Friday, 17 April 2020

Baking Bread Tips From A Failed Novice.

Disclaimer: These tips are not at all helpful.

My first tip is that you should tie your hair back before you start kneading . Unless you have someone at the ready who is well versed with making a ponytail . Which I do not have. I do not have daughters so my husband has no experience with elastic hair bands and hair. Sigh. 

Do not follow a bread making recipe on your phone. Unless you have someone well versed in reading recipes to help you. I do not. Sigh.

Also make sure your glasses are on your face so you can read the recipe. Basic right? Well apparently not.

These three  tips are really important because once you start kneading your hands get very sticky with the dough. 

By the way.... if you do touch your face with floury doughy hands it won't be like in the movies......

Oh and adding extra yeast to the recipe because you don’t have strong flour (only multi purpose flour) is not a solution. ....... Or at least that is what I heard from a friend. Because , obviously, my bread was fantastic. So fantastic that we ate it all up before I could take a picture of it. 

Sorry. Maybe next time.

Thursday, 16 April 2020

Penny Mackenzie's Marvelous Marmalade

My very own recipe
Hello Darlings.Here is my Marvelous Marmalade Recipe as requested by a few friends. I think this is the first time I have written my own recipe!

Below is the method and ingredients. I strongly advise that you don’t just follow the recipe. Read the advice that follows, as it is quite useful.

Penny Mackenzie's Marvelous Marmalade


1.35 kg of citrus fruit.
Made up of: 1 grapefruit, 1 lemon, the rest of the weight is in oranges.
3L of water
Juice of 1 lemon
2.7 kg of sugar made up of: 500 g of soft brown sugar or another similar moist sugar and 2.2 kg of granulated sugar
Optional use any two of the following: 4 – 6 cloves, 1 stick Cinnamon, 2 star anise, 2 vanilla pods


Scrub the fruit to clean the fruit and to remove any wax that may be used to preserve the citrus.
Squeeze the lemon that is to be used for the juice. Set aside. Keep the pips.
Put the fruit into a large pot / pan with the water.
Bring to the boil then simmer robustly for 2 hours until the fruit is soft.
Remove the fruit. Keep the water.
Cut the oranges and the grapefruit up into whatever thickness you prefer and put them in a medium sized pot.
Cut the lemon in half and remove the pulp of the lemon and add to the oranges and grapefruit. But not the rind. Discard the rind.
Remove ALL the pips and put them in a small pot together with the lemon pips from the squeezed lemon.
Add a ladle or so of the kept water and boil the pips for 5 – 6 minutes.
Keep the liquid from the boiled pips and discard the pips.
Add the pip water, the lemon juice and the spices to the fruit in the medium pot and warm them up.
Add this to the reserved water in the large pot / pan
Add the sugar.
Gently dissolve the sugar.
Do no let the pot boil until ALL the sugar is dissolved.
Bring the pot to a full boil and then allow to simmer for 3 hours.
Remove the scum from the top of the pot / pan throughout the cooking process.
At 2 ½ hours put 2 – 4 small plates into the freezer or fridge.
At 3 hours remove the pot / pan from the heat and put a teaspoon of the mixture onto one of the plates and return to the fridge for a minute
Test the mixture on the plate to see if the setting point has been reached.
If not return the pot / pan to the heat and test again in 15 mins and so on until it is set.
Leave to cool for approx. ½ an hour so that it is easy to handle
Fill jars with your marmalade.

And that is that.
Except that it isn’t…. read on.

Hints and advice on the ingredients

The Fruit
Most recipes call for the freshest fruit you can find and I do think that if you are making regular marmalade that is a good idea but for this marmalade it is not a huge issue. I used quite old manky oranges and my grapefruit was at least a month old… to be honest.
The ratios of fruit. I am sure you can play around with this depending on what you have in the kitchen, but oranges really should be the bulk of the recipe. I only threw in the grapefruit because I had one laying around and I added the lemon for a bit of bitter!

The Sugar
To get the Oxford Style colour you need to include the soft brown (or similar) sugar. If you don’t have any then just make up the total weight in granulated. The taste will be a little different and the colour much lighter.

The Spices
You don’t have to add any spices at all. But honestly it gives a lovely hint of something special in the flavour. You could use all four or one etc. it is up to you.

Hints and advice on the Method

Oxford Style Marmalade, and more importantly my Yiayia’s, is thick cut. Obviously, you can cut it as thick or thin as you want…. but don’t break my heart. Cut it in thick chunks.

This marmalade has a hint of bitterness to it but if you leave any of the pips in the pulp it might be a bit too bitter.
The pips are very important as they contain the pectin for the thickening of the marmalade. For this reason, I don’t recommend using seedless fruit. I have not read anywhere that you can’t but for this recipe you do need some pips. The pith also provides this.
The setting point: 1 teaspoon on the cold saucer / plate. Let it cool then push the edge of the marmalade with the tip of your finger. If the marmalade is set it will wrinkle with a crinkly skin being formed.
Sterilizing the jars. If I am organized enough, I sterilize the jars in the dishwasher on a high heat. But usually I do it in the oven. Wash the jars and lids in hot soapy water then place them on a baking tray in the oven set to 150C – 180C for 10 – 15 minutes. It is a good idea for the jars to be warm.
The big question: how many jars do you need? Well how long is a piece of string… It depends on the size. I used smallish jars and made 14 jars. But if they had been regular shop bought left over jam jars then I think it would have made up about 5 - 6 jars.
Depending on how long you plan on keeping the marmalade will dictate if you need to seal the jam with wax discs or with wax paper or with nothing. I used nothing. Because this batch of marmalade is not going to last 5 minutes.

Voila! I ate about half a cup of this whilst cooking it. The rich citrusy scent and  the gloopy, thick, glistening, oozy, concoction was just too tempting to resist. Besides it was utterly necessary to taste as I cooked.

The Marvelous Marmalade Story

 Guys I made the best marmalade.
Fred helping me research the recipe

Well, you might not think it is the best marmalade if you like ‘namby pamby’  thin clear marmalade. But if you like Oxford style marmalade 🍊 then this is the bees 🐝 knees of marmalade. My Yiayia used to make heavenly marmalade. I have tried, as much as possible, through guess work mostly, to match hers. It is hard as she always had that special ingredient that she would not tell you about!
I did chicken out and had a mix of thick cut and thin cut fruit - but next time I will be BRAVE and commit fully to the thick cut gooeyness that I believe marmalade deserves.

Now I have to write down the recipe before I forget what I did because instead of doing this the simple way and following a single recipe I found about 5 and did some marmalade research and decided I would to well to take a bit from each recipe. Mainly because I had no confidence in the recipe that said throw everything into a pot , cook it up for a couple of hours and hope for the best .Well it did not say that exactly but it may as well have said that because the next recipe I read told me that it would take 48 hours of constant attention, use 7 gallons of water , the equivalent to the weight of a small child in a specific type of orange, and, a wine barrel of sugar to make . And then to boot if I stirred it in the wrong direction I would turn into a toad - forever. I figured the perfect recipe had to be somewhere in between these two. But I was wrong. So I created a recipe based on an angst full, finger biting, head scratching, few hours of research and a memory of my grandmothers thick, gloopy, glistening dark preserve. 

I like to think that she and Paddington Bear would approve.
a well known eater of marmalade
My Grandmother - the best marmalade maker

Monday, 12 August 2019

Take A Deep Breath of Alpine air or not

People, I am taking a moment.

I am rebooting my ranting and raving. Because I have to. I have been hard done by and I want to complain.

I have missed the stream of conscious drivel that I am very capable of pouring out. I tried complaining on twitter - but it is very specific and very short on word count.  I am not smart enough to fully express my outrage on twitter. Although that  does not seem to stop Donald Trump, but I digress.

What I am is spitting mad.

Guess where I am not this long Eid (holiday) weekend? I am not in Liechtenstein. And I should be. No really. I am not kidding. I am supposed to be yodeling on the slopes of some great big mountain right now. In Liechtenstein.

One of my lovely work colleagues got married yesterday and I was supposed to be at her wedding. Well when I say I ....  that would be me and my boon companion, love of my life, husband, together with our first born son and his fiance. We were going to make it a bit of a family trip. I had set my sights on getting 'kissed as a pricket' at high altitude. I was looking forward to fighting for slope space with goats wearing bells. I was supposed to pick edelweiss and sing songs about the hills being alive with music. I was going to take a huge swig of champagne and shout "prost" at my friend's wedding.

