Posts Tagged Yoga

Calling up the Dead

It’s too hot to go.’

Have you seen a manila enve­lope? Hell’s bells! There’s some­thing I want to show you.’

That one?’ Fas­ten­ing an ear­ring, she indi­cated with her elbow the small pack­age lying on his bed­side table. ‘The food will be awful. She’s the most weari­some, opin­ion­ated woman. She has noth­ing inter­est­ing to say, and she says it ad nau­seam. Her friends are ter­mi­nally stuffy. Remind me, why are we going?’

He pranced up behind her and sought her eyes in the dressing-table mir­ror. She was busy out­lin­ing her full lips with a brush loaded with waxy blood-red lip­stick, and he knew bet­ter than to inter­rupt. She blot­ted her lips care­fully, pat­ted her black hair — glossy as molten tar and swept up Betty Grable style — and gath­ered lip­stick, pow­der and a sil­ver fla­con of Mit­souko into an ostrich skin clutch bag. She rose, unfurl­ing from her seat to stand eye to eye with her husband.

I don’t know how you do that. Three chil­dren, and you still rise like Venus from the waves.’


What what?’

You wanted to show me something.’

I’ll show you some other time. Beat­rice may be dull, but she’s had a con­sign­ment of Ply­mouth gin. And Teddy may yet get us out of here.’

They stepped out into the sear­ing dust, the ragged palm trees, the beg­gars, the smell of don­key shit, the sound of jin­gling caleches and men shout­ing hys­ter­i­cally in Ara­bic that engulfed them beyond the gates of their small ugly house in wartime Cairo.


Boy — who had a name, Mohammed — had pol­ished the chan­de­lier in Beatrice’s court­yard house, had watered the bougainvil­lea and strewn the gar­net rose petals in the mur­mur­ing foun­tain. He stood, unde­cided, fin­ger­ing the but­tons on his white jacket, dread­ing another stac­cato bar­rage from his employer.

Boy? Boy! Come here. Flow­ers — flow­ers for the table. The roses. Where have you put them?’

Mutely he indi­cated the red con­fetti danc­ing on the trou­bled meniscus.

The blonde dumpling was for a moment paral­ysed. Sweat pearled her upper lip.

Are you mad? Oh my God. Why do you always….I told you to put the roses in water.’

She turned, mut­ter­ing sticky impre­ca­tions, and entered the din­ing room whose dou­ble doors were open to the court­yard and whose ceil­ing fans rotated lazily. A long table was laid for twenty, crowded with cal­en­dared napery, pris­matic cut glass, gold-rimmed porce­lain and buffed cut­lery. It was punc­tu­ated at pre­cise inter­vals by Geor­gian sil­ver can­de­labra. It did not need flowers.

Boy? Boy! Come here. Fetch can­dles, from the ice-box’. To her­self she mur­mured, ‘don’t think they’ll melt now. Thank God, it’ll cool down soon.’

At this point Teddy joined her, tall and spruce in immac­u­late ivory linen.

Ice!’ he called after Boy. ‘Well, Bea. Time to see if we’ve been sold a pup.’ He opened the clear glass bot­tle and was reas­sured by the sharp cathe­dral smell of juniper that wafted nos­tril­wards. ‘Smells like the real thing. Lemon!’ he flung after Mohammed as he shook the bot­tle of Angos­tura bitters.

Ice as per instruc­tions? Boiled water? Good. Don’t want the High Com­mis­sioner to come down with dysentery.’

He rarely looked at his wife these days, find­ing her a dis­ap­point­ment now that her belly quaked and her dim­ple was lost in fat. There was no short­age of avail­able women in Cairo, but Beat­rice ran the house and looked after his inter­ests. He was sorry for her. They’d never man­aged a baby. Pity. It would have absorbed her fuss­ing, kept her busy.

Instead he looked at the bil­low­ing sails of the Mayflower on the famil­iar gin label. ‘Tonic, Bea? I’m hav­ing a pink gin, there’s some Noilly Prat if you’d pre­fer…. This glass has got a fin­ger­print on it.’

Fol­low­ing this dis­cov­ery Beat­rice made a minute inspec­tion of the crys­tal tum­blers, hand­ing Mohammed another that did not pass muster. ‘Look!’ She bran­dished them under his nose, ‘not good enough.’

Who did you invite to replace George Cousins?’

It was very last minute. I invited that writer, Lawrence Durrell.’

Well! I just hope he behaves. I thought he’d gone to Alexandria.’

Some­one saw him at the club. He goes back and forth.’

You’d bet­ter be care­ful, Bea. They say that since his wife left he’s slept with so many women he can’t remem­ber them. A gen­uine Don Juan. Appar­ently women can’t resist him. I’ll be keep­ing my eye on you.’

That’s very crude, Teddy. I don’t believe it any­way. I don’t under­stand why any­one would fall for him. He’s not exactly Errol Flynn. I hope none of the women tonight…. I don’t think so….we know them all. Well, except Paul Innes’s wife, Eileen? It is Eileen isn’t it? I’ve only met her twice — at bridge and at the Williams’s. She seemed a bit racy. Scar­let lipstick…..No, no…. out of the ques­tion, they’ve got three chil­dren. And Paul is such a good-looking man. She’s very tall. Durrell’s tiny, shorter than me, and well, that pug nose. Not good on a man. No, I don’t think so.’

She noticed that Teddy was still hold­ing an empty glass.

Boy? Boy! Where is that crea­ture? Spends his life in a dream.’ Beat­rice marched towards the kitchen.

Teddy, with a nar­row cat­like smile on his face, moved Durrell’s place card to seat him next to Paul Innes’s wife. ‘Randy, meet Racy.’


Well, that went well, I thought. They liked the vol-au-vents.’

Paul is quite a racon­teur. I’d heard the story about the Chi­nese cook and the whisky bot­tle before though.’

I thought it rather coarse. I have to say, I really don’t like his wife much. I don’t know why Dur­rell engi­neered him­self a place beside her — I put her next to that mil­i­tary chap, Ash­bury. As it hap­pened, she hardly spoke to Dur­rell. I almost felt sorry for him. Silly chump.’

Didn’t seem to worry him — he was his usual ebul­lient self after a drink or two. He got her to dance with him. They made a pretty ridicu­lous couple….She’s a good-looking woman.’

He had been dis­ap­pointed by the fail­ure of his scheme to reveal an illicit pas­sion. He was embar­rassed in fact, to find him­self rather taken with her, sur­prised to have been piqued by a sharp lit­tle pin­prick of jeal­ousy, as he watched them in the court­yard, danc­ing close. Twice. Sina­tra, ‘All or noth­ing at all’, and Lena Horne. Noth­ing remark­able there — every­one was danc­ing, it was the stan­dard finale to a din­ner party. Teddy him­self was still in a cloud of Mit­souko after they’d danced to ‘Rhap­sody in Blue’ under the stars.

Bea shat­tered his pleas­ant reverie. ‘Mother would say she’s got ideas above her sta­tion — she comes across as so supe­rior, but what is she? What has she done?’

I think she’s a bit of a scholar. Some­one said she got a dou­ble first at Cambridge.’

Well, I cer­tainly don’t believe that. And what about him? He’s noth­ing spe­cial. He’s just a glo­ri­fied sales­man, when you come down to it.’

Bea, my angel. If I didn’t know you bet­ter, I might think you were jaun­diced. Paul kept the Shang­hai side of Shell in oper­a­tion, almost sin­gle­hand­edly. A bit more than a sales­man. They both speak Man­darin. There have been hints that he was placed there by the gov­ern­ment. MI6. There’s a rumour that she’s in it too. Did you notice, she didn’t drink a drop?’

What? Are you say­ing that they’re spies? Oh, come on! I don’t know who you’ve been talk­ing to, Teddy, but they need their heads examined.’

Who’d have thought she came from Argentina?’

Don’t be ridicu­lous. For God’s sake, how much did you drink? She’s from Bed­ford. Or Ban­bury. One or the other.’

Bea — when we played ‘Down Argentina Way’, she burst into tears. She grew up on an estancia, near Cor­doba. Both her broth­ers are fighter pilots — she doesn’t know where they are, whether they’re still alive, even. She was gen­uinely upset — you must have noticed. Don’t give me that look. You don’t know her — you said it your­self. You’re being very unfair.’

