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THANK YOU FOR THE MEMORIES

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One of the joys of a staycation is that you get to re-discover your own country with fresh eyes – cities that seemed for other people to enjoy or were associated with drawn out history classes about the Tudors and those other killing types.

This time I revisited two cities/towns – never did understand the difference – once it has a high street, bank or banks, a big church and parks, it’s a big place…I digress –  Brighton was the first holiday my son and I spent in a hotel in the UK – he was seven and wide-eyed by the basement pool, the dining room and the water front pier – we rode on the roller coaster, more than once and ate sweet things and chips and a stranger handed him a stuffed, blue dog ‘Bluto’, he carried it around like a trophy. we ate at a restaurant with some sister-friends and visited a palace and the fair – we looked at the beach. Having lived in the Caribbean, we knew real beaches.

Yet, on this visit, I was solo  – meeting up with sister-friends, we are all mothers, been through a few wars, career changes, location changes and men – love, lust, leave, left and stayed. On a brisk, beautiful Sunday morning we walked for over a mile, walking and talking – catching up, moving forward and laughing. Walking and talking, the beach and waves our only other witnesses, apart from the families – him and him, she and she, oldies and young-uns, cyclists, skateboarders, skaters, tourists taking pictures of everything and the sea gulls. Yet, we were able to talk from within ourselves, no judgement, just questioning our roots, our responses and it continued in the evening , wine and back steps, children telling us to keep down the noise – and yes, we laughed in response. 30 years worth of friendship and love.

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Before catching the train back to London, I sat on the pebbles and inhaled the sea air, and missed Antigua. The sun warmed my face and a veil was shifted as I went over our conversations…. in our 50’s and still learning, changing, questioning – we did not expect this as our mothers never told us this.

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My next trip took me back up north – a city with a Minster, medieval thorough-fare, buildings that talk to you and contain shops built on passion and a need – wools, buttons, teas, antiques, vintage, one-off designs, books, adult comics, booksellers and food. In this city, I meet a chef, whose real passion is creating ice creams – not your usual types – think – coconut with coconut cream and flecks of dried coconuts; peanut butter and sea salt – each flavour as close to the ‘food’ that the chef envisions – his ice creams are sold alongside cakes, sausage rolls that look like the ones you used to buy at the local bakers before we became aware of good and bad fats, except he has added Jamaican jerk sauce – talk about a meeting of the minds – old recipes, mother’s intuition combine to make a sausage roll that is reflective of the country we now live in.

 

In this city my desire to do something more is regenerated as I taste teas and search the corners of the specialist shops and talk to owners who have time to talk about what they are selling and teach you a new way of looking at something and in  one store I get a knitting lesson without my hands even touching a pair of needles. In another one, my sister cousin and I marvel over buttons, hundreds of buttons, vintage, new, plastic, bone, wood, colours, patterns, plain, big, small, delicate and shiny. We pick several designs and again, the staff share their knowledge. Eventually we settle on a bag of assorted buttons, a pick and mix selection and two sets of vintage buttons.

 

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My writing spot, my eating spot, my I-can-do-that spot is an old pub that has a range of whiskies that will take years to taste as each has a story, a history and a way fo being made that has not changed for centuries as well as chinese teas served in tea-infusers that evoke well-being alongside a slab of home-made cake. Mornings begin with the owner  and his friends doing a crossword, sipping coffee and putting the world to right. Then the regulars drift in , each with a story continued from the last visit – one pint, one tea, one conversation – then come the lunch time visitors hungry for food – Jamaican dishes and gourmet burgers – served up with a dash of warmth and mum’s portions – not for the weight conscious or the food-shy. upstairs, there is a corner perfect for street watching and writing and day dreaming and planning next steps, dreams to action.

This city is made for walking, looking, discovering and being inspired – dreams no longer lay dormant as I followed trails set by Romans, Tudors and the like.

Each time I leave a city, I discover a new side to myself – not really new, more like the pressing of a piece of coal into a diamond, not quite ready to shine.

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Pictures by the author – Brighton and York – Staycation 2016

 

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54 Steps

MUHAMMAD-ALI

Boxing and moon landings are two of my earliest television memories – our father and mother would take their mattress downstairs and place it in front of the small, black and white television set. They would watch through the wee hours the world’s prettiest boxer float and sting through the night.

The boxer’s image in a white and gold frame sat between images of Jesus and his disciples – I ignored all three images, after all one was just a boxer and the other, well, I wasn’t sure. We were told that my brother was named after him – Cassius – I read ‘Julius Caesar’ at school and Cassius was one of the characters.

