Hello welcome to my Blog

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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Monday, 27 February 2017

Beach life in Newcastle

A little beach envy cresting here with the waves that crash onto Newcastle Beach. The water is a lovely turquoise blue, the sand is plentiful and squeaky, like halloumi cheese, and I love the sea breeze whipping around me. Not even this puts me off ! 
 The sign going onto the breakwater built by convicts
 The industrial Newcastle in the distance and a doggie beach by the breakwater.
 How I feel on the beach -
 Surely good enough to eat ?
The other side of the breakwater

Nudie is holding an Australian Boardriders Battle here in Newcastle and contrary to expectations these are not nude surfers but ones hanging onto their Nudie fruit juices which are au naturelle, having the time of their life. Ah yes, living right on the beach is something that I did so effortlessly as a young thing growing up in the town of Famagusta in Cyprus. That beach culture pervades your every waking moment. Barely needing any clothes you wander through the day with your bikinis and your board shorts and life is meant to be enjoyed through the grains of sands pushing through your toes as you engage in yet another conversation with someone you just met on the beach. I do love that and I guess Newcastle, the Ozzie one, has the advantage over Brisbane here. 

Nobby's beach
 In Yellow are lifesavers - notice how many around a group of children.

The Ocean Baths have a big tank for the grown ups and a shallow one for the littlies. 

Newcastle, some 900 kms down south from Brisbane is on the coast. Not surprisingly it was discovered when someone called Shortland was pursuing escaped convicts in 1797. He entered the mouth of the river and called it the Hunter River after the Governor at the time, but more importantly he found coal at the base of the headland which was as good as any in Europe. Well that sealed the city's fate and from then it grew into a European settlement in 1804 with 34 convict miners, mostly Irish, who came to mine the coal. We walked to one of the landmarks, Bogie hole, built by the convicts for the governor. His own swimming pool, as it were,  and there by the side of the road we found - yes, you guessed it, coal. So Newcastle grew to be this industrial port, exporting coal and also iron ore. It has huge mines and ship building factories and if I were really honest it would probably not be up on my list of places to see because of all this. 

 The Bogie Hole excavated out of the rock by convicts, for the Governor to swim in.
Lumps of coal literally on the side of the road where we were walking.

Having friends in these places who can point you in the right direction makes such a difference. So we stayed at Noah Quality Hotel overlooking the beach, and walked right onto Newcastle beach to watch the competition while sipping our Nudies and then onto Nobby's Beach full of life savers and school pupils having a ball, and then onto another with the most beautiful bright pebbles on the beach and lots of happy dogs. 

Newcastle is a haven for beaches within a pebble's throw and what a privilege that is, sharks or no sharks. There is something that a beach life offers us which is free and unfettered. 

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Road trip North Coast NSW

It is not everyday you set off down the coast and encounter places like Woolgoolga, Bongil Bongil National Park, Boozer Creek, Bald Knob and Scone so you know you are in for a good time. We picked up so much on this journey which left us bemused and intrigued. Who would have known that Woolgoolga, affectionately known as Woopi is the biggest regional Sikh and Punjabi population in Australia ! That's where you need to be for a good North Indian curry. Scone sadly did not have a cream tea in sight anywhere. 

We travelled some 880 kms down to Newcastle (more about that in my next blog) and after Newcastle we travelled back up to Brisbane through the Hunter Valley, famous for its vineyards and the Great Dividing Range. The roads, as always in Oz, are a pleasure to drive on, perfectly marked, every detail catered for, T junctions and level crossings noted for miles in advance and overtaking lanes which are just about my favourite, coming up with happy regularity. There were also abundant and annoying road works which meant our speed went up and down like a yoyo. I love driving on these empty roads and we stopped frequently to just explore more. We did most of the wine trails in the Hunter Valley stopping at a town called Broke ( hope they mend it soon ) We did a natural trail in Wollombi while it was about 38C and came out of the bushes dying for a drink. We went to the Cafe and ordered an orange juice which took a little while. The girl literally went across the road to the shop to buy the oranges to squeeze and the ice. 

We drove through endless gum trees, open pastures, the occasional roo and plenty of cows to Tamworth, famous for its Country Music festival but also for being the first town in Australia to  have electric street lighting on the 9th of November 1888. Now that is impressive. Armidale was our next stop - apparently the highest city in Australia at all of 980 metres! 

We passed other smaller towns and amusingly they would proclaim their fame and their population on the sign as we entered the town. Population 1792 ... population 3235....

Country towns, all displaying buildings built at the beginning of their settlement, often the post office and the town hall and covered arcades of shops, down the main drag all built on a grid system which made them easy to navigate and populate. Their roots in the Gaelic and Celtic populations who came out to settle firmly embedded in their own Stone henge in Gless Innes displaying what they called Australian Standing Stones donated by all the communities. Towns like Aberdeen and Gloucester leaving you no doubt about who started them up. We drove through the Liverpool Range and thought nostalgically of our time there- but there was no similarity at all as you can imagine. 

 The Australian Standing Stones in Glen Innes.
The homesteads with their rusted milk churns for post boxes, the old falling down barns, the sweet verandahs draped with climbing flowers and crepe myrtle in blossom added to the rustic charm and friendliness of it all. We picked up conversations at hotels and service stations, restaurants and rest stops and they all left us with a smile and another did you know ....

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Victoria and Abdul

Just finished reading a fascinating book called "Victoria and Abdul" by Shrabani Basu. This is the story of Queen Victoria, Empress of India who was sent two Indian servants from Agra for her Golden Jubilee.  One was a man called Abdul Karim, a Muslim clerk who started out waiting at table in the palace but was very quickly promoted to Munshi or teacher. This young man of 24 taught Victoria, 68 Urdu. For 13 years Victoria took lessons from the Munshi and by the end was able to read and write in Urdu. Victoria's notebooks survive with phrases like " You may go home if you like", and "the egg is not boiled enough" but also other more personal phrases like " you will miss the Munshi" and "hold me tight". She enjoyed his company thoroughly and came to rely on him and through him learnt so much about India, which was so dear to her, but where sadly, she would never go. She conferred privileges and awards on him and made sure he and his family would be comfortable even after her death. She commissioned his portrait which hangs in Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, one of the Queen's homes. 

Abdul Karim as a young man by Rudolph Swoboda 1859-1914- Osborne House 

What makes this book remarkable is that the author took a lot of trouble to uncover documents and correspondence as evidence of this bond. While the book could have benefited from some editing it is a remarkable true story of a significant relationship which for obvious reasons was very much overlooked and ignored. Victoria comes over as an enlightened and very able woman, prone to some romanticism, but blind to any prejudice. The same cannot be said of the people around her who at some point became jealous of the Munshi and wanted to ascribe to him sins and misbehaviour of which he was completely and utterly exonerated. Not only that but after her death the family very viciously demanded all the letters she had written to him and publicly burnt them. 

In this age of mistrust and religious fanaticism as well as persecution it is so heartening to see that there were people on this earth all those years ago, indeed someone as famous as Queen Victoria, who knew the value of friendship irrespective of creed, colour, or social class and that she was able, despite considerable opposition, to stay true to her beliefs throughout her long and fruitful reign. The book is being made into a motion picture and I cant wait to see it adapted to the screen by Stephen Frears with the amazing Dame Judi Dench as Victoria and Ali Fazal as Abdul Karim.
Karim died in Agra at the age of 46, eight years after Viictoria’s death in 1901.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Courier mail - post haste Cyprus style

I sent my sister a document by courier - Aus post cost $50 to deliver it in 3-4 working days.
Perfect I thought, so off it went. The 3-4 days went by, then 4-5, and then over 7.
Finally yesterday she got a call and this is how it went:

Kyria Anna?
A: Yes
Kyria Anna kalimera I am Mr P from the post office.
A: Good morning Mr P.
Mr P: Are you the Kyria Anna who was a candidate for Mayor of Nicosia?
A: Yes Mr P, I was - what can I do for you ?
Mr P: I want you to know I voted for you.
Mr P: Kyria Anna I have an envelope for you. Do you want me to bring it to you ?I s it urgent ?
A: I have no idea. An envelope - where is it from, Income Tax, the Municipality, or from abroad?
Mr P: Let me look - it's from abroad - Austria.
A: Austria ?? Are you sure or could it be Australia ?
Mr P: Oo stravara mou - yes you are right it is Australia !
Its raining outside, do you want it now?
Why don't you come round tomorrow and I will treat you to a coffee and I can give it to you then?
A: Ok Mr P I will come for coffee ...
And so the Cypriot style has overtaken the urgency and the rain for another day, promising a coffee on delivery. Life cant get better than that ! I laughed my head off.

Friday, 3 February 2017

A hot summer

We celebrate four years in Australia as January turns to February. 

The summer started off hot and continues so, with no sign that the high temperatures are going away anytime soon. And he chooses to ignore the signs for climate change - we all know who I am talking about. My sense of anger and exasperation spill over, aided and abetted by the heat and a lingering chest infection, so how to find solace indoors for a while at least? 

Some serious spring cleaning - sofa covers washed and cupboards emptied and re lined.Bottles and jars long since expired relegated to the dustbin. Tidying up of wardrobes and a quick appraisal of what stays and what goes. 

Reading a good book - The Birdman's Wife by Melissa Ashley, so appropriate for my life here as I familiarise myself with Australian birds. It is the story of Eliza Gould, a talented illustrator who accompanied her husband on a two year journey to Tasmania and to Australia to capture, classify and illustrate Australian Bird life of which so little was known in the 1800s. Seeing how difficult it was for women in the 1830s to have families, travel, work and enjoy life compared with what we have today gives me a renewed sense of comfort and gratitude. 

Polishing the silver - in fond memory of my all singing Nepali housekeeper Kumari and my mother who I remember would bring it out on the odd occasion when we had important guests. When my mother gave me this ornate and over the top set I banished it to the back of a cupboard until I went to India where it could be displayed and looked after as befits it. The question was, now in Australia, would I be equally happy to display it and look after it and the answer is an emphatic yes. I put on good music, make a cup of tea, lay out newspapers and set out to polish this thing till it shines back my very face. Kumari always did this job with a song on her lips and a smile on her face and so whenever the time comes, I think of it as my gift from her. Even the daily jobs can be turned the way you want. To find something good in them. And while I was busy doing that I found two faces.  I looked at them with some amusement. Why would the silver smith put them there ? What did they represent ? Will obviously need to find out more but in the meantime here they are ...I admit these look a little cross but could they be extra hot from the inside ...