Saturday 26th November
A sequence of events not connected to one another and yet eerily linked. Early morning and intertwined limbs (my wife’s and mine) disentangle slowly. I get up to go to the toilet and as I sit down the phone rings (simultaneously. Now, that’s what I call a coincidence). I return to the bedroom to find my spouse handing me the blower: “It’s from the BBC”, she says. I grab the telephone and sit on the edge of the bed.
Fidel Castro Ruz has died. The female voice on the other side is calm and reassuring as if she were concerned about my wellbeing. She would like me to come to the BBC World Service studio and do a series of interviews throughout the day. I remember that I have guests coming tonight for my birthday gathering, ten days after I turned forty-five.
I agree to come in but only until twelve noon. After all, no bearded geezer will stop me from indulging in one of my favourite pastimes: cooking for a group of friends. I jump in the shower. A taxi, paid for by the corporation, picks me up.
Later on, as I’m mixing paprika, coriander and other herbs and spices in the pan, I think back to the events of the day. The naïve Dr and writer who alternated slots with me and whose comments were cliché-ridden; the “expert” on Cuba who refused to give straightforward answers to questions related to the socioeconomic and political situation in my island and opted instead for the well-used formula of highlighting deficiencies in British polity to cover up for Castro’s mistakes. I look back on the crowds in Miami dancing on the streets and the poisonous, right-wing Fox News-driven one-sided reports on American television. And I think to myself: Not to offend non-Cubans, but if even a fraction of those Fidel-supporting westerners had thrown their lot with my people decades ago when we needed them, upping sticks in the process and going to live on the island like Cubans, depending on a ration card for their next meal, maybe, just maybe, we would have arrived at the much-vaunted socialist paradise long time ago. Same with those who disparage our right to make our decisions. If, instead of sniping from the sides, they had ended their ineffective blockade decades ago, maybe, just maybe, Fidel’s grip on power would not have lasted that long and he would have not repressed his own people whilst using the embargo as an easy, go-to excuse.
The meal is a success.
Sunday 27th November
My wife has put some seeds out for the birds and through the lounge window I see them eating them. This gives me an idea: perhaps I could film the scene in a sort of Blair Witch Project-style format. Handheld camera capturing nature at its purest and most innocent in metropolitan London. But not today, it’s cloudy and there is not much light. You can barely tell the birds from the trees. It is so overcast that only when the flutter of wings becomes obvious can you be sure that there is animal presence in our back garden. Of the feather variety. Definitely tomorrow.
Monday 28th November
I give up on the Blair Witch Project idea. There aren’t that many birds in our garden and the ones that pay a visit are, how to put it nicely, rather boring. Only when one of the cats tries its luck by hiding in the dry and sparse grass, something interesting happens. But the cats are clumsy and the birds are quick.
Tuesday 29th November
Whilst getting my bike from the side passage I see a couple of wood pigeons behaving strangely. The one I take to be a male pigeon is pushing its beak in between the other’s legs (which I assume it is a female). At first it looks like some sort of game or courtship. But, then I think I spot a look of disgust and fear in the female’s eyes. As if it did not ask, nor want to be a part of this. I stay still, watching the male attempting once more to peck at or grab something from between the female’s legs. The female starts to retreat. I think, rather amused and shocked at the same time: who knows, maybe in the same way I have been watching the birds through the lounge window, they have been watching my telly, following the US election, faces and beaks stuck to the glass, without me noticing them. It might explain also some of the bullying behaviour when it comes to seeds consumption. I consider the Blair Witch Project idea once more.