Teaser Tuesdays

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of

http://shouldbereading.wordpress.com/2011/08/30/teaser-tuesdays-aug-30/

Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

Grab your current read

Open to a random page

Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

 So here are my teasers, one from the novel I’m reading,

‘That evening, as we all sat by the fireplace and grilled goat cheese, the hermit told us enchanting stories from faraway lands. While his voice droned on, I closed my eyes, travelling with him to the deserts of Arabia, Bedouin tents in North Africa, and a sea of the bluest water, called the Mediterranean.’

P 169, The Forty Rules of Love by Elif Shafak.

and one travel writing.

‘She felt his touch, his lips on her neck and thigh against hip, and let her head roll back in surrender. The gesture had excited him, making her laugh like the bulbuls that hid in the green groves of peepul trees.’

P211, Love in a Hot Climate by Rory Maclean in ‘Ox Travels, Meetings with remarkable travel writers’. 

A reluctant time traveller

I stumbled across a prompt, what period of history or event would you like to time travel to? It sent my mind butterflying through the centuries and around the world, to Egypt when the pyramids were being built and then feeling a touch guilty, back closer to home and Stonehenge. I didn’t linger in either place; gruelling physical labour in either climate would have meant an unpleasant life and an early death. The story of the stones arriving from Preseli 150 miles away is known to be a myth but someone still had to shift them upright. Naturally as I would be arriving via time machine they might revere me as a goddess, but more likely they’d torture and punish me as something demonic. So, an alternative? I live in a city founded by the Romans around AD50, the arrival, overthrowing of the Dumnonii tribe and establishment of a fort overlooking the river as part of their march westward would have been terrifying to the locals. Some of them still get a bit anxious when tourists arrive for a bank holiday to drink our most expensively rated and billed water for free. Would it be worth cranking up the time machine for? Only for the wine they brought with them!

Many years ago I devoured a series of books, ‘Earth’s Children’ by Jean Auel. The heroine, Ayla manages to tame a young horse, the first step towards domestication of an animal. Since then I have often wondered about that period when other creatures started to share our lives, to mutual benefit – maybe, and carried to the extreme with the training of cormorants to fish for us. That’s quite high on my list of who, why, how did someone first think that up questions. This all takes place 30,000 years ago when the oral tradition of storytelling was probably flourishing but I’d probably miss my shelves of books and the Kindle app on my Android.

Take a quick step forward. I’ll disembark from Viator, as I’ve named my time machine, to the industrial revolution, the nineteenth century and the wonder of the first railways. To be among the first people to travel on, to be propelled from place to place, by a beast of a machine belching steam with a smell that I can conjure in an instant. Suddenly machines were making farm workers life easier, productivity increased and many moved to cities and factory jobs. Would I want to be there? Child labour abounded, workers were exposed to dangers appalling to our health and safety conscious society, exposure to toxic chemicals, I don’t think so.

The end of World War 2 in 1945, elation, sorrow, grief and loss. Children without fathers, women without husbands and mothers without sons. A time to rebuild and move forward with hope. What was there for women? To make way for the return of the troops they were forced into a backwards move to hearth and home, to being the housewife scrubbing the step instead of making ammunition and aircraft. Making do with food rationing for another decade and for those able to work the inequality of being paid at a lower rate than men for the same job, a situation my daughter couldn’t imagine, but was still in place when at 15 I had my first Saturday job. The joy and relief of peacetime would quickly dissipate under the daily struggle.

History is littered with war, destruction, misery, brutality, with a sprinkling of beauty and creativity for the rich, usually the perpetrators. If I’m correct in believing that I’ve been round a few lifetimes already, than I’ve experienced enough of history and I don’t think I want to travel to any past life anytime soon. Can Viator please take me to the future? The future of beauty queens where there is world peace and no-one is poor, hungry, at war or living with oppression.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Up

This week I really couldn’t decide how I wanted to interpret the challenge of ‘Up’, so I thought I would have some fun with . . .

a very hungry carp!

and a  laughing Arabian . . .

And finally . . .

The Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, for a few years the world’s tallest building,  now second or third on the list but still the tallest twin towers. I was there in December 2009 and my hotel room http://www.shangri-la.com/en/property/kualalumpur/traders had the most stunning view. I found it so incredible that I’d lie awake at night just mesmerised by it.

Twinset and Pearls at the Golden Horn

I’d wondered what sort of person books a ‘Grand tour of Turkey’ and kept my eyes open at Heathrow. Sitting at the departure gate, I got a glimpse of my first pair. ‘Oldies’ travelling friend called them, they must be mid seventies, and I said ‘That’s not old and anyway I like old peeps, I hope to be one someday.’

