Wednesday, 28 February 2007

New Glasses

For the past few months I felt that my eye sight was deteriorating and I kept thinking that I can not see as good as I used to, of course many of my good friends told me that it was my age catching up with me, how comforting! I have been watching TV adverts about Specsavers which deal with eye sight tests and glasses for a while now, they always show their 2 for 1 offers on glasses frames which sounds good as here in the UK you have to pay for your eye tests and glasses unless you are on social security. So I called my nearest branch and made an appointment which I attended yesterday morning.
I have never been for an eye test before and was not sure what to expect, as soon as I walk in i am confronted by hundreds of frames, all shapes & sizes, plastic & metal, designer & cheap frames I thought this was so confusing. I had my eye test which lasted about 30 minutes, it includes tests for Glaucoma and eye pressure and was very professionally done and the people working there were very friendly, after the tests were finished it was found out that my eye sight in general is perfect (Alhamdulellah) but I was told I needed reading glasses which I could use while working on computers as well, I agreed to that and so moved on to the next stage where they tell you about their 2 for 1 offer on glasses, this offer only applies to designer glasses that cost upwards of £90, I was told that I need anti glare and anti scratch which cost another £30 then came the step that I really hated, choosing a frame! as I said they have hundreds, I looked at the cheap ones first and they really looked awful and as I wanted 2 pairs, there was no point paying for 2 cheap pairs when I could buy 1 expensive designer pair costing a little more and get another for free, so I moved to the more expensive section and got really confused, frames by Hugo Boss, French Connection, Ralph Lauren, Monsoon and many others! most of the frames looked similar, at the moment the fashion in glasses is the 60s look with rectangular lenses and plastic frames which actually look really good.

There was a member of staff with me to help me choose, at one time I had about 10 pairs in front of me which I tried on, they all looked OK but still had no idea what to choose as I had to choose 2 pairs, I kept thinking maybe I am too old for this style, maybe this style is for more trendy people. Eventually I settled for a RED OR DEAD pair and the other was OSIRIS, the truth is that you are paying more for the name as most of them look similar, after adding up all the extras & the test's fee they managed to take a large chunk of my money and the offer did not sound so good anymore, anyway it needed to be done and now I am looking forward to Friday morning as I will be going to collect my new trendy designer blah blah glasses and I am looking forward to my friends reaction when they see me wearing them (or am I?).

Monday, 26 February 2007

Niqab Encounter

Saturday evening after the kids returned from their Arabic school, we went to the cinema as I have promised them to go and see Charlotte's Web , the film is based on the famous book written by E B White. Its a story about a friendship between a spider and a pig! Amir as usual wanted to sit at the front which is terrible as I usually cant see much if I sit there, he sat on his own, I sat with the rest of the family in the second row just behind him. I thought the film was well made with a good message for children about the values of friendship even if its between a spider and a pig!
Because of their Arabic school taking most of the day, I booked the evening show, what I did not like was the large number of teenagers running and shouting and being very rude all over the cinema, the kids felt a bit intimidated and stayed close, the people working there kept their eyes on the teenagers, most of these kids came to watch Charlotte's Web, there are 5 other screens showing other films, many of them were using their mobile phones and generally making a lot of noise but after a warning from staff they became very quiet and we all got on with watching the movie.
Yesterday I went to Tesco as I always do on Sundays to do the weekly food shopping, I only took my son with me, after we finished shopping I went to the shortest til but as always whichever til you chose, it seems to last the longest. In front of me there was a Muslim couple with their young child, they had a trolley packed with children's food, all sort of jars filled with baby food, 100s of jars, my first reaction was how come they have so many food jars that contain meat! I myself do not have a hung up about Halal or non Halal meat, I believe that there is no harm in eating food as long as its prepared by the people of the book, for my home I only buy Halal meat & chicken but if I go out and eat at a restaurant or fast food bar then I have no problem in ordering a cheese burger saying Bismellah and eating it. the couple in front of me looked very strict, the man with a long beard, the woman in full Niqab, I just assumed that they would never touch what they would consider non Halal meat, as the man was packing his shopping in plastic bags, his wife just stood there watching, she did not attempt to move a finger, it was taking a long time and Amir started to get bored and noisy, eventually the female cashier started to help him pack his shopping which I thought was good of her but if I was in her place then I am not sure if I would do that seeing the wife is not helping, after what took ages I got there paid for my shopping and started walking towards the car, the lady in Niqab was standing in front of me in the car park, she was staring at me, I looked at her I just saw her eyes and immediately realised that she was a white English convert, I continued walking when suddenly she started shouting at me what are you looking at? she repeated it few times but I chose to ignore her, actually I chose to do what she wants the whole world to do that is to ignore her and treat her as a non entity, obviously she has problems and hang ups about her Niqab or she would not have shouted at me and what for? for daring to look her in the eyes! Few minutes later as I was loading the shopping in the car, her husband came over to me, looked at me I looked back at him then he went back to his precious wife and probably told her that he sorted me out, Yeah Sure!
This is a free country and luckily for them they can wear what ever they want but to expect that people react normally to something so unnecessary in European countries as wearing a niqab then they should think again.

