This is a view of our building which is a small part of our social housing block. The apartment where my wife Michelle and I live, is situated on the ground floor in the middle, living on our right is Shaikh Ahmed and his wife Rahima from Somalia, their son Mokri and their daughter Shokri. To our left, until 11 o'clock Friday, was A.Gabrielle, indisputably Italian. On top of him, until last Wednesday, was Tara who is (was) a Finish-Hungarian lady. Next to her, above us, is Gallagher the Scott and next to him, right above Shaikh Ahmed’s family lives Morad, his wife Amina and their children, from the former Yugoslavia. Above Morad lives Jens (chairman of the board) with his twin children and on top of Tara lives 55 years old Mo’tamed and between him and Jens, in no. 8, lives Irene a lonely divorced woman.
Please take careful note of how the corridors and balconies, run the length of every floor between the elevator and staircases (on both sides of the building), and out of the car park and the garden.
What happened was that “Høst & Søn” asked me for a story for an anthology of with contributions from different writers. I sent “The Weekend”. After 2-3 weeks I got a letter from Nanna, the editor of the anthology saying that “the story is very poetic” and that she wanted me to visit her at the office.
On the day we met, I happened to mention the place that I lived in, my neighbours and my own condition there. I wanted to somehow explain to Nanna what a great writer I was in my own country, but here in Denmark and with this language and all that ... But these Danes don’t believe in us foreigners at all! They think we are poor little touchies who can’t take critic and democracy. They won’t tell you these directly but you can read it in their faces. Nanna too, listened to me with a kind smile and after a moment’s pause said:
- Why you don’t write about that? it’s is a great story.
I realised that she didn’t like “the Weekend”. I could understand this well. I wrote “The Weekend” in H.C. Andersen’s style, thinking that maybe the Danes would like it. Then it became clear that they don’t want there to be more than one H.C Andersen in the world. Nanna clearly thought that would now have to must make a statue of “Dara the Bird” from “The weekend”, on top of a tree and put it on the coast opposite The Mermaid, causing all sorts of new commotions and problems for the municipality and the police.
You know, aside from their general conservatism, Danes don't even know how to use a knife to slice people's throats. That's why they go at the heads of statues armed with motor saws (typical expression of industrial crisis!). Nanna promised to publish both of my stories. OK, it's not easy to say no to a beautiful girl. I was also tempted to discover the thrill of being a writer signing a contract with a publisher! So in spite of the pitiful salary, I agreed to write a story about my neighbours.
However, it soon became clear that Engineer Mo'tamed is right: The whole country is joined up against us. In the last number of years there have been no major occurrences in our building and there has been time for me to work for almost 1 hour and 45 minutes each day...And yet, the ink on the contract was not yet dry before all hell was let loose around here:
It started with my wife Michelle who called my story "a flimsy attempt at documentarism" and announced that she was leaving to visit her father in Australia for four months. I thought perhaps she was annoyed about her less than complimentary role in the story. I tried to make her character a tad more positive, just to make her happy enough to stay. (..it's all very complicated: We Iranians have never had a simple relationship with the British..). But on 15.50 Wednesday afternoon, when I was in the toilet with "Vaclav Havel's Letters to Olga", (Michelle was out picking up her ticket) Tara jumped out of her window and died. This was a real tragedy. I had particularly hoped she could contribute at some stage with her positive perspective on several matters. I had wanted to ask her for example, about her interpretation of the hysterical laughter from flat no.5, or about her opinion of REM and The Smiths; Or about Julio Iglesias, the Italian football season and so forth. Tara believes (believed) that we foreigners are bitter, pessimistic and grudging liars. I think her positive input could have made the tale a richer experience.
Tara is (was) very intriguing. She has (had) a lovely face and slender, petite frame. You see, after the death of a character, conjugating verbs becomes a big problem on top of everything else. I can't believe that Tara is not in the building any more. How could that naive being fall from a second floor window and die from it? Our first meeting was in the communal laundry in the basement. As I said hello she asked me if I was Muslim. I said no. She smiled and said I was lying! That's the way that our first conversation ended.
