Thursday, 17 July 2014

How To Build A Police State- A Twitter Satire

A Story with additions more-or-less daily depending on sustainable interest. [On my part].

Chapter 1.

Once Upon A Time there was a horse called Trojan

He looked a bit like this, okay.
So not a real horse, then?
No. He was made of wood.

That's all for today.

Chapter 2.

Inside Trojan there was a group of people waiting to get out.
They looked a bit like this.

So just ordinary people.
Yep. Like you and me. Okay?
How did they get out?
Wait a minute, don't rush me.

Actually they were a group of friends
What like the Monty Python lot?
Yes but they didn't want laughs 
 They wanted power, stupid! 

Chapter 3.

With his mates in tow our Trojan pushed off
[I'm condensing this of course]

Where to?
The Middle East you fool
To create war or peace?
How do I know and does it matter?

Maybe your drawing's not quite there yet
Okay, okay, so I'm working on it...

Is this any better?

No its pretty dreadful but I do see who you're getting at...
Shouldn't you call him Mister Cheesy Grin?
Ssh...Lets not have any in-fighting
There's something wrong with his chin...
And his ears are lopsided and his hair too black...
Look I need to get on, bring this story up-to-date
People get bored otherwise
I want to build a Team Spirit
Oh okay

Chapter 4

How about this?

Yeah okay. Carry on
Trojan set out to kill the ME virus
Myalgic Encephalomyelitis?
No you idiot-Middle East
Did he eradicate it?
Course not. The pathogens just mutated.
Jumped to other places
Some of the foot soldiers brought them back home on their boots
What happened then?
I can't I'll forget & have to move on to another story...

Chapter 17

Trojan's back 
With advice and minus cheesy grin
What's he on about now?
Ground troops in the Middle East... should know
He has had a lot of practice on the matter
Oh for goodness sake let's forget about that unfortunate incident
He does known what he's talking about..
Let's talk about LFW instead.
London Fashion Week, you dodo.
In particular the colour Red
Yeah I'm seeing it...

Is that...?
It isn't so good...well the eyes perhaps...
Hmm I know. I was seeing Red and couldn't draw...

What happened to Chapters 5-16 btw?
Oh! Well I was holiday and the News was all about pigeons...

Monday, 7 July 2014

Observing Clouds

Tonight, when the evening star has risen in the sky and the air is hot with the day’s fragrance, you will be gone. Dusk is to be the time of your leaving; birdsong your companion on the short walk towards the plane. You carry nothing in your hands, no bag, no passport, nothing. For tonight you will be handcuffed like a common thief and led up the gangway by two security guards. 

            In all, I would perhaps have known you for a year, winter and summer alike, observed by you through windows too high for any tree to reach. No passing car, no man, nor woman, no child, no dog have you been able to see from those windows. For the place was a prison under another name. Rain made itself known to you as droplets coursing down the glass, sunlight fell in bands across the thin carpet and snow, when it finally arrived, hid the sky from view. But, you said, you saw the clouds roll endlessly past, day after day. I could have told you, observing clouds was what the painters did centuries before. Constable and Cotman, to name just two. But knowing you were no painter I brought instead, a book for you on my next visit; of Constable’s clouds.
            ‘Yes,’ you agreed, ‘I see clouds like these all the time. Who is this man?’
             ‘One of Britain’s greatest landscape painters,’ I replied.

You knew nothing of Britain except this place, and once long ago, a picture of London Bridge on a biscuit tin lid. So I told you about Dedham Vale and Flatford’s lost mill and the willows that still grew along the banks of the River Stour. I told you about my childhood growing up in Suffolk, that most English of counties. You nodded, listening and the habitual strain on your face vanished for a second. Your plight, raped six times by the Sri Lankan army, smuggled into Britain, left to rot in this detention centre, put aside for the briefest of moments.           
            ‘At home,’ you said, ‘I too lived close to a riverbank - near Trincomalee. There were water hyacinths growing there.’
And then, hesitating a little, you added,
            ‘I used to draw them.’
Your voice lingered on the word Trincomalee! Home came to you in the saying of it. You are only twenty-two, but in spite of everything, traces of childhood still on your face.  Having left for your own safety you yearn for the family you no longer see. Your father sitting on his rattan chair, white sarong and slippers, marking school books, your mother cooking, the house spotless, the hyacinths you were drawing in a jam jar. While somewhere deep within a wooded spot a Bushlark sang its sweet evening song. This, then, was your home before change came and rape and torture spread its epidemic across your young life. It has brought you here, to brush against my well-ordered life, disturbing it forever.
            What is worse, you asked me, the indifference of your own people or that of strangers? I cannot say. You told me then how shocked you were to see women from other parts of the world in this place of detention.
            ‘Do they rape women in Africa too?’ you asked, innocently.

