Friday, August 31, 2007

You know you're back in Ireland when...

After spending yesterday running around doing (and eating, and drinking) a thousand things, and then spending today doing much the same thing (although without the drinking this time) and discussing the wonderful world of immigration with no fewer than four taxi drivers (Irish-born taxi drivers are almost universally racist and think that Polish/Chinese/Nigerian people who only hang out with other Polish/Chinese/Nigerian people, eat Polish/Chinese/Nigerian food, go to Polish/Chinese/Nigerian places of worship and drink in Polish/Chinese/Nigerian pubs are both sinister and COMPLETELY DIFFERENT from Irish emigrant workers abroad who only hang out with other Irish, eat Irish food, go to Irish places of worship and drink in Irish pubs) and the strong and weak points of life in the Republic of Benin with another (who although from Benin, recommended Ghana).

And after all this, I find myself sitting on the couch, watching Midsomer Murders (yay!) after having had a bath and dinner (in that order, and dinner was Indian treats from Marks and Spencer) but with a rapidly developing head cold. Poor, poor me. I feel very sorry for myself indeed, in the way one does when one is slightly ill with something most certainly not lifethreatening in any way.

Oh well. I will do my best to survive and spend the next twenty-four hours tucked up with a hot drink (perhaps even Beechams?) and the three Georgette Heyer novels I got today in Hodges Figgis.

Oh so many parentheses. It is very odd how Marrakech fades into unreality so quickly whenever I leave it.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

On the move again

Well, I'm back in Dublin for a few days - visiting my parents, seeing friends, getting some academic work done and doing a little bit of shopping before going on to Cambridge for a conference next week.

Dublin's attractiveness needs no advertisement from me, but I do think that the picture above of Front Arch at my university, Trinity College Dublin, is particuarly nice. I will be doing my shopping a few paces to the south of Front Arch, at Brown Thomas on Grafton Street. My father's speech at my wedding last year even mentioned my close relationship with Brown Thomas, Dublin's best high-end department store, and home to my favourite bed-linen, Frette. My husband doesn't quite understand my fixation with sheets - after all, I only ever buy completely plain white or cream ones, so it isn't even as if my love for sparkly things can even be blamed, but I'm sure that some of my readers at least will understand my dedication.

My three days in Dublin will be very busy, Frette aside. Coffee with some very dear friends, lunch at the Unicorn with my parents, drinks with another dear friend (I seem to have been very lucky on this trip and am catching almost all of my favourite people here) and then Friday, more of the same really, as well as rummaging in the attic for the few things which have been inevitably mislaid somwhere along the way. Wish me luck...

(Images from, and frette)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Turning one's home into a souk... or not.

When we moved to Marrakech I firmly believed that we would be returning to Europe positively laden down with purchases from Morocco. We wanted a carpet (at least one), several lamps, ridiculous quantites of leather goods, carved cedar things, pottery, jewellery... goodness we wanted a lot. Now, not so much. We have indeed bought a couple of the things above - we each got leather hold-alls, four leather poufs (I'll do a leather post some other time) but, well, that's it really. I know what I want my future home to look like, and Marrakech market isn't really it. I get the impression that this is an epiphany that strikes most expats here after their first... ooh.... week or so.

However. This does not mean that I must therefore turn my nose up at the sort of things one can buy here - not by any means at all. In addition to the leather goods I mentioned, Moroccan embroidery is fantastic. I think I posted here before on the embroidered bedspreads at Beldi (and indeed, one may make its way into my possession before we leave Marrakech) but the beautiful cushions above (with a matching huge pouf, not pictured because it isn't stuffed, so you're just going to have to trust me - it's divine) came from Darkhoum, which I have mentioned before. The owner is still as grumpy as ever, but his furniture and textiles are still beautiful. This fabulous black and white embroidery is from Rabat.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Thoughts about little tables

Well, I wasn't planning on writing a blog entry today, but well, here I am sitting here with a pot of Pu Ehr tea and I thought, you know, I *do* have something I'm particularly interested in just at the moment, simple as it is, and that is the Moroccan side table.

