Wednesday, 31 October 2007

My Impressions of Dubai


27th October 2007
A post card of Burj Al Arab and Jumeira Hotel, Dubai.

I have been to Dubai before, 25 years ago and several times passing through. This time we arrive at midnight and descending over Dubai, we see a 'city' of lights. Myriads of sparkling stars shine in every colour. So very different from 25 years ago. I think it must change every week. Its growth is fast and furious in order to keep up with the ever growing populace and demand.

R met us in the terminal building and we walk to the car park where we load our bags into the Porsche (R & E's other car is a Porsche too - 911 sports model). We drive through this 'city' of amazing architecture. Towering buildings (or burjs) in many different shapes and designs line either side of the road. The roads are wide, clean and covered with new cars. This strikes me instantly - everywhere there are new, clean and extravagant cars, mostly in white, less cleaning required because Dubai is a desert built over. Dubai reeks of money, power, success! Gold and diamonds are cheaper than anywhere else in the world.

The shopping Malls are full of the latest designer labels from every country of fashion. Every taste and pocket book is catered for. The rich can indulge themselves and the less rich too have their opportunity to buy the most popular purchases here -gold and diamonds! The Gold and Diamond Market caters for every purse - from millionairs to the rest of Dubai's visitors. The gold is all 18ct or 22ct. in yellow or white, even mixed together with rose gold, yellow gold and white gold.

We visit the Mall of the Emirates most, because it has everything one could possibly need. It also has a huge hypermarket - food and home goods.

Personally, I love Madinat, another mall - a village almost, built in pinkish stone - a wonderland of shaded lanes and outdoor souks, where one can wander at leisure through little alcoves of tiny shops and stalls, some covered, some exposed to the desert sun. One can buy just about everything here too, and I find the outdoor souk quite comfortable to shop despite the sun. In addition one can eat in fabulous restaurants at little cost, compared to UK. The food is such that it caters for all nationalities. Dubai is certainly cosmopolitan.

I love being with R & E - I find it relaxing and totally enjoyable. I have two of my granddaughters with me, though one is leaving for the UK soon, but the little one, my angel and my jewel, lives here. I am going to miss B when she leaves on Sunday.

Life is great, the sun shines every day and the weather is perfect, I am with those I love, what more can one want? It is a bit hot in the middle of the day but fine in the morning and evening. I miss my family in UK, but I will be seeing them soon and until then, I am going to enjoy every minute of my life here.

R & E are extremely generous to us and solicitous of our well being. E is a very loving and giving human being and I think the world of her. As for my son - what does one say about a little boy with a banjo (his then pride and joy) leaving the East to fly to UK with his family at the age of seven? And later on in teen age years his treasures were flared jeans and now to this successful business man of today with his new treasure - a Porsche 911? Am I proud of him - I should say so but not for his material achievements but for his dedication to his work, to his family, his integrity and honesty. To me these are his real treasures. However, he has not changed in himself much. With all he has, he is still the down to earth, sensible and sensitive person he always was. His personality has remained quite stable. Let's hope as the years go, the pressures of work, the vicissitudes of life will still maintain his sense of balance.

On our flight here, I met a lovely woman travelling with her mother, to shop in Dubai for wedding clothes for another daughter. We get to talking and I feel an empathy with her, and she comes from Lahore (my city) but lives now in Florida. As usual we discuss age, amongst other things and as usual she cannot believe I am 81, soon to be 82. I tell her what I was led to believe, that people who live in the East have more collagen in their skin and so they don't age! She laughs and says, 'Look at my mother, she is from the East and she is ten years your junior, and she looks twenty years older than you!' A bit of exaggeration, but I know what she means. Her opinion is that my youthfulness is due to a pure heart. I like this explanation better!

To make a desert bloom and prosper is a miracle in my way of thinking. The Sheiks have put their wealth, which is in oil, to good use in building Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharja into success cities for the wealthy but also for the workers who come here to labour. They are employed to build more tower buildings that reach ever higher into the sky. Dubai's building skyline has to be the highest in the world. The 'Burj Dubai', still in its completion stages, is the highest building in the world. Apparently it is going to be apartments! The Burj Al Arab (like the sails of a ship) is the most extravagant hotel in the world. Its helipad, high at the top of the building, was used for a professional tennis tournament. I would have loved to have been up there to see it for myself, because from the ground the helipad looks tiny.

The sea is just a few minutes away from where R&E live and the magic of the desert too is within a short distance, where one can chill in its quiet peaceful solitude and watch the desert moon glow huge and close - seemingly - and the sun setting on the horizon. These two heavenly bodies look bigger in a desert area. The desert is a magical place. It is quite extraordinary. No wonder my N loved the desert so much. He never stopped telling me about its wonders and brought home many ancient tools, arrow heads, flint knives and fossils. All given away to my children's schools. I have kept one petrified stone - it was a branch of a tree that is very heavy, I use it as a paperweight for my desk. Some fossils that he brought home were fish, insects and leaves in petrified stone, showing that the Sahara was once a sea, then a forest which finally dried up to be the largest desert on earth. Apart from drilling for oil (which was N's job) his love was to excavate fossils and flint stone tools and play golf in the sand dunes during his free time.

My visits to the Emirates has shown me why he loved the desert and tried to share it with me - now I have experienced it for myself - perhaps not the vast and wonderful Sahara of his love, but a smaller desert, the Arabian desert. This helps me to see what he found so wonderful. He always told me that the desert (his desert) was cold at night, whereas Dubai gets cooler and comfortable and enables one to sit outdoors in the morning and evening. If there were no buildings, perhaps here too it would be cold at night.

A Trip to Oman - B, C, R and I set off early one morning to visit a snorkelling resort in Oman. We arrive at the check point for Oman and find we have not brought passports! Just forgot them. We drive back towards Sharja and find another spot in the Emirates which is a good second choice.

I am amazed at the change of scene as we drive on our way there and back. Suddenly, on the horizon emerge what appears to be mountains but as we come closer and eventually drive on the road that has been blasted and built through these hills, we see that they are comprised of rock. Mountains of rock that are used for building - a never ending supply! No wonder Arabia's buildings progress so much!

Another miracle in Dubai is its ski resort. Yes, with real snow and ski slopes with lifts, log cabins and where the temperature is minus 5oC! What's more it is attached to the largest shopping mall in Dubai. One can sit in an air conditioned restaurant in a sleeveless T-shirt and look through the glass at skiers wrapped up in winter clothes not five feet away.

On the minus side, the rich manipulate the poor. There is great injustice here. What can one do to equalise the difference - nothing it appears?

Well, it is said that money can buy anything. May be so, but it cannot buy justice for the poor nor can it buy love.

Helen Renaux

Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Today

Today is today
Today’s not tomorrow
Nor is it yesterday
That was filled with sorrow.

Today is the now
Today is the here
Each minute is precious
Each moment’s so dear

Treasure it; use it
Make it count for something
Tomorrow you’ll lose it
Use it or have nothing.

HR

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Tankas by Helen Renaux

The fiery red sun
Sank slowly beyond the sea
Lighting up the sky
With hues of red, orange, gold
And clouds had silver linings

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Writers’ solitude
Should not be disturb-ed
A thought can be lost
And a vacant space is left
To fill at another time

Food Poem by Helen Renaux

Ode to a Lobster

You came from the sea
Grey, ugly and wet
You’re now on my plate
Red, gorgeous and yet –

I feel guilty.

Why stare at me so?
I didn’t catch you
Nor did I kill you
I just love you – to eat.

Haikus by Helen Renaux

Haiku 1

Tiny newborn babe
Do you like this world you’re in?
No. Send me back home.


Haiku 2
Tumbling mountain spring
Shimmering in the sunlight
Pure, cold water – drink

Haiku 3
Fall leaf – it’s snowing
You can’t hang on forever
Make room for spring green

Jewels in the Dust

A philosophical message for the day – ‘look for the jewels in the dust’ - an idea coined by Virginia Woolf who used it in quite another context with slightly different words, ‘diamonds of the dustheap’.

Communication in any form is as necessary to us humans as the oxygen in the air we breathe. We cannot live without it. Each one of us needs to communicate in some form with someone in one of the many ways available to us, from speech, the telephone, high-tech electronic devices such as the PC, PDA and last but not least, to the humble pen. Basically, we have a desperate need to share our thoughts, our experiences, how we feel about various issues, our lives, our loves and even our hates. This is a basic need of humanity. This is why we invented language.

Why then don't we listen to what is being conveyed? We need to listen to what the speaker or the writer is saying rather than, with a critical mind, look out for the ill chosen word or a sentence that can be picked up and criticised for its grammar or syntax. When one is attempting to communicate one’s thoughts it is important to realise that the essence of the message being conveyed is not in specific chosen words or the method of arrangement. It is the deep meaning of the mind.

Therefore the listener/reader should bear that in mind, perhaps then they will not miss the jewels in the dust.

Free Writing - A Task to Perform

Baffled, bothered, bewildered! Free write. Free write what? My mind is asleep, creativity non-existent. What a negative approach to my task of writing.

Start again! OK – I love writing – what is wrong with me? I know – I don’t like hand writing. I’ll talk to my recorder instead, but that won’t fill my ‘note book’. I need to write in my ‘writers’ note book’. That is my task and I will – yes, I will - tomorrow. No, it’s still today and now that I have started I mustn’t stop.

Let’s see - be objective. An old lady who doesn’t feel like one, nor looks like one – a misfit – a student still. I don’t like this it is about me without the ‘I’ in it.

Try again. I love people, other people interest me; they are so varied, so individual and unique. I love to watch and imagine how they are feeling and what they are thinking about! So let’s write about them.

The old lady on the bus today told me her life story is ten minutes - I didn't ask, all I did was smile and she complained about everything that had ever happened to her and ... oh poor soul! Why can't people just be happy to be alive at that age... and of course ...

Oh it is freezing! I will snuggle under my duvet and read my relaxing book instead. Gosh it’s ‘me’ again – I give up! I am living in the here and now – that’s what’s wrong. I am not being creative or imaginative but I am still scribbling. I know - put note book away - pick up my book, read and relax - ahh that's better! Soon will be asleep so goodnight!

HR

Post Card From My Desk

Lamps flooding light on books on my desk - workbooks, note books and all the paraphernalia that is conducive to writing. I love the smell of books held close to my nose. Soft music is playing whilst writing this. I sip a glass of grape juice to quench my thirst, actually it is Shiraz!

Helen Renaux

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

A Day in London with Max and Anna

I spent a lovely day with my cousin, Max and Anna. We are in the autumn of our lives, me almost in the winter of mine, and have met for the first time. It is incredible that I knew his mother and father in my youth and now, after all these years I have met their first born son.

I am delighted and really feel disappointed that I left my camera at home but as Max says there will always be another time. I would have loved to have captured that lovely old pub, The Salisbury in St Martin's Lane. Max told us the history of this pub built in Victorian times and showed us the table where Oscar Wilde sat in his time with his cronies after his play 'The Importance of Being Earnest' finished for the night in the theatre next door. They would sip a drink or so before all went off to the The Cafe Royal around the corner in Regent Street.

Max is an Oxford Graduate and was a professor in London for awhile. He is now a writer, a poet and a historian and I admire him and his work. He has endorsed two books of his to me. I am proud to be his cousin and I know he thinks well of me too. Anna is lovely - I like her a lot. Max and I share the love of writing. Unfortunately, he has no computer but he intends to read my blog on the library computer. He will write his critique to me unless he manages to comment on my blog, which will be great.

The pub decor was unique with painted mirrors and statuettes holding the lights. This was reflected back to us through the mirrors, giving the place a larger view, doubly lit, but discreetly so. It had an old world look which was conducive to thinking and imagining what went on there many long years ago. I loved the atmosphere.

Most important I loved the company of Max and Anna and we talked a great deal about many subjects. What an interesting and enjoyable day. Real conversation that was very stimulating

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

R & E Wedding - Vezilly, France

Cheers to R & E

The Wedding Day
Three cars left from our homes in UK on the morning of the wedding day, amid laughter and joy. This occasion was special and we were all in the mood to celebrate. On the way to Eurotunnel, our car leader somehow missed the main motorway and all cars followed the leader! We were taken on an extremely scenic route, through villages thickly forested in the beautiful county of Kent. Our organiser was perturbed because we might miss our train with this delay as all three cars had to stay together as we were all signed in on one credit card, the organiser's! We did miss our train but caught the next one to Calais.

At Calais the three car caravan proceeded to Reims and from then on to Le Vieux Vezilly, to R & E's home. There was just time to be whisked off to our various residences to change and get ready for the wedding in the village of Vezilly - two or three miles away and where most of us were accommodated anyway. Everyone was within walking distance of the Mayoral Hall, and the venue for the dinner and dance. No drinking and driving. It was drinking and walking (or stumbling in some cases) later on after the dinner and disco.

We all arrived at the Hall and awaited the Bride. She arrived, nearly on time, in her father's car. There was a gasp when we saw her and her gown - E looked radiant and the gown was magnificent and must have cost a fortune! Oyster shot silk (I think but not sure) - she looked a dream in it anyway.

The sun shone brightly on one and all - like a blessing from above.

The service was very informal, but in French, so none of the English contingent understood much. However, nothing could mar the mood of the guests - we were all enthralled and excited. Two very happy families, one French, one English. Language was no barrier because love and happiness united us.

Because the Hall was small, there was no provision for music, but the little bridesmaid provided it, but making us all hush, while she opened a beautiful card that played the Wedding March. It was magical, like the whole day and night. Just pure magic! It was like a fairy tale wedding. The newly weds were showered with real rose petals in various colours instead of the traditional confetti.

They got into their Spider, with hand drawn French and England flags hanging on the bumper, and drove off home. The rest of us followed for Champagne in their garden. The ladies glasses were tied with silk rouched ribbon - a touch of panache by E & Co. The long table was draped in white with bowls of flowers and canapes. Champagne fizzed, sparkled and flowed non stop. This first reception was perfect. E's father provided most of the Champagne from his vinyards, with her brother adding his touch of Moet Chandon. Laughter and love was ever present making this a very special occasion.

We then drove back to Vezilly proper for the big dinner dance in its only restaurant. We were welcomed by our host, Ginette. Her husband, the chef, did us proud with a wonderful repast of foie gras to start, with scallops and dressing as a second starter, then divine lamb with asparagus and other vegetables. Homemade bread and fresh butter accompanied the food. Cheeses galore and salads too were there for all to enjoy with at least 20 - 30 minute intervals between the courses - so civilised! Much Champagne and wine was consumed during the meal and everyone was lively to put it mildly! And then came the the blue flaming desert, filled with wonderful things, including liquers and brandy - rich and amazingly presented.
The disco music began and the bride and groom took the floor to be cheered and toasted yet again. Guests soon followed suit and the disco floor was full till the early hours of the morning.
It was a night to remember!
Mostly, we must thank the Bride and Groom for their generosity to their English family members. Thank you both from all of us here in UK and thank you too to our French family for their part in making this a most memorable and enjoyable occasion.

An Appreciative Poem

Well, the food was divine,
With yet more Champagne and wine
To inebriate the guests more
To dance all night on the disco floor
What a party: what a show
Will we ever forget it? Not ever - No!
We all made our way
To Le Vieux Vezilly
Where a bar-b-cue breakfast was served
With Champagne saved and reserved
For the next day of sore heads and blurry eys
We all met again to eat and say our goodbyes
No one wanted to leave; say adieu
But we had to part; nothing else we could do
So we kissed and we started
Our cars and with flying kisses we finally departed.

