Friday, 13 January 2017

A Good Journey

We were not looking forward to the journey. Beloved had given me his cold and with my chest I just wanted to do an Elizabeth II and stay holed up under the duvet. Also we were taking out a pizza oven, which was heavy, unwieldy and which we thought moroccan customs may be interested in. We had bought it last May when Aldi had an offer and had not been able to bring it in the autumn because we already had 3 large and 2 carry-on suitcases and the small cars we hire would not fit any more in. We were worried about import duty which we had been told could be 100%. 
In the event it turned out well. The plane was 3 hours earlier than usual for some reason. I did have  hypo going through security but the staff were lovely about getting my chocolate out of my handbag and they now have chairs so I could sit until it worked. We had a following jetstream so the journey was an hour less than usual, and Easyjet had no immigration cards to give out, so, as we had ours with us, we went straight to the front of the queue while everybody else filled them in. In the event customs had no interest in the pizza oven although they were a bit concerned about a whole carry-on of medication. There was a slight delay whilst Thrifty had to phone up to get the hire car brought to the airport. "Thrifty" apparently means skimping on parking charges and with flight being early.....Their operatives were intrigued by the pizza oven. We left Marrakesh just about in daylight and were home by 10.30 pm which was unbelievably civilised.
I've been hunkered under the duvet recovering but Beloved has been doing. He tells me the marguarite we transplanted just before we left is doing well

 and that the geraniums are thriving and flowering.

 Even the morning glory had some flowers.

 I'd had a quick look at the hedge when we got here and it does seem as though the regular pruning regime is making the holes fill up. 

Beloved spent the afternoon assembling the pizza oven and installing it on the patio.

 We had originally bought it with the terrace in mind but then realised that that would mean taking all the wood up 3 flights of stairs and bringing the ash down so we are trying it downstairs. Beloved says if it starts smoking his patio walls he will banish it upstairs and live with the hassle.

Monday, 28 November 2016


Our friend has just been elected onto the committee for the Taroudant handball team. On hearing that we had never seen a game he invited us to come and watch their next match. 
Hand ball is arranged with on small national professional league and then a number of regional leagues. Taroudant plays in the first division of the regional league and are quite successful. Last year in the Moroccan Cup (a similar idea to the FA Cup) they were only eliminated in the semi-finals, meaning that they had beaten some of the professional teams to get there..They have few resources and there is no indoor stadium in Taroudant so all their matches have to be played in Agadir. There are plans to build a stadium in Taroudant which will greatly help them with both matches and practice but it is still in the planning stage.

The manager/coach is the games-master from the High School and the team seems largely to consist of staff and former students from the school. To drive to Agadir, play a match, grab some lunch and drive back takes up all of Sunday the only day off in the week so it is quite a commitment.

The rules seem quite simple. Each side has a squad of up to 14 but can only have 7 players on the pitch. Substitutions are allowed at any time. there is a small football type goal with a wide circle marked round it.and a dedicated goal-keeper. Goals are scored by throwing the ball into the goal from outside the circle. As in netball you can take only 3 steps with the ball but can take another if you bounce it; maximum 3 bounces.

The main foul is pushing for which a throw may be awarded to the other team; a penalty throw awarded; or the player sent off  for two minutes. I found this a bit confusing because it did not seem to be completely non-contact but throws penalties and send-offs were awarded for what seemed to me identical contacts and similar ones incurred no sanction.
Two halves of 30 minutes are played. The game is fast and high scoring; the sort of thing you would expect americans to like. It is not a main american game though being most popular in Scandinavian countries and Germany.

Taroudant proved to be the superior team. (They are in dark blue in the pictures). I think that they had the superior goalie who made a number of excellent saves and they were much quicker at scoring on the break after a failed Agadir attack. By half time their score was double that of Agadir. They slowed down in the final ten minutes allowing Agadir to reclaim some honour and eventually Taroudant won 24 goals to 19.

the stadium had a very sophisticated scorebaord which counted down the time, stopping for injury breaks and managers timeouts. It also counted down the seconds for each send off. I tried to take a picture but is was dark in the stadium and needed a long exposure so camera shake made it show double which is interesting as that is exactly what my cataracts make me see without my prescription glasses.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

A set of Honeyman

I finished my last Raymond Honeyman tapestry, Paisley Palisades. It had taken nearly a year as I was unable to work on it much.

I took it to the sandal-maker to be made into a leather cube (450DH/£36) and to the upholsterer to be stuffed. A "melange" meaning a mixture of Kapok and foam rubber. (100Dh/£8).

 I now have a set of four pouffes made from Honeyman designs, his two based on moroccan inspiration and two of his indian paisley designs.

 We use them round the midan for guests but I don't think we need any more. My latest projects are cushions for the patio chairs.

I think they are a good mixture of anglo-moroccan style and one of our friends asked where he could but two but was fairly appalled when he realised they each cost over 1000Dh plus 6 months of my time.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Jnane Soussia

We had a lovely day yesterday. We went to a local restaurant the Jnane Soussia (the name means Sous Garden) with some friends. Really it was my turn to cook and I was feeling lazy so we just had a nice day out. Some of the guidebooks are sniffy about Jnane Soussia saying that is is built for tourists and coach parties which never come. That is a complete misunderstanding and probably shows that the reviewer went there on a winter evening. It is a restaurant for locals to be used during the day or late summer evenings when you need a breeze. There is a distinctive star shaped plunge pool and a paddling pool for toddlers 

but as we always go in the winter I've never seen it used. There are lovely gardens and it's just a pleasant place to sit. I am quite jealous of some of their plants.

