A star fish, a lighthouse, a city and a submarine

Last night, as Londoners, in 30 degrees of heat, began to dream of going to the beach, MPs voted 472 to 117 to continue renewing the Trident nuclear weapons system. Theresa May, our new prime minister, seemed almost to slap the dispatch box with glee, when she said yes, she would press the button. She has already written the letter we are told, by hand.

In Parliament Square, waiting for the vote, along with the sensible families who had brought beer and pizza, I had a vision of one of those drawings of the seaside you find in children’s books. In the drawing there’s everything you might find on the beach: seagull, starfish, lighthouse, boat, sailing boat, water-skis, below and above the water line. In my version I added the Vanguard nuclear submarine, everlastingly prowling around. As any child knows there’s only some of these things. The fish and starfish and crabs are invisible, unless they’re dead and get washed up by the surf. This submarine is also invisible but real enough.

The majority of MPs have voted that we must have Trdient, on constant invisible patrol beneath the sea, so we can be safe , so we can have a holiday, so we can keep ‘our way of life’. I wonder often if they really think that. The fact that SNP and Plaid Cymru don’t think this gives me much hope. I wonder, with all the other members of my family, what is the matter with all the MPs who seem to be afraid of the power that they have, of the possibility of real change. They prefer to keep on with the absurd, even though the rest of us don’t need any military experts, lawyers or faith leaders to tell us that Trident is useless, illegal and immoral.

Highly respected activists and politicians spoke out on the podium last night, as they have been doing for years and years, including my own MP for Hackney North, Diane Abbott. But the BBC showed in its report a choir singing terribly. Anti Trident activists are woolly, nutty people who can’t sing it seemed to be saying. Those who voted for the motion tell us that to get rid of them would be foolish. It is playing politics with people’s livelihoods. No one ever asks what kind of a livelihood is it that prepares for mass destruction.

I read some of the comments the day before the vote. Our Trident submarines they seem to be saying, under the hash tag #Trident, are patrolling night and day, keeping us safe night and day. Out there beyond the starfish and the light house.

No one ever says what kind of a beach holiday it is that calls for mass destruction. There’s nothing like a day on the beach watching the huge waves crashing in from across the Atlantic to remind us how connected we all are, that the same sea, where we paddle our sunburnt toes, stretches out to the West, joining together all the countries. The same sea is hiding the nuclear submarine that we have to pay for.

The nuclear arsenal is necessary, we hear, in case someone, some city, threatens us. But which city no one knows. Mercifully, Theresa May has no idea which city. But we do know that it would be a city, here, on this planet, in this world. And we do know this is the only world we have.

A star fish, a lighthouse, a city and a submarine

First October update

As I post this, it is the forteenth anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan, the beginning of the disastrous war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Voices for Creative Nonviolence and the London Catholic Worker are planning vigils at local hospitals, saying ‘To bomb this site would be a war crime’.. ‘the same is true in Kunduz, Afghanistan’.

Last weekend started with a vigil called by Pax Christi opposite Downing Street since it was Ghandi’s birthday and International Day of Nonviolence. We prayed for victims of the wars in Syria, Yemen and the Middle East.  We saw Boris Johnson, who took a leaflet, and a party of foreign military top brass, who didn’t. I thought while I was standing there in Whitehall, searching for that quiet space of silence and peace, watching the passersby, interns in blue suits running errands, clutching their ipad cases, why so many tourists? Of all the places in London, Whitehall is the most tedious enormous leg ache to be walk down. Lined in Portland stone, not all that well hidden is the pain, remembrance, protest, injustice we have either protested or approved or let slip .

The next day, feeling tentative because of total exhaustion, following the least favourite journey from London to Lincoln for the ‘Scones not Drones’ protest called by Drones Campaign Network during the Drones Week of Action. On the journey up a bit nervous this week as the EDL, easily confused with a well known French energy company, had announced they were going to stage a counter protest. Surely a counter protest is counterproductive, why does the RAF need supporting or protecting? It’s already there, protected by millions of pounds worth of taxpayers money not to mention arms manufacturers who are only too expert at selling us taxpayers another drone.

