My Former Employer Was Investigated By MI5 For Links To Alestair Crowley & Occultism

Endlessly Amazed

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Krepostnoi: "I've got an old school friend who's made a very successful career in the FCO (or whatever they call it these days). Put it this way, he's not yet 50, and he's already an ambassador. But he's had to be very careful about his contacts, and he made the decision not to continue a particular relationship with someone who was otherwise absolutely fantastic for him on every level because a couple of aspects of her biography would have combined to become career stoppers for him."

The first time I ran across this type of situation was in Laurence Durrell's "The Alexandria Quartet" 40 years ago. Oddly enough, it made me think deeply about the type of person who would make decisions about a personal relationship based on how it would appear to a third party in order to support career decisions. Also, how I would react to that situation, and how I would react to a person who made personal choices based on calculating the ramifications to a job.

Even though Durrell was an alcoholic, and was pretty unpleasant in some of his personal relationships, I think he captured the introspection of careerists perfectly. The Alexandria Quartet was the best of Durrell's writings, I think. Nothing else he wrote, in either poetry or prose, came close. For close to 30 years, I reread the entire Quartet annually to remind myself of the transformative nature of love.
 

Cherrybomb

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Very interesting, thank you for sharing!
 

Krepostnoi

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Oddly enough, it made me think deeply about the type of person who would make decisions about a personal relationship based on how it would appear to a third party in order to support career decisions. Also, how I would react to that situation, and how I would react to a person who made personal choices based on calculating the ramifications to a job.
Well, yes, quite. I will certainly concede that I am very glad I did not attempt to pursue a similar career. For all kinds of reasons, to be honest, but foremost among them the fact that there is plenty in my life partner's biography to raise all kinds of red flags (and I use the term advisedly) for an employer like that. I've commented in the sliding doors thread that, when there have been potential conflicts between my work and my domestic life, the choice has always seemed obvious to me.

Incidentally, I have the Alexandria Quartet somewhere in my TBR pile. I've never read any of Laurence's work, but I am a huge, huge fan of his younger brother's Corfu trilogy, even in the full knowledge that, where the facts were in conflict with a good story, he chose the story not the facts. To return to the broader theme, though, I'm also put in mind of the narrator in C P Snow's extraordinary "Strangers and Brothers" sequence, who appears to treat his wife like the first Mrs Rochester, for not dissimilar reasons to those we have been discussing.
 

escargot

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A friend of mine has worked for a couple of different govt. agencies (not MI5 but related). Once his team were staking out an apartment block as they were investigating one of the residents. My friend and a colleague were in the back of a van wearing headphones and recording updates from a third colleague who was wearing a microphone and posing as a homeless guy outside the building. The "homeless" guy would update them with "Female, late 60's, grey hair, blue trouser suit, waiting for a cab" etc. On this one occasion he fed back "White male, 50's or 60's, five ten tall, slim, black hair approaching". Anything else? "Tanned, wearing a blazer and chinos". Anything else? "Yes. It's Lionel Blair. Lionel Blair is entering the building". Apparently they lost it completely in the van and almost had to call the operation off because they were laughing so much
:chuckle: Lionel would have LOVED to hear that! :cool:
 

Endlessly Amazed

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Well, yes, quite. I will certainly concede that I am very glad I did not attempt to pursue a similar career. For all kinds of reasons, to be honest, but foremost among them the fact that there is plenty in my life partner's biography to raise all kinds of red flags (and I use the term advisedly) for an employer like that. I've commented in the sliding doors thread that, when there have been potential conflicts between my work and my domestic life, the choice has always seemed obvious to me.

