Monday, September 29, 2014

Don't panic!

Panic attacks, yeesh they are well named. The panic truly does attack you at unexpected moments, like when you're asleep. At least that's when they get me the most often. Last night I was relatively peacefully asleep. I say relatively because lately I've been dreaming every night about somebody dying. Sometimes it's someone I know and sometimes I don't know who it is. But it's always set in one of my childhood homes, and most of the time it's people from my past. Some poor people die repeatedly. I'm sure a dream expert would tell me it's about cutting ties with my old life, starting on the new or some such thing. But for me, it's just very distressing. When I was a child I had a recurring dream that someone had dismembered our dog and left him beside the rubbish bins which were located below my bedroom window. Every morning I had to go look to be sure he wasn't lying there. Analyse that folks! Maybe I'm just a bizarre freaky person.

However I must have run out of people to kill because last night it was quite a nice dream about two dogs I once owned, both dead now but they were both great dogs and in my dream young and strong and happy. So I have no idea why I woke feeling like I was strangling from a panic attack but they've been happening quite a lot lately. I used to have them all the time, pretty sure I've written a blog about them in fact but too lazy to go check...

Last night, well it was actually 3am - the prime time for me to wake with some sort of issue it seems - anyway it was dark and I was in bed and should have been asleep. Instead I woke to the spirals of panic threatening to squeeze my lungs. The first few times I had these I was sure I was having a heart attack, but no, just my body messing with my head. Or maybe the other way around.

So I lay there, trying to apply the tricks I've learned to calm down. It's really hard to do with my body flooded with adrenalin and the fight or flight instinct high. I lie as still as I can but I can feel my legs twitching as the primitive part of my brain tries to make me flee. I've tried lots of ways to stop it happening. I've tried getting up and watching TV to distract myself which sometimes works after a while. I've tried walking around the house which does work but only after half an hour or so - but good exercise. I've tried meditation but if you've been reading my blogs you'll know I pretty much suck at meditation when I really need it - like when I'm having a panic attack.

Slow even breathing was what I tried last night, along with the whole breathe in peace breathe out anxiety thought process. Didn't work. The panic was spiralling higher, the muscles in my legs were actually spasming, the need to run was so strong. I was beginning to have difficulty breathing and my heart was doing the whole pitter pat patter pit thing. I decided to get up and write a blog - this blog - on panic attacks and see if that stopped it. Now when I have insomnia I often lie awake and compose a blog post or plan out a chapter. I always say 'I'll remember that' and I always forget by the time I wake again. Last night I started to plan the blog post while I tried to calm myself enough to get out of bed without falling out.

Well I got so caught up in my mental writings that it served to calm me down. So instead of getting up I finished the post, chose the type of pictures I would use and went back to sleep. Of course when I woke I had no memory of the blog post I composed, but full memory of the panic attack. That's the insidious thing about them, you remember them very well and then the next night you're already anxious because you're afraid of having another one. Which of course you do since you've got yourself in a state of high anxiety.

Panic attacks aside I've become completely absorbed in this third book about the street cats. I decided to write a brief introduction about the history of the cat in Egypt and did a little bit of research. Well as my friend Sheena would agree, I am research girl and once started don't know when to stop. So my brief history is still brief but a lot more detailed than I had originally planned. And I'm having a blast writing it. I've only written a couple of thousand words but they are the result of hours and hours of research. I've been out searching for the street cats and taking photos of them too. I'm only using my iphone camera (did I say that already?) as I don't have another camera and anyway the point is to showcase the lovely scenes you can find if you only look. Even an iphone camera can capture wonderful shots - albiet without a terribly good zoom feature.

So why am I having panic attacks when I'm having such fun writing this book? I don't know. Perhaps it's because Zora's Dawn is languishing and so is the shelter book. But I'm doing this deliberately to give myself distance from Zora's Dawn so that I can finish the final chapter and edit with a more detached viewpoint. And this book will be an excellent companion book to the shelter book. Plus there is someone I need to interview for the shelter book and I must wait to do that. So it shouldn't be that. Perhaps it's that old insecurity rising up telling me I'm wasting my time and why would anyone want to read a book that I've written. I guess that might be it. I really don't know. If I did, I think I wouldn't be having panic attacks. And I think I'll be having the panic attacks until I figure out why which is a pretty depressing thought really.

Well that's still not the blog post on communication difficulties due to shades of grey in word meanings. I guess that will be next time. For now, I'll show you the book cover as it is right now - subject to change and a couple of the photos I have once I get to the photographic section of the book. I do have lots of illustrations in the front part of the book since I believe history is more alive with pictures. And I have a reference page that's rather long - a non fiction book needs references after all. Anyway, here are today's pics:

Book cover





Try not to anyway :)





Thursday, September 25, 2014

Work work work

You'd think being an author means that you write books, right? Maybe once that was how it worked, but not these days. I have spent the last few days fiddling about with Amazon things. I've created an author profile, apparently a good thing to do. That took ages because it also meant that to link this blog to the page I had to figure out what the RSS URL for this page was. This meant first I had to figure out what an RSS feed even is. Turns out it stands for Really Simple Syndication.

According to the web, everyone knows how to find their own RSS URL because it took me hours to find a page that explained in terms I understood - please, no tech talk - how to do it. And of course once I had figured it out it was indeed really simple. (It's one of my pet peeves - why do computer people drown the layman in tech talk when the actual process is very simple. Is it to justify those exorbitant fees?) So now this blog is viewable on my author central page, along with the twitter feed. Yes, I've had to become active on twitter. In truth, I really don't know how that's going to work for me because on twitter I'm pretty much twittering away to myself. But I'm dutifully doing everything I'm supposed to be doing and twitter is one of those things.

I also have an action plan, for future growth as it were. All the 'how to' pages say that to raise your profile on Amazon, apart from the twitter, facebook and author profile thing, you need to write and publish lots of books. Well duh...

But taking this a step further I thought why not write a couple more short books and get them published. But they can't be random books, they have to tie in somehow to the bigger books I'm working on. The first wee little book, How to Train Your Human, (link here - http://www.amazon.com/How-To-Train-Your-Human-ebook/dp/B00NMOYE8A) was 'written' by Sabrina. Sabrina is my rescued street cat here in Egypt. Sabrina also features in the werewolf book, Zora's Dawn. She's not exactly as she is in real life, but she's the inspiration for the character. She's going to be in all the books in the series.

So the next book which I published yesterday - using those publishing skills I learned with the Sabrina book - is 'written' by Amadeus, (link here - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NVCVQ7U ) Amadeus is my other rescued street cat. This book is about his experiences coming to live with Sabrina. But there is a section at the end talking about street cats here, and the need for programmes such as that run by the Blue Moon Animal Shelter. They also have a clinic and they will vaccinate and castrate any street cats brought to them. The Blue Moon and its owner Monique are the subject of the non fiction book I'm writing concurrently with Zora's Dawn.