But I am not doing any of those things.

We spend a small fortune on airline tickets and hotel bookings. By the way you have to do this before you can even think of applying for a VISA.  So armed with the ,not unreasonable, expectation that wanting to go to Switzerland for a short holiday, over a long weekend in August, when you are gainfully employed and not a 'flight risk',  have a respectable bank balance and no criminal record would be enough for the Swiss to welcome us to their country. "We will overcharge you for chocolate, cheese and a small wooden cuckoo clock. Enter here." But no! Apparently wanting to visit Switzerland for a holiday is not a good enough reason to travel to Switzerland. In hindsight we should have used the wedding in Liechtenstein as a reason for the trip but really is holidaying in Switzerland not a thing?

Our visas, that is my visa, my husband's visa and our son's visa applications were denied. So alone, our first born's fiance is acting as our emissary. Only she got to go to the wedding which, to add insult to injury, looked just so special I could cry.

"And did we get refunds on our flights?" Well thank you for asking.  No we did not. Thanks Swiss Air. Did we get a refund on our hotel bookings in Switzerland. No we did not. But they will keep a credit for us to use at a later date. Yeah right. You can imagine I am not exactly keen as mustard about the idea of ever setting foot in Switzerland. Switzerland can keep it's pretty cows and ski-lifts and lederhosen and alpine horns. 

I reread Heidi for fuck's sake.

I shall now go and have a little lay down and weep.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Indignant over my 5 star rating.

Upfront I have a cold. I am full up to the brim with snot, a sore throat and a headache. Let’s just say I am a little grumpy. And then, in the middle of my pity party, I read this article on Twitter: THE ARTICLE THAT PISSED ME OFF

So let me tell you what happened to me a couple of nights ago. I booked a CAREEM to take me home from work. I work at the theatre so some nights it is a bit late and I would quite like to get home quickly. Which is why I book CAREEM rather than wait for an RTA taxi. Please note the use of the word wait.

I book my CAREEM. The map tells me he is two minutes away. I foolishly think that fate and the gods are smiling on me.  I pack up and go outside to meet the cab. No cab. I look at the map and I see that the taxi driver is haring off in the opposite direction.  “No problem” I think. It is not inconceivable that he had to get back on the highway (if I had misread the map) and travel away from me to get back to me.  I then watch him drive passed three potential off ramps to get back to me. So I call him, because I think there may be a problem with the pin I sent. The driver assures me, he has the correct pin he is "on his way". "HUMMMM." I say “No, you are not. You are traveling in the opposite direction and are now 20 minutes away from me.” He say “No problem Madame” my blood is now at full roiling boil. When people say no problem that is not usually what they mean and I do not like being called madame. Not that he was to know. I am  trying to hold on to my temper. I kick off with how it is not okay that he is going in the wrong direction and missing turn around spots on the road. He gives me some cock and bull story that does not makes even the remotest sense and my head is pounding and I just want to go home so  I tell him to get off at the next exit and come back down Sheikh Zayed Road TO ME. He says “Yes, Yes I am coming-   no problem.” GRNNNN.

Remember I am developing a bit of a cold, not that I realize this at this stage I just know that I have watched three RTA taxis drive past and my cab is now over 25 minutes and counting away and I just want to get home. At this point you are probably wondering why I don’t cancel the cab. Do you know how complicated it is to cancel a CAREEM without incurring a cancellation fee? Do you? Try it. Also I am a bit sensitive about complaining about poor service from any taxi drivers because the consequences to the drivers are big , usually in terms of fines from their employers. Not sure if this applies to CAREEM but it does to RTA and honestly I am not trying to make a person with a pretty shitty life have an even more shitty life. So I don’t cancel.

It looks like the cab has turned around at last. Then I see the the cab leave the the highway, again, nowhere near me on the opposite side of the road. And I realize that there are hotels along that strip. And the penny drops. That driver must have picked up a random passenger (after accepting my pick up) and was dropping someone off ( making a bit of money on the side) and them making his way to me bullshitting me all the way. Now I can’t be 100% sure of this but, well, I am fed up regardless. I call him again. “Dude! What are you doing? Why aren’t you on Shk Zyd road?”
“Madame I am” he says.
“No you are not! What is going on? Why are you driving all over Dubai?”  I complain at the driver.

