Monday, 30 November 2009

Thank you for sending me your thank you card.

Tonight, we are watching Public Enemies, with Johny Depp. Oy, mama.

I was clearing my handbag this morning. Occasionally, it just has to be done.
Out came old receipts, spare contact lenses, a few coins, one headless little girl made out of Hama beads ( No, not Hamas. Hama. Those little coloured beads children play with), a few letters from school asking for more donations, a pair of shades….(who I am kidding?) and thank you cards.

Oh, crap.- I thought. Kept carrying them in my bag for weeks now, forgetting to hand them out.

If you come from Azerbaijan, or any other country that is not so obsessed with sending cards, you would probably think what’s that?

A thank you card is a completely useless, money and time wasting middle class thing to do. What you must understand, Brits are crazy about cards. I remember in Baku, I could not wait for my New Year cards to arrive and it was magical. But that was once a year. OK, for my birthday, too. That’s twice. Also, when we were little girls, we just wrote some cute postcards and secretly dropped them in each other’s mail boxes. Fair enough, we were 10.

In the UK, it is a different story. Adults happily play those games. I spent £8 on 16 thank you cards for all the presents my child received for her birthday. After the party, instead of relaxing with a well-deserved glass of wine, I sat there, equipped with a pen and paper, noting down whose name was on the card, as my child tore the wrapping paper off each parcel. So that I would not embarrass myself later, when I thank someone for a toy they had not given. Because, it would not do to simply say “thank you or your generous gift.” No way! That would be cheating.

But this is just what has to be done around here. And it is not just the thank you cards. Brits love their cards- for any occasion. Went to visit someone? Send them a “thank you for the wonderful time” card. Someone died? Must send their family a card. Someone got sacked? No worries, there are ‘sorry you lost your job’ cards available, too.

And Christmas is the worst. Of course, it is a lovely feeling to see a card land on your doormat. There is something special about it. That element of surprise, that moment of guessing who it might be from. I personally love the stamps.

But there is absolutely no fun in getting Christmas cards from your colleagues- all the way from the other end of the open plan office. The cards are cheap and ugly. The writing is hasty. It is obvious that they do not give a crap about you and your well being during the festive season. Sometimes, someone will forget you. And as you give them their card, you know they will return in a few minutes, sheepishly handing one back. Magical. And then you get to gather all your cards, most of them from people who don’t really care about you, and proudly decorate your mantelpiece with them. Now everyone can see you have a huge lot of friends who love you. A bit like Facebook, really.

Azeries don’t do cards. We prefer gifts. I guess it is a sign of a civilized culture when people are satisfied with just cards. Say, it is your friend’s birthday. Back home, there is no way you would show up with a card. Even if it is a fancy handmade one if you paid £3,50 for. Here, in the UK it is totally acceptable.

Husband does not subscribe to the whole card issuing policy. We went to see our friends who relocated to a new area. The Azeri in me bought them a little housewarming gift. The Brit in me- a new home card to go with it.
Husband was not impressed.
-This is just so middle class wannabe!- he exclaimed, as I balanced the card on my lap in the car, writing quick wishes inside. – You will want some fish knives next!

But since when would any sensible woman listen to her husband when it comes to social etiquette? That would just lead her into a world of shame.

However, there is hope. I understand the latest fashionable thing to do is to declare you don’t do Christmas cards this year, and are actually going to donate the money to a charity instead. I love this one. Think about it! Nobody will know. And you can spend that money to buy more presents for people you actually do care about. Result!

Friday, 27 November 2009

They all said it is great so it must be true.

So this Russian friend called me the other day and said she had a spare ticket to go see the Endgame if I wanted to join her.

You see, at this point, a sensible person would ask:

What is the play about?

Instead, I asked:
- Where is it? ( “Covent Garden”- she said. I thought: nice location, good shops, great food all around)
- How much? ( Can’t afford any expensive cultural stuff when Christmas is around the corner. Culture can wait.)
- When? ( babysitting issues)

Once I got the suitable replies to my questions, I simply said yes. I said yes before I looked the Endgame up online. Once I read the description, I sent my friend an email.

- Ni-iiice!- I said to her- Sounds happy!
- It may be quite heavy- she replied- but, apparently, a smooth and rewarding performance.

Smooth and rewarding. I forgot I was dealing with a Russian friend. Russians find depressing stuff rewarding. It is a cultural thing.

But, even for her, it proved too heavy. I was pleased about that. I quite like this friend and was worried she would claim to have enjoyed this nightmare. More importantly, I was worried she would say she understood it. Which would make me look really stupid for not having a clue.

Whoever I have been telling about this horrific experience, exclaimed in one voice- Oh! But that is by Samuel Beckett!
Yes, haven’t you heard? He is in fashion. I also remember seeing 5 very bright yellow stars, and the words "pure delight" underneath. However hard I try to think of a polite way to describe this 1 hr 20 minutes of torture, pure delight would not be my choice. But what do I know? I am:

a) Foreign (always use this excuse, just in case I am actually wrong)
b) Not a theatre expert.
c) Someone who spent years watching enough depressing Soviet stuff, so probably just bored of it all.

Anyway, if you would ask me what the play was actually about, I would just have to admit that I have no idea. As far as I understood something nasty had happened to the world outside. There was nobody and nothing else out there, but that poor bloke with no eyes, who also happened to be paralyzed from the waist down. And his servant, who was the only one who could walk. However, his legs did not bend. (For some bizarre reason the public found that fact terribly amusing.)

They both seem to hate each other with passion, but of course, they are stuck together. No, they were not married, as far as I could tell.

You are probably thinking: So? Is that it? Ah, well.... Not quite. In the corner of the stage there were two large garbage bins. You know the kind, the outside bins with lids and black plastic bags inside.

So it turns out the bins contained the elderly parents. Who had no legs at all. The father kept asking for a treat, like an old dog and the mother suddenly died in the middle of the play. Clov, the servant on unbendable legs, walked up, looked inside the bin, confirmed she was pretty dead, and tied the plastic bag before placing the lid back on the bin.

I won’t bore you too much. If you are curious enough and have time to kill at work, you can read it here.

I can not remember anything else happening, besides a lot of shouting and some painfully long speeches by the blind guy.

There you go.

I am not just telling you this to amuse you. I think it is my duty to warn you to not see this play if you happen to have an intellectual Russian friend who might offer you some tickets. 5 stars! Only 75 performances in London! Hurry! Do not miss this “pure delight”, just in time for Christmas, when you might,accidentally-despite everything else screwed up in this world-be getting into the festive spirit.

I can not think of anything more painful I had attended in my entire life, except for the concert of Herbie Hancock a few years ago. I am not a huge fan of Jazz anyway, despite being Azeri. Azeries love Jazz. We even produced some famous Jazz musicians, like Aziza Mustafa-zadeh, should you be interested to know (no idea why you would be, but just in case) But normally, I love any live music. It takes a lot to make me get up and leave, and sit outside, waiting for the others. It felt like someone got inside my head and was methodically sawing my brain into tiny bleeding pieces.

As husband and the others emerged, I was convinced they all thought I had no taste and no understanding of beautiful music.

- I am so sorry- I said- I could not stand it any longer, I was going to die.
And everybody laughed and admitted they did not get it either. Sometimes, you see, someone has to say it first. Even if all the critics in the world think otherwise.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Just another manic Monday

I don’t normally work on Mondays. In theory, Mondays should be my nice and lazy days.

I could now do this woman’s thing. I could just present my Monday to you in the following way:

Oh, I work part-time, you know… It is great. I don’t work on Mondays. I have nothing to do, as my child started school so I have a morning off….and then, in the afternoon, a group of ladies get together for a coffee.
We sit there and chat, drinking tea and eating cookies, whilst our children play in the other room of the house.

However, there is a lot that happens in between those lines. Let’s just break that short paragraph down a little- to get a proper picture.

It has to start at 3am the night before, when my 4 year old wakes up screaming because she is afraid of crocodiles. At 6am husband’s alarm goes off- he has to leave for work. He spends ages searching for a tie in the dark. I manage to fall asleep again, but wake up too late. The school starts in less than 45 minutes. I wake the sleepy child and dress her for school. The dog is inpatient. He needs his drink and breakfast. I tell him to just wait a bloody second.

I then take him in the garden and chuck some dry food in his dish. The dish has rainwater in it. I throw the food away and re-fill the dish. I finally put the kettle on and return to the back door to shout at him to stop looking at me and go for a wee.

I get the child’s breakfast ready and pour myself a cup of coffee. We sit down at the table. But the dog has now finished his business, and is barking loudly and repeatedly demanding to be let back inside. His feet are wet and have to be wiped. He still leaves wet marks on my floor.

