Gat on a cold tin roof

This is a long weekend. Made longer by the fact that we are under complete curfew. No going out at all. Miss the potato run – that splendid and now unattainable trip to the grocer. Oh, crossing paths with other masked potato lovers.

To get over that barrel of melancholy, I decided to give myself a treat. Gin and tonic in a mug on a rainy roof!

Now the advantages of this approach are as follows:

a. It allows me to enjoy the rain and a breath of fresh air while also

b. Sheltering my drink from the sensibilities of potential non-drinking neighbours and

c. Making me feel very spoiled to be having a drink before my own alcohol curfew is usually lifted (at 6 pm – the sirens make time-keeping really easy these days)

So here is to all of you- cheers& stay safe!

What I miss

I don’t mean the obvious- my family, life as we know it, sanity, hope, human contact, hugs etc. Everyone everywhere is missing all that.

I mean small things I never realized were golden until I lost them. OK, I had a feeling they were pleasant at the time, yes, and I engaged enthusiastically, but never stopped to think wowsers, am I lucky or what.

Here goes my nostalgia top 3:

  1. Watching Premier League matches in a pub. There’s nothing quite like sipping a drink at the bar and shouting instructions to players who can’t hear them and even if they could, they wouldn’t give a toss, and for all the right reasons.

2. The smell of good coffee made by someone other than yourself on a working morning. You know that moment, the barista hands it to you and says ‘see you’ and you depart giddy with flavoured excitement.

3. Wearing a skirt (ok, I realize I can still wear a skirt so I guess I mean wearing a skirt and seeing any point to it).

Stellar. Much missed. RIP. Leave behind a loving follower.

The eternal sunshine of the germless queue

There are many things I love about the Arab culture. They make amazing coffee. The concept of shawerma is a masterpiece. Their generosity puts the rest of us to shame. I love their dark, illusion-less humour. Their directness cracks me up (most of the time). They are passionate, warm, real and madly hospitable. The way the elderly are treated in this society is a lesson to us all. And so on.

But God forbid you ever find yourself in a queue.

First of all, you are never actually in a queue. You are in a pulsating, sweaty scrum of crazed humanity. You can clearly feel the anatomy of the person behind you indelibly imprinted on your own. You are actually doing the exact same to the person in front by sheer virtue of physics. Intrepid new arrivals constantly infiltrate the scrum from innovative sideways attack positions. People lie bare faced about having been there all along when they obviously just materialized out of the thin air in the form of annoying little queue jumping entities.

In fact, most people here enjoy physical contact with the same desperate craving I enjoy my morning coffee. I have often entered nice restaurants with friends who gave a quick inspection, then decreed we should leave immediately because the place is not full. What lunatic would want to sit where we can’t squeeze together like happy sardines? Off we go in search of the next chockablock opportunity.

Now take this and add Covid and a curfew to the mix. Plus falafel withdrawal. And then try to go to the local shop for a quick, careful shopping trip post a 48 hour total curfew. I’ve had to surgically remove a fat loud woman who was hugging me from behind while the grocer was weighing my bananas. I told a guy off for practically trying to snog me while offering a bag. As I was leaving, a happy family blocked the entrance for an urgent discussion about whether they need tomatoes or not.

Long story short. How do we quickly import some queue-ness? Has anyone got some spare?

Day 16: Enter Hikomori and expressive mice

So you are locked up with nothing but your wandering mind and stacks of unnecessary carrots in the fridge for company.

This is a wonderful opportunity to grow your intake of Vitamin C but also look into some burning questions.

  1. The first one is regarding the Hikomori. They are Japanese social recluses who don’t leave their houses for months or sometimes years (see more about these fascinating people here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hikikomori). So I wonder how a Hikomori feels when the whole world has basically become Hikomori? Does that invalidate their Hikomori-ness? Sort of like if the whole world turned vegan, would there be a need for anyone to still be called vegan?
  2. Scientists have discovered that mice have 6 facial expressions: disgust, pleasure, sickness, pain, fear and flight. (details here https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/apr/02/mice-have-a-range-of-facial-expressions-researchers-find). I get most of them. I can picture a scared mouse. A sick one. One in flight. But what would disgust a mouse? A smelly cat? An obese and shabbily dressed rat? Their teenage son leaving old takeaway pizza in the sewer?
Source: https://www.theguardian.com/
Source: wikipedia

