6 out of 71

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6 out of 71.

That’s how many cookbooks by black authors I have. One more anxiously awaited.

71 books on one book shelf, so that’s not including the many others shelved, and shoehorned and dotted in other places around the house. Probably another hundred or so, so 6 out of say 200.

Now. This is not bad per se, it’s certainly not conscious bias. It’s made up of books bought for me by other people, presents and oh Lisa will like that book and my usual love of anything Mediterranean and Middle Eastern but I wonder…does it occur to my wonderful friends that buy me amazing things, that I like all kinds of cooking, and if it doesn’t, why not? It doesn’t make me a bad person, or my taste in books wrong, but it does make me question the vibes and messages I give out.

Questioning why that occurs is good. This is no breast beating moment, no “ohh I am so awful!” cry because that presents as both fake, horribly naive and moves the focus onto me. It’s not about me. It is about learning, however awkward it may make me feel.

Broadening my cooking repertoire is always good, it’s something I try to do. Widening my knowledge of techniques, of ingredients is exciting so searching my shelves and being surprised and then cross at how much was missing from them was a good thing, because I can buy more – and I have – but…those authors, those books, that history of cooking that stretches back centuries to the plains, valleys, mountains of Africa, through them on to the Caribbean, and on to the USA and across the cold pond to our tiny Britain that needs to be promoted far, far better than the largely Caucasian world of publishing has done so far. I want to see those authors raised up, their cuisines explored as much as possible, the origins of foods we eat now investigated and rejoiced in by the mainstream food world. Not just the familiar, the smiling yellow patty, and the soothing rice and peas, the spike and heat and zing of jerk, but way more, and more in depth. The unfamiliar needs to come right to the fore so it can become the familiar.

Read:

Mrs Malinda Russell: https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015091768104

Edna Lewis – The Taste of Country Cooking

Pearl Bailey: https://www.abebooks.co.uk/PEARLS-KITCHEN-EXTRAORDINARY-COOKBOOK-Pearl-Bailey/4889816332/bd

Sheila Ferguson: Soul Food https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/603329.Soul_Food

Marcus Samuelsson: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Marcus-Samuelsson/e/B001IGUO5Q/

Explore:

https://www.instagram.com/nyeshajoyce/

https://www.instagram.com/yewande_komolafe/

https://www.instagram.com/mashamabailey/

https://www.instagram.com/rayanthonybarrett/

https://www.instagram.com/korshawilson/

https://marcussamuelsson.com/

https://www.instagram.com/kardeabrown/

https://www.instagram.com/zoeadjonyoh/

https://www.instagram.com/andioliver/

https://www.instagram.com/thecookinggene/

https://www.instagram.com/foodculturist/

https://www.instagram.com/sunnyanderson/

Samin Nosrat also has many more listed – https://www.instagram.com/ciaosamin/

This, OR That

Part of the general set up of chronic illness is deciding what thing you do. Note, not things plural, thing singular. That’s not a whinge, that’s just the way it is.

Having a day of sociability then naturally leads to a few days of NO PEOPLE ARGH brain space, and an increased need for sleep. I have no choice about the sleep, when body says no, she says NO in a fall asleep right now way, and she doesn’t care where I am, or what I’m doing.

Add to that the period of not going out that followed The Great Shoulder Break of 2021 (March 2021 to almost present day), add that to the lockdowns, and being social is hard, but in a way that many struggle to understand.

After a day with more than my usual number of people in it (2), I am totally peopled out. Noise irritates me beyond rationality, louder noises make me jump. The Amazon driver current fashion for hammering on the front door will send my heart racing. Our doorbell is quite loud enough, there’s no need for gestapo style hammering. Noises seem louder than usual to me, and I can’t seem to settle into anything. This is someone who could happily spend hours reading a series of books one after another, but who now can’t read more than a few chapters without getting the fidgets until it’s silent again.

There is magic in a silent house. Sometimes I may want calm music on while I’m working, but most often, quiet is just better for me.

I prefer to be able to hear when someone is walking up our front path – the slight snick of the gate, or the beep from the postman’s signing machine. The thud when a cat vaults our side gate makes me smile.

