Tag Archives: Bahrain

Twig & Leaf

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All I need is a compliment… I posted a fragment from this piece on Facebook and one person’s reaction prompted me to reproduce this dramatic little dialogue that I wrote many moons ago when there were fewer high rise buildings in Bahrain, when our apartment in Muharraq looked out to the sea where dhows lounged on the beach and the causeway to the Diplomatic area was a quiet passageway and the country was asleep by ten at night.

A TWIG AND A LEAF

A bird introduced the story. It twittered: “This is the story of leaf and twig. Of self and self. Which destiny is yours dear listener? Which road to dusty death would you take?”

Twig:   “The wind blows and I move.”

Leaf:   “The breeze breathes and I dance. I quiver with its tiniest breath. Silver. Golden green. The sunlight warms me and I glory in its warmth. The moonlight shimmers on me and I play a dainty game with moonbeams. But you, you are stiff and angular. Your movements are scratchy. Scritching. And scratching. And squeaky.”

Twig:   “Just because I am more firmly set it doesn’t mean that I don’t feel the wind or the sun. Or that the silver moonlight does not make dramatic patterns with me. I am strong. And you are weak. Too emotional. Too full of movement. Too light. You dance today. But all too soon that loving sun will make you wilt and you will fall and be crushed.”

Leaf:     “Drop I shall some day. But not before the sun and the wind have caressed me into the most exciting hues of green and yellow and russet, a russet that would rival a sunset. Colours that have made poets sing. What poets have sung of you, Twig?”

Twig:     “No. That is true. No poets sing of me. I am the coarse, unlovely of the world. The bark grows hard around me. It shelters me from the sun and the wind of life. But it constrains me too. Confines the sap that flows within. Warm sap that longs to leaf sometimes. That aches to dance.

And, yet I know that if I were a leaf, I would dread the day when I should fall. Having metamor­phosed from glorious green and yellow on to russet and hectic red. Fall and be crushed. Stamped out. And forgotten. No. I would rather be a twig. And never live or love so much, so close to life that some day I shall, I must be turned to dust, ignominiously…under the foot of some uncaring, unthinking, unloving passerby.”

Leaf: “Perhaps. But twig, dear twig, to love is all. Why should it matter how you leave this world? We must all be crushed and torn some day. So live. Live and love and laugh and dance today!”

Twig:   “No. No. I cannot… And yet, should I? No. I must not. For I support the leaves.”

Excerpt from ‘Five Lives One Day in Bahrain’

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Until another author friend sends me something to share with you, here’s an extract from Five Lives One Day in Bahrain published by Ex-L-Ence Publishing. Check out the site for many good reads.

Rosita is late:

Rosita had been so exhausted that after her six o’clock Skype call to her mother that morning she’d gone back to sleep and had slipped into such a deep slumber that she’d gone past her softly buzzing alarm and her roommate Wendy’s door-banging departure. She woke with a start, “What time is it?” she exclaimed aloud, rubbing her eyes and yawning all at once. She reached out and looked at her large wristwatch, which she’d set on the small table near her bed. “Oh No! Nine o’clock! How did I do that? Now I’ll have to take a cab, and I was hoping to catch the bus.” The unnecessary extra expense upset her rhythm. But she knew she needed to look good, have all her certificates ready and arrive at least fifteen minutes ahead of the 12:30 pm appointment. No way could she catch a bus now.

There was too much riding on this job! Her very own section for hair styling, a salary of two hundred and fifty dinars plus sponsorship and the lady, an English woman married to a Bahraini, seemed to be kind and understanding. How was she going to get to Budaiya in time? All this buzzed through her mind as she hurriedly showered and sprayed herself with both a new deodorant and the Kenzo she’d used so sparingly and carefully ever since the American marine Ricky had given it to her three months ago. That was something else she’d kept from her mother and the girls at the Red Rose Salon in Juffair.

You can also buy the book here.

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Excerpt from ‘An Appropriate Act of Love’

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Lynda Tavakoli is the first of my author friends to share an excerpt from her book of short stories, Under a Cold White Moon.

Thanks Linda, that sent chills up my spine.

