Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Teapot Tuesday

The travelling teapot:

We lived in a hotel for 8 weeks when we first moved to Port Dickson.  I loathe tea made in a cup with a jiggly bag because it is never strong enough and it just doesn't taste quite right.  We found this teapot in a local shop for MR 2.00 - (Malaysian ringgit) which is about 30p.  Most of the time it lives in the cupboard, coming out with the suitcases. 

We don't take it everywhere, only when we plan to stay in a hotel for more than three or four nights.  It is in use as I am posting this!

And on the subject of tea - its closely related cousin breakfast is dear to my heart.  One of the joys of hotel breakfasts is the range on offer, and for us poor lost souls, the abundance of p*rk - quickly transferred from the plate to the waistline.


I hope you enjoy your toast and muesli this morning.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Tales from Exile - The Siege Mentality

image courtesy of The Mag

The supermarket as temple. 

I've written before about the tendency to throw myself on the floor of the Waitrose supermarket around the corner from the hotel we stay at in London.  We're here again, twisting between delight and something close to misery as we scan the shelves of edible jewels that we are denied in exile.

Totalitarian rulers know the way to keep the populace most vulnerable is to keep changing the conditions, the prohibitions, the rewards.  We don't live under such an extreme regime;  however the random shortages of various staples and consumables tends to warp one's judgement. 

When we see say, Worcestershire sauce, we might buy three bottles, not because we drink the stuff, but rather because when we do run out, it may be six months before we see it in the supermarket again.  We can't predict what will suddenly become impossible to source.  In the last year, at various times we've had no wild rice, no water chestnuts, no capers, no vegetable juice, no muesli, no pine nuts, and for six weeks, there were no eggs.  My favourite brand of yogurt once disappeared for 4 months before quietly slipping back on to the shelves.  None of these are essential, life-threatening shortages, only unsettling.

This shopping situation changes one's behaviour.  We buy things when we see them, put them away in the pantry and then, we don't eat them.  We stroke the packages and count them, and feel a delicious anticipation because we know they are there on the shelf, waiting to be enjoyed.  We don't eat them because in many cases, we know we won't see them again, ever.  If I were more enlightened, I would enjoy my food and never treat it as some exclusive reward to be earned I-don't-know-how.

It is not only me  as the siege mentality strikes us all:  my friend R, who has just packed up for another international move, has been feasting on the remnants of her pantry, wildly consuming the odds and ends that have been hoarded over the last year.

Tess Kincaid's lost soul in the soup aisle doesn't look tempted to throw himself on the floor and have a tantrum or meltdown of ecstasy.  Just imagine it's me, pushing the trolley, pretending I live a few blocks away, and it is perfectly normal for me to buy luscious fruit and exquisite vegetables in sensible, quotidian quantities.

Thanks to Tess for the prompt.  Many artistic products can be perused here.


Sunday Trees

Brought to you from sunny London ...

... winter tracery at St Mary Abbots Church, Kensington High Street.

Spring is creeping into London.  We walked to our hotel through the quiet back streets  of emerging spring.


Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Teapot Tuesday

Tea for One

 Tea for two may be divine
            ... but sometimes
Tea for one is simply sublime


Friday, February 17, 2012

430 O Sacred Face! (Poems of Exile)

O sacred face!

O sacred face worthy of Bacchus or Apollo,
which neither man, nor woman can observe with safety!
O fingers which long to stroke –
even those of a young boy or maiden.

So fortunate, the woman who nibbles at your neck;
so fortunate, whose lips are bruised by your lips.
Happy the girl who rests her heart on yours 
and who would tire her tongue in your tender mouth.

Seneca at his most sentimental - or political?

Birthday Greetings to my divine Marius, from his own true love.


Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Sun, Veiled

The sun, veiled in dust,
 hangs tethered to the sea
Even such a barrage balloon
cannot stop the day unfurling.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

435 I am not in love (Poems of Exile)

      I am not in love

A certain someone (if you would believe it) is in love with me,

not only a little, She dies of love: she is consumed.

And thus, she will grant me favours I shouldn’t ask –

I would show her love always, but believe me:  I am not in love.

Perhaps Seneca can offer an antidote to too much chocolate and excessive sweetness?


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Teapot Tuesday

We are particularly blessed today as the Supreme Council for Public Holidays has decided that we all need to get more exercise and a Sport Day has been declared.  (I am not one to talk but the local population has an obesity rate of about 85% and diabetes problems to match.) 

It is mere chance that this year, the inaugural Sport Day coincides with St Valentine's Day. 

In true glutton-fashion, we commenced our healthy-living day with breakfast of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice, wholemeal toast, tomatoes, eggs and gammon steak (imported from London last year).

Here is the teapot, the one I use all the time:

with the red teapot from Primus at Christmas, in the background.  This teapot has a felted metal lid which keeps the tea nice and hot.  It also has a removable basket which I sometimes fill with chai spices to add piquancy to my tea, and it pours brilliantly without dripping.  This is the four-cup version.  We like the teapot so much we also have a six-cup one for when the family is here.