These little tables from Garnet Hill and Altas Imports that I have pictured above are ubiquitous here. They are outside every furniture or interiors shop in the Medina, priced at anything from 10 to 50 or so euros from the more optimistic shopkeepers, or presumably more for the very fancy ones (which are less appealing anyway, to my mind). They are in the houses of Moroccan families, they are in riad guesthouses and restaurants of all levels and they are in luxury hotels. Even our ultra-modern house has them (in salmon pink!). And you know what? I'm going to be bringing as many back to Europe with me as I can carry. They are so simple but undeniably exotic and can be eased into almost any setting, I think. I plan to get the plain ones, maybe four of them, and paint them to blend/contrast with the rooms which eventually become their homes in England.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Feeling a little delicate...

I am writing this from our terrace, sitting on a pistachio-coloured plastic chair, at a white plastic table, which last night bore two jugs of Pimm’s and a dish of delicious cheesy briwats brought by our guests, Maryam and her husband Chris.

This evening I am sitting at the same table, feeling a little under the weather (perhaps not so much the fault of the Pimm’s as the champagne and later, wine, which followed), I have to admit that I have completely frittered the day away, drifting vaguely around the house, eating leftover desserts and reading (Camus again, The Fall this time).

What I would like to be doing, if I had the energy and general will-power, is sitting in our latest discovery here in Marrakech – Grand Café de la Poste, pictured above, with its gorgeous 1920’s building and the colonial-style décor, which feels relaxed and authentic, rather than overdone or forced. Fabulously, the food actually delivers too AND, as my last post mentions, the place is within an easy walk of here, so I have a feeling that we will be visiting there a lot more in the future.

As for now, the sun is setting, the moon is already bright and the call to prayer has just faded away. I feel dinner coming on. Maybe first I’ll just reheat some of those briwats…

(I wrote this last night - right now I am sitting back in Grand Cafe de la Poste waiting for my monkfish skewers with curry and rice and with a bottle of Casablanca beer beside me - in addition to all their other virtues, this wonderful cafe has wireless internet!)

Friday, August 24, 2007

These birkenstocks were made for walking?

In Dublin, I must confess, I did not walk as much as I might have. I am very fond of shoes, you see, particularly of the high heeled variety and generally my footwear prevented me from walking to and from town from our apartment, which was perhaps a 35 minute walk from my university. It wasn't until I came here that I began to see walking as an almost emotional experience as unlike in the West, where people avoid eye contact and certainly never talk to each other on the street, at least not in cities, walking around the Medina is a highly interactive experience, which I have talked about here before. But what I am talking about today is the Ville Nouvelle.

The Ville Nouvelle lies right beside and around the Medina and as we live on the edge of the Medina, about five minutes from the Djemma el Fna in one direction and the Koutoubia, it is within very easy reach of us, but somehow we just never seemed to go there. The roads are so big and wide, the sun is so bright, the heat is so intense and the traffic so overwhelming that we would make dashes to Acima (supermarket) as if dashing through pouring rain to get to shelter, risking life and limb in taxis (see my husband's blog today for more on this) and, latterly, buses (altogether a more pleasant experience).

But for the last few days, the temperature has been a lot lower - right now it is only 29 degrees and overcast and THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING. We have been *walking* to dinner in Grand Cafe de la Poste (more on this tomorrow, with photos), *walking* to Rue de la Liberte (admittedly the blasted shop I was going to was STILL closed, but still) and even - good lord - walking to Acima.

This has had a very empowering effect. Before, we had felt, if not trapped in the Medina, then certainly that Gueliz was a little off limits to us for general purposes, owing to the slightly stressful experience of simply getting there, but now that we have done the walk a few times we feel that it has become a part of *our* Marrakech and that our little world here has widened significantly. God, we'll be going to Comptoir next.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Oh dear - am I really that bad?

