A day earlier in Abadan our passports and tickets were ready for collection. Dad spoke to this guy in the ticket office who dropped the word OK in every one of his Persian sentences. He had a poster of palm trees on the wall. Who puts posters of palm trees of some other city in a city full of palm trees? He was what we called Gharb-Zadeh which meant western wannabe. On that last day I was keen to keep my daily ritual and cycled under the heat of the Sun, in our city of Mahshahr. Mahshar meant moon city. I passed Mahnaz’s house and peeked through the mesh wire window. She wasn’t there, shame. Why was it that when things were getting better something always changed? Only a fortnight earlier I wrote her a note, sat next to her in the cinema and dropped it in her lap. When she saw me next she blushed. Her cheeks turned red like inside a cherry pie and I’m guessing they probably tasted the same. I knew then that if I persisted I could get a taste of her. I put my best shirt on. It was a lost cause but it wasn’t just for her I was saying goodbye to the neighbourhood. The heat melted the road and left my tyre track behind. At least the road kept a trace of me. You could fry an omelet on that asphalt but I was used to that heat even though my skin had turned deep brown and peeled like a potato. The swimming pool chlorine had lightened my hair and I thought I looked cool! I passed the market. The vegetable market had fresh coriander and the mechanic’s shop smelled of diesel and grease. My friend Ali was home. Unlike me he was a town boy. At school I hanged out with the town kids just as much as I knew the kids from our part of town. Town kids called us the refinery kids. I didn’t care much for such differences. Ali went puppy faced but kept quiet and just wished me luck. Ali’s Mum offered me lunch, smiled and wished me luck, but I didn’t stay. I passed the fishmongers and the smell of freshly backed bread further up market made me hungry so I headed home. I reached the rose gardens of the English houses of our road and circled the Helipad where the king had once landed for his visit. On his visit I’d peeked inside the Helicopter now I was going round the H three times for good luck. I had my lunch and had a short nap. The summer days were long but that day was going too quickly and I was slightly disappointed. My life was about to change and I expected a bit more fuss from friends and family. Surely someone cared that I wouldn’t be there the next day? Then it happened. Ali hadn’t gone puppy face because he was keeping a secret. He wasn’t good at keeping secrets but that day he did a good job. The kids had organised a surprise visit. They all turned up at once, or at least the best of my friends the seven of them came to say goodbye. Mohsen the eldest of all of us was a poor kid who along his education had started to be a coach driver’s assistant. This had caused a bit of interruption so he’d repeated the year but otherwise that kid was a really bright. His favourite occupation was to make bamboo shoots burn a few holes and turn it to a flute for his buddies. He was a great musician but that day he was a coach driver. He’d borrowed his uncle’s coach, picked each one of them at their homes and beautifully parked the coach in the col-de-sac where we lived. It wasn’t just for me, it was for them too. They wanted to look me in the eyes and see how it felt to be going somewhere and living a dream. I should had kept in touch but didn’t. A lot happened after that point. A war swallowed up a million kids. Rich or poor many people left the country but I hope my magnificent seven, the seven friends, the town boys that I once had as genuine friends had grown to be happy men and I hope wherever they are that they had a good life. Life did turn out to be like a dream. The thirty-six years have gone fast and nothing like what I expected.
You left with tears staring through the window
came back and stole a glance through the bars and smiled
You watched me as I played,
the four-year old boy that I was but no longer yours.
Troubled and wary, you came for a visit
You dared yourself, stole a touch that softly brushed my chin,
the ten-year old boy that I was but no longer yours.
You stayed with us for a week, familiar yet with a distant look
we said very little and moved as strangers through the corridors
but before you left you sang with a broken heart and I listened,
The twelve-year old boy that I was but no longer yours.
Discretely and away from the crowd, I saw you in a Margate restaurant
with a sigh you watched me before you left for London
as the eternal gypsy you’d left Toronto, you left for Tehran.
The fourteen-year old boy that I was but no longer yours.
They said you were lost for days in Hyde park
lost your handbag, lost your mind, lost your taste for this life.
They said you received my letter, the first and last before you died.
They sent me a picture of a stone, some carnations for good cheers but lost amongst other stones.
Now here I am, with half of my life gone,
and I see your lost look in my daughter’s eyes.
Strangely I still feel that brush against my chin.
Still you steal a glance through the lost forest of my thoughts.
Strangely I’m still truly yours.
When her majesty becomes your virtual sweet grandmother. When she enters your surreal world and parachutes out to the crowd. When you grew up with Mr Bean and he makes you laugh the way he did the first time. When you know Brunel was not your Great Grandfather but you admire his spirit and feel like you are one of his sons. When you feel proud to see the march of suffragette and care when someone is wronged or if you see suffering. When your father did not come off the boat from Jamaica or India but like them you gave something back and you worked hard. When you know ceremonies was not there to make the world impressed, it just made everyone remember who we are and why we have a great nation or that we don’t want a thousand choreographed dancers we just put Bowie and Jagger on and have dancing in the streets for every nation, and when the love you get is equal to the love you give and no matter what your colour or creed you always hum Jerusalem as you hear it just like you breathe, and you are not afraid knowing the isle is full of noises or congestion could make the London Olympics full of poses take your place amongst us, watch the telly or watch it for real. Row when they row, dive when they dive and run when they run, and then, only then you have earned your place in old Blighty my son.