I arrived at Lincoln and found at the bus stop a friendly group of Quakers from Sheffield, and Maya from VCNV and we all got on the bus together to RAF Waddington.

Two of our friends were already on their way to speak to the EDL protest, which was kept well down the end by the gates, while we all sat by the layby, near the road. Kept well away by the police, they were very polite, but their posters and comments on FB and in the Lincolnite aren’t.

With good photo from Drone wars Chris Cole here

I indulged in several cheese scones and some chocolate cornflake crispies. The highlight of the afternoon, was the Skype call to the Afghan Peace Volunteers, the group I visited in Kabul. Some of the teenagers with us asked questions of the young people over there. I heard the voices, all the way from Afghanistan, I remembered why I was there, on a lay by outside an airforce base, made me grateful and privileged.

That very morning we had heard news of the US-led air strike on a MSF hospital in Kunduz.

Back in London, several times this week, thinking of Kunduz, I have had the same uncomfortable painful feeling I have when I walk past an old haunt, a place that reminds me of an old lover from long ago. I was wondering what this feeling is and concluded it must be guilt. Some memories, some places bring guilt.

It is our guilt. Being part of NATO, we are culpable. In the scrabbling about for reasons and excuses changing stories, that US airforce are getting up to, mix and match stories, at least they seem to recognise a crime.

We are part of NATO, so we should feel that guilty pang when we think of Kunduz. When we recognise the absolute horrifying brutality of bombing a hospital: the inhabitants are sick, wounded, ill and vulnerable, unable to run away. The doctors and nurses cannot  leave their patients. It’s no good comparing ourselves to the Russians, or even the Taliban, as the Economist  would have us do. It is a wrong that is also saying bombing defenceless civilians anywhere is cruel and brutal. In an urban area, the target is always going to be surrounded by civilians, and that means children, the elderly, the sick, the poor.

Recently Action on Armed Violence reported on a BMJ report from Syria. Women and children suffer more from bombing than from shooting. And they have suffered more than men.

First October update

Being a peace visitor in Kabul

Green tea in KabulI had never considered that part of my own peace activism would be to visit a war torn country. I knew several people who had travelled to Gaza, Iraq and Afghanistan. I also knew people who had worked in refugee camps in Syria. It didn’t occur to me that I could undertake such a journey until about a year ago. I had been taking part in the monthly vigil against drones at RAF Waddington. One day I travelled up to Lincoln with Maya Evans of Voices for Creative Nonviolence UK. She had recently returned from three months in Kabul. On the long awkward journey, Maya told me all about the young members of the Afghan Peace Volunteers and their life in community. Eventually she said, ‘Have you ever thought of visiting Afghanistan?’

I had spent so much time praying about, discussing, protesting against UK involvement in NATO’s wars, my heart knew the true next step was to visit the site of so much suffering. At the same time I was nervous and found it difficult to work out why I was going or what I was going to do when I got there. Travelling to Afghanistan in a group, we could make the situation for our hosts potentially more dangerous. I recognised my heart was telling me to go, I recognised the Spirit was calling me to go, but my understanding had a difficult time catching up. It castigated me for causing too much bother, for spending too much money, for putting lives in danger, for missing family Christmas. It came up with a thousand excuses.

Afghanistan is a beautiful country like all countries are beautiful; the snowcapped mountain range hovers over the smog; on a clear day the sky is the most intense blue I have ever seen. Sometimes it was so cold the open sewer in the street was frozen over, but during the day kept us warm. I listened to the friendly, young Afghans as they talked about their homes in Bamyam province. I looked at their pictures of child shepherds, rivers, trees, mountains.