We finish getting ready, I squeeze the child in the car. School run is done. Now I am back in the house and I have some house jobs to do. Starting with my favourite- recycling.

I find a way to avoid the rain, and bring the boxes up to the garage door. I push the button and the door goes up. Husband never told me there was a problem with the door. The door is now stuck, and would not go up or down. I panic, as husband is working away and I can not leave the house with a huge gap for thieves to clime into. I work hard at pushing the door as hard as I can so it slides back into the groove. It does not. I struggle for a while, sweating and swearing at husband. The door finally works. I spend the next 30 minutes sorting out the recycling. With husband’s heavy boots on, I smash the coke cans into flat little circles- so more of them could fit in the recycling boxes.

As I am doing that, I can not help but think of this mummy friend of mine. In fact, I think of her every time I am doing something around my suburban house that I had never in my (previous, Azeri) life imagined I would have to do.

Let’s call her Elaine. Because, it is a pretty and lady-like name and it goes well with her perfection. Because everything about Elaine is beautiful. Her teeth are perfect and her eyes always sparkle. She lives in a stunning house in the middle of a beautiful field. As you drive up to it, you must slow down not to run over a bunny or a pheasant.

Last summer she had a table in the middle of the garden, covered with a crispy white tablecloth. In the middle of the table stood a little vase with peonies. The scene reminded me of a wedding I had once attended in Tuscany.

So, as I struggled with my garage door, and then stamped on coke cans, I kept getting that mental image of the white tablecloth and peonies in the garden. And I kept wondering if Elaine ever does similar jobs around her beautiful house. I can not imagine her perfectly manicured hands tearing cupboard boxes apart or smashing the garage door. Perhaps, she has a handsome handyman who does it for her. Maybe he walks in the kitchen in his vest and tight jeans, wiping sweat off his tanned forehead and asks her politely- Anything else today, madam?

I finish recycling, and take a bottle of engine oil out of my cupboard. My poor old Skoda is not well. She has been asking for some more oil and I had to check if she had indeed, ran out, or is hallucinating again, due to the old age.

As I stand there in the drizzly rain, wearing my raincoat and husband’s boots, my hands covered in engine oil, I yet again think of Elaine and her tablecloth.

I finally finish the messy jobs, and can now take a shower and use some of that scrub a friend gave me in NY. It says “with coriander for happiness and ginger for energy” on the lid. I could do with a bit of both. I scrub the engine oil off me, and come out refreshed. I then notice a huge amount of dog hair on the floor. I glance at my watch- I can surely squeeze it in- and do a quick vacuuming. I get dressed and remember I have not bought all the ingredients for the dinner yet. I ran out and rush to the shop on my way to school.

We return and I make lunch. I look at my watch again. It is now 1:30. By 2:30pm we should be out of the door and on our way to a friend’s house for a relaxing time that I desperately need. I still am to check my blog and emails, and finish Q&A column for magAZine. I promised my editor to have it done by Tuesday. I write quickly, interrupted by my mother trying to speak to me on Skype and child asking for a hug. The dog is sitting at the back door, making quiet but obvious rumbling throat sounds- he would like to go out again.

I finish the column and spell-check it quickly, before sending it off.

I glance at my watch. Half an hour left. I need to make myself presentable now. I get the nail set out. I am an Azeri woman after all. I must look glamorous when I go out. And I would hate for people to guess, looking at my nails, what I had been up to all morning.

There. We are out of the door by 2:30 and I feel good about myself. My nails are glossy, my hair is washed and I am wearing a short denim skirt. I sing along to my radio as the Skoda’s engine struggles up the hill. Another day, another little victory over suburban chores.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Who needs reindeer if you can have a hot chick instead?

My MagAzine editor is getting demanding. She is now suggesting some topics for the next issue. Like a little girl pretending to be a princess, I pretend I am a columnist. I get deadlines! And topics! And word limits! And the next issue, of course, is due in December. So...Here is your special, unedited version!

