A Safe Haven

You know that middle of the night thinking stuff – never a good time to be contemplating life. I had been talking in the day  about finances  when the 7-year rule came up and it sent  me into a bit of a tizzy.  As you have probably gathered, I am not very good at death – well who is? But  accepting one’s own mortality is a bit scary.  You mean I am going to die?  That all of this – I said to myself waving my arms around a  fictitious world outside of my 7 month lockdown  – is no longer going to exist for me.   What the fuck? 

I remember when my Aunt was living with us and dying of cancer. She was reading books on China because she wanted to increase her knowledge and I was thinking but you are going to be dead soon so what good will it be knowing about Chinese history. Going to have to work on the mortality stuff.

Time to take stock.  By 4 am I was  digging deep into the ‘someday’ drawer. And having one way conversations

“Yes, Roma life is finite and I really have to start living it

” All very well but you are forgetting one thing – COVID.

“It’s already consumed 7 months of my life – enough already.  I need to escape. 

By 5 am  I had a plan.  I had googled the safest country in the world and came up with Palau –  a group of islands in the Micronesia area of Oceania, to the southeast of the Philippines.  I had even found the hotel – not the most beautiful but I felt sorry for them as they haven’t had any occupants.

The Palau Hotel, Koror


Interestingly Germany and Switzerland  also came up as two of the safest destinations.  But German  verses Palau – beautiful clear blue seas and the Rhine! No comparison.

Palau banner.jpg


And Switzerland yes great chocolate and mountains but did you know they were the last country in the world to give women the vote. February 1971! So, when I was hitchhiking through Switzerland in 1970 women were still subjugated. So, Palau it is.

A flight to Manila and then another one to Palau – it can be done. Invest in a good mask and some PPE for the flight. l  could spend the next few years in the serene beautiful South Pacific and return when there is a vaccine.  Sorted.

Of course,  by midday after a few hours sleep reality had checked in.

Death was not imminent – although the death experts – and I have to tell you there is a lot of dying advice on the internet – say one has to face death to be able to get on with living. That’s metaphorically unless sadly you are dying.   There is even a website that helps you do that – of course there would be. Sometimes I wonder how on earth we managed before the internet. https://deathoverdinner.org/

So it is something I will have to come to terms with but next time I get  into the scary death stuff I am going to try and face it with  “OK, death, I see you. But I am not coming just yet hopefully and I am going to start doing a bit more living. ”

That means stop being scared of looking foolish or losing face, give myself permission, say yes, stop over thinking, increase my social circle with more daring bold and audacious people and break a few rules. Well that’s Thursdays plan anyway.

“Let’s be careful out there”

Collective Responsibility

I am not sure who I am most angry with the government for the utter shambles of its dealing with the virus or my fellow human beings for the lack of respect and care they have taken in relation to the virus.

I think it is a given that Boris and his cronies couldn’t organise themselves out of a paper bag.

“The current coronavirus disease, Covid-19, has been called a once-in-a-century pandemic. But it may also be a once-in-a-century evidence fiasco” remarked John Ioannidi  co-Director of Meta-Research Innovation Center at Stanford.

So our politicians have messed up but hey people what’s your excuse?  We have a new normal now and if we want to avoid a complete lockdown which is pretty pointless as the virus is not going away  just because we stay at home – at some point we have to come out again.  And if the economy collapses well, we will all be up the creek without a paddle

So, as I see it,  we  have a collective responsibility here to be more aware and more careful. This is not a hoax; it is not a government ploy to gain control and  it is not about your personal freedom. It is about everyone’s personal freedom

The virus is here to stay and in a way it’s a bit like chicken pox which is something we all live with. Not that dangerous for children but more serious for adults and the elderly.   But we  have managed it. If your child has chicken pox you limit their interaction with others specifically the elderly.

Maybe we — ALL — need a bit more of the war mentality because we are at  war against a common enemy. And when you’re at war you need to stick together to beat the enemy.  In the last world war  everyone  adhered to the night time black out  — for years   —  there was no bleating about loss of personal  liberty,  violation of one’s freedom and chants of “If I’m going to get bombed  and die from it, then so be it.”

There was a collective responsibility to the war effort, and this is a war albeit an invisible one.  So maybe we  need to change our  behaviour towards the way we confront this war.   When you’re going to war, you don’t make light of how one preps for it.