Incidentally, I have the Alexandria Quartet somewhere in my TBR pile. I've never read any of Laurence's work, but I am a huge, huge fan of his younger brother's Corfu trilogy, even in the full knowledge that, where the facts were in conflict with a good story, he chose the story not the facts. To return to the broader theme, though, I'm also put in mind of the narrator in C P Snow's extraordinary "Strangers and Brothers" sequence, who appears to treat his wife like the first Mrs Rochester, for not dissimilar reasons to those we have been discussing.
Well, here am I getting off-track again. This is my fate in life as I was blessed by the off-track fairy in my christening.
I now have the Corfu books in my TBR pile! I have not read the "Strangers and Brothers" but will put in in the TBR pile. (I recommend the Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Ryss - it is the biography of the first Mrs. Rochester.)

Back to Lawrence Durrell: below is my favorite poem by him, with my italicizing the part that still makes me cry.

A PORTRAIT OF THEODORA
I recall her by a freckle of gold
In the pupil of one eye, an odd
Strawberry-gold: and after many years
Of forgetting that musical body –
Arms too long, wrists too slender –
Remember only the unstable wishes
Disquieting the flesh. I will not
Deny her pomp was laughable, urban:
Behind it one could hear the sad
Provincial laughter rotted by insomnia.

None of these meetings are planned,
I guess, or willed by the exemplars
Of a city’s love – a city founded in
The name of love: to me is always
Brown face, white teeth, cheap summer frock
In green and white stripes and then
Forever a strawberry-eye. I recalled no more
For years. The eye was lying in wait.

Then in another city from the same
Twice-used air and sheets, in the midst
Of a parting: the same dark bedroom,
Arctic chamber-pot and cruel iron bed,
I saw the street-lamp unpick Theodora
Like an old sweater, unwrinkle eyes and mouth,
Unbandaging her youth to let me see
The wounds I had not understood before.
 
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escargot

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Krepostnoi: "I've got an old school friend who's made a very successful career in the FCO (or whatever they call it these days). Put it this way, he's not yet 50, and he's already an ambassador. But he's had to be very careful about his contacts, and he made the decision not to continue a particular relationship with someone who was otherwise absolutely fantastic for him on every level because a couple of aspects of her biography would have combined to become career stoppers for him."

The first time I ran across this type of situation was in Laurence Durrell's "The Alexandria Quartet" 40 years ago. Oddly enough, it made me think deeply about the type of person who would make decisions about a personal relationship based on how it would appear to a third party in order to support career decisions. Also, how I would react to that situation, and how I would react to a person who made personal choices based on calculating the ramifications to a job.

Even though Durrell was an alcoholic, and was pretty unpleasant in some of his personal relationships, I think he captured the introspection of careerists perfectly. The Alexandria Quartet was the best of Durrell's writings, I think. Nothing else he wrote, in either poetry or prose, came close. For close to 30 years, I reread the entire Quartet annually to remind myself of the transformative nature of love.

Ah, that paragon Lawrence Durrell, whose daughter Sappho killed herself in 1985 at the age of 33. After her father's death it was revealed that her diaries implicated her father in what was politely called an 'incestuous affair'. What we'd now recognise as longterm sexual abuse.
 

Endlessly Amazed

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Ah, that paragon Lawrence Durrell, whose daughter Sappho killed herself in 1985 at the age of 33. After her father's death it was revealed that her diaries implicated her father in what was politely called an 'incestuous affair'. What we'd now recognise as longterm sexual abuse.
Yes. Quite a "paragon." Durrell and Picasso were the two artists whose works and lives really forced me to think about the separation of work I liked from artists whose lives I despised. Dali. Reifenstahl. Caravaggio..... Escargot, what does my favorite snail think of The Alexandrian Quartet? I found it extraordinary.
 

IbisNibs

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They probably did. Found out you were a snail, and that was that.
And someone who often lost her pants for no explicable reason(s).
Forget "what do you think of The Alexandrian Quartet"! I want to know what kind of pants a gastropod can wear and lose!

(Oh, Endlessly Amazed! You and I both are blessed by the off-track fairy!)
 

escargot

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Oddly enough, it made me think deeply about the type of person who would make decisions about a personal relationship based on how it would appear to a third party in order to support career decisions. Also, how I would react to that situation, and how I would react to a person who made personal choices based on calculating the ramifications to a job.
This is one of the great themes of literature and drama: how badly things can go if we discard the wrong people. :wink2:
Ebenezer Scrooge is your man here.
 

