Friday, April 17, 2009

Oysters and Books

At the moment I am reading two very different books, Diane Neutze’s poems and Obama’s Dreams From My Father. Diane, suffers, much more severely, like me, from a degenerative disease. In one line she talks about ‘a lack-lustre life.’ I appreciate how she feels. She was a close friend of a girl-friend of mine in my post university years. The three of us would sit round earnestly discussing why Beethoven was better than Brahms. She was vibrant and lovely. Time can be cruel.

I try to cope with a lack-lustre life with red letter events. Yesterday had two such. Treesurgeons arrived to top some trees in the neighbours to give us more winter sun. I watched the men at work admiring their agility and skill. The task finished, another gang arrived to tidy up and mulch the cuttings. Then friend Oliver arrived with Bluff oysters for lunch – one of my favourite foods. We pigged out on a dozen each. Yum. Good friends and good food - one of life's great treats.

The Obama book is fascinating. No American president to my knowledge has come this way to the office – community work in the slums of Chicago. What shines through is the character of the man, a vision of a better world and a determination to work towards it despite set-back and failure. It’s not so much humility as a lack of hubris. The right-wing blogs are labelling him fascist. He gives no indication of that sense of destiny that I consider indicative of fascism. Rather, old fashioned courage and tenacity.

After the descriptions of his childhood years in Hawaii and Jakarta his visit to Kenya in search of his paternal origins is revealing. On the way he spent some time in Europe. He felt no sense of belonging. (In contrast I felt at home culturally, though not socially – the class thing.) At Nairobi someone asked ‘would you be Dr Obama’s son?’ and he immediately felt the sense of the achievements and grievances that is the lot of families world-wide. In the streets, black was the norm. But he still did not feel quite at home. He was an American. Further, a thoughtful, thinking American. In other words a liberal.

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