Sunday, 30 November 2008

Shadow Shot Sunday - and au revoir NaBloPoMo!

Shadow Shot Sunday is hosted by Hey Harriet She is a fantastic photographer herself and the list of Shadow participants on her blog will take you to the most wonderful world of shadow shots...quite literally!

Window on wild flowers - Tunisia

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

Ilustration Friday - BALLOON - (NaBloPoMo #29)

“What’s a balloon?” asks Jumbu as he carefully puts more bait on the hook.

There is silence for a moment while M’niki considers the question.

“A bird without wings,” he replies.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Dim Sum - (NaBloPoMo #27)

I’m sitting here, trying to think of something pithy and intelligent to write and gazing idly at the photograph of our youngest daughter which sits to the left of my computer in an old silver frame which I found in an antique shop in Paris and paid too much for. (Aside: the frame, not the daughter) She looks …….she looks normal. Well, almost normal when you consider her gene pool.

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

Colour Scheming - (NaBloPoMo #26)

I’ll bet you have boxes and boxes of photographs which you’ve never got round to putting in albums, or you’ve taken a big byte of your computer’s gigas by storing hundreds of jpegs. Yes? So….?

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......

How about a green theme?

Windows, maybe?

Or doors?

A ceramic collection, perhaps?

Feeling prickly?

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

Have fun!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Firelight and Foxes - (NaBloPoMo #23)

This coming week is going to be my post-a-photo-instead-of-a-painting-week. As Winston said, "A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject." Heaven forbid that I'm thought of as a fanatic!

I went to look for a particular book the other day and paused momentarily to gaze out of the window, thinking thoughts and dreamin' dreams. Something reddish moved in the periphery of my vision....near that ancient old beech tree whose shade we borrow in the summer, y'know? I turned slightly and there she was - a beautiful fox with a coat the colour of firelight. She walked slowly, elegantly across the lawn looking one way and then the other as though admiring the view. As she come closer, she glanced up and saw me in the bay window, nodded imperceptibly as if in recognition and then disappeared amongst the trees to the left of the driveway.

The window which allowed me that fleeting view has now been rechristened The Fox Hole. Entirely appropriate, really, since it's a great place to snuggle up with a good book on a cold, bleak winter's day.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

A Very Useful Box for Boys (NaBloPoMo #22)

Not long now until Christmas. Geese are getting fat, partridges are perching in pear trees, lords are leaping, ladies are dancing and the drummers are drumming up a storm. All well and good, but now we have to think of prezzies.

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

Tannie Sarie's Best Ever Pumpkin Pie - (NaBloPoMo #19)

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

A Writer Laments - (NaBloPoMo #18)

I wrote a novel. It took me just under a year to complete and it was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done. I loved it.

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

You've got me tagged - (NaBloPoMo #17)


I've been tagged! Thank you Vita (, 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: - Jane - Rrramone - Jeanne - Christine - Edward - Shani - Elizabeth

Sunday, 16 November 2008

The tip of Africa - (NaBloPoMo #16)

At the very tip of Africa, the Western Cape lies bordered by two oceans - the warm, balmy Indian Ocean to the east and the ferocious and frigid Atlantic to the west. The constant reassuring presence of the immense peaks which form the backdrop to a land so lovely that the emerald lakes and indigenous forests of the Wilderness area, the sun-drenched vineyards of the Cape Winelands, the magnificent passes to reach the interior and the sweeping, golden acres of the Boland, seem part of fantasy landscape that often defies description.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Chicken Tonight? (NaBloPoMo #15)

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

Illustration Friday - Pretend (NaBloPoMo #14)

She lay in the bath after a long but satisfactory day and pretended to be a mermaid.

"Thou rememb'rest

Since once I sat upon a promontory

And heard a mermaid, on a dolphin's back,

Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath

That the rude sea grew civil at her song,

And certain stars shot madly from their spheres

To hear the sea-maid's music"

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Princess Bugaya Does Bond Street (NaBloPoMo #9)

Princess Bugaya is buying all her own presents from her husband this year. She’s going to stuff her Christmas stocking full of sparkly things and put very large, very expensive and utterly impractical presents under the tree with her name on them with love and kisses from him. Why? Because, like mine, her Kabaka buys her things like electric can openers and mini drills and silver-plated rolling pins and stuff. She’s been married to this miserly monarch for years and is just thoroughly fed up to the back teeth with PRACTICAL.

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!

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Wise - Another IF (NaBloPoMo #8)

Three Kings

I've decided to use this painting for my Christmas cards this year. It's a tribute to three very wise men - Luca, Emmanuel and Vincent. They are proud Ugandan gentlemen (in the true sense of the word) who each added invaluable words of wisdom to my own personal volume of 'Life's Little Philosophies'. All three of them had little formal education, but their words held enormous resonance for me. Waybale Nyo, sebos! I miss you more than you could ever imagine.

Friday, 7 November 2008

IF - WISE (NaBloPoMo #7)

Visit with Gogo (grandma)

Mapenzi had decided a long, long time ago that his Gogo was the wisest and
most wonderful Gogo this side of the Limpopo. He loved to go visit with her because she gave him special treats, like sudza with honey trickled over it or maybe a slice of bread with the jam she’d made from the fruit of the Marula tree in her yard. But the very best thing of all, were the wisdom stories that Gogo told him. After he’d eaten, Gogo would wipe Mapenzi’s face with the palm of her big, warm hand and settle him onto her lap. Mapenzi would then snuggle contentedly into the Gogo softness and before plopping his thumb in his mouth he would say, “Gogo, please tell me a story.”

“Yebo, my little one,” Gogo would answer, and Mapenzi could hear her voice, so gentle and soothing, deep down in his heart. He would close his eyes as Gogo began so he could see the pictures in his head.

"Kwasuka sukela," Gogo would start………

Long ago a wicked lazy hunter was sitting under a tree. He was thinking that it was too hot to be bothered with the arduous task of stalking prey through the bushes. Below him in the clearing on the grassy veldt there were fat springbok grazing. But this hunter couldn't be bothered, so lazy was he! He gazed at the herd, wishing that he could have the meat without the work, when suddenly he noticed a movement off to the left of the buck. It was a female cheetah seeking food. Keeping downwind of the herd, she moved closer and closer to them. She singled out a springbok who had foolishly wandered away from the rest. Suddenly she gathered her long legs under her and sprang forward. With great speed she came upon the springbok and brought it down. Startled, the rest of the herd raced away as the cheetah quickly killed her prey.

The hunter watched as the cheetah dragged her prize to some shade on the edge of the clearing. There three beautiful cheetah cubs were waiting there for her. The lazy hunter was filled with envy for the cubs and wished that he could have such a good hunter provide for him. Imagine dining on delicious meat every day without having to do the hunting himself! Then he had a wicked idea. He decided that he would steal one of the cheetah cubs and train it to hunt for him. He decided to wait until the mother cheetah went to the waterhole late in the afternoon to make his move. He smiled to himself.

When the sun began to set, the cheetah left her cubs concealed in a bush and set off to the waterhole. Quickly the hunter grabbed his spear and moved stealthily down to the bushes where the cubs were hidden. There he found the three cubs, still to young to be frightened of him or to run away. He first chose one, then decided upon another, and then changed his mind again. Finally he stole them all, thinking to himself that three cheetahs would undoubtedly be better than one.

When their mother returned half-an-hour later and found her babies gone, she was broken-hearted. The poor mother cheetah cried and cried until her tears made dark stains down her cheeks. She wept all night and into the next day. She cried so loudly that she was heard by an old man who came to see what the noise was all about.

Now this old man was wise and knew the ways of the animals. When he discovered what the wicked hunter had done, he became very angry. The lazy hunter was not only a thief, he had broken the traditions of the tribe. Everyone knew that a hunter must use only his own strength and skill. Any other way of hunting was surely a dishonour.