On nights when I am attempting to sleep in bed (that’s a challenge all of its own) I use the Calm app. Sea noises, or a sleep story, a constant low noise or calm voice will send me off quite fast. (Unless it’s a story I really want to hear the end of. Oops.)

I am currently staggering nights that I am sleeping in bed. Having always been a fall asleep fast, stay asleep person having this whole “sleep wake ow ow sleep wake ow ow sleep ow sod it get up” thing going on is wearing. This week Monday night was bed, Tuesday was recliner, Wednesday was accidental recliner (when I say I fall asleep fast I really mean it) and last night was bed. It’s slowly getting easier, but I have to balance out extremely disturbed nights with solid sleep ones. I miss going to bed and feeling totally comfortable. Try and sleep on my side, and my left shoulder hurts. Right side sleeping is a no, at the moment. Sleep on my back, and at around 3am my lower back yells at me, and I get up and go downstairs or I can’t straighten up.

So yes, every day is a This or That day. I refuse to feel guilty about it, or even cross about it, because this is the way it is. My body has her rules, and I’m incidental to them.

Choices

Many, many years ago I was young and silly. Then in 1984, 14 years old happened, and I was still young, but no longer silly. I was, however, naïve, because my childhood had been somewhat sheltered thanks to a very over protective father, so I didn’t know a lot about the world, and certainly had no clue about boys. That was ok though, because I had no reason to be bothered. I had enough going on, what with my father being found out to be an accidental bigamist (great name for a band), alongside all the stress that brought, but there was also the discovery of a whole other wonderful branch of family!

Then I met A Boy. Ha ha. I rather think my brain unravelled a bit. Okay, a lot.

My friend Linda had fallen head over heels for his school friend John, and so all four of us spent a lot of time together. I felt like I spent half that time fighting with Irritating Bloke and the other half of it really enjoying our time. (Linda and John are still together, and are adorable.) I’m pretty sure I was in the midst of a Huge Crush, and I had no idea what to do with it. I knew I liked him, but the way he behaved with me was very confusing. And annoying. I remember the annoying part, as I presume he teased me a lot, in that way that Boomers say oh he’s only doing that because he likes you way. Boys, DON’T. Just say you like her, eh?

Barry had transferred to my school’s sixth form, and so I mooched about outside the sixth form block rather more than was seemly but, you know, older cute boy…

I recall John and Barry coming to pick me up once, and they had concocted an egg curry wrap. Barry hadn’t realised I’d overheard him say he’d made it extra hot to get a reaction out of me, and so I ate it, and refused to react. Cue big eyes all round. (It was actually delicious but OMGHOT.)

When we were alone, we talked. We talked a lot. He told me about his dad, and the struggles of being half Indian and half white. Of his mum not being around. Of being caught up in a school race riot where he was the antagonist because it felt easier to be that way than be the victim. He tried to be a MOD, but mostly because he liked the coat. I will always remember him in that, with his short jet black hair and olive skin being at odds with it.

Alone with me, he opened up. When we were with friends, I suspect he didn’t want to give away that he had a softer side. There was a lot of hurt there, but he buried it.

What really made me smile though was meeting up with Barry again after he’d left school. He came to my house, he called, he was the one who started being physically affectionate, he asked me to go to his place and meet his Dad. I found this so very funny, and such an about turn.

He’d call, or turn up out of the blue, and I recall my step dad asking him one summer evening what those two bits of string were hanging off his shorts. He kept looking for threads until he realised Pete was poking fun at his rather pale, skinny legs.

When mum and Pete got married, they went away for their honeymoon, and Barry happened to come over while they were away. I was 18 by then and a little more wised up about stuff than I had been.

We’d spent the day and evening talking, and he offered to spend that night. I wasn’t a fool, I was more than aware of what that meant, and even though I still had intense feelings for him, I said no, kicking myself the whole time, but Sensible Forward Thinking Me usually wins. (Mostly) He exerted no pressure, none of that “You would if you cared” nonsense, and I am grateful for that.

I think of that night as one of those Pivotal Moments. If I’d chosen differently, what outcomes could there have been. My entire life could have taken a different course there and then. Obviously we knew about contraception but everybody knows what can happen – or not – in the heat of an 18 year old’s moment and so my chosen child free life might have had a very rude awakening. The ripples of a choice can be huge and far reaching. Even back then, I thought of consequences, because growing up fast does that to you. Your world both shatters and falls in on itself, and widens to the far reaches of possibilities and cause and effect.

