DAY 243: The interview

March 28th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

So  where did it all go wrong?
We all have different memories. Izzy Tomico Ellis and Niamh Keady-Tabbal have picked on the 2016 EU-Turkey deal as a peg on which to hang a two years’ catalogue of betrayal and disaster; well researched, thoughtful and graphic, describing the devastating results for refugees, in particular  in Europe, for the Syrians. I, like many others, learned of the ‘refugee crisis’ in the summer of 2015 – September was a particularly active month, seeing in  the brief moment when the image of Alan Kurdi’s dead body on a Turkish beach brought home to the West (even to readers of the Sun) the price they would have to pay to suppress the coming misery and suffering. From then on, one must suppose, there were many in Europe who were even so determined to enforce the boundaries by whatever means  – even if it included mass drowning; while on the other side there were many who felt that Europe had to change, and to become a place of welcome and sanctuary.

Will it, can it happen? I’m not really so much interested in an imagined future of ease and luxury for all; as in a future where no one is sleeping in the snow and being beaten by the police. Or subjected to asylum interviews such as iIve been reading for the past few days, beginning: ‘I conducted a status interview under caution with the subject with the aid of HO interpreter. The subject confirmed she was fit and well and understood both the interpreter and the caution. The subject’s account is as follows though I will state that I believe the majority of it to be false.’ Reading this (it continues in much the same vein, and I’d have to redact it like mad to give you the gist of it), naturally drove me into a state of extreme rage. Have we always been a society in which the traumatised arrivers are automatically disbelieved – because, make no mistake, however many walls we put up, there are going to be more. How did it come about that Othello, who arrived in Venice with a similarly dubious story, was not only believed but promoted to general



I ran it through, even from my boyish days
To th’ very moment that he bade me tell it.
Wherein I spoke of most diastrous chances,
Of moving accidents by flood and field;

Of hairbreadth scapes i’ the’ imminent deadly breach;
Of being taken by the insolent foe
And sold to slavery; of my redemption thence
And portance in my travels’ history;
Wherein of anters vast and deserts idle,
Rough quarries, rocks, and hills whose heads touch heaven,
It was my hint to speak — such was the process;
And of the Cannibals that each other eat,
The Anthropophagi, and men whose heads
Do grow beneath their shoulders. This to hear
Would Desdemona seriously incline;
But still the house affairs would draw her thence;
Which ever she could with haste dispatch,
She’d come again, and with a greedy ear
Devour up my discourse.

Ok, Othello’s (and Desdemona’s) end could – if you have a mind to it – be taken as a warning against believing the story of the migrant. (Who had had a bad time in Aleppo, too.) But Othello perhaps didn’t know he was being promoted, and invited to dinner, in a society like ours where endemic structural racism could lead to jealousy, madness, and death. He’d have been better off staying with the Anthropophagi.

Invention of Tradition Department

Since when has Wednesday in Holy Week been caked ‘Spy Wednesday’? It seems to be suddenly a generally accepted festival which commemorates the woman using a pot of very precious ointment (Oil of Olay? Clarins?) to wipe Jesus’ feet, leading to a dialogue in which two sensible opposing points were made:


The disciples: This is a waste, this ointment could have been sold for a lot of denarii and the proceeds given to the refugees.

Jesus: The refugees you have always with you, me not.

Discuss. But what has this to do with spies (much in the news these days); or with the service of Tenebrae which I just managed, belting though the rain and traffic jams, to catch the second half of (at St James’ Piccadilly)? (By the way, Lucy Winkett who sang the soprano in Couperin’s Trois Leçons de Tenèbres, is completely wasted as a liberation theology vicar, when she could certainly win more souls by singing sacred motets. But I think I digress.)

I won’t post the Couperin – it’s too long, and I have a nasty feeling that I’ve done it before, and I’m certainly not going to scroll back and see if I have. Instead I offer you a very different piece I discovered in the past week, Bettina Schroeder on brushes and electric ukulele.

And, as a final treat on an already long (if overdue), here’s a poem which has been the rounds on Facebook and wowed a number of my friends, none of whom I’m afraid are heavy hitters in the poetry prize nomination world..


Ahmed is messaging me, stressing about his phone credit

And I’m stressing too, frying eggs and aubergine

At the same time.

Ahmed’s in Cosenza, good for him

His documents are OK, I’ve got his location

And number, but from his photo

It looks like he’s in a safe house. Can you show me a picture

Of where you sleep? Of your door? Of the outside? Keep an eye

On that slice of aubergine, it’ll burn. The admins don’t like the pic

though the house isn’t safe to Ahmed

How long since he got fished up in Catania? and got his papers…

The NGO threw him out a week ago, now he stays with a friend

On the floor of a room (with a door). Coffee’s ready, drink it quickly.


