Monday, October 09, 2006

YIKES, THE DAYS ARE RUNNING AWAY FROM ME - we'll be putting the clocks back before long, and I still have a whole raft of things I wanted to get done - in September. Hence the sporadic blogging. Never-the-less, I must KBO as it is a good discipline for me, maybe I could get up, on second thoughts...

Reading Unfeeling by Ian Holding awoke feelings of dread, fear, anger, pain and nostalgia within me. It felt a bit like being at a horror movie where I could only bear to watch through my fingers.
This novel is by a young teacher who lives and works in Harare. The story is set in an unnamed African country, but it is very obviously Zimbabwe.

A 16 year-old boy is the sole survivor of a brutal attack on his family’s farm in which both his parents have been hacked to death. The farm, the largest in the region, is highly productive and supports a community of local workers but it has been scheduled for land reclamation by the government. It had originally been carved from virgin bush by Davey’s great-grandfather 100 years previously. The neighbouring farmer and his wife, are close family friends and they take Davey in. The local farming community is shocked and horrified by the attack, but cannot bear to deal with Davey’s pain and guilt. There is an underlining feeling that it would have been better if he had died too. Within a fortnight of the attack Davey is sent back to his boarding school (most farmers’ children in central Africa have to attend boarding schools as the distances are so great that local schools are not feasible). Back at school he struggles with his grief and develops a desire to avenge his parents. Eventually he runs away from the school and makes his way back to the farm, a dangerous journey which connects him with a variety people who view what is happening in the country in different ways. The couple who are in loco parentis rescue him again, and are under the impression he has done something terrible to the political fat cat who has appropriated the farm, other local white farmer join forces to try and cover up what he has done in case it rebounds on them all however it turns out that something very different has happened, and the reader is left with a picture of both the white and black communities awaiting the inevitable with foreboding.

What a waste, what devastation, what starvation, alienation, disease and poverty have followed from the deluded, grasping policies of Mugabwe and his henchmen. My heart bleeds for Zimbabwe and its people.


Veils, veils, veils, should they wear them or not? that is the controversy that Jack Straw has stirred up with his remarks. Acres of newsprint seem to have been devoted to the subject, and I have no fresh views on the subject save to ask a few questions:

1. If motorcyclists are not allowed to enter a bank wearing their helmets (which they are obliged by law to wear), as if they did the CCTV security cameras would not be able to get a clear picture of them, shouldn't Muslim women who wear the niqaab (nikab, niquab??) have to remove it before entering a bank for the same reasons ?

The photograph was sent to me by my good friend D in Cape Town...says it all really.

2. How much is peripheral vision affected by the niqaab? and if it is, wouldn't it limit any driver wearing one?

3. Do Muslim drag queens wear the niqaab? and who would know anyway?

Personally I think my views were perfectly expressed by Saira Khan in her article in The Times yesterday.


I've been up in Scotland for the past few days staying in an east coast fishing village, so I came home bringing some fabulously fresh fish. I also bought some undyed smoked haddock and tonight I made a traditional Scottish soup that goes by the unlikely name of

(Smoked Haddock & Potato Soup)
Serves 4 generously

2 large fillets of smoked haddock
1 onion, finely chopped
700ml water
600g peeled potatoes
800ml semi-skimmed milk
40g butter
1 large bay leaf

salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tablespoons finely chopped parsley and extra for garnishing.

Put the haddock, onion and bayleaf into a large pan and cover with the water. Bring to the boil. Skim any scum from the surface before covering the pan and simmer for 10 minutes until the haddock is poached and flakes easily.
Use a slotted spoon to lift the haddock from the pan, remove any skin and bones. Flake the fish and reserve it. Simmer the water in the pan until reduced by half. Strain the liquid and then return it to the pan together with the potatoes. Simmer the potatoes for about 25 minutes until tender. Remove potatoes from the pan with a slotted spoon , add the milk to the liquid in the pan and bring to the boil. Mash the potatoes with the butter, and then whisk into the hot liquid in the pan until thick and creamy. Add the flaked fish to the pan and season to taste ( be careful about adding too much salt, the smoked fish is already fairly salty). Stir in the chopped parsley.

Serve with crusty brown bread and butter.

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