For their contributions to life, sanity or the pursuit of ordinariness, I want to thank

a. My neighbour who wears perfume and make-up to go and buy potatoes and who wants to know if the ‘t’ in ‘often’ should be voiced or not

b. The husband of the said neighbour who interrupted our impromptu stretching class in the street and yelled ‘get inside, people are watching’

c. The gas man who drives around every day and plays the same reassuring tune as before

d. R or whoever left this bag of bread in the street for those who need it

e. A scrawny young man sitting on the pavement with a solitary coffee who gave me a half- hearted whistle as I walked past

f. The owner of this unexpected small island of green I made into the destination of my otherwise purposeless walks

g. An old shop keeper who called me daughter and advised against buying one of his products

h. The graffiti artist who created this man about to swallow a car

i. Whoever had the idea to call this educational hut for experience, culture and future the Oval Office and made me laugh out loud

j. Tim Berners Lee

Good things about bad things

I am not usually inclined to see the half full-ness of things. I find half -wit positive thinking very irritating (and I generally look at the empty half of the wit) and in life I cherish cynics, articulate moaners and good bellies.

But.

In addition to being braless and seeing hawks, here are two brilliant things I’ve discovered over my curfewed days:

a. No cars but essential services are allowed in the streets of Amman these days and I cannot congratulate the government enough on this decision. Hell may be paradise with no people, as the Arabic saying goes, but this no car zone is definitely a small slice of paradise in hell.

b. My culinary creativity is flourishing. For 10 days now, I’ve been grabbing whatever is available without a queue with no other criterion than freshness. This has resulted in a long list of new and improbable dishes. Who knew that cauliflower can blend so subtly with sheep? Tuna and beetroot! Radishes go with cheese and potato stews like a house on fire. I am loving my new menu. Bring on the carrot curry with a side of mint and whatever this green thing is yay:)

Day 4, 5…who’s counting anymore?

The last few days have brought some interesting developments. As life is busy packing its bags and moving elsewhere, small commerce, human kindness, long queues, hawks, dark humour and exercise flourish.

We first burst out of our houses after days of imprisonment when bread trucks started delivering last Tuesday. Once out, we first blinked at each other in disbelief and awe. I was ecstatic to find that people do exist in flesh and blood and are not only my usual gallery of holograms. I started walking in circles, smiling at policemen, looking at the sky and pretending to look for a bread truck, in all probability looking like a deranged, dusty mass of ill fitting clothes. There must also have been an aura of urgency or hunger to my passionate walk because some people in gardens started calling out and offering food as I made my steady progress towards an invisible truck. I thanked them all profusely and assured everyone I’m actually quite well nourished .

At one point in my journey, I heard someone saying they were dying for a cigarette. Now a spiritual pillar I always abide by is immense solidarity for all fellow addicts so I interrupted my bread circles, went upstairs and got a packet. In exchange, I got an onion. Big fat onion, look:)

The day after my mad circles and onion trading, small shops opened. The queues were huge but the normality of being able to walk to them – priceless. Is that the Mastercard slogan? Vague memories from a previous life.

Anyway, while stumbling around drunk on my newly found freedom, I was stopped by this lady surrounded by her cats. People over 60 are not allowed out of their house. She said she was running out of cat food so my next expedition was Whiskers themed. Yay! Lunch boys and girls!

Curfew day 3: new followers arise

The world is my gym

The novelty of today is that my rooftop aerobics have attracted a small but motivated number of followers stranded on other rooftops. My new class includes a father with 3 children and a nice belly, a bearded chain-smoking hipster and a middle-aged veiled lady. They all started following my (rather mild) workout with various degrees of success. The enthusiasm prize goes to the portly father, though he was summoned home quite briskly during the stretching session of our class. The veiled lady definitely has the best smile. The bearded hipster was not so stellar on technical score but definitely wins on program components, mainly on account of his massive coffee mug and infantile yet weirdly alluring pyjamas.

Roof top aerobics

Here is my new gym. There are no machines or personal trainer but the views make up for it. Yesterday, in the depths of my claustrophobia misery, I climbed the stairs to the roof top praying the door is open. It needed a bit of work and wasta (the all encompassing Arabic word for connections) but I did it. Yay!

The silver lining is not yet obvious