The old man returned to the village and told the elders what had happened. The villagers became angry. They found the lazy hunter and drove him away from the village. The old man took the three cheetah cubs back to their grateful mother. But the long weeping of the mother cheetah stained her face forever. Today the cheetah wears the tearstains on its face as a reminder to the hunters that it is not honourable to hunt in any other way than that which is traditional.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

NaBloPoMo #6 - Henry and LouLou

Henry's Africa

LouLou's Kitchen

Henry has a LouLou. She was already there when Henry was born and so she is probably very, very old. But that doesn’t matter because Henry and his LouLou are exceptionally good friends even though Henry is four and LouLou is probably about 104.

The thing about LouLou is that she has a kitchen which is quite unlike anyone else’s kitchen. It is an adventure kitchen and quite positively exclusive to Henry and LouLou.

Over in one corner there are a flock of Toucans with bright yellow faces and bendy red beaks and colourful feathers which float about madly when they fly. Underneath them is a cross-eyed goat which Henry is not too sure about.

And if you look up over there you’ll see a big blue, yellow and red crab with poppy-out-eyes and claws that don’t pinch at all. {Aside: Henry and LouLou look for real crabs on the beach sometimes. But only when they are not busy galloping in and out of the sea and making castles and shell covered thrones for Henry to sit in. Quite often LouLou calls Henry ‘My Little Prince’. She’s probably a bit of a looney, really}

Now, over here is a huge orange and black butterfly who flaps his wings when you pull the little white knob on the end of a string. See? Fun, huh?

Come here, near this big white jug of bright red poppies and you can see a whole family of geckos scuttling and scurrying up the wall. They’ve got lots of dots and patterns painted on them in every imaginable colour and just look at those long swirly-whirly tails.

If you look in that cupboard over there – yes, the one with the glass front – you’ll see a cow and a ginormous white fish and two fat birds and a chicken. They are all dishes you can put food in, you know. When LouLou sets the table for dinner it looks like a farmyard with a fish pond in the middle.

LouLou just loves cows. Henry reckons it’s because cows don’t answer back. Look at those paintings on the wall. Galores of cows. Why, there is even one jumping over the moon!

In this corner, right next to that fat furry gorilla with the Aussie bushwhacker hat on and strings of African beads around his neck, is a giraffe. {Aside: LouLou painted a picture of Henry riding a giraffe after they had played the ‘Let’s Go To Africa for an Awesome Adventure’ game. You can see it if you look up there}

See that pig? The one with pink polka dots behind that green bowl of goose eggs? No, no! Don’t touch the eggs – they’ve been there for about a hundred years because LouLou thinks they’re too pretty to cook and Mzee (that’s LouLou’s husband and he belongs to Henry as well – more about him later) says that if they get broken they’ll stink the whole house down. Imagine that! Henry had no idea that a house could fall down because of a stinky egg. Henry says the wolf could have stopped huffing and puffing if he’d had a very old goose egg. {Aside: LouLou says Henry is a genius}

On top of that little cupboard next to those two huge paintings of Henry-doesn’t-know-what are three Indian princes with sparkles and turbans. Here is a big zig-zag zebra and over there is a palm tree with gold and green fronds. Oh, and here is a painted tin cockerel playing a drum and another one blowing the trumpet.

Along that beam over there are lots and lots of dried roses from LouLou’s garden mixed up with a long strings of garlic, bunches of lavender and herbs and a copper pot or two. Oh, and that bunch of wooden fish. No, you can’t eat them, silly!

See that fridge in corner? The one with the art gallery and the spotty bugs on the front? On top of that is LouLou’s bird table. There are wooden birds and wire birds and fat birds and thin birds and really, really odd birds. {Aside: LouLou sometimes keeps ice-cream in that fridge. Mango ice-cream. And coffee ice-cream for the grown-ups ‘cos it’s got wine or whiskey or something in it}

And finally, here is Mzee’s clock. Henry and Mzee are the only two people in the whole entire world who are allowed to touch that clock. Once a week, Mzee lifts Henry up onto the counter and they open the glass that protects the hands that tell the time. Then Henry opens the little door on the side and gets out a very big, very old fashioned key. Mzee puts the key into a hole in the front of the clock and Henry winds and winds and winds until the key can’t turn anymore. They listen carefully until they hear the clock say ‘thank you’ in tick-tock-clock language and only then does Henry put the key away until next time.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

NaBloPoMo #5 - Another Inauguration

Victory Dance!
I’m dizzy with delight and jubilation. Yay, Obama! My heart sings for you, America!

