A Letter To Sasha



Monday 14th July


You are always too formal!  I have your crinkled and yellowed letter by my side as I write to you now, though it has took some time to arrive to me here on the sunny coast of Recife (I think Brasilian mail is slow).  I trust that you are safe, whatever devil wrote that letter will surely be thrown from your trail once you moved.  In truth I have to believe that you are safe, you are my link, possibly my last link to what we once had in the old world.  But I will not speak like that because we are strong, we have always been strong!  Remember when we were children and we used to rings around Joseph in the school yard, how his little cheeks became red with the effort of his exertion as he tried to catch us whilst we floated on the air, always beating him.  We were always the fastest in the school races as well.

Do you believe that whoever sent you the letter also knew about me?

Recife life is good, I am liking it here although it is very different from the home country.  The coast and the countryside are beautiful (a lush verdant green contrasting with the colonial town facade), the sea is sparkling and the living is good.  I should say though that this city is not without it’s own problems of course.  There is a large population here, full of migrants and manual laborers from the surrounding countryside, and whilst there is a strong regional and local identity it would not do to compare it to the cities in the south!  I know you think it is odd my coming here, after all this is country that is directly opposite to ours in ideology and views, one that has harboured those that seek to banish, isolate and, ultimately, flay us off the face of this earth, but in truth Sasha it is also a vibrant mix of people, of identities and cultures.  I can, with a good tan and some local knowledge, slip into the crowds here and form myself a new skin; I am born anew.

Please do not say that I am betraying our homeland identity though.  We both know what it is like carrying around our secrets and hidden pasts (that heavy depressing weight) but we have to be careful, we always have to be careful.  In my heart I believe that this is the last place that I’ll be found in or hunted down in- I am living in the open, eating fresh fish and fruit and drinking the vitalising local drinks.  I feel free here Sasha!  More free than I have felt for so many years.  It is as if I can feel my wings spreading that little bit more each day, as if the very horizon widens that little bit more every morning.  I am even taking educational classes, learning the local language slowly but surely and helping to sell goods at a small local market.  I know it is nothing compared to our previous lives but I am slowly earning to live again.  I pray that you too are doing the same.  In fact I know you are, we could not be so close and not know one another’s thoughts, even with an ocean between our physical bodies.

I wake up on the cool mornings, with the air laced with the salt of the sea spray, the sun’s rays casting shadows on my walls and the calls of the street echoing in my room, and I give thanks that I wake up in this lovely place.  There is history here too, although not classical it is every bit as intriguing as anything Rome or Athens produced, and so recent too.  Did you know that the indigenous peoples raised their own republic here in the north not so long ago?  That they repelled the central government so many times that the main rebel city grew and prospered for decades?  In resistance there is hope.  We know this, we live this.  To be alive is to be against the laws of the very known universe, but to be alive means that we must push ourselves even when we think that we can no longer function as humans.  We must, we have to, or else our lives would be in vain.

Forgive me, I know you know this.  And do not joke, your bones are almost younger than mine!  I will see you yet in Brasil and we shall dance together in the street.  I know that you have to stay in Europe; I miss it every waking hour of my life but I need to be away from it.  I cannot yet go back, too fresh is the wound upon my body and being physically back would surely open re-open those wounds.  I fear that is something I could not recover from quickly, if I ever could.  No, I have a horrible feeling that it could be fatal.  No, I need to Stay away, I need that deep blue gap between between me and the land we once knew.

Tell me, my dear, what news of your love life?  What news of your latest historical fix?  I miss your knowledgeable ways, the pointing out of nicked buildings and little cultured asides on some-such street feature.  Are you reading at the moment?  I find that I have to, that before I go to bed on a night I must pick up a European classic and read a few pages or even just flick through some favourite passages of a few novels.  I need to remind myself that evil has not permeated every facet of European life, that it has not indelibly marked the pleasure of our country or another.  Maybe it is stupid, or daft, but I feel it is necessary.

