Category Archives: I miss shopping.

A Bonus Sunday, overpriced Christmas trees and rainy days.

A rare treat: a Sunday at home, no work, courtesy of the Islamic New Year.  Happy New Year and welcome to the year 1433.

Not only was it a bonus Sunday but that meant the first Saturday night in months and a Sunday night that felt like a proper, night before the start of the week, Sunday night. Complete with eggs on toast and a side offering of baked beans.

Of course it also meant a 3 day weekend.

And well deserved it was too, after a week that culminated in a day and a half of parent teacher interviews. I was a little worried about getting all the Mohamed’s, Ali’s and Fatima’s straight. I think I did ok, considering that I have about two in each class. One thing I did notice is that the parents were most kind, very grateful to us teachers and that the mothers have an uncanny ability to lift their hands up considering the heavy bling.

This weekend saw more rain. Damp, flat, grey weather that reminded me of a London day in July. I loved it. And I have to risk the removal of my Canadian passport when I confess that despite being 18 degrees Celsius, it actually felt quite cool. Yes, I thought exactly the same thing when people told me it would feel cool. Are said “ are you mad?” I am a Canadian. I have lived in Winnipeg ( better known as Winterpeg in some parts). There is no way I will feel cold, ever, without serious frost bite chomping on my cheeks. But I guess 4 years of heat stroke will do that to you.

Ok it felt cool, not cold and I was just appreciating the seasons, that’s all.

Speaking of seasons….I have wondered about Christmas in the desert. How is it possible? And a Muslim desert, no less. But believe it or not, it is not even December and Muslim desert or not, the malls are top to toe in wreaths, garlands, tinsel and trees. I asked some of my students what the hell was going on and they replied that it was just another theme. And an excuse to shop. And eat out. And party.

So I guess Christmas spirit in all its materialistic glory will find its way to the Sandy Isle.

And here is the first evidence. Turns out you can get real Xmas Trees here. In my naivete I thought that meant there was a place tucked away in a green house that grew them. But no. They are flown in at great expense both to the customer and the environment. Exhibit one:

 

The smallest tree is $87.50 and that is for 1.5 metres. And the largest is a whopping $3.10 for 4 metres.

I guess we are sticking with the straggly, anemic, dwarf tree we bought in Kampala.

2 Comments

Filed under Family Stuff, I miss shopping.

10 things I love

Just because, why not? It is healthy to focus on the positive and the lovely, especially during times of change, upheaval and boxes.

And before we begin I should quickly say that the list below, comes of course after the following:

Handsome, Trooper, Princess, Marks and Spencer’s, Sushi, my iphone and London taxis.

1. Getting lost in a sensual, evocative film and wishing it could never end. I love the movies so much it is quite an obsession, so much so that I have always told new parents that in my mind it is the only notable sacrifice to having children. Babies will impinge on that bi-weekly movie habit. When I was a teenager I remember taping Bunuel’s Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie onto a VHS tape and storing it safely in a box so I could always have it near. Thereafter I started my Truffaut habit and it just moved on from there. In another life I would be studying film.

2.My Mulberry.

It is extremely beautiful and makes me wondrously happy everyday. I shouldn’t have, because it was simply too extravagant for words, but I am so glad I did. My handbag fetish is now appeased and quietened for sometime, this is because I was hunting and finally found perfection.

3 .The sea.

Looking at it, smelling it, walking beside it, swimming in it. It is the place I am happiest.

4 .Shoe shopping. Shoes make me very jolly, and you don’t need to worry about fitting into them. Luckily for my bank balance there is no shoe shopping in Kampala. Scary for my bank balance is that Bahrain has many a yummy shoe shop. But my dreamiest shoe shop is in Montreal; it is called Scarpa and is in Westmount.  I am day dreaming about it now, even that makes me happy.

5. A hike in the woods. I am not a fan of exercise but a good walk outdoors somewhere very pretty and wild makes me very happy.

6. Teaching Shakespeare or an obscure but wonderful poem and the class just gets it, Bingo. Makes me happy every time.

7. Taking a near perfect photograph. It doesn’t happen very often but it does give the best sense of achievement.  Looking at a great photograph taken by someone else gives me the same thrill.