In my opinion — and of course this is all my opinion —   the government needs to  realise that in order to fight this pandemic it needs to be more in touch with the  behavioral patterns of  the population and create a  strategy,  a public health policy  that it is better in tune with its people. What that is I have no idea, but there are better minds than mine out there that hopefully will know.  But if  ever we needed a good leader and a cohesive government it is right now

Interestingly Rory Stewart who was the UK Secretary of State for International Department said:

“If democracy is to be rebuilt … it is necessary not just for the public to learn to trust their politicians, but for the politicians to learn to trust the public.”

Hmm interesting.

I know it’s a bit of a rant but just woke up this morning with a huge sense of COVID gloom.  And  expressing it has had a remarkable cathartic effect.  I am feeling a lot lighter.  Apologies if it has made you feel worse

But something has to give here  because this is not working for us.

“Let’s be careful out there”

Letter to Albert Camus

Dear Albert Camus

Today  I am mindful of your words.

“In the midst of hate, I found there was, within me, an invincible love.  In the midst of tears, I found there was, within me, an invincible smile. In the midst of chaos, I found there was, within me, an invincible calm.  I realised, through it all, that in the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy; for it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger-something better, pushing right back.”

BBC World Service - The Forum, Albert Camus: Embracing life's absurdity

So, in the midst of all of that is going on I am trying Mr Camus to follow your example and look deep within to find the positive but it’s not always easy. These last few years have challenged me.

Firstly, I retired. I was ready for something new, something exciting, the start of the third phase of my life.   We talked about what it would be “Take your time,” said Tod. “There is no hurry let it all settle until you decide what you want to do.” But we didn’t have time. Tod got sick, and then he died. So there ensued a period of grieving and just when I was starting to look at life again, COVID hit.

But I do wake up most mornings and say thank you. Not sure who I am thanking but I know that by maybe by an accident in birth  I am here and not in some god forsaken refugee camp, that I have a roof over my head and a very nice one, enough food, healthy children, good friends and that I am economically secure.  But how I  do long for a bit more freedom. 

But Albert –  and I hope you don’t mind me calling you by your first name  but Mr seems a bit formal and you were not a formal kind of man –  I watched a BBC programme this morning in bed with my morning coffee. That’s another thing to be thankful for, no pressure to get up.  A whole day ahead of me to do what I want  as long as it is within my compound.  I digress, the programme   — The   Wonders of The Universe — presented by a young fresh-faced Brian Cox going in search of humanity’s very essence to answer some of the questions of what we are.  It was timely and bang on for how I was feeling.  I mean really the Universe started 13.7 billion years ago and Earth around 4.5 billion years so our little  COVID epidemic, which is controlling our lives,  fades into insignificance if we look at the bigger picture. And I am not going to get into the comet  that could wipe out life on Earth with just six months’ notice

Wonders of the Universe - Professor Brian Cox - YouTube

 If  you were  still here Albert, and I am sorry that you were so tragically  killed at such a young age,  I would be asking what you think about all of this. I have been looking into your work and  I guess I already know what you would say.

 “You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.”

So, I will forget the bigger picture, accept that it is what it is,  and try and be a bit more Zen about my life. Look with wonder at our creation but not question, not delve, not become too introspective.  And know that yes, I will be able to escape my four walls, travel, meet far off family and friends and enjoy this third phase of my life. But not right now.  

“Let’s be careful out there”

Room for Six

So, it looks like we are in it for the long haul which is why  I have spent the last few hours  researching Gazebos.  I now know everything you need to know about  them. Wind proof, waterproof, pest proof, size, shape, material, construction, in fact I could add it to my Mastermind specialisations.  I have also looked into  patio heaters and so far, I know I need an electric one and it needs to be upright and probably I will require two.  The idea is to create a Covid safe extra room on our patio  so I can enjoy a few friends and family.   

3m x 3m Commercial Gazebos & Pop Up Heavy Duty Instant Shelters
3 x 3 meters Obviously it can’t be completely enclosed because it would defeat the purpose

But first priority is the roof, and yesterday’s storm was a stark reminder that it needs to be sorted before winter.  So, I have finally chosen the lucky  builder who gets to scamper around on my roof.  

All very interesting I know  but  in order for me survive what I suspect is going to be a long hard winter I  want to make our home as comfortable as possible.  I am not alone I just spoke with my girlfriend who is busy researching sofas, “If I have to  spend the winter inside then I want to  make it really yummy,” she said.