On the disclosure of a sexual relationship with his 7 years old daughter, Tara's father had to flee from Hungary to Finland. He got to know Tara's mother there and they married later on. On the evening of Tara's 14's birthday party her father slept in her room, and this became a habit. Tara didn't think about it very seriously until she became 17. But the day she brought her first boy friend home, she received a big slap from her father and in anger she told her Mother about the events of the last 3 years. The poor father was obliged to flee again from Finland to Hungary. There had been no news from him since then. Perhaps learning the wisdom of past experiences, he resisted getting jealous of his next daughters' boyfriends.
It was after the flight of her father that Tara came to Denmark. She says (told me) she was very alone then. As Tara was on social security, she was always owing money to her Mother (she may owe money yet). She told me once smiling, that she planned to become a prostitute as then she was not going to need either anybody's love, or her Mother's money.
About 4 years ago, she began to go out with a 17 year old Palestinian boy from the neighborhood, called Mohammad. His parents didn't react to the relationship in the beginning, even inviting her to dinner several times. (Tara insisted on believing that Iranians were Arabs and was surprised that I couldn't make as delicious food as Mohammad's mother). When Mohammad graduated from high school, his parents tried first to convince Tara that Mohammad was grown up now and that he was going to have to get married. One week later they found a girl for him and the whole family moved from the quarter. Mohammad is still in love with Tara and visits her, sometimes,- or Mohammad was still in love with Tara and visiting her until..
Can you see? The character's suicide puts the writer in a confusing situation, caught between past and today, and today and the future. How should I know whether Mohammad was visiting Tara until Wednesday? This was what Tara told me already on our second meeting, the first time she came to my flat about two years ago with her eyes full of tears. During that time she used to knock at my door every evening after taking her dirty cat for a walk in the car park, and if I was not too tired, she would drink her tea with me. Then one day after I couldn't read her handwriting on the card she sent to me, she stopped coming.. When I asked her once about it, she looked at me fiercely and said:
- Can't you see? When you can't even read my handwriting it's a sure sign that we can't ever be friends.
Tara was very interested in the stars. The first time she came into my flat, she took in the scattered porcelain dolls, the way books were standing on the shelves, the position of my armchair, my nails and hands, and then asked me with great conviction if I was a Virgo! And added that she herself was a Scorpio and that real love can only happen between two with the same signs. Even so, on that same evening, in memory of her father, she kissed my moustache and said, that it was the most beautiful hair she had ever seen growing on a man's body! (Moustache shouldn’t have a big roll in astronomy)
In the last few months, I used to see her with a Tamil boy, hand in hand, going shopping or for a walk. The boy was tall and about 25 years old but apart from his skin’s colour he didn’t have anything else in common with “Scorpio”.
Tara was not yet cold before something else happened. On the day after whilst the police were investigating Tara's leap from the window, almost all the neighbours had gathered in the car-park. Gabrielle, who was there with a new girlfriend (for the first time a Dane) expressed sorrow about Tara and said that he wished she could have waited a couple more days. I was very curious to know that what kind of effect two more days delay could have had on Tara's jumping out of the window. Gabrielle motioned to the girl who was hanging on his arm, saying:
- We are moving to Anette's place tomorrow.
With the loss of Tara and now Gabrielle, the whole skeleton of my story lay in ruins. (OK, there are the Danish neighbours, but they are simply not exotic enough).
A.(Angelo) Gabrielle, with his black wavy dishevelled hair, varying girlfriends and his obsession with football and Julio Iglesis, deranges (deranged) all my childhood imaginings of the archangel.
My relationship to Gabrielle did not really develop beyond a once a week bashing at his door, to complain about Julio and the Italian football commentator. Until a week before he left, he was together with a Russian girl called Olga. One did not need to be a detective to know the names and nationalities of his girlfriends. They were all impatient tended to leave the flat 15-20 minutes before Gabrielle had finished what he was saying to them. Then he had to finish his lecture through the window out to the street or the door to the car-park/back yard.
Gabrielle worked in a restaurant from 18.00 to 01.00 or 02.00. It was understandable then that his average time with a girl did not normally exceed a fortnight. The highlights of the beginning, middle and conclusion of his relationships were made apparent to us all through these "window" and "car park" dialogues, sometimes at 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning.
A couple of days before his departure, we saw that Gabrielle had acquired the livid-green uniform of a municipal parking inspector, from then on sporting it day and night. Gabriele's sudden transformation made me perturbed. His work at the restaurant, his passion for football, Julio, and foreign women, combined to make him the typical Italian. But changing his job and moving into a Danish girls flat (there were also some more small changes such as a frozen smile on the corner of his leaps and so on) only three or four days after meeting her were signs that our Gabrielle was well on the way to becoming truly "integrated" ( as the Danes would say). It made me all the more disappointed because he too was a Virgo. I realised this the morning after the World Cup final '94 - the night Italy lost to Brazil.