I asked the Mister if he was indeed on the Grand Tour and he replied ‘Yes hopefully, pleased to meet you.’ Hopefully? Does he think he won’t make it? Maybe he knows something that I don’t. There had been terrorist bombs in Istanbul in recent weeks, so I’d been informed by my colleague, who warned me to be careful. ‘I’m not going to worry about things like that’ I reply, ‘If my numbers up that’s all there is to it.’ ‘Just be vigilant’ he says. I am touched by his concern, check the reports and find there had been a bomb in a tourist market, just the sort of place I head for.

Missus Twinset is actually wearing a Persil washes whiter blazer, embroidered with pastel coloured daisies and she is very ‘Keeping up Appearances’. I wonder if this holiday is going to be quite me. I’m more the trekking trousies, hoodie and vest and my concession to dressing for the evening, are flip flops with sequins in case I have the energy to join in with any belly dancing opportunities. Missus makes me feel scruffy, I wouldn’t ever want to dress like that, but …ladies of her ilk usually leave me feeling a tadge grimy, like I’ve bought all  my clothes at Oxfam and have been under canvas for a week. You get the picture don’t you? Because when I’ve said this to other people I’ve been told that I always look ‘well turned out’, ha! Like a Peter Pan collar over a hand knitted navy blue cardy? The briefing meeting will be interesting, if they are all fogeys I’ll have to try to ruffle them up a bit.

At the arrival meeting we sit beside the above crusties, Frank and Betty – yes really! And are joined by Dave and Lesley, more our age.

We walk with them along Istiklal Caddessi towards Taksim Square, a lively area, pedestrian except for the odd tram carving a path through the crowds. There were fabulous shops, but apart from buying water really cheaply, I was in too much of a daze to soak it up. I’d just been told that breakfast would be at six because we leave at seven-thirty, meaning I would have to get up at five because I’m slow. I didn’t go to bed the night before. Instead, my body had fought against being asked to settle, on the Red Eye, with my head against the cold window, brain whirling with excitement.

We found dinner and sat outside the café with a spinach crepe and an Efes beer for around £8. The beer was just what the doctor ordered to help acclimatize in the sizzling heat, the food just so-so and the Crusties – hilarious!

The room at the Grand Halic (Halic means horn)  http://www.booking.com/hotel/tr/grand-halic.en-gb.html?dva=0  was pretty good for a City hotel, but I woke, God only knows how in my depleted state, several times in the night because the noise was dreadful. Do you know what? I really didn’t care, I was right beside the Golden Horn in Istanbul, a place I’d wanted to visit for years.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Flowers

I’ve just subscribed to The Daily Post where each week there is a photo challenge. Here is my first attempt. I bought a compact macro for my CanonEos 450D about a year and a half ago and never have got to grips with it, my shots always disappoint me. I probably thought that just screwing it on would be enough for me to suddenly take amazing photos – wrong! Anyway today I had about 30 tries at the Echinacea, beginning on fully auto, hopeless as the flash cut in. Then I tried aperture value, slightly better, and then being really brave I went fully manual and this is the result. I’m not that pleased with the result but too lazy to get the tripod out to make it any better! I’ve signed up for a digital photography course with the Open University in October, so maybe…just maybe, I’ll make some progress.

Raku Cats and Amethyst, the Archaeology of Me

Naturally I want to leave behind something wonderful that creates a perpetual image of an interesting woman of the third millennium AD. But what is there to me really, what makes me ‘me?’ I have watched documentaries about the spread of mankind around the planet, the long walk from Africa, and have often said that all people are African, but some are more African than others. Half of my genes are English and I stake a claim to those being of good Celtic stock. I feel a strong tie to this south western land of green hills, red sandstone and mellow climate, and feel that I’ve been here a long time. But I may have only arrived with the Norman Conquest, with the Vikings, or on a coach from Llandudno. My other half is from the West African Igbo tribe, but those borders were only laid down by the raiding Empires in the last few centuries. My late father, who I strongly resemble, was not the blackest of Africans and could well have descended from Arabians mixed up in Saharan territories. That would account for my love of desert.

So who do I think I am, to be able to leave something wonderful? I shall leave my genetic fingerprint and hope that it continues to walk, in a lucid gypsy manner, around the globe.

But of material things, what will remain after I perish and return to dust?

In the 70’s I had a passion for ceramics from the Troika pottery in Cornwall and have just four durable pieces. I treasure a small, white, china bell decorated with a butterfly and ‘I love you mum’ in red. I’d love someone to find it intact in a thousand years and try to imagine me! Sat beside the television is a near life sized Raku Siamese cat by Dillon Rudge, well known in these parts. The beauty of the Raku may be a weakness that would cause it to fracture, but perhaps a 25th century archaeology student would be given the challenge of painstakingly re-assembling it. There is a French silver frame, the picture would fade away and the glass would shatter, but the tactile design would last as would my few gold rings and silver bracelets.