PeteS

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Which these days effectively means you don't exist at all.
I don't do soshul meedya (except forums), don't have a smart phone or credit cards and generally post retirement keep a very low profile. In my occasional flights of fantasy, I do wonder whether these are some of the reasons I'm targeted by authorities for these "investigations" previously mentioned. Only yesterday I received a letter from an authority addressed to me but at a completely different address (which I don't think exists anyway). How it got delivered to me must be down to the postmen recognizing the name. It's all a bit bizarre at the moment.
 

Krepostnoi

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I have not read the "Strangers and Brothers" but will put in in the TBR pile.
Hmm, please don't take my use of the adjective "extraordinary" as a recommendation, exactly. The narrator is curiously devoid of affect, even when he is discussing, say, a suicidal friend's decision to volunteer as aircrew in Bomber Command on the basis of the huge losses suffered by that branch of the service. Maybe I should revisit it myself. Having said that, I am much more intrigued by The Wide Sargasso Sea, so thank you for that suggestion.
 

Frideswide

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Hmm, please don't take my use of the adjective "extraordinary" as a recommendation, exactly. The narrator is curiously devoid of affect, even when he is discussing, say, a suicidal friend's decision to volunteer as aircrew in Bomber Command on the basis of the huge losses suffered by that branch of the service. Maybe I should revisit it myself. Having said that, I am much more intrigued by The Wide Sargasso Sea, so thank you for that suggestion.

You want to be careful mate or someone will think you can exibit empathy. And we both know that Is Not Allowed! :p
 

Endlessly Amazed

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Forget "what do you think of The Alexandrian Quartet"! I want to know what kind of pants a gastropod can wear and lose!

(Oh, Endlessly Amazed! You and I both are blessed by the off-track fairy!)
Our gastropod wears French panties (you know the kind....)
 

WeirdExeter

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Dorothy Payne Whitney Straight inherited $432 million (2020 equivalent) when she was 17. Not bad.
We were always told that she was the wealthiest unmarried woman in America at that time. Her father had being Secretary to the Navy i was told that the amount spent on the Darlington estate restoration and development was an estimated £80-100 million.

Her wealth filtered down the generations and one of her daughters bought the Sharpham Estate, a few miles from Darlington:

https://sharpham.com/about-us-sharpham-vineyard-dairy/

A fascinating family, this was her son:

http://www.exetermemories.co.uk/em/_people/straight.php

“In 1934 he decided to form his own Grand Prix team racing Maseratis painted in the blue and white colours of the USA. He finished 7th in the Monaco GP but went on to achieve victories in the Donnington Park Trophy, the Brooklands Mountain race and the inaugural South African GP at East London”

“Straight now turned to aviation and set up a company, the Straight Corporation, which built and developed airports of which Exeter was one, and which he personally managed. He became a British citizen and prior to World War II joined the RAF. He was seriously injured during the Norway campaign in 1940 but recovered sufficiently to take part in the latter stages of the Battle of Britain. Straight’s 601 squadron flying Hurricanes, (known as the Millionaires Squadron as Max Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook’s son was also a member) was posted to Exeter in September 1940, so he returned to the airfield he had once operated. On 12th December 1940 he shot down a Heinkel bomber while on patrol from Exeter. In all he claimed four enemy aircraft destroyed and shared another with a fellow pilot.”
 

Zeke Newbold

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The first time I ran across this type of situation was in Laurence Durrell's "The Alexandria Quartet" 40 years ago. Oddly enough, it made me think deeply about the type of person who would make decisions about a personal relationship based on how it would appear to a third party in order to support career decisions. Also, how I would react to that situation, and how I would react to a person who made personal choices based on calculating the ramifications to a job.
Sorry to keep this thread off topic...but, Lawrence Durrell!? Seriously!?

I find this writer to be risible!

