• James Knight Media

I wish we'd stayed the night

Just a little thing I thought I'd begin. I'm calling it 'Thank Goodness'. On as many days as possible (during the Coronavirus crisis) I'll post a little story that reminds me of the goodness I've experienced somewhere in the world. It's just a way to bring us together, to learn from and be uplifted by one another. Here's today's offering

Morocco, 2006.

The little red Golf hatchback had its share of rust and a cantankerous clutch. Nevertheless, it had seen Clare and me through a Saharan dust-storm, a rockslide in a thunderstorm, and long k's in every direction. Late one grey afternoon, when we were driving to 'buggered if I know', I stopped to take a photo of some grazing goats. Suddenly, a beard, a turban, a staff, and a yellow raincoat sprang up from a gully.

'Monsieur, monsieur' shouted the older man attached to all his bits.

He hobbled over, a wonky hip was no hindrance to him on the rocky ground. And nor was one clouded eye from which he couldn't see.

He was a Berber, and I was not. We knew few common words between us, but we landed on one that appealed to us both: 'tea' or 'tay' as he pronounced it. I nodded, and he grinned. So, off we went. He hobbling over the terrain, pushing his goats in front of him, while Clare and I bumped the Golf to its limit on a dirt road that belonged in the Dakar Rally.

In spotting rain we approached a stone house (and several others) in a hamlet at the foot of a barren escarpment. The goat herder shouted, and suddenly his wife appeared at the door. She looked quizzically at us. This was not her usual after- work greeting from her husband. She smiled. And he invited us in. But...the goats were ushered in first!

After the stock was settled in a room behind us, we sat down in a living space with a wooden cabinet, and a few chairs. It was dark. No light switches. The wife brought out freshly boiled eggs, warm bread and nuts for us. And of course 'tay.'

Conversation was difficult, but we could still communicate. When Clare needed the toilet, she acted out a squatting scene and hissed. The wife smiled gently, and guided her to a drop-pit surrounded by tin and wood and sheets out the back. Using our guidebook we showed the couple where we were from: Australia. They did not react; it meant nothing to them. But when we pointed out Maroc (Morocco), they clapped and laughed. I am not sure if they ever knew where Morocco was until that moment.

They wanted us to stay for the night, but against judgement that hindsight now torments me with, we moved on. I gave him a parting gift in the soft rain. If anyone visiting Morocco ever sees a wonky hipped goat herder wearing a City To Surf (fun run) T-shirt, you will know the story behind it.

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