Once I said, ‘What a beautiful day!’ and my new friends laughed. ‘This is Afghanistan. There is a war on.’ But it was a beautiful day. The smog had been blown away. The green flag of faith on the top of the building opposite and the washing lines on the balconies were all fluttering. People were standing on street corners, gesticulating, chatting. Students were being students.

I felt excited to be in what felt like the centre of the world; Russia to the north, China and Pakistan to the east, Iran to the west.

This would be my peace message, an obvious message but one I could now hear in reality not just in theory. One I need to repeat. Countries are full of young and old, thoughtful, hopeful people just like us. We have no right to destroy their means to live, to make life so difficult, a whole country dysfunctional, a whole country traumatised, so many families having lost a father, a son, a daughter, a brother, a sister. As I was there the US army was leaving, the UK army had already left. One boy said to me, ‘Hey! Our countries are no longer at war. We can be friends!’

Another message I held close to my heart is one inspired by scripture but also a practical one. Our trip wasn’t going to be very long, only three weeks. What could I do in three weeks? What skills could I possibly bring? I’m a literacy teacher, but only in English, not Dari. I’m not a journalist. I know nothing of aid work.

On the Sunday of Christ the Kind I sat in my local church searching and searching for an answer. Why was I going to Kabul? I went through the works of mercy, the gospel reading for that day. Separate the sheep from the goats. Feed the hungry. It’s not helpful the other members of my group said, to take food to the refugee camps. We could cause a riot. Clothe me when I am naked. As westerners, our group had a dim view of that too. Gloves and socks and pants? We hadn’t raised money to buy food or clothes. I’m not a journalist so I can’t add an eye witness account. ‘Absorb!’ the rest of the group told me.

I was thirsty and you gave me drink. There was fantastic hospitality in Kabul. Everywhere we went, a large pot of green tea came out, hot, steaming, weak and left on top of the wood stove to keep warm. It was served with a thermos of hot water, sometimes flavoured with cardamom. You could drink the plain hot water or use it to top up your glass of tea. In the morning our young hostess came rushing in to put glasses of tea by our beds. After the first night I woke up with my throat sore and feeling as if it was full of gravel. Our hosts said, ‘You’re not drinking enough.’ Fumes from the wood, coal and diesel that people burn to keep warm, fills the atmosphere with a strange yellow smell, which burns the throat and nostrils.

Going through the works of mercy, I came to the last one. I was sick and in prison and you visited me. I was all those things. But this was something I could do. I do know how to do this. Hospitals are full of visitors. I have sat beside the beds of elderly relatives often enough, felt embarrassed, been told to go away. When someone is sick, they’re not polite. All I can do is sit there. There is not much I can do except stay a while. And just be.

That was what I could do in Afghanistan. I was visiting; nothing grand. The country is sick, from lack of infrastructure, from the effects of one war piled upon another war, from lack of manufacturing base, from pollution. And the young people are imprisoned by lack of opportunity, unemployment, uncertainty, the unpredictable security situation. So this was the  main reason to go, to be a person who visited.

It gave me great courage, while I was in Kabul, to obey these words of encouragement from scripture.

Being a peace visitor in Kabul

Being a woman in Kabul

As International Women’s Day approaches, the question is whether conditions for women in Afghanistan have improved after thirteen years of western military presence. When I travelled to Kabul recently I was able to glimpse first hand how entrenched cultural practices make women’s lives doubly hard, lives that are already made hard by the lack of security.

We hear that even people in power support restrictions on women’s ability to move and act freely in public, that they support to the custom that means that women should only travel when accompanied by a male relative.

This can be interpreted as not being able to take a plane, cross a border, but for some households this means not going out at all. There are many consequences to not going out, that are dangerous and even life threatening, not just humiliating and unjust. Not going out is not just an issue of inequality but also a barrier to young women’s livelihoods. Latifa Ahmady, founder of Organisation for the Promotion of Women’s Capabilities says ‘The way women in Afghanistan are treated badly puts pressure on us all.’ Her demand is that we campaign for Afghan women’s rights from all over the world.

