The Romans Conquer Sicily


“From Messena the Romans proceeded, logically enough, to the Aeolian Islands. For a couple of centuries the people of the little town of Lipari had been living prosperously and quietly, but as the Romans drew closer the Aeolians allied themselves to the Carthaginians. General Hannibal won a victory here over the Roman fleet. In vain, for in 252 the Romans occupied the obsidian islet. 


“Lilibaeum's thwarting of Pyrrhus was a tiny hors d'oeuvre to the Carthaginians before the Romans swept down to devour them. For over two hundred years, ever since a treaty of 508 between Rome and Carthage, the two powers had observed an understanding with regard to the North African coast and nearby trade routes. Since then the military environment had changed in two relevant ways. First, in the Battle of Himera in 480 the Greeks had triumphed over the Carthaginians — true, that was two centuries before, but the Carthaginians had never regained their aura of invincibility. Second, the Romans had grown into a powerful nation; now they controlled virtually all the Italic peninsula. Their next logical move would be to cross the strait. Carthage, with a military presence on Sicily, was the most powerful city in the western Mediterranean, and Rome took that as a challenge. 


“From Messena the Roman legions spread relentlessly south and west. In 263 they made a puppet of Siracusae's ruler. The same year they conquered Katane, and then, moving westward into the interior, they won the alliance of Centuripe, and in 258 they sacked Enna. On the south coast, Akragas was now a town of the Carthaginians; the Romans besieged Akragas for six months in 262-61 and finally conquered the city. East of Akragas, the Romans in 258 stumbled on the largely destroyed Camarina, and with equipment supplied by Siracusae flattened what little was standing there. 


“The Romans, rapid and ruthless on land, recognized their inferiority to the Carthaginians on the sea. In 261 an opportunity came to the Romans and they seized it: they captured a Carthaginian ship (a quinquereme, with five levels of oarsmen) and had their carpenters duplicate it exactly, a hundred times ... in just a couple of months. Now the Romans had a fleet worthy of them. 


“On land the Romans continued their advance. Compared to their progressions in the east and south, they encountered greater resistance as they moved westward along the north shore, that is, as they moved closer to the Carthaginians. Still, the Romans conquered: in 252 Thermae Himerae and the following year Panormus, heretofore central to the Carthaginian defenses. In 250 the Romans arrived in great force at Lilibaeum and surrounded her by land and sea. Then they discovered that they absolutely could not breach that famous wall. 

Hannibal Crossing of the Alps


“The Romans established a naval blockade; which they maintained for a year until they lost ninety ships in a defeat up north and decided to leave Lilibaeum temporarily. Roman soldiers found it impossible to reach Lilibaeum by land because of the Carthaginian guerrillas in the interior; from 247 to 242 the Carthaginians were under the command of the skillful Hamilcar Barca from his nest in the hills northeast of Lilibaeum. The Romans renewed their blockade in 242, with two hundred ships, new or newly equipped. 


“The Carthaginians brought in reinforcements. The Romans may have had two hundred ships, but the Carthaginians had twice that number, which they deployed to the west and north of Lilibaeum. 


“Over the waters, dense with ships out to the Egadi Islands, the captains communicated with each other by using smoke signals. Although the Carthaginian ships were bigger and swifter than most of the Roman, the Carthaginians needed more room to maneuver. Bringing in their ships from the north, the Romans immobilized the Carthaginians between the Roman ships and the land. Most of the Carthaginian ships were sunk or captured in this Battle of the Egadi, which the Romans won on March 10, 241 B.C.


“Lilibaeum was now a Roman city. It was clear to all concerned, Romans and Carthaginians alike, that the sea too was now Roman, and therefore also the Sicilian shores where the Carthaginians had a few remaining strongholds. From their redoubt at Eryx, their leader Hamilcar Barca sued for peace. The ensuing treaty gave to Rome all the Carthaginian territory in Sicily and its minor islands, and huge reparations. The Romans had won all of Magna Graecia; here on the west coast of Sicily the Romans grasped the Mediterranean world.

The Carthaginians, now effectively dead as a people, wrote no history.”


Author: Sandra Benjamin
Title: Sicily: Three Thousand Years of Human History
Publisher: Steerforth
Date: Copyright 2024
page(s): 72-74

A Dress That "Shimmered Like The Scales Of A Serpent" -- 1/5/24


Today's encore selection -- from Sargent's Women by Donna M. Lucey. John Singer Sargent was the greatest American portrait painter of the late 19th and the early 20th centuries. Dame Alice Ellen Terry was a famous Shakespearean actress in Britain in the 19th century. She was a star! And for her soon-to-be-legendary performance as Lady Macbeth, costume designer Alice Comyns Carr created a dress that "shimmered like 'the scales of a serpent" and inspired one of Sargent's most esteemed paintings.

"Ellen Terry, [was] the greatest stage actress and celebrity [in the late 19th century]. Born into a theatrical family, Terry made her stage debut at the age of nine. She married three times, had a series of lovers ... and gave birth to two children out of wedlock. This sort of behavior by a woman did not generally go over well in Victorian England, but in her case, it added to her fame. (She was eventually appointed a dame of the British Empire.)

"[John Singer] Sargent had painted the forty-two-year-old actress the previous winter. She was then starring as Lady Macbeth in a controver­sial London production. Sargent, an avid theater fan, took in the open­ing performance on December 27, 1888, and audibly gasped upon the actress's first entrance. That dress! It shimmered like 'the scales of a ser­pent,' and hugged Terry's figure like 'soft chain armour.' That had been the intent of the costume designer, Alice Strettell Carr, a friend of both Sargent and Terry. ...

Ellen Terry as Lady Macbeth

"But the dress hadn't come easily. Carr couldn't find any fabric in England to cre­ate the sensuous yet metallic look she had in mind. She imported fine yarn from Bohemia -- strands of green silk twisted with blue tinsel -- and then crocheted the yarn into a dress based on a thirteenth-century design. It was floor length with large sweeping sleeves, but still lacked the theatri­cal brilliance to project to the final row of the theater. Inspiration came in the form of luminous insects. Carr had countless iridescent beetle wings sewn all over the dress. In a finishing touch, she arranged rubies and diamonds along the edges of the costume to create Celtic-style patterns.