It always surprises me how people find my blog and I always look with interest at the search paths that take people here - I'm sure all bloggers do. Usually it is quite simple - they find me through the couple of websites with which I am registered, or through an email (thank you, nice people who mail the link for here to their friends!), or they have googled my full name, perhaps with "Marrakech" thrown in for luck. Other people come to me quite by accident when they google other phrases, often quite random - my first ever hit from a stranger was from a person who had searched for Naomi Watts in google blogs - it just so happened that one of my first posts was about finding the parasol used in The Painted Veil on ebay (I bought two but have used neither). However, the reason I am talking about this today is that I got a rather embarrassing hit yesterday via google, from a person who did a search for "Awful Marrakech". Isn't that mortifying?

Now my gentle readers, *you* know that (despite the dirt, the annoying children, the lethal mopeds and the impossibility of conducting a straightforward transaction anywhere outside Marjane hypermarket) I genuinely like it here - after all, why else would I stay?

We're extra excited about Marrakech at the moment too because not one, but two whole people are visiting us in September (you know who you are my loves!) so there will be a flurry of interesting blog entries because we won't be able to hide in the house any more, revelling in white walls and watching the falcons, but will be dragged, kicking and screaming, out into the city to bring our guests to all of the exciting places we can think of, including a few days in Essaouira. One of our guests has the added virtue of fluency in Arabic and we plan to drag her up to every child and teenager who has annoyed us since our arrival so that she can shout at them for us. It's going to be great.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Work, work, work...

After spending the last couple of weeks travelling and generally not doing any useful academic work and convinced that this could only mean that I am indeed *not* cut out for the glittering academic career which *ahem* lies before me, as soon as out Acima/Marjane shopping extravaganzas were safely over, I found myself getting back to work as easily as if I had never left it.

This morning though, we were wicked and decadent and went to our friendly neighbourhood luxury hotel and spent the morning swimming in the pool and lazily dozing in the sun, inventing lives for all the people around us. Why do you come to Marrakech and stay by the pool all day? Maybe they haven't though - maybe they're just back from exploring the country from Tangiers to the Western Sahara and are taking a well-deserved reward. Maybe they hate the idea of being here, but they got a good deal on the hotels and flights. Maybe they *thought* they'd love it, but were scared to death by the Djemma on their first day and haven't set foot outside the hotel in days. Maybe they are enjoying their holiday and taking a perfectly reasonable swim in the pool for an hour before they go out exploring and are completely undeserving of any criticism at all. It does make me sad though when people come here and stay in the Ville Nouvelle and make reluctant, nervous dashes into the Medina and stare in horror when you tell them that not alone have you only ever stayed in the Medina, but that you live there now.

PS I'm afraid that I'm going to have to disappoint my readers and decline to give a lengthy explanation of my dissertation (which is indeed somewhat more specific than just "Paul Bowles", you will be relieved to learn). Apart from anything else, no doubt you would all rush off to publish my earth-shattering ideas yourselves and make millions and leave me starving in the gutter while Hollywood beats down your door for the film rights... It is hard to know how much detail people want anway - when you are in a university environment and somebody asks what you do, the answer you usually give is a brief overview of your research, but when you are in a non-academic environment and someone asks you that question, the answer "A PhD" usually receives a polite smile and *sometimes* "Oh, how nice; what in?" to which "English" almost always suffices. I have no idea who my readers are (god, you might even be potential employers) so I'm going to stick to talking about Marrakech for now.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Peace and (relative) quiet

A picture of a little peacock who lives at our house for Maryam

Marrakech is wonderful, but it is also slightly awful sometimes. On the one hand, it is beautiful, exotic and exciting, the air is heavy with rich smells of spices, leather and fruit and the streets are full of handsome bearded young men in skull caps and flowing white robes, beautiful girls with dark skin and glowing eyes, their heads closely wrapped with brightly coloured scarves, the electric atmosphere of the Djemma el Fna and the call to prayer which dominates all. And *ahem* the kittens.

But on the other hand, it’s noisy, dirty, smelly and invasive. Every time I go out alone, I get comments and cat-calls and even if I’m with my husband I get twelve-year-olds darting out to smirk at me under my hat (scaring the living daylights out of me sometimes as my huge black hat from Monsoon is very effective at keeping the sun off, which is why I wear it, but also functions much like blinkers on a horse do, and prevents eye contact with practically anyone unless I tilt my head back, so it is very alarming when a face suddenly appears right in front of my own, laughing). The gulf between men and women is so wide that the existence of children here at all is a bit of a mystery to me, although middle-aged and older couples are openly affectionate with each other in a way that is rare in the West.

All these contrasts make it difficult for me to remember whether I like Marrakech or not whenever I am away from it, and I was very worried this time, coming back here from America. A few weeks ago we had decided that if it didn’t suit us by Christmas, we would move to Paris until I hand in my PhD in April and we can leave for South America, but at the same time, I didn’t really want to feel as though North Africa had defeated me (this is also my first time away from my home city of Dublin, Ireland, for more than two months), so I was apprehensive and unsure of my own feelings.

But oh! I am very happy to be back here. Certainly it is weird and awful, but it is also thrilling and bizarre in the best possible ways. Our huge, calm house is the perfect respite from the hubbub outside and we seem to live our life at two extremes – the orange madness of outside and the white serenity of inside. Right now, we have just finished our lunch (hummus with a brie, grape and endive salad with Casablanca beer and its marvellously retro label) and all is silent except for the peeping of the falcons who live in the trees that overlook our terrace. As I type this, I realise I can also just about hear the bees in our bougainvillea. The rest of the day will be spent reading and perhaps writing a little. Maybe this evening we’ll go for a walk before sunset. How could I ever have doubted my desire to live here?

Friday, August 17, 2007

And still the struggle goes on...

Well, we're barely any closer to having internet in our house yet. We are a *little* closer, though, because the guy in Maroc Telecom at Marjane was furious at the chancers in Maroc Telecom in Gueliz for sending us to him, as this is basically what they do whenever they are confused by Westerners asking about the internet, even though they (in Gueliz) are technically the only people who can help us. Our other option is to find out where the Maroc Telecom in the Medina is. My google search yielded only the laments of another expat (this time in Fez) who has just spent seven weeks trying to extract wifi from Maroc Telecom!

We have had the busiest two days in the world, between Acima yesterday (was that yesterday?) and going for my massage at the spa of Jardins de la Koutoubia (yay! the first masseur to give a damn about my knotty back since China! actually my first masseur ever - I've only ever had masseuses before), dashing home for lunch (reheated lasagne - lasagne! in our own kitchen - we actually had *scones* straight out of the oven for breakfast) and then going out to the dreaded Marjane, which actually wasn't as bad as I remembered and we got a terrifying amount of stuff which we loaded into a taxi (who foolishly *started* the bargaining back into the Medina at 20DH and seemed almost disappointed when I immediately said yes), unloaded it out of the taxi and into a charet (hand cart) and went home only to discover that we had forgotten our key, despite the huge blingy chain which Moulaid gave to us to keep it on a couple of weeks ago. Mercifully, she was in (don't forget that the two houses are next door), so all was well. AND we struck a cake deal with her, whereby she will bake us the cake of her choice every Sunday morning! Tra-la-la for Moulaid, the true heroine of this blog!

As I know for a fact that I won't be getting internet tomorrow, I will take the time to write a proper, coherent and less brackety entry tomorrow - with the promised pictures, including one especially for Maryam.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


We are going out *right now* to Maroc Telecom to sort out our internet in the house, so if you don't hear back from me today, assume we failed. At any rate, I promise a full post (with pictures!) tomorrow, so please be patient and thank you for checking back!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Normal service will resume shortly

Back in Marra after the longest journey in the world - left John's family home at lunchtime, arrived at JFK at 5pm for our 8pm flight as interminable security queues at Heathrow and Dublin have taught us the virtues of arriving up to a day before the flight departs. Overnight flight to Casablanca - John slept, I read The Plague° and ate sushi° - and an hour long transfer at Casa for Marra, which still wasn't enough time for the bagge handlers to work out the intricacies of getting our bags from one plane to the other one standing right beside it. About 16 hours in all.

However, all was well when we arrived . Frankly, our own mothers are going to have to put in a bit more effort to make us feel as welcome as our darling Moulaid did; hugs, kisses, tears AND a cake.

Tomorrow is going to be go go go - our old friends Maroc Telecom for internet things, Acima for the supermarket run of our lives, and the airport to pick up our now located bags.

We haven't got internet in our new house just yet, so this is from an internet cafe with a keyboard which is pretty inscrutable, even by Moroccan standards, so I am going to leave you now and go off to Cafe Arabe for cocktails°, which is a lot easier than working out where on earth the brackets are.

As of tomorrow I will be back in full swing, criticizing Moroccan food, hating the Ville Nouvelle traffic, arguing with taxi drivers and generally abusing each aspect of the local culture I come across°. I might even post a couple of pretty pictures. It'll be great. Welcome back, me!

°A surprisingly comforting book
° Yep. We're THOSE travellers.
°We have a hard life here in North Africa.
°Well, not really. But maybe.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Exotic readers from exotic places

When I started this blog, it was intended as a sort of personal diary with the advantage of being able to share it with a small circle of family and friends. Gradually, this group has expanded and when I go to Statcounter to check my hits, the most marvellous thing is to click on the recent visitor map and see the extraordinary variety of countries from which my readers hail. In the last couple of days I have had readers from Ireland, England, France, Morocco and the US. But I have also head readers from Zimbabwe, Malaysia, Lebanon and Trivandrum in India. Isn't that extraordinary? That's Trivandrum in the pictures above. There is somebody *there*, perhaps Indian or an expat like I am (and a number of my readers) who sat in their house or office or local internet cafe and read about my life in Marrakech. I would love to know why, but I probably never will (unless he or she reads this post and chooses to comment!).

(Images with thanks to

Saturday, August 11, 2007

What next?

My poor readers. You all come here for one of two reasons - either you know me personally/are related to me, or you want to read a blog about Marrakech, and what happens? I clear off to America and start writing about Virginia and New York! Well, to set your minds at rest, I will be back in the land of bad food, vilely rude teenage boys and lethal mopeds in three days from now. Just three more days! Goodness. I can barely remember the place. Chincoteague is so peaceful and other-worldly that it is difficult to imagine being anywhere else at all, really. Of course, it might just be the knock on the head I got in the sea the other day (more details at my husband's blog).

This is our last full day here - tomorrow morning we will set off *very* early in the true manner of all dads the world over. As we leave, John and I hope to lure his family for breakfast into the cafe (possibly just called "The Cafe", I think - Chincoteague not quite being the epicentre of America's imagination) where we had a gorgeous breakfast the other morning of positively sinful French toast, soaked not just in eggs but in Grand Marnier and Baileys Irish Cream, then smothered with maple syrup and topped off with bacon. Heaven. But probably dangerous.

When we get home, we will unpack the car and the pick-up, and re-integrate ourselves briefly into suburban America with a trip to the King of Prussia Mall followed by hearing my brother-in-law's rock band play at the local... zoo. No, I don't get this either, but I will certainly report back.

Friday, August 10, 2007

And now for something completely different

Greenwich Village, New York

C O Bigelow

Cafe Reggio

Blissful as my stay here in Chincoteague is, I appreciate that it may well be deathly dull for you to read about ("Today I did nothing again, and it was fabulous"), and as I am restricted in my movements today due to a slight swimming accident yesterday which hurt my back, I thought I would indulge myself in a little New York nostalgia.

Of the many fun things about visiting America (and I had never been before I met my husband), I adore New York, in particular Greenwich Village. The bigger, more glamorous parts of the city are perhaps more impressive, more beautiful; the long, straight, white avenues at perfect right angles are certainly the stuff of (slightly fascist) fantasy, but the cosy, narrow redbrick streets around Bleeker street are sheer bliss for wandering or eating and shopping.

