Fresh Lonely Air In England – Part 1

It is now 148 days since Helen died.  I am off to England for a day or two to celebrate the 90th birthday of a very active lady.  The question I have asked myself time and again is why.  67 is young these days, Helen had always been fit and healthy, never saw the doctor, she used to run five miles every morning before taking the kids to school.  She ran those five miles for year after year almost 27 years except when she was in late pregnancy.  Her death hit me like a thunderbolt as though it was sudden, unexpected.  but after spending 148 days thinking about it, it wasn’t sudden, it wasn’t unexpected.  We were all kidding ourselves.

She started dying about five years ago when she stopped walking.  Walking was a real problem, she said it was her knees, she said it was her ankles, she said it was arthritis.  She dosed herself with vitamin tablets and capsules but she would not see a doctor.  She sat in front of her laptop for months on end working out a cure for her complaint.  A year before she died she started having breathless fits.  “It’s only a bit of congestion” was her diagnosis, until I called the doctor and he sent her straight to Sligo Hospital and in there on April 10th last year she went into cardiac arrest caused as they found out later by a pulmonary oedema.  She was lucky it could have killed her.  The consultant said she would be lucky to survive the helicopter dash to Galway, it was there only hope.  It killed bigger and stronger people than Helen, just look at that fine Munster rugby man, Anthony Foley.

She survived but from that day never really improved.  For the last three months she was in a chronic condition.  Massive pain controlled partly by extra strength painkillers and opiates, rapid weight loss due to no appetite.  One boiled egg for breakfast was her daily diet which removed her strength to carry out the simplest of duties.  Her mind deteriorated and with these losses of bodily function, her anger grew and the worst of it was my nursing ability was poor but she would not see a doctor until in the end that personal choice waned and she was not able to resist my entreaties.  I shudder to think what anguish we both went through, as well as the hardships the visiting kids suffered.  For weeks on end with hardly any sleep and in fact the large doses of THC cannabis oil she was taking towards the end had hardly any effect on her pain.  The truth is though that in the post mortem examination, the pathologist passed no remark on her supposed cystic kidney or the sacral metastases in her skeletal examination, for that is what they were treating her for.  Did the cannabis oil cure her.  We will never know.  What she did die of was cardiac hypertrophy.  A condition that was never mentioned or discussed with us by the medical experts.

So with the three or four months of trauma leading to her death and the emotional upheaval of her loss, I was drained in mind and body.  How I got through that first quarter of 2017 is a miracle, a dull blur.  Speaking to so very few unless confronted, the kids were fantastic, visiting as often as 21st century life allowed.

Therapeutic trips were planned, the first to Malta although still raw, swiftly followed by two weeks in Marrakech which gradually and finally teased out the pain.  I am now embarking on my third jaunt, a trip to Manchester. A walk across old ground, thoughts of courting days and bringing up a succession of kids in which Helen played a major role and I just tinkered with my duties.  But on the eve of my departure, a tragedy, 22 mainly young people killed in a suicide bombers last act.  21,000 people at a concert by a singer, Ariana Grande, I had never heard of.  How much apart from the real world am I at?

The same old story appears, a local kid of North African origins, having attended the local school of the district I am now sitting in, leaves all his personal details for the police to find all intact within minutes, whilst his body lies shattered in a million pieces. Even America knew before his name was mentioned some hours after the event.   Something smells bad as it does in most of these public executions whether in Europe, Africa or America.  Open shows of strength, automatic weapons patrolling the streets, helicopters tramping the skies.  To what accord?  To show the people how strong the security forces are, how brave are these defenders of our freedom.  Whilst the enemy, if that is what he was, plasters the walls of the Manchester Arena, pebble-dashes the grey concrete edifice in a rich red hue.  Are we all so stupid to take in this propagandising vision that the authorities would have us believe.  That a 22 year old kid with no known technical ability could put such a complicated device together and walk past security and blow himself and a load more to their deaths.

Morocco – Renewal Progressing Part two of this posting

I am at the start of my 2nd week of renewal, I find myself stronger but there is a fuzziness at the back of my head and I think that will be there for a long time.

