Archive | March, 2012

Amwaj Island

30 Mar

Yesterday was different from the norm as it was careers’ day at school.  The girls turned up as nurses, doctors, soldiers, fire officers, police women, singers, teachers, business women, artists, chefs and footballers.  Some career mums came to talk to them and it was an altogether great day.

Today Victoria and I had an excursion to Amwaj Island, which is reclaimed land and a playground for the rich.  It was our first visit and  seemed like a ghost town as we drove around looking for a cup of tea shop.  At last we found a promising sign which lead us into a multistory car park, the other side of which was all the action.  We found a huge  Cafe, which displayed all types of tea known to man.  I ordered Masala Chai, a milky, spicey brew with cardamom and cinamon, which is as comforting as a cup of hot chocolate.

Next we visited the only Waitrose store on the island, but discovered  they do not sell Yorkshire Tea Bags or Rachel’s Ginger Yoghurt …. my measure of a decent shop.  So we moved on to Al Orosa, the only store that does.

It’s been an odd day weatherwise with a dust storm early morning,  thunderstorms in the afternoon and very hot.

At home now watching the UK petrol fiasco on telly ….

Catherine (2)

24 Mar

She found it easy to unravel the string of circumstances which had led them to this place and return, in her mind, to Great Newton Street, where their home had been when Mam was alive.  The kitchen stove blazing, daddy reading in his armchair and mammy busy baking at the sturdy wooden table, centrepiece of many a family gathering, were vivid fragments of her memories of home.   There was warmth in the past, many smiles and a lot of love.

But as the man behind the oaken desk peered down at her, his long yellow face extracted  warmth and chilled her soul. She feared him in the dark, cold room, and more than anything, she feared what lay beyond the heavy black door,  which separated this room from the rest of the Liverpool Workhouse.

The Beatles in Bahrain

23 Mar

On our daily drive to work and back Victoria and I usually have a lot to talk about.  Sometimes it’s serious stuff like the American Presidency, which I find more interesting than usual, having a real live American point of view to quiz.  Or we have general chats about our families in Carlisle and Michigan.

A while ago we discovered a radio channel which plays all the old fashioned songs of our youth, so when the conversation lulls we usually have a bit of a sing along to the likes of Jimmy Hendrix, Deep Purple or The Beatles

Music is a great tool for narrowing the cultural divide. Recently the school held a talent contest and I was   surprised to see the girls dancing to the same music students back home play.  Up until then I had  witnessed traditional festivals at school where they dressed, sang and danced in the rich, style of their cultural heritage.  So to see them bring along Mylei Cylus wigs and dancing to Jessie J’s ‘Price Tag’ made me quite emotional, having seen the students at the Richard Rose Academy in Carlisle do the same less than a year ago.

Sadly, I can’t see the hypnotically rhythmic music of the desert, catching on that well with the Carlisle kids, but then again it wouldn’t have the same magic, taken out of the context of sun, sand and the Middle Eastern culture.  Hopefully I’ll have time to learn more about it once the pressure of school inspections eases, so that on my return to England in June, I’ll keep my neighbours awake by sending loud Bahraini tunes across the wild Cumbrian landscape


Looking for Inspiration

19 Mar

Never let it be said that I don’t try when it comes to writing.  Take today, for instance. After a long hard slog teaching English to my delightful, very enthusiastic six year old students, I set off equipped with a pencil and notebook, to the Bahrain Writers’ Circle creative writers’ meeting.

My friend Victoria drove me to Adliah, a bustling, trendy hub of shops and  cafes, and, obviously impressed by my dedication, left me at the end of the road to walk the short distance to our venue, a quirky little cafe stroke art gallery.  Toting my notebook and pencil,  and still a little unsteady on account of the vertigo ( sorry to keep mentioning it), I climbed the little wooden staircase to where the meeting was to be.

Four paint splashed artists working on a giant canvas registered astonishment as I hovered in the doorway of the room where last we met, wondering how quickly they could clear the deck, to make way for my creative writing class, due to begin in twenty minutes.

Slowly it dawned on me; they were going nowhere.  Out on the street, I wandered for a while, through the chaos of traffic and Persian rug vendors, looking for my lost group.  But to no avail.  They were, by now no doubt scribbling away in an ecstacy of creativity and, resisting the urge to buy a stuffed camel,  I had no choice, but  to take a taxi home.

Hence an unplanned blog.  I’d hoped to have had a transformation for this one, but it’s the same old same old.

Note to self …. Double check the venue before you set off next time.

Now I have to decide what to tell Victoria when she asks me how it went … .


17 Mar


Catherine felt a chill as they crossed the threshold, and pulled the grey shawl tightly around her shoulders.

The boys were fooling around as usual, noisy and annoying.

‘Stop it! She pleaded.’

Her younger brother Billy, paused briefly, breathless and bright eyed after racing Alfie up the street.   He was gleefully unaware of the situation and after a brief glance around the sparse, cold hallway, kicked his little brother Alfie up the backside and resumed their play fight.

‘Stop it Billy! Can’t you see what’s happening?’

She felt helpless, as usual when her brothers behaved this way.   Auntie Lizzie, forlornly draped in a long, loose fitting black coat, looked resigned, and resolute;   but Catherine had hoped for a change of heart.  If the boys would stop their silly behaviour, Auntie Lizzie might turn around and they could all go home.

To be fair, they hadn’t been told what was to happen that day.  Catherine knew.   Twelve years of age, and the oldest of the children, she had grown up quickly; mothering the boys through years of turmoil.

Auntie Lizzie perched nervously on the single wooden bench, worn and splintered, like the lives of those to whom it lent support.    Catherine battled her feelings of hatred towards the tired woman, whose grey, mournful eyes reflected the destitution faced by so many of Liverpool’s struggling poor.  For in the fading, pretty features of Auntie Lizzie, she could perceive her own mother.




Blogging On

17 Mar

A combination of unrest outside, together with mild discalculia and vertigo inside, has resulted in me having to  spend a lot of time in my lovely white retreat.

The vertigo is responding to treatment and I can manage to stay upright, although sudden movements of the head trigger an alarming sensation akin to riding a roller coaster.

Yesterday I saw a really jolly ent specialist, who has the thickest ear hair imaginable; great long tufts of it.  Do people wear false ear tufts?  He was very helpful and informative. Hopefully, when I return to work tomorrow,  it won’t feel like I’m teaching at sea on a cruise boat.

Whenever I’m in touch with folks back home, they’re usually just off to the gym, or have just returned.  Recently, after a chat with one such dedicated friend, I was thinking how nice it would be to have a gym handy, so I could go off to it.  Then I remembered the one on the sixth floor just above me, and quickly banished the thought. But now I’m wondering if it’s wise to exercise in my condition … ?

Sooo what to blog about? I ask myself. Aware that my blogees are waiting eagerly for my next effort, and that I am aiming to reach the 15 blog milestone. I have decided to write about writing.  Yesterday I toyed with the notion of writing about past blogs ….. I began blogging when I was 14, in 1967, only then it was called a diary.  I wrote about the books I was reading, my part time job at the fantastic Irish Centre in Liverpool, my family and anything I accidentally caught on the news, like the miners’ strikes of the early ’70s and the three day week, when electricity was rationed ….. I also blogged my two year stay in Colombia in the ’80s  detailing journeys around Peru and Bolivia.  In fact I was born to blog!

Anyway I decided not to write about that, although I did some interesting googling which revived deeply submerged, disturbing memories of Edward Heath and Margaret Thatcher.

Tentatively, what I decided to do is introduce you to my novel.  DON’T GO !!  Just hear me out.

I have been writing the book for as long as I can remember and every now and then pull it out with a sense of despair,  because I set about writing it in memory of an ancestor of mine, called Catherine.  I have written 9,934 words, but it needs a make over, (understatement), and it needs to be finished.  So as an incentive, and with added inspiration from the Bahrain Writers’ Circle, I will have a go at completing the project while I’m here.

Not that I intend blogging the whole thing, (audible sighs of relief),  but the occasional episode just so you know I’m cracking on with it.  What do you think?

The next blog … milestone 15 … will be what is presently the opening passage.


Vertigo !

14 Mar

When I got up this morning I couldn’t balance and was rushed to the jaws of hell, aka the Emergency Room.    After a harrowing two hours,  they diagnosed benign positional vertigo, then sent me home with tablets and a doctor’s note for two days.

It has eased to some extent, but the sensation reminded me of trying to get around the crooked house at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, where the floors move and rattle from side to side.  Hopefully I’ll be steadier in a few days.

Sadly,  I get to miss tomorrow’s Sport’s Day and my debut as a cheerleader,  but I’ll get over it.