Translated from the original draft of ‘Verdes Vales do Fim do Mundo’ (Green Valleys at the End of the World),
later published in Brazil in a re-written and much abbreviated form.

63 St Annes

63 Saint Anne Street in 2020. Photo: Anthony Mawson​.

 In English

I took a kind of decision: I asked the kind and gentle landlord of the boarding house for my bill. I told him I was going away, to Bath, but that I didn’t know the way there very well. I paid the bill, just the money for one day because Zé Vicente had already paid for the other days, and I asked him too to look after the money that Zé Vicente had left with me, and kept £3 in my wallet for whatever I might need in the next few hours, the next few days, whatever … I left my rucksack and my sleeping bag behind the dining room door and went out into the street.

​It was an ordinary weekday, business was going on as always and the streets in the centre of Salisbury seemed just the same as the streets in the centre of any other town that I’d been through. Yet there was a difference: Salisbury has a remote past, a history, and a marvelous thirteenth century cathedral at whose consecration King Henry III was present. As well as this, the county of Wiltshire, of which Salisbury and Stonehenge form a part, has a religious tradition of 3,500 years, it has a spirit, a strongly ancient tradition, a medieval atmosphere (owing to the cathedral), the architecture of the houses in the old part of the city reminding me of the little houses in stories from my childhood, all very young and pure and pleasing to the eyes, the River Avon with its crystal waters and its noble white swans passing through the middle of the town, winding and tranquil, the names of the streets; ‘Endless Street’, ‘Love Lane’, ‘Rosemary Lane’, ‘Woodstock Road’, all old, all historic, all from the ‘once upon a time’ that I’d heard of in my childhood, all innocent, pure and childlike. Salisbury seems to be one of the very few places preserved from the destroyed and destructive and cruel world in which we live. Salisbury was a dream, right there before my eyes.

After some fine rain the sun came out, a sun that had no cruelty, that didn’t make me sweat or fill me with fatigue; on the contrary, it filled me with light and with good vibrations, a sun that was an ally and a protector, a sun that was a friend.

I walked to the Cathedral, and I had sat on one of the benches in the Close from where I was admiring my surroundings when up came the most fantastic creature, who went by the name of Roger Elliott. He smiled at me, shook my hand and wished me “Good morning”. His fair hair, straight and reaching down his back, was still wet from the rain. He was wearing a leather coat with shaggy hair around the collar and cuffs. The coat came down to his knees, and his trousers, the colour of rosé wine, also looked fairly expensive but with several coloured patches and battered as if he’d never taken them off, not even to sleep. His grey boots, high heeled, they too were worn away, showing so well the many miles that they had already walked. Hanging from his left shoulder was a shoulder bag, again well used, of velvet that had once been white. Roger Elliott must be at least two metres high, and he walks with a little stoop, as if asking forgiveness for being so tall. His age: nineteen years. His wisdom: the 3,500 years of Wiltshire, the age of the world. He talked and joked with me, then stuffed his right hand into his velvet bag and brought out a sweet, a merry little missile, and gave it to me, treating me like a child. He looked deep into my eyes and said, in his English that is different from the English of London or any other part of England or the United States, “Come with me”. He took me from the bench and I went with him, and as we passed through the enormous medieval gateway of the Cathedral Close I asked him, “Where is it that you’re taking me?” and he replied, “Don’t worry. I’m taking you to a house where there’s some nice people.”

Whilst we were on our way to the house I looked at the signboard with the name of the street, on one of the walls: Saint Anne Street. We arrived at house number 63. The outside was just the same as several others in the street, so simple and modest. Roger Elliott gave three gentle taps on the door. It was Penny who opened it, a girl with glasses, smiling. She made a friendly gesture for us to enter the house. The gesture was for me, perhaps, since Roger Elliott was already ‘de casa’, a member of the household. There was nobody in the room, which was a complete and utter shambles. Books, mugs, over-filled ash trays, drawings, writings, clothes, sleeping bags, old sofas, broken-down chairs, and a floor that hadn’t seen a broom for many a long day; on the walls some pictures stuck up there with tape, an assortment of posters, and the words written on the wall, “No Room for Gloom”.

Until that moment I hadn’t known what the word ‘gloom’ meant. I sat myself in one of the old armchairs that was unoccupied. I was feeling good, I was feeling at home. All of a sudden, from a narrow wooden stairway, down came a blond elf, very good looking, called Tony Chivers. He went “hmm, hmm” when he saw me, and laughed. He sat in Penny’s lap and whilst the two of them were talking to me she was stroking Tony Chivers’ hair (cut like a page-boy). Then of a sudden from the same little staircase came an angel, called John Atkins, shorter with cherry-red cheeks, who came to greet me as if he’d already known me for ages. Next came Julie, a beautiful and sexy little girl with the way of a younger sister, and when she spoke she swallowed all her vowels. I laughed at her way of speaking, and she was amused by my relaxed laughter. I was relaxed, and I didn’t know what had happened to me when ten minutes later I was asking if I could stay and live there with them, in that house. They looked at me seriously and a bit worried, and wouldn’t answer either yes or no. First they’d have to ask David Hayward. I was left to imagine who this David Hayward might be. John Atkins, the angel, excused himself for a second and climbed the wooden stairs. And in a second he returned, accompanied by David Hayward, ‘o ponderado’, the well-considering one. Roger Elliott put forward my case to him. After pondering for a few moments David asked me, “How long do you want to stay here?”

I thought a little and replied, “Hmmm … one week …”

David pondered a little and replied, “Well, one week … you could stay.”

Penny, Tony Chivers, John Atkins, Julie and Roger Elliott smiled, all of them.

David Hayward also smiled. He assumed the role of responsibility for order in that community. A holy man.

Everything there seemed theatrical and childish at the same time, and I felt already like one of those children. I recounted some events from my life, suggesting some advantages in having me there, and they listened to me with complacency (as I judged); and I told them I had been on stage at the Isle of Wight festival, where in the midst of a crowd of ‘Brazilian freaks’ I had played the réco-réco – an indigenous instrument from Brazil. Penny said she’d seen the Brazilians playing on stage at the festival. “Fantastic” she said. I picked up one of the china cups that were scattered on the floor. There was a name printed on it: Bruce. I imagined how it sounded – who could this ‘Bruce’ be? I was still dreaming when there was a knock at the door. Penny went to open it. It was Bruce. He came in smiling, greeted all of us and saw that I was holding his cup. The others introduced me to him and Bruce asked if I was a South American revolutionary, because I was wearing that olive green jacket from an American soldier in the Vietnam war. I made a modest gesture, to the effect that I wasn’t a revolutionary, that I was only a dazed and hazy wanderer.

Penny left and went into the kitchen to make some tea, and those still present stopped to make a kind of ‘party’ for me. The clothes that they wore were old clothes, re-formed and re-created according to the creative taste of each of them. They didn’t speak of anything exceptional but all that they said, and the way that they said it, seemed to me new, fantastical, theatrical, infantile, a little cynical – but with a cynicism that was adolescent and innocent. They were performing and I was the audience, although I got into the game and also participated in the spectacle as a character – mysterious, a tropical man, a Latin American, a novel figure in their lives.

Penny brought the tea and while she was pouring it she asked each of us how many spoonfuls of sugar we would like.

Two spoonfuls of sugar for me.
One spoonful for Tony Chivers, the elf.
Two spoonfuls of sugar for John Atkins, the angel.
Three for Julie, who swallowed her vowels when she spoke.
David Hayward wanted no sugar in his tea.
Roger Elliott, the master of the keys to the gates of the city of Salisbury, took pure tea, without sugar and without milk.
Only half a spoonful for Bruce, the sage.
To finish with, in Penny’s cup, two spoonfuls of sugar and a few pinches of powdered milk.
And the tea was served.

Em Português

Tomei uma espécie de decisão: pedi a minha conta ao gentil e simpático senhor proprietário da hospedaria, um pai. Disse à êle que ia embora, que ia prá Bath, que não sabia muito bem pra onde ia. Paguei a conta, apenas um dia de despesa porque o Zé Vicente já tinha pagado os outros dias, e pedi a ele que guardasse para mim o dinheiro que o Zé Vicente havia deixado comigo e fiquei com três libras no bolso para q que desse e viesse nas próximas horas, nos próximos dias, sei lá. Deixei a minha mochila e o meu sleeping bag atrás da porta da sala de refeições e saí prá rua.

Era um dia comum da semana, o comércio estava funcionando como sempre e as ruas do centro de Salisbury me pareciam iguaizinhas as ruas dos centros de quaisquer cidade pelas quais eu já havia passado. Só que havia uma diferença: Salisbury tinha um passado remoto, uma história, uma maravilhosa catedral do Século XIII em cuja consagração esteve presente o Rei Henrique III. Além disso, o condato de Wiltshire, do qual Salisbury e Stonehenge fazem parte, tem uma tradição religiosa de 3.500 anos, tem um espírito, uma tradição fortemente antiga, uma atmosfera medieval (por causa da Catedral), a arquitetura das casas do lado antigo da cidade lembrando as casinhas das histórias infantis, tudo muito jovem e puro e agradável aos olhos, o rio Avon com suas águas cristalinas e os seus nobres cisnes brancos passando pelo centro da cidade, sinuoso e tranquilo, os nomes das ruas: Endless Street, Love Lane, Rosemary Lane, Woodstock Street, tudo antigo, tudo histórico, tudo do “tempo do onça” como diziam na minha infância, tudo lembrando a minha infância, as estórias da minha infância, tudo inocente, puro e infantil. Salisbury me parecia um dos únicos lugares preservados do mundo desastrado e desastroso e cruel no qual a gente vive. Salisbury era o sonho ao alcance dos olhos.

Depois de uma chuva fininha saiu o sol, um sol que não tinha nada de cruel, que não fazia suar e que não me enchia de fadiga, pelo contrário, me enchia de luz e de boas vibrações, um sol aliado e protetor, um sol amigo.

Fui andando até a Catedral e me sentei num dos bancos do jardim de onde apreciava a paisagem quando surgiu uma criatura fantástica que atendia pelo nome de Roger Elliot. Ele sorriu prá mim, apertou a minha mão e me desejou “Good morning”. Seus cabelos louros, lisos e compridos até as costas ainda estavam molhados pela chuva. Ele vestia um surrado casaco de pele de carneiro e com aqueles pêlos felpudos na gola e nos punhos. O casaco descia até os joelhos e a calça côr de vinho rosé também era uma calça bastante gasta, com alguns remendos coloridos, amassada como se ele nunca tivesse tirado a calça do corpo, nem pra dormir. A bota cinzenta, de salto alto, também era surrada e deixava bem claro as tantas milhas que já havia caminhado. Pendurada no ombro esquerdo ele trazia uma sacola também muito usada, de veludo originalmente branco. Roger Elliot devia ter pelo menos uns dois metros de altura e caminhava um pouco curvado, como que pedindo desculpas de ser tão alto. Sua idade: dezenove anos. Sua sabedoria: os 3.500 anos de Wiltshire, a idade do mundo. Conversou e brincou comigo, enfiou a mão direita na sua sacola de veludo e tirou de dentro dela um dôce, uma balinha engraçada e me deu, me tratando como uma criança. Olhou fundo nos meus olhos e disse, o seu inglês era diferente do inglês de Londres ou de qualquer outro lugar da Inglaterra ou dos Estados Unidos:
“Vem comigo.” Levantei-me do banco e fui andando com ele e quando a gente passava enorme portão medieval do jardim da Catedral eu perguntei à êle “Onde é que você está me levando?” e ele me respondeu “não se preocupe, estou te levando na casa de gente boa, nice people.”

Enquanto a gente andava a caminho da casa eu olhei a placa com o nome da rua, numa das esquinas: Saint Ann Street. Chegamos à casa número 63. Do lado de fora era igualzinha a qualquer das outras casas da rua, tão simples e modesta quanto. Roger Elliot deu três suaves batidas na porta. Quem abriu foi Penny, uma mocinha de óculos, sorridente. Fez um gesto amistoso prá que a gente entrasse na casa. O gesto era mais pra mim, talvez, já que o Roger Elliot era “de casa”. Entramos. Não havia ninguém na sala que estava uma completa bagunça. Livros, canecas, cinzeiros cheios, desenhos, papéis escritos, roupas, sleeping-bags, velhos sofás, cadeiras descadeiradas, um chão que não via vassoura há muito tempo, desenhos colados na parede com fita durex, alguns posters e uma frase escrita na parede “No room for gloom”.

Até aquele momento eu não sabia o que é que “gloom” significava. Sentei-me numa das poltronas velhas sem que ninguém mandasse. Estava bem à ventade, sentindo-me em casa. Dali a instantes, por uma escadinha estreita, de táboas, desceu um elfo louro muito gentil chamado Tony Chittender. Fez “hmm, hmm” quando me viu e sorriu. Sentou-se no colo de Penny e enquanto os dois conversavam comigo ela ficava acariciando os cabelos (cortados à lá pagem) de Tony Chittender. Dali a instantes pela mesma escadinha desceu um anjo, chamado John Atkins, meio baixinho e com as bochechas vermelhinhas, que veio me cumprimentar como se já me esperasse há muito tempo. Em seguida desceu Julie, uma garotinha lindinha e sexy, com jeito de irmã caçula e quando ela falava engolia todas as vogais. Eu ria do jeito dela falar e ela se divertia com o meu riso descontraído. Eu estava descontraído e não sei o que foi que me deu que dez minutos depois eu já estava pedindo pra ficar vivendo ali com êles, naquela casa. Eles me olharam séria e preocupadamente e não responderam nem que sim nem que não. Precisavam antes consultar o David Hayward. Fiquei imaginando como é que seria esse David Hayward. John Atkins, o anjo, pediu licensa um segundo e subiu a escadinha de tábuas. E num segundo voltou acompanhado do David Hayward, o ponderado. Roger Elliot expôs o meu caso ao David Hayward e depois de ponderar uns instantes David me perguntou:

“Quanto tempo você quer ficar aqui?”

Pensei um pouco e respondi “Hmm… uma semana…”

David ponderou um pouco e respondeu “Well, uma semana … pode ficar.”

Penny, Tony Chittender, John Atkins, Julie e Roger Elliot sorriram, todos.

David Hayward também sorriu. Ele assumia o papel do responsável pela ordem daquela comunidade. Um santo homem.

Tudo ali me parecia teatral e infantil ao mesmo tempo e eu me sentia já como uma daquelas crianças. Contei alguns casos da minha vida, algumas vantagens e eles me ouviram com complacência (julgava eu) e eu contei que tinha estado no palco da ilha de Wight, no festival, onde no meio dos “brazilian freaks” eu havia tocado réco-réco. Penny disse que via os brasileiros
tocando no palco do festival “Fantastic!” fez ela. Peguei uma das canecas de louça espalhadas pelo chão. Havia um nome gravado nela: Bruce. Imaginei e sonhei quem seria o Bruce Ainda sonhava quando bateram na porta. Penny foi abrir. Era o Bruce. Ele entrou sorrindo, cumprimentou a nós todos e viu que eu segurava a sua caneca. Os outros me apresentaram à êle e Bruce me perguntou se eu era um revolucionário da América do Sul, porque eu estava usando aquele blusão verde-oliva do soldado americano da guerra do Vietnam. Fiz um gesto modesto, de que eu não era um revolucionário, que eu era apenas um deslumbrado wanderer.

Penny saíu e foi prá cosinha preparar um chá e os presentes ficaram fazendo uma espécie de “festa” pra mim. As roupas que eles vestiam eram roupas velhas, reformadas e recriadas ao gôsto criativo de cada um. Não falavam nada de excepcional mas tudo o que êles diziam, do jeito que eles diziam, me parecia novo, fantástico, teatral, infantil, um pouco cínico, de um cinismo adolescente e inocente. Eles representavam e eu era a platéia ainda que eu topasse a brincadeira e também participasse do espetáculo como um personagem misterioso, um homem tropical, um latino americano, uma figura nova na vida deles.

Penny trouxe o chá e enquanto ia servindo ia perguntando à cada um quantas colheres de açúcar queriam.

Duas colheres de açúcar prá mim.
Uma colher para Tony Chittender, o elfo.
Duas colheres de açúcar para John Atkins, o anjo.
Três para Julie, a que falava engolindo as vogais.
David Hayward não queria açúcar no seu chá.
Roger Elliot, o dono das chaves das portas da cidade de Salisbury tomava chá puro, sem açúcar e sem leite.
Apenas meia colher para Bruce, o sábio.
E para finalizar, na chicara de Penny, duas colheres de açúcar e algumas pitadas de leite em pó.
E o chá estava servido.