Flying the Yellow Jack

I’m now flying the yellow jack – carrying an international vaccination card. You may already know that the card is yellow, but it was news to me when I was given mine. I found the colour almost more interesting than the conversation I had with the doctor about what vaccinations I ought to have.

There was a queue of five outside the door of the Saint Pierre hospital’s Travel Clinic at 8.30 when they opened, and two more people and a family walked in directly after. Even though I had misread the opening times and been there since 8 o’clock, I still wasn’t first in line. Not that I was in a great hurry. I took my queue ticket and settled in the waiting room, watching the long ad for National Geographic that was looping on the TV screen. The American voices on the ad were muted but still audible under the French voice-overs. This, of course, was why we were here. All of us. The dream of travelling the world to film ring-tailed lemurs in Madagascar, swim with whales off Baja California, fly with condors in the High Andes…

Well, perhaps not.

Most of my waiting-room fellows were French speakers, so, though I could overhear their conversations with the receptionists, I couldn’t understand what they said. Still, one worried looking young man cautiously picked his way through an explanation in English about losing his vaccination card, while the family turned out to be Canadians resident in Brussels but now on their way to Sri Lanka on a diplomatic posting.

My conversation with the receptionist (limping French and halting English) resulted in a form to fill out. Country of destination? Date of departure? Staying in the city or visiting the countryside? In hotels or with locals? Have you ever hade an inoculation for… and a list of diseases from mumps and measles via tetanus to cholera, hepatitis and rabies. There were clipboards and pens to borrow, The pens were with either red ink or green. I hesitated. Green seemed more appropriate somehow, healthier, but in the end I went for red. The colour of blood. (Not really, I know.)

The international vaccination card (Carte Jaune in French) – effectively a medical passport – is yellow. A rather dull and dirty yellow, mine anyway. You may already know this, but it was news to me when I eventually received mine. The colour was almost more interesting, I thought, than the conversation I had with the doctor about what vaccinations I ought to have.

I ended up with tetanus, (My old friend – can it be nearly twenty years since last? Yes, it can. Bitten by a dog while walking Hadrian’s Wall – but that’s another story.) And yellow fever.

Now, I know I’ve been inoculated against yellow fever before. It was when I was five-years-old and in preparation for our trip to Ghana. I remember it because I had a nasty local reaction to the jab, which seemed to be very deep and painful and produced a scab that left a scar. Theoretically, one yellow fever inoculation should last a lifetime, but with no documentation (come on, it was 53 years ago) it’s better to get the jab again and get a vaccinations card to prove it.

In fact, yellow fever is the one vaccination that is required for the vaccination card. Admiring the stamp in my card, I couldn’t help thinking there must be a connection – I was sure I’d read about it – a connection between the yellowness of the vaccination card and the yellowness of yellow fever. I was sure. I was certain. I was, it turned out, wrong.

Well, right, in a kind of roundabout way, but mostly wrong.

Once upon a very long time ago – possibly as far back as the early Middle Ages – people in Europe started to use a yellow mark or a flag as a plague warning. Houses where plague had broken out might be marked with a yellow cross, towns that were suffering from the plague might fly a yellow flag, warning visitors and travellers to keep their distance. Later hoisting an all-yellow flag (called the yellow jack in English) was a sign that there was plague on board a ship.

Now, plague doesn’t have to mean bubonic plague. Many things can plague us. Certain pop songs and advertising jingles come to mind. The Biblical plagues of Egypt included locusts and lice as well as boils and death.

From the end of the 15th century, as people learned to sail around the world, diseases from one place could easily be transported to another, where people had no resistance, and wipe out millions. Smallpox was one of Europe’s plague gifts to the Americas. Yellow fever was one of Africa’s plague gifts to Europe and the European colonists.

What yellow fever does to you, among other things, is attack your liver. This affects your blood supply because your liver is the organ where your body builds new red blood cells and filters out old ones blood cells. When the liver stops doing its job because it is under attack, old blood cells are not cleaned up properly. With a build up of old blood cells, your skin will begin to look increasingly yellow. Hence yellow fever. (Hepatitis and some other diseases do the same thing with much the same result.)

Yellow fever became a major terror in the 18th and 19th centuries. In cases where it was introduced to a population that had no resistance, it could have a mortality rate of 50% or more. Consequently, ships carrying passengers or crew who had gone down with yellow fever would raise the yellow jack when they came to a port, announcing their intention to go into quarantine.

