Well, I didn’t want the canopies and I sure as hell didn’t want the ‘bibliothèque’….my two cups and saucers acquired as gifts with a couple of packets of coffee would look very lonely on their own in there. So our home was quite bare and we were reduced to sitting on chair-beds on the floor with our voices ricocheting from every wall so nobody could hear what anyone else was saying. I gave in and agreed to have some canopies made, for our guests if nobody else, and slowly but surely our furniture grew and our home began to look less like a warehouse and more like a home. I wanted a comfortable sofa and just couldn’t find one I liked. There were the old style made-in-Algeria wannabe sofas – straight backed, covered in rich brocade with gold decoration which, if you made the mistake of leaning your head on the back, you were at risk of brain damage caused by the block of wood lurking across the back underneath the glossy covering. There were also more modern type sofas which you might find comfortable if you didn’t mind having no support whatsoever from the middle of your back upwards. I used to watch television programmes, and it didn’t matter which genre it was…news interview, chat show interview, documentary, film, etc. I found myself looking at the sofas and thinking to myself ‘that looks SO comfortable!’ The canopies are fine for sitting on but you just can’t lounge on them – a concept that seemed totally alien to Algerians, which is ironic for a nation whose number one pastime for so many of their men folk is lounging against walls in every street and on every corner. Their nickname is ‘heytist’ as the Arabic for wall is ‘hait’. I have often wondered if they all stopped lounging around would all the walls suddenly fall down.
But I digress… not like me at all I know. I finally got my sofa and was so happy… for all of five minutes until I thought of the next thing I wanted…. and couldn’t find. The thing about Algeria is that it withholds what you want, until you’ve lost all hope and then mysteriously produces it right under your nose and you’re so happy, as if you‘ve found gold at the end of the rainbow. If you had a problem with patience before you came to Algeira….. you will learn it by force… or die of sheer frustration. The trick is… to go with the flow, and be grateful for the small victories Alhamduliah.
Every year we tried to do some renovations on the house as we could afford it, and so we changed the second kitchen (yes I said the second one…. you can never have too many you know when you live in Algeria) into my daughter’s bedroom, we pulled down one wall and made my pokey, kitchen into a decent sized one, changed one of the arab-style toilets (a nice way of saying a hole in the floor) into an English style one, removed some of the 70s-chic big pink flowery tiles, etc. etc. In many ways it is still a work in progress because it’s taken us so long to … grow into our home. It was a lot bigger in some ways than what we wanted but I can honestly say now that we use every single room every day without fail. I have often wished that we had at least one room that’s kept clean and tidy all the time for unexpected guests, but have resigned myself to the fact that, with my husband and offspring that’s never going to happen. I’m never going to have the ‘sitting room’ that my Mum had during my childhood in Ireland, the threshold of which we dare not enter under pain of death, where we were never allowed to actually sit and where the three piece suite lasted for over 40 years. It’s not a show house… it’s our home Alhamdulilah.