It had been winter when we spoke of these matters, grey and cheerless, blanketed by cloud. I remember staring disbelieving at the sky. Somewhere, perhaps a thousand feet high, there would surely be sunlight.
            On that day, after you had asked that question, I returned home to find an alien place. My family appeared strange, their preoccupations (my friend’s questions, ‘Should I buy this car or that? her daughter’s preoccupation with the tattoo on her foot ‘Do you like it?) stranger still. Life, it seemed, could work on many levels.
            As winter settled in your despair increased and was terrible to behold.
            ‘Who will help me,’ you cried. ‘I have been here for so long? Am I forgotten by the Home Office?’
I swallowed. I could not tell you that you are simply one of thousands. Indifference arriving after rape merely rubbed salt into your wound. Unable to distance myself I began talking about you to my friends.
            ‘You have to be more detached,’ one advised.
            ‘There isn’t anything you can do!’ said another.
            ‘Look, perhaps you aren’t cut out for this befriending business?’
            ‘There are so many in the same position. She is just one. This has to be dealt with at a government level.’
Maybe so, but it is you, that one, I know.
            ‘Why do you come?’ you asked me one day.
I sensed your anger.
            ‘You can’t help me, so why come?’
Considering my choices on that particular winter morning I saw that inactivity on my part added to your pain. But still I came. Thinking, how many bystanders did it need before a crime was brought to light?           
            Time passed and Christmas approached. At a planning meeting someone suggested tinsel in the visitor’s room of your detention centre. Something cheery, something silver, some old tradition, something new.

            ‘Yes,’ you said, when you saw me look at the decoration, ‘now we all feel much better!’
Then anger took hold in the detention centre, not just with you but many others. One woman was put on a suicide watch, another started self-harming. You yourself were unable to sleep because of the nightmares. Whenever you closed your eyes there they were again, those men in uniform intent on rape, their army boots worn for the sole purpose of kicking you. So you waited patiently hoping for the letter that will surely give you refugee status. I often wondered how long before you found your own way to puncture the indifference that lay around you? For although your application was made many months before there was still no word from the Home Office.           
            On the bus going home that day I saw a Christmas market spread its trinkets across the old town. Stall-holders selling, carol singers singing, children chattering, busy housewives going about their business with lives so accidently secure. That night I decided to cancel Christmas. Tinsel in my home seemed inappropriate. 
            Spring came again a few months after and all at once the low clouds lifted.  
            ‘Today your Constable clouds are here,’ you said in greeting and for the first time in these many months I was dazzled by your smile.
What brought about the sudden happiness? Only a letter from the Home Office asking for more information, proving (you were certain), that you were not forgotten. I brought you daffodils, a flower you had never seen. And then I brought you tulips.
            ‘From Amsterdam?’ you asked me startled and you began to sing a song your father had sung long ago.
            ‘Sorry, no more flowers, please,’ the grim faced warden told me. ‘They get overexcited, as you can see. And in any case it might cause hay fever. Here, let me put them in the office.’
But still, all through the spring you lived on hope.
            ‘I want to see your Constable’s country,’ you told me.
And I, for my part, promised with a heavy heart.
            ‘Yes of course, I’ll take you there, to the place where I was born!’

