Sunday, 30 August 2009

Born to sell?


Is the Pope catholic?

Are the Kennedy's gun shy?

Does a bear sh*** in the woods?

Do Azeries enjoy selling?


Oh, yes.

I totally enjoyed the car boot sale today. The thrill of selling some really silly things is only second to buying some really silly things.

My mother said I was getting ready as if I were a soldier going to war. But I was nervous, you know. I am not really a sales person. I had never sat there in front of people, selling stuff. I heard you arrive early in the morning, and professional traders loom over you, rummaging in your boxes, intimidating and confusing you into giving things away for nothing.

However, I had an overwhelming desire to de-clutter. And, once I decided to get rid of the endless amount of useless stuff tucked away in all the dark corners of my house, nothing could stop me. My eyes constantly swept around, analyzing and evaluating.

“No!”- Husband said occasionally, catching me staring at yet another piece of junk he has kept for years. I found things I forgot we had. I found things that were just some really tasteless presents or pointless purchases, old baby toys that would not fit in the attic and… some very unfortunate paintings from back home.

Yes, I am embarrassed I ever purchased those. I know I am supposed to have some understanding of art, having spent 6 years studying architecture. It is just like enjoying Twilight- you know it is bad, but can’t stop. My only excuse is that I had purchased those whilst pregnant in Baku, my mind overpowered by hormones. I thought they were beautiful.

So I packed everything in boxes, prepared extra change and a pasting table, and was there at 7am today.

People who come to car boot sales are so fascinating. There was a punk who wanted to buy husband’s old camera. There was a very fat tattooed man who bought the Kazakh sleepers. There was an old lady who was after some cheap old jewelery. A very artistic young man was thrilled about my old sofa throw for £1. I made so many people happy, and returned with decent cash earned from something I was ready to throw away. People buy some really weird stuff. I sold an opened bottle of bath soak and some very tacky tablecloths given to me by Azeri relatives when I got married.
I can almost hear my house sigh with relief.

But my paintings….

My lovely fake Renoir, and the peaceful scenes of the Azeri countryside came back home with me. Maybe I was not ready to let them go. Maybe the fake Renoir with a crooked vase reminds me of the happy days when I was expecting my baby girl. And perhaps, I just need that little bit of Azeri countryside in my English home. I decided to re-frame them and hang them up anyway. (Husband does not know yet.)

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Donny Darko? No, just a large-arsed bunny.



As a child, I never liked children’s theatre.

Even adult plays were pretty poor back home. Every time I went to watch another play, I felt almost nauseous with pity. I was embarrassed to look at those actors, who tried so hard and yet appeared provincial and amateur. I was fortunate to have had a film director relative in Moscow, who always managed to get us free tickets to some of the best plays staged in Taganka in Moscow. I knew what the theatre could be like.

My most vivid memory of the children’s theatre back home is a bunny with a ginormous arse.

- Why is that fat woman pretending to be a bunny, mummy?- asked a very young Scary Azeri.
- It is called acting- my mother explained.

Many years from then, in a country far away, I thought it was time to introduce my daughter to some culture.

We, ex-Soviets, are obsessed with cultural stuff. We spend hours in museums and theatres, whether we enjoy it or not. We just think we have to enjoy it to be considered a “cultural person”. It is a very Russian thing. And a lot of “Russianized”Azeries are not immune to that, either.

"This is why I live so close to London"- I told myself.

What could a three year old enjoy?- I thought - Oh, this one sounds appropriate.

Goldilocks and the Three Bears.

I am not sure what those guys were thinking when they came up with that script. Perhaps, they attempted to please everyone in the audience, including the parents. Perhaps, they were just heavily intoxicated.

Let me tell you the Goldilocks story, version 2009, reflecting all the current issues in the UK. It is quite fascinating, honest.

So, you all know the basic Goldilocks story.

NB: For my back home readers- the nicked version ( just like we watched Buratino, unashamedly stolen from Pinocchio and never had a clue) is “Mashenka and the Three Bears”.

But this was a modern, or arty-shmarty interpretation.

