Tuesday, 14 August 2018


The heatwave has finally come to an end, we think. The rains are teasing us in fits and starts, but of course it is still mid August. It is my birthday month, and I have already done some very exciting things - like watch the Mamma Mia prequel/sequel with my friend Victoria, which I enjoyed more than the first - is that sacrilege? Even without Meryl Streep - and mostly because Lily James is a joyous actress (she was in 'The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society', in 'War and Peace', in 'Downton Abbey'...)

I went to a post wedding party at my old school, decked out in a salwar kameez, and tried to feel nostalgic, but couldn't. Time has passed and moved me along with her, and that's all there is to it. And yet... if my younger self could see me posing in the quad, what would she think?

My friends Dan and Kate are back from Zambia with two new additions, and where better to take in Englishness than the fairy walk at Audley End?

And the teddy bear picnic along the train ride? There were several tunnels, but Lewis, who like all children, knows what's what, said, 'Again?' as we submerged into tunnel number three...

Comings and goings... I am embarking on global travels myself tomorrow morning... quite ambitious ones for a person who spent the whole of last year battling infections of one sort or another. But I did mention it was my birthday month and it is always lovely to celebrate one's birthday surrounded with as much love as possible - and where I'm going, there are several small persons who have buckets of love to give!

But sometimes, even when you stand still, love comes to you in a German Peanuts box, with a wooden duck from Bosham.... I have named her Jemima, hoping Beatrix Potter won't mind, because she has a pair of pink spotted galoshes (galoshes or wellingtons? Dad says wellingtons are not for ducks, presumably because they are hunting gear?) I was tempted to take her with me, but Mary said, 'No!' I love you Mary Haybittle! Thankyou for Jemima - I shall look forward to being reunited with her on my return... 


Friday, 27 July 2018


What does happy look like to you?
They fill the shelves with How To Be Happy,
but it's a sale.
What if you could be happy
without the sale?

What does happy look like to me?
My parents at the bottom of the garden,
Dad investigating his old domain;
He used to be the one who
cleared the ivy, tidied the hedges,
raked the weeds and watered the green -

Time took his eyes away,
but not the pride.
Nothing half remembered about that.
Arm in arm, they take a turn
about each bed, each nook, each curve;
Mum describes the changing years

in patterns of leaves,
trading the memory of colour
with his cane; but her hands
still tell most of the stories -
he accepts this was always her way.

Golden fields beyond their figures;
My mother's laughter, the evening chorus.
Wood pigeons salute their love.

(c) Shaista Tayabali, 2018
linking here with my fellow Dverse Poets 

Saturday, 30 June 2018


It was raining when we left Positano and Capri looked less than inviting upon our arrival. There was an air of Mt Vesuvius, threatening not ash but thunder clouds and lightning...
I had booked us into a luxury villa (my hotel illusions never cease) but our first run-in with luxury was a rather cold jacuzzi, which we determined to brave in the rain until even our temporary madness failed us and we returned like drenched sea creatures. The hotel staff felt sorry for us (or worried about a stinging review) and brought us the one snack I had wanted to try on the island - zucchini flowers. I dove into them as though I hadn't eaten in a month. They were hot and filled with ricotta, spiced with a dusting of chilli...

Although we braved the rain outside, the gates to Gardini Augusto were closed and we wandered around the Via Camerelle near the Piazetta, marvelling at how decked out the cruise ship tourists were - all suit jacketed and heeled. Capri maintains her myth of exclusivity, but I wonder if Ischia would not have suited us better with her thermal baths more forgiving to our Positano-aching legs?

The next morning when we awoke, the sun was scorching again as though the rain had never been, and we embarked on a boat tour of the island. Unfortunately an unexpected wave ate Theresa's phone, which lent the caves and grottos a slightly morose tone. But we swam for a few seconds anyway before rocking nausea set in!

Later we explored Swedish physician Axe Munthe's ode to a Greek temple in San Michele, and after bidding farewell to the last of Capri's offerings (we only missed Buonocore's Gelateria) we found ourselves back in Napoli, very ready for our first and only pizza of the holiday. And where else for pizza in Naples? Well, probably anywhere, but Da Michele is the one made famous by Julia Roberts in Elizabeth Gilbert's 'Eat, Pray, Love'.... 

Ciao Italia! Arrivederci! Until we meet again, very soon, I hope...


Friday, 29 June 2018


I thought it was just me, secretly harbouring a movie-fuelled desire to visit Positano on the Amalfi Coast, but everyone I mention the name to seems to have the same desire. Perhaps not the same movie though. For me it was Robert Downey Jr whisking Marisa Tomei up and down the winding Southern Italian mountain roads in 'Only You'. They were there for the briefest and most dramatic of scenes, and so in a way were we.

Where to eat? Da Vincenzo, of course. What to eat? Anything. Everything you can afford. Make room for dessert and espresso. (We had already had our free hotel prosecco earlier...) 

This meal, by this sunset, with our huge happy smiles was all Day One - from Cambridge to Napoli to Pompeii to Positano. I had travelled more and seen more in one day than ever in my life before. Day Two was challenging in a different way... after a scrumptious breakfast at Buca di Bacco restaurant (I want more, now! But I did squirrel away some in a doggy bag-napkin), Theresa decided she liked the sound of Nocelle up in the mountains on the way to The Path of the Gods. But before we took the bus, my good sister indulged me in a flash stop at Le Sirenuse, the hotel featured in 'Only You'. I was excited to say the least!

Perhaps one day if I am lucky enough, I will return and stay here, at Le Sirenuse, or perhaps not. After all, I have been now, haven't I?

Elated with our quick stop we elbowed our way onto the bus with a lot of locals, and wound up a very nauseating climb to Nocelle. I was so horribly sick by the time we reached our destination that I determined we would walk downhill. Not knowing that 1,750 steps awaited us. But I lived to walk it and tell the tale, though neither Theresa nor I could walk normally for days afterwards.

Thursday, 28 June 2018


Theresa and Irfan have taken me on many holidays over the years.
Extraordinary trips I never even bucket listed - the Gold Coast in Australia, where I flirted with skippy kangaroos, Nikoi Island in Indonesia where they got married and I adorned my hair with hibiscus and recited wedding poetry, Bali, twice - twice!! Rice fields, ancient carvings, fresh mango salads, gentle harmonious people. So I decided I wanted to take Theresa somewhere she hadn't been before. Irfan had to mind Rafi and Bella, so it could only be half a gift. But girls' trips are fun in a very special way. 
I tussled between Greece (too scorchingly hot?), Dubrovnik (a walled city, enclosed), and of course, Italia. Florence was my first choice but there were no direct flights from Stansted, and knowing Theresa had already navigated Heathrow coming from Singapore, I plumped for Napoli. 
Naples gets a raw deal by tourists who compare it unfavourably to the Amalfi Coast, and I, being perfectly suggestible, believed the critics and planned accordingly to spend as little time as possible in Naples.
We left home at 4:30am. Salvatore, our guide, picked us up at Naples Airport. He was jacketed in the sweltering heat and fancied himself the perfect gentleman. He swarmed with compliments for Theresa, 'Bellissima! Bellissima! You are gorgeous woman! Macedonia! (translation: mixed fruit salad). It was amusing to begin with, and we giggled at the back, but hours of it left both of us uncomfortable and ready to leap from the vehicle dragging our suitcases away from Sal's seductions (and endless Bocelli renditions of 'Dancing in the Dark'...) 

But first Pompeii. Salvatore deposited us in the arms of Gianni, of the bright blue shirt, tight white trousers and heavy perfume. Guideless, Pompeii would have defeated us, even though I suppose one could simply follow other tourists and other guides, but I was glad for Gianni and his oft-repeated 'And don't forget one thing...' Pompeii is tourism central, but there was something moving about us modern day folk walking on the same stones as the ghosts of ash consumed Pompeiians. Some tourists walk barefoot to feel that same memoried ground. Others weep before the bodies of people and animals exhumed in mid flight, mid hopeless flight, from their choking home.

What surprised me about Pompeii was the green. What didn't surprise me was the heat. Surely Athens could not have been hotter?

So that when we finally returned to the car (and Sal's charm offensive) it was cool glory to feast our eyes on the Bay of Naples. Even Mt Vesuvius, destroyer of a city, looked less threatening... we wound past Sorrento, and down down down to Hotel Buca di Bacco in Positano. Theresa swam almost immediately upon our arrival, on Spiaggia Beach, hoping for warm waters but alas... and then we cooled our heels in the waters on Fornillo Beach. 

Are we really here?!!