The Ramadhan Diaries

Fasting in London and beyond

Author Archive

D22 -An Odd Night

8am – Yep. I’m sure it happened – I just wasn’t there to witness it.

11 am. This has become my new 7am. My new time when my eyes open. I can’t open my eyes before this time. I feel gross in this realisation. But I’m not sleeping until 3am. I am one of those 8 hour sleepers. 30 minutes either way and I feel rotten. I wake at 8 hours sleep without an alarm. It’s weird. Just my normal body clock inner alarm.

I have a bath and listen to BBC Radio 4’s drama ‘When the Pips stop.’ Nooooooo. Why did it end like that. I’m left feeling cheated. I won’t spoil it but if you are already feeling it after the GoT ending – wait awhile before you tune into this one.

The rest of the day feels like Sunday – it’s actually Bank Holiday Monday. It’s also the day after the EU Election results and the realisation that the world has gone mad. Far right mad. The ugly aspects of history – the parts that are never taught as the good things, the behaviour we should mimic, the people we should aspire to be like – the fascist far right – is now back. Did the people that have been voting in those parties across countries and yes I will add the UK here with votes for the Brexit Party, UKIP and TR – did they sit in class and feel inspired by history lessons telling us about the brutality of Nazi Germany? When watching war films, did they cheer on the SS Forces? For goodness sake.

And they need to remember that when this time is taught about – they will, like those that came before them, be considered ‘the bad guys’ that no one wants to be.

All this Brexit and Far Right stuff has been distracting me from the things I should be focusing on. It’s the last ten days of Ramadan – we are within that period – and it’s the most holiest time within the holiest of months. It’s the time when we as Muslims try to get as close to God as possible. It’s a time for quiet, for reflection, for contemplation and for prayer. I’m going to allow myself one day of stressing about the coming of WW3 and a new fascist army on the rise and then I’m going to focus on God and my spirituality.

4pm – I go out for a walk. He is being like a bear with a sore head – because he has an actual sore head. He’s got man flu. I can call it that. I’m allowed. He’s doing my head in. I plan to sit in the local mosque – to be quiet and to contemplate. I am full of anticipation of finding a quiet spiritual spot. And then as I approach I see the shutters up! It’s closed. How come the mosque is closed during the day? In Ramadan especially? And not only closed – but it’s on complete lock down. I realise that these are indeed the times we live in. It’s not safe to leave the mosque open. Anyone can walk in – and they do apparently. Signs on the door I’ve read on my way out, warn of possible attacks and being vigilant. I think also they keep it locked because of not wanting to encourage extremism. It’s so damn sad that in Ramadan you can’t just find your calm place in a quiet spot in the mosque because they are worried that folk might sit there planning something. That’s the immediate assumption.

It says on a notice outside on a shutter that the doors will be opened 30 minutes before official prayer times. So that’s at 5.30pm. I look in search of another place of calm to contemplate. It’s a bit hard to find on a grey day in Leyton.

I eventually end up walking through the park and finding my way home. I sit outside on the benches in the communal gardens. A father is having some bonding time with his son and I try not to watch as they laugh and play on the swings and race each other. It’s a soothing scene. He’s enjoying a day off I assume and the child is relishing having his dad to himself for the day or at least for now.

I look at all the other buildings and try to see how they’ve all been done up. Who has hanging chimes and plants on their balconies? What are the interiors like? I can’t see obviously but I try. I stare at the sky and see the planes either leaving or flying into London City. Where has she gone? That girl that used to be jetting off from one place to another? Who didn’t have to let anyone know or plan or even ask. Yes ask. I have to do that now. I don’t call it asking strictly speaking but I state it in a way that it could be interpreted as checking that it’s a good time to go. I miss those days. But for now I have other things. So I am finding my new normal and adjusting. The adventures will happen again and maybe after neglecting my own surroundings there is an adventure or some voyage of discovery that I can make closer to home.

I find myself, in my fasting state, trying to think of God and to contemplate life sitting out here. In the grey, threatening to rain, environment. I find myself looking at the bricks in the buildings and think how many there are. So many – all the same, all lined up and yet each one is crucial. The building might not fall down if it was removed but it would show that it was missing. And if enough were removed it would weaken the building. I don’t know what sort of analogy I am trying to draw but I feel its a profound moment. I decide to go in.

7.30pm – Feeling smug because the Shorba – not so good as I killed it with too much vermicelli and he wanted mixed frozen veg in it (I don;t think it worked) – is ready and I just need to reheat it. I start to make some chicken breast marinated in Nando medium sauce. In my smug state – I burn the SHorba. And this time it is well and truly toast.

