Archive > June 2010

Think YOU’VE had a hard life?

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Imagine the situation

You are a refugee from war in your homeland. Your mother sold her body to raise the money to send you and your brother out of the country to the ‘safety’ of another land where you live with your uncle, a man who loathes his sister for what she’s had to do to keep her children alive.

The Consequences of Love By Sulaiman AddoniaYou’re young, pretty and poor and the only way to get your residency paperwork renewed is to go to your ‘sponsor’ who holds the power of life or death (residency or deportation) over you and your brother. He tells you that the fee for processing the application is equivalent to 4 months of your uncle’s salary but he thinks that you should pay. You tell him you have no money and he says that you have something that’s ‘worth’ that much. He assaults you and you can’t sit down for days. Your uncle takes your brother and moves away leaving you homeless. You get a job in a café where the owner sells you to one of his customers, a fat ugly man who has sex with you in the back room of the building. You turn to sniffing glue and drinking perfume to escape the pain in your body and the sadness in your heart.

You are from Eritrea, sent to live in Saudi Arabia and you are a fifteen year old boy.

If this is ‘sanctuary’ what does hell look like?

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A Delicious Potpourri

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Kerala Kitchen: Recipes and Recollections from the Syrian Christians of South India By (author) Lathika George, book reviewThere is rather a charming tradition these days of combining cookery with stories of the way of life that inspired the recipes. In keeping with this, George has spiced her recipes liberally with family anecdotes. “Food and memories are interconnected. Most of us have everlasting memories that are evoked by the foods that we prepare or eat, don’t we?’ George says.

While containing 150 recipes that encapsulate the richness of Syrian-Christian cooking, ‘The Suriani Kitchen’ also gives you a sneak peek at George’s family secrets.

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101 French Idioms

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101 French Idioms: Enrich Your French Conversation with Colorful Everyday Sayings (101... Language Series)   By (author) Jean-Marie CassagneWhen I lived in Cairo, I often used to watch the local television news bulletin in English. Rain is a pretty rare occurrence there, so one evening the Egyptian newsreader thought that a particularly heavy downpour was worth commenting on. He decided to go for a familiar colloquial expression to appear like a native speaker, and came out with ‘It’s been raining dogs and cats.’ It sounded so strange switching the order of the animals around, and next day at the English school where I taught everyone was have a chuckle over it.

It is a difficult thing, getting colloquial language right in any language other than your own. I certainly don’t remember being taught any French idioms at school or during the Open University courses I completed.

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Great Read-aloud Books

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Reading aloud is an ideal activity to follow a free play session when the children are ready to sit still and be calm for a while. It fosters listening skills that are the basis of the learning process, encourages a love of books and instils a desire in the children to be able to read the stories themselves. Whilst the children I read to love traditional tales such as The Gingerbread Man or Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, we usually read contemporary stories. I’m listing some of our favourite books here.

Shark in the Park By (author) Nick SharrattShark in the Park by Nick Sharratt (Corgi Childrens, ISBN 0552549770) is the story of a young boy, Timothy Pope, who goes to the park with his telescope (which obviously rhymes with his name). Each time he looks through the telescope, he sees something that looks like the black fin of a shark, so he shouts out ‘There’s a shark in the park!’. This is repeated several times throughout the book, and the children know when it’s coming and love to shout the phrase out themselves each time.

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Foursome

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Foursome By (author) Jane FallonFoursome is the third book that Jane Fallon has written and each book has been a winner as far as I am concerned. Foursome is no exception and it has all the ingredients for a really good read. I loved it from the moment I picked it up to the very last word and it definitely left me wanting more.

The book tells the story of two couples who are all great friends and have been so ever since their university days twenty years before. They live near each other, spend a yearly holiday together and often look after each other’s children.


