Iran/Iraq. Persian/Iranian. Which one are you?

I always enjoy well-written books about the migrant experience. It’s the voice of the outsider, the fresh eyes on what is taken for granted, the challenge to othodoxy. Common themes of exclusion and racism run through stories of migration. But so do themes of survival and humour. Humour that the mainstream society of the country into which the migrant had come often do not get. 

This affinity with the story of migrants probably is a result of my family history. But it is also my attraction to the underdog, the divergent, the one who challenges societal norms. 

Shappi Khorsandi’s A Beginner’s Guide to Acting English has all of these themes.  

You know how I love books that show me a different life, teach me about something I know little? Well that’s one reason I enjoyed this book. 

I knew so little about Iran, including why we persist in calling them Persian. I confess, to my shame, I am also one who previously confused Iran and Iraq, and the religious and political philosophies that governed both countries under the various rulers: the Shah, the Ayatollah and Saddam. Nor did I know much about the Iran-Iraq War. 

Reading this has been so rewarding in opening my eyes. 

Another reason I enjoyed this book is the humour. It is very funny. 

I love the description of the navity play Shappi was in at primary school. Being Zoroastrian, they do not celebrate Christmas. Shappi is picked as a shepherd as she’s dark, so “obviously” can’t play an angel. She tries to explain to her grandmother, Madar Jaan, about the navity play. 

“So what happens? Madar Jaan asked. 

“We have a doll that’s meant to be the baby Jesus'” I explained to my grandmother. 

Who’s Jesus?”

“Eisah,” Maman told her. “They pronounce it ‘Jesus’.”

“Ah! Hazrateh Eisah! Yes, I know him,” Madar Jaan said. “So, what’s a shepherd got to do with the prophet Eisah?”

“The shepherds come to see the baby Jesus and they bring him a lamb as a present.” 

“What’s a baby going to do with a lamb? Does he want to make kebabs?”

Sometimes it takes an outsider to make us see the silliness or the ridiculousness of what we take as real or right or factual in our traditions. 

The horror and ignorance of racism is ever present. Her family are called Pakis, the term of abuse for anyone who is a darker skinned. So telling about those who use the term! And obviously hurtful for those so insulted and all who are actually from Pakistan. 

Monday 1st May. May Day, it’s begun

Apologies if my misappropriation of a day that celebrates and promotes workers’ rights offends. Please be assured I have marched on May Day marches before. 

Now down to business, today is the day I started my healthy eating. This week I plan to cut out sugary snacks. I will have lunch and morning tea ready so I am not tempted to eat biscuits and cakes and lollies and chocolates. 

It may be difficult but I will say no to two morning tea offerings that I know I will face: scones with jam and cream, sausage rolls and pastries. I will have the healthy food to hand. 

That’s the plan: swapping unhealthy (high calorie, low or no nutrients) with healthy foods. I am not looking at portion control or actual meals yet. Let’s just stick with the swap. 

Last night I made some Greek yoghurt. I use Easiyo. It’s so easy. Lol. And yummy. I make he Greek yoghurt. I’ll use it for morning tea. With fruit. But separate. I don’t like my fruit with yoghurt or bits in my yoghurt. 

So how did I go today?

Breakfast: porridge – half a cup of quick cook oats cooked with 3/4 water. Added 1 teaspoon sugar and skim milk 

Mugs of tea with full cream milk between breakfast and morning tea: 2

Morning tea: 2 mandarins and a medium sized banana. 

Lunch: crispy Asian salad (ready chopped supermarket one with those noodles, cabbage and stuff). Bowl of my homemade minestrone. Recipe to come. Very small handful of saltanas. 

Afternoon snack: few grapes. 

Dinner: vegetarian pasta dish with cheese. 


Drinks: two schooner (ie big) glasses of tap water and one glass of sparkling water. Will have water or a cup of tea or both after after dinner. 

By gad, at 5pm I was hungry. I am so used to snacking on biscuits and chocolate and crackers and junk. Grazing continually. My stomach isn’t used to being empty. What’s that? it is saying. What’s that feeling? At it sends messages of needing to eat for hunger, not for emotions or boredom or routine or habit. 

Anyway I didn’t succumb and will wait for dinner which is almost ready. 

How did you go? Share away. 

May Day. It’s a revolution 

To start my revolution I need to plan. And do some prep. Rather than reaching for a bikkie or four when hungry, I need some healthy food that is to hand and can be eaten quickly. 

When you reach for sugar dense foods, you find yourself reaching for some more very quickly. Eat a bikkie or two and you bounce awake when the sugar hits your system. But that high drops quickly so you need more. And then more. 

My main problem is not having food prepared. I have no time to do so at work nor in the mornings. So I need forthought. 

On Saturday afternoon I bought fruit, salads and nuts. I made up a big saucepan of minestrone soup. Gosh it was delicious! Mr S thought so too. He had two bowls for lunch. The saucepan will give me lunch for three days next week, on top of the weekend lunches. (On two other days I won’t be on site so can’t take the soup. Food will be supplied.)

I also bought some raw almonds. For nibbling. 

And bought some easy to eat fruit – mandarins, bananas, plums, apples, grapes.

I have a tonne of chocolate around from Easter. I got Mr S to hide it. I know where more is but I won’t open the packets. 

Next step: bake some leb bread with olive oil and a sprinkling of Parmesan. Much less fat than crisp breads or crackers. And I can nibble this with some Persian feta. 

Preparation is the key to eating healthy and to avoiding temptation. 

May Day! May Day! Weight loss needed

Long term readers of this blog may exclaim, “Not another weight loss challenge! Another healthy eating attempt!”

Yep! I know I started this blog as a record of my weight loss and attempt to get healthy before it morphed into general blithering about travel and books and decluttering. 

Ha! What I’d give to be that weight and size again! Since then, I’ve hit menopause. 

It’s seems since losing some hormones, I can’t eat what I want. But worse than that, the weight doesn’t drop off when I change my eating for a little bit. 

The inches have been creeping on around my waist and my chest so that many of my clothes do not fit and some elasticated ones are tight. Now if stretchy clothes are uncomfortable, you know you have two choices: buy new clothes or lose weight. 

OK, I buy new clothes anyway but I am going to lose weight. 

I haven’t actually weighed myself lately. I don’t need too. I feel bloated. And I definitely look bloated. I have this belly that looks like I’m pregnant. Or have all the fluid build up you get from a tumour. 

I know I have been eating too many unhealthy things. And not enough of the good things.

So back to conscious eating for me. Which takes planning and not leaving food selectionuntil I am hungry. Because then I grab chocolate. Or whatever is handy. Normally high calorie, low nutritional food stuff. 

I have been grabbing bikkies this week at work. And lollies. And chocolate. 

My poor body! I need to treat it with some respect.

Why May Day?

Everyone knows you start a diet on a Monday. Or the first of the month. 

Well May 1st is a Monday. So it is doubly the right time to start. 

And May Day is a call for help. And a day of revolution. 

What could be more perfect! It’s in the stars!

Feb/March/April books

With all the business and “oot and abooting” I haven’t been reading as much as I’d like. Only four books read!

A World of Other People by Steven Carroll is lyrical and moving. It’s very sad. Yes I have caveats. Only one. It’s not a novel that will stay with me. But it was a lyrical read. 


In One Life: My mother’s story Kate Grenville gives an account of her mother’s early life and the lives of the largely voiceless rural workers. Her mother came from country stock but lead a life very different from most women, being a qualified pharmacist. The challenges she faced as a woman, living through the Depressoon and WWII, and having such an angry and unhappy mother, make for interesting reading. I like reading about women who buck the norm, even if it doesn’t lead to total happiness. The alternate would also not lead to happiness anyway. I mean being dependent on a man and housebound caused many women, like Grenville’s grandmother, unhappiness. 


I quite enjoyed The Last Painting of Sara De Vos by Dominic Smith.  Reminiscent of Girl with a Pearl Earring and the style of Geraldine Brooks, it has lots of precise information on art, culture and countries. If you want to know about the Golden Age, how colours are constructed and art forgeries, then you’ll learn about it here. 

Crossing countries and centuries, separated but connected stories all resolve by the end. As you expect if you’ve read any of the books that seem to do that now, like The Street Sweeper and The Goldfinch. Storylines like this are clever but too contrived, too formulaic, too naff, for me to be totally satisfied. Though you do get a strong sense of place for Sydney and New York.

My biggest caveat, for a book ostensibly about female characters, the strongest character, the most fleshed out character, is a man. That’s annoying for me. Yes, I enjoyed it but wouldn’t say it was anything brilliant. 


My last book, A Beginner’s Guide to Acting English, will get a post of its own.

How do they get it so scary? 

As a child I used to watch Dr Who through my fingers or behind a pillow. 

The first episode of the latest series was no different. 

How do they get it so creepy?  

The threat of menace. The unknown. The implied. 

How can a puddle of water be so creepy?


As a character says, “But what if it attacks us?”

And then the juxtaposition of humour. Did you run out of money? Can I use the toilet? This is a lift. 

All about the TARDIS. 

The Pilot could be a pilot for a new series, attracting new viewers as the series seems to be starting a new. Of course it has a double meaning. 

And how good is it that the Doctor visits Australia? 

And I love the new offsider. 

