Monday 29 October 2012


Autumn isn't exactly sizzling this year, is it? Perhaps it's just me, my eyes are woefully aggrieved with my overuse of them. My operation cannot come soon enough. Chop that scar tissue, dear surgeon, I am ready! Ish. 
Occasionally though, I see a patch of fire, usually behind gothic grills...
Yesterday I was invited to a pre-Halloween cupcake tea party... well, I made it a cupcake party by baking twelve Consistently Reliable Cupcakes and I flung in a cola-cake for luck. One of the little girls was NOT convinced by the idea of coca-cola in her cake... but I won her around! Or rather, I should say Marian Keyes won her around... it was her recipe, albeit highly re-arranged from the original (sorry M!)... see the little scuffly, crumbly pile at the Central Ghost's feet? While I was asleep, my mother decided too much icing was going to waste at the edges, and scooped a spoonful into the middle, perhaps hoping I wouldn't notice? IT'S IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CAKE MA!!! Anyway....
After cake and sangwitches, tea and bedtime stories, the grown-ups, self included, went to see Skyfall, the new Bond. I had the pretty nails to show for it, a bright yellow dress with ochre boots (very autumnal) and just before the show, we even had a martini! Well, I shared mine... a delicious Polish appletini thing... just to get in the mood...
Now, the truth is, I have never really been a Bond girlfan, too many car chases, too many cars! but with this Bond, with these Bond women, I'm all in. Although, hasn't Judi always been the coolest, ever?
'Bond Women'... did you know we are to have no more Bond 'girls'? Nice idea, although there are aways some rather sticky ends for the beauties...  Javier Bardem, the villain, was righteous in his peroxide, cyanide hell and the roll call of eminent British actors was just fantastic - Ben Whishaw, Dame Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Albert Finney, Naomie Harris... it was so character-driven, told such a strong story that had you never watched a Bond before, it would not matter. 

Tomorrow is my pre-op and despite not being an agent for MI6, I feel absolutely shattered. I prop myself up with the good news that Malala is out of danger, and recovering in Birmingham, but falter at news of Hurricane Sandy hurtling towards New Jersey. (Apparently, someone has dubbed it 'Frankenstorm'... who?!) Sigh... there's always a storm somewhere. So how about a chirpy picture of nail art?
Not very Goth, are they? They have butterflies and little pink daisies on them...
I ought to try these, like my friend Vicky who writes a blog at Books, Biscuits and Tea... now hers are Frankenspooky, don't you think?!

Saturday 13 October 2012


A river streamed 
through my room.

It scared me
It broke my wardrobe
Scattered my clothes
It released my dresses
from yesterday's bond
It made me wear them

I wore it
and it wore me
Reminded me...
Oh God, it was my love's 
favourite, this dress,
and this waistband
and all these things...

A river streamed
through my room
And my room
became a garden.

Some years ago I watched a documentary called Syria's School. For me, these occasional glimpses into the lives of my younger sisters across the globe afford precious viewing. The documentary offered the girls at school the opportunity to write, and present poetry, to some of the leading literary minds in Syria. One poem captured my heart, moved me so deeply, I rushed to find a pen and scribbled the poem (above) from memory. The poet's name was Nour Aibash. I wonder where she is now, and if she is still writing. Last year, I watched a documentary on Gaza's children, and a little girl called Amal tugged at me, so I wrote her a poem called 'Crossing Borders'. She has shrapnel buried in her brain, behind her eyes. You can imagine how this affects me. I cannot think of Amal without my eyes blurring with tears but I hold her in my thoughts. Across the globe, the fierce courage of Malala Yousafzai is less unknown....
Gunned down just three days ago, Malala takes our breath away because she is still fighting for her life, knowing her worth, knowing there is a greater battle awaiting her for the rest of her life. Awarded Pakistan's first National Youth Peace Prize, this lovely 14 year old has already witnessed beheadings, public floggings, and is the recipient of constant death threats. This violence has been countered by her lucky fate of being born the daughter of a poet, and educational activist, who has inspired in her the stubborn, feisty spirit of boldness that I recognise in myself - a father who is proud of his daughter, and tells her so openly from a young age, plants a seed of belief that no other man can destroy.
Malala means 'grief-stricken' in Pashtun. The thing that Malala's father feared the most has come to pass, but recognising the face of this kind of courage, I feel sure Malala is glad it is her and not her father who stood before the bullets. Aung San Suu Kyi is the perfect example of this face of courage, of a daughter determined to live the life of a beloved father cut short in his heroic prime. It is a good time to be a woman, Malala. Despite the adversary trying to convince us otherwise, you are the greatest proof of it.

(A wonderful documentary called Class Dismissed about Malala in 'her' Swat Valley was filmed by Adam B. Ellick in 2009 should you wish to know more.) 

Wednesday 10 October 2012


I have had such a weekend. And I knew I had it to look forward to even while the Blue Eyed surgeon was drawing pictures of the tube in my eye... the last thing I flung at him was the news that a certain delicious Irish author had promised to swing by for a cup of tea while in the general neighbourhood of England, and that I would tell her all about his failure to sing Long Way to Tipperary (which he himself admitted was why the last operation didn't 'take') - "Ah, she'll understand!" he flung back. "She's Irish!" I had my comeuppance in the conservatory on a misty autumn morning, when my father plagued Marian Keyes for a song...
I had baked Marian a cake the night before, which that morning refused to politely unstick itself from the cake tin.... who bakes a cake for a cake expert?? Someone convinced of the cake expert's kindness, compassion and humanity, that's who. So I plagued M to sort it out... before she'd even been offered a cuppa tay!!
It was magical to wander round the village and pop into the Telephone Box like a pair of excited tourists and take photos of each other - and this within the first ten minutes of her arrival - which gives you some indication of the exquisite human being she is; a kindred spirit from the tips of her sparkling heels to the veriest eyelash above her green green eyes.

There's a tear in your eye,
And I'm wondering why,
For it never should be there at all.
With such pow'r in your smile,
You should laugh all the while,
And all other times smile,
And now, smile a smile for me...

I whisked M around the house and into the garden and pretended she was a magic wand - I wanted her faerie dust everywhere. When my mother asked a consultant in the first bitter trauma of my illness, "Will my daughter ever get better?" she crumpled when, with casual cruelty, he replied, "Well I don't have a crystal ball, do I?" Marian's kindness is the other kind of crystal ball. The one my mother prayed for and kept faith for - that healing would come, that her daughter would not only live, but be happy.
I spent a wonderful afternoon at the theatre by myself the day before M's arrival, fascinated and compelled by Sean O'Casey's play 'The Plough and the Stars', entranced by the poetry, in awe of the energy - and now, this autumn, I am once again immersed in studying Joyce, Munro, Carver and O'Connor's short stories as the Masters continues apace. Pain in my left eye prowls and gathers gears; I am constantly aware of the heaviness in my eye, the damaged optic nerve chews away like billyo, but here I am, alive and seeing joy.
And if you look closely you can see a few wee strands of purple in my hair :)
Mind you, these help. A lot. Nine cupcakes from Marian. I practically inhaled the first (lavender flavour, naturally missing from photo) and am steadily wolfing the rest. Will you remind me of this weekend, cupcakes and all, on the morning of the next surgery? I suppose Ol' Blue Eyes will... he says I am a good healer, too good a healer - I keep healing over the holes he makes in my eye for drainage! Is it any wonder with such gifts of love?

Monday 8 October 2012


She was ever in the light,
her head softly pillowed,
Even with her fading sight,
she gathered in the gold.

Give me silks and satin,
velvets, even cotton,
Let me arrange the palette,
in blues and orange autumn.

Do you see the sky behind me?
Or do I mean the sea?
Do you feel the tempest?
Do you see beyond me?

One dark shadow, yet to overcome -
Can you hear it in my heart?
That faintly murmuring, faltering drum,
that stops, and starts.

 © Shaista Tayabali, 2012

image prompt: Jan Steen, 1665, from magpie tales

Wednesday 3 October 2012


The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees, 
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas, 

The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor, 
And up in the garret, the artist, pulled at her hair, and tore...

Well, that last line is perhaps not quite in Alfred Noyes' taste... but truly it is a sight to see my mother wrestle with her latest oil portrait into the moonlit hours. The little studio in which she creates her magic can only be reached by a terrifying ladder, which, incidentally, featured in a nightmare the other night... my nightmare, that is. Mum seems to leap up those steps like a dervish. (In fact, I have never actually witnessed the climb... she seems always to be already there, at her easel...). Living with two artists has taught me much about the realities of creating art, but it has never diminished or disillusioned my relationship to art. It is, as it has always been, pure magic. I had a post surgery check-up today; the last two procedures haven't quite 'worked'. In pursuit of magic, I wandered the corridors of hospital, losing myself in the Quentin Blake panoramas we are so fortunate to possess...
Music and magic, poetry, civil rights and scholars... what more could I possibly need to salvage my battered soul, when The Blue Eyed Surgeon pronounced me "Trouble!" (moi? as if!) while concocting a new engineering plan for my eye. He even whipped up a drawing of the tube in my eye... (yes! another artist)... but I forgot to swipe it from him when the appointment drew to a close. I will tell you about it another day... for tonight, I am a torrent of darkness, tossed upon cloudy seas and I have decided the only solution is to make my hair the colour of a ribbon of moonlit purple moor. If I have purple hair, I am convinced I will be invincible! Do you not think? And the pain that awaits the next surgery will quake in the wake of my SuperHero-ness...