Red Shoes

Now why would red shoes have significance twice in one week? Coincidence I know, but still …

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A book fair with a difference

Some years ago, in another part of my life, I attended the London Book Fair on a couple of occasions. It was a strictly business affair: ‘The London Book Fair is the global marketplace for rights negotiation and the sale and distribution of content across print, audio, TV, film and digital channels.’

I went to talks about better printing presses or digital books (‘wow’); met illustrators who wanted work; and occasionally an author or two might appear to talk to my boss. My marketing colleagues met distributors and right negotiators. There were certainly no members of the public cluttering the place up wanting to buy things.

This week, I have had the privilege of witnessing a very different book fair. I volunteer with Operation Smile UAE and this week’s task was to man a stand at Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, which is a joint venture between the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage and the Frankfurt Book Fair.

We – the Operation Smile volunteers – were there to raise awareness of the work of the charity and to sell small items of merchandise to raise funds for future medical missions. I was curious to know how a charity stand would fit into what I had imagined the book fair to be.

When I got to ADEC my real surprise was seeing an absolute sea of school children in the lobby area. Was I in the right set of halls? Oh yes, this book fair is open to the public – free to enter. The children, it transpires, arrive on their school buses with their teachers for a set period of time. Some in the morning session, some in the afternoon, and then some arrive after school, or come in the evening with their parents.

There is an entire zone of the book fair set up for the younger readers, with educational books, leisure reading, and educational games on show – and to purchase. And the combination of reading for pleasure and for education continues across all ages, through university bookshops to the latest novels coming out of Iceland. [I hadn’t had time to look at the programme, so  I was surprised – although I don’t know why – to see Iceland as the Country of Focus.]

It seems every Arabic publisher in the world has a stand, as well as representations from the whole rest of the world. I met a charming Cypriot who was trying to gain interest in handmade notebooks: handmade paper; hand marbled block; hand cut leathers. Beautiful objects, but he wasn’t selling them.

Alongside the school trips, many members of the public make their way to the book fair, to browse the books; to watch the cooking demonstrations at the cooking theatre; to listen to talks and poetry readings; and in the case of one group of teenage girls to go really ‘fan girl’ over the appearance of one of the younger Sheikhs.

So lots of these disparate groups made their way past our stand, some stopping to watch the video, some to cuddle the teddy bears, or to look at the bracelets we make and sell. Each is an opportunity to tell the Operation Smile story and to spread awareness.

I won’t know until next week exactly how generous the people of Abu Dhabi were in their shopping and their donations, but I’ll add it to the post in terms of the number of children we can help later.

Thank you for reading.

G

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Why don’t we …

Head on over to A Girl with a Glass, which is where the action is going to be for a while. This site may go even blanker than before.

Hope to see you next door.

GG x

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The spice carousel

I think most people have, at stage in their life or another, taken possession of a pre-filled spice rack, or spice carousel. They always seem such a cracking idea when you have limited space; or perhaps it was a gift; or perhaps you once had a really useful one and keep imagining that the one you get today will be its equal.

I bought a cabinet of Barts Spices from Lakeland, somewhere back in the 1980s, around the time I got my first flat. It was fabulous, with, I think, 70 herbs and spices as well as space for extra stuff. I hung it proudly on the wall in three, perhaps four kitchens. Friends enthused over it, and one friend eventually gave it a new home when I had no suitable wall space in flat number five or six. Of course, by then, none of the original contents was left. Some of the jars had been refilled time and again; others had been relabelled to reflect new enthusiasms. I am not sure that to this day Barts does a small jar of Kalanji seeds, but I used to have one. If I ever find a picture of the old cabinet, I’ll add it here. [Sadly, neither Barts nor Lakeland have stocked anything similar since then.]

So, in our then-new flat, all the spices and herbs had to go on a shelf in one of the kitchen cabinets. Even with careful stacking, they took up an entire shelf, and had horrid tendency to fall out when you weren’t expecting it – or if you tried to reach the big jar of peppercorns right at the back. So I decided get a spice rack by the cooker for what I used every day.

Oh, how we laughed! First, it costs about 90 per cent of the price of a pre-filled rack to buy an empty one, and then most jars don’t come with small shaker/big shaker tops, and so on, and so on. I think my dear OH and I must have looked at about 20 before we finally settled on one – pre-filled, of course. And it was fine. And we did use most of the stuff most days, and the stack in the cupboard must have shrunk by, oh, two or three jars. I’m sure it did.

I think that particular carousel is on its way from the UK to Oman in a container, or it may be in the loft; whatever, the herbs and spices either have been binned, or will need to be when I next see it.

So, there we were in Dubai with a jar of Basil, one of Garam Masala and one of Curry Powder and no big shelf to fill with extra jars. So, after only three or four trips to look at what was available, a second carousel was purchased. It’s quite nice, I think, and doesn’t take up that much space on the kitchen work surface. (This was a bigger problem in Dubai that it is here in Muscat, but I still want to reduce clutter as much as possible.)

It's quite cute and doesn't take up too much space

It’s quite cute and doesn’t take up too much space

But the sharp-eyed among you will have noticed the little shelves at the back. The project is, if not broken, then a bit bent already. I have spices and herbs not represented in the little carousel that I use, often.

So this is the plan. To tidy the kitchen, expand the menu options and give you lovely people something to read, if you would like to. I am going to find recipes to use all the herbs in the rack(s) – if the other one appears in the packing – that I haven’t used so far and share my thoughts on them with you. If the recipes are good, the herbs or spices will get replaced. If not, they go to make way for things I do use.

Here’s hoping this turns out to be fun.
G xx

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On the move again

The last time my husband and I bought a place, his mother expressed the hope that she might get to see it before we moved again. Well she did, and we still own that property in London. But we don’t live there at the moment, and we can’t move back because a new tenant took the flat on at the beginning of June.

Which is a bit of a problem, given that we are 98 per cent definite that we are moving in mid-July from our current location, as they say here. As I write it seems fairly unlikely – that is to say, very unlikely – that a new position will emerge in a location that makes staying in this apartment a sensible choice. But we have no idea where sensible might be.

So, all I can do is to try to decide what is ‘must keep with us’; what is ‘sell’; and what is ‘store or ship’, without knowing where anything or anyone might end up.

The last time I had nowhere called ‘home’ to stay, a very kind friend put me up for a while, and then I moved in with he who is now the husband until my tenants moved out.

Then, when we had nowhere called ‘home’ for a couple of months, another kind friend just happened to have a vacant rental apartment that we took on for ‘as long as you need it guys, just let me know’.

This time, we are in a different country and those kind friends have sensibly moved on with their lives. We also don’t know which country we want to end up in, although I think we are focusing on the Middle East or Europe.

So, as soon as we find out where sensible is, we’ll let all our friends know to come to another house-warming party.

G x

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Royal Parks: or missing the Autumn

I suppose it is inevitable that, whenever one moves to a new area or a new country, there will be things about ‘home’ that we miss. Family and friends are the most obvious examples. As a Dublin friend whom Mr G has known since childhood once observed: ‘Old friends take a long time to make, and are harder still to keep.’

The other thing that I miss in particular are the Royal Parks in London, which we grew used to using as an extended garden for our very urban flat. St James’s Park, with its ever-changing tree-scape and floral displays – and a wicked old dog fox who tries to catch the ducks sleeping – is a real haven of beauty and peace in the city. I love the way the ducks and other wild fowl only swim near wrong notice board – there are two display boards with different species on each and the birds seem to rigorously avoid being anywhere near the correct picture.

Green Park, sloping artistically down from Piccadilly to Buck House is a better place to run – the tourists picnic or play ball games, leaving the paths mostly free for walkers and runners. The changes in gradients make it possible to be as easy or as hard on yourself as you like. The central avenue is a thing of architectural beauty and natural splendour.

And, at this time of year, I have missed the changing of the trees. The gradual tints of amber and gold, the brightening, somehow, of some of the colours as the leaves wither and die, and then the leaf kicking runs under the plane trees up The Mall.

And it was the changing colours that brought me here.

The delicate lace pattern really shows off the colours of the yarn

My friend Bronagh is, among many other things, a talented knitter and knitwear designer. When I saw her knitting a scarf she had designed for herself, I realised that I had exactly the right skein of yarn to make a similar one tucked away in a cupboard. So, when she decided to publish Barnet Park I dug the skein out and got started. I think the colours I have are perhaps more Vermont than London, but knitting it did remind me of home, and I shall wear it to a friend’s wedding in Cornwall in December to brighten a winter coat. [I expect I shall be freezing.]

There are a couple more pictures on my Ravelry page, but this shows the colours quite well.

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Be a better procrasinator

This post is in large a response to a very good article by Andrea Anastasiou in The National. Angie’s article made me realise that I use some, if not most, of the techniques she describes, with very varying amounts of success. So I had a bit of a think about what works best for me.

I have been “lucky” in my work life in that I have most commonly had real, fixed deadlines. A long time ago, in a different world, I worked in an admin role in a merchant bank, documenting Eurobond transactions (remember them) and getting the physical bonds (anyone?) printed and delivered into the system. More recently, much of my work life has been in the production end of journalism – the bit where all the writers have to suddenly have “written” something, and it has to go on a “page” and go to the printers. Those deadlines are very real, and expensive to miss. So procrastination has had to take a back seat in the office.

Much of the rest of my work is in editing academic books – indeed, all of it since our move to the UAE. Again, I do have a deadline to meet with the publishers. If I miss it, there is a chance that the proofs won’t be ready for the authors’ gap in their schedule and/or that the book will miss its print deadline to be ready for the next academic year. No one will die, but I won’t get booked again.

However, the deadlines are usually ample to achieve the work required, and that’s where the procrastination creeps in. It can be exactly the same with going to the gym, doing the ironing, sorting out paperwork, etc, etc. Fellow procrastinators know the score.

So what doesn’t work?

  • A huge to-do list of all outstanding projects. It is far too easy to become discouraged, believe that nothing will ever be finished and give up completely. It is also far too easy to cherry-pick and only do one or two easy things, and then spend the rest of the day pratting about on Twitter, or whatever.
  • Beat myself up about not having achieved anything significant with a day, or a portion of a day. That way lies the glums, and that’s no fun for me, or anyone around me.
  • Set artificial “real” deadlines. I’m not stupid, I know I made them up!

And what does work for me?

  • A short list for the following day, preferably with a sensible amount of time to “put in” on each project. Today, for example, has one hour allocated to revising Arabic before my next course, and a minimum of two to three hours allocated to a website I am editing as a follow-up to a book project.
  • Put non-urgent but useful stuff on the list. Today’s list includes ironing – I don’t do shirts but there is still some to do. At the moment, I’m half-way through the ironing.
  • Allow time for hobbies. One of the joys of not having a full-time job – or any actual “job” at all in my case – is that there is time to do the stuff you like. So put in an hour for knitting, or to finish a book, whatever.
  • Active stuff. Not just the gym. Put getting a massage on the list. Then when you have phoned to book it you have done 50% of the task. See an achievement already.
  • Deciding what is for dinner and cooking it counts as doing stuff. If that were procrastination, all the restaurateurs in Dubai would be millionaires.

And my special trick?
I’m not the greatest at making myself go to the gym. This is daft because I actually enjoy training and miss my gym coach from the UK terribly. But, even though I’m on the 23rd floor and the gym is on the 43rd, I can still make excuses. So here’s my trick.

  • Unless there is real reason not to, I get dressed in my gym kit. Then it doesn’t matter what time I go to the gym, but I have made the commitment to go. As soon as I find myself wandering about doing “nothing much” or pratting around on the internet, I go to the gym. I feel so much better afterwards, and it’s amazing how much “real work” I get done afterwards.

And as you have guessed by now, this was written while avoiding doing today’s to-do list, so now it’s time for some Arabic before lunch.

xx G

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