So weak though the links may be, both of these books have a connection to the bigger books I'm working on. I'm going to publish a third book too, another short one. This one will be a compilation of photos I've been taking of the street cats here. There are thousands of them, all over town. Well no doubt they are all over Egypt. There is beauty to be found everywhere if you look for it. Even a pile of rubbish will have a pair of gorgeous green eyes set in a furry marmalade face peeping out of it. Look closer and you will see the beautiful street cat, and probably its family. Egyptian street cats are descended from the oldest breed of domesticated cat in the world. Tests have shown that they have the same DNA as mummified cats from ancient Egypt. They are living history and I truly feel they deserve to be seen.

So what about the first book, Blank Canvas? (and yes, link here - http://www.amazon.com/Blank-Canvas-Sheryl-Lee-ebook/dp/B00KE7URKM )
Well it's doing ok, but not brilliantly. I remember my first rejection for this book, some years ago before I decided to self publish it. The agent was from a large company in the UK and she wrote me a personal and quite lovely rejection letter. She said that she loved the book and she loved my writing style, but she felt the subject matter would not sell well. I guess she was right, I guess the subject of child molestation is one that most would prefer stay in the closet with all the other skeletons. But I'm still proud of this book and I still hope people will buy it and read it.

And Zora's Dawn? Well these last two chapters are very important and have proved difficult to write. I hate reading books where there is a loose thread the author has forgotten to close off and I don't want to be one of those authors. So I'm going right through the book from start to finish, not with my editing cap on but with my reading cap on. I'm looking for loose threads, and for unnecessary and distracting passages. Then I will write the final chapter and a half, and then comes the editing. I also will write the prequel which I think will be only about 20 000 words. After all that is done it will be time to finish the book about the animal shelter.

So I have a lot of work to do! And this totally wasn't going to be the subject of this blog, truly. I sat down to write about the difficulties of communicating here where almost everyone speaks english only as a second language. The specific difficulty I planned to talk about is that people who have english as a second language tend to know the most common dictionary meaning of words. But of course the english language is full of words that have many shades of meaning depending on context. So what I mean often becomes lost or confused as the Russians/Germans/Swiss/Dutch/Egyptians try to apply the only definition they know of a word and get the wrong meaning. But that will have to be the subject of the next blog :) :)



Sabrina

Amadeus

I know this isn't a great pic, but this is a street cat mum, a kitten from a previous litter (I think) and one of her tiny new kittens

Look at this tiny wee thing




Friday, September 19, 2014

Allllllllll about me :)

Well well well, write a wee little book, put it up for free for 5 days and boom! After less than one day you find yourself #4 on Amazon's top 100 free short reads books  and #3 on free books about cats. Ambition - get to #3 on the paid list once it becomes .99c again :) :) Where was that link she posted you're asking? Ask no more, here it is, get it while it's free :)

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NMOYE8A

Writers, we are a strange bunch. I used to think it was just me, but I'm beginning to realise I belong to a large club. I'm going to digress for a while but bear with me, I'll come back to that topic shortly.

When I first came to Egypt I met a woman from Australia who has lived here for about 14 years I think and was going back to Australia in a weeks time. Before the internet and social media we may have kept up a sporadic form of contact via letters and maybe not. But of course with social media geographical distance means very little. We chat occasionally, I find we have quite a bit in common and I hope she will become a good friend. She sent me a link to an article which brings me back to my topic of writers. There is a secondary topic to this article but I'm not going into that one here as you'll get sick of reading if I go on for too long :)

This article was putting forward the theory that writers procrastinate because of a fear of failure and eventually produce because the fear of producing nothing over-rides the fear of failure. This is exactly right for me, so I read on. The idea behind the theory is that the writers are the ones for whom English (or whatever your native language is) at school was so easy zero study was necessary. The long term result of this ease however is that those people come to believe that failure means you can't do it. People who have to struggle - who fail, try again, learn something and pass - have a different mindset. These people learn that if you fail it is simply a learning opportunity.

So writers, because of this ease at school, believe that if they fail they are no good as writers and should give up. They feel that you either can or you can't. This leads to procrastination or self destructive behaviour. Better to not do it at all, or to make it impossible to do it well, than to give it all you have and fail. I'll take it one step further - if school was an easy experience the student never learns how to study, how to try and try again. So when it becomes hard said student has no idea how to adapt and to study and try and fail and try again. Failure to this student means give up because you can't do it. But to the student who has had to struggle for every achievement, failure means you did it wrong so have another go and you'll eventually get it right.

This is so very true I believe. Certainly for me I am deathly afraid that I don't have what it takes as a writer. I had put it down to writer's ego - creating any sort of art whether it be writing, painting, sculpture or any sort of artistic endeavour means that part of the creator is put into the end result. If the piece of art is rejected the artist feels personally rejected also. It's not 'why don't you like my art', it's 'why don't you like ME'. So writers are fragile creatures in a fiercely competitive environment.

But I did have it easy at school. My idea of study was to flip through the text book the morning of the exam. And for English? Well I was always happy the day of the English exam, it meant finish early and have free time. Actually I quite liked the Geography and History exams too - they always had an essay question at the end that was worth half the marks. I was brilliant at writing an essay based on very little actual knowledge and making it sound like I knew far more than I did. Those essay questions got me through. Maths - well no essay questions in maths sadly...

So, English lessons. To be completely honest I have never been able to understand why it is so hard for some people to learn grammar, syntax and sentence structure in their native language. I mean, you talk it, why can't you write it? It took me years to understand that talking and writing are not the same, and that it is reading that bridges the gap.

In year 6 when I was 11 my teacher was not correcting me on grammar, syntax or sentence structure. She was telling me that with my huge vocabulary I should not be relying on clichés as descriptions but using my imagination. Cut the clichés was what she was telling me. The difference between 'whether' and 'weather' was what she was telling the rest of the class.

I was brought up in a small town, and went to a very small school. We had roughly 300 students in the entire school. The town at that time did not have a library and the school library was very small. I read everything in the primary students section well before year 5. So in year 5 I borrowed 'The Swiss Family Robinson'. Well, that was a decision that had unforeseen repercussions.

I was the introverted child who did her very best to be invisible - not easy in a tiny school but mostly I managed it. So imagine my horror at being called up in front of the teacher/librarian, my class teacher and the principal. And why? They wanted to know why had I borrowed 'The Swiss Family Robinson'. I was baffled, was there something wrong with doing that? So I told them I borrowed it to read it. My Principal told me I should be reading the books for my year level. I said very politely that I had already read them, some of them more than once.