"Upon seeing Terry in that fabulous dress with her hair hanging to her knees -- 'magenta hair!' Sargent exulted in a letter to the art collec­tor Isabella Stewart Gardner in Boston -- Sargent knew that he had to paint her in full costume. It took some arm-twisting, but Terry finally relented and arrived by carriage to Sargent's Tire Street studio one soggy morning. (Across the road, Oscar Wilde was riveted as he looked out his library window to witness 'the vision of Lady Macbeth in full regalia magnificently seated in a four-wheeler.' Such 'wonderful possibilities' the street now possessed, Wilde mused.)"

Sargents Women Four Lives Behind the Canvas
 
author: Donna M. Lucey  
title: Sargent's Women: Four Lives Behind the Canvas  
publisher: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.  
date: Copyright 2017 by Donna M. Lucey  
page(s): 4-5  

 




 





The New Weimar

December 28, 2023

Hitler and Goebbels visit UFA, 1935

Hitler and Goebbels visit UFA, 1935

Source: Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-1990-1002-500 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Living as we are under the collective inferiority of the West, and humbled as we are when faced with the cultural achievements of tribal Africans, primitive Amazonian tribesmen, Saudi Arabian witch doctors, and savages in general, I was relieved to see that Hollywood is hard at work in maintaining the myth that everything that the West has achieved since the Greeks was due to the white man’s cruelty and ability to steal from the Dark Continent.

Now, please don’t get me wrong. I don’t watch the drivel that Tinseltown puts out nowadays, but a bad case of bronchitis had me in bed high up in the Alps, with a cough of a Volga boatman and a high temperature. There was nothing to do but watch TV, as I could not focus on the written word. And what I saw only made my temperature go up—actually, it made me so angry I got better. I will not mention the serial except that it’s been very successful. It takes place out west and the cowboys are all bad, bullies, criminals, sadists, and worst of all, white. The few black cowhands are wise, introspective, and very perceptive with their advice. The victims are the red Indians, sorry, Native tribesmen. One pretty Indian girl teaches history class, and her opening remarks to a new class are what a major criminal Christopher Columbus was. But the best part is the utter awfulness of the whites. They’re greedy, cowardly, murderous, bullying, dishonest, and I’m talking only of the men. The white women are drunks, sleep with everything that walks but the horses, and are very greedy and vengeful. My only thought was thank God I’m watching this in my own bed. In a movie house I’d probably be lynched once the lights went on. Mind you, I only watched less than a segment, and I’m told the characters improve later on.

“Hollywood is at present doing the work UFA films did for Hitler in the ’30s.”

Hollywood is at present doing the work UFA films did for Hitler in the ’30s. Back then, in film after film, the “International Jew” was portrayed as conspiring against Western interests, institutions, and Christian mores. By the time war broke out, there were few Germans who weren’t convinced that the Jews had conspired against them. Now our Jews in Hollywood are doing something along the same lines against the white man, white males having replaced on screen at least the “International Jew” as figures of hate.

Is America going the way of Weimar? Our Jews in Hollywood are not Hitlers, some of them are even nice guys. But they lack talent and courage, they love money, and the easiest way to get it is to follow the woke agenda, it’s as simple as that. Their grandfathers were Mittel-European Jews, uneducated and unsophisticated, but they learned quickly, could spot talent, used it well, and, when war broke out, turned Hollywood into a PR firm for Uncle Sam. These new Harvard guys are smart, well educated, but greedy, cowardly, and willing to debase themselves for woke ideology.

The verdict of history is always too late for those who correctly predict how it will turn out, hence the greatest Greek writer since Homer will abstain. One thing is for sure: Sub-Saharan Africa passed the one billion population mark in 2015, and it is going to more than double to 2.12 billion by 2050. By then it will be ten times what it was when I first visited Africa in the ’50s. The stance of some conservative politicians in Europe to counter an inevitable invasion from Africa is seen as fascist, and politicians who warn against unlimited African immigration as the embodiment of the Duce, if not the Führer. Woke is like the snowplow that opens the road after a heavy snowfall. Why should the whites have Europe to themselves? What have they done to deserve it except enslave people and profit from it? And what about America? The country is too big for a few rich slobs with large yachts and big private planes. Land and wealth need to be redistributed, and now.

The funny thing is, that show I watched while coughing my poor lungs out is all about this: one man with a large ranch, and many without large ranches who want to take it away from him because he did bad things in order to keep it from them in the past. Oy vey, as a Jewish granny would say. But here’s an idea for you Hollywood types. Why not make a movie about one of the bravest men alive, a man who saw action with the famous Rhodesian Light Infantry, acquired a law degree, wrote four well-received books including Men of War and on the Rhodesian SAS We Dared to Win, is a big-game hunter and conservationist, and survived a goring that ended with him operating on himself without anesthetic; a man who was mistaken by the doctors in Nairobi for Mel Gibson and, most important, a 14th-generation African—but white. He’s my dear friend Hannes Wessels, and the Hollywood bums should be filming his life. If they’re interested, he lives in the Cape of Africa and is known to everyone.

Theodore Acopulos

A Long Read From The Guardian



Fish and chips at the Anstruther Fish Bar in the East Neuk of Fife in Scotland
Fish and chips at the Anstruther Fish Bar. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

A funeral for fish and chips: why are Britain’s chippies disappearing?

Plenty of people will tell you the East Neuk of Fife in Scotland is the best place in the world to eat fish and chips. So what happens when its chippies – and chippies across the UK – start to close?

