Monday, July 31, 2006

‘It’s like even The News is getting sick of news these days.’ I said to Kamyar as we watched BBC News 24 the other day.
‘We always drop down leaflets before we bomb a place’ says the chubby Israeli officer, ‘we always tell them when and where we are going to attack.’ I chuckle bitterly. ‘No other army in the world does that’ he says with a smile, looking quite pleased with himself.
‘Well done you’ I mutter sarcastically. Kamyar shakes his head.
I suddenly find myself playing a game that I have not played for many years. It used to be called ‘If you had Saddam Hussein in your hands what would you do to him?’ my cousins and I used to play this game when we were little.
‘I will pull his eyes out and feed them to crows.’
‘I will pull his nails out, ONE by ONE. Very slowly.’
‘I will cut his balls off and feed them to him.’
‘Good one. That’s clever.’
‘And, and…’
It just went on and on. We were quite imaginative when it came to torture. Kids are cruel. We loved animals but we still used to torture some. We used to feed snails to our favourite type of ants; those big black ones with huge heads. We used to peel off the snail’s shell and drop it on the entrance of the ants’ nest. This would naturally cause a commotion amongst the ants who probably thinking they were being attacked by the homeless, slimy creature, would pile on top of it and start taking it apart.
We would squat down on the ground and watch eagerly.
I never gave much thought to the poor snail. I liked snails but I liked ants a lot more because snails were slow and didn’t do much while ants were fast and extremely entertaining. Plus I quite enjoyed peeling them. It was like peeling a very small and delicate hardboiled egg.
These days I can’t even bring myself to kill a fly or a moth (my most despised insect of all) and when I accidentally step on a snail in the dark, I get very upset and if I’m alone, I might even have a little cry.
All this had led me believe that I had lost all my childhood viciousness as I had stepped into adulthood.
Over twenty years on however, I was again finding myself deriving large amounts of pure pleasure from fantasizing about ways to torture this Israeli officer, who was supposedly in charge of bombing Lebanon. I was playing ‘If you had…in your hands what would you do to him?’
You would think after all these years, I would be a bit rusty but I wasn’t at all. In fact I totally surprised myself by how imaginative I was being and how much I was enjoying myself. I was still as cruel as I had been as a child it seemed.
This new discovery naturally upset me. I had always seen myself as a peace loving human being and for my snail-tormenting, world-leader-torturing past, had always held childhood ignorance responsible.
‘But am I only pretending to be peace loving’ I wondered, ‘because that’s what I think I should be?’ I reluctantly brushed away the image of me ripping the officer’s still-beating heart out with my bare hand, to make room for thinking about my question. I could lie to others maybe but not to myself and the truth was that at that moment, if that man had been in front of me, I probably would have at least tried to bite his nose off clean, like I had imagined I would. Perhaps the “ripping the heart out” thing had been a bit much. Not because I didn’t want to do it, but because I’m quite small and not very strong, and that would have been physically impossible probably.

‘Sad’ I thought, ‘I haven’t grown up at all it seems.’ And that’s when it hit me. ‘Grow up’ they say, ‘Act your age.’ But that doesn’t mean ‘stop giving people wedgies’ NO. It means find more sophisticated ways of giving people wedgies. Perhaps you could do it with a kind smile and a look of grave concern.
‘Ouch man.’
‘Do you think I enjoy doing this?! I was only trying to help you untie your matted bum-fluff.’
‘Oh…thanks…er, that’s very kind of you.’
It doesn’t mean, stop tormenting others altogether. It means if you must, say, bomb people, don’t go and drop a bomb on them like a common criminal. NO. Where are your manners? First drop leaflets, then bomb them as they are fleeing.
It doesn’t mean that you have to try to be good and do the right thing. It doesn’t mean that if your friend is hitting people smaller than him and you don’t want to go to their aid, you must anyway. NO. It means instead of standing up in front of everyone, arms akimbo, saying, ‘I want him to hit them. I like watching it. And I’m even gonna go and help him. Now watchagonna do about it?’ and sticking out your tongue, maybe act a little more mature. How about for example wasting a whole conference, as people are being blown up, arguing over the word “Immediate” in relation to “Ceasefire”?

