As history so often shows, it is another perspective that unravels the mystery. After reporting to La Professoressa that I had no luck in finding the reincarnated site of Oxford Jewish life, she took an extra long walk-jog the following morning, down canals and over bridges, past morning barge dwellers tucking into their breakfasts, past high floating river fowl and did not return home until she found what I had not: the Jericho synagogue, down a street off Walton, with its slanted blue roof and tightly locked gate and surveillance camera. Nothing in all of Oxford seemed so tightly locked and secured as that small, modern looking place of worship--always the locked gates, as it was in Belgrade. More of this another time.
This week we had visits from old friends, again a gift of histories. For me now, I must leave that floating island that is our home to be in the company, in the embrace of dear friends where I can feel their hearts beating and see the touches of time upon their cheeks. First was Di's friend of over thirty years, Colin, and his wife, Jude, and their gay son, Luke, and his partner, George. Colin and Di had worked together in the 1970s as youth workers in St Kilda, back in Melbourne, trying to bring some relief to homeless teenagers. Now so many years later, we have met each time our lives take us to London and its environs. We all huddled under one of Oxford's oldest pub's wooden roofs, a long table of laughing, catching up, entering into each other's future plans, and then Di took us on a tour of her Oxford home, New College, where we walked in appropriate awe on 18th century stone paths, ducking into hidden doorways and as happens on these kind of extended walks, changing places with each other and thus with histories. One time with George and his gentle dreams of the future, another with Jude, marveling in the growing depth of her love for Colin, after so many years, and so on, like a dance of now here tell me what I need to know to get through and over another year, or years, of distance as high as the Himalyas. I remember our last walk home, holding on to Colin's arm, his tall and solid self a warm support, talking of how writers read and then write to find out what kind of journey they have been given. "I just felt the need to read Dante," Colin talks as his presence shelters me from the rain, and I loved this independent imaginer who asked only for the time to take his journeys.
And even this mention of the Italian cosmographer inspires another vision, the added circle of hell for those who broke all rules for their own greed, the bank managers of HSBC, of Barclay's, of J.P. Morgan, the Mr Diamonds and the Mr Buckles, head of the non functioning global security firm that runs the prisons of our world, who profits from our orchestrated terrors by promising to protect in a privatized kind of way, and then refuses to take responsibility when it all collapses--give me the millions--they all say as they are forced to bow out, their sweating foreheads wreathed in million dollar golden parachute payments, rather then shame. Austerity, cries the world bank, to the firemen and teachers, to the railroad workers and the postmen, to those who try to feed their loved ones without grandiose plans, austerity to those so far removed from the violence of unfettered greed, while the obscene moral failures of bank heads and financial big shots, leave taken care of for life. Oh, Dante, we need you now; tell us where on the map of Hell will these operators taste their ever lasting true pay--what will hang above their heads and what will writhe beneath their well -clad feet for all eternity. Oh, never before I did so feel the need for so a medieval vision of retribution--as Romeny approaches the hights of American power. States feeling the rage of their own struggling workers and those bereft of work turn their police forces on the already saddened ones, while the Operators sail away to the safe coves where millionaires play and plan and the best of countries turn to dust.
Oh I have been too long in Oxford. Our next visitors were Christine, a human rights colleague of Di's and her husband Paul, both of whom had spent years working in Oxford's environs. Amidst talk of the Hague and UN conventions, they took us to Port Meadow on the outer boundaries of Jericho. In one sparkling moment, the sun shone on us. We stood in the edge of a marsh land along a small river with the sun glinting on all, the green grasses, the cattle grazing on this old common, distant bridges, a oh so human sight of pleasing nature. Then in a sudden another kind of drama. We had noticed a mother duck and her two duckling paddling gently in the stream to our side. A group of young parents came onto the scene, with two dogs, one a hunting spaniel type running free. Within a second all changed. The young dog, joyfully lunged himself into the stream going for the ducks, the little ones flew along the water surface to get away but they would have had no chance if not for the evasive actions of their mother. Flinging herself at the dog, she caught his attention and he enthusiatically leaped for her, turning his attention from the little ones. By now we were yelling at the beaming human parents to control their dog, to do something, but they seemed taken with their young dog's antics, his joy at his freedom and his ability to capture prey. While we humans remained frozen, the mother duck led the spaniel into the larger field, flying low enough to tempt him away from her ducklings. It worked. The human tablou came to life, the parents pushed their baby carriages ahead, continuing their walk, their dogs following, we sang hosannahs to the mother duck and returned to the car.
Dangers in the sunlight.
And finally, three days ago, our dear Karin flew into London from Copenhagen to join us here in Oxford, fresh from her walking tour of Greenland. Karin, whom I met over 30 years ago when she came to work at the archives in my old home and with whom I have remained good friends, now a good friend of us both. So much more to tell you of the wonders dear Karin brings with her.