A. Gabrielle had prepared a party with wine from home and invited some of his Italian friends to celebrate the final together. Right from the beginning, I sought asylum in the toilet. But even the toilet was not safe from Italian football fans. When in Rome do as the Romans do, I attempted to join them, trying to understand something of what the match was about. It was useless. Then I as usual tried to use my imagination, shooting 20 balls onto the field or removing the goal posts when the Italians were about to shoot. None of these fantasies worked on the players, nor on Gabrielle & co.
It was clear that because of Dario Fo and Fellini’s insults to the Pope and the Church, Catholic Brazilians don’t like Italians very much?
Suddenly there came a third noise from the corridor. Tara was beating Gabrielle's door with her hands and feet, heatedly cursing football, Italians, Brazilians and many other things besides. It seemed that her actions had a far greater effect on the match than my fantasies.
After the match, I was about to go to bed when Gabrielle’s window dialogue began. It was impossible to understand what was going on, because both of them were shouting simultaneously. His girlfriend was standing in the middle of the street with her legs open, peppering her words, like American artists with a “fuck” at the beginning or end of every utterance.
The following day, I met Gabrielle in the laundry, sleepy and subdued. There was none of the passion of the last evening left in him .
- That was unfair.
I didn't really know very much about his relationship or the fight, nor could I find a word to cheer him up.
- The Brazilians were offside.
I was still floundering when he turned to me and asked, wonderingly:
- Is she off her rocker or something?
I tried to hide my bewilderment, grinning inanely instead. I knew even less about his girlfriend than the football.
- She was about to beat me.
I thought that after Italy's loss and his girlfriend's departure, he needed someone to talk to. I asked then:
-What was all that about then?
As if Gabrielle had found a saving angel, everything began to pour out.
-The very first day she comes to my flat, she inspects all my furniture, starts pointing at my music and asking me if I am a Virgo! and then declares that she can't be my friend. And so what? Are none of the how ever many Scorpions in this fucking world interested in football? Behind which bush was she born herself, that she's always accusing us foreigners of being liars. I was gazing, dumbfounded at his appearance and gesticulations wondering how on earth both Gabrielle and I could be Virgos!
Every day about 11 o'clock, Julio Iglesias started his repertoire, the sign that A. Gabrielle was awake. I would get angry because my work was only always half finished. But I at least had the satisfaction of knowing that Virgos can differ about Julio. This greatly aided my efforts to acquire a positive outlook on life. Now it's 3 days since he moved but I still can't work from 11 in the morning. I feel like Julio is singing, somewhere around the city.
My story was really about to get somewhere. If only Tara had waited a week, or Gabrielle had met his Danish girlfriend a week later, or I had signed that damned contract one week before. The first chapter of the story started as:
“The first couple of slaps were pretty enough to put the fear of God into me with those big guys, leaning their hands on my shoulders. I looked at the considerable amount of money, written into the contract before me on the table and inquired:
- How many people in Denmark are actually going to read these stories?
The representative of "Høst & Søn" who was nobody but Tara, herself smiled, looked at the two gorillas standing behind me and with a very strange voice said:
- Let us take care of that. You just sign the contract
I was wondering, perhaps someone had dusted this country in a strange powder, to make people change like this. But why Tara? Is she really ready to use all means, even violence, to make me a more positive minded citizen?
The roar of a huge crowd rushes over my bed shaking the pillow like an earthquake. Sounds of the running and cries of several children fill the balcony and the car park yard. It must be 6.30 and Morad and the kids are on the way to the kindergarten.
The door to the balcony on the lift side opens up first. Sara and Mara emerge and pelt down the whole 15 meters of our balcony, screaming and shouting. When they reach the other end, Morad comes through the first door with his "hiss!" ing and "hush!" ing, one frequency above the children's clamor whilst he taps at his key holder. The Nissan's alarm goes off with 4 times veeigh veeeigh.
