Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Postcards from Algeria Part 4

Our visit in 1993 was my first time in Algeria as a Muslim.  We had arranged for our 8 year old daughter to make her first trip to Algeria alone, with the help of Air Algerie who gave her a special bag to wear around her neck with her passport and important documents in it, and who chaperoned her on and off the plane and through customs on the other side.  While we were at the airport I felt so homesick for Algeria that my husband urged me to buy a ticket for myself and our baby son to follow my daughter, which I did, but only when he promised to come and join us for a couple of weeks at the end of our holiday.  When I went home to ring my daughter and tell her the good news, she was anything but enthusiastic!  She was having a whale of a time being totally spoilt and didn’t want me there putting a spanner in the works!

My husband’s family treated me exactly the same, which was very nice, but I found that whereas before their little customs seemed quaint and out-dated, now they weren’t nearly strict enough for my liking!  I found so many contradictions like women wearing their hijaabs outside, but if somebody called them from the window they would put their heads out, without covering up, for all the world to see them.  There were so many things that the society accepted that were incorrect Islamically that I was constantly asking my husband about things, and whether they were Islamically permitted or not. There are things within the culture that are against Islam and these I had to ignore or resist, but there were other things that, while not anti- Islamic, were considered very important within the norms of the society. At times I felt that his family would probably have a lot in common with my own family in Ireland as they both thought we were so strict! As a new Muslim I found it difficult at times to know where Islam began and Algerian culture ended, mainly because they often were so intertwined. 

We are commanded, in Islam, to enjoin the good and forbid the evil, and I try to do so.  But we also have a responsibility to make it as easy as possible for the people we are trying to correct to take our advice.  I knew it would be hard for people to take any correction from someone whom they once knew prayed to Jesus (astaghfirallah).  So I left the corrections to my husband and my 8 year-old daughter, because I knew they would listen to them and accept it more easily from them.  Alhamdulilah Allah blessed me with a husband who feared Him more than upsetting his family and who wasn’t afraid to tell them the truth.  And they found it easier to take things from him, not that they took much to heart! I discovered that most families in Algeria have one or two members who are very much into their practice of the religion, and others who are content enough with just the essential basics.  They often live together in very crowded conditions and have a wonderful ‘live and let live’ attitude to each other, where family comes first and the ties of kinship are inviolable.

Having been stuck inside for a few days during this holiday, one day after coffee I put on my hijab and got ready to go out.  When the family discovered I was just going out to stretch my legs they offered to come with me.  I knew they were only being protective and didn’t really want to go so I told them that this was something I had to do myself, so I put my little son into the pushchair and made my first foray outside alone.  I need not have worried… nobody took a blind bit of notice of me… they were all too busy throwing boussas (kisses) at, and pinching the cheeks of, my blond haired, blue-eyed little son.  I enjoyed those trips out and about breathing in the atmosphere of Algiers, although I can’t say I really enjoyed the 179 steps I had to climb to get back up to the area in which my mother-in-law’s home was situated, or the fact that I had to carry the pushchair and my son the whole way up.  By the time I got indoors the family would fall about laughing at my red face and the fact that I could hardly breathe and would run to get me some cool water to drink.

The women clean the whole home every morning and cook twice a day so they work hard.  The first couple of holidays they wouldn’t even let me in to the bathroom when they were washing MY clothes…. It was too much for me… I was used to better washing powder, a washing machine etc. etc.  This holiday I was determined to try and pull my weight somehow so I jealously guarded my washing and insisted on doing it myself.  I remember my Italian friend rang me one day when I was in the bathroom washing the clothes, and I brought them all with me to the phone because I knew that, as soon as I left them, my sister-in-law would have washed them for me! I also tried my hand at cleaning the floor in the same fashion as they do….bent over from the waist and wiping a cloth along the floor.  This again had my husband’s family in stitches because as soon as I stood up they could see my red face.  I have since found out that you can also use a large squeegee to wipe the cloth across the floor, but I had to learn the hard way.

