Tuesday, July 27, 2010


'Your silence is like an open door' he had said to him earlier, but he really felt it ring true now. He was listening to both of them talking and he wanted to join in but couldn’t. He didn’t really know what they were talking about. He wished they were talking a language he didn’t understand like Arabic, Spanish or Russian. But they were talking about music and he hadn’t heard of any of the band’s mentioned. He thought of changing the subject: no, they were too engrossed in what they were talking about. He was slipping (the slippery slope) and he wondered why: tiredness, yes; being stoned and drunk, it was late, yes; but they had all been through the same conditions, everyone felt the same. Who did he think he was?

Was he somewhere else? Where? No, he was here, he was there. He wasn’t on another plane, he didn’t feel superior (he wanted to tell them this, to apologise), he just wasn’t joining in, that’s all.

He always felt like being someplace else, not out of rudeness to the people who he was with, but just because he didn’t feel in his element where he was, wherever he was, no matter where he was. He never liked leaving a place (unless it was his home), and he never liked arriving at a place (especially his home; each new return home after a journey he feels more an alien, more lonely, more detached and unemotional).

It was always the journey he savoured and felt the possibility for something new, fresh and exciting. Of course, by the time he arrives it’s usually all in vain. When he leaves, he’s annoyed at first, for not making more of it when he was there, but is soon excited about returning home in the hope of some change having occurred. Alas, in vain again. Give him ten minutes of arriving back home and he’s miserable because it’s all the same again, though that first ten minutes is usually pretty nice. A life of continual movement might keep him in raised spirits. To have nothing, nowhere, yet everything, everywhere, anywhere.

It was good being back in the Medinas of Morocco, with the smell of Casa-Sports and a million other indescribable aromas mingling. But it's strange seeing middle-class Moroccan women smoking cigarettes – not often seen out of the big cities. It feels odd working here and staying in a middle class area: men and women mixing in public and plush new apartments. It’s the western influence with its penthouses and housing developments, all along the coastline. A stone’s throw away from the new apartments are the shantytowns.

Beautiful shantytowns. So far removed from what I know, they are beautiful. Beautiful women, and workers. Not European-type women with their European-type clothing, but earth women and their clothing. No bland man-made manufactured clothing but seeming to come from the earth and seeming unique, part of each person not part of every person.

These new apartments, they’re nice. But a home made from corrugated iron, cardboard, bushes, branches, tin cans: that’s something else. It’s hands on, in; it’s resourceful, unique, improvised, possibly art. In fact, it’s wonderful, but it’s poverty, and I guess we’d all rather live in plush apartments, than in poverty, if given the choice.

When I was a child I had a vague notion that all blacks and Asians looked the same. Then I got older, and saw a bit of the world, and came to the conclusion that all white people looked the same.

There’s an amazing similarity between walking from Putney to Wandsworth and walking from Fulham to Hammersmith. Roads and blacks become apparent, even paramount. ‘Roads divide communities,’ he said, solemnly. And I thought of Jakarta, where all the highways have forced communities and villages, called kampungs, into being.

And along the Thames at night, the ducks and the geese and the swans talking to us, and only now and here is London peaceful, romantic and beautiful; London at night along the Thames.

What is it with rivers?
Their peace, beauty and romance?

But the cold, and the empty darkness, sometimes ruins it and then I think of Manila bay at night with its people living on the banks, and the food stalls and children and smiles and greetings and the untouched vastness, the humidity, the real beauty, and the women… always the women.

The eternal visions of rivers and women, both just passing through.

(Rabat, Morocco, 1995)

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