 

Growing up in the heady late ’60’s, ’70’s and early 80’s, the civil rights movement consisted of Dr Martin Luther King Jr., the black panthers, Angela Davis and the Soledad Brothers – soon replaced by black mariahs, SUS law, young, black men who died in police custody and songs about ‘injustice’ and going back to Africa. Boxing was no longer so important to our dad and the iconic West Indies team became the reason for much celebration. And yet, the ‘boxer’ popped up everywhere on television, on the a chat show and I heard him speak of class, colour, faith, injustice with humour and a sting in the tale…. And I listened and read some more and listened…. the ‘boxer’ became Muhammad Ali, he  way above any other sports person… and my brother and I bought each other books about him….watched his biopic and pieces fell into place.

On the morning of my 54 steps, I saw that he had left us…. his spirit joined our ancestors and the coverage begun on television and it was I that sat transfixed hour after hour, interview after interview…. his words, his anger, his understanding that he must stand taller and own himself, still stand true today… he shone a light on the America no one wanted to see. Sometimes, we need reminding of how far we have come and how much more we have to do to free ourselves of mental as well as physical slavery. Yes, our history is full of brutality, injustices and pain and also beauty, grace, pride and pushing through barriers. My 54 steps begun with reflection and gratitude. Thank you for being in our world and for releasing childhood memories of passion, of vision and lessons being taught by osmosis

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Photo credits: ranker.com  and  Doris Blue Gown

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Planes, Trains and Good Eating

In the past three weeks I have been in Hyderabad, Mumbai, London, Brighton and York – I have slept on planes, in a luxurious bed, in family homes and a b&b. And I am still some days away from home – home being , another 4,000 or so miles away.

 

 

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The Tuk Tuk was not part of this journey, although, there are times when a Tuk Tuk would be a more efficient mode of transport in a very busy London.

Back to Hyderabad, only now can I process our last week  – it was full on – last match, last post-match brief, team pictures, gift exchanges, hand shakes, hugs and “dam we did this moment” – plus the pack down of the venue, checking on suppliers, hand-over and last-minute gift buying and packing. Many plane journeys, hotel rooms and road trips has not made this writer into a packing guru, although, I can squeeze ten weeks living into 17kgs and return with 25Kgs.

We managed visits to top eateries – the best was AB’s – a restaurant where they grill everything from veg to seafood to meats and it doesn’t end there – they have mains, desserts – best go with an empty stomach, cause this is a buffet style eatery and the waiters never stop serving until you beg them to stop. Great value, atmosphere – tell them that it is your birthday or anniversary and you’ll get a song, clapping and chanting waiters and a cake.

Second high point – the magical Taj Falaknuma Palace – hotel, restaurant built  in the 19th century by a PM as a folly and bought by a Nizam and now a five-star, luxury hotel.

Built in European style with touches of India – paintings, textiles, women’s saloon and carvings – a folly indeed and now a ‘must see’ on the Hyderabad visitor’s list. It is worth the visit – about an hour or so from our hotel – it set on a hill and the view – pretty special, although, we were there at night, we had clear views across to the old city.

Part of the visit includes a tour of the palace and in this visual age, we were not allowed to take pictures – wood inlay ceilings, marble floors, crystal chandeliers, the longest dining table in world with paintings above that highlight the menu -so that the Nizam could point to his desired menu of the day.

The food was good, although, the service was slow and did let down the whole experience – overall, it was worth the hype – presentation and detail, yep, plenty of that.

The art and craft market on a rainy afternoon was well worth the visit – crafts from across India including the weaving and tapestries from the Gujarat. Haggling, an art form, yet to be mastered was well handled by our friend and guide, Sanket – cue grumbling from vendor and smiles from shoppers. Main lesson learnt – all the artisans we met were male even if, they were sewing or making bracelets – women sold.

Part of the leaving process included a review, internal of the whole time – work life and social life often combined as we are a group of people from different parts of the world, who worked and socialised together, sometimes seven days a week. It was a learning process  – cultural and gender working styles. Finding out that we are often more similar than we realise -we wanted the same things – respect; the event to go well and some fun.

Every time I leave a venue and India, I wonder if, I will have the privilege of going back – of working with people with beautiful spirits – who share their culture, their history, their food, their customs and fears.

 

on day eight, I was in London – sun shone through clouds and I got excited – cause that was the last real sunshine I have seen in 17 days.