I would like to make a point of saying that, when I say that the women in my husband's were laughing... they were laughing with me and not at me.  I have always found their self deprecating sense of humour very similar to the Irish one, where we, ourselves tell 'The English man, the Scots man and the Irish man jokes with the Irish man always being the one who's an idiot... or as we say in Ireland... an eejit (far more descriptive I think).  
We took a trip out to visit my husband’s brother who lived in Douera with his family, a journey that took us 3 buses and a walk at the end, ‘we’ being my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, my daughter and my little son.  On all the buses my baby captivated all those around him and had everyone cooing at him.  I had never been to visit this family so it was all new to me and I loved it.  Their home was in the countryside and very basic with no running water, but had wonderful views of the nearby hillsides.  As my son would wake up at 7.00am I would get up and take him outside so that the others could sleep and would meet up with my husband’s sister-in-law sitting on a log outside enjoying the relative cool of the morning.  We would chat and she told me that I was nothing like she expected, being a westerner she assumed I’d be made-up to the gills and walking around on stilettos all the time.  Isn’t it funny how we all have stereotypes in our heads, and how so few people in reality fit those stereotypes.
 In addition to visiting Douera we also visited family in El Biar, in Douaouda, near the sea, and in Bouharoun where I spent one very memorable night sitting under the fragrant branches of the jasmine tree and sipping mint tea, and chatting with my husband’s sister-in-law and her neighbor until midnight while the men and the children slept.

Monday, 28 October 2013

Postcards from Algeria Part 3

We took a bus from Laghouat and went the three hours further to Ghardaia, where we had the luxury of staying in a hotel.  I remember being absolutely fascinated by the fact that there was constant water in the taps, and even the trees along the streets were watered, when there were water stoppages in Algiers… right on the Mediterranean Sea! The merchants of Ghardaia are well known for their selling ability and I witnessed this talent first hand.  In Algiers, shopkeepers never seemed to care much if you bought their produce or not, and they certainly weren’t going to go out of their way for you if they could avoid it.  Many of them worked for other people and their jobs were secure.  In Ghardaia however the shopkeepers had a pride in what they sold and I remember one explaining, in great detail, the meanings of the symbols on the intricate pattern of a beautiful rug.  We arrived back to the hotel one evening and saw a tuareg man sitting on the wall outside, who we discovered was waiting for us as he had heard that my husband was interested in buying an ornamental leather sheathed sword, which my husband did buy from him.
The women fascinated me, and the feeling was obviously mutual.  In Algiers some women wore hijab, others wore ordinary western clothing but it was always modest, and then there were the women, usually the older generation who wore the ‘haik’.  I always thought this was so aptly named as it was a large cream shapeless cloak that the women wore over the top of the their head which fell to their feet, and was totally open at the front so the women usually ‘hiked’ it up under one arm.  To me it seemed to cover everything and nothing.  Some also wore a very small face veil, often edged with lace, which always reminded me of a doily.  One evening, for a laugh, I dressed up in my mother-in-law’s haik and my sister-in-law’s veil, but her face was so obviously a lot more petite than my Irish peasant one, and it was tight so I could only wear it if I held my breath….not the most practical dress for a chatterbox like me.
In Ghardaia, however, the women were covered from top to toe except for one eye through which they peered at the world… and me…..with a very fixed stare, and they had to turn their whole body to do so, so I would walk past and stare at them and they would stop and turn their body totally to stare back, and so the mutual staring society was in progress.  Again I remember my sister telling me of the time she was walking through the market in Nairobi, Kenya and she saw, coming towards her, one of the strangest sights she had ever seen – a man wearing all the tribal paraphernalia including, much to her bemusement, huge earrings that hung from his earlobes.  Not wanting to be impolite she decided not to stare, but to walk past and then turn around and have a good luck, which she did and found…. him staring back at her!
Every afternoon everything shut and people went and had a siesta, much to my frustration as I wanted to be out and about.  My husband explained that it was too hot outside at that hour, and I was reminded of the song ‘mad dogs and English men go out in the midday sun.’ While he and our daughter would go for a sleep I would pace up down the hotel room itching to be outside.  My husband suggested I go and sit by the hotel swimming pool, but I lost my nerve when I realized I would be the only person out there alone.
We visited a beautiful settlement nearby which was totally walled in and could only be accessed through one gate.  I was told that, in days gone by, the men all left the village in the morning to go to work and the gate was closed and the women were free to come and go from their homes without having to wear hijab. 
I loved Ghardaia and we spent a wonderful few days there, but we couldn’t face the car journey back so we decided to go for the option of flying, until we hit a snag when, as soon as the travel agent saw my foreign passport he said that I would have to pay for my flight in foreign currency!  Yeah…. as if I was likely to bring English sterling to the Sahara.  Despondently we left the agency only to bump into someone my husband  knew from Algiers, and before we knew it…. we were on a flight back to Algiers!