For a short time I was a woman in Kabul. I listened to female members of the Afghan Peace Volunteers and at the APV’s Borderfree centre talk about the restrictions to their movements. The young women I met took on responsibilities in the humanitarian and educational projects run from the Borderfree Centre. One young woman organized duvet handouts at Darul Aman refugee camp. I saw her confidently arrive in the truck, call out names from a clip board as women from the camp came rushing up to collect their duvets. I witnessed another couple of teenage girls organising the local seamstresses who embroider the Borderfree scarves, and checking their work for accuracy. Two young women teach the street children literacy and maths. Another takes charge of the community budget, organising currency exchange and banking the donations.


The first impression I had was how difficult life is for a young unmarried woman. To make the journey back to see her family in Bamyan province involved taking a male relative. For her to live in all female community there had to be a male relative staying there too, in this case her brother. The young men from the male community took it in turns to keep him company for a few days at a time. This same lad would get the taxis for us foreign guests, go out shopping and generally fetch and carry. So in fact the women’s community couldn’t be all female.

Travel restrictions had other effects on the young women beside making life awkward. While I was in Kabul, I had my own experience of not being able to go out. In my case the reason was because I was a foreigner. I felt like a child again. I wasn’t even sure how to call a cab.

I hardly knew where I was. It was only when, to avoid the traffic, the taxi driver took a circular route home I worked out the relationship between the river, the mountains, the main roads and our house. I slowly built a mental map of main roads, the market stalls, a flyover and offices.

We asked the young women at the Borderfree Centre about restrictions on their movements, on not going out. They said under the Taliban it had been much worse; no girl over the age of nine could leave the house. There are still some families that don’t allow their daughters to go out. An example they gave was of a family who spoilt their daughter, loved her very much bought her all sorts of beautiful clothes and expensive treats, but wouldn’t allow her to go out or use a phone. This made her very unhappy. She told them, ‘I don’t care about the clothes or the food.’

The girls experienced varying degrees of restrictions. Some were allowed out but had to be back before their father came home. One said she was often hassled in the street, being asked where she was going, what was she doing, does her father know. A relative might see her and tell her father. Another reports not being able to go out if there are men in the house, if their father’s at home. If a woman is not used to going out into society, one girl said, when she does she will not know how to behave and then might put herself in danger. She might behave inappropriately, and be called a prostitute.

If girls cannot go out their education suffers. The girls said confidently 50% of girls could have an education if they want to. These particular girls were attending classes, university or school in Kabul. Whizzing around in our delegation taxi, we often saw crowds of teenage girls outside schools, collecting their exam results, carrying their files and books, rushing to lectures.

Some girls seem to be getting an education. How good an education was a different matter; our friends complained of out of date text books from Iran, a teacher who kept them waiting in the cold, who talked about himself instead of teaching the class. The girls in our community were university students studying for their first year exams. We were told to help as much as possible with the housework and the cooking. They must study hard; they had to do twice as well as the boys to be taken seriously.

At the Borderfree Centre, the girls explained that fathers don’t want their daughters to ‘show the whites of their eyes’, an Afghan expression. That is intelligent women become bad women by rolling their eyes, being disrespectful towards their fathers and male relatives. So fathers don’t allow their girls to go to school.

Some fathers believe universities are bad for girls, because there are mixed classes and male lecturers. The fathers don’t allow the girls to come to the Borderfree Centre, for the same reason: girls and boys are mixed together. Some girls come to the centre in secret they said. Others have discussed it with their their father and he’s given permission so they don’t care what the other relatives think. More enlightened fathers are happy to discuss things while others insist the female members of the families are home when he gets home.

