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By Chris Rose

Terry had a problem. He had a beautiful house. No, that wasn’t the problem. The problem was something else. Near his house there was a lake, some hills, and the sea. That wasn’t a problem, either. Terry wanted to look at the wonderful view of the lake and the hills and the sea from his house. And now here’s the problem: Terry couldn’t see the wonderful view from his window. It wasn’t possible to see the lake, the hills and the sea. And Terry really, really liked to look at the lake. But he couldn’t see the lake, because between his house and the lake, there was one very, very big tree. This very, very big tree was in the garden of the house next door. Terry asked his neighbour if it was possible to cut the tree down.
“No!” said the neighbour. “I love my big tree!”
This made Terry angry. He really, really wanted to look at the lake, to see the ships on the sea and the sheep on the hills around the lake.

There was only one thing to do.

Terry became a tree thief. He decided to steal the tree. One night, when it was very dark, he went out to the tree with a spade and he started to dig. He dug and dug and dug. Then he dug some more. And some more. But the tree didn’t move. The tree had very long, strong roots. Terry was very tired. He went to bed. He felt very depressed.

The next morning, he had an idea. He needed another tree thief! He called his friend Trevor and Terry told Trevor that he needed a tree thief.
“Why?” asked Trevor.
“I can’t see the sea!” replied Terry.
“I see”, said Trevor.
“Don’t worry. I’ll come tonight. I’ll bring a spade.”

That night, Trevor went to Terry’s house. Trevor brought a spade with him. Terry and Trevor very quietly went into the neighbour’s garden and started to dig. They dug and dug and dug. Then they dug some more. And some more. But it was no good. Even with Terry and Trevor, they couldn’t dig deep enough to steal the tree.

The next morning Terry had another idea. They needed another tree thief. With three tree thieves, he thought, they could surely steal the tree! There was a problem. Terry didn’t know any other tree thieves. He asked Trevor.
“Sure!” said Trevor. “I know a man called Thomas. I’ll come tonight with Thomas and two spades!”

Terry was very surprised when he saw Thomas arrive with Trevor. Thomas was 80 years old.
“Are you sure he can be a tree thief?” Terry asked Trevor.
“I’m sure!” said Trevor.

That night ,when it was very dark and very quiet, the three tree thieves went quietly to the neighbour’s garden. They started to dig and dig and dig. Then they dug some more. And some more. And this time, the three tree thieves dug so deep that they were able to take the tree from the ground, and steal it. The three tree thieves pulled the tree up out of the ground, and carried it far away. The three tree thieves carried the stolen tree to Trevor’s house. Then the three tree thieves put the stolen tree in Trevor’s garage. The three tree thieves were all very pleased with themselves.

But there was a problem.
“There’s a problem!” said Thomas.
“What’s the problem?” asked Terry.
“I’ve lost my teeth” replied Thomas.
“Your teeth???!!” said Terry and Trevor.
“Yes, my teeth, my false teeth” said Thomas. “I don’t have any real teeth. I’m too old. I have false teeth. Sometimes my false teeth come out. They came out when we were digging up the tree ...”
“That’s not a big problem” said Trevor. “You can buy another pair of false teeth.”
“No” said Terry, “It is a problem – if the police find Thomas’ teeth, they will know who took the tree.”
“Oh no!” said Trevor, “If they find the tree thief’s teeth, they’ll know who the tree thief is ...”

There was only one thing they could do. The three tree thieves decided to go back to the garden and look for the lost teeth.

When they arrived at the garden, it was too late ...

There was already a police car next to the big hole in the ground where the tree was. A photographer from the newspaper took a picture of a policeman holding Thomas’ teeth.

The next morning there was a story in the newspaper: “The Mystery of the Tree Thief’s Teeth”

Before long, a policeman saw that Thomas had no teeth.
“Where are your teeth, Thomas?” he asked. “You are the tree thief! I’m arresting you!” The policeman arrested Thomas. Thomas told the police about Terry and Trevor. The police arrested Terry and Trevor too. The police were very pleased.

In prison, Thomas put his hand in his pocket. He had a surprise.
“My teeth!” he shouted. “Here are my teeth! The night we took the tree I made a mistake. I put my wife’s false teeth in!”
“Now the police will think your wife is the tree thief!” said Terry and Trevor.
“No, that’s impossible!” replied Thomas, “That night she was playing bingo with her friends. Lots of people saw her playing bingo!”

The police asked an expert dentist to identify the teeth. The expert dentist looked at the teeth.
“No!” said the expert dentist. “These teeth are not Thomas’ teeth! Thomas is innocent!”

Terry, Trevor and Thomas cheered.

The police were no longer pleased, and the three tree thieves were free.





