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Would We Reach Out The Hand Of Friendship?

“No man can live this life and emerge unchanged, he will carry however faint, the  imprint of the desert, the brand which marks the nomad; and he will have within him the yearning to return, weak or insistent  according to his nature. For this cruel land can cast a spell which no temperate clime can match” Wilfred Thesiger.

The words of Wilfred Thesiger are important here for me, as having just returned from what is affectionately known as the Oasis City of Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates I have a little story to tell. For this land leaves a certain something deep within your heart, something that is indescribable.

With so much written and read about the Middle East everyday, in every newspaper, every newsreel, constantly bombarding us with tales of sadness, never much joy comes to us about these Middle Eastern lands.

It is then important I feel, to write my words here. So much fighting is shown each and every day, so much talked about, so many violent acts, such terrible loss and disregard for life is ours to see and hear daily…

But I want to tell you a little tale that occurred to me while shopping in the souks of Al Ain and I wonder if we would have behaved in the same manner or reached out ‘the hand of friendship’ when shopping in shall we say London, or even the suburbs. I would like to think yes, I have to hope yes, but I wonder in this current climate that has change us all, changed the way we view the Middle East, altered people thoughts radically and has in fact cast a shadow that has befallen this country of ours.

I travelled back to this most peaceful part of the world after more than thirty years and I state with a true heart and a clear conscience that the Emirati  people are probably one of the most gentle races I have ever encountered.

Respect has always been a top priority when travelling in the Middle East – you know – “when in Rome do as the Romans do”  and I have embraced these guidelines, when living there, and all of my travelling days. I am always polite and courteous, it goes without saying really, never any different from home but aware of the respect that must be afforded to these gentle people and I also smile a lot, which always seems to break-down any barriers that may occur.

And so to my little tale of trading friendships:

I was shopping in a rather beautiful perfumery shop – outside of the lush marbled malls but still in the main town of Al Ain. It was a very fine establishment and as we approached the shop (my son and I) we could see clearly that there was a  local woman completely covered from head to toe shopping with her servant girl,  their eyes down cast and with a demur countenance. The local woman was in deep conversation with the shop keeper, the small servant girl quietly waiting to carry her mistress’s purchases. The local lady seemed to be selecting gold covers for tissue boxes or maybe gold covers for her perfume bottles?

We paused at the entrance to the shop, as not to disturb the lady and as my son was contemplating entering, the owner of the shop opened the door and welcomed us with customery greeting and offered small sealed cartons of water to both of us and placing a chair for me (it was in excess of 43c that midday, so I was grateful to sit awhile) we very happily entered the airconditioned shop.  It is normal to be greeted this way and nothing unusual about that but sometimes the ladies of this land do not wish to make personal purchases while other men – other than the shop owners – are present. We knew well of this custom but were pleased to enter.

It was a stunning shop, full to the brim with perfume bottles, scents and oils, many bottles and items solid 24ct gold, the smell was divine, not overpowering as some may think. Subtle, light jasmine aromas, nothing heavy. I went to the other counter well away from the woman who was in active conversation with an assistant. I did not look her way and nor did Jo but I took the grateful seat offered at the counter and after normal greetings we proceeded to test the oud oils and perfumes. Now all who know me well, understand that I favour and always have done, the scent of roses. I love Chanel No 5, the way Chanel uses the early May roses for the sweetest smell and also Coco Chanel – these are the scents I would choose every time above all others so I had a real fancy to buy some Essential Rose Oil…

The smiling helpful shopkeeper started to open copious small bottles of these essential oils and reached to dab a selection on my wrists and lower arms and also to Jo’s arms, when I had run out of space!  I tried to find the right word for Rose. “Rosa”, “Rouge” even the Arabic word ‘Warda’ meaning rose. I tried’ Zahra’, which I know means flower but no Rose essence appeared. He was not an Arab, but an Asian gentleman and most helpful in fact but I could not  seem to convey Rose to him. Jo tried too but to no avail. This interchange went on gently and quietly for some time. Every possible scent was applied but none of them my favourite rose, I have a good ‘nose’ for it. My eyes are not so good these days but my sense of smell has always been acute, I know the smell of roses a mile away and one good ‘sniff would confirm. He continued with more potions… No rose essence appeared…

It was a lovely experience in this beautiful emporium, no doubt about it but unbeknown to me it was about to become a very special day, such a joyful memory, such an unexpected delight on this very hot April day in this oasis desert town.