            Summer arrived with unexpected force. There was sunlight on the tiny floor of your room, the sky was blue, the clouds departed.
            ‘Is it hot outside?’ you asked me, seeing my bare legs.
It had been many months since you felt fresh air on your face.
            ‘No,’ I lied. ‘Not very.’
            ‘My mother had a sari the colour of your dress,’ you told me.
Your mother, you believed, was dead, set fire to by the Sri Lankan army. Your brother, too. Your father was the lucky one, he merely had his back broken.
            ‘You know,’ you said, ‘both my father and I must spend hours lying on our back, staring at the sky.’
If only clouds could carry messages.
            Summer’s heat showed no sign of abating. The weather girl talked of a high as a deep ochre seeped across England’s green and pleasant land and soon the swallows arrived.
            ‘I’m really sorry,’ I told you, ‘but I won’t be visiting next Thursday because…’
            Because of Wimbledon. Tickets purchased months before, outfit chosen, what could I do? You nodded, passive.
            ‘These organic strawberries are delicious,’ my friend told me, and I could not disagree.
Sipping fizz, watching a ball whiz past, in an instant I forgot you.
            ‘Thank God for that,’ the friend said, later. ‘You have to live your life you know. Not hers, sad though it is.’
On the drive back from London, long delays due to an incident. Accidents, it would seem, like birth, will happen.
             But then, when I paid you my next visit it was to be greeted by the news that you had gone.
            ‘Sorry for your wasted journey,’ the warden said, adding, thawing slightly, ‘oh yes I think she left you a letter.’
A little distressed, was how the warden put it. No, no, they had not been given any warning, often it was this way. Yes, she was being sent back.
            ‘But she’ll be raped, again, for sure’ I said in dismay. ‘If she goes back.’ 
            ‘It’s not our problem,’ the warden told me, her face shutting like a cupboard door.
            There is nothing I can do. So instead, staring at my computer screen I wait for flight UH 105 to take-off. I watch as the counter marking the minutes flip past knowing you will at this very moment be approaching the aircraft, fresh air blowing at last through your hair. Handcuffed, frog-marched screaming, deeply humiliated, you will be made to sit in a cordoned-off part of the busy aeroplane. You and two hundred other passengers; holiday-makers, children, oily businessmen, richly saried women, all of them and you, the failed asylum seeker. A slight girl in a torn and bloodied dress. There are only twenty minutes left. Might not the Captain refuse to take you? Perhaps a barrister could be found to save you?
Do miracles happen at the eleventh hour?
            ‘Please,’ I imagine you praying, ‘please save me!’
With doors closed and cross checked, safety briefing all complete, you, ironically, have a window seat. But with the certainty of all our conversations, I somehow know, as flight UH 105 taxis towards the runway you will register through blurring eyes, the dry sun-burnt grass outside. And seconds later rising over a London you have never really seen, will stare at the river Thames, the London Eye, Windsor Castle, trees. Then over Suffolk you’ll go, a small dot travelling in the bluest of skies, carrying all the world’s indifference within you, observing clouds as you fly. Heading back towards the Hell you once foolishly thought of as home. 



Tuesday, 22 April 2014

In The Empire of Signs

I am back from The Empire of Signs, as Roland Barthes once famously called the place, and the bluebells are out in force in my front garden.
I am back with a suitcase full of Japanese boro, the old indigo fabric worn once by peasants and fishermen but now lovingly washed and sold in flea markets to collectors.
In my suitcase is an object, too small and magical to resist buying, even though my overdraft has been steadily growing.

In my camera are two thousand photographs waiting to be savoured and I am back with a sketchbook bursting at the seams. I notice that in England too, the blossoms are out but I am dazzled by a host of different experiences, of sights that I have left behind, confused by time zones and the long flight over an icy Siberia that glistened under snow.

Oscar Wilde claimed that 'the whole of Japan is pure invention', a dream dreamed not just by strangers but by its inhabitants as well. Although I have accessed only a fragment of any real  'otherness' still, that dream alone has been enough for a first trip. And yes, I want to return. I must. I have been waiting to visit Japan for most of my life yet nothing had prepared me for this journey, made possible by a travel grant from the Society of Authors.

I carried an image of a traditional Japanese hooded mirror in my mind and a copy of Strange Weather in Tokyo in my hand luggage. I followed in the footsteps of my heroine Angela Carter but it was only when I stopped dreaming someone else's dream that I found certain things of my own.


In Hiroshima I found peace beneath a cherry-blossom covered stone.

While on the tiny island of Naoshima, next to Richard Long's, Inland Sea, Driftwood installation I viewed the ocean in pensive mood. Here then was a sea whose stillness was so different from what we know it is capable of.

In the gallery perched high above the road and overlooking Naoshima bay there stood a painfully thin attendant, all in black, starched handkerchief in hand, staring silently at the horizon. An old man and his sea. Together.
Tomorrow and tomorrow, long after I had left, he would remain gazing at his view.

Later I would pass by a Shinto shrine, feet sunk in beach sand, drained by the tide, orange in the setting sun. While later still, on board the Sunrise Express to Tokyo I would catch another glimpse of ghostly cherry blossoms streaming past the sleeping towns.
What else shall I speak of?
Of the ravens who cawed all night in a suburb of Tokyo?
Or of the trees under whose blossoms we picnicked, jet-lagged and bleary-eyed?
Or the single spray of flowers that rested on a windowsill?
Maybe I should tell you of the sunset glimpsed hurriedly over a town so like the one washed away by Japan's last tsunami?
Perhaps too, I should talk of the wedding underneath the cherry trees in Kyoto?

Or mention the young English girl, jilted by her Japanese lover, drinking saki, oblivious to everything except her pain. Until that is, she heard our voices talking in her mother tongue, bringing with it a kind of poignant homesickness to her ears? Should she stay in Japan or should she go home?

Or how I delighted in the Japanese letter that meant 'kai' simply because it looked like a beehive?

No, it's no use, none of these things will mean anything out of their context so instead, you must be content with small glimpses, outlines of disconnected stories. As, like a passer by, you too catch sight of reflection in a mirror seen through an open window in someone else's house.
A looking-glass world that you might enter should you wish, through my eyes.

Already, in the short time since I have been back, placing a single bluebell in a vase, hopelessly wanting to recreate a different way of life, the dream is fading. What was so wonderfully right in that land of rising sun does not quite work here.
The light in England is of of an altogether different texture.

But though the burlesque and the beauty, the contradictions of countryside stillness and Tokyo frenzy has retreated maddeningly out of sight, I know that something else altogether more mysterious and more lasting remains. Something that I have long been searching for has been uncovered. The Empire of Signs has changed the way I view the world. How that will affect my work remains to be seen.  

Monday, 17 March 2014

Just Someone I Know

Ruki Fernando is my friend. I was introduced to him years ago when I was working on a film and needed some help. Another friend put us in touch with each other and ever since then we have remained friends, meeting spasmodically when he visits Britain. The last time I saw him was on a winter's afternoon when he came to lunch. I loaded up his plate with pasta fagioli and pesto and poured out some white wine.
'How much d'you think I can eat?' he asked in mock despair, staring at his plate.
He is a slight man with a slight appetite. It was the friend who he'd brought with him, who would polish off the rest of the food.

On that day, as my family came and went about their business, Ruki talked of the people in Sri Lanka who desperately needed his help. There was the widow whose cartoonist husband had vanished because of his work. And her children, deeply traumatised by their father's disappearance. There were the men and women who were gang raped, and tortured, the people who had lost loved ones simply because they were born in the wrong place at the wrong time. Tamil people, Sinhalese people, Muslims, anyone really, who spoke of Human Right's Abuse going on in Sri Lanka. And Ruki was taking on the dark heart of Sri Lanka, for this?
'Are you mad?' I asked.
'I am not alone,' he said quietly. 'And even if I were, how can I turn my back on these desperate people? They need my help.'
And his own life? His safety? Did he worry about that?
He looked at me and smiled, a modern day Schindler in the making.
'He's a saint,' his friend said, laughing but with a somber expression in his eyes.
The affection in the room between us was not of an ordinary kind. You do not meet saints on a daily basis. Outside the grey afternoon was closing in and the light was fading fast. Winter was at its deepest.

It was time to go for Ruki still had much to do before he left for Colombo the following day. I remember standing at the gate seeing him off, this handsome, unassuming man who reminded me so very much of my own relatives now long gone.
'Don't worry,' he said. 'Nothing will happen to me and if it does I know you will make a fuss.'
I supposed he said that kind of thing to all his friends. And so, I too laughed, waving him goodbye.

Then, late last night I received an email from the Sri Lanka Campaign for Peace and Justice. It was brief.
'Ruki Fernando the prominent Human Rights Activist, along with Father Praveen have been detained at the Killinochchi police station.' That was all.
The unthinkable had happened. Ruki had vanished.

There is little I can do about this and even though the emails this morning came in thick and fast asking for help I knew all I have is the thing I have always had - the ability to write.
But who will listen?
All over the world at this very moment men are subjecting other men to the vilest of abuse. Listen to the news, watch it, see the anger writ large on faces where 'clashes of violence erupts'. Is there a place on earth where there is no clash of violence?
Why then should my pleas be heard?
Why would David Cameron take the slightest notice of any letter I might write?
I am told that if there are enough people who feel passionate about something, then something, some change will happen. I am told, even though I doubt it, that numbers count. And so, I shall send this Post out into the ether in the hope that Ruki will be released, unharmed. Not so much because I believe in Goodness but because Ruki is my friend and someone you know is more sharply focussed in your mind than those you don't.
I hope you are well Ruki, I hope no harm has come to you, that you will see again an evening sky and feel once more the tropical sea breeze of my childhood.

Since writing this I'm delighted to say we've just heard that Ruki Fernando and Father Praveen Jehasa are being released. Perhaps there is power in numbers after all!