Getting the children and their father in, closing the doors rap rap, starting the Nissan and departing from the territory of my sleepy ears, cost me two and half more turns in bed. But before I can return to my sweet morning dream, Morad is back from his first mission of the day. (The kindergarten is just five minutes walk from the building.) Parking the Nissan, closing the doors, turning the alarm on with 4 more veeigh veeeigh's and Morad's traipse along the whole balcony to the lift, is enough to erase any last thought of sleep from my mind. It's now 6.40.”
With a few minutes Yoga I energise my mental state and inspire myself again to enter a positive frame of mind. Listening to a soft melody I eat my breakfast, watching the hungry seagulls flying over the rubbish containers in the car park. At 7.45 I venture to my desk, coffee in hand.
Morad is from the former Yugoslavia and would appear to be Muslim. In contrast to Europeans who lavish attention on their pets, the great love of Muslims used to be as you know, their beasts of burden: They poured love on their cows, camels and donkeys in olden times, only to be replaced today with their various vehicles and gadgets. Morad's pride and joy is his Japanese Nissan, that is normally parked outside our window in the car park. When he is finished with the housework, laundry, taking the children back and forth from kindergarten and so on, he goes down to the car park. He strolls around the Nissan, pats it, looks it over and around, examines the alarm a couple of time, polishes it where necessary, drying it meticulously and on his way back up to the flat, turns back several times and gazes adoringly towards the vehicle, parked and preened like a peacock.
None of the neighbours are particularly enthusiastic about the Nissan, much less its alarm. Regardless of how positive you try to be, it's obvious that this is somehow bound up in jealousy, bordering on hatred. Indications of this jealousy have been a flow of petitions to the board, both written and verbal - and ending with the instalment of a sorry looking basketball net in the car park, exactly in the corner where Nissan was previously parked!
Board decisions are normally taken up there in Jens' flat. We downstairs'ers will never understand what is going on, even if we, for the sake of democracy, go along to the meetings. Their most recent report opened with the story of the young Moroccan drunk who, smashing a window of the building on the other side of the street last year, brought about 35,000 kr's. worth of spiritual and mental casualties among the residents in our building. (The board called in a psychologist and invited us to a crisis meeting on "The consequences of a culture of violence in our neighborhood". Curiously, only our Danish neighbours participated). The next paragraph of the report was about how children staying in a limited home environment was linked to, among other things, a 14,5 % growth in violent crime, forcing a 21,300 kr. budget deficit in our building last year. Finally, the report concluded that, in line with efforts to lower the level of violent crime in our building, the board had voted to install a basketball net in the car park. “Let's keep these young bloods active”!
The following days “the young bloods” used a great deal of their time and energy, scrambling over the ball. Once I saw Jens stealing an opportunity to shoot a few nets. The young bloods stopped their fight to watch Jens tackling an invisible opponent and trying to shoot. After all this was the best solution: Let the Danes play and we can all stand round and watch. What is the use of us foreigners anyway, except to provide a little splatter now and then and be the reason for a budget deficit on The Board accounts?
At one stage, I even tried to use Jens to take the story further. He is a typical Dane, shy with a permanent smile fixed on the corner of his lips: never idle for a second of the day, he pushes his twin children's pram as he goes shopping and back, takes his ugly brown dog for a walk and a pee, gathers all the rubbish bags and heaves them into the container in the car park, mows the lawn, sipping his beer in between on the garden bench while looking through the afternoon tabloids. In those days, before I became so positive minded, it happened once that I ranted on to him about Julio, REM and The Smiths. Jens would smile and say:
- Go and thank God that you are not me, sitting up in bed the whole night counting the rhythm of your neighbours bed groaning away.
He was absolutely right. The thought that Gallagher on top of everything else, also had a girl friend, and imagining their exploits throughout the night, markedly helped my positivization process. But well, that was all there really was to say about Jens. Even Gallagher the Scott was a more impressive figure.
Gallagher lives in the most crowded flat of the building, right on top of us. However, in spite of the curiosity of neighbours, there is only ever one, and the very same one person going in and out of the flat. Nobody knows what he does. At five every morning there is a lot of traffic to and for above our heads for about 15 minutes and then not one single squeak from flat no 5, until three and a half in the afternoon. Gallagher is so silent and glum so that you think he is in the sulks with everyone, himself included. He won't get drawn into any conversation that lasts longer than answering your hello, (strangely enough) very typically British!
