Friday, 30 April 2010

Shadha, Sorceress of the Stove

Today I opened my fridge and was appalled to find that it would not have looked out of place in a student's hovel: half a carton of milk, a very sad looking tomato, one strand of lemon grass (actually I was secretly quite proud of this because it showed evidence of experimental Thai cooking) and a greying slice of cheese. Then I realised I hadn't actually done a proper grocery shop and knew this needed rectifying prontissimo. So I immediately asked Ulla if she was free ( which she was) and we raced out to two different supermarkets and stocked up on all sorts of lovelies. Far too much for one person I suspect as Ulla looked rather like a fat, pink pig as I wheeled her home and she was less than obliging when I carried her up the stairs. Actually by the time we got in she was a bit grumpy and I couldn't really blame her as she had been forced fed ( amongst other things) a tube of toothpaste, an orange, some parmesan and a cutting of coriander which mixed up all together must not have tasted very good at all.
Anyway now when I look in my fridge it gives me a big fruity smile which pleases me greatly.

There is actually another reason for this supermarket frenzy as I have decided to cook my way through Marie Fadel and Rafik Schami's 'Damascus: Taste of a City' for the pure pleasure of it. I am even going to adopt the moniker Shadha while cooking so Joanna can take a break from doing absolutely everything. Shadha is an Arabic name meaning: fragrant smell, aromatic which is how I hope Shadha's cooking will turn out. ( And yes for those so inclined you can call her Shazza, Sorceress of the Stove, if you wish.)

Anyway tonight Shazza will begin with Chicken Breast with Garlic and Coriander accompanied by green bean delight. The latter is not actually taken from the book but Shazza can be edgy like that.

Sunday, 25 April 2010


I have recently decide to learn how to play backgammon properly. I hate suduko and crosswords so I figure a vigourous work-out of the mind through a game of backgammon will surely stave off early onset alzheimers( at least for another week.) I actually bought my first backgammon set at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul over fourteen years ago. ( Truth be told it is the only one I have ever bought but I thought the sentence read better - poetic licence and all.) It was my first ever bartering experience and I was so proud of how I had haggled/ flirted for a good price. I also remember being mesmerised by the glittering alleyways of the Grand Bazaar, finding it so foreign and beautiful and almost other-worldly. Surely such a lovely backgammon box had to be magical in some way.!

Anyway I bought this beautiful game and lugged it around Turkey with no clue how to play it. I met the odd Turk who seemed happy to teach me but I don't think I ever got a full grasp of the game. In fact I know I didn't because I remember sometime later trying to play a game with my Irish boyfriend at that time and him saying rather sweetly: ' Well now Jo, am I right in saying you haven't a clue about this game!'
I was devastated.
I was the mistress of the board, wasn't I?
Of course I pouted and he was horrified so he very quickly added that there was no harm in me inventing another game quite like backgammon which could be called Jo-gammon instead
(aw bless).

Anyway these days I can't even remember how Jo-gammon goes anymore so now seems as good a time as any to learn backgammon for real.


On a related topic (in an Istanbul-Turkish-Gallipoli kind of way) I have been thinking about Australia over the weekend because I know today is ANZAC DAY. This day is so ingrained into the psyche of every Australian child that I don''t think it is possible to let the day pass without remembering it. It seems quite incredible to think that 95 years ago on this day so much blood was shed ( and continued to be shed for many years to follow.) Honestly war has got to be the most stupid invention humankind ( and yes I would like to emphasise the syllable 'man' in this word ) has ever come up with! Nobody ever wins. They didn't win then. They're not winning today.

Martin Luther King Jr

I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsam and jetsam in the river of life, unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality.

Saturday, 24 April 2010


Tonight I made stuffed courgettes with tomato sauce accompanied by rice infused with real strands of saffron. I took the recipe from my bible 'Damascus: Taste of a City' although of course I tweaked it a bit as I am incapable of following a recipe from beginning to end without some sort of deviation. (Measurements are so boring - I mean how different can 10 gloves of garlic really be from 1?) The meal actually turned out quite well apart from the layer of burnt rice on the bottom of my only saucepan which I have decided to ignore by hiding it in the fridge until at least tomorrow.
Now I plan to sit down with Kahlil Gibran ( not literally) and continue reading 'The Prophet'. He writes so beautifully and so truthfully that when I read his voice I swear I feel as if he is sitting next to me telling me himself.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

beware the hungry elevator

Today as Ulla and I were walking home I noticed how beautiful Basel looks as it clings along the edge of the Rhine. Ulla, of course, did not notice as she seems to be quite self-absorbed at present. People keep complimenting her wherever she goes and I fear it is going to her head and I will have to start carrying the shopping for her! Still she is in her prime - all pretty'n pink - I really should let her have her day.
This weekend I start looking after two Russian cats while their owners are on holidays in Russia ( sky-willing!) I am a bit worried about their elevator as it is very impatient and nearly chopped my arm off as I tried to open the door. ( The elevator goes straight into their flat which means you need to open the door with a key while still in the elevator. This is not so bad when you are by yourself but when people on the other floor need the elevator and press the button it starts chomping at your arms because it wants to go down. ) Sometimes technology is a very scary thing.