One evening my father failed to return from work. The house had been, as usual, quiet during the day, my elder siblings having by then dispersed to lead more normal lives elsewhere and I now wonder how I never noticed their leaving or indeed how long it had been since I was the only child remaining. The food was on the table; bacon, sausages, tomatoes, potato bread and two eggs – all fried as he liked it and now coagulating on my dad’s plate. Mother sat across from me at the table, hands tidily on her lap; mine stuffed in the pocket of my sweatshirt making bigger the hole already there. Where is he?

For an hour, maybe two, we sat like dead fish frozen into an icy lake and still he did not come. Beyond the window of the kitchen light was being sucked slowly out of the day and finally the grey gloom of evening started to invade the room. A fear was beginning to gnaw at me and although my mother had moved not an inch during that time I regarded the subtle change in her manner with growing panic. The eyes that for so long had scorched her resentment into my soul had taken on the look of a hibernating tortoise reluctant to accept the onset of its awakening. They were dead eyes to match the dead words that finally slunk out from in between her teeth,

“Now are you happy?”

To read her book click on the link above or visit her publisher here.

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The Cactus Blooms

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My publisher, Ex-L-Ence Publishing has a brand new website, from which you can now purchase directly. However, if you prefer to purchase your books on Amazon, there is a link on the page to take you there too.

Here’s an extract from Desert Flower… perhaps it will tempt those who haven’t read it yet to do so.

This time I entered the majlis quietly, slipping through the archway, less than a shadow, less than a breath. My face was properly covered with the niqab drawn across it. I had pinned it in place to make sure my face would not be exposed. After all, this was a foreigner who had come to the house, not another person from the Arabian Gulf, a Khaleeji, which if it were, of course, I wouldn’t have been called. This time my black abaya shrouded my entire body. All that was exposed were my eyes. I could see that the stranger was drinking a small cup of gahwa, our thick, rich coffee, and a small piece of baklawa. The fine pastry stuffed with pistachio nuts that I had the cook make that very day lay untouched on his plate. Eihab’s mother had seen that the servant had provided that.

And now that my frantically beating heart was somewhat stilled I had my voice under control too. I inclined my head slightly in a silent salaam and raised my right hand just a little.

“Have you got your wits about you?” Father asked gruffly.

Read the rest of this entry

Shenanigans gone awry

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When I chose to work in advertising so many years ago I had no idea at the time that it would prove to be so much utter, unmitigated, idiotic fun. Someone, somewhere looked down on me and decided that I needed to come out of the shy shell (yes, those of you who know me now mayn’t believe it but I was once painfully shy) in which I enclosed myself. It was a self that smiled and giggled internally. The giggling I must confess sometimes burst out of control. And then I laughed with such abandon that those around me joined in even when they didn’t know what I was laughing about.

School friends, classmates… you remember. don’t you? In fact recently I met an old friend who asked me, “What happened? When did this personality change take place?”

Blame it on advertising. Blame it on the Creative Department. Read the rest of this entry

Nothing

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So here’s another old, “dark” poem. It was written to inspire a story and then I never wrote the story!

nothing-2The silence had enveloped her

In its warm black anonymity

She was safe.

No rasping voice

No sound

Penetrated it

A gag order

On insanity.

A restraining order on life.

She buried deeper into it

A mole, escaping the light. Read the rest of this entry

Lest we forget

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A painting by my friend Serena Stevens

A painting by my friend Serena Stevens may she rest in peace she battled cancer as valiantly as any soldier

November is a month to remember. Loved ones lost to all kinds of battles… on the front in war, of course, but there are other battles that some folk wage against disease – that dreaded, insidious, cancer; stroke victims, who wage a daily battle with bodies unwilling and unable to respond to the simplest of their wills; so many other ailments and conditions that render folk dealing with pain on a sub-chronic daily basis, the list is a long one. This November I’d like to remember them all.

I can’t name them, but they are all my heroes.

You and you and you, who see

Life ebbing by in slow degrees

For whom there was a time, I know

When nothing ever went so slow

Today your speech is locked behind

An uncooperative mind.

And you, why half your body can’t

Respond to anything you want.

And then there’s one who cannot turn

For pain that through his body burns

And there’s another one who, while

Her spirit breaks, yet she can smile.

Some have lost their limbs to bombs

And still they somehow all limp on

We know not who has been in war

But this we know, and know for sure

There are brave soldiers everywhere

Who need to know that we do care

For them, our poppies red

We wear and still a tear or two we’ll shed.

