I don’t believe in God, okay. Let’s just get that straight right now. I think believing in God is one of the most irresponsible things you can do. It is an abdication of responsibility. (1) People who say God led them to do things are always and without exception describing things that they wanted to do, it just suits them to pretend it was someone else’s idea. (2) Religion is an absolute scourge upon humanity, resulting in genocide and especially the oppression of women, not to mention being anti sex and anti pleasure of every kind. (3) I can barely think of anything more insulting than dispensing charity to someone in need and then saying “Jesus loves you”. No he bloody doesn’t. If Jesus loved you, you wouldn’t be in this horrible situation. I also don’t believe in portents and signs. I believe in people. I believe in the kindness of strangers and I believe in myself and my own instincts and feelings. If I had to choose a religion, I would pick Satanism because it is firmly grounded in the real world and insists that people take responsibility for their own actions. If that doesn’t sound quite right to you, look it up.
Now let me tell you about my day.
So, as you know, I am in the middle of a sort of mild crisis about my career. I have spent the last several days brainstorming a bunch of ideas but I haven’t yet hit upon the idea and I feel unsettled and shaky.
My day started before I woke up, with a dream. I was with a group of friends. We randomly bumped into another friend of mine, who started showing off about her career success. “I’ve done really well!” she said. I looked at the guy I was married to – a well-meaning, rich, plain guy who I wasn’t even slightly attracted to and who I had married to save my ass financially. “I’ve done reasonably well” I said. Everyone laughed. I nearly split my sides laughing. The only person who didn’t laugh was this poor chump I’d married who understandably looked hurt. Then I woke up. I don’t think you need to be Freud to work out what that means.
Then I was awake and I was forced to realise that I am running out of holiday. So it was time to go out and see at least some aspect of Spain, so I put my clothes on and went to Vegueta, which is the historic part of Gran Canaria. You will get photos later as the internet connection speed at this hotel is not going to accommodate uploading them now. I went to see some contemporary art, which barely made a dent in my disconsolate mood, then I wandered around the town looking at old buildings and not knowing what the hell to do with myself or how to improve my state of mind.
Then I saw a man in a doorway. He was sitting on the ground, wrapped in a blanket, and he looked thinner than he should be. Finally, I had a purpose. With renewed vigour, I walked around until I found a place that sold take-away food. I bought a ham salad baguette and a bottle of water and a couple of other small items and took them away in a carrier bag. Then I hurried back to the man in the doorway, who was being roundly ignored by everybody, knelt down and handed him his lunch.
Let me tell you something about the urban poor. People are often cynical about beggars. They think that they aren’t really poor and are begging out of sheer laziness, because they’d rather do that for money than actually work. I don’t give money, I give food and I give a bit of my time, to listen and talk. I’ve never been turned down and I can tell you from experience that there is this electrifying look people give you when they are hungry and you hand over lunch. If you think you’ve been looked at with love, I am here to tell you, you may not have experienced it yet. They look into your eyes and right into the depths of your soul. It’s unbelievably penetrating. They thank you and they stare right into the bottom of your soul and they see everything. If I were a Catholic nun, this is where I would say “Jesus loves you”, but I’m not and I don’t. What I mean in that exchange of looks is “I love you”, except it isn’t at all necessary to say it. They see everything, with their x-ray vision.
So I handed this guy his sandwich and it made me feel somewhat better. Not masses better but enough to go and look for my own lunch. So I went to a cafe, found a table in the sunny part of the street and ordered a plate of nachos, which I tried and didn’t like that much, and a glass of beer, which I did. That’s when Alejandro showed up.
Alejandro has wild grey dreadlocks, an even wilder grey beard, and one arm. His other arm exists but doesn’t work and his hand is twisted and mangled. He limped up the street, asking people for coins, which they refused. When he got to my table, I asked him if he was hungry, but he didn’t know the English words, and I no hablo Espanol, so I just pointed at the chair opposite me and he sat down. I passed him my plate of nachos and he happily tucked in. Then I asked him if he wanted a beer, and he said “Coca Cola”, proving that street people aren’t all alcoholics, so I bought him a Coke. Eating the nachos left a lot of guacamole in his wild beard but I don’t think he cared. In his very limited English and my even worse Spanish we managed to establish that I’m from London and that 30 years ago he’d visited London too. He said “Camden Town” and “Piccadilly Circus” and our happiness was complete. He sat with me for a few minutes, eating and trying to chat, then he thanked me very politely and went on his way.
I felt about a thousand times happier so I went to another part of town for the lunch that I still needed. This whole entire set of adventures so far had cost me about the price of one cup of coffee in London.
As I sat outside the second cafe, eating lamb stew and realising that I am on this Earth to spend at least part of my time feeding the poor, and thinking up ways to make corporate sponsors foot the bill, I heard someone yell Hola in a cheery way, and it was Alejandro passing by, waving and beaming at me as though we were lifelong friends. I waved back and watched him go, still thinking about my corporate sponsors and how to make them realise that poor, hungry people are actual people. Then just as he was about to disappear round the corner, inspiration struck and I yelled “ALEJANDRO!” and called him back. I made him an offer – a couple of Euros in exchange for a photo of us together. He was quite happy with this so I gave him a handful of small change and a German lady at the next table took a picture of us together. It’s a lovely photo. You can see what a nice man he is, it is shining out of his face, and I look properly happy for the first time since I arrived in Spain. I am not posting the photo here because I like my anonymity on this blog, and that portrait might be the launching photo of my new anti-hunger campaign.
And that’s how I did the Devil’s work today and that’s all today’s Spanish news.