I wish I had noticed this before I thought. If only I had let my viciousness grow with me, rather than trying to suppress it, I could have been so much more successful now. Who knows, maybe I could have even become a world leader. But as it stood, I had grown up to thirty one while my vicious self who popped up every now and then, throwing childlike tantrums; wanting to claw people’s eyes out, had stayed at the age of seven.
I wondered if there was a mature equivalent for ‘If you had…in your hands what would you do to him?’
Is Hell the answer? Red hot stakes being inserted up Tony Blair’s and George Bush’s backsides for eternity?
Umm, I don’t know. Somehow it’s just not as satisfying, neither to the thirty-one-year-old woman nor to the snail-peeling seven-year-old child. The latter thinks, ‘What if they develop a taste for it after a while?’ while the former worries, ‘What if they get off on a technicality? After all they haven’t actually killed anyone themselves.’

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

On one side of our oversized sofa, amongst the camera magazines, borrowed books, TV guide, Sunday Newspaper and a council booklet, lives a small, yellow leaflet. ‘Planning a baby?’ it questions me every time I pull something out of the pile and it happens to fall in front of me, displaying a badly drawn cartoon of a baby and a teddy bear in dungarees, swinging from a rope.
I’ve already looked through it. It’s not even helpful really and since the answer to that question is ‘not right now’, I guess I could very easily dispose of it to make room for other leaflets or take a step towards tidying up the place. But I still let it live there, despite its uselessness and the annoyingness of it being a constant reminder of my fast-ticking body-clock.
The reason I keep this leaflet is that it has big historical significance for me. For me this is a reminder of the day when my transition from an Iranian in limbo between England and Iran, to an Iranian who lives in England and only visits Iran to see family and friends, was finally completed.
Previous to that day you see, I had always visited Iran to see loved ones of course but once I’d got there, there had always been things that I needed to do. But little by little, over the years, many of those habits had either been dropped altogether or swapped for British versions. For example over the years I had built up an extensive collection of handicrafts and so had no need to visit the Big Bazaar downtown anymore. I was no longer a student and so did not need to spend days queuing by the Melli Bank to get that thousand dollars at low price that government would give to students. I had decided to renew my passport over here. We had discovered internet and so no longer needed to make trips to Jomhoory Street if we needed cheap, electrical goods. And so on and so forth. Two habits however still remained; every year on my trip to Iran, I paid a visit to the dentist and to the gynaecologist.

By the way this is going to get a little graphic so if you’re a child reading this, please stop now and be a good boy/girl and go blow some heads up on your Play Station or rob a granny or whatever it is you kids do these days because I don’t want to be responsible for robbing you of your “childhood innocence”. Others who I do not recommend to read on are: people who are easily offended, those who are a bit squeamish, my father and those who do not appreciate stories about gynaecologists and women’s er… let’s call it downthere shall we?

As I sat in the Family Planning Clinic’s waiting room, playing with the ‘Planning a baby?’-leaflet that I had absentmindedly picked up, I thought about the great significance of that day. Having already registered at the dentist the previous month, I knew from the moment I walked into that room and dropped my pants, I would only ever visit my homeland as a tourist. I couldn’t help feeling like a traitor. Like I was turning my back on Iran. And literally, my front to England!
I also felt like I was turning my back on my mum. We had always done this together you see. Over the years, going to the dentist and having my downthere looked at, had somehow become vital mother and daughter activities for us. We would make a day of it, you know; in the morning I would have my teeth drilled while my mum covered her eyes and ears and did panicked laps of the dentist’s waiting room, shouting, ‘Is it finished? Oh I can’t bear to watch.’
Then after she had gotten an earful from the dentist for not being able to handle her child being tortured by him, and me a mouthful of gauze, we would go out for a little stroll and some carrot juice which to the delight of onlookers, I would mostly pour down the front of my Islamic uniform, on account of my lips still being numb. Oh what a laugh. And then for the grand finale, we would pay a visit to the gynaecologist for me to have my downthere looked at and my insides poked and prodded.
The doctor who had been my mum’s doctor for years and also knew my dad and my uncle, would always insist of my mum coming into the examination room for a chat that would usually continue all through him actually examining me. ‘How is Firouz?’ he would ask my mum while putting on a new pair of plastic gloves. ‘Oh very well’ my mum would happily shout back from behind the curtains.
I would be lying there trying to block out their conversation. Maybe it’s just me but when I’m lying on my back, bottom half naked, legs up in the air, the last thing I want to think about is my uncle.
‘Well say hello to him from me when you see him next.’ He would shout back at her and then turning to me, he would repeat, gynaecologists’ favourite catchphrase, ‘Relax’
‘Excuse me?’ my mum would say from behind the curtain. ‘No I wasn’t talking to you.’ He would shout back at her, ‘I was telling your daughter here to relax.’
‘Oh for the love of god’ I would be lying there thinking just before saying to myself, ‘This is the last time I ever come here. From now on I will have my smear test done in England, by people who neither know my dad, nor have any interest in knowing what kind of business my uncle is into at the moment.’ But somehow every year I found myself back lying on that bed.
The straw that broke the camel’s back however had finally come the time I had gone there to amongst other things, have my IUD removed as it had started to hurt me.
As I laid there thinking about how much like Russian dolls my mum and I where to this doctor with him having looked inside us both, I listened to my mum shuffling inside her bag (no doubt looking for her list of our mother and daughter activities to see if we had time for the next fun item on the list like having my nails pulled or whatever).
Their conversation had ended a few moments earlier and amazingly neither had initialized a new one.
Suddenly I noticed the doctor staring at me from the bottom of the bed. He was holding pliers-like instrument in one hand and wearing a coalminers’ type flashlight on his head (to my relief I noted that he was not holding a cage with a canary in it).
We stared at each other for a few seconds. In his eyes he had a look of horror mixed in with uncertainty. It made me think of a man, about to walk out onto a minefield, ahead of everyone else. ‘Tell my wife I love her’ his eyes where saying. Even his moustache, which seemed to have a life of its own, and always seemed to look happy despite of the mood of the man himself, I noticed was now looking somewhat contemplative.
He dived in. A muffled sound followed (gynaecologists’ second favourite catchphrase), ‘You may feel a slight discomfort.’
Again I feel that this too, like with the case of the “comfortable stilettos”, depends entirely on your idea of comfort. If one’s day job is to test the bite of none-venomous snakes to grade them in order of painfulness for example, then yes I guess this feeling could be described as a “slight discomfort” or maybe one would even find the whole experience to be “quite pleasurable”.
This is not the case with me however who spend most of my time sitting on comfortable chairs or walking around slowly or lounging around on the sofa. A slight discomfort for me is a cushion a little out of place behind my back or a wet patch on the sheets. I’m afraid a man rummaging around inside me with a pair of pliers, looking for a small missing T-shaped object, swiftly moves away from the “slight discomfort” zone, swims right through a “total nuisance” stage and very quickly becomes a “real pain in the neck” borderline “ouch”.
But to tell you the truth I didn’t really care about any of this at the time, I just wanted him to find the bloody thing and get out of there. And that’s when I said to myself if this man finds what he is looking for in there and I make it out of here in one piece today, I will definitely go and register myself at our local Family Planning Clinic as soon as I get back to England. It was not that this doctor was bad or that he was doing something wrong or anything like that. He is actually a great doctor. It was just that I could not stand the thought of ever going through another similar experience again with my worried mum sitting behind the curtains and aging five years for every minute of it.
Finally the doctor resurfaced, looking quite dishevelled. But before he had even opened his mouth, to tell me how he thought he was going to have to send me to the operating theatre, his moustache told me that they had found what they were looking for and everything was fine.

‘Would you like to come in?’ a smiley, soft speaking lady said, holding the door of the examination room open for me. I shoved the ‘Planning a baby?’ leaflet in my bag and marched into the room. ‘Sorry Iran’ I thought, ‘I still love you.’

We talked about Iran, Israel, nuclear weapons and the state of Iraq. I found these to be much more agreeable gynaecologist topics of conversation than my uncle’s business.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Exactly one year ago on this very day, a thirty year old Iranian woman woke up in her flat in Oxford. It was a July Friday morning like any other.
She looked at the clock as a dog yapped in the building opposite and a few crows greeted each other in crow language. She twiddled with her hair as she listened to a drunk father and his young son have their morning chat and the single mum downstairs shout at her little girl, ‘GET IN THE CAR.’ And suddenly she was seized with an uncontrollable urge to start a blog and thus Shirin in Engelestan was born.
Now one year on, the drunk father has finally listened to his son and f***ed off, the little girl downstairs has listened to her mum and got in the car and they’ve gone away too but the dog, the crows and Shirin in Engelestan are still going strong; yapping and croaking and click clicking away on the keyboard; letting the world know that they need the bathroom, that they have just been to the bathroom on someone’s head or that their bathroom taps were designed by Doctor Evil.
But enough about me, the dog and the crows, let’s talk about you. Do you come here often? ;-) Why that’s a lovely monitor you have there, it frames your head so beautifully! :-)
Thank you for visiting Shirin in Engelestan in the past year. I hope it has made you smile sometimes.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

One day a week we can go and visit Babazee in prison. Babazee (my mum’s father) is a small man with a big nose who is a doctor of economics but made his fortunes from Agriculture.
Babazee used to be very rich and owned a whole village near Karaj, just outside Tehran. I don’t remember much about our family’s wealthy days because by the time I was three and a half, everything they owned had been confiscated by the revolutionary government and given to Bonyad-eh Mostazafan (the Organization for the Oppressed).
All I remember from my Grandparents’ huge house in the village, is the big Bullmastiff called Filo, who lived on the roof and looked down at us as we walked into the house on Fridays.
Interestingly enough some believe that it was this same dog that caused Babazee’s downfall at the end. Allegedly some of the villagers who did not like my granddad much, after the revolution had ceased their chance and had gone to the revolutionary guards telling them that Babazee was a vicious landlord who kept a lion on his roof that he threw villagers in front of.
One day when Azizam (my grandmother) came back home from visiting her sister, she found that there was a big padlock on the door of her home and all the other doors and windows had been bordered up.
All that Azizam had been left with were the clothes she had on, her Rolex watch, a little gold broach in shape of a woman’s head, a necklace, two rings on her fingers and her handbag which in it had a little money, her house keys (which were no longer in use), a little pill box and some other bits and pieces.
Babazee had been taken to prison but he kept saying, ‘Don’t worry. This is just a misunderstanding. I’ll be out in no time.’

I hate going to prison so I don’t go every week. I go often though because I’m the only one out of all my cousins on my mum’s side that has not started school yet and so for most of the year, I’m the only one on be-a-good-girl-and-go-cheer-granddad-up-with-a-big-kiss duty.
Although sometimes it backfires and my presence seems to annoy him rather than cheer him up. Like when he sits on one side of the fence and we on the other and I’m allowed to go through the side door and sit with him.
First he looks as though he is very happy to see me and hugs me kisses me but then as soon as he thinks the guards aren’t looking, he starts going through my pockets. ‘Where are they?’ he whispers to my mum. ‘Where is who?’ my mum asks whispering while bringing her face nearer to the fence and narrowing her eyes.
I start to get excited thinking, ‘Wow, are we about to break Babazee out?’ and imagine us all running out of the prison in slow-motion with shots being fired after us and my mum and I jumping off the high prison wall, using her chador as a parachute; James Bond style, ‘ding dililing leeng…ling ling ling, ding dililing leeng…ling ling ling…’ ‘The pills’ Babzee interrupts my James Bond theme tune, ‘The sleeping pills that I have been asking you for, for god knows how long.’
‘Baba,’ my mum says impatiently, ‘I’m not going to give her pills to bring to you.’
‘Why not?’ he whispers, ‘They don’t search her.’ And then he turns to me and asks, ‘Did they search you?’
I panic and start nodding without thinking but then I remember that the guard just took my hand and brought me straight in and in fact the first time I was ever searched, was when Babazee put me on his lap and started going through my pockets. So I suddenly stop nodding and fling my head backward, raising my eyebrows. This is not a polite thing to do but at the moment my mum seems to have more important things on her mind than worrying about my bad prison etiquette.
‘See?’ Says Babazee, ‘What did I tell you; they don’t search the kids.’ And then, ‘you don’t know what it’s like in here. I need those pills.’

The prison is very far and I always get carsick on our way there. I’m bored stiff because all grownups want to talk about are things that I’m not interested in like, their numerous trips to Bonyad-eh Mostazafan, Komiteh, Rations, Petrol queues and he or she who was (they only move their lips to this without letting any sound out so I won’t get upset) executed (as if I’m blind and don’t see pictures of the newly-executed with ropes around their necks or holes in their heads, plastered all over the front pages of newspapers everyday).
There’s mud everywhere in the car because it’s been raining and all the dust on the road has turned into orangy-brown sticky mud and Maman, Azizam and I have brought a lot of it in with us when we stopped a little while ago for me to be sick by the side of the road.
‘Maman’ I say pulling her sleeve and looking up at her. She is sitting next to me on the backseat of the car, ‘I need a tissue.’ She picks up her handbag asking, ‘What for?’
‘My nose is running.’ I say stretching my upper lip over my upper teeth to try and buy myself some more time before the fast-moving snot reaches my mouth. ‘Oh’ she says and starts looking inside her bag, ‘I had one in here but I think I gave it to you to wipe your mouth earlier.’ And when she doesn’t find one she shrugs and says, ‘No I don’t have any. Does anyone else have any tissues?’
Uncle Bahy takes one hand off the steering wheel and with it searches his coat pockets and then lifts himself off the seat a little to pat down his trousers’ pockets, saying, ‘Even if they have decided that Baba is guilty of some sort of crime and deserves to have all his belongings confiscated, it doesn’t make any sense to take all our belongings away too. I’m sure we’ll be able to take our own homes back very soon and then we can start on getting Maman and Baba’s home and lands back.’ And then he looks in the rear view mirror and says, ‘Sorry darling, I don’t have any tissues.’
Aunty Leili who is sitting on the front passenger seat, has a look through her handbag too and then turns around and says, ‘I don’t have any either sweetie.’ I tilt my head back and try to redirect the snot back inside my nose.
‘Blow your nose in here.’ Says Azizam. I don’t move my head. I just give her my hand to put the tissue in. ‘No I don’t have a tissue darling but you can blow your nose in here.’ She says holding one of the two end bits of her headscarf in her hand while she is still wearing it.
‘I can’t do that.’ I say, not liking the idea at all. But she says, ‘It’s ok. I’ll just wash it when I get home.’ and at the same time shoves my head towards the piece of headscarf that she is holding between her thumb and forefinger. ‘Blow’ she says encouragingly. I do but I do it reluctantly because the headscarf is made out of a very slippery fabric that does a lot more smearing than wiping.
‘Better?’ asks Azizam, smiling down at me while tying a knot around the snotty part of her headscarf. ‘Yes thanks’ I say, giving my nose a couple more wipes with the back of my hand.

