Thursday, 18 December 2008
Do you ever feel, in the midst of all the partying and festivity, like sneaking off and having a little time to yourself just to think….and to dream?
The flame trees are in flower now,
And the evening pink flamingo settle
On lapping shores of crimson lake.
The room is soft with dusky light
And silken carpets from Istanbul.
There are table top acacia trees below
In the valley and mellow misty swaths
Of smoke from lamp lit huts which
Recede to firefly flickering glimmer
As the sun sinks and calls in the night.
(**The painting is a self-portrait by my daughter Alexandra (Beani) which she gave to me last Christmas in New York)
Wednesday, 17 December 2008
I was going to blog about my father's war journal and the book I'm attempting to write based on his diaries, but I found I needed more time to think. I procrastinated by ambling through the blogosphere, delighting in stories of life and love and laughter. There it was....all at my fingertips. Art, poetry and prose, tumultuous travel, evocative photographs, culinary cliff-hangers, delightful memories, daily jottings, heartbreak and healing, and tummy-clutching humour.
One particular blog pressed the button and whooshed me away from the ashes of war. I learned today from the iconoclastic and quite brilliant artist Ellis Nadler that 2009 is to be International Year of The Nose. Inspired by her post, I decided to join the celebration early with my noodle…er…doodle too. It is – to quote Gorgeous Gethin of SCD and Blue Peter fame – one I made earlier……
Monday, 15 December 2008
Way off the itinerary of most of Italy's art-loving visitors, Lecce sits on the southeastern tip of Italy's boot, waiting to stupefy us with its little-known magnificence.
I love the graphic symmetry of these windows and how the hard shadows contrast against the soft ochre sandstone of this beautiful building.
Sunday, 14 December 2008
Snips and snails,
And puppy dog tails,
That's what little boys are made of.
This is Henry and he is LouLou’s Little Prince. He’s probably not made of snips and snails but he can certainly be as rambunctious as a puppy. In this sketch he had ‘borrowed’ Grandpa’s hat while the Mzee was snoozing in a deck chair.
Friday, 12 December 2008
Would you like to explore New York while living in a penthouse apartment on 5th Avenue with breathtaking views of Central Park? Or search for treasure with a Parisian antique dealer? Maybe you’d like to ride a camel across the drifting sands seas of the Sahara, or sip Ouzo with a fisherman on an island in the Agean?
Or perhaps you’d like to savour the spicy flavours, heady smells and exotic kaleidoscopic colour of a souk in Marrakesh?
How about a trip down the Nile or a visit to the rocky red heart of Australia where, if you listen carefully, you may hear the whispered voices of aboriginal ancestors?
Would you enjoy beachcombing along the storm wrecked sands of the Skeleton Coast or watch graceful gazelle dance down to a waterhole from the shade of your verandah?
Perhaps you’d prefer to stay for a while with a Duke in Belgravia, or share the sometimes frightening but always exhilarating challenge of sailing around the world singlehanded?
Compelling drama, moral issues, passion and pain, acute observation, gentle reminiscence, investigation and revelation, enthralling exploration, humour, biography, history and heart. It’s all there. In a book.
At the suggestion of the wonderful, multi-talented blogger supremo Sarah Laurence, I have finally got round to posting my Book Boost. Here is my Christmas gift list. You are more than welcome to borrow any or all of them!
For My Liege - lover of history and for whom every journey is an adventure, I have chosen Alice Albinia’s Empires of the Indus. Alice weaves together history and travel in a beautifully written and accessible account that follows the Indus river upstream, from Tibet, through Northern India and south through civilizations, emperors and explorers.
And because, like me, he devours books, I have decided to give him an extra bonus. Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri is a superbly written collection of short stories that take readers from Cambridge and Seattle to India and Thailand as they explore the secrets at the heart of family life.
For Georgie - child of Africa, intrepid traveller and adventurer; now a very Yummy Mummy and whizz-kid wife who is becoming an astonishingly good and imaginative cook, it will be Tessa Kiro’s Piri Piri Starfish. Tessa gives us a vivid tapestry of the Portuguese way of living and eating together, sewn seamlessly in this delectable book with her own unique colours and threads.
I’m also going to pop Leon by Allegra McEvedy into her stocking. Allegra’s recipes are both incredibly delicious as well as amazingly fast. This book, apart from being a very gorgeous book to own and read, gives you over 100 mouth-watering recipes and a fun approach to cooking with big flavours.
