Monday, October 17, 2011

Shalom from Tel Aviv

It seems only fitting that after such a long break from blogging - months! - that I should take up the metaphorical pen again from an exotic location.

And so I say shalom to you from Tel Aviv, Israel. I'm here for a couple of days, just passing through on my way to other exotic climes .... Portugal, Copenhagen, and then back to the warm embrace of Dubai for a week or so. How wonderful! I shall fit in a side trip to Bahrain to see the new baby and spot signs of the continuing Arab Spring resistance that continues there.

This is my first visit to Israel. I came close a few years ago when I spent a few days of Eid in Jordan - I stood on top of Mount Nebo (where Moses was apparently born) and looked at the sign the pointed to Jerusalem only 34 kilometres away beyond the Dead Sea.

But now I'm actually here, though in Tel Aviv instead. I do want to visit Jerusalem but when I suggested this to My One True Love he winced a little and said concernedly: How about having a massage in the hotel spa instead? I love his worries sometimes. It reminded me of when I told my mother I was going to move to Dubai for three months (three months that turned into nearly two years) and she said: If you want a holiday darling why don't you just go to Adelaide instead?

But no! Adelaide may well be the murder capital of Australia but I wanted adventure. The hotel spa might be nice but I want adventure!

Unfortunately though, this visit there isn't time to get to Jerusalem even though it's only a short distance away - I'm busy doing other things instead.

This morning, for example, I went for a 10km run along the shoreline of Tzuk Beach, and I'm pretty proud of that if I do say so myself. I may need to visit the hotel spa for a massage after all ... dearie me, could My One True Love's words be coming to life in front of me ....?

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

A new project in the making

I quite randomly found these wonderful picture frames the other day. Aren't they lovely?

It was lunchtime at work. Usually I eat lunch at my desk, but on this day I rummaged around in my handbag and only managed to turn up a manky tissue, an old nail file, and my address book. Nothing nutritious there, and certainly no lunch in sight.

I clearly remembered getting my sprouts and tuna out of the fridge at home.... and then, just as clearly remembered walking out the front door without taking them with me. Oops

So a bought lunch was in order. I went out to the cafe in the back lane and ordered some sort of scrumptious toasted concoction, and while it was being prepared I went for a little amble to stretch my legs. Around the side and a few metres down the road, there was a warehouse sale on. And you know how I am about bargains, so naturally I went inside.

I did the classic window-shopper thing. Ho-ed and hum-ed my way around the space, picking things up and putting them down again. I saw a very nice bakers stand that I thought would look good on the back verandah, all potted out with spring flowers. But too big, at six feet there was no way I was going to be able to fit it in the car.

Just as I was on my way out, these frames caught my eye.Looking at the gorgeous carvings on corners made me feel all warm and curly inside.

So I bought as many as I could afford, because I have a plan in mind for them ....

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Guilt trip from Grimth

Grimth is sitting on the kitchen bench and giving me the death stare.

I think he's been reading my email. He knows I've had a series of bewildered enquiries from people about why I haven't been blogging, and he's guilting me out about it.

It's very disconcerting to be impaled by the eyes of a cute little furry animal.

I resolve to do better, readers. In between the new job and  .... well, really it's just the new job, actually. I get home and I'm exhausted! In a happy, fulfilled kind of exhausted way, but nevertheless I'm generally asleep before you can say "internet".

It's fascinating to note though, that as my time for blogging and sewing has diminished,my desire to do so has exponentially increased. I find I'm a little more fractious, a little less patient, than I usually am when I have everything nicely in balance. As a rule I generally have a very long fuse; but when I'm out of whack this fuse gets a lot shorter.

So Grimth had better be careful!*

(note: this is an empty threat and employed as a dramatic device only. Please do not write me angry letters about animal cruelty. That cat has got it good, and he knows it.)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A little piece of Britain

Ah, dear readers, the gentle and unspoken pressure of your expectation. Blank pages to fill for you! Thoughts to make into flesh!

Now that I am blogging again, I feel my sewing inspiration returning as well - because what is blogging without pictures? What is blogging without new projects to display? What, indeed?

And thus it was that this morning I put together a beautiful little cushion made from a 100% Irish linen vintage British tea towel.  I love the really vibrant colours and the bold illustrations of this beauty. I found it up the road at a local op shop, and it was just crying out to be turned into something wonderful. 

I know the tea towel in its original state was already both functional and beautiful, but I would have felt it a waste to just dry the dishes with it. Plus, My One True Love has this habit of wiping up coffee grains with the nearest tea towel to hand, and I couldn't bear to have this one stained. It's too pretty.