There were two circuses, one was a family run business (good guys) and another -their competition (the bad guy)

The good guys struggled in the current recession climate, especially with the competition from the bad guy. He dared to follow them around and steal their potential audience. No idea how he managed that: the good guys had a competitive advantage in the face of a large-breasted Goldilocks with a dangerously revealing cleavage. (At least the fathers in the audience had some fun.)

Besides Goldilocks, there was her daddy-the circus owner, as well as a tall and skinny bloke- the story teller, who was so hypnotised by Goldilocks’ assets, that he was ready to propose to her.

You are probably thinking: "OK, where are the bears then?" Well, the bears lived in a forest nearby. They were very talented and could dance and sing beautifully. So, Goldilocks (the moral here: she had some brains and not just big breasts to get ahead in this life) came up with an idea to talk the bears into coming to work for their circus. Clearly, nobody could compete with singing and dancing breasts....Oops, sorry! bears.

Unfortunately, the evil guy over-heard their discussions, and went ahead to trick the bears. He chained them down, and wanted to force the poor animals to perform at his circus.

As they said in Alien vs Predator: “Whoever wins- we lose”. Poor bears did not have any choice in that game. They could either fall in love with the Goldilocks and her breasts and agree to work for her circus; or just get forced to do the same by the evil man. I personally thought the only happy ending for the poor bears would be to tell both parties to f*** off and leave them in peace.

But of course, in the end it was Goldilocks, who got the best deal: the bears, as well as a marriage proposal from the annoying story-telling guy. Happy ending.

Most of the kids left well before the end. The adult humor, the bizarre costumes, the cleavage….it all got a bit too much for the young audience. My child stayed till the end. I am concerned she will need therapy in a few years. But hey, this is modern theatre. I probably just did not get it.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

No Hally Berry

Tonight, husband is watching Domino with Kiera Knigtley. There are a few actresses I hate with passion, and Kiera Knitley is probably No2.
No1 is Helena Bonham Carter. She looks like she could do with a good wash.



I received this email today from a good family friend of ours:

“Boys are allowed to watch Steven Seagal, but not for the reasons you would suspect. It has to do with the fact that he is getting old and has to cover his beer belly with long leather jackets and bowling shirts. It makes all realize that sooner or later we all go to shit.

I do not know if your Azeri upbringing ever included Julia Childs the mother of TV cooking shows. She was larger than life slightly uncoordinated liked to sip her Martini’s and sample wine while cooking but truly a joy to watch. This movie is about Julie a young woman in New York who decides to in 1 year cook every recipe in Julia’s famous cook book “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” and write a blog while doing it.

I actually read your blog some days and find it incredibly funny, just cannot bring myself to respond back on it (crap, would Steven Segal comment on a blog, I think not he would have bad guys to murder while hiding his beer belly).
Anyway the movie was absolutely wonderful and watching her blog develop made me think of you. Keep it up your writing is outstanding and your drawings are wonderful.

From your biggest closet blog reader. “


It made my day.

To be honest, not many of my real life friends or even my husband bother to read what I write here. And I don’t expect them to.

So I feel grateful when someone I consider cool tells me he occasionally reads and enjoys it. He is a grown up, you know. He is clever, successful and funny. I feel flattered and slightly embarrassed at the same time.

And who cares that another good old friend told me I needed an editor for my writing. She asked: “Who told you it was good?” and then, to apologize, emphasized that "the sketching was actually quite nice".

You can never please everybody, can you? Neither do you have to.

Another old friend of mine was once told by her brother that even if she suddenly decided to design and make some hand-crafted exotic wood coffins - there would be people in this world who were looking for that very thing.

So what I wanted to say is… you know, cheers, guys. Yes, you guys. The ones who comment often, and the ones who never say anything at all, because they are too cool, like Steven Seagal. The ones who come back (either openly or secretly: who cares?)

The ones who are supposed to hate me just because I come from Azerbaijan and their country is at war with it, but yet, they have been the most supporting bunch-ever.