I call him to let him know I have burnt it and he says he’ll pick up some shorba from the Algerian cafe. It’s £7 apparently for a Ramadan Iftar which is shorba, borek and a meal of whatever they have.

9.05pm ( I think) – Break the fast – the iftar with dates. I have some milk – as it should be! He has water. We pray Maghreb and then come back to the table for dinner. I’m already full on dates and milk. He doesn’t like the shorba from the Algerian shop. I taste it. It’s ok. It’s food and we’ve been fasting. I’m more of the mindset that we’ve been fasting and this is all about being grateful. He’s very particular about the shor

D22 – Odd Nights

8am – Yep. I’m sure it happened – I just wasn’t there to witness it.

11 am. This has become my new 7am. My new time when my eyes open. I can’t open my eyes before this time. I feel gross in this realisation. But I’m not sleeping until 3am. I am one of those 8 hour sleepers. 30 minutes either way and I feel rotten. I wake at 8 hours sleep without an alarm. It’s weird. Just my normal body clock inner alarm.

I have a bath and listen to BBC Radio 4’s drama ‘When the Pips stop.’ Nooooooo. Why did it end like that. I’m left feeling cheated. I won’t spoil it but if you are already feeling it after the GoT ending – wait awhile before you tune into this one.

The rest of the day feels like Sunday – it’s actually Bank Holiday Monday. It’s also the day after the EU Election results and the realisation that the world has gone mad. Far right mad. The ugly aspects of history – the parts that are never taught as the good things, the behaviour we should mimic, the people we should aspire to be like – the fascist far right – is now back. Did the people that have been voting in those parties across countries and yes I will add the UK here with votes for the Brexit Party, UKIP and TR – did they sit in class and feel inspired by history lessons telling us about the brutality of Nazi Germany? When watching war films, did they cheer on the SS Forces? For goodness sake.

And they need to remember that when this time is taught about – they will, like those that came before them, be considered ‘the bad guys’ that no one wants to be.

All this Brexit and Far Right stuff has been distracting me from the things I should be focusing on. It’s the last ten days of Ramadan – we are within that period – and it’s the most holiest time within the holiest of months. It’s the time when we as Muslims try to get as close to God as possible. It’s a time for quiet, for reflection, for contemplation and for prayer. I’m going to allow myself one day of stressing about the coming of WW3 and a new fascist army on the rise and then I’m going to focus on God and my spirituality.

4pm – I go out for a walk. He is being like a bear with a sore head – because he has an actual sore head. He’s got man flu. I can call it that. I’m allowed. He’s doing my head in. I plan to sit in the local mosque – to be quiet and to contemplate. I am full of anticipation of finding a quiet spiritual spot. And then as I approach I see the shutters up! It’s closed. How come the mosque is closed during the day? In Ramadan especially? And not only closed – but it’s on complete lock down. I realise that these are indeed the times we live in. It’s not safe to leave the mosque open. Anyone can walk in – and they do apparently. Signs on the door I’ve read on my way out, warn of possible attacks and being vigilant. I think also they keep it locked because of not wanting to encourage extremism. It’s so damn sad that in Ramadan you can’t just find your calm place in a quiet spot in the mosque because they are worried that folk might sit there planning something. That’s the immediate assumption.

It says on a notice outside on a shutter that the doors will be opened 30 minutes before official prayer times. So that’s at 5.30pm. I look in search of another place of calm to contemplate. It’s a bit hard to find on a grey day in Leyton.

I eventually end up walking through the park and finding my way home. I sit outside on the benches in the communal gardens. A father is having some bonding time with his son and I try not to watch as they laugh and play on the swings and race each other. It’s a soothing scene. He’s enjoying a day off I assume and the child is relishing having his dad to himself for the day or at least for now.

I look at all the other buildings and try to see how they’ve all been done up. Who has hanging chimes and plants on their balconies? What are the interiors like? I can’t see obviously but I try. I stare at the sky and see the planes either leaving or flying into London City. Where has she gone? That girl that used to be jetting off from one place to another? Who didn’t have to let anyone know or plan or even ask. Yes ask. I have to do that now. I don’t call it asking strictly speaking but I state it in a way that it could be interpreted as checking that it’s a good time to go. I miss those days. But for now I have other things. So I am finding my new normal and adjusting. The adventures will happen again and maybe after neglecting my own surroundings there is an adventure or some voyage of discovery that I can make closer to home.

I find myself, in my fasting state, trying to think of God and to contemplate life sitting out here. In the grey, threatening to rain, environment. I find myself looking at the bricks in the buildings and think how many there are. So many – all the same, all lined up and yet each one is crucial. The building might not fall down if it was removed but it would show that it was missing. And if enough were removed it would weaken the building. I don’t know what sort of analogy I am trying to draw but I feel its a profound moment. I decide to go in.

