Monday, 7 February 2011
The reading was, as I said, for the poet and stage and screen actress Lily Mosini and her partner, journalist, blogger and photographer Elia. They are a very striking, highly intelligent and courteous couple, both speaking good English now, though only having spoken it for eight months or so.
The reading was, in effect, part of the evidence in that it was a packed, properly advertised and documented poetry reading. Lily read three poems in Persian and also in vivid English translations by Clare Shaw. Clare Pollard and Clare Shaw's readings together with Lily's formed the first half of the event. It was the fiery, furious, passionately delivered half, poems read with great attack on subjects relevant to the evening. The brief interval was followed by raffles and auctions to raise money. The auction items included a pair of Levis donated by Simon Armitage with a poem hand written on the pocket lining. But there were several other items too (I read with Simon Armitage in Sheffield, in early April).
Then young poet David Tait read poems - quiet, lyrical, very well made convincing love poems. I am sure we'll hear more of David. Then I came on, reading some relevant poems and translations along with other things to end a highly charged evening.
After the event we were returning to the hotel, about ten minutes walk away, through the light rain. Clare P and I were walking a little ahead of the others and must have been deep in conversation, and had just turned round to see where the others were when we heard someone scream. A tall, quite heavily built and smartly dressed young man in glasses was in a rage. Clare S had stopped to see what the matter was. As we turned the young man gave the taxi door a hard kick. I assumed he was simply very drunk and was upset about something to the point of violence. It seems he had wanted to use the taxi, but for some reason the driver didn't want to take him and had, deliberately or inadvertently, slammed the door on the man's hand. Clare offered to ring for an ambulance but the man was still in a fury and as the taxi moved off he was in danger of getting his feet run over by it, avoiding it by an inch or so. There was nothing we could do for him. I didn't get to see his hand so couldn't tell what state it was in. It was one of those Saturday night incidents repeated a thousand times through the country. Drink, tears, conflict and someone getting hurt. The taxi was gone.
Back at the hotel we sat in the bar and talked till Clare S had to go. This was where the stories were told about arrest, prison, hearings and waiting. I won't go into that now until Lily and Elia allow me to do so for fear it might prejudice the next appeal hearing. What I can say is that part of their difficulty here has been proving that they are who they say they are, having had no hard evidence of it on their arrival. There is quite a lot now so the prospects are brighter.
The welcome for the return of the Ayatollah in 1979 lasted some four years, they said. Since then, and ever more so, there has been the spying, the torture, the killings, the oppression of women and gays, the fear, the fixed elections and the deaths that followed and keep following. It is the sort of danger that has been faced by many of their friends, some dead now, and would be faced by Lily and Elia personally if they were handed back.