“H U M A N”

The war the Brits call “Falklands”, and the Latin Americans call “Malvinas”, was going at full throttle.

Every street newsstand throughout Brazil and beyond attracted its own little crowd of free newspaper headline readers.

The day before flying from Heathrow, I had watched on the telly enormous crowds of flag-waving families and well-wishers giving the British troop ship HMS Invincible a hearty send-off at Portsmouth.

Here I was now in a row of three seats on an internal flight from Manaus, on the Amazon, to Rio. My wife sat in the middle seat. The middle-aged man by the window struck up a conversation with me.

As is usual in Brazil, after finding that I was not an American, this gentleman, who was a third generation German Brazilian, opened up to me.

He praised the Iron Lady for her defence of British territory. Like many people I got into conversation with in Europe as well, he also mentioned Winston Churchill.

I had had to cut short our trip, because I’d caught a respiratory infection in the jungle, and it was wiser to recover where we could get help at home.

Meanwhile, because powerful remedies like antibiotics were available over the counter at the time, I had taken a couple of horse pills on the recommendation of a pharmacist the day before I boarded this flight.

We finished our in-flight meal deep in conversation. I thought it kind and considerate of my wife that she exchanged seats with me so we could carry on our discussion about the War. It never occurred to me she saw the aisle seat as a safe escape route!

I explained to this man I had met by chance that human geographic designations of territory are arbitrary, artificial and are established for economic gain and domination.

I tried to show him how the point of view of Earth from low orbit confirms this.

I suggested, furthermore, he consider how history shows us blood has been shed in conflicts between these hypothetical entities we call nations.

By the time I got to chatting about how modern industrialised slaughter has spilled more blood than ever before, the conversation had taken a louder, adversarial turn.

My new friend took exception to my extreme and culpable lack of loyalty to Queen Elizabeth, Margaret Thatcher, Winston Churchill, my fellow citizens and the Good Lord.

The cabin crew had by then cleared away all the in-flight meals except ours. My wife noticed that the more heated our informal conversation became, the greater the distance the air crew put between us and them.

I am the meekest and mildest of men, more mouse than man under normal conditions. But the horse pills that had cleared my chest, had installed a pacing tiger where my inner mouse used to dibble.

We overflew the Amazon and disembarked to transit at Brazilia Airport. The gentleman claimed his bags to proceed to the exit.

The last thing I remember was my wife physically restraining me from lunging after the man as he shunted his creaky luggage trolley through the Nothing To Declare gate.

Back in Blighty, it is time for the ten year census survey in Great Brington. After this close call in time of war, I chose to write HUMAN in the box for Nationality.

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