7.30pm – Feeling smug because the Shorba – not so good as I killed it with too much vermicelli and he wanted mixed frozen veg in it (I don;t think it worked) – is ready and I just need to reheat it. I start to make some chicken breast marinated in Nando medium sauce. In my smug state – I burn the SHorba. And this time it is well and truly toast.

I call him to let him know I have burnt it and he says he’ll pick up some shorba from the Algerian cafe. It’s £7 apparently for a Ramadan Iftar which is shorba, borek and a meal of whatever they have.

9.05pm ( I think) – Break the fast – the iftar with dates. I have some milk – as it should be! He has water. We pray Maghreb and then come back to the table for dinner. I’m already full on dates and milk. He doesn’t like the shorba from the Algerian shop. I taste it. It’s ok. It’s food and we’ve been fasting. I’m more of the mindset that we’ve been fasting and this is all about being grateful. He’s very particular about the shorba but it is a big deal – getting the shorba right in North African Ramadan breaking tradition. And triumph in the knowledge that mine is better! The shop one does I admit taste a bit like hot water with some tomato, foreek (small grains) and a piece of meat. And the borek is 90% mash potato and a sprinkle of mince. I say that I can cook better than this and I have indeed arrived because he agrees. I did still quite like the soup and borek – I’m not a connoisseur on North African cuisine so for me it was fine.

10.40pm – We head to the mosque. It’s the last ten days of Ramadan – it has literally flown before our eyes. So in this time frame, many people do their best to make it to Taraweh prayers in the evening. The streets are filled with people speed walking to the mosque to make it in time for Isha. They are digesting their Iftars at the same time. It’s a see of white, cream or black thobes for the men, and headscarves for the women. It’s as busy as a Saturday afternoon in Westfield. But it’s 10.30pm at night and people who have been fasting all day, many of them having worked during the day too and who have had a degree of sleep deprivation during the month – are rushing to get to the mosque for their coveted place in full mosque with not even standing room left. Take a step back and that’s a bit wow, I always think.

The added component is that it is an odd night. It’s the 21st fast and the 21st night. In the last ten days we look for the Night of Power – Lailat Al Qadr. My mum used to teach us about the significance and the wonder of this night. I was always blown away by it. She would tell us about all the angels that come to earth on this night – more than we could even begin to imagine.

And what makes it so significant? It’s the night in which the Qu’ran was first revealed. And we believe it is the night that God has decreed is better than a thousand months. It is the night of prayers being heard and granted.

 

There is a surah in the Qu’ran dedicated to the Night of Power.

  1. Verily! We have sent it (this Qur’an) down in the night of Al-Qadr (Power)
  2. And what will make you know what the night of Al-Qadr  is?
  3. The night of Al-Qadr  is better than a thousand months (i.e. worshipping Allah in that night is better than worshipping Him a thousand months, i.e. 83 years and 4 months).
  4. Therein descend the angels and the Ruh (Spirit) [Jibrael (Gabriel)] by Allah’s Permission with all Decrees,
  5. Peace! (All that night, there is Peace and Goodness from Allah to His believing slaves) until the appearance of dawn.

Muslims believe the Qu’ran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) in Mecca – delivered by the angel Gabriel from God. The entire Qu’ran took 23 years worth of further revelations but this night is when it all began.

“Peace” refers to “security in which Shaytan/the devil (Ibis)  cannot do any evil or any harm”, while Ibn Kathir quotes Ash – Sha’bi as saying that it refers to the angels greeting the people in the mosques throughout the night.

On this night, Muslims spend even more time in prayer, reading the Qu’ran – the word of God – which is our way of a two way dialogue. We speak to God when we pray and when we read the Qu’ran it is God speaking to us – those we believe are His words as revealed.

And also it’s a time for contemplation and seeking forgiveness, guidance and finding a place of deep spiritual connection.

We believe it falls on an odd numbered night and so seek it out. Which is why the mosque is extra crowded tonight. We are now officially in overspill territory and I’m praying in the portacabin in the mosque car park because there’s no room in the mosque itself. That suits me fine – I feel less enclosed here. I will admit ever since the Christchurch massacre in the mosque, I always worry about being stuck away from an exit point. In the portacabin it’s fine.

It’s an emotional prayer and I hear the words Gaza, Palestine, Syria, Kashmir, Yemen and the whole Muslim world and the words calling for peace and safety for the Muslims there and around the world. It’s in Arabic but this I can make out. So I say ameen.

D21 – The Brexit Nightmare Just Got Much More Real

8am – Forget it. Didn’t even notice it happened.

