I might be expected to join in all the Happy Christmas shenanigans, but I can't let the Cuba news slip by without a thought or two.
Do I really have the qualifications to give an opinion on the thawing of relations between Cuba and America, based on just one month on the island last winter?
Of course not. But I can make an observation or two. Besides, I've read a couple of newspaper pieces that seem to be based on internet research. I have, at least, been there - and very recently.
Feelings, on both sides, run deep. There are misunderstandings, fantasies, projections - all feeding beliefs that have their origins in history. And that is surely the point - the fallout between the two countries began over fifty years ago. At last, it's time to talk.
In my opinion, what is most encouraging is not the announcement by President Obama that diplomacy will be resumed; rather it is the acknowledgement that there have - behind the scenes, in the bars of Havana and the corridors of Washington - been talks. Men and women from both countries have sat together, out of sight of newsmen and photographers, and settled on a discourse. There will be upsets and foot-stamping before an understanding can be reached. But the doors are now opened. There is the opportunity of listening.
And, from my position of ignorance, I can tell you what I wish for Cuba. I wish investment - in her buildings, in her health service, in her infrastructure. There is much to be done. But I hope it can be done thoughtfully - Cuba is a vibrant, wonderful country with a unique culture. Her music (ah the music) is compulsive. Her people are welcoming. She needs antibiotics and better transport.
Does she need MacDonalds? New cars? - Who are we, with our western luxuries, to go all gooey-eyed over the old cars, the shortage of french fries? Cuba should be free to make her own choices.
I rarely mention my books on this blog, but for once I reckon I'm allowed. In Vultures Overhead I wrote about my experiences in Cuba last winter. I found a Cuba that might not be recognised for much longer. Turkey vultures circled everywhere. I just hope that the Americans visit with the humility of puppies and not the avarice of vultures.
(There's a link to the book to the right of this blog.)
And - Happy Christmas. May it be whatever it need to be for you.