Fight on you brave immortal souls

The day will come, you’ll reach your goal.

And for those who are thinking of loved ones lost in war I have this to say in remembrance of ‘Poppy Day’.

The famous poem by John McCrae is reproduced below:

IN FLANDERS FIELDS

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

 

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

 

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

With so many wars that have been fought since that poem was written, I’d like to change it around a bit

Forget that quarrel with our foe

‘twill only lead to e’er more woe.

And who is foe may in the end

Turn ‘round and some day be a friend.

The only faith, that we need keep

Is, to try and end each day in peace.

 

Let the poppies, sweetly blow

Lest we forget those laid below

And should our leaders want a fight,

And rant and rave about what’s right,

Let’s hide the guns and send them in

To face each other in the ring.

Note: This post was first published a year ago. I have reworked it for the reasons above.

5 tips for writing a memoir …

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… And how I scored

The other day someone asked me if I had any tips for writing a biography or a memoir. That was a tall order. I must confess I am working on one but can no way see myself as any kind of an expert on the subject. My method, quite honestly was to plunge on. Get the story down and then work it into a somewhat linear narrative thereafter.

Why didn’t I do what I usually do, Google it? The main reason was because I didn’t want to be bogged down by external strictures, by what a regular biography should look like. I wanted the person’s own story and own voice to come through.

The memoir I am working on is almost done. But, after the question was posed I decided to see whether my method was nuts, or did it work?

I came upon an old article from AuthorHouse that suggests the following tips:

Tip #1

Have a deep interest in your subject. Don’t pick a biography subject just because you think there’s a market for that book, or because that person is currently in the spotlight. Pick someone you’re dying to know more about.

In other words, ask yourself, “If no one but me ever reads this book (or if, for whatever reason, the book is never completed), would the research itself be its own reward?”

I for one am glad to say an unequivocal YES! I have thoroughly enjoyed the process of getting to know my subject. We’ve had many laughs, tears, frustrations. But, overall it has been an amazing experience for me.

Tip#2

Be organized. If you’re a thorough researcher, you might interview hundreds of people and review thousands of documents. Simply dumping all those records, transcripts, photographs and notes into a folder with your subject’s name is NOT the way to go. Use a system that works for you.

Oh dear! Nope. I wasn’t that organised, but I wasn’t a total wreck either. I did/ do have separate folders. Fortunately, since we decided to keep it as a memoir, I didn’t need to interview a whole host of people so I didn’t have to check and counter-check with others who would, perhaps have given different versions of the same account, a la Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet.

Tip#3

You don’t necessarily need a new subject—just a new angle. Just because your person of interest has already been written about before (perhaps many times), it doesn’t mean there’s no place for your biography.

This didn’t apply to me or the subject, because the story is unique and there aren’t that many accounts of the person’s life for us to worry about. Besides, it is very much an authorised memoir.

Tip #4

Don’t delay, especially with interviews! Once you’ve decided that you want to write about a particular person, get started as soon as possible. Why? Because interview subjects will, unfortunately, pass away eventually. Waiting a year, a month, or even a week could result in the loss of an eyewitness or a close friend of your subject.

Again, this didn’t apply… thank God! But we had got the bulk of the story down fairly quickly. In spite of a hectic schedule, we met twice a week. My subject is a very focused individual and after a few preliminaries, we wasted no time. I am very impressed by his prodigious memory and tremendous sense of story-telling. I felt I was there, witnessing each event he talked about. That’s why sometimes we’d both end up laughing or emotionally drained.

Tip #5

Be thorough. Because, after everything you also have to write the book!  Follow leads, pursue hunches, and research your subject exhaustively—but don’t forget to write the book! At some point, you have to make a conscious decision to stop digging and start typing.

As you do your research, you might be able to fine-tune the scope of your project, which will narrow the parameters of your research.

My method was to write along. As soon as I had finished the interview sessions I would transcribe the session and keep that in a separate folder. The next day, or sometimes, that very night, I’d get into trying to “write the story” as a story.

This worked to some extent, because, after a very thorough (and I may add: sharp) review by the editor, major chunks of the book had to be moved around and rewritten. Some parts had been repeated and some were inconsistent.

To the above AuthorHouse tips, I’d add a sixth…

PLUS ONE!

