The World Serviced by The CHild Soldier.
I’m in a car – not driving it – but in it. The driver is driving it which is good because otherwise I’d be sat in an empty car going nowhere. It’s 9am. The sun is shining in East London. It is pouring through the beech trees of the park. It’s weight causing leaves to fall – large lush leaves that make me wish leaves where fruit. They are brown and large and are the shavings of Autumn. Winter is ebony deep grained smooth in its darkness. Autumn is the wood cutters floor.
This is a beautiful city. We skim through Islington: through angel. I’m reminded of Neil Gaimans book Nowhere.I’m going to the channel four offices on Horseferry Road, across the Thames. It’s one of the most distinct in Television production buildings in England. But my neighbour works for the world service and just as I was leaving my home she was leaving her home. She’s off to Dehli to meet some writers, but first to Bush House home of The World Service. We throw her suitcase in the back of the Mercedes and all is good.
We don’t talk enough, me and my neighbour, but this is my chance to shoot the breeze with her. We have an half hour, just me and Lesley in the car. As I am judging a writing competition I talk (probably incessantly) about a book called Beasts of The Nation, a book narrated by a child soldier in an unamed country in Africa. Lesley works for World Service Drama Department. This book is tipping off the tip of my tongue. I can’t help but speak of it. I notice the drivers eyes in the mirror flit back from me to the road. And back to me again.
This book is so brilliant that I have bought eight of them. In a few days I will be having dinner for Human Rights Watch at the natural history museum. This story of this child soldier is so harrowing, real and contemporary that I feel they must read it. If they do not read it I feel that they must make a choice whether to read it or not!
I drop Lesley off at the world service after a spirited conversation that went from London to delhi to Africa and back to London again. She tips the driver high. She waves and leaves on a wave and the driver drives and the wave continues. London passes by the window as if its painter was blurring his hands on the wet paint of the journey.
He stops outside the Channel four offices. And as I am about to leave he tells me – “I am from Sierra Leone”. He goes on to give me the history of Freetown. “This book” he says “ beats of no nation”. I tell him the title “Beasts of no nation”. Who wrote it? I tell him I do not know, can not remember the name . I say “hey you could get it with this” and tip high.
He asks for my number. I give him my number. I disappear. he disappears on a wave. And I surf through the doors of Channel four into a panel TV programme on the crest of a wave whose crest bubbles down to the ground and the reception.