Friday, 23 February 2007

40 Winks are Good for You

It is official, taking an afternoon nap maybe good for your heart especially for young men as a six year study in Greece found out. The study found that taking a 30 minutes siesta at least 3 times a week would lower the chances of a heart related death by 37%! This study also found out that napping might help you to relax and reduce your stress levels. Apparently countries where siesta is common have a lower level of heart disease, this applies to the Mediterranean countries mainly. Many stressed people would be tempted to have an unhealthy behaviour such as smoking or unhealthy eating, napping is the best solution and it is healthy.
Even though I have been living here in the UK for many years, I think that afternoon napping is in my blood, there really is nothing better than a short sleep if I can get away with it, usually around 3 in the afternoon I get so sleepy that I can hardly keep my eyes open, if I am not at work then I would certainly go to bed and enjoy every minute of it. I have a colleague here at work who comes from Egypt, he would fall asleep at his desk every afternoon, real deep sleep with snoring sometimes, I am a light sleeper so I only manage short few seconds of sleep at a time and always wish that my bed was here, as I always say to my friends, there is no better invention than a comfy warm bed, priceless! So if you are caught napping by your boss just tel him/her that you were just having a healthy moment and need to look after your heart.

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Bunny Rabbit

My kids have been nagging me to buy them a bunny rabbit for some time now but I have always said no mainly because both of them have a medical condition that can get worse from contact with furry animals, my daughter Aida has Asthma and my son Amir has Eczema. They both know that I can not get them a furry pet for these reasons but still they beg from time to time and promise that they will look after it and clean its hutch blah blah blah, of course they will not do anything like that if I buy them the rabbit.
This brought to me memories of my first ever pet when I was a child and living in Libya, I have 3 brothers and we used to nag our parents to get us a pet, our mother did not like cats & dogs very much and always refused but after so much nagging they both agreed to buy us a rabbit, my father (Allah bless his soul) got this very big box and filled it with hay and put it out side, it was to become our rabbit's home, he then brought home this beautiful white rabbit which we liked a lot, it was not a dog or a cat which were our first choice but still we thought the rabbit is good, we never gave it a name, I do not know why but it seems in Libya then you only named dogs and cats other animals didn't have any names! We looked after the rabbit and we used to take it out of its hutch and play with it, it used to run inside the house but my mother always insisted that we cleaned after it which we did, this rabbit had a favourite place which was behind the guests sitting room sofa which is a room that my mother was very proud of and always kept closed unless we had guests, she did not like the rabbit being there but we used to tell her that we took it out and put it in its hutch this carried on for few months until one day...
My mother went in the guest sitting room to give it a good spring clean, she moved the sofa to clean behind it and shock disaster, there was a hole in the wall, dug by our sweet rabbit while it spent long periods relaxing under the sofa, my mother screamed that this had to stop, she said to my father that the rabbit will have to go or she will go.
My brothers and I liked this rabbit and just could not imagine it leaving the house so we started to think where would our mother go??
Next day we all sat round the dinner table, my brothers and I were very quiet, my mother was pleased and my father started to serve dinner, it was Rice & ROAST RABBIT!! we did not want to eat our pet, we were upset, my father enjoyed every piece of it, all we had was some rice.

Enjoy your Dinner!

Monday, 19 February 2007

Brick Lane & Columbia Road Markets

Yesterday being a Sunday and a boring day so I decided to go and visit Brick Lane market in East London, it is one of the oldest street markets in London, it is situated in an area famous for its immigrant population.
It still retains some of its Jewish character as the street is dotted with Bagel cafes that have huge queues of people queueing to get a salt beef bagel, I really wanted to buy one but just could never be bothered to Que for food.

I arrived their early at about 10 am, the market opens every Sunday between 9 am & 2 pm, it was still not very busy, in my long years of living in London this was my second time there, the first time being only few years ago.

This market is famous for selling just about anything, from dodgy videos to rubbish old furniture, in fact some stands have piles of old clothes that you would not give a second look yet many people seem to be buying them.

Brick Lane if very famous for its Bangladeshi population, so much so that most of the streets have their names written in English & Bengali. After I took the above picture I noticed the Fax number starting with 071! this central London telephone code changed from 071 to 0171 in the mid 90's then changed again to 0207 in the year 2000, these cheapskates have not updated their numbers yet :o)

This stand was selling fresh crusty bread and pastries, really nice

These people were literally selling dodgy electrical goods loaded at the back of this van, one of them got angry when I took a photo and kept asking me if I was a market inspector, I kept saying I am a tourist but he said: mate you do not look like a tourist.

A Libyan home dream! all sorts of pots & pans, every shape and size

Here they were selling these massive carpet rolls, I have no idea how people that buy them would take them home?? They must weigh a ton!

The market has a huge fruit and vegetable section but I did not bother to check it

This section specialises in bicycles and their spare parts, some of the bicycles were old some new, I bet many stolen bikes end up here

This stand was selling these really weird tops for women, they looked like they were made out of paper, this woman could not take her eyes off them, I would not like to imagine her wearing one :o)

Fishing Tackle stand

Remote control anyone?

This is the entrance to Beyond Retro, which is a big shop that specialises in designer second hand clothes, it was not that cheap and some of the goods were OK but I could never buy second hand clothes, as I say to my friends I have an image of a poor guy getting run over by a bus or shot dead then his clothes end up in one of these shops, I have two friends who like buying second hand clothes, I always make them feel sick when they tell me they bought something because I keep saying check for stab marks and those stains must be blood, this person had a horrible death how could you wear his clothes :o)

inside this shop the first thing I noticed was the many Ra Ra skirts hanging everywhere!

Lots of second hand shoes probably belonging to dead women :o)
Have you noticed what is hanging at the top right corner? yes more Ra Ra skirts

more second hand clothes and yes you guessed right more Ra Ra skirts, if Ra Ra skirts make a come back this shop is going to make a lot of money, they have them everywhere even in the men section!!

Cowboy boots and hats!!!
I found this Asian man selling Peacock feathers at £2 for 6 feathers, I really thought that no one buys them anymore, I mean they are really horrible :o)

This shop is called HEBA !

This stand was selling fresh sea food at a reasonable price and had a long queue, this was the end of Brick Lane market, it was an enjoyable walk but there was nothing there for me to buy, the market is not as popular as it used to be, it is mainly full of rubbish, even the people that go there have changed, it used to be full of all ethnic minorities especially the Bangladeshis now it is full of Eastern European mainly Polish Bulgarians & Romanians, I suppose coming from ex-Communists countries where everything is still very expensive, this market must seem like heaven to them.
I decided to continue walking towards Columbia Road Flower Market which was only a few minutes walk away but a completely different world, the area starts to look better, you see beautiful small streets with lovely houses.

The Flower market was very busy and very well stocked with flowers, indoor and outdoor plants sold at a bargain price, the first thing you notice is that the people here are mainly middle class English people out on a Sunday buying flowers and plants and generally enjoying the atmosphere.