Regained Grandour, a set on Flickr.
Back in 1977 when I was 13, I was fortunate enough to be awarded this comic book titled “Azemat-e Baazyaafteh” (“Restored Grandeur”) by my school. It is perhaps now a collector’s item as it was not sold in shops and I doubt if many copies have survived in Iran. Irrespective of your views on the late king, it is a fun book to read. I will try to scan and send the 62 pages bit by bit.
It just shows that whilst other kids read Superman and Batman comics, we were being nurtured on the milk of politics from an early . I recently saw an exhibition of Soviet Propaganda posters in Tate Modern, London and it was great. It is a shame that with our regular regime change, we destroy a lot of history but If someone ever opens a Museum of Iranian Propaganda in Iran, I might be tempted to donate this book after I’m dead.
Simin Dāneshvar was an Iranian academic, novelist, fiction writer and translator. Daneshvar had a number of firsts to her credit. In 1948, her collection of Persian short stories was the first by an Iranian woman to be published. The first novel by an Iranian woman was her Savushun (“Mourners of Siyâvash,” 1969), which went on to become a bestseller. Daneshvar’s Playhouse, a collection of five stories and two autobiographical pieces, is the first volume of translated stories by an Iranian woman author. Savushun was one of my favourite Persian Novels.
The Orchard is a Tea Garden in Grantchester, Cambridgeshire. It is a place that looks frozen in time.
In 1868, it became a Tea Garden purely by chance. A group of Cambridge students asked Mrs Stevenson of Orchard House if she would serve them tea beneath the blossoming fruit trees rather than, as was usual, on the front lawn of the House. They were unaware that, on that
spring morning in 1897, they had started a great Cambridge tradition.
The Orchard soon became a popular ‘up-river resort’.
The owners started to take lodgers and one particular lodger was Rupert Brooke who brought his circle of friends later dubbed by Virginia Woolf as ‘Neo-Pagans’.
In March 1915, he embarked on a troop-ship bound for Gallipoli. Tragically, he was never to return. He became very ill on board, and on 23rd April 1915, aged 27, he died from blood poisoning.
The Grantchester group:
E.M. Forster, Rupert Brooke, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Bertrand Russell, Augustus John, Maynard Keynes, and Virginia Woolf ( from left to right).
We visited the Orchid from time to time.
In the summer before I our marriage, I used to bring my wife here.
I brought my daughter who is 16 now and wants to one day read English at Cambridge here.
I wanted to give her a sense of History. Who knows perhaps one day they’ll have her picture among these pe
After 9 month I am leaving Zurich and heading back to UK. So it is goodbye to beautiful city lights, a picturesque countryside, trains that run on time and friends and colleagues who actually have lunch together. So why go back? Well, if you have a family and you don’t intend to bring them over then there isn’t much point spending your life in a service apartment. It’s a different working culture here, and it does take some getting used to it, but overall it was a pleasant experience.
Zurich is not cheap, and you have to earn a good rate to compensate for the expensive food and apartment. The restaurants are not as good as other places in Europe because for one thing the Swiss Government protects their own and there is less competition from outside.
It is a cultural city, and they do have some very nice customs and festivals here, so I do recommend it to visitors.
Arriving from Luton airport, I walked through long corridors, stood in many queues passed the Passport control.
I took the coach and going through the town I could see the same H&M eye catching Swim wear posters that you see in every city in Europe. I smiled as I reached the familiar landscape of my home village.
She was standing by the door, with a big smile, I didn’t have to ring the door. I came in and hugged her for five minutes. Then my baby arrived, well she is 16 but still my baby! and I hugged her too. Dinner was ready for me but they had eaten. A nice cup of tea afterwards, and we watched recorded episodes of Dr House, and one episode of Graham Norton and then we went to bed. The next day I started revising English with my daughter. I read all her GCSE revision poems and short stories. We read “Miracle on St. David’s day” by Gillian Clarke, read “The Barn” and “Death of a Naturalist” by Seamus Heaney. What a delight. Isn’t it funny why such pleasures seem like a chore when you are a teenager?
The next few days were similar, we just enjoyed hanging out together. I did some gardening, there is such a pleasure in burning leaves! Why do we make life so difficult when simple things can bring such Zen like pleasure?
Episodes of In treatment was saved for last. A few phone calls here and there and catching up with paper work, and before I knew it the long weekend was gone and I was standing again at the bus stop waiting for my coach back to Luton. The coach was late, she stood there for fifteen minutes to watch me go. A replacement service was there, a young nervous driver explained that the regular coach had broken down. He was lost a few times and the other passengers were getting nervous about being late for almost 45 minutes.
Got on the plane and a draconian flight attendant told me to unbuckle my safety belt because the plane was still refuelling.
Back to Zurich, and a ride on the electric tram which has images of Heidi throwing you a kiss, followed by cow bell sounds.
I came back to my service apartment, put the frozen food that she had lovingly prepared and defrosted one and ate it.
Started blogging, and kept myself amused. A few weeks of this and I don’t want to spend a day away from her, ever!
It is past midnight and she sends me a message on Skype ”Its lateeeee!” she worries I might lose sleep and have to go to work, so I’m going to bed. Good night.