we’re lead to each moment as a result of our extraordinary will, or something infinitely more powerful, though frustratingly (to some small part of us at least), more mysterious.
to put the trust in our hearts, we must say to our heads, it’s okay, I no longer believe you.
they’ll be appalled of course, who are we to deny something that has so much power? no matter how ridiculous that may be.
but we can persist, and inspired by others who have a way about them, that are maybe a bit humble and low key, just them doing their thing, so that you might even pass them, thinking them not particularly special, until they raise their heads, and direct their eyes towards you, and a part of you leaps because, there, right in their eyes is a sparkle you’ve so rarely seen before.
how + why = magic
A magic, that weaves through our lives, as it was when I once had a boyfriend who didn’t think much of faithfulness and took me to the house of a Moroccan man whose boss he was hoping to do some business with. We arrived in the early hours and sat in dimly lit room where women as tall as trees, and as slim as flamingoes walked around pouting, and man as large as buildings and as short as shrubs, sat around starring at each other. I did my best to strike up conversation with the man next door to me but was met with a stony silence. This is terribly awkward, I thought. No one’s speaking. Then I heard a voice, and turned gratefully towards it, at last, someone else was attempting conversation too.
I introduced myself to the gentleman. It turned out we had a friend in common: he was a good friend of one of my brother’s god-mothers. The gentleman seemed relatively normal, and so when he invited my friend and I to join him on a car rally that he ran every year and which was leaving in a couple of days, being twenty and having more time then sense, we said: okay.
We would be sleeping on a yacht that followed the cars, he said. Boyfriend stayed behind, and my friend and I arrived at a little airport in Greece, to be picked up by three men, two of whom, not to be ageist about this, were a little older then we’d been hoping for. The yacth was nowhere to be seen. (Apparently it’d “broken down.”)
And yet, this is a story that ends happily, or at least with a good friendship. Because one of those men who arrived to pick us up, was a man who’s has become the sort of friend who in some not insignificant way, is a man who is someone who I often reach out to, in situations when I imagined I would be reaching out to my father, were he to still be around, (I lost my own father when I was 7 years old, & have been in search of another one ever since).
Like wanting to go and be useful somewhere after finishing university but not knowing where, or what exactly that might look like. Things like this, are when I call Miles.
“I don’t know anything useful you can do,” he said, “but I know someone who will.” He then introduced me to Caroline Morehead, the author who at the time had recently written about refugees in Egypt, and who very kindly agreed to meet me in the café in the British Library and who said, “I know just the woman, and she’s looking for an intern.” A couple of months later, I arrived in Cairo to work as an intern for the late, brilliant and brave, inspiring and revolutionary Barbara Harrell-Bond, and her then organisation AMERA, which provided legal and social support to refugees. It was a fortuitous trip, because I returned from it with a clutch of, vital, additions to my life: a friend who I can not imagine having navigated the early years of motherhood without, a new brother, hearing aids, and, a badly behaved mongrel.
The hearing aids appeared as a necessity, after handing in the minutes I’d write as Secretariat for the meetings Barbara hosted in her sitting room.
“These,” she said after flicking through them, “are the greatest piece of fiction ever written.” On account that nothing I had written had anything to do with anything that had actually been said (not being able to hear much of anything, I had attempted to guess what was being said. A not particularly successful method it turns out).
Following my hearing check,, it was revealed that I was indeed quite deaf, and ever since, have been the wearer of two pairs of hearing aids.
The second addition to my life was in the form of a new brother: Musafiri, or as we all call him, “Mussa.” We shared a room in Barbara’s apartment when I first arrived, and he has since become an integral part of my family, a brother and a friend, and god-father to my youngest child.
Then there was Angele. Angele sat opposite me at the desk where we worked each day, and whose lungs ingested equal proportions of the cigarette smoke that the exuberant air conditioning system seemed to delight in sending our way from one of the 22 cigarettes that Barbara would be puffing away at, as the world slipped away and she typed furiously at her computer, making a difference in areas that most people simply walk away from. She was Barbara’s assistant, and became a dear friend, so dear that she too is a god-mother to my son, and is the sort of friend that has become so dear to me that I cannot imagine having navigated the first few years of parenting and relationships without her.
And then there was Bongo. My badly behaved mongrel, a dog I’d been longing for since a child. Who suddenly appeared on my computer screen one day, in the form of an email from Angele asking if I knew anyone would be interested in looking after her 6 month old puppy Werrason, whilst she and her family went on holiday for a couple of weeks (since our time together in Cairo, Angele had since relocated to England).
I wrote back immediately.
Yes. ME. (In case she doubted who the yes was for).
When we met, Werrason’s greeting made Christian the lions to his two hippy friends on the African savannah look positively chilly. Whereas a lick or a wag of the tail would have sufficed, Werrason threw himself at me with such joy and warmth I sincerely wish I had a video of his greetings, because although he is around no more, having lost him to a brain tumour last year, to be able to be reminded of how much love that dog had in his heart, would be alchemical. Bongo, my badly behaved mongrel who enlarged my heart and was like a brother to my first born, Eve.
So how odd that were it not for the boyfriend who didn’t think much of faithfulness, I would never have got to meet probably the being who became my most faithful and beloved friend I’ve ever known.
Magic, dear sweet magic. how wonderful you are!
PS - A few weeks before the Cairo trip, I ran a friend, a journalist who travels a lot with his work, I was feeling nervous, worried, and he said, you can always go, and come back, but if you don’t go, you’ll never be able to repeat this opportunity. I think I may have been so close to making an excuse and not going. And I wonder, how many times are we so close to what our heart longs for, and then one thought comes to disparage it, and we say, no not this adventure, this is too crazy, to not right, no, not this.