Some are mathematicians, some are….

Some are mathematicians, some are carpenter’s wives,

I don’t know how all that started, I don’t know what they do with their lives.

 

My intention is not to demean mathematicians or carpenter’s wives, but this is one of my favourite lines from Bob Dylan. I’m not even sure why; like much of his work it seems to sum up my life, get to the very essence of it. I’ve never understood how people get along, how people who have a choice can devote themselves to various occupations, day in, day out, for the whole of their lives. I don’t understand the pursuit of money either – of course Bob Dylan has pursued it throughout his life – but I don’t think money has anything to do with his talent, which is genius, something I don’t think he has any control over. So, I’ve drifted for most of my life. Not that I had much opportunity, only realising very, very late that I was moderately talented. I’ve been quite happy with my life though. No complaints.

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Of course, half the world is poor. They have no choice in what they do. They have to survive, and every ounce of energy is taken up with that – surviving. The other half, from bus driver to prime minister, have a choice. The choice varies, but they can do all sorts of things. Most men seem to want to get married. Even at a very young age, long before puberty, I thought this a strange choice. Men can do anything they want. They have complete freedom, but seem to be in a mad rush to lose it, to become enslaved to young versions of themselves, to provide for them forever. The woman will lose interest in them, if they haven’t lost interest in her, and they will be stuck, for life. Lately, they will probably divorce. But then most of them will go and marry again, somehow believing it will be different. Fidel Castro once said that anybody who marries for a second time is insane. Fidel has said many wise things (and the opposite), but this seems to me to be the wisest. Some men serial marry, again and again and again. It’s very strange.

 

Different people have different talents. I do understand this: mechanics, doctors, dentists, scientists – and carpenters – it is endless. And you have to do what you’re good at. I’m very glad that there are mechanics and doctors. To me, the only duty is to enjoy your life. It is quite short (although mine seems to have lasted forever), and I’m very surprised at the number of people who discount this, especially among the young, who seem to think that some kind of financial success represents happiness. The pursuit of most things, especially money, is a chimera. Perhaps it does make some people happy, it’s hard to tell, but not many. The same is true with many professions. Many years ago my friends and I used to play friendly cricket matches against a team of trainee dentists. We were all poor, would arrive at the matches in various old bangers, play our games and have a drink afterwards. We all knew that while we would stay poor, the dentists would soon be very rich. I don’t know if they went into that profession for money – would you do that by choice? – but anyway, they were all going to be dentists. Gradually we all lost touch. Rich they may be. But they have been peering into people’s open mouths for years, fiddling around under their tongues, dealing with rotten and broken teeth. I don’t envy them.

 

I’ve drifted from job to job, probably did about fifty different things before I reached the age of forty five, sometimes well-paid (on a low scale), sometimes not. I’ve never been without money or a roof over my head. I’ve never held on to any money either; I don’t have any money now. But I don’t regret anything. I didn’t commit myself to slavery or a career; I’ve travelled very widely; I’ve lived through a very propitious time, granted, but it wasn’t easy in the seventies or eighties to find work; it was certainly very difficult to get rich. I’ve lived through peaceful times, which I’m grateful for, and I’ve been lucky, and more than once I’ve had a lot of help from friends. Generally, I’ve enjoyed my life, but that’s what I set out to do; I don’t mean enjoy at others expense either – I’ve been mainly well-behaved.

 

So, that’s what I mean by my title. A bit of a ramble; I haven’t explained myself very well but I had a go. Many of Bob Dylan’s lines encapsulate things for me. Desolation Row makes perfect sense to me; it is considered a drugged out, psychedelic muddle by most people, but every verse, every word, rings true for me. Perhaps I’m a misfit:

 

I just don’t fit,

Yes, I believe it’s time for us to quit.

 

You see, there I go again.

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Myths, Legends and outright Lies

rainbow_overperranI’ve often wondered about the many myths we believe in. There must be thousands, more. I know of only a few, but in many ways modern life is based on myth, what we believe to be true, but which is only partly true or not true at all. You probably wonder what I mean. Well, everybody knows now, for example, that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction – it was one of the many stories concocted by people determined to go to war with Iraq. I’m not sure, but surely most people know now that WMDs were a myth. Of course there are still those among us who believe the war was justified, and they may well choose to believe the claim. But they believe a myth. It simply isn’t true.

