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Monday, July 12, 2010

Snippets from the week

G tells me that an Afghan friend was telling him about another Afghan friend whose young son had been 'accidentally' kidnapped. The kidnappers it seems realised their mistake almost immediately and, when they did, rang the father of the kidnapped boy to tell him what had happened, "Really sorry and all that, erm it was an accident, and we'd like to return your son, but we can't just let him go as it will, erm, look a bit funny. Tell you what, we'll only charge you our basic costs for the kidnapping and we'll get him straight back to you....". Apparently, basic costs for a kidnapping out here came in at around $10,000 USD, and this was just to cover the expenses of mobilising all the people involved in the snatch. The boy's father agreed to pay - he wanted his son back - and a relatively straight forward drop was arranged in a desert area far from any town. A convoy of about 20 Landcruisers forged in to view and, just like in the film with Leonardo di Caprio as a foreign agent, the cars started circling faster and faster, raising a circular wall of dust disguising the pick up of the funds and the drop off of the accidental kidnap boy...

I'm in the Gandamak Lodge, it's one in the morning and the world cup final is being played out on the TV, someone mentions the psychic octopus (or Soc-topus as he is also known) and I'm aghast to hear that there is a British born octopus called Paul living in a German sealife centre who has predicted each of the world cup winners throughout the competition - Paul correctly predicted the triumph of Spain over Holland by eating a mollusc from a box with the Spanish flag on. Of course I am delighted and can't wait to get home and google Paul the Octopus. Apparently, such was the passion and fervour of footballing support from the various countries that when Paul predicted a defeat famous chefs retaliated by posting octopus recipes on facebook. A Spanish men's club raised a stack of money to bring him over to Spain for a celebrity visit but the Germans, being Germans refused saying that 'it would be bad for him'. Threats to Paul's safety meant that he had to have a body guard 24/7 at the aquarium to prevent him from coming to harm ....

I'm in Afghan Spinney's supermarket and I'm there being totally girly, lured in by the cosmetics counter I leave PM chatting with one of the police commanders who's in there shopping too. I wonder if I should go over and say hello and be interested and social but decide that it's better that I stay out of the 'men talk' and anyway am having too much fun looking at nail varnish colours. There's not that many to choose from but enough to occupy that portion of my brain which delights in such fripperies and I am absorbed blissfully in this activity for at least 10 minutes. Such tiny pleasures, I'm thrilled to pieces when I find that the store stocks proper nail scissors, an emery board, and a pumice stone, and I go totally wild when they offer me not just one but three choices of facepack. Later PM tells me that the police commander had offered to pay for my purchases, but then again PM didn't think that the police commander actually paid for anything when he visited the shop.

I'm in the shower at home and I'm contemplating the negative impact of taking nail polish on a medical expedition into a remote mountainous area of Afghanistan. Ridiculous I know but several tense minutes were spent thinking through the consequences of bonding with the women of the village over Crimson Lake or Buttercup Baby, only to find that nail polish is considered to be the devil's sporn or at the very least the mark of a harlet and that my actions are punishable by death. I contemplate not wearing any myself but decide that toes a la nude is a mistake and that I should just risk it with a neutral shade.

I'm in the car outside the Attorney General's Office and we're making our way through the complex concrete chicane when I spy Elbo a freelance photographer friend walking in the other direction. Waving at her through the glass, she can't quite make out who I am, she's appears to be with three other men and I don't want to embarrass her if she's on a photographic job. I roll down the window and say a discrete hi, ask her if she's working. She tells me that they're here to try and get a couple of friends out of jail, two Americans and an Afghan arrested with two bottles so whisky in their car....

It's 2am and I'm thinking back on the day - I'm thinking about Sean Langhan's comment that his Clinique facial products were the only things keeping him going during his twelve weeks in captivity after he was kidnapped in Pakistan/Afghan border whilst looking for a news story. I'm also thinking about the how butcher street - the aptly named place where you can buy a whole or half a cow if you want to is also home to the Afghan aquarium shop. A sweet if somewhat incongruous shop that's not so very different from one that you might see on the high street in Harrow or Ealing Broadway. The home to several medium sized fish tanks with wavy weeds and brightly coloured stones to keep the fishies happy this little shop also sells budgies and parakeets.

My last two stops of the night before bed are the website, and the weird but wonderful, sushi cooking show on youtube called Cookingwithdog- I need cheering up and my dear friend T has sent me the link to cookingwithdog on facebook. A small grey poodle talks me through how to prepare Temaki Sushi (Japanese hand roll sushi). Apparently, T often gets her cooking inspiration from him :). In the mean time our garden cats are doing their nightly prowling thing and, as I've left the conservatory screen door open, each of them in turn ventures in to my darkened lair where I am working at the computer. On cats are doing there thing and I find a kitteh who looks like I feel (see pic at top of page).

Back with cookingwithdog and we're making Takoyaki (Japanese sushi octopus), the chopping up the tentacles bit is a bit hardcore as suddenly I'm thinking of Paul in his little tank in Germany but dog seems like he knows what he's talking about and later, when he's finished cooking, I go to bed to dream of sushi.


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