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Archive for July 2008

28
July 10, 2008 Posted by tahir in Travel

Travels

I’m going to be travelling for the next few days en route from Casablanca to Argentina, where I will spend a few weeks.

Will post when I can. Thanks for remembering to check the blog.
With my best wishes to all,
Tahir
6
July 9, 2008 Posted by tahir in Travel

Generosity

When it comes to ideals there’s not much I care about passionately. I’d don’t really care if someone lies to me, or if he steals, or is rude. But what turns my blood cold is miserliness.

I can’t stand it. Not for a moment.

It’s interesting to think that the word ‘miser’ has the same root (latin for wretchedness) as ‘misery’. And to me miserliness is exactly that — wretchedness.
Living here in Morocco you see people every day who have very little in the way of worldly possessions, but their hearts are wide open. The community is ‘sensible’ (to use the French meaning the word) to those within it, and it would be unthinkable not to share.
But then of course when you go to wealthier areas, the walls gain in height and the generosity is more about impressing others rather than helping them.
In the East the idea of giving is to benefit the receiver. For this reason gifts are often given anonymously. Think about it. That’s surely the way it should be. But we often get all caught up about wanting thanks, like a dog needing a pat on the head. 
We recently had friends visiting from overseas. Their son made something for the children in the bidonville, the shantytown, in which we live. He wanted to take the gift to the kids and never had time as he had to leave. His mother seemed upset the he didn’t have the chance to give his gift. I said that I would make sure that the gift was presented. She seemed unhappy at this, at least at first… until I explained that in Morocco, and elsewhere in the Arab world, a gift is regarded a twice as valuable if the giver is unknown.
There’s another example that I can’t get out of my head. It happened quite recently too. A European gentleman who I know was staying in Fes. He invited me down to a sumptuous house he had rented. By chance he invited me to lunch on a Friday. In Morocco Friday lunch is almost sacred. It’s a communal meal and friends and friends of friends are invited to eat, more usually not from the same vast platter. There’s no such thing as scrimping and saving when it comes to guests in Morocco… and doing so on a Friday would be unthinkable.
When the European invited me he asked ever so politely, if I might come alone… to eave my wife and children behind. I must have gone silent at the other end of the phone, because he added, ‘I’m thinking of numbers don’t you know.’ In Moroccan culture such a request is beyond unthinkable. And the more I think about it, the more I find myself preoccupied with the broader idea of cultural generosity, and real hospitality.
In the same way, it’s rude in the Arab world to tell a visitor what time to come. They will come when they are ready and as a host you are expected to receive them. And of course, generosity is rewarded many times over.
For me, both my proudest and most shamed moment came a few years ago in Casablanca. I was trying to load a table into my car near the Habbous market, when I noticed a beggar going from one stall to the next, asking the stallkeepers for fruit. One by one, the fruit sellers would select the finest apple, orange, or pear, and would pass it over to the woman with their blessing. Amazed at what I was seeing, I went a little nearer. The first stallkeeper noticed my interest. He looked at me full on.
‘Just because someone is poor,’ he said, ‘it does not mean they are not worthy of the best.’
TS
18
July 8, 2008 Posted by tahir in Travel

Guilt

Guilt is a big thing for me, a kind of grease that lubricates my life. Without it, I’d be sitting on the couch with my feet up, daydreaming. Or asleep, or gorging myself on ravioli with extra cheese. I don’t know why I feel it, deep in my bones, but the guilt’s always there. It grinds away, tormenting me day and night.

I never feel as if I’ve done enough work, or good enough work, or that I’ve exercised enough (which I never have), or that I’ve got enough going on. I’m the rat in the wheel spinning faster and faster. And however fast I go, it’s not enough. Because the guilt’s chasing me, reminding me that I could go even faster still.

 I look at other people and they don’t seem to have the same angst. Or if they do, they hide it very well. Rachana certainly doesn’t have it. Most of the time she thinks I’m mad. You see, she’s much calmer than me, and she gets stuff done, but without the anguish. While I hurtle to and fro in a frenzy… the guilt devil jabbing me with his trident, she drifts serenely through the day getting plenty done .

I sometimes wonder why I am like I am, why Rachana is how she is, and why everyone else is how they are. Is it natural programming, or something learnt? Nature or nurture?

It must be a little of both.

