Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Shibaraku! (Just a Minute!)

We've had a busy week rehearsing and touring three performances of Shibaraku to the Japanese School and Emirates International School on Monday, and Zayed University on Tuesday.

Here's the plot (and flavour) of Shibaraku!, courtesy of a Zayed University lecturer who really knows how to write a synopsis - may be I should hire her for some of my posts. =)

Evil Lord Takehira is trying to get power in the province, and has stolen a book and a famous sword to 'prove' his claims. The owner of the stolen goods, Lord Yoshitsuna, catches up with Takehira at a shrine and demands his stuff back.

Unfortunately, Yoshitsuna has brought his beautiful fiancée Katsura Mae with him, and Takehira, not happy with just the sword and book, also wants the girl. So he summons his bodyguard Narita Gorō to capture and execute Yoshitsuna, intending to kidnap Katsura Mae for his own.

However, just in time, in comes the young hero Kagemasa, yelling "Just a minute!"... Will the hero save the day?

And what is the role of Shinsai, the 'catfish' Kashima priest?

The Characters and the Cast

OK. I give up. I'm just stupid.

I'm upset - I could cry. I'm not very good with IT, as you'll have realised if you've been reading regularly. Today my visitor counter that I had endless hassle installing has disappeared from my sidebar. The code's in the template, but the counter I was so happy with has gone! I dunno.

So there I was, having given up on hard stuff for today, searching for blogs to do with organic farming, keeping chickens, sutainable development - all that stuff for the happy-ever-after plan, and I found a 'live journal' that I liked, and wanted to link to, so I thought I'd say hi on Meredic's comments page.

Oh no. I don't think so. This outfit have got their members locked in and battened down so hard that I can't get in to leave a comment unless, it appears, I join up and start a journal with them.

This is where I was up to when I thought that I could use the "Anonymous" option, having sprained an ankle on their other hurdles:

'My God - scary OpenID - I just wanted let you know that I LIKE your blog and am going to link to you, but the fun's rather gone out of it now...... don't want a journal and can't work out where to start on OpenID. Don't like anonymous comments but can't work out alternative. If designed as unnatural selection process to intimidate bear of very little brain, IT WORKED!!!!!! Hoooooooowwwwwwwlll!!!!!! '

When, a little later, I tried to post, their bloody spam robot detectors wheeled into action, asking me to confirm that I was human below (uh...yeah..) then rejecting my 'anonymous' comment four times before informing me that "Your IP address (number given) is detected as an open proxy (a common source of spam) so comment access is denied. If you do not believe you're accessing the net through an open proxy, please contact your ISP or this site's tech support to help resolve the problem."

I've already looked at their Help page and there are so many FAQs and so forth that seem entirely for journal holders that - as a poor outsider who just wanted to be friendly - I am completely baffled and demoralised. The well-meaning architects of these cyber-forts should realise that the rogues and sad-hats who hack and spam will always get through anything they throw up; it's only harmless saps like me who can't get through.

Who needs this?

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


I blog on Habibi's laptop, and his C Drive's full of my photos and downloads, so I thought I'd have a clear-out. But I just love this Chagall painting, and regret omitting it from C is for.....

So before I delete, Rain!

Thank you and

(Did R.T. instead of Escher.)

Monday, May 29, 2006

F is for Les Fauves (P.S. May 30th: and les ups de F***!)

Français encore!

I first heard of the Fauves in Judith Krantz's novel Mistral's Daughter.

I'd better confess to being a book snob. If it's got a hot pink cover with embossed metallic letters, and blurb along the lines of 'destiny unfurls through the lives of three generations of passionate women' my 'blick!' register hits red.

But I liked Mistral's Daughter. In fact, having got it free from the book club, read it three or four times over several years, and given it to the Oxfam shop when we were stripping down ready for moving overseas, I had to buy another copy a couple of years later. I've since lent or lost that, and you know what... now I come to think of it.......

Anyway, I like these!
Woman of Montmarte, painted by Kees Van Dongen in 1911. To me, this is very French - though I'm pretty sure Kees van Dongen wasn't! When I stop to think why, I realise that it goes back to a book I used to get from the library when I was little, small enough to hold my mother's hand as we walked up long, steep Manby Road to 'the top shops' and the little public library in one of the shops.

(P.S. May 30th. The more I return to this painting, the more I go off it. I think that it was the roses on the hat that appealed, and associations with those wonderful, outrageous big hats that society women used to balance on their outrageous grand coiffures. Beyond that - well - what? And the style reminds me more of Hairy McLary from Donaldson's Dairy! which is a delightful children's book. Anyway, I'm tired of it smacking me in the eye, so I've shrunk it!)
The little library at 'the top shops' (writes she, gleefully mythologising her childhood) had Madeline: repeat after me,

'In an old house in Paris
that was covered in vines,
lived twelve little girls
in two straight lines.

In two straight lines
they ate their bread
and drank their milk
and went to bed.

..(happy sigh)..

and the youngest one
was Madeline.'

If I made a mistake, I'm sorry, but that's what I remember, and it is such a happy feeling! And I've got the dopiest smile on my face at also finding 'Jeanne-Marie' online in her little red headscarf, and Patapon, and Madelon . ("Beh-beh-beh!" says Patapon. "Quack-quack-quack!" says Madelon. ..." This was GREAT children's literature!)

And the point of this story? Only that when I was five, I formed an impression of 'French' art on the back of Ludwig Bemelmans' illustrations for his Madeline books. That was Austrian-born American citizen Ludwig Bemelmans! Loose strokes and that very Parisian yellow. Who can tell what will stick in a child's mind? Later exposure to sugared-almond April in Paris tourist Impressionism built on this, before I discovered the real stuff. (Hairy McLary really demolishes that argument, but Madeline and Jeanne-Marie stay!)

At the risk of sounding ungrateful, does anyone else get sick of Impressionism? Yes, it's gorgeous, but it's everywhere! How many books on Impressionism do we need? How many prints, posters, greetings cards, coffee cups, napkins, duvet sets, embroidery kits, painting kits and courses? Heavens above! I cannot actually see the paintings of Renoir and Degas anymore, because they have been before my eyes so often that nothing registers beyond palette and line.
Isn't it ironic, the outrage of the French beau monde and the Académie of the time at this Betrayal of 'Art'?! (And perhaps it was only in reaction to the French obsession with rules and symmetry that the extraordinary artistic experiments of the early 20th Century occurred? In Paris.)
By the way, Woman of Montmartre also reminds me of glum 'Absinthe' (by you know who) and the Edwardian Big Hat musicals Gigi and My Fair Lady. (30/05/06: Uhuh.)

Charles Manguin painted this, The Prints, in 1905. I remember that in Mistral's Daughter, there was something about the insanity/wilful arrogance/genius of an artist using green paint for skin.

On the whole, I don't go for Fauve landscapes because I find them too busy: the brush strokes feature as strongly as the subject, and unsettle me. But this, Jeanne Resting at Villa Demiere, also by Charles Manguin, also in 1905, is so much about the mood of the sitter, in the dappled shade, with the world peacefully distant. I think it's lovely.

And this Georges Braques landscape from 1907, is just good fun. Very Australian somehow. Clarice Clift colours.
(May 30th. WRONG! That would be Clarice CLIFF. not. Bloggers in no-pics mode again.
But Clarice Cliff did gaudy Art Deco pottery in red,orange and yellow, and I wouldn't give most of it house room.
Clarice Clift, on the other hand, or extreme, went in for opaline majolica, which strikes me as pretty bland, but there you are.
OK, I'm bored now. Good night all.
Tomorrow I'll tell you all about my lovely students and their Kabuki Tour!)

Sunday, May 28, 2006

New Toy!

Look in the sidebar! I've got a Guest Map! Do be my guest!!

Well it keeps me happy....................

Buggeribollox! Nemesised!

It did it again!

Well, relieved as I am that I'd taken my own advice, I don't think this the day to do a post on Nemesis.

Where's my teddy?

And my blanket.

Can I have the light on?


Post off

You know when you've spent however long on a post, and maybe stuck in some links and pics, and maybe even looked things up just to confirm that the capital of Guatemala is Stoke Poges, Rodgers and Hammerstein was an Austrian boy band, and that's how you spell encyklopoodia?
A little time, a little care. Then you hit the PUBLISH POST button.

And find you're being prompted to log on......

Well, don't cry, because the RECOVER POST button works, even when nothing appears to be saved. I didn't retrieve all of my last post, but I did get most of it, enough to be able to remember the missing portion. Be brave!

And follow Samurai Sam's advice for your next oeuvre - Save it in Word first, then cut and paste!

Actually, I usually select and cut before pushing PUBLISH - just in case.

Nyx! This post is a Tangent

I was looking up Nemesis because of something that happened at work today (next post), and found this!


by Ron Leadbetter

Nyx is the goddess and embodiment of the night. According to Hesiod in his Theogony (11.116-138),
"From Chaos came forth Erebus and black Night Nyx; of Night were born Aether being the bright upper atmosphere and Day Hemera, whom she conceived and bore from union with Erebus her brother".

Also from the Theogony (11. 211-225); "And Night bore hateful Doom Moros and black Fate and Death Thanatos, and she bore Sleep Hypnos and the tribe of Dreams.

And again the goddess murky Night, though she lay with none, bare Blame and painful Woe, and the Hesperides who guard the rich golden apples and the trees bearing fruit beyond glorious Ocean.

Also she bore the Destinies and ruthless avenging Fates who were regarded as old women occupied in spinning, Clotho the Spinner of the thread of life and Lachesis the Disposer of Lots, she who allots every man his destiny and Atropos She Who Cannot Be Turned, who finally cuts the thread of life who give men at their birth both evil and good to have, and they pursue the transgressions of men and of gods, and these goddesses never cease from their dread anger until they punish the sinner with a sore penalty.

Also deadly Night bore Nemesis Indignation to afflict mortal men, and after her, Deceit Apate and Friendship and hateful Age and hard-hearted Strife.

From that great work we find that Nyx produced a host of offspring. Other sources give Charon who ferried the dead over the rivers of the infernal region as being the son of Erebus and Nyx, although according to the Theogony he was born from Chaos.

Also according to Aristophanes, Birds 693 ff, "in the infinite bosom of Erebus, Night with black wings first produced an egg without a seed. From it, in the course of the seasons, Eros was born--the desired, whose back sparkled with golden wings, Eros like swift whirlwinds".

And you thought your family had problems?

Thanks, Ron.

If you want any more check out the fabulous (arf!) Encyclopaedia Mythica.

P.S. There's a blogger called Atropos; now I know why. I just thought she was Greek!

......sigh.......I'm hopeless........even my tangents have tangents.......................

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Beating (about) the Bush

Underground Dubai linked to this story in the Times Online, entitled Dubai’s building frenzy lays foundation for global power, from The Sunday Times of May 21st. I thought it was a carefully balanced story, which means that only half of it would make it into the local papers here. After I'd put in my tuppence worth on UD's blog, I sort of kept on going with some thoughts that have been building for a long time now, despite my efforts to Accentuate the Positive.

Basically, things are impressive here, but not perfect, and as I've written elsewhere, I'm nervous about the future here - not for myself, because after nearly thirteen years, it's just about time to go - but for Dubai itself. Whenever change occurs, something is gained, and something lost. Dubai's turning into a dazzling showgirl, but it also seems to be rapidly losing its humanity. That's one thing.

Secondly, although I agree with those who shake their heads at the underside of Dubai's development (See the article) this is another case of the distinctions between countries at different stages of development.

Thirdly, I think that the rhetoric coming out of the US - ok, Washington - ok, George Bush - is so counterproductive that I can't believe he gets away with it. So this is my opinion, for what it's worth, and then I'll say goodnight.

REPLY to UD's blog and reading the Sunday Times article:

Thanks for pointing this out. I was just thinking the other day about where this is supposed to be going - given that I along with nearly everyone I know find the construction, avarice, traffic, cynical exploitation of workers, shameless withdrawal of 'gifts' of land from long-established social and sporting societies, extravagant use of water, endless apartment blocks with no community facilities, etc. etc. oppressive and demoralising. And I thought to myself: it’s too ambitious to only be about being a regional hub for IT and commerce, and generating wealth for the national population; it’s got to be about becoming a beacon of Middle East success to the West and our neighbours: dynamic, safe, free of politics, corruption, etc. A sock in the eye for the detractors who stopped the Dubai Ports deal.

So it doesn't really matter what we temporary residents, transients, feel, or even what this generation of Emiratis think of it all, because we're not the target market. What we are experiencing now are growing pains as this emirate sets out to do in twenty years what other countries have taken fifty or a hundred years to achieve. No wonder individuals on the inside are disorientated, and outsiders keep talking about Disneyland. This will be a New Town, prefabricated for the next generation. It will be up to them to give it a heart to replace what's dying here.

AND the rest of it.

Then there will be leisure for a social conscience regarding the inhabitants of the place. All in good time. I don't subscribe to this. And yet, shouldn't we recognise that the First World countries critical of attitudes and practices here, built their wealth in the bad old days of slavery, colonialism and the 'renewable resource' of cheap and plentiful immigrant labour; and that their social, political and judicial structures and national consciences have evolved since then? Industrialised England, New York, the Great Wall of China, the Egyptian pyramids, and the Aztec and Inca cities were all built on the backs, blood and bones of labour deemed disposable according to the values of the time. Times change, and so do attitudes, but as we've already seen with international concerns about fuel emissions, dirty coal, nuclear energy etc. what seems only commonsense to a developed nation, sounds like economic protectionism masquerading as a global conscience to the developing nation pulling itself up through whatever resources it has. Nor does the recent record of First World countries in Third World Countries square with our educated liberal modern consciences. And what's the latest on Baghdad, Guantanamo and the Land of the Free?

Excuse the bitter little diatribe, but man's inhumanity to man, collective short-term memory and infinite capacity for claiming the moral high-ground, not to mention the almost literal reclaiming, by the dubiously elected leader of the secular United States of America, of the Divine Right of Kings, which does impart the flavour of crusade to his country's activities in the Middle East, no matter how well his speech writers try to spin it, is going to get us all killed one of these days.

Turkey, Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran are at least open about the conflict between those who believe in an infallible God whose will should permeate society, and those who don’t, or who at least believe that individuals of conscience should group together to work for a just, compassionate and economically viable society. In the West there has been official separation of Church and State for generations, in some cases, centuries. Most westerners take it as fact that no individual, regime or system is perfect – or not for more than a few years, until circumstances alter cases – but everyone does their best according to their own lights, and we rely on the group - cabinet, parliament, electorate - call it what you will, to rein in the zealots, the corrupt, the megalomaniacs, the tired and disillusioned.

