Thursday, 29 October 2009

Best friend's wedding

So, this is it. The end of an era. The very last one of my male friends finally got married. Et tu, brute.

He said I looked bored at the wedding. I was not bored. I was thoughtful. It felt like something was ending. Something or someone was being taken away from me, forever.

I was looking at him walking down the isle, thinking of the good old days back in Baku.

I did not really like him at first. He was one of the very few young and single expats in Baku those days and, to paraphrase the Big Pink, girls fell like dominos.

And boy, did they fall. Not just the local girls, who salivated at the very thought of catching someone like him. Expat women, bored and surrounded by either Azeri (whom they just had no idea how to handle) or expat males (whose eyes were only focused on the exotic and easily approachable local girls) were more than happy to flirt with him too. So, I thought he must be just too full of himself. On top of that, he managed to go out with two of my close expat girlfriends. Thus, I have no idea how, years later, we remained such good friends. Perhaps, it has something to do with the fact that, through years of listening to my girlfriends moan about him, I felt like I knew him inside out.

There is something about male friends that we girls love. Yes, gay male friends are cool, but it is quite possible to be just friends with a straight guy, if you remember this old and obvious rule: do not sleep with him. If neither of you is physically pining for each other, the friendship can be good fun.

Of course, most of male friends normally fall under one of the following categories:

1) Someone you had gone out with before, and somehow miraculously, remained friends since then.
2) Someone who secretly fancies you, but knows he has no chance. So he is hoping that if he sticks around, you might get either too drunk or too desperate one day, and he will get lucky. At least once.
3) Someone you fancy but can not confess as you are either too ugly or too shy.

So when you are friends with a straight guy, but without any of the above factors, it is probably somewhat unusual. So, I guess I should have been more understanding when he worried about his bride’s feelings at the wedding. He felt he could not talk to me for too long as ‘she might get upset’. He felt he could not sit next to me as ‘she might get jealous’...

For years, I never thought our friendship might be questioned. When he showed up in the middle of nowhere in North Wales for my wedding, and gave me a big bear hug in front of everybody, I never even considered that might look wrong. It never crossed my mind that Husband might have some concerns about this friendship.

And now, for the first time, I was confused.

I was worried his new wife would not like me. I was concerned she would not trust me. I was afraid my long term friendship with this old friend would now end-because she would not approve.

So I got annoyed. Being a woman, she should have a gut instinct that nothing is going on! - I thought to myself. She should not get so paranoid and possessive from day one. What is wrong with her?? My poor friend, who is he getting married to?

But then, watching her smile at him and reach for his hand every time someone made an emotional speech, I saw how happy they looked. And I let him go. For long years, he was my single male friend. Someone to share a dirty joke with, gossip, laugh and (OK, maybe!) flirt a little. But now, things will never be the same. He is no longer just him, but a part of them, and if I want to continue to be his good friend, I must accept her. And hope that she will accept me too.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

New York state of mind.

Guess what, people? Scary is going to New York! Yes! Today!

Well, technically speaking, I am only going to spend a few hours in New York; just enough to significantly damage my credit card. The rest of it is taking place in Montauk. (Stalkers, make a note: about 3 hours away. Hamptons.)

And, very typically, so far:

1) I have no idea how I am getting there. The only train from NY to Montauk that departs on the day I need to get there has a (very familiar to any British person) ‘replacement bus service’ somewhere on route. In a twisted way, those words made me feel at home.

2) Not sure what I am wearing yet. Because I am:

a) Stupid- because I left it too late assuming due to the gruelling exercise routine I have been on, I must be slimmer than I was…..Nope.

b) Fat -because I can barely squeeze in the pretty dress that is hanging in my wardrobe. A kind of dress that in this country can only be worn to a wedding. Not like back in Baku. If I had that dress in Baku it would get worn a lot. Because, in Baku I had plenty of occasions to dress up for. A British Society Ball. A New Year Ball. A Scottish Ball. An Irish Ball. Etc, etc. In the UK, however, unless you belong to the Royal family or work somewhere very posh and trendy, you don’t really have anywhere to dress up for. This dress is now going to hang in my wardrobe for an unforeseen future.

3) Husband, who works flexibly, is working on the day I fly out and on the day I return. Which means no lift and some additional stress of arranging childcare.

4) It is forecasted to rain all weekend. It will rain at the terrace where we are supposed to be having drinks. It will also rain on the beach where they planned a bonfire after-party. I thought I was leaving the UK behind me for a week. The rain, the replacement bus services…. Looks like I am taking it all with me.

So really, I have been thinking…If I were a believer, I would imagine that Mr God is trying to send me a message. He is looking down at me, shaking his head and saying to his mates up there, in heaven: ‘Honestly, what else could I do? I have sent her, like 10 clues and she is still not listening! It is entirely her fault!

Wish me luck.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Why I hate today.

Then love, love will tear us apart, again…
Joy Division, “Love will tear us apart”.

Today is not a nice day. And even a haircut has not cheered me up. I took my mother or ‘baba’, back to the airport today.

My friends laugh and tell me I am depressed because I will miss all the help around the house. They have no clue. They are lucky, because majority of them have not experienced a separation for months at a time.

I hate today because of tomorrow morning. Tomorrow morning, when we wake up, my daughter is not going to run upstairs, in the attic conversion baba occupies when she visits, to get her portion of cuddles and laughter. She will probably forget she said goodbye the night before, as children do, and shout to baba to hurry up, only to get reminded that she is no longer upstairs, but quite far away now.

When we go downstairs to have some breakfast, nobody is going to have a little chat with me, while putting the kettle on.

I put going upstairs off, for as long as I can.

I walk in, and pick up something she might have accidentally forgotten, like an old magazine or a towel. The bed is stripped off the bedding that baba always remembers to wash and hang the day she leaves. I tidy everything away, and just linger at the window, looking out and thinking about stuff. Windows in that room have the best view, being that high up, and I enjoy looking down at all those pretty houses, the odd roof angles and chimneys, half hidden by mature trees. And I have to remind myself, as tears swell up in my eyes, that I am being unforgivably silly. That she has only gone back home until she can visit again. Most importantly, that she is not gone forever.

There is this old Russian pop song, that actually has quite meaningful words in it. It claims that every parting is like a little death.

And that’s what I hate about days like today. They make me think, however hard I try to bury those thoughts deep inside my mind, that one day it will indeed, be forever. And this is how it will feel. Just an empty room.

Yes, just like this, only a million, billion times worse, because then you know that they really aren't coming back. And you feel lost. Only some short time ago you sat right there, next to them, could touch them, could talk to them, could ask them about something mundane you have forgotten, like an old recipe. And then, all of a sudden, they are gone, and the room is empty, and you can never ask them a question again.

And that is why I hate today.

But tomorrow will be different. Tomorrow, when I get up, husband will take the dog to the forest, and I will not shout up the attic for baba to hurry up and come downstairs so we could have our usual chat and a coffee.

Instead, I will pick up the phone, so I could make sure she is back safe and sound, in the known comfort of her old flat, surrounded by her own things, with my cousin there to share tasty goodies sent by me from England.

I will hear their cheerful voices, and everything will just click right back to normal. And my usual life will resume. Until next time. Inshallah, as they’d say back home.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

A pretty tray for my cupcakes.

I now understand where the word freelancing comes from. It is because you often write for free. Right?

But hey, it is nice when someone wants you to contribute. We all like to feel wanted. And it is nice to contribute to something you actually think is a good project. Like this new site that has just been launched in Baku: Women's Forum.

So here it is, do check it out: A pretty tray for my cupcakes.

Tell me what you think. You have not been talking to me recently. I reckon, it is my friend's evil eye. She said: "You are so lucky! People run blogs for years and get no comments, and you get loads!!"

And, of course! she jinxed it. You have all shut up as soon as she said that. Which proves that Azeris are right, and evil eye does exist... Or, that I am not writing anything you want to comment on....Hmm...No, it definitely is the evil eye's fault.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Polly, put the kettle on...

Tonight, Husband was watching Babylon A.D. with Vin Diesel. As he pointed out afterwards, the only good thing about that movie is that it was free.

There is no point living in denial: autumn is here. It is getting cold and gorgeous outside, leaves turning golden and auburn. Perfect time for a good cuppa, as the English would say.

Tea is quite important for both Azeries and the English. For both nations, drinking tea is a significant tradition.

On my mother’s first trip to the UK, we were visiting my then future in-laws.
After a few days, mother decided it was time to stop acting like a guest, and make tea for us all. She went to the kitchen and put the kettle on.

Fortunately, I caught her just in time. In a proper Azeri style, she made chay with zavarka.

Zavarka is basically a very strong brew, which is made in a small tea pot. The pot is then placed on a heat diffuser, over a small fire, and left to sit there for a few minutes. When ready, zavarka gets diluted in individual cups by freshly boiled water. Which works fantastically well if you take your tea black.

However, adding milk on top of the already diluted tea creates a repulsive looking milky-grey watery solution. I quickly poured it all out.

But I have to say, I do miss Azeri chay.

First of all, whenever I visit someone in the UK, they forget that I take my tea black and serve it white anyway. It is a very unnatural thing for the Brits to not add milk in tea. I then appear all fussy and weird when I explain that there is no way I could drink that. I feel rude, but have to ask for them to make me another cup.

I blame my childhood. My grandmother had Tatar roots, and believed in the ancient powers of tatar-chay. Every time I had a bit of cold, she insisted I drunk up that disgusting mixture of a strong tea, full fat milk, chopped bread and some butter. Served in a large bowl, like a soup.

But it is not the milk that is my problem. Tea here is just boring. Take a tea bag, put it in a cup, add water. Where is the skill and thrill in that? Even the new trendy brands, like teapigs, are just not the same. Nobody, even my in-laws, bother with proper tea leaves anymore.

So, imagine how much I look forward to visiting my Azeri friends, who are just so good at brewing that special, gorgeous Azeri chay. (Using Indian or Iranian tea leaves, of course.)

I watch them working their magic over a little pot, mixing in not only different types of leaves but also spices, black peppercorns, thyme and whatever else only they seem to know about. (Every single chay-maker I know has his own special little chay secret.)

I, on the other hand, having got lazy using Twinings tea bags every day, am just left to silently admire their talents.

My mother is going back home soon, so I asked my dad if there was anything specific he would like me to send with her.

-Oh, -he said- I would love some ‘proper’ tea please! Some real Assam and Ceylon from England!

I guess, tea is always greener on the other side.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Still a f**** Skoda.

To: Scary's followers and whoever stumbled upon my blog today
From: Scary Azeri
Subject: Too funny not to forward.

Treat this like an email. Or one of my in-between postings posting.

I know most of you have probably seen these, but someone sent them to me in response to the last few topics here. I thought they were too funny not to share.

PS You can click on individual pictures to enlarge and read the words.

Monday, 5 October 2009

One is an accident, four is an epidemic?

But it was not your fault but mine
And it was your heart on the line
I really f***d it up this time
Didn't I, my dear?

Little Lion Man (Mumford And Sons)- my song of the week.

We were at a local housewarming party last Saturday night. I was mingling, as you do, you know, and saw this one mommy I knew. A lovely lady. The usual type. Nice, blond. Two small children. I came over and chatted to her for a little while. Normally, if there is any gossip worth knowing, I would know. So, imagine my shock when having asked her where her other half was, I heard a casual, but not at all expected:
‘Oh, he has left.’

Excuse me?

Left? What do you mean ’left’?

‘Oh,- she said. –‘He had been cheating on me whilst I was pregnant with the second baby. I confronted him a few times and he denied it…and then he just turned around and left.’

Oh, my goodness. Poor woman. How terribly scandalous for this posh little commuter village!

To be honest, I was shocked. Back home, I worked for an oil company, and witnessed a lot of that kind of stuff going on. You know. Expats coming on assignments. Young, pretty girls-very friendly. Boring suburban lives (and wives) back home, somewhere in the galaxy far, far away…. The excitement of young exotic sex hits the brain: BAM! Crisis.

But hold on a minute! That is over there. But here? In this lovely suburb, where husbands are so well-trained and obedient? Where they are expected to get up at 7, commute to the city to make money to pay for these ludicrously expensive houses? To return at 6:30pm, bathe the kids and eat their lasagna? Mow the lawn, wash the car and spend the rest of their weekend on ‘quality family time’ with kids… In this well-planned scheme, how on Earth would something like that be possible?

But I guess, the reality is…: s**t happens everywhere.

And I often get this scary feeling, that most of the wives around here are just a little too relaxed.They don’t seem to ever suspect something like that might happen. OK it might, but to someone else. In movies. In other countries. In council houses. But not to them. They got married, chucked away their careers, heels and naughty knickers, had children. They feel it is all sorted now. Forever.

But occasionally, someone rebels. Because most of men, deep inside, hate to grow up.
They don’t want to face the responsibilities. They get bored. They want to see lacy underwear and suspenders. To drive a Porsche, while listening to some cool rock music. But all they are allowed to listen to at home is Travis. And the closest to a Porsche they can have is Porsche Cayenne — a pathetic alternative created for suburban husbands.

And they panic. They feel they have not lived enough. They don’t want to grow old and wear sleepers.

So I guess, I can understand. It is scary how well I can understand.

But I am still sad for that local mommy. Because it is not her fault.

As I said, s**t happens. Sadly, more often than some of us want to think.

Yesterday, talking to another friend in a park, I found out three of her friends experienced the same problem. 'One is an accident', she said. 'Four is an epidemic!'

I guess, it is time to start paying more attention to our husbands….Yeah, right. Who am I kidding?

Thursday, 1 October 2009

BMW? Must be a knob.

I love Paris. ‘Every moment of the year’, as the song goes.

During my last visit, I was sitting in an outdoors café, sipping my coffee and watching busy streets around me, when I suddenly thought of something that was so different about Paris. Different both from the UK and back home. Different in a very subtle, elegant and, well- French way.

OK, I know what you are thinking-the women are slimmer and dressed better….
But no, not that…It was the cars. Most of them were tiny. Cute. Quirky. Almost humorous. Very French, somehow.

I wonder, I thought to myself, how come the way people view cars in France is so different from the UK? How come the French are so genuinely cool, that they do not care at all about their cars? By seemingly making no statement with what cars they drive, the French are making a statement.

Look at us!- they say- We are way too cool to worry what cars we drive.
Pffft! It is just a car, non?

You see, I would like to think I am a bit French when it comes to me driving my good old Skoda. I would like others to think I am so Frenchiously cool that I don’t care how uncool it is. But, the reality is that I am not French. I can fake as much as I'd like, but anyone who knows anything about Azeries, will see right through me and understand that it is not because I am genuinely cool that I drive an uncool car. But because I can not afford an Aston Martin- my ultimate dream mobile.

Just like the Parisians are so obviously cool without needing an expensive car to demonstrate it, Azeries are the exact opposite. Baku these days is filled with ridiculously huge, black or white 4-wheel drives. Hummers, Range Rovers- the whole lot. Driving along roads that still belong to the 3rd world country.

Of course, it is not just about showing off. Driving a big and reliable car back home has some practical reasons. You get more respect from other, often rude, drivers, and more respect from the police. You have a better chance of survival- should some drunken rich youth (whose father paid for his driving license), smash right into you. And your backside is well cushioned against those bumpy roads.

But the longer I live in the UK, the more I realize that very similar principles apply here. It might not be as obvious. The English are experts when it comes to subtlety. But cars matter.

Back home, I never thought of cars as image makers. But here, you don’t just buy a car. You announce who you are.

Say, you bought a Volvo. It is not cheap, but not flashy. It is safe. It is reliable. It is suburban. You would not drive a Volvo if you were young, trendy and cool now, would you? So you are sending a clear message here: I live in suburbs, I have two children, a nice house, a Labrador and a good, respectable job. Nice to meet you, I am Mr. Boring Middle Class.

If you drive a BMW, you are assumed to be a knob.

Second-hand Mercedes-Benz salon is normally driven by foreigners.
Range Rover Sport is WAG. (I quite fancy one though.)
Bentley Continental –Footballer.
Audi TT- Hairdresser.

And unless your job is either a rapper or a pimp, people would assume you are just too flashy if you drive a Hummer in this country. And flashy is not cool. You are, therefore, also assumed to be a knob.

And people treat you accordingly.

A friend of mine in a Range Rover Sport often complains people are mean to her. And I always notice how hurriedly little cars flatten themselves into the hedges as my husband pushes down the narrow lane in his Pick Up truck.

The other day I was furious about one stupid driver who almost caused us to crash. I was in the correct lane, and he was on my left. We were at a roundabout, and I was going straight ahead. All of a sudden, this Merc cut right across of me. He suddenly remembered he had to turn right, so he did. Without any hesitation or concern. As if I was not there.

-What car was he driving? - A friend asked.
- A Merc! - I announced with disgust.
-What do you expect then? - She laughed. - You are driving a Skoda! You can not expect him to pay any respect to you!? You drive a crap car- you get out of the way and let the big boys pass!

Hmm, I thought to myself. Must get a Range Rover.