Another little poem for our Restaurant Host.

Ode to Ginette’s in Vezilly

If you want to party on a Saturday night
Ginette’s is the place, Vezilly is the site
With sparkling champagne and bottles of wine
It is the one restaurant to be in to dine
The food is magnifique, the ambience sublime
The disco is dazzling with music of our time
And the beat and the rhythm makes one want to dance
So come to the venue and party in France.

Helen Renaux

Monday, 15 October 2007

Childhood Memoirs of the British Raj

The Tiger Shoot

video

When I was about nine years old, my father who was a great shikari (hunter) supervised many tiger, wild boar, deer hunts for the British elite of India. I disapproved of these sports in principal. My father was my idol in many ways, but not in this. These hunts were the pastime of the ‘elite’ of the British rulers of India, who took great pleasure in shooting the beautiful Bengal tigers and other big game, prolific in India at that time.

We lived for a short time in the province of Hyderabad (Deccan) when the Nizam (Prince) was one of the richest men in the world.

Our home was a large rambling house with many bedrooms, two sitting rooms, dining room, and study. In addition was a playroom cum nursery, games room and bathrooms. The ceilings were high, with electric fans suspended from long connecting poles. Every room had two or sometimes three fans. We had many servants and lived as well as the privileged British ICS (Indian Civil Service). In our sitting room was a prized tiger skin rug. My father shot the tiger and I showed my displeasure by totally ignoring the significance if it. I dreaded news of yet another tiger hunt but soon heard that one was to take place.

These hunters used the tiger skins as trophies to be displayed and to exhibit their prowess as killers of these noble beasts, helping to make this exotic animal species almost extinct. I remember my grand parents’ home had one of these skins, used as a throw on the sofa. When I was a child of eight, I rested my cheek on the head of the tiger skin, whilst stroking its soft silkiness, admiring its golden brown glass eyes and whispering how sorry I was that someone had shot it.

My father instilled a spirit of adventure in me from an early age and was determined that I should overcome my aversion to this sport. To him it was a challenge and something very exciting and so he took me on a tiger hunt, convincing me that the jungles and the excitement of the hunt would thrill me and I would not dread it so much in future. He said it was a sport and that the animal had a chance to escape if it was clever enough. There were a couple of other children on the hunt. I was not the exception.

This was the age of British Empire supremacy and big game hunting was considered to increase one's power and status. The more big game a man shot, the more he was revered by his contemporaries. They shot cheetas, leopards, lions, even the wild buffalo in the Nepal terai and of course the prized elephants were also targeted and killed. This massive slaughter of wild animals would today be considered horrific by present eco standards. As a child I too loathed this distruction of animal life.

The hunt began in the Palace grounds as the Prince supplied the elephants for the hunt. On this particular occasion there were only three elephants, with howdahs in place on their backs. The howdahs held about four adults. I was squeezed into the howdah of the lead and largest elephant with my father, two Englishmen of the Indian Civil Service and of course, His Highness the Prince. This was high class society in the days of the Raj. My family was included because of my Father’s skill and experience as a hunter – a pastime from his regular job as a train driver on the British/Indian Railways. He was respected for his skill and intuition in the sport of big game hunting, but I was hoping and praying that we did not encounter a tiger this time as was occasionally the case. I loved being on the elephant, rocked to and fro with its rhythmic motion. I adored elephants and rode on them often though, unlike some ICS member’s children, I did not own one as a pet.

It was exciting going through the jungle. My Father was right. We would soon be in the tiger haunts of long grasses without the trees. The beaters (natives hired for the day) did the dangerous job of shouting and beating the grasses, driving the animals, if they were about, towards the hunting party. These poor men were on foot, unarmed except for sticks. The hunters were moderately safe on the elephants and they had their guns for protection.

Every moment was tense, the hunters almost holding their breaths as the moment drew near of the possible appearance of the tiger or tigers. Suddenly the tall grasses moved and waved as the crazed and frightened animal appeared. Everyone froze. Most tigers charged towards the first elephant and leapt towards the mahout (the rider who sits on the neck of the elephant – in a vulnerable position). He has no gun, just a stick to defend himself. The hunters behind the lead elephant were there for back up in case the first shooters missed the target.

This tiger leapt towards the men in the howdah, not the mahout. The height of the leap was amazing. I crouched down in fear and dread. There was a blast of gun shots, the bullets hit the mark obviously by the cheering and down went this glorious animal. I lifted my head to look and was horrified to see the tiger in its death throes which quickly, thank God, ended in death. Its huge head flopped to the side and its mouth was still open, showing its large and dangerous teeth, its red topngue hanging out.

The hunters were exuberant; I was devastated and the tiger was dead. I wanted to get down and stroke its head, to caress it and bring it back to life. These futile childish thoughts went through my mind at the time. I was extremely distressed.

Then began the ceremony of the hunters - which shot killed the tiger? Whose gun did it come from? Whose foot would be placed on the head of the beast, while the others in the party stood around it for the photographer to take the pictures? These pictures took pride of place in a hunter’s sitting room. I sat down in the howdah, despondent and sad. I hardly remember the journey back.

It was an exciting adventure until the killing of the tiger. I hated the act and, with a child’s passion, the hunters with the guns.

After the hunt, the Nizam held a flamboyant celebration, which ended with a splendid dinner for the adults.