For Beani - wit, raconteur and general bonne vivante who, beneath the twinkle is cerebral, intensely curious and a voracious reader – I’ve decided to give Tim Winton’s latest tour de force Breath. In a place of stagnation and limited opportunities where for some the only escape is the ocean itself, this is haunting novel about two boy’s coming-of-age – without all the clichés.
For Janie – redoubtable Countess, talented analogist and my very best friend in all the world, I have chosen The Rowing Lesson by Anne Landsman. Like Landsman's family, the Jewish Kleins are incongruous in the Aryan world of Afrikaner South Africa, tolerated only because Harold becomes a skilled doctor. Heartbreaking and evocative.
And another one I’m going to sneak into her package is Alexandra Fuller’s The Legend of Colton H Bryant. Take an ordinary man living in the high plains of America’s big sky country (where Alexandra now lives), and you have a poignant, sometimes humorous and powerfully evocative tale of a ‘cowboy’ legend.
For Peter – as voluble, as witty and as erudite as Winston Churchill (sounds like him too!) – it will be A Fraction of The Whole by Steve Toltz The story of a father and son whose strong connection transcends all their many shortcomings, and an hilarious indictment of the modern world and its mores.
For Mark – Wiz-kid of the Western World and generous lender of Land Rovers – I’ve picked The Collector of Worlds by Ilya Troyanov, an intriguing biographical fiction of the infamous explorer Sir Richard Burton as told through the eyes of his Indian servant.
For Henry (4) – Number One Star Catcher, pure genius and man of the world with an encyclopaedic knowledge of just about everything – I have chosen Oliver Jeffers’ The Great Paper Caper. When life in the forest begins to change the mystery begins and a full-scale investigation is required.
For James (2) – fearless explorer, decorated hero and deft rugby player – it’s Not A Box by Antoinette Portis. Rabbit explains how extremely useful an empty brown box can be if you use your imagination.
Wednesday, 10 December 2008
Eeep! Enough of the snivelling homesickness – back to reality!
Humpf. So much for my morning. How has yours been?
Sunday, 7 December 2008
First, a photograph taken in the wide wild landscape of Andalucia - a place that whispers to me fiercely of my beloved Africa. Then a shot of a lone fisherman on a beach from which, on a clear day, you can see the coast of Morocco. The third is of My Liege's grotty, well worn old leather sandals which he had kicked off before making a beeline for the waves.
The lightening tree and new growth
Just me and my shadow
Friday, 5 December 2008
The Countess, Mafuta and the Serengeti
I just couldn't write about good friends without mentioning my best one. The Countess and I are the same, but different. She can drive over corrugations without veering off into the bush like I do. She can fix tired old Landies and I can't. The list goes on. It really doesn't matter. Not one jot. Not even which spice goes where. We love each other to bits and pieces. Unequivocally.
Thursday, 4 December 2008
...or soon thereafter
Watching that moony sideways smile as it drifted inexorably across a winter blue sky yesterday made me think of other moons in other places. (I know, I know - it’s still the same moon…..but it feels different, y’know?)
Ah yes, I’ve seen the moon…..
...lay a path of slithery silver mercury across the silent, star-splashed waters of Lake Turkana.
...slip sedately below the western horizon to make way for a sun that rose like fireball over the blond savannah and flat topped acacias on a Christmas morning in Kidepo.
...turn the dragon toothed crags and deep gorges of the Rwenzori into slender silhouette
...paint curling wisps of smoke with a celestial glow as they spiralled up from a night time valley in the Cameroon.
...bathe the Byzantine domes and spires of Istanbul in lustrous streams of shimmery light.
...slide silently over a desolate landscape of whispered songlines
...clad herself in cold gold gossamer above a snow-shrouded midnight Manhattan
...and shed her cloak of cloud over the Gulf of Acaba
Rereading what I’ve just written makes me want to title this post The Moon and Sibilance. In fact, I shall do just that!
What moon have you seen in other places?
Tuesday, 2 December 2008
“Frightfully good gin, dahling,” they shriek merrily, holding out their glasses for more of the velvety Banapo. Inevitably, they end up Morris Dancing to Paul Simon’s Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes. During this particularly English display of verve and energy, I sneak off to unearth the excellent bottle of Merlot I hid behind the sofa. I settle back comfortably, cat on lap, the good grape in hand, and watch my happy guests cavort wildly. All the while thinking smugly to myself that it is no wonder they lost the colonies.
