Saturday, February 27, 2010

Going to bed Botswana style

Sooo, in Europe I would be winding down slowly, taking a shower, wrapping up warm and all those things and gently subside into bed.

Here I find myself coming in from the balcony, wearing my boxers, following a huge moth into the flat. I've been through that before, when, after switching off the lights in the living room the bugger followed me into the bedroom. So, instead of winding down the pulse rate I have the choice of either rushing into the bedroom and slamming the door, leaving the moth outside (but will I remember that in the middle of the night?) or catching him and throwing him out. So I use the usual trick, the glass, the OU study calendar (a sheet of paper), trap him, rush out on the balcony, carefully closing the balcony door behind me but not so much that I will be locked out, and throw him off the balcony.

Pulse rate sky high - does wonders for the sleep!


Friday, February 26, 2010


This is Valencia market, on a normal shopping day, and suddenly the shop assistants (opera singers in real life) burst into song!


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Oh that Marcel Marceau were here...

Friday Night, at the Maitisong in Gaborone, sponsored by the Alliance Francaise, an evening of mime with Laurent Decole, who describes Marcel Marceau as his spiritual father. I saw Marceau a few times about 4 years ago....

It was not looking good. The start was postponed from 7 to 7.30 pm - an old theatre hand like me knows that that means a short programme (I always remember the concert by Aurele Nicolet in Iserlohn, also about 40 years ago, where the first half was expected to last 32 minutes and the second 28 minutes ...perhaps net of applause, but short nevertheless.)

So we started (on time? did not check) with speeches; an announcer, followed by the head of drama at Maitisong. He seems quite a bossy sort - if he were my drama teacher, he would cause me anal retention with my creativity. First he ordered some children off the balcony where they were without their parents. Then he told everyone to be very quiet, particularly his pupils. Finally he went into long exhortations about mobile phones, and threatened that if he saw a lit-up screen he would come down and escort the offender off the premises. I did not get the impression he was joking! How can his students be relaxed and allow themselves to be really creative in such an environment?

Then there was a speech by the head of the Alliance Francaise, giving a bit of background on mime, and Marceau, and Decol who, after seeing Marceau perform when Decol was 18, decided to become a mime (I am glad I did not make that decision when I saw Marceau at about half that age).

Then there was an introductory act - a local hip hop band who had won some prize. It was a strange dance - the first half was hip hop, the second was pure acrobatics - and awesome they were. In the dance they could have been a bit more coordinated - they were not exactly synchronised swimmers, but the acrobatics more than made up for this.

Finally, at it must have been about 8 pm (we had been told the event would last 1.5 hours, but confusingly there was also mention of an interval), Decol arrived on stage, in the usual white mime's face. There were a variety of sketches, some, I am sure, filched from Marceau (but who holds the copyright on mime?). The sculptor who chops away at a rock to make a figure of a woman and ends up with a piece of dust; the people in the park, the guy who keeps getting trapped in walls encroaching on him (sounds like a nightmare come true), the sportsman trying out various kinds of sport and failing, and various others. Some were quite funny, others perhaps a bit heavy for the audience. It can be quite difficult to translate French life for Africa, even though probably most of the audience would have been well-travelled - would be interesting to do it in a village in the bush, to see if people would understand it. He could have done more entertaining stuff, eg showing a busy restaurant kitchen, a school class and so on.

He was quite a good mime, as especially became obvious when he got a boy on the stage from the audience (maybe one of the mime class at Maitisong, under that drama teacher?) and the difference showed. But it was also a bit boring, and he lacked the charm of Marceau, the little swagger he had and so on. Obviously he could not have had the hat with the flower on it (Bip) - that might have gone a bit too far.

Then at 9 he finished his act, and had to nurse the applause a little - perhaps most people were a bit underwhelmed. The guy who was sitting beside me and I felt a little bit embarrassed about it all. While the whole evening had lasted an hour and a half, there had been no interval. Maybe there was a second half? I don't know; a lot of people were leaving when I left. I had seen enough of him, and missed Marcel Marceau.


Sunday, February 07, 2010

Feasts of India!

Those of you who knew us in our Edinburgh period (1998 to 2001) will probably remember my friend Mridu Thanki, not only for her lovely personality, but also for her exquisite Indian cuisine, consumed round her kitchen table. Those were some of the best evenings I had in Edinburgh, not only food, but also fantastic company!

Since then, and perhaps before, Mridu had been talking about writing a cookery book to give us a chance to enjoy her sumptious food even when not in reach of her. And finally, just before Christmas, it came out! Available from Jaggnath Publishing, jaggnath.publishing (at) googlemail.com.

It is a fantastic book! Stunningly designed, with lovely illustrations, with our friend Sushil Mangoankar (then a budding artist) as the creative advisor, illustrations by Sandra de Matos, apart from that it is a family affair, with Mridu's son and daughter heavily involved in editing and proof-reading (and proof-cooking?).

The book is totally vegetarian (can be difficult for me in a country like Botswana with such beautiful beef), but gives enough recipes and menu recommendations for a balanced diet. For the last two weeks I have been eating almost entirely according to Mridu's recipes. This involves plenty of pulses (for some reason in recent years my body has been able to deal with pulses better), wonderful aubergine recipes, a pakora thing in a scrumptious yoghurt sauce (sorry, cannot remember the dish's name) .... the list goes on. Luckily here in Botswana I can get Indian spices easily enough, though they often come in packets of 100 or 200g, quite a lot, really. Unfortunately for me they are often labelled in the Indian name (I think), so it needs some sussing out to identify them. Mridu is also generous in her use of fresh coriander which is not available in every supermarket - so I bought a whole lot, chopped it, filled a muffin tin with it, adding a little water for each coriander 'muffin', and froze it. It's still better than the dried stuff which tastes of nothing. Have also made my own ghee... There's only one thing, Mridu - your estimate of the cooking time of black-eyed beans seems to be a little optimistic - mine take over an hour easily.

It's a great addition to my cookery world! Now and again I do also enjoy a steak, though!