Likewise, when the USA chose to attack Iraq, Americans were told that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the destruction of the twin towers. None of the nineteen people responsible for 9/11 was from Iraq; Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with it, but apparently 60% of Americans believed it to be so. For those who do not want to believe that the war was a mistake, an ongoing mistake that is still costing hundreds of lives, it is much easier to believe that Iraq was responsible, to believe in the myth.

Myths do not need to be quite so important, to have such dire consequences, for example, it is popularly believed that one is never further than six feet from a rat. I’ve no idea where this originated, but the BBC’s More or Less team calculated that there are 3.1 million rats in urban areas; even if they were spread absolutely evenly (which they are not), this would give each rat 5000 square metres, which means that you are never further than 164 feet (minimum) from a rat. But of course, urban myths are a good topic of conversation; it is often more fun to believe them than to coldly consider the truth.

A rather more serious, but archaic myth, is that of King Richard III, who is, or was, widely believed to have murdered the two young princes in the tower. He is the perfect villain, hunchbacked and unappealing, with a record for ruthlessness and murder throughout his very short reign (1483-85). The first time I doubted this was on reading Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time, the title taken from the proverb, Truth is the daughter of time, written in 1951, and included in a fictional detective story. It is a forensic debunking of the whole Richard III myth; there is much detail, but basically, most of the evil attributed to Richard was Tudor propaganda, started by Henry VII, his successor, and continued throughout the whole Tudor dynasty, which lasted until the death of Elizabeth in 1603. But, the propaganda was marvellous stuff, Shakespeare’s play was based on it (written in Elizabethan times) and the story became embedded in the public consciousness. I’m sure that many people still believe in Richard’s villainy.

Less seriously again, it is widely believed that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle simply got fed up with writing about his fictional detective and stopped, and that it is only by popular demand that he resurrected him. The truth is more prosaic. In 1903, McClure’s magazine in the United States offered Doyle $5000 ($60000 today) per story; he told them he’d be a fool to refuse, so after a ten year hiatus, Holmes returned. Doyle hated writing the stories; he wanted to write more serious stuff, but continued writing Sherlock Holmes stories for another 25 years, and it is a credit to him that most of them remain of a very high quality.

Apparently, if you ask anyone how many immigrants are in this country (the UK), they will say about a third or 33%, and over half the population (57%) believe that there are too many immigrants. This is the highest figure of many countries surveyed, including the US, Germany, Italy, Spain and France. The UK population that was foreign born represents 11.1%. The unusually high belief that this is otherwise is probably mainly due to the media, papers such as the Daily Mail propagate the myth of immigrants daily, and politicians, especially today’s will soon jump on the bandwagon. Benefit fraud is another popular myth, mainly encouraged by the media. Surveys revealed that people believe that 27% of their money is lost to fraud. In fact the figure is 0.7%, rather a wild difference. These are just two of the many myths that a large percentage of the population live by; their whole belief systems, their philosophies and the way they behave are based on myths.

Lastly, I would like to mention a myth of my own, that of Mother Theresa. In 1992, I was in Bucharest, Romania, during the crisis of abandoned children; I was part of a many faceted and international aid programme that intended to help, and as far as I can see, did help in many ways. I was there for two weeks at the Sisters of Mother Theresa Orphanage in Bucharest. It was a fairly small orphanage, with little room in the building but extensive grounds and playing areas. There were two small rooms where the children, of varied disability, very few were normal, played; there was also a small school room where very basic stuff was taught. The children were allowed into the garden during the day, but only on request from the volunteers (there were about eight of us); the nuns wanted to keep the children inside, where there was little space, because it was easier to control them, perhaps not even control them because they ran wild, but at least they knew where they were.

After a few days Mother Theresa arrived on an inspection visit. She briefly surveyed the premises, not looking at the children once. She ordered that the school be closed ‘God will provide’, so that there would be more room and that the doors to the garden be locked. She did not speak to any of the children or the volunteers. And she was gone. The school remained closed, but we managed to persuade the nuns to allow the children into the garden, as long as we took responsibility for them. The encounter aroused my curiosity and when I got home, I investigated her. It emerged that her sanctuary in Calcutta (now Kolkata) was extremely basic: an iron bed, minimal food and toilet facilities. Nothing else was provided for the children in care under her name. Nothing. Doctors observed a lack of hygiene, unfit conditions, a complete lack of care, inadequate food, and no painkillers. Presumably God would provide.

