Monday, January 31, 2011

Selfish Me!

It's years since I got a pay check in Bahraini dinars - the last was when I was flying - and because I was young and single then with only myself to think about I spent the money frivilously: I'm still wearing the Cartier watch I bought then and a Betsy Johnson leopard print dress, and still sleeping on Ralph Lauren sheets...
So, what to do with my first Bahrain paycheck in thirteen years?
Old habits are hard to break.
I rushed from the stables to SAKS in the mall and bought a pot of Eve Lom cleanser:
With a powerful blend of Egyptian chamomile, hops, clove and eucalyptus oil, together with cocoa butter the Eve Lom Cleanser cleanses, tones, exfoliates all in one. Even the most stubborn make-up and eye make-up will be removed.
The specially woven muslin cloth (100% cotton) is used with the Cleanser to improve skin circulation while cleansing and exfoliating the skin in minutes.
The result is clean, perfectly balanced skin and a radiant complexion.

I'm ashamed to tell you how much it cost. It was utterly, outrageously expensive. And it smells a bit like saddle soap.
If I was anyways half decent as a wife I would hand over the money to the household accounts and use it to pay for the groceries, music lessons, riding lessons, Maud's tutor etc etc I could even afford a couple of new tyres for my car.
Maybe next month - heh?

Saturday, January 29, 2011


The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don't dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.
Ah the wars they will
be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
bought and sold
and bought again
the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

We asked for signs
the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed
the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
of every government --
signs for all to see.

I can't run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they've summoned, they've summoned up
a thundercloud
and they're going to hear from me.

You can add up the parts
but you won't have the sum
You can strike up the march,
there is no drum
Every heart, every heart
to love will come
but like a refugee.

Leonard Cohen

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Frosty is almost 30 years old and his eyesight is not very good. At dusk shadows frighten him and in every lesson he spooks at least once with his rider. His great age ensures that the furthest he moves is two steps to left or to right but it's often enough to unseat a child, and so far in three days of teaching I've had one child fall off and a couple of near misses. Children are starting to say: "Please don't make me ride Frosty!"
I have to repackage the pony.
So I'm going to explain to the children (and their parents) that the arena is an artifical environment. When they hack out dogs will bark at their ponies, plastic bags will flap in the wind, boy racers will roar past with loud tooting - and their ponies will spook.
To prepare the children for spooking they will each get a chance to ride Frosty. If they can sit Frosty spooking and it doesn't frighten them half to death then they're ready to hack.
If they fall off it'll be gentle for Frosty comes up only to my elbow.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Beginner's Luck

So yesterday was just lucky - today's pony club was a disaster. I suffered a shower of children who couldn't and wouldn't listen to a thing I was asking them to do. Who wanted only to trot wildly around the arena. Yet could not transition to walk without hauling on the reins. Who insisted they were ready for jumping when they could not rise to the trot. Who could not follow a simple instruction such as "Do not kick - your pony will bolt!" (and he did). Who disregarded such simple instructions as - "Please turn your head to the left if you're hoping to turn your pony to the left.... And close your right rein along the pony's neck" - preferring instead to haul on the left rein and beat the pony at the same time...
I learnt something valuable today.
The truly useless don't listen. This is why they are useless.


My first afternoon teaching pony club was an educational experience - both for me and for one of my students. Sweet little Maisie fell off Frosty when they were trotting together - I picked her up, dried her tears and gave her leg up back into the saddle. I clipped on the lead rein to give her a confidence boost. I said: "Do you know how many times you have to fall off before you become a good rider?" She shook her head. I said, "10." She started to smile. "So I only have to fall off another 9 times to be a good rider?"
I nodded.
She gathered up the reins, sat up straighter; I unclipped the lead rein; she said "Walk on Frosty."
Soon they were trotting again and she was riding much better.
I said: "That's really good trotting, Maisie."
She said: "Before, I was afraid to fall. Now I'm not afraid any more."

Friday, January 21, 2011

If You Forget Me

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

Pablo Neruda

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Grammar School

I am a little confused by the current educational reforms in Northern Ireland. NI has always had a grammar school system and when I was a child all children sat the 11+ - the primary schools coached us to pass it. It was brutal but it was fair. Those who passed went to grammar school where academic expectation was exceedingly high -that's my school crest at the top - the inscription in Latin means Salt Flavours Everything...
Our new system follows a different ethos - and I'm quoting here from the booklet Transfer 2011 Advice for Parents:
Academic selection is educationally unsound. It does not meet the needs of a modern society. It sustains and generates inequality. It has no place in our education system.

Further in I read:
The Department has recommended that schools use their admissions criteria to make sure that they admit a fair number of children registered as entitled to Free School Meals
Correct me if I'm wrong, but this mean the NI education system is now financially selective not educationally selective?


It's raining here in Bahrain. Bahrain + rain = chaos. Drains are full of sand, roads are flooded, drivers creep along with hazard lights flashing, and the roof of our villa has 500 leaks...
It's all right for me - I rather like it - but my kids are hopeless with rain. They've been expatriates for most of their lives, spending only the briefest of wet summers in Ireland (see photo above) - and they've not learnt the valuable art of keeping their feet dry on a wet pavement.
"Walk around the puddles, not in them!!"
"Look where you're going!"
"Being a spare pair of socks in your school bag."
Their soaking wet school shoes were stuffed with newspaper last night but since there's no heat in our house they were still wet this morning. I had to put them into the oven and gently toast them while making the porridge for breakfast

Monday, January 17, 2011


I have received the following extraordinary message on my cellphone: Not c mila e2.bigay u no.margie.uwi naku bukas tapos na ang pag hihirap k d2.cenxa na. What does it mean? Is it a forgein language? Have I been contacted by aliens? Should I reply?

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Nick and I had to go back to the hospital to get Rex's kidney blood results. We were going out for dinner afterwards and as I was dressed in a short shirt I wore an abaya over my clothes so as not to cause offence. (Also, it kept me warm). The staff were extremely kind in the hospital and when we got to the restaurant, Mezzaluna, Nick and I were taken to one of the VIP tables secluded in an alcove - I'm wondering now was it the abaya which got such a good table and such good service?

International Politics

I took Rex to the doctor this afternoon - he has a chill in his kidney. We were sent to the lab for Rex to give blood - the lab technician was an Asian gentleman from some where on the sub continent.
Making polite conversation he asks us: "Where are you from? UK?"
I say: "We are from Ireland."
Rex says: "Actually we're from Northern Ireland."
And the bloke says: "Madam, your son is a Unionist."
He knew all about N. Irish politics and I couldn't tell you what country he comes from.

Monday, January 10, 2011

High Noon

Already I'm suffering from bullying in the workplace and my job has only begun. I've got this charming wee job at the stables teaching riding to pony club children - bliss except that one of the other instructors really really doesn't like me (for no particular reason that I can think of for I don't believe we have ever even engaged in conversation - she's not really a woman who talks - I say "Good Morning" and she grunts)
Anyway she's started to rubbish my riding - last night she criticised me loudly and openly - and a gang of pony club mothers were listening.
"You're cutting that corner!"
"You changed rein far too sharply!"
"She's on the wrong leg!"
"Don't play in her mouth!"
(I promise these are riding terms - nothing kinky!)
Bahrain is a very small island and guess what - it's all over the playground this morning - "That rude instructor that nobody likes.... She was shouting at the new instructor last night..."
"OMG! And what did the new instructor say to her? Did she attack or retreat?"
Well, the answer is neither just yet -
I have made an appointment to speak formally to the stable manager at 5 this afternoon to tell her frankly it's 'that woman' or me.
And if that fails I suppose there will have to be a gunfight in the jumping paddock...

Happy Birthday Florence

Nine years ago today I woke up with a pain in my tummy. Time for a bath, I thought, and I really must wash my hair. And blow it dry and slap on all of my makeup...
My mother phoned: "It's the due date," she said.
"And the baby is coming," I told her.
At the hospital a lovely young doctor with her handbag on her back told me I was 6cm dilated, and fully effaced - my cervix just had to stretch a bit more and then it would be action stations.
"Would you like me to stretch it to 10cm?" she asked me.
"Yes please."
And just like that I was ready to push. And two pushes later she was born. Precise and tidy and hard as nails with never any fuss about her.
Happy Birthday Florence.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year Resolution

We resolve: