Saturday, June 25, 2016


What to say? I watched with developing horror and incomprehension the UK making  BREXIT  a reality the other night from bed, while the heart -breakingly beautiful Swedish summer midnight illuminated my lonely pursuit by the Swedish lake. The Wall Street Journal ; the Guardian as well as the BBC were my online guides  as I saw the drama unfold.
Now, what amazed and shames me the most is the utter segregation of British society and the incomprehension and the great gulf  –still – between the educated and the uneducated classes in Britain.  
I do not personally know a single person in Britain who was for BREXIT. The day before the referendum I phoned Jeremiah, my dear friend and purveyor of never ending fun events (with a connection to the EU since he is the Cultural Attaché to the EU in London ) and told him “Hals und Beinbruch!”  (Break a leg!) He was taking it very coolly and told me he was very confident of a vote to Remain so there was not too much to worry about and that he was intending to have a good night’s sleep. Alas he, as well as everyone I know were very wrong. There was every reason to worry.
How could the ruling,  educated,  liberal, privileged,  cosmopolitan British people  - for that is exactly what it boils down to- have been so in the dark about what the poor, uneducated,  marginalized ones think?  It is most definitely a question of education here- just look at the statistics of who and where and what cities and counties voted in or out!  The problem here is that we cannot undo the rules of democracy. The people have spoken. Now the question is: should the people have spoken? Should this question really have been put to a Referendum?  

An email from a friend  sums this whole disaster up admirably:
"I think it's tragic for the UK -  a complete disaster actually -  and pretty bad for all of Europe and the rest of the world too -  we are all diminished by this. 
Overall, it's sad to see a victory for Nigel Farage,  UKIP, and the social and cultural forces they represent.  It's a huge backward step in all the post-war political progress in Europe, in developing a civic polity, and in moving away from the deep rooted fascism of the past. Obviously the tendency to fascism is still there,  but little by little it has been weakened,  until now.
From my standpoint, a very very sad time."

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Friday, June 17, 2016

Too much sorrow

 Death is so much more present in Mali: too many die young. The latest in this line of sorrow is Djennéba's firstborn, Nasra Keita, her daughter who was married with three small children. Djennéba, above and below, is Keita's older sister. She called me just now in Sweden to say that her daughter lost her fight last night at the Hopital Mere et Enfant in Bamako where she had been treated for two weeks. Djennéba would have spent the entire two weeks by her side which is the Malian custom. When Keita lay dying at the Point G Hospital she was there with many other family members who stay around the clock outside the ward where they sleep on mats and eat the food they have prepared while they  await patiently the conclusion of the drama which is more often than not the body's last journey to the morgue.

It is not really possible to ask what the loved one died of: one is likely to receive an unsatisfactory reply: 'Oh, he had a head ache and then he died', or "she had a stomach ache for some time and then it was over". Even Djennéba, who is a trained mid wife does not indulge in any diagnosis or explanations so it is impossible to know the cause of death. I think it is regarded as impolite to inquire, and in any case I don't any more since I know I will not find anything out.
So Nasra  will be buried today - always the very same or the next day.

I am spending time in Sweden before returning to Mali at the beginning of July with some trepidation: what will it be like now without Keita?

I can see the flowering lilacs here and I notice their scent, I am aware  of the beauty of the early summer meadows; I can feel the gentle Swedish  summer sun warm my limbs in the day and I notice that  the nights are cancelled but these things are destined for the enjoyment  of other people  and I am only walking through it all without absorbing it as if I somehow was wearing a protective isolation garment.

Monday, June 06, 2016

The Day of the Swedish Flag

The sixth of June is Swedish National Day, or the’ Day of the Swedish Flag’.  The nation- wide  celebrations have just been shown on  TV with coverage of traditional military bands and an appearance of the Swedish Royal Family who were travelling  in a horse drawn carriage through   Stockholm where the sunny streets were  lined with  flag-waving monarchists.  A large proportion of Swedish homes  have flagpoles in the garden and  innumerable yellow and blue flags were fluttering against a cloud less sky today.   It would be inconceivable to have a “Day of the Union Jack” in the UK. Flag waving and unrepentant nationalism has a bad reputation in Britain.
The Swedes are clearly aware of this danger too: therefore the event has been high jacked  into an opportunity to promote, in their somewhat self- righteous way,   the values of democracy, freedom, cultural diversity etc. through numerous interviews with  immigrants who have recently received Swedish citizenship. This is all well and good but my main concern was the appalling quality of the musical performances that accompanied this  display of  Swedish largesse.  The poor king and his family had to sit through some excruciatingly bad rap, bad rock and even badly performed  Swedish summer hymns.

I am in Sweden. I am also in a terrible mood which may account for my critical attitude.
I  left London yesterday where the estate agent who has been in charge of the letting of my flat has managed to xxxx everything up royally. The flat had been let to an Italian documentary film maker who was supposed to move in last Friday. The contracts had been signed and I had moved out last Thursday. The flat has therefore not been shown to anyone else for two weeks because the deal was supposed to be clinched. The film maker had had to fight over it with another prospective tenant and won it through offering a higher rent. Last Friday – the day he was supposed to move in!-we ran into problems  because the estate agents were annoying him with unreasonable demands on his credit ratings- he offered to show his Italian VAT returns but the agents did not accept this as proof of income- meanwhile I was never informed about anything or given any chance to give my opinion on the problem at hand!  The result was that  finally the film maker pulled out of the deal and I am now left stranded without a tenant and have lost  a large amount of  both time and money!

And the other  thing which has made me very sad again is the parcel I brought back from Mali for  Pelle my cousin and his wife Nanni: it was a present arranged by Keita and it was the very  last decision he ever carried out.  He ordered  them embroidered boubous to thank them for their kindness and their sponsorship for the Djenné cataract operations and also for helping with his expensive drugs.  The boubous were ordered and made in Segou, but when they arrived to Bamako Keita was already unconscious at  Point G Hospital- he never saw the boubous and neither did I  until the parcel was opened yesterday by Pelle.

But finally, on  a lighter note:  The hotel staff have started their holidays in  Djenné but Baba keeps an eye on the hotel and my land so he noticed that Petit Bandit was not eating at all and looking sick: he called the vet who treated him with some medication and now he is OK again according to Baba- now this does brighten my spirits a little: it is good to know that Baba is so observant and that he does care...