Get a good editor. Preferably someone who is not associated or emotionally connected with your subject.

This was a great help for me. Because, although on reading my editor’s comments I was initially devastated, when I returned to fixing the manuscript, I found that perhaps the emotional distance had helped to bring clarity. We are always far too close to our own work – especially long pieces – to see the errors.

And that’s about the size of it. I’m sure there are many other resources for writing a biography or memoir, but if this helps even one fellow writer, I feel I will have done something today.

Vengeance Wears Black…

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41ztQAFKyyL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_…And poor time management goes around in rags, tattered in the attention that a book as action-packed as this one rightfully deserves.

In spite of all the swirling minutiae of daily commitments – from an event in the offing, to freelance work, household chores, to inane queries with regard to said event – I couldn’t pull myself away from Seumas Gallacher’s Vengeance Wears Black and yet I constantly had to; dangling participles notwithstanding.

The book haunts one through its deft handling of the personal interplay and commitment of the main characters to each other – all partners in ISP International Security Partners. These include our hero Jack Calder and May Ling his wife – and the team Mr. Brains Jules Townsend and Malky McGuire: friend and colleague.

The bloody explosive action kicks off and kicks one in the stomach right from the get-go. I wonder if this is a typical Seumas Gallacher opener – having read the Violin Man’s Legacy a little over a year ago. The opening scene in that earlier book is a real stomach-churner.

Vengeance Wears Black starts with a tense human trafficking operation in Krakow that goes horribly wrong. It then leaps across to London where another eruptive incident brings our main players together. This time a Gurkha colleague smothers a grenade with his body thus saving his friends from ISP – a band of tough action-hardened SAS men and one woman; who then carry out a carefully planned, meticulous operation that not only quells the violent turf wars raging between Asian triad gangs and Eastern European mobsters, but also avenges the death of the man who saved their lives.

Seumas Gallacher’s book takes the reader on a nail-biting ride from east to west, from unimaginable debauchery and corruption to uplifting moments of friendship and care. I, for one, was glad of these little hiatuses in the action as they allowed me to get to know the main players, become involved in their fates, and follow the detailed planning that goes into such a far reaching operation.

This isn’t a genre I usually read, so I was surprised by how much I was drawn into it. I had read the earlier book so I knew the background of the characters but, being a stand-alone novel, it is not necessary to read it to follow the action or the connections.

These books would make a superb movie or TV series and I’m sure one of these days someone is going to discover them. Then we’ll see Mr. Gallacher’s name in lights, with our hero Jack Calder blazoned across the posters a la Jason Bourne/Matt Damon.

Poem or Story

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Which works better?

Genesis

It’s all supposed to begin with the first step

The thousand miles or kilometres or whatever: Life.

But what if I refuse to take it?

And stand here unmoving

Clinging to the membrane

Steadfast.

An ovum unfertilised

A life that denies the acceptance of existence

Dodging the all-seeking little worms of spermatozoa

Remaining a single-celled

Non-creation.

Still I will be moved

In the bloody menses that she will discard.

And so I will have made a step

Whether I travel

Towards life

Or death.

AND HERE IT IS AS A MINI STORY

Genesis

It’s all supposed to begin with the first step. The thousand miles or kilometres or whatever: Life. But what if I refuse to take it? And stay here unmoving. Clinging to the membrane.

“Stay away from me you worm! Serpent!”

“Allow me entry and you will enjoy experience.”

“No! I don’t want it.” I scream turning away from his seductive dance.

“You will learn about love. A mother’s caress. You will smell flowers as sweet as heaven. Experience the wonders of a world beyond this red-darkness and loud throbbing. You will taste delicacies more exquisite than the insipid chyme that filters into your being just now. You will hear music so fine you will dance free from this static limpet life.”

“Go away. I am afraid.” I am a life that defies existence. I coagulate my shell to prevent penetration. I remain an ovum unfertilised. The spermatozoon dies.

I have survived. I am the star. I dodged the all-seeking little worms and have remained a single-celled non-creation. I have saved her from the pain of birth, the agonies of raising a child and of death.

My triumph is short-lived. Forces I cannot fight are shedding me, tossing me out in her bloody menses. She discards it with disdain and anger, wrapping her tampon carefully in toilet paper.

There are no medals for death if you haven’t lived a life.