I see is is back on Shk Zyd road and he promises me he is on the way.

A short time later he arrives full of excuses I do not want to hear. I say “Please just don’t. I really do not want to have a discussion just take me home."  We continue the drive in silence. Three minutes from my villa he starts the patter. “So mam, where do you come from?” Are you kidding me? This guy want a "let’s get to know each other" conversation so I will tip him! After his nonsense in getting to me. An icy silence followed.

We arrive. I explain the route out of the complex. I do not thank him. And here comes the dazzling icing on the cake. He picks up his phone, opens the app and says “Look Madame I am giving you a five star rating.” My jaw drops. I get out of the cab saying  “ SERIOUSLY?” slamming the door and stomping into the villa in a complete strop.

The driver get to rate me as a passenger?  No, no, no! Something is wrong here. I am paying for a service and I get rated? In what weird world is it that I get social brownie points from a taxi service? This is outrageous. Who is serving who?

Next time I am in a cab maybe I should say “Show me yours before I show you mine”.

Friday, 8 December 2017

I was a guest on the Radio Book Club

 The Radio Book Club

Occasionally I get the opportunity to be a guest on the radio and usually I get to talk books. Heaven right?

The Radio Book Club has this lovely format were one has to select books based around the following subjects:

· A Travel book,
· A Kitchen book 
· A Children’s book
· A book to read whilst travelling
· A book to read whilst commuting between the office and home.
· A podcast

Word of the Week

There is also a word of the week where the hosts of the show are tasked with using the previous week’s word in conversation and the guest gets to judge which host used the word best. This means that usually Stef Bergon and Mark Lloyd battle it out. They are fiercely competitive. Well Stef is. Consequently I am always a little nervous about who will use the word best. This week I had a reprieve as Stef was gadding around Switzerland checking out comedy festivals and Christmas markets. As you do in the middle of a work week. This week “The Champion Word User Battle” was between Mark and the lovely Shruthi Rajendran.                                                                                                    
You can listen to the podcast linked       
HERE to find out who won and what the word was. Did you agree with my choice of winner?

This Weeks Word - Because I know you all want to have a go:

‘Brouhaha’ pronounced ‘broo-hah-hah’. A not uncommon word which I could not resist as it is just the most fun to say out loud. And the meaning? Well here you go:

excited public interest, discussion, or the like, as the clamour attending some sensational event; hullabaloo: 

The brouhaha followed disclosures of graft at City Hall.

an episode involving excitement, confusion, turmoil, etc., especially a broil over a minor or ridiculous cause: 

A brouhaha by the baseball players resulted in three black eyes.

The list of books I chose. 

Which in turn, I am recommending to you. These are based on either my knowledge of the book or my excitement at the idea of getting the book into my sticky paws for a read. Most of the books are on some list or other as “The best of books of 2017” from such publications as the Financial Times, The Guardian, and the Washington Post. Solid recommendations right? You may ask why I chose books from lists? Well it is the time of year when all these lists get prepared by newspapers for the express purpose of torturing us with books we will not read but want to. Deep heavy sigh. This is my perpetual state of being. I can’t resist a single list and each and every one makes me excited and miserable in equal measure. Why, why, why are there so many great books out there? Why? Picture my pain before we move on.

TA DA! Here is the list.

Travel Book:
I have a thing about books set in the icy northern or southern climes and for the ships that travel there. I should watch those reality TV shows with names like “Deadliest Catch “and “Bering Sea Gold” but I fear I would get sucked into the shows and spend all my time trolling the internet for more. So instead I got all excited about this book.

The 6th of December marked the centenary of Finland’s declaration of independence from the Russian Republic in 1917. So it is a timely book to read.

I have cribbed reviews:- 

There is a bit of history in the early chapters “touching on some of the major events in Finland’s 100-year life as a nation: Mannerheim’s declaration of independence from Russia in 1917 and the subsequent civil war; The dramatic Winter War of 1939-1940, in which the Finns amazed the world by holding the might of the Red Army at bay; Finland’s “tactical neutrality” during the Cold War; its transformation into one of Europe’s most egalitarian and forward-looking democracies (it was the first European country to give women the vote); and its emergence as a tech giant when Nokia became a global leader in mobile phone technology – at least for a while.”

