorous about arms dealing, although in the past Hollywood has sought to make it a nice little box office earner, with a Nicholas Cage film. However, I assure you, that any excitement there is to be had, is likely to be in the offices of a Merchant Bank. That description alone is enough to explain how most of these deals are done, because Merchant Bankers are all barter traders, and very often money doesn’t even change hands.You could be eating the proceeds of an arms deal in your lunchtime sandwich, who knows, or in your morning Cafe Latte? This is because merchant banks need to be involved in this dirty trade simply because of the large sums of money involved.

Do these noble merchant bankers sleep well at night? Well, ask the Rothschilds? One side of the family financed Napoleon and the French Republic, and the other side financed the Duke of Wellington and the United Kingdom, so what do you think?

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Judicial Review A Play – PATRICK BRIGHAM LIVE

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Plays are a way for writers to shout at the world, but if people won’t listen to what you have to say, that is another matter. For a while you have an audience’s undivided attention, and if you lose it, not only is it your fault, but the actors and producer’s fault too. This is because, although you may have physically captured some willing theatre goers for an hour and a half, you may well not have captured their hearts and minds.

That’s the hard bit. As many playwrights have discovered, it is not simply about challenging a tired businessman or a harassed housewife’s intellect during an evening’s performance, because you have to entertain them too! Whilst the actors suspend disbelief, and occupy the audience’s attention on stage, the playwright has to tinker with people’s prejudices, and open doors which ordinary theatre goers might not wish to be opened. You can do this by being terribly famous – Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Bernard Shaw, Anton Chekhov, and Samuel Becket – or you can write a play, and play tricks.

In my play Judicial Review, it starts with a court scene where the accused Sir Jerald Noakes is being sentenced. He fraudulently acquired a 50 million GBP fortune through insider dealing, and has been found guilty. A very up-to-date crime, you might say?

And, you might also be forgiven for a casual yawn – as if you were reading the Daily Telegraph in bed on a Sunday morning, with a nice cup of tea – but in this case you are not. You are awaiting sentence to be passed on a smug and self satisfied pillar of society, who has been caught out.

In my play, the fictional characters are living during a time of Private Prisons, where the wealthy are allowed to pay for their own imprisonment, and even to attach some unusual conditions, especially concerning conjugal visits.  Of course, there are added tax advantages, which have to be agreed in court, together with the location of his desired prison. Sir Jerald elects to be imprisoned at La Collonette Prison on the borders of Switzerland, and to suffer skiing; amongst other demeaning punishments, at his own additional expense.

More like a private club than a criminal court, you might say, but then we then move onto the actors themselves, who, in rehearsal, seem somewhat baffled at the contents of the play, and are looking for explanations. They are an assorted lot and pretty left wing as well. Sponsored by a Socialist Workers group, the rehearsal is taking place in a theatre within the Reading University campus.

Sir Jerald is played by a somewhat aging gay, Lady Noakes, by a tattooed lesbian, Noakes’ posh upper class barrister is played by a Jewish actor, His Lordship Judge Cohen is a West Indian actor, and the playwright, Liam McInerney, is a seething, dyspeptic socialist from Northern Ireland. So suddenly, in scene two, the audience has quite a lot to think about.

Of course the actors hate the parts they are playing. But as time goes by, the audience  also starts to become confused. As mounting angst is portrayed on stage, and the accusations – mainly centred on greed, money and expensive possessions – bandied about, we see the characters of the actors and their parts gradually begin to merge. Lady Noakes, who usually wears a twin set and pearls, and is a frightfully upper class, suddenly appears in a performance wearing ripped jeans, Doc Martins, and smoking a roll-up. Is it all going haywire?

In the end, we discover the posh self satisfied City mogul is dying, and seeking recognition for his life’s work, all he finds is deceit and contempt. His business associates turn against him, and patronize him, because he is becoming weaker by the day. But redemption is at hand, because Sir Jerald has a ‘cunning plan,’ via which he can die in peace, and by turning his personal fortune to the public good, he achieves some kind of revenge on his tormentors – his dreadful grasping family – and the unfeeling predators he has been feeding for most of his business life.

What is the moral of this play? It is simply that if we were all willingly cloned to some preconceived idea of what is normal, there would be no conflict in our society. And if one was to move that unlikely condition to encapsulate the world, peace would reign supreme. But, of course it doesn’t. Or does it?

Remember, I wrote this play long before LGBT consensus, including characters who would in their early life have been the subject of prejudice and scorn, and even – at the time – the British courts too, although not for fraud, and one has to remember that!

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