“It is not at all uncommon for someone to arrive at a scene of brutality or injustice and, with a sympathetic murmur or heroic flourish, attack the victim. It happens all the time.”

Renata Adler, Speedboat, 1977

Wednesday 29th August. Arriving once more, experiencing that ‘air lock’ feeling, passing through the gateway of the British embassy, leaving the dust and pollution behind us, and walking through into the fragrant flower beds, trimmed lawns, and tranquillity of this impossibly fresh oasis – refreshed courtesy of, as Bogdan remarked, ‘Perfidious Albion’. We had decided to leave our visit until mid morning, in the faint hope that in the space of 24 hours, the Home Office had been contacted and had woken up to the problem. Perhaps by now they had remembered, after all, to telex the entry clearance. 

We presented ourselves, again, at the main entrance where, with obvious reluctance, the security guard buzzed me through to the entrance hall.

For once, I was not kept waiting long, and Miss Rowe called me into her office.

“Entry clearance has, now, arrived.”

“That’s a relief. Did it, by chance, come yesterday?”

The Vice Consul looked as if she had just swallowed something unpleasant. “I’m not sure,” she muttered.

“You know, as you had asked, I telephoned the embassy at five o’clock yesterday evening, and I was told that you had refused to speak to me.”

“Oh,” she said dismissively. “There must have been something of a misunderstanding.”

“That surprises me. I asked your telephonist to speak directly with you, and I told her that you had spoken to me yesterday morning and had given me the precise time to telephone.”

“I don’t know anything about that,” she said. It was quite clear that I was getting nowhere with a post-mortem, so I let it drop.

“In any event, what is the procedure now?”

“Well, we have been promised entry clearance, so once that comes through formally, I will be in a position to authorise release of the child from the orphanage and you can set in motion the acquisition of a passport.”

I said nothing about the passport that we already had, but instead “And how long is that likely to take?”

“It will take several days, and of course we have to be sure that you have the mother’s consent, and that the child can be lawfully released from the orphanage. I suggest that you contact me on Friday.”

Were it not for the fact that I knew that I had, unknown to her, already adopted Dominic and that I now had a passport for him, I would have complained bitterly about this further apparent complication, given that every day that he was stuck in Orphanage Number One would be causing him untold damage. However, I kept my peace, and told her that I would return on Friday in the hope that formalities could then be completed.

I imagined that she might well be thinking “don’t bank on it”, but as far as I was concerned, the final piece of the jigsaw was now in place. Entry clearance was all but secured, and Bogdan and I could start putting in place our exit strategy.

“First things first,” I said as soon as we got out of the embassy gates. “Entry clearance is on its way. Why don’t we go and get him now?”

“Just what I was thinking. We’ll go back to the apartment and pick up his clothes and go straight over to the orphanage.”

We picked up his day clothes and a set of nappies and went straight over to Orphanage Number One. The few staff whom we came across recognised Bogdan straight away, and we were allowed through to Dominic’s ‘pavilion’ without difficulty. There, we saw the same doctor who had signed off Dominic’s medical report, and Bogdan showed her the adoption papers and the clothes which we had brought. She appeared genuinely pleased and even slightly tearful to hear that we were getting him out, and the general atmosphere in her office took on the character of a mini celebration.

However, we were not allowed to go into the pavilion to collect him. Instead, I watched as one of the orderlies went over and took him out of his cot. Before we could think of dressing him, it seemed pretty obvious that he needed cleaning up. And that particular exercise was again, distressing. She took him over to the stone sink that I had seen when I first went in there and began running the one water tap. She stripped Dominic of the few clothes he was wearing, and lifted him from the cot across to the sink by one arm. Then, dangling him by the same arm, she simply sluiced him down with cold water out of the tap. The whole exercise could only have been more brutal had she dangled him by one leg, the only saving grace being that it was mercifully short, given that he was still such a small child.

She then brought him into the doctor’s office, where we dressed him in clothes that neither he nor the staff had ever seen before. Colourful shorts, contrasting little socks and an open neck shirt, a riot of yellows, pinks and emerald green.

Then I picked him up and held my son in my arms.


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