the air of freedom
I left the gallery charged after perhaps the sixth or seventh real conversation I have had, face to face with anyone but Camilla or her best friend in over two years. That I have always loved my friends, was the centre of an active social scene, has made this hard to bear but rather than feel sorry for myself, I’ve instantly picked myself up. The buzz was palpable, the enjoyment of interacting with another human being standing before me!
Something which had once been normal now seemed quite miraculous, yet it had its difficulties. I found I wasn’t as fluid as before, couldn’t flow with ease from one thought to another, words didn’t always fall into my mouth, neither did references to places and facts. I found the subtle non-verbal messages overwhelming and had to work on myself to comprehend them as the other’s mannerisms. I felt exhausted from the one hour interaction, for communicating, which involves mental gymnastics, consumes lots of energy.
We walked through the gardens and after a picnic in the sunshine, Camilla shot off for a two hour stamp about the forested hills. I found myself ambling along with a man who came up from behind and we talked fluently about the state of the world. He has been to Ukraine and many other places of recent conflict and he told me that the Russians will have a huge advantage in the south of the country. I said how sad it was that in this age, they are behaving so badly, targeting civilians with impunity. We agreed that we British have done as much in the past, that it is only recently that we’ve become more civil towards those inhabiting the lands where our armed forces have been.
The man, who had studied history since he could read because his father was a history teacher, told me of many atrocities we British had been involved in. Whenever we faced residence to our invasions, we became dastardly. Think of the opium we forced upon the Chinese, cutting out the eyes and tongues of Indian resistance…..
I told him the tribe I grew up alongside had, in 1906 been tricked by us Brits, because for ten years our military couldn’t beat those brave warriors. After a final defeat in 1905, when 500 tribesmen bearing only spears and arrows defeated a heavily armed regiment, plus 2,000 Somali and Maasai warriors, we called for a Peace Treaty. On the day we insisted that the Nandi leaders and top warriors laid down their spears, swords and bows before entering the tent. We then shot them all dead and we hounded and killed Nandi warriors up and down their ancient territory.
We humans have a bent to fight. I whose eyes wet when I see suffering, be it an animal, an insect or even a TV drama, can instantly fall in to fighter mode. When freedom fighters tip-toed past our house in the dead of night, I an ardent pacifist at the time, crept outside with two kitchen knives. Those men bearing AK47s settled behind some bushes to discuss their next action and, gripping my knives, I lay there listening, ready to fight if need be.
We now have laws to control any excess such urges encourage. Let us hope these can be put into action and that they will hopefully help to control our basic human nastiness and lead to a quick end to this pointless, dreadful invasion. That Putin yesterday attended a funeral (of an opposition leader he’d most probably had killed), with Russia’s nuclear-code box, doesn’t give the right signal. Or was it his next chess move in this cruel war, and designed as a warning to us in the West?
Perhaps to escape the doom in the air, my mind returned to the gallery owner. Upon seeing my artwork, she was rendered silent; joy soon wet her eyes. That she has run her respected establishment for 20 years, made this all the more touching. Her mother and father were accomplished artists, her brother too. She said, “He’d have loved these. Though I display them, I don’t warm to abstracts, but I can’t stop looking at these. The fresh, lively colours are intense yet they blend so subtly and ripple through my mind and the shapes draw me about the surface.”
I told her that my new style began as my trying to help a dying friend by sending missives of colour to him and that, as I soon became seriously ill myself, I continued to develop the style to keep my mood buoyant. This is what we must all do right now. Go outside and relish the hour, for we who have it are so lucky to have peace and freedom.