The teacher/librarian said that I must not have been able to read this book because I brought it back in less than a week. Again I was puzzled, wondering if there was something wrong with bringing it back so early and why would I return a book if I hadn't finished it? My opinion of persons in a position of authority was beginning to sink. But I was brought up to be polite so I replied that I brought it back because I had finished it. The teacher/librarian was incredulous and didn't bother to hide it. She said a ten year old couldn't possibly have read it at all, let alone in that short space of time.

I was beginning to seriously reconsider my opinion of persons in authority by then but as a good girl I just said again that I brought it back because I had finished it. I was wondering what it was about this book that had caused so much angst among my teachers, it certainly hadn't seemed that controversial when I read it. Finally my class teacher said that if I had read it then I should be able to tell them what it was about.

A book report! Finally something about this whole bizarre meeting I could understand. So I gave them a book report, one that would have earned me an A because I had enjoyed the book and was only too happy to share that with these people. When I finished there was silence, an approving smile from my class teacher, a just eaten a lemon expression from the teacher/librarian and from the principal? He just said to me that I could read any book in the library I wished to. I was pretty happy about that because it opened up the high school section to me. And when I borrowed 'Gone With The Wind' in year 7 and returned it in less than a week not a word was said.

Going back further to year 1 when I started school. I was so excited to start school because I was going to learn to read. I was convinced that learning to read must be like doing magic. My parents read to me every night, I used to look at my books all the time and pretend I was reading them. My father had told me that I had a good memory because I would correct him if he missed a word or a sentence in one of my books (poor man must have got sick of reading the same books every night). So learning to read to me meant being able to read my books whenever I wanted to. I was so very excited that first day.

But we didn't learn to read the first day and I was pretty annoyed about it. Then, when finally we were given our first readers I was almost afraid to open mine, I was so anxious that maybe I wouldn't be able to learn. So you can imagine how disappointed I was when the reading lessons started and I found out that reading was what I had been doing all along. It wasn't magic at all, I could already read. But then we were taken to the library - to this small girl who had never seen a library before it was the most wonderful thing I had ever seen.

So yes, English was absurdly easy for me at school. I didn't ever come anywhere near failure. I was a big fish in a small pond to use one of those despised clichés. And now, to use another one, I'm a small fish in the huge ocean of Amazon and yes I am afraid of failure. Writing is what I do, it is what defines me and drives me. If I can't make a success of it I don't know what to do. And I do have a self destructive streak and a stupendous talent for procrastination. I did believe that if I failed it meant I was no good. Now, because of this article, I'm going to try to change my thinking. Failure is not a death sentence to a career, it's an opportunity to learn and to grow. (But don't let me fail, buy my books!)

As I follow my dream and I write every day (or almost every day) I feel so much more comfortable inside my own skin. I know the events of my childhood had a huge impact on me and damaged me in ways I may never fully understand. But also, repressing my drive to write has had its own effect on me. I have always been the square peg trying to force myself into the round hole. I have always wanted to write, it's all I ever wanted to do (Well be a vet too but you know - maths and science requirements and the creative brain bamboozled by these subjects). It's taken me far too long to get to this point of really trying to make a go of this.

You can have no idea how justified I am feeling right now to see this wee little book (that I wrote in less than one day) sitting up there in those Amazon lists. Yes it's free right now and maybe it won't sell once people have to pay .99c for it. But they're downloading it for free, my ranking has gone up even as I am writing this. That surely must mean something. I'm hoping it means they like it and yes I can actually write :)


It's a good book, read it :)













Thursday, September 18, 2014

Wee little book

So, the wee little book is up and available for sale. Small hiccup when I uploaded the wrong file - I uploaded the one without the pics - but it's all a learning experience right? Anyway, it's done and ready for sale now, so go buy it! It's short so it's a quick read and it's .99c so it's a cheap quick read designed only to entertain.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NMOYE8A

I'm pretty happy I've learned how to convert a book from Word to Ebook format. I have been toying with releasing Zora's Dawn through Amazon instead of trying to find a publisher but I'm not sure if that's the way to go or not. This little book is my advance scout. If there are no sales then I'll go with a publisher. If it sells well I'll have to give it a rethink.

I have decided in any case to write a prequel for Zora's Dawn. It will explain things that happened in her childhood that caused events discussed in the book. It will be short also, and it will be free on Amazon and a few other useful web pages. It means more work for me, but I'm quite keen to write it as while I've been writing Zora's Dawn events from Zora's childhood have been popping into my head. Sometimes when I'm writing about her present day happenings, there is a second script running in my head about her childhood happenings. My mind is a strange place, enter at your own risk :)

In other news, yesterday was Gamer Son's birthday. He got a new game (from a more affluent family member than me!) and I took him to a stationary shop where he stocked up on watercolour pencils, watercolour graphite pencils, a drawing pad and various other bits and bods. When he's not playing games and reluctantly doing school work Gamer Son likes to draw manga figures. Last night we went to dinner which was a nice change. We don't go out very often so we do appreciate it when we can.

Today it's back to work on Zora's Dawn, gettting the last two chapters done and then it's the dreaded task of editing and writing the synopsis and query letter. Oh joy, this is the hard part. Writing comes easily for me, cutting an entire book down to first a single sentence, then a single paragraph and finally a one page or three page synopsis depending on the requirements from individual agents - ugh. It's like going to the dentist without any anaesthetic. Or for me, just going to the dentist (bit of a phobia there, along the lines of I faint at the dentist). Editing is painful too. Basic editing is just checking grammar and spelling and cutting unnecessary words. But it also includes cutting entire sections that don't work or are too wordy. That's where I suck because I wrote those words, I don't want to kill them off!

So today's blog, no theme, no point really. It's simply to give you the link to the wee little book and then to ramble on about what I need to do! The only theme I can offer is go buy my book! Buy both of them actually, support your local writer :) Here's the link to the first one while I'm at it...

http://www.amazon.com/Blank-Canvas-Sheryl-Lee-ebook/dp/B00KE7URKM

Now to pics, not so many today:

Retro Pub, where we had dinner

Self explanatory I think :)




Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Another early start

I'm up early this morning, before even the wake up call to prayer. In Egypt you soon become accustomed to the call to prayer which echoes over the city 5 times a day. It can be a hauntingly lovely sound or it can be rather disturbing - in my experience the difference lies in the quality of the speakers and your location to said speakers.

Here, the speakers are located several kilometres away, so the call to prayer is a soft and musical cry that echoes in the air and blends with the other sounds of the city. In the darkness of early morning those sounds are the occasional car and the chickens next door. At other times of the day it can go unheard as it competes with the busy sounds of a crowded city.