10.30 am – Wake up and potter about. I’m heading to my parent’s home to look after mum this afternoon. It’s the EU election count tonight and I’m invited to County Hall for the results but I don’t think I’ll make it. It’s a pretty historic night but my mum is my priority today. I can watch the results on the tele later and shout and tweet and write.

2pm – Drive to my parents and have a chat with Pierre Kirk – the leader of the UKEU Party – who also happens to be the cousin of Hollywood actor Kevin Klein and also happens to be a French count. He is descended from two early US presidents and the founding fathers. He also has a relative who fought the Nazis in WW2 and was honoured for his role. Pierre has fighting fascism in his blood.

I spend the day pottering around at my parent’s home and spending time with mum and dad. It is just an incredible blessing to have them at home and with us. They have suffered so much ill-health over the last 2 years and the periods of time of being well enough to enjoy life have been very limited. I didn’t even know if we would have them for this Ramadan. I thank God for his mercy in hearing my prayers for their health and stability. Watching them suffer and not being able to ease their suffering was crippling, unbearable and made me feel helpless even though I am myself a doctor. So many wobbly knee moments.

9.04pm – Break my fast at home with my sister Saima, my brother Shoaib and my parents. My dad’s spicy but totally delicious fish curry and rice. It is so good. I leave when Safiya get’s home. I leave things tidy and sorted so hopefully she can chill with the pizza’s she’s ordered whilst she watches Thor with our niece and nephew. She’s been to Swansea today to do medicals for a boxing match – it’s her thing.

The vote count in County Hall has begun but it’s too late to get there. So I head home.

I get home and make it to the mosque for Isha prayer but husband isn’t feel well enough for the taraweh prayer.

I am writing this watching the EU election results come in. I’m pretty stilted with my writing because my jaw keeps hitting the floor. The Brexit Party is winning across regions. What is going on in this country? However if you look at the results and add up all the ‘Remain Parties’ – those parties with a remain focus – we would have won. Across the board. But sadly there was no such alliance. I’m getting annoyed by party leaders saying – if you count up all the remain party votes – it was a remain win. No it wasn’t! You lost because you would not all come together – as Vince Cable tried to make happen right at the start of the entire election campaign.  It was pathetic. I stood for the UKEU Party but I would have wanted an alliance. Come together with the common goal and focus to defeat Brexit. But the parties could not come together to make it happen. So how much did they really want to stop this madness?

Farage has won in the South East along with a number of other Brexit MEPs. Anne Widecombe in the South West. Jacob-Rees Mogg’s sister (can’t be bothered to look up how to spell the name right now as I’ve got one eye on the tele)  has also won. NF has spoken about the general election to come if the UK has not left the EU by 31 Oct. Imagine that. Imagine a time when the Brexit Party may even be considered contenders under NF in a general election. Or imagine a coalition/pact/alliance between the Tories and NF. All of it is possible. These are the times when the unimaginable are happening.

Marine Le Pen has narrowly won in France – good grief, and she wants Macron to dissolve parliament. In my imagination, I picture him laughing when he heard that. The far right party in Germany AfD has even won seats.

What is going on? Why this stampede back to uglier times? Is anyone else concerned about the direction of travel across the UK, across the EU and even globally?

The only hope that is coming out of tonight is Scotland’s very pro – remain wins. I am more certain than ever that I am moving back to Scotland. I am looking for jobs north of the border. And such a win, analysts are already saying could reinforce an independence referendum call.

To coin a phrase from Dad’s Army – a reminder of cosier television viewing…’We’re doomed.’

D18 – EU Election Polling Day – As an MEP Candidate

8am – Didn’t sleep until 3 am and so it was a bit of lie in again. I can’t stay in bed though. I’m a bit restless. It’s polling day for the EU elections. I have been going to polling stations  ever since I was a child. First with my parents who would take me along and I’d always feel that we were doing something incredibly important. I would spend the week before asking everyone in the playground who their parents would be voting for. I’d do some playtime campaigning for the Labour Party – we were a Labour household. That was the era of Margaret Thatcher. My, how times have changed. Ironically the Iron Lady was part of the yes campaign in the 1975 EU referendum. Wonder what she’d say if she could see things today.

Spend some time faffing around, reading and following the news. I seem to be a bit low on the old energy levels. We are into the third week of Ramadan and although the body has now adjusted to fasting during the day, I’m feeling a bit tired. I’m also totally out of sync with my body clock. A mixture of being post nights (although it’s been 3 days) and late nights after Iftar means I am dragging myself through the morning.

I read a section of Surah Nisa in the Qu’ran. I’m still trying to keep to that routine. It’s actually easier than I thought it would be. I’ve got into a bit of a thing going now. I’m on Surah Nisa which is actually a Surah (section) dedicated to women. That’s what ‘nisa’ means in arabic – women.