My family were welcome guests in some of the princely palaces because my father was a hunter and was always included in these parties. At that time he was with the BB&CI railway (Bombay, Baroda and Central India) and drove the prestigious ‘Deccan Queen’ train. The DQ was the longest train carrying passengers between Mumbai (Bombay in those days) and Pune (Poona in the days of the Raj). Its 'life' began in June 1930 - one of the few trains that was never powered by steam. It was also the longest train, with a complete carriage used for dining.

On return from tiger hunts the party was invited to dine at the palace of the Prince, and even though I was young at the time, I recall the splendour of these feasts and the lavish glittering chandeliers that hung from ornate ceilings of the banqueting halls. The scent of exotic meals being prepared attacked one’s nostrils with tantalising spicy odours - this mixed with the scent of many vases of exotic flowers was strangely intoxicating.

After the early evening festivities that included magicians who performed for the children and clowns who made us laugh, we were sent off with our ayahs (nannies) to bed whilst the adults remained for the formal dinner party that followed.

My mother was a very beautiful woman who caused a sensation with her French-Oriental type beauty. I noticed that everyone stared at her and the ladies whispered behind their fans. It never occurred to me as a child that they were saying anything detrimental about her, but in later years I became aware of racism and that perhaps they were wondering why she was there amongst the British elite. My Father and Mother totally ignored any snobbery, if it existed at all. My Dad was a very proud man with a great deal of self confidence. This whispering was surreptitiously done, behind hands or fans and not spoken out aloud.

We often overheard snippets of conversation amid all this affluence and splendour, of affairs between the rich princes and white women and of the offspring that came from these illicit liaisons being adopted by the Princes’ official wives. It was feared that if the real mothers acknowledged these children, they would be ostracised by British society. There was a great deal of this mixing of races during the days of the Raj. Men married Indian women more than the other way round. The white women mostly had 'affairs' with native men of class. Therefore there were many such offspring. The Prince’s many wives were subservient to their husband and did as they were told. I knew one such mixed blood boy who was doted on by his adoptive mother and by the Prince. His skin was light and he had big blue eyes. He was very smart too. Many of these children were friends with us.


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My Fabulous School



Anglo Indians, as my parents and our family were known, in later years became the buffer between the two cultures – British and Indian, a transient connection between the two. We were given the cream jobs, sent to the best schools and colleges where we obtained a high standard of education to fill the important jobs that the British needed done by people they could trust.

My school was in the Himalayan foothills, about 9000 feet above sea level. It was a boarding school situated at the highest point of my little town in the clouds, as I called it, because our parents did not want us to live in the plains during the summer’s intense heat. Most Anglo Indian and British children attended these prestigious schools. I was sent to school in the Hills when I was eight. I recall sitting on the school’s upper playground bench and looking down in wonder on clouds covering the valley below, totally obscuring the village nestling in this valley. Glancing in the opposite direction, towards Kashmir, I was able to gaze at the snow capped peaks of the Hindu Kush mountain range. It was truly a magical place to be educated in and I consider myself lucky now to have had the privilege of attending this school for my entire High School life and later to attend the Teachers' Training College there.

I loved the monkeys that lived in the forests surrounding our school. Though the school had meshed high fences enclosing the grounds, the monkeys came right up to the fences and we fed them, against all school rules. The forests around our school grounds housed leopards, their roars heard at night down the hillside near our bedrooms, making us curl up in our beds with fear even though we were quite safe.

School term started in March and ended in November. When we went up in March by coach, along the winding road with many hairpin bends and deep gorges on one side of the road and steep rock-faced inclines on the other, there were many who suffered altitude sickness. The climb from the plains to the hills was steep – the journey by coach took about two or three hours. The coach engines groaned and whined on the climb up.

When we arrived at our school it was covered in snow, about five to six feet deep. The workmen had cleared the long drive and the porch. We sneaked into school and it was like entering an igloo as the snow covered the whole downstairs of the three storey building.

During my early years of the Raj my life was all about learning, adventure and freedom. It was an idyllic childhood.

My beloved Father died on New Years day 1937, catching pneumonia then a fatal disease. I was heart broken but was made to realise that life carried on without him and I too had to carry on. He was my inspiration then and still is today.

An Eastern Poem

Woman a Hymn
We wonder
Whether she wins or loses
Earth chooses her as the
Hyperion of her earthly sphere
She is the essence of the will
To be. Woman the emblem that
Has been heightened, hallowed
Held and lost
Tossed upon the Eternal Crest of Sun,
She is the soul that made her bold
To follow
And Eve then she follows him.

Woman a Hymn.
In the bewildering Buoyancy
And vagary of the Earth
Its mellifluous mingling of parts
Man, Woman, Child
All Grain and Grist
Not knowing where they come from
Not knowing where they go
Mankind suave in his flood of tears
Woman morose and mollified
Ever awake for she will never sleep
Woman so very deep
The heap upon which fell the
Sight of Him as a Hymn
Woman a Hymn to society
Was awe with intelligent eyes
Lissom face, a sad dark girl.

Rabia

Snapshot memoirs from a Nun's Life

She is born, named Teresa - this pretty, blonde haired, blue eyed baby is there for me. After only having brothers I claim her as mine. The year is 1934.

When she is in her fourth year, our adored father dies and leaves us. We are all very sad.

I am in my eleventh year in boarding school in Murree in the foothills of the Himalayas. Our school is a real beauty spot, with pine forests and large coniferous trees surrounding the school, with monkeys, leopards and birds that live in the forests. The smell of pines mixed with exotic, mountain flowers add to this profusion of beauty and perfume. The school is safely fenced off, so the animals and the children are kept well apart. But there is no Teresa here.

It is now the month of March 1938 and the ground is covered in soft and fluffy snow, about three to four feet deep. The heavy snowfall in the winter months is the norm. The drive and pathway is cleared.

Because of my father’s sudden death, my mother has to work and so Teresa and my young brother, Richard, are sent to the nursery in my school as boarders on a temporary basis. I am overjoyed.

School days are good times for us. Teresa grows into a lovely little girl but the day arrives when Mum remarries and she and Richard leave for home in Rawalpindi, very near the present capital city of Pakistan, Islamabad.

Teresa and I are very close. She follows me everywhere and copies all I do. She is, however, influenced by a Catholic lady who lives near us. Teresa is encouraged at the tender age of seven to go to the Catholic Church with her. Our family, except my step father, are Anglican. Teresa fusses until she is allowed to convert to Catholicism and she is instrumental in converting Richard and my mother too. My older brother and I remain staunch Anglicans.

As a teenager Teresa is a pupil in a Convent boarding school. Our schools are in the same town. Later my brother (17) and I (19) also convert to Catholicism with her influence and that of the man I eventually married. This, however, is not my story - it is Teresa’s.

On leaving school she announces to the family that she intends to become a teaching nun. We are astounded and feel she is deserting us.

Teresa is beautiful. Her baby blonde hair is now a rich dark/auburn brown and her eyes reflect the colour she wears, sometime blue, sometimes green and at other times blue-grey. It is a shame that all this beauty will be hidden by a veil and a nun’s habit.

She obtains her BA and B-ED degrees and is soon an exceptionally good teaching nun. In time she becomes a Reverend Mother.

She lives in a sheltered environment and I live in the real world. She is temperate and mild in disposition. I am wild and passionate with a volatile disposition. Though we are not at all alike we are close and agree to disagree on most points. We are like close parallel lines that run along side each other, staying ever close but never meeting.

Eventually Teresa is given a village appointment. She is an excellent organiser; practical and pragmatic. She is artistic and architectural, hence her appointment to supervise the building of a school and a church in Mariakhel, a village in the Thal desert of Pakistan, and to run the school as Principal. This is no mean task and the fact that she is chosen to accomplish it amazes me. My little sister, who was my shadow, has now overshadowed me - in a different aspect of life no doubt.

In a couple of years her desert blooms. A school is built with housing for nuns and guests and classrooms for the children she hopes will come. A church with accommodation for the clergy is erected. The project is modern and a total marvel. There are orchards of orange, lemon, apricot, pumlo and other fruit trees. A large vegetable garden produces an abundance of crops and exotic flower gardens enhance the buildings. Meat is supplied by the village farmers and their hunter priest.

Even though the area is a desert the soil is arable. Just below the surface there is water, which is obtained through the drilling of tube wells. The water is pure and cold. The orchards and gardens are watered by outside pumps and inside the building plumbing supplies running water and water closets.

The village people, Muslims mostly, are wary of the religious and the convent. Before long, however, they are captivated by Teresa’s and the other nuns’ outgoing sweetness and kindness to them. Eventually the school is full of students, not necessarily Catholic though some do convert. Education is the primary goal and this is entirely successful.

With all this talent, Teresa is naïve. One day a wild boar attacked two villagers and killed one. It had been wounded by a hunter’s bullet and was out for revenge against mankind.

Teresa is in her vegetable garden when this wild boar stands on the opposite side to her, menacing, panting, grunting, frothing at the mouth and bleeding. Teresa looks at the boar
‘Poor little piggy – who has hurt you?’
She has a soft, soothing voice. With this she reaches out her hand with the green cabbage to this infuriated wild beast.

‘Piggy’ stood there looking at her in seeming amazement. Here is someone who is not threatening him, nor firing a gun at him and offering him green cabbage to eat. He must truly be confused. Teresa is in grave danger but she is totally oblivious to it, all she wants is to comfort and console this wounded animal. It stands there immobile, looking at her and its pants and grunts gradually subside; it begins to relax when suddenly the Catholic priest (the hunter), the village headman and his henchman arrive with their guns, followed by many others with latis (large sticks) and they shoot the boar. Teresa is furious.
‘How dare you shoot this poor pig in my garden?’ She rants at them as they try to explain the necessity to destroy him and also to placate her wrath.

When the pig is presented to the school and the priest as a gift, Teresa refuses to even look at the succulent dish that is prepared and that all enjoy. The aromatic smell permeates the air but she thinks it a sacrilege.

On another occasion a fete is held in the village. The younger nuns obtain what they think are good value balloons from a shopkeeper.

The ‘balloons’ are blown up and are being sold at the fete when the priest notices them and with horror talks to Teresa. The simple village children are buying balloons and they are all over the grounds. Parents and others are giggling. Teresa is extremely embarrassed when she has to tell her nuns that they are selling condoms! There is consternation and confusion as all the balloons have to be burst and money refunded to bring normality back to the village fete.
This then is the life my sister chooses. Cloistered and dull? I do not think so. Fulfilling and interesting? Yes, indeed.

Helen Renaux

Sunday, 14 October 2007

A 'Memoir of Moment' to A & D







I attended a wedding yesterday of one of my best young friends held at The Honourable Society of Gray's Inn, London. As the venue's name suggests - it was elegant in taste and extravagant in price (this is my assumption, please note - I don't really have any idea of actuality). However, judging by the venue, the solemn service the beautiful Bride and Groom, the elegance of dress, and the general air of affluence one would assess this to be extraordinarily 'posh'! Later, the fast flowing Champagne in the beautiful gardens of Gray's Inn, the delicious menu in the historical and refined Banquetting Hall, with portraits of honoured celebrities long gone, amazing stained glass windows, I would assess this to be an impressive occasion.

Added to the ambiance of our surroundings, the tables were decorated with flickering candlelight and perfumed with wedding favours made up with sprays of lavender and guests' name tags attached to the sprays and printed in gold. Of course, knowing our Groom as I do, the wine was particularly selected and the menu was - well how does one describe it? Delicious is a word one can use, but it far surpassed that. It was superb, scrumptious, and delighted the palate. Who chose this menu? The Bride or the Groom or perhaps both together. Well, I am sure it was appreciated by one and all - would anyone disagee?

The wine flowed throughout the meal putting everyone in the mood for the party that was to follow.

The waiter service was beyond belief, and all dressed to match the occasion.

We retired temporarily to yet another elegant chamber to have coffee etc. with a piece of a very unusual and delicate wedding cake well laced with liquers I feel sure and fresh strawberries.

This moving to another chamber diversion was done so that the banquetting hall could be re-arranged for the disco and band for later.

Back to the main hall. The party is on. The Groom and Bride do their special dance and then they dance all night, the guests soon follow suit and the dances tend to become more and more wild as the night progresses. The bar is well attended and the drinks appreciated.

What a party! What a day! What a night! What an occasion!

Thanks for inviting me. I love you both.

More Poems by Helen Renaux

An Ode to Female Students

A million things to do in a single day
Multi tasking is our way
Of cooking, washing, cleaning,
Scrubbing, reading, studying
Hanging, drying, stirring, oh
And not forgetting …prioritizing!
A man is asked for a helping hand
That’s what we get – a hand - no more, no less
One job equates, in a woman’s mind, ten of kind.
What can one expect?
They don’t look, don’t know how to cook
They wait to be asked, to be told; by then dinner’s cold.


Oh well - a man’s worth his weight in gold
Or so we’re told.
We are women, efficient and fast
Men are men, slow moving and are the last
To catch on to what’s required of them but
They can do the things that we can’t,
Open lids that are tight, lift things that might
Be too heavy for us to carry and such
However…
We get tired of work – at least of house chores.


We come alive at our desks and start writing prose
And poetry and verse,
Creating, imagining, dreaming and striving
To fill our minds and our inclinations
To do the things that really matter to us.
Writing poems or stories with sublime fabrication,
Life writing about self or another of acclaim
Or just some ordinary mortal who does not attain
To fame or to fortune but lives life doing the things
That an author picks up in biographical creation.
In the knowledge we seek there is a key
That unlocks all the doors to our curiosity.
Why spend time at the sink when there is time to think?
To reason, to wonder, to obtain qualifications
That means nothing to others’ imaginations?


Relations, friends who can’t understand our quest
Find us boring when we try to gain their interest
To help us achieve this unreasonable (to them) goal,
This to us is far more important than the kitchen bowl,
With washing up, drying up, putting away and storing
Crockery, cutlery, dishes and jugs that do pouring
These mundane things that have to be done by us,
Could they not be done by another without any fuss?
How can one compare these household chores and agree
That they are more fulfilling than studying and obtaining a degree?
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A Calligram

I
fly
high
up
in
the
sky.
At certain times of the year I travel for thousands of miles.
I fly with many of my kind to far distant climes.
We can alight on land and on water too.
My neck is quite long;
Feathers white and
greyish/blue.
A bird I am.
But what
and
who
am I?
I am the
Snow Goose.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Friday, 12 October 2007

The Yogi

The mind is the power, the body the temple and the spirit infinity – is this what the Yogi believes? His body, with the pallor of death is warm to the touch and seems to be alive. He has no name because he neither speaks, nor does he acknowledge the existence of other human beings. He sits under the tree and never seems to move. No one has seen him eat or drink or clothed in anything other than a loin cloth, winter or summer.
One wonders if his mind and spirit have departed elsewhere and left this empty vessel of a body on earth, without any feeling or bodily needs.

Helen Renaux

Himalayas


Himalayas by Helen Renaux


How tempting, how luring - you snowbound peaks!
Reaching high up into the cloudless, sky -
Roof of the world you’re called; no wonder why
As sunlight paints your peaks with golden streaks
While the vales beneath you in darkness lie.
At first light of dawn your tips catch the sun;
High, high above this cold, snow covered earth
When continents crashed to first give you birth.

Gazing at you from green valleys below;
Remote and inaccessible you seem;
And yet - your peaks have been conquered so
Many a time by man - your lure extreme
Beguiles and pulls him to challenge you;
Your inhospitable ice slopes he braves
To suffer pain; frostbite and sometimes too
To lose life; to lie buried in icy caves.