As for Christmas well I think it is a given that it will not be happening.  The plus side is the money I will save on Christmas will pay for the outside space.

And I am beginning to assemble a list of films and tv programmes that will see me through the cold spell.  Once the chimney has been swept I have visions of curling up in my armchair in front of a roaring open fire and catching up on all the films and tv programmes that I have missed. I have already begun  the new Netflix  intriguing drama  Ratched shades of One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest. And next on the list is the  much acclaimed Schitts Creek.  

Schitt's Creek season 6 on Netflix should be your next binge-watch - Radio  Times

My list so far:

The Gospel According to Mica – Story of Gospel Music in Six Songs BBC4

Cold War  – Pawel Pawlowski’s  inspired by his own parents’ lives. Film 4

The History Boys Adaptation of Alan Bennett’s play. BBC 2 (I never saw it when it was out)

Being Beethoven – 3-part doc about his life BBC4

There She Goes – second series of comedy drama couple bringing up child with severe learning difficulties BBC 2

The Selfish Giant  – loosely based on Oscar Wilde’s story Film 4

The Florida Project  – C4

The Singapore Grip –  ITV

Fill the Void – portrait of a young woman in Tel Aviv’s Orthodox Hasidic community Netflix

Grayson Perry’s Big American Road Trip – C4

The Midwife Catherine Deneuve – Prime

Jackie Natalie Portman plays Jackie Kennedy – BBC

Boyhood –  Film 4

High Rise –  J G Ballard Film 4

12 Years a slave – Film 4

And this is just the tip of the iceberg – think it will keep me going for a while – suggestions are always welcome.

“Let’s be careful out there”

It’s a Friends thing

On this day  26 years ago the first  episode of the NBC sit com  Friends aired  – September 22, 1994.  It was the beginning of a love affair  for me and one that has continued till this day.  The series lasted  for 10 seasons but thankfully it is  constantly one of the most popular shows in the era of streaming content. Which means they won’t be taking it off any time soon.   I loved it and I still love it. And I still watch it.  When I am feeling a little blue Friends is the best pick-me-up.

I know all the stories I have seen them many many times and yet I still laugh. Sometimes I laugh before the catch line because I know what is coming.  My children yawn when I make a Friends comments  but if you are a Friends fan there’s a natural tendency to quote the show in everyday conversation, I quote it to such a degree that it almost borders on banal; it’s like having inside jokes with myself. Last week I made a meat loaf and said when serving it “that reminds me when Joey ate the bread and butter pudding with mincemeat in it.” And when when we were eating outside with candles and lights I remarked, “this reminds me of Monica’s wedding in the  remains of the church.”   I could go on, but I realise  I am at risk of making a complete fool of myself.

Making Friends at University - Student life

It’s a bit sad really so what is it that I love so much?  Maybe because  they are all nice people and in this world of nastiness ‘nice’ is appealing.  And I guess I identify with some of the characters. I know I am not American, or young, or in fact beautiful but take Monica – we are both control freaks.  We are both the glue that keeps everybody together and her flat, like my house is where everybody – before COVID – used to congregate.   And Phoebe, well we are very scatty, have a somewhat unreal view of how we would like life to be and but we can also be hilarious.  And  then there is Rachel with whom I have nothing in common not even the hair,  but  I love it that she is so sexy.

And that’s just the women – I also have a  close affinity with Ross.  When I met Tod,  he looked and acted like Ross.  He was tall, Jewish, dark, slim and handsome. He was intelligent, could be a little nerdy, arrogant, kind, over sensitive,  liked to be always right, funny and sometimes a little  insecure. 

And so, to my Grape Jelly.  No connection here – this is an unnatural segway. Jelly making has taken up the entire last 48 hours of my life.   If I see another grape this side of 2020 it will be too soon.  A friend gave me 12 kilos of  small seeded grapes from her garden. That’s a lot of grapes.  I already discussed that wine making wasn’t going to happen so the only other option that didn’t entail peeling and deseeding  was Grape Jelly

The recipe said it was easy. It lied.  I had to re boil the liquid 3 times and add 3 sachets of pectin before it resembled anything like Jelly.  And the recipe didn’t mention a word about about pectin. “Just add lemon and jam sugar, boil it until it sets,” it said.  After 60 minutes of furious boiling and saucer after saucer of testing and the mixture had diminished to less than half of its original size, I realised it was never going to set which is where a trip to the shops to buy pectin came into play.   It is now rock hard.