On my few short visits there, I have fallen in love with a small number of shops and restaurants which I insist on returning to each time. Chain stores are almost banned in the area, except for some higher end shops – Anthropologie (which I love) is next door to Ralph Lauren on West Broadway, for instance, about a five minute walk from Bleeker. On the other hand, shops that were made famous in the Village have expanded beyond and opened branches across the country – C. O. Bigelow Apothecaries, for instance (who are giving away a gorgeous huge cream canvas tote when you spend $100 with them at the moment – oddly, getting the bill to exceed $100 wasn’t that much of a challenge…).

Eating and drinking in the US is stunningly cheap and good after Dublin where everything costs the earth and quality is touch and go. I adore sushi (I mustn't be too cruel to Dublin on this count - after all, Aya is fab and wonderfully cheap in the afternoon) and the nicest I have had in the immediate area is at Sushi Mambo on Bleeker (oddly, I have never found seaweed salad in Japanese restaurants in Ireland, but it is everywhere here), after which we always go to Café Reggio on MacDougal – the most divinely old-fashioned Italian café I have ever seen (there is little in Italy itself to compare) or The Other Room for drinks, if we can find it, which is only some of the time, alas (it’s at 143 Perry Street). We also adore Chickpea, which is about ten minutes away in the East Village and supremely cheap (useful when the guilt over the $100 you just spent in C O Bigelow sets in).

The atmosphere in the Village is what you wish Dublin was like. Temple Bar might have been that way if the government had shown more foresight when issuing pub licenses. Despite the trendiness of the area for drinking (I’m back to Greenwich Village here now) there are few pubs or bars visible and you really have to look for them, which is such a relief after Dublin. Whenever I visit New York it is an effort to make myself go to any galleries or museums (after all, how could any museum be better than the Natural History Museum in Dublin?) when I could just pooch aimlessly around the shops and streets of the Village. Alas, I won’t make it back there until January and if there is one thing I CAN be persuaded to do that isn’t Village-oriented in New York in the Winter it is ice skating in Central Park…

(Images with thanks to Benjamin James, Café Reggio and CO Bigelow)

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Quiet, empty head

What a lovely quiet morning I’ve been having. Everybody went out to the beach at about nine but I wickedly stayed on in bed, only tip-toeing downstairs for my coffee when the coast was clear. “How antisocial!” I hear you cry, but darlings, remember that I am an only child and have always been rather solitary, so living in a house with four other people is a little overwhelming sometimes, and creeping away to be on my own is simply recharging my social batteries.

Yesterday John and I went sailing around Chincoteague and Assateague in a gorgeous 21 foot yacht called the Bay Breeze. It is one of my more useful (although apparently potentially creepy) abilities to go on holiday with my inlaws to a place I have never heard of but successfully arrange to spend the day on a yacht long before we even arrive. Unbelievably, in all the years my husband’s family has been coming here (ten or twelve, I believe), John has never sailed before, but we both had a marvellous time, and where I failed with horseriding, I think I may have succeeded in converting my husband to the joys of sailing.

When I was growing up, my father went sailing all the time and had a succession of boats – some he built, others he bought to restore and others he bought to sail. Some years he went off to Scotland with a friend to risk life and limb sailing in the Hebrides and on one glorious occasion he brought me too for ten days of sailing around the islands of Muck, Eigg and Rhum. Unfortunately, he sold his own boat around that time, and I haven’t been sailing since, so yesterday was especially wonderful.

But now I am sitting in my favourite place, writing to you and waiting for everyone to come back. In front of me I have the two lovely views you see above, and beside me, the dog (alas the picture is unable to convey the smell as effectively as the adorableness). I almost wish I had more dramatic things to report to my readers, to astonish and amaze you, but to be quite honest, there is nothing I would rather be doing right now, and nowhere I would rather be.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Marrakech seems very far away.

