Vanity of vanities, it’s all a fadin’.

African sunset

I’m not very handsome, but then, they say, character is more important than  looks. I hope my character is better than my looks! I’m old, wrinkled and with big bags under my eyes. 

It reminds me of that old ditty: licence photo

As a beauty I pose as no star;

there are others more handsome by far;

But my face I don’t mind it,

for I am behind it;

’tis the ones in the front get the jar.

My driver’s licence photo (taken years ago) is particularly awful. They insist on taking it against a white background and with white hair I look as if I am a pin-head. And you can see my under-eye bags, which have grown larger over the years. They don’t encourage you to smile, and with my white beard, grown since, I have no idea what I would look like now. The attached picture was taken 11 years ago, so you can imagine what I look like these days, with my white beard added!

There’s a story behind my white hair. When I first went to Ethiopia, as a surgeon, they called me the ‘baby doctor’. Not because I was a paediatric surgeon but because I looked so young. I was in fact 28. But I prayed for a few white hairs to look a bit more distinguished, and, obviously, didn’t stop praying about that issue soon enough. I am not going to dye it.

But that is all a diversion. I was called handsome once.

I arrived very early at the airport in Addis one day, because the taxi driver whom I always used had to get some kids to school on time and he could only take me early. Reception was closed, so I sat reading. Maybe half an hour later two young ladies arrived to open the Emirates counter. By their dress one was obviously Orthodox, the other a Muslim lady. The Orthodox lady got her place setup first so I went there. I was in my late 70’s, so was surprised, for two reasons, when the young Muslim lady said ‘you’re a handsome man’. Surprised because she was a Muslim and I an infidel and because I thought that she must need glasses.

The girl not serving me said ‘he’s not handsome, he’s just old; he’s not good looking!’ I will love the memory of the other girl for ever as she responded ‘0ld or not, he’s handsome!’ I love her, and always will. Even though I still she think she needs glasses.

Dominic Cartier