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Mezze is widely served in the Greek and Middle eastern world. An assortment of little dishes and tasters which accompany a nice ouzo or a glass of wine. So when you read mezze moments you will have tasty snippets of life as I live it, India for four years and now Brisbane Australia, all served up with some Greek fervour and passion.

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Saturday, 30 July 2011

The Island

The Island by Victoria Hislop is a story written about the island of Spinalonga off the coast of Crete. The island was a leper colony from 1903 to 1957.It was probably one of the last active leper colonies in Europe.
The story : The Petrakis family lives in the small Greek seaside village of Plaka. Just off the coast is the tiny island of Spinalonga, where the nation's leper colony was once located—a place that has haunted four generations of Petrakis women. Eleni, Maria, and Anna. Alexis, Eleni's great-granddaughter, visits Greece to unlock her family's past.
This is a novel of lives set in the Mediterranean during World War II. The Island is a story of dreams and desires, of secrets desperately hidden, and of leprosy's touch on a  family. ( A shortened review )
Lead complete.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Life leads

One thing leads to another - how many of you find that in your lives you take a path, visit a place, meet a person and this leads you into something unexpected, new, different or exciting. My present little journey started with a British Contact Group Coffee morning- pretty ordinary you might think. This lead me to MESH and SOCHYO - more about the latter soon but MESH which I blogged about just the other day does a lot of work with people who have leprosy.
How many of you I wonder have even come across this disease or know anything about it?  I have this biblical image in my head of people with leprosy banished to leper colonies. When I visited India many years ago I saw some begging on the street. Perhaps part of my ignorance is that it is not a disease you see often in the west - but then I think again and realise that just recently a hugely popular book was written about a leper colony on an island in Greece. Literally on my doorstep -another lead -(See next blog entry)

So here goes

Leprosy is caused by Bacteria. It usually starts off as a small patch of numb skin. This may lead  to sensory loss and disfigurement of limbs.  If you have it,  IT IS COMPLETELY CURABLE - perhaps something that was not obvious to most people many years ago who thought it was highly contagious.Campaigners these days call it the world's "least contagious communicable disease".

From an article in the Guardian in March of 2011 comes this moving account:
"Narsappa was just 10 years old when he was told he had leprosy, but the news changed the course of his life forever. People in his Indian village immediately began to shun him and told his parents that he had to leave. He says his mother started grieving for him "as if I was already dead". Shortly afterwards, his father took him to a hospital two hours away from home and left him there. No one ever came to visit him and Narsappa never went home again.

Now 42, he now lives in a leprosy colony on the outskirts of Hyderabad and campaigns on behalf of people affected by the disease. "I lie awake at night thinking about how I was treated and how I can stop others from going through the same thing," he says.

India may have one of the fastest growing economies in the world, but 130,000 Indians are diagnosed with leprosy every year – more than every other country put together.

Read full article .....

So these people are not only battling with the illness which is bad enough but the unwarranted social stigma that seems to cling on to the disease for no good reason. And this in the 21st Century. MESH gives them a purpose and a way of earning a living.And hopefully that is just a start to them achieving a socially inclusive and dignified existence.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

How our eating habits can affect the handicapped.


Pictures courtesy of Sochyo

No I have not gone completely mad. There is a correlation and I wonder how many of you might be able to guess what it is ? I recently had the opportunity to visit a wonderful NGO called MESH- It stands for Maximising Employment to Serve the Handicapped and it has a shop at 5 UDAY PARK NEW DELHI 110049. Phone NO +91 11 26965039. http://www.mesh.org.in/- Do visit and come away with wonderful items like the ones pictured above.
Mesh's focus is to work with people affected by Leprosy and other disabled groups. It buys from 42 groups in 12 states in India and it sells their products through Fairtrade organisations in Europe, North America and Australia.
Changes in eating habits in the west but here as well suggests that there is no longer the emphasis on eating meals around a table which in the traditional way would require a tablecloth or placemats- with couples being busy with full time jobs, with microwave meals taken at any time and with less time for family meals there has been a marked dropped in the demand for tablecloths and placemats so the weavers who are directly affected by this must look for other innovative products to produce and sell.
Remote but relevant and directly affecting their livelihood.
When I was raising my children I had one rule and that was that we ate around a table every night. I never cooked a separate meal and the children ate the food we ate. There is nothing they dont eat and dont enjoy and I am blessed with three boys who take joy and pleasure in their food and the way they eat it. Next time you are thinking of cutting corners think again.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Facing it

Is there an acceptable face to these children ? One that we can live with. Are these faces better examples of what I described in my previous post ? Yet it is what we come across all the time. Rich dark hair sometimes unkempt but more often carefully braided or pigtailed, dirty grubby clothes and dirty faces sweating in unbearable temperatures or shivering in the cold.
They light up with smiles so broad you are almost in disbelief.  There are so many out there and each one is more beautiful than the last. Is this painting an unrealistic picture of a horrible hand to mouth existence. Are there right ways to behave and wrong ways ?
Are they in that trap and cant get out whatever they do because there is addiction and glue sniffing and stealing ? Is it hopeless or hopeful ? These are all young girls. Could you see your daughters begging, selling pens and flowers, their bodies perhaps, to make it through to the next day ?