Over the years I kept an eye on her. Her political contacts included the murderous Duvalier regime in Haiti, Charles Keating of Lincoln Savings and Loans and Donald Trump, in whose private jet she travelled. Of the numerous disasters in India, she offered medallions; no funds were forthcoming from the massive donations she received. In Bhopal in 1984, between 16000 and 30000 people were killed when Union Carbide’s pesticide plant leaked. No compensation has ever been paid and Union Carbide changed its name. Mother Theresa visited Bhopal not long before her death. She walked around while villagers begged her to do something, to spur some kind of action and help them; it was not only a case of people dying, many thousands were injured and since then there have been birth defects. Mother Theresa wandered among the suffering, hands held in prayer, and said merely

‘Forgive, forgive’

she couldn’t wait to be out of there.

Without my Romanian trip, I suppose I would be like anybody else, and believe that Mother Theresa is a saint. Just an example of one of the many myths we live by. Well, in reality, Mother Theresa is not a saint, very far from it. I would go as far as to say she was a very wicked woman.

Changing Cuba

In the street outside our flat, taxis start to position themselves early in the morning. It seems to be a partly or wholly official business. There are perhaps twenty or so people who come here daily. They work from about six to midnight, depending on how keen they are. Before in Cuba it was always possible to find an unofficial taxi, but it was illicit, easy but illicit. Now, I assume that it is official and controlled. It is low status, compared to the official taxis, but it is here, and it means that the drivers can turn up every day and be able to work, I would imagine, much more regularly than before.

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The line of taxis, usually seven or eight, but varying as the day progresses, works peacefully most of the time. Ninety per cent of the cars are Ladas in various states of disrepair although efforts have been made to spruce them up. The other cars are a mixture of all sorts, usually slightly more modern, but well below the standard of the official taxis. Occasionally, every few days, a row breaks out over the positioning of the taxis; it is not serious but often continues for about an hour. Much shouting and waving of arms, but there is no violence; the argument is not serious – Cubans just like shouting at each other, letting off steam.

 

Repairs are continuous. Most days at least two of the taxis will undergo running repairs. The system appears to be random, but it isn’t; someone has control, someone is getting the customers, making sure they go to the right taxi and so on. This process is being repeated all over the city; wherever you go there will be someone touting for a taxi. Their service will be mostly taken up by Cubans looking for a cheaper ride, whereas before they would wait by the roadside until someone appeared willing to take them where they wanted to go; now they go direct to the taxi. I assume the price is about the same. We took mostly bicycle taxis because we weren’t going very far, but on the couple of occasions we had a longer journey, we took one of the taxis queuing rather than an ‘official’ one, always checking the price first.

 

This is just one example of the new entrepreneurship. There are apparently around one hundred and eighty possible avenues. There are many more bicycle taxis – by far the bobispoest way to go short distances and many more stalls. The stalls are selling everything that can be sold: drinks, peanuts and fruit and much more; there are many more paladares. There must be some kind of pecking order for where you can sell your stuff, but it is mostly not obvious. The taxis in our street have a good spot, but nearer Obispo would be better and, of course, there are sellers of everything there too. There must be strong competition for the best spots, probably corruption too.

 

The new entrepreneurship is called trabajo por cuenta propia, the individuals are cuentapropistas. Every street in every town has something new. In 2010 Fidel Castro told, then president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, that

‘Here we nationalised even the funeral home, the barber shop, the sale of ice cream. That doesn’t have any reason to belong to the state.’

Attitudes have changed very slowly since the Russians left, but they are changing nonetheless, and will probably speed up from here. There are estimated to be six hundred thousand Cubans in the private sector now; half-a-million state sector jobs are expected to be lost by 2015.

 

On one street is an Esoteric Digital Library. What is it? Customers arrive with a blank disc or flash drive to download books and articles and music. The first download costs twenty pesos, and each one after that costs ten. Streets have cafeterias, room rentals, ice cream stands, sellers of trinkets, pizza makers and new private restaurants.

 

This is just a very brief snapshot of what’s happening. Where will Cuba be in five years, ten years? I don’t know, but it will be very exciting. I hope I’m here to see it.

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Cuban television is great…

 

Cuban television is great. There are five channels (I think) – I can only ever find three with regularity – but I live in a flat with poor reception. I don’t watch much TV in the UK; I’m very, very fussy.  I can’t stand advertising of any sort, so watch mainly the BBC channels or, if occasionally I want to watch a commercial station, I edit out the adverts before watching. I don’t have SKY or any other non-traditional station. Cuban TV has no adverts, none whatsoever.