From this comes one of the alternative names for yellow fever – yellow jack. Also the letter that the all-yellow flag signifies in flag semaphore – Q (for quarantine).

Customs change. Nowadays (so I am reliably – ahem – informed by Wikipedia) ships with disease aboard will fly a black-and-yellow checked flag (which signifies L – for leprosy – by the way). The all yellow flag nowadays indicates the ship believes it is now free of disease and is requesting a doctor’s visit to confirm this. In other words, the yellow jack is now a sign of health.

Which is why the international vaccination card is yellow – to show that the bearer is protected.

I have spent hours chasing after all this on-line – especially, I tried to find out why yellow, of all colours (it’s the colour of the sun and summer, damn it!) Why yellow has been associated in the West with disease. I turned up nothing definite there. But did you know that yellow fever, dengue, and the new media sensation zika are all related? All produced by strains of the flavivirus. Talk of a soon to be discovered vaccine for zika is based on the fact that we have an effective vaccination for yellow fever, but dengue has been with us as long as yellow fever and for dengue there is still no effective vaccine. So… don’t hold your breath. And try not to get bitten by mosquitoes wherever you may be travelling.

And why am I getting myself a yellow card and a yellow fever inoculation? I’m glad you asked! I’m setting out to collect a series of new and boosted vaccinations because I am rather hoping to be travelling back to Africa this year, next year, sometime…

My goal is to return to Ghana.

It’s now 52 years since I was there and I have been toying with the idea of going back for more than 10 years. I’m hoping 2016 or 2017 will be the year I finally do it. Inoculating myself is a first step on the way.

Yellow jack with yellow fever stamp in carte jaune


This article was written for the #Blogg52 challenge.

The Sleeping Place

cemetery (n.)
late 14c., from Old French cimetiere “graveyard” (12c.), from Late Latin coemeterium, from Greek koimeterion “sleeping place, dormitory”…
On-line Etymological Dictionary

Cimetière d'Ixelles, Ixelles CemeteryThe Cemetery of Ixelles is on top of a hill to the south-east of Brussels. Conceivably, the rest of the world may be a little more familiar with the layout of Brussels now than six months ago, so it might help if I say it is on the opposite side of the city from Molenbeek in the north-west, where “all the terrorists” live. I suppose when the cemetery was planned, which I take to be in the mid-1800s, it lay in the countryside. Now it is sandwiched between the two campuses of the Université libre de Bruxelles and surrounded by a student-and-well-to-do-academic quarter.

Boulanger's suicide, illustration from Le Petit Journal - Wikimedia CommonsCemeteries are interesting and sometimes dramatic places (though nothing I’ve yet seen quite beats the Glasgow Necropolis). Apparently all sorts of the “famous in Belgium” rest here at Ixelles, including one Victor Horta. Another is Georges Boulanger, who very nearly became dictator of France at the end of the 1880s, but dithering at the sickbed of his mistress, missed his chance and ended up in exile in Brussels. Here in the Cemetery of Ixelles in September 1891 he shot himself on the grave of his mistress and is buried beside her.

But it wasn’t these names that attracted Mrs SC and I last Sunday. It just seemed like a good place to visit on a fine, cold afternoon. A place for a gentle walk and an opportunity to practice using the new camera.

Cimetière d'Ixelles AbrahamThe sun was bright and the white marble statuary especially, glowed almost with an inner light that often quite washed out contrasts and made for disappointing pictures. This grieving figure on the grave of the Abraham family was the one that came out best. The cemetery is clearly non-denominational, though apart from the obviously Christian graves I saw only a few Jewish graves such as this one. On the other hand, while there were many emphatically Catholic graves (tortured Jesuses, sorrowful Madonnas), there were also monuments and memorials to people from other Christian denominations and none, judging by the symbols and statuary.

Cimetière d'Ixelles Young man with shearsFor example, I’m not sure who this young man is, but I get the idea – he’s cutting the thread of life. This is the job of Atropos in Greek mythology, and Atropos is female, but perhaps the dead in the tomb here was a tailor and I’m misinterpreting everything.