But then how ever did the guilt get into my genes?  Did I have guilt-ridden ancestors, hounded like me through history? And if so, how did they fare? And the portion that’s learnt… by what lessons and encounters could all that guilt have eased into my head?

So here I am, intoxicated with guilt, so greatly so that I’ve resorted to writing a blog about my preoccupation. If there’s an upside it’s that I’m often coaxed on to do things that I don’t want to do, but that I know the guilt devil will be thrilled with.

Once in a while I get so overladen with guilt that I can’t do anything at all. I just sit there on the couch fretting. I pretend that I’m thinking, or working on an idea, but I’m not. The other day, our maid Zohra found me in the sitting room staring into space. I tapped a finger across my lips pensively as if I was coming up with a big thought. She looked at me hard, narrowed her eyes.

‘You are not thinking of anything at all,’ she said.

‘But I am, really I am.’

‘No,’ replied Zohra. ‘I can tell.’

‘How?’

‘Because your eyes are bloodshot,’ she said.



TS


 

 

 

3
July 7, 2008 Posted by tahir in Travel

Honour

It’s three years ago today that London was terrorised by bombs on the transport network. The TV captured the wounded: blood spilling over faces, the look of fear and pain in the eyes of random victims. They could have been any of us, and that’s where the real terror comes in. And the news today is of killing at the Indian Embassy in Kabul. Dozens dead for no real reason at all. Again, random people.

The London bombs changed the way I live my life. And it happened in a round about way. As I have published recently in In Arabian Nights, I was travelling in Pakistan with two Swedish colleagues a week after the bombs. Directives from London and Washington had encouraged the Pakistanis to clamp down on anyone suspicious, anyone suspicious with a British passport and a Muslim-sounding name. I turned up and the alarm bells sounded. We were arrested and spent the next sixteen days and sixteen fearful nights in a Pakistani torture jail.

I don’t usually write about this stuff. I leave that to all the others who have much to say. But my life changed on 7/7/05, and it’s something that I think of a great deal. Before that date I had been affected like all of us by 9/11… but had not really been touched more than superficial inconvenience (paying more for flights, airport security lines etc). Before 7/7 I lived a nice little life. And I used to think to myself that it could never really get wrapped up in something linked to Al Qaeda and Taliban.

The big change was having my life taken away. Stripped clean off my back. And I was suddenly like a guy in one of those Hollywood flicks, desperately trying to get reconnected with his life. I remember sitting there in a cell, or worse — in the torture room — going over the ins and outs of a multicultural life. I was born in England but to mixed Anglo-Asian ancestry. My wife is from India, and I live in Morocco. At the time we were arrested in Peshawar, my colleagues and me were travelling by land from India to Afghanistan, to make a documentary.

What’s more, my passport is covered in stamps from obscure tin-pot countries. And I don’t have a real job, not the sort of thing you can quantify with a salary and a title. Try explaining all this to someone who’s never heard anything like it, and you get a very big mess.

I knew that with time the mess would get unravelled. Or rather I hoped it would. And I hoped too that we could pick up and move on out, carry on with what we were doing. But at the same time I knew something big had happened, something that had broken the life I lived before.

And every night when I watch the news and hear of the deaths in far away Afghanistan (in particular, as that’s a place I know), I feel despondent. The sadness comes from knowing that there is no honour in any of it. This is a war that winning will only return us to a kind of shaky status quo. There’ll be no victory parades. And in the time it takes to win it, the only certainty is that thousands, or millions, of innocent lives will end just as they did in London three years ago today.



TS

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July 6, 2008 Posted by tahir in Travel

Hope

A man is sitting in the shade against the battered pink city wall of Marrakech. He sits there everyday, wrapped in a fraying brown jellaba made from camel’s wool. It looks as though he’s baking, but there’s no perspiration on his wrinkled face… just a look of glazed fatigue. On the ground before him there’s a few inches of grey cloth. Upon it is a coin.
The man was born in a village in the mountains. In his youth he was strong and and lean. He would run through the valleys, streams glistening from melted snow, birdsong loud all around, laughing with his friends. Sometimes, on dark spring nights, they would sit together out in the meadows, away from the adobe homes, and tell stories. They would dream, plan adventures, swap tall tales, talk of the women they would marry and of the happiness they’d find.
Years came and went, and the man tilled the land that his father had tilled, and his father before him. He was wed to a girl from the next village, a girl with a pleasing smile and a kindness. He became a father, and the days and weeks and seasons rolled on and on.
Then one day the man’s crops were blighted by disease and by drought. The wheat and the potatoes died first, then the sheep grew weak and slipped away. The man taught his children to trust in God, to work hard and to keep on the right path.
Another season came and went and, with it, more drought. The village was at the point of starvation. One morning a trader came from far away Marrakech and offered a little money for tribal possessions. He came into the mud-brick home and offered three hundred dirhams ($50) for all he could carry away. He took the pots and pans, the chairs, the table, and even the front door, said he could sell them to foreigners who were moving into the medina down in Marrakech.
More time passed, but not as gently as it had done before. The man’s wife grew ill and she succumbed. No one quite knew the cause of her ailment. There was no money for medicine and in any case no one else had any to spare. The man struggled to feed his children and he grieved. He thought about sending word to his relatives who lived in a bidonville near Casablanca, but he had too much pride. If they were to visit him, he would have to cook a banquet in their honour. And there was certainly no money for that.
So the man sacrificed a chicken, his last possession of any value. And he said a prayer to God. He prayed that the drought would end, replaced by happiness, and that his children would know a different future, one touched with hope.
That night, the man had a dream. He dreamed of a path wending its way through the mountain valleys down to the city. The next morning, he gathered up his sons, together with what they could carry, and they started to walk.
Within a week they had reached the frenzied sprawl of Marrakech, teaming with transport and tourists. The man was too proud to say it aloud, but he missed the solitude of the valley. He found a room for them all to sleep in, searched for work, and began a new life of servility. 
With time the boys grew up and left the nest. The man doesn’t know where they are. But he lives in hope, hope that they were well, and that one day they will return, their own dreams fulfilled. His sight is not good now, but he has very little needs… a little bread dipped in oil satiates the pains of hunger when they come. He clings to what little hope he can muster. Because, as his father had taught him so long before, when the valley was green and the crops abundant, a life without hope is not a life at all.
TS
 
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July 5, 2008 Posted by tahir in Travel

Swamp

To know about swamps you have to travel with mules. I mean it. Without one, you can’t really understand the other.

I had never been in a swamp before, not a proper one, until I ventured to western Ethiopia with Samson, my guide, and friend. I’d picked him up in Addis Ababa weeks before. Or, rather, he’d picked me up in his taxi. I was on the quest of the lost mines of King Solomon and Samson knew about gold, or so he said… so we went off together.
The trail eventually led to Tulu Wallel, a godforsaken craggy mountain towards the border with Sudan. I knew that if we could get to the mountain, and then up it, we’d have a chance at finding a secret mine once worked by the inimitable British trailblazer Frank Hayer, back in the thirties.
So we hired mules. Half a dozen of them. And we pushed forwards on to Tulu Wallel, a cloud-capped mount protruding from an ocean of green. From the first strides, I could see that these were animals with a sense of what was going on. I am not a horseman, but I know that horses are flighty, frisky, that they can’t be trusted when push comes to shove.
Very soon the rain began to fall. Torrential rain. And then the cold came.We were in a forest by this time and it was dusk. It was a wicked enchanted forest, the kind of place where grown men feel frightened out of their wits. And that’s just what we all were, although we were putting on brave faces.
Suddenly, there was a frantic call from Samson behind. He was wrestling one of the mules forward, steering it, pulling the reins to the left. Now, the amazing thing about mules is that they find their own path, and they keep their heads when all about them are losing theirs. The best thing to do is to let them go, and they will lead you through the horrors ahead.
The problem was that we had a muleteer who seemed ignorant of the genius of his herd. He drove them straight into swamp, a kind of swamp that verged on quicksand. To watch a strong, laden beast go down into a quagmire is one of the most terrible sights imaginable. The she-mule’s front legs sunk in deep, and she went down fast. Before she knew it, and we knew it, her muzzle was plunged in. She cocked it back, wailing, heaving, as the girth bindings were slashed with Samson’s knife.
I ran forward with him, and we both found ourselves being sucked in too. What a feeling, a feeling of utter helplessness, as if the end had come. Then a second mule came forward, answering the distress of the first. It sank as well.
Darkness was upon us, the sound of bats in the trees.
No light, just fear.
We must have been protected that night by some magical force. For we all made it out alive. I don’t know how because all the odds were stacked against us. It was as if we were lifted out of there, preserved by a greater power. It may sound mad, and it does, but I have always felt secretly that we were saved, all of us, by a patron… by the patron saint of mules.
TS
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July 4, 2008 Posted by tahir in Travel

City

Calcutta. Perhaps you have been there, and if you have not, pack your bags, get a ticket and be on the next flight. Because if you have not experienced Calcutta, you have never lived.