Here my small tale unfolds: Unexpectedly the Arab lady came up behind me, slowly and silently – her face completely covered in full burkah  – she lightly placed her lovely hand on the counter and spoke very quickly and directly to the helpful assistant. He immediately turned to a small bottle tucked way towards the back, was this the ‘rose,’ perhaps a precious commodity in the desert. I didn’t think so, for I had see roses in gardens of hotels not like our English roses but roses never-the-less.. The Arab lady with the oh so beautiful eyes that did not look at Jo once, keeping her eyes downcast and towards me took the small bottle from the assistant and tipped a small amount of the essence on to the silk of her robe. She looked at me and indicated that using material was the real way to test several perfumes, she lifted a small piece of her cuff and indicated that I should do the same, then she passed the bottle to me and I tipped a tiny amount onto the rather brightly coloured chiffon scarf I was wearing – wishing I had worn something rather less bright at this point  –  she smiled broadly, I could see her twinkling eyes change above her burkah, then she placed her hand uppermost indicating this was indeed the ‘rose’ I had been looking for. Without a word another smile appeared beneath the mask, a look that can only cross between two woman – this time one Eastern and one rather elderly English lady who needed just a bit of help in finding her hearts desire.

And this is where my question is asked – would we have done the same in a London store? – would we have backed away, would we have assisted in a genuine manner, without fear or prejudice? Would we have indeed been fearful? I looked straight at her with my green eyes and bright blonde hair and  my made-up face and I smiled. I am tall and statuette, she was tiny and dainty but between two woman a bridge had been built, an understanding made. But I ask, would we have offered the hand of friendship? Would we have helped, got close and engaged. You are probably saying as you read this, “well of course we would” but would you? Really would you –  say in a large London Store?

I smiled and thanked her in my best and most profuse Arabic and she draw back to her selections and her purchases (and very fine they seemed to be)  The Arab lady appeared content and let out a little sigh as she retreated, that indicated she was happy to help. I, very pleased, made my small purchase of my lovely fragrant rose oil,  it was parcelled beautifully in an outer bag, crisp with gold coloured handles and gilt lettering and we paid, said our Salem’s  and made our way to depart..

Jo made his way towards the door to exit and I followed, passing by the lady and the servant girl, both with their eyes cast-down. As Jo passed, he thanked them but neither answered or raised their eyes, As I followed and passed by the lady, I again offered my thanks and much to my surprise and delight she gently reached out her lovely hand to mine and held it, then lifted her full Burkah and bowing her head she kissed my hand and whispered, and at the same time looking directly into my eyes, she spoke quietly and gently, nodding her head and not taking her eyes from mine, as the words were said – and in any language meant –  “all that was needed was a woman to take care of it”

She studied my face for a while, taking her time and smiled, her beautiful dark kohl eyes and abundant lashes, looked directly into mine and again lifting her veil she kissed my hand, holding it gently for a time, then replaced her veil over her burkah and covered her face.  I was so humbled and as I exited the shop, my eyes were brimming over with tears, how this woman had touch my heart, how this woman had reached my soul and even writing this now I know I can never do this experience justice with my words, but my heart was so full of tenderness for the reaching out of this hand of friendship.

This hand of friendship, that if we could all manage, men and woman alike, then where would the world problems be? How then could this world full of hate and bitterness continue?

Jo looked at me and having seen the whole interchange, I stepped out into the fierce heat to join him, to the sound of his deep intake of  breath…

Remembering A Special Day Two Years Ago. – Julia and Jo.

 

It is almost two years since my youngest son Yousef (Jo) married our gorgeous Julia. A perfect day in a perfect setting, Julia and Jo chose the “Five Arrows Hotel” part of the fabulous Waddesdon Estate for their wedding venue.

Waddesdon Manor was built for Baron Ferdinand Rothschild to display his many collections and entertain the then fashionable world. Formerly a Victorian Coaching Inn, the building is a delightful Victorian mix of authentic English style, half timber with elaborate elizabethan chimneys, much wrought ironwork and built in the late 1870’s, now an elegant boutique hotel.

I left early on the Tuesday morning from my home in the Linconshire Wolds prior to the wedding to book into the hotel early, a mother has to do these things. I wanted a ‘feel of the place’, to ‘drink-in’ everything I could about this fabulous venue. In fact the entire hotel was booked to us for three days in preparation for this special day, making all the rooms available to guests attending. I was given a choice of rooms and selected a lovely large airy room in the new wing, as light is helpful for aging eyes – I would need to get my hat on straight at the very least! – and the ensuites would be new and efficient. I am sure they are in the original part of the hotel too but it would be at least a shade dimmer in those stunning Victorian rooms. My room was gorgeous overlooking the courtyard below, Mama was very happy. The weather that week was particularly good so the ornate and verdant gardens were at their best and May in England is the most perfect month for a Wedding and pretty flowers always enhance the photographs in my humble opinion. I enjoyed my pre-stay very much, the food at the Five Arrows is particularly good, a gourmet menu for sure. They have a fantastic selection of Rothschild wines from vineyards around the world and a list of hand-picked guest wines have been chosen by their wine expert for their quality. The attention to detail is very special, a some-what old fashion approach to fine dining and something I truly love.