Not being able to go out makes education hard for older women too. Latifa Ahmady runs an education project at the OPAWC, offering literacy and numeracy classes. The students progress to learning ‘handicrafts’ such as tailoring, chicken farming and jam making so they can earn a living. We met some of the women upstairs in the freezing classroom, everyone in their coats. They held up their text books. I asked them what made literacy hard, expecting the usual answer, spelling. No spelling wasn’t hard. The thing that was hard was not being able to leave the house. One said she had to lock her children into the apartment. One woman has to come in a burkha.

OPAWC has even had to move its literacy centre because the local ‘warlord’ has created a problem for them. The ‘warlord’ spread propaganda, saying the literacy classes were teaching Christianity. He told the mullah to tell the women not to come. When she found out, Latifa showed the Mullah the text book. The syllabus is provided by the government, and covers women’s rights, health, domestic violence.

All the young women at the Borderfree Centre and Latifa Ahmady at OPAWC emphasized how important it is for Afghan women to know their rights. If women never go out they will not be able to attend classes. If women are not educated they will not know their rights. Girls and women need to know their rights to a life free from violence, to equal pay, to be able to work, to access healthcare. They talked about putting out a radio programme to help women not allowed out of the house. Women need to be able to demonstrate for their rights, to healthcare, to work, to freedom from domestic violence even if they join a protest ‘hidingly’ in a burkha.

Being a woman in Kabul

Delegation to Kabul: the Afghan Peace Volunteers – their courage and bravery

Arriving in Afghanistan put a stop to my pre-trip nerves. In spite of the diesel fume haze, I was able to see that our preparatory lists of pros and cons had only provided me with a shaky grasp of the risks of visiting Kabul.

What was clear to me though were the fears of the Afghan Peace Volunteers themselves and the risks they take in their daily work of living in community, running the Borderfree Centre, running humanitarian and cultural projects that promote justice and nonviolence. Even when living in fear for their lives, they continue with their commitment to nonviolence and peace making. The work of the APV is truly radical. In a country where fighting and guns are the norm, where armed sentry boxes stand at every road junction, where police drive with guns mounted on the rear of their Toyota pick-ups, to be dedicated to nonviolence and peace is truly courageous.

About a week into our visit, we were present at the monthly Skype call with Global Days of Listening. People from all over the world book a slot to speak to the volunteers, on the 21st of each month. Crammed into the smallest room at the Borderfree Centre, the stove going full blast in the middle, its punched metal sides glowing red hot in places, we all said our names and croaked a shaky ‘hello’ into the laptop across the room. There was no electricity and an intermittent internet connection. On this evening a gardener from the US, a psychiatrist and his students from Iraq and Kathy Kelly from Voices for Creative Non Violence in the US were on the line.

One by one the APV told of their personal reactions to the worsening security situation in Kabul. One after another the young men and women answered that their parents were worried, told them not to come to the Borderfree centre, not to cross town, not to visit their relatives, just to stay at home all the time.

Faiz feels that he himself could be the next victim of a random bomb attack. He himself could lose his life, going to college, walking on the street near a junction: this has become what life is like. Insecurity has affected him personally.

Bharat Han says that when he cycles to university in the mornings instead of taking the main busy roads, where the incidents happen, he takes the small roads to be extra careful. In the past he would gladly invite foreign peace delegates to visit his house, to meet his mother and family but he regrets that this time, for the safety of both the delegates and himself and his family this has become difficult. He regrets it. He wishes this was not the case.

Another says the unpredictability causes psychological fear: suicide bombers wear vests you can’t see – in a split second your whole life could change.

Zahidi tells us the Taliban have officially threatened all the citizens living in Kabul who are involved in cultural groups or in peace and justice groups. They have announced they will harm or attack these groups. She doesn’t feel safe coming to the Borderfree centre.

Ali says that in the past two weeks the Borderfree Centre has had visits from the authorities, the NDS [National Directorate of Security].  He became very worried when the NDS visitors suggested that there was a risk that certain groups, such as the Taliban, could misunderstand the work of the APV and therefore plan to harm them. This made Ali worry even more about coming to the centre. It’s not like in the past,  he says, when we didn’t have to worry about coming on our own.