Monday, 4 November 2013

The Raping of Paradise

This year, in March I was persuaded to write a small piece on the gang rape of a Sri Lankan girl who eventually escaped to the west. It was a story I had been reluctant to cover.
I am a novelist, not a journalist nor politician and I am not versed in the art of documentation. But the piece, Rani's Story  had thousands of hits and continues to do so. Yet for all that the experience left me listless, depressed, reluctant to continue blogging. What could I talk about next? The weather? Come Dancing? My cat? There seemed little point in speaking out about events in Sri Lanka when even some of my own friends were off on holiday to that 'marvellous island' in the sun and the Sri Lankan diaspora themselves insisted all was well in paradise.

Dispirited, I decided, I would say no more. My books would have to speak for me.

So from March until October I remained silent. Then, last night I was sent an article on the rape and murder of a young  Sri Lankan woman called Issei Piriya. Included in the article were three explicit photographs of the twenty-seven year old's naked body; a body so slender and fragile that looking at it I wanted to weep. That body which should have been the woman's private property by undisputed right, lay discarded like so much dirt, like a road kill.
She was dead of course and it was clear what had been done to her.
Even in death her face remained hauntingly beautiful.
I will not link those pictures here. It would be too shocking, too disrespectful to do so. Let imagination work in its place.

Through the night a series of questions kept me awake.

Why did no one care or stop what was happening in Sri Lanka?
Where was the voice of the international community?
Where was the voice of the Sri Lankan diaspora?
And, the greatest mystery of all,
what on earth was wrong with the men within the Sri Lankan army who conducted such animal-like acts of violence?
What kind of mind set did they have?

Don't get me wrong, this use of rape as a weapon isn't specific to Sri Lanka. One need look no further than nearby India to understand that! And in India there is no dictatorship or civil war to blame. But that does not answer the question, what kind of a man is capable of committing such acts?

We are told that education is what's needed to stop this behaviour.
Or religion, perhaps.
Or deterrents such as prison or the death sentence.
Or a democratic government in these troubled countries.
Or intervention from a more globally engaged community.
We are told the men who commit these crimes against humanity are dysfunctional individuals, monster-brothers spawned from a Grimm fairytale.
We are told all of these things but none of them provide a satisfactory answer.

And so I asked myself one last despairing question.
The ancient words proclaim that 'Man is born of woman' but where are those women now?
The mothers of those creatures who rape and kill so wantonly?
Where are they and how much do they care?
Did they not love enough?
Was this the thing that was missing in these men's lives, in their infancy?
Could it be, I asked myself, that behind every marauding monster there is an indifferent woman lurking in his shadowy past?
We blame those men who commit such terrible deeds, the governments who condone them, the dictators, the power hungry politicians, but we women are not blameless. Are we? The hand that rocks the cradle has a responsibility in all of this, too, has it not?

That hand, by definition, holds a certain power, however invisibly. I speak as a woman and a mother and someone who was born in the place that produced the world's first female Prime Minister.
If all the women of Sri Lanka were to speak out against this horrifying epidemic of violence, what kind of paradise might we begin to regain?

The Birthday Party.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Hidden in the Rock

Let me be clear, I don't like flying but somehow I had forgotten about this when I agreed to attend the first Gibraltar Literary Festival. In fact it wasn’t the flying that was the problem but the amount of luggage I was taking with me. The list went something like this:

Coats [waterproof/warm/light weight]  
Shoes [ walking/running/daytime/evening]
Cardigans [thick/thin/various colours]
Summer dresses/winter clothes.
‘Co-ordinate them,’ advised a friend. ‘Layers, that’s what you need. Like a skier.’
Was there snow in Gibraltar then?
‘Going for long?’ asked my daughter, home for the weekend, eying my suitcase.
It was all very well for her with her tiny rucksack, her charmingly crumpled wardrobe and her youthful indifference.
‘Would you like a larger suitcase?’ my husband asked, helpfully.
But Gibraltar, when we landed was hot. The sea glistened entrancingly and almost everyone I noticed had much more luggage than me. Good, I thought, taking a hasty photograph of the rock, forgetting to set the aperture, balancing bag and laptop and passport, creating interesting camera shake and a boring photo in the process.

The rock, I was to discover, had many faces. At the moment it was salt-bright and blistering. At night it would be sometimes shrouded in mist.
Had I in fact brought too many winter clothes?
I had left at 4am to catch the plane so closing my eyes I let the heat and the conversation wash over me.  
Arriving at the hotel I accepted without the slightest hesitation the very dry sherry, liquid gold like the sun, that I was offered. Then, opening my sketchbook, squinting against the light I began to draw.