I have had the experience of staying in a rented apartment which seemed to be right next door to the speakers. I was dead asleep, still suffering somewhat from jetlag and when the call to prayer blasted in my ear I almost levitated off the bed! It was not only loud but distorted as well because of the proximity. When I went to Cairo to pick up gamer son from the airport we stayed in a guest house that had speakers right next door, you could see them from the roof of the guest house. The call to prayer was so loud that the owners supplied ear plugs for guests. The speakers were either very poor quality or damaged in some way so that it was impossible to make out anything but a distorted and garbled noise that didn't resemble words in any language. It was quite horrible.

The call to prayer, when heard from a distance, is a musical sound that floats in the air and blends with the landscape. It reminds the foreigner that he or she is indeed in a strange and exotic land. It's also a useful way to divide up the day. The first call is before dawn, then around midday, in the afternoon, just after sunset, and at night.

Now I know there are a lot of bad things happening in the world right now - this blog is not about them. I'm not an expert in theology or political science. I don't know enough to be able to give an informed opinion and besides which this blog is about me! All I will say is that atrocities have been committed throughout history by fanatics in the name of religion. These fanatics have left a blood stained path right through human history but the religions are not to blame. Religions do not preach death, destruction and torture - it is the fanatics who do that and they use whichever religion they have hijacked as a figurehead and scapegoat. Here there are mosques obviously, Egypt is primarily a Muslim country. But there are Christian churches too, and both religions live side by side. <steps off soapbox, back to self>

So why am I up so early? Yesterday I spent the day learning how to convert my wee little book into an ebook for Amazon. I've learned a new skill :) However I realised in the middle of the night that I'd uploaded the wrong version of the book and I had to change it for the right one. So this blog, which is supposed to contain the link to the little book which is going to be sold for .99c since it is only a short quirky thing, is instead telling you that it's not there yet. (You can take a breath now, sorry about that long sentence.) Guess I got over confident... So next blog I'll include the link. It takes Amazon about 12 hours to upload a new title.

I guess it's all a learning experience. For my first book I was not at all confident I could follow the steps to convert from a Word document to an ebook format so I paid someone else to do it. But this time I couldn't afford that and besides, it's only a very short book. So I took the time yesterday to do it step by step and you know it's not hard at all. Just tedious. Like many things that look so daunting that you don't even begin, once you break it down into steps it's do-able. Kind of like life.


The mosque at the Marina:


 Hurghada at night from my apartment building roof top:


 The mosque at the Marina again:


 This is why we stayed at the guest house with the noisy speakers:


 And this:

And this:

 My reward for getting up so early - look at this sunrise!




This is the cover for my little ebook, link next time :)







Friday, September 12, 2014

Afternoon off

Lately I've been having nightly visits from my old friend Insomnia. He comes to chat, we hang out and drink tea and watch the sunrise. Then presumably Insomnia heads off to his black palace to snooze the day away and I struggle to function on 2 hours sleep.

I've been working on the Werewolf book - named now, Zora's Dawn :) The last couple of days though I've had a bit of a crisis, a bout of writer insecurity I guess it is. I write, and it comes so easily to me. Editing lightly is easy, hard editing which is taking out whole sections is more difficult. Then I start second guessing myself. If I can take out whole sections of the book that are irrelevant to the storyline then what sort of writer am I? If it comes so easy to me does that mean it's not actually any good? What if I've written a book that's not good, but cheesy and horrible? What if I suck at my chosen career and I'll never make any money, what will I do now that I've burned all my bridges? And so on...

Mr Insomnia comes to visit every night, we chat about all the things I worry about in a way guaranteed to take them from every day stresses to major life issues. I finally fall asleep around 3am and wake sometimes at 5am - I've got some great dawn shots to share though. Some mornings, like this morning, I sleep until 7.30am and wake feeling like death. It's a bit tricky writing in this sort of mood, which is why today I'll be working on turning a wee little ebook I wrote into the proper ebook format. I'm going to put it up on Amazon soon, as a little experiment. That's something that takes nothing more than focus on the tedious steps required for formatting. The cover is already made, and this one has photos for each page too so I've plenty to keep me busy and potentially make a little money down the track.

Yesterday I was up and writing before the sun dragged itself over the island I can see across the Red Sea from my balcony. But plagued by these doubts I didn't get that much done and found myself paralysed with indecision - is it good enough, does it fit in with the storyline, that sort of thing. So since I've received a teeny tiny amount of royalty payments (and I am not understating, it is really teeny tiny) I went along Sheraton Street and this time I took photos of some of the wares available in the shops.

These pics are only a very small slice of the things available on Sheraton Street and there are no pics of the many stores that sell the knock off designer bags, clothes and shoes. I've never understood why such a rich culture sells this sort of tat, but then I see all the tourists walking around carrying their designer knock off bags and I guess it's consumer demand. I daresay the sort of stuff I'm drawn to is considered by Egyptians to be tourist tat as well, but I always was a sucker for teapots and teacups.

There are a myriad of strange lights made up of I think coconuts which blows my mind - both because they look like something you would get in Hawaii and because some of them are downright scary! There are the egg lights that I love for reasons I can't explain except that I also have a love of flashy, trashy, lights. There are the usual tourist types of clothing - t-shirts, stylised belly dancing outfits which make me laugh, that sort of thing. There are fridge magnets, stuffed toys, sand filled camels, embroidered towels, wooden furniture which I adore even though I know it's aimed at the tourists, marble everything and of course pyramids,camels, and Aladdin lamps in all kinds of materials. You can get a marble pyramid light - kitsch but I have a weakness for kitsch. There is also a staggeringly wide range of complete junk in frighteningly bright colours. I meant to take a pic of a shop that has a huge range of this stuff, you almost need sunglasses in that section of the shop. Sadly, I forgot to take that particular pic so you'll have to wait for that one.

So, here are the pics, starting with my sunrises, enjoy :)






Cup, plates, etc.


Marble marble marble


Scary lights


See?


And a kangaroo in case I get homesick :)


Pyramids pyramids pyramids


Aladdin lamps, camels and assorted stuff


Stuffed monkeys (why I don't know), the egg lights, sheesha pipes


Clothes


A gift for the gamer son, a bongo drum :)


Monday, September 8, 2014

Thoughts...

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like if I was a different person. If I was someone who was a round peg in a round hole. How it would be to grow up in the same area, to live and work in that area your whole life. What it would feel like to know the same people from childhood and to go through your adult life with them. How would it feel to have a sense of belonging.

I've never had that, a sense of belonging. It's driven me my whole life. I felt like an alien in my home town. I've moved a few times but always felt like I was just marking time until my real life began. When I was a child I used to dream that I was the only real person and that everyone I knew had been swapped with beasts overnight. I used to be afraid to look into a mirror in case I saw a family member as they actually were. You may have guessed that I didn't sleep a lot as a child or even now, dreams can be pretty scary.