We learned later the NDS were parked outside the gates of the Borderfree Centre while we were there. Hakim, the community’s mentor, says he wishes they would come in, just to see what really goes on. Although they are ostensibly there to protect citizens, there is the possiblility the NDS people could be criminals, they could turn nasty if there was something they didn’t like.

The mood became grave and fearful, as everyone thought about the risks they were taking, even coming to the Borderfree Centre that night. The room became over heated, and airless. People started to go grow restless and coughs filled the Skype track.

It was the longest night of the year, 21st December. So the APV bought take-away chicken and chips, burgers, spicy potato pancakes, fruit and fizzy drinks. There was a tray of tea lights, and the boys just like boys everywhere started playing with the wax. Hohr handed us each a forfeit on a scrap of paper, and people responded with poems and songs, skits in pantomime. I recognised the rhythm of the storytelling voices and the animated gestures. The mood lifted and everyone seemed to forget their fears. Outside the street was empty and unlit, except for the neon sign of the petrol station, and the headlights of a few taxis.

Important occasions lay ahead. One was Christmas day. It was considered a good idea for us foreigners to stay at home on that day, to avoid the evidence of any kind of gathering, which might be interpreted as Christian. In the evening, a few members of the community came round for a special meal, by candle light, games and sharing thoughts.

Another was the end of Operation Enduring Freedom, the withdrawal of all the US forces from Afghanistan. The local newspaper showed pictures of soldiers lined up to attention and tanks driving away. There was the rumour there might be more incidents because of this.

Not all the dangers are violent. Like many young people, the APV are worried about their futures. When Hakim asked each member of the group for one word to describe how he or she was feeling, almost all of them said ‘worried’. One said, ‘I don’t know what to do,’ one young girl said ‘I wish I had never been born’.

The future for the community members is uncertain. What happens when it is time to leave? It might be dangerous for them to return to their families, now that everyone at home knows they have lived in community, taken part in mixed activities, boys and girls together, reading Gandhi and Chomsky. What happens if they get married, what happens if they can’t find a job? How long can they stay in the community? There’s no welfare state to support them for when they leave.

Thirteen years of war mean that fear and mistrust have seeped into many levels of daily life. Living in the women’s community, we learned about some of the other threats. One came from the neighbours and gossip. I will never think of gossip being idle again, particularly for a woman. Gossip and rumours could mean losing your home, having to move, getting you in trouble with you landlord, could mean people trying to extort money from you.

Windows were blocked with dusty net curtains, sheets of wood, window glass was dusty. Someone might see you dancing. Someone might hear you singing. Someone might hear a foreign voice and tell.. tell who? ..tell the landlord. It was imperative to behave in an inconspicuous way. If someone saw you in the garden, or leaning out of a window, or dancing or singing, they might not like it. Not liking it might mean they would tell the landlord, who might ask you to move. If they thought you had foreign visitors, they might ask for money, they might even try blackmail. The mistrust seeped into all areas of life.

The risk to my own self wasn’t so great. It wasn’t me who was at risk, but our hosts, the APV themselves. By being foreigners, by being Western, and therefore perceived as Christian, we made our hosts a potential target. We could bring unwelcome visitors to the Borderfree Centre. Yet they had invited us, trusted us and welcomed us and many others before and after us.

I was reminded again of the seriousness of the ‘bad situation’ when we took a taxi into another district to visit a woman named Latifa Amady, founder of the OPAWC. We found ourselves walking up a pitted and pot holed road, with low walls either side, one of the most bombed out parts of town. Describing daily life, she says, ‘We say goodbye to our children in the morning thinking we won’t see them again. Every day we say to each other, Khodaa haafez’ (God be protector)’

Delegation to Kabul: the Afghan Peace Volunteers – their courage and bravery

Delegation to Kabul – pre trip anxiety and preparation

Here in London, free to hop on and off buses, run down the street, yell at the top of my voice, I am mostly afraid of being knocked off my bike by a truck or swallowing a poisonous cleaning product.