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Mysterious Obsessions

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The Swan Thieves By Elizabeth KostovaPages and pages of text and reels of celluloid have been devoted to the subject of obsession. Without it a great deal of art would not been made, or poems written – think of Shakespeare’s Dark Lady and the various other femme fatales of fiction. The Swan Thieves is the story of a man with an obsession that seems to have driven him to the edge. Robert Oliver a talented painter has attacked a painting. That is where the Swan Thieves begins – unless you count a prologue in the snow – and the rest of the plot unravels from there.


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Watch out! Big Bro’s Coming

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Watch out! Big Bro's Coming! By Jez AlboroughA little white mouse comes running to a frog to ask for help because Big Bro’s coming: “He’s rough, he’s tough, and he’s big.” The mouse stretches his arms out as wide as he can to show just how big, then he runs away to hide. The worried frog conveys the same information to a parrot before hopping off to hide as well. The parrot tells the story to a chimpanzee and stretches out his wings to show just how big Big Bro is, but of course his wing span is far greater than the span of the mouse or the frog’s arms.

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We are All Made of Glue

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We are All Made of Glue By Marina Lewycka“The first time I met Wonderboy, he pissed on me. I suppose he was trying to warn me off, which was quite prescient when you consider how things turned out”

The singer Moby claimed that “We are all made of stars” whereas writer Marina Lewycka’s third book is a little more down to earth. We are all – according to Lewycka – made of glue. Quite what she means by this is open to the interpretation of the reader and there are plenty of different directions your interpretation can take. If you want to look on the dark side, it’s hinted in places that it could be a reference to the Nazis making glue from the bodies of their gas chamber victims.


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Home is Where the Heart is

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The Lonely Tree By Yael PolitisTonia Shulman should be a happy-go-lucky teenager, with very few cares. Instead, living in British-mandate Palestine with her Jewish family, she is forced to see things that a teenager shouldn’t see and to live her life on a kibbutz near Jerusalem which has very few amenities. Her father, Josef has a dream of helping to establish a Jewish state and the kibbutz they live on, Kfar Etzion, is the beginning of that dream. Tonia, however, has other dreams. She wants to go to the US and is determined to do so at any cost, even if that means leaving the love of her life, Amos, and the rest of her family behind. Will her dreams ever come to fruition, or will she remain with her family to become bitter and twisted? And will Amos ever forgive her for wanting to leave him?


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I Want My Present

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I Want My Present! By Tony RossMy daughters have been big fans of the Little Princess character created by Tony Ross pretty much since they started picking up books. Therefore I was not surprised when on a recent visit to the library, my youngest picked up ‘I Want My Present’ which is another book featuring this funny and quirky character. It is also a ‘lift the flap’ book which of course adds extra appeal!

One of the nice things about the Little Princess books is that they all contain the same set of eccentric characters including an admiral, a general, a French chef, a gardener as well as her parents – the king and queen.

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Blonde Meets Bollywood

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Bollywood Becomes Her by Meredith McGuireMeg who would prefer to be known as Meghna has an identity problem. Despite being the blonde, all-American girl, she wants to be an Indian film heroine. Her life revolves round Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and other classic Bollywood blockbusters and it is her greatest ambition to stick a bindi on her forehead since it will press on her third eye and fill her life with enlightenment. Meg, despite graduating Phi Beta Kappa from Columbia University, has watched Kuch Kuch Hota Hai 18 times and is probably Lovely Lovely Video’s most loyal customer.

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Cupboard Love

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Cupboard Love: How to Get the Most Out of Your Kitchen (Hardback) By (author) Tom Norrington-DaviesIf you don’t have the time or culinary skills to follow in the footsteps of celebrity chefs but won’t be satisfied with ready meals that take just a few minutes in the microwave, Tom Norrington-Davies’ ‘Cupboard Love’ could be the ideal cookbook for you. The idea is to establish an up-to-date version of an old-fashioned larder in your kitchen. This may entail an initial outlay to build up a well-stocked cupboard, but once you have the basic ingredients you can produce a variety of home-made dishes with the addition of fresh produce in a short time and without too much fuss. It does of course mean that you are in control of the ingredients and can use olive oil or butter rather than hydrogenated fat, and pure sugar as opposed to dextrose or corn syrup.


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