Part of what afflicts the world right now is the gap in understanding between the secular mindset – How can these people reject freedom of thought, speech, will, and mindlessly obey/believe/uphold that oppressive regime? And the religious mindset – How can these people disregard the laws of God, laid down for our benefit, and risk eternal damnation?

In the west, there is general mistrust of the political ambitions of ruling clerics – and not without reason, for do not these religious leaders with secular power have the usual human flaws? Europe took centuries to curb the secular power of the Papacy, and how many corrupt popes, linked by blood to various ruling families, played power games, or lived lives of debauchery before that happened? Didn’t Christianity split into Roman Catholic and Byzantine Orthodox long before the Reformation?

On the other hand, Russia and China both went down the paths of atheism – and the suppression of religious practices, groups and individuals – in pursuit of their ideal secular social model. It still goes on though the times, politics and names appear to have changed somewhat - but they don’t pretend otherwise, simply tell everyone else to mind their own business and leave their countries to them. They are open for business, not external reform, and look who's buying. So we’re all clear on Russia and China.

The one lesson that comes out of this is that ‘The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to to govern. Every class is unfit to govern...Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.’

And this applies to both clerics and secular authorities. It would seem that democracy is the key to social justice and honest government. Being elected for a fixed term, with the guarantee of being booted out for incompetence or corruption, and a maximum tenure no matter how terrific you think you are, checks even the Berlusconis of this world.

Except that the other half of the equation is the electorate, which has a moral responsibility of its own: to think, to weigh the worth of the candidates and the needs of the parish/town/city/region/country; to vote according to informed conscience not out of habit or fear; to vote – not abnegate responsibility for the community; and to be patient and open, allowing representatives time to do their job, and not take up weapons and hit the streets when no magic solution is delivered within months. It’s so easy not to bother. Violent activity is such an easy vent for frustration. Responsibility isn’t as easy, or as invigorating.

So how does it come about that the citizens of what has been – at least until recently – the most powerful nation on earth, managed to elect not once, but twice, a barely competent, vain, arrogant, opinionated, blinkered, self-satisfied, isolationist, xenophobic, religious zealot to be their president? Did I miss anything?

The signs were there the first time around.

Kyoto Treaty? Handy short term domestic gains at expense of betraying international agreements and relationships? OK.

Steel tariffs? Handy short term domestic gains at expense of betraying international agreements and relationships? OK. (Easier second time around).

International War Crimes Tribunal? Nope, not for God-Bless-Americans!

9/11: Didn’t see that coming, better hit someone back. Oops, missed in Afghanistan –

OK let’s

1) whip up hysteria on the back of national grief so that I can do what the Lordy-Lordy I like,

2) deflect attention from failure – What’s happening in Eye-rack these days?

3) find a bogeyman (See 2),

4) whip up a pretext – ooh… well in the movies they always say they’re going to destroy the world……. What about……Weapons of Mass Destruction?…OK!

5) make oil reserves safe for democracy…… um…… make the world safe for democracy. OK!!!

Butbutbutbut what about diplomacy?
What – the talking and listening kind? Nah. Unamerican. And invasion plays better on Fox.
Butbutbutbut what about the peace?
What peace?
After the war……we need a plan, personnel, resources, someone who speaks Arabic.
.................Listen sonny, we’ve got to catch the morning papers and breakfast TV -

And despite all the Not In My Name Efforts, off they went.

And despite all that followed, the fine Christian people of America, voted Dubbya in again. In response to what? Gay marriages (Find a bogeyman): the threat to Our Way of Life.

What happened to the separation of Church and State? What to make of George W. Bush’s Divine Smokescreen? God-on-our-side may have provided an unholy election miracle for the Republicans, but look at what it’s doing to the United States' international standing, and everything it touches these days! (Yes I know that there are thousands of Americans involved in relief efforts in some of the toughest places on earth, and many of them face hostility nowadays - I’m talking about this administration’s blinkered home-based electorate and self-righteous foreign policy.)

How can the people of America not see that their foreign policy has destroyed their almost mythic virtue in the eyes of their old allies? Cheat your neighbours. Betray your friends. Make scapegoats of political irritants. Destroy the old and iniquitous with no thought of how to encourage new growth, unless it means contracts for American firms. Make endless allowances for old friends steeped in blood and oppression; sign trade deals with old enemies in the hope that they’ll take you with them on their way up. Human rights abuses? No problem.

It can be argued that international diplomacy is always, ultimately about the bottom line. In fact if it weren’t for the unstoppable determination of traders and merchants to expand markets, most countries and continents would probably be at war most of the time.
Mammon the peacemaker.

To return to the beginning, and the critical stance taken by outside individuals, organisations and governments on the development of Dubai – how else will the world improve if not through the encouragement of best practice in all areas of society? It is good that First World countries wear their consciences on their sleeves, and actively seek to promote freedom and justice everywhere. And here in Dubai, there must surely be room for the personal and property rights of the individual in the brave new world rising out of the sand.

But for the identified leader of the western world (even if that perception is mistaken, and he’s just another bogeyman) to cloak the destabilisation of the Middle East through economic and political aggrandisement in the rhetoric of Christianity is not only disingenuous, but fans extremism in America’s Bible Belt as well as the Islamic world. We all know it’s about securing gasoline for American cars, and oil for American boilers: and the politicians and clerics in the Middle East all know it too. But how helpful of Mr. Bush to give them exactly what they need to inflame the hearts and minds of people already very angry about Israel, Palestine and Iraq. The worrying thing is, no-one really knows for sure whether this is political posturing, or if he really does see himself as Saint George. Either way, we’re in trouble.

If the American people as a whole (with the honourable but ignored exception of a large minority, many of whom live or have lived in the Middle East and elsewhere) are so complacent, so self-righteous and self-absorbed that the private lives of a tiny minority figure more powerfully than the lives of thousands of American service peronnel and thousands upon thousands of Iraqis, the ongoing misery and shame of Israeli state sponsored terrorism against Palestinians, (not just Palestinian terrorism against Israelis) and the USA’s descent, in the eyes of the rest of the world, from historical ally, powerhouse trading partner, and honourable – if flawed – defender of justice and democracy around the world, to duplicitous, racist, self-serving aggressor, ready to jettison constitutional human rights and ignore the sovereign rights of other nations whenever it suits, then I suppose that they have the President they deserve.

George Bush and Mahmoud Ahmedinejad certainly deserve each other, particularly as Dubbya’s foreign policy probably contributed to Ahmedinejad’s rise to power.

But do the rest of us deserve them? At the same time?

Maybe the joke’s on us. God is out there, watching the floorshow with a Deity Pack of Kleenex. Apocalypse Any Minute Now. Not delivered, as previously assumed, by God, but wilfully crafted by his ultimate creation. (No, not the dolphins, you idiot!)

Would someone like to explain the bit about God again?


Friday, May 26, 2006

R.T. Part Deux

I think Blogger's having an off day. I tried to include 'Zeus'

and 'Melisande' from Erté.com,

and 'Broadway in Fashion'

from Progressive Art Media,

but they wouldn't load, and when I published, the end of the post got chopped off. Twice. Are they trying to tell me something? One more try on pics and links, because these are definitely worth seeing! ......................tumtitum..... .......upload pics...... .......just talk amongst yourselves....... ......Whoopdidoo! See - told you they were Fab!

