Talking over a wall. A letter from Muck
I am sitting typing this in a small cottage on the tiny island of Muck, my task today being to try and get two Palestinian nurses out of the current horror of the Middle East.
The stark contrast between the two situations here on Muck and over there in Gaza somehow raises the volume of your sensitivity and it’s hard to hold it all together and not weep, particularly when you are in a place of such breath taking beauty. Yesterday I took an hours break to heather walk in the golden sunshine beside an emerald sea and counted ten species of birds, many of them half crazy with the lusts of Spring. What was it that Tennyson wrote ( actually first published in 1842 yesterday ) In the Spring a fuller crimson comes upon the Robin’s breast…and I thought inevitably of the crimson that was doubtless spreading over many a fresh faced laddies breast as he was eviscerated by an Israeli sniper for the sin of throwing stones over a fence. Over two and a half thousand killed or wounded yesterday alone. How strange to think of an intervening God mastering both the beauty of Muck in May and the filthy muck of largely unwarranted slaughter amongst the lust crazed youths of Gaza. As I walked I thought heard the final cries of those daft kids echoed in the haunting mating calls of the eiderduck and had to stop and get a grip.
Back at the lap top my task was to try and ensure that two nurses that I have been working for two years to try and get out of that situation, one a Muslim and the other a Christian so that they might spend June being educated in a number of Scottish facilities.
Lest this all seems self serving pish let me assure you that my role in all of this is hardly very self sacrificial. I look after a flat for a philanthropist in Edinburgh which the nurses are borrowing. I have hardly been dodging rubber bullets and my main role in June will be to buy the pretty nurses the odd pizza and perhaps take them to see the zoo, so I make no claim for glory.
The name of the project is Talking Over the Wall. Let me explain why. Some months ago one of the senior nurses responsible for the students who will come in June came over to check things out and the airline lost her luggage, Standing at the airline’s desk trying to get things sorted out she fell in with another off the flight who had also lost his bags and they nearly fell into each others arms with empathy as they tried to convince the staff that it would be really helpful if they could be of a bit more of a help. Like now.
Then the full horror of their situation became apparent. The amusing man was a wretched Jewish Israeli whilst the distraught nurse was a wretched Palestinian. Sworn adversaries, And they had mistakenly become friends. How embarrassing for them both.
Eventually the luggage issue was sorted out and a parting remark made by the suddenly flustered man. ” How do we make our peoples friends?” Our nurse’s reply named the project.
“Well it’s hard talking over a wall.”
And so today I sit here on Muck trying to ensure that the two nurses get their visas sorted, trust me working trying to make things like that happen for Palestinians would turn a saint to drink. I’m no saint, or indeed drinker, but have already drunk half a bottle of Malt after two days of exasperation.
Some five years ago I wrote a piece, a disgusting piece, that infuriated many. I was delighted at their fury. It concerned the fact that in the times when I have been witnessing horrific situations in places like Gaza that I notice that a common occurrence is that people shit themselves as they run. It wasn’t a particularly well written piece and the subject was repulsive, but for some reason it struck a note and was posted on by many, particularly in Gaza.
May I quote the end on this awful day, because the song remains the same:
“There will be many more deaths, limbs will be coarsely ripped from limbs, disease will flourish, tears will flow in great harrowing gasps from Mothers, and none from Generals. If I shut my eyes I can imagine the sweet smell of shit, the default perfume of war. Holy Mary Mother of God pray for us now at the hour of these deaths. And pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”