Thu 20 Jul 2023 04.15 EDT

O

ne summer ago, before the region’s fish and chip industry was shaken by closures, before a death that was hard for people to bear, a lorry heaped with the first fresh potatoes of the season drove along the east coast of Scotland. This lorry wound its way along the East Neuk of Fife, dodging washing lines, mooring bollards and seagulls, parking with impunity to make deliveries. There was an understanding in the East Neuk that nobody would ever get angry and honk at the inbound “tattie” lorry, fish and chips being a staple meal, vital to the region’s economy. Tourists come shocking distances to sit on old harbour walls and stab around in takeaway trays with wooden forks. The fish and chips sold in the East Neuk might be the best in the British Isles and because of that (it follows) the best on the planet. Even so, by July 2022, local friers were finding it harder and harder to balance their books.

The driver of the tattie lorry, a red-cheeked Scotsman named Richard Murray, carried keys for most of the businesses on his route, to save from waking any tired friers who’d been up late the night before, poring anxiously over their sums. War in Ukraine coupled with ongoing complications from Brexit had driven up prices of almost all the goods that fish and chip shops depended on, from live ingredients to oil and salt to packaging. More distressing was the problem of rising energy costs. This meal is prepared using a great guzzler of a range cooker that must be kept on and roiling at all hours of a trading day. As the price of gas and electricity threatened to double, then triple, through 2022, friers were opening their energy bills with gritted teeth. A trade association called the National Federation of Fish Friers said that as many as a third of the UK’s 10,500 shops might go dark, warning of a potential “extinction event”.

It was about 8am when Murray drove his tattie lorry into a village called Pittenweem. He was met on the road by Alec Wyse, a skilled frier, 59 years old and known as Eck, who ran a takeaway called the Pittenweem Fish Bar. The tiny shop had been bought by Wyse’s father using money from the sale of a family fishing boat. There were nautical portraits on the walls. A peg-letter menu listed eight unchanging menu items, one of which was described in its entirety as “FISH”. Working together, Wyse and Murray unloaded sacks of potatoes from the lorry, carrying them inside on their shoulders.

A mile along the shore from Pittenweem, in the smarter harbour town of Anstruther, Murray parked his lorry outside a fish and chip shop called the Wee Chippy. Founded by Ian Fleming, a 64-year-old seafood trader with a tattoo of a shark on his forearm, the Wee Chippy stood across from a seaweed-covered strip of beach and a cobbled jetty. Fleming later told me it ruined his marriage, this fish and chip shop. “The hours,” he growled in explanation. Daily operations had long since passed to his business partner, a chef in his 40s called Chris Lewis. But Fleming kept a close eye on the Wee Chippy, which had absorbed such a big part of his life.

Leaving Anstruther behind, the tattie round almost done, Murray swung his lorry inland, in the rough direction of Dundee and a fish and chip shop called the Popular. Bright and cramped, the Popular had an eye-catching facade that was painted brown and baize green, making it resemble a snooker table turned on one side. A family concern, the Popular was staffed six days a week by a man called Graham Forbes, his wife Angela, and their two adult children. Though Forbes was in his mid-70s, he was the one who rose early to let the tattie man in. He liked to get started at about the same time the sun came up, feeding potatoes into the Popular’s rumbling peeler.

The harbour in Anstruther Fife Scotland UK
The harbour in Anstruther. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

These three businesses – the Pittenweem Fish Bar in Pittenweem, the Wee Chippy in Anstruther, the Popular in Dundee – shared not only a potato supplier but the near-religious devotion of the communities they serviced. They were run by men and women who had thick skins, literally so when it came to their fingertips, which had become so desensitised to heat that they could be brushed against boiling oil to better position a fillet of frying fish or test the readiness of chopped potatoes as they fizzed and crisped. But these people were not invulnerable to strain. By the following summer, two of the three businesses would be gone, forced to close against their owner’s will.

I visited the East Neuk several times during that difficult year: in high tourist season, in the eerie quiet of winter, in the limbo between. As a national industry foundered, I wanted to document what it was like for a group of friers as they were brought to the brink, competing against each other even as they helped each other out, always prepping for tomorrow, cooking for today, running their numbers at night, trying not to become yet another fish and chip shop that disappeared. Between July 2022 and July 2023, things got tougher and sadder in the East Neuk than anybody predicted they would. By the time I made my last visit, people were in mourning, having said goodbye to a beloved local figure who gave their all to a cherished, suddenly endangered trade; and it was no longer so difficult to imagine a world without fish and chips.


T

he origin question, wrote the historian John Walton in his definitive history of the dish, “is a matter of murky and probably insoluble dispute”. Should Londoners take the most credit for its creation and proliferation, or Lancastrians? The textile towns around Manchester or the fishing ports of Scotland? Undoubtedly, fish and chips is immigrant food, imported, perfected and perpetuated by a mish-mash of refugees and others originating from Portugal, Spain, eastern Europe, Italy, Cyprus, Greece and China. The method of deep-frying white fish in a liquid batter made of flour and egg or milk was likely brought over to London by Jews in flight from Catholic inquisitors. Walton and other food historians have identified chipped potatoes “in the French style” being sold from carts in the industrial Pennines as early as the 1860s.
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Whether styled as chippy, chippie, chippery, chipper, fishery, fish bar or fish restaurant, whether given cheerful punning titles (the Haddock Paddock, the Plaice to Be) or rootsier names that acknowledged their founders (Jimmy’s, George’s, Low’s, Long’s), these shops proliferated through the 20th century, carpeting the land from the northernmost – Frankie’s, up in Shetland – all the way to the Smugglers, down on the tapering tip of Cornwall. The fundamental cooking method is always the same. Fillets of white fish, usually haddock or cod, are slapped about in a viscous yellow batter before being dropped into 180C baths of oil. An experienced frier will tend their bubbling fillets compulsively, using a metal strainer to turn and tease the food as the batter flares and hardens, basting with twitches of the wrist. After about five minutes, the battered fish will be golden, curved in on itself like a banana, firm enough to be set atop chips without surrendering its shape.

As for the chips, these are made from white potatoes, peeled and cut to the thickness of thumbs, then placed in a steel basket and submerged in the same hot oil until they will crack apart when squeezed. There is resistance in Scotland towards the frying of cod, which is seen as an English lunacy, but it is generally accepted that potatoes grown in the drier soil of England do better when fried, being lower in glucose and less likely to caramelise. National pride stretches so far. Only not so far as brown chips.