(Aside: The above is a wholly invented scenario. I promise. I'm just grumpy because I'm cold..............and it's all Guy's fault for taking me out of the hot house.)
Sunday, 30 November 2008
I decided to convert this photograph from colour to black and white in order to strip the image down to basics and force it to stand alone on the merits of form and composition. I think the added element of colour draws the eye and emphasizes the beauty of structure, texture and pattern and, hopefully, persuades the viewer to linger and study the image for the smallest detail.
Friday, 28 November 2008
Thursday, 27 November 2008
Anyway, enough about pools. Sitting here, gawping at the photo, I’m wondering what possessed the child to eat a digit instead of her cha siu baau.
“What did it look like?” I asked in face-wrinkling fascination
“Dead,” she replied matter of factly
“Dead? What sort of Dead?”
“Limp Dead. Flacid, flabby Dead”
“What did it taste like?”
“Nothing really. Gotta run, bye Mama,” she said and put the phone down.
So the child eats digits and leaves body parts all over Europe. What does that say about her genetic heritage? Do you think it has something to do with the fact that the maternal branch of my family goes all the way back to Genghis Kahn?
(Aside: Apropos the body parts, I exaggerate a little. She had an emergency appendectomy while on a ski-trip in Austria. Oh, just in case you were wondering, the digit belonged to a broiled chicken foot.)
Wednesday, 26 November 2008
So, here is one solution – turn them into art. Find photos that have a common theme, or are in shades of the same colour. Crop them to get rid of extraneous detail and line them up in rows. Say, five across and three down – more or less, it’s up to you. Find some mount board in a colour to complement, cut the mat, pop them in a store-bought or a fabulous junkshop-find frame and, voila, you have art to match your sofa. Or the colour of your ceiling. Or the dog. Or just because you love it - which is the best reason of all!
One I made earlier - pale ochre pallete
The possiblities are endless. Just go where the whim takes you......
A ceramic collection, perhaps?
Or are you in the mood for a little old fashioned romance?
Or maybe you just want to make a bit of a splash?
All images copyright Tessa © 2008
Sunday, 23 November 2008
Saturday, 22 November 2008
Me? I was wracking the odd remaining brain cell and trying hard to think what to give to two very special little boys. I love them dearly, but do I love them enough to stand in a round-the-block queue outside Hamleys in a frigid north wind to join the stampede to buy something large and garish and plastic? I think not.
I’ve decided that I'm going to give them each A Very Useful Box for Boys. But I need your help. Here is the draft list so far:
A compass (very useful for finding your way to the tree house)
A telescope (very useful for seeking out pirates when at sea)
A ball of string (very useful for tying up prisoners)
A pair of safety scissors (very useful for cutting string)
A note book (very useful for leaving messages and drawing maps)
A pencil (very useful for writing messages and drawing maps)
A wooden cotton spool, an elastic band, a spent matchstick, a lollipop stick without the lollipop, an inch of candle, wick removed (very useful for making a tank. Instruction will be provided by My Liege who apparently made a legion of tanks when he was a little boy)
A magnet (very useful for picking up paper clips)
A box of paper clips (very useful for making chains and snakes and… stuff)
A forked stick, a length of rubber and a piece of leather (very useful for making a catapult to hit the target tied to a tree and hung on a paper clip)
A spotted scarf (very useful for making flags or kites or for bundling up an apple and a biscuit when you go on adventures)
Now I’ve run out of steam and so this is where I need your help. What else should go into A Very Useful Box for Boys? Please leave your ideas and comments here (if of course you feel so inclined) and at the end of the week I’ll put all your names in a hat and the first name to be drawn will be sent a signed giclée print of one of my paintings. How’s that sound?
Friday, 21 November 2008
Wednesday, 19 November 2008
Duwenzi is saving this pumpkin for Tannie Sarie because she makes the best pumpkin pie in the whole entire world!
Tannie Sarie’s Pumpkin Pie
Sweet short crust pastry case about 9” diameter and 1½” deep
2 cups/1lb pumpkin flesh, cut into 1” chunks
2 large eggs plus 1 yolk (use the white for another dish)
3 oz soft dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ level teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp ground ginger
10 fl oz/double cream
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
To make the filling, steam the pumpkin chunks then give them a thorough mashing.
