It’s been a funny sort of week. Too blimming hot, for a start, obviously. In fact, if all had been well I’d be on a plane to Beirut rather than sitting here in sweaty London in my pants typing this.
I had been due to attend the West Asian Football Federation Championship, which might not sound like the biggest bunch of fun you’ve ever heard about, but the participants included Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Jordan and Palestine, so should have been a fine illustration of how football can bring nations together.
The of course the current Middle East crisis blew up, much of southern Lebanon is in ruins and Hezbollah rockets are dropping randomly over northern Israel.
I don’t know enough about the history and politics of the region to comment, but instead I’ll tell you about two friends of mine. You might recall the lovely Einat, who was kind enough to chaperone me on my recent trip to Israel for the Elvis book. Einat lives on a kibbutz in northern Israel not far from Haifa. It’s an idyllic place, and it only seems like last week that we were wandering around picking dates from trees and drinking tea made from fresh mint picked from the stuff growing rife about the place. It was one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever visited. But now, Einat is staying with her parents outside Tel Aviv as the kibbutz is right in the firing line of Hezbollah missiles. The tranquil air is frequently pierced by air raid sirens and the few remaining inhabitants are spending nearly every night in the shelters. Rockets have fallen dangerously close to the kibbutz and the town where Einat manages a magnificent patisserie producing cakes that should qualify as works of art has been hit.
Meanwhile in Lebanon, I’ve had only sporadic contact with my friend Gracia who lives in village outside Beirut. Last night I had a text from her that read simply, “Still living. Will write a long e-mail to tell you what we’re living. You’ll cry. Blood, children dying, houses destroyed, phosphoric bombs.”
The thing is, Einat and Gracia have no differences. Neither of them want any of this nonsense. If they met, they’d get on famously. I’ll never understand the situation fully, I don’t think anyone can, but I do know that when the images on the news concern your friends, sitting here safe and sweaty in London can make you feel guilty, sad and desperately worried.
Anyway, onto more positive things. I’ve been to two frankly magnificent gigs this week. First to see George Clinton at the Hammersmith Apollo with my friend Pat (who has a quite brilliant new band the Southern Tenant Folk Union, incidentally) on Monday – a tremendous 30 piece funk band complete with a guitarist wearing only what appeared to be a nappy. What more could you ask for? On a Monday? Eh?
Then on Tuesday I saw one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen, the Blind Boys of Alabama at the Jazz Cafe. There was only one original member of the band that started at the Alabama School for the Negro Blind in, wait for it, 1939, but nonetheless they still absolutely tore the roof of the place. Extraordinary stuff.
I’ve finally got around to scanning in the interview I did for Finland’s biggest paper Helsingin Sanomat with that country’s funniest writer Mia Ylonen earlier this year. It’s not a great scan, but could certainly be used in an emergency.
Also readers of Attention All Shipping might recall that I mentioned in an early chapter a photograph of my uncle, grandfather and an elephant. Well, in a recent scanning frenzy, i’ve managed to put it online here. I must also put up the picture of my great grandfather Harry Greenwood that accompanied me on the whole journey.
Have a spiffy weekend. I’m off to the theatre again tonight, dontcha know. Dead cultured, me.