Cimetière d'Ixelles Chinese gravesEither because Ixelles is a multicultural resting place, or because there is a different tradition here than back home, many of the graves and memorials have portraits of the deceased. This is something I’m more familiar with from Orthodox graves in the Balkans or Italy, but that may just reveal the limits of my experience. Here there are Slavic graves with portraits, but also Chinese ones. Recent graves and also older ones.

Cimetière d'Ixelles EmilIt also seems to be quite acceptable to add art to a grave. Not just in the form of sculpted angels or other figures, but also portrait busts like this one. Impressive moustaches – some Belgian men still cultivate dramatic moustaches.

Cimetière d'Ixelles Maggy detailThis was an interesting and sad grave. The cleft, translucent disc appears to preserve flowers. Beneath (out of shot) an inscription reads “A ma Fille”. The gravestone is inscribed to Maggy Forest 1949-1983. She was 34 when she died.

Cimetière d'Ixelles President of the veterans of Stalag VI-DFurther on, this headstone caught my eye. What is that image engraved into the stone? It looks like the watchtower of a prison camp, but who would want such an image? A former prison guard? Not likely. A former prisoner? That turns out to be what it is. This is the grave of H. Georges Chantrain, President of the prisoner veterans of Stalag VI-D, a Second World War POW/labour camp at Dortmund for the captured soldiers of the countries of Europe defeated by the Germans.

Cimetière d'Ixelles Julie and PatriciaBut at least H. Georges Chantrain survived and was proud of his experiences. There are other inscriptions and sadder tales. On the monument by the garden of remembrance for scattered ashes there are several panels with commemorative plaques. If you look at this one you’ll see Mademoiselle Julie van Weereld who died on 14th September 2010 aged no more than 26. Look two plaques below and you’ll see Madame Patricia Nailis, wife of Adriean van Weereld. She must have been Julie’s mother, and she died on the same date. I find myself wondering what the tragedy was that took mother and daughter on the same day. A car accident perhaps?

Cimetière d'Ixelles de SpotTo close, here is another grave that tells a longer story, but I think just as sad. It starts by recording the birth and death of Roger de Spot, born at Folkestone on 12th November 1917, who died not much more than 3 months old on 16th February 1917, still at Folkestone. What is a Belgian family doing in Folkestone in 1917? Probably living as refugees from the German occupation. Roger’s sister Genevieve was born in Ixelles in happier times on 6th December 1913, but she too met an early death, in Ghent in 1934, a month shy of her 21st birthday.

The children’s father and mother lie here too, Joseph, who died at 73 in 1952 and Marie (I guess) who died at 83 in 1968. But look at the bottom of the grave and you’ll see tacked on an aluminium marker for the last member of the family buried here, Etienne. Born in 1910 when his mother was 25, he outlived both his siblings and both his parents. But when he died in 2002 there was no one left (or no money) to add his name to the gravestone in the same style.

So many stories in such a small space.
Cimetière d'Ixelles 1


This article was written for the #Blogg52 challenge.

I am diminished

This week I am diminished, made smaller, because last Friday I helped to bury my friend.

This is a blog about travelling, and what are our lives if not the journeys we make from birth to death, passing through this world? What are our travellers’ tales if not accounts of memories of what we have encountered along our way through life?

Adrian was my oldest friend. I met him when I was about 10½ and he was just 11, and though we did not walk much together through the world, still we saw one another from time to time and compared notes. We’d had more contact lately, what with the Internet and Facebook, but even before – for thirty years, more – there were letters and the occasional phone call and a meeting now and again.

And now no more.

I met up with him most recently about two weeks before he died. He was in good health. OK, he was fatter around the middle and balder on top. The tall, slim, fair-haired boy from 1969 was gone, but which of us have not changed dramatically from our pre-pubertal selves? (I speak with the weight of many added kilos and, to be sure, a great deal more facial hair.) But he looked in good enough health.

True, he had a story to tell of great sadness in his recent life, of separation and divorce. But he was joyful too, talking about his daughter’s achievements and his own rediscovery of Buddhism after all these years.

We parted that mild, damp October evening promising to stay in touch and, on my part, with a plan forming for another visit to Brighton and another meeting in the not too distant future. Perhaps in the New Year.

I was in Florence when the news reached me that Adrian was dead. There was, it seems, no warning. On Sunday 1st November he’d visited a friend in Shoreham, and then gone for one of his long walks across the Downs, the rolling chalk hills that embrace Brighton and Hove. He’d come home to his room at the Brighton Buddhist Centre and there he’d suffered a heart attack caused by a blood clot, and died.