 

It is a mixture of imported stuff and home-grown Cuban stuff, mainly documentaries. It is twenty four hours now, which it wasn’t back in the early noughties. Strangely, there is a mass of United States’ imports: everything from reality shows, weight loss programmes, cartoons, crime shows and films – everything. US programmes are shown regardless of content. Life is shown as the Americans want it to be shown; it is repeated here as though it is something that exists, but is nothing to either envy or comment on.

 

The news is pretty biased. Every country has a prejudice towards itself, but Cuba is quite extreme. The news programmes, although not so plentiful as they are here, tell you next to nothing about the outside world. Every broadcast has masses of stuff about Cuba: a technological advance, a meeting somewhere discussing something important, somebody has been awarded a certificate; very occasionally there will be some mild criticism. But there are only two main hour long news programmes per day with a few fillers in between. Foreign news is given about two minutes on a normal day, perhaps longer if anything noteworthy has happened. Sports news is hard to decipher; there is much about baseball, anything else that Cubans have been doing: swimming, judo, football, but I find that for long periods the announcers just talk; of course not understanding ninety per cent of what they say doesn’t help, and they seem to talk for much longer without showing any images – I noticed this on all the programmes; there seems to be much more dialogue, they stay in scenes for much longer. This applies to a whole variety of broadcasting because although much of their television is from the US, there are also Brazilian and Argentinean soap operas, English programmes; it seems to be a Latin American thing – needing many more words to say the same thing. There is an hour long discussion programme just before the evening news, where events of the day are debated at length.

 

Apart from that there is an eclectic mixture. There has been something on China every day (a pending deal?), but that may not be so unusual – back in the UK there have been many programmes on China too. Strangely, bearing in mind the bias of the news, US television makes up about a third of the broadcasting. It is not censored at all. Whereas the internet is practically banned here, so that Cubans cannot learn what is going on in the outside world, US television provides a constant reminder that just across the water, life, apparently, is much easier. It seems that the way of life is regarded as inferior, nothing to be sought after, just here for your amusement. Of course Cubans don’t entirely believe in the US stuff. It’s treated as propaganda; for all the wealthy, happy people, the news sometimes points out that there is no free health care, that millions live below the poverty line, that the economy is collapsing and life is not at all as it is represented most of the time.

 

The TV is very well organised now, and professional. There are many, many films, often very recent, more recent than those available to me in the UK. Sunday is film day on one of the stations, twenty four hours of film, at least half very recent. When I first came to Cuba there were only two stations, and the schedule was fairly disorganised. In many ways I preferred that – you never knew what you were going to get, but it was often interesting – perhaps a two hour documentary about Bob Marley as a kid’s programme,TVCuba followed by a film, followed by sport. Children are very well catered for and treated as mini-adults. There is still no advertising here (although they advertise themselves a lot), which is fantastic for me. I do fear that soon they will change that, though. The economy desperately needs a boost, and I’m afraid that advertising will do it no harm. Perhaps they will manage to do it tastefully. I hope so.

 

 

Unsociable Cat

catOpposite our flat is some sort of park; it is not public, it seems to be open only to certain people, reserved for those of a certain organisation. There are so many organisations in Cuba, at every level; the park could be for members of the revolution or merely some association of gardeners. I did ask Yuri; she sort of knew but is not really interested and my Spanish is not good enough to understand her when it comes to details.

If the park is for former members of the revolution, perhaps its members are dwindling – there can’t be many left. It provides work for at least three people, who tend to it and keep it clean. I don’t know exactly what they do, but it is not very much, and perhaps next to nothing at all. They seem to sit in the shade of the garden most of the day. Good luck to them. Perhaps this type of job is repeated many times, not so much now that there are cuts, but pretty often. The park is pretty big, perhaps fifty yards by one hundred yards, walled with a gate and an office. The office is opened at about six in the morning and stays open all day, perhaps till midnight. In the time I’ve stayed here I haven’t noticed more than a dozen visitors.

