Monday, 23 March 2009

In transit

I lock my room and catch a bus as a grey wind blows the bright days away. I see blossoms and patches of daffodils, white and yellow, but I'm already thinking of late summer afternoons. I arrived at Heathrow six months ago, to the day. And today I'm flying back.

They keep us a shopping mall, cleverly disguised as a departure lounge. My flight has been rebooked, so I'm looking forward to 6 hours of spending pleasure. Or maybe not. I recognize a small toy black taxi my grandmother brought me years ago - I will probably do the same souvenir shopping here one day. Postcards of the Queen, Paddington on a key chain, tea in telephone booths. Whisky, all "fine", but in such volumes that I doubt their claim of "rare".

The place that really draws my attention is Caviar House & Prunier. I'm not prepared to pay the £100 for a tin of budget Beluga from Kazakhstan, but they do have slivers of divine salmon available for tasting. I'm waiting for the shift to change, then I'll go again. They also have foie gras, Gentleman's Relish, expensive Stilton and tiny bottles of vodka, but I'll leave that for another day. When I'm employed again. And rich of course.

Passenger Yusuf flying to Khartoum via Beirut should go to his gate now.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Good Omens

1) A week of spectacular sunshine and mild weather, sometimes slightly hazy because of the sea. It felt just like Cape Town on a those clear days that would miraculously interrupt the winter rain.

2) We had a barbeque last night. A more restrained, quieter, British one. But it involved some Fairtrade wine from Du Toitskloof, burger patties and general happiness.

3) More wine. In the supermarket, I overhear a man telling is son "This wine is from South Africa. From the Cape of Good Hope." The son gurgles happily. It's something red from Douglas Green. A cabernet perhaps?

4) Branston pickles are on the bottom shelf. As I crouch down to take one, a tall, thin bottle of Mrs Ball's peers out from the darkness at the back of the other pickles.

My flight is on Monday.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Sir Norman Foster

Great Court, British Museum

Thursday, 12 March 2009


An overcast day on the Highveld.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009


There is a woman I sometimes see on the bus. She has a talkative girl in a bright Barbie pink pushcart, who also wears an anorak of the same colour. She looks as if she might be from West Africa - exactly where I cannot tell. There is a tiny scar on each of her cheeks, just below the eyes. Almost like teardrops.

I always wonder how she came to be here - I suspect her story would be much more interesting than mine.

Friday, 6 March 2009


At dinner a few nights ago, we suddenly had one of those unplanned silent moments, where all conversation, clinging of cutlery and chair scraping fades away to leave us with only the purr of the refrigerator.

"It must be 20 minutes before or after the hour", said the engineer. It was 20h32. "Well, that's what we say Greece, even though it's never accurate".

"When I was in France, the people said an angel passes through the room", says the Erasmus student. "And in Russia we say a policeman is born."

What does this tell us about the respective cultures?

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Nasionale Braaidag

Even if you're not fasting for Lent, many people still enjoy the celebrations that precede it. Germany has Fetter Donnerstag, Mardi Gras is not limited to France, Rio goes crazy and Venice dons her masks for carnival. In Greece, they have Tsiknopempti. From tskino, the smell of barbecuing meat, and Pempti, Thursday. So literally - Barbecue Thursday. And everyone joins in.

It feels very similar to braais back home - everyone is keen, but only three people know how to do it ("Kom ons braai! Ja! Ja! Wie kan braai? hmmm..."). It starts very late and only ends when security asks us to go home. Even then we just move indoors and have more wine.

Vast quantities of meat (kreas) are consumed. Mostly pork with a bit of chicken. Everything is eaten directly from the fire, sprinkled with oregano and drizzled with lots of fresh lemon juice. Apparently every Greek keeps a couple of lemons available at all times.

I can get along with this culture.