Then lightly whisk the eggs and extra yolk together in a large bowl.
Place the sugar, spices and the cream in a pan, bring to simmering point, giving it a whisk to mix everything together. Then pour it slowly over the eggs and whisk it again briefly. Now add the pumpkin pureé, still whisking to combine everything thoroughly.
Pour the filling into your pastry case and bake for 35-40 minutes, by which time it will have puffed up round the edges but still feel slightly wobbly in the centre.
Remove it from the oven and place the tin on a wire cooling rack. Serve at room temperature with a big dollop of vanilla ice cream or créme fraïche.
Hmmmhmmm – delectable.
Tuesday, 18 November 2008
Of course, I did it without following any of the rules. No beginning, middle and end roughouts for me. I just began. And I couldn’t stop. I wrote all day and sometimes into the night. I wrote while eating breakfast, while driving and shopping and while having coffee with friends. I wrote in the swimming pool, on the beach, during dinner parties and while sitting on the loo. Every now and then I would fire up my computer and type like one possessed, leaving smouldering trails of smoke across the keyboard and a thousand words in the can.
Each character came alive for me, each became my friend or, in some cases, my enemy. I loved and understand the two protagonists as though I had lived with them all my life. I introduced all the players to my family and we’d finish a couple of good bottles of wine without noticing as we discussed, probed, bullied, cajoled, applauded and set new scenes for them.
“Don’t you think David is being weak? I think he should take a much firmer stand with Patti.”
“Anton has his shoes made at Lobbs, absolutely no doubt about that.”
“No, no – not Orlando Bloom! Too……well….pretty.”
“What? Have her arrested? Oh, you couldn’t…..”
“Gak! I could throttle Didi. What a self-serving uber-bitch!”
“Where? The apartment in Paris or his house in Cap Ferrat?”
“Jana’s had a crush on David for years.”
“I think Geoffrey Palmer would be perfect as Sir Thomas”
“But, surely hyenas would…….”
“Who’d you think should play Kit in the movie?”
“He’s probably a Vivadi man.”
“Okay, so Medli has dealings with those breeders in Hong Kong?”
All too soon it was time to write the denouement and a final chapter, wrap the manuscript up in brown paper and go seek my fortune. I consulted my Artists and Writers Handbook and sent a synopsis to every publisher in the British Isles. Meanwhile, I wrote the film script.
The mail poured in. I knew then how it felt to be adored and admired. I chose a photograph which made me look both sultry and intellectual to adorn the back cover and author’s blurb. I practised being interviewed in the mirror, cocking my head slightly, pursing my lips and flinging my hair back so it shone like burnished mahogany under the studio lights.
Trouble is, every single envelope contained a rejection slip. Some were polite, some encouraging, some even asked for sample chapters and some were not even signed by the tea lady. I was aghast. How dare they, the hairy nincompoop knuckleheads! I shall submit the manuscript to American publishers – those guys can smell a best seller an ocean away. I had a friend in New York send me $50 worth of stamps and I got going with the self-addressing. Meanwhile, I wrote the play of the film adaptation of the book
Finally, my halleluiah moment arrived. The book was accepted. I rushed out and bought a case of Cava - vintage champagne was not available in Kampala - and had a party. It was a rip-roaring success. The party, not the book. A small firm of publishers in Oregon got The Meddler into print and then promptly went bust.
Monday, 17 November 2008
I've been tagged! Thank you Vita (http://vusova.blogspot.com/), fellow blogger and absolutely superb artist, for adding my name to your tag-list.
So, if I'm to follow the rules, I need to post 7 random things about me and then race through cyber-space to find 7 bloggers to tag who must then tag 7 more after they've written 7 random facts about themselves. Whew! Deep breath........ here goes!
Sometimes I dive in at the deep end…and then forget how to swim.
I’m tall, but I often feel like Thumbelina
I eat hummus and salad for breakfast.
I can’t sing but I can dance.
I’m scared of the dark and especially the monster with long arms under my bed.
I always think that if I jump high enough I’ll catch a star
I love new cleaning products (I'm convinced that if I wave them around like a wand everything will sparkle) and beachcombing and empty spaces and big skies.