And if you want to see more, just follow the links! I recommend the image pages as well. I think when I'm done with this, I'm going to do a page of 'inspired by's', because I've found fascinating original work inspired by palaeolithic art, Escher, and Erté, as well as the ancient Assyrians, Phoenicians, etc etc etc. This is fun! :D

(I like these punctuation thingies! ;P)

OK. I'm going now....... Bye......... See ya..... GONE!

Romain de Tirtoff

Ha! Never heard of him. Actually, I hadn't. Ever heard of him. Until discovering that

may be for Erté,

but R. T. (pronounced en français - yes, another one -) stands for Romain de Tirtoff, the Russian artist and designer who adopted this elegant new identity when he began his career in Paris.

The first Erté prints I ever saw were on laminated plastic trays at the local market when I was about fourteen. (I think Art Deco must have been in in the mid 1970s because lots of people had a Mucha poster on the wall - and he too was celebrated in laminated kitsch! Art for the masses!)

I remember sumptuous furs on a preternaturally sinuous body, balanced by a pair of greyhounds. Neither of these, which he made in the 80s, but something very similar.

Stylish, gorgeous, witty, utterly asexual and faintly unsettling. Perhaps I had an inkling that some mysogynist was about to invent the supermodel, whose sole function was to make clothes look good on a catwalk or photoshoot with no awkward bumps to break the line, thus raising a downright silly standard for the rest of womankind, who needed to be able to sit down, get in and out of vehicles, breathe and - I know, I know, pure indulgence - eat. Damn.

Tangent alert: Spot the tangent!) Wallis Simpson, the American divorcée for whom the almost-king Edward VIII gave up the British throne in the 1930s, probably did Britain a great favour, since said throne passed to the steadier hands of George VI, and thereafter to his impressive eldest daughter Elizabeth. However(!!) for the completely bloody stupid epigram "One can never be too rich or too thin.", she and all the idiots who quoted her so merrily - - ooh! - - words fail! Of course, the poor woman was probably only joking, but still, corporate empires have been raised on the shoulders of anxious women for whom 'female' has become the 'F' word, and the desired silhouette is, well, male.

Androgyny is for the birds, ladies (not necessarily verifiable scientifically). And MANnequins. We're built curvy, and in my book, the designer whose work looks better draped from a clothes hanger than from breast and hip is in the wrong business: he should be in curtains. Can't we allow ourselves our curves? (Though on a personal note, I could wish that my only remaining concave curve was not between chin and shoulder..... sob!) Not thin. Not fat. Female! (Tangent over.)

Because of the style, I assumed that Erté himself was long gone, but as I learnt today, he was alive and well, and yet to make the prints I've put here! So here they are, and there are more prints, stage designs and sculptures at the online museum and gallery at Erté.com.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Knit One P*rn One

A couple of weeks back, I was reading Show & Tell, and GirlPrinter directed me to some 'lovely' babyknit patterns. Now I have no babies to knit for, but the little blue booties she'd knitted were so cute that I followed the link to A BIG RED BOX WHICH SAID:

We apologize the site you are attempting to visit has been blocked
due to its content being inconsistent with
the religious, cultural, political and moral values of
the United Arab Emirates.
If you think this site should not be blocked,
please visit the Feedback Form available on our website.

Wow. What are they putting on their babies' tootsies in the land of Oz?

Tonight I've been getting my colour fix at A. L. de Sauveterre's glorious Two Pointy Sticks. She directed me to some baby knits, and lo! A B.R.B. which said:

We apologize the site you are attempting to visit has been blocked
due to its content being inconsistent with
the religious, cultural, political and moral values of
the United Arab Emirates.
If you think this site should not be blocked,
please visit the Feedback Form available on our website.

Wow again. It appears that Uncle Sam is also corrupting minors with subversive knitwear.
What is happening beyond the lifeboat that is the UAE? Is the world full evil - evil - EVIL - HA! Ha-ha-ha-haaaaa! people masquerading as grannies and favourite aunties, all cackling over gasp! POINTY STICKS?!?!? Oh noooooooo!!!!! nefariously knitting Aran horns and four-ply fins in a vile conspiracy to pervert the next generation? Gasp!
O Woe to the World! To think that Habibibaba is out there somewhere in the Outer Darkness, the Boundless Chaos, unaware of the cunning predators lurking in living rooms, market stalls and Townswomen's Guilds, waiting to snare him in sigils of sin!
Habibibaba, if you are reading this, my darling, listen to your Mother! If a stranger offers you a cable jumper - just say "No!"
How fortunate we are to have Etisalat to protect us from such things.
OK. I suppose I could just fill in the Feedback Form, but for heaven's sake, they block translation sites, cutting us off from foreign-language research and culture, and they block photographic links on the assumption that if someone's taken a photograph of it, it must be baaaaaaad.
I wouldn't mind, but I have stumbled across adult material online before now, so it's ironic - ok, irritating - that I'm barred from a pattern for baby bootees!
Incidentally, I posted this then pulled it to replace an o with an *. (Anyone seen my blog? I know it was there when I went to bed last night, but now there's just a BIG RED BOX!)
No point in cutting off nose to spite face..........

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Kabuki to go

We're a week from performance and our students, who have worked tremendously hard as production team on two school plays, are really looking forward to performing.

Shibaraku (which translates as Just a Minute!) has an unstoppable teenage hero giving an ambitious and unscrupulous lord his come-uppance, and restoring honour to a noble house. Written as a crowd-pleaser to open a new season, it's lively, funny, full of swaggering and posturing, and beautifully set and costumed.

Of course, ours is a touring production aimed primarily at introducing our students to the acting tradition, so our set is minimal, nor do we have the budget for layered kimonos of hand-embroidered silk - honestly, what can you do?

Still, they're having great fun working on the stylised movement and vocal delivery, they're excited about richly coloured kimonos as a change from school uniform and their usual daywear - and an early exploratory session on wigs was a hoot.

Finding dead white foundation has been a challenge: the authentic white paint for the face, neck, shoulders, hands and wrists of aristocratic characters is called oshiroi, and may be plentiful in Tokyo, but in Dubai..... hmmmm... I've been testing facepaints with very unsatisfactory results - unless,when you think 'geisha' you think blotches and smears? BUT a very helpful woman from an international cosmetic house thinks they may have exactly what we need in their warehouse. Fingers crossed! **Update: She has indeed got exactly what we need, and is sending it to us without charge as encouragement to our students. Isn’t that great? I’m sure the results will be imMACulate.

I got black polyester swimming caps as wigbases from Géant in Ibn Battuta, wigs and hairpieces at Fida's in Satwa, and bamboo poles from the plant souk round the corner - since seven-foot tempered steel samurai swords aren't in our budget either!

There's still plenty to be done, but it's all coming together.So here are some pics of work in progress, and where we're heading with this!

Working on the walk.

And the wigs!

One kimono and several graduation gowns.

Yoshitsuna - noble, wronged hero

Katsura Mae - his fiancée

Takehira - evil lord who wants Yoshitsune dead and Katsura Mae as his 'attendant'. This is actually a detail from Kanjincho, showing Benkei, but we're taking it as a base for Takehira as it's about halfway between the delicate makeup for Yoshitsuna, and what they call the aragoto (roughly, bravura) make-up, required for the larger-than-life Kagemasa.

