The heat, the dust, the goodness of the people, the greenery, the gris, M Ricard, the regimented chaos of Marrakech have all dragged me out of my ennui and tristesse. I am pretty much a new man.
It is Day 11 of my trip and everybody is back at school or work leaving me with a sick child and the two ladies of the house who go about their work diligently. These ladies work to survive, their scooter has broken down and they walk an hour each way to and from their village. Daughter No 2 sometimes picks them up but it is not possible some days with school and work beckoning. Our meeting with the Hollywood bimbo did not take place last night. By the time the soft porn duo and Miss Powers returned from the mountains we were not conducive to pleasant company and told the trio it was rather late and set up again for the morrow. I was certainly not arsed, my own company is far better than company thrust upon you.
So myself and sick child slowly wheeled ourselves through the day. I have just finished a David Lodge book “Paradise News” which had so many situations pertaining to my life. Very entertaining so I immediately started on one of his earlier works “Out of the Shelter” because I thought it might do the same again and it did. Reading in the heat of the day is so relaxing and it is the fifth book I have read in 11 days.
Two and a half days to go before heading for home, back to my reality. This place although close to paradise with its greenness, its sunshine, its cooling pool, its wonderful food just feels almost temporary, almost a staging post for the next paragraph of my life. At home I know I can direct myself, can eat when I want to, can live my life without being a burden on others. I am too old for adventure but it is nice to get a snap of it.
As I reach my last days here, I realise I have probably spent two days longer than necessary. The sights to see have been seen, the adulation from grandkids has waned, I am now part of the furniture. The adults have to work and cannot spend too long trying to entertain me. To be fair I do not need to be entertained. Lonely days reading and writing in a cool house with little trips onto the patio for sun ration or a walk round the pool area is sufficient. I am sustained by a breakfast of eggs and flatbread, fresh orange juice and coffee. Then a lunch of a kind you could not expect in a restaurant supplied by the two ladies of the house, Fatimzara and Hafida. The simplicity of its ingredients blending to make a complicated luxurious feast.
The days have flown. I am now on my third David Lodge book “How Far Can You Go”. In all his books I have read he faces the dichotomy of modern life and the Catholic Church and he makes me appreciate that I was not the only one fighting through this sacerdotal jungle. A jungle thankfully I have left far behind. Which is a shame really because now that I am on open land I realise I have little future to enjoy my life in the main having spent my time hacking away at branches and tall bamboo. It is a pity I did not read his books forty years ago when they first came out. It would have saved me a lot of heartache.
It is a perfect life here, my endocrinologist’s heaven. She tells me to eat in a space of eight hours in a day and fast for the next 16 hours. I have breakfast at nine, lunch at 1.30pm and do not eat again until the next day. A healthy regime bolstered by the sun’s vitamin D but I yearn for Boyle’s 15C, isolation and disembracement. My own form of self-sacrifice.
The re-enacted second arrangement for Miss Stephanie Powers’s introduction was again demurred by my hostess. Their day had been long and hard, so why extend it to meet a bimbo who despite all her razzamatazz was probably well past it in terms of looks, intellect and presence but we will never now know. And Mr Directeur will have certainly taken the hump and might not now be as forthcoming with his introductions to the world of pornish art. Not that that will worry mine hosts wrapped as they are in the 21st century world of expansion or me in my post-colonial Boyle.
Boyle is where my heart is heading, I have my own mountain to climb, my own thoughts to clear. I look forward to it and also my visit to Belgium and Macronised France in a short while. Things military add to my knowledge on the conundrum that was the Great War but I do not think that if I submerge myself wholly in that knowledge will the conundrum lessen. That is just a thought considering that Great War really started with the Agadir Incident in Morocco in 1912.
My last day dawns hardly, it is light but the whole countryside is covered by low, low cloud and except for it being 19C you would think you were in early morning Boyle. Probably God’s way of acclimatising one. I have given my dues to the staff and we are on our way to lunch at another French gastronomique, Le Baratin (which roughly translates as ‘The Gobshite’). The place is littered with them. I think you could say Morocco has taken over the title of food capital of the world.
Gazpacho de Tomate surrounding an island of crabe and avocat is my starter, followed by rognons de veau in a Dijonnais sauce and a puree of pomme de terre. Excellent, can you see how my French has improved in just a few days. A visit to an art gallery displaying naive Moroccan art and then a supermarket for last night booze. On my last night we are having drinks with a Spanish couple opposite. The party conversation will consist of French, Arabic, Spanish and English sentences with me muttering in a language that nobody can understand but I did manage a bet that Le Pen would beat Macron with the Spanish gent. However all I was doing was using up the last of my dirhams. Early to bed hopefully leaving the oasis at 7.30am for my 10.30am flight. I will be sorry to leave but glad to arrive home.
My lasting impression of Morocco is the extreme poverty, trapped as I was in the opulent ex-pat bubble made their poverty worse. People who work are on 80-100 dirhams a day (€8-€10) and are mostly in an urban environment, in the country, where the oasis is, employment is rare with men picking up odd jobs in agriculture and women making cane and raffia items and selling them for a pittance to roadside shops. There is no benefits system, so no work, no money. Villages become collectives and the people share as much as they can. There is more a sense of a commune than in any place I’ve seen and somehow it works but they just get by. Nobody has money in their pockets. The town is littered with sub-Saharan people driven out of their own countries by even worse poverty, the young women prostitute themselves, the men and boys beg and often worse. The police are everywhere keeping everything in check.
The road to riches is by walking and if lucky eventually buying a bike and then a hand-cart, then a donkey, then a horse, then a cart, then a scooter, then a triporteur and at that stage you are a made man. A triporteur is a three wheeled motor bike with a trailer for a pillion passenger and that can carry people or goods. Rarely an entrepreneur jumps out of the pack and gets himself a car. Most dwellings are just mud shacks and thankfully it does not rain often because the roofs are very flimsy affairs.
The great sadness is that Morocco is full of multi-nationals putting up all inclusive holiday resorts for tourists who never go out of the compound gates and therefore never experience the delights of the place. The money spent never filters down into the local economy except to pay the pittance level wages of those who work there. But for the middle class Moroccans and the wealthy French life is good. Too good.
It is an exciting place for young professionals in the IT sector which seems to be booming but my heart goes out to the poor who are always happy, honest, decent people with not a pot between them to piss in, constrained as they are by their Islamic doctrines. The star of my two weeks is the village barber who cuts hair to better than European standards for two dirhams a head, totally adept with razor and scissor, a remarkable young man.