Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Iran has been totally brilliant even if a little surreal at times. What has attracted my attention the most on this trip is how gifted some of the people here are at replying to a question you have asked without actually giving you an answer.
For the first few days I thought either I was going a little crazy or I had forgotten my Farsi and was asking questions that didn’t make sense.
For example I would ask my uncle if he wanted my mum to give him a call when she came out of the shower, he would give me a long lecture about how he doesn’t have any hot water in house! Or I would ask my grandmother how long she usually left chicken drumsticks to cook before they were tender, she would give me a complete chicken recipe with orange juice and onions, entirely missing out the part about how long it takes for it to cook. Apparently ‘The trick is to put a lot of onions and a tiny bit of water. The onions make it very tasty.’
The answers usually went on for so long that by the end I couldn’t even be sure what my question had been in the first place. So I came up with a cunning plan. Every time I asked a question and people started going off on one, I would keep interrupting with the same question until I got my answer.
This tactic worked for a few days and I was very proud of myself for having solved this problem.

I wanted to go to the Friday Market and buy something but since I had absolutely no idea how much this thing was, I decided to do some research about the price first before going all the way downtown and finding out that it was too expensive.
Anyway we went to someone’s house and I noticed that she had a few of these things so I thought great; this person will probably know about prices and all that. So I asked her, ‘Can you tell me how much these things usually cost please?’ She replied, ‘Why? Are you thinking of buying some?’
‘Yes but I wanted to know how much they are before going all the way to the Friday Market.’
‘Yes that’s where I bought mine from, the Friday Market. You know…’ Here I sensed she was getting a bit sidetracked and could do with a little interruption. ‘Yes but how much did you buy them for?’
‘You know you can buy them in all different colours now.’
‘Yes but how much for?’
‘You know when I went to buy these a friend of mine came with me and bought some as well. Would you like me to ask her if she wants to sell hers?’ She wasn’t giving up.
But neither was I. ‘That’s a good idea.’ I said, ‘So how much do you think your friend might want to sell hers for?’ Clever I thought; I had well and truly cornered her.
She paused for a moment and then replied, ‘I could call her and ask her about that but I don’t understand why you want to buy hers instead of just going to the Friday Market and getting some for yourself. Don’t be so lazy, it’s very easy to get there.’
I had met my match.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Next time I write in here, it will be from my parents' home in the Islamic Republic of Iran. I can’t write much now because I’m too busy panicking about our trip. I’m becoming such a worrier in my old age!
Must go and make another list of all the things we need to do before leaving (I’ve made three of these since this morning and have managed to lose all three somehow) and have another go at Kamyar (it sounds like he might be relaxing a bit too much now just sitting there watching telly).

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Apparently after witnessing what a Forward Button could do, imagining the devastation it could cause if it fell into the wrong hands, one of its creators quoted a remembered fragment from the Bhagavad Gita. ‘I am become Death,’ he said, ‘the destroyer of worlds.’ Another one was reported to have said, ‘Now we’re all sons of bitches.’
(Or was that the people that made the atomic bomb? No I’m pretty sure it was the Forward Button.)

Oh the Forward Button, the bane of my life. Of course not all forwarded emails are bad. It’s nice for example when people send you things that they think you might enjoy like some of the things that a friend of my mother-in-law's sends me sometimes (pictures of tiny cute babies for example, made out of marzipan or an article about herbal remedies) or something I received from another friend just last week which I enjoyed very much; a clip with Shohreh Aghdashloo in Will and Grace.
However I find that most people these days abuse the power that has been put in their hands by arming them with a Forward Button. I’m talking about those people that forward any old rubbish that is emailed to them to everyone in their address book.
The interesting thing is that some of these people count forwarding all this junk around as emailing and even get a bit funny when you don’t reply to them and sulkily say things like, ‘Well you never write.’
In my opinion I’m actually doing our relationship a world of good by keeping my mouth shut and refraining from replying with my true feelings about every kitten picture, any dodgy article that has the tiniest reference to Iran in it or all those chain letters that they send me, but in their opinion they have sent me five emails a day for the past god-knows-how-long and deserve many replies, an award for the best emailer of the year and possibly a standing ovation.

Is it not time do you think that before giving any old emailing so and so a forward button, they were first made to pass a little test? Maybe a little something like this:

Question number 1- You receive an email that contains twenty close-up photos of different flowers, do you
a. Without thinking, forward it to everyone in your address book
b. Think about who in your address book would really love to see twenty close-up photos of different flowers and only send it to them
c. Destroy the email on the spot

Question number 2- You receive an email which contains a boring ten minute slide show with pictures of sunrises and sunsets with a cheesy peacy lovy message stuck on each slide with the last one being something like, ‘Send this to ten people and you will have good luck for ten days, fail to send this to ten people and something nasty will happen to you in the next ten days’ do you
a. Think you could do with some good luck and straightaway forward it to everyone in your address book, hoping that the more people you send it to, the more good luck will come your way
b. Hate getting these kinds of emails and never know what to do with them. You think you are an intelligent person and don’t believe in this sort of thing but you still hesitate before deleting the email because if you’re really honest with yourself, you are kind of scared. Meanwhile your phone rings, you get up to answer it; you trip on the carpet and nearly break your neck. Thinking the bad luck must have started, you run back to your computer and forward the email to ten people in your address book but in the subject box you write ‘So sorry about this but I can really do with some good luck at the moment’ followed by a winking smiley ;-) or a few of these ‘!’
c. Destroy the email on the spot

Question number 3- A travelling friend emails you some pictures from his or her travels, do you
a. Straightaway forward it to everyone in your address book that knows this person
b. Forward it to everyone in your address book that knows this person but before doing that you will take a look at the list of recipients so at least you won’t send the pictures to the people who have already received them once
c. You take a look at the pictures but won’t forward them to anyone else thinking that maybe your friend wanted only you and the other people that he or she sent that email to, to see those pictures

Question number 4- You receive a forwarded email the first line of which is ‘This may sound like a scam but it definitely isn’t! Do not delete or you will be sorry that you did!’ Do you
a. Read the rest of the email which is something along these lines, ‘This is not a scam! My friend did this and a week later she woke up to find that she had become Katherine Zeta Jones. She divorced Michael Douglas, married Brad Pitt and lived happily ever after. Another friend deleted this email. He woke up one morning from unsettling dreams and found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin. He was lying on his back as hard as armour plate, and when he lifted his head a little, he saw his vaulted brown belly, sectioned by arch-shaped ribs, to whose dome the cover, about to slide off completely, could barely cling. His many legs pitifully thin compared with the size of the rest of him, were waving helplessly before his eyes. ‘What's happened to me?’ he thought. IT WAS NO DREAM.
The more people you send this email to, the higher your chances of something great happening to you will be. Good luck!’ and forward it to as many people as you can
b. Read the email. Realise it’s another stupid chain letter. Think about deleting it but you just can’t get the thought of becoming a vermin out of your head so you send it to a few people with a little note that says ‘Sorry about this but as you know I have enough on my plate at the moment without having to worry about becoming a vermin ;-)’
c. Delete the email after reading the first line ‘This may sound like a scam but it definitely isn’t!’

Yes, I know a lot of weirdoes.

Monday, April 03, 2006

This is an old story but for some reason yesterday it came to me again so I thought I would share it with you.

About ten years ago now when I was at my first year of university, in our halls of residence, we had this cleaner called Pat. Now this Pat was a character and a half, psychologists' Holy Grail and Mike Leigh’s perfect muse.
If I had to describe Pat in just one word, I would have to say, Shrivelled. She was only in her late fifties but to look at her you would think she was well into her nineties. As my friend Tracy very artfully put it, it looked as though she had been left in the tumble dryer for a tad longer than she should have.
Pat’s favourite pastimes were, drinking cups of tea or coffee with eight sugars, cornering poor, unsuspecting students and telling them all about her sex life with her various husbands and walking into people’s rooms without knocking and when finding their door locked, shouting out, ‘Why is this door locked? ‘as [has] she go’ [got] a bloke in there?’
Pat’s biggest characteristic however was that no matter what you’d done, she had done something even bigger and better. For example if you were upset because your aunt had been gobbled up by a crocodile on a trip to Africa, she would say, ‘That’s nothing. My sister and her entire family were eaten by a group of seagulls in Hastings.’ and so on and so forth.
One day a group of us were sitting in our kitchen eating lunch and watching Jerry Springer which that day was all about women who had been beaten by their husbands. Pat was busy dirtying the kitchen surfaces (with this grubby rag that she was very fond of and used for cleaning everything from the toilets, to our bedroom mirrors) and giving a commentary on the programme.
Then one of the ladies got really upset and with tears rolling down her face, she gave Jerry this very long and touching speech about how hard it was for her to live with a man who beats her and how the effects of this were not just physical but mental as well. It was quite sad really and even though everyone knows Jerry Springer is really a pantomime, we were all listening intently and feeling a bit sorry for this poor woman. Even Pat had cut out her commentary and was listening (or maybe she was just thinking up something to top that). But then suddenly she decided that this woman had hugged the spotlight for far longer than she deserved and said something which in my opinion was pure brilliance and the mother of all anything-you-can-do-I-can-do-betters.
‘Bullshit’ she cried out, ‘My‘usband [my husband] used to knock me about a bit; it never did me any ‘arm [harm].’