She has an Anglo-Saxon sternness. She could be 20 or 40 years of age, her religious conviction writ large in her plain facial features. She loves warmly but disciplines firmly, an island of austerity in a world of plenty.
When I think of home I think of the sea, of the waves breaking against the rocks and the frothing remainder meeting the land in a head-on rush to embrace it. I remember the time as a child when I was caught on a sandbar between the incoming tide and a deepening pool of seawater between the beach and I, making the pool a barricade that I had nearly lost the will, resolve and confidence to overcome. I was scared of the things that could be lurking in the water, of the large flat jellyfish waiting with their tentacles outstretched and the crabs poised with their claws open, ready to snap at a moment’s hesitation on my part.
My feet were lost to the cold depths at this point and I could feel only the rush of water around my torso even though the bright intense sun hovered overhead, warming each body laid out on the beach in front of me, as if to mock my situation and to suggest that life went on no matter what happened to me. With my cries of worry and my arms waving feebly I was eventually noticed and saved by an older brother who guided me by hand across the treacherous water that had so frightened and paralysed me.
I’d wanted the safety of the land, of something solid under my feet where I could look to the sea unmolested by creatures of the deep. I’d become trapped because I was not paying attention to what was happening around me as I was too busy splashing in the water, resting on the sandbar and admiring the view of family and friends relaxing by the sea.
The journey to get to that beach had felt like a holiday in itself, not a fifteen minute drive from my family home. Packed in the car, almost as tightly as sardines, we would be wearing our swimming trunks clasping plastic spades and buckets. Sometimes a store box, packed with frozen ice packs, accompanied us and was filled full of cool and refreshing snacks that we’d eat after an hour or two of heating up in the fresh salt tinged air. The North Sea would sometimes bring winds that had rallied and rolled across the water coming from as far away as Holland or Denmark, maybe even Norway at a push, or so I had hoped. It was naive to think such things perhaps but I liked the thought of being connected with the countries that we had visited on holidays in the past.
After our little swim and exploration of the sand the two families would trudge back to the parked car, heading through a sandy beach that morphed into a half-hearted shingle before giving way once more to sand dunes, where shark sticks of dried grass would prick your feet and legs as you hobbled over them. It was customary to then shake our clothes free of sand, shaking our bodies in union as we did so, and then push on to purchase an ice cream in a cone and try to all fit into the car once again. We’d had a day at the beach and the sun had tired us out, we needed food and drink to replenish the physical and mental energy that we had lost exploring for shells, oddly shaped stones, the dried out remains of crabs and the dodging of the rubbish that protruded through the sand itself.
I had thought about these summer family trips to the beach years later as I relaxed in the back garden of my university house during my undergraduate years of study. I had gotten lucky with this house so close to the university campus and the local parade of shops – French doors, from my room, led directly into our fairly big back garden where, during the summer, autumn and spring seasons, my house mates and I could relax unencumbered by walls. We read in the sun, drank beer and burnt meat during numerous BBQ’s, we solidified our relationships here too. It was the ideal relaxation area late on a Friday after a week full of lectures, research and writing, where we could gather with a few of our friends and get a mild buzz from drinking beers in the evening sun. Music accompanied those gatherings, music that hung in the cooling air and permeated our bodies to slowly drift off out into the night once we had taken our fill.
The grass under my feet and the fact that I often took off my T-shirt as I lay on the grass meant that I felt truly rooted to the ground and I could stare at the sky freely, my eyes wandering from cloud to cloud or bird to bird as they popped into view. It felt good being partially clothed, to feel the heat of the sun on my own skin or the coldness of the northern breeze against my chest. It was different from sitting in a cool lecture theatre absorbing the information like a sponge, making notes on what I wanted to research and to write about for the next essay or presentation that popped up regularly, like ships on the horizon that appear in a pleasingly timely manner. I wouldn’t admit it to myself, but I enjoyed the peace and the quiet away from the others that came with being down in the back garden by myself. It had a timeless quality, that it felt like I could be a student forever and never truly grow up.
But still, I missed the sea. The waves that broke, that swelled, that seemed to bore ceaselessly on against the land that I called home.
Friday 20th August
Your latest letter breathes joy into my very frame. Yes, yes, I am always too formal in my correspondence! Still I am here, I have managed to escape the landlocked country of the Switz and I now face the great open Atlantic, I am coming Simone, I am coming! I can almost hear the gentle lapping of the waves against the great southern continent that holds you, my dear friend, in its gentle and comfortable embrace. I am safe here on the southern tip of the European continent, no one knows I am here and the country is morose and still, but it is safe and stable. The language is the same as your host country so I will be well prepared to converse and drop into the background on the journey over.
My very bones feel rejuvenated here in Porto, as the morning sun cascades down the terracotta tiles of a thousand roofs. We are safe, we are safe! My European plain sensibilities are becoming swamped by the Hispanic love of life and of relaxation. I feel that although we will always carry the guilt of the free, of the survivors, we may try yet again to live in this beautiful world. In all honesty Simone I am surprised I feel this way but it is because of our escape and of the dangers that we have survived that I feel this way. We must answer the boot of our oppressor with the scream of our freedom.
Yes, you know I am always reading! I have managed to find a few different novels but nothing of serious importance, just some light novels and novellas that keep me going. I am finding deep inspiration in the architecture and geography of this city, in watching the swaying hips of the beautiful women and the light steps of the children inevitably trailing in their wake. Although the great spirit of this country is asleep at the moment, under this monotonous leader, I have no doubt it will wake up and bring great vitality to a united and friendly Europe.
But of course that may be some time off yet.