Breakfast was slightly delayed while my seat-warmer was removed:

Here you can see our new kitchen table in all its glory:


Monday, February 13, 2012

One Amongst Many Bloggers

image courtesy of The Mag

It was a particularly apt prompt from The Mag this week, today being my first anniversary of blogging, of being ‘Isabel Doyle’.

My experiment in blogging has taken me from my place of exile across the globe.  I’ve met interesting people from many walks of life; some have remarkably similar outlooks to mine, snippets of shared experiences and shared places; some are scholarly, some are fun, some angst-ridden and some full of questions and wisdom.  I’ve sat awe-struck at the feet of poets and story-tellers, and been moved to laughter and tears by what I’ve read.  I’ve gasped with naked jealousy over some of your gardens and walks, and I’ve winced in sympathy over bad luck, bad news and life’s miseries.  I’ve sung with second-hand joy at your triumphs and delights.  Some blogs make me homesick – for various places and times in my life – and some blogs make me grateful for being here and not there.

I’ve been frankly confused by some virtual relationships and mystified by cruel attacks and rants.  Mostly I’ve been touched by the kindness of strangers, the encouraging remarks, the thoughtful words, the flow of goodness and energy.

I’ve shared stories of the life of exile and I’ve told you a bit about myself – probably far more than I realise.  I offered you my own poems and  my translations of poems attributed to my great hero Lucius Annaeus Seneca, and you have responded politely and kindly to my efforts.  You’ve listened patiently to my cat-tales and dramas and been interested in some of the strange objects I live with (Buddhas and teapots to name a few).

I’ve avoided geographical references, politics, religion and human rights, although these are subjects I feel passionately about, they are not safe for me here.  I try to keep under the radar of censorship and arrest, all the while knowing my every keystroke is monitored and recorded.

I’ve tried to protect my family from embarrassment by not revealing names and places, and I have kept my health battles fairly quiet.  I have a horror of moan-blogs where ailments and treatments are measured for medals and sympathy.

I started Written in Exile a year ago today, with the help of my daughter ‘Prima’, mostly as a distraction – therapy if you will – from my spectacular ill health.  A year ago none of us believed I’d still be here today, writing and posting, but clearly I am.

Thank you all for reading, commenting and following.  You’ve kept me inspired, encouraged and sane.


One Amongst Many

One Amongst Many

I am not a light-filled diva

my hair does not flash golden arrows

my limbs are not smooth and straight,

my skin not iridescent nor aglow.

Of course, in my head

I am the centre of the picture

my perceptions, feelings and thoughts

surround me like a halo.

The others – you – the many

are all around

and to you each, the centre

of the picture, is here.

Do you feel yourself as utterly other

separate from the dark mass of limbs and torsos?

Do you feel your own power pulsing from your pores

and gold dust glittering in your mane?

Each of us is the star of our private firmament

touched by grace and fired with drama:

our greatest gift and cruellest curse.

Thanks to Tess for the inspiration from The Mag.  You can read the rest of the crowd here


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Teapot Tuesday - Aladdin's Lamp

Some nice husbands bring home flowers for their wives. 

Most of our working lives together, I worked in or near, a city centre while Marius worked in the wastelands of oil-refinery land.  He was rarely in a position to bring home anything in the way of treats or surprises.   However, when we lived in Kuala Lumpur, Marius worked in the Petronas Towers, above a swanky shopping centre known as Suria KLCC.  He travelled constantly during those years, so his visits to the office were irregular and usually short.  One day, he brought this home for me, on a whim:

teapot by Bodum
We'd admired it on one of our shopping trips and decided against buying it because - well how many teapots do you really need? 

This day, the department store was having a Shopping Spectacular - a Promosi Hebat! and Marius must have had a few minutes of spare time over lunch.

The teapot has a nice removable basket which is ideal for loose tea or extra herbs.  I use it when I make mint tea.  The handle stays cool, the tea stays hot, and the spout pours smoothly without dripping.

I haven't tried rubbing it to make a wish - but you are welcome to experiment and let me know what the genie brings you - good luck, I hope.


Monday, February 6, 2012




Are cordially invited to join


In a glass of champagne

Today, at 5 o’clock

RSVP: Written in Exile

Dress:   Cocktail

434 I may seem mad (Poems of Exile)

a grave at the Novodevichy Cemetery, Moscow, courtesy of Tess at The Mag

434      I may seem mad

I may seem mad to you, but I say this for myself:

I would not be seen as mad; but why am I seen thus?

You say, Because you are always loved, because you are always in love.

And I say, If this is madness, may the gods keep me mad forever!

Translated in my own fashion, from the Latin of Seneca or pseudo-Seneca, and encouraged by Tess at The Mag.  Many more inscriptions can be found here.


Sunday, February 5, 2012

Sunday Trees

This painting hangs in my parents' house in Melbourne, although they bought it in Canada, about 30 years or so ago.  It has been very hot in Melbourne recently, and I can imagine my parents looking at the snow with longing. 

