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Friday, 9 September 2016

Last Monday......

Low on Gram flour, low on Atta flour so back to the huge Indian supermarket.

Literally the only white faces.Not just in the store but in the the whole Indian quarter.People seem to stay in strict demarcation lines.The white people you see on the way there don't seem that well heeled. So why arn't they going where the prices are best and the quality is better than the well known supermarkets?

I stock up on all manner of treats and ask an assistant about something I can't find.He takes me to where it is."Is there anything else I can help you with" he says.But he's looking at my husband when he says it.

Some men wolfishly eye me up as we go to my favourite samosa shop.I have been told that in a Bollywood/Indian movie the shorthand to show a woman is a whore is to give her blond hair.Mine is beach and sun bleached fair.

At the samosa shop i say "four of your lovely samosas".He says "no, l'll give you five"."I've put in a free one because you said they were lovely".I say thank you but what I'm really thinking (apart from "yum")is thank you for giving me the courage to keep doing this.
Its such a tiny gesture and I do go mob handed ,so to speak, with the six foot saxophonist who is built like a rugby player.But, here's the thing, I honestly believe that the more we see one another as ordinary ,everyday  and like ourselves we put ourselves that fraction further away from a knife in the neck or a plane ramming a sky scraper.

Last Tuesday.
I have this thing that people in service industries are under appreciated.I think that that for all the high handed,off handed and down right nasty people there ought to be some counter balance.

I do it with a batch of biscuits , a cake or a jar of jam.
I rock up to a shop, bar etc that I use regularly and say roughly what i said here and hand over whatever it is I've made and hop it before they have to think of what to say.

Gets me excellent service of course but that's not the point.

So this morning to the wholesalers for a half sack of onions.I already have my Gram flour so I'm going to grind the spices and make onion bhajis to brighten the evening of  of the barman in our local pub.

The saxophonist says this is both mad and a lovely thing to do.

It takes a while to grind the spices and prep 3kg of onions plus add all the other interesting bits to the batter.
I finish.
Hurrah! The whole house is suffused with spices and I am batter spattered.

Late on we head off for a pint, me with my basket of bhajis.
The barman hops from foot to foot and takes a bite from a bhaji.
We all have our share of negative nay sayers in our lives . You can either plead indifference or get vengeful.
But there's nothing wrong with sticking two fingers up at the sneerers and despisers and slicing a few onions.

NB He and his staff ate the whole basketful the same night.

Last Wednesday.
There was a programme about the top ten Roald Dahl books. Each was advocated by an actor, comedian etc.
I missed Dahl for some reason.I suppose I was the wrong age or reading something else.
Now I want to read them.I have been picking them up in second hand bookshops.
There are gaps though and I want to read the lot in one greedy gulp.
We bomb out in one emporium I was sure would be able to help.We walk on in the little estuary town and come to an Oxfam bookshop.
Nothing. Not one. Disappointing.
We leave and I glance back at the window. There sits a big pile of Dahl books including a lot of the ones I'm missing..
Isn't it just the best feeling ? The serendipity of a find. Exciting.
Especially if it's after a disappointment.

I have begun with "Danny champion of the world".Danny's father reminds me of my own.
A man of great principle, always in the background, Liked to come in under the wire but generally always planning for or covering his tracks from another bout of gentle anarchy.

He seemed to lead by example with his daughter but trusted me not to get caught.

We went scrumping once.Baskets on our backs we scaled neighhbouring trees for the biggest, rosiest apples  that always seemed to grow high up.
"Dad" I hissed "you'll have to help me, I'm stuck. "Can't do that" he said "I'm stuck too".

Some Sunday mornings he'd wander through and say "I've got an idea" and I knew that I'd better get practising an innocent expression and lining up a plausible excuse.They were both going to be handy that week.


  1. Another fascinating post. I admire your writing style...and your passion for cooking. My kitchen needs someone like you!

    I've never read a book by Roald Dahl - but I just remembered that I have the movie "The Witches" on DVD somewhere (I think the film was made in 1990). Anyway, I plan to find it and watch it again.

    1. Thanks.Let me know what the movie is like.

  2. I recommend you read his two part life story. Two slim volumes in paperback. I found them secondhand and they often turn up in charity shops in amongst the other Dahls in the children's section although they are definitely not children's books. He led a very interesting early life. Reading about it changed my attitude to him. Like you I missed out on his books, probably born at the wrong time. I have also bought them from charity shops and read them. I started buying them just for the illustrations but now I have read them all.

    1. The Twits is my favourite.

    2. The Quentin Blake illustrations are the perfect foil for the books.Just like Dickens two illustrators I s'pose.
      Blake has recently "finished" an unfinished Beatrix Potter (Puss and Boots).Not sure what I think about that - bit of an odd pairing from two artists with very distinctive and different styles...

  3. My favourite shop in Brighton (where I have a home) is the big Asian 'supermarket'. The people are so friendly and helpful. Behind the cash desk is a picture of an elderly Asian gentleman. I asked who it was and was told it was his grandfather who'd started the business. A nice touch to revere a business founder. I like that, and told them so.

    1. I like that too.
      Can't see them putting up posters of senior people at Tesco at the moment.
      I don't actually use Tesco but can't see their portraits enhancing the ambience or the net take either.

  4. The great thing about Asian shops is how they sell great bundles of herbs like coriander for the same price as Waitrose sells a sprig wrapped in hard plastic. There used to be a West Indian grocer here, before the owner went back to Jamaica, and I loved going in it and being told what was for what. As someone who writes long blog posts, I have to admit that I often avoid reading other people's long posts, but yours are easy to read.

  5. Dear Angela, it's good to find a new post from you this Saturday morning.

    Having worked in the service industry myself has added to my appreciation of what such employment can require. It can be humbling; it can be joyful. We had an expression about "turning to a fresh page" after any less than joyful encounter with clients.

    Making use of that page turning technique can also be useful in other situations that don't involve monetary transactions.

    I've just looked up some bhaji recipes and am tempted to try making some. During our August heatwave I found it pleasant to prepare curries. The spices' intoxicating aromas certainly quickly filled my tiny apartment, and I hope that some of my hallway neighbors might have also enjoyed the sensation. If not, perhaps they turned the page!

    I have a list of books to look for when I go to the library, and Mr Dahl's books have long been on the list. So far, I've been filling my book bag with the weight of other books, but am keeping RD on the list. Just now I am reading a book called The Cauliflower. Do you know it? xo

    1. Hi Frances
      I have not come across the book.Fiction ? Give me the author when you get a minute.
      (Got your latest and will e mail when I have worked out exactly what I need to ask.It will be about scaling up by dead reckoning I'm thinking.)

    2. Angela, the author is Nicola Barker, and the book was also published over your way this year. When you do find it, you will see why I thought to mention it to you. I don't want to spoil the pleasure of the recognition.

      Knitting-wise, I am beginning yet another experimental design of fair isle mitts. Heat and humidity has returned here, so wool knitting is a sticky occupation.

      Another knitting book with good info about sizing and scaling up or down is Ann Budd's The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns.


  6. There's a book title in there somewhere, I just know it. Bhajis, Blondes, and Bollywood, perhaps?

  7. I found you too late, but I'm glad I found you at all. I sorely miss your writing here, your humanity and gentle balancing of the scales of the world, and I hope, wherever you are behind this screen, you're thriving.