By the way, I can hear you asking why ‘city’ is even on this list. The reason is that humanity is urbanising, and it may be good or it may be bad, but it’s reality. And if you want to know about urbanism, Calcutta’s the greatest teacher in the world.

I first went there when on the trail of an Indian magician called Hakim Feroze. He was an austere man with high ideals and a rawness that put fear into people… all people. And he had the ability to see through layers of life, through truth and fiction, as if he were wearing X-ray glasses even though he was not. He is dead now, and the world is a far less interesting place without him. But the city which he loved and knew better than anyone else seethes on.
Go to Park Street. Find a cafe. Sit down and prepare to spend the entire day there. This is the only way to get to grips with a place — by observation. I have been to India a gazillion times and have not yet been to the Taj Mahal. I am sure one day my feet will arrive there, but not yet. I am far more interested with what’s really going on in places like Calcutta.
So you have your fresh lime soda with sugary syrup on the side, and you are watching, and you are thinking to yourself, ‘this is a madhouse and there’s nothing orderly… it’s chaos!’ But look again. There’s a grand system, systems on systems, people on people, ideas on ideas. Invention, genius, logic… all of it crammed into a few hundred feet of pavement.
Indeed, the pavement of Park Street has more life on it than entire cities elsewhere. There are people pressing clothes with irons filled with coals. There are dhobis doing laundry, and people extracting gold from the dust swept from jewellers’ shops; and there are rag pickers, and pavement dentists, and pick-pockets, and pye dogs and stalls where your watch can get fixed, and typists and stacks of used romantic novels sold by the pound, and there are beggars old and young and, if you’re very lucky, you’ll even see a woman with a cow.
The magician used to send me out into the mayhem (that’s when I still thought it was mayhem) and he’d tell me to search for insider information. He said, in his oblique way, that insider information made a magician great. So I’d go out and sit about and watch and watch and watch.
And after a while I’d notice a system… like the baby renters (you see that in Calcutta you have to pay a fee to the dons for the best begging spots in the middle of town. And by the time you have waited — long waiting list —  for the best spots, you are far too old to have a baby, so you have to rent one. And it’s good news because the parents get paid for having their squawking children babysat)… or a system like the woman and the cow.
The woman and the cow took me months to decipher. But ask any Indian and they see it immediately and, when you see it, they smile. A woman sits on a street corner with a cow and a pile of fresh leaves. From time to time someone, a passerby, stops, pays a tiny coin to the woman, so that he can feed the cow. By doing this he will have a greater chance of reaching heaven. 
But look again. It’s not as simple as you might think. The woman doesn’t own the cow. She’s owned by the milkman, who’s done with it after milking’s finished at four AM. He doesn’t want to have to look after the animal while he’s doing his rounds, so he rents it… to the woman. She takes the cow to the corner, (and of course pays a little something to the dons for the spot), and people pay her… so she makes a living. But it gets better and better: the milkman’s happy because his cow gets fed and he gets paid for having it fed, the passersby are delighted at having the chance of going to heaven, the woman’s thrilled because she has a living… and the cow, well, she’s ecstatic at all the delicious food and attention.
Pure genius.
TS
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July 3, 2008 Posted by tahir in Travel

Jungle

My whole life I have been fearful of jungle. It started when I read Kipling’s story of Mowgli and Sher Khan, his Jungle Book. The more I read, and learned, of the insects and the fantastic creatures, the more afraid I became.