I wrote, on paper or in my head, stories about real people living real lives. I waited for mine to begin. I felt a few times that it had but my self destructive streak always ensured that it ended.

Australia has never felt like home. The UK does, but since the UK now has one foot in the EU and one in the Commonwealth it has made living there almost impossible for even someone like me with a grandparent born there. Of course, if I had a truck load of cash in my back pocket the UK would welcome me with open arms. But I don't.

Living here has been a challenge with the culture and the language and the everyday difficulties these bring. The climate is so different - the heat is the same but the desert is the opposite to the tropical climate I am used to. Some days are harder than others. But then I knew that from the start, I expected the culture shock and the homesickness - even though Australia is not and never has been home to me. More than homesickness it's a human urge for the familiar.

I know I have to get past that and I will in time, I know that too. Days like today are hard but it's only a day and tomorrow will be better. Money is tight, and you all aren't buying enough copies of my book! I feel really strongly about that book you know  - because of the message it contains as much as because earning money from it would make my life easier.

Children are so vulnerable, so trusting. To have an adult who is supposed to protect destroy that trust is psychologically damaging for decades. The child learns never to trust, never to believe in him or herself, never to think good things will happen or if they do the child will most likely sabotage them because of a lack of self worth.  Not only that, but a child who has been betrayed by someone who was supposed to protect learns coping mechanisms. These help but in the long term they can cause problems as well. Things like burying feelings, becoming as invisible as possible, even acting out - these things stop a child from becoming the adult he or she has the potential to be.

Physical abuse is obvious, incest is newsworthy, but there are other forms of abuse that cause the same mental scars, that affect the child through life just as much. Those children grow up to feel that the abuse they suffered wasn't the 'same' or as 'bad' as other forms. But you know, it is, and those children should have a voice. I wrote that book to give those children a voice. It is a work of fiction, meant to entertain more than to educate. But the message is there and I dearly wish that the book would sell millions so that all the children who suffered this particular type of abuse can know they are not alone, and they have a voice, and yes this form of abuse is just as bad as any other type. Mental scars endure, left alone they fester.

A touch dark today, huh? It's not such a good day today for me, but tomorrow will be better :)



;)



Sunday, September 7, 2014

Laundry day, sigh...

Laundry; I don't really mind doing the washing, and I don't really mind hanging out the clothes or bringing them in. I don't even mind folding them all and putting them away - perhaps because the OCD in me is happy to be making all these neat little piles of organisation. But ironing, I loathe ironing. It is my least favourite chore of all time. I hate ironing so much that I try to buy clothes that do not need to see an iron, not ever.

Coming here, I was concerned before I left that I couldn't rent an apartment in my price range that had a washing machine. My agent seemed baffled by my concerns, saying 'just use the laundry'. I didn't want to use a laundry - I was thinking laundromat, having to put money in a public washing machine and wait for it to finish the cycle and then put more money into a dryer and wait for it to finish. In Australia I washed almost every day - work clothes for me and school clothes for gamer son. I didn't have enough clothes to wait a week before washing. I was not looking forward to going to a laundromat every few days here.

Of course I had completely the wrong picture in my head. Laundry meant exactly that - laundry. A place where you take your clothes and they are washed and dried for you and you go back and pick up a bag of sweet smelling tidiness the next day. And best of all, they iron your clothes! It's cheap, and it's wonderful. I don't want a washing machine any more, or an iron :)

My laundry could not be more convenient. It's located in the building next door to my apartment building. I can look over my balcony and see my washing drying on the lines so I even know roughly when to go and collect it, if I am in a hurry. I think they are magicians too. You know how you buy a fitted sheet and you take it out of the packet and it's folded up so neatly you don't even know it's a fitted sheet until you shake it out. Then you try to do it but you totally fail and it ends up bundled up in the linen cupboard looking like a bag of rags. Well my laundry guys fold fitted sheets exactly like they come in the packet, it's amazing to see.

This does not mean that I get out of chores completely. I still have housework to do, which in the Sahara means you clean off the dust with a damp cloth and watch it settle on everything within four hours. It's kind of a pointless exercise except when I imagine how thick the dust would be if I didn't clean it off several times a week. But I have a small apartment and very few possessions (if you are a regular reader you will know I came here with all my remaining possessions in two suitcases) so it doesn't take much time to clean.

Now in my last post I threatened to put here the first chapter of the book, for those of you who didn't go to the link at Amazon. So here it is, and you can read it or not as you choose. But I hope you read it and then go buy the book ;)

As far as writing goes, the Werewolf book now has a name and the end chapter is in my head although not yet on the computer. I also wrote a quick little book I'm going to publish on Amazon, using their publishing services. It's only very short, just a quirky little thing I wrote mainly to get space from both the werewolf book and the Bluemoon book. But I like it and I want to see how Amazon publishing services work so it's by way of being an experiment. Don't worry (haha), the link will be here once I get it all done and published.

Firstly today's pics - not too exciting and sorry about that. But hey, washing is not an exciting exercise.

Fitted sheet how I do it:

 How my laundry guys do it (except from them no creases):


The corner of my laundry, and the entrance to my apartment building:


The view down from my balcony to the clothes drying - not mine today :)


 The first chapter, Blank Canvas:

