I sat in the auditorium of the Museo de Belles Artes last night listening to some great British actors delivering a beautiful collection of Pinter’s plays and poems finishing with his incredibly powerful acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize for literature. The theatre was packed and the audience completely absorbed despite the ridiculously excessive aircon. I sat next to an employee of the museum who had her translated copy of Pinter to hand. It cost me 10 Cuban pesos (30p) for the entry and was all part of an international theatre festival taking place in Habana this week. I had driven there alone and parked right outside the theatre. After the performance I drove one of the actors, Roger (reluctantly famous as Trigger in Only Fools and Horses amongst his many other achievements) back to the National Hotel where we met the other actors and headed out for dinner.
I can drive right into the City centre at 7pm and not get stuck in traffic, park right outside whatever theatre, museum or restaurant that I happen to be going to. I don’t have to worry about traffic wardens, cameras, violent attacks or aggressive people. I can stop and chat to anybody and they don’t mind, in fact they always have time to chat. If I get lost everybody wants to help me find where I am going. Everybody has time ……..
As I was driving home I marvelled at how surreal and fascinating my life is here in Havana. I was exhausted and the salt water from the Malecon had sprayed my windscreen and I could hardly see where I was going so was crawling along like a campesino in the countryside as I tried to clean the screen. Here, in one of the most famous cities in the world, they are not big on street lights even in the centre. When I drove out to Hemingway’s beautiful house (a museum) the other day with some friends from Guatemala, I read a billboard (not many in these parts!) that reminded me that the first world uses three quarters of the world’s energy. That’s not fair is it!!?
The boys had half term this week and a good friend came from Guatemala with two sons so we were doing a few touristy things and keeping the children busy. 5 children in the house was quite a handful but we had 2 Cuban nannies recruited to help us keep our sanity! After they left I packed the boys off to school on Monday only to discover that the half term holiday lasted 1 week and 2 days. (Lost touch with reality and school holiday dates!) 2 more days to kill and I was rather tired of dragging out the Lego and jigsaw puzzles in the house as the stormy October weather kept us out of the sea. I decided to take them for some adventures in Havana and we ambled around chatting to lots of people and discovering strange modern Chinese video installations in one gallery and wonderful prints and etchings in another workshop where Paulo chose his Birthday picture of the Orisha spirit of fire. We stopped to buy lunch on the street and the boys splashed in the puddles in their welly boots in the little alleyways of Havana Vieja while I endeavoured to teach Nico the names of all the months in French by making up a little song.
Last week I had attended the UN day celebrations in an old palacio in Habana Vieja where I met people from the EU, the UN and the Nigerian Ambassador, who full of African charm promised to bring me one of those wonderful dresses from Nigeria when she goes at Christmas. Come round and visit me she boomed and I will take your measurements. I’ll take you up on that offer I thought to myself.
Anyway all these fun and surreal discoveries means that I am too tired and too stimulated to feel as though I am being a good mother or a good blogger for that matter. Too many things to do and not enough hours in the day to do them all, and sleep, and get woken up by Saskia at 5.30. Saskia has recently learnt the word apple just in time for apples to mysteriously completely disappear from Cuba and now every time she approaches the fruitbowl she jibbers on about apples and alas there are only bananas and pineapples. Thankfully the boys are now back at school and we have a bit of resting time before our next visitor arrives from England on Saturday. My dear friend and Paulo’s Godmother is trafficking Birthday Lego, Marmite, toothpaste, shampoo etc etc. and maybe, just maybe I will get that night out dancing ……………