Monday, 7 November 2022


September, October and now into November. This week marks the anniversary of the first week we walked into our Cambridge home, twenty nine years ago. People move houses like chequers on a board nowadays. And here we Tayabali mice are, scuttling up and down our corridors of old.  

Autumn is here, in the crunchiest of golden leaf. Dad can hear it as he strides the lengths. "Posture!" I remind him, half bossy, half loving. And then instantly correct my own. It's easy to turn into a wee gargoyle these days when you are still partially isolating from a virus you have managed to avoid. 

This may change in the near future... I have done the wild and bold thing and booked tickets to Asia for Christmas. I am flying into the future with the least amount of confidence I have ever felt - because since the pandemic began, I have had two vitreous detachments. The second one only occurred last month so my brain has not yet caught up to normalising these maddening floaters and black wasps whizzing across my visual landscape. 

Did you know that anger and depression/ despair are two faces of the same coin? If you could pick, which would you choose? Let me rephrase that... given a choice, you'd pick neither! If you had to pick... which one? One morning I woke up with a clear intent to embark on a PhD in Anger. Women and Anger. I'd have material galore!

Then I heard a quote by Ocean Vuong, "Care is anger evolved." So I'm thinking about it...

Summertime was Dog Central in the Tayabali household. We had Nikei the Italian corgi, Buddy senior the giant Akita, Sandy the miniature cockapoo and most recently I had Tess, an impeccably trained Labrador who had me throwing a ball 8,542 times. "Who's training whom?" said Mum, with perspicacity.

Sammy the cockapoo is still the clear favourite, and treats our home as his - he always has the air of a returning grandson. He continues to give us joy with his therapeutic hypoallergenic cuddly coat, and ability to curl onto my lap even though he doesn't really fit. 

What am I trying to say? Not very much. Just a wave hello from my falling leaf days to yours.

Artists in order: Hilma af Klint, Mary Cassatt, Helen Frankenthaler, Yayoi Kusama

Monday, 22 August 2022


At first, when the month approaches, I think of hiding. As though I can out run or camouflage myself against my own birthday. Why would you want to do that? you may ask. I’m not sure. A cumulative sense of feeling unanchored, lost, a questioning of the new self - are you the one I was supposed to be? Or have I let you down? 

But there were garlands woven by my mother, and my hands clasped, and kissed in the old Arabic style by my father, and his extravagant praise for the worth of his daughter in his life. 

A day earlier had seen us at Badger’s Wood, despite the heat and drought… the redwood stood tall and resplendent and the unbonsaid bonsai looked spectacular. 

Colette and Joseph made my birthday a day of delights and tales and cake, Mary Oliver poetry recited by me, a giant bear cuddled by Dad and even a tiny muntjac flew across the bottom of the lawn by the pond, just a little birthday wave. 

On the day of, I had afternoon tea with Victoria and Freya, and later dinner again with Mum… in between a gentle massage at the Grenville hotel spa and even my first delicious Margarita by myself on the hotel lawn, not a soul in sight, just Deborah Levy and I…

Dad’s blessings came earlier in the day. Later I found myself walking into the incense of St Paul’s Cathedral Church as evening Latin mass drew to a close. I wished the best for my loved ones. I thought of suffering. And I prayed for guidance in my own life, moving forward. Where to now, dear self of 44, where to now? 

Sunday, 31 July 2022


Spring turned to summer with the house full of the sounds of children - some of those children being forty years old, calling out ‘Mum! Dad! Dinner!’ Yes, we cook for our parents now... and photograph them by the T-Rex in the World of Animals park… 

There were dog days aplenty … Nikei, the Italian street diva (corgi mix), Sandy the cockapoo with instant love to give, Buddy the Akita who shed too much for Perveen’s liking, Pepper the well trained one, and of course, Samwise ‘the original’ Gamjee…

What does Cambridge have to offer, I often wonder, when my four children enjoy so many wonders in Singapore and Malaysia … the answer comes in the green shires - cows, tents in the garden, riverside walks, jam and chocolate wafer sandwiches, but most of all, the being together part. En famille, unbroken. 

It was heaven for Dad, who has always known this is what he wanted. Children and more children, and togetherness. Until it’s time to let go, and begin again, half living perfectly in the now, and half waiting for the next time we are together again...

Tuesday, 14 June 2022



From the first seed planted by Sister Loc Uyen to each and every aligned step, it felt as though Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh himself was pulling one of his sparrows home, after ten years. The last time I was in Plum Village, Bordeaux, was for the 30th anniversary. Incredibly I ended up in the same bed, in the same gite in New Hamlet, Dieulivol, looking out on hay bales, far from the croaking of the lotus pond frogs, close to the moon and sunflower fields.

I traveled with friends, met up with the two young nuns I teach English to and made new friends. I wrote a single poem and kept two diaries for my twin nieces, who cried the night I left. ‘We’ll never see you again!’ I’ll cry too, I told them. At some point. And I did. My friend Anh said I had cried a cup full of tears by my last day. Why the tears? Because of the hot French sun, fatigue, the desire to keep up with a monastic schedule far beyond my body’s limits, gratitude to be taken care of by loving friends when I was sick, and gratitude to have a monastic sister guide me to leave early because covid cases were spreading. People had arrived from all over the world for this first in person opening up of Thây’s practise centre, so of course the virus came along for the ride.

On my last day, June 9th, I managed to attend the 40 years celebration in Upper Hamlet, got a calligraphic signature from Brother Phap Huu, the abbot who was Thây’s attendant for seventeen years, met my friend Shantum Seth after ten years, fan girled over the sculptor Paz Perlman, ate cake and generally arrived, at home, fully present. The next morning, I was driven to tiny Bergerac airport by Zoe, a friend who offered her car and company, and the next thing I was outside our front door, with the twins not quite believing I was really real… ‘but you didn’t even tell us you were coming home!!’ 

I am writing this at 11:30am. In France it is 12:30pm. The sangha of 800 lay and monastics, are going as a river in Lower Hamlet, led by Sister Chan Khong, spreading the last of Thây's ashes into the home he created for thousands. Refuge continued. In England, I visited Mary's grave, with flowers, for what would have been her 106th birthday. Death is just a game of hide and seek.