Right now I am stretched out on the couch in the upstairs sitting-room, which enjoys a gorgeous view of the bay through some pines, with a cup of pu ehr dante tea to my left and a box of individually wrapped mixed Lindt thins (which I am methodically unwrapping and eating). The centralair air-conditioning is whirring away, keeping me at 78 degrees fahrenheit (I have no idea what that might be in real temperatures, but it is pleasant). Although it is only half-past two, I have had quite a busy day. John woke me up at around 8am, made me get up, and brought me to a café in the town where we had giant cups of coffee (I didn’t plan to get quite such a large coffee, but goodness, when Americans say large anything, they mean it!). After that, we went for a heavenly long walk with John’s father, as my mother- and brother-in-law, who are both artists, had gone off painting.

The walk was marvellous. Imagine you are standing in the picture above with me and the pink umbrella. You’ll want to get under the umbrella too, as it is very sunny and even my Shiseido factor fifty (which I am even wearing under my clothes) does not make me particularly confident about exposing myself to the sun. Now imagine the heat of a huge Victorian hothouse, like the marvellous ones in the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin, beside which we used to live. Next, imagine the sounds of birds, crickets and the murmur of conversation between your two companions. Finally, imagine that you are slightly tired from walking and damp from perspiration and humidity, but that you are essentially perfectly relaxed and comfortable.

After all that, we drove (in the pick-up truck!) into the town where we bought a dozen bottles of Dogfish Head beer, which I am assured is fabulous in every way. I will report back on this tomorrow. I predict that the rest of the day will consist of reading The Plague (Camus, and wonderful), sampling said Dogfish Head on the deck and possibly going for a walk along the beach at sunset. Bliss.

PS: Once upon a time, a friend told me about the time she lost her phone and had to get a new one, with a new number. She sent an email to all her friends and asked them to send her a text message to this new phone so that she would have all of their numbers again. Sadly, many people then went and sent her messages along the lines of “Hi D. - it’s me! Sorry you lost your old phone – I got your email, so here’s my number again. Love you!”. Do you see the problem that she then ran into? Similarly, if you know me and are leaving me charming comments which imply that we are friends, imagine how tantalising it must be for me if you then leave these comments unsigned! I love receiving comments, but do take pity on me and sign them if you want me to know who you are, my loves!

Monday, August 6, 2007

Do I really live in Marrakech?

Right now I am sitting on the deck of the house that my in-laws rent at Chincoteague in Virginia every year. It is humid, cloudy, warm and very beautiful. The drive down here was so far removed from anything with which we have become famililar in Marrakech that it is difficult to remember or even imagine that we live in Africa. I often forget that we live in Africa, so different is Morocco from the National Geographic images of Tanzania and Kenya that we grow up associating with Africa - yesterday I heard my father-in-law saying on the phone to one of John's sisters that "they're going back to Africa next week" and it was quite a shock to remember that that's where we really live!

Are you interested in hearing about Chincoteague or are you only interested in Marrakech? I suppose blogs should be consistent, and it is true that my husband's avid fan-base when he was bored stiff working in an office in Dublin and talking about our quiet life there completely evaporated when his life became exciting and exotic (new readers appeared then though). I warn you though, my readers, that I won't be in Marrakech forever and I do plan to keep my blog after we leave and adopt a new theme. Well, you can let me know if you want me to tell you about Chincoteague and in the meantime I will show you some of today's photographs.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Jetlag, coffee and a world of air-conditioning

Many months ago, when this trip to the US to join my husband's family on their annual seaside holiday was first planned, John promised me that while his parents were having the nervous breakdown about packing the car that all parents inevitably have*, I would be ensconced in our bedroom, with the door closed and a cup of coffee in one hand and Vogue in the other. Now, I don't particularly like American Vogue (perhaps I am prejudiced against Miss Wintour's bizarre hair) but I do like Vanity Fair very much, so that is where I am right now - upstairs in a divine little farmhouse in a suburb of Philadelphia, a house which I like very much on account of its fabulous and comfortable decoration (the complete aesthetic opposite of our new house in Marrakech!), with a cup of very strong Lavazza (how did John make it so strong?) and Vanity Fair (and you, of course).