Okay, The Black Book is pretty interesting. It is full of youthful rawness and honesty about life (and is clearly influenced by Henry Miller) but his later stuff.... perlease! Precious, delicate effete and full of `Oh-look-at moi- - how well travelled -and-cultured -am-I-ness` and all the while oozing wine rentier and candelabra privilege from every pore.

If you want to read a good, insolent skit on writers of his variety then check out Kingsley Amis's third novel I like It Here. (!958).

In this a youngish literature lecturer is given an assignment by his publishers to surreptitiously snoot around an ageing Mandarin novelist living in Portugal, who could be guilty of plagiarism (who seems to be at least partly, based on Durrell). The story is a bit touch and go - but we are treated to some delicious excerpts from the Great Novelists writings which are fun to behold.

A bit later on another novelist would have a satirical potshot at Lawrence with his `Excerpts from the Fifth Installment of the Alexandria Quartet` More lampooning of his high-faluting style crimes.

I suspect you have to be British to fully get all this though.

Now C.P Snow on the other hand is a very underrated nowadays. I'd say the one to read by him is The Malcontents (1972).
 

Floyd1

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We were always told that she was the wealthiest unmarried woman in America at that time. Her father had being Secretary to the Navy i was told that the amount spent on the Darlington estate restoration and development was an estimated £80-100 million.

Her wealth filtered down the generations and one of her daughters bought the Sharpham Estate, a few miles from Darlington:

https://sharpham.com/about-us-sharpham-vineyard-dairy/

A fascinating family, this was her son:

http://www.exetermemories.co.uk/em/_people/straight.php

“In 1934 he decided to form his own Grand Prix team racing Maseratis painted in the blue and white colours of the USA. He finished 7th in the Monaco GP but went on to achieve victories in the Donnington Park Trophy, the Brooklands Mountain race and the inaugural South African GP at East London”

“Straight now turned to aviation and set up a company, the Straight Corporation, which built and developed airports of which Exeter was one, and which he personally managed. He became a British citizen and prior to World War II joined the RAF. He was seriously injured during the Norway campaign in 1940 but recovered sufficiently to take part in the latter stages of the Battle of Britain. Straight’s 601 squadron flying Hurricanes, (known as the Millionaires Squadron as Max Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook’s son was also a member) was posted to Exeter in September 1940, so he returned to the airfield he had once operated. On 12th December 1940 he shot down a Heinkel bomber while on patrol from Exeter. In all he claimed four enemy aircraft destroyed and shared another with a fellow pilot.”
Brilliant.
 

Endlessly Amazed

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Sorry to keep this thread off topic...but, Lawrence Durrell!? Seriously!?

I find this writer to be risible!

Okay, The Black Book is pretty interesting. It is full of youthful rawness and honesty about life (and is clearly influenced by Henry Miller) but his later stuff.... perlease! Precious, delicate effete and full of `Oh-look-at moi- - how well travelled -and-cultured -am-I-ness` and all the while oozing wine rentier and candelabra privilege from every pore.

If you want to read a good, insolent skit on writers of his variety then check out Kingsley Amis's third novel I like It Here. (!958).

In this a youngish literature lecturer is given an assignment by his publishers to surreptitiously snoot around an ageing Mandarin novelist living in Portugal, who could be guilty of plagiarism (who seems to be at least partly, based on Durrell). The story is a bit touch and go - but we are treated to some delicious excerpts from the Great Novelists writings which are fun to behold.

A bit later on another novelist would have a satirical potshot at Lawrence with his `Excerpts from the Fifth Installment of the Alexandria Quartet` More lampooning of his high-faluting style crimes.

I suspect you have to be British to fully get all this though.

Now C.P Snow on the other hand is a very underrated nowadays. I'd say the one to read by him is The Malcontents (1972).
Zeke Newbold, thank you for your kind suggestions for better British colonialist and post-colonialist literature. I have an unsophisticated literature palate (I have no middle-class sensibilities), fortunately, and so will continue to find Lawrence Durrell meaningful. I found his poking fun at his own over-the-top prose to be funny and charming. And, of course, he introduced readers to Cavafy, whom I hope you don’t find risable.