We were up early that Saturday morning and we went off to the weekly souk (market).  The French have a word for the sights that confronted me that morning, “incroyable”.  Hectares of land laid out with thousands of tented stalls, some big, some small, with guy ropes to tents stretched all over the place to trip the unwary shopper.  Before you even get into the souk there are merchants selling 2nd hand children’s bikes, 2nd or 3rd hand mobile phones, parts for scooters and bikes, 2nd and 3rd hand pairs of shoes, with a cobbler next door who will re-heel, re-sole and possibly re-upper your bought pair.  Under the archway of the souk and into a wonderland.  But first of all hire yourself a boy with a wheeled cart.  He takes the place of a supermarket trolley but better.  You tell him you want oranges and he will sort out the best and the same with vegetables.  He stacks them neatly in his cart and follows you to the next section of the souk.  Everything is sold in reals which went out of currency in 1921, your barrow boy converts rials into modern day dirhams.  Our boy is able for this, he is doing a physics degree at Marrakech University.

Souk Sebt 5 Souk Sebt 6 Souk Sebt1 Souk Sebt2 Souk Sebt3 Souk Sebt4

The vegetable market comes on you immediately after wading through stalls of knick-knacks, acres of tented stalls with prefabricated iron frames.  The produce laid out on the floor in piles, vegetables you could name some you couldn’t.  On the fringes of the vegetable souk are the spice stalls, selling spices out of large sacks or from towering piles on plastic trays.  Spices I recognised, spices I didn’t.  All merchants sit cross-legged on the floor in front of ancient weighing scales.  There seems to be set prices for everything set by somebody or some unknown tariff.  No fiddling of weights here, no undercutting of prices.

We sit at a bench where a man has a small table and gas ring.  He sells lentils cooked in a broth with flat breads to mop up the juices.  No way of cleaning the dishes and cutlery and he has not much of these.  But has soon as one man finishes his bowl it is refilled for the next, spoons are dipped in to a suspicious looking bucket of used water to clean them.  I have to say the lentils were excellent.

At my back were two men starting to hack at a beast they had cajoled into happiness.  The halal method of killing by Muslims requires you to have taught the beast that it wants to die and once docile and given food and water, the two veins in its neck are cut and its blood drained out.  There was buckets of blood all over the stall and the beast was now officially dead and its quartering allowed to take place.  Customers at this time of day are mostly men.  It was 8.00am and these men had gathered at 4.00am when the animal market opened.  Sheep, cattle and goats are sold to buyers for fattening up and selling for slaughter at a later date.  Some animals are killed on the day.  There is a small slaughter house but a lot of animals, so some are slaughtered in the open like this.  Woman normally visit after lunch when they have completed their household tasks and perhaps are lucky to miss out on this phase of the day.

As we passed through the spice ring the small slaughterhouse was in full swing and pieces of meat of all description were on sale.  Not an ounce of the animal is wasted, from the tip of the tail to the end of its horn, every piece on display, a price for every piece.  There was a stall selling the hoofs of cattle, another selling lovely bits of meat with teeth sticking out of them, grey turgid flanks of tripe, tails going for big money.  Men hacking away with large axes at carcases still warm from the assassin’s knife.  Piles of sheep’s heads all awaiting the jingling purses of the impecunious housewives who would shortly be arriving.

Dragging ourselves away from this blood drenched killing ground and the blood spattered vendors we eventually come on the chicken stalls.  Thousands of chickens gathered in coups, awaiting the knife of the seller.  A live chicken picked by hand, feet bound, a flash of steel, a spurt of blood, left on a spike for a few seconds as blood drained away and into a machine that removes all feathers of the lifeless bird.  Another flash of steel and a tumble of guts and the oven ready chicken is on the counter ready for sale after passing through the hands of at least six men in a matter of seconds.  The operation works like clockwork and so quickly that the killing hardly registers.

Daughter No 2 points out two of these birds ably assisted by her barrow boy who ties their legs and feels their stomachs to ensure their egg laying capability and so for these two birds it is out of the frying pan that is the coup and into the heaven that is her sanctuary at home.  These birds are a gamble but the boy takes her to another section selling big egg laying brown hens slightly dearer than the rescued brace.  Alongside the hens are rabbits, ducks and young turkeys.  I got the job of barrow-minder whilst the buyers scanned the ranks and two more henswere put into the barrow on top of all the food we had bought.  One hen almost crushed by the roll of a massive watermelon as the cart turned a corner.