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Pictures:

1: team and author

2&3: Taj Falaknnuma Palace

4: Old Hyderabad craft person

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Biryani, Old Buildings and Cricket

  when you get paid to work on an event in another part of the world, there are moments of “how did I end up here?” and 9/10 it’s a joyous query.  Staying in a nice hotel for…

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Posted by on May 13, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Biryani, Old Buildings and Cricket

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when you get paid to work on an event in another part of the world, there are moments of “how did I end up here?” and 9/10 it’s a joyous query.  Staying in a nice hotel for seven to eight weeks, room service, laundry, cooked breakfast and if, you are lucky a bed so comfortable that it is a crime to leave it in the morning.

The other pluses include meeting amazing people, experiencing moments of kindness and getting to see beautiful sites. Hyderabad is famous for being the home of the best biryani and trust me, it’s very good, especially when it is home cooked . One of our co-workers invited us to his family home and his mother/sister cooked an exceptional meal – biryani is layers of rice, spices, meat or veg cooked and served steaming hot – the joyous part is mixing the layers together, preferably with your fingers. The rice is delicately flavoured and the meat comes off the bone – yep, real biryani has bone and all…. biggest secret – the blend of spices, masala is personal to the cook – base maybe the same, however, taste and not fashion dictates the final mix.

It is also famous for Karachi Bakery biscuits- short bread biscuits – small and packed with flavour, dried fruits, pistachio etc. and to receive a pack as a gift is a bonus worth adding  to your suitcase – 15kgs, me thinks not, however, it’s worth it.

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Like many cities across this ‘continent’ too diverse to be called a ‘country’, there are many ruins, old palaces and tombs – while our tombs in the west appear to celebrate a person’s life – you can’t help noticing that some of the most famous tombs here are dedicated to ‘love’ – think Taj Mahal – here in Hyderabad there is the 7 Tombs (Qutub Shahi Tombs) dedicated to a Nizam and his wives/family – each tomb a status symbol of where you stood in the family’s hierarchy. Beautiful architecture – cool marble and engraved stone  and it was here that we met a father and his family playing cricket – sons and daughters bowling, fielding and batting. We watch and soon, despite our language barrier, we are a part of the game. Cricket, like food here transcends class, age and gender – passion for this sport is deep. Miss hits, poor shots, great catches – all celebrated like we were playing for a trophy, except there are no tantrums or tears, just laughter.

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Our visits are snatched between long work days and meetings that leave the mind numb with frustration and yet, in that cricket match, you realise just how small the world is – a father and his children on a Sunday afternoon playing a game, no iPad, no fancy equipment, a coconut bough for a bat and a tennis ball – isn’t this the stuff of blogs about parenting. No, I cannot and will not try to explain their daily life – sometimes you got to let the ism and schisms go and just see life as it is it as that moment.

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FINDING YOUR WAY BACK HOME

 

 

 

 

WP_20160327_12_48_29_ProIt has been a full on period of time – the event covers every inch of your mind space – conversations with co-workers begin with “if, we do this.. they won’t do….” Real life, news headlines are ignored, well apart from the sudden death of Prince and the 1st birthday of Princess Charlotte.

This season has me working in Hyderabad, a city like most major Indian cities expanding to include the new arrivals, tech companies, event and sport companies – young, brash persons making money, chasing money and travelling wherever the ‘rupee road’ takes them.

It has shopping malls, bars, restaurants, glossy hotels and gleaming cars – traffic is not the best word – cars, buses, bikes and people jostle for space along highways and flyovers. Three lanes, five lanes, actually no lanes, as horns beep and people show the palm of ‘God’ as they cross in front of swerving vehicles.

Hyderabad is sprawling modern, old, half built city with a series of flyovers, half built metro line and train lines connecting the old city with its narrow lanes, ancient arches and its newer suburbs.

 

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The old city is brimming with life, hawkers, peddlers, stalls, colours, bangles and pearls.Arches that must have both welcomed and kept out all comers back in the day, still stand tall.

Food stalls, chai stalls that look as old as the persons serving you; mango with salt or coconut water or ice cream vendors meander along between shoppers and gawkers.
As we drive to work, we get glimpses of green spaces and brown, flat lands – parks, clubs, wedding halls – a school built in the early 20th century that looks like a palace and is just as hard to get into.

 

It is these contrasts that makes one love India – cities feel similar and yet, are totally alien. And everyday you see something that makes you go ‘wow’…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Food Journey Starts With Your Fingers

Food in India s more than a substance that you inhale in between your daily chores – not so long ago lunch for me on a work day meant a sandwich, a packet of crisps and a drink hot or …

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Posted by on April 10, 2016 in Uncategorized