All sorts of plants were on sale, this section had beautiful Palm trees

Here I was pretending to be taking pictures of the beautiful Cactus plants but the truth I was trying to take a picture of this dog! but it kept turning its face away from me, it was a black Pug with a very ugly face but cute at the same time.

More beautiful narrow streets with cafes

This band was there entertaining the crowd

Shop selling garden ornaments :o)

More garden furniture

By then the market was too busy for me to walk and it started to feel like a street in Cairo so I decided to go home
You can avoid the crowd like I did by walking on the pavement, most people would be walking in the middle of the road to look at the plants, well it was another good and entertaining day in good old London, I hope you enjoy the pictures.

Thursday, 15 February 2007

Ambassador To The Stars

I have been requested by Cofman to write something about the Arab Diva Fairuz...
I was not sure where to start or what to say about this legend who has enchanted us over many decades with her magical angelic and haunting voice, I hope that I did her some justice in this post and I hope Cofman approves.
A brief history of Fairuz, she was born in Beirut in 1935 to a Maronite Christian family and her real name is Nehad Haddad. Fairuz has been singing since the 1950s and she has received many awards of the highest ranks from many Arab & European countries including Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur Awarded by President Jacque Chirac, France, in 1998.

Fairuz has been called many names, The Neighbour to the Moon and Ambassador to the Stars are but only a couple of her names.

Here is Fairuz at an early performance with the beautiful song Khedni خدني

To many Fairuz is the symbol of the love of our countries, she sang about Lebanon, about Mecca, about Palestine and she sang the best songs about Jerusalem, here is a selection of some of these songs that I am sure most of you know and love:

This song is about the struggle of Muslim & Christian Palestinias under the occupation

I had the privilege of seeing Fairuz twice, both concerts were here in London, the first concert was in the late 80s, I remember at that time seeing Fairuz posters on the London red buses advertising her one night concert, I tried to get tickets but surprisingly I was told that they were sold out even before they started advertising it, luckily I had a friend who was a member of the Lebanese/British friends club who told me that they had tickets but were only for sale to members, he managed to get me 3 tickets as 2 friends wanted to go with me. The concert was held at the Royal Festival Hall besides the river Thames, we arrived on time but there was a slight delay because Fairuz had to be interviewed for the BBC 6 O'clock News because she actually broke the British recorded for the highest price paid for a ticket in British history, the record holder used to be Frank Sinatra who's tickets were sold at £600 each at the black market, Fairuz's tickets at the black market were selling at £1000 each! To think that I paid £35 only! of course most people attending the concert were very rich Arabs, the concert was beautiful and well organized, Fairuz was as classy as ever.

The second time I saw Fairuz was at Olympia in the late 90s, the venue was very big but someone made a mistake with the organization of the concert, it was the last day of Ramadan, many people did not buy tickets as many still had to fast one more day so the venue surprisingly was half full, the very expensive seating in front of the stage were empty so when they announced that anyone can sit there I was quick as a flash and got a fantastic seat. Fairuz was as elegant as ever as she stood there singing, a one point during one of her songs a group of young men and women got off their seats and started dancing in front of the stage, Fairuz stopped singing straight away and pointed to the music orchestra to stop playing, she just stood there staring at these people until they got the message and returned to their seats only then she started singing again, this is how respectable and classy Fairuz is.

Here is some more songs by Fairuz, get a coffee, relax and enjoy

This is one of my favourite Fairuz songs: Nehna wel Amar Jeeran:

Fairuz usually sings the farewell song at the end of her concerts, children then would start throwing flowers at her feet so here is the farewell song
Fairuz being a Christian is actually famous for her Christian hymns which are very beautiful to listen to, unfortunately YouTube did not have any videos but the hymns are available as audio only, so I decided to make a slide show of Fairuz and use a hymn as the audio for this video, listen to her angelic voice singing about Mary Mother of Jesus (Peace Be Upon Them):

YouTube has many more songs that I really love but most of them have their embedding feature disabled so you can only watch them on there.