In a little while John and I will be getting into the pickup truck (I know! Okay, perhaps my American readers won't think this particuarly novel, but I know my European readers will) and following his parents in their car (with the dog) to Chincoteague in Virginia. We have just missed the pony swim but hope to go sailing on one of the days that we are there. I am looking forward to the holiday very much, both as a cultural (and meteorological) contrast from Marrakech and because I love the beach and the novelty of a sea that you can actually go into without risking hypothermia is irrestistable.

Yesterday I basked in the fixed price delight of the King of Prussia mall - evidently I didn't quite believe it was true because I had to go into several shops and buy a number of items before I was convinced (REN skincare, Acqua di Parma perfume, Kate Spade shoes, CO Bigelow treats - they gave me a gorgeous free tote, too - and a Bialetti mocha pot - isn't that a nice combination? The anti-Marrakech). I might have carried out this experiment in New York too and can confirm that suits from Paul Smith and dresses from Anthropologie are definitely fixed price in the US.

Moral, social and ethical concerns of the day: For all my complaints about living in Marrakech, life there (for Moroccans, I mean) is practical - needs and desires, whether material, sexual or social, are on a very graspable level. Nothing is wasted, nothing is thrown away. Here in the US it seems to be the complete opposite - commercial and domestic electricity is used with what can only be described as wantonness, teenagers hang out in shops rather than cafes or plain ordinary street corners, mass consumption is practiced beyond what could possibly be needed or fun and in the suburbs pedestrians are mocked**. Despite the proximity to the King of Prussia mall (a famously huge one with everything from Hermes to Claire's Accessories) there are *more* supermalls going up in the area. They are building a *second* Target near here. Why is that necessary?

*Why is it that no matter how jetsettting and cosmopolitan parents were in their respective youths, once they pass their fiftieth birthdays everything becomes a panic? What does this imply for John and me?

**Seriously - on separate occasions, while walking the dog near the house here, both my husband and his brother have had teenagers lean out of their speeding vehicles and yell at them "Get a car!" - even as a joke coming from idiot teenagers, it's scary that the thought should have even entered their heads, no?

Photos courtesy of the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company and Norman Maynard

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Terminally waiting

Airports play nasty tricks on you. You bravely decide not to be seduced by airport shopping in Marrakech on the grounds that there might be *better* airport shopping (specifically Shiseido) in Casablanca but then when you land in Casa they whoosh you off to a "holding" terminal with a tiny duty free that sells only whiskey and perfume (and stuffed camels) and tell you to sit there quietly for three hours with about two hundred other people.

Then you discover wireless outside the first class lounge and feel better.

(There was a picture too, but it won't upload - very slow connection, I'm afraid - you will probably struggle on through life without seeing a picture of me in a particularly dull and full airport waiting area.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

O Frabjous day! Calloo! Callay!

Finally - after two months of kicking our heels in what is, admittedly, one of the nicer houses in Marrakech - we got the keys for our real house and have moved all of our belongings in! This was a relatively easy process as the two houses are connected, so I helpfully carried the Champagne and the Pimm's while my ever-loving husband lugged the cases and boxes.

The house is as divine as ever, blissfully cool and oh my, but it's exciting to have a house of our own! For those of you who don't know me personally, we were married in December and have been living in a lovely apartment in Dublin for the last while before we came here, so this is our first actual house, with its own front door and multiple bedrooms etc.

Now, as luck would have it, tomorrow, on what should be our first full day of running around in domestic ecstasy, we will be leaving our new home in our housekeeper's capable hands and jetting of to the US (at 6am *groan*), to a town called Chincoteague in Virginia for my husband's family's annual holiday. I will continue to post, but perhaps not every single day, so keep checking in, or subscribe.

In the meantime, I have taken a couple of pictures of the new house, although not as elegant as the ones I posted a few weeks ago, and perhaps with piles of luggage in the corners. Ooh! I can't wait to have our first party there when we get back!