Thursday, November 27, 2008


The pale orange of the streetlight put into relief the painted wall front-left. A radio aerial stuck up like a cartoon heron. To the right, the fern frond details of a tree layered by the light. An unfinished brown concrete and brick block full of squares and rectangles further round.

And above, the quiet, patient dark blue of an African sky infused with grey. You could pick out stars if you concentrated, one almost flashing red as an aircraft. Down again, along the low wall of the roof terrace were posted decorative squat asparagus heads, butch flames on quadripods as though stolen from a Victorian train station.

On the wall sat a small, untidy old man, hair slightly longer, his loose features illuminated by the black and white from the big screen. He moved back to his plastic chair, discoloured by dust even in the semi-dark. The audience sat still, contrasted to the flowing pictures on the screen. Two birds wheeled in the light of the film before gliding down and away.

A Syrian lament in Arabic to dissidents, driven overseas after seasons in chains and now returning, it moved slowly. The camera rested on the lined face of an old woman, daughter of Armenian genocide survivors and now mother of more suffering. Her eyes huge and expressive, spilling coffee on the stove.

If you tried to concentrate, you would quickly become bored. If you looked for beauty, the ugly shapes around would disenchant any enthusiasm. But there is peace here. The film and the sky, the comforting air, a man in a scruffy shirt sprawled in concentration. This is something that is not England, and that is good.

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