DAY 229: The day of the onion

November 16th, 2017 § 0 comments


So here I was again finally, after, I calculate, about eighteen months, back in the old warehouse; or if you prefer  it, the new warehouse (there are more renovations to come), peeling onions in a group of about a dozen volunteers, with bruised nails and smelly fingers. Calais never stops being Calais in some way; but how dreadfully, how drastically it’s changed


since the barbaric destruction of a year ago! Where the same kitchen and warehouse had served a kind of community, with shops and schools and mosques; now it fed a huddled mass of a
thousand people (including, of course, children), constantly deprived of shelter. The feeding only took place at set distribution points as a result of a successful lawsuit; the vans which took food to the refugees were (are) liable to be stopped by the CRS and have non-food items such as blankets confiscated.

 Under what law are these absurd cruelties being perpetrated, and with what aim? Macron, the newly elected ‘centrist’ president is happy that the north of France, under the ongoing state of emergency, should become a permanent police state. Agamben, thou shouldst be living at this hour! (He is, of course, alive, a sprightly 75; and for all I know is involved in the struggles of refugees to survive in his native Italy.) I got a backache, was found a chair,felt better, and failed to go on a ‘distribution’, the only allowed contact between the kitchen and the actual migrants. I met up with a couple of old friends from two years back – but where are the people I remember from those days? Some have made it to England, some may be dispersed over France; but there’s always the lingering fear of those who may have frozen or been beaten to death. Virginie, Zimako, Liz Clegg, I assume have moved on

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Where to?

A student standing next to me on the onion peeling table asked how old I was, I said 78. (Yes, that’s it, reader, if ere theyou’d forgotten or lost track or I never told you anyway but who cares?) Awesome, she said, as people do; and then turning to the philosophical or historical implications, said: ‘I wonder if I’ll be here peeling onions when I’m 78.’ I find the imagination it takes to ask this question breathtaking, and not surprisingly I was quite at a loss for an answer. I hope this world, rather than destroying itself, will have turned into a decent and humane place where, if people continue to flee wars, they are welcomed. I hope for many things, but what nightmares the next forty years may have in store for my beautiful neighbour (aside from disease, rejection in love, loss of loved ones, poverty, persecution and so on) – I hate to think. That we should continue to peel onions and collect blankets and help those who need them (the onions and the blankets), although far from ideal, is perhaps not a terrible outlook. Jesus said that we’ll always have the poor with us, and you have to assume he knows.



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