Chips from Murray Camerons chip van in Fife Scotland
Chips from Murray Cameron’s chip van. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

Ideally, just after eating a portion of fish and chips, you should be aware that what you’ve put inside your body was prepared using ungodly quantities of grease, yet you don’t yourself feel greasy. This paradoxical richness without grossness, an angelic lightness of touch in preparing one of the heaviest meals on Earth, sets the better shops apart. At the Golden Galleon in Aldeburgh, takeaways are lined up in paper pouches on the counter, the fish tumbled in with the chips, all to be eaten with a rooting fork. At the Ashvale in Aberdeen, the hungriest diners can order a “whale” portion, so huge that anyone who finishes it unassisted wins a prize. Along a particular stretch of pavement in Holborn in London, pedestrians walk headlong into a bubble of airborne fat that seems to enclose a shop called the Fryer’s Delight. They fry in beef dripping at the Delight, not vegetable oil, creating a flavour that is fattier, more unctuous.

At the Popular in Dundee, Graham Forbes and his family cooked using beef dripping as well. Sit-in diners at the Popular huddled into wooden booths, sometimes packing so close, Forbes told me, that if those at table #1 were talking politics, those at tables #2 and #3 were inevitably talking politics as well. He tended not to think of the Popular as a business. It was a little world. And like any world, it had its points of pride, its stubborn habits.

One day I spoke to a man up the supply chain who oversaw the weekly tattie runs through the East Neuk. His name is Conor Booth. He works for a Scottish company called John Callum Potatoes. Booth explained that the top fish and chip shops are kept consistent by generations of rolling tradition. But many of those traditions (the dawn calls to prep ingredients, the midnight equipment-scrubbing, the reliance on inefficient cookers) have made willing staff scarcer and costs harder to bring down. “Every industry has to adapt to survive,” said Booth. “Unfortunately, in fish and chips, there’s only so much you can do while keeping it traditional. The potatoes need their peeling. The fish needs its frying.”

Last year, as trading conditions worsened, proprietors were giving interviews to local newspapers, explaining the pressures they were under. These communications tended to have the tone of panicky messages scribbled by hostages. At the Crispy Cod in Worcester, they said: “It feels like we have no control.” The Gipsy Lane Chippery in Leicester: “It’s scary.” Paddy’s Plaice in Criccieth: “Need help.” In the town of Macduff in Scotland, a shop called the Happy Haddock received a bill that put up its energy costs from £600 a month to £2,000. The Happy Haddock closed. Roughly the same thing happened at the Fryar Tuck in Belfast, then at Barnacle Bill’s in Somerset, and Chip Ahoy on the Isle of Wight. At Chung’s Chinese Chippy in Lancashire, a note to customers appeared in the window, similar in substance to the messages put on display at Stefano’s in Glasgow and chalked on a blackboard outside Jones Plaice in Caldicot: “Due to excessive price increases in all areas, raw materials, labour, fuel and utilities, we have decided to close.”

At the Popular in Dundee, the Forbes family issued a plea to customers via Facebook: “Use us or lose us.” Graham Forbes’s son Lindsay had already given an interview to a Dundee newspaper that amounted to a forewarning of closure. A clipping of this article (“CHIPPERS ARE BATTERED BY SOARING COSTS”) was pinned to the Popular’s fridge on the summer day the family huddled to make a decision. “This is the end,” Graham said, “isn’t it?” They telephoned the Dundee newspaper again, which published a story confirming the Popular would close after 35 years. Graham’s daughter Gaynor put an announcement online. The next day, “as soon as we opened the doors at 11.30am,” Graham said, “we were mobbed. Generations of customers. Grandparents. Grandkids. People asked, why? I told them the enjoyment had gone out of it, from worrying all the time. I told them, if you’d kept coming, even just once a fortnight, it might have been different.”


B

efore the main danger to fish and chip shops was the quarterly energy bill, it was sudden fire. Ignored for a moment, the hot cooking fat can get too hot, rising to an auto-ignition point and exploding. In a single year – 2018 – there were serious fires at Old Salty’s in Glasgow, the Admiral in Overseal, Mr Chips in Fakenham, the Pilton Fryer in Pilton, the Fish Bar in Fenham, Crossroads in Kingstanding, Graylings in Fremington, the River Lane Fish Bar in Norfolk, the Portway Fish Bar in Rowley Regis, Bruno’s on Canvey Island, Jimmy’s Palace in Liverpool, Scoffs in Paignton and Moby Dick in Shirley. “Doesn’t matter how experienced you are,” said Chris Lewis, one of the owners of the Wee Chippy in Anstruther, “if something mechanical goes, or something catches, and you haven’t seen it – that’s it, that’s your time.”

The Wee Chippy’s time came on Remembrance Sunday in 2018, in the middle of a lunch service. A frier was distracted; the oil in the range ignited; a huge ball of fire was sucked into the Wee Chippy’s ventilator, leaving just enough time for staff and customers to flee before the ground floor was thick with smoke. In the subsequent blaze, unpeeled potatoes from the tattie lorry blistered and shrunk in their sacks. About 100 North Sea haddocks cooked inside a fridge. Jars of pickled eggs boiled and burst. Lewis and Ian Fleming, who both live nearby, came running. They watched from across the harbour road as the glass in the windows of their shop began to melt and pulsate. Jets of orange flame licked out the chimney pots.

The Wee Chippy Anstruther in 2023 after it reopened following a fire in 2018
The Wee Chippy, Anstruther, in 2023, after it reopened following a fire in 2018. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

Fleming (he of the shark tattoo) had opened this fish and chip shop in 1999, in perverse defiance of the fact that there was already a popular alternative, the Anstruther Fish Bar, just a short way along the harbour road. After the 2018 fire, Fleming’s insurance claim was rejected. “We were classed as having a flammable material behind the plasterboard,” he told me. He talked it over with Lewis and they decided to spend their own money on a refurbishment, if only to give the insurance company as well as their rivals in Anstruther “a kick in the nuts”, as Fleming put it. Between them they spent nine months and a six-figure sum getting the Wee Chippy back open in summer 2019.

