Thursday, August 16, 2007

Crystal chess, Iraqis, Nat and Dan

As we watched our children growing up, Hanna and I tried to teach them to stay young at heart. It’s wonderful to see our kids become adults, but we wanted them to retain that childlike spark that helps us take joy in life.

Our daughter Nat is a young woman now, with an exciting new life on another continent — like her brother Dan she was born in the US, and she’s taking advantage of the fact that she doesn’t need a visa or a work permit to have a career in the States, working in the movie industry.

She flew back to Britain for a summer visit, and I was delighted to see that childlike spark is burning as brightly as ever in her. It’s always there, in her infectious sense of humour and her liveliness.

Living in California, she misses her big brother badly... misses teasing him, in fact. When she visited his apartment overlooking Hyde Park, she insisted on trying on his barrister’s wig and robes, and trying out a few dance steps.

Dan laughed, but he knew the joke was on big brother... just as it always was when they were growing up. For a moment, it was like looking at our children aged eight and ten again. Which seems as if it was just a week or two ago, instead of a decade and a half.

Another lesson which Hanna and I worked hard to teach our children was one that many parents assume their kids know instinctively: How to get your own way.

In fact, there’s a right way and a wrong way of getting what you want. The right way is one of the most valuable skills you can learn. The wrong way is destructive, dangerous and, in the end, will only bring misery.

We all know people who can bulldoze straight through other people’s objections and feelings. “Get out of my way,” they shout, “or you’ll get hurt!” Very often, they do get exactly what they want — but they also make an enemy of the whole world. Bullies don’t prosper for long. Sooner or later they meet people who are even more aggressive than they are.

Sadly, there are also many people who look in horror at the bullies and think, “I’d hate to be like that. If that’s what it takes to get your own way in life, then I’ll settle for being a nice person who has to miss out.”

This passive attitude attracts bullies like jam attracts wasps. If you act as though it’s your lot in life to be forever trampled and cheated, there will always be a queue of aggressive people ready to walk all over you.

Bullies don’t respect what anyone else wants. Passive people don’t respect their own needs. To be happy, you must avoid both those mistakes.

Be assertive. Respect your own needs, and be mindful of what other people want too. Being assertive means you state your feelings clearly. You say, “I am going to get what I want — tell me what you want too, and let’s co-operate so we can both get our own way.”

It’s all about self-respect and respect for others. When you learn that, you’re on track for a happy life.

That’s such a simple lesson, though it needs to be repeated many times before a child can fully understand it. I can’t think why schools don’t teach children how to be assertive. Self-respect, plus respect for others: it should be everyone’s first lesson!


Out of the blue, I received a tempting invitation from an Amsterdam jeweller and sculptor named David CJ de Jong. He’d watched me being interviewed for the launch of Staya Erusa, the Dutch movie which explores paranormal phenomena by delving into my life story, and I had talked about the incredible power of crystals.

David was fascinated — he had just finished creating a chess set cut from rock crystal. The pieces were huge, lustrous, and intensely detailed, each one a unique artwork. Every game with that set would feel like a brush with magic, David promised me.

I did like the idea. Rock crystal energises me — I always carry a piece or two with me. to replenish my mind’s batteries. There’s plenty of scientific evidence to show that crystals do act as energy amplifiers — that’s why there’s a fragment in every quartz watch.

Would my calculations become sharper when I played chess with a crystal set? Would I see deeper into the game, building combinations and sensing strategic weaknesses? Would I be a match for Garry Kasparov, with a quartz king under my fingers?

Then David revealed the price to me: 750,000 Euros.

Regretfully, I turned the offer down. “For that money,” I told him, “I think I’d rather have a house on one of Amsterdam’s historic canals.”


As Iraq won football’s Asian Cup with a 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia, I couldn’t help celebrating too. The conflicts which have torn that country apart for years, leaving many hundreds of thousands of innocents dead or maimed, has given the world a warped view of the country, as if it’s a place where only bad things happen. It’s great that the nation has something to cheer about, and give the rest of us a chance to see its people happy.

My work with charities in Israel brings me into contact with many Arab children. I know that they could easily be brothers and sisters to the kids who have been blown apart by bombs and missiles from all sides in the war. Bombs don’t care who they kill.

On an impulse, Hanna, Shipi and I walked to Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park, where the celebrations were centred. We were welcomed by everyone. It was fantastic to meet people, like the girl in this photo, who had seen me on Arabic TV, in Iraq.

We ended up with many new friends at a Lebanese restaurant, where I ate till I felt like bursting. Football fans sing “Who ate all the pies” at porky players...in my case, it was more like, “Who ate all the pittas?”

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