It contains mature trees of many varieties, trees that have been there and grown for fifty or more years; as well as younger varieties, palms, smaller trees and plants. Of course, whomever’s job it is to tend to the offices and park will not receive much money, ten to fifteen dollars a month perhaps, which may explain why the workers are slightly apathetic: they do their stuff, go through the motions, but they do seem tired – I’ve only been watching for a few weeks; they are here every day, probably been doing it for years. There is a strange mixture of apathy and energy here, not confined to age groups, but more what people do with their lives. There is more choice now, but prospects are still quite narrow for most people.

Several cats live there, rarely straying outside the park. I can see them by the gate sometimes but mostly they are hidden. I assume they are fed by the keepers of the park and I’ve seen neighbours put scraps through the fence or leave something outside, the only time I see the cats leave the grounds. One cat in particular, a mixture of white, brown and black, stays almost continually on the office roof. Round and about are grey, ginger, black, white and all mixtures in between. The cat on the roof is thoroughly unsociable. At first I thought it was too scared to go down, that it was frightened of the company of the other cats, perhaps not having its own territory and taking refuge on the roof. But it is not scared, it is just unfriendly and aloof.

Sometimes another cat will join it on the roof, sit close to it for a while, stare at it. It does not respond, merely turning its back on the interloper until it goes away. It wants to be on its own, have nothing to do with any cat life or, as far as I can see, any humans either, apart from when it is fed. It is an antisocial cat, taking no part in Cuban comradeship. I don’t think it is old, not particularly, it moves well enough. It is an individual cat, perhaps a result of the new entrepreneurial spirit of the city and country.

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A Room in Havana

Our flat is on the fourth floor in a busy street in central Havana. It has a living room, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom – quite luxurious for most of Havana, well, luxurious for two people; often at least one family, probably more, would live in a place like this. It has a large balcony, where I spend much of my time, watching the constant action around. My neighbour’s balconies are just a few yards either side of me, and below. We have two

rocking chairs and a metal table with four chairs in the living room, a large bed; the kitchen is small but perfectly usable. We have a TV attached to the wall. Cuba has five stations now; it used to have two when I first visited. Yuri cooks every day.

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The people below us were fitting a new bathroom. Intermittently, perhaps three days out of five, there was a constant banging, all day, until six or seven o’clock. It drove me mad. Yuri didn’t even notice it. The banging has changed. Tiles are being reshaped with an automatic grinder. The banging appears to have finished for the time being, cement has been mixed, I can just see it in the moribund bath on the balcony below, and tiles are being fixed. I assume the banging from before was making space for the tiles. There is occasional banging as the tiles are put in place. Everywhere you go in Havana, someone will be banging. Noise is compulsory.

When I first arrived I was completely sensitive to the noise. I insisted we change apartment (although, noise apart, I do like the place we have now). Later, I wouldn’t notice it during the day, but would get irritated if it continued after seven o’clock. Bear in mind that this noise is in conjunction with constant shouting, horns blaring, conversations of neighbours and assorted other noise. Now, after almost two weeks here, I hardly notice any noise. I think the banging would bother me, but it has stopped; the rest: the grinder, the soft banging as the tiles are put in place, the mixing – everything – is ceasing to bother me.

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It would be impossible to live in Cuba without acclimatising to the noise. There is something quite relaxing about that. I would not like to be Cuban; I would be at home with the organised chaos that seems to be a part of life here, but I would like to be less bothered by neighbours building a new bathroom, the everyday chaos of life. I would like to be more Cuban, while retaining whatever it is that makes me, me.

I have acclimatised before. I lived here. But I was thirteen years younger. I have certainly changed since then. I still smoke, but hardly ever drink. Before, I could barely go a day without rum. At my worst I would be drinking, perhaps, two bottles a day. I lost myself, had no idea what I was doing. I described the experience fairly accurately in my book, Caliente. I only just recognise the man who had those experiences – what was I doing? – I don’t really know. I came here with a plan. I was naive, some people tried to take advantage, others tried to help, I hardly knew which was which.

At the moment I can’t afford to stay here, although I would like to. My ambition when I get home is to promote my book (something I’ve been unable to do so far), continue with my writing and somehow find a way to live here. It would have to be partly on my terms – I would only intend to be part Cuban.  I would need a library of English books, a large library. I would need access to new books. I have discovered some Cuban and South and Central American writers I like; I’d like to discover more, but there are very few books in English here, and my Spanish is nowhere near good enough for reading. So, I would need a flat (something similar to what I have now would be fine, perhaps a little bigger) and the means to pay for it. And Yuri. That is really all I need.