It is that time of the year again. Season to be merry. Christmas is around the corner. And it comes early to the UK. Every street will light up with thousands of pretty lights; and only in two weeks, on Friday night, everybody in our little commuter village will walk out to a late night Christmas shopping. We will drink mulled wine and sit outside, munching on roast pork sandwiches and mince pies. My child will join a queue of other kids lined up to speak to Father Christmas himself (he tends to set his grotto up in our local hardware store)

Since I relocated to the UK, people often ask me whether we celebrate Christmas back in Azerbaijan. I usually explain that it is a Muslim country so no, we do not. We have other cool holidays though, during which we sacrifice some sheep and feed poor people. But, having been part of the Soviet Union (read: the Big Brother Russia) for 70 years, we still celebrate the New Year.

But in a very fascinating way.

First of all, there, of course, is what Azeries would call a Shahta Baba, or, to use his original, Russian name- Ded Moroz. If you expect it to mean the same as Father Christmas, then you are wrong: Soviet holidays could not have any religious bearing. We, therefore, created our own, Soviet version. So, Ded Moroz literally means a Grandfather Frost.

Granddad Frost’s life is a lot more exciting than that of his Christian relative, because he is not as lonely. Instead of reindeer, he actually has a pretty young girl of Slovakian looks, with long plaited blond hair. The girl is called Snegurochka, which means a Snow Girl. Snegurochka, we were told, is Ded Moroz’s granddaughter. She is normally the most popular character at any New Year party. The New Year parties for children are called Yolkas (or the Christmas tree party) and are a must- attends for every child in the post-Soviet country like Azerbaijan.

And of course, we have a Christmas tree, which also gets decorated in the same way.

I view the whole New Year thing as a fascinating example of how old habits can linger for years and generations to come. Having become an independent country, Azerbaijan tried to get rid of the “Noviy God”.

Understandably, there is no place for a suspiciously Christmassy looking geezer and his hot granddaughter in a Muslim country. So, instead, we started celebrating the Day of Solidarity of Azerbaijanians of the World. ( See comments for correction and details if interested)

So, we got a day off on the 31st of December, but officially, we were not celebrating the New Year. In the meantime, every TV channel and every shop sported Yenni Yelleniz Muberek (Happy New Year) signs and pictures of Christmas trees.

So are we openly celebrating the New Year or is it our dirty secret?

I say yes, we do celebrate it. And it is a very special time for Azeries.

We get together with our families and loved ones. We normally stay at home, and only go out to parties after 12. We roast a chicken and prepare a Russian salad and lots of cakes. Everybody calls everybody, and the phone lines are going crazy.
I love the New Year back home.

Here, in the UK it is actually not a big deal. The young people will often get together for a party; perhaps, chuck a few fireworks up in the air and share a sip of champagne. But the rest of us just stay at home, watching the incredibly boring TV show, during which Sir Paul McCartney struggles to prove he has still got it.

I always try though, to not allow this special time of the year to pass unnoticed.
So I celebrate it twice: the first time at 8pm, which is my Azeri New Year. I call my parents and relatives, and have some champagne. I always look forward to that 8pm moment, as I never know which old friend might suddenly surprise me with a phone call from somewhere far, far away. From my childhood, which smells of our old flat with TV on in the background, chicken roasting in the oven, tangerines and the Russian salad.

It is a happy time, after all, if always a bit nostalgic for me. So, whatever you celebrate, have a good one this year. Happy Solidarity of Azerbaijanians day!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Birthday Cake and other disasters

Tonight, husband is watching Coyote Ugly. He is very excited. Thinks a bar like this in our area would be a fantastic idea. I am just thinking: I never knew Tara Banks looked so hot long, long time ago?

Oh, mother in law of mine.

I feel pretty ungrateful right now, to be honest. My mother in law is nice. She is helpful, and is very good at things I am not good at. Such as cleaning, cooking and playing educational games with my daughter. So I was, of course, very grateful when she came down all the way from North Wales (and that’s far if you don’t know.. It takes the same time in a car that it would on a plane to Baku) for my child’s birthday party.

After usual stressing out and planning every little detail, it all sort of worked fine. I have to say sort of, because there was some ghost child I did not account for. However many times I counted all the children coming to my house, I ended up getting 11. I had two Excel sheets with all the names written down. Twice: one at work, and one at home. Both had 11 children on them. In the end, there were 12.

But other than that, it all went pretty well.

Except for…the birthday cake.

The etiquette around here is to buy a pretty, often tasteless, cake with thick icing and themed decoration of your child’s choice. The cake gets brought out at the end of the party, with the usual singing and blowing off the candles, but the kids do not actually eat the cake right there and then. A hostess would cut it into chunks, wrap in tissues and place it in party bags to take home with them.

In my usual obsessive manner, I had spent days searching for the perfect cake. Considering my daughter is a girl and has turned 4, it had to be pink and ideally fairy or princess themed.

The fairy one from Tesco seemed too small to me. Waitrose did not have any pink ones. M&S one was too big. In the end, I found one that was just right.

Do you want me to cut the cake up? - asked my mother in law at the end of the party. Gratefully, I agreed. When I returned in 10 minutes, I noticed something that to an Azeri host would mean a disaster.

My mother in law was struggling to squeeze a large portion (more than a half) of the cake into a metal tin. She had that much left, after cutting off 11 pieces.

There they were, right in front of me. Wrapped in pretty tissues, shaped like little flat squares: a size of a business card holder.

The Azeri hostess inside me was mortified. If I ever did anything like that back home, other moms would bitch about me for months after. Here, things might be slightly more merciful. I am sure everybody noticed just how stingy my portions of the cake were. British mothers are polite, but not blind. However, manners would (hopefully) stop them from discussing it in the open.

I knew not to say anything to my mother in law. Should I have questioned the size of pieces at that stage, I would have looked like a very ungrateful daughter in law. She was trying to help. And what do I do? Complain. So I did not say anything.

But I just wanted to know why. There must be some logical reason behind this. Nobody really wants half of a birthday cake left.

So, I resisted for 24 hrs, and then I said something anyway. Because that is just me, unfortunately. I get something boiling inside me, and have to get it out in the open.

I told her I was surprised to see how much cake was left. She of course, got defensive, and explained that, by the time we had a piece each, and sent two pieces to the cousins in North Wales….......

Of course! The cousins! So that is it, I thought to myself, simmering down.

She just wanted her other granddaughters, even though they are well past the pink icing age, to get a piece. And that, of course, never crossed my mind. I would imagine at the age of 14, pink icing is not something they think about.

Nevertheless, I felt guilty, and, at the same time, annoyed. Because, the problem is, I don’t do hints or hidden agendas very well. In my head, things are easy. If you want a piece of cake for someone else, you ask.

I would gladly rid of that tasteless cake anyway. It is not like it is my mother’s Napoleon.

But whether it is a British thing, or just my mother in law’s thing, she would unfortunately, never chose that simple route. Instead, she would keep her real motif a secret, and have some elegantly planned secret plot.

And I am still learning the intricacies of communication when it comes to different cultures. And mothers in law.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

The baldy , the fart and the douchebags

Tonight we are watching Lord of the Rings. Again.
Oh, Aragorn..- I groaned passionately.
Ara-porn!- said Husband.

You know you are old when you attend a rock concert and tell the youth to sit down and be quiet.

First of all, I am really surprised that in this H&S obsessed country they could ever get away with seats so high up, on what is practically a vertical slope, without any harnesses. I never feel comfortable somewhere like that, and the O2 centre was simply terrifying.

Sitting all the way up, I kept thinking just how easily someone could stumble and fall down. How far would they fall? I wondered whether the heads of people below would stop them from falling somewhere at Row G, or would the force of the fall send them all the way down, on top of the crazed crowd. And also, would anyone notice? Or would they just pick the body up and send it crowd surfing?

Muse are the best. Visually stunning and impressively loud.

We were looking forward to this concert for ages. Not only because we both love Muse. There is more to that. For someone like us, cool people trapped in the UK suburb, it is an important statement. A solid proof to each other that we still have it. And to me, an Azeri who lived most of her life attending government concerts in the Palace of Lenin (now, of course, Aliev) this is as cool as it gets.

But…..there is always a but.

I guess it was na├»ve of me to expect everyone who loves Muse to be cool. I looked around, feeling the energy coming from the crowd. We were all part of one big club, a gang of Muse fans. We all have a great taste in music, and therefore, have a lot in common, right? Don’t be ridiculous.

First of all, I appreciate that it must be very tempting to fart somewhere like the O2 arena.
The music is loud so nobody will hear anything. And as for the smell, well there are so many people around, surely nobody will know who it really was. But come on, people! That is just bad manners! How can you, a Muse fan, be such a disgusting pig?

Secondly, to the guy in the front, who just had to be that tall, of course, and be positioned right in my line of sight. I understand it must have been crucial to demonstrate to your girlfriend just how cool and rock and roll you were, by standing up throughout the show and jerking in all possible directions. It is just that the sight of your shiny bold head bouncing up and down was not something I paid over £40 to see. If not for you and your bold head, I would have enjoyed the show from my seat, without having to stand up. Even having stood up, I struggled to see the stage properly, because I am, alas, a short arse.