We pass the medicine man sat at a corner with all his potions laid out before him which so he says will cure anything for a few dirhams.  You can go and sit with him and ask him to send a djinni at somebody.  Djinn are good or evil spirits, mischievous spirits that can bring good or bad on people (the anglicised version is genie).  The muslim people all believe strongly in these spirits but never talk about them.  My daughter has tried to discuss the feelings the people have but they remain quiet when spoken to.

So home we go with four live hens and 50kgs of vegetables and fruit all for about €20.  We dump our stuff and call for Brahim to put the birds in the sanctuary and off we go into Marrakech for  grandchild 2 and 3’s last piano lesson with their tutor.  This lovely architectural student has been singled out by the Simon Rattle organised  Berlin Philharmonic.  She is a young and lovely 22 year old who has got her ticket to ride on the international stage and to see the world.  She will find it easy , she speaks several languages and can mix with everybody.  Her architectural degree put on the long finger and she is relishing the prospect.  This magnificently gifted pianist calls me sir and hopes I am enjoying my holiday.  I am humbled.

On the way home we call at the village barbers for a much needed coiffeur.  His dexterity with scissor, comb and cut-throat was even better than the men who killed the chickens in the souk and within minutes transformed a hairy old man into a suave, debonair senior citizen as a line of customers watched in awe.  My daughter gave him 20 dirhams (€2) after he had said “give me what you think” his regular customers give him 2 dirhams (20 cents).  He was overjoyed yet his work was worth 150 dirhams (€15).  I have paid that in Boyle for an inferior cut.

An afternoon by the pool, another thunderstorm which makes the exterior tiling glow.  A long and large Ricard with ice and water, a few assembled tit bits and my day was done.

atlas2I awoke next morning to a glorious crisp day, the sun shining brightly but the temperature at 15C.  The rain of the night before seems to have cooled everything off and in fact had cleared the haze of the sun and the Atlas Mountains  have suddenly appeared as if by magic. 
Their snow covered slopes shining in a majestic glory.  They seem to be at the bottom of the garden but are probably 40 miles away.  This melting snow provides Marrakech and its hinterland with its water throughout the year.

It is promised 28C today and we are heading towards them today to a large lake in the foothills of those historic peaks.  Restaurants line the lake shore and one of them has a lunchtime date with us.lalla takerkoust

However before we set off a neighbour visited, a retired French film director who directed the series of erotic porn films “Emanuelle” in the 1970s.  He came to invite us round for drinks on the following day with his house-guest a famous Hollywood star of yesteryear, who appeared in the series of Hart to Hart on British Television in the 1980s, Stephanie Powers.  Life is certainly trading up for me.  International piano players, soft porn film directors, earls of England and Stephanie Powers.

la paillotteOur trip to the lake was aborted after two hours, the overnight rains having washed away the road in parts.  We had a Toyota 4×4 but even with that the journey became too hazardous.  So it was back to the suburbs of Marrakech for an excellent lunch in a another French restaurant, La Paillote, in sun drenched gardens shaded by olive trees and parasols.

 

A diversion on the way home to Carrefour, a branch of the large French supermarket chain where it seems every man and his dog shops on a Sunday afternoon and those that are not shopping come to sight see.  It was shopping in hell blasted by loud indescribable music in the middle of what looked like a football crowd.  Glad to be home, hot and a little bothered by my shopping experience.  I visited Mr Ricard’s house once again and I was in bed for 8.30pm and a long long sleep.

Today is a Bank Holiday in Morocco as in the rest of the western world.  Today I do nothing  but dream of my inter-reaction with the Hollywood bimbo this evening.  A lovely balmy, breezy 26C in which to do nothing but a little reading.  However after 10 minutes I was disturbed by the future Earl of England and his sister.  They had been brought round by their mother, a very nice titled lady.  William had brought his cricket gear and before I knew it I was batting and the future earl bowled me out.  Then his elder sister who had a lot more hand/eye co-ordination proceeded to knock my bowling to all points of the compass.  My excuse was that the wicket was a bad one and that I was a little rusty having not played in earnest for 45 years.  Still it was a lovely interlude re-enacting the sport I loved with kids picking up the game.  A page out of Wisden almost.