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Postcards from Algeria Part 2

We were at the beach one evening waiting for a promised car to bring us home, and I watched a couple pull up in their car, get out, buy a snack and sit watching the sea and wondered what their life was like as a married couple living in Algeria, when my husband suddenly noticed the husband and got up to greet him in the manner of an old friend.  My husband was not in any way related to my father, but he had the same knack of finding old friends in the strangest of places.  This friend was someone whom he had known in London and who now lived in Algiers with his Italian wife.  They gave us a lift back to my in laws and it was wonderful for me to have a woman to converse with in English… and one married to an Algerian at that.  As we talked I realized how good it was to share the same observations of life here with someone who had had the same experiences.  When she talked about how strange she found the fact that her husband could get up from the breakfast table and just walk out the door without saying where he was going or how long he’d be gone for, when in England he wouldn’t go to the garage without saying so, I thought, ‘Bingo’!  My husband couldn’t understand my feeling of total abandonment whenever he just walked out the door.  ‘But I’m just around the corner… all you have to do is send one of the kids to me and I’ll be right back.’  As my 20/20 vision didn’t include being able to see around corners, he might as well have been in the Sahara where I was concerned.  She rang me one afternoon and asked if I was having coffee, and when I told her I was, she said, ‘All Algeria is having coffee right now at this time’ and she was right.  Breakfast  was always at 8.00am, lunch at 12.00, coffee at 5.00pm, dinner at 8.00pm and no meals or snacks whatsoever in between. 

We spent many a happy afternoon in her and her husband’s company, and one day they drove us out to the Kabylie region, which, with its rolling green hills and valleys reminded me so much of Ireland.  We stopped at one shop selling traditional silver jewelry embedded with blue and red stones, and when the jeweler realized I was foreign he insisted on dressing me up in the full regalia complete with headdress, armlet, anklet cuff and necklace. I’m afraid my western clothes didn’t do it justice… it really needed the traditional Kabylie dress to show it off properly. We stopped in a small village where my husband knew his father had originally come from, and bumped into his cousins who insisted on us going for coffee.  We were plied with coffee and beautiful cakes, and after a brief interlude we were served a meal of cooked meat, to which, to my everlasting regret, I could not do justice as I had made a pig of myself with the cakes.
El Aurassi Hotel, Algiers
One year we travelled with another cousin, to his home in Laghouat, not that far from Ghardaia, at the edge of the Sahara.  It took us 10 hours to drive there and we stopped not that far from our destination in a very small market town to buy provisions.  I got out to stretch my legs and walk around with my husband and daughter, and found myself feeling extremely self-conscious and, dare I say it, naked!  I was dressed in a short sleeved t-shirt and a skirt that came to below the knees, but I realized I was the only woman in the whole market, and I was being stared at.  To my amusement I saw some children edging each other on to throw some coloured sweet wrappers at me, not in an nasty manner but more in a daredevil way!  It reminded me of my sister’s story about standing in a market square in Kenya, and having small children edging shyly up to her and then quickly rubbing their fingers along her arm and looking at them to see if the white colour came off!

We spent a few days with my husband’s cousin and lovely family in Laghouat, and his wife decided she was bored with the way she cooked chicken so asked me how I usually cooked it.  I, foolishly, told her my recipe for rice and curry so she 'volunteere'd me to cook for them that night.  When I asked her for this or that spice she would send out to the neighbours and I received an assortment of spices, but few from the original recipe.  With me trying to figure out how long it would take me to walk back to Algiers, I nervously cooked some kind of a chicken and rice concoction which I euphemistically called a curry, and watched with great trepidation while they tasted it… they loved it and I breathed a great sigh of relief.  One day a neighbor needed to go to the hospital and, as my husband’s cousin was at work, my husband volunteered to drive the woman.  With a great deal of bemusement on my part, I was told that I, too, had to come and sit in the front of the car as neither my husband’s cousin’s wife or the neighbor would sit there with him, and I was there purely to chaperone them!!!  How quaint I thought to myself!