1.30pm After afternoon prayers it’s time to head to the polling station, like so many other times before on polling day. But it’s going to be a bit different today. My name is actually on the ballot paper. I cannot quite believe it. Two months ago, if you’d told me that, I wouldn’t have believed you but there it is. I am.

I always live in fear that I will be turned away from being able to vote so I always go armed with my passport and voting notification card. It’s habit. I do it every time and have never had to show either. It says so on the card itself that I don’t need to take it but I just don’t feel right leaving home without it.

2pm Arrive at the polling station. It’s a community hall. I only ever discover these buildings exist when I have to hunt them out on polling days. I go in and find the correct desk to present myself to – it’s allocated via streets. My street name has aptly got the word ‘liberty’ in it and that’s what is driving me. Working to preserve it. It’s a passing thought as I give the lady behind the desk my polling card. She takes it. I note that’s the first time I’ve ever handed it over – normally the volunteers say they don’t want it.

She finds my name on her list and calls out my number – 1333 – and her colleague finds my ballot paper. In this age of tech and paperless-ness – I always find it a bit surprising that something of such national importance that our democracy relies on – is actually conducted by two volunteers with a pile of papers, a list, a ruler and a pencil. Isn’t that just so cute? It’s a bit like being back at school. It feels reassuring that IT and touch screens haven’t invaded this space, yet.

I head into the booth with my ballot paper. I open it up and my goodness it is long. It’s folded up about 3 times listing all candidates and parties. And I spot my name against the party I am standing for – The UK EU Party. I feel proud to have done this although it did cost me my first 30 min current affairs presenting role on a program I had spent 2 years bringing to broadcast. When I was first asked to stand as an MEP around 4 weeks ago I was reporting a half hour documentary on a healthcare story. I didn’t think a pre-planned program would be in breach of Ofcom rules but turned out that it just wasn’t a go-er. The channel compliance bosses said absolutely no and since my name was on a ballot paper (which could not be withdrawn) I had to come off the program. Even if the program was going out just a few days into the launch. There we go. That was a blow because the program meant a huge amount to me.

But I know what drove me to say yes to standing when I was first asked and which made me take my eye off the broadcasting ball – it was my horror at seeing the rise of Tommy ‘Waxy Lemon’ Robinson and his racist goons. Whilst I’ve got no qualms at all making that statement, I can’t claim Waxy Lemon as my own – someone else created that on twitter in honour of Robinson’s real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon.

Back to the point. How can this be possible? How can someone as odious as him be considered a viable candidate? Can you imagine him in the EU parliament? The man that has built his career on hate – hate filled videos on social media particularly directed at Islam and Muslims. I used to flick through on social media when shared those really inaccurate, poorly made and cringeful videos of Robinson attempting to interpret Islam as he saw it through his prejudiced spectacles – relegating him and them to the loony bin of nutters we don’t need to bother about. And look where he is now. He’s contending for a seat in the north west. I wonder why he chose there? He’s standing as an independent. He actually comes from Luton.

I’m also fuelled by Nigel Farage – a divisive, engineering and what many people believe, is a man with racist sentiments. The indefatigable Femi Oluwole, from the excellent Our Future, Our Choice, put it quite clearly to a Brexit Party activist who was trying to argue that his party and indeed Nigel Farage were not racist. Femi referred to Farage’s Breaking Point poster where he points to Syrian refugees as the reason the UK needs to leave the EU. Femi explained that the UK is not part of the EU’s Common Asylum Policy which means that the refugees in the photo did not have any right to come to the UK under EU law – so why did Farage use them in the poster to push his agenda?

‘…the only people who do have the right to come here under EU law…are people who look like Nigel Farage.’

‘So he chose specifically brown people who have no rights to come here under EU law to scare people about EU immigration which is fundamentally racist.’

Watch the video on this link via the The New European.

https://www.theneweuropean.co.uk/top-stories/femi-oluwole-debates-brexit-party-activist-1-6015344

Farage allegedly as a younger version of himself proudly claimed his initials were the same as the National Front, according to a former school colleague who also claimed Farage sang neo-Nazi songs about killing Jewish people. But even if he didn’t say all that, what he’s created thus far has been that much more potent to the country than the NF back then.

All this Nigel Farage chat has made me remember having a time when his initials ’N F’ were daubed over my dad’s car and our home. I was 10. There it was – red spray painted letters on the bonnet and roof of my dad’s new yellow VW Passat. And they sprawled it over the porch doors and the front room window. It was dreadful. My parents tried to conceal the racist graffiti over our house with paper and sellotape – they used the large sheets of computer paper my dad had from his work as a computer analyst.