8. The National Gallery, London.

How lucky was I to have compulsory scheduled Art History lectures in the National Gallery? And I still love walking through those hallowed halls. You could say it is as close as possible to a church, for me.

9. The post meal conversation. Picture the scene. Great friends sitting together, the meal is over, the wine glasses still full. The cigarettes are lit and the candles low yet flickering. The night is deep and slow and there is no reason the get up early the next day. The moment is still and perfect. Memories are being made.

10. Princess and Trooper are happily busy with friends, or horses or any such fun. The house is ours, quiet and alone and rare.

Thanks to Belgian Waffle for the excellent idea.

Leave a comment

Filed under I miss shopping., personal

Being brave, driving, finding snails and the pretty.

I am not writing enough. Perhaps I am in less of a reflective mood and more of a get on with it and cope mood. We are trudging along here with out our Handsome. He is happy over there in our future home; he has survived one sand storm and multiple temptations in the shopping department. He has a car now and is installed in a small and sweet apartment on the beach. And us? Well we have been keeping ourselves sane with homework, Thai food, the occasional Margarita and plenty of cutting out of paper fish. ( Poisson d’avril, ladies and gentleman, will soon be upon us.)

I am being terribly brave and driving all over the place. As one or two of you may know I am very frightened of driving in Kampala, and Handsome Husband did very nearly ALL the driving when he was here. Now it is me behind the wheel and it is amazing what happens when you take away the element of choice. We just have to cope. The bumps, the pot holes, the crazy boda boda drivers, the maniacs who think you can just cut someone off, the pedestrians who assume we will stop or slow down, the nonsensical  magic roundabouts, the lack of traffic lights, I am fighting fierce and doing it all.

Do I have anything else to tell you?

We had a giant snail walking up our wall. Here it is:

And sometime next week I will be another year older. I have purchased myself a lovely birthday present, quite a feat to find something I am so excited about in Kampala and it has been hidden away in Trooper’s room to be pulled out on my birthday. I can’t tell you what it is, because we are pretending it is a surprise.

But it is pretty and we all need pretty things now and again.

2 Comments

Filed under Being brave, I miss shopping.

Photo # 12 A heavenly moment in a shop

There is a very special shop in London known to many a tourist called Fortnum & Mason. They happen to have the best champagne truffles in the world. When we approached the Truffle Counter we noticed some divine chocolates laid out for tasting. It was a moment akin to heaven.

Leave a comment

Filed under Great Big Shiny West, I love food, I miss shopping.

The Great Shiny West Photo Challenge

Summer holidays approach, finally and I need a new creative challenge. Once I am let loose from this zoo they call school I will be hopping on a plane and my eyes will pop when I see the Great Shiny West. It has been nearly a year since I did the following things:

  1. Ate ice cream
  2. Drank a Starbucks coffee
  3. Walked on a pavement
  4. Rode a bus or a train or a Tube
  5. Ate pine nuts
  6. Walked into a large clothes/shoes/book shop
  7. Bought a magazine
  8. Watched TV ( that is not streamed on the internet)
  9. Not fret about power cuts
  10. Used a washing machine
  11. Used a dish washer
  12. Ate a strawberry
  13. Walked on a groomed, manicured lawn in a park.
  14. Saw dogs on leashes
  15. Talked to an old friend, face to face.
  16. Didn’t wake up, go to the toilet and check for the presence of a cockroach.
  17. Use a real telephone, attached to the wall.
  18. Look out of a window to see old, tall buildings made of bricks.
  19. Cook without worrying that a fallen crumb will lead to an army of ants
  20. Ate in a restaurant with a crisp white table cloth and a handsome blond waiter serving me a grilled vegetable soufflé.

I imagine the first few days will be overwhelming and I am going to hide my ATM card in the freezer to avert disaster. I have decided that instead of writing lots of WOWs and throwing tons of exclamation marks everywhere (!!!!) and perhaps even shouting on about consumerism and materialistic shallow Londoners who have no idea how Africans live I am going to sacrifice the written word all together. Instead I am going to document my reaction through images.

I will post one image a day for 20 days.  Maybe more, maybe less. Promise.

I will call it the Great Shiny West Photo Challenge.  Each photo has to speak to what I am thinking and feeling about being back.

Too bad I won’t have my new camera until the end of the month…oh dear…first world problems.

3 Comments

Filed under Great Big Shiny West, I miss shopping.

Oh so lovely

Marking? Tick. Reports? Tick.  I am on a slippery water slide heading for the finish line; before I know it Year One will be behind us all.  Last Saturday saw an extravaganza at school aptly named Fun Day. It saw Princess dancing on stage despite her one armed status, it saw Handsome Husband taking his turn as parent of the day at the Parent’s Sports Relay; hopping along with one leg tied to a virtual stranger, his muscles put to the test in the “pull a swimmer” challenge in the pool. I did my turn as cheerleader and happy observer. There was no point in both of us breaking a sweat! Sunday saw us at two parties, one for a delightful four year old, one where we watched England disgrace themselves on a football pitch. I think the four year old bouncing on a rubber castle was more coordinated then most of those over paid grown men kicking a ball.

In the mean time I have started to salivate over the pretty things awaiting me in London. If you know me at all by now you know that I am a frustrated shopper and lover of shoes. A good friend warned me that after being in Africa for close to a year without a break it is advisable to resist all shopping for three days. Yes, hide the wallet for three whole days. So I have turned to the nets for some early anticipatory temptation. Rather like looking at the dessert menu upon arriving at a restaurant  without a care for price, nor calorie.

Look at the lovely things I have found.  I am guilty of coveting. Of course there is an air of being sensible, after all these items do need to return to Kampala and be worn, most likely in a classroom or an event where they will suit. Silly heels are out of the question, obviously.

A Lovely number from Jigsaw here. And another one below:

This one is a pretty little number from Mango.
Yes those will do very nicely. ( From LK Bennet.)

Lovely pair of Pied a Terre Sandals below.
And then this.. Swoon… It is called Friday dress and it is by Anglomania.  Price upon waking up.

I am now going to return swiftly to reality with a attack of the dishes and a sponge bath for the aforementioned one armed Princess.

3 Comments

Filed under I miss shopping.

Blue Sambuca and Brown Croupiers.

After an evening spent watching Trooper performing in her school play we dispatched her to a sleepover and headed out for some drinks at the most popular Irish watering hole in the city. It is not a place I like, but it is one of the only places to go as there is a dearth of bars in this town. At about 11.30 pm when I was having visions of my bed, it was suggested that a trip to the Casino was in store.  Now, I don’t like casinos and I don’t like gambling. I find the whole concept of putting money on the table, only to lose it minutes or even mere seconds later, quite frightening. I like to hold tight to my money and save it all up for holidays in Lamu or shoe shops.  Still, I was out numbered and not wanting to be a sour puss, I am never sour and certainly no puss; I followed along.

Entering the casino felt as I imagined a morgue to feel. Albeit one decorated in the style of an Egyptian pyramid. So maybe an ancient Egyptian morgue. It was ice cold both in temperature and mood; the room was brightly lit with a bar against one wall serving free drinks ( as they should since they were taking all our money anyway); large tables with bored looking people took up the remainder of the room. A team of all female croupiers dressed in brown costumes looked bored but competent as they cut cards and dealt. There was one other smaller room where a high stakes Poker game was underway. I hid in the larger room.

This was only the third casino of my life. The first was a large, brightly lit and bustling place, Vegas style, in the heart of Lisbon. We went there as a drunken group during a wedding weekend. I have few memories of the event as I was far too tipsy to count my money let alone intentionally lose it.

The second was a sad and dismal second floor casino in Winnipeg in the middle of winter, mid week. There was nothing glamorous about it. I remember the people all looked grey, bored and rather grubby as if they had been there too long and were starting to blend in with the dreary furniture. We lost $60 and it broke my heart. I swore I would never go again, especially as those days I had to teach three sets of ballet lessons to 5 year olds to earn that princely sum.

Yet here I was entering the casino for the third time. Handsome husband likes the black jack and knows how so I just sat and watched aghast as time and time again that nasty lady in the brown pants suit got closer to 21 than us. How could she repeatedly win? Why was she so lucky?  In the end I walked away and tucked back a few free shots of Sambuca. It was blue and tasted of terrible cough mixture.

There was a man who kept throwing chips at the roulette table and the brown clad woman just kept taking them away. Despite the fact that it was far from crowded I was shocked that so many Ugandans had that much wealth to throw away. We were the only white people there, I had expected a larger expat contingent.

The saddest thing about the whole event was not losing money ( we ended up $100 ahead thanks to HH’s luck), it was was the depressing mood of the place. Everyone just looked so bored. It wasn’t even fun, it was all rather desperate and lonely.

I am not going back. My thrills lie elsewhere, not sure where yet, but elsewhere.

2 Comments

Filed under I miss shopping., Kampala

Into the dark depths of Owino market

Well I finally did it. I went to Owino, the largest market in Uganda. It is a weaving, postulating maze of stalls selling all manner of objects from paper clips, to shoes, wedding dresses to suits, chickens to belts and dried fish to hats. It is where the majority of clothes from Western charity shops end up together with some seconds and the left overs that never sold in Winners. Some people love it and treat going there as an extreme sport, equipping themselves for a trip into murky hell, coming out for air only  when bags are stuffed with “finds” that will be washed and worn or taken to the tailor to be reworked. There are others that stay away as if from the plague saying they “hate that place” and “I’ll never go back in there.” Either way it draws a reaction when you say that a trip is planned. Everyone comes out with some advice. It seems the best tips are these:

  • Go early on a Sunday morning when it less crowded as many people are at church.
  • Wear closed shoes as it is muddy and dirty.
  • Carry your phone and money in jeans pockets, no handbags allowed.
  • Take an empty backpack and a water bottle.
  • No jewelry allowed.
  • Get ready to be accosted, shouted out and even mauled.

When four white chicks enter the maze they stick out like sore thumbs and the excitement level in the stalls raises just a friction as they realize a big sale might be imminent. Luckily I went with a pro who knew where to park and where to enter and most importantly where to go. If I had gone alone I would most certainly have got lost and might still be there now, trying to claw myself out under mountains of old shoes.

As I entered, with some trepidation, not being entirely clear what I would find, the smell hit me first. It was a heady cocktail of dried fish, peanut butter, old clothes, cooking and body odour. There were many nut stalls grinding  ground nuts into thick pastes ranging in colour from anemic red to mustard brown. As we entered one small covered path we saw hundreds of shoes, some piled high, some laid out, and behind each mini stall sat a man scrubbing the shoes, trying to make them look new again. In another corner were piles of bras, bathing suits and in another a small hill of children’s clothes. Few of these items were new; I kept expecting to see some item I had dropped off at Goodwill or Oxfam some years ago. These clothes arrive in huge grey plastic sack and are unceremoniously tipped onto either a tarpaulin or a table. Some are torn but some are in decent condition. I saw French Connection dresses and Marks and Spencer’s suits but the highlight of the morning was the “dress man”. Thanks to him I have now found out where bridesmaid’s dresses go to die. One after another we pulled out a frightening mixture of tuille, frill and pastel. A few times we even found a few classic ‘mother of the bride’ dresses; items worn once, well intentionally and then stuffed into the back of a closet never to be seen again, ‘till now. We looked at these dresses with a mixture of shock and laughter. It was an education in bad taste and I will forever wonder how, if she is your best friend, you could ever have forced her to wear that.

In the end we each came out with one or two pieces, some for a laugh and one or two things we might actually wear. I, however, believe I won the treasure hunt having found these fabulous red shoes! What a find!

As we were leaving we got trapped by a large truck trying to enter the market. I can’t imagine what he had in his mind, since there is no where that a truck could feasibly go. As he tried to get out of his predicament people were scrabbling to get their clothes, shoes and carrots out of the way of his large wheels and we couldn’t get around the front nor the back of the truck. We just had to wait while people stared at us and laughed at our frustration. After all, what was the big rush? When Trooper was touched on her arm by a man I yelled at him to get off. “But she is so pretty, so soft!” he replied, once again rubbing his hands over her arm. I was hot, sticky, tired and in dire need of a shower. Two and a half hours had been enough.

Will I go back? Maybe, it is a treasure trove of dressing up clothes and a fantastic place to scour for drama costumes, but it won’t be too soon. I have had enough Owino for the time being.

Plus did I mention I have a sort of second hand clothes phobia? I do, something to do with the person’s spirit staying in the clothes. I know, crazy. But that is another story.

5 Comments

Filed under I miss shopping., Kampala

A simple list


I have not been feeling happy. So to knock the blues on the head I have decided to try the old fashioned approach and twist my head the other way.

Happiness is:

An excellent cup of coffee, not filter, not instant, real expresso.

A day at the beach. Any beach, even it is cold, windy and the waves are cross. But even better if it hot and empty.

Slowing waking up and realizing there is a soft princess in bed curled up beside me.

A breakfast buffet in a 5 star hotel.

New shoes.

Seeing a daughter looking beautiful and excited as she heads out to a party

Toblerone

Eating outside, al fresco

A good book and nothing else to do than read it.

Fresh, unopened juicy magazine filled to the brim with pictures, articles, stories. Think New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Oprah.

A snow day , everything closed, a guilt free day at home.

Bottle of chilled white wine, good friend, no work tomorrow.

Dark cinema, film that envelops, comfortable chairs, popcorn and M&Ms.

Sushi with my sisterhood

Taking a fantastic photo.

The smell of puppy paws, crushed digestives and milk.

Gelato.

A class of kids that looks up at you, in silence, and you know that they are all there and they get it.

Seeing your kids smile and laugh in the company of really good friends.

Having a good friend where you can invite yourself over for tea and stay for dinner.

Getting 3 facebook messages from ex students on the day that Salinger died to say they were thinking of me.

A sunday with no rain.

Dancing to a little Bob.

2 Comments

Filed under I love food, I miss shopping., Sisterhood, When the rose tint fades

Rainy day fantasies

My first African Christmas has come and gone and I have now taken to my bed. It is the only seemingly cosy place in this box I call my home. Kampala has been drenched with rain for 3 days now and my mood seems intent to match the weather. I can’t help wondering what we would be doing in Montreal or Trinidad. So since I am struck with boredom on a rainy day in a dusty (now muddy) city I have decided with the utmost of self indulgence to ask myself some pertinent questions.

What would I do in Montreal today?

Well there are a number of choices, among them a zippy toboggan ride down Murray Hill, an ice skate on Beaver Lake, a wander through the tempting shops down town, perhaps lunch or coffee at a cafe on St. Denis or even an Imax film. Of course there is also the option of a visit to a museum of gallery. Even in the snow Montreal has a wealth of offerings, and combined with the richness of friends who live there ( although they are all away this week) it is easy to see why Montreal continues to be my favorite city in the world.

What would I do in Trinidad today?

Well, a lot less, to be sure, but assuming the sun is shining a trip to Maracas beach is a good bet. There would also be some walking and even staying home in our sun drenched happy house would be quite blissful.

What would I do in London today?

Assuming my wallet could bare it what wouldn’t I do in London today? Aside from the fact that there is always my sister to play with, there is a multitude of shops in which to covet things and museums in which to gain some inspiration and joy. There is also always Waitrose where I could walk up and down the aisles while drooling and clutching my wallet like a deprived tourist let out of Africa on a day pass.

What do I wish I could do today?

Shop. I am in need of some serious retail therapy and even a frustrating walk through a big shiny shop full of lovely things I can’t afford would be sweet indulgence. Of course, to assuage the pain of unrequited love I would need to buy at least one fabulous thing that I shouldn’t. At this point I would predict that it would be shoes.

I also wish I could go for a long walk around a city park. It doesn’t need to be the country at all, and I would prefer not to don wellies and outfit myself as if heading out for the great hunt. No, a city park that would end up at some shops with a warming cappucino would suit just fine. In fact, a brisk walk in a chilly climate would be good as long as the warm and soft scarf could be unwound with relief at the end of it all.

I also fancy a matinee movie in one of those cinemas where you stand, hand on chin, and take a good few minutes to choose what you want to see. One of those cineplexes showing more than 21 films would be grand.

So there you have it. A trip down fantasy lane! Fun while it lasted.


1 Comment

Filed under I miss shopping.