I still think about him, and wonder what he is up to. I know he changed his surname at one point, but that’s all I know. I do wish him well, wherever he is, and thank him for not taking advantage of a slightly dazed young woman, trying to find her own way in life.

Hard to BE

I recently was asked why gay people have to have Pride marches. (Established 1972 by the way)

It was asked by two people whom I know to be fair, and kind, and as accepting of everybody they know, in every way, but this is a subject out of their experience so an explanation is warranted.

I’d rather people ask, than leave it to fester.

Violence so often comes from anger, and more often than not, that anger comes from deep rooted fear, or shame. Some of the most angry and hate filled voices against the gay community have been white males, who eventually turned out to be gay themselves, and had been fighting it all their lives, pushing the shame that society fed them as far down as it would go. (Do not mistake that statement for permission to inflict hurt on others.)

When I was a freshly minted 21 year old, my partner and fiancé came out to me as gay. He, too, had fought it, thinking it was ‘just a phase’, and had tried so hard to be straight, to be what was expected of him, but he had reached the point where it was impossible to cope with any more. He was brave, and told me.

I consider it an honour that he told me, even if at the time I was utterly heartbroken and then mentally broken for a good six months after.

I was there for him as much as I could be. My not having the right bits to fit with his sexuality wasn’t the fault of either of us, and so I helped, and then I admit I had to step away to deal with my own grief. His sister blamed me, because she had no concept of why someone is gay. She had no idea of the pain and shame he had buried. To this day, I am thankful that he had me to come out to, and wasn’t so alone.

I loved him, the day before his confession and the day after it. Knowing he is with his much adored partner of many years and now husband, and is happy, makes ME happy.

To have the way you are made, the way you feel, the way you love, made into a sin, and in many countries made illegal, punishable by death in some cases, is so horrific as to not fit into my brain.

Heterosexuality is so ingrained as the default, that people refuse to realise that it isn’t, and when confronted with this difference, often react with hatred and fear, simply because they have no understanding of it.

Imagine being terrified to hold hands in public, scared to show affection in case you both get beaten up. Scared to speak in a certain way, scared to dress in a certain way, scared, scared, SCARED ALL THE TIME because society judges you as abnormal. Something to be rejected, reviled, killed.

And don’t say oh that was years ago…

Sexual Offences Act 1967
In 1967 the Sexual Offences Act was passed which decriminalised private homosexual acts between men aged over 21. (I assume lesbians were too far out of their comprehension for this to even be considered.)

The law was not changed for Scotland until 1980, or for Northern Ireland until 1982.

Criminal Justice and Public Order Act
In 1994 the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act lowered the age of consent for gay men from 21 to 18, and in 2001 it was further lowered to 16.

Gay Pride exists because it has to. Straight Pride doesn’t exist – apart from in various misguided and unenlightened cases – because being straight hasn’t been persecuted, or made illegal. It’s ‘normal’ to love and want to be with a person of the opposite sex. Religious differences have been used to forbid straight relationships, but that just goes to show how wrong Religion can become in the hands of humans.

Did you decide to get married on a whim? Did you just say hang it, let’s go to the registry office and do it? Or did you have a big party, and get all your friends and family in? Go to church?

Did you grow up thinking that would be a Thing you would eventually do? “When I get married I’ll have [x] or invite [y] or even have a dream of it when you were a child? I know many girls start thinking about their far off wedding day when they are small. It’s just a part of life that ‘everybody’ knows about. Even a vague ‘might do’ in your future.

Imagine growing up, knowing you cannot get ever married or have a civil partnership, simply because of a quirk of biology. All your life, you are aware that that option is simply not there for you. You cannot have the same things your friends do, and never will. You cannot declare your love and your relationship legally, and your partner will never have legal status in the eyes of the law. When you die, they will not legally be seen as your widow/widower, nor will that grief be recognised despite it being as huge a black pit as anyone else’s.

You have no claim to any widow’s pension, as was, or any bereavement support as it is now, because you’re not legally recognised.

Laws have changed in this country, thank goodness, but only recently.

Legislation to allow same-sex marriage in England and Wales was passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom in July 2013 and took effect on 13 March 2014.

Legislation to allow same-sex marriage in Scotland was passed by the Scottish Parliament in February 2014 and took effect on 16 December 2014. 

Legislation to allow same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland was passed by the Parliament of the United Kingdom in July 2019 and took effect on 13 January 2020. 

In other countries…well, the jury is out. Then in. Then out again. In the US gay marriage was legalised, then some states took that right away again. It’s more than complicated.

Being Out and Proud isn’t flaunting, it’s defiance.

Attending Pride isn’t flaunting, it’s a celebration of Being. The same as a straight engagement or wedding isn’t flaunting heterosexuality.

Gay Pride is celebrating being allowed to finally exist.

Pride London 2022 had these aims:

Beyond celebrating the diversity of the LGBT+ community and promoting its visibility, the parade is an occasion for advocacy, with Pride in London calling on the UK Government to:

  • ban conversion therapy for all LGBT+ people;
  • reform the Gender Recognition Act;
  • provide equal protection for LGBT+ communities against hate crime;
  • end its hostile environment toward migrants,
  • establish a national AIDS memorial that acknowledges the impact of HIV and AIDS, honours and remembers those who we have lost
  • take a leading role in tackling violence and discrimination against LGBT+ people around the globe.

Long may Pride – and pride – continue.

TLDR

I realise many of you don’t know who is who and what on earth is going on with my family. So. A Summary. Summarising this lot is not easy!

1970: I arrive in the world, tiny, and 2 months early.

[intervening years go by, my father becomes more odd and more controlling as the years go by]

1984: My maternal grandparents confront my father as they had found out he had a previous wife, who he didn’t divorce until after he married my mum, and that he had 4 children. One of whom he had introduced to us as my cousin, Nina.
Dad moves out, because I tell him to go. Mum is very ill.
When Mum is better, we meet the youngest of my sisters, Andri, and I think I have found heaven in a person. Then I meet my older sister!
My Nan ‘protects’ us by hiding any contact from the Cypriot family I have in the UK and abroad.
I wonder where everyone has gone.

2019: I go to Cyprus, and we try to get a copy of my dad’s birth certificate.
We went to the administration office for Dad’s birth certificate but no joy there.
Go to the village muktar they said.
Um. Ok.
Drove to the village. Failed to find the muktar.
I found a barber, asked what to do, and he pointed me at another Admin building.
I walked in. The first photo I saw was of Nikos Kosma. A sign?
The man at the desk asked me if I needed help.
“I’m looking for my father’s birth certificate.”
“Takis?”
“Er, yes.”
“Lucas is you uncle?”
“Yes!”
“I phone your cousin. “
And he did.
My cousin Chrystalia Panagi was there in minutes. Then we all drove to my uncle’s house.
Auntie Joan, Lucas, both looking well. Then cousin Kittie Cata came too, and cousin Pani.
An afternoon of tea and talk and address swapping happened.
And THEN WE MET MY HALF SISTER.

[more years, COVIDAARGH]

2022: I go back, we finally all meet up again and swap stories. None of them realised that, all those years ago, Mum and I had no idea at all about the other family, and they in turn didn’t know what had happened to us!

But here we are.

I have 3 half sisters, and a half brother. 1 in Cyprus, 1 in Luton, 1 was in London but sadly passed, and 1 in Canada. There are many nephews and nieces and children and cousins too.
I have a foster sister who has been my big sis since I was 6 or so. I have a niece and nephew there.
I have a not by blood sister in Cyprus, and her twin girls. They keep an eye on Mum for me. 😉
My Dad’s remaining sibling Loukas is in Cyprus, with his wife Joan and all their wonderful children and grandchildren.
In this country there is my late Uncle Kyriakos’ and Auntie Florrie’s 3 children, my Auntie Eleni’s 2 children, and Uncle George’s 1 son. All are adults now with children of their own.

I have more cousins than I know what do with, (some of whom I am not back in touch with yet, to be fair.) and it’s brilliant.

Singular

I grew up a loner. Always very happy with my own company, even though I had close friends through all stages of school and college. In fact, I still have some of those same friends. And yes, I am still very happy on my own.

