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.)