Then they tried to work out how to scrub it off. They next day the paper was stripped off and paint re-applied. So whoever did it came back to make sure it was visible. The police came and did their thing. But it wasn’t stopping anything. So my uncles took matters into their own hands. As usual my parents covered up the abusive graffiti with paper and my uncles started their ‘watch’ from their car. They sat up watching the house for hours and then in the early hours they saw the racist culprits. They emerged from the dark and ripped off the paper – two men. My uncles leapt out of the car and chased them. The realisation of who it was, was more shocking than the graffiti itself. It was our neighbour – an Irish man called John. He lived their with his wife and 4 children. As kids, we played together all the time. They came into our house and we went into theirs. My mum and their mum were friends – or so we thought.

During the Balkan war, Bosnians talked about how their neighbours they grew up with became their tormentors and aggressors. Even killers. This demonstrates the power of what can happen in the face of emboldening people along racial, sectarian and populist lines. The unimaginable can happen.

I worry that those days of the 1970s and 80s are not gone for good as I had been led to believe during my adult years. I worry that we are on a path to somewhere terrible. All that ugliness just lay sleeping, waiting to wake again.

That is why I stood today and took part. I have to do something. I have to try. We might not succeed but we must at least try to stop this rise of fascism and hate. Brexit with all credit to Farage has opened an ugly jar of division and it’s escaping mist has affected many. It’s been unleashed.

But in truth I feel that we are already set on that route and turning around might be too late. For the first time in my life I have wondered – where would I take my family if I no longer felt safe here anymore? I’ve never had that thought before. But this year I have.

It might sadly be  that we have to go into the dark – into the Brexit world Farage and Robinson want to create. It might be that Europe will face some dark days again. Far right parties in Austria are back in places of power. My goodness isn’t that worrying enough? Wake up world. The rise of far right parties in Austria and a divided Europe. When has that ever worked out for the greater good? It might be that those in the firing line this time are Muslims but I’d add that Jews and people of colour would also be dragged into this too. I fear that we have to go into the bad places first before people wake up and realise that this is indeed the nightmare we were shouting warnings about. And sadly those that have helped NF and Robinson get to where they are, will also loose out. Like all loyal foot soldiers, they will actually be the first sacrificial lambs left without money, jobs and hope. NF and TR care only for themselves – today and tomorrow.

8.30pm Anyway time to stop writing and off-loading. Heating up the shorba and borek from yesterday and making a omelette frite for the grumpy other half. He’s got a headache – think it’s the halfway point through Ramadan thing. Starting to stumble a bit before the final leg next week.

If you’ve not voted yet and it’s the 23 May – stop reading and GO. You have until 10 pm today. And vote smart. Vote Remain. Stop Brexit.

D3 – Dad’s Hospital Appointment

8.30 am – Can’t press snooze anymore. Got to get up and take my dad across London for his difficult asthma clinic appointment in Barts hospital. Means driving from Stratford to Ilford and then booking a cab to take us across London. Although a bit back and forth,it’s the best way. Dad can’t travel by public transport. I don’t want to drive into London. When I get to my parent’s home, I find my dad is short of breath on minimal exercise and has a loud audible wheeze. So we ain’t leaving home just yet. It makes us late but if I don’t sort this now it won’t be the clinic appointment we’ll be going to but A&E. My dad takes a set of nebulisers and steroids as well as his inhalers. Ok so it might be overkill but I need him to be at that appointment. And anyway, it’s how I would treat someone turning up with the same symptoms in A&E.

Once settled and a review, dad is feeling much better.  We get into the cab. I am so relieved to not be driving. The traffic is crazy and then the taxi driver takes a wrong turn at the worst place so we have 20 mins sitting in more traffic. We arrive an hour late. I am mortified. But I have been sending a running commentary to the difficult asthma clinic co-ordinator from the moment we left home. They tell me not to worry. But I do.

I’m also keeping an eye on my dad. He is much more settled in terms of breathing. Ever since he developed adult onset asthma and the scary severe asthma attacks he has suffered I have been totally absorbed by asthma. I have a low threshold for robust intervention when I see asthma exacerbations in work in the emergency department. Once my dad’s asthma attack was so bad, the chest recessions were so pronounced that it was making a hollow in his central chest – I’ll never forget it. My dad was using every muscle he had to breath. That was the longest night of my life – I knew that if it didn’t turn around he’d be tiring and possibly end up in a respiratory arrest. The painful blood gases taken from his wrist confirmed my fears. The med reg up in Aberdeen stayed with us, listening to me and my knowledge of how dad’s asthma normally responds. I was concerned when the A&E doctor – who wouldn’t see me – decided it was safe to move my dad out of A&E when he was still clearly short of breath. They were looking at the numbers – his observations and blood tests and not the patient.