I make beads from polymer clay; if it’s accurate that carrier bags will not decompose for hundreds of years, then the beads should not only survive, but turn up around the world, as a few foreign tourists have bought them. Few can say that they don’t use plastic; I for one, have thrown away countless empty bottles, from decades of buying products to ‘manage’ my difficult hair, not the legacy I wish to be best remembered for. What would a future scientist conclude from an analysis of the traces left in one of these containers?

The most permanent possession of mine that will remain, is one that I am but a transient caretaker of. It’s been around for millions of years, and unless deliberately sledge hammered, will be around for millions more. Amethyst is mentioned in Greek mythology, mine is a small geode, most likely from South America, but possibly from Africa, as things are.

(With thanks to my friend Kathy whose Facebook post inspired this piece)

Growing, somehow.

Growing, somehow.

Crying, why? Depression.  The big saucer eyes red and lower eyelids exposed and vulnerable looking like raw meat, angry, red and sore. The skin on his face was prickly with grey stubble, dry unkempt and with traces of white soap. The ruddy skin of the outdoors worker and long -term drinker. Fleshy folds of jowls, mouth loose, narrow lips. Dentures were in the pot beside the bed instead of in his mouth, so that the structure was gone from his face. He’d put them in and when he smiled he looked lovely but he played with them with his tongue, pushing them up down, in and out of his mouth and scary to a little child, who thought they had a life of their own and would bite by themselves.

As he aged there was dribble from that slack mouth and corners were cracked and sore.  But mostly it was the crying. Always there was pain, headache, debilitating agony all over his head. No drugs worked and he had lots of those, all the anti-depressants of the day were tried. The doctors used him as a guinea pig. He had Valium, Mogadon, and Triptizol and reporting side effects he changed them frequently never allowing any time to get into his system as they gave him headaches, made him groggy, kept him awake – whatever he went from one to the other and then back again.

Occasionally some crisis sent him to the trick cyclist hospital where he stayed for a few weeks. Sometimes that meant they gave him electro convulsive therapy which frightened him terribly and he would cry even more. He was frightened most of the time. Of death, of what was and might be going to happen to him.

Back to him. Those nasty hospitals, old style Victorian buildings that began as lunatic asylums with people that had been there for decades, padded rooms and strait jackets for those who couldn’t be controlled – for whose safety? The child visited and was afraid of him and the other patients. She was very sad but with no way of expressing any emotion, she took it back inside herself where it festered for half a lifetime and could easily have caused her to travel the same narrow, dark tunnel of despair. Fear, hindsight and education gave her some understanding of the possibility land he inhabited. He never went to the war in 1939, although he was twenty seven at the time, he was supposedly not fit, because he had a cycling accident, where he ‘cracked his head open’ and they put in a steel plate. Would that have been likely in the 1930’s? Did such procedures exist back then? If not it would have taken some imagination to conjure that one up.

So, no war for him, he joined the Home Guard and there were remembered whisperings that he had been called a coward. Or was he? Was that maybe something seen on a black and white Sunday Matinee in the 60’s? That war avoiders were called ‘yellow’? So that bicycle accident may have caused damage to his nervous system and lifelong mental illness.

He was a simple soul but he taught her about his small natural world. Look out for adders they can kill, how to dig a trench and plant potatoes, sowing and pricking out seeds, putting salt around slugs and watching them sizzle or how to tell a plant from a weed. When she was little he worked on the land. Each day he got on his bike and rode the mile to get there with sandwiches packed in greaseproof paper and a paper bag – several times re-used. There was no money so they were scantily filled with the cheapest mild cheddar which was always ‘tasteless muck’, dripping – from some scrappy roast dinner  kept in a china pudding basin on the cold shelf of the larder because there was no fridge, or streaky bacon that was invariably ‘salt as brine’. He complained all the time, nothing was ever good.

Because he hated riding his bike in all weathers he was grumpy and she thought that he had returned from a long journey each day, it was only as an adult when her world shrunk that she realised just how close the farm was to home. The farm owners were good to the family; they tolerated the fact that most weeks he would have a sick day, sometimes two. He only left when they sold up and retired. Perhaps it’s surprising that he rode his bike at all when falling from one had caused him so many problems. It was the victim of many punctures and frequent visits were made to the cycle repair shop for a puncture kit. Occasionally great disaster fell when an inner tube or tyre had to be replaced, a major expense. Spoons would be used to lever the tyre on and off the wheel. The child longed for a bike of her own. She would beg for a ride on his but he wasn’t often in the mood to lead her round on it. It was huge, dark green and very heavy. The cross bar prevented her from getting on independently but she kept trying right until her teens when he had no use for it anymore. Then she would wheel it across the road to the pub forecourt, lower it sideways enough to get her leg across and leap on but could never sit on the seat and reach the peddles. She has vivid memory of falling on the crossbar, agony for her warm flesh on the solid cold steel. To this day she is a very poor cyclist.