And here is Kagemasa - teenage hero (on a Brazilian magazine cover) The actor, Ichikawa Ebizo XI is going to be performing in London this June. You're looking at three layers of kimono over the heraldic undergarment, and you wouldn't believe the shoes and trousers, so I'll leave them out!

Finally, just in case you thought Kabuki was alien, elitist or whatever, here, from the Kabuki-Za in Tokyo, is indisputable evidence of its broader appeal:

This is a scene from Kanjincho. Yup! Snoopy is Yoshitsuna, with his little bodyguard of Woodstock and his buddies. The blonde guy - piano player - I forget - is Benkei, the warrior priest. Linus is Togashi, the sergeant of Yoshitsuna's elder half-brother, and torn between duty to his lord, and admiration for Benkei's loyalty to his. And Sally (? yes ? - How can I have forgotten?!) is - well - she must the obligatory decorative chick, because she certainly doesn't figure in the story! Are Hollywood values creeping into Japanese culture?

I have to say that you cannot appreciate Kabuki from reading about it and looking at pictures, though they certainly help. There are several excellent sites online, and if you just want to look at the gorgeous costumes and spectacular makeup, you could spend an hour or so in Google Image Search!

I ordered some DVDs for school from Farside Music, a UK company run by Paul Fisher who lived in Japan for some years. If you've not seen Kabuki before, the comparatively slow pace (compared with virtually any western theatre you've ever seen) takes a little adjusting to, but it's so worth it.

The DVDs that Paul's imported from Japan are first rate, with excellent commentaries, and the customer service is also first rate. None of this automated reply business that massive companies have to invest in. Kanjincho is truly touching. Terakoya is heart-breaking. And the double bill of the woman looking for her lost son, and the temple dancer who becomes possessed by the lion spirit - well it works for me. They're expensive, but you get what you pay for, and when I leave here, I'm going to have to order my own copy of Kanjincho.

Farside also does Nō, but not yet with subtitles, and CDs of traditional Japanese music.

Thank you Mme Cyn for introducing me to Japanese culture and starting me down this delightful path: I don't think I ever expected to get this far!

Sunday, May 21, 2006


I'm fifteen and my dad's just fixed my bike and I'm riding back from telling my friend I'll ride in with her tomorrow and I'm freewheeling at tremendous speed down the really good steep bit on Spilsby Hill and there's a titchy white pebble directly in my path and it's absolutely not worth breaking my lovely cruise for so I go right over it.

I'm picking my bike up and reassuring someone that I'm fine and wondering where all those people standing at their garden gates came from and I think I'll just push it the rest of the way home.

I'm in the kitchen when Mother stomps in from the shops and why didn't I tell her about my accident yesterday?

What accident?

When Mother went into Clixby's to buy wool Betty was very concerned. How was Little Yellow Duckling after her accident yesterday? LYD had been badly shaken up, hadn't she? She must have had a nasty bump and was she all right now?
Mother, now revealed as Mother Who Didn't Even Know! and also Mother Who Hadn't Even Noticed!! had to ask what Betty was talking about.

It seemed that poor LYD had gone over the handlebars of her bike on Spilsby Hill, had been knocked unconscious and carried into someone's house, where she had proceeded to revive and faint all over again all over the furniture before insisting that yes she was fine thank you, collecting her bike and going home.

This of course is news to me, but explains the instant bystanders.

Mother eventually saw the funny side, but I still only know this as a story, because I only remember before and after. And why would I tell her the before, and furnish her with final proof that I was a twit without the sense to avoid a pebble when hurtling down a steep hill with no brakes? I mean!

Last year I tripped on my way to my friend's house for our morning ride into work. I went down like a ton of bricks, banging my knee and landing on my laptop, which has had a loose key and wonky space bar ever since.

Yesterday evening I was crashed out fast asleep on the sofa when my mobile rang. In my rush to answer it I tripped over my laptop cable, sending self and laptop crashing to the floor, banging my knee and damaging the power connection on the laptop. But Mme. Cyn was still there when I picked up, so it was all worth it. ;)

An hour later, Habibi asks how my head is now.
It's fine. Why?
I banged it on the table as I fell.
No, I banged my knee.
No, I banged my head on the corner of the table as I went down; he saw me.
Nah. I fell, hurt my knee, damaged my laptop and answered the phone, all without a break. I'd remember a bump on the head! He was mistaken.

This morning I was dropping things and bumping into things, (in a manner attributable to being half-asleep and longing to be fully so) but also not interested in breakfast (Huuuuuh???!!!) and aware of a vague headache that warmed up nicely as the day wore on, radiating from a softish bit I found on my head during the morning, down into my shoulder. Mild concussion: nothing that Panadol and sleep won't sort out. But Habibi was obviously right: I bumped my head. Wouldn't you think I'd have noticed that?

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Shakespeare Wallah!

We've been invited to take part in a Shakespeare festival in October, at a school in Delhi where they are building a replica of The Globe. Does it get any better than this? All I need now is a Shakespeare play that I can cut to a running time of 40-60 minutes, and rehearse in six weeks with a cast of up to twenty 14-18 year-olds as soon as we get back in September. Suggestions on a blogcard please!

I'd be grateful to hear from anyone who has been in a really enjoyable school or amateur production, or on the directing/production side of an abridged Shakespeare production. I've had some practice at abridging plays and adapting a screenplay for student/children's productions.

Reservations: A Midsummer Night's Dream has been done to death, and I have nothing to bring to it. I don't want to reprise R&J so soon. Our kids are familiar with Macbeth, but I'd say that cutting it to an hour would destroy it. They've studied The Merchant of Venice, and of course, the excellent film is available on DVD to help them to a better appreciation of the style and issues, but again, editing would almost certainly skew an already ambivalent play.

I need something with a strong storyline and uncomplicated subplot, to give a handle to young actors working with unfamiliar language on a very tight schedule. I'm up for a modern adaptation too, as long as it doesn't go down the Class-3B-thought-Shakespeare-would-be-boring-until- route! (Sorry, but I've seen some dreadfully cheesy or patronising 'accessible' scripts and productions, and I have to question their worth.)

I liked the Baz Luhrman R&J, and the Michael Almereyda Hamlet with Ethan Hawke and Julia Stiles - but they're perhaps a tad sophisticated for our requirements! Has anyone seen 'O'? Is it any good?

OK, time to stop. Goodnight all!

Friday, May 19, 2006

C is for

Marc Chagall!
I could not choose just one work, so here is a collection.
These paintings speak to me, and the stained glass fairly sings.
Feast your senses!

The Birthday

Evening Enchantment


The Chagall window in the Art Institute of Chicago. C is also for Creativity, Community, and Chicago. Here's what Jeff McMahon had to say about the Chagall window and The Importance of Field Trips for Chicago School Children. Nuff said.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Da Daaaaaaaah!

OK, it's C next, but in honour of the canning of The DA Vinci Code at Cannes, (That would be the Cannes Can........ sorry..... arf!) I give you L.H.O.O.Q., Dadaist Marcel Duchamp's joke on that famous painting.

En Français for maximum appreciation: El-Ash-O-O-Koo or Elle a chaud au cul. (She has a hot ass. Outrageous n'est çe pas?!)

Ah! French humour - so sophisticated! Have you ever had the pleasure of seeing the play Ubu Roi, by Alfred Jarry? It's full of Pschitt. Mais oui!

Jarry is credited as a forefather of Dadaist, Surrealist, Futurist and Absurdist theatre. Hmm. Doesn't do much for me. Qu'est çe qui ce passe, Alfie?

Toodle-oo mes petits choux.

Lesson from Z.

I was saddened to see, yesterday, the obituary of a man I knew briefly several years ago. He was someone of great heart and spirit. Sensitive, full of wry humour, not perfect by any means, but a good man. ‘Philanthropist’ is a word I associate with rich men of conscience who endow libraries, children’s homes, museums and hospitals; using their wealth for the greater good. Yet philanthropy is simply love of one’s fellow man, and philanthropic acts simply the manifestation of that love. Z. was not wealthy, and he lived in an anonymous shabby building above the racket of shops, cafes and traffic, but he shared the wealth of his spirit, and did great good thereby.

(Brief confessional - feel free to skip. To my enduring regret, I behaved in a very thoughtless manner, and broke trust all those years ago, after which I broke contact. Sometimes others can forgive what we cannot forgive in ourselves, but to hide without making proper amends is cowardly, and compounds the hurt. Oh, I’m good on theory. Almost ten years in which I’ve wanted to start again, but ~. Don’t do as I do!)

OK you can come back now.

Z’s name has remained in my address book all these years as a sort of talisman of him, this good man living in this city, just as he was in my eyes a talisman of the best of humanity.

The newspaper obituary carried a photograph, taken years ago, and I sat there for I'm not sure how long with my hand resting on it, a last contact. Yesterday I understood for the first time why the bereaved kiss their dead, even though they know that the body is empty and cold. We cherish the outward sign of the inward presence we have loved for so long, and there is a half-formed but powerful desire to make it not true, to have another chance. Death makes charlatans of logic and fastidiousness: we have to touch, to confirm that our beloved really has gone, to bury the half-acknowledged, foolish, human hope that death is not what it appears, that if you wish hard enough, you can make the sleeper wake, just like in a fairy tale, and there will be more time.

I believe in ghosts; not the contactable otherworld entities, but the memories of those we have loved, which stay with us, gradually losing their poignancy, as we learn to live without tearing at the barrier between now and then, and live with what we have.

I think that when someone we love dies, part of us goes with him, at least part of the way. (I say ‘him’ for convenience, but most of the people I am thinking of right now are women.) For a while we continue to breathe and speak and mechanically perform the tedious functions required of us; like eating, and going to work, and paying attention to other people’s mouths opening and closing around us; but our spirit is absent, still agonisingly attached to the lost one. There are those who never recover; their whole being so inextricably interwoven with the other, that it is only a matter of time before the body follows. And we call it depression, pining away, dying of a broken heart.

But most of us come back eventually. It happens gradually, in small ways: we remember to eat without being told, begin to register tastes and smells, laugh at something funny, plan for next week, be content, even glad, in the company of others. In time we can hear, and even speak the beloved’s name without wanting to howl at the world in bewilderment, rage, defiance and bitterness. Eventually most of us rediscover our capacity for joy.

And just as we ‘departed’ with our beloved for a while, so he returns with us. Those we love imprint themselves on us, and we don’t realise it as long as they are physically with us, constantly overprinting; but once that part of our life together is over, and our shattered sense of reality begins to reassemble, all the overprinted images coalesce to become part of our new reality. The capacity for joy may remain a long way off; a part of us is lost, and we may ‘never be the same again’, but in exchange we keep a part of the other. The pain of the transplant subsides, and we go on with our new way of life, nudging our metaphysical passenger from time to time for his perspective, or just to remember.

So I would like to record the passing of a kind, perceptive and generous man who was deservedly respected by his colleagues and loved by everyone who had the good fortune to know him. There is no library or children’s home in his name, but – and the phrase is true for all that it is over-used – he will live in the hearts of those who knew him. That is part of his gift.

The other part is the lesson that kindness, generosity, compassion and humour come in all shapes and sizes. Look around. Recognise what’s there in front of you. Cherish and be joyful.

And if you screw up and hurt someone you care about, work to makes amends. Heartfelt apologies are only the start; you have to keep on keeping on, and live with not being quite trusted, for as long as it takes to rebuild what you broke. (If you've seen the basketball movie 'Eddie', with Whoopie Goldberg as the new coach, she has something to say about that to the basketball player who 'played away'!) Yes it does matter. Apart from anything else, you have to learn to trust yourself again, or by default define yourself to yourself as unworthy. That’s all very well for a soap opera character, but not the best basis for a well-rounded life! I will try to follow my own advice.


Ugh! Internet Explorer 7! Yeugh! Yeuch! Yick! What is this?
Using this last night, not realising that it's a new release, I thought that Habibi's laptop was crashing, if not giving up the ghost completely.
What's with the horrible blurry back-and-forward buttons? I thought I'd picked up the wrong reading glasses!
And all that crap at the top, that distracts from what I'm doing. Duh! Am I at primary school that I need wallcharts of the 3 Rs in large reassuring letters with cheerful explanatory pictures? In duplicate?
And the pages and toolbar fields of bloody security warnings every time I click on anything at all! Do they think we're stupid? When I buy a bag of peanuts, I know that it may contain nuts. Hello-o! Patronising marketing alert.

It wasn't broken! Why 'fix' it?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

B for Bruegel

This was my favourite painting for years and years. I had a small print when I was about 14.

Hunters in the Snow, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder is the December & January painting from his series 'The Twelve Months', painted in 1565.

I enjoy the crowded canvases of the Bruegels, like those big, sociable, eighteenth and nineteenth century novels with dozens of characters, each with his own story, or a Frank Capra movie where every character exists in his own right, not as mere window dressing to the principals, or light relief to a relentlessly linear storyline. Norman Rockwell is perhaps a kindlier, twentieth century Bruegel in his wry humour and attention to detail.

I like the peace, intimacy and tidiness of 16th/17th Century Dutch interiors with their immaculate black-and-white tiled floors, perfect fruit on gleaming pewter, and those distinctive sturdy Dutch faces. Pieter de Hooch's Interior with a woman peeling apples is just gorgeous: making long curly apple peels is one of those small pleasures that never wears thin, whether you're of an age to identify with the woman or the child.

On the other hand, having lived in the north-west of England where the climate is very similar to that of the Netherlands, I was the one who crossed Holland off our list of possibilities for when we leave here. I love rain, snow, wind, in fact almost all the energetic variations of seasonal weather (I draw the line at drizzle and sleet.) and I also love and miss the natural greenery, woodland, streams and ponds that come with regular rainfall; but I'm not moving back to a low sky and northern light!

For me, 'Hunters in the Snow' captures that feeling of anticipation bubbling through fatigue that carries you along the last stretch of a long journey, and that sense returning travellers have of the closeness and separateness of people's lives.

Dusk is coming on, and rooks flap through the cold air, beginning to roost on the leafless, snow-dusted tree branches. Meanwhile, the people from the the tavern get on with their outdoor chores beneath the lopsided sign. The hunters and their dogs trudge past regardless and unregarded.