So it was no surprise when we got upstairs under the medical team that he deteriorated. The med reg listened when I said he needs magnesium – something he hadn’t got in the A&E. And that iv steroids (also not given) and back to back nebs were needed. And if it didn’t settle, he’d need some non-invasive ventilation – BiPAP. It always confuses people when we say that but one clever doc tried it and we found if worked for my dad. He’s not a COPD patient, for whom NIV is normally reserved for and yet he responds really well to BiPAP. I’ve been told it’s because he is a hypo-ventilator and that’s why it works. And after she spoke to her consultant, whilst my dad continued to breath in a really alarming way, a BiPAP machine was found and my dad was started on it. Me and the med reg sighed in relief as he started to settle. My dad was then moved to ITU. All this on the first day of a holiday I had planned for the family in Scotland.

OK I’m getting too technical into medical land for a blog actually about fasting during Ramadan.

Suffice to say that was a scary hospital admission and I’m always on the look out for the signs, to avoid a similar situation. There is nothing more dreadful, more harrowing than watching someone struggle to breath and then imagine it’s your dad.

Ok – back in the zone. The Ramadan zone.

My dad is starving by the time we arrive in Barts and so I run around getting him checked in and then hunt for food for him. He hadn’t had breakfast. I’m not feeling hungry and I don’t even feel the need for coffee. Being busy is a brilliant distraction.

We get to see Dr Pfeffer -the clinical lead for the clinic – pretty quickly. I face the news of my dad is still in the assessment phase of seeing if he is suitable for a new drug that could release him from the housebound prison he is in. If he goes outside he gets a flare of his asthma. The consultant wants to re-jig my dad’s inhalers and see if it’s working to improve things. It means waiting for another acute exacerbation. Because it will happen. When it does then he might be able to get the drug. But it’s awful to think he has to go through that again before being considered eligible. It’s an expensive drug and is only for the chosen few that pass all the criteria. My dad does on so many levels, but we’ve got to try a new set of inhalers for the last hurdle. My dad is unable to leave the house and is very susceptible to asthma attacks. I hope he get’s it so at least he can go outside the house. I mean, just taking him to the local shops without needing nebulisers would be quite something.

12.30 pm – I take my dad upstairs to the second floor of the hospital for lunch. It’s halal here. He orders roast chicken dinner and enjoys it. It makes up for the traumatic morning and the rush. I then get a taxi booked to take him home.

The ride home makes me think the driver must be fasting. He’s a bit on the grumpy side.

We get home and it’s all fine.

When we get in, mum is a bit tearful. She has dementia and can be a bit moody. I think she and my sister had some words. Despite the dementia, mum is as feisty as ever. I stay for the afternoon so my sister can shoot off and do other stuff. Diffuse and have a break.

The kitchen is a nightmare. At my parent’s house where my other sisters’ live, being on it with the kitchen is not their thing. Mum wasn’t a big one for making sure the kitchen was kept clean at all times. So now it’s not unusual to find last night’s dinner and the dirty plates still in the sink and everywhere the next day. I roll up my sleeves and start to clean up.

3.30pm  – the kitchen is clean. I just wish it was the norm at home. But it’s not. They do have a cleaner 4 times a week so just wait for her to sort things.  My dad then asks for some shopping – some lamb meat to co – I loose it slightly. I have not sat down since this morning. I then say that a twice a week shopping list is the way to go. If my dad makes his list twice a week, we will definitely go and get everything from the local Turkish grocers. It’s a great shop, full of everything including a halal butcher. I buy a weeks worth of food. They give me a pack of water bottles for free – as a Ramadan gift. The Turkish shop is my dad’s new favourite thing – or shop to ask us to get the ingredients he needs. He now prefers it to the fortnightly Tesco online shop.

I want to bring some order and system to my parent’s home. It’s been a lifelong project. Any day now, I always hope. But home was always a bit on the free spirit side of things and more than a bit bohemian.

My dad get’s to work. He is a pretty amazing cook and the flavours he can create are restaurant quality. The smell of cooking that he can create is tummy rumbling stuff. My dad should have been a chef. His food is the best I have ever tasted. I am currently trying to compile a list of his recipes. It’s an ambition of mine to get it put together as a book. It certainly has helped me bond with my dad – me learning how to cook, being taught by my 78 year old dad. I have finally after 30 years, learnt how to make chapattis. He sets out his spices like a tele chef. He told me recently that the week he was set to leave Pakistan – which turned out for good as he never returned – for the UK his mother spent a week teaching him how to cook. He was 19 years old. And then that was it. He has had a passion for cooking ever since.

