Maxwell Macleod's Hot Blast
A FRIEND OF MINE runs ghost tours in Edinburgh. A few weeks ago in order to drum up business he invented a ghost for one of the ghastly gloomy locations where he drags his poor sucker tourists in the rain, calling her Maggie.
A few days after his invention he was contacted by one of the tourists who revealed that, not only was he a medium. he had also managed to contact the mythological Maggie and could inform him that her real name was Rosalind. True story. Probably. The trouble was it was told to me by the man who had invented Maggie in the first place, so who knows. Once you lose trust in someone their words are just noises.
I was thinking about Maggie and Rosalind this morning as I remembered an experience I had last week in Jerusalem. I was sent there by a philanthropist who wanted me to give a leg up to a Palestinian client of his, a nurse who wanted to visit a number of hospitals in Scotland this summer and was struggling to get a visa.
Trust me, getting anything bureaucratic to happen in Jerusalem is a nightmare if you are acting on behalf of a Palestinian. The Israelis have developed being a pain in the arse to a considerable art form. It's like running through mud, carrying a thousand year old war.
Anxious not to waste his money, I booked into a hideous dive called The New Swedish Hostel, which is a sort of badger's lair that has been hewn out of the prehistoric muck and slurry of Jerusalem's souk.
It's not the sort of place your mother would like, but quite good craque for a four day visit. For a start its not very big: imagine a single decker bus divided into four rooms. With rats. The New hostel (God alone knows what the old one was like) has no paid staff and is run by two beggars (I promise you this is all true) and a man with dyed hair who will tell you all about how his father was killed in a plot with the connivance of the King of Jordan and how one day he's going to get very rich on the compensation.
The lavatory is particularly interesting and is so small there is no room for disrobing and requires the user to sort of reverse in all ready to go. As I say your Mother wouldn't like it. But at thirty quid a night I did.
Of course the troubles in the Middle East are endlessly fascinating, not least because they may well kill us all, if not through conflagration through the economic chaos that will ensure the heating up of what in Jerusalem is a frozen peace and as your loyal columnist I naturally decided to spend my four days in The New Swedish Hostel resolving them.
And they are certainly worth noticing. In case you've missed it with all the hype over the fantasy of an imminent IndyRef 2, last week sixty delegates from round the world met in Iran to support the Palestinians whilst President Donald Dubh continued his sabre rattling, by text.
The trouble is that rather like with my ghost tour friend you can't believe a word anyone says. I have now been to Jerusalem four times in recent years and almost every story that every activist has tried to palm off on me has turned out to be as plausible as Maggie the Ghost.
Because you already know that the folk who are telling you things have no credibility and like my pal on the ghost tours will say whatever comes into their minds to get ahead.
The Jews/Palestinians/Christians/Muslims have the sole right to the land. All Jews Palestinians/ Muslims/Christians are liars/ heroes/abused/exploited/put upon, should be supported/chased into the sea, given weapons, locked up or bombed. Now. Today. Before lunch.
You seldom find people talking much about the weather.
Of course there are certainly some rock hard truths. That if international politics were the Olympics the Jews would always win the gold medal for both manipulation and for being scared out of their wits, that the Palestinians would clean up when it came to exposing the incompetence of the post second world war arrangements and that the chances of there ever being a two state solution are only ever even discussed in places other than in Israel or the west bank.
But it's hard when you are living in the New Swedish Hostel to always hide behind flippancy. There is too much pain in too many faces of the tired folk who drift in and out, too much blood in the gutters of the souk.
There was a terrible incident quite recently in terms of the history of the souk that I have been reading about. It's been all over the papers and social media.
There was this labourer, a refugee who had been kicking up all kinds of trouble. According to the social worker reports he had had a terrible background. Born in a cave, illegitimate, ran away from home, rude to the priests, hung around with whores, alcohol user, vandalised a money exchange shop.
Eventually the authorities here quite literally nailed him in a show trial after some of the religious leaders persuaded his pals to abandon him. They executed him by slow suffocation through hanging him up in a ghastly way so that he couldn't breath properly, along with two other crims. One of the security guards eventually took pity on him, gave him a stiff dram and stabbed him to death.
They have a phrase here that haunts me. All men are mad in the night. And God knows it's dark in the Middle East these days.
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem