Thursday, 30 July 2009

Suburban midlife crisis

I was in my favourite place yesterday morning- my bed, just waking up slowly and lazily, when I heard noises outside. Bang!- went my front gate. Brrrrroom!-rolled the wheels on my bin. The bin men were here. And everything inside me jerked from relaxed and sleepy straight into stressed and annoyed.

I forgot about the ***** recycling day. Again!

Not only it is frustrating that after 4 years of living in this house, I still manage to forget about the bin Wednesdays; I am also painfully aware that allowing myself to get upset about bins is pathetic. It probably is a sign of a suburban midlife crisis for a woman.

I appreciate how this must sound. But recycling is my Enemy No 1 in this country.

We are given three little boxes. One of them is black and the other two are green. Each has a label with what has to be included in that particular box. (The label is a brief description only, please refer to the complete listing to check what is acceptable in each box.)

Box 1:- Newspapers, cards and other papers (but no envelopes or cardboard!)
Box 2- Plastic food bottles and cans only
Box 3- Glass bottles only.

In addition to the three little boxes, we have one large brown wheelie bin, which is for our food and garden waste. It took me over a year to memorize what goes where, and another year to ensure I get the right boxes ready each week. Because they take turns, of course. One week it is the large brown bin, and next week- the three little boxes.

Lying in bed, thinking about the bins, I suddenly remembered there was someone else in this house who could be blamed for missing the bin Wednesday. I turned my head to glance at my husband. His face looked peaceful. He was deeply asleep, unconcerned about the bins, probably dreaming of his marketing strategies.

And I thought:

Why can’t I think more like a man? When it comes to some other aspects of life, I actually do. But not when it comes to bin days, recycling and paperwork.

Because, paperwork in this country is my

Enemy No 2

I think it is ironic that the country so obsessed with being green produces such enormous amount of pointless paperwork. When I think of post back home, I go back to my teenage years when receiving mail was an enjoyable experience. It was all about newspapers that smelled of fresh print, glossy magazines and letters. Every morning I would rush down the stone steps to the 1st floor, where rows of old metal post boxes were lined up on the wall. My heart beating with excitement, I would peek through the little holes on the box with our flat number, hoping to see something inside. I would poke at it through the hole, trying to guess what it was, and only then take the padlock of the door to retrieve my treasure. The special days when I received a couple of letters from my pen pals, as well as one of my favourite magazines would feel like Christmas.

And now, post is my nightmare. I feel they are trying to bury us alive with bills, notices, letters from charities asking for more money or from politicians- asking for our votes, bank statements, marketing ploys and tax notices. There is no end.

Husband is coping with his lot by ignoring it as long as he can. The pile is dangerously approaching the ceiling, and I face the choice of either nagging him or ignoring it myself, only hiding it in the cupboard when visitors arrive.

But, after 9 year of marriage, I am beginning to realize nagging would not help. Husbands are funny animals. They seem to have different thresholds of tolerance when it comes to dust, recycling and paperwork. Please do not tell me yours is any different. It would be like telling me you have sex 4 times a week after 10 years of marriage. Come on, who are you kidding?

Next time, I am marrying a woman.

Monday, 27 July 2009

"There is probably no God..."


"There is probably no God, so stop worrying and enjoy your life"
Richard Dawkins


I received an email from a girl I knew back in Baku. A young and pretty girl. A few years ago she illegally immigrated to the states. Last time I saw her she wore tight clothes and talked about a potential marriage to an investment banker. I have not heard from her for a few months.

And then, out of the blue, this email arrived.

At first, I thought it was some weird joke that I just did not get. I emailed her back, politely asking what that was.

It is a poem,- she replied.

She told me she writes poems these days, because they describe the changes in her life so beautifully.

There are two things I found disturbing in this situation:

a) that she believed this could be called a poem;
b) the content.

One day, it stated, she received a letter from a poor African boy. He told her about John’s Passage 3:16. She opened the Holy Bible to check what it was about, and…

Oh, miracle! The book opened right on the very same page!