Ah yes my love life, you know Simone that I rarely talk of such passions openly. But what can I say, this country is infecting the very marrow of my bones and I have indeed been meeting up with a few of the local ladies for dates. Do not misread that though! I keep my distance and act with discretion, but with my local cafes often being graced with my presence I have come to meet several women for short dates, nothing more than fanciful dalliances really. My heart does flutter however whenever I have the opportunity to meet Roberta though. I’ll haven’t the time or space to write about here though as this is just a short letter before I sail to Recife, my next letter will be full of details though!
As I said there have been no more poisonous letters and I am positive that we are now safe to continue on with our lives, to make them worthwhile once more. I’m sending a small package with this letter, including a book of poetry which I will think you will love. The Atlantic crossing will take some time but each morning I will wake and think of you.
Yours faithfully and with all of my love,
Thursday 26th May
Thank you for your latest letter Simone, it is much appreciated and much needed at this moment in my life. It means the world to hear from such a dear friend. I was extremely interested to hear of your tales and adventures in Brazil – it is a country I have yearned to visit for some years now, although I doubt my old bones will now make it across the cold Atlantic. Maybe I will finally join you in the twilight years of my life? We shall see old friend, we shall see! In the meantime I find myself in Geneva, of all places. It is nice here, warm in the summer sun. Great chess boards too, where you often find yourself playing against old crooked masters.
At this moment I’m sitting in Vieille Ville, sure it is a tourist trap, but I am anonymous enough drinking my coffee in peace in this rich historic environment. (You know as well as I do that I need history, not just coffee, to keep me going). As a pleasant extra I am served by waitresses that have truly taken in the beauty of the landscape – they have must have gulped it down so candescent is their splendour and bosoms! Enough of my chatter, let us get down to business and the reason why I write to you now.
Yesterday I received a letter from a person that neither I nor you know, yet they knew me intimately. Although I have only been in Geneva a few weeks (and what glorious peaceful weeks they have been!) this person knew of my history and of our connection. We both know what it is like to live but not to be alive, to merely survive, of constantly having to check who is behind you. I do not want to do that again, I will not. We are brother and sister me and you, not a family by shared blood but by shared experiences. I know I can trust you and that is why I write to you now in deepest confidence.
The content of the letter was vicious, bloody, a real slap in the face of a warning. I could make out a couple of sentences warning of retaliation for being what we are, for having the nerve to run when we did. I am not sure, though, that the writer knew of our story in all of it’s grisly detail, just that we had escaped, ran across that fateful line that separated us from them.
When I close my eyes, when I try to sleep, just when I think I am at my most peaceful sitting by the lake, the scene is shattered irrevocably. I see them still, caged like beasts whilst we ran for our lives, flying over torn up fields of green. We both know that there was no chance of rescuing any of the others but that did not make the decision to leave any easier. When I wake in the morning tears still stain my pillows, such is my desolation that I weep in my sleep. I only hope that you, sister, fare better then me in such circumstances. Indeed, in our way, we have swapped the turmoil in our souls for the beauty of landscapes that we each now inhabit. As deep as we try to drink in the beauty of the world, we know of the deepest darkest recesses of the human mind that haunt us wherever we shall go.
But let me come back to the letter. It was hand delivered to the door of my apartment in Geneva around the time the normal post came. This realisation, that whoever dropped it off knew where I was living, came to me like a slap in the face. It was as if I had been pulled from a deep peaceful coma and plunged into an ice bath. Perhaps for too long had I been lulled into a false sense of security by the facade of history in the city. Either way I knew I had to act quickly.
The letter did not state any direct actions that the writer would take but it did not need to – after all the very fact that they knew where I lived was a threat enough was it not? I decided to pack my bag that instant, leaving the apartment within the hour. I am hiding in plain sight at the moment but later I shall catch the train and escape this city altogether. I do not feel safe here any more. I knew of course that it was risky to stay here, but I will not abandon them, at least not until I know it is too late.
You know I cannot seem to escape Europe itself. My roots are too deeply embedded in the landscape, my history present in the wind, the soil drenched in my blood. I cannot leave here, nor will I. As much as I would love to sit by your side on the white beaches of Rio I cannot. Please have that extra drink for me and raise your glass when you do. Think of me, but think of others left behind. Only in our mind are we truly free.
So this letter is just a warning sister, please be on your guard as I am now on mine.
In this letter I have included a safe location for you to write to me. For now I will deposit this letter at the railway station and ask an aide to post it later on today to make the 5pm post.
Please reply when it is safe, when you are able.
There is a detailed, well researched article on the actual facts of the current state of immigrates into the UK, and to what benefits they are legally entitled to. Please read, as there has been far too many ill conceived rhetorical talks by prominent politicians of the current UK Coalition Government that scaremonger the general British population. The mainstream media have, largely, colluded and printed numerous scare stories.
From Scriptonite Daily…
“The Coalition went into overdrive on immigration this week, announcing plans to put a stop to so called benefit tourism and ‘respond to the concerns of citizens’. But what if the concerns of the citizens are misplaced? And to what degree have these concerns been placed in the minds of the citizens? Today, we expose some of those inaccuracies and reveal the facts about immigration.
Net migration to the UK fell by a quarter last year from 242,000 to 183,000. This was largely caused in a fall in the number of overseas students choosing to study in the UK (the first in 16 years), and a rise in the number of Britons emigrating (108,000 to 127,000).
However, Immigration is once again and issue for the British people, according to politicians and the mainstream media.
It is no surprise that ‘the British people’ believe immigration to be an issue when so many myths, mistruths and outright lies are promulgated by politicians in pursuit of their votes, or media outlets in pursuit of their custom.”
It is well worth reading the other post on Austerity Kills. Far to often stories such as these are swept under the carpet.