In future I will stick to blackberry jam and marmalade which I am rather a dab hand at.

“Let’s be careful out there and wear your mask”

Long Nights

Are you an insomniac? If so, what do you do when the rest of world is seemingly fast asleep? I long to be able to climb into bed, close my eyes and drift off into a night of uninterrupted slumber.  But it’s a fantasy the reality is a long night tossing and turning and yes, I have tried almost everything.

Herbal sleep remedies, Melatonia, Nytol, chamomile tea, reading, audio books, yoga, whisky and those awful sleep stories. How I hate those voices. The soft melodic “I-empathise-with-your-sleep problems” voices that infuriate me. To the point that I want to hurl the phone across the bedroom in frustration. I am not interested in their caring I just want to sleep.  No, I am not relaxed, yes, I have been deep breathing for the last 30 minutes, and please no more of your boring stories that you have guaranteed will put me to sleep within 20 minutes.


I have been told sex works – but that is not an option and anyway when it was an option it just kept me awake. And there is nothing more annoying than your partner collapsing in a heap next to you in a deep sleep within minutes. Really how do they do it.

Apparently, a study revealed that as many as 16 million UK adults suffer from sleepless nights.  I am thinking that I should develop an app so us insomniacs can get together. I remember when I was breast feeding at 3 in the morning, I thought we should have a 3 am mothers breast feeding group – a bit like a book club but instead of discussing narrative we could discuss babies.

Sleep disorder Insomnia Sleep deprivation, sleep, miscellaneous, child png  | PNGEgg

So, contemplating a crate of grapes from a friend’s garden that just arrived, I got up at 3 am and googled how to make wine.  Not as simple as I imagined. I thought I just had to stamp on the grapes for a few hours and put them in a container to ferment and voila.  However, I learnt that I would need a bung, a rubber stopper that fits into the neck of the secondary fermenter. A hose and clip to siphon the wine from the primary fermenting bucket to the secondary fermenter.  A hydrometer to test the specific gravity of the wine to determine whether it has the appropriate alcohol content. A sanitizer to   ensure there are no contaminants in your wine, equipment, or bottles.  Well that’s something I have plenty of. Plus, a wine corker, about 2 dozen wine bottles and corks. Hmm maybe not – think it is going to be grape jelly again.

Barefoot Wine Stomping - Winelands Guide - Winelands Hotels

I also got to read The Week cover to cover and every week it has a Poll watch and statistic of the week and it got me wondering who commissions these polls and indeed why

I did learn however that sadly 34% of girls aged 11-21 say they would not post a photo of themselves online without first using a filter to enhance it. 39% say they feel upset that they cannot look the same in real life as they do online.

That owing to borders closing during the pandemic some 200,000 container ship crew members have been stranded at sea for over a year.

And most alarming water companies in England discharged untreated human waste into rivers on more than 200,000 occasions last year for a total of 1.5 million hours.

All good fodder for dinner party conversations if ever I get to go to one again.

I have been told too that marijuana is good for sleep but I can’t smoke and eating it will make me too high for too long.

Note to self: Speak to California family to find me a THC product that gets me to sleep without the high. All comments will be most gratefully received.

I am adding to my usual sign off “Let’s be careful out there” to

Remember there are vulnerable people out there and however bored you are with this damn virus – it certainly is not bored.

The perils of bicarbonate soda

A word of culinary advice when the recipe tells you to add bicarbonate soda to the ingredients DO NOT and I mean NEVER put it in the liquidiser. I doubt that any of you would be so stupid but I, on the other hand, am clearly that stupid. Had I read Nigella’s recipe for Humous correctly I would have added the bicarbonate to the chick peas when they were cooking and not when I was whizzing them all up with the lemon juice. See nothing has changed my teachers always complained that I never took the time to read the questions. First up all wrong they used to say.

“If only Roma would take the time to read the questions then she might have a chance of getting the right answer.” Patience has never been one of my virtues.

It took me hours to clean up the exploding humous that splattered with enormous enthusiasm over the entire kitchen, including my eyes, my clothes and the cat. Have you ever tried to get humous of a high ceiling? Not easy. And to add salt to what was already a very raw wound, it was inedible. It tasted more like a chick pea mousse, light and fluffy with a distinctive fizzy taste.

On researching bicarbonate and whether it was possible to salvage my humous – which it wasn’t – I did discover there are many wonderful things you can do with bicarbonate soda.