Chapter 1
She woke up with that feeling of disorientation that sometimes happens on waking suddenly in the middle of the night. For just a few seconds she had no idea where she was, or even who she was. Then she recognized the layout of the shadows in the bedroom, felt the reassuring presence of her husband in the bed beside her, and the panic that had been building up dissipated. Taking a deep steadying breath, she linked the little finger of her left hand into the little finger of his right, smiling as even in sleep his finger tightened around hers. All was well. She slipped into a deep dreamless sleep.
The next time she woke it was full morning and sunshine was streaming into the room around the edges of the still drawn curtains. Looking at her watch she saw with a twinge of anxiety that she had slept in. Jumping out of bed she took two steps, trying to remember what she needed to do first. She couldn't remember. She stood still, trying to think, but her mind would not cooperate. Perhaps a shower would help. She took a step forward to go to the bathroom and panic began to spiral up through her stomach as she realized that she didn't know where the bathroom was. Was she even in her own bedroom?
She looked around, but nothing was familiar to her. It was a very nice room though, very colour coordinated, so maybe she was in a hotel. Perhaps she drank too much the night before, although she didn't feel hungover - but she did feel curiously empty. If she couldn't remember the night before, what might she have done with all inhibitions on hold? Looking at the bed her heart sank as she saw a man in it, one who was naked at least to the waist, and one who was completely unfamiliar. Attractive, she noted with a small sense of relief, but a total stranger.
With a spurt of alarm she saw that he was looking at her through sleepy chocolate eyes. Willing herself to look back at the man, she smiled tremulously and said shyly, “Good morning.”
He frowned a little, as though slightly puzzled, but responded easily, “Good morning honey. Did you sleep in today? You’re usually gone before I wake up.”
Oh dear, so he thought he knew her. But he couldn't know her. She would surely remember if she had shared a bed with an attractive man like him before. Was this a case of mistaken identity? Had she gone off with a man who thought she was someone else? It would certainly explain the lack of recognition she felt. She rubbed her forehead irritably. If only this fog in her brain would lift she might be able to remember the night before.
“Alicia, what’s wrong? You don’t look too well. Couldn't you sleep last night?”
She stared at him in bemusement. Alicia? Who was Alicia? It wasn't her, her name was, was… She didn't know. Her legs turned to jelly and she sank to the floor in shock. She didn't remember her name. She didn't remember last night, and try as she might, she couldn't remember yesterday either - or the day before, or the week before, or any time before right now. Lifting trembling fingers she pushed back her hair – she had long brown hair she noted abstractedly.
“Alicia?” The man had jumped out of bed. She averted her eyes hurriedly as she realized that he was completely naked. A small part of her mind congratulated her on her taste in men, but she was in no condition to pay it much attention. He was squatting down beside her, trying to get her to look at him, talking all the while.
“Do you feel sick? I can go into work later this morning if you’d like. I’ll get the kids ready and take them to school. You go back to bed and if you don’t feel any better when I get back I’ll take you to the doctor.” He had pulled her gently to her feet as he spoke, with the intention of propelling her to the bed.
She was staring at him in total confusion. What was that he said? Kids? They had kids? How could she not remember this man, presumably her husband, and children? Was she having some sort of waking nightmare? Surely it was impossible to just forget a husband and children, to just forget a life. Who were they? Who was she? She felt like she was suffocating, and even as she stared at the man’s face he began to slip out of focus. With a soft sigh she gave up the fight to understand and fainted in his arms.
The feel of pillows behind her head when she came to told her she was back in bed. For a few precious seconds she thought that it had all been a terrifying dream, but the insistent voice calling her name told her that it wasn't.The only reason that she knew Alicia was her name was because the man who seemed to be her husband was using it to try to wake her up.
For another few seconds she considered pretending that she had slipped into normal sleep, or even better, a coma, but she soon realized that would not solve anything. With an internal sigh she opened her eyes and stared straight into worried brown ones. They were the colour of her favourite dark chocolate she noticed, and wondered briefly how she could remember her favourite kind of chocolate but not her own name.
“Alicia honey, what is it? I've never seen you like this before. You’re scaring me.”
“My name is Alicia,” she stated with a slightly hysterical rising inflection at the end that made it sound more like a question.
“Well of course it is, has been all your life.”
“I’m sorry to ask what must be a really obvious question, but what’s your name?”
The man blinked and stared at her cautiously. “What do you mean ‘What’s my name’? It’s Andrew, like it’s been all my life too.”
She nodded, and added the name ‘Andrew’ to her sad little store of names. Two now, she thought. “You said we have children. How many do we have, how old are they and what are their names?”
“Alicia, I don’t understand the game you’re playing, but it’s giving me the creeps.”
“Please, um, Andrew” - the name sounded strange on her tongue -“Please just humour me. How many children do we have, how old are they and what are their names.”
He sighed, but answered with only a slight edge to his voice, “We have three children. Josh is 13, Sarah is 11 and Michael is six. Do you want me to describe them to you?”
She recognized the last as sarcasm, and felt too drained to try to explain that actually, yes, she did need him to describe them to her. Three children, and the first two so close together. She did a rapid calculation. But then five years gap until the last. Should she ask, or was it something that she didn't want to know about – marriage troubles or perhaps a few miscarriages. It was like getting to know a stranger, and hesitating to ask questions for fear of hurting feelings or calling up unhappy experiences.
She had been staring at her fingers nervously pleating and unpleating the bedcover and now noticed that the sheets and bedcover matched. Looking up, she saw that the curtains were in similar tones of deep rose and green. If this was her house, and she supposed it was, it seemed that she had good taste and took pains with the home décor – at least in the bedroom.
Swallowing reflexively she realized that there was a whole house out there past the bedroom door that presumably was maintained by her. Then there was the outside world. The enormity of what had happened to her began to break through the numbness that had cushioned her since she had woken from the faint and she began to shake.
“Alicia! What is it, what’s wrong?” All traces of irritation dropping away from him Andrew cradled her close, rubbing her back and trying with body heat to calm her. It only served to increase her agitation. Her body shook even further, tears spilled from her eyes and even as she tried desperately to regain control a huge sob travelled from the pit of her stomach and burst out of her. Abandoning her attempt at control she collapsed into his arms and sobbed out all her fear and desperation at the state in which she found herself.
Once started it seemed that she could not stop, but the human body cannot sustain such intensity for too long, and gradually her sobs became less intense, and she began to settle down. She felt calmer, but was aware that it was the calm of numbness rather than any real peace. Andrew had continued to hold her close, murmuring soft words of comfort as she cried. However he put her from him as the tears stopped, gazing worriedly into her face – no doubt blotchy and swollen from such a storm of weeping.
“I think you should stay in bed this morning. I’ll get the kids ready and take them to school, and then I’ll come back here and we can talk, hmm?”
Staring helplessly at him she could only nod. He began to get up off the bed, but stopped and sank down beside her again. Taking her hands in his he added a bit diffidently, “Would you like me to keep the kids away this morning? I think that perhaps you are not quite up to seeing them right now.”
She flashed him a brief smile of relief, because she had been feeling anxiety, no fear, at the thought of interacting with three children of whom she had no memory. How would they handle it? She had no idea since she had no idea what they looked like; let alone their personalities.
He looked as though he was going to add something else, but on glancing at his watch, jumped off the bed in a mild panic. “It’s late, we’re going to have to rush or they’ll be late for school. Stay here and rest, I should be back by 9.30 or so. It’s amazing no-one has knocked on the door yet, I hope they’re all up.”
With a rather distracted look on his face he grabbed some clothes out of one of the built-in wardrobes that lined one wall of the room. Even in her current state of distress she watched his naked backside appreciatively as he disappeared into the ensuite.
Bringing her mind back to her predicament she eyed the wardrobe speculatively. Inside there would be clothes that belonged to her. Surely the type of clothes she wore would give some clue as to who she was. Perhaps she should begin trying to reclaim this life, or at least try to understand it. Her mind beginning to function again, she decided that there had to be a way back to herself, and the sooner she started the sooner this whole nightmare would be over.
Andrew came out of the ensuite fully dressed. She felt a mixture of relief and regret that his body was no longer on display and decided that it must be a good thing that she could find him attractive even though she did not remember him. It must mean that even though her memory was gone she was still basically the same person.
 
