write this at 2.30 am with burning eyes.
matter how hard I tried, the boom boom of the big fete, the splintering
noise pitched harsh and high intruded past a field, past locked doors,
past a stuttering air-condition unit on full blast, past the pillow over
my ears into my head, making my teeth clench and stomach churn.
I think now, why does the noise have to drown out everything? I’ll come
week I met: An incredibly bright young man suffering from heart problems;
a young woman who discovered she had breast cancer; a couple who can never
have babies; an old woman whose daughter died from an brain aneurysm; a
friend whose father had a stroke; a woman whose husband daily humiliates
her by openly having an affair with someone a quarter his age.
are real troubles.
there are the troubles in our heads, the yardsticks by which we measure
ourselves and come up short, the terror of time passing too quickly and
the inevitable atrophy of life.
speak to my friend from Montenegro. She’s 36 and stunning, but she was
crying that she’d failed.
wanted to have already written a first novel at that age. Instead she is
stuck in public relations, and has partied her days away. She feels she
doesn’t have anything to show for her life and sees the dreaded 40
retired man who finds it bewildering to operate outside the boardroom,
outside his power base, so he shouts at his wife all day to drown out the
knowledge that it’s too late to reach out to his children, and his wife
has built her own world that doesn’t include him. He doesn’t know who
he is, without a suit. He feels invisible. Time goes by in painful drops.
man who has been working incredibly hard for years finding out finally,
bitterly, it’s who you know that counts, not how many hours you put in.
if you’ve been lucky enough to have escaped real dread so far, most of
us have stood at the brink of life looking down at the frightening pit
below filled with death, the unknown and emotional pain. We all have our
own demons that dance about us, burlesque, mocking, appearing when we
least need them – in the dark, in moments of frustration or exhaustion.
what astonishes me is not the extent of damage I see around me – the
random cruelty of life but is the shrugging courage with which so many
people in this Carnival country react to private calamities.
has been said to knock the Carnival culture – the gyrating; the excess;
lewdness; fornication in shadows; baring of flesh; menacing grin of a
sexuality careless of the spreading HIV virus; inanity of the jump and
wave and wine that some say infiltrates into our daily lives; noise that
subsumes all thought.
put it into context of who I met just this week and the people we all meet
over the course of a lifetime and you realise the boom boom of Carnival,
even when it wakes your eyes at 3.30 am, is not another act of random
madness; it is an act of faith.
worlds and cultures have their own way of dealing with demons that strike
us all. Some are stoic, resigned to their fates, deeply steeped as they
are in ancient religions. They take comfort in a faith that precludes
other faiths, be it a firm belief in karma, pre-destination and rising
from the dead, or a heaven flowing with honey and milk.
more northern, “civilised” countries, people who are too sophisticated
to take comfort from ritual simply fade into grey or descend into a
tight-lipped depression – bottles of alcohol adorn their front steps
every morning. It would be okay if they stopped there, but in wealthy
cultures one comes across bigotry as harsh as a shot in the head.
that and you get the US President George W. Bush and his disciple Tony
Blair screaming for war for oil. You get blood all over Kashmir and
Gujarat. You get the mess that Zimbabwe is. You get obesity and misguided
nationalism in America.
do we do? We shout and jump and wave and scream and gyrate for a few days.
Nature herself colludes with us. Watch the immortelle compete with a
flaring sunset once again.
the pink poui blossoms fall in slow motion on a hot, windy day and spread
across the steaming concrete. Dust and blossom will soon mingle on the
streets with bits of feathers, tinsel crowns, a carelessly discarded
gleaming armband or headband.
the dust that turns gold when the light changes, racing as if impatient to
join with the mud and tinsel, the spectacle, the drumming, the thrumming
of steel, the roar and movement of the crowd and the noise that drowns out