So now it's a gorgeous cushion cover; perfect for a boys' room or to remind you of that amazing year you had over there in The Old Country. My favourite bit is all the names of the stations in the London Underground.

I'm half-British, though I never spent a gap year there myself (actually, I never had a gap year at all), but somehow when I look at this one I just think of home.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

It's because of the banana

It's been six weeks.

The world has turned on its axis. Seasons have changed, from summer to autumn and from winter to spring. Thousands of miles have been traversed, and travelled back again.

Earthquakes have shaken us. Nuclear reactors have wept into the sea.

I've returned to Australia and left the Middle East uprising behind me. I have a new job, in a new industry, and for the first time in my life I'm working outside the CBD. I'm a bridesmaid in a very special wedding.

Boot camp is a constant. A baby has been born.

Today, I bought a banana for the first time in a very long time. It cost me Three Dollars And Fifteen Cents. For a single banana. Just the one.

And I thought: this online silence cannot continue! I must speak of this!

I have found my voice again.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Greetings from Abu Dhabi

The beautiful Sheikh Zayed mosque in Abu Dhabi, picture from here
Greetings, dear readers, from the wonderful city of Abu Dhabi, where your glamorous internationally jetsetting blogger is currently ensconced in a lavish hotel suite (suite!) for a few days.

I'm here on a bit of a whirlwind trip, having flown in for a job interview - at their expense, thank goodness, not mine - and of course a bit of fabric shopping if I can fit it in. And if you know me at all, you know I'll fit that in.

It all happened rather quickly, so Saturday night saw me farewelling My One True Love at the aeroflot yet again. There is something very deja vu / error in the code about our farewells at the airport these days, as we've done so many of them. But farewell we did, and with a grin and a wave I was through the metal doors and into the newly redone area of the international departure space.

And it's lovely! They have a Cafe Vue there now, and my favourite store, which sells merino clothes and Metallicus, had a wonderful golden yellow scarf which I exercised considerable restraint to not buy. After all, I haven't got the job yet - and if I do get it, I'll hardly be needing a woollen scarf now, will I?

Before too long I was on the plane. In economy. In my seat. Which was broken. Noooooooo! True story, it didn't recline. I contemplated the prospect of a 14 hour overnight international journey sitting up ramrod straight as the hours went by, feeling my spine crumble into oatmeal. Oatmeal spiced with razors.

After a few quiet words with one of the stewardesses - during which I fluttered my proverbial eyelashes and mentioned the phrase "job interview" at least eleventy-six times, I was shown to a new seat. In the middle row of the plane. Where no one else was sitting. Four empty seats to myself ......... whoo hoo!!! In all of my flying hither and yon over the years, I have never, ever had an entire middle row to myself. It is a thing of myth and legend.

And so Project Nighty Night began. I put up all the armrests, arranged a number of fleecy airline blankets over me, created a little mound of pillows at just the perfect height, accepted a vodka and tonic, chased it down with a valium, and said goodbye to the world for the entire night. Slept like a baby.

And now here I am. I have five hours of interviews today (five....hours....) and I think that with the help of a little caffeine through the day, I should make it through relatively unscathed.

Wish me luck!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Postage Stamp Quilt

 Do you ever get that urge to sew, like I do? A feeling in the middle of you like something is crushing your insides and you just gottta create something?

Today, I am filled with inspiration. My sewing machine has been in its box for a full four weeks now (four! weeks!) and I can feel the urge getting louder and louder.

I've had a project in the back of my mind for a little while now, and it strikes me that this is the perfect time to begin it. It lives in this book, The Gentle Art Of Quilt-Making, by Jane Brocket. I love this book, because I have so many of the fabrics she uses in the quilts, it's as if she's inside my mind.

I adore the colours and textures of the projects she puts together, and the book itself is stunning. I used to pick it up and stroke it lovingly in the shops before I actually caved in and bought it. Tell me, have you ever seen a more lovely cover? (Ignore the glue stain, oops)

The pattern is called "Postage Stamp", and it puts all the squares on the diagonal, which brings a lot more movement into the quilt.

I've picked out sixteen fabrics from my stash, all in bluey-yellowy shades, and the weather has been so kind that I've been able to wash and dry them all.

I have a range of Joel Dewberry prints, Filigree Gallery, Michael Miller, Anna Maria Horner, Heather Bailey, and a couple of pieces I bought when I was in India a few years ago.

I'm really excited about beginning this project, it'll be my first quilt in a while. Can't talk, must start cutting 3 inch squares!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Blog blog ..... yawn....


