THE INKSLINGERS – IRISH WRITERS CIRCLE, DUBLIN – 5th January 2019
I have started attending weekly writing sessions with the Inkslingers at the Irish Writers Circle in Dublin. The lovely Brian bought me a subscription for Christmas. What a wonderful Christmas present. The receptionist said that he will go to the top of the class – well, he would if he could write. Of course he can write, but it takes him ages, and he wonders at the way I can throw a story together so quickly, whether its satire, political comedy, economics, letters to the omnipresent Highland Council or anyone else who raises my ire. I picked up my anthology today… great. I can’t wait to read it. I went for a walk in the Remembrance Gardens, there is some heart searching poetry on a plaque. I took a photo. The trees are amazing… great knarled monoliths, branches reaching for the blue skies of Dublin. What a fabulous, energetic and lively. The people forever optimistic. The guy in the post office laughing at my renditions of an Irishman in Libya, the girl in the gift shop laughing at me when I told her what I was going to do with my books… give them to PRONI because my siblings would throw them away – and I would be looking up (not down) watching in horror.
I digress. The prompts this week led by the wonderful Geraldine were about the Chinese New Year and sliding down bannisters, or “The Ferrari stopped and the tinted window rolled down to reveal…..” then we had half an hour to write. Wow.
Below is my attempt at the subject. I worked in Libya for several years, so could easily have happened.
“The Ferrari stopped and the tinted window rolled down to reveal a vision in a dish dasha, face deliberately turned away. Mmm… what’s this? The streets of Tripoli were full of Maepsys, brought in by the Koreans as part of the deal with the Libyan authorities in return for their oil, the best crude in the world. The Koreans were building roads, often managed by British engineering companies.
The Ferrari was red, again an anomaly amongst the white cars. There was a red Fiat – mine – a big car but reliable and great for carrying my windsurfer and diving gear. It was not necessarily the best colour as it stood out like a sore them, as did I – British, white, a female in a man’s world, dominated by the Army, the secret police and underground thugs. There were a few Mercedes, but they were white and always new. You knew who the occupants were. High ranking secret police, not exactly secret as they inevitably work dark suits and a particular type of sunglasses with mirrors. I had a pair myself to emulate them and wind them up, which they did. I was told to remove them on several occasions. I just shrugged my shoulders. I didn’t want them to see my blue eyes or I might get sold off to some Arab. Being small, blonde and blue eyed, I was fair game for the Arabs, but my forthright manner soon put them off. Being compliant was not in my nature, it still isn’t.
I had been in country for about two years back in the 1980s. It was a tough life. Bothered by the men if you didn’t dress appropriately, or even if you did. Pushed in the supermarket by the tanks of Libyan women in their “blankets”, one eye looking disturbingly out… often not in the direction you thought they were looking in. I was often told off by my Arab boss when I lost my temper in the souk because some guy had pinched my bottom. But we did get to go to the beach on a Thursday night and not return until Saturday. Then it was back to work on Sunday.
This particular Monday morning was no different to any other. My flat mate, Paulie, a tall blonde Irish girl of about 29, who was prone to wearing see through blouses and inappropriately short skirts, that is to say, above the calf, had been sent home to change several times. The trouble was she didn’t have any conservative clothes, so she had to borrow mine. My long skirts just about covered the top of her ankles, but my blouses fitted OK. Trousers were frowned upon as they showed too much of your shape. I digress. We had decided to walk to work on a bright beautiful morning in May. It was glorious – the birds sang in the trees, the flowers were out. We chatted as we walked through the park, being looked at by several youths who were out early. It was only 7.30a.m. We recognised them as some Ghadaffi’s youths. Trouble makers and likely to spray you with green pain on bit of flesh you were showing either legs or arms, or heaven forbid, your hands. It was hard to get off. I took to wearing plastic gloves if those guys were about.
We emerged from the park, still chatting and saying how lucky we were to be able to party on the beach all weekend. We injected water melons and oranges with the illegal spirit – “flash” made by the Polish contingent. Then we went to work where sit up and beg typewriters were still de moda. Then we saw the red Ferrari. I blanched. Trouble came in all shapes and sizes. I had seen it before but the tinted windows made it impossible to view the contents. Not many women drove – only the expats. There were nine of us. Arab women couldn’t get licences and were always escorted by men. We were apprehensive – only days before I had had occasion to throw a diving weight through the open window of a white Toyota Land Cruise at the head of the driver as he and his passenger kept hassling us. He had an accident at the traffic lights as blood poured down his face. Oh dear. What an explanation I had to give to my boss or that. It was his cousin. Mohammed had warned him not to hassle me as I was wont to fight back.
We eyed the red Ferrari suspiciously as it followed us. I walked on the outside of the pavement, the one most likely to lose it if things went wrong – despite Paulie being Irish. I armed myself with a brick, ready to hurl it at the windscreen and another to scratch the car if the incumbents threatened us. Suddenly the window rolled down and a girlish voice shouted “Help. I need to escape to the West. I am a prisoner in my own home.” We were aghast. How had she got out? We didn’t know. Did we want to get involved and potentially get picked up by the police for subversion and incarcerated. Another day. Another time – but she needed help now.