A sudden, swift, swirl of a wispy cloud
Encircles and crowns your celestial height
With sun kissed glory; you stand tall, erect
Haloed for a moment; a hallowed sight;
You are oblivious of this effect
Yet, not mortal man: who looks up in awe
At a wondrous sight of a peak lit bright
Tempting and luring - to climb as before.

The elegant lammergeyers don’t try
To reach your peaks even though they can fly,
Higher than most; the griffin vulture can
Glide effortlessly too with its wing span
Silhouetted against the glacial fall
Of ice rock faces in their soaring thrall;
These birds of prey despite their skill and might
Do not attempt to reach your awesome height.


Yet man - who walks but upon his two feet
Will scale your cruel face and toil and beat
The terror of your dreadful slopes to reach
Your seeming insurmountable peak.
Man's indomitable will defeats you,
To gain pre-eminence - attain his dream;
To conquer you and to join you in your
Majesty, there to share your reign supreme.


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
A New Post by H.Renaux - same day

It has always been my belief that we humans have a greater capacity to imbue our minds with the ‘Inner Dimension’ that is within our consciousness, waiting for the right key to open it up. Constraints of living in the modern world have disadvantages no doubt, but it is important to look inward in order to expand the mind and I have always believed that – the mind (our consciousness) is the power, the body the vessel and the spirit is infinity – a point that we have not yet been able to extend to - that point of Nirvana. We are all able to find that key of the inner dimension if we have the desire and most important, in this life of many activities, to search for it.
HR


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Early morning writing is a task for every writer and this is a self dialogue on the subject.


Procrastination – Morning writing

Curled up into the foetal position,
Waking up in the early morning haze.
Does one have to get up and write?
Right now?
At this early hour of the day? I say
No, rather lie here and dream, and gaze
At the ceiling than pick up a note book and pen.
One’s not in the mood.

No, no, that’s not the rule of an author, a poet -
Write - write anything. Look out of the window.
Be creative; be aware of things, like fresh air,
Rustling trees in the wind with leaves autumnal
In colours, red, orange, gold. Be bold.
At this time of the morning?
Not likely!

Yes, pick up a note book, with a page that is blank
Scribble or scrawl on it words, any words.
Hold on to the pad now, don’t put it down now -
Start writing.

No, just a minute. First coffee -
Caffeine’s good for the mind.
Kettle starts boiling, pour into the café tier
Aroma exhilarating now fills the air,
Nose starts twitching,
Waiting for the tasting of the
Morning elixir.

Sipping, enjoying this first taste of the day
Coffee’s so good now, mind’s fully aware.
Now one can write.
Pick up the note book, pick up the pen
But wait – mind’s blank – oh dear!
What now?

Look at the blank page fill it with words, any words.
Words of awareness, description and such
Just write poems. Alliterate, assonate, rhyme.
Describe the morning it shouldn’t take much -
Write now!

Listen to the birdsong; look at dew on the leaves
Glistening and twinkling, then dropping.
Smell the fresh grass of the morning,
Dampened with dew drops
Or just say what you’re doing
Right now.

Oh dear!
Procrastination’s destroyed it,
One’s waited too long now
One’s broken the mood now.
Oh, what a pity, it’s lost for today. Still,
There’s always tomorrow, another new day,
Then one can do it.
Write Now!

Helen Renaux

My Profile


I am Helen Renaux - (the name I write under)

I am now British by nationality and have been for 45 years, but Anglo Indian by culture. Supposedly the Anglo Indian culture has always had an identity problem, but I have to say that I, personally, have no such thing. I know who I am and have always done so. Having said this, however, one has to admit the Raj created by design, to their own ends, the race of Anglo Indians, and then deserted them when the British left India amid chaos and mayhem and most Anglo Indians soon followed to a country they had come to believe was 'home' - England. Some migrated to Australia, Canada, USA and so on. My parents, my siblings and I chose to stay in the East and after partition - we opted for Lahore, Pakistan as that was where our home was at this traumatic moment, August 1947. Lahore was one of the worst hit cities during the partitioning of the subcontinent. Life writing on this subject is a major part of my creative writing.

I aspire to be a writer. I am interested in the genre of life writing, mostly autobiography or biographies of people I am acquainted with.

I am 81 years old and having lived through, and personally experienced, the horror of one of the most historic world events - the partitioning of the subcontinent of India and having also lived 22 years of my life under the cloak of the British Raj, or perhaps the 'yoke' of the British Raj as it is sometimes referred to, hence I have within my Writer's Note Book quite a few tales. Some pleasant, some exotic, some amusing, some horrific but all are full of event and interest.

I am an unusual 81 year old or so I am constantly informed. I suppose I do not look my age, nor do I sound like an old woman, but most of all I do not feel old. I am exhuberant, extremely curious and full of the joy of living. I love people and I think people are drawn to me. I can associate and enjoy being in the company of any age group. I automatically fit in. I love children, the wisdom that comes out of their uncluttered innocent minds, their naturalness. There is much adults can learn from them if we but listen.

I intend to use this blog as a writers diary to enter thoughts, events and other minutiae

I am also interested in poetry and hope to place some of my poems on this blog.

This, then is my introduction today.