The people below have started banging again, although it is fairly rare now. I have accepted it. To live in Cuba one must accept the noise, or to be more accurate: to live in Havana. We visited Tony at his Bahia house; it was perfectly quiet. In many ways it would be the perfect place for me. I didn’t like the house when I first moved there with Yamilia in 2001, or later when I lived there through necessity. I stayed there in 2009 with Yuri and I didn’t like it. The main reason for this was that the house is not within walking distance of anywhere: a few shops, a bar is ten minutes walk away, Havana a twenty minute taxi journey – back then it was not enough. But when we visited last week I suddenly realised that now, perhaps, it is ideal. It just what I need.

Before this trip I wondered if I would ever be able to visit Cuba without alcohol, specifically rum. But now I rarely drink. For three years I stopped smoking too, and I could not imagine being in Cuba without cigarettes. During the non-smoking, non-drinking years I didn’t do anything; I never went anywhere. Perhaps I was prolonging my life, but what for, for what reason?  When I began smoking again I came back to Cuba. Not drinking is now easy. I smoke far too much but I am working on that (I’ve been working on it for forty years). So now that I know that I can be here and enjoy myself without rum, Tony’s house becomes rather different. I’d often wondered what I would do with all my books, assuming that I could get them here. Well, Tony’s house is ideal; it has at least two rooms which could be used for books. And it has silence, something I didn’t want before, but now I do seek it like a pain relieving balm – I can become acclimatised to the noise in Havana, but never will I become comfortable with it. So, if I can get my books here, order the occasional new one, write, sell a few books – Tony’s house it is.

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We went to Yuri’s Padrino’s house. She is undergoing some form of santeria. Some men were banging next door; I was the only person to notice it. Later, much later, when it was time to leave, some men were banging the ceiling at Jose Marti Airport…

Cuba, a place of contradictions…

Cuba is most certainly a place of contradictions. If you are of a right wing persuasion you will disapprove of it; if you are left wing you will probably approve. Both sides see the country inaccurately: the right wing sees a dictatorship, as if there was freedom for the people before, under Batista, and before; the left see the last bastion of socialism, bravely holding out against a materialistic world. The truth has always been somewhere in between.

 

I have been coming to Cuba for over fifteen years; I’ve lived here for two of those years and have visited perhaps twenty five other times. My sympathies are with the Cuban people, although I do not wholeheartedly swallow the propaganda given out by the government in power, which has, in effect, been in place for over fifty years.

 

I try to see the good side. That is that Cuba has what the rest of the world has lost: a community, a people, a country. It is the one country in the world to resist Americanism. Its people still live together, they work together – they are together. How many would change given the choice? I don’t know, perhaps many, perhaps few. For years here there was little choice and there are still many restrictions.

 

At the airport we had to wait thirty minutes on the runway. The baggage area was poorly lit and understaffed. Many of the waiting Cubans were outside the building; they used to be inside. There have certainly been cuts in the labour force. But I haven’t seen drastic change; change is always very slow. Yuri (my girlfriend) says things are easier now. She knows. She is completely uninterested in politics, living only for the day. I suspect that she is not alone in that belief, that many, many more live the same way.

 

How many still support the Castros? A reign which must surely end soon, when Raul decides he is too old to continue. The Cuban news shows about two minutes of foreign stuff; the rest is advances in Cuban technology, new tractors, new medical advances, meetings where something or other was voted for or some certificate was handed out – everything is about Cuba – it is old-fashionedly Soviet in that respect. There is no internet apart from in the hotels. So the majority of the people have no idea what is going on. But they must know that their economy is a mess – the new entrepreneurship apart – and has been a mess for living memory.

 

But Cuba is a symbol. Central and South American countries have slowly tried to follow it. For all its faults Cuba has remained and sustained for over fifty years while the rest of the world has changed. Has it changed for the better? Despite the onslaught of propaganda, that is debatable.

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Cuba remains Cuba. Change is incredibly slow. What will happen when the Castros are gone? It is difficult to say. There will be tremendous pressure from outside to change, to become the same as the rest of the world; there would be a real-estate bonanza, people would be moved out of their homes – so much adjustment would have to take place. All this must have been anticipated by the Castros. They must have strong people in place to continue with whatever they want to do. But they are tremendous symbols of a system. The whole of Cuba identifies with the Castros. When they are gone, and with the new spirit of entrepreneurship, how long can Cuba, as it is, last?