One August Morning

26/08/2016 12:42 | Updated 26 August 2016

This morning at seven the guns started, at first the sound punctuated my sleep; my eyes open and close with each bang, but then the shots are continuous. I lay there on my bed, its hot already, the August sunrise declares another stifling day. I look out to my perfect white courtyard divided by the grey-green leaves of olives.

Perfection this morning is stolen away by the hunters. It's the start of the season so they are out in force, blasting away at rabbits and anything else that moves. My dogs are asleep in the courtyard, they understand that the loud gunshots mean they cannot walk in the mountains. They are my only thing to protect, I have no children. If I did the sounds would terrify me even more than now.

Gunfire, even here in the Southern Spanish mountains, is absolute. I find the spent cartridges all over the campo; blue, red, green, empty of shot. The contents having killed many rabbits.
Before the season starts I enjoy watching the rabbits in their family groups, relaxing, nibbling and scurrying down their burrows away from my dogs. After the season ends it takes a time to see the numbers build up again, each year a mass slaughter decimates the numbers. I cannot comment on the morality of this, I cannot say whether or not it needs to happen, it upsets me greatly but I am a lodger in these lands, an immigrant.

Somehow the gunfire each year reiterates this fact to me. I don't understand the noise, at first I don't even recognise the sound. It seems so harsh, so deadly. Its not one of the sounds I grew up with or became used to. Police cars, yes, shouting, yes, children playing, yes, but gunfire, no.
I roll over, away from my perfect view hoping to close my eyes and extinguish the sound, to shut it down, like dropping a heavy stage curtain. But the finality of the act, the impact I know the cartridges will have, keeps my mind flooded with a phosphorous light. I cannot doze.

I sit up, reach for my iPad and download the Sunday paper, my only real connection to news, to English news. I make a coffee and go back to read it in bed. The photograph splashed across the digital front page is of a boy in Aleppo sat in the back of an open ambulance, almost unrecognisable as a person, as a living child. He looks like a scruffy urchin from Oliver, one of Fagin's pickpockets. But his face is covered in blood and dust. The image has a digital play button. I press and watch as the young fragile life in front of me reaches up and wipes his face, he looks at his hand and sees blood, you can see he is terrified but there are no tears, no hysteria. No response. He is a child covered in all that remains of his house, his home. He has absorbed the horror, the terror.

I look out and see my dogs stretched out in the early sun which floods one side of my courtyard. One of them rolls onto their back and seems to sunbathe. The video has stopped and I look back at the boys face, he has a beautiful shock of hair that you can almost feel his parents running their hands through and perhaps his siblings delighting in messing up. One eye is wide and stares at nothing and no one, the other eye is partially forced shut but dust or maybe the blast. He is alive but his emotions have all but been ripped from him. I try to make out the image on the front of his tee shirt, is it an animal?

I've spent my life wishing I could be a mother, wishing I could love, protect and nurture my own children. I've never had the chance but as I look at this face which isn't looking back at me or anyone, this face that couldn't comprehend the world looking at him, I wish I could take him back to a time when he was in the arms of safety, when his mother was stroking his hair then telling him to wash his hands before dinner. Shouting that he must do his school work. I wonder if that boy in Aleppo has ever had the chance to go to school? I wonder why he was not one of the many thousands of migrants to flee from Syria and aim for the inhospitable arms of Europe? To Calais perhaps.

I have no reference point for true horror, I have the gunshots this morning punctuating my perfect comfortable narrative but I have no real understanding of utter fear. Why do some people flee and others not?

Just occasionally, very occasionally in Spain you see 'expat' poverty. Often it's a hidden daily-grind poverty that disappears in these mountains but occasionally you see someone who has slipped below the line. Too poor to return to the UK, perhaps too old to work here in Spain, perhaps they never thought they would need to work so they never learnt the language or never made connections. Most people who cannot financially cope here have enough money to return to the benefit system in England.

I once saw a man begging outside a food shop in the local town, he had a sign written in English asking for any change. He was English and one of a very few who'd fallen below the line and couldn't escape. It made me think about the people that can flee and those that can't. I'm not equating his experience here in this languid heat with the atrocity that is destroying Syria but the ability to leave or not leave is universal.

I thought back to the image that should have stopped all of this, the image of a tiny lifeless Syrian body washed ashore in Turkey. The small boy dressed in a red tee shirt and blue shorts, dressed like he was going out to play, or going to school, or going out for a day with his family to visit relatives. His face is down in the sand, the sea gently laps around him. He last breath long swallowed by the ocean.

I thought that image so terribly tragic and such a stain on all of us, I thought that image would stop all of this. That the,mainly men, creating this havoc would see this lifeless body as a totem that we all had a part in creating. A sign that these ways were murderous and were signalling the end of times for us all. I thought that we couldn't look at a dead boy washed ashore in a red tee shirt and blue shorts like a piece of driftwood or a plastic bottle and not collectively put a stop to wars. I, we, cannot honour that child or the boy in the back of the ambulance because they are two of thousands trampled on by the impacts of war. Wars they could never cause or stop. Their tiny voices drowned out in the idiocies of men greedy to appear strong and resolute. Isn't that what we say here about Trident.

It makes us look strong and resolute, really? When there's a child in front of the warhead, it makes us look strong? When it leaves a child with dead eyes in the back of an ambulance and a dead child washed ashore eyes closed in wet sand, it makes us look resolute?

I sometimes realise that I came here to nowhere to escape the pain of these images. To hide. This is an incredibly tough world. Where wars decimate and obliterate and yet we still have arms fairs hidden behind air shows.

I look out at my dogs play-fighting in the sun with the sound of gun fire piercing the scene and I recognise that this is paradise, comparatively paradise. I wish I could swap my life for the lives of those two boys, I'd willingly do so that they could make it to safety, maybe to the 'apparent' safety of the Calais Jungle where they could be with other children attending a makeshift school.

In the Calais Jungle there are 300 children alone without families, the youngest is eight years old.
An eight year old who isn't in the back of an ambulance covered in blood and who hasn't been washed ashore his last breath taken but an eight year old in Europe whom we are still ignoring.

But Trident is strong and robust and we welcome people who are fleeing horrors we cannot imagine.

I stopped by that 'Expat' begging who had run out of luck and gave him all my change, as I walked away a man said to me
"You don't want to do that, he's always scrounging."