This time Babazee is sitting on one side of a glass wall and we’re on the other and the only way to talk to him is through the telephone. As soon as he sees us, he points to uncle Bahy which means he wants to talk to him first. So uncle Bahy sits down on the one chair on our side and we all stand behind him.
‘Salam Baba,’ uncle Bahy says smiling, ‘looking well.’ And then, ‘I went and talked to that Hajji I was telling you about last time.’ On the other side Babazee is getting very excited and talking fast but we can’t hear what he’s saying. I get bored and hang from the little metal shelf with the telephone on it and try to swing myself back and forth but after only a couple of swings uncle Bahy puts his hand on my head which means don’t do that and continues his conversation with Babazee.
‘I’m going to see him again tomorrow. You see this beard?’ he says stroking his beard and smiling, ‘this is my Bonyad beard.’ Uncle Bahy has had a beard for as long as I remember but these days when he wants to go to Bonyad-eh Mostazafan, he lets the sides grow, thinking that it makes him look more Islamic.
I slowly lower myself down, still holding onto the shelf and then let go of it, to sit on the stone floor of the visiting room. From the floor I look up at my mum, Azizam and aunty Leili; three of them standing solemnly in a row behind uncle Bahy, holding their chadors very tightly under their chin. ‘Hee hee, black crows.’ I think to myself, which is what I’ve heard some people call women in black chadors.

They didn’t always wear this outfit when they came to prison. At first they used to come in wearing their own clothes. But then this one time, they were not allowed in because a bad-tempered, black-chadored woman outside the prison told them that they could not come in unless they were wearing a headscarf. And no matter how much Azizam and my mum had cried and begged the bad-tempered woman to let them in just this once, she had flung her head backward, clicking her tongue and had said, ‘Next. What have you got in that bag? Empty it on the table.’
So the times after that, they had taken headscarves in with them and had worn long, baggy shirts and had got in. But then some time after that, they had been stopped by the door and told that they could not go in, unless they were wearing a chador. And that was what they had worn from then on.

‘Listen, we’re getting you out very soon’ says uncle Bahy, ‘and then we’re going to get everything back and there is no doubt about that; all the lands, the house and the villa. It’s all under control. Don’t you worry about a thing.’ Azizam throws her head back as she produces a very short burst of laughter, ‘Huh’ and loses her grip on her chador which means the little sack of snot gets a chance to poke its head out and dangle freely for a few seconds in prison air before she composes herself and tightens her grip again.
I make music by covering and uncovering my ears with my hands to let in and block out waves of the loud buzzing sound made by all the visitors talking, frustrated babies crying, the quick, occasional bursts of nerves-sounding laughter and the sound of Koran being read on a loudspeaker somewhere in the prison by a man who can no doubt have himself a very successful carrier as a pearl diver, even if the Koran reciting business does not work out for him.
Realising time is about to run out and she is not going to get a chance to talk, Azizam taps uncle Bahy on his shoulder and says, ‘Tell him I’ve brought him a new shirt, a dressing gown, some fruits and some biscuits.’