Now, in summer 2022, conditions were tougher than Fleming had ever known them. As consumers battled rising costs of living at home, they were eating out less. Because they were eating out less, proprietors were being forced to charge more, right when they could least afford to discourage custom. There is a fish bar in Cardiff, John’s, that shut in 2001 and has never been bought or altered since. A decaying menu at John’s still advertises a takeaway portion of fish and chips for the unthinkable price of £2.45. Two decades later, the same meal cost £9.40 at the Wee Chippy. Few proprietors dared breach the holy barrier of £10. In fact, the owners of a shop called Café Fish in Belfast had done some honest maths and concluded that, given prevailing costs, fish and chips ought to be selling for about £15 per portion. “Who would pay it?” Fleming wondered.

If motivation ever flagged at the Wee Chippy, Fleming and Lewis only had to think of their nearest rivals up the road. For decades the Wee Chippy had been engaged in a losing battle with the Anstruther Fish Bar, which had achieved outsized fame since it opened in the 1980s, doing much to establish the East Neuk as an area of excellence for fish and chips. Prince William was a customer there during his student days. His stepmother Camilla later stopped a royal motorcade on the harbour road and sent in a security guard for takeaways. The Anstruther Fish Bar had won every industry award going. It was celebrated in guidebooks and travel pieces. Sometimes, Fleming and Lewis watched through the windows of their shop as tourists parked on the terrace outside, wandering along the harbour to eat at the Anstruther Fish Bar, later compounding the insult by putting their scraped-clean takeaway trays in the Wee Chippy’s bins.

Murrays Chippy a fish and chip van owned by Murray Cameron
Murray’s Chippy, a fish and chip van owned by Murray Cameron. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

Over time there had been squabbles between the two neighbouring businesses over property, parking, staffing, branding, packaging, naming rights, as well as dibs on who could sell which variety of savoury pudding. Such rivalries were quite common, I learned. One day I got talking to an East Neuk man called Murray Cameron, a former fisherman who now ran a mobile fish-and-chips service out of a modified Vauxhall Movano van. Cameron had his own beef with the Anstruther Fish Bar. And with the Wee Chippy. Cameron said he had spent years perfecting the precise blend of flour and grains he put in his batter mix; and because of this he tended to hide his empty packaging in the bottom of his bins, fearful of his secret getting out. In every corner of the country there are friers who fret about their nearest rivals, hourly remaking the same dish until they are tweaking it minutely, improving the batter-cling, the chip-give, vying to be thought of as number one.

By now I’d spent enough time in the East Neuk to notice that whenever friers complained about each other, there was one family – the Wyses of Pittenweem – they exempted from criticism. Eck Wyse and his relatives had run the Pittenweem Fish Bar since the 1980s, taking it over from the Baird family, before them the Smalls. This was a seriously adored village hub, one of the few places in Pittenweem that remained open after dark. The Wyses’ ancient cooker, wide as the room that contained it and submarine-like in appearance, turned out takeaways that were passed to customers the old fashioned way, wrapped in paper. Though the Pittenweem Fish Bar wasn’t often included in tourist books or internet must-try lists, people in the region knew how rare and special it was, an inexpensive gem that seemed to stand outside of time.

When the Pittenweem Fish Bar burned down at the end of summer 2022, it was a trauma felt for miles.


T

he fire started on a Tuesday afternoon, hours after the tattie lorry passed through on a run. Flames massed in the cramped interior of the shop, burning up the net curtains, popping out windows, sending a shaft of dark smoke over Pittenweem’s church and towards the sea. A passing neighbour rushed in to drag out Wyse, who had been cooking at the range and, according to a later account by an eyewitness, was dazed by smoke. Fire engines were on the scene for hours. By morning the shop was unrecognisable, its painted sign gone, the front walls blistered and cracked.

When he drove through Pittenweem again in October 2022, Richard Murray slowed down his tattie lorry to pass the ruined shop. He turned off his music. “Devastating,” he muttered. Arriving in Anstruther soon afterwards, Murray parked near the seaweed-covered beach as usual. He fell into conversation with Ian Fleming, who was waiting in the chill outside the Wee Chippy, peering along the harbour road. “Town’s quieting down,” Fleming observed. Murray nodded.

As they started to unload sacks of potatoes, the two men chatted about the terrible frequency of fires in their industry. In former times, Fleming said, you could try to rebuild after a fire, just about trusting that the fish-and-chip economy would support you. Even after the Wee Chippy was denied its insurance payout back in 2018, the market seemed stable enough to make the risk of reinvestment worthwhile. Now, in 2022, when uncertainty prevailed, would it even be possible to bring a burned fish and chip shop back?

“That’s where you worry about Eck,” Murray said to Fleming.

“Aye,” growled Fleming.

“Seen him?”

Fleming shook his head. “I texted.”

A lot of people in the East Neuk had been sharing memories of the Pittenweem shop, using Facebook forums to gather anecdotes and photographs. Former employees at the fish bar spoke of after-school jobs peeling or cleaning. Customers memorialised favourite orders. That autumn, when I visited an East Neuk seafood business run by a family called the Wilsons, the two married owners reminisced about a courtship spent eating unimprovable Pittenweem takeaways. People stood in queues so long, Wendy Wilson remembered, the line would snake away from the Wyses’ door, beyond the local bank, wrapping around the village church. Since the fire, the village had lost something irreplaceable: a queue to join, a set of flavours and smells, an illuminated place to go after dark, a takeaway to eat on a sea wall.

Fish and chip diners in Anstruther
Fish and chip diners in Anstruther. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

It is an article of faith that fish and chips tastes better – best – when eaten by the sea. I’ve agreed with this sentiment all my life, without wondering why it might be so, except to think that being near a shoreline must equate to freshness of fish. It did used to be the case that many East Neuk villages could support their own seafood markets. When the Pittenweem Fish Bar first opened in the 1980s, haddocks were bought off the boats in Pittenweem harbour. Today, an auction house in Peterhead on the north-east tip of Scotland is all that’s left on one whole side of the country. Almost every haddock that is fried in the East Neuk has been trucked 100 miles south from Peterhead first.