Down below on the frozen canal and ponds, skaters potter and play, absorbed; unaware that they are part of someone else's landscape. The skaters in the painting are as familiar, and at the same time as unknowable, as the inhabitants of towns seen from a mountain highway, or from the window seat of a descending plane emerging from cloud cover.

So my B is for Pieter Bruegel -er - Breugel - um - Breughel - the Elder, a contemporary painter from 450 years ago.

I'm having such a good time on this little art alphabet project, which takes me all over the Internet in search of the images I want, and along the way introduces me to so much I've never seen. The colours are so rich on a laptop screen, plus it's quite intriguing to see the variations on the same work as it is reproduced on different sites. 'Hunters in the Snow' is a case in point: some had a greenish tint, some grey, some blue; and in some the details were really sharply defined, while in others, the church tower is hardly there at all - so until you can see the original for yourself, you can always pick your favourite version online!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A is for Art

It's been a rather discouraging evening, and I required distraction.
TV options: latest news 1:US bans weapons sales toVenezuela; latest news 2: more dead people - pick a country, any country; formulaic pout-glossed teen movie; Other Movie II; Spanish channel confirming that a) Spanish people speak even faster than I do, and b) I've forgotten everything again.
Book options - not really, brain in neutral.
Music - nah, nerves on edge.
Pictures - yes. Give me colour and line, and an artist's distinctive eye and purpose.
Feeling better by extension. So here I am again.

One of the things I really enjoyed about setting up this blog was the favourites list. Habibi says all those profile lists are a waste of time because no-one ever looks, and maybe he's right, but that barely came into it. Tired and crumpled at the end of a crowded term, I spent several happy hours contemplating all my favourite things, both current, and from way back, and felt much better for it. I also got a kick out of My Karma Just Ran Over Your Dogma which is drenched in style and colour - also surreal silliness......

So for my own pleasure - and yours too I hope, here goes an occasional alphabet of favourite - or newly discovered fabulous - art and visual pleasures. (Incidentally, here's some weird science for happy chemists. Don't ask me what it means, just sing along if you can!)

A is for the paleolithic cave paintings of ALTAMIRA, near Santander - in Cantabria, Northern Spain.

When I was eleven, I bought an old black hardcover book at a school sale or an Oxfam shop. It was The Testimony of the Spade; perhaps an odd choice for an eleven year-old; but I read about the cave paintings of Lascaux and the Sutton Hoo treasure, and Tollund Man, and studied the black & white photos and found it endlessly satisfying.

Time passed, and I read elsewhere about the cave paintings of Altamira, just over the border from Lascaux. And this time there were colour photos. The Altamira paintings are not as sharp as those at Lascaux - which are gloriously alive, teeming with bison, horses, allsorts; but, from that time before borders, they are believed to be by the same Magdalenian people who made the Lascaux paintings. (I confess, I can't retain these classifications, no matter how often I look them up.)

Where before I had responded to the energy, fluidity, and astonishing realism in the black and white photo images, now I could see the richness of the colours they used - these cavemen working 12,000 or more years ago!

I read somewhere recently that the artists worked with the natural curves and bumps of the rock, and on occasion worked the rock itself to better define the musculature of the bison, horses and other creatures they were painting. According to the inspiring and extremely well researched Wild Colour, which I have to return to our school library soon (Don't want to!) prehistoric cave artists were using pigments derived from ochre, iron, mineral clays, malachite and lapis lazuli.

I'm not alone in my fascination: do an 'altamira' image search in Google, and you'll find contemporary work inspired by Altamira and Lascaux, and no end of well-illustrated sites on the caves themselves.

Ok, happy now. Time for bed. Goodnight!

Monday, May 15, 2006

Area 51 GSM 4180

Strangely unsettled by a simple ten minute powercut, I go out to reassure myself that all has indeed returned to normal. On the path between the dimly lit buildings, light and shade seem oddly exaggerated. The long shadows cast by a melancholy yellow moon seem to thicken and close around me along with a growing awareness that something is not quite right.

No sound. No movement. The birds, so agitated earlier, are silent. Of the skittish geckos who normally break cover and dart ahead of me like anxious autumn leaves, there is no sign, not a startled glance, not a flicker. Nothing.

I remind myself to breathe. Relax. I move towards more open ground, and pause, puzzled.

I register twisted, angular shapes; green hearts and dessicated stems. What has happened to the plants?

Open ground at last. I sigh noisily, but relief drains away as I notice the lights. Someone has laid out a runway on the football pitch. What on earth is going on? You surely couldn't land a plane here? So who are the lights for? And who laid them?

Suddenly dry-mouthed I see more lights, red this time. I give myself a mental shake: it's the radio mast! I'll be wrestling with my own shadow at this rate. But then again; I pause and look carefully. No. Radio mast on my left. And two distinct horizontal arrays, over there, beyond the trees. They seem to be hovering. Are they coming or going?

I look round nervously, half-expecting to see a Hollywood-style alien containment team. I don't know what to do, whether to head for the mall or run for home. There's a young couple in the middle of the football pitch. Almost babbling with relief I rush towards them, only to slow down, hesitate, and finally stop several paces away, my words turning to dust in my mouth.

They haven't moved. They don't react in any way to the sight of this absurd woman running towards them. I take in their frozen angular shapes. The hands they've thrown up in vain defensive gestures do not mask the terror in their eyes.

What happened here? Where is everyone? Where are the joggers, the kids escaping from homework, the strolling grandparents, the maids following eight-year-olds who've begged one last bike-ride before bed?

There is no-one else, only unpleasant amorphous patterns on the road, strange dry tide marks with still-damp edges that gleam dully, suggesting something newly melted, vapourised.

Feeling isolated, and yet surrounded, confined, observed, I look over my shoulder. The man and woman remain, petrified. By fear.

But of what? I notice something I missed before: a cordoned area. The petrified couple are no more than fifty metres away, their eyes fixed on - on nothing! Just some red and white tape and some plastic cones and an empty space. There is nothing there!

But the grass is matted, the soil wet, churned, compacted. Something has been here, something so terrifying that not a single bird, animal or insect has remained within screaming distance. Why am I thinking about screaming?

A low moan comes from somewhere, and wearily I realise that my arms are wrapped around my body, and my face is wet. I swallow, striving for control, my mind racing through treacle, reaching for some kind of rational explanation. What happened here, in the darkness of our 'powercut'? Who, or what, has been here? The darkness lasted no more than ten minutes: how did the authorities react so fast? Was it 'the authorities'? And if so, what are the implications?

My feet move without my direction, and stop beside strange tracks in the sand. Something, or someone, has been dragged or wheeled to a tall green double gate in a high wall. The gate is bolted.

Stencilled on the wall in green are words and numbers, a reference number.

What is this place? Who, or what, is inside? Where is everybody? What is the secret of


Suddenly, I cannot stand it anymore. I turn and run, trying not to imagine watchful eyes, someone detailed to overtake and detain me. There must be someone else left!

I head for the most crowded place I can think of, finally plunging through the doors of the mall, my heart hammering in my chest, lungs burning, the stitch in my side hideously clenched. I subside breathless, half-hysterical, against the cool broad base of a pillar, under the nose of a bemused security guard. Another human being!

And more - dozens of normal people doing their normal shopping, and not even noticing the lunatic beside the pillar. Oh thank you thank you thank you. I must be nuts, paranoid, to scare myself to death over nothing. I need to get more sleep, do yoga, stop watching conspiracy films.