It’s strange that I’m writing this on Father’s day, I woke up this morning thinking of him and there are lots of stories I could write. For the first ten or so years of my life he was dad and then for the next thirty I didn’t know who dad was. And then Pa Claudie was found, as was a big chunk of myself. So where are they this Father’s day? Lost to me for good this time, but I like to think they are watching over me somewhere and feeling some pride. Bless you both.

 

Konya, Mevlana-Rumi and Selimiye Camii Mosque

Konya is reputedly the most devout city in Turkey and when we arrived in the hot late afternoon it certainly had a different feel to the other towns along the way. We were directed towards the exquisitely tiled tomb of the Sufi mystic Mevlana, also known as Rumi.

The mausoleum holds a collection of ancient Korans, some very tiny, some gilded, and a carpet that is supposed to be the world’s most valuable. We were the only westerners and attracted a lot of warm, curious stares especially from a group of teenage girls. They giggled at us behind their hands and never one to miss an opportunity I said hello in my best Turkish, merhaba. They blushed and giggled even more. I tried ‘Where are you from? What is your name?’ and a slightly older girl was pulled to the centre of the group. ‘Do you speak English?’ I said ‘Yes I am English.’ There followed a sweet conversation where through her they asked questions and looked at me strangely. I knew they didn’t get me – I was wearing a scarf around my head and shoulders, so because of my skin they thought I must be Muslim. I explained that I’m from England but am half Nigerian and watched the quizzical frowns smooth to happy smiles. I could have stayed all day but eased myself away to look around and every so often I’d turn a corner and catch one of them smiling.

I was drawn to a crowd gathering around a glass case and edged closer to investigate. There was an ornate casket inside and people seemed to be taking turns to press their nose to the corner of the case. I tried to keep a respectful distance, but again the friendly glances and they started to talk to me. I understood nothing but a woman took my hand and led me closer. I was instructed to follow them in the nose pressing activity, and saw a tiny hole that they were inhaling through. A sniff revealed a jasmine frankincense aroma, and a sign in English, that the casket contained the beard of Mohammed. Later there was a debate among friends as to whether it was supposed to be a hair from the Prophets beard or that of Rumi, this remains cloudy, maybe someone knows the definitive answer?

Through abundant rose gardens stands the Selimiye Camii mosque, 450 years old with sumptuous decorations in the Ottoman style. Friday prayers had ended and I approached the door. In contrast to the bustle of Rumi Mevlana’s tomb hardly a soul was around and my friend sat in the sun while I tried to find out if I could go inside. I was nervous, in one of India’s most important mosques, the Ajmer Dargah,  non Muslim women were not allowed to enter and I had felt uncomfortable even in the courtyard. Here though a gesture from me and a nod from a local gave me permission to enter. I tidied my scarf, slipped my shoes off and crept inside.

The silence was the sort that makes you hold your breath. The domed ceiling was as high as heaven and the carpet was the richest red, velvet to my feet. I sensed, rather than saw, a woman glide beside me to the door and taking stock I realised there were just three men and a small boy there now. My first instinct was to go right back outside but I stood like a statue (that would NOT be allowed in the building) and made sure that no-one was going to shoo me away. It was amazingly peaceful; I wandered around and found the niche which shows the direction of Mecca for prayer. I felt quite overwhelmed with emotion, nothing that I could name, but very spiritual, as if I was being safely held. 

Konya may be a lovely city, I don’t know, we only had an overnight stop in an okay hotel. I enjoyed the encounters both earthly and ethereal. For my friend the town itself had a heavier, darker atmosphere. I wonder, if she had gone into the mosque, would she have seen another side to Rumi’s ancient resting place?

Tony, who has passed

TONY
No cross words from your quiet wise lips
Just a calm, easy smile
An inventive streak.
Ships in bottles, ship on the wall
Your skills displayed proudly in the hall.
You gave me a rabbit’s foot said
Is it okay? Don’t want to upset you
It’s waxed and wired just today.
A copper bracelet fashioned from pipe
A bag of plums juicy and ripe.
Thick syrupy wine I’d sip to be polite
The taste would linger throughout the night
Heaven beware because on his way is the Bacchus of
Crosswords coming to play.