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Imagined Distances


Writing in the local paper. Local issues with a global take. I never translate literally and the editor trims at will to make it fit. Here's my version, then theirs.


It happened while we were overlooking one of the world’s unofficial wonders, sitting under a desperately thirsty acacia tree, swatting away flies and scratching at fleas. A temple dedicated to one of the busiest men in the patronage business. Countries as disparate as the U.K and Georgia reclaim his favours while cities as far away as Rio and Moscow share the Cacereño hope that he will mediate with the powers that be on our behalf against plagues, dragons and the men in black. However this temple wasn’t the familiar one with whitish spires here in Caceres that lords above our squat 1960’s plaza named after this busy man, but one carved out of living rock in Lalibela, in the remote hinterlands of north western Ethiopia. A religious ceremony was going on 25 metres below in the cool of the hollowed out grotto when two people sat beside us under the extremely meagre shade and asked us in accented Spanish where we were from. I said Canada and my wife, Caceres. Our new neighbours told us that they were from Barcelona and had never been out to Caceres but had always heard that it was lovely but that it was so far away and difficult to get to that they had never been. The ceremony drew on as a satin robbed priest breezed along under colourful parasols totted by angel-like helpers dressed in billowy white while emaciated and envious cows began to nudge us out of their shade. I may not be a believer in saints but I am an admirer of tales and their power to persuade. I was once in Cyrene, Lybia, where some say ol’ George slayed a dragon, at a time before another tyrant was dragged out of a culvert and murdered and I have seen first hand legend’s power to convince. What we perhaps need here is to ask for a different kind of intercession, one that slays the black legend dragon regarding our remoteness and puts in a good word for us in yet another city that retains his favours. 

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