The ones who had never before even heard of Azerbaijan, but just enjoy the read anyway.

The fellow Azeries, who laugh with me at the familiar, sometimes forgotten scenes from our past that we all share forever.

I just wanted to say “thank you”, whilst trying not to sound like Hally Berry at the Oscars here. Not just because she was pretty pathetic, but also because let’s face it…I am not Hally Berry and never will be.

Oh, and Hally Berry is my No 3.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Oh, and by the way... NOT a mosque


This is truly embarrassing. We were driving past this (see the photo) beautiful building, and mother said it was a mosque. Are you sure?- I asked- It is too huge somehow? and elaborate? and bang in the middle of Brighton? How would that be possible?

-Sure!- mother said- Look at the minarets! So many!

Got home, told husband that the mosque looked amazing. You can imagine the rest.

So no, this is not a mosque. Not that I would know that, being an architect and all that.

A little adventure.

Very pleased.

I have been planning to take my mother and child to Brighton beach for a long time now.
To you, it might sound like an easy thing to do. To me however, it is a challenging expedition that can potentially go horribly wrong.

First of all, to an Azeri the beach weather is not the one with a bit of sun, partially obscured by heavy clouds and the air temperature of around 18C. If I drive for two hours, I want to get some of that dangeous sun on my pathetically white body, and maybe even have a swim. For two months (since my mother arrived in the UK) I have been keeping an eye on the weather forecast with no luck. BBC guys promise it is going to be hot, only to change their minds the next day. So I had to plan and get prepared at a very short notice. That is a challenge when my child’s social schedule has to be coordinated with my part-time job and other arrangements.

I then spent hours worrying about getting lost on my way and not finding somewhere to park. A friend started to explain that I could actually find plenty of free parking- at the Marina, when husband interrupted the discussion:

– Look, - he said- it is simple. You get on the motorway and follow the signs with‘Brighton’- all the way. You get there and notice something big and blue. Oh, yes- that must be the sea. You then see signs with a large letter P. Not P for Pillock. Not P for Penis. But P for Par-king. So you park there.

(You are probably wondering how come he is still alive and I have not killed him. But it is a British thing, this sarcasm, you see? And my husband is particularly skilled at it. It is not his fault, honestly. His father is the same.)

Azeries are lazy. We don’t like parking far away and then walking.
The next morning, I did drive down to the free parking spot at the Marina, just to realize it is miles away from the civilization, where you can hire parasols and loungers, and buy endless amounts of ice-cream. Needless to say, I chose personal comfort over money and paid for the whole day right near the famous Brighton Pier.

But cutting the long story short, we made it there. And I did not get lost, not even once.

Paranoid of the UK traffic jams, I woke my mother and the child at 6am. We had thought of everything that could possibly go wrong. I took a roll of kitchen towel: in case my child pukes on the way there, or back. I took a change of clothes for her and me- in case she pukes on me. I took some spare disposable contact lenses, as I had once before experienced one-eyed driving and it is not my idea of a fun day out.

But most importantly, we took food. There is something about a picnic on the beach.

As we started to take everything out of the cool bag I'd purchased specifically for the occasion, I became increasingly aware of how Azeri we must have looked.

There was a biker couple next to us. All they had with them were their leather biker boots, a thermos with tea and cigarettes. Behind us, a sophisticated elderly couple read books, and a few young and trendy young people just relaxed, chatting away.

But not us. From my cool bag I produced:

Fresh and pickled Russian cucumbers
Hard boiled eggs
Russian sausage
Turkish white cheese
Crisps & Doritos
Diet cokes
Water
Grapes
Watermelon.

Now, that’s what I call a nice day on the beach.

I bet you were waiting for some punchy ending where something did actually go terribly wrong. But nothing did. It went smoothly and perfectly. As if I knew what I was doing.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Just a latte, please

Guess what? Tonight, husband is watching yet another Steven Seagal movie- "Hard to kill". I have just glanced up and SS was snogging his wife- that was truly repulsive.


This posting is a bit of a rant. I got annoyed this morning.