I am quite exhausted right now, to be honest. Growing can be such tiring work!

Sunday, 18 April 2010

The Frog King

I have been struggling alot over the past few days. Unable sit, sleep, walk, eat, teach etc. Feeling as if my heart is breaking. I began to worry that I couldn't write anymore. That I had lost my commitment, my ability, my dedication. Feeling fearful that life was overwhelming me somehow.
Then I read the FrogKing ( see and I realised perhaps my heart isn't breaking after all. Perhaps it is growing. Somehow bursting through the iron bands which have constrained it for so long.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

a bit fishy

Yesterday I had lunch at Sakura which is a Japanese restaurant at the main Bahnhof. I really liked it. It was busy and yet tranquil and I actually ate fish! In general I am not a friend of the fish (well I suppose I am because I don't eat them). It comes from spending a childhood dishing cans of seafood platter to five ravenous pussy cats - all that jelly and spine and miscellaneous fishy bits. And that fishy cat breath as they come personally to tell you how delicious it was. But yesterday I stepped up to the plate, as it were, and it was actually a really nice meal. Of course the fish did not taste fishy and there was sauce to drown it in but kudos to me for trying :-) i had weird dreams though which may or may not have been fish related. In one of them an old cat of mine, Sooty, came and asked if he could die in my arms because he was very tired. I cradled him in my arms in the courtyard and I kept telling him how great he was, what a wonderful cat he had been, until he eventually raised a paw up to my lips and explained it was very hard to die when people heap praise on you because you want to listen. Then, and this is the strange bit, I found myself at the airport getting ready to take plane to Tenerife and for some reason everything I said had everyone laughing. In a good way not a bad way. The check-in desk were in hysterics, the flight attendants wanted to give me the best seat. The baggage handlers were high fiving me. Of course I can't remember a single witticism I said but they must be dormant in my head somewhere - what this space!!!
Today's quote

“Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dream.” Paul Coelho

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

O, for dreams of the oily, plaid man

Last night I dreamt I was in love with a very short man. ( He came up to my knees.) He wore his hair in a Hamlet bob although it tended to curl into ringlets around his forehead. He liked to wear plaid trousers and ruffled white shirts and had the confidence of a Latino. ( Gold jewellery and hairy chest too.) What on earth was the sleeping version of myself thinking!!! We kept meeting for lunch in the narrow streets of Fez, Morocco, and he smelt slightly of engine oil on account of all the fast cars he kept in his garage. (I am sure I read somewhere once that you can't actually smell things in dreams but I smell things all the time. Normally bad smells I find rather than good ones but I definitely smell things!). Anyway I have to say that waking up was quite a relief - even though my room was sadly cat free.
I decided to go to yoga to centre myself on 'now' ( rather than dwelling on oily, plaid man and the missing cat) and rather excitingly I actually recognised the fundamental shift of the hips between Warrior position 1 and 2 for the first time. For a cake lover ( which I also am) such a discovery is probably akin to finding that your own oven has spontaneously baked you 12 pink cupcakes :-) while you were at work. Anyway it has put me in a good mood for the whole day - so far - which given my rather shaky dream start is a very happy thing.
I also sent a story away to a publisher in America which made me feel proactive. The sending is always good. The 'I'm so sorry letter' in return - not so but surely better than oily, plaid man!

Monday, 5 April 2010

Never Can Say Goodbye, Boy

My Brazilian guest has just left and I have to admit that tears were shed. His mother came up and he ran straight to me which made her a little sad because she had missed him and me a little sad because I knew I was going to miss him. I suppose many people would think 'so what's the deal, he's just a cat!' but I think he proved to be more than a cat for me over the past week. Easter was very long here on my own with no one to talk to, spend time with. Somehow though I found it easy to pass hours just in his company and it didn't seem so bad.

Sometimes it's just nice to love and be loved.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

My Brazilian buddy

OK, the first picture on your right is called 'spot the doy'! (obviously if you don't know what a doy is you may be stuck for some time.)

hint: A doy is not a toy for Christmas.

So hopefully you have probably worked out where he is now ( and yes 'doy' does mean 'cat' - the origins of this name being a complicated and joyous story for another time!) But before you you get too excited he is only a guest :-( His Brazlian family is away for a week (savouring the delights of legoland I believe) and I couldn't let the little man spend his week alone. Could I?

He is quite a talkative chap which is nice ( apart from the all night conversation we had on the first night of his stay!). I even learned Bom te ver so we could talk in Portuguese but he seems to speak the international language of Doy which fortunately I am fluent in.

He also likes to bathe which is very considerate of him. Nothing like a stinky guest!

He ponders alot too!

And of course he sleeps!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I let him bring his girlfiend with him so he wouldn't be lonely.

But then he met my toy dog!

Fortunately he always returns to his girlfriend!

I am going to miss when he goes home