No one is an island, complete and self-sufficient. Everyone is a piece of a continent, a part of the whole. If a piece of earth is washed away by the sea, the whole of dry land becomes smaller in just the same way as it becomes smaller if a headland were lost, or a peninsula, or the garden of one of your friends, or your own. In the same way, the death of someone close, of a friend or a family member, may be felt more keenly, but truly anyone’s death diminishes me, because I am a part of the continent of mankind.

And Adrian has gone, and I am diminished.


Yes, you’re right, I have borrowed from John Donne – the Meditation XVII.

Now this bell tolling softly for another,
says to me, Thou must die.

Perchance he for whom this bell tolls may be so ill as that he knows not it tolls for him. And perchance I may think myself so much better than I am, as that they who are about me, and see my state, may have caused it to toll for me, and I know not that…
All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated; God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice; but God’s hand is in every translation, and his hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again, for that library where every book shall lie open to one another; as therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come; so this bell calls us all…
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee…

The photo of Adrian at the head of this is a selfie taken from his Facebook Page, behind is a school photo from 1971. The boy in focus, that’s Adrian.

In the sound recording the Buddhist prayer bell comes from a recording on Freesound.org by user Itsallhappening, for which many thanks. The sound of the sea is an ambient recording I made myself in Brighton.

This article was written for the #Blogg52 challenge.

Paris

Regardless of what I had thought to write this week, recent events prompt me to publish some photos instead. My wife and I visited Paris in May and though I’ve posted a few of these pictures earlier on Facebook and Ello, I hadn’t got Stops and Stories up to speed then, so they are new here.

From Place de la Concord to the Eiffel Tower

Paris is an iconic city, with iconic buildings. It’s hardly surprising it should be a target for people who have demonstrated a hatred of icons other than their own black flag and the book they interpret at will.

Blue light in Paris 2

Paris is a city of light and colour, of freedom and dreams. Those who attacked Paris last Friday hate the light. For them, colour is an enemy. Their flag is black. For them, freedom is enfeeblement. They cannot allow any dream but their own, and they dream of death.

Outside La Dauphine - a Paris bistro

Paris is a city filled with the vibrancy of people from different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs meeting in both love and debate (and the love of debate). Those who attacked Paris last Friday hate these things. They hate difference, discussion, debate.

Facade of the Arab World Institute

They probably hate the portrait of early Islam painted in the Arab World Institute. At least six of the people murdered on Friday were from the Moslem community of France (and by far the majority of all victims of this terrorism world-wide are Moslems).

Old and new at the Louvre

It’s only 70 years since another group of people threatened Paris. People who also worshipped the dark, who dressed in black, who dreamed of death. They planned to destroy the city, all its buildings, all its icons, all its art and, if necessary, all its people. They failed.

Notre Dame in evening light

Why are we afraid that a handful of fanatics might succeed where the German army of occupation, with all its resources, with all the will of Nazi ideology, yet failed? These recent events, terrible though they are to all caught up in them directly or indirectly, heartrending though we may find them, are insignificant in the stream of history. They make a little splash in the flowing waters of time, and then the waters close over them and flow on.

Pont Marie from Pont Louise-Phillipe in the dark

This morning on the radio I listened to an interview with Phillipe Sands and Niklas Frank. The one is not only a Professor of International law, he is also the grandchild of a Jewish family murdered in the holocaust in Poland. The other is the son of Hans Frank, the Nazi Governor-General of occupied Poland during World War II. The two have recently collaborated on a documentary What Our Fathers Did: A Nazi Legacy. Phillipe Sands made the point, how, 70 years down the line, who can say whether a child of Friday’s victims and a child of Friday’s murderers may not also sit with one another in friendship?

Pont Marie from Pont Louise-Phillipe in daylight

Now is a time to mourn, but not a time to despair. And, if you can, save some pity for the miserable men and women who committed this atrocity. What tortured, distorted, dull and infected minds they must have lived with to bring them to a situation where murdering their brothers and sisters seemed like a good idea.

Cain - How can I undo the damage I've done


This article was written for the #Blogg52 challenge.