I have been having a lovely weekend. In fact, looking at my weekend, one might confuse me with someone who actually has a social life. Ha and ha again. I only have a bleak shadow of the social life I used to have back in Baku.

Anyway. So I was out on Friday night at the druggie’s place and that was (understandably) fun. She also invited the Kazakh girl (the demons were on holiday I guess) and we had a good girlie time, with rude talks about things some men would get very upset girls actually do discuss. And yes, it does matter.

We were also out on Saturday night at our friends' place where we got treated to a proper Lebanese dinner. And I was invited to lunch at my Azeri girlfriend’s place today. And I went out for a drink tonight- for my local friend’s birthday. What a weekend! Even I would be contented.

But yet, something annoying just had to happen. Something that reminded me what I dislike about this country.

I woke up nice and late on Saturday morning. I had a child’s birthday party to attend at 1pm and needed to grab some food before that. So, when husband suggested a coffee in a local cafĂ©, I thought “Oh, great. I could have some scrambled eggs and smoked salmon”: my favorite late breakfast on a weekend.

So I want to know-Is that too much to ask for?

Apparently so.

I was too late. In our village, they stop serving breakfast at 11. I was there at 11:15. They would not give me my scrambled eggs.

Tell me,- I said to husband- It is a weekend! Why should they stop serving breakfast so early? On a Saturday morning, shouldn’t people be allowed to have a relaxed lazy brunch?

My most vivid memory of New York is being able to go out any time I wanted and eat anything I wanted- whatever time it was. When, after hours of partying, my Red Haired girlfriend suggested we had a cream cheese bagel at 3am, I thought she had probably had too much to drink and was hallucinating. But we walked to the little bagel shop we used to buy breakfast from, and surely enough, the same guy served us the exact same bagels. Just as fresh, just as delicious. Whether it was at 3 or 11am.

That’s what I hate about the UK. You can’t have a drink after 11pm or go shopping after 7pm-because most of the places close.

-Could I not have a scrambled egg for lunch then?- I asked the young guy at the counter.
-No, sorry- he replied- But I can offer you a jacket potato.

I wanted to tell him where he could shove that jacket potato, but instead, I said:
“Just a latte then, please” and smiled politely.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Once upon a time in a kingdom far, far away....


I thought I would tell you a fairy tale today. An Azeri one.

Once upon a time, there was one king. Well, he was not officially the king, but as far as his power and money were concerned, you might as well call him that. So, for the sake of this blog, lets just refer to him as King. He would not like to be named, and we would not like to annoy him now, would we. He was quite an ordinary old man, not any different to many other old men in the kingdom. However, he was related to the right people. And in that kingdom, being related to the right people was very important if you wanted to be in a position of power.

He was often in a bad mood those days: he did not feel that well. Old age can be mean; whether you are poor or rich. But that morning he was happier than usual. He even announced to his secretary that he might see a few visitors today.

Normally, the reception of his office would be crowded with people. Everyone was prepared to wait for hours, often days- just to have a quiet word with him. He rarely bothered to listen. He was bored. He knew what it would be about: jobs, favours, help…endless cries for help. The King just wanted to go to his summer house and watch the grandchildren play in the sunny garden.

But that morning things looked brighter,somehow. The King had a cup of sweet black tea, and lit a cigarette. He asked who was waiting for him today.
Having heard one name, the King smiled. It was actually someone he knew from years ago. From the days when he was not the rich and powerful king, but worked in a Soviet institute, just like hundreds of others. Alongside him worked a funny guy. He was witty and quite talented at what he did. The King liked the funny guy.

-OK, he said- I will see this one today.

The funny guy was not so funny anymore. He looked old- just like the King- but not as fat and prosperous. He was skinny and tired.

The King felt generous that day. He welcomed the old friend and shook his little wrinkly hand.He assured him he would help. The funny man could not get a proper job for a very, very long time. His Soviet experience was no good in the modern world. His skills were no longer required and his talents wasted.

The funny man was clearly ashamed to be there. He was not very good at asking for help.

-Listen,- The King asked – Just tell me what you fancy doing. Do you want to be in charge of a hotel? Or would you like to manage a restaurant?

-Excuse me?- the little funny man looked confused- But I have no experience in the hotel or restaurant management?...

The King laughed. What a funny old man this guy was! Did he not realize how things worked? In this kingdom, if you are given a job by a King- you do not need any experience.

The King told the little man to go and think about it. Think about what he would really enjoy. Anything at all. And to return the following week.

The funny little man left King’s office feeling elated. He called his wife and told her that he had done really well for once.

“I feel like I’ve just pulled a winning lottery ticket!”- he said excitedly.

That night the funny little man could not sleep. He was thinking of all those possibilities that had suddenly opened up for him. Having this much choice, he was afraid to make the wrong decision. He wished he had thought of visiting his old friend a few years ago. "How different could my life have been!"- he tortured himself.

Next week arrived, and the little man went back to see the King. He wore his best suit and polished his old shoes until they shined like brand new. He was clutching a briefcase filled with photographs of his old works- to show the King. He was very nervous, but full of ideas.

But the King was not in a good mood that week. And the week after. In fact, the little funny man quickly realized that the King forgot about him. What is one little old man to someone this important? The wind blew in a different direction, and the King was busy with other things now.

The little old man went back to his young wife.
“It is OK”- he said to her, avoiding the quiet disapointment in her eyes. –
“As they say, everything that happens, happens for a reason. Maybe this is for the best.”- he said.

The little old man slept well that night. He felt relieved: he was not the type to manage a restaurant or a hotel when he knew nothing about it. He was back in his real world.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

About what is funny. Or not?

David: You know how I know you're gay?
Cal: How? Cause you're gay? And you can tell who other gay people are?
David: You know how I know you're gay?
Cal: How?
David: You like Coldplay.

(The 40 Year Old Virgin)

Tonight, we were watching a movie with William Defoe . After 9 years of being married to a guy, you often know what he might say next. So, husband said:

-I saw him naked on stage! He has an enormous…
- I know- I said- You know how I know? Because you tell me every single time his name appears on the screen. (Somewhat worrying, to be honest..)

So,of course! I wind husband up about being gay. And husband thinks it is funny.

So why the hell are other people so sensitive?

Say, this friend. He was over at our place, we were waiting for dinner, and I offered him a beer. He said he was not ready for one yet, as he wanted to go for a walk (quote) to admire the sunset. That is just a little bit gay, don’t you find? Which is what I said.

Of course, I don’t really think he is gay. I was jo-ki-ng. He is a friend, he knows me. So he should get me, right?

But no, not always.

When it comes to humor, I never know what reaction to expect. A lot of it is about personalities, but in my case, I also blame this cocktail of the two very different cultures in my head.

I can not simply blame Azeri background, because I would sooo not get away with 'you are so gay' joke back home. Or would I? I would not know anymore. I can also, comforted by the ease with which I have assimilated, tell a Russian joke to someone here-just to get a blank stare back: Russian jokes are famously funny only for ex-Soviets. Nobody else gets them.

And of course, I annoy Azeries, too. In fact, I probably annoy them a lot more than I annoy the Brits.

The other day a guy I knew back home posted some very abstract stuff on his Facebook profile. (He is a writer these days)
Something about him walking in a desert, seeing a word and dropping on his knees in a worshiping ecstasy.

Too much drugs!- I commented. Was not even a particularly original joke.

But he told me it was not funny. He rapidly deleted my comment.

So...I joke and no longer know where that joke fits: is it the UK or back in Azerbaijan? Is it going to insult, annoy or get a polite but confused smile back?

Oh, well. I believe I successfully manage to upset both sides.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Private Screening for over 18

So I took my mother to Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince the other night. They were showing it a few times every night, but there was also one special screening for over 18.

I thought perhaps, that meant a full version with spookier effects. Or perhaps, Daniel Radcliffe was going to strip for the ladies again. Who knows? My mother deserves the best. Therefore, should attend that one. Even though it cost more.

Husband, who of course is English, and knows what those guys really mean, warned us not to expect any kinkiness at Hogwards for an extra quid each. It means no kids would be allowed to that particular screening, he explained. So all those sad middle aged fans of Harry Potter could enjoy the movie in peace and quiet.

Mother looked skeptical. I could see she thought she knew better. Mother clearly wanted to go to the ‘over 18’ screening. So I took her.

Of course, I expected it to be empty. I had no idea there would be that many Harry Potter fans of various ages and sizes.

-Look at these weirdos!- I said- They are old! What are they doing, coming to a special screening of Harry Potter?

What about us?- my mother chuckled. Erm....

Moving on.

Just as the film was about to start, a young man walked in and announced loudly:

Ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to the Over the 18 screening of Harry Potter and the Half- Blood Prince! Unfortunately, I personally will not be able to watch it with you, but my colleague- Katy, will. So, should you have any problems, please ask for her help!

Katy smiled reassuringly, and took a seat in the audience.

What sort of help were they expecting us to need? How gruesome was this Harry Potter going to be? Would she be prepared to hold our hands? Would she mind if one of those old chaps buried his face in her generous bosom because he was too afraid of the Death Eaters?

Oh, well. I suppose, this was the UK attempt at a private showing for the masses.

In Baku, I used to be a member of a private film club. It was at the back of the cinema, on the very top, with a glass wall to watch the screen from. Oh, what a decadence that was! Wow. I love decadence. I am an Azeri woman. Let me just tell you about that place. It was a small room, with dimmed lights, with a bar in the corner and comfy leather recliners. It had waitresses in short skirts serving beer, wine and peanuts.

That my friends, is what I call a private screening. Not some girl telling you she is there for you during Harry Potter should you have any problems. I have a problem. Can I have my pound back please?

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Let's talk about sex, baby...


Did I say something wrong?
Oops, I didn't know I couldn't talk about sex
[I musta been crazy]

Human Nature (Madonna)


So here it is, my friends: the topic you have all been waiting for…. SEX! But before you get excited, thinking I am going to turn this blog into an illustrated soft porn site, let me disappoint you. It aint’t gonna happen. Not because I have forgotten what sex is. But because:

a) I have got some style.
b) I am a respectable married suburban lady these days. (Boring, isn’t it?)

So really, I am not going to talk about sex as such. Not today, anyway.

What I wanted to talk about is the lack of talking about it.

In my single days, sex was an important topic of conversation.

At university, my best friend and I fancied two guys we studied with. I still remember mine, and the dark brown leather jacket he was wearing. The way I felt dizzy every time he brushed by to get to his desk.

My girlfriend lusted over his friend, and we would spend hours discussing what we liked about them, how they made us feel, and what we wish we could do to them, should we not have been lacking any sexual experience at the time. Sex was a prevailing topic of our daily discussions. We joked and laughed about it… We argued whether Jack Nicholson in The Postman Always Rings Twice was sexier than Mickey Rourke in 9 ½ weeks… We plotted our adventures and fed our imagination on innuendos and fantasies- most of which never materialized. Hey,it was fun.

In my later, post university single years, I would spend more hours- this time over a glass of Bailey’s and endless Marlboro lights, talking to my Red Haired girlfriend about our sex lives. What, why, who, how…nothing was a taboo.

The RHO visited me last year and, sitting in a London bar somewhere in Soho, over Mojitos and Marlboro lights, I felt I was sort of back in time.

Except, this time she was the only one who was talking.

I am not sure if it is the married life that changed my ability to openly discuss intimate things with my girlfriends, or the cultural influence of where I live. I have a number of girlfriends these days. Most of them are married with children: my mummy friends. And we talk about a lot of things. But we rarely discuss sex.

Sometimes, I am curious. I look into my friends’ faces and wonder: What were you like before you had children, a husband with a good job, and a big house? Before you worried about nappies, Christmas stockings and new curtains? Were you a ‘nice girl’ or a bit slutty? Were you wild? Did you try drugs? Did you ever kiss a girl? In your pre-suburban life, did you talk about sex?