Dizzy with relief and self-reproach, I don't at first notice someone standing directly in front of me, but I sense that I am being studied. I look up and my heart seems to implode in my chest. I was right after all. And we're doomed.

P.S. Thanks to complete strangers Fadi and Sumaiyah for 'looking terrified' for my camera. That was fun! :D

Battery power

The lights just went out. We're having a little localised powercut. I expect we'll be back to normal soon, but it never occurred to me that I could still be online in a powercut. We had one yesterday morning too. Sudden silence woke me at 5.15 as the A/C shut down. Back to normal 35 minutes later. Neighbours in other quadrants weren't affected.

So here - I'm quite proud of this - is our neighbourhood in the dark.

The red dots are the warning lights on the big transmitter, or at least I haven't heard the voice of the Mysterons so far.

Damn! I was about to go walking in the dark, but the lights came on again! I dunno - bloggin' instead of livin'.

I'll take a walk anyway. If you don't hear from me again, perhaps I was wrong about the Mysterons.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Little Red Boat

Owoo! I've been writing reports for a couple of hours, and wanted chill-time before bedtime, so went for a little pootle round the Net (no life... I know...) and there was Little Red Boat bobbing in the blue (Habibi had said she was really good and he was right!) and this babe-in-arms of 29 (Happy Birthday, What's a PayPal button? Eh? Can't quite hear you.) is a woman after my own heart. So just as I'm trying to get my links list to a sensible length, I have to add this one. If only to learn the Fifth Commandment of Stuff.

Have I taken my medication tonight? Huh? Have I taken my medication tonight? Huh? Have -

Time for bed.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Hormones: Ups & Downs (one for the girls)

I am one of those people who is quite useful in minor emergencies involving lost children, blood, fear etc. I suppose that growing up in a big family is eventful enough to encourage measured reactions, and I was briefly a St. John’s Ambulance Brigade first-aider, so one way or another, my instinct is to quell panic and do the necessary. Afterwards, of course, I get tearful and trembly, but that’s what the Great British Cuppa was invented for.

So when Habibibaba was about nine months old, and I found a lump in my breast, I took a deep breath, made a cup of tea - and a doctor’s appointment for a couple of days later - and waited to see what would come of it.

The doctor did the examination. This was quite an interesting experience in itself: the avoidance of eye contact; his concentration on the matter in hand (!) and mine on a patch of wall, all apparently as matter-of-fact as the wash and rinse before a haircut. Yes, there was a lump.

Well, actually I knew that, having surreptitiously poked at it morning and evening in the hope that I’d imagined it. Rats. There are occasions when one would really not mind being written off as a hysteric. An appointment was booked for ten days later, with The Consultant. At this point I thought I’d better tell Habibi, keeping it low-key, though we were both rather anxious at how fast I’d got a specialist appointment. This wasn’t what we’d heard about the NHS. Was there something we should know?

Ten days of being calm and sensible, of not thinking about how bereaved Habibi would manage with motherless Habibibaba, and of being perfectly confident that everything would be ok in the short or medium term. Certainly no more poking about: the nerves can only stand so much! It was comforting to know that my maternal grandmother, who had developed breast cancer in her 70s, made a full recovery, and lived another decade or so. Yes. I liked that.

The Consultant's examination; same experience, different room. There was no lump. Sorry? There was no lump. But there was! I’d found it AND the GP had found it. It couldn’t just go, could it?

Actually, it could.

The Consultant did not doubt that there had been a lump, but how had I found it?
By doing a self-examination, as explained in a magazine.
Sigh. Magazines. How regularly did I do these self-examinations?
Well, this was the first time I’d bothered really.

Basically, girls, self-examination is a good thing, provided we do it regularly; because hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle can and may generate lumps and bumps, which then subside all by themselves and no harm done; and regular checking familiarises us with those ups and downs, so that we don’t take fright over nothing.

I don’t mean to suggest that if you find something you assume it’s ok; or if you suspect something, you give yourself permission to ignore it: of three special women I know, who’ve developed cancers in recent years, two are still here, and the world is a better place for their presence; the one who could not bring herself to go to the doctors, for fear of what they’d find, well, she’s long gone, and we’re the poorer for her loss. If in doubt, you get your ass down to the doctor p.d.q. You owe it to yourself, and to everyone else whose life your life touches! But wait a while before practising your stoic smile and window-shopping for designer headscarves.

As for me, I left the room expressing decorous relief and gratitude to The Consultant, and went on my way. About four minutes later I was standing outside trembling and gasping, with my fingertips almost embedded in the bark of a tree, as my nervous system registered that it was now safe to release the self-control of the previous fortnight. Being brave had seemed almost easy, relief nearly floored me.

I expect I walked home quite jauntily afterwards, to the internal rhythm of ‘I’m fine! I’m fine. I’m fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine!! Yeehaaa!’ Actually, I have no idea – the rest of that day’s a complete blank, but Umm Habibibaba’s still here, tralala!

Friday, May 12, 2006

1000 years of knowledge rediscovered at Ibn Battuta

No, I'm not on commission, but I do like exhibitions with a clear narrative or theme, with well spaced exhibits I can walk around in my own time, and good background information. I don't expect this in a shopping mall.

Since I can spend hours absorbed in such things, I also like to know that I can go rest feet, mind and spirit over a coffee, before going back for more. Aha! Shopping mall!

Here are a few images of an excellent exhibition of 1000 years of Muslim achievement, at Ibn Battuta Mall. Definitely worth a special trip, especially if you can get down during the week, or on Friday mornings, when it's quieter. Don't even think about Thursday or Friday night....

In Andalucia you can find out about Abbas bin Firnas who, in the late 800s, at the age of 70, strapped on a pair of wings and stepped off a cliff near Cordoba. And lived!

This fantastic model of an irrigation system is in Tunisia - between the food court, Gloria Jean's and Cinnabon, in case you're worried about your blood sugar on your long trek across time and continents.

This wonderful clock is in the big India court, separated from the elephant clock by the seductively squishy orange banquettes of Cafe Havanna. (There's a reason I never lose weight, no matter how enthusiastically I hurl myself about at the gym.) The figures on the right are supported by wooden levers to enable them to mark the hour.

This is only a fraction of what's on show. I am so impressed by the range and attention to detail on this exhibition. Excellent.

The Great Indoors

This is the mall in my backyard: Ibn Battuta Mall. I think it's gorgeous.

When it first opened, just over a year ago, there were teething problems with the A/C and the cleaners as the crowds poured in in those early weeks, but there's little cause for complaint now. It's quite simply a a beautiful place to wander through.

The faux masonry is hand finished. The roofs are vaulted, beamed, painted, tiled. The detail is exquisite.

If you've never been to Cordoba (and I haven't) you could do worse than stroll through Andalucia en route for Géant. The walls of Egypt are covered in murals. The Persian dome is extravagantly tiled. The Indian dome is serenely beautiful. And as for China, after the glimmering elegance and muted warmth of India, the bold primary colours of China are something else!

From the legendary city of Cordoba

you can wander through the streets of Tunisia,

stop for a coffee in Persia

and a tea in India - and perhaps some very decadent chocolate cake - (Please don't feed the Elephant.)

before catching a movie in China.

And there are shops too.