Thought I’d share a couple of book recommendations written last year. These were published in Paper Magazine’s first issue.
SUM by David Eagleman
If traditional views on the hereafter leave you cold, if you believe you’re meant for more than worm fodder, or if fountains of milk and honey don’t really grab you, then step right this way, for David Eagleman has an afterlife for you that will not disappoint. Sum is a collection of forty short stories, each a re-imagining of what happens after you’ve been excused from life as you currently live it. What if one was reborn to discover that life had to be relived, only in reverse? What if you died and were given the option for another shot, with the ability to ask for just one thing to be different? What if God turns out to be even better than they said, but no one is prepared to accept a version different from their religious beliefs? This odd and provocative little volume will keep you enthralled and wanting more.
Eagleman, a neuroscientist in addition to being a writer, has brought this rather morbid topic into the realm of the fantastical with a twisted sense of humour and a lot of ingenuity. This imaginative and insightful book has won fans across the world, including Philip Pullman, Stephen Fry and Alexander McCall Smith.
Best devoured in greedy little bites, with thoughtful mastication to follow.
As Time Magazine puts it – “Read Sum and be amazed. Reread it and be reamazed.”
The City & The City by China Miéville
China Miéville’s intelligent and highly original volume begs to be compared with Kafka and Orwell, in that it creates a nightmarishly bizarre vision of a totalitarian dystopia fraught with a maddening bureaucratic framework, sure to engage fans of either author.
Initially it appears to be set in a perfectly acceptable fictional city, culturally reminiscent of south eastern Europe, with its mix of Balkan refugees and some Germanic and Slavic language thrown in for good measure. Told from the perspective of a police officer, this could be an otherwise believable detective story, with all the fixings of murder and conspiracy. However, it soon becomes apparent that the city of Beszel has an unconventional and extraordinarily intimate relationship with the city of Ul Qoma, which is not a neighbouring city, as one would rush to imagine, but in fact exists in the same physical space as the former. Citizens of each place are psychologically conditioned to ‘unsee’ anything that doesn’t belong in the city they call their own for fear of the secret police. Now add a city-less murder victim and some power politics and you have a truly different animal. (Yikes! If you’re already perplexed you may want to give it a miss, but if you’re a fan of the quirky and ready to tangle with this new ‘urban surrealist’ genre, you won’t find a better story than this to do so).
It’s hard to escape the parable that we all choose to ‘unsee’ the parts of reality we don’t want to acknowledge or accept, but Miéville follows through with his page-turning detective story rather than flouting our demons in our faces too obviously. So take a leap and try out, what Neil Gaiman calls, ‘the fiction of the new century’.
Most clients want it all – realistically, you do only get to pick two.
This poster is available for purchase from Colin Harman who made it – click the poster for details.
Since I moved to the UK I have had to cook far more regularly than ever before. Prior to this my only kitchen experience was in ‘Food & Nutrition’ class during school days (a long, long time ago) and some dabbling while in graduate school. Fortunately, I have access to a brilliant panel of cooks, my mom, aunts and cousins, who pass on their recipes to me and other displaced family members across the world.
These are recipes passed around orally and usually with vague instructions regarding quantities and methodology i.e. ‘just enough chilli powder’, ‘wait until it’s cooking happily’. I have attempted to put some of them in writing, on scraps of paper littered about the house, and keep planning to make little recipe cards to print out and laminate for easy reference in the kitchen.
Since I have the first 4 recipes down, after much procrastination, I thought I’d share them here. Do experiment and adjust to taste as you go, as there are no hard and fast rules with these and every household seems to create its own unique flavour, which is kinda cool. At the bottom I’ve placed a link to a downloadable PDF file so you can print out all four on a sheet of A4 paper, cut and laminate for easy reference in the kitchen.
Download A4 sized PDF of all four recipes here.
I can be pretty vague myself, so if you find anything that needs clarification or correction, do let me know. And if you end up with variations of you own do share!
This post goes out dedicated to my wonderful mother Fauzia, my forever young aunt Shaz and my beautiful Maasi (who’s cooking will remain unmatched). Love you!
A couple of weeks ago I was tap-tap-tapping away in my little ‘studio’ when suddenly the lovely birdsong that accompanies the rhythm of our lives morphed into a shrieking cacophony more suited to a certain Hitchcock film. It felt as if every bird in the sky had realized the end was nigh and begun screaming in unison. Lily and I jumped and ran to the back door to the garden, not really sure what was going on. I pulled open the door, Lily at my heels, and we were both suddenly frozen as we saw on the ground right in front of us a sparrowhawk, wings surrounding its prey and with another little fluffy body of a recently fledged starling nearby. It looked at me with that eye (oh, that eye!) and I was completely hypnotized – had I been a fluffy bunny that would have been the end of me I expect.
After what seemed like a while, though I expect was barely a couple of seconds, the bird took off and Lily sprung into action towards the spot where the sparrowhawk had been. I yelled at her to get away and she took off towards the end of the garden leaving me at the scene. Looking at the patch of grass vacated by the predator I saw the second of the little starlings get up and lurch, bloodied and spurting red, towards the cover of a nearby hedge where it collapsed and died. As I stood there, completely horror-struck by the whole episode, I may have let out a little scream myself (okay, okay – so am lily-livered city girl…*blush*).
Of course I could do nothing but fret until the man of the wilds came home and ‘dealt with it,’ admonishing me for having interrupted the female sparrowhawk (of course he knew it was) sorting out a meal for her little fledgelings back in the nest. To rub it in, he pointed out that she’d probably have to go ‘off’ a few more starling chicks in order to feed her family, the death of these little ones having been in vain (though he did leave them for cat/fox by the fence and, sure enough, just a tuft of feathers by the morning).
So I failed. My first encounter with Nature in her fiery glory and I played stupid rabbit *sigh*.Will now have to sit through a lot more Attenborough on Eden to compensate. But, at least I made a cool sparrowhawk picture to illustrate since I wasn’t really quick or calm enough to take a photograph. The feather textures are actually from a photo I took of a pair of duckies by the river, tee hee. Hope you like it.
And if you enjoyed my tale of woe – here’s another on the topic by Derek Neimann in the Guardian, also taking place in Bedfordshire.
It’s been almost a year (a very well documented year) since we were graced by the presence of our very own resident superstar – Lily. She’s going to be a regular feature here so I thought we’d start at the beginning – these are from her first week with her new people.
It is hard to believe that when we brought her home she was a very sick puppy. The previous owners did not tell us about her condition and so we were pretty blind sided. She was unable to poop and when she tried, it was just blood, mucus and the vilest odour (sorry if that grossed out anyone). Multiple visits to the vet were inconclusive and alarming – they said it could be Parvo, or some other infection – in any case they didn’t hold out much hope for her.
But in spite of everything else she never lost her spunky spirit, which is how we knew that she’d be just fine with some care and attention. Being the keen ‘googler’ that I am, I found a number of people online who had dogs facing similar issues, and in most of those cases it was a particularly nasty type of worm. It turned out that she hadn’t been wormed properly and so that was step one. Her food also didn’t seem to suit her, so we switched her to home cooked meals and alternated food ingredients till we isolated white rice as being particularly upsetting to her system. She couldn’t eat more than a tablespoon at a time so she had to be fed at regular intervals.
Eventually though, she recovered and is as fit and boisterous as they come and now eats everything you put in front of her. She’s also a bit of a ho, soliciting attention from everyone that passes by the house and is well known and loved by all the neighbourhood, and it isn’t unusual to find all manner of people leaning over the fence cooing over and coddling her at any given time.
Best loved of the British garden birds, the robin is truly a delight to watch. Their distinctive little hops, shameless posing on twigs and branches and round little silhouettes makes them a favourite for people everywhere. A pair have decided to call one of our nesting boxes home and have had two chicks that are now finding their feet on the little patio we have set up for bird-kind. Both parents are very hands on (wings on?) with the care and feeding and the little fellows are quite demanding.
The wonders of the English country garden do not cease with the bird life. We have seen many other critters come and go over the last year including, but not limited to, a fox, a hedgehog family and various cats in search of a tender morsel or two. Aside from the little birds we had some ducks drop in and I had a close encounter with a sparrow hawk, which I have no photos of unfortunately (mostly because once it fixed its eye on me I found myself unable to move – more prey than predator in me I suppose).
Some of these comings and goings were documented, I hope you enjoy them:
A Mallard – Lily was desperate to have a go at duck hunt, but had to watch from afar.
The Incredible Mr.Fox – since we got Lily last year we have had to stop encouraging this nightly visitor in case of an encounter, but he was a pleasure to watch.
Mr. & Mrs. Hedgehog would come by around dusk every night for a plate of cat-food. Contrary to popular belief, feeding them bread and milk is not a good idea as it makes the little critters very ill.
And where there are fluffy little fledgelings, there is a a hopeful cat waiting by the bird feeder for a little smackerel of something. This one has had to be chased off a few times, but often we’d see him hiding in the nearby bushes anyway….hope springs eternal.
Named ‘Shooshoo’ after failing to respond to that command repeatedly, this cat is a regular in our neighbourhood and always ready for a cuddle. A neighbour was smart enough to bell her as she is quite the avid tree climber/bird killer herself.
Lily now keeps the yard free of predatory cats, but occasionally decides to pull a predation herself (ref. The Pigeon Caper).
I love, love, love this chair from Bojka, a Beirut based company run by Hoda Baroudi and Maria Hibri. And I so wish I were a little more handy, the man is still holding on to the couches he bought twenty years ago, how I’d love to do them over!
‘Shabby chic’ has become its own little style I suppose, but just looking around, it seems a fine line between whimsically quaint and ‘tat’, as the man would describe it. I see some similar items in the UK online stores, but so far haven’t really been impressed by any that don’t carry a price tag to rival our mortgage (as is the case with most things here). And somehow, maybe its the desi in me, but I just don’t feel some of these price tags (i.e.£3,000 for a similar chair in London) are worth it for something that you should be able to drag out of the closet and make a labour of love out of for yourself. Hmm….