And a wonderful 2011

Happy Christ­mas

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Six Slinky Sirens do the Downward Dog

Riad Maizie — see


From 2nd to 9th Novem­ber 2010
Reprise from 14th to 21st Feb­ru­ary 2011

Maizie the Yoga Dude

Morn­ings began with a cup of tea and an hour of yoga on the roof in the sun with the glit­ter­ing snows­pan­gled peaks of the Atlas, clear and sharp in the win­ter light on one side, the Ben Saleh mosque on the other, and a loud alter­ca­tion of bird­song burst­ing from the bougainvil­lea on all sides.

Happy Yogini

We worked our way through the seven chakras one day at a time, start­ing with the Mulad­hara and ascend­ing to the Sahas­rara chakra. I was amazed by how good we all were, espe­cially Beth and Anthea who had maybe been to one yoga class twenty years before. Sheila did a per­fectly bal­anced crow, and they all man­aged the beau­ti­ful King Dancer, no prob­lem.

Sheila’s a Dancer

There was a bit of groan­ing par­tic­u­larly with the locust and the eagle, but sun­warmed savasana with cute laven­der eye bags and a spot of hyp­notic guided relax­ation soothed indig­nant and unac­cus­tomed joints and mus­cles.
This healthy exer­tion was fol­lowed by break­fast — local vanilla yoghurt, lit­tle pas­try things made by Amal, scram­bled eggs, Berber bread, fig and apri­cot pre­serve, cof­fee, tea, avo­cado and pome­gran­ate milk­shakes. It just about replaced the calo­ries lost by two rounds of surya namaskar.
Then there was usu­ally a dis­cus­sion — which sounded a lit­tle as though a fox had got into the hen­house — about how to spend the day.

Annie, shop­ping for STUFF incognito

The favourites were:
1) shop­ping for devore vel­vet caf­tans near the Badi Palace
2) dri­ving to the moun­tains, lunch by a river in a fairy­tale deserted adobe vil­lage
3) shop­ping for candy-coloured car­pets in the magic souk
4) brav­ing the mys­ter­ies of a typ­i­cal Moroc­can ham­mam
5) shop­ping for love potions and amber­gris in the spice mar­ket
6) tak­ing a horse­drawn caleche to visit Yves St. Laurent’s Jardin Majorelle
7) shop­ping for embroi­dered boots in Gueliz, the French quar­ter
8) destroy­ing the diet with ice cream and cakes in Le Prince
9) shop­ping for scarves and rain­bow bright leather bags in Souk Sema­rine
10) tak­ing a guided tour of his­toric sites with nice, clever Youssef cul­mi­nat­ing with a visit to the Berber phar­macy (Her­boriste du Par­adis), a flurry of spice buy­ing, and a shoul­der mas­sage with argan oil and arnica that trans­ported us to pink fluffy­dom.
We did it all. We also dined under the stars at La Ter­rasse des Epices, less glam­orously at Aisha’s Num­ber 1 stall in Dje­maa el Fna, and at the Marakchi over­look­ing the square where a cou­ple of trainee belly dancers made us quite dis­grun­tled by demon­strat­ing what seri­ously bendy, youth­ful peo­ple can do with­out the ben­e­fit of yoga. We ate cheap and cheer­ful up on the rooftop at Chegrouni, and had a cou­ple of feasts made by Amal and Nezza in the can­dlelit din­ing room at Riad Maizie.
The ham­mam Mille et une Nuits was a rev­e­la­tion. We went for the full €40 job with vig­or­ous clay cleans­ing, abun­dant black soap and slosh­ing, and a full hour of heav­enly argan oil and neroli mas­sage. I’m very shy of remov­ing my over­coat let alone every­thing down to my knick­ers, and had never pre­vi­ously had the courage to ven­ture into the steamy dark inte­rior of a ham­mam (men am, women pm). I was so grate­ful there­fore for my brazen mates, with whom being pum­melled and soaped, sand­pa­pered and sluiced by female Sumo wrestlers was not only bear­able, but hilar­i­ously fab­u­lous. An absolute Marakchi essen­tial, best with a cou­ple of friends. We fol­lowed it with watch­ing the bus­tle of magic and mun­dane below us in Radha Lakdima, while we downed cornes de gazelles and cof­fee on the roof of the café des epices under a Pucci sun­set.

Me doing the Beam­ing Tree

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Glub’s New Rock

Glub’s New Rock

The third day with no food. The young wild things were cold and hun­gry. Sta­lac­tites of vis­cous green snot streamed from their noses. Most of the time they slept, and when they awoke they howled. When hit hard, they reduced the racket to an irri­tat­ing whim­per. Glub sat on his favourite rock, and beat his head gen­tly and rhyth­mi­cally on the slimy wall of the cave. From time to time he stopped and stared mourn­fully at the shin­ing stone in his hand, turn­ing it over and over and hit­ting it against the wall by way of a change.

He had spent days grimly hon­ing it along the grain, grind­ing it against a darker rock to expose a sharp edge of quartz. This had been a painful pro­ce­dure, as burn­ing flicks of light kept sting­ing his hands. But when it was fin­ished and he finally threw it, instead of arc­ing neatly to catch the flee­ing deer on the neck as his pre­vi­ous rocks had done, it whirled uncon­trol­lably catch­ing the light as it fell and scat­tered his hoped-for victims.

His woman, Burb, glared at him when she had to pick her way past his hud­dled body. She badly wanted to attack him with his own pre­cious tool, but was afraid of his anger. One of their chil­dren had been crip­pled as a baby when Glub, enraged by its cry­ing, had thrown it against the wall. Burb had tried to mend the lit­tle bro­ken body, wrap­ping its crooked limbs with leaves and tying them with her hair, but it died even­tu­ally when the rains came. Her eyes watered still when she thought of it get­ting qui­eter and qui­eter, its mouth open, its eyes dull. She had been care­ful to avoid annoy­ing her man after that, and kept the three remain­ing off­spring well to the back of the cave when Glub was there.

In one of the lulls between howl­ing, she ven­tured out, wrap­ping the stink­ing hide closely round her shoul­ders to keep off the rain and icy wind. She fol­lowed the ani­mal track down to the river, and lay motion­less on its bank for some time. Goosepim­ples rip­pled her back and thighs, but still she did not move. She was rewarded as the day ebbed by a flash of sil­ver, which she snatched as it shim­mied past, and landed flap­ping on the mud beside her.

Car­ry­ing her booty, still writhing, under her arm, she stopped to pick some of the leaves she had seen the deer eat, thought they were dry and dead by now. She also col­lected a hand­ful of the hard brown things that tree ani­mals seemed to thrive on. All the bright sweet fruit was long since gone. Pick­ing her way care­fully in the dark past the piles of crap that Glub pro­duced just by the entrance, she paused out­side the cave and lis­tened. Glub was snor­ing, and one of the lit­tle things was moan­ing, but noth­ing too seri­ous seemed to have hap­pened in her absence.

She put the leaves down, and using them as a sound-deadening cush­ion, she hit the hard brown things with Glub’s pre­cious rock, over and over again. In her heart she wanted to destroy the rock, to break it into tiny pieces, so that Glub would never spend pre­cious days doing any­thing so stu­pid again. She was so angry with it and him. Burn­ing spots of light hurt her hands, but she per­se­vered, and suc­ceeded in crack­ing three of the nuts.

But then some­thing else hap­pened – as she toiled away, the rock quite hot in her hands, the flashes of light became more fre­quent, and finally one of the leaves flared up, scar­let and as bright as the sun. Burb was trans­fixed. She watched as one after another the leaves caught light. She put out her hand to the bright­ness, and snatched it back with an angry yowl.

The oth­ers awoke, com­plain­ing, at this inter­rup­tion of their sleep, and she had to keep the small­est one from putting his hand in the flames just as she had done. The old­est grabbed greed­ily at the nuts she had man­aged to shell, and a fight ensued, cul­mi­nat­ing in Glub hit­ting both the con­tes­tants and giv­ing one a nose bleed. Glub then tried to take a bite out of the fish, failed because of his lack of teeth (lost in the duel for Burb’s hole) and threw the fish into the burn­ing bright­ness with an enraged growl.

He grabbed Burb’s deer hide, and retired to the pile of dried bracken at the back of the cave where he lay with his face to the wall, thump­ing the floor from time to time with his fist. Burb hated him. Because he had no teeth to eat the fish, he had made sure that no-one else could eat it either by throw­ing it on the lit­tle sun thing. She stolidly returned to her nut crack­ing duties, and it was a while before she noticed two things – one that the lit­tle sun thing gave out heat and light which improved that cave no end, and the other was that the fish, rather than ruined, was begin­ning to smell dif­fer­ent, a smell that made her dribble.

Burb and her chil­dren ate well, and exploited their new dis­cov­ery cannily.

Glub sulked him­self to death, and no-one missed him at all.

© Glub’s New Rock. Author Miranda Innes 2009, all rights reserved

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Writing — the pain, the pain.….

Some­where, in this clonk­ing great barn of a house, is a huge box of books all about writ­ing. One of these days I’ll find it.
I expect you’ve met pro­cras­ti­na­tion — one good trick is to read books about writ­ing as one’s courage ebbs.

All my life, I’ve been fright­ened at the moment I sit down to write. Mar­quez
It’s really scary just get­ting to the desk – we’re talk­ing now five hours. My mouth gets dry, my heart beats fast. I react psy­cho­log­i­cally the way other peo­ple react when the plane loses an engine. Fran Lebowitz.
I suf­fer always from the fear of putting down the first line. It is amaz­ing the ter­rors, the mag­ics, the prayers, the straight­en­ing shy­ness that assails one. John Stein­beck.
Blank pages inspire me with ter­ror. Mar­garet Atwood.

These quo­ta­tions are taken from a book that was on the shelves at my last yoga week in the hills north of Rome– I had to copy the entire book overnight on my tiny lit­tle Asus which made me feel very like Shrek, with fin­gers like cricket bats.

The book is called ‘The Courage to Write’ by Ralph Keyes and I really rec­om­mend it. He deals with the whole prickly issue of why, know­ing that writ­ing is the best thing on earth — cosy insu­la­tion against lone­li­ness, mean­ness, bureau­cracy, tragedy; the path of dis­cov­ery yield­ing unex­pected trea­sures and hor­rors; grip­ping per­sonal archae­ol­ogy and effec­tive exor­cism of demons; a way to poke about in an absorb­ing hornet’s nest with­out being inter­rupted or told off — it is so damned dif­fi­cult to get on with it.

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Buddhists and Chinese food

About a Lit­tle Gingko Tree in the Rain

We’ve just had seven mixed Bud­dhists to stay with us for 10 days. They would rise at 6.30 am, drive across the estate to Casa Garuda for lec­tures and med­i­ta­tion, return after lunch for a siesta, then go back to Casa Garuda for more enlight­en­ment. They would finally return to us at about 10.30,  Pros­ecco merry, and we played mah jongg with Andrea’s adorable Chi­nese girl­friend Zhong Yu Shan, whose name means ‘Lit­tle Gingko Tree in the Rain’. Her mother changed her name two years ago when she was 17, fear­ing that she lacked suf­fi­cient wood and water for good feng shui with what­ever she was called before. Andrea — who could well be a model for a Car­avag­gio angel — teaches Ital­ian near an enor­mous glit­ter­ing New York-like city built on a river, called Cheng Du in Sichuan. Read the rest of this entry »

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Interview for Expat Magazine

 'Getting to Manana', pic taken by Dan

‘Get­ting to Man­ana’, pic taken by Dan

Spring lasted two days in Andalucia, but there were wildflowers everywhere for those two days

Spring lasted two days in Andalu­cia, but there were wild­flow­ers every­where for those two days

What were you doing in Eng­land before you moved to Spain?
I was liv­ing in the shadow of the Arse­nal Foot­ball ground, work­ing as Gar­den Edi­tor of Coun­try Liv­ing mag­a­zine, writ­ing a load of books about the finer points of cush­ions and can­dles, bring­ing up my two sons in an ama­teur­ish kind of way and watch­ing my life flash past. A cou­ple of years of Sudoku and Spi­der in Andalucía were the per­fect cor­rec­tive, slow­ing time down to a glacial pace. Read the rest of this entry »

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