Monthly Archives: November 2012

The British

I’m off to the British Skating Championships in Sheffield tomorrow. I’ve attended every ‘British’ since 2002, the year my son David first entered (and won). Each year the nerves begin to build slowly until the final few days when I find concentrating on anything other than irrelevancies (or digesting anything useful) virtually impossible… until the competition is over. As the mother of a competitive sportsman, I’ve found it goes with the territory.


You would think, after ten years, I would have learned to cope with the tension. I agree, and before I reached this position I firmly believed ‘older’ parents had the experience to cope. Now I realise experience doesn’t help! After ten years I am an old hand at accepting the shaking hands and butterflies dancing in my stomach.


I would never have been able to compete the way David does. I know this because when I was a youngster my father had sporting ambitions for me – I was going to be a table tennis champion, except I never learned how to control my nerves.


But there are other reasons why this year is worse than ever. My son’s partner Stacey (he being only one half of a pair skating team) injured her knee badly four weeks ago. The torn ligament meant they had to withdraw from two international competitions and couldn’t train for four weeks. Despite this fact they still had every intention of competing in the British. However last Monday my son twisted his ankle during a training exercise. At first there were fears it was broken but after an MRI scan the club physio was able to assure him it was ‘merely sprained’. The swelling is such he can’t get his skating boot on, never mind lace it up. So we decided competing in the British was definitely off the cards.


They flew back to the UK last Friday (they train in Florida) and went down to Sheffield on Monday to see the TeamGB doctor for an assessment. The physio strapped Stacey’s knee and massaged David’s ankle and suggested the pair skate for half an hour. Today they are going back for another assessment to see if they can risk competing in the British on Thursday (tomorrow).


I know how very hard they have been working all year. They’ve been at EllentonSkatingSchool all year, training five days a week with a punishing physical schedule. They get very little free time; miss seeing their family and friends back in the UK, leading an almost reclusive life in order to fulfil their dreams. We visited them in July and were totally astounded at their progress; they were attempting something called a quad-throw, as well as new and complicated lifts and jumps, well above their current pay-grade! It’s a mark of how much they want to get a place in the next Winter Olympics that they stay motivated.


If you are reading this on 29th or 30th November please cross your fingers for Kemp and King, and if you feel that way inclined say a little prayer. If nothing else spare a kind thought for their mothers who will be sitting huddled together (out of sight) in a nervous stupor of hope and fear.Image



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Making Memories

We are leaving Nepal, kingdom above the clouds. It seems a lost land, mysterious and compelling. In a strange way I see it as a place of prisms – a spectrum of colours synthesised through the land and culture of its people, transient and fragile. Old and new collide without finding need to merge; life is about respect and honour and survival. Tucked into the folds of Nepal’s sky scraping mountains exists a proud people – proud of their history, proud of their remarkable country.


We ended as we began, in the fabled city of Kathmandu. Here the streets are chaotic; they drive on the left but in every other respect seem to have thrown away the rule book, if it ever existed. Should anything block the road, be it a bus, taxi or broken down lorry, all vehicles rigorously overtake, regardless of what is coming in the opposite direction. As if to compound the confusion motorbikes weave through as though on an assault course and as for the bicycles….a seriously overworked God must be watching over the riders.  Cows graze, ignominious


But the city has remarkable beauty. And history….we tried to see the Living Goddess but she proved rather shy. We were unsettled by the concept of choosing one girl child to be so esteemed and enchanted. We who are moulded with modern minds find looking into this alien past unsettling. Pilgrims, monks, holy-men, tourists, locals, all inhabit the same frenetic streets but I suspect what we see is very different. The temples and stupas draw us together with a sense of the past still living, but what we understand as God is aeons apart.


We filter through tiny lanes where roadside shops are little more than three walled shacks. Cramped displays are tilted towards pedestrians but the rows of pampered fruits and vegetables lie temptingly close to the cows and monkeys who also graze these streets, at one busy crossroads we even encounter a herd of goats. Pungent smells fill the air as we invade the spice market; trays of yellow turmeric, brown nutmegs, black and green peppercorns and the tiny seeds of cumin and coriander displayed alongside less familiar condiments. Hanging over our heads are displays of textiles, the multi-coloured silks conjure up tales of the orient, patterned fables burnished in hot reds, burnt oranges, cool indigoes, citrus yellows and emerald greens. A riot of disharmony overlaid in gold braid.  The buzz of the marketplace is enigmatic, too much to see and too little time.

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Kathmandu Streetlife

Kathmandu Streetlife

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November 21, 2012 · 4:25 pm

Jellabie Heaven

During the bumpy ride from Kathmandu to Chitwan we stopped briefly in a small, ramshackle town, partly to make use of some dubious toilet facilities but mostly to purchase bananas for the elephants we were going to meet the following morning. The arrival of a coachful of travellers seemed to become the subject of local amusement as a small crowd watched us pour out of our air-conditioned bus into the heat of a mid-day sun. Their faces seemed to guess this was yet another crowd of crazy foreigners.

The town had probably grown from its position on a major crossroads of the trans-Nepalese highway which stretches from the border with India all the way up to Kathmandu. Below the town, rammed into its gorge-like banks, stands the solitary road bridge which traverses the great white river we have been bumping alongside, through breath-taking scenery, for many hours. Not that we’ve travelled a great distance in terms of miles but what this famous highway lacks in substance it makes up for with an ebullient and ever-present sense of danger. Riding this road is not for the faint-hearted, but that’s another story.

The town’s wide board-walks own more than a passing resemblance to sepia photographs of old frontier towns like those of the American Wild West. Shaded under wooden fascias small businesses and shops ply trades which seem to acknowledge they exist in a place of habitual flux. As brightly painted HGV’s of dubious reliability rumble noisily past every small space between road and buildings is occupied by rickety market stalls set higgledy-piggledy amongst major earthworks which throw dust and dirt over everything and everyone. Winding their way through the piles of bricks and chugging machinery twenty-eight weary travellers go in pursuit of bananas. No matter what the risk we had to purchase our treats for the poor elephants of Chitwan.

Our Nepalese guide handled the haggling but the first banana seller wasn’t in any mood to negotiate. Perhaps the sight of so many anxious tourists desperate to buy bananas was unsettling and with our given quota of a dozen each we would easily have diminished his entire stock. I had the distinct feeling he somehow doubted our integrity.

As our garrulous group snaked its way around the market behind an amused guide, our ranks were expanded by several street-traders who were most anxious to tempt us with their merchandise. Had we been in the market for flutes or fiddles money would have changed hands but all we wanted were bananas and as we were coming to the end of our allotted half-hour stoppage time panic was beginning to show. What about the poor ellies? We had to have bananas.

Coming to the farthest end of the market we unwittingly surrounded two elderly women about to unpack a hessian bag full to the brim with fresh bananas. Entirely nonplussed by the ambush they accepted the price our guide offered with barely a haggle. We readily lined up with our Nepalese notes at the ready as the ladies started counting bananas into paper bags. Not surprisingly they quickly ran out of stock but managed to get some more from the neighbouring stallholder. The women obviously possessed a flair for such enterprise.

Gathering back at the coach we could now relax and take a few moments to see what the rest of the town had to offer. Underneath the eaves of the nearest board-walk two young men, sweaty faces split by the widest of smiles, were cooking bite-sized portions of food in a blackened pan over an open flame. Being that our expedition had set out at dawn the sight and smell of steaming hot piles of neatly stacked golden delicacies was too tempting. All those warnings about consuming wayside treats dissipated into dust, especially when one of my fellow travellers explained they were Jellabies – ribbon-balls of deep-fried, sticky, sweet dough. Yum. And just for the record no repercussions, except the extra few pounds in weight.

If you want to try them I have found a recipe.
• ½ cup corn starch
• 1 cup flour
• 1 tsp baking powder
• 1 cup sour milk
• ½ cup milk
• 1½ cups sugar
• ½ cup water
• 1 pt cooking oil
1. Sift together flour, corn starch and baking powder. Add sour milk and milk and mix well to form a soft batter.
2. Put sugar and water to boil for 15 minutes to make a thin syrup. Add to milk mixture. Pour batter mixture into a squeeze bottle.
3. Squeeze mixture into the hot oil, making a few rounds for one jellabie. Turn and fry until golden brown.
4. Remove from oil and dip while hot in syrup for a few seconds.
5. Remove from syrup and drain. Serve hot or cold.
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Do I need a fiddle?

Do I need a fiddle?

The Banana Hunt

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