The bachelor dinner the night before the wedding was held in a private dining room, plush dark wood furnishings for table and walls casting lovely candlelight and a burnished glow across the table and the guests. Special friends, the brides father, the best man, and relations from Egypt attended. It was incredibly special and I am at a loss for words here. The food was mouth-wateringly delicious, the wines clearly chosen to complement this fabulous meal and marked well the occasion. I was and am extremely proud of my Son Jo, who arranged everything with such care and such meticulous attention to detail and I am proud of the amazing man he has become and the choices he has made. Of course my thoughts throughout this evening and the Wedding Day were often of my late husband Hamada, who would have been delighted with everything, I know how pleased he would have been at the elegance of this chosen location.

The morning dawned a perfect May day and after breakfast a short visit to Waddesdon Manor with our Egyptian family was a must, they were thrilled with the magical turrets and declared we should all live there and occupy a turret each!  After returning to the hotel I walked slowly round the gardens and marvelled at the perfection of the day, the dining room was entirely perfect, the table flowers stunning and the sky a cornflower blue! So with a very happy heart I went to get ready for this oh so special occasion. Guests started to arrive in their finery, such beautiful young people, dear family members, how I would have loved my parents to have been there, seeing and congratulating this lovely couple and one of their very dear Grandsons on this special day. Jo was resplendent in a navy and grey dress suit as were his best men, even the wedding Mercedes had our family name as number plates, a lovely touch. It was enchanting to see this pretty venue, terrace and gardens filling-up with laughter and happiness and as the wedding ceremony was to be held in the old dairy it was only a step away…

As our stunning Julia,Jo’s very gorgeous bride arrived  there were audible gasps from those present at the beauty of this young woman. My heart was full to bursting with love for this young couple and filled with hope for their life together. Beautiful singing accompanied the wedding service, the opera voice, clear and lilting, rose in praise of  their love, the service was just perfect. We emerged into the brilliant sunlight as friends and family gathered round to congratulate and to the many cameras all trying to capture this fabulous occasion. Champagne was served, orange juice and beers – it was warm – and delicious canapés arrived on the terrace, official photos were taken, we gathered, chatted and greeted and then later into the hotel for a most sumptuous wedding breakfast, the usual speeches and to view and later eat the most perfectly beautiful cake.

An evening of musical entertainment followed. Fusion music from around the world drifted across the courtyard with many happy faces relaxed and enjoying the warm evening but no faces were more ecstatic than those of the beautiful bride and handsome groom, no smiles bigger or brighter!

Of course it’s difficult to put into words  the magic of this special day but two years on, my mind is still filled with so many visions of this enchanting wedding, I pray I shall never lose these memories or the joy that was encountered that late May day…

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“The Months Fly By “

The months fly by or so it seems these days. It can hardly be almost three years since the last desert reunion and my poem written of this time, of our meeting in London, but it is. This coming April I plan to return to the desert once again back to the garden city of Al Ain, in the United Arab Emirates. How exciting this will be after first going their 32 years ago. It will be nice to see old friends once again and to view the amazing changes made to this arid land of sun and sand. My poem of the last reunion is shown here:

Reunion – Jewels Nightclub – Piccadilly  London April 2013. read more…

My Wish for 2017.

My 2017 Wish: ❤️

When I was younger, I never thought about losing someone I loved, silly me, how naive but I thought as I loved my Mother and Father utterly and entirely that they would be there forever, well at least until they were VERY old. Then the years passed quickly and so did they and they weren’t…Then a few short years later I lost my ‘ best love’ ! I recently looked at my old address book and was saddened at the names crossed through, friends no longer here. 😔
❤️As a New Year starts, 2017, a once thought of faraway number for me, may I ask you something dear family, dear friends, may I ask you to love and cherish those precious to you. Hold them tight, never take them for granted, give them loads of hugs and tell them you love them❤️
My constant consolation in life is that I told my Mum and Dad and my ‘ best love’ often how much I loved them – we all did – it’s a family thing perhaps but it wasn’t always so but how very important you know, for one day you may ‘ turn around’ and ‘they’ have gone…
Do it at the start of this New Year, ❤️do it today❤️do it now, say it often,hold them close❤️for love, if you feel it, is the greatest gift you can give, it is also the greatest gift you can receive. Tell your children, your wife, your husband, your partner, your lover, your mistress, your dear friend, your pet, that you love and cherish them if you do ❤️Never miss the chance, for life is so fleeting and memories are all that remain when those you love are gone, remember love is the greatest and most powerful gift of all! ..❤️

Corinthians 13:1
” I may speak in different languages of people or angels but if I do not have love I am a noisy bell or a crashing cymbal. I may have the gift of prophecy. I may understand all the secrets things of God and have all knowledge and I may have faith so great I can move mountains but even with all these things, if I do not have love, then I am nothing…”

❤️I love you my dear family and my dear friends and I wish you all a very Joyous And Healthy 2017❤️

The Box Of Secrets – Poems of Love.

