Must be because of a profile I read recently in the press of Australian actor Arthur Dignam and his son that I've been thinking about Mohamed. Although I've never met Arthur, he and I were near neighbours for a while - he lived above a corner shop on Glebe Point Road while I rented a small flat in nearby Avona Avenue. It was on that corner I met Mohamed, who started talking to me one day, probably because my eyes were red like his from marijuana smoking, which I did a lot of in those days. I think I was also driving cabs at the time. Anyway, we struck up an acquaintance and he used to come and visit me at my flat sometimes. He was living - or rather, staying - with Arthur. He used to cook and clean and provide other services. Mohamed was a small time drug dealer, a hustler, perhaps a gigolo too. He was Gambian and his story was a strange one. One day, just a teenager, he'd jumped a ship, a freighter, visiting his home country and become a sailor. He'd jumped off this ship, or another, in Sydney some time later and then found himself unable to leave again. He was in fact stateless, without a passport or any other forms of identity which could have got him one. He had family in The Gambia but they weren't able to help him establish his nationality; and the Australian authorities seemed unsympathetic although far more tolerant than they are now, when he would probably be in a detention centre. Mohamed was an engaging soul, generous, cheerful, inclined only towards brief spells of melancholy at his singular fate. I never became his customer, but we used sometimes to share what we had with each other - marijuana mostly, occasionally ecstasy, and sometimes he would offer me unknown substances which I would usually, out of caution, refuse. He also liked to blow off steam, complaining about the things Arthur wanted him to do; but I think Arthur was kind to him too, giving him food and shelter and a place to sleep in return for those services. I have a couple of indelible memories of Mohamed: there was a small bone carving of a man, a Paul Klee like figure, which a friend brought back from Africa, the Congo I think, hanging on a nail just inside the door of my flat. Mohamed was looking at it one day when I remarked casually that I thought it might be carved from human bone. Mohamed, who was about to touch it with one finger, flew backwards in the air across the room as if recoiling from contact with a major electric current. Another time when he came around, a newspaper was lying open on the floor at a full page advertisement for women's lingerie with provocative, if somewhat smudgy, models showing it off. 'Oh, man,' said Mohamed, heartfelt. 'We going to die!' The last time I saw Mohamed was one day on Oxford Street. I was in a car - a taxi perhaps? - and he, resplendent in a somewhat disheveled white suit, with a white hat and white shoes, was walking along the pavement with a louche, sexy woman on either arm. He looked brilliantly happy, like King Alpha with two Queen Omegas. I say this because for some reason Mohamed's story always makes me think of the great song by the Melodians, Rivers of Babylon, which Boney M had a hit with in the 1980s was it? Anyway, the lyrics are in fact adapted from the Book of Psalms, #137 and #19:

By the rivers of Babylon,
Where we sat down,
And there we wept
When we remembered Zion.

Oh, the wicked carried us away in captivity,
Required from us a song,
How can we sing King Alpha's song
In a strange land?

So, let the words of our mouth
And the meditations of our heart
Be acceptable in Thy sight.
O Far I ...

As for Mohamed, that far I, I wonder where, or if, he is now?

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