Friday, October 29, 2010

Sweet Dreams

"Did you have bad dreams again?" (Mother)

"Only one. It's always the same, ever since I can remember. Do you think that's normal? Don't most people have different dreams?" (Alice)

"I don't know." (Mother)

Alice in Wonderland (original script, 2010)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Signs of Adolescence #1

refusal to share the soap

Saturday, October 23, 2010

More man than boy

I went to visit distant relatives (not geographically speaking) of W recently. A tiny house in one of the larger favelas on the northern extremes of the city, called Brasilândia. The tight-fitting ramshackle houses - squeezed into every conceivable space on the steep slopes which mark the city limits - mirrored the interior of his aunt's house: a small, dark living room and a single bedroom where seven of his family live.

W with family

They seemed a caring family who clearly love W, but had (and have) no means to care for him. I couldn't tell whether it was adolescent timidity which made him stare at the television the entire duration of the visit (I had to keep prodding him to engage a little), or a simple resignation that the likelihood of him ever experiencing something resembling a normal family life is slowly ebbing away as he reaches adolescence.

the road home - cityscape in the wing mirror

Fixing bikes (at night)

my valuable contribution is around the 25' mark

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Sticks and Stones

"Of all the things a child sees and touches, the most dangerous toy is about the least dangerous thing. There is hardly a single domestic utensil that is not much more dangerous than a little bow and arrows. He can burn himself in the fire, he can boil himself in the bath, he can cut his throat with the carving knife, he can scald himself with the kettle, he can choke himself with anything small enough, he can break his neck off anything high enough. He plays all day in a house fitted up with engines of torture like the Spanish Inquisition. And while he thus dances in the shadow of death, he is to be saved from all the perils of possessing a piece of string, tied to a bent bow or twig."


Monday, October 18, 2010

Elections '10 (Part 2)

For those interested (and, to be honest, I wasn't at first), the BBC has got some good coverage of the elections over on their web site.

(clicking the pic links to the BBC microsite)

Apologies for the lacuna

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Monday, October 11, 2010

Madonna and Child

"Finally, she came. A fleet of new 4x4s swept on to the bare earth and out she stepped with Lourdes, her eldest. They were ushered up the dais stairs and sat down. After some massed dances of welcome, the speeches began. The Minister for Education gushed that ‘in future every girl born in Malawi will be Madonna’s child’. This and other such statements made us cynical local hacks look at each other and blink. Someone near the microphone made a valiant effort to render the stream of platitudes into Chewa, but it took too long and was soon abandoned.

The sweating, patient crowd looked on uncomprehendingly from a distance. On the far side the schoolchildren looked uncomfortably hot and stupefied with boredom. I wished with all my heart that someone, Madonna preferably, would stand up and crack a good and easily translatable joke. Or that she would totter across the bare African earth on her high heels and offer her hands. Or better still grab the mike and sing Like a Virgin."

The Spectator, 2 October, 2010

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Violence: update

I can gladly report that there has been a marked decrease in aggression at the house in recent weeks.

I have been replaced!

Sorry to keep you waiting

Long lines outside the hospital, the post office, the lottery booth.
Why are the poor treated as if their time is totally worthless?

Very different interventions

"In rural areas poverty leads to a lack of the basics: food, water, primary schools, simple health care. Conditional cash-transfer schemes are good at providing those because, however small the stipend, it gives children an incentive to go to school and encourages markets to develop in the goods and services that were lacking before. In cities, by contrast, the problems of poverty are compounded by violence, drugs, family breakdown and child labour. These require different interventions: in law and order, in programmes to stop domestic abuse, and so on. And they require more than just the state to step in: commerce and churches are just as important. Such problems will become greater in future because the largest concentrations of poverty are no longer in the backward rural areas but in the anarchic megalopolises of developing countries."

The Economist
, July 31st 2010.

It is nothing new to articulate the rather obvious differences between urban and rural poverty, but I extract the lengthy quote above (from the Leaders page, no less) because of the nod it gives not only to the growing importance of the private sector in resolving “the problems of poverty”, but also for the reference it makes to the church. It remains one of the reasons I am called to this creaking, messy, urban context: the peculiar problems that arise when communities collide in their search for a better life.

I recently flew over that great planned city (and capital) Brasilia, on my return to São Paulo. It its 50th year, I see nothing to celebrate in its stagnant rows of uniform streets, fanning out symmetrically from starchitect-designed municipal monoliths. It was just before 5am and in the night (darkest just before the dawn) the street lights only went to outline the insipidness of it all. I found myself pining for the plane's descent into the beautiful chaos of the city that I now call my second home.

Gorbels, Glasgow (1948)

Most third world cities separate neatly into poor and rich areas like a sunny-side-up egg, with slums spreading out from the rim. São Paulo is more like a scrambled egg. This adds to the complications of a ministry to children in situations of risk (in recent weeks the street kids have become increasingly peripatetic), but in other ways the city is no different to any other megacity. Indeed, Conan Doyle described London as “that great cesspool into which all the loungers and idlers of the empire are irresistibly drained.”

It is a truism that “[a]ll have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one" (Romans 3:12), but it is nonetheless intriguing to observe at first hand urban idiosyncrasies that are somehow beyond the traditional remit of state and private sector. What might be described as outsourcing a problem to God.

Something perhaps we should all do.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Family values

"The difference between mistreating a child and a dog in public [is] that passers-by are much more willing to intervene on the dog's behalf."

The Guardian, 14th August 2010

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Home is where you left

There is a painting by one of the boys from 2004 that hangs on the wall in the games room. When I'm not being chased (or chasing someone else) I can't help but stop and stare at it. Occasionally it gets knocked off, moved some place else or simply frisbee'd into the garden, but it always somehow manages - against all odds - to make its way back onto the wall.

It is a child's simple, two-dimensional view of the world. A lone figure - central and isolated - suspended just above the horizon of a sea-like plateau of grass. I guess a psychiatrist might have a field day analysing the thoughts which may (or may not) have gone into its creation, and like all good art, it produces more questions than it does answers. Adult or child? Walking or running? To or from? House or home?

Friday, October 1, 2010

A recipe

  • Large plastic ground sheet
  • Detergent
  • Water
  • 3 street kids
  1. Spread sheet on ground
  2. Add a generous sprinkling of detergent + a dousing of water
  3. Add each street kid in turn, until each is smiling (est. 5 seconds)
  4. Rinse off in swimming pool (oops!)

Back to being Dad

"She told me I was sixteen which of course I knew and that I was now a Man which I didn't care if I knew or not cos men were either bastard bad people like NotDad or Arthur or not happy people like Drunkle and I didn't really want to be like none of them even if I did love my Drunkle I didn't want to be like him in his not-happy ways."

Niall Griffiths, Runt

A cut above

I wrote a little while ago regarding J. Well, he went to the family court yesterday and it seems the judge agrees with regard to his progress - no - transformation.

He will start family visits this weekend with an aim to being reintegrated with his family (such that it is) this November. Seems so...soon, but that is the aim of the rescue house: to reintegrate the boys back into their own family (or, if they have no family, an adoptive one) within nine months of their admission.

Can someone be reborn before their death? We believe so.

the barber only rings once (thank goodness)