It was a difficult time for my husband’s cousin whose heart was not with us, but with his Mum in Algiers who was dying of liver cancer, and who passed away during that holiday.  I remember going to see her in her home, as that is where she preferred to be, amongst her family, and looking at her brought back such memories of going to visit my Aunt’s husband, when I was 6, when he too was dying of the same disease.  I didn’t go to visit the family on the first day of the funeral as my husband thought all the emotion might be a bit overwhelming for me, so I visited on the second day, and when I walked into the crowded room of women, every single one got up to greet me and, as I kissed each one twice on each cheek, I could see the endless queue of women yet to be greeted.  To this day I remember that surreal moment. 
Presidential Palace, Algiers

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Taidhg Burke

Taidhg Burke

12 October 1981 – 22 October 2013

I was a lousy aunt to Taidhg…no point in denying it.  Soon after he was born my life took off in another direction and, by the time, I found my way back to his zone, he was long gone on a journey of his own.  But every time I came home he would come and see me when I visited his dad….usually because he was given the ‘Get your arse over here, your aunt’s here from all the way over there, and the least you can do is come and visit her’ sermon, much to my embarrassment, but Taidhg, being who he was, with the kind heart and generous spirit, would always turn up and do his duty with this aunt who had done sod-all to earn his loyalty.  It probably was more a testament of his love for his dad than any kind of feeling for me….but he never had any resentment whatsoever.  The last time I saw him was 2011 just after my Mum passed away, when his dad sent him up to bring his cousins and I down to Bantry.  He had been playing a gig the previous night and had no sleep, but still he drove the hour’s distance, collected us and brought us back down, and all with a gentle and good natured grin.  I didn’t deserve it but then Taidhg had a big heart… big enough to hold all the love in the world… and more.

My heart goes out to my brother, Taidhg’s mum, his two sisters and his niece and nephew and his step-mum, and all the family, and all his friends, and all the people whose lives he touched with his magical spirit.  I know that the gaping hole his absence has left, will be filled with his love, memories and laughter, because with Taidhg there was always laughter.  Personally I feel that my world was a better place for having had him in it.

My parting gift to him is to urge anyone, who has someone in their life whom they have been thinking of contacting, or getting in touch with after a long time…. to just do it….NOW.  Because you have no guarantee that they will still be around tomorrow, and regrets for the stupid things we’ve said and done are bad enough, but not nearly as bad as the regrets for those things we wanted so much to do and say…. but didn’t.

I am not in the least bit surprised that Taidhg donated his organs, and that 9 people, and their families and loved ones will have benefited from his boundless generosity, because….. that was Taidhg… the gift that keeps on giving. 

Postcards from Algeria Part 1

Sidi Fredj
We tried our best to alternate our holidays with one year in Algeria and one in Ireland, so we visited Algeria again in 1989 and 1993.  While I found the people still as warm and as welcoming as ever, the sun as hot as on previous occasions and the North African ambiance a welcome relief from grey England, I also found myself, on many occasions extremely frustrated.  I could never just get up and go out the door and have a wander around for myself.  It didn’t help that we stayed in Bab El Oued, one of the oldest and most crowded areas of Algiers, and my husband’s family treated me like a precious thing that had to be protected at all costs, which resulted in me feeling like a little girl waiting for her daddy to take her on an outing.  It was very difficult to find any kind of vehicle to borrow to take us anywhere, and impossible to hire one. These were the days when I took great pleasure in observing that most of the cars were older than me, and the ones that we did manage to acquire were barely held together with twine, cellotape and spit.  We visited my husband’s uncle in the countryside in a car through which I observed the road beneath our feet whizzing past through the copious holes in the floor.  We spent many an exasperated day waiting for a car that was promised only for it not to materialize, and public transport consisted of extremely overcrowded buses or exceedingly fussy taxis who refused to bring us some places, e.g Notre Dame D’Afrique which was up a very high hill.  We became cunning and learnt the art of getting into a taxi before stating exactly where we wanted to go.

I found the times spent kicking my heels at my in laws particularly annoying as I was on my hard earned Annual leave break from work and resented feeling like Left Luggage.  The upside was that my husband and I walked Algiers up and down, and back and forth, in the heat of the mornings and the slightly cooler late afternoons, and I never felt better, and always came from my holidays with a healthy glow and looking a lot slimmer, better than, and a lot more enjoyable than a health farm any day.

Mint Tea room
We visited the aforementioned Notre Dame D’Afrique, one of the few Catholic churches still in Algiers, and heard the story of the priests there who helped the local Algerians against the tyranny of the French, and who were rewarded by not having their Church confiscated.  Mass is still held there every Sunday in French.  We walked down the narrow, overcrowded streets of Bab El Oued with men sitting around everywhere, to the sea at Kitani.  We crawled through the market place of  Place Des Martyrs (Sahat Ashouhada), finding many a bargain beneath the beautiful brickwork of the old Ottamon Ketchaoua Mosque. We went to the long golden beach of Club Des Pins under the watchful gaze of the well-guarded Presidential State Residence, to the beaches of Zeralda and Tipaza, had mint tea in a beautifully mosaic tiled tea room right beside the Monument to the Martyrs, Makam Shaheed, walked along the pier at Sidi Fredj where the French first landed when they invaded Algeria. 
Makam Shaheed
 We went camping for a couple of days with the family of a friend of my husband, in a place called Gouraya in a camping ground for families.  As we were leaving I heard that one woman had gone into labour during the night, had been rushed to hospital and, after the birth, had returned to the camp to finish her holiday!  My husband told me that, for 40 days, she would not have to lift a finger as all the women would rally round and do all her housework for that's what I call a holiday!
Many of these trips came courtesy of one of my husband’s cousins who insisted on taking us everywhere.  We went to visit the family of one my husband’s friends, and one of the brothers, trying to be helpful, replaced the finished film in my camera… and totally ruined it.  I was devastated… all the pictures I had taken in all the beautiful locations we had visited were lost forever.  I was still fuming and ranting and raving days later, when we met up with my husband’s cousin again, and his solution was to bring us around again to all the places we had visited so that I could take some more pictures. To this day I have never forgotten his kindness to me. 
Sidi Fredj

Sunday, 20 October 2013

It all started with a question…….

The bay of Algiers, 1987

“How do you fancy going to live in Algeria?” my husband asked me.  “As much as I fancy being buried alive,” I answered.  He was hurt I could tell, but it was the way I felt, at the time.  I could not lie, and it was our future we were talking about here, not the next day’s dinner.

Don’t get me wrong.  I loved Algeria from the first night I stepped off the plane in the summer of 1987 and felt the heat in my face, smelt the rosewater (to this day I’m surprised it wasn’t bleach with the way the women here have such a love affair with the stuff!) and saw the palm trees.  I fell totally and instantly in love with the place.  It wasn’t an easy place to live in then.  People complain today about how much of a developing country it is, but I always compare it to the way it was then.
The Port of Algiers, 1987
I arrived alone on a flight from Zagreb.  As my husband had not been back to his home country since we were married we thought it would be a good idea for him to go ahead for a week with our young 2year old daughter.  I thought I was being so clever and found a cheaper flight, from London via Zagreb, which meant waiting around in Zagreb airport for several hours, with the military walking around looking very much armed… and dangerous.  I was very grateful for them though when it was my turn to travel, and as evening came and my night flight to Algiers came closer, I was surrounded by Yugoslavian (as they were then) drunk men, who were also travelling to Algiers and who obviously could only make the journey once they were well tanked on alcohol.  One sat beside me and started making unwanted overtures to which a soldier came up and ushered him away from me with his rifle.

No matter how much my husband tried to describe Algeria to me, and, even after having his sister over to visit, I still could not get Iran, with its black clad women pulling at their clothes and the bearded, angry men, all screaming ‘down with America’ out of my head, nor the story of ‘Not without my daughter’ which had made the headlines in recent months.  Despite all his best efforts I was almost certain that I would be handed an abaya at the airport as I went through!  Instead I was met with a certain amount of bemusement and sympathy when I tried to explain to the Immigration Officer, in the best school girl French that the Irish education system had to offer (or at least I liked to think so anyway), why I was in his country and where, exactly I was going to be staying.  Only God alone knows what I told him because I have a nasty habit of putting the worst word possible in the wrong place, both in French and my fledgling derja.
Bab El Oued, Algiers, 1987
I arrived at my husband’s home at 2.00am in the morning and everyone except his mother and sister were asleep.  This was the first time his mother and I met, and while I sat at their Formica covered table and drank tea, I felt so much at home Alhamdulilah. It was a tiny one-bed-roomed flat with only two other rooms and a bathroom and small kitchen, and they insisted on giving us the ‘salon’.  Even when various other members of his family came to visit us and stay overnight, they all crammed into the other rooms and our ‘salon’ remained sacrosanct.  His family seemed to go on forever, so many faces and so many names, some of whom were difficult for me to remember, but I think it was only because it was all at once, as, by Algerian standards my husband’s family is quite small.  The neighbouring women and the families of my husband’s closest friends probably added to my confusion.  But it was ok, because I discovered that it wasn’t from the wind that my husband got his ability to laugh at himself, and not take himself too seriously, and they were all so warm and inviting that it was impossible not to like them.