There is a playground hidden away with swings and seesaws for children and a variety of places to sit. We chose to sit around midans in the tented area.

 You do not have to have a meal there are lots of places to have just a coffee or a soft drink but it is not licensed as it would lose most of its clientele were it to do so. There is a separate building used for weddings and other fetes.
We had morrrocan cooked salads (recipes to come in  later post),

 classic lamb tagoine with prunes and almonds and kofta and chicken kebabs

In the evening we skyped the Kiwi boys who we had not spoken to for ages. They were unharmed by the earthquake and one had just had a promotion so it was quite celebratary all round.

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

In the Bag

Shopping in Morocco has always meant loads of cheap bin-liner like black plastic shopping bags. once discarded they get everywhere;stuck in trees and shrubs, and blown around in the wind, avoiding them has marred many a good photo. We have been advocating they follow the Welsh and ban them for years.
Well on 6th July they did. This wasn't the British half-hearted ban that can be got round by donating 5p to charity though; it is the true fundamentalist version. There are harsh fines on any shop-keeper supplying a bag and a ban on imports. Shops sell "bags for life" and thick deluxe bags you pay 10p for in Tesco and cost 1 DH (8p) here.  But even better they have banned those silly thin plastic bags you put your produce in to be weighed and which I could never open. When I go to the hanut to buy rice or choose my veg in Marjane I now get paper bags. Clearly we Welsh should now follow their example.
This "back to the 50s" approach could also apply to bottles. Marjane and the major supermarkets have aisle after aisle of 1.5l plastic bottles of branded drinks, but, when you go to the local hanut they still sell some local brands in glass bottles which bear a deposit and can be returned to be re-used. This was the system I remember from my childhood before Coke conquered the world and carbonated drinks were made locally with flavours such as Dandelion and Burdock and Saspirilla and Cream Soda as well as ~Orange and Lemonades. Local kids would earn a few pennies pocket money by going door to door with a crate and collecting bottles that people were too lazy to take back themselves.It was a particularly popular strategy at this time of year ahead of bonfire night as an alternative to "penny for the guy". That way they could hit each house twice. Re-using is always preferable to recycling and perhaps we should return to this too.
Morocco generally is trying to clean up as part of its tourist strategy. Ifrane, unsurprisingly has already achieved international clean town status and they are now working on Marrakech achieving it too.

Thursday, 20 October 2016 la meme chose.

The picket line has gone from the Palais Salaam! 

 The staff have been paid and, three cheers, we can eat there again. 
The problem seems to have moved to the Gazelle D'Or. 

This fabulously luxurious hotel is reputed to be the most expensive in Africa. The cheapest room booked last minute in the off season was £500 room only when I looked a couple of years ago. It is the winter haunt of the elite such as Francois Mitterand, Brad Pitt and the late great John Mortimer.
The on-dit is as follows:-
The hotel was sold to a Saudi businessman. He never actually visited being one of those super-elite who live on a yacht the whole time ,presumably to avoid being resident in any country where they may have to pay tax. The running of the hotel was left to a manager. She inflated everybody's wages and all the maintenance costs ,pocketing the difference. When this was discovered she refused to leave until dragged out screaming by the police. 
Taroudant on-dits can tend to exaggeration.News reports suggest that the situation is more complicated, the original purchase being by the father of the current claimant and that the Manager, who had managed for many years, had been given a large interest by him which his estate refuses to acknowledge. The  matter has been been subject to lengthy and complex litigation in the Marrakesh, Agadir and Appeal Courts since 2014.
 Whatever, the upshot is that the staff have not been paid and and there is a union picket line.

 One of the striking  facets of the picket line from a British standpoint is the care to which the union goes to express its loyalty and patriotism with displays of the Moroccan flag and a photo of the King. Not quite UNITE.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

How does my garden grow?

The thing I always look forward to most on our return is to see how the plants are doing. Despite our friend's personal difficulties he had watered for us and kept the plants alive. Their progress was variable, the fanpalm is clearly not happy and probably needs replacing

but the Bird of Paradise plant relishes its new position in the shade although its new pot seems to be disintegrating.

The sad new succulent which was doing nothing is thriving and in flower

and the baby and grand -baby prickly pears are happy.

The weird star flower plant is coming into bloom

but the great joy is the two rescue cacti which were just sad tall spike with a slight bum at the top

have now branched out properly to almost tree shapes.

Perhaps the best grown but most frustrating however is my Hibiscus hedge. As with any hedge I have ever tried to grow we were not sufficiently harsh on it early on so that it had a bare base and then insufficiently dense branches with holes. We tried to renovate it by giving it a particularly hard prune to encourage denser foliage, thinking we could repeat this winter and end up with a nice dense, holeless 3ft hedge. Well the pruning certainly encouraged growth, it's up to the first floor level!