I have enjoyed my neighbours for the most part – a series of interesting characters have lived next door since Mrs Moor left. We have had Afghanis, A Yoruba & now we have Ethiopians with four children under ten. Mrs Moor was one of the last white neighbours I had and was constantly telling me how lovely it was in the area before the ‘Indians came’. I was impatient with her and would point out the improvement in our food since immigrants came along. She was not convinced and I suppose that the loss of people she knew in the road must have been hard. She left some years ago to go to live in sheltered housing – which she enjoyed for the company it provided.
I am not sure from whence he came, ‘my’ Henry Rooster; I can only conjecture. He arrived in my back garden a few months ago looking wonderfully glamorous with a cream breast and tawny speckled wings, tail feathers black and green it was love at first sight but a distant kind of love and totally one sided.
There had been another cockerel who lived and ranged over three or four gardens for a couple of years before – the man next door finally grassed him up to the RSPCA because he trampled his flower beds and they took him away. I had a dog at the time so didn’t make pet of him but I think he was a refugee from an Asian festival. They apparently have a lot of live chickens that they kill and eat – a lesser horror then factory killing I would have thought. I remember that when we had the first cockerel we had some guys come round looking for him – we denied all knowledge and they told us he was a pet. So I think perhaps HR was a Refugee, I like to think that and I can’t think of any other explanation of a cockerel showing up in an inner city garden.
I have taken to losing my balance for some time now and Cuba probably has the worst roads ever and Havana the worst pavements. Evidence that when the Chinese sold buses to Cuba they were not prepared to provide a guarantee; a unique stipulation I think. I also lose my balance in moving vehicles, especially when they corner .I have fallen on many people who get irate in London, and Moscow they seem to think I did it to annoy them. Not so in Cuba – people supported me with their bodies partly because Cuban buses never say ‘no’ and are packed to the gunnels but still people clamber aboard and everybody is good natured about it. Though you may have to fight your way through volumes of flesh when you want to get off the bus. But then get on a number 53 to Plumstead late at night and it is similarly packed. In Havana you really are up close and personal to an extent I have never experienced before, I am glad to say that that the Cubans take personal hygiene seriously. There is also a very nice practice which appears to be spontaneous; two men get down at every stop to assist the passengers to get off – then they hop back up into the bus and off they go. I have seen boys of school age perform this courtesy and I find it typical of Cuban kindness. In fact I only had to hesitate at a kerb and a gentle hand would help me, young women in particular were helpful. And even when a throng of people wait for a bus there is no shoving, probably because they know they will all get on somehow. There is music on the bus and general good humour and they have bendy buses so a person in the front seat collects money through the window from passengers to give to the driver so we can squeeze into the back doors, in fact a woman showed us how to do this by gesture alone.
Saturday we went on the ferry across the bay on a small boat surprisingly similar to the Hythe ferry in Southampton, except of course the passengers & personnel who were charming & patient. Also we were frisked by police as we got on! When we got to the other side we asked one of the local guys if there was a restaurant he waved in the direction of the pier, smiled & assured yes that there was. One tiny fault with the Cubans is the fact that they tend to tell you what the think you want to hear. He was right that is exactly what we wanted to hear & yes again – I am sure there is a restaurant to be found in the general direction we had pointed to, possibly five miles or more down the road. We got the ferry back.
They vary in colour from silver white through lavender & lilac to deep purple. If you have never seen palm trees against a violet clouds with gorgeous cloud formations. I won’t say you haven’t lived but well ..it was marvellous. We had disturbing news today from our travel company: we are to fly a day earlier than planned, no reason is given for this & we are trying to contact them – but with it being good Friday & a holiday weekend, we have little hope of a result. It means for one thing that we have paid for an extra day in the place we are staying – a centre of industry with many young guys working a ten hour day bashing plaster off walls & other noisy stuff. They are all friendly guys & work hard. One of them now greets me with ‘all right’ his slightly more ambitious mate Said; ‘morning lady’ today!
30th & tiny clouds brilliant sunshine & I have been sitting on the balcony watching & hearing street vendors selling anything from eggs to brushes, onions to ice cream calling out their wares & the dogs galloping about barking furiously, I shall miss the sound of the dogs & the vendors. And all the nice friendly Cubans I have met & shared smiles with. So tomorrow will be our last day here & though I shall be glad to get back to Henry Rooster I have loved Havana & if the kindness of strangers here & the amazing politeness is a result of the Cuban Revolution then it has been a resounding success ! More tomorrow before we endure our ten hour long haul short space journey.