The poem then described how she was shaking with excitement and happiness. And was telling me I could be just as happy if only I could open my eyes, and heart. I wish I knew her parents address: it felt appropriate to express my condolences.

There are at least four churches in our little commuter village. The one on the hill is famous for the very good school attached to it. The admission requirements are very strict. Your child has no chance of getting in unless you worship in that particular church at least three times a week.

As a Soviet girl, I never thought much about it. We were told "Religion is the opiate of the people".
My parents came from the generations of atheists, and would celebrate the holidays and say Inshallah; but out of habit rather than with the real meaning behind it.

To me, religion is a cultural thing: holidays, presents, stunning cathedrals to visit on my trips abroad and the lovely smell of church candles. And I loved it when my child took part in the Nativity play at her pre-school.

"Come, come, come to the Bethletham!"
- she sang in her sweet little voice, her eyes fixed on the teacher miming in the corner. Cute. When you are three.

And suddenly, I live in an area where almost every other person has an imaginary friend they like to visit on weekends.

I guess, there is nothing wrong with religion as such. Hypothetically, all religions in this world teach us to be good. And there is nothing bad about being good, is there?

I understand some of the reasons. For a lot of people here it seems to be about the social interaction, a bit like joining a club. ( Also, helps if you want to get your child in that church school)

Besides, it is pretty depressing to think there is nothing beyond this life. All the effort to survive and achieve something-for what?

So, I can imagine it must be comforting to believe there is some reason or meaning to it all. Or, at the very least, that there is a bunch of angels (or virgins) waiting for you on the other side. I respect that.

And yet, the extreme cases scare me. I get uncomfortable and want to run away.

And until I moved here, that is precisely what I did. All my life I managed to step gently around the religion, without falling in. Some of the best English lessons were taught by the native speakers, and I attended classes at the American Bible school, as well as the Bahai centre. The Bahai invited us to visit them at home, where they sang beautiful songs and served sweets with tea. I liked them, but I could never join them. And my closest encounter with a mosque in Baku was sitting across the road in the very early hours of the morning, (while all those horny Azeri males still snored peacefully in their beds) so I could paint it without getting harassed.

And now, in this lovely English suburb, religion is everywhere I look. Toddler groups at the churches, school Nativity plays and baby christenings to attend … I suddenly realized something that would have been obvious, should I have paid more attention- There is actually a lot of religion in this country. I hear there is even more in the states. I also hear, there has been a lot more back home, since I left. Is the world becoming more religious, or was I just blind before?

A nice Kazakh girlfriend invited me and my druggie friend for lunch.

She cooked a fantastic Kazakh plov, and we sat around the table, chatting away, relaxed and full of food.

And then she said that demons almost killed her the other night.

- Pardon?

-Yes..-she continued calmly, picking at her fruit- I saw them. They sat on my chest and tried to smother me.

I did not know how to react. It was unfair: I did not see it coming. I did not know she was going to talk about demons. What do you do? Do you laugh and make a joke? Do you nod sympathetically, glancing at your watch?

As I sat there in shock, my druggie friend finished rolling her joint, and lit it up:

- Honey, - she said- That’s just fucked up.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Back in time or 1875 Medieval sh*t


This week, I have sunk really low in husband’s eyes.

I engaged in an old Chinese therapy, and kept telling everyone around me, people who actually live in this century, just how enjoyable that was.

My mother brought a set of banki for me. Banki, or suction cups, have been used in Azerbaijan for years to detoxify and de-stress Azeri bodies. Looooovely stuff. Really, it is just like a very strong back massage.

Back in my childhood days, we used them in a proper, traditional way: with cotton wool on a stick, some spirit, and fire. The hot glass then sucks on to your back, leaving lovely dark circles. And the darker are the circles, the more effective the procedure was meant to be.