And my tag list:
http://exmoorjane.blogspot.com/ - Jane
http://williebaronet.blogspot.com/ - Rrramone
http://jeanze.blogspot.com/ - Jeanne
http://writing.mousewords.net/ - Christine
http://rotwatch.blogspot.com/ - Edward
http://jusquauxyeux.blogspot.com/ - Shani
http://allthingspaper.blogspot.com/ - Elizabeth
Sunday, 16 November 2008
Saturday, 15 November 2008
Nothing matches a happy, fat free range chook for taste and tenderness. Want it quick and easy, with a good dollop of nutrition? Then try one or two of these!
Pancetta chicken escalopes: Slice chicken breasts horizontally. Layer each slice with a piece of pancetta and a sage leaf, and fry in butter. Finish with a drizzle of Marsala and some cream, and bubble together for a sauce. Serve with wild rice.
Paprika chicken grills: Brush chicken breasts (on the bone) with a mixture of butter and mustard, and dust with paprika. Grill on both sides, basting as you go, and finish with a squeeze of lemon juice. Serve with baby potatoes and tender-stem broccoli.
Chicken and prosciutto bake: Wrap chicken breasts in pieces of prosciutto or Parma ham, put in a baking dish, drizzle with some olive oil and season with cracked pepper. Bake at 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6 for 30 minutes, then slice diagonally and serve with green herb salad.
Camembert and cranberry chicken pockets: Slice chicken breasts horizontally into pockets (skin on is best), and fill with a thin slab of Camembert and 2 teaspoons of cranberry sauce. Fry on both sides in butter until golden brown and cooked right through. Serve with peppery rocket (arugula) leaves dressed simply with a squeeze of lemon and drizzle of olive oil.
Citrus chicken baguette: Grill a chicken breast brushed witholive oil until cooked, then slice horizontally and toss with a tablespoon of sweet chilli sauce, a dollop of sour cream and a squeeze of lime juice. Serve with salad leaves in a crusty baguette sandwich.
Sunshine chicken: Lightly fry 4 chicken breasts in olive oil and add a sliced onion, a crushed clove of garlic, chopped red pepper and courgette, and fry briefly. Add some torn or dried basil and a tin of chopped tomatoes, cover with a lid and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for a further 5 minutes before serving with rice.
Tangy chicken stir-fry: Slice chicken breasts into strips and marinate for 2 hours in a mixture of 1 teaspoon grated ginger, 1 crushed garlic clove, 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 2 tablespoons honey. Drain from the marinade and stir-fry with sliced spring onions and yellow pepper. Once the chicken is sealed, add the marinade and bubble together. Serve with egg noodles.
Crispy chicken skewers: Cube chicken breasts and thread them onto skewers with pieces of courgette, onion and pepper between. Brush with olive oil and lemon juice, and grill or barbecue until browned all over. Serve with a dollop of tsatsiki and basmati rice or couscous.
Friday, 14 November 2008
She lay in the bath after a long but satisfactory day and pretended to be a mermaid.
Since once I sat upon a promontory
Sunday, 9 November 2008
My own particular Liege loves practical too. Why he married me, of all people, I shall never know. Maybe he longed to convert me to practical. Perhaps he saw it as his mission in life. So far, he’s failed rather dismally.
I think the worst present I ever got from him (and there have been many) was when he returned from a business trip to Namibia.
We all know that the streets of Windhoek are paved with diamonds. Even the dunes are littered with the little shiny things. The loos flush diamonds. While he was away, I spend an inordinate amount of time gazing at my left hand, thinking how marvellous it would look with a big rock on one finger. I even went for a manicure – something I’d never done in my entire life thus far.
When he walked in the door, I flew at him and kissed him enthusiastically. “Well?” I said, cocking my head to one side, hoping I looked coquettish. Opening his briefcase with a flourish, he presented me with a brown paper bag. I giggled like a schoolgirl. “Oh darling,” I squealed. “You’re so silly!” Clever chap, disguising something so beautiful and glittery in a grotty old brown bag. I opened it, trembling with anticipation, and peered inside for the little velvet box that would contain my treasure. I still feel weak reliving this moment. There it was, all curled up like a big, fat snake. He had brought me………
What was your worst present? Share it here and you could win a limited edition, signed and matted print of Princess Bugaya!