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“The Box Of Secrets” Poems and Photos available in soft-back and hardback styles, all to be found on www.blurb.co.uk. Under poetry. Or http://www.blurb.com/b/7455812-the-box-of-secrets  This book is sold via Blurb and not from this page.

The Box Of Secrets

Introducing my new glossy coffee-table book full of ”Poems of Love” and gorgeous photos. You can find it over at www.blurb.com in the bookshop under poetry. In larger print for ‘tired’ eyes.img_3177

“Not Just A Paper Flower” by Susie Hemingway

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Not Just A Paper Flower.

This red paper poppy
I wear with much pride
this token, this mark,
this blood red emblem,
not just a paper poppy
well not in my eyes…

As we turn our thoughts back
during this month of November
we stand with glistening eyes
for those brave gallant soldiers,
many who never came back.
This red paper flower is
all that can show, respect and
admiration to those that did go,
to lonely mist filled beaches and foreign fields,
sailed stormy seas and flew bomb filled air.
Those who stood fast together
with much to bear.

Comrades in battle,
courageous but fearful,
the stories do tell,
of so many who perished
in the horror of war,
this nightmare of violence
where so many fell,
this bravery in brotherhood,
tainted and evil,
this wasted crush of earth…
Remember…not just a paper flower!

Praise to the Army, Home Guard,
Navy and Airforce.
As futurity we’ll never forget,
those dark days of war…
Not just a paper flower, well not for me,
How lucky we are,
as we drink our sweet tea!
How lucky we are for the liberty of life.
Not just a paper flower!
These wars of destruction and strife.

Remember them well, keep in your heart,
this offering of self that they gave in their part.
This gift of autonomy so safely saved,
these great comrades of war
who fought on, day after day.
These brave soldiers of war, Ladies and Men,
who stood fast together
our sovereignty to save,
who marched on for freedom,
our kingdom to defend.
Oh no, not just a paper flower.

They held on forever
so did they dare,
to dream of hearth and home,
of their  loved ones who
they were protecting being there.
This right of liberty so costly paid,
with fervency of pride they gave all
during dark days,
from oppressive evil, our birthrights were saved.

Through Germany and France they marched,
across the desert of El Alamein.
in Palestine to name a few…
for the Italian campaign of Monte Cassino,
we will remember them too!

Not just a paper flower, well not for me,
Not just a paper flower,
This state of being free…

In memory of:
My Father – Brindley Robert Pickering – Germany, France, and Poland.
My Uncle – Thomas Edward Pickering – Monte Cassino in Italy.
My Uncle – John Llewelyn Rawlings. – Egypt, Germany and Palestine.
My Uncle – Albert Stanley Pain. – El Alamein,Egypt. And India.
My Uncle – Robert Applegate Hodgson. The Skies over Europe
My Grandfather. Christopher John Rawlings – ARP Warden ,The City of London.

My Uncle Robert Applegate Hodgson was stationed in Iceland for a time and also with coastal command, patrolling Scapa Flow.He also help drop supplies to the Orkneys and Shetlands. Later involved with towing gliders to Arnheim. He mentioned Berlin and being horrified by what he saw and said “poor devils they had it worse than us”His squadron was sent to Malta but he came down with pneumonia, a lucky escape indeed, he was sent to a beautiful manor house for recuperation. His squadron were shot down and either perished or were captured . Later he became a squadron leader towards the end of the war. His family had all of his relics- a sealed pack with a cyanide pill in! Also altered photos in case he was captured. Just a little of their bravery.

 

Chateau Magic.

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Just as a child’s fairy tale
this vision of mystique dreams,
this magnificent realm of
chateau magic
that I have ever seen,
romance abounds
within these walls
built from love, I’m sure.

This immense bastion
this estate and stronghold
is more,
this private kingdom
magical, mystical, spectral
it is of fairies, spirits,
it is of goblins,
of this I’m sure…

To live this life without romance
without dreams and fairy tales,
would dull the days
make indolent the evening song,
no ‘folly’ that provides such delight
where feasts the eyes such tranquility
and joy,
of this I’m sure…

Of this I’m sure…

 

Photo – courtesy of Brian Firth.

Copyright @Susie Hemingway 2016.

I Walked In The Sun.

Najood heaven.

Najood heaven.

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I walked in the early morning sun
and thought of you…
I was filling my mind,
I was contemplating a plan
you know, the sort that
gives you joy, faraway places
the sand between your toes,
that kind of plan.

You invaded my mind
as you often do,
I saw you clearly, dark eyes
that smile…
What would you think of my plan?
but I already knew the answer,
“go do it girl”

I walked in the sun…

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