Thursday, 21 July 2011

A different face

Living in India means that you often encounter street children begging on the streets or living on the roadside.
We talk about their plight and their life. Some beg,some sell pens or flowers, some play with siblings or carry the babies. Some of us develop relationships with these children and give them support whether it is in the form of old clothes or biscuits or even a bottle of clean water. Others find the experience too much and wind the windows up or simply ignore them. However we deal with them the reality is that rarely do you see sad faces.
Today however  I saw a different one
A little girl, pigtailed, in shorts and a shirt which were grey and grubby, barefoot, walking on the inside of a double carriage way. On the side of the oncoming traffic.This is dangerous but not unusual nor unexpected. Only minutes before I had seen a little child barely of walking age crossing this road by himself.

Her head was ever so slightly looking down and she was sucking her thumb. I dont know why I felt that child's sheer vulnerability through that small gesture but I did. There was something so unbelievably poignant about her need to be comforted and her ability to find this sucking her thumb.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Nutmeg and Mace

And the winner is Mr Anonymous( please dont be shy) ....who said Mace.. which is half the answer of course and the other half is Nutmeg. The picture you saw was of the drupe. It is not a fruit and it is not a nut - it is a drupe and all its parts are used. In some parts of the world they make jam or chrystallized candy out of the fleshy part and then you have the intense red veining called the aril which is dried to make mace which if also a spice like nutmeg but less pungent, a gentler version if you like.
Under the aril is the dark shiny nut- like pip and inside that is an oval shaped seed, which is the actual nutmeg, with very pronounced veining - the inner kind, which you see if you grate one.
They are such beautiful spices and they have been around since the 16th century. They are native to the Mollocus Islands also known as the "Spice islands" and Grenada where the nutmeg tree grew very well became known as the Nutmeg Island and it is even on their flag.
It is said that 16th Century monks used to tell young men to annoint their genitals with nutmeg oil to assure their virility and the other story I found which is such fun is that if you tucked a nutmeg under your left armpit before a social event it was believed to attract admirers.

Now that I know I am not attending any more social functions without my nutmeg tucked away for that extra protection and attention !

Thursday, 14 July 2011

A southern delight

My driver comes from Kerala and his family are up in the Delhi visiting and apart from gifts of big yellow fleshy Keralan Bananas I got this. I tasted a corner, I marvelled at its natural attributes, sensual and inviting every way you look at it, I prodded and cut it and I googled it to death. I have the answer but do you ?

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Pataudi Palace

Living in Delhi is a bit of a skill and it takes a lot of energy to get it right. Escaping occasionally  is necessary  to recharge those tired batteries and give you a breather but finding places which are easily accessible is a harder task.
Pataudi is one such. It is about 60 kms south from Delhi  which is a reasonably easy journey and it is tucked away off the main road so you might just miss it if you are not careful but it is a bit of an oasis and a lovely place for a day's wanderings or a weekend break.
As soon as you are there you feel the presence of the family who owned it, the Nawab Ali Khan who built it circa 1935 ( aka Tiger ). The current family boasts some Bollywood stars among it. One of them was captain of the Indian Cricket Team which is not a small honour these days. The corridors are full of pictures of eager sports teams competing with others.
The billiard room is an example of how little was undertaken as a small operation. Its size is impressive and the games played there must have been memorable with seating for eager participants and onlookers. 
The colonades at the back give the shade you seek when the weather is not kind and the pool provides a welcome refreshment.
The rooms which are mainly up an impressive stair case are all furnished with period pieces, impressive four posters and luxurious bathrooms.

We spent some time walking in the gardens which have beautiful roses, snap dragons and some family tombs.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Moments of immense joy and pride

There are some times in all of our lives that mark unforgettable moments and yesterday was one such for my family. My eldest son's graduation from Cambridge University, a place close to out hearts and dear to our souls for so many reasons. The day dawned blue - vibrant blue, not a cloud in the sky and we overlooked the lawns of Downing College as the robed young men and women congregated with their families for a picture of the year and then the procession down to Senate house through the cobbled stone streets of Cambridge flanked by historic colleges along the way. A ceremony conducted exclusively in Latin which seemed somewhat archaic but in conformity with the ritual and the 800 year old history of the University.
He has loved every minute of it and it will be a very special part of his life forever.For us that moment was mixed with nostalgia as this is where we met, pride and joy for his achievement and a slight tinge of sadness that it might be a while before we return.