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Sunday, 16 April 2017

Francis Bacon - Essay Of Goodness and Goodness Of Nature

"The parts and signs of goodness, are many. If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world, and that his heart is no island, cut off from other lands, but a continent, that joins (to) them". Francis Bacon.

Edith Durham quotes Bacon in her preface to "High Albania" (Preface, September, 1909).

"The land is one so little known to English travellers that I have given rather a comprehensive view of it as a whole than details of any special branch of study, and have reported what the people themselves said rather than put forward views of my own–which are but those of an outsider. Of outsiders' views on Balkan problems we are, most of us, tired.

For any success I may have obtained, I am indebted entirely to the kind and most generous help I met on the way from all and sundry–more especially to the Franciscans and Mission priests of the mountains, and to my guide Marko; but also to my hosts and guides of all races and religions.

Faithful, courageous, and hospitable, it is perhaps written in the Book of Fate that I shall see many of them no more, but "if a Man be Gracious and Courteous to Strangers, it shewes he is a Citizen of the Worlde; and that his Hearte is no Island, cut off from other Lands, but is a Continent that joynes them." And they will not have passed across my life in vain, if from this brief record some few readers learn a truer insight into the character of the mountain tribesman". Edith Durham.

The Photo Collection of Edith Durham

Berat, 1904


Albania, from 1990 to 1992, A Brief Case Study in Building Bridges and the Restoration of Contacts

It was in London in August 1990 that I first met a small delegation from Albania. Ferid Hudri had come to London and Glasgow (to Glasgow for a modest but significant exhibition of Albanian art). The UK did not have diplomatic relations with Albania at the time. 

I was later invited, in my official capacity (without the need for a visa), to visit Albania from 6-9 May, 1991. Diplomatic relations were re-established on 29 May, 1991.

I met the Minister of Culture and many others, such as the Deputy Director General of Albanian Radio and Television, the staff of the Centre for Scientific and Technical Information and Documentation, the Rector, Dean, professors and staff of the University of Tirana Department of English, officials of the Ministry of Education, the Committee of Science and Technology and the Committee on Culture and Arts.

They were all very friendly and hospitable, and they all expressed eagerness to "open up" to the outside world; there was much talk of political pluralism, radical restructuring and a change from the Communist system to the market economy

I was taken on an interesting and enjoyable day trip from Tirana to Berat. 

Later in the year, in December 1991, we were able to offer an official programme and reciprocal hospitality to another Albanian delegation to London. The Rector of Tirana University wrote, on his return to Tirana, on 20.12.1991, "I believe that this visit was an important step forward in the intensification of the relations between our institutions, of which you are the initiator".

I returned to Tirana in June 1992 (19-23), in the company of the British Ambassador to Italy and the FCO delegation from Rome and London, for the inauguration of a British Resource Centre at the University of Tirana. This took place on the same day that the Ambassador presented his credentials to the President of Albania.

I record all this because I am liable to forget the dates and details, and because those times were fascinating and full of fast-moving changes in many parts of Europe. Other colleagues followed through on the implementation of  projects and new initiatives, as my next move, in 1993, was to be farther away, to Sydney, Australia, but I felt satisfied that I had been party to the opening of some new chapters in bilateral and international relationships in Central and Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union and the Balkans, of which this was one example.  

With all the changes that are happening these days (Brexit etc), it is worth recalling those wise words of Francis Bacon (and this is the moral of the story):

"If a man be gracious and courteous to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world, and that his heart is no island, cut off from other lands, but a continent, that joins (to) them."

Lord Byron was usually courteous to strangers (too friendly at times), 
even when dealing with complex characters like Ali Pasha.
Byron wasn't so polite or charming in all his private letters
(see my essay on Lord Byron and 'The Love/Hate Syndrome'
in Corfu Blues, the book, Ars Interpres, 2006, pages 153-162).

I am reminded of what Enver Hoxha wrote in 1975 ("The Anglo-American Threat to Albania", Tirana, 1982):

"I like Byron...because he sincerely loved my people, has sung their praises with pure feelings...We like Byron and we want the British people to love the Albanian people as he did".

Wishful thinking perhaps, at the time of Hoxha...

"Land of Albania! where Iskander rose,
Theme of the young, and beacon of the wise,..
Land of Albania! let me bend mine eyes
On thee, thou rugged nurse of savage men!"

From Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, Lord Byron


"We work in Albania to support rule of law and economic reform required for Albania to meet the conditions for EU membership"-

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