But the worst were the two douchebags behind us. I am using the word douchebag because:

a) I have only recently discovered it and think it is great.
b) It is an American word and not really used in the UK, so it does not sound as offensive to my British ear.
c) I really want to use another, very British, word here, but…It would not be appropriate. Even though I think that it is more appropriate. If you know what I mean.

The two douchebags were having verbal diarrhea. Not only they went on and on throughout the whole concert, they also talked stupid, irritating crap. If the song was slow and beautiful, they talked loudly over it. If it was something like Time is Running out, they screamed the words along- so loudly that I could not, however hard I tried, hear the voice of the actual singer. I even tried to lean forward, as far as the narrow row and vertical seat arrangement allowed, to get my ears as far away from the singing douchebags as possible.

Husband got annoyed. And trust me, a sight of the annoyed husband is not pretty. He turned to the douchebags and asked them- very politely! - to “please do us a favour and give us a break in the running commentary”.

As for me, I just thought: You know what? Perhaps, we just have to admit it: we are too old for rock concerts. Perhaps we could from now on focus on small venues, instead of huge arenas, where douchbags can get away with spoiling the atmosphere with their shouting, farting and other antisocial behaviour.

But….there is always a but. Muse are the greatest. The best. If you have not heard them yet, be grateful to me for introducing them into your life. Go quick and get yourself their albums. All of them.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Deuce Bigalow: an Azeri Gigolo

“An attractive and tall young man of European appearance, 25 yrs old is looking for a lady 35-55 with accommodation for serious relationship…”

“A 27 yr old man, brown eyes and light brown hair, attractive and well-natured, is looking for a Jewish lady, age not relevant, for serious relationship and marriage...”

These are just a couple of local newspaper ads that my mother read to me as we chatted on Skype yesterday.

There is so much said about women in Azerbaijan these days. By women themselves. Because we, women, like to complain a lot.

But what about poor Azeri men?

Just like in any other traditional and- don’t forget! - Muslim society, there is a lot of pressure on Azeri males. In old Soviet days, things were easier. Men had jobs they got via relatives and connections. They made money via salaries and bribes. They married good Azeri girls their mothers approved of, and kept mistresses on the side, often of other nationalities. They sat around eating plov, getting fat and enjoying life. But nowadays, things are changing. Women in Azerbaijan are rapidly becoming more independent. It is arguably easier for a pretty young girl who can speak some English to get a reasonably well-paid job in an office than it would be for a nice boy with the same set of skills. Azeri women started getting jobs in foreign companies, dating foreigners and immigrating abroad. So it is not surprising, that some young Azeri males sat around, smoking their cigarettes and sipping chay when it occurred to them that maybe, they ought to do something about that unfair situation. Maybe they don’t have to just marry some girls their parents find for them, and then take care of them all their lives. Perhaps, they themselves deserve to be taken care of.

And some smart Azeri guys started to look around. And I bet they were pleasantly surprised. As long as they were prepared to overcome their inherent fear and commit, the opportunities were unlimited, depending on what their goals might be. It could be somewhere to live- just like one of the above ads clearly states, or it could be a woman with a foreign passport who could take him abroad. Gone are the old times, when wives were just good enough for making plov and babies. In this increasingly westernised society that Azerbaijan is becoming, women have more potential as wives and partners than they have ever had.

And so here comes a predictable shift in Azeri male mentality, something I get a whiff of across the borders, all the way from the UK. The new generation Azeri guys are not simply looking for good Azeri girls any more. Frankly, can't afford to. They are looking for independent, successful women- local or foreign. Women with a ticket for a better life. Women who can do one of the following, if not all of it:

a) provide him with a nice flat to live in;
b) help him immigrate;
c) work hard at her job (and at home) while he can just marry her, knock her up and then kick back and relax.

In fact, I can sense a good business opportunity here: Azeri male services for lonely women abroad. Don’t laugh! Azeri men have a lot to offer. They are incredibly horny and enthusiastic. They don’t normally drink too much. They are dark and dangerous looking, but really are quite tame. They love white girls, blonds in particular, and normally don’t mind if you are a bit overweight. They usually want and love children.

So here is my brilliant idea:

Single for too long? Tired of wasting your time on western men who are too demanding and scared of commitment? Clock is ticking and ovaries are screaming for a baby? Look no further! Come to and we will set you up with a young, fit, and full of enthusiasm Azeri male. No hidden costs, except for one- an illusion of true love. But that is not such a high price to pay, is it?

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

A sneaky preview

Hey, check it out. This is the new Scary Azeri culture clash Q&A column in the MagAZine I was telling you about, due out in November.

I was going to wait till the magazine is out to put it up on the blog, but the editor said it was OK.

She said we were not exclusive.

In other circumstances, that would be hurtful. But in this one, it just means I can share a sneaky preview with you and see what you think.

Be kind, because:

a) It is nice to be a kind person.
b) It is my first ever attempt so I will get better as I practice. (I think?)

Hope you can read it, if you click on the picture it should enlarge. And thank you to those who sent me the very first scary questions! Much, much appreciated!

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Scary mummy business

I have offended someone else- again! I hate when this happens.

This is the world I live in nowadays. The delicate and intricate world of a mother in an English suburb. A world full of rules and etiquette. Things to be done in a certain way, words to be organized in particular sequences with subtle meanings and nuances.

Having had a week away from my usual motherly chores, I jumped off that plane and landed deep into something I always found stressful- organizing my daughter’s birthday party.

How can something so pleasant (theoretically) end up causing me so much headache?

I have to admit, I acted a bit Azeri last year and went overboard to throw the biggest party I could (not really) afford. In the end, I felt cheated. Most of my friends, some with a lot more money and therefore nothing to prove, settled for shared parties, no parties at all or something very modest. I of course, had to have an entertainer, 25 kids and hot food for adults.

But as I said before, I try to learn from my mistakes. So, this year, when my daughter asked if she could have a small 'girls only' tea party at home, I thought that might be quite nice.

I typed a list of her girlfriends, and imagined a very civilized picture in my head: the games they could play, the food I would prepare and decorations I would hang around my house. A pleasant day, surrounded by a few mothers drinking a glass of chilled wine, whilst my daughter and her good friends played nicely. But then I remembered about siblings.

I inserted column C in my excel spreadsheet. And my head span.

This little friend had an older brother. This one had two. This one had a tiny baby, still attached to a breast. This one has a toddler brother who is into opening kitchen drawers and taking everything out. Surely, I thought to myself, if I word the invitation carefully, people will understand. They would maybe appreciate that I am doing it low key this year. That I am dong it at home. But what if they don’t? I might end up with not 10 but in fact, over 20 children in my modestly sized suburban home.

So I panicked. But then, having thought about it, I thought: hold on a minute!

The girls are 4. OK, that is not quite the teenage years yet, when they would sneakily smoke a fag and snog boys in bushes around the corner; but they are surely big enough for some mothers to happily drop them off. Other mothers might in fact, prefer to leave their toddlers or babies at home with a nanny, so that they could spend some quality time with their older daughter....

So, all that was left was to ask nicely. 'OK-I thought- 'I can do that!'
Not so easy, but possible. A bit like those people who put ‘No children, please’ on their wedding invitation. And all the breeders hate their guts. But hey, it is their wedding, and their right to request the party they want should be respected by their friends and family. That is just what I think.

‘Just put: “Sorry, no siblings” on the invites?’-suggested my mother in law. I agonized over that. No. Could not do it. Too rude, I thought. I would email my closest mummy friends first, explain the situation and see what happens.

And everybody was OK with it. Or maybe, some were OK and some pretended quite well.

Except for just one friend. I guess, out of 10 it is not a bad result. But it still hurts. Things that got mentioned included parenting styles, cultural differences, private vs public school etiquette and so on. Ouch, ouch and ouch again. Right into my solar plexus.

So, NO- she said and it felt like she slapped me across the face with a cold fish- I won’t be able to come, I am sorry.

Did I see this coming? No. Did I expect this particular friend to over-react like this? Not in a million years. But I never do.

So there we go. Something that I thought was a good idea is now turning into a painful experience.

At another child’s birthday party yesterday, as everyone was getting ready to leave, I noticed my daughter chatting to the entertainer.

- What were you saying to Auntie Julie? – I asked her in the car.
- I invited her to my birthday party!- she replied excitedly.

Next year I am going back to the big hall option. And inviting everyone who is still friends with me.