Saturday, March 31, 2007

In horse meat country

(A piece I wrote on Brussels, that nobody wanted. boo hoo.)

Past travels in continental Europe and the Far East have proven that it’s not all slim pickings for vegetarians such as myself. Paris has its croissants, Rome offers the weary herbivore pasta in arabiatta sauce and enough Udupi restaurants abound in Interlaken for it to qualify as a suburb of any Indian metropolis.

So when the good people at Lonely Planet informed me that the Belgians like nothing more than a spot of horse meat for lunch, I wasn’t unduly worried. If worse came to worse then I would merely waffle my way through our weekend in Brussels.

We arrived close to noon and after we’d checked in to our hotel and jumped up and down on the beds (Why not? I didn't have to make them in the morning) we decided the exertion of sitting out the 2 hour Eurostar journey from London had worked up a considerable appetite. On the advice of Didier, our smiling concierge we headed to rue de Bouchers. This cramped street reminded me of the alleys radiating out of the Piazza San Marco in Venice. Waiters and managers stood under striped awnings, joshing one another good-naturedly in an attempt to lure diners in to their establishments. Mussels, fish and crabs were displayed on beds of ice next to large boards informing us of the day’s special. None hinted at anything even remotely vegetarian. After turning away from a succession of places, I read the glint in the eyes of my carnivorous companions as ‘choose lunch or be lunch’. So we turned in to the next open door and sat down to a somewhat forgettable lunch. I say somewhat because two out of four of us were satisfied. My boiled vegetables and cheese omelette did little for my piqued appetite, though it did arouse my curiosity – since when did an omelette and veg cost over thirty euros?

Lunch had done little for my appetite and so I was understandably overjoyed at the sight of the gluhwein and waffle stalls that dotted de Grote Markt (called Grand Place by the French). Gluhwein translated means ‘glowing’ wine and is similar to what the English call mulled wine. With the chill seeping in to our bodies, the lightly spiced, hot drink was a soothing restorative and put some spirit in to our step.

The Grand Place’s title as one of Europe’s most beautiful town squares is well deserved. Hemmed in by imposingly ornate baroque and Gothic buildings on all sides, in the fading later winter sun, the gilded colonnades and ornate doors of The Town Hall and Guild Houses are a sight to behold.

Housed in the King’s House, The Brussels City Museum flagged itself out with strident red and green pennants. Not wanting to be called philistines and eager for some warmth (the gluhwein was but a temporary remedy) we trudged inside. Small, beautiful to behold and not offering a great deal to see The Brussels City Museum is much like the city it showcases. And with its high vaulted ceilings, worn wooden floors and wide staircases it seemed more a grand home than a museum. The portraits of ruff collared gentleman sporting jewellery (an eighteenth century precursor to bling perhaps), antique maps and a rather puzzling shelf filled with ornamental ceramic cabbages caused my friend to remark that the entire museum would easily fit in to a minor gallery of the V&A.

Though if one does persevere there’s something definitely worth seeing. Housed on the third floor is the dressing room of Belgium’s most famous urinating tyke – the Mannekin Pis (a well chosen name I think). Fashioned as a walk in wardrobe of some sort, the gallery has more clothes on display than even Carrie Bradshaw could imagine. Bemused visitors can look at replicas of the statue attired in everything from an Elvis costume to a Maharaja’s bejewelled angharkan (gifts from visiting heads of states apparently) all provided with appropriate apertures for the young man to relieve himself.

Feeling unsettled by the bizarre exhibition (because that’s exactly what it is), we felt a waffle was just what we needed to restore our balance and headed to a trendy café just outside the Grand Place.

The waffles or gauffres were divine. Crisp and dusted with a smattering of sugar, it seemed impossible that these light as air culinary creations could be high in anything let alone calories. Some advice though to first time waffle eaters, quash desires to try the ones smothered in chocolate and banana slices (called gauffres de Bruxelles) and try them neat (gauffres de Liège) instead.

Our rather ho-hum lunch had left us determined to make a better go of dinner. But after our afternoon tour of his wardrobe we were keen to see Mannekin Pis in person. Tucked away on the corner of Rue de L’Etuve & Stroofstraat, the tiny (in every way possible) statue has been piddling away since 1619. The look on everyone’s face said the same thing: apart from the juvenile hi-jinks of seeing someone pee, exactly why is he so famous? Obligatory photographs taken and voyeuristic needs fulfilled, we ventured in to one of the many kitsch pubs (all named after Mannekin) in the area and sampled some of Belgium’s best brews. Light blonde Leffs and Kuacks (served in equally quirky bulbous glasses) were the perfect precursor to our dinner at Le Cap. Situated on Place de la Vieille Halle aux Blés, Le Cap is a fashionably French Brasserie with a touch of Belgian flavour. While there was no horse meat on the menu, everyone enjoyed some traditional Franco-Belgian fare while I helped myself to some of the best spaghetti I’d ever eaten (not that odd considering I’ve had fabulous aloo subzi in Edinburgh of all places). Dessert was a three tier chocolate mousse for me though I couldn’t help but longingly look at my friend’s choice of warm strawberries with peppercorns and ice cream. I had a bite, and it was a wonderful explosion of cold, hot, spicy and sweet sensations. All this was washed down with some very fine Bulgarian wine and at the end of the evening I would have paid someone to carry me back to the hotel.
Brussels seemed slow to wake up to Christmas Eve and the near empty streets reverberated with the bells of The Cathedral of St. Michael and St. Gudula tolling out Joy to the World. Despite our best intentions to walk we hopped on to the first tram we saw trundling our way and sat back as the Museum of Musical Instruments, Palais de Justice, the Palais de la Nation and the Museum of Modern Art overwhelmed the quiet morning scenery with their size and heavy style.

We alighted at a stop just off the Avenue Louise (Brussels’ very own Bond Street) and had a chance to admire the art nouveau balustrades and stained glass windows whose fluid lines, curves and arches were echoed in the Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée (the very impressive French name of the Comic Strip Centre). Everyone from Tin Tin to Lucky Luke to the Smurfs co-exist in a riot of glorious colour in Victor Horta’s classic art nouveau building. After two hours of fun pretending to be Red Rackham and posing with Snowy, we lunched at the centre’s Brasserie Horta. I quickly forced myself to eat another plate of spaghetti, but had no problems reprising waffles for dessert.

Satiated, we slipped in to Galeries St Hubert, a gorgeous, glass roofed arcade in the center of town lined with cafes and luxury stores selling outrageously priced lace doilies and tapestry foot rests. It has the distinction of being the first shopping arcade in Europe and the refined bustle of last minute Christmas shoppers did feel as though it belonged to a different time. Miles away from the frenzied Sloane Rangers no doubt causing havoc on Oxford Street at that very moment.

There is something distinctly old world and courteous about Brussels. Now that may not seem like much, but it makes for a refreshing change from busy city life as we know it. Head there for a weekend of leisurely walking, shopping and eating. New year resolutions can always wait.

(Ps. Though a travel article of mine should be appearing in the April issue of Marie Claire, India :))

Friday, March 30, 2007

Plunger please

A block seems to have formed. Odd phrases, words and character sketches have congealed in to an unrecognisable mass lodged in some u-bend of the mind, refusing to budge. ‘I thought we were friends’ I plead. ‘Come on, move why don’t you?’ ‘I created you!’ I thunder ‘I can destroy you too’. I can hear them smirk and giggle among themselves.

‘I don’t need you. There are others better than you – you’re a dime a dozen.’

But there are no others.

So I wait, pen in hand.

(I know, there's nothing more boring than someone writing about writer's block. Say that fast 10 times)

Saturday, March 24, 2007

World Water Day (a few days late)

Also in the current issue of Newindpress Sunday is this piece for World Water Day.

My abiding memory of the summer of 93 is the acute water shortage in Madras. Though it was not the first (or last) in the city’s history, it certainly was my first brush with water scarcity. I can still remember my initial excitement when the dozen, shiny, plastic water pots arrived at home and how my sister and I fought over who would mark them with the family crest - a bespectacled teddy bear - so as to differentiate them from the dozens of other identical pots that lined the parapet walls of our street. Of course the fascination was short-lived. After a week of having our lives held ransom by the smoke belching water lorries, we had had enough. Aching backs, sore shoulders and the mini turf wars that erupted along our street added to our tedium and we soon joined those praying to the Gods for rain.

Looking back, I realise now how lucky we were. The presence of a retired judge in our lane and the not-so-discreet five rupee notes that residents passed on to the lorry drivers ensured the arrival of the water lorry every other day. But across the developing world, living without water has become a way of life and with World Water Day on March 22, there is no better time to look at how water and the lack of it affects us.

“We forget that the life cycle and water cycle are one,” said Jacques Cousteau. Nothing could be truer. Without food a human being can survive for 40 days, whereas without water the chance of survival is bleak after two to three days. Yet we live in times where over one billion people across the world do not have access to water. While the World Health Organisation recommends a minimum of 20 litres of water per person per day (for bathing, cooking, drinking and washing clothes) in times of crisis, the reality of the situation is very different. In Darfur the quantity of water available per person per day was no more than 7 litres in 2006, a situation familiar to people living on the outskirts of Ulan-Bator, Grozny and rural Afghanistan.

Finding water is often an arduous mission in developing countries, with people walking an average distance of 6 km, carrying loads weighing up to 20 kilos and this task is often shouldered by women and children. Apart from the obvious affects on public health, this trend also adversely shapes socio-economic development (the time spent on this chore means a loss of income from farming and other income-generating activities) and education.

The solution to water scarcity does not end with finding a supply. Contaminated water is a source of disease and contributes to more than one-third of deaths in developing countries. Annually, 1.8 million people die of diarrhoeal diseases of which 88 per cent are attributed to poor water quality, inadequate hygiene and sanitation (WHO 2004). In India, 90 in every 1,000 children die before their fifth birthday from preventable diseases like diarrhoea. Close to 45 per cent of Haiti’s population have no access to drinking water, 40 per cent of the world’s population do not have basic sanitation and a paltry 15 per cent of India’s rural population has access to toilets - the list of apocalyptic facts and figures is a long one. Yet, thankfully, as with all things there is hope.

WaterAid, an international NGO has been in India since 1986 and works in both rural and urban areas to help populations gain access to safe, sustainable and affordable water, sanitation and hygiene education. Working in 10 Indian States, WaterAid hopes to ensure that at least 245,000 people gain access to safe water and at least 200,000 people have improved sanitation every year by 2010. Take their work in the slums of Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu, where over 115,000 people live without clean water and sanitation in overcrowded, filthy conditions. WaterAid joined forces with three local partners and negotiated with the local government to develop sanitation infrastructure in 100 slums. WaterAid’s three-year targets were reached within one year and nearly 15,000 people gained access to latrines. Action Contre La Faim, a charity that ensures food security, water and sanitation in countries afflicted by war and natural disasters, has helped close to 165,000 Sri Lankans by installing water points, latrines and showers in the two years since the South Asian tsunami. These are just two examples of work done in the subcontinent. Across the world, similar success stories are being enacted every day.

So what can we at home do? Though ‘Coping with Water Scarcity’ is the theme for World Water Day 2007, helping conserve water isn’t a bad place to start. From running the washing machine only when there’s a full load to rain water harvesting, every drop of water saved counts. And till the Water Gods start listening to the prayers of those doing without, things could be as simple as turning your tap off.

Sources: ACF UK, WaterAid, The Johannesburg Summit Report 2002, Image copyright of ACF UK /Sri Lanka


An edited version of this appears in the Newindpress Sunday.

The 21st of February or Ash Wednesday saw millions of Anglicans across the Sceptered Isle give up something they truly love. The day flags off a period of abstinence known as Lent. For those of you who up till now associated lent purely with the past tense of the word lend (and it’s not lended as a mathematics tutor of mine once insisted), then allow me to educate you. Starting Ash Wednesday, for 40 days and 40 nights people are encouraged to forego a pleasure and focus on self examination, penitence and thoughts of God until Easter. (Now where else could you read up on Theology and grammar in one go?)

So, in keeping with my grand ‘When in Rome’ scheme, I felt it was important that I too give something up. The list of options was endless, but I didn’t want to make a hasty decision and sacrifice chocolate hob nobs or cheesecake (the retro dessert du jour). As Lent is a time of self examination it felt right that I take time to weigh my options carefully.

Now I’ve known friends who have abstained from meat, alcohol and smoking during this time, but I wanted to do something different. (Also I don’t smoke, drink or eat meat. Really ma! God promise.) So I decided I should give up something I really loved. Something that made my toes curl and heart sing. Something like cooking. I mean really, nothing gives me greater pleasure than tearing myself away from reruns of Friends, Richard & Judy (think Vanakkam Tamizhagam but without the tacky sets) and
E!Fashion Police to make dinner. I love cutting butter nut squash, the tight assed or should I say arsed cousin of the red pumpkin (funny how vegetables in this country bear a startling resemblance to some of the locals) in to edible chunks for sambhar. I’d so much rather be chopping a hundred different kinds of vegetable for aviyal than trying on some new shoes. And when compared with my other passions – washing dishes, vacuuming, dusting, ironing – cooking is a clear winner. Looking over the list made me realise how spoilt I was – all these wonderful things just for lil ol’me? Especially when my poor husband has to make do with making the bed and taking out the garbage. Shame on me.

As being self-centred didn’t seem to be in keeping with the spirit of Lent, I decided to take interest in what everyone else was up to (this is not to be confused with nosiness). 23 year old Katie Austin who works for a women’s charity is giving up shopping at supermarkets over Lent (and managed to get in to the papers by doing this. I have reservations as to whether my no-cooking plan will get me very far, but hey it’s worth a shot). The Gujurati Aunty who owns our corner newsstand and the volunteer at the council library both said they were eschewing chocolates – a difficult choice, if like the newsstand aunty you’re surrounded by Mars bars and Twix all day.

In contrast to all this denial is the campaign launched by the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Willams called ‘Love life, Live Lent’ (try saying that fast 10 times). Instead of giving something up the campaign asks people to ‘be generous to themselves, their neighbours and the world.’ (I can do at least one of those. The first to be precise) A book has been published with a list of simple acts of kindness to perform and just to show how tech savvy the church is these day you can even receive one act of kindness every day as a text message on your mobile. God really is every where.

The acts prescribed are indeed simple, though not all will be met with universal approval. For example, my husband didn’t particularly like the ‘hug a stranger’ one, no doubt imagining me wandering along Sloane Square lunging at every Hugh Grant look-a-like in a Burberry trench. So I decided to take up some of the other suggestions that weren’t sure fire ways of finding yourself in Britney-KFed land (plus, I would look awful bald). So I paid for the next 5 strangers’ purchases at the newsstand satisfying the ‘buy something for someone anonymously’ tenet. Had a very long chat with the Italian grandmother who works one of the tills at Tesco (who told me we were practically related since Sonia Gandhi was Prime Minister of India. I didn’t have the heart to correct her) which let me strike off ‘have a conversation with someone from another generation’ from my list (her bad highlights didn’t fool me).And spent some time in silence today (talking to myself was getting a bit boring).

Now I think Lent should be made mandatory in India. Auto drivers could give up fleecing customers and calling motorists ‘savugrakkis’. Soap operas could make all their mother-in-law characters super nice for 40 days and then switch them back to evil, conniving harridans – thereby lulling daughter-in-laws in to a false sense of security and providing enough drama for at least 100 episodes. Pepsi Uma could kindly offer to go off air. And never come back.

I’ve personally decided to opt for a mix of self-denial and Dr. Rowan Williams’ spirit of generosity by hanging up the oven mitts and handing the better half the washing up liquid. It’s true you know, random acts of kindness do make you feel better.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Do you remember how on one New Year’s Eve you and I sat and watched Thillana Mohanambal? Giggling at the histrionics, eyebrow quivering emotions and dazzling, gaudy costumes, yet still moved by the story somehow?

Do you remember how you would wait for me by the stairs near the flagpole every day after school?

Do you remember how I cried every time you left for college? At the end of every summer and winter vacation for five years. My eyes red and cheeks wet, unmindful of the bemused somewhat embarrassed stares of others.

Do you remember how you used to read Stephen King novels and then tell me the stories late at night? How Amma put a sticker of Hanuman on my headboard after you told me the story of Pet Cemetery. It stayed there for a good 10 years.

One day, I will say ‘Do you remember the day your son was born? How I fell asleep early and found out through the message you left on the phone?’

Welcome, nephew. If you’re very good, one day your Aunt Shoefiend will buy you one of these.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Quick docs

Before most of us started writing 55 word stories and micro fiction, she was writing her sometimes funny, sometimes sad and sometimes just plain quirky quick tales. She's also been making short documentaries for some time now (I've been lucky to work with her on a short film commissioned by BBH) and uploading them on to Channel 4's Fourdoc's page. From Plants, shoots and leaves to the very touching Remembering Mother Ammani's films are effective. There's no jazzy unnecessary camera tricks - just simple story telling. Her latest film, The Bookseller, is FourDocs' Film of the Week and the protagonist is a figure familiar to many of us. Ammani is also listed in the Filmmakers of the Week section and gets mention in the Fourdocs Blog.Knowing Ammani as well as I do, she's the last person to write about herself and her achievements, so I thought I would so on her behalf! Do check out her docs and the other films on the site. They are all well worth your time.

Friday, March 16, 2007

She waits for the first of spring’s green buds to appear on the barren, spindly branches. All day she sits by the window, hoping to witness this miracle- tenderness pushing through rough, unyielding bark. She waits unmoving and unmindful. Time, family, and life hover at the edges as she waits. She sits awake through out the night, torch in hand, training the steadily weakening yellow beam on the emaciated macabre limbs. As the early morning skies bathe in the bruised morning light dark circles rim her eyes. Her hair is dull and her skin sallow. Force is used where coaxing and cajolery have failed. She lashes out silently, arms flailing and nails unleashing blood. Finally. A sign of sentience to accompany the ragged rise and fall of her ribcage.
A week goes by. She does not notice the thin tube that feeds her through the veins. The cleansing sponge and laden pan. The buds are yet to appear. A secret corner of her does not want them to. For the longer they take the longer she can believe. The longer she can hold on to the notion that nature is sympathetic to her loss. That it too is barren and dry.
It is the ruddy nurse with the rough touch and unfeeling touch who finds her. Head leaning against the window, eyes wide open, staring at the tiny green pennants that flutter in the early spring breeze.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

La Dolce Vita and a bag of oranges

My weekends are precious to me. They’re usually spent slowly cooking lunch, tidying, eating, grocery shopping and then reading the newspaper in bed. All activities are punctuated with long and short naps. Every other week, I stir out of my routine and explore the city I live in. Weekend markets, museums, the theatre, walks in Hyde Park when the weather is nice, (like today – clear skies, sunshine that really warms your face and a soft breeze) nipping in to Patisserie Valerie for coffee and profiteroles.

This weekend shouldn’t have been very different, except the better half is in Calcutta (Kolkata?) on work. So I looked forward to doing things no amount of sambhar sadam would cajole him in to agreeing to. (The Geffreye Museum/Alvar Aalto at the Barbican/Brick Lane)As I sat mulling over these options yesterday morning, I received a call from a good friend inviting me to join her and her husband at an exhibition in Hammersmith. I was promised Italian food, wine, design, clothes – in short everything Italian on a Murano platter.

I was immediately reminded of the ‘ejibitions’ I used to visit with my mother as a child. Invariably held at Valluvar Kotam or Congress Grounds in Madras they were filled with people selling and buying the most wonderfully useless things. Paper Mache letter racks, key fobs with little sandalwood horses attached to them (that lost all fragrance the moment they were paid for ), pens drowned in chamki and glass bangle shards. I would stare at these things with fascination and greed, wanting them all. My eyes would silently plead with my mother as I pointed out mirror work skirts and kalamkari patchwork satchels, for I knew better than to ask aloud. I would always return home, hands laden with brown packages bulging with finds that would be admired and used for a week before they were relegated to a corner (and the next exhibition bounty arrived at home). It had been years since I’d experienced that wonderful feeling (last weeks shoes were a pleasure of an entirely different kind) and so I agreed to my friend’s suggestion, filing away my plans for another weekend.

We arrived at the venue after what seemed to be a never ending train journey, thanks to staff strikes on the Underground and the capricious nature of the District Line. As I waited in the serpentine cash machine queue, my friend went up to the entrance and came back with the happy news that it would cost us £16 to get inside. Perhaps my face registered a look which was a cross between ‘I’ve just ate lemons/Are you insane?’ (I was under the impression that entry was free) for I was quickly told the amount included food vouchers. Seeing that we were already there and comforted at the thought of espresso and ciabatta, I paid for the ticket. Once my card was swiped, I was informed that food and beverages were not covered by my lowly, peasant ticket. Smile plastered on my face (to prevent the feral scream in my throat from escaping ) I entered the tiny corner of Italy in Kensington Olympia, imaginatively titled La Dolce Vita.

It was disappointing to say the least. As I drifted away from the four stalls hawking leather bags and coats (which suspiciously looked like they’d come from Petticoat Lane Market) and the odd jewellery stand (£15,000 ring anyone? Didn’t think so) I realised that that was all the Italian style I was getting. After admiring some particularly lovely red vintage Alfa Romeo’s (in my opinion the best thing there) I bumped in to a young lady who asked me if I was interested in purchasing a property in Tuscany. ‘We have some lovely vineyards and castles if you’re interested’ she added. I politely said no and walked away, secretly smug that someone thought I looked rich enough to own a castle. Until I realised she was asking everyone who walked by the very same question. Hmph. It was then that I realised that the main purpose of the exhibition was to get rich, middle class Brits to buy holiday homes in Tuscany and Abruzzo. Or get married there. Or take a holiday there. Cheap skates like me who couldn’t afford a £3 million palazzo had to make do with the free olives.

Which was the only thing left to do really. Eat I mean. So we walked from food stall to food stall sampling olive oil, pesto and as many thimble sized shots of wine as legally possible. By the time my mini-gastronomic tour was done, I was exhausted and a little tipsy, so we sat down for a live cooking demonstration by Aldo Zilli. You’d thing they’d have opted for someone a little hotter, but we had to make do with the pint sized, stocky, bald chef. After turning up half and hour late he proceeded to shout at people in the audience who were talking like a stern smock clad school teacher. As a vegetarian, I can’t tell you how useful it was to watch the man make meat balls and shrimp sauce. I’ll be sure to serve it up the next time I invite the Mami’s around for vethalai paaku.

I was relieved that it was time to go home, but sad too. Sad that I hadn’t found one thing I wanted to buy. It was shameful. Me at an exhibition and returning home empty-handed. As we walked towards the entrance a sign caught my eye and I made a beeline for a stall selling blood oranges.

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Well settled in to my seat on the train journey home, I looked back on the day. As far as exhibitions go, it wasn’t a patch on my old haunts at the Congress Grounds. Though the hours had passed pleasantly enough, I didn’t once felt the excitement and buzz I used to feel. I hugged my purchase for comfort and realised that perhaps those feelings were part of a time that had passed on. Never to return.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Link love (or writer's block :))

Wonder Women

Do check out Blank Noise Project's Action Hero's blog-a-thon.

My award for best blog name

Baby Vijayanthi and Puppy Manohar

(prize: 2lakh happy thoughts)

Tonight I'll keep a stake and some garlic under my pillow tonight

Because of this.

Update: And this in today's Friday Review.

(Actually, I don't have writer's block, I'm just busy writing so many other things I'm too tired to blog. sorry. please don't go away. all visitors get a hundred happy thoughts free!)

Saturday, March 03, 2007


put frozen Cadbury Creme Eggs in the microwave.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Roses are red, violets are blue

Some people call roses boring. A cliché. Predictable. Unimaginative. Some people prefer calla lilies and rare orchids, exotic birds of paradise and carnations (once relegated to the back of the class with roses, but now enjoying a revival). Some people prefer their petunias in plastic. Some people should have their heads examined.

Me, I like my roses – thorns and all. Whether tightly closed virginal buds or brazenly in full bloom, there’s something so perfect about this flower. My attachment to roses goes a long way back, for the first one I ever received was from my father. I was five going on six and he was away travelling. On my birthday my mother came to pick me up from school, and there on the car seat was the largest bouquet of red roses and delicate baby breath I had ever seen. Next to them a giant card from my father. This was before flowers came from industrial hot houses in the Netherlands, a time when blooms still exuded their god given fragrance. Fifteen years later, a man I had just met sent me flowers on my birthday. Red roses and white baby breath. Perhaps it was at that moment I realised he was a keeper.

So last weekend as we tromped down the short narrow lane that is Columbia Road Flower Market, awash with rain and the many hues of proteas, tulips and cherry blossoms I couldn’t help but fall for the giant bundles of roses. The drizzle dampened no ones enthusiasm, as men, women and dogs tramped about in search of a bloom of their own. Stall owners selling bulbs, seeds, flowers and trees shouted out offers and bargains, calling on the men to treat sweethearts and on women to treat themselves. As others went away arms full of gerberas, daffodils and narcissi I carted home forty long stems of old fashioned romance. I sit here looking at my roses as they gently shed their petals, glad they are there to keep me company on this cold day in March. They bring to my home the promise of summer and a reminder of the past.