I’ve looked at cold from both sides now. When I wrote my FAQ those months ago I did not underestimate the struggle I would go through in the winter here, with daily aching abs from shivering and flashbacks to childhood in, yes, a draughty old English country house. It seemed to me then that my grandparents’ home stubbornly clung to its C15th origins, rejecting concepts such as light and warmth throughout the winter. Now in a new-build I have chilblains on my right foot and my right hand (possibly because my left-brain is weak, though I am sure they shall spread). I am showering (in theory) only once a week, and expect frost inside my windows every hour the temperature is below zero. The flat is delightfully cool during the summer, but living here now is like a constant game of The Floor Is Lava, except it’s not lava, it’s marble, which is cold… and… worse? We also all enjoy pretending we are dragons, each time we breathe out, which is only sensible.
I think the chilblains are here until the spring, and they’re definitely inconveniencing, but they’re about as romantic as consumption, so it’s acceptable for the nonce. I had a case of mild resentment when, at school, matron forbade us from a hot water foot-tosh after games, to protect us from these little horrors. The daily cold water has not notieceably done a thing for my character, spirit or temperament. Here it is not a matron but a broken boiler and an electricity bill preventing daily warm water, and so I am stuck between resentment of the cold water on my burning chilblains whilst washing up (the water is stored uninsulated on the roof) and my habitual guilt whenever I use hot water for something so frivolous as hand-washing.
Anyway. Onto the cheer part!
New Year’s Eve, firstly! I asked some girl-friends over to mine for a little singing and dancing, a ruse to warm up my flat a tad. Here is my recipe for halal mulled wine:
large bottle of grape juice (poured into a saucepan, low-medium heat), an orange (halved, squeezed in, dropped in), a sploosh of apple vinegar, apple slices, bit more juice (apple/orange/beetroot), spices – bit of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, or a couple of ‘winter spice’ style teabags. If it’s sour then add a little brown sugar. Infuse as long as possible, serve at simmering, strained and/or garnished as required.
Here I upload a picture of biscuits from the last time I invited girls over to make biscuits at mine. I used an adaption of the Delia Smith gingerbread recipe, because, in her words, this very well-behaved dough can put up with quite a bit of punishment, and is ideal for children to play around with.
Yesterday I had plans to go the hammam, being quite willing to pay for cleanliness, but that write up shall come another day.
However… I did go to a group New Year’s Lunch, for which a few Palestinian friends joined my home university students (a friendly, cohesive bunch!) for THE MOST INCREDIBLE KABULI PILAW.
I don’t think I can overestimate the fabulousness of this mountainous rice (and-chicken) dish, cooked to perfection by student Kamal, pictured right. I have been given the recipe and an offer of a cooking lesson. Look at it!
This afternoon I will, in sha’ Allah, be watching The Darkest Universe with a friend, thanks to BFI online rental and rabb.it chat service.
And then tonight it is over to a friend’s house for supper. I have started taking a hot water bottle with me wherever I go.