But looking back – a regular pastime when you turn 50 I’m afraid – I realise that I felt…singular. I was the half Cypriot in a family full of real Cypriots, as I thought of them.

I was the half Cypriot at school, the only one I knew of. There were Greeks, yes, but they were real ones who understood and spoke the mother tongue, knew the traditions and the dances.

I was the half Cypriot at Greek class. Scolded by the Athenian teacher for my island pronunciation. I knew I was right in how I said things though. (No, I still can’t speak Greek.)

Mum’s in Cyprus, but on the North side, so I know even less of the language there!

I look like everyone it seems, but I’m not like them.

I went to Italy, people assumed I was Italian. In London I am asked if I’m Indian, or Israeli, or Spanish. First time at a Sikh wedding, I got shouted at for not speaking ‘my own’ language. I’ve been assumed to be mixed race, but…nope. The first time I went to a Greek island, I was astounded that I looked like people. Everyone was like me! But with that came the inevitable language confusion.

“Oh Συγνώμη*, but you look Greek!”

Yeah, I know. Oh, until I met a Cypriot woman at work and she told me I didn’t look Cypriot at all.

[rolls eyes]

*signomi – I’m sorry/excuse me

Waiting

I feel like I should be Doing. I don’t know what, but something.

I don’t need to be Doing, I’m perfectly happy as me, but I feel strangely like something is possibly waiting for me to find it. It’s a frisson of a feeling, nothing substantial.

It’s strange, because I’ve never felt the need to achieve anything in particular. I never had that burning desire to be a particular thing. I don’t aspire to promotion at work – more responsibility? No thank you – and certainly not to the harsh and fickle beast that is fame, which thins people out, erodes their layers and make them two dimensional.

Life happened to and around me, as it does to everyone. After the age of 14, it seemed to happen at me. I wasn’t in control – not that we ever really are – but went with it, because what else can you do?

I learned, I gathered every experience into myself. I use everything I can as a life lesson, because use it or lose it. Good or bad, it’s part of me, and I shall make every single Thing mean something. Every happening can be used to help others if they need it.

I am very open, and will discuss almost anything. If it’s my experience, it’s fair game. Others’ experiences stay within because they aren’t mine to teach from.

People who belittled me made me more stubborn. Some may say contrary.
People who harmed me made me even more resilient.
I never hardened my heart, but it’s certainly got entrance requirements.
I forgave those people who hurt me, because it’s good for me, not them. Carrying the weight of their nonsense is Sisyphean task and I have no time for it.
I haven’t forgotten, but I have performed removals.
I have removed my need to care what other people think of me. The wider world, I mean. I care about my close people, but too often, what seems awful about ourselves is never even noticed by anyone else that we encounter.

I was the ONLY ONE who cared about my hair being frizzy. Once I realised that, I stopped bothering. It is what it is.

I was the ONLY ONE who cared about my weight/appearance. Once I realised that, I stopped feeling self conscious. I am what I am. Which is…

52, and…well…


Be The Honoured Guest

Recently I have been watching some lovely things on YouTube. There are a few Asian channels that are soothing and calming to watch, plus they also feed into my love of organising spaces, despite all appearances to the contrary if you visit my house.

One thing that I have noticed is that when dining alone, these ladies all take the time to make themselves not just breakfast or lunch, but a proper, prettily plated 2 course meal. They treat themselves as they would an honoured guest and that speaks volumes.

Why should we not do that? A sandwich on the run can be a sad thing, and often a heartburn inducing thing, but if we can, I think we should take a little time to have a plate made for beauty as well, a solo lunch that feeds our eyes as well as our stomachs.

Even when it’s just me, I arrange things nicely. I can’t help it, to be honest but, truthfully, just because nobody else is around, doesn’t mean we’re worth less.

I have been loving watching Kimi, Nami, Nekoniwa, Nyangsoop and KitchenStory look after themselves. Nyangsoop makes me SO hungry. Well, they all do, but it’s the care they take of themselves that I adore.

We deserve it, and we should have it. A garnish may seem silly, pretty colours daft but it’s something to be thought about.

Treat ourselves as the honoured guest. We are no less special than anyone else.

Lunches and quick foods, just for me

On this day…

…four years ago, I was in Glasgow.