Years passed. And I found myself writing about distant places and people. I used to hope an editor would take something from me from home, but there was no hope of that. They used to want me to go further, to endure more, to push myself and those around me beyond boundaries more terrible that I had ever imagined. I travelled to India and studied magic with its Godmen, to Ethiopia, where I searched for the lost gold mines of King Solomon. I ventured through the Far East, too, across africa and back, and up and down the mighty Andean chain.
The editors liked the work and they liked the sense of wilderness. Most of all they liked the idea of me, someone with no training, journeying where only the intrepid or the mad usually go. They asked me where I was planning to venture next. All I could think of was the notion than primitive man flew, or glided, like the birds. The Birdmen… that was it,. So I told them.
‘I am going in search of the Birdmen of Peru,’ I said.
So it was that finally I arrived at the jungle. I had been in the Amazon once before, a fleeting trip while crossing Latin America. But I had never known it. I will never forget the first night I spent upstream in Iquitos, the Peruvian Amazon. It was a place of joy and of fear, fear of what was all around.
The journey ended up as a book called Trail of Feathers. When it was published I pressed my hands together and smiled. I’ll never, ever have to return to that place, I thought to myself. I was done with the jungle — with the heat and the interminable rain, the insects as big as saucers and with hallucinogenic plants.
But then, something happened. I got talking to a mad pair of Swedish film makers and they urged me to return. It was like leaving prison and going back, voluntarily. So I did.
The idea was to venture to Madre de Dios, the thickest and most fearful cloud forest on the planet. We had almost no equipment, no understanding, a few hundred Pot Noodles, and a map with nothing but green wavy lines. Our mission was to find Paititi, the lost city of the Incas, a place known by the locals as ‘House of the Tiger King’.
We set off. Terrible conditions and a lack of food took an awful toll on the men. There was talk of spirits and of tigers, and of all sorts of stuff that preyed on all our nerves. The porters were mostly Seventh Day Adventists from a small village called Llactapampa. It was there that our saviour, Eduardo was from. He was their leader and he whipped them up into a Bible-bashing frenzy, a frenzy that gave us the energy, the zeal, to find the lost city.
But it is not Eduardo or the porters or the Swedes, or the truly deplorable journey that I want to mention here. It is Pancho, a Machiaguinga warrior whose face is burned into my mind. 
Pancho claimed to have found the ruins while out hunting as a young man. He discovered a golden hatchet buried there and proudly brought it back to his father, the chief. Instead of receiving the praise he expected, he was castigated, ordered to return the hatchet at once for fear of bringing a terrible curse down on the community.
Eduardo knew Pancho and introduced us. Anyone who has seen our film will know of his face… gentle, honest, fanciful… that’s the wonderful thing about him and something that’s always with me. You see, for Pancho (and I say this after being in the deep jungle for seventeen weeks trying to unravel it all), fact and fantasy are two halves of the same thing. 
Pancho found the ruins and the hatchet, of that I am certain. But I am also now certain that he found them not in the world we would regard as ‘real’ but in an equally real world for him — and for all people until the industrial revolution… the world of his imagination.
An evening doesn’t go by without me wondering what Pancho is doing at that moment. He is the most content and honorable man I have ever encountered, and I don’t say it lightly.
I remember that he begged us again and again to take him to Cusco. We didn’t want to pollute his mind, but he would not stop asking. So eventually we agreed. We took him to the city.
He licked ice cream, touched cement, saw cars for the first time, ate in a cafe, touched a llama, and even went to a disco. At the end of three days I asked greedily if he loved what he had seen, if he was happy. Pancho’s ever-present grin had gone. He seemed unhappy.
‘This place, this city, has forgotten nature,’ he said, ‘and it is worthy of you all.’
TS
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July 2, 2008 Posted by tahir in Travel

Desert

Once upon a time there lived a man who loved the sun and its heat so greatly that he sold up all his possessions and bought a ticket to the capital of a sprawling Saharan country. When he had arrived, been robbed a couple of times, and threatened a couple more, he set out to buy himself a small farm in the desert.

