(…in which I riff on some loosely connected bits in my head without any kind of a plan, conclusion, or even necessarily a point, as an attempt to blog more often…)
I’ve been mostly oblivious to the events taking place today in Egypt – scenes that will be replayed again and again. A peaceful revolution of this sort is the kind of spectacle that inspires and manages to instil some hope that we can all live in harmony, and make a change for the better (even in this oh-so-cynical world).
I overheard someone speaking about visiting Rwanda today, and the charitable mission of their visit to help build schools for the communities there blighted by the sorts of horrors that I can never fully understand, having only seen them through the distancing, safe lens of TV. This person spoke about how it was impossible to appreciate what these people had gone through – living side by side with people who had murdered their friends and family in the 1994 genocide – unless you actually went out there and spoke to them and saw with your own eyes the after-effects.
Hearing about that, and watching the Egyptian ‘revolution’, it’s set me thinking about the way we perceive events from our privileged Western perspective, and the difficulty of separating our own personal, little lives and the bizarrely mundane things we obsess over and work on in our daily lives.
In a tortuous fashion, I wrestle this back to the subject of writing, as this is a blog about writing and not politics, but it has prompted me to write this, stunned as I am by the scenes in Tahrir Square, of the rippling mass of crowd so big it stops being just single people any more. But here I am, just a person, in a city and country where many people (perhaps the majority of, but I don’t want to get into sweeping generalities) are trapped inside their own heads, deep inside their little lives, placing importance on the smallest of things.
The only crowds I witnessed today while at work were the chaotic red and white mob of Welsh rugby supporters invading Edinburgh for a weekend of strangely shaped ball action and alcohol consumption. For the Welsh it’s a huge tradition, and they even have a song about it written by the leek-wielding Max Boyce –
Oh! We went up to the highlands of Scotland,
To the land of the loch and the glen.
And we’ll all bring our wives back a present,
So we can go next time again.
I’ve always been fascinated by the behaviour of crowds, especially when seen from a distance (the aerial camera over Tahrir square), but the feeling of being swept up inside one is incomparable, whether it’s the desperate hell of what happened in Rwanda, the current events in Egypt or the absurd ritual of the rugby. I think more often than not, I’ve found myself on the outside looking in, which, is perhaps why I became a writer – some need to observe and report my findings. Hence my identification with the chap in the picture.
On the subject of writing, I completed my first short story since November last year, which I am tentatively titling ‘Down the Back of Donald’s Couch‘. That’s the first new draft of the year, and I also final drafted and submitted ‘Unpicking the Stitches’, which received one extraordinarily fast rejection of 48 hours and is now somewhere else, where it should be a good while longer before any news returns.
Any good improvisation should really end right at the point it becomes hackneyed or a vehicle for anything resembling a structure…