Do not forget Sasha that we are all sons and daughters of some one.  We have our history, our culture, our people, running through our own veins right now, even as you read these very words remember that we are free.  Whilst we live so do they.  Do not give up hope, and do not give in to despair.  Fly while (and when) you can but soon we will be settled once again.  Keep that hope in your heart and enjoy your historical tours as I am sure only you can!

With deepest love for you my brother, my family.


Letter 1Letter 3


The music, in all honest truth, could not have

been that much more dramatic,

As you stood and ambled towards the stairs,

and I held back, swayed by your gravity.

I loved you then and I love you

now, even though you are not the person

that I once knew.

A beauty grows anew, even as your body fails

and nature, in her folly, her wisdom, her

demonstrable lack of remorse for life,

threatens to take you down,

By bending your body closer to the earth,

as in an eternal hug, she slowly

reaches, but not yet.

Not yet.

I think of cowboys shooting guns straight up into the air, of Indians in their last chance saloon pondering their shared fallen fate, of the horses helping to herd the cattle and the desolation of the landscape with hard rock outcrops dominating the frame; the films that you love so well.

The music ends and the stairs ascended, you work your way to a deep sleep.

And I sit and stir, moved by your grace, your wizened and aged body battling daily the elements,

bequeathed upon this earth but for a short term of life,

A single tear, silent yet graceful, grows on my eyelash and let falls to the earth,

A slave to gravity, as your body was when I saw it fall.

To you, with who I would not be here, I thank,

For this blessed thing called life.


Photograph taken by author with Pentax S1a, please use CC if reproduced.

Christmas and the Homeless

Whilst reading the New Statesman and The Guardian recently I came across two articles of interest.  Firstly there is the Guardian article by a young man who experienced homelessness throughout the past few years, and questions what the government are doing to help those who are homeless into getting back into education.  It is an interesting and educational article, full of important points and views.  In it he defines homelessness itself-

‘Homelessness does not necessarily entail living on the streets. In fact a comparatively low number of young people, on any given night, sleep rough. Many live in temporary accommodation, stay in hostels, or simply travel between sofas: all are forms of homelessness.’

In particular is the mention of the current UK governments benefit cutbacks for people aged under 25 years old, and in particular the impact of the cutting of the EMA, Educational Maintenance Grant, in 2010 on people in his position.

Over at The New Statesman a column by Jim White caught my attention.  The article centered on the rise of StreetLink going national, across the UK.  StreetLink is a charity which is designed to be a first port of call that helps homeless people.  It encourages the public to phone a dedicated phone line to report people who are sleeping rough so that they can get some immediate help.  The quote below details the exact mechanism-

“The idea is simple: save the number (0300 500 0914) in your phone, and call it when you see a rough sleeper. You give the telephone worker a description of the person and their location. They will then get in touch with the council or a local homeless service to visit the person and provide support. If requested, StreetLink will give the person who made the call an update on what’s happening 10 days later.”

The article nicely outlines some of the major issues faceless homeless people in general, as well as some of the tedious barrier hopping they have to do to gain benefits and help to put them back on their feet again.  In particular both of the articles above highlight the fact that many people are homeless due to a variety of reasons.  In this relatively harsh economic climate the number of people sleeping rough is generally increasing-

“After years of decline, the problem of homelessness is getting worse. According to Homeless Link, the number of people sleeping rough grew by more than a fifth last year. There has also been an increase in the number housed in temporary accommodation and in B&Bs, and as I wrote about recently, a 34 per cent increase in people housed in a different local authority.”

This includes both males and females, old and young.  It can be hard to conceive of being homeless, but you can never know what is going to happen in the future.

Whilst I was living in the cities of Hull and Sheffield I often encountered homeless people begging for money.  It is a hard choice, and a personal choice, whether you decide to give them money, buy them a hot drink, and/or stop to chat with them.

Christmas is a time of a thinking about other people, and you can do nothing better than to save the above number in your phone, and call it if you come across a homeless person.  Have a safe and a happy Christmas.