Boisterous Life at Geraldine Road (Continued)

A diversion was brought about in Geraldine Road by the arrival of another guest at the house my uncle had purchased for £1,000. He was called Fouad and was a distant relation from the Holy Land. I had known him as a kid when we both lived in the same neighbourhood of Haifa.

Fouad had come to London for medical treatment for a condition that was causing his eyesight to fail. There was a real fear that he might eventually go blind. He was an amiable character of medium build who never stopped laughing, with an unusual gusto for life despite his predicament. It was a contagious laugh, loud and resonant, that endeared him to everyone he met. He took over my room while I had to share with Stinous, my friend in crime.

For a reason that I myself never understood, liking Fouad as I did I nevertheless felt compelled to tease him whenever the whim drove me to it. There was no specific cause that triggered it off; simply a wild compulsion to get a rise out of him. The teasing escalated to torment and in the middle of the night I would get up and creep in on Fouad who slept deeply and tie him to the bedpost. To do this I used anything available including shoelaces. Fouad would then wake with a jolt from his heavy sleep and start screaming.

This, in turn, roused my uncle who slept in the room below and he would come rushing upstairs to untie him. My uncle would be frothing at the mouth with fury. He could hardly contain his anger, his complexion turned white and he shook uncontrollably. These extremes of rage were not at all in keeping with the image he displayed to the outside world. It was as if all the time, there was a violent streak in him just dying for the chance to manifest itself at least within the confines of the house.

My uncle would admonish me, shouting in my face that this was cruel and thuggish behaviour and pushing me roughly to one side. My protests that I was merely having a bit of fun, as I termed it, to keep Fouad on his toes, went to make matters far worse. My uncle was unable to appreciate the funny side of the situation.

With his limited vision, he could only see things as black or white and could never settle on any of the intermediate shades; it had to be one or the other; there was no room for compromise.

Fouad meanwhile took it all in his easy-going stride. It was as if he was immune to such silly games. When his medical treatment was over he left with his sense of humour still intact.

Soon after our initial encounter in London he emigrated to Australia, where he had ultimately a family of his own. He rang me a few years ago from Australia and was joyous to hear my voice and to recall the good times he spent at Geraldine Road where, he said, the mirth we had together was overwhelming and, as he put it, unforgettable. I was moved to tears.




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