“The Gulf of Bothnia is a place where nothing happens; in another sense, it is a key fault line between two enormous geopolitical plates.”

Tempting right? Then I read this and I was hooked on wanting to read the book:

“Recalling the vertiginous experience of leaving the ship and walking out onto the ice on a sunny day, the author writes of how “light poured down and up at once.” “While standing on a mountain top grants you the vista of a scoop of space, from valley bottom to cloud level and beyond, standing on the sea under clear air erases depth and height. The sky begins in the snow under your boots. You are simultaneously huge and as tiny as a fleck.” 

How could you not want to read this book? 

When my fellow book buyers at The Old Library picked out this book to buy my heart sank. I have ranted on a bit as, in my opinion (not shared), we have way too many cookery books so adding another to the mix was doing my head in. I am so glad I capitulated. This is a fantastic book. In the tradition of ‘The Joy of Cooking’ and ‘How to Cook Everything' comes ‘SALT FAT ACID HEAT.’ 

Samin Nosrat’s revolutionary, yet simple, philosophy is to Master the use of just four elements:

· Salt, which enhances flavor;
· Fat, which delivers flavor and generates texture; 
· Acid, which balances flavor; and 
· Heat, which ultimately determines the texture of food—

and anything you cook will be delicious. By explaining the how and whys of good cooking, ’SALT FAT ACID HEAT’ will teach and inspire a new generation of cooks how to confidently make better decisions in the kitchen and cook delicious meals with any ingredients.


And if that is not enough the illustrations! Oh my, the beautiful work of Wendy MacNaughton. Just have a look:

There are about 100 recipes and around 150 illustrations and info-graphics. This book is destined to be a classic.

Children’s Book ( YA readers)
I found this on a list compiled by The Guardian and was drawn to the fact that it deals with space. I loved that it was referred to as “The Martian for Teens”. Reading the promo blurb it sounds a bit like it could also be the Neal Stephenson’s ‘Seveneves’ for teens, another favourite of mine set in space.

It is described as “An epic space story with gripping adventure, real science and a deep emotional heart.” What more could you want?

“Another notable component of the novel is the writing style. The entire book is written in a sort of text speak, using “c” for “see” and “&” for “and” and so on. The author has done this as a way of exploring the evolution of language over the next fifty years (as the book takes place in the future)”I am drawn to the idea as I so enjoy books with unusual writing style. “Trainspotting” and “Lincoln in the Bardo” spring to mind.

It is worth noting that Nick Lake has won the Printz Award for his novel In Darkness, and has been twice-shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal

Book to read while travelling:
Alex Bellos writes an excellent column in the Guardian with weekly maths puzzles, and has now turned his hand to this anthology, and history, of puzzles. It immediately struck me that this would be a great book to take on a family holiday when you need something to keep everyone engaged. When you are stuck waiting in an airport or on a long car trip or simply trying to have a holiday that does not involve each member of the family poring over their phone or tablet in isolation.

This book was very favourably reviewed by Simon Singh who brought us gems like the “Maths of the Simpsons” and “Thermats Last Theorem.” So I am confident it would be a hit.

One reviewer mother said : “Where it shines isn't just in the collection of puzzles but in the explaining. You can tell the author really does enjoy puzzles and teaching. He makes a book on math fun to read. It's solutions are easy to understand. This book is perfect gift to hand over to my budding mathematician. It kept my kid busy for hours and in this video game world that says a lot.” Indeed it does!

Here is one of the puzzles you will find. A oldie but a goodie,


A man arrives at a riverboat with a wolf, a goat and a bunch of cabbages. He needs to cross the river, but the one boat available can carry only him and a single item at the same time. He cannot leave the wolf alone with the goat or the goat alone with the cabbages, since in both cases the former will eat the latter. How does he cross the river in the shortest number of crossings? 

The first step must be to take the goat across the river, as any other will result in the goat or the cabbage being eaten. When the man returns to the original side, he has the choice of taking either the fox or the cabbage across next. If he takes the fox across, he would have to return to get the cabbage, resulting in the wolf eating the goat. If he takes the cabbage across second, he will need to return to get the , wolf resulting in the cabbage being eaten by the goat. The dilemma is solved by taking the wolf (or the cabbage) over and bringing the goat back. Now he can take the cabbage (or the wolf) over, and finally return to fetch the goat.

His actions in the solution are summarised in the following steps:

1. Take the goat over
2. Return
3. Take the cabbage over
4. Return with the goat
5. Take the wolf over
6. Return
7. Take goat over
Thus there are seven crossings, four forward and three back.

Book to read while travelling home from work:
For this I have chosen the Audio book version because it is read by Trevor Noah himself and because not everyone takes the metro so this way you can “read” and drive at the same time. 

“Bill Gates reviewed the book and says Trevor uses his outside perspective to his advantage. “He’s good at making fun of himself, America, and the rest of the world. His comedy is so universal that it has the power to transcend borders.”

The philanthropic billionaire goes on to say how reading Trevor’s memoir ‘Born a Crime’ has shown him that Trevor has been honing his outside perspective over a lifetime of never fitting in.”

I did agonize a bit about choosing this podcast because it is not bright and cheerful…. at all…. not even a bit. But it is brilliant. And not just because I say so. Various lists tell me that this is one of the best podcasts of the year. 

Are you familiar with This American Life and Serial? Well S-Town is an investigative journalism podcast created by the producers of Serial and This American Life. If you know these podcasts I don’t need to say anything else. If you do not well people, really, get it on. Listen in to all of them. Dip in and out of American life. Set aside time to get sucked into Serial and top if off with S-Town. You have a busy time ahead. Cancel all your plans.

All seven chapters were released on March 28, 2017. The podcast was downloaded a record-breaking 10 million times in four days.

I feel as if the teams behind these programmes have created a new genre of journalism. Voyeuristic and complicated.

I don’t want to say too much as you really should discover this in your own way with an open mind uncluttered with opinions and spoiler alerts.

Book News

During the show in Book News Shruthi spoke about the The Hyderabad based businessman Sheik Sadiq Ali who operates a mobile library and distributes books to children in remote villages. Here is his story.

Happy Reading and listening everyone!

Girl in the Hammock, Winslow Homer, 1873 

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Short +Sweet and Shakespeare and Food Trucks and Dancing!

Am I busy?  HELL YES!  Sleep? Who needs it! A home life? Bah! I toss my hair at the notion of that. Am I happy about being busy and sleep deprived? YES INDEED. I know you are asking yourselves why this silly woman is happy about being stupid busy.  Why? Because there is so much damned cool stuff happening in Dubai.

Guess what I have been doing for the past few weeks? Watching Short + Sweet of course, what have you been doing? Humm? You know where you should be right? You should have your bottom comfortably parked in a seat at the theatre. I am a devoted fan of Short + Sweet. I watch every year. In fact ( I can say  this with my hand on my heart) I have seen every single show since S+ S arrived in Dubai in 2013 at least once, until now. Sadly this year I have not been able to get down to The Junction on Saturday afternoons ( did I mention my busy important life?) but I have seen all the Top 40 performances so far and I fully intend to see the rest.  As well as ( yes I did just type that string of words together) the Peoples Choice Final on Feb 26th. Of course I will hoof it down to the Wild cards Final on the 27th Feb. And for those of you who like to glam it up there is the  Red Carpet Gala Final on the 12th of March. Details of the aforementioned can be found on The Junction website HERE.

Short + Sweet gets a bit of my love  HERE , HERE, HERE and HERE I am crushed that I can't link to a 2015 post on the festival. Want to know why? Because I found a half finished post in my drafts. Ho hum. Tempus fugit my darlings. Time  really does fly.

Every year short + sweet is better than the previous year. Do you have any idea how happy that makes me? A few weeks ago after my first viewing of the Top 40 I felt as if I had died and gone to heaven watching the talented actors on stage performing under the guidance of committed directors working with ( in most cases) scripts that have been written by local playwrights. It really does not get cooler that that. Don't get me wrong it is not all air kisses and "you were wonderful darlings". There are some plays that really could have done with improvement and were a trial to watch, but I don't judge the festival by that. Every year sees an improvement in the quality of the writing, an improvement in the quality of direction, and talent is being developed. It is also exciting to see new talent emerge. It is particularly heartening when a core of people emerge over the years in the competition  that take what they are doing seriously, understand that the minute someone pays money to see a performance they deserve your very best not your "oh I did if for a lark". Not that you can't have that in the competition but those productions won't impress me or the audience.

In my mind, and this is only my opinion, the biggest improvement has been in the quality of the writing. This is due to S+S existing, and creating a platform for original work to be showcased, I think that Backstage with its ten minute play writing competition "Stage Write" is a contributing factor and  another help has been the many writing course, workshops, and collaborations that are available around Dubai for passionate wordsmiths.

Before every show Alex Broun tells the audience a bit about the Festival. It has grown from humble beginnings, 15 years ago in Sydney Australia, to "the biggest little play festival in the world". I am sure largely due to the tireless efforts of people like Alex (together with Liz Hadaway, the Dubai Festival Director) who have guided, coddled, inspired  and bullied Dubai's passionate thespians to improve their writing, acting and directing skills year on year. They have done a good thing peeps!

Room for improvement? Staging. Rather sad overall. The inherent constraints of the format have given productions a mediocre out. How sad. A bit of creative, out of the box thinking is needed for set design.

But enough complaining! Here is what I love.

Baindu Kalokoh and MC Candy Bee  in "Hair Ye Hair Ye" was inspired. I was reminded of home and of passages from Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Baindu's second performance of the evening was powerful to watch. Such talent makes my heart sing.
Baindu Kalokoh
I loved Eric Dury's performance in "Happy New Year". Frankly Eric can turn sitting-still-in-a-chair into a riveting performance. He suffers from having an audience ( that would be me and his fans)  expecting him to be good every time he steps on stage. He does not disappoint.

"Intelligent Design" was one of the winning plays that had the talented Cris Meija in the cast. The two plays she acted in went through to the next round. She must be a very happy actress and rightly so!

Proof that a good performance transcends language came in the form of  "Madaari" a beautiful drama directed and performed by Nilesh Deshpande with Devendra Lawate. I think that  Devendra also did the Hindi translating. I did not need to understand the words that were spoken to understand the story being told or the emotions that were unfolding.

In the weeks coming up to Short + Sweet I have been coming home to a quartet of luvvies rehearsing. My home was invaded by the cast of "The Naked Truth" as  they manoeuvred their way around the delicate problem of working with a script set in a Nudist Camp. I kept hoping I would come home to inappropriately unclothed people but sadly they were most civilised and drank tea and went over their lines fully clothed. Bryan , light and love of my life, makes the most god awful tea ever and the cast, with great forbearance, drank the disgusting brew night after night. I would happily have gone onstage naked to stop the torture. I did wonder if it was a ploy. As it happened they had a cunning Dubai appropriate plan in place that spared the audience the view, and them from arrest.

Another locally written production ( Osman Aboubakr & Zeibak)  "Santorini Sunset" has the lovely husband and wife team ( Jenny Gray and William Acklam) acting as a married couple. Both talented regulars on the Dubai drama scene.

And the show that had me laughing out loud?  Well that  has to be "Ya Welcome, Ya Welcome." Rosine Saad, who showed such promise in previous years, gave us a tight, cleverly crafted script. She chose a wonderfully talented cast who gave us a spirited, engaging, ten minutes of jolly good comedy with exactly the right twist in the tale to thoroughly delight the audience at the end.

Have I whet your appetite? I hope so! You know where to go: THE JUNCTION.

Emirates Airline Festival Of Literature Shakespeare Strand

By now you should be wondering what else is going on in Dubai and be keen to dive into some more thespian type events. You need look no further than Festival City from the 28th February  to the 12th March to find an explosion of Shakespeare in all sorts of guises. The Emirates Airline Festival of Literature has teamed up with The British Council to provide Dubai Theatre lovers with amazing array of visual and auditory treats.

There is a link HERE to a world of wonder in Film screenings, inspirational discussions and live performances.

Not sure what all the fuss is about when it comes to Shakespeare? Ben Crystal will take the stuffy out of your notions of who Shakespeare was and who he wrote for. This is a great way to excite students about the bard  and for you to find the passion in the plays. "Shakespeare on Toast"

The remarkable thing about Shakespeare is that he is really very good - in spite of all the people who say he is very good.” – Robert Graves
The works of William Shakespeare have shaped the English language and the culture of English-speaking countries, and even in translation his plays are well-known around the world. The panel will discuss this influence on their own work and lives. 
Actor and author Ben Crystal has played Hamlet on stage, heads up the Passion in Practise Ensemble which seeks to mimic the original pronunciation and techniques of Shakespeare’s time, and wrote Shakespeare on Toast: Getting a Taste for the Bard
Matt Haig has written two books strongly influenced by Shakespeare’s plays: Dead Fathers Club and The Last Family in England – the latter of which demonstrates that Shakespeare’s stories lose none of their power even when the hero is a Labrador. 
Holly Smale has an MA in Shakespeare and is outspoken about his universality and the need to teach his works as plays for everyone, not the elite. Holly’s love of the Bard is shared with Harriet Manners, star of Holly’s Geek Girl series. 
Marcia Williams is on a mission to foster a love of Shakespeare in children, through her Tales from Shakespeare and her contribution to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s Shakespeare Week,
Not to be missed lovely Dubai People this will be a lively and interesting discussion for theatre lovers to experience.
A  Modern take on bad ass Shakespeare?

The incoprable Steven Berkoff in Shakespeares Villains
My final absolute must-be-done event at the Emirates Airlines Festival Of Literature related to The Bard is Steven Berkoff's Shakespeare's Villains. Steven Berkoff's reputation is legendary. He is considered to be a master of his craft. Come and see him  perform his one man production in this once in a life time opportunity. DO NOT MISS "SHAKESPEARES VILLAINS
Food Truck Alert!

Philip , my first born wonderful son, and his girlfriend Giuli are also rather busy at the moment. They are helping their peeps taking part in the Dubai Food Festival in a Food Truck Competition. Here is the blub below.

"Inspired by the mouthwatering and healthy Mediterranean cuisine and street festivals of Japan, “Tori Matsuri” – translating to Street Festival in Japanese- is a student run fusion restaurant concept with carefully picked flavors from Japan and The Mediterranean. Initiated and run by a diverse group of students from The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management who share one thing in common; a passion for good food and true hospitality. Come and experience a truly world class hospitality and dining experience at the Dubai Food Festival where EAHM students will offer you food that is made with love and served with soul. This one week pop-up restaurant is just a small step towards the horizon of their dreams and will showcase their immense talent and potential. 

This Dubai Food Festival, indulge yourselves into the freshness and aromas of the Tempura prawns served with fresh Mediterranean salad whilst taking your taste buds on a Japanese-Mediterranean fling with their signature exquisite and exotic dessert Green Tea Ice Cream with Spiced Chocolate Sauce. Enjoy the unique refreshments Tori Matsuri offers you on a sunny day at the beach, including exotic lemonades, tea blends and the all-favourite Sangria Popsicle. You definitely don’t want to miss this one out! If you are a foodie, then Tori Matsuri should be on your must visit list; after all, it’s good food, no strings attached! The food for sure will be delightful for your eyes and its exotic taste, freshness and aroma will want you craving more."

Well I will be there with bells on. Why don't you take a trip down to Kite beach between the 25th Feb to the 4th March and treat your taste buds at the Tori Matsuri Food Truck. Directions HERE

Dance Lessons with "Clave de CRUNK"

Clave de CRUNK's Profile Photo
The Other thing that my darling boy is doing (with his charming  lovely girlfriend Giuli) is give dance lesson. Fancy doing a bit of Salsa? A bit of ballroom? Hip Hop more your scene? Well if you are lucky enough to be part of the Emirates Hospitality  Academy you can join Clave de CRUNK. See the details below and HERE.  Get onto the Dance Floor!

In fact everyone in our house is busy. Bryan has just started rehearsing in Dubai Drama Groups production of Educating Rita with Jane Kilalea and Ellen O'Flaherty.  This one will be a goodie peeps! More on that later. 

And that, lovely people, is why I am happy being so busy. I am happy because it warms the cockles of my heart to be surround by people who do stuff and I love to be doing stuff. Life is good. Make yours good. Do interesting things. Get down to the Theatre. Come to the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature.  Support a Student run food truck and take up dancing!