No snow here in Exile, but plenty of dust swirling around in eddies and banking up against anything it can stick to.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Macabre Serenade

They are slaughtering the cats at number four

I’ve heard strange cries and sinister sounds

They are slaughtering the cats at number four

Or has the violin fallen from the maestro’s hand?

They are slaughtering the cats at number four

The maestro’s strings are gut no more

But they are slaughtering cats at number four


Friday, February 3, 2012

396 Advice to an Unknown Assassin (Poems of Exile)

396      Advice to an Unknown Assassin

I will slice the throat of anyone who terrorises my friends

Don’t think my pity is enough to let me forgive

When the unjust victor stabs even the forsaken dead – beware!

Often the dead hand thrusts the fatal wound.

Translated from the Latin of pseudo-Seneca, by Isabel Doyle.  It seems particularly apt given the slaughter next door.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Tales from Exile – Tara Singh

Dear Sir, of the bicycle, the strung-back beard and the spun turban,

I am writing, after all these years, to thank you for your service with the snake.  Do you remember that day?  You, the retired Sergeant of Police from the Punjab, then 78, upright, correct and immaculate in your guard’s uniform,  you must be 90 in the shade now, at least, as I always felt you put your age down, to keep your job.

You would open the gate for us and salute; and close the gate and salute.  I am not entirely sure who the gate was to keep out, but keep them out you did.  Each morning, you would bring up the mail, exotically addressed to Jalan Pantai, Batu 1¾, your stick tucked horizontally under your left arm, your right arm extended, carrying the letters.  ‘Good morning Ma’am, your post.’ Bowed head, heals clicked – almost a caricature of yourself – and always a gentle smile.  You could have put the lot in the post box, but then we would have been deprived of our regular encounter.

When the children were home on school holidays, you would speak gruffly to them, admonishing them to ‘Listen to your mother.  Make your parents proud of you.  Always do your homework.’ And ‘Love them, you have the best parents in the country.’  In spite of these lectures, they adored you, Tara Singh.  Young Primus used to ask you about the war and Partition, and you would tell him about your family life, back in India.  You explained about your sword, handed down from your father, and your silver bracelet, which all devout Sikhs wear with pride. You took off your turban for him showing him how you folded up your uncut hair and harnessed your beard.

Primus and his sister were home the day the cobra got in.  He ran down the hill to your hut to ask for help, and ran back to tell me that you were coming, we didn’t need to call the fire brigade to remove it – a normal duty for those worthies in country Malaysia. 

We stood around watching the snake explore our verandah, waiting for you and hardly daring to move.  You took your time coming.

When you finally arrived, you explained you first had to stop and pray.  I am not sure if you were seeking guidance or praying for the soul of the cobra, and I never thought to ask you.  You came to the front door and removed your boots.  I remember you had thick scratchy-looking socks on.  I begged you to leave your boots on – ‘It is a cobra Tara Singh!’ – but no, you were certain that socks were sufficient protection.

‘I will not kill it Madam’ you said.  ‘It is very bad to kill a snake.  But show me and I will remove it for you.’

I pointed ‘On the verandah, amongst the chairs and tables.’

We, cowards, watched through the windows as you leapt about, your stick whirling, your feet prancing from seat to cushion to table.  Then it was over.  You’d hooked the chap – limp like a garden hose – over your stick and flung it far across the garden.  Then you stood still, head bowed, hands folded, giving thanks for the safe delivery of you both.

You turned to come to us, smiling and touching the end of your moustache.  You saluted.  ‘It is safe Ma’am, Boy, Girl, you can come out.  I have sent the snake away.’  You wouldn’t accept a cup of tea or even a glass of water before you returned to your post, even though you were breathing heavily now, and trembling, almost imperceptibly.

I am sure we thanked you Sir, at the time.  But now, across the years, your eyes come back to me, and the realisation that you too, were terrified of the cobra.  You earned medals in the Police, so my thanks are not grand in comparison; please believe that they are from the depths of my heart.

I wish you a healthy retirement and a peaceful transition to what awaits you in the next world.


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Too Early

Too Early

Quiet, quiet, quiet

I could hear frogs on the golf course this morning

as I tramped home from the bus stop,

your kiss still singing on my lips.

The stars were drifting away,

the moon snoozing on the other side of the globe,

and the sun, still abed,

was turning the East turquoise and gold: byzantine sunrise.

It was too early for the doves to be echoing their two-tone call,

the peacocks were peaceful –

even the mynah birds were not arguing the price of a worm.

Thin mist floated in hollows, pixillating the club greens

and the air almost tasted of the sea.

No dog walkers, no school children,

the local cats huddled away for warmth.

Too early for the workers’ cars, too early for the joggers.

Only the last warmth of your hand in mine

and the bubbling of the frogs

to tell me I’m not alone.

Note:  I wrote this poem before the great slaughter was revealed, so it hardly reflects the current situation, here in er, Paradise.  (See Living in Exile for an explanation)