All posts by wheatypetesworld

Flower of Scotland

It had taken Saima the best part of ten weeks to walk the entire north coast.  Now she was close to her home on the Isle of Skye.  Home.  Somehow, a small part of her, despite her aching muscles, did not want the journey to end.  Since setting out in July, these ancient mountains had been her guide, her friends, her mother, enveloping her in warmth and love, protecting but usually silent, never judging, but always wise.  She loved the evening views of the sea lochs and those isolated spots where you could look out across the waves through a foreground of soft, delicate purple and bright yellow: gorse and thistle.

Saima loved the thistle flower that was the emblem of the country.  Set amongst the majesty of the jade mountains, dotted with yellow gorse, the palette was unthinkable.  What genius artist would think of putting its soothing lilac against a backdrop of more shades of green than you would think possible and the vibrant lemon splashes of gorse?  In harder times, people used to eat the yellow buds.  It was a food that was available all year round.  She mused on the idea of consuming something so beautiful.  Only the flowers could be eaten and gave off a faint aroma which put her in mind of coconut, or maybe it was almond.  She could never decide. 

Not many people knew the secret of the thistle either.   It provided a juicy, mild-flavoured treat to the initiated.  Saima had foraged for such food along the way.  She learned to strip the thistle down to the stem enjoying its watery, bitter crunch, sometimes dipping it in sugar.  In summer, they could grow to the height of a human.

Saima had nearly walked the entire length of the North Coast 500 route. And she felt good about it. She lay in the entrance to her tent as a gentle breeze set the thistles dancing slowly, sensuously.  As one, they bowed gracefully towards the setting sun, like a curtain being drawn back to reveal the waters of the loch against a sky of pink and orange, and whatever colour you get when the two are mixed.  The only sounds were the distant lapping of waves down on the shoreline or the occasional cry of gulls or guillemots, muted and lulled into splashes of silence by the changing wind direction. 

As daylight faded, the silver moonlight took custody of the now perfectly calm loch. 

Saima felt cocooned by the familiar rugged, yet warm cloak of the north coast landscape once more and was happy.

Journey’s end.  Home.

I Really Enjoyed These Reads

Charlie Robinson

One of my favourite bloggers on WordPress is Charlie Robinson, aka charliecountryboy.  He was born in Bradford, like me.  He is of the same generation.  And he has lived some… here is a great example:

… and if you need to smile, then check out his Sooty videos made during lockdowns.

But then he got his book The Siege of Mr. Kahn’s Curry Shop published and it brought all my earliest memories of life back to me.  The late 60s/early 70s always bring back rose-tinted memories.  But there were a few things I had forgotten about in my halcyon fantasy… like the skinheads for example.  This gritty novel brought it all back. 

Helen Moat

A few years ago, I was on a travel blog site from Wanderlusters magazine.  It was a community of travel writers and a pleasure to exchange experiences.  Helen Moat was one of these and has now left the classroom to become a successful author and travel journalist.  So of course, I bought her book when it was published (and read her many travel pieces on various media).  “A Time of Birds” is a beautiful travelogue where she cycles with her son through Europe to Istanbul.  It is a travelogue that combines the landscape with Helen’s memories of her father, as well as chronicling her pleasure of traveling with her son.  Truly delightful.  Beautifully written.

Another Mask-Wearing Christmas

I went down to the post office in the local Spar just before Christmas. You had to wear a mask in the shop. They often choose to close randomly for a few hours, unannounced, but I was lucky on that day. There was a long queue for the Post Office counter and the assistant-of-a-certain-age was taking her time about what to do with each parcel. I was starting to feel a bit narked and the woman behind me seemed to be sidling up a little too close in this mask-wearing environment. Every time I shuffled one step forward, Typhoid Mary would shuffle TWO steps forward.

At last it was my turn and the first parcel I put on the scales was interrogated by Ms. Of-a-Certain-Age:

“Can I ask what is in this?”

I didn’t know what to say. I finally decided that honesty is the best policy and declared in a firm and confident voice:

“Well. it’s a Boris Johnson toilet brush.”

Now the whole queue behind me cracked up and so did Ms. Of-a-Certain-Age.

“I so need one of them,” my former queue enemy declared. A chorus of “Me too”s and “”So do I”s followed. So in the end I came out of that post office/Spar smiling. Parcels posted.

If you love raw music before they became famous…

The Old Crow Medicine Show… who eventually did it this way:

Which one do you prefer?

We could go up even more a level to America’s Got Talent…

But this one was what broke the song, finished by Darius Rucker from a half-finished song by the legend that is Bob Dylan:

So 1, 2, 3 or 4? If you listened to all of them, in the interests of research, I bet you have now got an ear-worm going on… sorry! It IS a great song though, isn’t it?

Golden Moments From Teaching Abroad Part 4 of the short blogs series: The British Embassy

If your classroom assistant is the wife of a “Cultural Attache” at the embassy, you may strike lucky and get invited to a slap-up formal lunch at the Ambassador’s residence.

In some places, where life is difficult for expats (like Libya, where you couldn’t officially buy alcohol), the Ambassador may invite the whole Remembrance Sunday congregation in the CWGC cemetery back to the residence for dinks and canapes. As British territory, the rules on alcohol did not apply and a fine wine was served.

It was the second entry into the register for a marriage in Jordan, where the young relief consul on his first posting, was so excited about one of his first duties being marrying us that he phoned his Dad, all excited, from the Brit Club, we later heard.

And talking of the Embassy Club, what a great place to go for a swim, pub quiz or to to join the football team.

We Should All Take The Knee – International Football

Before the England match against Hungary at Wembley, the England players took the knee as a demonstration, not of support for BLM, but to send the message that racism will not be tolerated in football.

The Hungarian players did not.

The thought occurs: why is it just the players who took the knee? Why shouldn’t the whole crowd do the same to show their support for the message? It would have a lot more power if the whole stadium stood up, or rather knelt down, as a show of solidarity.

Golden Moments from teaching abroad : Part 3 of the short blogs series. Those Weekends Away.

You get to know your colleagues (both Primary and Secondary) very well. And this is the reason: you are all ex-pat teachers looking to get the best experiences you can from the country you find yourself in. So, I cheat a bit here and put lots of golden moments into one with the top five trips away from postings abroad.

  1. Finding yourself in Old Damascus. You had a bit of a hoo-ha getting the visa in Amman, where you had to sign solemn declarations that you never had been, or ever would plan to go, to Israel They did no recognise Israel as a country, so a stamp in you passport – even an exit stamp from one of the Jordan-Israel crossings, was enough to invalidate your passport. But then you discover (or discovered since recent sad events) a medieval world, with an ancient Souq where the apothecaries still sell snakes pickled in a jar for medicinal purposes.

2. The un-touristed, stunning Roman ruins of Sabratha where you can sit on a Roman toilet overlooking pure azure Mediterranean waters, or catch a glimpse of it through the columns behind the stage in the amphitheatre with the lewd reliefs in the foreground.

3. Taking a weekend away in the dubs from Bratislava into Hungary to the Danube Bend, where they lend you an electric cable to hook up, rather than charge you a hefty deposit. Here was perfect rural peace in an idyllic spot above the curving Danube,

4, Heading off to Petra or Wadi Rum or Aqaba where we had our regular favourite hosts.

5. A short train ride to the Christmas markets in Vienna or Budapest.

There are many more of these apart from the top five. which you can find under Jordan, He who Could Not Be Named, Bratislava is for Life. Slovakia blog posts from the home page.

Golden Moments from teaching abroad : Part 2 of the short blogs series. Africa.

One day my classroom assistant was reduced to tears.  I was not sure why at the time.  We had just had a new six-year-old starting from South Africa.  He was a white South African.  One of the first things he did was to ask if he could sing a song to the class.  “Well, yes, sure, great.”

This is what he sang:

‘Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (The Call of South Africa)’
Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (Xhosa)
Maluphakanyisw’ uphondo lwayo (Xhosa)
Yizwa imithandazo yethu, (Zulu)
Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho Iwayo. (Zulu)
Morena boloka setjhaba sa heso, (Sesotho)
O fedise dintwa le matshwenyeho, (Sesotho)
O se boloke, O se boloke setjhaba sa heso, (Sesotho)
Setjhaba sa, South Afrika, South Afrika. (Sesotho)

“When I sang that to my class in South Africa, it made them cry,” was his comment.  And then I noticed my classroom assistant in tears.  She knew it was the new South African national anthem.  The small white child, the son of the very recent white masters of South Africa, singing about the new nation, blessed with the amazing Peace and Reconciliation ushered in by Nelson Mandela. 

South Africa’s national anthem features five of the most widely spoken of the country’s eleven official languages – Xhosa, Zulu, Sesotho, Afrikaans and English.

Lord bless Africa
May her glory be lifted high,

Hear our petitions
Lord bless us, your children.

Lord we ask You to protect our nation,
Intervene and end all conflicts,
Protect us, protect our nation,
Protect South Africa, South Africa.

Out of the blue of our heavens,
From the depths of our seas,
Over everlasting mountains,
Where the echoing crags resound,

Sounds the call to come together,
And united we shall stand,
Let us live and strive for freedom

In South Africa our land.