A beef and pea tagine with a side dish of lentils and salad and slices of a variety of melons washed down with my favourite gris under a parasol at the side of the pool.  The whole topped off with a two hour siesta filled the afternoon whilst kids in abundance did everything kids do without the encumbrance of adults or discipline.  Future earls and ladies in waiting wrecking the order and loveliness of the house so that post siesta arrival made the house look exactly the same as it did at 7.00am this morning prior to the arrival of the staff to do their most necessary duties.  Chaos abounds pleasantly with the afternoon sun.

Morocco – Renewal Renewed. Part 3 of this posting

gris

La Perle de Mogador – my tipple of choice for the fortnight

ricard

M. Ricard – my other tipple of choice for the fortnight

The heat, the dust, the goodness of the people, the greenery, the gris, M Ricard, the regimented chaos of Marrakech have all dragged me out of my ennui and tristesse.  I am pretty much a new man.

It is Day 11 of my trip and everybody is back at school or work leaving me with a sick child and the two ladies of the house who go about their work diligently.  These ladies work to survive, their scooter has broken down and they walk an hour each way to and from their village.  Daughter No 2 sometimes picks them up but it is not possible some days with school and work beckoning.  Our meeting with the Hollywood bimbo did not take place last night.  By the time the soft porn duo and Miss Powers returned from the mountains we were not conducive to pleasant company and told the trio it was rather late and set up again for the morrow.  I was certainly not arsed, my own company is far better than company thrust upon you.

So myself and sick child slowly wheeled ourselves through the day.  I have just finished a David Lodge book “Paradise News” which had so many situations pertaining to my life.  Very entertaining so I immediately started on one of his earlier works “Out of the Shelter” because I thought it might do the same again and it did.  Reading in the heat of the day is so relaxing and it is the fifth book I have read in 11 days.

Two and a half days to go before heading for home, back to my reality.  This place although close to paradise with its greenness, its sunshine, its cooling pool, its wonderful food just feels almost temporary, almost a staging post for the next  paragraph of my life.  At home I know I can direct myself, can eat when I want to, can live my life without being a burden on others.  I am too old for adventure but it is nice to get a snap of it.

As I reach my last days here, I realise I have probably spent two days longer than necessary.  The sights to see have been seen, the adulation from grandkids has waned, I am now part of the furniture.  The adults have to work and cannot spend too long trying to entertain me.  To be fair I do not need to be entertained.  Lonely days reading and writing in a cool house with little trips onto the patio for sun ration or a walk round the pool area is sufficient.  I am sustained by a breakfast of eggs and flatbread, fresh orange juice and coffee.  Then a lunch of a kind you could not expect in a restaurant supplied by the two ladies of the house, Fatimzara and Hafida.  The simplicity of its ingredients blending to make a complicated luxurious feast.

The days have flown.  I am now on  my third David Lodge book “How Far Can You Go”.  In all his books I have read he faces the dichotomy of modern life and the Catholic Church and he makes me appreciate that I was not the only one fighting through this sacerdotal jungle.  A jungle thankfully I have left far behind.  Which is a shame really because now that I am on open land I realise I have little future to enjoy my life in the main having spent my time hacking away at branches and tall bamboo.  It is a pity I did not read his books forty years ago when they first came out.  It would have saved me a lot of heartache.

It is a perfect life here, my endocrinologist’s heaven.  She tells me to eat in a space of eight hours in a day and fast for the next 16 hours.  I have breakfast at nine, lunch at 1.30pm and do not eat again until the next day.  A healthy regime bolstered by the sun’s vitamin D but I yearn for Boyle’s 15C, isolation and disembracement.  My own form of self-sacrifice.

The re-enacted second arrangement for  Miss Stephanie Powers’s introduction was again demurred by my hostess.  Their day had been long and hard, so why extend it to meet a bimbo who despite all her razzamatazz was probably well past it in terms of looks, intellect and presence but we will never now know.  And Mr Directeur will have certainly taken the hump and might not now be as forthcoming with his introductions to the world of pornish art.  Not that that will worry mine hosts wrapped as they are in the 21st century world of expansion or me in my post-colonial Boyle.

Boyle is where my heart is heading, I have my own mountain to climb, my own thoughts to clear.  I look forward to it and also my visit to Belgium and Macronised France in a short while.  Things military add to my knowledge on the conundrum that was the Great War but I do not think that if I submerge myself wholly in that knowledge will the conundrum lessen.  That is just a thought considering that Great War really started with the Agadir Incident in Morocco in 1912.

My last day dawns hardly, it is light but the whole countryside is covered by low, low cloud and except for it being 19C you would think you were in early morning Boyle.  Probably God’s way of acclimatising one.  I have given my dues to the staff and we are on our way to lunch at another French gastronomique, Le Baratin (which roughly translates as ‘The Gobshite’).  The place is littered with them.  I think you could say Morocco has taken over the title of food capital of the world.

Gazpacho de Tomate surrounding an island of crabe and avocat is my le baratinstarter, followed by rognons de veau in a Dijonnais sauce and a puree of pomme de terre.  Excellent, can you see how my French has improved in just a few days.  A visit to an art gallery displaying naive Moroccan art and then a supermarket for last night booze.  On my last night we are having drinks with a Spanish couple opposite.  The party conversation will consist of French, Arabic, Spanish and English sentences with me muttering in a language that nobody can understand but I did manage a bet that Le Pen would beat Macron with the Spanish gent.  However all I was doing was using up the last of my dirhams.  Early to bed hopefully leaving the oasis at 7.30am for my 10.30am flight.  I will be sorry to leave but glad to arrive home.

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Bizarrely, my daughter found these bags in one such shop a couple of weeks ago. Her daughters are called Daisy and Polly and her sister is called Clare. What are the chances?

My lasting impression of Morocco is the extreme poverty, trapped as I was in the opulent ex-pat bubble made their poverty worse.  People who work are on 80-100 dirhams a day (€8-€10) and are mostly in an urban environment, in the country, where the oasis is, employment is rare with men picking up odd jobs in agriculture and women making cane and raffia items and selling them for a pittance to roadside shops.  There is no benefits system, so no work, no money.  Villages become collectives and the people share as much as they can.  There is more a sense of a commune than in any place I’ve seen and somehow it works but they just get by.  Nobody has money in their pockets.  The town is littered with sub-Saharan people driven out of their own countries by even worse poverty, the young women prostitute themselves, the men and boys beg and often worse.  The police are everywhere keeping everything in check.

 

 

triporteur

A triporteur

The road to riches is by walking and if lucky eventually  buying a bike and then a hand-cart, then a donkey, then a horse, then a cart, then a scooter, then a triporteur and at that stage you are a made man.  A triporteur is a three wheeled motor bike with a trailer for a pillion passenger and that can carry people or goods.  Rarely an entrepreneur jumps out of the pack and gets himself a car.  Most dwellings are just mud shacks and thankfully it does not rain often because the roofs are very flimsy affairs.

The great sadness is that Morocco is full of multi-nationals putting up all inclusive holiday resorts for tourists who never go out of the compound gates and therefore never experience the delights of the place.  The money spent never filters down into the local economy except to pay the pittance level wages of those who work there.  But for the middle class Moroccans and the wealthy French life is good. Too good.

It is an exciting place for young professionals in the IT sector which seems to be booming but my heart goes out to the poor who are always happy, honest, decent people with not a pot between them to piss in, constrained as they are by their Islamic doctrines.  The star of my two weeks is the village barber who cuts hair to better than European standards for two dirhams a head, totally adept with razor and scissor, a remarkable young man.

Morocco – A Renewal Process Part 1 of this posting

It was late April, a month after my Malta trip, I was approaching the end of the tunnel I had been in since Helen died on Christmas Day.  The weather was warmer, I had met a few people.  The lows of the past few months were slowly being replaced by smiles and bits of jokes.  Daughter 4 had visited twice, we had eaten well and drank even better.  I had booked another trip, Daughter 2 was calling from Morocco and I was looking forward to it with anticipation.  I felt comfortable in myself, tears were getting scarcer.

I left Knock Airport at 12.30pm to a cool 11C, arrived at Gatwick on a slightly warmer 12C and landed at Marrakech at 9.00pm to a blast 0f 25C and a warm greeting from Daughter 2 and Grand-daughter 2 with hugs and smiles after I had trundled through the ancient custom shambles that is Moroccan protocol.  Security 10%, burocracy 90%.  I suppose it gives jobs to people that would normally be unemployed.

The new airport terminal at Marrakech Menara is the most beautiful and spacious that I have ever seen and it makes a statement to the world of where Morocco wants to be in the years to come.  It is not only beautiful architecture on the interior but magnificent on the outside.  It greets arrivals and departures equally and importantly is designed by Moroccan architects and built by Moroccan contractors.

30 minutes later, by an illuminated pool, we are drinking gris cooled by cubes of ice.  A French idea brought to Morocco which would make the avid traditionalist wince but here it seems to work.  Local flat bread, cheese and olives are washed down and a welcome bed is made available after my 2,000 mile journey.  By the way gris is what it says it is, grey.  The  juice of the grapes removed very early on from the skins in the maceration process giving a colour nearer to white than rose wine.  This wine can be found in southern France around Marseilles but it makes a claim for fame in Morocco.

I awoke at 7.30am to blazing sunshine and a cool 25C surrounding this oasis of greenery.  Turkeys gobbling, ducks quacking and peacocks screaming out their matinal war cries.  The hens would have joined them but the last of them and two turkey chicks had been killed by a new pup the day before I arrived.  Feral aligned with beauty, I think, is what Morocco is about at the moment and I saw many examples of this which could jar on the sensibilities of the naive European.

A trip to Anima Gardens was planned.  30 Kms south of Marrakech, laid out by an Austrian artist, Andre Heller.  It contains the finest collection and display of plants I have ever seen.  Thousands of blossoms and coloured plants interspersed with sculptural artefacts.  The flowers on the cactus plants probably the most beautiful of all.  It would be worth a trip to Marrakech just to see these gardens alone.

anima 2 anima 1

anima 3

Suffused with beauty and natural aromas we headed for town for lunch at Le Chouet, a French inspired peaceful rendez vous, almost vegetarian, with courses interrupted by amuse bouche of high quality all washed down by Mogador gris.

le chouet

Replete, it was back to the oasis over rutted dust tracks, passing high quality estates.  The affluent round here build their walled desmesnes before civilization arrives in the form of urban sprawl and at some stage in the future it will have to fit itself around these well-heeled prospectors.

Late afternoon and evening round the pool whilst the kids, as agile as fishes, did aquatic gymnastics.  More gris, conversation, olives, various salamis were tackled and an early bed for me at least.

pool

The following morning a hopeful drive into town to solve a telecom problem was foiled by large queues but breakfast at Le Grand Cafe de la Poste dissolved our worries and it was decided to call back to Maroc Telecom on Friday when most of the population would be at prayer.  Le Grand Cafe, a relic of the 19th Century, served me the finest omelette aux fines herbes done in the “Parisienne ” style and washed down by freshly squeezed orange juice and coffee.

cafe de la poste 1 cafe de la poste 2 cafe de la poste 3

I did not want to leave, looking at my fellow customers and the boulavardiers was enough entertainment.  The French-speaking sub-Saharan girls who come to Marrakech from Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire and the Cameroon to earn a bob or two and hoping to snare a fat business man between meetings for a quick bout of hokey-cokey, are very busy.  These girls are tall and thin and darker than the Moroccan lady who tends to be a little plumper and wears muslim dress in all its variety.  The sub-Saharans dress for the climate wearing the skimpiest of clothes with plenty of bling and ply their trade from an early hour.  The police do not seem to mind, the business men are numerous and seem happy with the deal but the Moroccans spurn these girls and shopkeepers put them to the back of the queue at all times.  In a way I feel sorry for them. This life for them must be far better than that they have in their homeland.  They seem to supply a need and I hate double standards.

A couple of families have got together to home-school their kids and they employ teachers to control a syllabus that seems far more advanced than the Irish or English model.  I meet one child – an English earl to be ploughing along with my own kith and kin in an ancient farmhouse on a hillside 20 miles out of town.  As these children reach 12 they are farmed out to boarding schools in England or to the American school in Marrakech.  They slip easily into the 2nd level system as they are far in advance of their peers in training for the International Baccalaureate.  Two of my grandsons, twins, are seven years old and they have a reading age of 12.