The worst journey in the world

What is the worst journey you have ever made? Recent events, public and private, have got me thinking about my own worst journeys and the concept of a bad journey. (And I should point out that some of the following may not be for the squeamish — or for people eating a meal. For the same reason I shall eschew sound effects in the recording.)

In 1922 Apsley Cherry-Garrard published The Worst Journey in the World, a masterpiece of travel writing which I believe has never since been out of print. It is the account of the 1910-1913 Scott expedition to the Antarctic of which Cherry-Garrard was one of the survivors. That was a pretty dreadful journey, no question, but “the worst in the world”?

Good or bad, best or worst, these are subjective judgements. What’s good for you may not seem so great to me. What’s bad for me might seem a walk in the park next to Cherry-Garrard’s winter journey. I’ve not struggled through a screaming blizzard in the pitch black Antarctic night several tens of degrees below freezing in order to “acquire for science” (i.e. steal) some Emperor penguin eggs. I have not then failed to rescue my fellow explorers, leaving them to die of cold or starvation just a few kilometres away. I can agree, that must have been pretty bad. My worst journey doesn’t compare objectively, but it happened to me and subjectively it was so bad I still measure all my bad journeys against it.

It started well enough in the summer of 1995. The school year was over in Sweden and I’d been working in Poland, helping out on a training programme for Polish teachers of English, and was making my way back to England to visit my mother in Brighton. The weather was fine, the sun was warm and the fields and even the old industrial towns of Poland and eastern Germany were smiling. I took the train from Warsaw to Berlin where I broke my journey to be a tourist.

It was not quite five years since East and West had been reunited, just over five years since the fall of the Wall, and Berlin was filled both with reminders of the Cold War division and the rubble and reconstruction that was replacing them. I particularly remember taking the U-bahn to Potsdamer Platz (which had been one of the East German ghost stations), getting off and walking through what felt like a labyrinth of temporary passages and steps up to the surface to find myself in the middle of one massive building site. But I also walked through the Tiergarten, central Berlin’s fantastic park, and the summer sun filtered down through the leaves of the trees on the families spread on the grass with their one-time barbecues and picnic blankets and children playing. There was hope in the air.

That evening I ate a chicken dinner at a fast food restaurant near my hotel. As it happened, not a good choice. I wasn’t going to sleep long — my train was starting early — and I think being a bit nervous about missing the train kept me awake and interfered with any messages my stomach might have been sending me, because I don’t remember feeling sick until the train was underway.

It was one of those trains that pick up and drop off carriages en route. I think its final destination may have been Paris, but my carriage was going to the Hook of Holland where I had a ticket for the ferry to Harwich. It was a long journey through similar bucolic countryside and historic urban centres as the train from Warsaw, and all bathed in the same gentle June sunlight, but I was not in a state to enjoy it. Soon after we left Berlin my stomach started cramping and I found my way to the lavatory. This being a German train the lavatory was clean and functioning. I was to test it considerably during my journey, but it never failed me.

worst journey 2Although I started the journey in my seat, I ended it — certainly the last few hours — standing as close as possible to the lavatory, in the corridor by an open window, gulping fresh air and holding on to the wall hoping I wouldn’t fall, wouldn’t shit myself and that the train wouldn’t be delayed. I was so pleased when we arrived in Hook on time that I almost convinced myself I was feeling better and carried my bags from the station to the ferry terminal (not a great distance) with some confidence. After boarding the boat, however, I realised I was in a cold sweat and my legs were shaking. Seven hours at sea? I had my doubts.

I had recently agreed to my bank’s suggestion and invested in a Visa credit card. My first credit card. Oh, how I appreciated that! This was an afternoon crossing, so there were cabins available and I was able to book one — all for myself — and with a bathroom en suite. I spent the entire trip stripped to my underwear (when the fever was hot) or wrapped in a blanket (when the fever was cold), lying on the bunk or squatting on the toilet or (a new development) vomiting into the toilet bowl. To be honest, by now I really didn’t have much left in me to evacuate, but my body was determined to do its best.

It was now that I realised I was passing blood. I’m not sure when that started, but I remember observing it with a kind of detached resignation. I knew it wasn’t a good sign but I was beyond caring.

Before the ferry reached Harwich I took a shower, dressed and tried to make myself look as normal as possible. Importing a deadly pandemic virus into England? Me? Good heavens, no officer. Just a little under the weather.