Best of all, I watched the first two episodes and I understood them fully. 

The second episode wasn’t as scary but was novel. I love the juxtaposition of cute but scary. 


Are you a Whovarian? I am!

Easter adventure – driving south 

The Pacific Highway is a different beast from that of my childhood; even from that of five years ago. 

In my childhood it was a narrow, windy road with tall trees right next to the road. Me S and I were once nearly wiped out by a logging truck that crossed to our side of the road. Another time one washed a wave of water, from rain that covered the road, over us, so we were blinded. On a narrow crest and curve!

Now for much of it, it is two lanes both ways on separated roadways. Safer. But boring. And by bypassing towns, you don’t just come across interesting places to stop. 

Hence our mid trip cuppa was at an awful stop. The first town we passed through was packed. Because it was the first interesting place to stop! And everyone wanted to stop. So, of course, Mr S didn’t want to stop. 

We tried the first roadside rest stop, one that signs from the start of the highway in NSW has advertised as future rest stops. Surely that must indicate the stop must be large, have good facilities and be attractive? OMG. It was so bad, we drove off. 

Mr S had taken over the driving, and he didn’t notice what may have been a suitable place off the road. Or did he just not want to cross the highway? He took the next road side stop on our side of the highway. It was bleak. Mozzies started to attack me. Mozzies the size of flies. Huge buggers! And then it started to rain. I hid in the car. Mr S stayed outside and fed the mozzies. 

Arriving in Bellingen, where we planned to stay for two nights, was like arriving in Nirvana. Lush, green, and sunny. The town was full of hippies and hipsters or weekend hippies. 

Our accommodation, on the main street, was above shops – a masseuse/naturopath, an alternate bookshop and a locally-made Nepalese-inspired clothes shop. Of course! What else would you expec  in a large rustic building in Bellingen! 

With large front and back verandahs, our accommodation was a spacious retreat. Rustic and arty. And it was all ours. Well except for one room off the back verandah which was used by a masseuse or acupuncturist. We couldn’t see but heard the music and smelt the incense. 

Morning view of the misty mountains from my bed.

Mr S, breakfasting in our kitchen

Back verandah

Back verandah dining table. All ours. Looking over the shops. With a spot like this, why would you go to a cafe for breakfast?


The first night we drank and ate in the pub. The food was gross. So the second night we bought the makings of our own antipasto spread and enjoyed the feast in our flat. 

Cauliflower pakora, lentil and pumpkin patties, prosciutto, cherry toms in fig balsamic vinegar, artichokes, semi dried tomatoes and olives, and French bread.

The pub. Nice beer. Meh food.


We spent the day walking around the shops, along the river, around the town. This is cafe paradise, if you’re into cafes. We’re not but we visited one for a chocolate milk shake and another one for a toasted roast pumpkin, creamy feta, spinach and dukkah sandwich. The afternoon was beer and chatting on our verandahS – time spent on both verandahs, enjoying the different views. 

We’d never seen these birds before. A quick internet search, blue-faced honey eaters, described as “pugnacious”. So accurate. They shooed off other birds to eat the scraps from the outdoor tables at the cafe.

Very yummy roast pumpkin, spinach, feta and dukkah toastie

Lots of choices of places to eat. Bellingen, cafe territory.

Mr S walking down steep path, which we walked up by mistake. The chain would be needed if it was raining. I needed it for the way up.

Old emporium.


We visited the town museum, gold coin donation entry. It has a few interesting pieces but is very cluttered and not well laid out or described. The volunteers here are going for quantity. I don’t think they want to throw anything out but really don’t have the space for it. (By the way, the Uralla museum is also run by volunteers, and while having a much bigger space, have realised space between exhibits is as important as the items exhibited. Without the space and labels, it all just becomes stuff.)

We had a five hour trip home. Time for more Dad’s Army and Agatha Christie radio plays. And, of course, a stop for a cuppa. This stop was off the highway. The toilets were built by volunteers from the local community. Not sure about the tables and playground equipment. I can see the spot will be well used by travellers. It was clean, with a playground for kids to play, somewhere to sit, an information display to read. We watched a family exercise their dog in the field you see behind Mr S. The area is removed from the highway noise but only a short way off the highway. Good for those who hate deviating off the route too far. I hope the local community don’t regret building this and that travellers treat it well. 

The sun had a bit of bite. We were grateful for the shade of the shelters. It was about 25°.

Hedge of fuchsia bottlebrushes in flower along the rest area, separating it from the road.


Mr S and I are universal in enjoying our adventures. A friend pointed out to me that I am lucky to have a partner who enjoys the same “adventures” as I do. And she’s right. 

What awaits us next break? It’s snow season, so not much guess work needed.