Except for REM and The Smiths and various other death-and-angst sounds of the 1980's, he has invisible house mates who, during the times that he isn't listening to music, he has hefty debates with as they shout at each other from two ends of the flat, at times cursing blindly. Although the accompanying sound of walking back and forth in between outbursts would lend to Michelle's theory that Gallagher himself plays his opponent's roles as well, I'm nearly certain that the person living on top of us has had contacts with Savak or Mossad. I deduced this from observing that when one of the opposing partners, (normally the other one), stops the fight, the one whom we guess is Gallagher, starts laughing hysterically, the exact noise of when someone in being castrated in the next cell.
When at 15,30 the one whom we understand to be the inhabitant of no 5, comes home, there is for the first few minutes the noise of an answering machine regurgitating a series of bib bib noises. If you are a foreigner, trying hard to be positive as I am, then you would prefer to think that Gallagher's friends are just like him and don't care to leave a message. However, according to Michelle's theory it is Gallagher who calls himself from different telephones during the day time. (As a white European you are allowed to think like that and not be accused of racism)
Then Gallagher's 4 band stereo system starts to grind. No matter how much you try to be positive, with regard to the location of Tara's flat and the exact time of her final leap, you would be inclined to think of REM and The Smiths as associates to the act.
I should also add that the heart-rending news of the death of Princess Diana was transmitted simultaneously to the whole building from the BBC World channel of Flat # 5. There was only a loud sobbing to be heard from the flat for the next few days. No music, no debates or rhetorical slander. Since the tragic loss of the young “Mother Diana”, even alcohol could not cheer Gallagher up.
After a long time where nobody saw Gallagher around in the corridors, I finally saw him again yesterday, where he had surprisingly joined the basketball team, filling in for Jens' invisible opponent.
One can speculate as to whether Princess Diana or her drunk driver, with a little help from the board of the building, had had a part to play in Gallagher's "integration" process.. but I still think that the Nissan's alarm was the key motivating factor.
This exceptionally sensitive device contacts it's owner after every meal and once more at about 01.45 in the morning. It commences with a tip tap warning tone, then continuing with the opening bars of Mozart no 40, then goes through a whole repertoire of British police siren, Edelweiss, American police siren, Für Elise, with a finale of a UNPROFOR siren noise lasting about 3 minutes and 30 seconds in all. Sometimes Morad or Amina manage to grab the key holder, rush out of the flat and onto the 2nd floor balcony, to push the button,... (sometimes).
“I receive Quoranic verses from the ghetto blaster situated in Shaikh's sitting room, right behind my desk. This starts at 9 o'clock and will reverberate through the whole building for the next hour.” Until last month I was not permitted to criticise anything in connection with Shaikh Ahmed's apartment. Michelle, who is inclined towards the European Green and left wing movements, and detests all fascists, Nazis racists and nationalists, believes in “tolerance” towards non-Europeans, especially Muslims. But since the day when Shaikh Ahmed wouldn't shake hands with her as he did with me, Michelle's tolerance towards me prevails over that towards Shaikh. Now I am permitted up to bemoan the paper walls in the building, just between 9 and 10 in the morning.
I really thought I could at least trust Shaikh Ahmed and his ghetto blaster to remain loyal to my story. But two days ago, I realised that this is an unsafe hope as well. Shokri who is not permitted to come out of the house without her mother, spends most of the time standing behind the window at home, watching the street outside. On Wednesday afternoon she observed how some pieces of cloth fell down from our building and that some blood came out of them and out onto the pavement. Shaikh Ahmed who kept this hidden from the police, told me anxiously that he doesn't think Denmark is a fit place for his children to grow up in.
When at 10 o'clock, Shaikh normally goes to his language school, I take a cup of coffee and wait for Amina to go shopping. I can then make the best of the last 45 minutes of my working day. Amina pounds with her high heels along the eighteen and a half steps it takes her to cross the length of our balcony. - Equivalent to a 37 times grinding of a heavy sledge hammer with a weight of around 115 kilos, is enough to get even Michelle out of bed. This pacing recurs around 8-9 times a day, the last time being at 00,35, when the parking of the Nissan, opening of doors, caterwauling of children breaks out into the silence of the night and the car park enclosure. Then General Amina, followed by the children, with Morad trailing in the rear, parade along our balcony.