Why, then, should fish and chips by the sea taste special? In a place like this, I think it must be the continued intimacy between fish as a trade and fish as a meal. As well as part-owning the Wee Chippy, Ian Fleming is a seafood trader. He is the son of a seafood trader. Before he became a frier, Eck Wyse was a fisherman, the son of a fisherman. Down on Pittenweem harbour, two bronze statues – a mother and a daughter – face the choppy water, memorialising all the local people who have tried to make a living from the sea, as well as the 400 or so who have died trying since the 1800s. Decades ago, Fleming’s father-in-law drowned in a fishing accident. Many, many people in the East Neuk have lost a friend, an uncle, a cousin. Fishing is a serious matter here. Fish and chips is a serious meal.


I

t was December 2022. The Pittenweem Fish Bar had burned down. The Popular in Dundee was closed. The Wee Chippy clung on, though tourists would not visit the East Neuk in any sort of number again until the spring. After about 5pm, the whole coast could seem abandoned, just the tide audible in the dark as well as the grumble of salt lorries as they gritted the roads in case of a freeze. When I visited Fleming at his house on the outskirts of Anstruther, he opened his ledger to see how many haddocks they were getting through at the Wee Chippy in the offseason. Not so many haddocks, he frowned, putting aside the book. “We’re telling ourselves that business is down because of the frozen roads. That might be denial.”

In Dundee, the Forbes family had stripped and emptied the Popular, selling off a fridge, a chest freezer, a bain marie, two menu boards, as well as their till and the small paper rolls that were meant for future receipts. Tables #1, #2 and #3 were uprooted and taken away for use in a restaurant in Inverness. Lindsay Forbes accepted a job with a wholesaler. Graham and Angela Forbes retired. The next time Graham walked by the Popular, around Christmas, there was a “To Let” sign in the window. He could still see his own tacked-up notice to customers, explaining the closure. “No other option,” Graham had written.

In Pittenweem, charred wood and plaster were heaped on the pavement outside the ruined fish bar. Cones and metal fencing stopped passersby getting too close. The scene appeared frozen in time since the fire, even though months had passed, even though the Wyse family had written a message to customers saying they hoped to “rise from the ashes” if they could. Murray Cameron, the mobile frier who travelled around the villages of the East Neuk in his van, had never once encroached on Wyse’s territory in Pittenweem. It was his tribute to Wyse, his show of confidence that one day Wyse would bring this business back.

Behind the scenes, as a member of the Wyse family later told a local newspaper, Eck was taking the closure badly. “Like losing a limb,” said his wife, Anna. As more and more weeks went by without the fire damage being cleared, Fleming began to doubt the prospects of a revival. He had experienced a blaze at first hand. He remembered how crushing it was, waiting weeks and months to get answers from an insurance company – all for nothing in the end, because the Wee Chippy’s claim was refused. As 2022 turned to 2023, and another month passed without the wreckage outside the Pittenweem Fish Bar being cleared, Fleming worried more and more about his friend.

Elsewhere around the country, a fish and chip shop called the Little Fryer in Southampton had to close. Unsustainable costs. The Dolphin in Belfast closed, as did the Seafarer in Northwich and the High Plaice in Alston. The owners of Simpsons in Quedgeley felt they were busy, thriving even. But their energy bill had quadrupled, so it closed. Staff at the Whieldon Fish Bar in Stoke-on-Trent told their local newspaper they were clinging on by leaving the lights off whenever they could. Simeone’s in Glasgow was listed for sale, along with about 700 other fish and chip shops including the Ocean King in Gosport, the Haddock Paddock in Cumbria and Ightenhill Traditional in Burnley. Smarts in Abingdon closed.

At the end of January 2023, Fleming received a text message from a friend. He was told that Eck had died that day. It was sudden. The police were not treating the death as suspicious. The family put out a photograph, online, that showed Eck behind the range at his old fish and chip shop. “Where he was happiest,” they wrote, “where he belonged.”


T

here are fancier meals than fish and chips. There are bigger-ticket meals, those we put on bucket lists or pencil in for birthdays. We look to fish and chips for something different, which I think of as constancy, a firm handrail to our pasts. As a schoolboy I often bought lunch from Andrews in Enfield, where they would douse a takeaway with the leftover brine from pickled gherkins. Later I went to university in Yorkshire. The taste of sweet curry sauce over chips will forever turn me 18. My parents’ parents were from different backgrounds. Every spring, at Passover, my maternal family would gather to eat fried fish from a London takeaway. Every autumn, we would drive 500 miles north to visit my paternal family in Aberdeen. My Jewish grandma and my Protestant gran were very different people. Both put absolute trust in fried fish as a food that would unite and enthuse a bunch of disparate relatives.

The same as hearing a Beatles tune, or rewatching The Snowman at Christmas, or raising up a pint of foaming beer, fish and chips is a national pleasure we expect to repeat and repeat. Impossible to imagine eating this meal for the last time. When a shop called Kong’s in Greater Manchester announced it would close, following so many others, people massed outside as if for a wake. There was a one-hour wait to get inside, then a two-hour wait. In the queue they joked about buying extra portions, to freeze them and sell them on to anybody suffering Kong’s withdrawals. We don’t expect these takeaways to be taken away. We imagine dining-in in perpetuity.

Fish in the fryer at the Anstruther Fish Bar
Fish being fried at the Anstruther Fish Bar. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

In spring 2023, the Lowford Fish Bar in Bursledon closed, its owners describing the decision as the hardest of their lives. At around the same time, Jack Spratt’s Superior in Oldham closed after 25 years of continuous trading. Skircoat Green Fish Bar in Halifax closed after 40 years. Jackson’s Chippie in Ilkeston closed after 62 years. The owner of Sam’s Fish Bar in Fenton said he was moonlighting as a delivery driver to stay afloat. Pawsons Golden Plaice in Chorley closed.

Earlier this month, I was back on a tattie run through the East Neuk. The weekly delivery was no longer being driven by Richard Murray. It was no longer weekly. With fewer businesses to sell to, potato orders in the region were often so reduced that Murray’s boss, Conor Booth, could handle a delivery using his pickup truck. Booth met me in the truck and we thundered along the coast road. It was raining, “a real dreich”, Booth said. As we went, he talked about potato prices, twice what they were a year ago and causing yet another threat to businesses. There had been a weak seasonal yield. It was unfortunate timing. In fish and chips, Booth said, “if there wasn’t bad luck, there wouldn’t be any luck”.

Booth had a one-month-old baby waiting for him at home and he was eager to finish the delivery run and get back. Parenthood had brought up a confusion of memories, he said, as well as premonitions about the future. He had been remembering driving around with his granddad when he was small, hearing about vanished local businesses, some of which were impossible for him to picture. That used to be a boot-maker, his granddad would say, pointing. That used to be a knife-sharpener. Booth wondered if he would drive a grandchild of his own along this coast; if he would have to explain, there used to be these places we called fish bars.

It stopped raining. Booth delivered some final potatoes, then let me out of the truck at Pittenweem cemetery. As the sky brightened overhead, the damp reddish gravel of the cemetery paths started to dry, getting its crunch back. The night before Wyse’s funeral in February, there had been a great spectacle in these skies – an aurora that flared purple and green. The following morning there was another extraordinary sight in Pittenweem. The village was full of people, not only Wyse’s family and friends but his customers, hundreds of whom had turned out to say goodbye. There were so many mourners that the church did not have enough pews. They ran out of standing room. Mourners left outside started to line the route to the cemetery and later joined the funeral procession as it passed. Wyse was buried next to his father, who had run the family shop before him.

After paying my respects, I walked along the coast to Anstruther. It was teatime. The harbour was busy with boats. Riggings clacked and hissed in the breeze. A dad on a bench fed his toddler, one scrap of batter at a time. A middle-aged couple sat in their car. They had a tray propped between them, two teas in china cups, cutlery from home, and steaming takeaway boxes on their laps. At about 6pm, I met Ian Fleming outside the Wee Chippy. They had a good number of customers in the dining room. The shop was enjoying a bit of a summer-season revival, Fleming said. They had recently won a Scottish catering award, beating their rivals up the road for once. The Wee Chippy would abide through another summer at least. We waited and got a table. The waitress asked, do you want fish and chips?

 This article was amended on 20 July 2023 to replace a map which misspelt Kirkcaldy.

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Doug Casey on What Really Happened in 2023 and What Comes Next

by Doug Casey

2023 in review
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International Man: As we approach the end of the year, let’s take a step back, look at the Big Picture, and put 2023 into perspective so we can better understand what may come next.

Significant financial, economic, political, cultural, and geopolitical developments occurred in 2023.

On the cultural front, 2023 may be the year that the tide started to shift against the woke insanity.

BlackRock’s Fink dropped ESG. Woke movies continue to bomb at theaters. Bud Light, Target, and Disney continue to feel the pain of deliberately alienating their customer base.

What’s your take on the cultural developments in 2023?

Doug Casey: There are always reactions to major trends. These things are worth noting, but considering the virulence of the woke movement, the reaction has been tepid. There’s always a rearguard fighting for things as they are. And that’s wonderful because the Wokesters want to overturn the entire culture much the same way as the Jacobins overturned it in revolutionary France, the Bolsheviks overturned the culture in Russia, the Red Guards in China, or Pol Pot did in Cambodia.

The Wokesters are potentially just as dangerous because their way of thinking is everywhere in the West. They’re similar to the movements I’ve just mentioned in that they’re stridently against free speech, free thought, free markets, tradition, and limited government—nothing new there. But they’ve weaponized gender and race as well. They’re virulent, humorless, and puritanical. They see themselves as the wave of the future, but they’ve only repackaged the notions of Marx, Lenin, Stalin, and Hitler.

My view is that the Wokesters hate humanity and hate themselves. They’re dishonest, arrogant, and entitled. Look at the current scandal involving the diversity-hire presidents at Harvard, Penn, and MIT. They’re shameful embarrassments. The fact their boards of trustees installed these fools shows how deep the rot goes.

The Woke have ingrained psychological/spiritual aberrations. They don’t just control academia, finance, entertainment, and the media. They also dominate the State’s apparatus. Which means they basically have the law on their side.

Perhaps ESG is being de-emphasized by Blackrock, the new vampire squid, but that’s only because they fear losing money more than they value their beliefs. The more pernicious DEI remains a major cultural trend.

Where will it end?

Wokism is more than a passing fad. There’s a good chance it will end with a violent confrontation between people who have culturally conservative views and those who want to destroy Western Civilization and upset the nature of society as we know it.

International Man: 2023 was a year of major geopolitical developments.

It became evident to even the mainstream media that the war in the Ukraine was not going well for NATO.

There was also the Hamas attack and the Israeli invasion of Gaza.

Azerbaijan defeated Armenia to reclaim a long-disputed territory.

Saudi Arabia welcomed Syria back into the Arab League, ended the war in Yemen, restored diplomatic relations with Iran, joined the BRICS countries, and expanded its economic ties with China.

These are just a few of the most prominent geopolitical events of 2023.

What do you make of the geopolitical situation and where things are heading?

Doug Casey: The end of US hegemony over the world in all areas is becoming obvious. The world resents being bullied and controlled by Washington, DC.

They realize that the US government is bankrupt and is living entirely on printed money. Its military is bloated and more expensive than the US can afford.

While it’s bloated, it’s also being gutted, unable to recruit new soldiers and sailors. It’s easy to see why that’s the case. They see pointless wars fomented everywhere. The type of people who traditionally join the military are disgusted by the woke memes circulating through the services. White males, who have always been the backbone of the military, are appalled at being actively discriminated against.

US hegemony is ending financially, economically, and militarily.