That is not the yawn of a bored blogger. Oh no. That is the yawn of a sleepy blogger.

I've been back in Australia for around 10 days now. Hello Melbourne! Hello My One True Love! Hello pussins! Hello green green gardens and velvet lawns - sooo unusual for Melbourne in summer, but then, I understand most of Australia has been under water for months now, so that explains it.

Yes, I've been back for around 10 days, and unconscious with exhaustion and jetlag for the better part of that time. Bahrain is 8 hours behind Melbourne, so it's almost exactly a reverse timeframe. When I'm sleepy, I should be awake. When I'm awake, I should be asleep. I get hungry for cereal at dinner time.

Every day I try to get up at a reasonable hour.... and then I go back to sleep. It's hard, especially when the pussins are all warm and cuddly and curled up on the yellow silk coverlet. That is the best kind of superglue to keep me in bed.

But I am resolved; I WILL adjust to this timeframe. Today, or tomorrow ....before I fly back to Abu Dhabi for a few days. And then everything will be topsy turvy again. Sigh!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Astounding Addis Ababa

After my first full day in Africa, my senses are whimpering for respite.

I’m not sure whether it’s the thick pollution; the crowds of unwashed humanity (such a change after the sterility of Bahrain); the overwhelming number of crippled, mangled, diseased and leprous people begging on the streets; or the sheer noise and, colour and volume of the population, but I’m ready to fall deeply into unconsciousness and shut it all out for a while.

I’m a little drink, I mean, drunk, on honey wine too, which doesn’t help. Known as tej, honey wine tastes like spoiled, fermented orange juice – with an aftertaste of ant. Mmmm. Ant.

I gratefully downed the full 500 mL I was poured at dinner at Yod Abyssinian, a loud and noisy restaurant where you can eat your fill of injera, the local food, while watching traditional Ethiopian tribal dancing – which is quite something to behold. The place was packed full of local people, except for the faranji – foreigners – in suits, who I presume work for one of the many NGOs who are headquartered here in Addis Ababa. I saw my first UN vehicle today, and check out this US aid sack being used as a rubbish bin.
But back to dinner: this is the kind of woven table made out of local grass that injera is served on, and here is a photo of the injera I had for dinner.

It took a while to get the technique of eating with my fingers (right hand only, NEVER use your left hand as that is reserved for less ahem, wholesome activities), but I managed to drop something on myself only once. I am absolutely stuffed …. I think what I really need is to lie down on the bed and moan a little. The honey wine had to find its way into the tiny gaps left in my stomach after I plugged the entire organ with goat meat, cabbage, and red bean chiro. Sooooo yummy – but now I hurt a bit. I haven’t been this full in ages.

There is much more to report, but I am about to head into deepest darkest Africa, where I’m told there may be internet ... and there may not be. I don't even know if these photos are going to upload properly, so I'll count myself lucky if I can connect at all.
So this may be my last post for a while, but rest assured – I am taking notes; and I will re-establish the lines of communication as soon as technology allows.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Here I am in Ethiopia

It’s 1145pm, and the guesthouse I’m staying at here in Addis Ababa, described by my trusty Lonely Planet as being “clean, comfortable, and on a quiet side street”, has clearly metastasised a tumourous carbuncle of a nightclub since it passed that original inspection with a clean bill of health. Gah.

The volume of the African music that’s playing right outside on the street – an oh-so-subtle combination of heavy thundering bass, steel drums, and fast rhythms on saxophone and vocals – might as well be inside the room it’s so loud. I thank god for the earplugs I stuck into my bag. And that I’m only staying two nights.

Flying into Ethiopia was quite something – I was unaware that I’d booked on the inaugural Gulf Air flight to the country, so the trip was accompanied by press photographers, tv cameras, dignitaries and the cutting of golden ribbons with golden scissors. It all made us quite late for our departure, so the pilot did his best to make up time along the way, and on descent to our destination as we hurtled out of the sky towards the ground like a screaming metal missile, torn clouds streamed past my window in shreds as the whole plane shook and rattled and groaned with the effort. I briefly entertained visions of the headlines that would result from us exploding in a ferocious fireball as we re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere on our maiden flight – oh the spectacle. It would have been quite Titanic-esque in its irony.

When we touched down safely though, right on schedule, all the African women on board burst into wild applause and that high-pitched wailing sound called ululation: ai-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yi-yiiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!!!!!!!!!!

As the plane taxied to our gate, two firetrucks drove alongside us, spraying the plane in water like a giant aeronautical carwash. What the? Was it ceremonial, or a disease prevention measure, or were the press people just making sure the plane was all sparkly clean for the tv crews? Who knows.

