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The International Writers Magazine
: Life of a Diplomat - Dairy No 1

DIPLOMATIC DIARIES – PART I
The sparkle of life
James Skinner - The Honary Consul

The Sparkle of life

‘I was going to start this series with some sort of a jovial note such as my experience as a representative of HM’s government, in dealing with a British citizen who couldn’t find his cat’s papers to return to the UK after a holiday on the beach. Or the case of a religious pilgrim en route to the St. James shrine in Santiago de Compostela Cathedral who decided to become a monk leaving a frantic wife and three children back home to fend for themselves. But along came Tsunami and blew a hole in my mind. The tragedy in Southeast Asia is beyond description and the vast amount of coverage in every possible means of communication the world over has said it all. There was no way, therefore, that I could summon up my writing prowess to render an essay based on humour when so much ‘natural’ carnage and destruction was and is continuing to take place because a sector of the ocean bed somewhere on this planet decided to move part of its carcass.

No Sir, I am neither going to elaborate on any funnies nor break down over the millions both dead, wounded and homeless thousands of miles away from this computer. Instead I shall focus on us humans, every single on of us, including those still out there surrounding the Indian Ocean. Us mortals that are born with the innocence of breathing yet immediately left to the mercy of the Lord as he guides us to our final day of reckoning. He is however, cruel. The moment we leave the womb we are injected with the ‘sparkle of life’. That first ignition that sets the heart pumping and the brain in motion. Within seconds both unite to guide us on the long journey of pain and happiness, disillusion and hope, suffering and rejoicing and finally surrender to the inevitable. The sparkle is shut off forever. There are times, though, when that sparkle jolts to a halt and the heart continues pumping or gradually fades away until there is nothing left, except the heart continuing to pump. The Lord is cruel. He has given us a uniform body and soul but not always the oil to lubricate and maintain them. The Lord is cruel! I’ve seen it over and over again.

Think of the young mother with six children in downtown Baghdad, getting ready to walk to the shop to buy ‘her daily bread’. In walks a group of aliens from out of space. They order her to lie down with her, by now, screaming children and then proceed to destroy her home. That tiny sparkle that guided her towards the door in the first place was completely shut off. The expression on her face would tell it all. The smile turns to utter despair.

Then there is the elderly couple that visit the doctor for a routine check in a more civilized part of the world. They are about to retire after a life of hard work. He looks at them with a solemn face and says to the husband, ‘I’m sorry to inform you but you have a terminal illness. You have about three to six months left.’ The smile disappears. The tears appear. The sparkle vanishes.

The final downside, however is what I consider the ‘in between’ disruption. You wake up one morning and find you’ve lost the sense of feeling in your right arm. You were about to go down to the wharf to check your twelve footer for fuel before setting off with the ‘lads’ for a day’s fishing. You’d been thinking all evening about the dozen or so mackerel you’d be bringing your wife home for dinner. The weather forecast was good. John and Fred had checked the diesel. And then bang! You can’t raise your arm to wash your teeth. A mild stroke, just a mild one mind you, has suddenly left you impaired for the rest of your life. Hell, man that bloody sparkle doesn’t just stop. It begins to erode and melt away slowly, slowly, and slowly. Days go by, the doctors have stopped you from dying out right but you’re left without joy. John and Fred sympathise but they can still bring back the mackerel. You’re stuck the watching the Muppet Show replays.

But cheer up my friends. Here comes your friendly Consul. Yes Sir, I have occasionally pulled out the plug adjuster and re-ignited the sparkle. Give you and example. I get a call from the police station. A distressed Brit has just lost or had his passport stolen. He wants to go back home but has no documents. I go down to the ‘nick’. ‘Don’t worry, Sir,’ I say. ‘Can you tell me your full name, where you were born and the date.’ You can see the first signs of the sparkle coming to life. An hour later, his personal details and verified and I issue him with an Emergency Passport. ‘There you are, Sir. It’s only valid for to return home, but don’t worry, when you get back, the Passport Office will issue you with a new one. Have a good journey.’ The sparkle is right back on track.

Or how about another even sweeter case. A Brit on holiday is suddenly taken ill and put in hospital. Can’t speak the language. Doesn’t know what’s wrong with him or why the doctors are sticking needles into him and making him swallow a multitude of weird pills. ‘Good morning, Sir. How’s the weather treating you then?’ Out come the smiles and the, ‘thank God you’re English.’ Within seconds the sparkle has started a slow recovery. ‘Don’t worry, Sir. Good bunch of quacks they’ve got in this place. You’ll be out of here in no time and back to Manchester.’ By the way, I had checked that the guy was OK and on the road to recovery. Otherwise the approach would be different and not printable in this essay.

But I must end on a sad note. Old age. Despite the ups and downs of what I consider sudden ‘sparkle’ there is nothing worse than to see the slow creeping breakdown of the ‘sparkle of life’ as humans grow old. Bit by bit the whole bloody system begins to deteriorate. Out come the memories, one by one. Out come the minute obstacles that hamper every day survival. Can’t read the newspaper too well. Can’t run for the bus as it’s about to leave. Can’t smile at a young women or man because all they see is a old wreck. Forgot the name of your best friend as you pick up the phone to call him. Why does the young generation act so differently? Why can’t they speak the same language? Rock music, what’s that? The look in the eyes say it all. Shallowness!
And so it goes on for ever. The Lord is cruel. He’s watching all this. Doesn’t matter who or where you are. Thailand, Spain, Argentina, North Dakota or Bermuda, it’s all the same. The eternal mystery of why we all have a ‘sparkle of life’ and why the Lord is cruel will continue.’
© James Skinner. January 2005.
jamesskinner@cemiga.es

This is a new series from James and will be continued

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