Clean an automatic coffee maker, deep cleanse your hair, wash wallpaper, remove musty odour from books, clear a clogged drain make, fluffier omelettes, soften dry beans, get rid of fishy odour, deep clean dishwasher, salvage a burned pot, make tomatoes taste sweeter, take the sting out of sunburn, soothe a canker sore, make your microwave sparkle, soothe a sensitive stomach, stop a mosquito bite in its tracks, discourage weeds in cracks and soak away smelly feet. Who would have thought!!!!

Today I am making Honey Cakes. Pre COVID my baking was restricted to chocolate brownies but now, with so much time on my hands, I have discovered baking and am loving it. Big decision is whose Honey Cake recipe do I choose. Devonshire Honey Cake, Easy Moist Honey Cake, Amazing Russian Honey Cake, Absolutely Perfect Honey Pound, Medieval Honey Cake, Hawaiian/Greek/Eyptian Honey Cake. Or shall I stick to my favourite Nigella’s with butterscotch sauce or Evelyn Rose or Gloria’s mother’s cake, my neighbours or my cousin’s honey cake – certainly not my mother who had never made a Honey cake in her life.

Russian Honey Cake Recipe - olivemagazine
This is the Amazing Russian Honey Cake
Honey Cake | Nigella's Recipes | Nigella Lawson
This is Nigella’s Honey Cake with butterscotch sauce.

And talking of cake how about a Colin Firth cake? Who could forget his wet shirt appearance in Pride and Prejudice. To mark the 25th anniversary of his Mr. Darcy, Lyme Park in Cheshire where Pride and Prejudice was filmed, are baking a six foot cake. Its creator Michelle Wibowo took 200 hours to construct it using 25kg of flour, 25kg of butter and 45kg of sugar.

Life size Mr Darcy cake made for Pride and Prejudice anniversary | The List

And fellow baking enthusiasts Bake Off returns next week. Can’t wait.

“Let’s be careful out there”

Jumping to conclusions

Have you heard the one about the man who breaks down with a flat tyre in the night in the middle of nowhere? Up on a hill he sees a light and thinks maybe they will have a jack. Walking to the house he has misgivings.

“I wonder if there is anyone still up.  They will probably be too fearful to open the door. Maybe they don’t have a car so why would they have a jack.  Perhaps they are on holiday and the light is just to scare away burglars.  They probably have a large dog who doesn’t like strangers” and so on

He rings the bell and a woman answers, not in her pyjamas, she smiles and before she can say anything, he shouts “keep your bloody jack.”

Well I am feeling a bit like ‘keep your bloody jack’ right now.  Its Rosh Hashona next Friday, the Jewish new year. And it is custom in our house to have a big dinner, invite friends and family and eat lots of lovely food. Except this year we have COVID .

So, I have to think about social distancing for my 3 boys and their partners. Do we eat outside? Will it be warm enough? Will its rain?  Or can I rearrange the kitchen to accommodate everyone remaining distance safe.

In addition I have 4 meat eaters, 1 vegan and 2 vegetarians. One who will not eat vegan and one who insists on roast chicken and chicken soup comme d’habitude.  “It wouldn’t be the same without mamma’s chicken soup.”  Indeed my Uncle Monty who used to come to us every year for New Year’s dinner loved my keneidalch which he referred to as ‘Roma’s balls’  – “I love your balls,” he would say  with a cheeky smile on his face.  Then remind me that I needed to make sure I watered down his wife’s whisky 1/4 whisky 3/4 water.   The women in our family had a genetic penchant for a wee bit of the strong stuff. And Rosh Hashona was a good excuse to over indulge. Not that they needed an excuse. It took me years to realise that my mum was probably a secret drinker. I used to find tea cups dotted around her house with bits of whisky in them. And many a time during family get togethers I would find one of the five Aunts slumped in the toilet.

Jewish Chicken Soup Recipe - Allrecipes.com

So, while normally I would invite guests to join us for the celebrations which had the added benefit of buffering any conflict that might arise between between the boys, this year I will be chief arbitrator. Not a role I relish. So I am thinking that may be Rosh Hashona is my jack and I won’t bother. Moreover with the news rules in force from Monday jack or no jack we will be one over the permitted 6 that is allowed.

There is possibly some good news on the horizon – I have heard that this year which is 6000 in the Jewish Calendar – just might be the last year as it is the year when the Messiah is supposed to arrive and usher in the redemption. Oh, please yes if ever we needed redemption it is right now.

Apparently the Talmud tells us that this world, as we know it, will last for six thousand years, with the seventh millennium ushering in the cosmic Shabbat, the Messianic Era. Six days a week we work, and on the Shabbat, we rest and enjoy the fruits of our labour; the same is true with millenniums. I am not holding my breath, but I am ever hopeful that we just might see something good happening. Cause quite frankly I am awfully fed up with the current state.

“Let’s be careful out there”

Child Refugees

Gary Linekar has given me food for thought.  He has signed up to house a refugee in his Surrey mansion and is reportedly due to welcome his guest in a few weeks’ time. Once we are through this epidemic – and please no comments that we will never be through as I might just slit my throat – I too am thinking about giving a room to a refugee.  If I have managed so far without the income from a lodger perhaps a better use for our spare room would be to give a home to a refugee. Perhaps not a child because of the responsibility or a male because of the different gender attitudes toward women that might need to be overcome, but certainly a female refugee.

I love it that Sara Nathan says in an article in The Independent that if she was to give one piece of advice to Lineker it would be to start off by offering a cup of tea.  So, English!

“We are talking about people who have fled war or persecution,” she says. “Just somebody being welcoming is a huge thing. A cup of tea can mean the world.”

She went on to say that she and husband Malcolm Singer have hosted 24 such guests at their London house since they first founded the charity https://www.refugeesathome.org/ in 2015. I shall be getting in contact with them next year.

You will probably be reading a lot more about refugees on my post as I have started volunteering for the Separated Child Foundation  https://separatedchild.org/ obviously working from home, to help them expand their profile.  As you know from previous posts, I am quite passionate about the plight of refugees. My grandparents arrived as refugees and quite frankly who knows what might happen in the future. We too might just be one step away from becoming displaced. I am always mindful of – ‘there but for the grace of….’

These children left their homes voluntarily or involuntarily, alone or perhaps with their parents or care givers and arrived in Europe as refugees, asylum-seekers, economic migrants or trafficked persons. They may suffer or be at risk from suffering exploitation, abuse, neglect or violence

The Separated Child Foundation offers emotional, social, financial and physical support to separated children and young people in Britain up to the age of 21. They also offer a whole host of other activities.  It is hard to imagine what it must be like to arrive in a strange country – alone – probably with little or no English. Traumatised by their experiences and having absolutely nothing.

Take Kamran from Afghanistan.  He is just one of the many child refugees that the Separated Child foundation has helped. His survival is remarkable.  His account of his journey highlights many of the issues around the age assessment of children who are seeking asylum in the UK. Although he was only a child, the authorities treated Kamron as an adult, detained him for long periods and very nearly deported him, before they finally recognised him as a minor. I am retelling part of his story here.

My name is Kamran Foladi. I am from Afghanistan and was born in Ghazni Province in Afghanistan. I was only 8 years old when I lost my entire family. Only I and my younger brother survived as we were outside the house. One of my father’s friends took me and my brother to Iran to a place called Neriz. He took us to stay at a stone factory where between 25 and 30 people worked and each factory had a cook…….

 “People in the factory talked about there being better conditions in Europe and better human rights. They advised me to work hard and make money to get out of Iran and go to Europe as it was not safe anymore and people from Afghanistan were being deported back to Afghanistan…….

 “The factory was located far from the city and a man called Hajji Kazim had a shop here and he brought food ……. He was a nice trustworthy person and every month; I gave him all the money I had saved for safekeeping. He used this money to arrange for me and my brother to come to Europe.

We travelled through to Tehran then got on a coach and then a van to a little village near the border of Turkey. At night we walked for 24 hours across mountains and snow in Turkey. There were lots of caves in the mountains and there were about 45 to 50 people travelling together. We all stayed in the caves for two days. After two nights and two days, we climbed down, and a van arrived. 25 people got on the van, which took us to a house in the city…….

Afterwards, the lorry was packed full of people and some people were being beaten to sit down and asked not to move. We travelled for about four and half hours then we started walking again for about four and a half hours and we crossed another mountain. It was very cold, and it was snowing. We got another lorry at the foot of the mountain. ……..There were no proper roads and the lorry got stuck in the mud. In one place, we had to all push the lorry out. The roads were so bad that we nearly overturned. We travelled on this lorry for two days and two nights. We were so happy and excited thinking that any minute we will be there now. But it took so long. This lorry took us to Istanbul. From here, we travelled through Greece, then Italy (Rome), then France

When we got to France, we decided between ourselves that my brother would go first and swim across to the port in Calais as we had no money to pay.  The water was very deep, and we were standing watching him as he swam across. A ferry came from the other side and went over him and then he disappeared. I watched this happen and started screaming and shouting. I wanted to throw myself in the water too; I wanted to save my brother. The other Afghans held me and stopped me throwing myself in the water. I was unconscious and when I came around in the morning I was asking again for my brother. They lied to me that they had told the police, and no one had found him. They were lying because they were scared.  I felt so sad and empty and didn’t know what to do. They advised me to continue travelling to the UK and not to tell anyone about my brother as I would be blamed because he was younger than me and I did not look after him. I then reached London at about five in the morning.”

I put it to these far-right protesters who marched on Dover last week chanting “We want our country back” and singing Rule, Britannia! How would you feel if your parents had been butchered and you had to flee from your beloved Britannia?  And no one would take you in!

I rest my case.  I know this has been a bit preachy, but I am just flexing my muscles in preparation for this new task I have taken on.

“Let’s be careful out there”

Wise head on young shoulders

When I was 18, I wrote an article for a magazine asking why alcohol was deemed acceptable but smoking marijuana was not. I couldn’t understand why people were allowed to get drunk, become abusive and anti-social and yet, it was in the main felt to be ok.  While smoking a joint, which produced quiet and reflective behaviour was illegal.  I was surprised that it got printed. My parents were not amused. Although my brother did once persuade my mother to have a puff.  “I don’t know what all the fuss is about,” she said, “I don’t feel anything.”

I was a hippy spreading peace and love, fighting for freedom, and not associating with men with short hair! Now in my Sixties – oh how I wish it still was the Sixties – while I haven’t smoked for decades, I still believe that marijuana should be legalised.  Experts – don’t you love that word it covers a multitude of sins – say that of all the people who smoke pot, in other words, about 9 percent will become dependent. But of all the people who drink, about 16 percent will become alcoholics.

So why am I talking about this right now. Yesterday I was reminded of how destructive alcohol can be when an ex-lodger of mine, Ian Royce died aged 51 from severe pneumonia and multiple organ failure.   You might have read about him in the press. He was a stand-up comedian and well known warm up man. He was a lovely man, a gentleman, very funny, brilliant at his job but he had demons and those demons resulted in his alcoholism. In my life I have know a few people who have battled with alcohol but sadly they didn’t survive.    

Actually the lodger before Ian was also an alcoholic. At one point when we heard a thud in her room we had to break down the door to check if she was ok – which she wasn’t. Maybe it is something about our house.

This is not a blog about alcohol or alcoholics, and I am not preaching but it saddened me to see such a waste of life which is why I felt impelled to mention it. And I guess I worry that in times of stress which is what we are all currently experiencing one can drink more often and more heavily. Look I am no puritan as my friends know I like a drop of good whisky, but I am mindful that alcohol doesn’t heal wounds, only stops the pain temporarily and can easily become a habit.

On a more cheerful and banal note I am thinking about winter and social distancing.   How am I going to see my friends if it is cold and we can’t sit in the garden? Throughout the summer I have happily entertained friends in the garden and on the patio – but what is going to happen when it gets cold.  I was thinking about installing an awning on the patio but apparently fixing them to an Edwardian Bay window is notoriously difficult and expensive.  So, I am contemplating putting up a semi-permanent winter gazebo across the patio so I can continue to be sociable. In the meantime we have been experimenting. Toby and Linda had their best friends for dinner in the kitchen at the weekend. It was raining so they social distanced with the french windows open and a heater by their table.

Fortunately I have lovely neighbours so if I am in need company we can meet out front, with our coats and hats. Yesterday Nadia who lives next door shared a post her 20-year-old daughter had written about living with a severely disabled brother.  It blew me away. Beautifully written with such insight and honesty. I asked if I could share it here and the answer was affirmative. So, if you have the time, I urge you to take 5 minutes to read it. Here is a taster of one of the things that she says:

“This is another thing having a disabled sibling teaches you: to simply love people for who and what they are rather than loving an idea of something, which is actually really easy to do. When you love the idea of something, or you fall in love with a hypothetical you actually stop yourself from loving what actually is or what actually does exist. “


A young women with a very wise head on her.

“Let’s be careful out there”