Very soon he had paid all the money he possessed to a con-man for a piece of land unwanted by anyone else. 
The man could hardly understand what was driving him. He knew that there must be a reason, a real one, that his unconscious mind had not yet revealed to him. And he knew that the only way to follow satisfaction was by following his mind’s plan. So that’s what he did.
Days passed, then weeks and months. The man made a simple life for himself. He got a dog, a cat, and a flock of ostriches, which he raised from chicks. They would follow him about, as if he were their master. He lived on their eggs, their meat and, from time to time when people passed, he would sell them fabulous fans made from the feathers.
One day an eagle was flying high above the desert dunes searching for prey. He spotted a group of specks below and, assuming them to be food of some sort, he descended sharply. Gradually, as he lowered, he realised that the specks were giant flightless birds, a joke creature as far as eagles were concerned.
The eagle landed on the sands near to where the ostriches were preening themselves for mites.
‘I am an eagle,’ he said proudly, ‘king of the birds.’
The ostriches didn’t even look up. So the eagle repeated himself, splaying his razor-sharp talons as he did so.
Just then, the man came out of the shack. Spotting the eagle, the ostriches scurried over to their master’s shadow and plunged their heads in the cool sand.
The man picked up a sharp stone and weighed it in his hand.
‘If you don’t go off at once, i’ll kill you,’ he said.
The eagle preened the feathers of his crest and didn’t budge. He smiled.
‘Are you not frightened of me?’ said the man angrily.
‘Why should I be?’ replied the eagle.
‘Because I am a man and animals are fearful of men.’
Again the eagle preened, a little slower than before. Then he said:
‘I can fly high into the air, and see a mouse from the heavens. I can live off the land, kill without tools, and right at this moment I could scratch out your eyes.’ he paused. ‘And what about you?’ he asked.
‘What about me?’ said the man.
‘You,’ said the eagle disdainfully, ‘can do none of these things and, what’s more, you rule over birds that are both flightless and terrified. See how their heads are in the dirt behind where you stand! But your greatest foolishness is to think you are superior in the face of the truth.’
The man dropped the stone onto the ground.
‘In the months since I left my country and came here to the desert,’ he said, ‘I have wondered again and again why I forced myself to come. And now that I have heard your words, I realise that they are the reason. They are the lesson I was waiting to receive. I am guilty of thinking myself better, far better, than you and everything else out here in what we would call a wilderness. I am feeble beyond all imagination, unsuited to this place, and yet I presume to be superior all the same.’
And the man stepped forward, knelt before the eagle, and together they laughed.
TS
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July 1, 2008 Posted by tahir in Travel

River

A few years ago I was in Manaus in the Brazilian Amazon. The city is one of those strange hybrids of culture and life that shouldn’t really exist at all. It’s an anomaly, a metropolis set deep in nature’s jungle, born from man’s greed, the greed for rubber.

When rubber seeds were smuggled out of the Upper Amazon to Malaya an entire cult of decadence collapsed. As everyone knows (especially those who have enjoyed Fitzcarraldo), there is an opera house in Manaus, and buildings constructed in the grandest styles.

So it was that I was sitting on the banks of the Amazon drinking something cool, marvelling at its silent immensity, when a man sat down beside me. He was lean, tanned, and had one of those ruddy faces, that comes from hard work and alcohol. He shook my hand, wouldn’t release the fingers.

         ‘I am Oskar,’ he said, ‘a fisherman.’

         I wriggled my fingers free and back to my glass, told him my name.

         ‘I don’t have any money,’ I said.

         After all, I’d been robbed a few days earlier near the Cathedral and had found it best to trust no one. I finished my drink, placed a folded note on the tabletop, clenched my knees to stand.

         Just before I was upright, I felt Oskar’s hand on mine. It was rough, a little damp, the thumb missing its tip.

         ‘I will tell you about the mermaid,’ he said.

         ‘Huh?’

         ‘The mermaid.’

         ‘What mermaid?’

         ‘The one swimming out there in the river.’

         Oskar nudged my empty glass.

         ‘A cerveza would cool my throat,’ he said.

         I sank back into my chair, nodded to the waiter. A beer instantly arrived, dripping in condensation. Oskar drank it in one gulp.

         ‘So tell me.’

         ‘About what?’

         ‘About the mermaid,’ I said icily.

         ‘I have seen her,’ said the fisherman, ‘she is the most beautiful creature alive. Her hair is golden, her face like an angel’s, and her body… well, it’s pink and slippery like a boutou, a pink dolphin.’

         ‘When did you see her?’

         ‘Oh when I was a young man,’ said Oskar dreamily. ‘I was out in my father’s canoe, fishing in the twilight. The air was very still, as if something terrible might be about to happen. The moon was almost full, its light radiant, the colour of polished silver. I was just about to throw out the net again when the water rippled all around the canoe and…’

         ‘And…’

         ‘And the head of golden hair pushed up out of the Amazonas. I thought at first it was a dead body. But the face was smiling, the face of a woman about my age. Time froze. I froze.’

         ‘Did she speak to you?’

         Oskar made a fist with his hand and blew into it.

         ‘Oh yes she did.’

         ‘What did she say?’

         Again, the fisherman blew into his fist. His eyes suddenly seemed glazed over.

         ‘She said that the loneliness of the river was mirrored above in the heavens, by the infinity of the stars.’

 

 

TS