Thursday, January 13, 2011
The dust settles on Accra
I was reminded of Dickensâ€™ Bleak House this last week because Ghana is experiencing the Hamatan. It is dry and the sir is full of Sahara dust. Read the quote from the beginning of Dickensâ€™ novel and substitute dust for fog and youâ€™ll get the picture!
Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green lanes and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls deified among the tiers of shipping and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwales of barges and small boats. Fog in the eyes and throats of ancient Greenwich pensioners, wheezing by the firesides of their wards; fog in the stem and bowl of the afternoon pipe of the wrathful skipper, down in his close cabin; fog cruelly pinching the toes and fingers of his shivering little ‘prentice boy on deck. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all round them, as if they were up in a balloon and hanging in the misty clouds.
The light is milky and it affects breathing and how clean you feel. Coming back from work reveals your clothes filmed in it. Our house here in Accra has no glass in the windows, just mosquito netting so the dust penetrates everywhere. It would take a whole below-stairs of Dickensian staff to keep it from being a repository of dunes. You just paddle about and ignore it.
The contrast couldnâ€™t be greater when watching the horrors of water-logged Australia or the strangely surreal European snow reports on Sky News. At the same time our swimming pool, which ought to be called Wikileaks, is allowing the water to seep away so we are encouraging the process by bucketing it to the garden. Itâ€™s ankle deep at the shallow end and the new Alsatian pup, Andromeda, appears to be unlike her cowardly big friends, the Sirius the Doberman and Heracles the Alsatian cross. While they are bumptious on dry land, they run a mile when you suggest having a dip. She, however, a mere three months old, scampers in and thrashes her paws in the water making a fine spray. The other two watch her curiously as though she is an alien.
Meanwhile, back in the UK which seems less and less where I would want to live these days, the Tories have cut an education programme which gives free books to children from poor homes. Maybe three million or so? The Tories are the Hamatan of culture. Any notion that the reason why people might want to live and work in the UK is because it is a natural habitat for creative artists is quite beyond them.