Two items of news today have affected me directly, and I feel rather ashamed of the self-indulgent melancholy which has preoccupied me over the last couple of weeks. There's nothing like a reminder that you are lucky to be alive to put things in perspective.
The first item concerns a deadly explosion yesterday at a mosque in Shiraz, Iran. Not unusual, sadly, in the Middle East, but this time I read the reports (eg BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera) with particular attention, because I was at that same mosque only last November, during a thankfully trouble-free tour of Iran. Throughout our 3 week visit we were certainly aware of the possibility of violence, but in fact we were much more scared of being killed on the roads. Shiraz is a beautiful city, and this mosque, as with so many we visited, filled me with wonder and admiration for the skill and artistry of its creators. I'm sure they never dreamed it would be a place of carnage.
The next piece of news to reach me this morning was even more personal: an early phone call from a friend in Queensland with those stomach-clenching words "I'm afraid I've got some bad news". Another close friend of mine was involved in a serious farm accident yesterday, was airlifted to hospital in Brisbane, and underwent extensive brain surgery last night as a result of his injuries. I'm "holding thumbs" and praying for you Philip, and for Tont.
I have been friends with them for many years, since meeting them on one of several trips to Zimbabwe, back when it was still a (relatively) normal country to visit. Now, of course, it seems perpetually in turmoil, although thankfully the recent elections have shone the world spotlight on the shocking state of affairs there.
My friends lived on their family farm at the time I was visiting, but several years ago, like most of the white farmers, they lost their land, their house, their crops, equipment and carefully bred herd of beef cattle to the government, and were obliged to leave the country almost penniless. They settled in Queensland and have worked 6-7 days a week ever since as manual labourers, trying to rebuild their lives.
Philip has cheated death before, having been shot and seriously wounded by armed burglars on the farm in Zimbabwe, so he has the physical health and mental strength to recover again, I am sure.