“The hotel is right next to the railway station, and my room looks out over the station’s glass roof.
You’d think it would be overly noisy, but it isn’t. I laid in bed last night, listening to the faint rumbles of engines, the far off noises of brakes, and could have been in any post industrial time. Massive iron horses lumbering through, speeding people off to who knows where.
I actually find it quite moving. Humans can do such great things. If we turned all our collective wills to good, all of us, every single soul, who knows what we could achieve.”

Thinking of my colleagues at COP26, as frustrated with the greenwashing as anyone.

Because We’ve Always Done It That Way

That’s the cry of businesses across the world when the introduction of New ways are introduced. Usually prefaced by the question “Why do you do [X] thing that makes no sense, and takes extra steps?”

New ways aren’t always bad, in most cases they make sense, but they aren’t always easy, and they do take some getting used to. Whether they are worth it in the end is a matter of user opinion, but if they achieve An Aim, then you’re good.

Since having the joy of two broken shoulders and one hemiarthroplasty, I have had to learn new ways of doing things. Over time these will change, but for now, this is where we are.

The Bra.

Yes, The Bra. I am not, and have never been, one of those women who can do up a bra behind their backs with zero assistance. I am a ‘do it up at the front and twist it round’ person. Or I was. Until the simple act of reaching behind myself became impossible. Treasure those shoulders kids.

Luckily, once I got home from hospital, Covid meant home working, so bras were a nonentity for me, and for a large but grateful number of my friends too. Some have decided they will never go back under the twin yokes of elastic and plastic. In private I wholeheartedly agree. But if People are going to be in my vicinity, then a bra is a thing. It’s only for my own peace of mind, I couldn’t give a figleaves what others think.

But this means getting the thing ON. Before anyone says “Wear one of those pull on soft bras!” I do. They involve most of the same gymnastics.

  1. Sit on bed, holding bra in right hand. Briefly ponder how you used to take this for granted.
  2. Pass one end of bra under knees and grab with left hand. This may involve the words hoopla!
  3. Stand up, gradually edging bra up to waist combined with hip wiggling.
  4. Join ends. If you have inadvertently twisted them, swear, and repeat steps 1 through 3.
  5. Wriggle in a ridiculous manner while you inch the bra around so that the front is, er, at the front.
  6. Stick right arm through the strap. Attempt to get strap as far up your arm as you can. Remember, two injured shoulders, so reaching across and over effectively is no longer a thing.
  7. Repeat with left arm.
  8. Get long handled back scratcher*, hook handle through and under strap, lever over shoulder.
  9. Repeat with other arm.
  10. Refuse to plaintively call for husband to pull up the sides of the bra, utilise curved handle of back scratcher again. Resolve to heat handle later, and make the curve more pronounced.
  11. Adjust the girls inside the cups. (If you know you know.)
  12. Celebrate and feel UTTERLY TRIUMPHANT because you’re halfway to normal again. Only halfway. Normal is underrated.

*pasta server, also doubles very well as a hair brush.

Oh hello Blog, it’s been a while.

Life has progressed on. Me? I’m back at work – from home – and am slowly gaining back more movement in my right arm/shoulder. Slowly because of the nature of the operation – the rotator cuff muscles bunch up and gather around the replacement joint to protect it – and also slowly because I find doing the exercises on my own incredibly hard.

They HURT. Humans as a rule don’t really like doing things that cause us pain, I think we’re pretty hardwired not to do that, so this is still a mind over matter thing. I have no problem when being guided, probably because I want to please the person helping me. I obviously need a live in physio. Or my own trainer. Ha ha no.

I haven’t taken regular pain medication since the beginning of June. Of course I will take it if I need it, but so far that’s only been on the odd occasion as opposed to the Oh god is it four hours since the last dose yet? days. Mentally I’m mostly fine, but I do have my moments, everyone does. I want to get back to being confident in my body to cope with things because, weirdly, despite having a chronic illness and balance issues, my body felt like it could withstand most things. That’s why I never use to get out of the way of a commuter man who thought his right to space was more important than mine. I could withstand a shoulder bang, and he’d be surprised that I didn’t move.

NOT DOING THAT AGAIN AT THE MOMENT.