He headed for the bedroom door, did an about face and came back. Leaning down he brushed her lips with his, said, “See you soon, go back to sleep,” and was gone, the door shutting almost soundlessly behind him.
Lips still tingling from the unexpected contact, she stared at the closed door trying to remember what was beyond it. Expelling her breath in a gusty sigh she gave up the attempt. For all she knew there was nothing out there but space, like looking out of the Tardis in an old Dr Who episode.
About to lie back down in the bed she stiffened as she realized that she did remember some things – like Dr Who. What else could she remember? She fizzed excitedly in the hope that her memory was coming back and by the time Andrew returned she would be back to her old self. Lying back against the pillows she tented her fingers under her chin and tried to think. What could she remember? She strained and strained, but it seemed that the more she tried the thicker the fog inside her head became.
Ok, so trying to remember was not the way. Perhaps she needed a trigger, something that would reconnect the synapses in her brain and bring back her memory. Her eyes swung around the room, resting on the sliding doors of the built in wardrobes, moving on to the various pictures on the walls and the dressing table in the corner. It was very neat, with jewellery cases lined up and some pretty ornaments arranged precisely.
It would seem that she was a bit of a neatness freak she mused as she gazed about the immaculate room. There were no clothes lying around, no books or magazines in sight. Maybe there was something to see in the ensuite. Her gaze lingered on the doorway into that room before returning to the mirrored doors on the wardrobes. As the fingers of her left hand nervously twirled a long strand of hair, her eyes became fixed on the mirrors. There was one sure way to see who she was, or at least what she looked like. Maybe it would prove the key to regaining her memory.
Unwilling to take such a step with a potential audience in the house she listened carefully to the outside sounds. She could hear birds chirping just outside the bedroom windows, but there was no discernible sound from within the house. That meant that everyone had gone, didn't it? Maybe not though, maybe they had a very big house and the kitchen was a long way away from this room. She had no way of knowing, but she supposed that Andrew had not been gone long enough to be able to get three children out of the door and off to school.
She glanced at her watch, and then studied it more closely. It looked familiar, yet also strange. It was as though she had seen it on someone else’s hand rather than hers. But then, she mused, her own hand looked like someone else’s. On a sudden impulse she pinched the back of her left hand with the fingers of her right. The resulting brief pain gave her a sense of ownership of the hand in a way that her eyes did not.
She looked at her watch again, 7.45 am. Only slightly more than an hour had passed since she had woken, yet it seemed to have been far longer. Andrew had to get the kids out the door by 8.10 am at the latest if they were going to get to school on time, she thought. Another memory flash! She grabbed onto the thought, tried to extend it – where was the school, how far from here? Where, exactly, was here? Once again though, the harder she strained to remember the thicker the fog in her mind grew.
This was so frustrating and so frightening that Alicia felt an almost overwhelming impulse to scream. She banked it down and the impulse subsided rapidly. Frowning a little Alicia (she was trying to think of herself as Alicia, trying to give herself an identity) felt that she didn't really like the ease with which she had tamped down a quite reasonable urge. Coupled with the extreme neatness of the room it pointed to a very repressed personality.
Perhaps that was at the root of all this. Perhaps she was such a repressed person that she simply repressed herself out of existence – to herself at any rate. Gazing again at the mirrored wardrobe she became aware of another, more pressing need. It was time to visit the bathroom. Never was she more relieved at the invention of the ensuite bathroom than at this moment. Cautiously she climbed out of bed and made her way to the open doorway across the room.
The ensuite was as immaculate as the bedroom. Here, though, were magazines, neatly arranged in a magazine rack. She gazed around this little room while using the facilities. There were some toiletries on the vanity unit – his to one side and hers to the other. A bin, empty, sat next to the toilet and the magazine rack was in easy reach on the other side. There was a large corner bath reached by a couple of steps. She supposed it was a spa bath. A huge shower lined one wall, with a shower head at each end. All was spotlessly clean, like an advertisement in a magazine. Above the vanity unit was a large mirror.
She looked at the mirror and looked away again, turning her attention to the magazines. Flicking through them she saw that they were a mix of car and gardening books. There were no women’s gossip magazines and she was a little disappointed to see that. What did that mean? Was she a closet reader of such magazines, disposing of them once read, or did she not read them at all? Did this new person in this strange body have different taste to the old one? Alicia shuddered, the thought was enough to send a cold finger of fear through her belly.
She got up decisively and flushed the toilet. It made very little sound which seemed in keeping with what appeared to be rather luxurious surroundings. Turning on the taps at the vanity she washed her hands thoroughly, examining them minutely as she did so. They were long, narrow hands with long elegant fingers. Her nails were short, but well manicured. She was wearing a thick wedding ring, an engagement ring with a modest stone, and an eternity ring set with six good sized diamonds.
It seemed safe to assume that they were not so well off when they married, but had improved their lifestyle as they went along. She wondered what Andrew did for a living, and whether she worked or was a stay at home wife. With three children and the youngest in his first year of full time school she guessed that if she did work it was only part time. Of course that was only a guess. For all she knew not only was she a neatness freak but she was also a frazzled mum who worked full time. That was probably enough to make her want to lose her memory.
Keeping her head down she carefully dried her hands on the soft yellow hand towel. The mirror was right in front of her, all she had to do was look up and she would see who she was. It was what she wanted to do, yet at the same time the prospect was terrifying. Giving herself a brief pep talk Alicia took a deep breath, forced her head up and locked eyes with her reflection.
She had been hoping for instant recognition, for a rush of relief as she reconnected herself with her image but that did not happen. Instead, deep blue eyes stared at her without a hint of recognition as she stared back. It felt like she was looking at someone to whom she had just been introduced. She studied herself curiously. Long tousled brown hair framed a face that she thought was pretty but unremarkable. Her eyes were undoubtedly her best feature she thought dispassionately. They were large and framed by long dark lashes. She had perfectly arched eyebrows, probably the end result of careful waxing or plucking. Her nose was pleasant, her mouth large with full lips, her cheekbones prominent. There were fine lines at the corners of her eyes, and faint frown lines on her forehead.
Suddenly consumed by curiosity she dashed into the bedroom and stood in front of the mirrored wardrobe. She was rather short, she realized, but with a reasonable body for someone who has given birth to three children. There was a bit of a tummy there, but not too much. She studied her legs critically and decided that they were attractive enough.
Looking at the full picture, she decided that she was an attractive woman, and she really didn't look like she was 42. She studied the look of shock that came into the face of the stranger in the mirror, realized again that it was her, and then realized that she knew her age. Staring at her reflection for a long time, she willed herself to remember something else. Was her hair natural? Yes, she thought so. Was childbirth easy?Blank. Did she get on well with her husband? Blank. Was she happy with her life? Blank, but she thought perhaps not or she would not be looking at a stranger in the mirror.
Maybe she was asking herself questions that were too specific. Can I drive a car? Yes. What car do I drive? Blank. Can I swim? Yes, and very strongly. What day is it today? Tuesday. What is the date? Blank. What is the year? 2010. So, she was not a completely blank canvas. There was a measure of relief in the knowledge.
She thought of another question and faced herself in the mirror again. Do I have a family, apart from those I know of? It was like there was a void inside her. She didn't know whether she had a mother or father, siblings or cousins. It was like being an orphan, only worse. She was totally alone right now; even though it seemed she had an immediate family she didn't remember them or anyone else.
The person that she was before may have family and friends, but the person she was now had no-one. The person she was now was totally alone in an unfamiliar world. There was nothing in this room that she recognized, and she had no reason to believe that she would fare any better outside of the room. She had no point of reference, and she felt as though she had been picked up from her life and deposited on a strange planet to start a new life – her mind wiped clean and empty. Panic was ambling around the edges of her thoughts, waiting to take possession. She realized that she was in danger of losing her mind completely – it would be too easy to simply give up and be swallowed up by the panic.
The thought of being institutionalized was enough to kick start her survival instinct. She would not give in to this; she would not be lost in the grey mists of her mind. There was a way back to herself again, and she would find it. She seemed to have a comfortable life, with a good husband and three children who presumably meant a great deal to her. This life was surely worth fighting for – she was surely worth fighting for.