Nowadays, cupping got somewhat more sophisticated, and my mother did not bring the old thick glass cups. (they are probably getting dusty on top of the old wardrobe in my Baku flat)

Instead, she produced an elegant little box with a cute semi-naked Chinese girl on the cover, smiling invitingly over her shoulder.

Wink-wink. Relax and enjoy, she seems to say. Look at me- she says- how gorgeous is that?

Inside, there were plastic cups of various sizes, with little green valves on top, and a pump. I am more keen on these plastic cups, without the whole cotton wool on fire ritual. Yet, the result is just as disgusting, and my back is now covered in bruises that look like giant squid love bites.

Husband is disapointed. F**** medieval, 1875 witchcraft b****cks, he says.

-He-he-he- I reply, and nod, and retire to my mother’s room for some more Chinese torture. Because, it feels good.

Oh, and Gwyneth Paltrow thinks it is worth a lot of money, and does not feel embarrassed to show it off at a film premiere, so why should I?
Just because something is old does not mean it is dangerous for you. Would not use it on my child though.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

The old age is here...


The other day we sat outside our little village café, basking in the glorious summer sunshine and sipping ice coffee when a young girl walked by, in a very short skirt.
I would not even call it a skirt, but I am trying to be nice.

I looked (shades on, of course) and might have made a comment about teenagers these days.

Husband asked if I was planning to wear a burka next, the way I was turning so conservative.

-You used to wear short skirts!- he exclaimed. I of course, laughed it off. However, have been thinking about the changes in my personality. Am I indeed, becoming more conservative? Is it the suburban life? Is it becoming a mother? Or is it what I suspect it really is: am I just getting old?

Because he is right, husband of mine. I did wear short skirts. I proudly strode into his life: high heels, rottweiler on the lead, trendy short hair messed up, cigarette in my hand.

And now I am sitting in a café, glaring at teenage girls in micro skirts and fishnet stockings, worrying if in ten years time my little girl will be parading around looking like a cheap tart.

You don’t realize when it happens. It sneaks up on you while you are busy washing up or having a baby. You spend a fortune on expensive eye creams to fight early wrinkles, but it is the way you look at teenage girls that turns you into a grown up.

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Huge breasts and other marketing tools


You know how I said in my previous posting that I was a terrible, terrible wife?
Well, I take it back. I am actually a lovely wife. Tolerant, supportive and understanding. It is my husband who is just terrible!

Honestly. I wonder if an English wife would put up with what I have put up with!

He says he is doing it for us. To secure some future, blah-blah. So, besides his consultancy work, he needs something else: his own business that would generate some additional income, he says. Fair enough. He picks his off-roading hobby, and decides it would be a good idea to design his dream vehicle and then start selling some of those.

As an Azeri woman, I would prefer if he took up something more stylish say, Ferrari. The whole off-roading thing is just not my cup of tea.

Part of the whole trying to sell the cars thing involves taking part in shows and competitions. This weekend was important; something he has spent the last few months getting ready for. A big off-roading car show. For which he of course, got some marketing bits: sponsor drinks, you know… fake tattoos for kids, some beer and even a cool musician friend, who agreed to hang about and play a guitar.

But great minds don't stop at the usual, boring lot. Husband decided to do it properly. Like his off-roading Gods in the states would. So he hired some models. ( I want to say tottie, but it is an offensive term, isn't it? so let's call them models)

£115 quid per day. Two of them. Size 30F or thereabouts.

Imagine the excitement! The discussions with envious mates, who were not fortunate enough to have a start-up that justifies such marketing strategy!

I was not sure, to be honest, whether I wanted to attend the show (about 2 hrs away) and witness two artificially enhanced girls drape themselves over (hopefully only) our car. But being the supportive wife that I am, I made myself look the best I could, packed the child and mother in my Skoda, and took off to check on our hmm… situation.

-Oh,- said one of them, when she saw me appear- I am nervous now, the wife is here!
-So you should!- I replied.

The ‘girl’ turned out a lot older than on the photo I had seen before, but friendly and quite happy to just stand at the car, looking silly and cheerful with her huge melons in a white bikini top.

The other one, however, was not prepared to do any work. She sat under the gazebo, constantly texting someone, with a pretty miserable face on. She only got up once when I asked to take a photo with them (as you do)

The way she kept drawing the shirt over her chest would make you think she got there by accident. She appeared uncomfortable and annoyed with everyone looking at her.

And that’s when I realized that I actually would make a pretty good Madam.

I reckon I probably ran a brothel in the previous life. Because what I was most annoyed about today was not the fact that my husband was admiring some huge breasts. I was pretty pissed off about the fact that this girl was not working for the money we paid her. I mean, she was not paid to sit around, looking demure. I can do that pretty well myself, thank you very much. She was not paid to cover her impressive chest with our company shirt as if she was some Azeri virgin.
Come on, I felt like saying, take off that shirt and go to that car, and smile for a change, and make us feel like you were worth that £115 per day! (Plus lunch and beer.)

But I said nothing. I just chatted to them, had a drink, discussed the weather and left them to it. I do hope the blond one takes that shirt off at some point though, otherwise husband will get in trouble.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Boiled cow feet, sir?


I am a terrible, terrible wife.

We all have our dirty little pleasures. Some people have sex with goats.
I watch Eastenders. And I love my occasional copy of the Russian Cosmo my mother brings when she comes over.

And every time, I swear: every single time it has some article that would slot right into my life in its current stage. Spooooky.

This time, I read a piece about becoming lazy in relationship, and how this woman’s husband did not even notice she was sporting a fake moustache one night.
So, the article claimed you know you got too lazy if you don’t remember what town your husband has just been away for work to.

F***!- I thought- Was it Leeds? Was it Nottingham?

(Have actually checked with him, and it was Chel-ms-ford. I mean, how would anyone expect me to remember that word? I am foreign, after all. All English towns sound pretty much the same to me.)

And, as if that was not bad enough, I was also convinced he was not back till tomorrow night. If I had known he was coming back today, I would have prepared, you know- cancelled all the lovers coming over; but more importantly, I would have planned a different dinner, and warned my mother to hide some stuff.

Husband loves Azeri dishes. Most of them. Not the fried burgers (kotletas) we planned for tonight. Neither does he appreciate some very peculiar things my mother arranges around the kitchen. For instance, she might decide to prepare her own pickled red cabbage. It smells as if someone with a digestive disorder died in our house about a month ago. Our freezer is packed with imported wine leaves and occasionally, we find trays with drying mint all over the kitchen.

What’s that?- husband pointed to a complicated arrangement of pots and towels in the corner of the kitchen worktop. I explained that my mother was busy turning the full fat milk into a natural yogurt, or motsoni.

According to her, the yogurt they sell in the UK is not good enough, as it is packed with chemicals. And my mother is determined to feed me the most natural yogurt possible. She believes my blotchy body needs cleansing and detoxifying. I am being very patient about the whole thing, because I know it could be a lot worse. She could be insisting on colonic irrigation.

We also are not very traditional Azeries. Husband has to be grateful for that. We could be cooking Khash in our English kitchen. Khash is a national dish that Azeries (mainly men) traditionally consume early in the mornings, with some vodka. You need vodka to be able to enjoy boiled cows feet. The below the knee parts (including hooves) get placed in a large pan of cold water and left simmering over night. Russians enjoy theirs in a form of a chilled jelly (Holodets).

But hold on, before you think Azeries are weird, what about some other national dishes? Don’t they bury fish in Iceland before they eat it?
Kazakhs eat horses, Koreans- dogs, and my mother in law…. Well, my mother in law likes to make soup.

To be precise, a second-hand soup. Only very poor people would do something like that back home. When there is a war.
Because, to an Azeri, using a carcass of an already once cooked chicken would be like announcing to the world we could not afford a fresh meal.

Brits, however, happily use the left-over bones from their roast chicken dinner to make a soup. My mother in law takes it a step further, and adds anything else that I was not quick enough to bin. I had been pretty good about it until one day, she chucked in the left-over chips from fish & chips dinner the night before.

As I said, I am a terrible, terrible wife. And a daughter in law.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

2009 Kindness of Strangers Tour- Introducing Mike Harling


One day a few months ago, a new follower showed up on my blog. Having glanced into his profile I noticed this guy was a writer. Wow, I thought to myself, how cool is that, a real writer is following my blog! So, I sent him an email. That’s how I got to know Mike Harling.
It is one of those virtual friendships I began via blogging that I value a great deal.
So, when Mike asked if anyone wanted to host his Kindness of Strangers Tour, I did not hesitate for a second. It is a pleasure to be hosting Mike on my blog. He has been supportive and encouraging, always happy to give advice when I needed it, and share his experience of becoming a writer in the UK.

So….
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you…

Michael Harling,
the author of
“Postcards From Across the Pond – dispatches from an accidental expat”

*************
Life in the London 'burbs
Back on home turf, sort of. I live not far from London and attend there frequently, but today I am visiting Scary Azeri and her Not So Scary British husband out in the suburbs. (Scary, by the way, is not really scary; she’s a lovely woman who kindly invited me to guest post on her blog.)

The suburbs Scary and Not So Scary live in are—to make an American comparison—somewhat short of the Hamptons on Long Island but a step or two above Hoboken, New Jersey, which is to say the area is nice enough without being pretentiously posh. That’s the most information I can offer without risking giving away their secret location.

As with other stops, my hosts were going to take me on a tour of the local amenities (pubs) but with me being such a famous author and all, we didn’t want to risk anyone spotting me with them and, thereby, “outing” her. So we’re staying indoors, drinking a popular Azerbaijanian drink (you’d call it “Budweiser”), eating a lot of yogurt-based foods and playing Parcheesi, which Not So Scary calls “Ludo” and Scary calls “something I’ve never heard of before.”

This has been quite a treat for me—I’ve never met anyone from Azerbaijan. In fact, the first time I heard of it was in the 2007 EuroVision Song Contest, and even then I had to go to a map to find it. Hint: it is not—as the aforementioned contest inclusion would have you believe—in Europe. I was a little confused by this but after checking the Official EuroVision Song Contest Website I found the codicil that allows countries like Israel and Azerbaijan to join in while still keeping the Americans out. (I don’t know why, you’d think at least the British would be in favour of including a country that people hated more than them.)

I’m visiting Scary, and posting on her very fine blog, in order to pimp my book, “Postcards From Across the Pond – dispatches from an accidental expat,” which chronicles my misadventures in coming to terms with my new country. In July of 2001 I was a contented, second-generation Republican bachelor living in a nice apartment in the suburbs of Albany, New York. Six months later I was married and living in Sussex. You wouldn’t think there would be many differences between the US and the UK (well, I didn’t, at any rate) but there were many. So I wrote about them and published them in a book. It’s really funny and you ought to buy it. There, sales pitch over.

Scary is a kindred spirit—someone who married a Brit and ended up in this quirky but endearing country. If an American found so many humorous differences in the culture, I’m sure an Azeri would have no trouble, so maybe you’ll be treated to a “Postcards From Across the Caspian Sea” book in the near future.

I need to sign off now, they just passed the dice to me and I’m still trying to get my last man into home base.


Would you like to participate in the
2009 KINDNESS of STRANGERS TOUR?
Visit the Tour Page to sign up or to view the latest Tour updates.

Michael Harling is the author of
“Postcards From Across the Pond – dispatches from an accidental expat”

“Laugh out loud funny regardless of which side of the pond you call home. Bill Bryson move over, there’s a new American expat in town with a keen sense of humor.”
-- Jeff Yeager, author of “The Ultimate Cheapskate”

Buy the Book: http://www.lindenwald.com/booksale.htm

Follow the Tour: http://www.lindenwald.com/thetour.htm

Visit the Home Page: http://postcardsfromacrossthepond.blogspot.com/



Friday, 10 July 2009

Scary or Scared? My first interview...

Check it out! Global Voices interviewed Scary Azeri this morning. Not sure who was scared of whom, to be honest. And what's up with that stupid laugh? Oh, well.
Enjoy!


Scary Azeri's interview on Global Voices

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

The carb OD



Forgive me, my dear readers for I have sinned.

In my head I am slim and sophisticated, in control of my animal instincts. In my head, I don’t eat carbs. In my head, I don’t act like I am a germemish. (Azeri for somebody who had never seen anything in life, you know)

I have to explain that I was supposed to be on holiday this week. I took some days off to enjoy the peaceful company of my mother and daughter, speaking some Russian, eating some tasty Azeri dishes…You know. The kind of stuff a Scary Azeri might be looking forward to, while her English husband is working away.

Unfortunately (1), management wants me to be in charge of Quality. Management thinks it is funny, since I have an MBA.

Despite having never had any problem with bullshit subjects in business school, such as (no offense) HR or Marketing, I have to admit I find the whole quality thing absolutely soul-destroying.
I am not going to even try to explain to you what it is.
Firstly, I would have to understand it well enough to explain it. But more importantly, it would be cruel and unfair.

Unfortunately (2) this very important Matrix system training was scheduled for today. And management made it pretty clear that I should attend, since I was (theoretically) in charge. So I came in for that.

Oh, it was bad. From 9am till 1pm I sat there, watching a consultant with a very bad hay fever (She’d say it was a hay fever, wouldn’t she?) open and close her glossy lips.

I don’t remember much, except for checking email on my phone, occasionally thinking- I know that already! Just tell me what the hell this new Matrix system is!

Suddenly, I heard something I could actually understand. She announced she was going to wrap up soon, as sandwiches now arrived.


Sandwiches?

These days, I try not to eat bread. In fact, I try to eat very little carbs. Carbs are pure evil, according to Dr. Atkins and celebrities. And even my sceptical husband discovered the diet works when he himself dropped off over a stone in two weeks.
So I did not need to hear the word sandwiches when both my body and soul had already been weakened by the experience of Matrix training.

The last time I felt this hungry and exhausted was after I had given birth almost 4 years ago. That morning, sitting on my hospital bed, I kept eating like a horse.

And that’s what happened to me today.

Our (male) admin assistant, who sat next to me, had about 4 of those fresh and soft triangles. I had 7. That is seven in case you think it was a typo.

It was like I was taking revenge for my wasted life. For the 4 hours I could have spent actually living it. I wanted them to pay for my agony.

I poured a cup of coffee but noticed a camomile teabag that looked good, so I pocketed that for later. I grabbed a couple of chocolates (Quality Street, of course! Isn’t that sweet?)

And a bag of Doritos.

I did not care what my colleagues thought of me, as they watched me go on a rampage.

They probably figured we don’t get fed at our training courses back in Azerbaijan. (Do we even have training courses in Azerbaijan?) They must have thought Azeries have no manners. And I bet some of them thought I was a ladyboy, because no woman of my size can possibly eat this much.

The skinny admin assistant laughed nervously, while delicately chewing on his 4th sandwich. And I went back for more orange juice (packed with carbs…). I forgot how good it tastes. I had 4 little plastic cupfuls.

What a day! On my way out I glanced around the room and grabbed a banana.
Tomorrow- gym.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

My life as a Dog ( by Azeri Rottweiler)


I was born on a rainy October morning, in a small flat with 4 humans, 4 brothers and 2 sisters, and my mother. I don’t remember my real mom that well, apart from the fact that she barked an awful lot. I had never met my father, but everyone kept saying I looked just like him, and he was enormous. According to humans, he was the biggest Rottie in Baku. He was originally from Moscow and was a famous breeder in town. ( I am somewhat jealous of his life dedicated to having sex with different bitches. Ahh…. I bet that’s what my life would have been if my human mummy had not married a woofing Englishman! )

I remember the day my new, human mummy showed up. She had a long raincoat on, and as she carried me outside, she hid me inside it to protect from the bitter October wind. I was very little then. These days, she can barely lift my head on her lap.