Thursday, July 13, 2006

‘Got any ‘ash [hash]’ I heard someone say as I walked to our local supermarket the other day. I used to get asked questions like this all the time when I was a student and dressed in tie-dyed flares and had a shaved head which to complete the dodgy look was at one point dyed blue with three orange fish painted on it.
Well that was the original idea anyway, in the finished design the fish ended up looking more like bombs than fish actually. Serves me right for asking a jewellery design student to paint on my hair rather than one of my illustrator friends.
To get an idea of exactly what my hair looked like, think of the end of Doctor Strange Love; the scene shot from the plane looking down at a few bombs that were about to hit the ground, only mine was in Technicolor and it was the wrong way round, meaning you were looking up at the bombs instead of down on them because the background was sky blue (which had gone green actually because the peroxide had made my hair yellow and then yellow and blue had made green. So basically you were either looking down at three bombs hitting a blue-green ocean or if you could see past the green you were looking up at three bombs hitting the ground).
The druggies however continued to approach me in spite of my failed design. This was a beautiful thing I found about the druggies; whereas my friends at college kept laughing at my hair and saying how ironic it was that the Iranian had gone and painted bombs on her hair, the druggies saw past that; they saw someone walking towards them with weird clothes and blue hair and they asked ‘Got any ‘ash’ regardless of whether that person had bombs or fish painted on her hair!
These days with my shoulder length black hair pinned down with hairclips or put in pigtails and my jeans and rucksack (that I usually carry around with me now that we don’t have a car, to put the shopping in), I look more like a Spanish tourist than a drug dealer but I turned around to answer the man anyway thinking to myself, ‘No I do not have any hash. If I did I would not give any to you since from that nice purple colour of your skin and that husky voice of yours and those empty cans of beer scattered all around you on the grass, it looks like you’ve done quite enough to yourself for one day already.’
I would never say any of this of course because before I had a chance, the taarofing, polite Iranian in me would jump out and with a kind smile say, ‘No sorry, I don’t have any.’
Huh! I don’t know why I do that. Am I sorry that I don’t have any hash on me to give to the drug addict? No. Do I need to say it with a smile? Not really. It’s just a reaction that I have absolutely no control over like when I see a dog and instinctively make weird screechy noises and go ‘Aooooo’ and want to jump and cuddle it regardless of where I am.
Long story short, even my automatic smiling reaction did not get a chance to show itself. ‘I ain’ go’ nothin’ mate.’ I heard someone say from behind me. It was a big black guy with dreadlocks.
‘Of course’ I thought to myself ‘it’s page two of Druggies Handbook if I remember correctly: In the absence of a dodgy looking geezer that whispers, ‘Trips, Es, Crack, Hash’ in people’s ears as they go past, to get your fix, approach either black guys with dreadlocks or weirdly dressed people with blue hair.’
About five meters away from all this, little kiddies made happy noises as they played in the little playground next to the bus stop. A little further away a family were having a picnic on the grass and a few meters away from them, some older kids were kicking a ball around. A little closer to the bus stop, next to two foreign students sitting on the curb, under a tree, another purple-faced guy with a couple of bored-looking dogs (eeeeeeeee, Aoooooo), had passed out.
Welcome to our neighbourhood.

It wasn’t always like this. Just a little while ago, everyone in our neighbourhood had a place to go to if they wanted to be with people like themselves. Families had picnics on the grass and went to restaurants, drinkers went to pubs and bars, Moslems hung out at the local mosque and halal shops, kids played in the playground, teenagers hung around outside public toilets and tried to look hard and druggies went to the graveyard.
People sometimes complained about the druggies and drug dealers having taken over the graveyard because it was kind of frightening to go in there and since there is a shortcut path that goes right through it, they thought it would be good if that place was made druggy-free and safer for public.
But when you think about it, the old church/graveyard that was hardly ever used was out of all the other places in our neighbourhood, the best hangout the druggies could have chosen for themselves. It was not perfect of course but it was better than for example, the mosque or the playground or the Pawn Shop or the local Buddhist centre.

However one day someone did something there that was an even more appropriate graveyard act than taking drugs; he died in there.

One day I was walking down our road when I noticed something very strange. It looked as though the entire cast of Spun and A Requiem for a Dream had been let loose down our road.
The whole place was swarming with police officers, druggies (that had been evacuated from the graveyard) and their excited-looking dogs (eeeeee Aooooo).
On further nosiness I heard a few rumours:
‘One of the druggies ODed.’
‘One of the dealers shot this guy that owed him money.’
‘He was shot alright but not by a dealer but by the police. They were trying to arrest him and he was not cooperating so they shot him. I’m telling you, I heard the shot.’
There was even one rumour that said no one had died there at all but the police were there to arrest the vicar because he had been secretly selling up the graves on ebay and pocketing the money!

As it turned out it was none of the above. Yes a man had died in there but according to a Thames Valley Police spokesman, this was what happened, ‘An altercation occurred between the man, the officer and a second police officer.
‘The exact circumstances surrounding this incident at this time are unclear however, shortly after an ambulance was called to the churchyard where the man was pronounced dead.’

In a way this is more confusing than the ebay thing even but what can you do, it’s the police and they love to get all mysterious when someone dies around them!
Anyway how and why the man died is not what I’m interested in. It’s the after-effect of it that bothers me.

For a few days the police were around collecting evidence and whatnot in which time the church or the council (or both) decided that something needed to be done about the churchyard. So when the police packed their stuff and left, straightaway the council got to work.
First they mended some of the gravestones and crosses and all that. Personally I did not think that was a very good way to spend our council tax money but what can you do? This is not a graveyard that is in use by the way. It’s not like a graveyard that people go to to put flowers on their grandmother’s grave or anything like that, this is an old graveyard with most of the people that are buried in it having died before the 1900s. But the council and the church obviously thought the gravestones needed to be fixed and so that’s what they did. And they did not stop there.
Next they repaired the very short walls at the front of the churchyard and cut down the overgrown bushes that were around them, exposing the whole churchyard to passers-by from the street which meant everyone could now see everything and no one could hide in the graveyard anymore and buy or sell drugs or OD in peace.
They really were on a roll. Next they put down a lawn on the front of the church and planted flowers all over the place; roses and geraniums galore.

So now while some overweight guy, who could very well do with a nice long walk around the church, goes through the shortcut in the graveyard enjoying the smell of roses and sitting down on one of the newly put up benches on his way if he gets a little tired, without the fear of getting mugged, some three year old pokes some guy with a needle sticking out of his arm, in the eye saying, ‘Is he sweeping mummy? He has a booboo on his arm.’

The way I see it, this whole thing is a classic case of doing something without thinking of the consequences. Fair enough; they did not want the druggies to hang out in the graveyard anymore, but when you take their retreat away from them without offering them an alternative, you can’t exactly blame them when next thing you know they’re passing out on swings in the playground either, can you?
I just hope those bushes around the churchyard walls grow back again quickly so we can all go back to our designated hangouts and live happily ever after.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Here are a few things I learned from my trip to France and the wedding that I thought I share with you. I hope you find them useful.

1- Travelling is so much more peaceful when one’s travelling companion has a British passport rather than an Iranian one.

2- Having your eardrums pierced on Eurostar for three hours by excited little three-year-olds going to Disneyland, shouting at the top of their lungs, ‘Is Eeyore gonna be there? Is Winnie the Pooh gonna be there? Is Stripes gonna be there?’ can put you off having children for life.

3- The French are not able to form an orderly queue even if their lives depend on it.

4- It’s hard work trying to walk around on shingles wearing open toe, high heel shoes but fear not; things will get surprisingly easier after a few drinks.

5- It’s impossible to eat pistachio nuts while standing up and at the same time trying to hold a drink, a handbag and a shawl.

6- Not everyone will think, ‘Is you looking exactly like Peter Sellers, accidental or intentional?’ is a compliment.

7- Praying to the god of hairs apparently works.

8- It’s ‘la chignon’ and not ‘le chignon’

9- Twenty one year old boys (or is it men?) might look cute in their little suits but avoid talking to the little devils at all cost as it can be very depressing.
‘How long have you been living in England for?’
‘About twelve years now.’
‘Wow, you must have been a kid when you went there then.’
‘No; I’m just old.’ :-(

10- If you have trouble working out exactly when is a good time to stop drinking, hearing yourself speak these words, while hanging from someone’s jacket (preferably after having just finished a particularly theatrical solo dance to some eighties tune) might be a good cue, ‘Isn’t it weird; I’ve had three…or was it four? Anyway, vodka and tonics and two shots and two glasses of wine and I don’t feel drunk at all.’

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

I’ve never understood this fascination we women supposedly have with shoes. Yes high heel shoes are nice. To look at. Not to wear! Not to bloody wear! It’s like putting your feet in clamps. Sliding ones. And then be expected to walk and dance and laugh and chat to people as well instead of doing what you really want to do which is to take the shoes off and hit them repeatedly with a mallet-like instrument while screaming ‘you stupid stupid things.’
It just kills me when people balancing themselves on stilettos say things like ‘These shoes are so comfy.’ It makes me wonder what they normally wear you know; shoes with razorblades on their insides? Because in that case those scrappy stilettos that are making their feet look all mangled already from the pressure, could very well be super comfy for them.

I’ve started to think about all this because we’re going to a wedding on Friday and I’m dreading having to walk around in high heels all night. Everything else is great. I have a few dresses (that are all comfortable) and a few bags to choose from and I’m going to pray to the God of Hairs not to give me a bad hair day (my hair is at that teenage stage between short and long and lately it has been very unruly). There’s no point in praying to the God of Spots I guess since it has blessed me with two lovely spots already; one on my chin and one (of all places) on my chest. This is so God of Spots; always coming up with new and exciting places to put his creations on just before a big do. Bless, he never lets me down.
So the only thing I have to complain about is my shoes; the instruments of torture. My feet are starting to blister just from being in the same room as them.

I guess it could be worse though; I could be a man. Poor Kamyar has to wear a polyester suit. In this heat! He picked up a cotton one first, one those ones that crease even from being looked at. By the time he came out of the changing room he looked like he was wearing a large dishcloth.
‘I don’t think that’s suitable for a wedding really.’ I said. ‘Why not?’ asked Kamyar disappointedly (he hasn’t been to many weddings) ‘Because people tend to wear the kind of suits to weddings that do not crease so easily.’ I said. What I had really meant to say was ‘Because people tend to wear the kind of suits to weddings that do not make them look like drunken homeless guys.’ But I thought I should go easy on him because he had really liked the suit and was feeling very poorly from hay fever (which had actually contributed very generously to his drunk-homeless look; eyes half shut, mouth half open at all times to breathe in from due to severe nose blockage)
‘Doesn’t anyone wear these kind of suits to a wedding then?’ he said looking at himself in the mirror.
‘I don’t know’ I said, ‘Bob Geldof might.’

I must say he looked very dishy in his polyester suit and shirt and tie and all that at the end, Rrrrrrrrr. Any of you ladies try to flirt with him on Friday and my heel just might accidentally land on some of your mangled toes, ouch.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

So far the only thing the World Cup has given me, is a small belly that I have accumulated from all the beers I’ve been drinking. Is that you clapping and cheering Khaleh Maryam? ;-) You know that day you said you wanted to put me on a fatty diet of cheese and cakes and lard or whatever, you should have just waited for the World Cup.

It’s funny isn’t it how the World Cup, which for some is all bout fitness, accuracy, balance and concentration, for the rest is basically all about drunkenness, hiccups, tripping over one’s own feet while slurring, ‘’ave I ever told you? You’re sound man. You’re sound you are.’ And then squaring up to that same wall or tree or dog or whatever creature one happens to be talking to ‘You f***ing whah? You f***ing whah? Come on then. Come on.’ Right before passing out.
It was estimated that during the first month of the World Cup, 410 million cans and bottles of beer, lager or cider were going to be drunk in the UK.
Obviously Kamyar and I have been doing our bit too and so far have drunk a large quantity of lager and Guinness…while sitting in our underwear… shouting at the television, ‘Are you kidding! That was never offside.’ Hmm, add that to the fact that the only property we could afford to buy was on a council estate and that we are both extremely white at the moment on account of not having been on a holiday in the sun for the past three years, and I think you will find that we are well on our way to become the first ever Iranian white trash couple. Know wha’ I mean? Hmm, no. Maybe my language still needs a bit more work.

It was so sad England leaving the World Cup yesterday. I shed a few tears I did. England hadn’t been all that great in all their other games but I thought yesterday they played brilliantly. After that idiot, Rooney was sent off and Beckham had to come off the pitch (because…I don’t know…someone had messed his hair up or something. I don’t know what happened to him really) the rest of them played so well. They really deserved to win that game I thought. First Iran and now England; all the best teams are out.
So I sulked a bit and then went and dressed myself in tacky eighties stuff; blue and white stripy top, red and white polka dot hairclips and a pearly-looking necklace, singing,

Everyone seems to know the score
They've seen it all before
They just know
They're so sure
That England's Gonna throw it away
Gonna blow it away
They don’t know how to play

Kamyar was busy with another four hour shift of staring at the computer monitor with an open mouth. This was what he had been doing since, for no apparent reason, one day his whole website vanished off the face of the internet and when it returned some days later, it had lost a whole month of photos and insisted that it was still the 31st of May. ‘No Website dear,’ we kept saying to it, ‘it’s not the 31st of May anymore, it’s nearly the end of June now.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘Yes we’re very sure.’
‘Well in that case I’m terribly sorry but I don’t seem to recall anything that went on after the 31st of May. Do you think I may be suffering from Amnesia?’

But I remember...
Three Lions on a shirt
Jules Rimet still gleaming
Thirty years of hurt (well forty years now)
Never stopped me dreaming

It's coming home
It's coming home
It's coming
Football's coming home

It is as well. Well the footballers are. With a long face :-(

But on a happier note; welcome back mister Kamster of Kamshots. Yay, all the staring paid off at the end :-)