Here is another story:

The mist curled like a gossamer ribbon through the valley and as the sun kissed the hills above it, Kampala came into focus like a city from a dream. The mosque dome shone like a polished jewel in its encircling crown of ivory minarets and the air smelled of wood smoke and eucalyptus. Clustered buildings glowed pink in the early morning light and red kites soared above them like shadowy angels on gentle thermals.

Luca, our askari, waved his AK47 in the air with enthusiastic vigor and did a stomping dance of delight as he opened the gate for us. “Yoweri Museveni!" He bellowed, “freeDOM fighter!” Then, wiping a hand down the front of his khaki jacket and smiling his familiar wide white smile, his eyes sparkling with merriment, he shook hands with each of us in turn.

As we walked from the house to join the crowd on the airfield, I heard the whack-whack thrum of a helicopter overhead and watched as its gleaming underbelly loomed large and then disappeared down behind the line of trees in front of us. A gangly marabou stork, looking for a grasshopper breakfast, pecked at the grass on the verge beside the road and gave us a mad, lopsided stare as we passed him. Once the sound of the helicopter had diminished, birdsong swelled again like a cresting wave.

Idi Amin and Milton Obote had soaked this lush, sylvan country with the blood of several hundred thousand people until Museveni and his heroic bush army saved it from total devastation. This was the day he would be inaugurated as President of Uganda and we wanted to be there when it happened.

The airfield was ablaze with the swirling, vibrant colours of the Ugandan traditional dress and highlighted by dazzling white kanzus which men wear for special occasions. We joined the crowd and people around us smiled and shook our hands, their faces alight with the joyful anticipation of a new day and a new dawn. The agony of decades of civil war behind them, they surged forward, taking us with them and making us theirs. We heard the pulsing drumbeat of victory and the high, melodious chant of beautiful clear voices which grew louder as we moved forward towards the podium.

Suddenly the crowd parted and in the space they left between them, a line of tall, powerful Karamojong warriors danced forward making a deep, sonorous hissing sound which rose higher and stronger until it sounded like the bottom note on a cathedral organ. Behind them, in a large, slow moving truck Museveni stood proudly, holding on to the roll bar with one hand, waving and acknowledging the surging crowd with a warmth that was palpable. He looked every inch the statesman.

As he reached the podium and climbed the steps to the microphones there was a sudden silence. I looked around at the sea of faces and, for the first time since we’d joined in the celebration, I realized ours were the only white faces amongst them. We were Mazungu….but nobody had noticed. Or if they had, they had disregarded it and embraced us as theirs. My heart swelled with pride and I turned back to face the podium to listen to a hero speak.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

NaBloPoMo #4 - Lates Niloticus and Barack Obama

Lily's Kitchen

Since it’s topical and because I’m the sweetest, most thoughtful and sensitive person I know, I’ve decided to give Barack O a taste of Kenya to sustain him through what will be a pretty exhausting day and - of course - to remind him of his roots. Fish is brain food – or so I’ve been told – and Mr O is going to have to have his wits about him.

The Nile perch is also called the Lake Victoria perch. However it is not a true perch… nor did it ever live in the Nile. (Lake Victoria is the second largest natural lake in the world and its rich harvest is shared by Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania) This particular piscis has the highest omega-3 content of any fish and has a lovely firm, flaky texture and a light, delicate flavour. And to add to the list of Good Things About Nile Perch, it has very few bones, so it makes an excellent choice for Mums who struggle to get their children to eat anything other than chicken nuggets.

It can be grilled, fried, poached, sautéed, braised, roasted, steamed or served as kebabs or even sashimi. Because Nile perch has a low water content, it's best to marinate the fillets for a while before grilling or barbecuing them.

But for Mr. O - I think a very speedy ‘bouillabaisse’ would be just the ticket.

In a casserole dish or Dutch oven, bring 500 ml (2 cups) water and 65 ml (1/4 cup) fish stock to a boil.
Add vegetables (diced carrot, leek, zucchini, red onion) to this liquid.