From 11 o'clock when Julio's serenade begins, until 18.00 there is a very curious symphony of different Western pop and Eastern classics, fused with the noise of various children, Amina's marching back and forth and of course the alarm's piercing interlude. Working at home during this period of time, some times even staying there, is practically impossible. During these hours I've normally spent my time in going out to shop, making lunch, coffee, washing the dishes, cleaning the kitchen and things like that. Sometimes I've gone to a coffee shop by the lakes, sitting there imagining I was in my own living room. I've constructed most of my plots there, and forgot or lost them back home. On cold or rainy days I've taken books and newspapers and settled in the least noisy part of the flat, the toilet, and remained there for hours.
But worse than the terrible vacuum that is filling the building, is my having become conditioned to it all like Pavlov's dog. At 17 o'clock yesterday, in spite of the fact that Gallagher was playing basketball in the car park, there was an echo of hysterical laughter from the flat above.
From 6 o'clock in the evening, trying to be positive as much as possible, I listen to music, sing songs sometimes, make dinner together with Michelle and talk about the events of the day. She is also interested in the integration process in Danish society. Sometimes we make a light dinner in order to be ready for the news. Fortunately, the Danes don't like bad news, particularly at dinner time, so we normally eat dinner while watching the various birthday and wedding parties of the various members of the Danish Royal family. There are also, at times a few other news items, the madness of British cows, German Salmonella, French carelessness in the transportation of newborn livestock and so forth.
On the evenings when they show the "Glamour" series, we spend our evening supper time in British style, munching cookies and discussing world issues. As we tend to disagree, our discussion usually ends with Michelle calling me a nostalgic chauvinist, traditional 3rd. world’s communist, paranoid and pessimistic, and me calling her a typical European petit bourgoise sheep who optimistically supports the capitalist system. When there is not “Glamour” on either Danish or Swedish channels, we expect engineer Mo’tamed visits us.
Mr Engineer goes out at 11 o’clock selecting his attire with precision. Before leaving the flat he takes out some money from under the mattress and together with the empty bottle of last night wine, puts it in his hand bag. He checks carefully the doors of the cupboards, the room and finally the flat, to be sure that all of them are locked. On his way to the bus stop he throws the bottle in bottle bank.
- One should have at least one warm meal a day.
He eats his lunch in one of the three restaurants he knows in the city, two with Iranian dishes and one with Turkish. He drinks a couple of beers after the lunch, smokes some cigarettes and tries to spin a line long enough to trap someone into talking to him, offering a cup of tea or occasionally a beer. (no one agrees to be his guest a second time).
He comes home around 3 in the afternoon, getting off the bus one stop early. Once a week he inspects his private bank box in the bank cellar.
- The bank gives report to the government. They are accomplices. If you have more than 3,ooo in your account, they stop your social security.
He buys fruit from the local Turkish grocery (Turks are more clean and civilised than Arabs). If there is no wine at home (a Polish woman who travels on one day tours to Germany, brings him cheep wine and cigarettes) he buys some from the local supermarket. His last stop of his daily tour is in front of the building door, smoking a cigarette waiting to catch the neighbours in his web, on their way in or out of the building.
He talks with Morad about his radio and television which do not work properly, with Shaikh Ahmed about his racist social adviser who wouldn't agree to his application for a free telephone line and satellite disc:
-I have no friends and no contact with my family in Iran. My television gets only 2 Danish and 2 Swedish channels all of which talk only about the pigs, cows, chickens and refugees.
To Amina he recounts the story of his prejudiced doctor who in spite of knowing he has varicose veins and haemorrhoids, wouldn't write a recommendation that the municipality give him a daily social help to clean his house and make his food. He apologises to her for not being able to reveal his ailments to her in public.
- Come and visit me once, I'll show you. I've got real pure Iranian tea you won't find any other places in the world.
Tara would neither listen to him nor accept his invitation of whisky or wine, so he gave her some chocolate. Tara accepted this, but only because Mo'tamed is a Scorpio!
He sits ready in front of the television from half an hour before the weather forecast. He then selects his next day's outfit according to the weather and places them on the back of his armchair. If sunshine is promised, he will take out his sunglasses, if wind, his brown hat, or if rain and snow are threatened then he takes his raincoat and umbrella, hanging them behind the entrance door so as not forget them. In the morning, he puts on the respective accessories, regardless of whether the forecast was correct or not. If there is no "Glamour" on any of his 4 channels, he will be ready and standing at our door at 19.45. This is the only part of this story which will never change.