Not many other Azeri dogs can boast changing their world from Azerbaijan to the UK
Now that I am an old and lazy dude, I lie in my large bed in my English home, and think about my life. I know I am supposed to be guarding the house. But the other day, when the chavvy youth chucked some sand through the window, I was busy having my dinner and did not even hear anything.

Mummy said:- So much for the scary Rottweiler, you lazy svoloch. I know she still loves me.

In Baku, I lived in a large flat on the 5th floor. We had a lot of parks around us. The one I loved the most is no longer a public park as it got given to the Turkish embassy. It is a shame, really because poor humans from the nearby slums use to love the park’s shady trees- their only refuge from the merciless summer sun.

Some nights, I heard street dogs hunted and shot by the special dog destroying squad. Sometimes they shot them right there, on empty night streets, sometimes they caught them alive, and their cries would scare me. I did not personally know any street boys- I was not allowed to socialize with them. But still, the dying cry broke my heart. Those nights, I would come very close to mummy’s bed and she would rest her heavy, sleepy hand on my head to comfort me. I knew I was safe then.

When I was just under a year old, I annoyed a very large Great Dane. The dude was tough. He used to fight for money in illegal dog fights. I was young and naive, so I might have thought it was a good idea to hump his leg. It was a bit like trying to hump Mike Tyson. It did not go down well. Since then, I knew some dogs can kill you.

And then, mummy met her future husband. I liked him straight away, and he adored me. In fact, I always suspected he just really wanted to own an impressive Rottie like me, and marrying my mother seemed like a fair deal.

They moved away and I had a year with my granny. I fought a lot of Azeri dogs in that year. Azeri dogs fight. Not just in illegal clubs. We fight because we like it. It is our way of life. A bit of fight, a bit of humping, food and sniffing around bushes. That’s what a dog’s life should be.

After a year, I was put in a big box and flown to the UK. My new life in England was hard at first. I stayed in a long and narrow room and they never let me out. Mummy and daddy used to visit me once a week, and they looked pretty sad. I wanted them to take me home and could not understand why they did not.
It was pretty awful, except for the fun I had from jumping up the wire mesh door and barking at every visitor walking past my cage. Seeing them wipe my spit off their faces made my day. I am a big dog and I jump pretty high.

One day, after unjustified 6 months of prison, I was allowed to come home.
And there was a forest. I had never seen a forest in my life. It smelled of mushrooms, foxes, dear and autumn leaves.

My new home was good too. There was more to guard. It had more space but a very annoying arrangement where I had to climb up the stairs to go to the bedroom.

And that is my new life. I enjoy it over all. Except for, between you and me, it is a bit like one of those Certificate U movies, you know?- with no sex or violence. And who would want to star in a movie like that?

I am not allowed to fight any dogs here, and apparently, can't really have any casual sex either. I would have to be in the whole serious breeding game in order to get laid. That bit sucks big time.

My daddy has a wicked sense of humor. He decided since I was not going to breed properly, I did not need my balls. Out of all possible days to have me fixed, he chose Valentine’s. I still love him , because he walks me every morning. I miss my nuts though. I don’t remember why.

And mummy…Mummy barely has time for me these days.

When she was pregnant, she sat on the floor with me, hugged me and tickled me behind my floppy ears. She would lean down and whisper that she would always love me, even when the baby comes. And I know she does, really. Even though she gets annoyed with me a lot more these days. She says there is too much mess, and too much hair everywhere. She tells me off a lot more. I know she is just tired, because this annoying child is just too much work.

But you know how I know she still loves me?