Monday, September 1, 2014

Cup of tea?

Ok, well I had a blog almost finished, I had it saved, I was up to the fun part of adding photos and the damned thing deleted the entire post and THEN SAVED THE CHANGES. So regarding the title of today's blog - you may wish to go get yourself a cup of tea because that's what I'm doing because DELETED BLOG and I need to chill before I write this post again. (And yes, I know I should write this in Word and then paste it here. Same thing would have happened, my curser is possessed.)

Ok, I am back, time for blog post 2.

As I was saying, and you're going to have to trust me on that because DELETED POST, yesterday while out walking my companion (because while I am a classic introverted writer, I have rather to my surprise made one or two friends) said to me that I am behaving like a real Egyptian. I was puzzled, because all I had done was to wait beside a parked car for two other cars to go past (and they were making a production of getting past each other too) so that I could continue walking. Ah yes, my companion said, but you are waiting in the street and there is a footpath behind you! And there was. I have become so accustomed to walking along the street like everyone else - except for Sheraton Street where the footpath is wide and the traffic is manic - that it did not occur to me to use the perfectly serviceable footpath behind me.

Earlier the same day while walking one of the back streets I came across a truck, a pile of metal rods, a huge pile of sand, two metal crates, and a huge pile of gravel spread over the entire width and some considerable length of the street. They were not there a few days ago. There were men working in one of the huge holes that will soon transform into a building, and men working with the truck etc. If I had been driving a car I may have been a touch annoyed since the street was effectively blocked to all other traffic, but I was walking so I just negotiated the obstacles, climbed the sand and the gravel and went on my way. It's daily life here, Hurghada is like one big building site.

So, later that night I began to wonder what else I have started to take for granted and my thoughts turned to tea. Not that I take tea for granted, tea is essential to my survival and to the survival of those around me. Without tea in the morning I do not perform well, or at all. I am irritable, sleepy and not fun to be around. Tea gives me a boost, gets my brain into gear, wakes me up, quenches my thirst, soothes frazzled nerves (DELETED POST) and basically keeps me sane. I do drink coffee, I get a buzz from it and sometimes it can even take away a headache. But tea is what lubricates my entire being. However I have started to not notice the way it is served.

So, in Egypt tea is drunk everywhere. It is served black, and most people seem to take it with sugar. At least I always have to refuse sugar more than once to be believed. Tea is served in a glass far more often than in a cup or mug, and almost always the tea used is Lipton Yellow Label. I don't know why except maybe it is a mild tea that is not bitter when drunk black. Tea will be served with a teabag, or with the tea leaves in the bottom of the glass. I was a little startled when I was first served tea with the leaves in the bottom of the glass, but it's very practical and tastes just fine. I like black tea, I like tea with lemon - which is actually lime because in Egypt limes are called lemons - and I like tea with mint (but not from a storekeeper who wishes me to spend my life savings). However I prefer to drink my tea with milk, especially in the mornings and definitely at times of stress, by which I mean you deleted post.

The problem with the milk here is that it tastes to me like powdered milk, even the brands that proudly announce NO ADDED MILK POWDER on the label. It tastes like milk powder. There is only one brand I have found that tastes like fresh milk and I can only get it from one store around this area. So I drink tea with milk that sometimes tastes fresh and sometimes tastes of powdered milk. And I drink it black with lemon or mint. But I have not got used to drinking it any way other than how I prefer it, with real, fresh milk.

Coffee is also a very popular beverage, usually drunk black also, and the most popular seems to be the Turkish coffee. I quite like Turkish coffee although it is very strong for me and tends to give me heart palpitations. But I love the smell of it. There is a tiny coffee shop I go to that smells divine, like a coffee drinkers spicy coffee heaven.

I have a passion for fine bone china teacups and teapots, generally Royal Albert and Royal Doulton. It is a source of anguish to me that the modern variations have changed from fine bone china to clunky thick china. Tea and coffee should only be drunk from fine bone china - but I have found that both taste just as good from a glass! When I am out I barely even notice any more that I am drinking from a glass and not a cup.

I do have a nice tea cup, I bought it here very cheaply (remember a previous blog, it pays to shop around). It is actually my third cup here, the cats broke the other two. I also have a china teapot which I bought here from the same shop. It's pretty although a little small, but it's extremely functional. I don't know whether it's by accident or design, but the spout is set at exactly the right angle and very few tea leaves come out when I pour.

So what is today's moral? Well actually it's a roundabout way of shameless self publicity. When you drink tea you should read a book, and hey, I know just the book for you and here's the link :)

http://www.amazon.com/Blank-Canvas-Sheryl-Lee-ebook/dp/B00KE7URKM

At least I hope the link will work. And for those of you that don't go to Amazon to check it out and read the first couple of chapters that are available free, in my next blog I will add them so you're not getting out of it that easy. Lately I've had a couple of people who have read it send me messages to say they really liked it. You have no idea how a writer's fragile ego is boosted by even the most casual of praise. So go, buy my book so I can afford to live, and tell all your friends. I'm a little tired of being the epitome of starving author :)

Tea Egyptian Style:



Most usually served:



Coffee and tea:


The quiet little coffee shop:



And no, you can't buy a Bob Marley from that shop:


My current tea cup and teapot: