Her son imitated Lily's accent, "Oh, I can't find the marzipan!" There was an awkward silence. "He loves almonds," she thought, "from the time he was born. It is a Middle Eastern thing, almond paste."
"Can I taste the cake?" he asked.
"Of course, " nodded Lily putting her coat on, "have some. I'm late again."
"You know what Muslims say?" said Lily's supervisor at work.
"Muslims say?" reflected back Lily, practicing her newly acquired listening skills.
"You can sleep in a Christian's house and eat in a Jew's house."
"Eat in a Jew's house?"
"Because the Jew will kill you while you are sleeping. They are backstabbers, you know, that's why."
"Oh," exclaimed Lily, "Jews don't eat pork." Reaching for her bag, she added as an afterthought, "Yes, Muslims don't eat pork, too." She took her coat from her chair. "The course finishes at five, I won't be back this afternoon. I'll see you tomorrow. Bye."
"The three core principles ... empathy the water of life: without empathy you cannot combine acceptance and genuineness, which are like mother's milk and vinegar. Machines cannot listen, I mean, you could not make a machine that listened well on the mental health helpline ... has to be done by a person ... core principles produce good listening ... like alchemy."
"My supervisor thinks Allah runs the world," thought Lily. She remembered the big poster on the wall in the office. Three Sikhs stood in their turbans beside the caption 'Racial harassment is not welcome here! Report it!' The tutor's voice was fading away. "Karl Rogers ... Freud, Marx, Darwin ... run the world ... survival of the fittest ... yes, Jews don't eat pork, but they do drink wine!"
The tutor smiled back. "Talking to God is ok but if God talks to you ... neurotics have their heads in the clouds but psychotics live in the clouds and the psychiatrist collects the rent ... not in touch with reality ..."
The topic for the first listening practice was: a time when I felt oppressed. Lily looked at her watch and began talking: "The phone rang just as I was getting ready to leave. I had woken up in the morning staring at the largest icon of Christ in Santa Sophia or rather he was looking straight at me. I had read about styles in Byzantine icons recently in one of the supplements of the newspapers. His face, his hand placed somewhere around his heart, the blue colour of his garment, the ancient covering of the book he was holding, I could see these distinctly, still in the dream. I could also see the barren bits of the wall around him, where images had been removed when the place had been converted to a mosque. I was hoping to do some shopping on the way home. I did not have time to buy the papers in the morning. The phone rang just before five thirty and I was called for an emergency police interview. When I arrived at the police station I did not know what to expect, I had not been there before as an interpreter. I had been inside a real prison in the UK though. Inside this police station there was a section that looked like a little prison with cells and several locked doors and officers on duty. I looked for a place to sit and finally sat with the interviewee on the far end of this thing that looked like a very low bed hanging from the wall. I confirmed his name and address and asked him why he was detained. What had happened? No place to go to. Not knowing what to do. Confused. Helpless. Distant."
"Five minutes!" interrupted the tutor. Asking whether real listening had taken place, she concluded: "The listener was present. You were there with 'hum's and 'uh's holding Lily. There wasn't much feeling to reflect but you could have paraphrased the content better."
"How was the course?" asked Lily's son.
"I'll need some help with these psychiatric drugs!"
"Nitrazepam, Diazepam and Marzipam! ... stops the hands from shaking. They are offered in this computer game before shooting ... with snipers!"
"You mean 'Marzipan'!" said Lily. "Drugs have dangerous side effects. You should not take them, even in a computer game."
"I wish Easter holiday was over quickly!"
"I can hear you are bored, "said Lily. She sighed. "I just wish Christ ran the world. He is such a good listener."
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