The evening visit of Mr Engineer warms up with a customary prelude: A Letter from The Wife and The Children. It's not clear how many The Wife and The Children's are, how old they are, where they live, what they are doing and why they haven't visited the head of the family in exile during all these years. But they do send a letter nearly every week which is almost exactly the same. This is followed by the engineer's 3-4 other routine stories which are:
Story 1: Mo'tamed has been working with Dutch and Swiss companies on different road building projects in Iran for many years. The Swiss and Dutch had appreciated his work and promoted him several times.
- It was a big mistake coming to Denmark. If it had been Switzerland or Holland, they would give me a good job.
If Mr Engineer is in a good mood he will also recount anecdotes about his years of cooperation with the Swiss and the Dutch that differ from other evenings.
He looks at Michelle (sitting there reading newspaper) and smiles in an almost apologetic way as we are talking Persian while she is present. Then, showing off his English, he points out of the window saying:
- They are racist. I was in London. You are good.
(Finally Michelle decides that she is lonely and that it is time to call her friends in London, Toronto, Singapore or Sydney while the Spider is around.)
Story 2: A friend whose name Mo'tamed does not want to reveal, has invited him to his home for lunch. Although the friend has asked what Mo'tamed would like for lunch and although Mr Engineer insisted, everything but chicken, the friend anyway prepared chicken for him.
- My very dear friend, if you don't want a guest visiting you, why do you insist so many times?
Regardless of how often you ask him what he has done over the weekend, Mo'tamed will explain that on Saturday he has bought 2 bottles of wine and has gone to visit a friend whose name he won't reveal at the far end of Amager, a journey of 3 different bus changes, but that the chicken completely ruined his weekend.
Story 3: Mo'tamed has a nephew who depending upon the amount of wine his uncle has drunk that evening, lives in London, California or Canada. The nephew invites his uncle to (London or California or Canada) every summer. The dear uncle decides to accept to go on this historic journey this summer, but as we get closer to the date some stupid letter or telephone call comes from the nephew with a question that manages to change the uncle's mind. Last year the nephew, who is working in a large company asked if dear uncle knew enough English to manage on his own during the day time.
- How can one forget his own private English teacher? If you don't want me to come, why do you invite me and then go back on your word with such idiotic excuses? Once more dear uncle decided to not go.
Story 4: Mo'tamed is not keen to travel around Denmark either. This is because roads in Denmark are not stable and are very dangerous to travel on. As proof of his theory, Mr Engineer has photographic evidence of two road accidents on Danish roads in his archive. If you inexpertly suggest that “accidents happen everywhere in the world”, Mr Engineer will retort:
- Not in Switzerland or Holland. The Danes don't write about all the many, daily accidents in the papers. They know very well that they are a century behind the modern road building sector. Have you ever wondered why they don't have a car industry?
And many other different stories which proves that the whole world are scheming together to humiliate and break down our genius nation preventing us to repeat our past glories.
Mot'amed takes a drag of his cigarette, sits down calmly in the chair again, shakes his head begrudging, takes a draught of his wine, lick the drop on the head of the bottle and with a deep sigh for Jam’s empire says:
-The only difference between democracy and dictatorship is in the laws. In a democracy they allow by law what a dictatorship makes illegal.
The Engineer is a little touchy and sensitive about things. It's best you don't suggest anything that might differ with his opinions. Otherwise, all the customers in three restaurants will in the space of a week find out that you are both a traitor and a sneak (because of bottles of wine he has given you), a philanderer and a liar. The Engineer knows very well how many lies you have told the Danish police about your political background in Iran and depending how far you’ve gone in offending him, it is also possible that your secret associations with PET (the Danish secret service) and the Iranian Embassy will be revealed.
Later in the evening, increasing degrees of intoxication can get the Engineer to flare up again
- Things can't go on like this, mark my words! Before long a Spartacus will arise, and all the foreigners and refugees will challenge oppression beneath his banner.
Under the current situation around our quarter, it’s almost imposible to have all characters together and approach a demanded ”happy end” for ”Integration”! YOU’d better self find a suitable ending for THIS, as like as many other problems in the society. I’m due to go to Holland or Switzerland sometime in next week. I think there may be some better job posibilities for me. In that case, I won’t need literature any more.
Hope you accept my personal apologise.
Graduate of The Road and Building College, Teheran. Iran
Cooperating with Dutch and Swiss companies for 12 years.
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