The following days are spent writing in the shade by the pool, dazzled by the brightness and beaten by 28C which with no humidity is more comfortable than you think.  I sleep well probably making up for the dark days when I hardly slept.  I now know I am well on the road to recovery.  The words flow.  I am no longer stymied by something I cannot see.  Helen is still with me but beside me, no longer blocking my path.  If it can be said with gratitude, I am now almost happy.

A daytime starts around 7.00am, the sun already up and about in a clear blue sky with wispy clouds in the far distance above the Atlas mountains.

atlas 1

There are two ladies in the house, Fatimzara the general factotum and Haffida the cook.  It is she who brings breakfast at about 9.30am, omelettes, olives, cheese and flat breads, orange juice and coffee.  Lunch is large about 1.00pm, the main meal of the day.  For example yesterday was a delicious meatball tagine, spiced green beans and carrots, a tomato and onion salad and more flatbread.  With the women gone about 3.00pm, the evening is a sprawl of tasty bits, left over lunch, cheese, salami etc washed down with my normal preprandial and a couple of glasses of gris or sometimes red wine, both suitable companions for the snacks.

Bed is early before 10.00pm with the odd unexplained late one which results in a gingerly awakening slightly later than normal.  People who work go off about their tasks and I write, nod off or read.  All tasks perfectly suited to the climate.  I face the prospect of the Manchester United v Manchester City football match tonight.  There is no television set in the house but grandson No 1 of the family is going to fetch it up live on the computer.  Everything these days is in the realm of a 12 year old.

The last day of my first week was spent in Marrakech following daughter No 2 on her daily business, legal, commercial and familial.  Daily life for the ex-pat in the country is slow and chaotic, in the town fast, chaotic and bureaucratic but it all seems to work somehow.

le petit cornichonWe ate lunch at a very good French restaurant, Le Petit Cornichon, that specialised in a daily set menu with choice at each course.  Simple food fantastically well cooked.

 

The amazing thing to me about Morocco and Marrakech in particular is its young well educated, urbanised demographic.  Totally unable to travel the world unless sponsored by an international company.  Moroccans cannot as a rule get a visa to travel.  So educated youngsters fluent in several languages take jobs as waiters and secretaries.  To compare these young, very able people to the scrotes in England who apply for work and expect to be employed because they are there is a no brainer.  The young educated Moroccan could work and live anywhere in the world and be successful.  Watch out for yourselves you western world youngsters, time is not on your side.

Another last thought before I close this post and it is the Marrakech world of prostitution having done a little research and seen some glaring examples today.  It seems there are some brothels containing Moroccan and therefore muslim ladies which are very discreet.  These ladies do not ply their trade in the open like the sub-Saharan ladies, but remain hidden behind curtained windows which claim to be hammams (bath houses) and cafes and cater for the more robust likes of men.  Size and shape is a must for customers but it seems like all shapes are catered for.

It was Friday afternoon as we returned to the oasis, little traffic on the road.  Mosques big and small, full of seated males in their mainly white djellabahs (I hope that is the correct spelling of these long one piece garments).  The women are invisible, where they are I do not know but presume in their various kitchens cooking for their returning but holy menfolk.

If only Morocco could shake off the entrapment of Islam which seems to me to be about disempowerment and the removal of choice and leave their religion to personal consciousness, they would zoom in the world.  The religion of Islam started 600 years after  Christianity put its black mark on the world and Islam seems in many ways to be 600 years behind the western world in so many things.  Just as so many of us have eschewed the bonds Christianity imposed let us hope the people of Islam do the same only quicker.

The morning was hot, the wind got up, the dust covered everything, rain was forecast for 2.00pm and on the dot down it came, one massive deluge which freshened everything up.  Underfoot the paths and roads were so hot the surfaces dried in seconds and within 30 minutes the deluge was non-existent.

I end my first week at the oasis listening to the children playing.  8 children playing the games children play all over the world but they are speaking a language only they understand.  A mixture of Spanish, English and Darija, the local brand of Arabic, with a few French words thrown in for good measure.  This is the world of tomorrow.