OK so no blog for a while..sorry… It has been a combination of having soggy brain and the fact I got wimpy after seeing an interview of Upcoming Handsome Norwegian-English Author in a Sunday paper. In the article the young chap (interesting childhood, overcoming some adversity or other, speaks at least four languages) sat looking moody with the sun streaming through his (slightly receding) golden curls whilst the journalist twittered on about his sexiness, intellect, his ability to articulate humanities something or other. None of this did more then make me hiss with usual defensive silliness, ‘ different if he were a WOman’, but then the journo turned to .. his remarkable collection of books..from Homer to Herrmann Hesse, Chaucer to Zola to Lovelock yadda yadda. At that point I looked at my bookshelf, which resembles a shelf in a youth hostel in Prague or the airport shop downstairs in Lusaka airport. Errr…books are expensive and hard to travel with and ..well I am prone to reading fast scary thrillers for a fast scary thrill and the print is larger and. etc and ad infinitum .(you get the point) I felt small and silly. I haven’t even got a decent TinTin collection yet.
‘Control’ is a film that has been much acclaimed in the past few months. It is about the gifted but tormented lead singer of a band called Joy Division who hanged himself at the age of 23. (Did I conjucate ‘hanged’ correctly? )
Ahh..the sights and smells of the Addenbrookes Eye Unit eh? The first hour’s wait is always the most charming..all those pleasant, relaxed patients chatting amicably, the serene staff, the accessible corridors and comfy seats..oh hang on. Actually that was the second hour when I fell asleep. The first hour was ..well the opposite of that. Plus it was paediatric ophthalmology clinic day. Dozens of toddlers and visual impaired people is not the best mix but it can be pretty funny.
I finish my shift at Citizens Advice Bureau and head out into the wind whipped rain, my head down and all my thoughts on how behind I am on the script writing and then I notice that there is smoke all around me. I step up out of the underpass my heart racing, I can hardly see through the smoke…where’s the fire? I spin around…..it must be massive…..where are the sirens..where are the panicking crowds?
It s Sunday evening and the batteries in my eyes need replacing after another few hours transcribing and fiddling around with interviews on this computer.
It’s been a strange week. The Middle East a suppurating sore on the radio and the bizarre ghoulish discoveries at the old children’s home in Jersey. That story…..! I think back to how helpless we were as children at boarding school; parents 5000 miles away, letters checked by staff and no access to money or phones… I know how out of hand some of the house matrons got knowing that there would be almost no come back for the odd Chinese burn, an occasional slap, the sharp tug of hair, the cold words and constant threats of more violence or isolation. Who believes a 10 year old? And that was in the 80’s in a well known and respected school. How much worse for a child alone, in care, without even a relative to whistle blow. Those poor kids.
Cambridge did itself proud today, bright and sun full and sharply chill with high, blue skies. It felt a little treacherous looking out of my window at it all, sitting with my headphones on and listening to play back of the interviews I had taken one night on the banks of the Kafue river in Zambia. The bush is noisy at night. Tree frogs, crickets, night jars, jackals, hippo and a far off lion sing, hoot, shriek, giggle and call in my headphones as I look out on my green and brown square British garden with Dennis the Squirrel making V signs at the pigeons. That squirrel! I should make him listen to this racket…he would pass out.
I am standing in front of eleven blind and visually impaired teenage boys. Watching my clumsy attempts at warm up jolliness is the PEO…the Provisional Education Officer (Special Needs) who has accompanied me on this venture on behalf of the Permanent Secretary for Education without who’s nod I would never have got to do these interviews at Munali Secondary school. This was a school of note and was set up in the 50’s with a resource centre for disabled children. Now, integrated into the main school, they have about 15 VI kids and over 40 deaf children in this particular year group. They have a dormitory originally fitted out for 90 kids and now sleeping over 200. Special needs teachers are scarce and the resource centre is lacking in basics. The secondary school is split into girls and boys but there are no girls sitting in front of me. I am disappointed and ask why the one visually impaired female student chose not to come along. Noone wants to comment.
Japanese cars. Thousands of bloody cheap Japanese cars in pastel colours all called things like ‘Big Horn’ and ‘Yakult’ (well…possibly) have been flooding into Zambia and now in the capital Lusaka the traffic grinds into grid-lock twice a day every day. There is much building work too. Many of the derelict sites that had been there when I left 4 years ago have been bought up, tarted up and stuffed with glass. The supermarkets have almost everything (bar pork pies) and Spar in the main Arcades mall is more expensive then Asda in Cambridge. Zambia is now officially the second most expensive African country to live in and all this is mostly due it seems to AID money filling the coffers of a new middle class and a swelling expatriate community. Corruption is so endemic that it is written in as ‘contingency’ in every budget. Meanwhile the poor still sit in sewage around the edges of the city desperately devising daily plans to stay alive. Downtown the potholes are so deep people have stuck canoes in them as statements and their was a ‘mini’ riot during a by-election that involved one too many machetes for my liking. (Luckily I was on the other side of town.)
Today on the news they were discussing the very British method of keeping teenagers as murderously miserable and as isolated as possible. The method, invented to keep the teenage riffraff away from ‘volitile’ areas such as street corners and shopping areas in case they run riot and graffiti everything or stab everyone or, god forbid, demand some kind of loving respect and equality, is called ‘the mosquito’ and is a sonar weapon that a Bond villain would be proud. It plays a pattern of piercing high frequency bursts that are unbearable to anyone under 20 years old.
As I have a British passport I feel I must comment on the weather. Today, Feb 9th, I went out in a T-shirt. The sun was actually warming, the sky bright blue and everything glittered as if embedded with mica. Potentially climate changetastic but still so lovely.
This is how gorgeous today was: