Stories

The Book Lover’s Tag

The Book Lover's Tag
The Falcon of Siam by Axel Aylwen
The Book Lover's Tag
The Kipling Reader: Selections from the Books of Rudyard Kipling

Every week, on a Thursday, I receive my much awaited blog posts from my friends who live all over the world. The topics they write about are so varied and interesting, it means I get to learn new things all the time. Once such blog was by Sarah from secretartexpedition.wordpress.com who is a talented artist and lover of art, nature, literature and a lot more. Her post was called The Book Lover’s Tag and she had been nominated by another blogger to answer questions about a favourite pastime of hers-reading. Just like Sarah, I love reading, so I thought it would be fun to consider myself tagged and answer the same questions.

Here goes:

Do you have a specific place for reading?

I normally settle myself on the sofa and read a chapter or two at a time. The other place I read is in bed at the end of the day.

Bookmark or random piece of paper?

I used to mark the page by folding the corner in the book but I don’t like to do that, so I have a bookmark that I bought in Goa, it’s simply handmade with a piece of card and colourful string wrapped around it and a longer piece that sticks out the book so I can easily retrieve my place.

Do you eat or drink whilst reading?

I do sometimes but I find eating is distracting because I can’t eat and read at the same time, especially when I’m lying on the sofa. I can just about have a swig of whatever I’m drinking and continue to read.

Music or TV whilst reading?

I can’t read and listen to music or watch TV at the same time. I find it too distracting and can’t concentrate on the words.

One book at a time or several?

In the past, I used to only read one book at a time but now I read more than one. I am currently reading two. One is a paperback and the other is on Kindle.

Do you prefer to read at home or elsewhere?

I love to read at home and I make time in my day to do that but I also love reading outside in the sun. I go swimming a few times a week and I always take my book with me, so I can read by the pool afterwards. I also like reading on the beach, although I find lying on the beach and reading rather uncomfortable, so a lounger under a tree is more preferable. Whenever I go out and about in my city, I usually end up in a bar having lunch with a couple of glasses of wine, so I like to sit and read there.

Read out loud or silently?

Silently, although if I read something I don’t understand I like to read aloud and slowly, it helps me to process the meaning in my head.

Do you read ahead or skip pages?

I never skip pages, unless it’s a study book or technical book and I don’t need to read everything. I have been known to read ahead but I soon realise I don’t want to know what’s going to happen, so I quickly get back to the point I’m at. I do this when I’m watching TV, read a spoiler and then kick myself that I now know what’s going to happen.

Break the spine or keep it like new.

I love the feel and smell of new books, so I like to try and keep them in that condition. I buy a lot of my books second hand and they can be a little tattered but it doesn’t stop me buying them. So, I’d say that I don’t go as far as breaking the spine but I don’t mind if they get a little wrinkled.

Do you write in books?

I used to write in my study books all the time and all over the place but I don’t with reading books.

What books are you reading now?

The Falcon of Siam by Axel Aylwen.  I am engrossed with this book, it’s such a fascinating tale about a Greek adventurer, working for the British East India Company, who finds his way onto the shores of 17th century Thailand and makes a name for himself working for the Ministry of Trade. It’s a fabulous read which incorporates historical fiction and great storytelling from the author. I can’t put it down.

The Kipling Reader by Rudyard Kipling. Wonderful tales like Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, the tale of a brave mongoose and William the Conqueror, a love story of a girl, called William, during the British effort to provide relief to starving natives in famine-stricken Madras. There are a few more tales from this master story writer but I’ve only read the first three so far.

What is your childhood favourite book?

I enjoyed Enid Blyton’s Famous Five stories but my favourite was Ruby Ferguson’s Jill Series. Jill’s Gymkhana, A Stable for Jill etc. There were nine books in the series and I read every one. I was obsessed with horses back then, I still am. Most of the books I read, when I was younger, had horses in them.

What is your all-time favourite book?

This is a hard question to answer because there have been many favourite books of mine and I don’t have an all-time favourite but some of the books I have absolutely loved, in no particular order are:

The Lord of The Rings by J.R.R Tolkien
The Hobbit by J. R.R Tolkien
The Shadow of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
Azincourt by Bernard Cornwell

Thank you Sarah for your wonderful post, I loved reading about what books you enjoy 🙂 xx

If you enjoyed this post, I would like to extend the invitation to get involved with the Book Lover’s Tag, I’d love to hear about your reading habits. 🙂

A Short Tale of Ceviche

Cancun, Mexico
Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Beach_Cancun.JPG

In 2000, I took a trip to Cancun in Mexico, with my boyfriend and his family because his sister was getting married and they had chosen the Moon Palace for the venue.

The wedding was fabulous and the hotel was stunning with several restaurants, a huge pool, bedrooms with a hot tub for two, and ocean views. Most of the time we just hung around the hotel, but me and my bf ventured out alone a couple of times.

One day, we were chilling on the beach when we started talking to this Mexican guy who turned out to be a fisherman. As the day progressed he told us that he was going on a fishing trip the next day and would we like to tag along. Yes, of course we would, although the boat didn’t look up to ocean travel, we weren’t going to pass a chance up like this. We agreed to meet the next day and off we went all excited about the prospect of the day ahead.

The following day, we met the guy as arranged and he told us that we couldn’t go fishing because the sea was a little rough and it wouldn’t make for a very successful day’s catch. Although, we didn’t really fancy our chances in the tiny boat he had, we were so disappointed and we resigned ourselves to find something else to do.

The guy said, it’s okay you don’t have to leave, I have some fish that I caught already in the fridge, so why don’t we hang out and I will make you dinner. Our frowns turned upside down and we cracked open some cold beers. The beach was the perfect setting for our little impromptu day, the wind lazily blowing as we sat in deck chairs, watching the blue ocean crashing onto the white sand.

Our new found friend produced a tray of my first ever dish of ceviche, raw fish flavoured with lime, chilli and coriander, with potato crisps to scoop it up, so simple yet very delicious, I can still taste it now.

We had a fab day, ceviche on the beach, cold beer, sun shining, new friend=simple pleasures in life and some fond memories.

Stranded in Tunis

Tunis, Tunisia
Source: https://global.britannica.com/place/Tunis

In 1989, I took my first ever foreign holiday to Hammamet, in Tunisia, with my boyfriend, at the time. It was exciting, to say the least, to be going on holiday somewhere new and exotic.

The first few days we just explored Hammamet. We relaxed on the beach and took the obligatory camel ride. We even got dressed up, as Bedouins, to enjoy a traditional feast out in the desert. So far, so good.

One day, as we relaxed on the beach, a guy approached us. He asked if I had any European money, because, apparently, he could sell it on the black market for a higher price. Being a little naïve, I opened my purse and began rooting around for some change. Meanwhile, he was coming closer with a jacket over his arm which I hadn’t noticed. After a few minutes, we realised that he was going to try and snatch my purse and we chased him away.

Afterwards, we heard of the very same thing happening to others in the same resort. So we counted ourselves lucky that he didn’t manage to succeed.

A few days later, another guy came up to us selling oranges. When we told him we didn’t want any he ran off with my sunglasses which were lying on the sand. So, you can imagine, we were feeling a little bit hacked off with all this dishonesty. We asked ourselves:

“Why did we come here?”

“Why are people trying to steal from us all the time?”

So, in an attempt to forget about this and make the most out of what remained of our holiday, we took a trip to Tunis. The tour took us to the Medina, in Tunis, Carthage, to see the ancient ruins, and Sidi Bou Said, a beautiful seaside town with blue and white buildings. It would be a great day out. Or would it?

We got up for an early breakfast, excited at the idea of a day out of Hammamet.  We met the tour bus and off we went. The journey took around an hour and we arrived in Tunis late morning. The bus dropped us at the Medina and the tour guide told us we had a couple of hours to explore.

The Medina is the old town of Tunis, which is a tourist attraction in itself.  We went into the souk and wandered through its many alleyways, going this way and that. We saw stalls selling everything you can imagine. From jewellery and perfumes to books and kitchenware. It was full of colour, with traditional clothes and shoes, beautiful silks and blankets everywhere we looked. The smells of the fresh bread and spices found their way to our nostrils.  We were so engrossed in all the hustle and bustle that we almost didn’t realise what happened next.

My boyfriend was carrying a backpack, and he suddenly turned to me, and said:

“I think someone has slashed my bag!”

So we stopped in our tracks and checked the bag. Sure enough, there was a rip in the bottom of it. Luckily, his wallet was in the inner pocket of the backpack, so it was still there. The alleyways were so narrow that there was no choice but to brush up against people on the way passed them. So a thief had taken advantage of that and tried to rob us. Again!

By this point, we had been in the souk for a while and thought it would be best to leave and find the bus again, so we could go to our next destination. So feeling a little dejected at all this thievery, we backtracked and made our way out.

The souk had many, many alleyways, all going in different directions, so it was very easy to get lost. And we did.

We tried to find the way out, and every time we thought we knew the way, we came to a dead end or ended up back where we had started. It was like a maze. And knowing little of the language, our attempts to ask someone were thwarted. Panic was rising. How were we to get out? We had a bus to meet. Would the bus wait? Surely the bus would wait.

The bus didn’t wait.

We eventually found our way out and, thoroughly relieved to be out in an open space again, we searched for the bus. There were lots of buses. One of them must have been ours. No. The bus had left. We were stranded in Tunis.

How could the bus have left us?

What were we to do?

Our earlier feeling of dejection had now turned into one of despair. And our faith in the Tunisian people had all but gone. People had tried to rob us three times, and now we had been left in Tunis by the bus tour. We sat for a moment, tried to calm down, and thought about what we were going to do.

A few minutes later, a Tunisian guy came up to us and asked what was wrong. He could obviously see we were a little agitated.

“Are you guys ok?” he said. His English was perfect.

We looked at him and, trying to keep calm, explained what had happened.

“I can’t believe this,” he said, “I am sorry you have experienced these things when you are visiting my country.”

“Don’t worry. I will take you to find the bus.”

We couldn’t conceive what he had just said to us.

“We can’t expect you to do that” we replied.

“It’s OK. I want to help you. But first I have to go home and get changed. You go to the mosaic museum and I will meet you outside in an hour.”

So, off he went and we made our way to the mosaic museum which was close by. All the time we were thinking There is no way he is going to come back! There is no way he is going to take us to find the bus!

How wrong we were.

We went to the mosaic museum and an hour later we were outside. As promised, the guy met us there and took us for lunch at a local café. We couldn’t believe how kind he was.

After lunch, we got into his car and we drove to Carthage, which was the next stop for the tour bus. The bus wasn’t there. So we had a quick look around. Then it was back in the car to Sidi Bou Said.

The bus was there.

We couldn’t thank this guy enough. We couldn’t believe this complete stranger had come to our rescue and taken time out of his day to help us.

We exchanged names and addresses with a promise of keeping in touch, which we did for a while. And now, 28 years later, even though I can’t remember his name, I will always remember his act of kindness towards us. People like that really do restore your faith in the world.

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Stupid in Lust

Always wanting to try new things, Alex was chatting to her friend one day about on-line dating.

“So, how did you and John meet again?” she asked.

Her friend, Tanya, replied, “I registered on a dating site. I started chatting to this guy, and we arranged to meet. It was that easy.”

“But weren’t you nervous about meeting someone you didn’t know?” Alex asked quizzically.

“Yes, of course I was, but it was exciting at the same time,” Tanya chuckled, “And look at us, we are still together.”

So Alex, being Alex, thought she would give it a go. She had been single for a while and she needed some excitement in her life. So, she set up an account with the on-line dating website and waited.

Now, Alex was normally a smart girl and not at all up front about such things, but she thought it would be even more exciting to specify that she wanted an intimate encounter.

She started chatting to this guy, who lived in London. They chatted for a few weeks and one day he told Alex that he was going to be in her vicinity for a meeting. They arranged to meet at his hotel, a five-star place on the outskirts of town.

Nervous, and excited at the same time, Alex arrived at the luxurious five-star hotel, called him and told him she was downstairs waiting. He told her what he was wearing, brown jeans and sweater, and that he would be down in a few minutes. A few minutes later he was in reception, in brown jeans and sweater, they said hello and went up to his hotel room. He told Alex that he had to finish some work, but it would only take about thirty minutes for him to finish, after which they could go out.

Great! she thought, it’s the first time I have met him and he has to finish work, not exactly romantic! But then she reminded herself that they were both there for an intimate encounter, not exactly wine and roses in itself. Anyway, he offered her a beer and she sat watching TV while he carried on working.

After about an hour he said, “OK, I am done, let’s go eat.”

“Great,” she replied, “Where shall we go?”

They left the room and went downstairs and walked towards the exit.

“I don’t really know this area” he said.

“I do, but all the restaurants will be closed” she replied.

“OK, no problem, let’s go to one of the hotel’s restaurants” he suggested.

So they made their way back inside the hotel. However, by this time it was close to midnight and all the restaurants in the hotel were closed. Even five star hotels have their closing times.

“Never mind,” he said, “we can get room service.”

“Er, OK,” was her tentative reply. Alex wasn’t feeling quite as excited as before. In fact she was rather wishing that she hadn’t put that she was up for an intimate encounter.

But not one to give up, she followed him up to his room and sat down. He offered her another beer and they looked at the menu. They settled on a tuna sandwich each. Not exactly the meal she had had in mind.

They sat there chatting and Alex thought to herself that, after all the weeks they had been chatting, it was very nice to meet him in person. And he seemed like the perfect gentleman, so she started to relax a bit, although she did get a little bored when he kept referring to how much money he made, how much the hotel room cost, how many this he had, how many that he had. Those things held no interest for Alex whatsoever. But who was she to complain? They were both after an intimate encounter, this should not be forgotten.

After a while he blurted out “Do you want a bath?”

Alex nearly choked on her tuna sandwich “A bath?” “Er, no!”

“Oh, it can be quite nice” he replied.

“Oh,” she didn’t want to hurt his feelings, “I don’t really like baths.”

With that he got up and said “OK, am gonna take a shower.” And off he went.

When he had gone, Alex’s courage started to wane. She started to think what on earth she was doing in this random guy’s hotel room. One who she had never met before, and one she certainly didn’t know. So she started having a conversation with herself practising what she was going to say. But then… on the promise of an intimate encounter…What if he didn’t let her go? What if…? What if…?

Alex could feel panic rising.

When he appeared from the bathroom towel in hand saying,  “There are towels on the bed.” She very quickly and calmly said “You know what, I’m gonna go.”

He asked “Oh, why?”

“This thing is just not me.”

“You put on your profile that you wanted an intimate encounter” he stated.

“I know.”

She told him about her friends and how it had worked for them. “But this is just not me” she repeated, and continued with the “It’s not you, it’s me,” line.

She needn’t have worried about anything, because he accepted what she said and, being the gentleman he was, he walked her to the lift, gave her a peck on the cheek, and said, “Am sorry that you have to leave.”

“I’m sorry too” she lied.

And with that, she left the hotel feeling like the hotel staff knew exactly what she had been up to, after all they had seen her arriving, and now departing in less than two hours.

On the way home, Alex realised that what she had done was such a stupid thing to do. To go to someone’s hotel, someone she had never met before.

“Really Alex?” she said aloud.

But, she was one of those people who likes to put her trust in people and, thankfully, this guy turned out to be a gentleman. The night ended happily, sheepishly, but happily. However, it could have gone a different, less than pleasant, way, and she didn’t relish that thought.

Once home, Alex called Tanya and told her about the whole episode. Tanya burst out laughing.

“I’m sorry,“ she giggled, “ I know I shouldn’t laugh, but you ate tuna sandwiches, and he gave you towels?” Not much of an intimate encounter!”

Alex saw the funny side, and even though she could laugh about it, she knew then that it would be something that this smart girl would never repeat.

Author
Gill Morris