If you go to Bethany you’ll find a colt

Say the lord has need of him. (Bethany, al-Azariya

Where they shot the girl Abir four years ago at a bus stop)

Take the colt and bring it I’ll ride to Jerusalem

Never mind the checkpoint, the people will shout

And the admins say.

Ahmed’s borderline but just this time OK. Hosanna! Oh Sir thankyou please please

Can it be quick

I need to call my mother in Syria.


Lucky Marko the Eritrean he’s in La Spezia

Escaped across the desert, tortured in Libya, washed up in Lampedusa

Requested protection

A minor, Dublin, can I translate his documents?

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the lord

His sister’s in France, his guardian’s done the paperwork

He can catch the plane. But the Turkish army

Are planning to enter Sinjar, God’s gone west again

Three quarters destroyed already, two doctors left. Millennia ago

Those people worshipped peacocks.

You can bet the story’s nowhere near its end of endless

Heroes and heroines and butchers


So we listen and. watch, and share the human lives and deaths

As they cycle mindlessly for ever.

Do you believe? In what?







DAY 242: Love and lawyers

March 10th, 2018 § 0 comments § permalink

More years ago than I care to think – actually, before I was born if not long before – you may remember that a high-profile royal got entangled, if that’s the right word, with an American divorcée. wallisHis name, at the time, was the Prince of Wales (ring a bell?), hers was Wallis Simpson. There was no end of a hoo-ha,which culminated in The Abdication Crisis which compared to many subsequent crises from Munich to the current refugee ‘crisis’ seems to have been rather a storm in a teacup: but which pitted the Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and the then Archbishop of Canterbury (the baddies) against fascist sympathiser Edward Prince of Wales, many of the masses backed by the Daily Worker, and a motley crowd of non-establishment figures (the goodies).

Interestingly today when a somewhat analogous situation has arisen the C of E has hastened to say that Meghan Markle’s divorce bothers them not a whit. In fact, the Royal Family (if they’ve said anything) and the Church seem to be pretty cool about


Harry’s fiancée. However, as my confrère ‘Free movement’ points out, in an article  which I’ve already plagiarised on Facebook, it is as you might imagine her immigration status which risks putting a spanner in the works of an impending national jollification. The obstacles in the way of a non-EEA national who wants to get wed to a Brit and settle here are, as you can imagine, almost insuperable given the State’s fear that she (let’s suppose it’s a she) might end up as a burden on the taxpayer, living off handouts and what she can pick up in the bins outside Harrod’s. Will she need to call on the NHS? What if she gets disabled and tries to fiddle a claim for benefits?

Indeed, before the whole royal wedding bonanza kicks off and we start worrying about what we, the taxpayers, are paying for Meghan (who seems able to look after herself atm), the Home Office ask for a substantial guarantee upfront in terms of the couple’s income. I’ll spare you the details (you can find them at the source I’ve cited); but it means that with no children to support yet, the couple would have to demonstrate that Prince Harry has an income of £18,600 a year or savings equivalent to £16,000 plus 2.5 times the shortfall. Where there is no eligible income, the savings necessary will be £62,500, but this must be held in a cash account for a minimum period of 6 months.

That is not all. As well as consulting Appendix FM the couple, or their lawyers, will need to examine carefully a separate appendix, Appendix FM-SE. This sets out additional requirements not immediately obvious to the unwary. The income must be earned income and proof must be provided on exactly the right format of documents. Online bank statements, for example, have to be “accompanied by a letter from the bank on its headed stationery confirming that the documents are authentic or which bear the official stamp of the issuing bank on every page”. Many banks refuse to do this, leading to a situation of evidential impossibility. Any omission is punished with refusal and forfeiture of the application fee.

Oh Meghan! We can only wish you the best of British luck and a good immigration lawyer (Leigh Day, Duncan Lewis or the Islington Law Centre come to mind, and they could probably use the money. as well as charging substantially less than their competitors in your neighbourhood. Furthermore, you’ll recall that Meghan herself has quite a list of legal roles – in Suits, I believe – behind her). And if Harry, like his predecessor Henry VIII, turns out to be given to changing his mind and divorcing or beheading his wives, you can’t necessarily count on the rough frontier justice that you’re used to where the NRA rules to call in your friends to settle accounts.

In other reruns of the thirties, the fascists seem on the way to gaining power in


Italy, and ‘42nd Street‘ is, my sister tells me, a smash hit in the West End.I seem to be constantly harping on the negative, although I share this tendency with many of my best friends. Let’s instead recall the three little birds and their message to Bob Marley: don’t worry, every little thing’s gonna be all right. Particularly if you’re heading for a royal wedding.




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