Five minutes before the vegetables are cooked, add the perch fillets and cook for 5 minutes.

Drain; place everything on a big serving plate with a bowl of aioli.

8 garlic cloves
half tsp sea salt
half tsp freshly ground black pepper
150ml (3/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil
2 egg yolks
1-2 tbsp lemon juice

In a pestle and mortar, pound together the garlic, salt and pepper until smooth, adding a little olive oil from time to time to moisten the mixture.

Once the mixture has formed a smooth paste, add the egg yolks and pound again until they are completely mixed into the garlic.

Slowly add the remaining olive oil, as if making mayonnaise, until it’s all thick and smooth.

Beat in the lemon juice to taste, plop it into a pretty bowl and serve with the fish.

On second thoughts, better to leave off the aioli for Mr. O. He certainly won’t want garlicky breath at this stage of the game. And if you don’t want garlicky breath either, serve the fish with a swirl of crème fraich or sour cream.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

NaBloPoMo #2 - Another Island Christmas

He closed his eyes, did a rather alarming whirling windmill arm movement and whacked his forefinger down on the map. “Nope, you’ll have to try again,” I ordered. “You’ve landed in the middle of the Atlantic.” But he lifted his finger and there, in the vast empty blue of the Atlantic ocean, was a tiny speck. We leaned forward, peering myopically at the little brown dot stranded off the coast of Morocco. Madeira! The Pearl of the Atlantic, the Floating Garden, a broken fragment from the lost continent of Atlantis! I sighed happily. Ahhhh, the perfect place for our Christmas holiday this year. “Have some Madeira, m’dear……” The words seemed to ring in my ear.

One Man Band

The last time we spent Christmas on an island was when we lived on St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands. One year Guy and I hosted a razzmatazz on the beach……….

Come down to the beach on Christmas Day
You're invited for brunch at Magans Bay
There'll be champers on ice, plus a turkey or two
And Guy will cook breakfast especially for you.

He is terribly talented, an ace on that grill
He performs with panache, you're in for a thrill.
With sausages sizzling and bacon all crispy
He'll waltz round the fire, a Rumanian gypsy.

His spatula waving, his tongs all a-blaze
He'll give you a meal to delight and amaze.
After you've eaten, and passed out for a while
We'll dance a fandango with passion and style.

We'll then play charades, what excellent fun
Or just flop on the sand and soak up the sun.
You could glide underwater and talk to a fish
Or oogle the crowd for some leggy young dish.

We live on an island, a mere dot in the sea
Where Christmas is different, as different can be.
So don't sit at home in the gloom and the dark
Come down to the beach for a bit of a lark.

The party ended with the sun sliding gloriously below the horizon while we listened dreamily to the sweet music of a penny whistle played with subtle mastery by a little fellow who had appeared from behind a palm tree as if from nowhere.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

IF - Vacant (NaBloPoMo #1)

France. We've just come back - full of food and wine, brie and bon viver. The air was clear and mellow, the countryside breathtaking in a fiery shimmer of autumn colour and plump with harvest abundance. Chestnuts and truffles, ceps and pink garlic, oysters and artichokes - an indulgence of seasonal treasures were piled high in the market stalls. But there were little moments of sadness, too........


The transformation of a considerable portion of central and southern France's countryside into a ruin-strewn wilderness is sad testament to a time when farmers are leaving the land in ever-increasing numbers, often because they are too old to go on farming and have no willing successors. The beautiful stone built houses and barns once filled with the warmth and laughter of an extended family now stand vacant, slowly being reclaimed by their surroundings. We tiptoe like intruders along the rutted track to peer into the silence. Sunlight streams through broken windows and shafts cruelly across the dusty neglect. Shutters hang crookedly from broken hinges and geckos scuttle down weathered walls. A long wooden table stands in a courtyard shaded by the greens and golds of an ancient, overgrown vine. Once laden with gleaming bowls of fruit, platters of cheese and baskets of freshly baked bread, it is festooned now with cobwebs and bird droppings. A breeze ripples the vine leaves, moaning softly and rooks craw hoarsely from a distance. The air of melancholy and abandonment becomes tangible.