But over there in Kabul, as an unwelcome foreigner I could be attacked or I could be kidnapped. I could be hit by a suicide blast in a crowded place.

To go over there with a peace delegation I needed to prepare for what would happen in the event of my death or if I was kidnapped. My deepest fear, was what it would be like for my children. Does a peace activist with children do this kind of thing? I was afraid of what my mother would think of me. Why was I going? Why wasn’t I able to explain why I was going? I must be stupid.

Close friends reacted to my plans in various ways according to their own experience and expectations. I found that some were encouraging and even a little jealous, some questioned me at length, while some others couldn’t bring themselves to mention it at all. The anxiety this last group produced in me, as well as my own pre travel nerves, might have been enough to put me off altogether.

As well as being a foreigner I was a Christian and therefore at risk of being perceived as a legitimate target by the Taliban. There was no way I could pretend not to be Christian. However silent I remained on the subject of faith, to the Taliban, anyone western was probably Christian.

In the weeks before setting off, near my workplace, a church building, I suddenly noticed the street signs: the Angel, St. Giles Place, St. Martin’s Lane, Newman Street, Charing Cross. In Kabul these fearful addresses would get me into trouble. But this was wandering into the absurd, I told myself. I even started to grow a little defiant, an emotion I quickly batted away.

A few weeks before we were to depart, Afghan news site, Tolonews, regularly reported suicide bombings and attacks in Kabul. A South African and his two children were killed in an attack on an international aid organization in the same district that we would be visiting. The Taliban had claimed the attack and said the organization was a ‘secret Christian missionary group’.

Still, I reasoned with myself, if there had been a shooting or explosion in Hackney, I wouldn’t discourage friends from visiting. We gathered for a pre-trip Skype call, faltering, in trepidation, wondering if it was a bad time to be go. Maybe we should consider postponing. But as we sat down and listed the positives and the negatives and the positives outweighed the negatives, we decided we should still go ahead with our plans.

Once in Kabul, I learned that as the government doesn’t want to scare the population, some attacks are left unreported. Even if they are reported accounts of the numbers killed are often inaccurate.

Delegation to Kabul – pre trip anxiety and preparation

5 Kabul Taxi Rides


Because of the ‘bad situation’ we are told not to take pictures from the taxi or walk around, So I’ve been trying to remember a few things from each journey.


Mountain range to the west covered in snow, street crier pulling a wooden barrow, woman in long black walking with a jaunty step, 4 young men chatting around a telegraph pole, 2 policemen in blue grey uniforms by the corner sentry box, sand bags stacked up to its window, guns slung over their shoulders, carpet shop, men sitting on the floor of a sea container sharing a meal, yellow anodised aluminium teapots for sale, man in a purple shell suit hitched up around his waist. At the last minute, at the blue wall of the centre, the taxi swings to a halt.


Petrol tank, green Toyota police car with blue lights flashing, man pushing trolley laden with socks and scarves, man selling phone cards, boy guiding car out of car park, boy crouched in front of a garage washing his hands with fairy liquid, man carrying  two loads of blue plastic jugs,  the same kind we use in our bathroom.


Young girl carrying a shiny black quilted bag with gold chain handles, wing mirrors for sale,  wire bedstead for sale, urn on top of pillar, green soup for sale, windscreen wiper sellers, one each side of the road, women in black crossing the road with red bucket.


Money changers


The Kabul river, the sun setting over the Red Bridge, the ‘hello kitty’ duvets just handed out, man handing out coats, firewood in huge piles, the wood merchants by the side of the river. Each merchant has a huge old curved band saw. Sections of concrete pipe.

5 Kabul Taxi Rides