Anything we brought over – kitchen gadgets, clothes, sweets, you name it, was pounced on immediately as being luxury goods.  The only clothes you could find to buy were cheap “jibbas” and all you could find for sale in the shops were plastic containers – the cheap kind.  To sum it up, the first word I ever learnt in Arabic was one I learnt on that holiday “Ma-kesh” (“there isn’t”), because I heard it over and over again!
Bab El Oued, Algiers, 1987
But there was something about the country and its people that really grabbed my heart.  Maybe it was their sense of humour and their willingness to laugh at themselves, or their warmth and hospitality.  I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I loved it, as I loved the heat of the sun, and the beautiful beaches with the magnificent Mediterranean Sea.

I was dreading leaving as I had never seen my husband really upset before and was anxious as to how I would be able to comfort him leaving his family again at the end of the holiday.  The dreaded day came and my body went into major biological dysfunction – I had butterflies in my stomach and my heart was in my mouth.  All of his family were in his mother’s tiny flat to say goodbye and when I saw him saying goodbye to his sisters and brothers, I thought to myself “it’s not so bad, nobody seems really emotional”.  And then it came to him saying goodbye to his mum and I just dissolved into a quivering blob.  Yes! Me!  Afterwards, he said he too had thought he had got away without the emotional goodbyes, and when he looked behind him, there I was, in the middle of them all, bawling my eyes, out, with all his sisters and nieces doing the same around me!  He said it was entirely my fault! I had started them off!  I cried all the way to the airport, with my husband patting my hand and saying, “It’s ok, we’ll come back soon”!  So much for MY comforting my husband!
Bab El Oued, Algiers, 1987

My reasons for starting this blog.

My quiet place
Ever since I can remember, a blank sheet of paper, and a pen or pencil have always been a great source of happiness for me.  They signify opportunity (to write that one great story, book etc.), support for times when life seemed difficult and lonely, a way to maintain a precious friendship,  or to offer an emotional prop to someone going through a rough time, and a means of capturing a special moment in a lifetime in a picture created with words.  All this and more. If I was really honest I would have to admit that I would much prefer to sit down and write an email than ring someone, or even visit someone for a chat, and I have always preferred a typed conversation on Skype to an audio one. Writing gives me a chance to think before I say anything, to calm down when I'm angry, and I can edit, reread, to my heart's content until I'm happy with the result, whereas I have often said things I wished I didn't say.  Of course with writing there is always plenty of room for misinterpretation, without the inflection of my voice or the twinkle in my eye to take the sting out of something, so it's important to couch whatever I say in the nicest way possible.

When I learnt to type it meant that, at last, my fingers could keep up with my thoughts and the end result was still legible.  But there have been times when I’ve looked back at those simple paper and pen days with nostalgia, especially when I put a floppy disc/USB stick/Storage device into my computer and read the dreaded words ‘this disc needs to be formatted’, or the computer won’t work and needs to be reformatted which meant that ALL my precious moments were gone..... off into some cyber graveyard somewhere.

I have heard it said that you should write about what you know, so really I don’t know how I’ve managed to fill so many pages over the years. It must be the written form of the ‘gift of the gab’.  I can’t really imagine anyone being that interested in what I have to say, but I have seen films and read books based on, and built around, one simple premise, so I know that it’s not always just what you have to say but also how you say it.   Sometimes it is atmosphere that keeps you reading or watching and sometimes it’s the language and how it’s used.  And, of course if you get both together then you have a winner. 

I don’t know if I have a winner inside me but I do know that I have this urge to write, and that, whenever I do, I always feel so much lighter and happier and more at peace with the world, even when nobody else ever reads it. I have friends who like to craft, or cook, or bake, or draw, or sew, and who have a passion for their chosen pastime, but we all have the same outcome whenever we are able to indulge in our passions…. we are all happier, nicer, and, dare I say it, better people, for it.

I have hesitated to write a blog before now for a few reasons:  In my opinion, for a blog to be really interesting it has to be personal, and to give away something about the author, and I have always tried my very best, whenever I’m online, to be very private about me, and those I love (and also those I don’t particularly love!).  Like most people, I’m not an island, and whatever I say, in public, has a ripple effect on those who are, in some way, connected to me, and I feel a responsibility to protect their privacy.  And I am acutely aware that my memory of events that include others, whom I love, may differ greatly from their recollections due to the fact that we are all so diverse and incidents can affect us all in different ways
My urge to write has finally overcome my misgivings and so I’m dipping my toe into the Blogosphere, because I feel the discipline of a blog will help me to write on a regular basis, and at least I know my writing will all be safely stored away in one place inshallah.

So…. as my Dad often said ‘Stand back and let the dog see the rabbit’!!! 
My place of refuge from all life's problems