I am curious, but I will never ask.

And yet, there are so many intimate details I know about my new friends. I know how painful their nipples were when they breastfed their babies. How many stitches they had. Their IBS. Their diets. Their waxing habits. Their stretch marks.

And sometimes, they surprise me. We go out, we dress up and wear more make-up, have a few drinks and then, without husbands and children around, I finally notice a cheeky grin and a sparkle in their eyes. And I know they must have a few sexy stories to tell. Maybe one day?

Monday, 3 August 2009

Strawberry fields...never again.

Let me take you down, 'cause I'm going to Strawberry Fields…..

(The Beatles, Strawberry Fields Forever)


My mother had a dream since she first came to visit us in the UK.

She has a few, and this was quite a modest one, really. And it is shocking it took me this long to finally make it come true. All she was asking is to be taken to the strawberry fields. Or, to be precise, Pick Your Own field.

Unfortunately for me, there is one of those places not far from here, and now that my daughter is big enough to enjoy the experience, I could not find any more excuses not to go.

We don’t have Pick Your Own fields in Baku. I did not know what the rules were or what to expect. I took a small bucket along, (just in case) but left it in the car, not to appear like I have just come down from a village up in the mountains, so to speak.

I drove down a narrow lane right to a small caravan with everything clearly marked all over it. Of course, I did not need to bring my own bucket. I was given a couple of small plastic punnets and directed where to go.

-Raspberries: further down on your right, blackberries, gooseberries and blackcurrants are to your left-explained a young and boisterous blond saleswoman.

-There are no more strawberries left though- she added.

I heard my mother sigh behind me.

We moved along endless rows of berry bushes, my child in charge of the punnets. I wonder how many get eaten?- I thought, plucking the fattest, juiciest blackberry and sending it straight into my mouth.

Having filled one punnet, we started walking towards the raspberries.

-Oh, - my mother exclaimed excitedly, bending down in an empty and abandoned looking patch- there are a couple of strawberries left! As she stood there, picking them up and showing them to my toddler, I heard the cheerful saleswoman shout something out across the fields.

She was far enough for me to have mistaken her crocked smile for friendly. I honestly did not see it coming. I did not realize we were doing anything wrong, to be honest.

So I shouted my 'excuse me?' back in a friendly fashion.

-You are supposed to pay for the fruit before you eat it! - She repeated with a sneer, as she kept walking away quickly ( in case I was brave enough to fight her, I guess).

I could not believe it. I felt like a little girl caught stealing. Oh, how I hate being told off!

My mother and I retreated to the heights of the raspberry bushes where we slowly simmered down, getting over the humiliation.

-They are all eating it!- my mother hissed angrily, as we walked past an old Englishman. Leaning on his walking stick, he was casually stuffing his wrinkly face with raspberries - It is because we are foreign! She felt comfortable telling us off!

Well- I said- they are all doing it- when nobody is looking! You, on the other hand, were bending down in the middle of the open strawberry patch, with no tall bushes around, your Azeri bottom sticking up in the air. It was pretty obvious what you were up to.

We laughed. Yet, our mood was dampened. As we walked back to pay the mean blond woman, I was going through millions of replies in my head. I thought I could offer to pay for the few berries we ate. I thought of suggesting they weighed customers before and after the visit. I thought I would ask her if she sincerely believed nobody else was eating any. Surely, in a business like this, one must have realistic expectations?

And if you think about it, they really did have a great business plan. Plant some bushes, and get these western consumers to do the hard work with their soft white hands. The consumers so bored with perfectly shaped berries, imported from Israel, beautifully packaged and perfectly preserved; that they would pay extra for the pleasure of getting their hands dirty. For the illusion of getting closer to the mother nature and locally farmed food.

I felt very foreign then. I felt humiliated. But I did not say anything to the woman. What could I say? She was right, and I was wrong.

My mother got to experience Pick Your Own, one dream can be ticked off. As for me,I decided M&S strawberries tasted a lot better after all.