But nobody was interested, so I boarded the London train. Where I was immediately reminded of the difference between German and British trains. This was at the very beginning of the disastrous privatisation programme that destroyed British Rail, but at this point the London-Harwich line was still part of the demoralised and deliberately underfunded though still state-owned Network South-East. The underfunding was reflected in the absence of electricity, water or toilet paper in the train’s lavatories. One of which I nevertheless took possession of.

Night was upon us. I have an abiding memory of the lights from one station after another strobing past through the frosted glass window and sporadically illuminating the interior of my smelly cell. I found hooks to hang my luggage on and I wiped off the toilet seat as best I could — it was fortunate I had packets of paper tissues bought on the boat. The toilet bowl, though encrusted, was empty. It was of the “not to be used while the train is standing still” variety — old-fashioned even in 1995 — the sort that opened to drop deposits on the tracks beneath. I locked the door, and I don’t remember anyone hammering to get in. So I coped, and the train eventually pulled into Liverpool Street station. Then all I had to do was get across London on the toilet-less Underground, catch a train to Brighton and finally take a taxi home to my mother’s. Two and a half hours, tops.

The following day Mum took me to visit her doctor who diagnosed dysentery, but not amoebic dysentery (which was good news). And then I was able to spend the next eight or so days recovering.

That was and remains my worst journey. I don’t think you’ll disagree with me that it was a pretty bad experience, but let’s reflect a little on what makes it nevertheless something less than a really bad journey; less than the worst journey in the world.

Although the journey itself was awful, much that surrounded it was rather good. It was a journey I had chosen to make, planned in comfort and organised myself. I was satisfied with my contribution in Poland, I enjoyed the journey from Warsaw, Berlin was interesting, I had tickets and credit to get me across Europe in relative comfort despite my illness, and a legal right to travel (despite my slightly feverish concern about being identified as the vector of a pandemic).

Above all, I had a home to run to and someone waiting for me who, while it might not have been the thing she most wanted to do, was still prepared to take me in, look after me and get me medical attention.

The Worst Journey?Apsley Cherry-Garrard had a worse time than me, no question. He ended up feeling at least partly responsible for the deaths of Scott and the other expedition members. Also those Emperor penguin eggs which it had been so important to collect that he’d given up more than three years of his life, turned out, when he returned, to be no longer of any scientific interest. Still, it was a journey he had wanted to take, he wasn’t forced to take it. The life he left behind he could pick up again when he returned and (as I think you can tell from his name) that life was not your common or garden lower class existence. (To be sure, the First World War came along and spoilt things, but that tragedy lies outside the scope of Cherry-Garrard’s journey, and outside the scope of point I’m trying to make.)

So let’s think of a journey that really could be described as the worst. Not only would the actual journey have to involve a series of horrible incidents, terrible travelling conditions, lack of water or food, exhaustion, illness and perhaps actual physical violence and/or convoluted bureaucratic hoop jumping. Not only would it involve surrendering yourself into the hands of strangers, perhaps professional smugglers, perhaps incompetent do-gooders, perhaps unscrupulous money grubbers. Not only would it have to have an element of moral peril: you yourself would have to put another person or people at risk, perhaps friends, perhaps relatives, perhaps the one person dearest of all.

More than this, the journey would have to be involuntary, not chosen for adventure but forced by circumstances, or chosen perhaps as the least worst of a series of bad options. And there would have to be an element of irony (this is a post-modern story it seems), so let’s imagine that journey’s end is in a country which is either directly or indirectly responsible for the circumstances at home precipitating your journey. And to add to the irony, let’s include the fact that all your life savings — a fraction of which would have bought you an airline ticket to fly you to your destination — must instead be spent on the journey you are taking by land and sea because the country to which you are fleeing (which may accept that you have a legitimate cause to seek asylum once you get there) has made it impossible for regular airlines to let you buy a ticket or board a plane so you could travel quickly and in safety.

And at the end, what? Not a homecoming. Not a welcome, not safety and security, but the coldness of strangers, hostility and mistrust — to such a degree that the dead lost along the way, the children drowned at sea, the mothers and fathers suffocated in the back of a lorry, the sisters crushed beneath the wheels of trains, the brothers frozen to death in the undercarriage of high flying passenger jets, all these seem to be happier for no longer having to suffer.

Now, that. That would be the worst journey in the world.

The worst of journeys


This article was written for the #Blogg52 challenge.