On leaving the aircraft we were all handed an “inaugural flight” certificate, a Gulf Air pen (a nice heavy one in a box), and as we made our way down the stairs to the tarmac and the waiting red carpet, all of the ladies received a rose tied with a ribbon.

Then I spent forty minutes filling out arrival forms, changing Bahraini dinars into Ethiopian birr (at a rate of one to THIRTY-FOUR - about 25% less than what I should have gotten - a tip for anyone else who might be travelling here: wait til you get to the city and then go to Daschen Bank at the Sheraton Hotel!), buying a visit visa, and moving from one incorrect immigration queue to another, before finally making my way through and out the other side, almost falling into the arms of my driver with relief. Did I check that both my bags went into the boot of that car, dear readers? Oh yes I did! We’ll not be having any repeat of that Indian episode, thank you very much.

So here I am, in Africa at last, with another fantastic stamp in my passport and new adventures ahead of me. Ethiopia! Tick that box, baby!

(PS, the music is still going. Loudly. And a dog is howling along with it. Is there any point at all in going to bed, I wonder?)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I felt the Pakistan earthquake

I thought I'd written my last post for my time in Bahrain ... until half an hour ago, when my entire apartment building was rocked by the earthquake that hit southern Pakistan.

At a magnitude of 7.4 on the Richter scale, an earthquake like this can cause widespread damage. Here in Manama, I could see the walls moving as the whole structure swayed from side to side; and I was actually bounced around on the sofa a little bit.

It lasted around 9-10 seconds - which is actually quite a long time when you're freaking out that the building might collapse and bury you in a pile of rubble on your very last day in the country, you know?

Ordinarily I'd have been in bed asleep and would have missed the whole thing, but tonight I was up late getting ready for my flight to Ethiopia. And ok, I was watching some terrible US reality tv while I did it.

First I thought it was in my head, but then I heard the noise of my water glasses rattling in their cupboard - so I googled it (where would we be without Google??) and within a few minutes I could see reports of the Pakistani epicentre coming in. Apparently it was a shallow quake, only 10km below the surface. I don't know if that means you feel it more, or less, than if the epicentre is lower down?

So after a minor panic that I might DIE in a collapsed building on the eve of actually flying out of the country, my nerves settled down again when there was no escalation of the tremor and I haven't felt one since.

Whew. My heart is in my throat.

Farewell from RAMEE SUITES-2

It's my last day in Manama, Bahrain. Tonight, I'm off to Ethiopia for a while, before heading back to Australia. I'm hoping to post a few times while I'm in Africa, but we'll have to see what the internet connections are like ... .

My three months here have gone past like lightning. I've made new friends, visited new places, done new things - and bought lots (and lots!) of new fabric.

In honour of my final day, I felt it was time to introduce you to the many moods of my constant companion during my time here. Ever steady, ever present, ever glowing, ever faithfully red. 
Bahrain, RAMEE SUITES-2 and I bid you a fond farewell.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Last minute panic-buying

I stepped into the sunlight today and thought again about how I'm leaving in two days' time.

Leaving behind (both here and in Dubai) my tailor, my favourite fabric shops, my notions guy, the souq .... and I got a little bit panicky. I'm leaving! Leaving all this fabric!

So I ducked into a nearby shop - one I've walked past but never been into before - and picked up this amazing silk fabric. It's Indian, and made by stitching together lots of different embroidered borders. It has sequins, metallic threads, beads and ribbons all through it.

I bought two metres (oh, such restraint!) - one of each of a different kind. The first has more shimmer and sparkle than the others. I've no idea what I'm going to use it for .... I would loooove a tailored coat made out of it, but I would need at least double this - about 4 metres - and at $50 a metre that's just a bridge too far, I'm afraid. So two metres will have to do me, and it'll force me to be creative in the way I use it.

I love this fabric, and I think it's the perfect purchase to finalise my stay here in Bahrain. Long live Bahrain!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Pictures of Manama

It occurred to me today, as I was at the salon for a waxing appointment and purposefully thinking of other things while my beauty needs were being fiercely attended to, that I have never posted any pictures of the place I have lived for the past three months.

Oh, you've seen the porno palace, and the souq, and various other bits and pieces, but I've never shown you a panorama.

So here are some pictures of Manama, where I have spent the better part of the past 13 weeks. The sea sparkles turquoise and aqua most days, and it's an interesting mix of high-rise skyscrapers, old harbours filled with fishing dhows that go out every afternoon at 430pm, vast stretches of desert, building sites, and roads that stretch off into the distance ....