Gone To­day, Here To­mor­row

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michael Walker

If you’ve never been re­fused en­try and turned back at an air­port, you can­not know what it feels like. But let me ex­plain. Many, many years ago, it must have been be­fore 1986 when Olof Palme the Swedish Prime Min­is­ter was gunned down and killed on his way home from the movies, my friend Lars and I were on a pro­tracted lec­ture tour of the north­ern cone of South Amer­ica that in­cluded Colom­bia, Peru, Venezuela and Ecuador as well as a cou­ple or so Caribbean coun­tries not known for their demo­cratic lead­er­ship.

I men­tioned the demo­cratic lead­er­ship bit be­cause it came to have a cer­tain bear­ing on what was to un­fold that day. We were about three weeks into the tour spend­ing never more than two or three days in each city lec­tur­ing at var­i­ous univer­si­ties and teacher train­ing in­sti­tutes up to three times a day, morn­ing, late af­ter­noon and even later evenings, some­times not get­ting back to the ho­tel be­fore one or two in the night. It was gru­elling work.

Lars and I had been work­ing to­gether for more than a decade and we had got our lec­ture rou­tines down to a pat. The size of the au­di­ences var­ied from less than a hun­dred to over a thou­sand but the com­po­si­tion of the au­di­ences sel­dom var­ied: they were all ded­i­cated teach­ers from all lev­els of ed­u­ca­tion, from kinder­garten teach­ers to univer­sity lec­tur­ers, and in their view we were The Best! They were all us­ing our texts, and we were Su­per­stars!

Peo­ple came from far and wide to spend time with us. I re­call a group of nuns who had trav­elled over 20 hours by bus to at­tend a work­shop in Rio. They gave me a notepad as a sign of grat­i­tude for writ­ing the books they used. I still have it more than 40 years on.

Lars and I left noth­ing to chance. We trav­elled with all our ac­ces­sories: over­head pro­jec­tors – re­mem­ber this was way be­fore the time of the In­ter­net – ex­ten­sion cords, spare bulbs, a screen, mul­ti­ple plugs, adap­tors, trans­form­ers; you name it, we had it!

Well on this par­tic­u­lar day we landed in a new coun­try after a rel­a­tively short flight and were asked to re­main on board till all the other pas­sen­gers had dis­em­barked, a not un­usual pro­ce­dure be­cause our re­cep­tions were of­ten fairly well or­ches­trated events with shots of us walk­ing down the steps, into the ter­mi­nal build­ing, press con­fer­ences and what have you. It was all good fun.

That evening, in my Hil­ton Ho­tel room – this was way back at the time when the name Hil­ton was syn­ony­mous with ho­tel lux­ury – there I was watch­ing the two of us on a flick­er­ing, sort of semi-coloured TV screen telling our host how happy we were to be in her won­der­ful coun­try and how ex­cited we were to have the op­por­tu­nity to visit their schools and find out first-hand about the won­der­ful ad­vances they had made in ed­u­ca­tion since our pre­vi­ous visit.

Lars, who was about 6 foot 6 inches tall and had avery prom­i­nent nose and large, round, st­rig­ine (which means owl-like), eyes un­der a re­ced­ing fore­head that screamed in­tel­lect at you, usu­ally did the se­ri­ous, pro­fes­so­rial bits while I did the en­thu­si­as­tic waf­fling, smil­ing, impish body-lan­guage, love-to-be-here bits. I was a real charmer at times.

The only thing wrong was that Lars had not been seen since. After the in­ter­view, as a mere for­mal­ity, we wan­dered off to cus­toms and im­mi­gra­tion when an ab­so­lutely de­light­ful creature in uni­form came bounc­ing up to us full of en­thu­si­asm and pro­claimed, “But you are from Swe­den!”

Well, yes, she was tech­ni­cally cor­rect though I for just this rea­son had main­tained my Bri­tish pass­port and brought it forth at strate­gic times just for safety’s sake. Lars was in­or­di­nately proud of be­ing Swedish. I on the other hand, hav­ing no great fond­ness for the Old Coun­try and lit­tle or no un­der­stand­ing of the idea of be­ing proud of where one came from was a bit of a mon­grel; I liked to see my­self as a cit­i­zen of the world who pro­fessed no al­le­giance to any coun­try.

It turned out that Olof Palme had just held a speech some­where – he was al­ways do­ing that – crit­i­cis­ing in the harsh­est terms the dic­ta­tor who ruled the coun­try we were try­ing to en­ter. The dic­ta­tor, who fan­cied him­self as a con­sti­tu­tional lawyer, knew all the ways to cir­cum­vent the con­sti­tu­tion and de­clared that diplo­matic re­la­tions had been sev­ered with Swe­den so Swedes should be deported im­me­di­ately. It turned out that Lars was the only Swede avail­able, and so he was duly deported, only to turn up the next day with a big smile on his face. I won’t tell you how this was achieved, but you can imag­ine, I’m sure.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Saint Lucia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.