Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Light at last

Sir: I am sorry that Chapman Pincher feels 'blackguarded' at my suggestion that he searched the flower bowls at the Ecu de France for bugs (`Bugs in the banquette', 22 August). As it was apparently the pepperpot which was the source of suspicion, I naturally withdraw the unworthy innuendo.

I always respected Harry. To my mind, it was never his fault that he was embroiled in the fantasy world of spies and counter-spies created by politicians on both sides of the quondam Iron Curtain. Still, it is a consolation for him that at long last he can reveal that there was wholesale bugging at his favourite restaurant. He richly deserves whatever you and the Times, which has reprinted his article, paid him for providing a light at last on the murky world of espionage, even if it comes SO years late.

Ronald Spark

19 The Rotyngs,


E. Sussex

Italian ice

Sir: In his letter of 22 August, Gordon Richdale complains of the coldness shown towards him by Vittorio and Bruno Mussolini when he met them at Christmas 1936. Surely it was simple prudence on their part not to show excessive cordiality towards the representative of a nation that had led the imposition of economic sanctions on Italy one year earlier as a result of the Abyssinian war. As for the Duce's speeches, they were taught at Swiss colleges throughout the Thirties and until 1945 as Ciceronian models of oratory and construction!

Fred Cygax



Early contacts

Sir: I am perplexed by your second leader of 22 August, asserting that the first contact lenses were produced in 1961. In 1959, my family's local optician in Yorkshire despatched me to a specialist, Norman Beer, then of Manchester Street in London. I still remember the reverence with which the optician spoke of Mr Beer, pointing to the many books on contact lenses lining his office, the work of the eminent expert in faraway London.

Mr Beer fitted me with a pair of haptic lenses, a type which covered much of the eye, with a small hole over the cornea to lubricate the surfaces. Seeing properly for the first time in my life, I boxed, parachuted and swam while wearing them, and Mr Beer remained my hero for many years until he emigrated to Israel - I was told due to swingeing UK taxes, though, especially during the early years when I was a cadet at Sandhurst, he was most understanding when my account remained unsettled!

The tailpiece of the story? In 1983, still wearing my haptic lenses, an American eye specialist at Shape, calling his colleagues around him to see such lenses for the first time, advised, You should have been goddamned blind years ago wearing these!' I now wear modern, smaller lenses - in which I cannot swim.

RE. Bland

13 Hamble Street,

London SW6

Gilt complex

Sir: Edward Heathcoat Amory's dismissal of gold (`The Gold Rush in reverse', 22 August) is a trifle abrupt; an obituary is not in order, rather an understanding of its reincarnation.

First, gold's track record is older than Heathcoat Amory allows; the Sumer civilisation produced exquisite gold jewellery by 3000 BC, while in Egypt the splendid treasures of Tutankhamun were created around 1350 BC. To ancient civilisations it was the beauty and rarity of the metal that made it a symbol of wealth and power, and its Latin name, aurum, means `shining dawn'. The Chinese first legalised gold as money in 1091 Bc, but its real status as money was as a benchmark with its price fixed for centuries. In Britain, it was fixed from 1717 until 1931, save for an interlude of floating during the Napoleonic wars, when the Bank of England suspended 'cash' payments in gold against their banknotes, of which, with no restraint, they printed too many. The news of Napoleon's escape from Elba in 1851 pushed the London price from L4.6s.6d per troy ounce toL5.7s.0d.

Such volatility was rare. People bought gold for its price stability as a tangible asset when their currency or country was under siege. …

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