Well, you two cer­tainly got chummy. I’m off to bed. Boy? Boy! Get him to clear up, will you? I’m asleep on my feet.’

Teddy poured him­self another whisky, turned off the lights, and put Lena Horne’s smoky ver­sion of ‘Stormy Weather’ on the record player again, low. Rest­ing his heels on the table, by the muted light­ning of sput­ter­ing can­dles, he smoked a cigar.


Never again. Never have so many dull peo­ple been marooned around a table to eat such indif­fer­ent food. Don’t blame me if you get dysen­tery — I saw you wad­ing through those vol-au-vents as if Escoffier made them. What was in them? It looked like vomit. I couldn’t touch them.’

You’re a hard woman. By Jingo, I felt proud to be among staunch com­pa­tri­ots: it sounds like our boys are really get­ting some­where. Look, this war’ll be over by Christ­mas and we can go home.’

Home? Where is home? I cer­tainly don’t want to go back to Blighty. You go, I’d rather go back to China….England isn’t home. Dur­rell calls it Pud­ding Island. Not affectionately.’

So you did talk to him?  From where I sat, you didn’t seem to have much to say to him.’

No. Nor he to me. ‘

Paul was on the bal­cony out­side their bed­room, smok­ing a cigar. Some­where in the maze of streets behind the house a woman was ulu­lat­ing — a mar­riage. Eileen unpinned her hair in front of her mir­ror. Slen­der, lan­guorous body hinted at by a night­dress of oys­ter silk satin — one of the few things she’d man­aged to bring from China — she was a voluptuary’s dream. He stubbed out the cigar and ran his hands over her shoul­ders, with a louche grin.

She removed them.

Oh, no. Much too hot. Pass me the Pond’s, will you?’

Paul was nettled.

Smooth­ing cold cream onto her high cheek­bones, she con­tin­ued: ‘For a writer Dur­rell was curi­ously inar­tic­u­late, well, until the drink got to him. Then he was mod­er­ately enter­tain­ing. Not my cup of tea.’

You danced with him.’

You danced with Therese, Beat­rice and that giraffe-like sec­re­tary from the embassy.’ She paused. ‘What are these? “Apol­ogy Card”?’

Have a look.’

She tipped a wad of small cards from the manila enve­lope. She read:


regrets exceed­ingly

his deplorable con­duct while a

guest at your


and humbly craves your pardon

for the breach of eti­quette checked in the

adjoin­ing column.


Oh, really, Paul. What non­sense is this?’

Turn it over. I thought I’d send Teddy and Bea one. As a thank you. It’ll make them laugh.’

“Spank­ing female guests. Pick­ing nose at table. Indis­crim­i­nate goos­ing.” Do you really think they’ll find this funny? “Fail­ure to but­ton pants. Fail­ure to unbut­ton pants.” Oh dear.’

She removed the cold cream with cot­ton wool. ‘“Locat­ing female’s com­plex” and “Look­ing for hid­den mole” are amusing.’

She pushed them aside wearily. ‘You’re still a child, aren’t you?’

This hurt more than her rejec­tion of him, and he turned away from her in bed.

And she, who had a secret pen­chant for short, funny, unman­age­able men, and could still feel Durrell’s hand, sur­pris­ingly clearly, sur­pris­ingly strongly, imprinted on the small of her back, turned away from her husband.


Eileen’s friend, Dilys Arbuth­not, invited her for a birth­day drink among the palm trees and jas­mine of Shepheard’s Ter­race. ‘Eileen, I’m tak­ing you out for a proper bash. Cock­tails, like it or not. We’re going to gos­sip, we’re going to ogle chaps in uni­form, and you’re going to get squiffy. You’re only 36 once.’ And so, Paul hav­ing pre­vi­ously com­mit­ted him­self to a bridge evening at the club, and the chil­dren happy to be in the care of bosomy Khadija who made them sugar and cocoa sand­wiches, Eileen went on her own.

Her birth­day gift from Paul had been an opu­lent emer­ald silk shawl. She knew that such expen­di­ture beto­kened guilt, but defi­antly wore the beau­ti­ful thing to sig­nal for­give­ness of his venial pec­ca­dil­loes. What­ever they were. It rip­pled in the evening breeze as the gharry trot­ted to Shepheard’s, where she found Dilys toy­ing with a plate of olives, an empty glass at her elbow.

Hello Dilys. I’m not late, am I?’

No. I was rav­aged by thirst. They’re ter­ri­bly habit form­ing. Gin fizz. That was my second.’

Eileen raised her eyebrows.

I did have some water first, but it didn’t do the job. I needed a proper drink.’

Half-way through her fifth, when her top but­ton had undone itself to expose a heav­ing, sweat­ing cleav­age, and her cop­pery hair was stuck to her fore­head, it tran­spired that the occa­sion for this drink was not in fact Eileen’s birth­day, but the defec­tion of Reg­gie who had recently announced that their mar­riage was at an end.

No rea­son. He said that one more evening with me, and he’d….’ Eileen never dis­cov­ered what Reg­gie would do, as Dilys slith­ered from sight beneath the table, land­ing with a soft flump.

Waiter!’ Eileen stood and waved to attract the atten­tion of one of the boys, whose fez bobbed weav­ing among the chairs and tables. ‘Oh Madame. Madame is on the ground!’ Some­one joined them from another table and between them they retrieved Dilys. The waiter ran to fetch coffee.

I know you. You’re the diva from Argentina.’

Eileen looked up, star­tled. ‘Oh, Mr. Dur­rell, thank God! I’m so glad to see a friendly face. We were cel­e­brat­ing my birth­day, and I think Dilys had…’

Five drinks to your one. I know. I was sit­ting just there.’

I don’t know how I’ll get her home. She lives in a flat over by the Ser­vices Club. It’s not far, but I don’t think she can walk. I cer­tainly can’t carry her.’

I’ll give you a hand. Let me just get my stuff.’ He paid the bill with an invol­un­tary groan, and between them they frog-marched Dilys to a gharry. She lived on the third floor. Get­ting her there took some doing, but even­tu­ally she was in her own bed.

Whew! That was warm­ing.’ Eileen passed a hand over her damp fore­head. ‘Thank you so much. I’ll stay here with her.’

Absolutely not. She doesn’t need you. She’ll just sleep it out. I’ve got a much bet­ter idea.’

It was not yet ten when they climbed over the fence of the Ser­vices Club. There was some kind of party tak­ing place within. There had been rumours that day of some sig­nif­i­cant allied putsch, and they could hear Vera Lynn pre­dict­ing an out­break of blue­birds over the south coast.

My hus­band was born in Dover,’ whis­pered Eileen.

Shh.’ The gar­den was absolutely still, not a whis­per among the palm leaves that made a mys­te­ri­ous Rousseau back­drop, lit by a cold half-moon reflect­ing placidly in the pool. She sat on the edge, her feet in the water, and Dur­rell lay back next to her look­ing up at the sky.

You’ve just had a birth­day, so what are you? Tau­rus. Mmm. Don’t know what Tau­rus looks like. Bull­ish I sup­pose. There’s me. Look, over to the right. There — Pisces. That zig-zag.’ He took her hand and guided her fin­gers towards the clus­ter of bright stars.

With a lit­tle shock of excite­ment, she retrieved her hand. Leav­ing her shoes at the pool’s edge, she slipped into the inky shad­ows of the gar­den. A moment later her ghost-white body emerged.

Oh, God, that’s won­der­ful,’ Eileen whis­pered from the cool dark water.

They swam lazily, and then lay naked on the radi­ant warmth of the stone ter­race. The seduc­tive musk of frangi­pani floated on the warm air.

What’s in the note­book, the book you had at Shepheard’s?’

Notes for a book I’m writ­ing about Corfu.’


Prospero’s Cell.’

Not Caliban’s?’

He turned over and ran his fin­gers along her upper arm, caus­ing an out­break of gooseflesh.

Not Caliban’s.’

This exchange drifted ineluctably into what Eileen referred to, decades later, as a ‘skir­mish in a taxi.’

Pisces had almost slipped from the sky when Dur­rell asked ‘Another swim?’

Larry!’ she hissed, ‘Spawn of the devil. I’m in such trou­ble already. I must go home right now.’

Please don’t go yet. Have a last dip with me. You know you want to. Come on. Carpe diem — we may all be dead tomorrow.’

Five min­utes. That’s it. Oh! This water’s like silk.’

You know, I almost wish you didn’t have to leave. I like your com­pany. In Alexan­dria I’m awash with lan­guorous, musky women crav­ing my body, but I rarely come across an odal­isque with intellect.’

You didn’t come across me.’

Don’t be smutty. You’re much too grand. It doesn’t suit you.’

They stood, very close, in the water.

What is this gor­geous amulet?’

Gor­geous amulet? Oh, that. It’s a key-ring. Thoth. The Egypt­ian god of writ­ing. Writ­ing and wis­dom. Here, have it. So you remem­ber me when we’re apart.’

He fas­tened it round her neck, tak­ing his time. She held his face and kissed him, then climbed out of the pool and dabbed her­self dry with Durrell’s trousers.

Larry, we’ll never do this again. If we meet again, it’ll be as acquain­tances, not lovers. You’ve got your life. I’ve got mine — three chil­dren and a loyal hus­band.’ Her voice was firm, decisive.

I’ve got a daugh­ter, a lit­tle girl too….. some­where or other….. Penny.’ Very quiet, very sad.

Eileen allowed a glim­mer of doubt to dilute her resolve: ‘If we’d met 20 years ago, it would be different.’

Yes. For a start I’d be twelve.’ He snorted. ‘I mean I like older women, but…. Oh, hell. You’re being seri­ous, aren’t you?’

Eileen was look­ing for her shawl.

Yes. And I must go. Now. It’s way past midnight.’

How will I man­age? I need you now. I didn’t know until tonight. Can we write?’

No.  And no, we can’t be friends. I’m not going to join the sorry ranks of your rumoured liaisons.’

He was quiet for a cou­ple of minutes.

OK. So be it. Let me take you home.’


Unknown to them, this very minor skir­mish hap­pened to take place on what was sub­se­quently known as D-Day, June the 6th, 1944. It has been esti­mated that 4,414 allied sol­diers were killed dur­ing that oper­a­tion, which deci­sively changed the course of history.


Exactly 40 weeks later dur­ing a relent­less, gritty kham­sin, Eileen gave birth to another Pis­cean, a girl whose snub nose was gen­er­ally con­sid­ered to be a legacy from her aunt, Daphne. Eileen chris­tened me Miranda.

Eileen’s broth­ers were both killed shortly after­wards, within days of each other, in the final throes of the war. Their mother Eve­lyn left Bed­ford to join her other daugh­ters, Daphne and Clare, back in Argentina. Eileen brought all her four chil­dren to the UK in the polar win­ter of 1947, when Larry and Eve hap­pened to be there. The fol­low­ing year, Eileen took my brother and me to visit Eve­lyn, coin­cid­ing with Larry and Eve’s time at the British Coun­cil in Cor­doba, a four hour drive away.

When Eileen, Paul and I returned per­ma­nently to Pud­ding Island, the year of the new queen’s coro­na­tion, there was no one and noth­ing there to wel­come us. Eileen was not happy in commuter-belt Essex, and an inex­plic­a­ble ran­cour had infected her marriage.

With my three sib­lings away in board­ing school, I was a dreamy, with­drawn crea­ture. Eileen had no truck with just want­ing her chil­dren to be happy. She wanted intel­lec­tual super­stars, or boys. She was con­vinced that I was stu­pid, and could not look at me but with exas­per­a­tion. I was not a boy.

My par­ents and I cohab­ited each in soli­tary con­fine­ment, shar­ing noth­ing but the space we lived in. I had not one mem­o­rable con­ver­sa­tion with either of my par­ents. I was fond of Paul who pro­vided the warmth my mother lacked. But we didn’t have a sin­gle inter­est or opin­ion in com­mon. We had no fam­ily life — no trips, no hol­i­days, no talk, no jokes, no card games. We were strangers to each other. This is not a mis­ery mem­oir. One’s fam­ily con­sti­tutes real­ity, from which any­thing else is a devi­a­tion, an odd­ity. The result of com­ing, as it seemed, from a dif­fer­ent planet, is that I live in my head — a con­ve­nient locus for a writer. And neg­a­tive crit­i­cism acts like cap­saicin, a brac­ing condi­ment that unleashes a scrib­ble of endorphins.

When I was 15, Eileen gave me ‘Moun­to­live’ to read, an event I still remem­ber, as being a unique sign of inter­est in my cul­tural devel­op­ment. With embar­rass­ment I con­fess that I found it bor­ing. It could not com­pete with the urgent trivia of ado­les­cence: Brook Ben­ton, Buddy Holly, meringue net pet­ti­coats and bal­let shoes a la Bar­dot, stalk­ing boys and the hula hoop — although I did read Freud, and filled note­books with knot­ted prose.

There were no more ref­er­ences to Dur­rell until Eileen was wid­owed twenty years later. After a year of fierce alco­holic mourn­ing, she started rem­i­nisc­ing about that skir­mish, imply­ing that Paul might not have been my father, a notion I dis­missed at the time as the wish­ful think­ing of a woman who invented what life failed to supply.


Dur­rell died in 1990, Eileen in 1997, and I for­sook jour­nal­ism in Pud­ding Island to live in the hills of Andalu­cia: writ­ing, drink­ing, prac­tis­ing yoga and Buddhism.

Thoth, bat­tered and oxi­dised by age, retrieved from the junk in my mother’s red leather jewel-box, sits before me now.


Google is a boon for writ­ers — beyond being a source of infor­ma­tion it sup­plies a tsunami of diver­sion for those bleak droughts when noth­ing flows. One such after­noon, when my hus­band was sway­ing on per­ilous scaf­fold­ing, paint­ing the high ceil­ing of the yoga room, I turned to Images to see what Lawrence Dur­rell looked like.

I called Dan from his paint­ing to have a look.

Christ!’ he said, ‘It’s as plain as the nose on your face.’ We were faced with not just me, but my son Leo as well. A pos­si­bil­ity, now, that we could wear our noses with pride.

A cir­cuitous path, unex­pected con­nec­tions and coin­ci­dences, and I met Durrell’s sur­viv­ing legit­i­mate daugh­ter. Just four years older than me, Penny was lost in the cloudy purlieus of Alzheimer’s dis­ease. She embarked on sen­tences that dis­solved as she spoke and left her stranded in a strange place. The only iden­ti­fi­able shape that loomed from the mist was suspicion.

It was a meet­ing of exquis­ite poignancy: thick grey rain slick­ing down the drenched Here­ford­shire grass, a sud­den power cut, Dan and me try­ing to make sense of Penny’s shreds of mem­ory in the softly seep­ing dark­ness of a Novem­ber after­noon, by the light of dying can­dles wedged into a clot­ted iron candle-stick wrought by Dur­rell himself.

Grudg­ing, Penny con­sented to show me her pho­tos. As she opened the lid of the card­board crate, I felt a ter­rific jolt of affin­ity for Dur­rell — writer, drinker, yoga stu­dent, Bud­dhist. There he was, at a Bud­dhist fair some­where in France, and again, in a fear­less Urd­hva Pad­masana, an inverted lotus pose, in a garden.

She snapped the lid shut. ‘That’s enough of that.’ she said with star­tling clarity.

Penny’s hus­band was con­vinced of my case, con­stantly remark­ing that I was a vir­tual clone of Margo, Durrell’s sis­ter who had lately died. That I even had the same man­ner­isms. He repeat­edly referred to Dur­rell as ‘your father’ and Margo as ‘your aunt’.

But he refused to put Penny through the ordeal of giv­ing a dna sam­ple. Shortly after­wards she was dead.

I shall never know.

Carpe Diem.












, , , , , , , , ,

No Comments

Riad Maizie — the Cast

Early Morn­ing Sun on the Roof

Sun in the Courtyard

Dan and I bought Riad Maizie, in the very old­est part of the  Med­ina of Mar­rakech just 100 yards away from the orig­i­nal mosque, ten years ago. We knew that it was here that we could devote our­selves to gam­bling and gladly read We fell in love with it imme­di­ately, and then pro­ceeded to slither head­long into one drama after another, until two years ago, when we realised that it had to be run Mafia-style, within the fam­ily. The story of our bumpy ride can be read in my book, ‘Cin­na­mon City’. Riad Maizie is now a fam­ily busi­ness — you can see the seri­ous info on — but I thought I’d intro­duce you to the peo­ple who give it warmth and character.

Maizie her­self


Maizie was a mere dot when we bought the pretty, aban­doned court­yard house in Octo­ber 2001. We named it after her to cel­e­brate its com­ple­tion and her arrival on the planet. Her first visit was some­what marred by the fact that she had chicken pox, and spent the time explor­ing the accoustics. Despite every­one tip­toe­ing, she would wake at the twit­ter of a soli­tary bird, creak of a sin­gle hinge, a per­am­bu­lat­ing lizard’s quiet cough, and she would scream and scream. She has greatly improved since then.

Dan, work­ing in the Olive Room


Dan the Carpenter

Dan loves Mar­rakech — the King­dom of Boys. It takes me for­ever to get to Dje­maa el Fna these days because every other bloke wants to know how he is, where he is and when he’s com­ing back to Mar­rakech. The answer is that he spent a year man­ag­ing the riad, quite bril­liantly, and now lurks here in Italy in his frow­sty lair doing his Oscar car­toon, and noth­ing short of an earth­quake will budge him.

Leo, Chi­lali and Maizie



Leo and Saki are Maizie and Chilali’s par­ents. Leo is a Web­site Meis­ter, and really got us going when he did such a bril­liant job on — of course he always com­plains that it needs updat­ing. He web­site is called for rea­sons best known to himself.

Super­man and Batboy

Plus ca change.….


When Dan came back to Italy, Spigs took over. He com­bines eccen­tric, effi­cient and con­vivial man­age­ment with learn­ing Ara­bic, provoca­tive paint­ing, superla­tive cook­ing (he worked as a chef for a cou­ple of years in Spain) and SKATEBOARD FANATICISM.

Spigs the Charmer

Spigs the Chef

He has a mas­ter­plan to set up a skate­board park for the bored youf of Mar­rakech — who oth­er­wise turn to less salu­bri­ous pas­times — and to some­how to pro­vide them with afford­able skate­boards. It’s a great idea — his  name is Will, and I can’t help but think, where there’s a Will, there’s a way.

Spigs the Artist

Amal and her Family

Amal holds the place together. With a sweet, secre­tive smile, she makes Riad Maizie into a home. She has a major reper­toire of fab Moroc­can cui­sine, for which she shops fresh every day — even down to the spices with which she makes her own dis­tinc­tive ras el hanout.

Amal and tomato man

Amal and spice man

Hicham, his wife Nezha and her sis­ter Amal

The trio work peace­fully together and for them the riad rep­re­sents sta­bil­ity, cash, and amuse­ment. They observe us, our friends and the guests with dis­creet inter­est, and earn acco­lades for their quiet atten­tion to com­fort and plea­sure, with­out a trace of judge­ment for riotous or eccen­tric behav­iour . Nezha buffs the brass basins until they shine like gold, she and Amal cook together, and Hicham is guard,  handy­man, organ­iser and gen­er­ally Mr. Fixit.

Our Mates, Yussef and Jamal

Yussef, Spigs’s Ara­bic teacher

Jamal and friend — famil­iar to read­ers of the book.

Jamal used to play and sell musi­cal instru­ments, but decided it was irre­li­gious and now sells teapots.


Me with appar­ently no legs — a prob for a yoga teacher

Oh, there they are.….

So, there you have it — you now know every­one. Next I’m going to intro­duce you to the riad, the city and the shop­ping. Baci, M

, , , , , , , , ,

No Comments

From Creaky to Bendy double-quick

Bend, breathe and smile if you want to stay young

I sin­cerely believe that yoga is the secret of eter­nal youth, or maybe of pro­long­ing a frisky, jaunty, devil-may-care mid­dle age.

Look up any ail­ment — from the myr­iad stress-related stuff to arthri­tis and osteo­poro­sis — on the inter­net and you’ll find yoga men­tioned some­where as being a use­ful anti­dote or pre­ven­tive.
On which topic, check with your doc­tor if you have spe­cific aches or pains, high blood pres­sure, injuries, back, arm, neck or knee trou­ble, con­trary ham­strings, osteo­poro­sis, heart prob­lems, her­nia, swollen joints or eye prob­lems such as detached retina or glau­coma.
Doing the poses, you should never feel sharp pain — but a kind of dull ache, mean­ing that you are work­ing your body, awak­en­ing unused mus­cles and joints, is a good thing. Yoga teach­ers always say ‘lis­ten to your body’, and while I’m not sure what that means, I think it is pos­si­ble to be a sym­pa­thetic friend to your body, firm but fair, treat­ing it kindly and sen­si­bly, much as you might your grand­chil­dren. Expect great things, applaud gen­er­ously, don’t push or bully. And — where appro­pri­ate — boost your immune sys­tem by giv­ing your­self a hug, or stroking recal­ci­trant bits fondly, as you might a way­ward puppy.

Doing the Tree at Riad Maizie

Yoga is absolutely a non-competitive pas­time. You will be able to do what is now impos­si­ble very quickly, with gen­tle and reg­u­lar practice.

War­rior Women

It is bril­liant to be rac­ing up the down escalator.

Reg­u­lar. You have to keep at it. It will soon stop being a chore, and become the best bit of the day – grad­u­ally you’ll notice that your hips don’t jud­der like they used to, that you can reach your feet, that your shoul­ders don’t ache, that you are con­scious of your pos­ture. With a bit of luck you’ll find calm­ing, even sooth­ing per­spec­tive in the practice.

My Anchor Posture

Annie's Anchor Posture

Every sin­gle body is built dif­fer­ently, and while your part­ner may do a superla­tive dog, your taste may be more in the­gen­eral area of spit­ting cobra. Some peo­ple have nat­ural bal­ance, some have unex­pected strength. Lit­tle skinny peo­ple tend to be good at tying their feet behind their heads. The thing is, it is only your, one and only, fab­u­lous body that mat­ters. And accord­ing to sur­geons – who com­ment favourably on the tidy inte­rior of a yoga practitioner’s body – reg­u­lar yoga takes care of it.


Four rounds of Sun Salu­ta­tion every day. Four left and four right. Morn­ing, or mid-afternoon if morn­ings are impos­si­bly creaky.
This ver­sion is aimed at Chakra One, Mulad­hara, which looks after fun­da­men­tal secu­rity, sta­bil­ity, ground­ing, and is sit­u­ated as you would expect in the per­ineum. It con­cerns your right to be here and to have what you need, and is the vital foun­da­tion upon which every­thing else rests.
Don’t give your­self grief if you can’t face doing it every day.
Sun Salu­ta­tion stretches and strength­ens every major mus­cle group and exer­cises the res­pi­ra­tory sys­tem. It is a reminder to be grate­ful for the exter­nal source of light and life, and stokes the cre­ative fire that radi­ates from within each of us. Start by doing it slowly and con­sciously. If you like to buzz, get faster, warm up, get your heart trot­ting (leave rac­ing for boys).

Sheila’s Per­fect Crow

Sun Salu­ta­tion 1

Start with hands to heart

1. Reach hands to the sky, arms par­al­lel, palms fac­ing

2. Jack-knife from your hips with heavy head, hands some­where near your feet, bend­ing your knees if nec­es­sary, in for­ward bend

3. Hands to floor, right leg back and straight, left bent at right angle in a lunge. Look up

4. Left foot joins right foot in plank posi­tion — FANTASTIC for your stom­ach mus­cles

5. Bot­tom up in the air in inverted V in down­ward fac­ing dog

6. Bot­tom back to rest on feet, arms extended for­ward in extended child’s pose

7. Tuck toes, raise bot­tom in another down­ward dog

8. Right leg for­ward and knee at a right angle, left leg back and straight in lunge. Look up

9. Bring both feet to front of mat, head down, heavy, hands near feet in for­ward bend. Bend your knees if it hurts

10. Slowly raise arms to sky as before

11. Hands to heart. Catch breath. Repeat on the other side.

Well done. Just three more rounds to go…….


, , , , ,

No Comments

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

, , , ,


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 »

, , , , , , , , , ,

No Comments