We've Nearly Made It

Hello and Welcome!


Here is everything you need to know about the progress of A Blonde Bengali Wife, the travel book I've written about my love-affair with the fabulous country of Bangladesh.





Publication: Friday 15th October 2010


Launch: Monday 15th November 2010




Tuesday, 24 February 2015

A Letter For Bhola

Dinah, the Chief Trustee, of Bhola's Children, is off on her travels again.  She and Freda, fellow member of the Board are in Dhaka as I write, awaiting the evening launch to the island.  As supporters will know, Ali, founder, and mainstay of the home for so many years, has been out of action recently. We've been working hard to find a replacement director who will maintain and develop Ali's - and our - dreams whilst leaving Ali himself in more of an advisory and consultancy role.  Zakir is currently doing a wonderful job and we all hope he will stay long term.

Below, I'm publishing intact Dinah's letter to donors.  Yes, it is unashamedly a begging letter! But more than that - we're well aware that finances are tight the world over - it's a request for ideas, for advice, for unique suggestions about new ways of fundraising.  Whether you personally can offer to do anything, know someone who can or you simply come up with something we've not thought of, please comment here!  I'm happy to go with the whole range of the sublime and the ridiculous... 

Anne x


Zakir's youngest daughter, Nora, (with her big sister) celebrating her birthday
with the children in Bhola


Dear friends,
 
Freda and I are off to Bhola again, taking the overnight launch from Dhaka on Saturday.  Ali feels well enough to come with us, which is excellent news and I know the children will be thrilled to see him again.   He will be working in an advisory capacity, although I know he will want to resume such classes as the very noisy and extremely successful lip reading lessons.
 
The agenda for our committee meeting includes the item ‘appointment of new director’, which is reassuring.   We know Zakir is doing a very good job and we are very happy with the new procedures he has put into place.  We expect to find a good relationship between him and the staff and the children, whom he obviously adores.   I first met Zakir some five years ago and knew he would be an ideal successor to Ali – who himself wanted him to take over – but at the time he wasn’t prepared to take on the role.   It is wonderful that he feels the time is now right.
 
Zakir's permanent appointment, much as it is welcomed, does give us a financial problem.  His salary is 50,000 taka  a month – which is what we had always expected to pay a good director so we anticipated this extra expense in due course.   Unfortunately, though, the taka is now very strong so this equates to nearly £450 a month, as opposed to £400 when the taka stood at 125/£
 
In addition, of course, we continue to pay Ali and will need to rent accommodation for him outside the boundary.  
 
As you can see if you have read this far,  this is becoming a begging email.   Our running costs have increased from £25,000 to over £30,000 a year.  So if anyone can increase their standing order or put one into place, we would be extremely grateful.  I know times are tough for us all, but every little helps and you can be assured that every penny you donate will go to the maintenance of our children.
 
And if anyone has any bright ideas for fundraising this year, we’ d love to hear from you.
 
Meanwhile Ali, Zakir and all the staff thank you for your generosity towards our lovely children, as do we trustees.
 
Best wishes,
Dinah 
 
 

Saturday, 31 January 2015

'A Bonde Bengali Wife' revisited

There was a little flurry of interest in A Blonde Bengali Wife over December and January - a bit like the Edinburgh snow in fact: the endless quiet, grey skies suddenly fill with snow, it falls, keeps us busy for a day or two but normal service resumes pretty quickly.

A handful of people, some I know well, others I don't, wanted signed copies for Christmas.  A couple more wrote to say they had downloaded it to their Kindle to read over the holiday period.  It's always a little thrill to know that someone, somewhere might be reading it... but even if they buy it and use it as a doorstop or wasp-basher, it still means an extra handful of rice for the children in Bhola.  Win-win!

I usually keep a few copies at home but suddenly realised I'd sent out the last one, and so I decided to go on to Amazon and buy one or two more - just in case.  Of course I should have paid the full price and bought new ones, but I was intrigued to know where the marketplace ones were coming from: 'good condition, with some markings on the spine'; 'condition fair, ex-library copy with evidence of use' were two of the descriptions.  In the end, I couldn't resist and bought three of them - the total postage cost more than the books.

It was fascinating to receive them.  Yes, the ex-library copy showed signs of use - as both doorstop and wasp-basher.  It was also shrivelled as if it had been in the bath.  The mind was boggling and infuriatingly, it was impossible to tell from the front plate and shelf-mark which library had discarded it!  I like to think that the one with 'some markings' had been lovingly read and passed on to the charity shop whose price sticker was on the back - several page corners were turned down and it looked as if it had been left upside down on a coffee table... And then, finally came the pristine, unread copy - which was signed by me, myself and I, dated October 2010.  Clearly, it had been bought at the original book launch and never looked at since!  Intriguing - who had had it?  Do I know them?  Was it a gift?  (If it's you, please do write and tell me)

I'm now trying to resist all urges to buy the rest of the second-hand copies listed on Amazon...

Not sure really, what this post is saying, other than it's the obvious prelude to a shameless plug: please go on to Amazon or LL Publications and buy a copy.  Or if you already have one (or did have one and gave it away) write a review of it, also on the Amazon site so that the ratings increase.  After all... the children in Bhola will benefit - and you can't argue with that (see, shameless!!)

And whilst you're on Amazon, an excellent read is the newly published E-book A Second Chance? Written by Lucy James, a friend and ex-student of mine, it's a sort of 'thinking chick-lit' and is currently doing really well.  And she's nearly finished her next one so you can look forward to a run of good reading...

Anne x

 

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Christmas in Bhola


A very
HAPPY CHRISTMAS
from me,
and from all in
Bhola!
 
 
 
 
and
BEST WISHES
for 2015
 
 

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Dinah and Freda in Bhola

Dinah, our founding Trustee of Bhola's Children, and Freda, one of the newer but already invaluable members, have just returned from a highly productive visit to Bangladesh. 

The local Committee are going from strength to strength, and Sharjahan and his family, six months in to their trial as assistant Directors/houseparents have just had their contracts extended.

The children are all doing well, and life very much goes on, despite the day to day tribulations over which we only tread the surface...

Just a few new pictures, this month, for you to share in:


All present and correct - the Bhola Family as it is at present!


Sharjarhan and his family (with Freda)

 




Hassan, creator of this year's 'Christmas' card is very proud!


Weeding the vegetables...



The Christmas cards are available via the www.bhlaschildren.org website - a technological glitch means I haven't a direct link here, but the website is always worth a look anyway!  And, a shameless plug, if anyone would like to give a present of A Blonde Bengali Wife, Amazon has it, or you can email me direct!

Anne x

 

Friday, 31 October 2014

Writing Round-Up

With the changing of the clocks and November all-but upon us, it's often a time when writers make a 'new season' resolution to draw the curtains, light a candle and huddle over the laptop; get writing in a way that wasn't so welcoming during the long and warm summer evenings.

If that sounds like you, then here are a few more incentives, success stories from various people and groups with which I'm involved:

Writer, Jazz Shaban, is publishing her dual biography Road to Damascus, in November.  It tells the parallel stories of the lives of sisters Jigi and Suzan, raised separately, one in the UK and the other in Syria, and how they eventually get back together again.  The story is often challenging but Jazz's insights and humour bring the book alive and it reads like a gripping novel.  All the more poignant because the Syria that Suzan still lives in is changed beyond all recognition. 

Another author, Marie Campbell, has just found a very enthusiastic agent for her first novel, currently titled, Missing.  James Essinger of the Canterbury Literary Agency, is the one who has recognised what a clever and entertaining thriller this is... Father-to-be, Michael, goes missing and Jill, his partner, is the only one convinced it's far more than a case of cold feet.  Michael certainly has a past, but where does the shadowy Anna fit into it?  Also told from dual points of view, this will keep you guessing to the suitably chilling end.  No doubt a publisher is just round the corner.

Kendra Olson and Stuart White have embarked on the academic route.  Both with novels under their belts, they were both accepted on to the very competitive MLitt in Creative writing at Glasgow University.  Much luck to the them!

Over to Edinburgh-based writing groups: I've already written about the successful collaborative play that Ox-pen, based at Pentland Community Centre, wrote, entitled Spooks, Secrets and Suspects.  Well, if you are local and you missed the reading, the film version is being shown in Oxgangs Library on Thursday 20th November at 2pm - all are invited.  At the other end of town, Gilmerton Writers' are currently preparing their first anthology of work... more on that in later posts.

If you're still not quite ready to hunker down and write, consider hopping out to the Lyceum's current production, Bondagers.  Great play by Sue Glover that has come home to Edinburgh and is quite compelling... Click on www.lothian-life.co.uk for a truly wonderful (you'll see why) review!!

Finally, a totally unconnected, very important, plug for Christmas cards in aid of Bhola's Children.  Currently available via www.bholaschildren.org they are also available without a greeting so you can use them any time of year!  I'll paste a full link here as soon as PayPal etc is set up for purchase.

Anne x



 

Monday, 29 September 2014

Bangla Food for Dragon-Slayers


Today, 29th September is Michaelmas. I learned this equally from the wonderful Steiner School Kindergarten and late night forays of distraction into River Cottage repeats.  It’s traditionally a festival for marking the change in seasons and of gathering the harvest to provide for the winter ahead; more recently it celebrates the role of the archangel Michael as dragon-slayer.  As the long days of summer draw into the dark nights of winter, it’s apparently an opportunity to confront our own ‘inner dragons’ and finding the light and courage to see us through to spring .

It got me to thinking – yes, my thought-processes are often tenuous in the extreme – about the importance food plays in nurturing, giving comfort and offering a focus for a social occasion.  It has always been the case in Bangladesh!  Never have I eaten so much, so well, and given with such generosity as I have with both friends and strangers from Dhaka to Bhola.  Of course, some offerings – the crown of the rooster, fish larvae, cows’ brains – are once in a lifetime ‘treats’, others I would come back to again and again, and it’s often the simplest of foods.

Here’s a menu, and a ‘toss it in and see’ sort of recipe for a breakfast feast…

POTATO & PAPAYA CURRY

Take a green-skinned papaya (the flesh is firmer) and a couple of potatoes and chop them into equal sized pieces.  Fry some garlic, onion, turmeric and any other spices you fancy/are to hand, add the potato til cooked through, then toss through the papaya.  It’s a dry curry that is perfect eaten with roti (chapati).

KITCHURI

2 handfuls rice 
1 handful red lentils
1 handful any green leaf vegetables 
couple of tablespoons of oil
water as required

You can also add in onion, garlic, ginger, tumeric and salt… and some versions include egg or meat or chicken.

It’s trial and error: heat the oil and coat the rice, add in the lentils, start to add the water – and keep stirring. Keep adding more water as the rice and lentils absorb it and once they are more or less soft and cooked, stir in the leafy veg

CHA’

A big spoon of black tea per person, add boiling water, add boiling condensed milk (sweetened of course) and more sugar to taste (yes, really) and serve very hot and strong – it should be caramel brown and almost able to hold a spoon up… The faint-hearted can have ‘raw’ tea i.e. omit the condensed milk.

Okay, it’s Jamie (on an off day) rather than Nigella but even when it all goes wrong, the aroma wafting through the kitchen is the perfect way to imagine yourself in Bangladesh - and definitely sufficient to slay those dragons!

Anne x
 
 
 
 

Sunday, 31 August 2014

(Bangla) Friends Reunited


Having just returned from a whirlwind summer of travel, I'm once again reminded how indebted I am to so many long-standing and new friends for their generous hospitality.  On the most recent trip this ranges from Ger and Jackie in Ireland to Jose in Washington DC and all the folks in Virginia, to Jay and Charles and Ravi, Valeria and Marla in California and to Guillermo and Dick in Vermont... And the many others who have visited and, very importantly, shared in Simon's 4th birthday!

Of course, there are hundreds of others from Bangladesh - most of them mentioned here on the blog or forever remembered in the pages of A Blonde Bengali Wife - to Tanzania to New Zealand and everywhere in between that are unsung yet treasured.

I can only hope that somehow and someday I manage to pay as many of you back as I can...

Readers of my Bangla musings will have heard countless times about Munnu, Mannu and Bachchu, the three brothers who have made me as near as is possible to a sister.  Well, it's not much but at least this year, I've been able to welcome Bachchu to Edinburgh for a brief but lovely stay and show him our home. 




It was a literal case of friends reunited: Jacqui also met all three brothers (and many other family members) during our visit in 2008 and Allan and Simon met Bachchu earlier this year on our 2014 trip.  A wonderful evening, and let this post be both a genuine, if inadequate, thanks to all of you out there - and a general welcome to anyone passing through Scotland in the years to come!

Anne x