The caves; I’ve spent alot of my professional life trying not to make friends, trying to keep people at a distance while at the same time engaging with them. Old friends will tell you of how I would calibrate friendship to suite this secret strange baffling behaviour. A
therapist told me this was because I fear one day they will leave – the source of greatest pain.
But those days are over. I can feel the disturbed dispelled swirl of djhins rush from the caves inside me and fresh air and light pour in. It is not a momentary but a long dispelling and only now has the balance of air tipped. I never knew it was so warm in here and so expansive. I am a lucky man to have experienced this.
At 7pm a verse of poets and I walk a few minutes from the hotel to Addis In The Cape an
Ethiopian restaurant just around the corner. It is a Victorian building three or four stories high. The ceiling is adorned with Ethiopian umbrellas, crimson and orange. Coptic
crosses tall as my forearm stand in display cabinets behind glass. The colour scheme is of red dust. The walls are deliberately distressed against the dark wood and sash windows. The smell is of frankincense fills my nostrils. It is a contemporary take on an haberhsa restaurant, pleasing to my eye and spirit.
We walk two flights of steps through its various rooms with their nooks and crannies for private dining and intimate conversation until we arrive at the large room on the third floor. Tables are laid out. The Coffee area is cordoned off. I can see the small burners with the coffee pots where popcorn will be thrown. There are forty people now filling the room, performers journalists, festival organisers, media folks. I get nervous in large groups. I am much better in small groups. It sounds strange for someone who spends half his life on stage round the world but its true.
The wine, for those who want it, flows and the beautiful food is eaten with fresh injera. We are all excited to be here and the festival hum fills the rooms. Lorelle and Malika the festival directors tap their glasses and walk up to a microphone that appeared from nowhere. They welcome us all and rounds of applause are given to various notables who “helped make the festival what it is”. We are ready for coffee “One more thing” Lorelle says. “today is the birthday of one of our guest poets”. I sit stunned. “Lemn Happy
Birthday We have a present for you”. At this point poet Seni Seneveratne walks to the stage and reads a poem written for me. It has the refrain “Take it to the edge of the page Lemn, Take it to the edge of the page.” I am aghast at the poem. It’s all very emotional
I give a short speech “Those of you who know my story will know” I say “how significant this is. Thankyou.” As I sit back down in an Ethiopian restaurant 6,000 miles from home the entire restaurant bursts into song “Happy birthday to you Happy Birthday to you
Happy Birthday Dear Lemn Happy Birthday to you..” meanwhile from the back of a
room a giant cake parades towards me. It says “Happy Birthday Lemn” upon it. I see the djhins swirling in the night outside the windows of the restaurant banished to the Cape moon. Frankincense and Ethiopian Coffee fills the air, and laughter the night.