Did you read “The Alexandria Quartet”, and what did you think of it, itself, not in the context of contemporaneous novels nor ranked among other novels which you liked more, but it terms of its story, character development, exploration of emotions, etc.?
 

Lb8535

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Sorry to keep this thread off topic...but, Lawrence Durrell!? Seriously!?

I find this writer to be risible!

Okay, The Black Book is pretty interesting. It is full of youthful rawness and honesty about life (and is clearly influenced by Henry Miller) but his later stuff.... perlease! Precious, delicate effete and full of `Oh-look-at moi- - how well travelled -and-cultured -am-I-ness` and all the while oozing wine rentier and candelabra privilege from every pore.

If you want to read a good, insolent skit on writers of his variety then check out Kingsley Amis's third novel I like It Here. (!958).

In this a youngish literature lecturer is given an assignment by his publishers to surreptitiously snoot around an ageing Mandarin novelist living in Portugal, who could be guilty of plagiarism (who seems to be at least partly, based on Durrell). The story is a bit touch and go - but we are treated to some delicious excerpts from the Great Novelists writings which are fun to behold.

A bit later on another novelist would have a satirical potshot at Lawrence with his `Excerpts from the Fifth Installment of the Alexandria Quartet` More lampooning of his high-faluting style crimes.

I suspect you have to be British to fully get all this though.

Now C.P Snow on the other hand is a very underrated nowadays. I'd say the one to read by him is The Malcontents (1972).
Zeke I have a sneaking appreciation of your take on Durrell - my college roommate wrote her honors thesis on the Quartet and I heard much more about it than seemed interesting. However, if you have not fallen across him, I suggest the works of his brother, Gerald Durrell, a naturalist and zoo-manager, whose travel/animal works are very entertaining, and whose book on growing up with his family even more so. I believe that the Amis novel, which I had never heard of, may be a take on British-turned-Japanese cultural wonk art dealer who turned out to be a complete phony. There's a great book on him all facts of which (title, author, subject's name) I forget but I will try to find it.

Edit: Aha. Hugh Trevor-Roper, The Hermit of Peking about Sir Edmund Backhouse, Chinese not Japanese. Strongly recommend.
 
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IbisNibs

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*nods* On my head, in fact.
So . . . French panties look like bicycle helmets? Fascinating !
Sorry to keep this thread off topic...but, Lawrence Durrell!? Seriously!?
Why be sorry? This is the Off Topic Thread. Just pretend you/re at a cocktail party. Somewhere there must be cocktail parties attended by members, or whatever, of MI5, so that should be good enough to pass inspection.
 

Seasidepagan

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A friend of mine has worked for a couple of different govt. agencies (not MI5 but related). Once his team were staking out an apartment block as they were investigating one of the residents. My friend and a colleague were in the back of a van wearing headphones and recording updates from a third colleague who was wearing a microphone and posing as a homeless guy outside the building. The "homeless" guy would update them with "Female, late 60's, grey hair, blue trouser suit, waiting for a cab" etc. On this one occasion he fed back "White male, 50's or 60's, five ten tall, slim, black hair approaching". Anything else? "Tanned, wearing a blazer and chinos". Anything else? "Yes. It's Lionel Blair. Lionel Blair is entering the building". Apparently they lost it completely in the van and almost had to call the operation off because they were laughing so much
This made me laugh out loud!
 

Austin Popper

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I went to work for a guy years ago who talked about various places he lived as a kid. Much of his adolescence was spent in Turkey, but they moved around a lot. He mentioned his father one day, and I asked what his father did for a living. His reply was simple: "He was a spy." Eventually he mentioned his father worked for an oil company, which would have been excellent cover for a spy in the places he told me about.

It's interesting to ponder just how the details of various moves went, since the oil company would have had to be involved to some extent.
 
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