‘Good,’ said my husband, when I rang him a little later. ‘You’ll have a nice time, I’m certain.’
‘Sherry at lunch time?’ asked my daughter, doubtfully. ‘Is that a good idea?’
Two monkeys trod the pergola as though they were walking a plank. It was time for me to explore the town.

I wanted to discover the real Gibraltar. I had written a short story especially for the festival. I had written it with no knowledge of either the people or the place. It was a story of the frontier closure in 1969 and I had decided to tackle the emotions I imagined had been present at the time. Tackling emotions is after all what the novelist does. But I had written the story in England and now the reality of presenting this to a local Gibraltarian audience was another matter. Was it possible, I asked myself, to write about a place and a people I was unfamiliar with?
The sherry and the sun and the lack of sleep had made me sleepy, but somewhere tucked into my unconscious was the hope that I would get a real sense of place from this short visit. I passed the park where a group of tourists watched a very small ape vigorously shake a taxi sign. When they laughed the ape glared at them. I swallowed. Perhaps I should change my story, write a different one, something about a place I knew well. 

I walked on marvelling at the cleanness of the street, the green sub-tropical ferns, the palm trees, the sense of not-quite England. Everywhere I looked in the old part of this tiny town there were beautiful wrought-iron balconies, cascading plants, white washed walls. All of a sudden I was reminded of part of another city I had visited for another festival; Paddington in Sydney, Australia. 

I had gone there at the beginning of my career as a novelist and then too I had taken a risk with a story. Perhaps taking risks is what it was about. And the luxury of a ‘live’ audience somehow demanded it.
Hurrying past me in the sunshine was a Sephardic Jew, followed moments later by an Arab woman and her children. A faint smell of flowers drifted with the breeze as a squadron of seagulls circled overhead.
‘We pull together,’ said Luis the shopkeeper, when I stopped to buy a few copies of his photographs of the referendum in 1967. ‘And largely speaking,’ he added, ‘we all get on.’
The following morning, with still a day to go before the festival began, the organisers laid on a lavish trip for the writers. We planned to cross the Straits of Gibraltar to North Africa, take a moment to pause, to relax and do that rare thing, talk to one another. For we writers are solitary creatures, full of self-doubt, obsessed with our work. Tangier then, with its faded glory, its literary past, its touch of crumbling melancholia still present if you hunt it out, was the perfect place for such a moment. Sailing across a softly-tinted sea all these decades later I could not but think of that other journey taken, long ago, with my mother. I have never really forgotten it although at the time it had seemed unimportant. But then nothing sorted out the important moments from those ordinary ones at the time they take place. That can only happen later.

In the book that I was reading by Camus a line sprang out at me.
‘I listened to an almost forgotten sound within myself, as if my heart had long been stopped and now was gently beginning to beat again.’

Perhaps this is the real reason we travel. To make the heart beat again, to see with fresh eyes those things we once marvelled at in younger days, to feel as we once did? 
In the days that were to follow I would have many interesting conversations. One in particular about the writer Sebald and his use of found photographs would stand out like a beacon over all others. I knew I would remember this for years to come. 
I had come to this festival to talk about writing and my books but the place and the circumstance were giving me so much more. This surely is the joy for the writer at such an event. 

Later, after lunch, having wandered through the souks of Tangier, it was time to leave and catch the ferry back to Tarifa. But I did not leave empty handed. No, I carried the somnolent light of the town, its saffron scented streets, its rose-washed buildings back to my hotel room in Gibraltar where, rereading my short story again I decided, no, I would not change any of it. 

The following morning the festival opened. Now began a feast of a different kind; food and travel writing, journeys of the mind and explorations of the past were laid before the Gibraltarians in all their glory. And then, in an extraordinary moment of good luck, in between the writer's sessions, I found what I had all along been looking for. 
It was a treasure of a different kind, a photograph album with snapshots from an intractable past, a glimpse into a Gibraltar that I had hoped I would find but never believed I would. Here it was then, the thing I had been searching for in this land of rock and air and sea. Suddenly in that moment I was afforded a small glimpse of what once existed but then was lost.

Roma Tearne appeared at Gibraltar’s brilliant new Literary Festival [The Gibunco Gibraltar International Literary Festival] with a specially written performance piece called The Constant Moon.

The Independent Review.