It’s obvious when you see that Biden and Harris, two utterly incompetent, ineffectual fools, are the nominal heads of the government. Not to mention all the degraded and psychologically damaged people in the cabinet. Of course, nobody has any respect for the US anymore.

The US hegemony of the last hundred years is on its way out. And as the old order changes, there are going to be upsets. The US will leave a vacuum that will be filled by other forces.

In fact, the US Government is the biggest danger to the world today. It’s not providing order. By sticking its nose into everyone else’s business everywhere, it’s promoting chaos. Its 800+ bases around the world are provocations. The carrier groups that it has wandering around are sitting ducks with today’s technology. The US is the main source of risk in the world, not safety.

US military spending is really just corporate welfare for the five big “defense” corporations, which build weapons suited for fighting the last war or maybe the war before the last war. For instance, a missile frigate or destroyer guarding a carrier might carry 100 vertically-launched anti-aircraft missiles at $2 million each. Each missile might succeed in shooting down a $10,000 drone. But what happens when the enemy launches 200 drones at once? The chances are the US loses a $2 billion destroyer, if not a carrier.

The US government is finding that they’re not only disliked but disrespected by countries and people all over the world. They’re increasingly viewed as a paper tiger. Or the Wizard of Oz. When they lose the fear factor, it’s game over.

International Man: In 2023, the US continued the trend of more political polarization.

What were the most consequential events on the US political front, and what do you think comes next?

Doug Casey: Let me reemphasize that the Jacobins who control Washington, DC, have the same psychological makeup as past revolutionaries I’ve mentioned. These people are incapable of changing their minds or reforming. I think they’ll do absolutely anything they can to retain power.

Meanwhile, traditional Americans in red states see that Trump is being railroaded with lawfare to derail his campaign. They’re angrier than ever, justifiably. The red people and the blue people really hate each other at this point—and can’t talk to each other.

The country has been completely demoralized as traditional values have been washed away. It’s now very unstable.

The coming election, should we actually have one, will be not just a political but a cultural contest. Culture wars are especially dangerous in the midst of a financial collapse and economic collapse.

International Man: The projected annual interest expense on the federal debt hit $1 trillion for the first time in 2023.

Americans are still paying for the rampant currency debasement during the Covid hysteria as the price of groceries, insurance, rent, and most other things continued to rise in 2023.

It looks like a recession is on the horizon.

What are your thoughts on economic developments in 2023 and your outlook for the months ahead?

Doug Casey: As an amateur student of history, it seems to me that the US has been moving away from the founding principles that made it unique for over a hundred years. I’m 77. I’ve watched it happen firsthand for much of that time.

The trend has been accelerating. The country is heading towards a massive crisis because it’s lost its philosophical footing. The result is going to be a really serious depression. I call it the Greater Depression.

The spread between the haves who live in multi-million dollar houses and the have-nots who live in tents isn’t new. After all, Jesus said, “The poor you will always have with you.” What’s new is that the middle class is being impoverished. What’s left of the middle class is deeply in debt—student debt, credit card debt, car loan debt, mortgage debt. And if they’re not lucky enough to have a house with mortgage debt, they’re renting. And rents have gone up so rapidly that if the average guy has an unforeseen $500 expense, he can’t pay it.

That augurs poorly for consumption. It’s said, idiotically, that the American economy rests on consumption. It’s idiotic because it should be said that it rests on production. But I’m not sure the US produces that much anymore. Most of the people who “work” basically sit at desks and shuffle papers. Few actively create real wealth.

On top of that, the country is vastly over-financialized.

The bond market has already largely collapsed, but it can get a lot worse as interest rates head back up to the levels that they were in the early 1980s and beyond.

Much lower stock prices are in the cards, both because of high interest rates and because people won’t be consuming such massive quantities of corporate produce.

The real estate market rests on a foundation of debt. It can easily go bust as interest rates go up. We’re already seeing this with office buildings across the country. And, of course, these office buildings are financed by banks. Banks are going to see a lot of defaults on loans they’ve made.

Meanwhile, bank capital invested in bonds has eroded because bond prices fall in proportion to the degree rise in interest rates, which have gone from close to zero to 5% or 6%. If banks had to mark their loans and capital investments to the market, most would already be bankrupt.

Can the government paper all these things over by printing yet more money? I suppose. But at some point very soon, the dollar will lose value very rapidly; it will be treated like a hot potato. They’re caught between a rock and a hard place.

International Man: This year, we saw the price of gold hit a record high, uranium reached $81.25 per pound, and Bitcoin more than doubled as it entered a new bull market. Meanwhile, the S&P 500 is up around 21% year to date as of writing.

What are your thoughts on what happened in the financial markets in 2023 and what could come next?

Doug Casey: Unfortunately, the US central bank, the Fed, has a gigantic amount of influence over the markets. They can employ “quantitative easing,” which means printing money—and “quantitative tightening,” which means decreasing the money and artificially raising interest rates.

They have many hundreds of Ph.D. economists on staff, but all these people operate on phony Keynesian theories of the way the world works. The consequences of building an economic system on a foundation of paper money and gigantic amounts of debt are potentially catastrophic.

At this point, the economy’s on the razor edge. If they push the print button and hold it down too long, we could go into a runaway inflation. Or, to tamp down inflation, they might raise interest rates and contract the money supply, which might set off a 1929-style credit collapse.

We’re caught between Scylla and Charybdis at this point. And I don’t believe it’s a question of a soft landing or a hard landing. It’s a question of how devastating the crash landing will be.

I hope they can wring one more cycle out of all this because I personally prefer good times to bad times, even if they’re artificial good times, because the bad times are going to be very real.

Editor’s Note: Doug Casey’s forecasts helped investors prepare and profit from: 1) the S&L blowup in the ’80s and ’90s, 2) the 2001 tech stock collapse, 3) the 2008 financial crisis, 4) and now… Doug’s sounding the alarms about a catastrophic event. One he believes could soon strike. To help you prepare and profit, Doug and his team have prepared a special video. Click here to watch now.

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