By Chris Rose

Fouad sits in the café that looks out over Jaffa Street listening to the sad, sad music playing on an old tape recorder. “Oum Khalsoum”, says one of the other men sitting in the café to nobody in particular. “This is Oum Khalsoum singing”.

Fouad takes another sip of sweet mint tea and nods in agreement without saying anything. Fouad’s uncle lives in Egypt, and every time Fouad visits him, he tells Fouad the story of how he saw the legendary singer at one of her concerts in Cairo in 1970, not long before she died. The song seems to go on forever, and it’s very sad. Fouad thinks it’s beautiful, but he doesn’t want to hear it now. It’s too sad for him. It makes him think of his uncle in Egypt who he hasn’t seen for many years now, and also about the reason why his uncle lives in Egypt while his aunt lived in Lebanon and why he, on the other hand, lives in Jordan, and why he is in Jerusalem now.

Fouad’s father had died a few months ago. After that, Fouad found that there were so many things that he had wanted to ask his father, but had never asked. He realised that he knew very little about his own family, and decided to try and find out more about the place where his father had grown up, and where his grandparents (who had died when he was very young) were from.

He has now spent a couple of days wandering around Jerusalem with an old, torn photograph in his hand. The photograph shows the whole family, his grandparents standing proudly at the centre of a group of four children in front of a house on a busy street. Next to the house there seems to be a garden with what look like cedar or olive trees in it.

Fouad, though, can’t find anywhere in this modern Jerusalem that looks much like the street or the house where the photograph was taken. He feels sadder than the sad song playing in the café, thinking now that he might never find the place where his father had been born and the place where his grandparents had lived until they moved away in 1947.

At first they had gone to Lebanon, then to Jordan and finally to Egypt, always staying with some distant relatives or old friends, trying to find work and a place to live. They left parts of their family, sons, daughters, cousins, uncles and aunts all over the Middle East. Some of them went to France or Britain or America. None of them ever lived in same place for long, never being able to find a home.

Oum Khalsoum keeps on singing her sad, sad song, and Fouad decides to head back home over the bridge into Jordan, hoping the checkpoint hasn’t been closed. He pays a few shekels then goes out onto the street.

As he walks out he accidentally bumps into a young man about his own age hurrying in the opposite direction. They look at each other in the eyes for just one second as they both apologise, then walk on, in different directions along the street.

Yossi is in a hurry because he has to get to Tel Aviv to catch a plane. He thinks he’ll probably take a taxi as it’s the quickest and easiest way, and nobody really likes travelling by bus at the moment. He’s going to Poland to visit to his great aunt who has just moved back to Warsaw at the age of 93. His great aunt has spent most of her life in America, but said that she wanted to come back to the place where she was born before the end of her life. Yossi thinks she’s a silly, sentimental old woman. Surely she’s much better off in America than in Poland! However, he understands her need to find her home again. Yossi’s great aunt was one of the lucky ones in his family. His grandparents, too, had been lucky - in a way. They had stayed in Poland, and were still alive in 1945. Many other people in their family hadn’t survived. After that, they moved to Israel, and had never been back to Poland again. “This is our home now” they said to Yossi.

As he finally gets on the plane, Yossi thinks about his friend Agnieszka who he had met in Poland the last time he had been there. He went to see the small village near Krakow where his grandparents had been brought up, and to see the small Jewish Quarter in the old part of Krakow. He thought it was very beautiful, but was amazed at how different it was from his life in Israel. He found it difficult to imagine how different his grandparents’ lives had been from his own.

He had been hoping to meet up with Agnieszka again, but unfortunately he had received an email from her a couple of months ago. Agnieszka was leaving Poland. In the small town where they were from it was too difficult to get a job, she said. She had managed to get a visa to stay in Britain.

After she had arrived in London, she had written another email to Yossi. “I feel like a refugee” she said. She had found a job working in a café in Finsbury Park in north London, she said. It wasn’t the job she really wanted to do, but it was OK while she studied English and looked for something better. Yossi remembered the name of the café, which was run by Turkish people: “The Oum Khalsoum”.

Fouad is walking back over the bridge to a land which is where he lives but which he doesn’t feel is his home. Yossi is on a plane going from one home to another, more distant, home. Agnieszka is in London, feeling homesick, thinking about making a new home in a country she knows will never be hers, in a place where nobody seems to be at home.

She cleans another table and looks at the people who come into her café: from Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Bosnia, Iran, Iraq, Congo, Sri Lanka, people who have looked for refuge from famine, oppression and poverty from all over the world. They spend time listening to Oum Khalsoum singing sad, sad songs and wondering if they will ever go home, and wondering where home is, and thinking that they could all sing songs that are even sadder than those of Oum Khalsoum.



Date: 2016-01-14; view: 3539

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