The other night, I woke up shaking with fear. I know I am old and ugly enough to know better. But it is my animal instinct. I can’t do anything about it- I am terrified of thunderstorms. And that night, it was pretty scary. The sky cracked open with an awfully loud noise. I stood up and wanted to hide but did not know where. Daddy just wanted to sleep. He told me off, and I got back to my bed. But I was too scared. And then I heard mummy call me. I went around to her side of the bed. I was trembling with fear and she told me I was an old idiot, but she put her hand on my head, just like she always does, and kept it there the whole time, tickling me behind my ear, just like I like it.

And I knew she was there for me, even though it was 4 am and she really wanted to sleep. Because that’s what mummies do when they love you.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Blotchy body, or why I wish I were a vegetarian Jew..

The other day after a shower, I suddenly noticed some suspicious rash on my body. I tilted the little mirror in the bathroom, and looked properly. There were some very we-e-ird looking circles under my left breast.
I really did not want to think it was because the weather was too hot and I was too fat, or my breasts got too saggy. I was much keener for it to be some other, more respectable disease.

Having sat my husband (an ex-doctor) in a bright sunlight, I asked him if it was a sign of skin cancer, or just because I was fat with saggy breasts. Husband said he was not even going to dignify the skin cancer question by answering it, and (repeatedly) that Azeries just love to imagine the worst. However, suggested I saw the GP.

Due to lack of any appointments this week, I went along to see the urgent clinic nurse.
Hmm?...- she said, and reached for a book with pictures. I don’t like it when they have to look in a book: it really does not fill me with confidence.

She told me it might be ring worm (what?!!!) and I should not worry, but slap this cream on three times a day.

In the morning, the rash continued to spread- now all over my back. I decided I was worried after all, and went back to the surgery, this time having managed to see a GP.

Oh, no, no, no!- he said excitedly- it is not anything like that!- It is a condition called Erythema Multiforme. Don’t worry,- he said- it is not contagious, is very mild, and there is nothing you can do about it, just wait.

But why? -I asked - Is it because I am fat? Old? Dying of cancer?

He said: nobody knows. But the good news was, only young people get it, he said, glancing at his computer screen to check my age. Probably caused by some virus and it has to do with weakened immune system.

So, my immune system is weak.

But why? What have I been doing to it?

A friend of mine is a vegetarian Jew. (I just like the way it sounds)

First of all, she insists that we were all meant to be vegetarians.
She also (perfect timing, as usual) sent me an article which claims that vegetarians live longer, and don’t get cancer as often as the rest of us. So I am just sitting here now, waiting for some form of cancer to knock on my (blotchy) door.

On the other hand, she said, it was probably because I was stressed.

Which made me wonder: Am I stressed? If so, why?

I live in a gorgeous place- a perfect mix of countryside and town living. I work part time and don’t have a lot of stressful deadlines. My child, dog and husband don’t annoy me too often. I thought, perhaps it was not the fact that I live a stressful life as such, but more to do with my utter inability to relax these days.

The last time I felt properly relaxed was a few years ago. I was still childless, and went back to Baku for a break. It was summer, and my cousin took me to her dacha. (Dacha is a must-have for successful Baku people. It is normally a sea-side summer villa) I was not sure about it to start with, as it meant three days away from civilization and the friends I came to see in Baku.

But, surrounded by my mom, both cousins, their kids and the housekeeper, I suddenly felt incredibly relaxed. Sitting there on the veranda, sipping chai and stuffing my face with cherries, I was amazed at how slow the pace of life can be somewhere like that. It took me a little while to unwind and stop panicking that I had to be doing something, or be somewhere to get the most of my break (like go to the beach and get tanned while I had a chance).

But then I decided that sometimes, all you need is your family, a big bowl of cherries, a dinner cooked by a smiley housekeeper and a light summer breeze in your hair. To take your foot of the gas, just for a while and unwind.

So what I was thinking this morning was, if only I could teleport my blotchy body to that place and time right now, instead of sitting in a stuffy hot office under a pathetic fan, I would quickly get my immune system back to normal.

And since that is impossible.... well, I will just have to have a Chinese take-away my husband is treating me to, a bottle of cold white wine and a pedicure tomorrow. Not quite the same, but I am hoping it will help.