7pm – Everything at home is pretty settled. Mum is fine. Dad is almost done with the cooking. I helped open the tins that he can’t because of a weak left hand. Other than the finishes touches, it’s all sorted. My sister comes home. I say I’ve got to head home. I’ve not got anything ready for my own iftar at home. The other half doesn’t like eating curry during Ramadan so there’s no point taking my dad’s amazing smelling lamb and potato curry. It makes him too thirsty the next day. I wonder about what quick fix at home I can do for iftar.

7.45pm – I arrive and see other half calmly in control of the kitchen. It’s spotless – he has OCD to a degree. And the shorba is ready, and so is the salad. He’s also made a frittata kind of adaption – egg with potatoes. He points out the calm order of the evening and yes I have to concur. I am not so organised. In fact he has done so well, I suggest he continues for the rest of Ramadan.

8.38 pm – Break fast. Pray. Sit down to eat. You know how it goes by now.

11.45pm – Stagger home with feet throbbing from the day I’ve had. Feeling even more like a champion for staying for all the taraweh prayers. I chill for a bit but it’s bed time early tonight. Early for Ramadan that is. It’s around 1 am. Body clocks take a bit of a shifting during this month.

 

D2 – Shorba nightmare

3.50 a.m – I am still awake and feel pretty on top of my Ramadan game plan. I’ve just had my last sip of water for the day. Just after 4 a.m I complete the morning prayers. I will confess that getting up for morning prayer on time isn’t my natural thing and I struggle with it. So having made it today feels a bit yeah.

10 a.m – I’m up and find other half doing paperwork otherwise known as going through house bills. I hate paperwork and admin as those who know me will concur. I have yet again fallen behind. I decide not to put the letters into a pile on the desk but to instead deal with them. I’m going to be the boss of the paperwork.

3.30 pm – And I can proudly say  I spend the day busting the paperwork. I am well chuffed with the electricity bill arrangement I’ve managed to sort. I have been avoiding sorting that since January. I just get a mental block when it comes to such stuff. But today, armed with a positive attitude and also him looking at me in disbelief that I’ve let things so long without sorting as promised – I face it and get it done. When it’s done that’s a massive big tick on the to do list. Feeling a bit smug with myself. I know that sounds a bit daft getting excited about sorting the electric bill but I don’t do house stuff.

I read my 10 pages of the Qu’ran following youtube qu’ran reciters. Two days in a row? Not bad at all for me. I’m still in the land of good intentions.

5 p.m Because there is a pile of food left from yesterday – Shorba and the Lham Lahlou attempt – I have time for a siesta. My eyes close. I wake up by sitting up bolt upright. The light is misleading. Is it morning? Have I slept all the way through? Why didn’t he wake me for iftar? Then I look at the clock. It’s 6.45 pm. I haven’t slept through. I calm down and then feel pretty awesome when I know I still don’t have to rush for cooking up food. It’s already cooked. So I snuggle down for another half an hour.

7 pm – I’m up and preparing iftar ready. Feeling even more smug than I did this morning and like a totally ‘on it’ wifey. No long haul cooking for me today. All I’ve got to do is take it all out of the fridge and heat up. Shorba is ready and probably even more yum because it’s been in the fridge since last night. Max flavour. The Lham Lahlou attempt just needs a bit of reheating and it smells delicious. I get both pots on the induction stove.

The only bit of cooking or actually just assembling is the borek. The mince is ready from the day before. I get set up and organised and am good to go.

He comes to help. I am fast learning that he likes rolling up the filo pastry. As I watch and try to help, I catch a whiff of something.  I’ve pressed the highest heat seating on the induction hob. As I urge hubby to take a seat, away from the cooker, I quickly turn off the cooker. Even before I look, I know I’ve burnt the shorba. He has a super sensitive sense of smell and if I have smelt it, he will too. And then there’ll be no end of it. I light some tea tree oil to burn. He thinks it’s just me doing the cosy evening set up. It’s actually me trying to avoid the inevitable ‘you burnt the short’ scenario before we break the fast.

8.35pm – Table is laid. Shorba is on the table, generously sprinkled with chopped up coriander and a squeeze of lemon. We break the fast with a date and pray the evening prayer before heading back to eat. I make sure the remote control is nearby and say nothing as he flicks the Algerian channels before settling on the one he wants. Before he even takes a spoonful to his mouth, the game is up. Yeah – I burnt it.

Good job he’s hungry. Burnt shorba is not the most pleasant.

The saucepan base is black and is going to be a nightmare to clean. So much for being on top of the game. I am so not cut out for this domestic stuff.

D1 – Iftar like home

9 a.m – I fight the urge to make a coffee – that robotic trance like walk to the kettle and the mechanics of opening cupboards. Instead I pace myself …. and do nothing much. Watch tv and chill.

12.30 p.m –  Still chilling out. Husband says to think about prepping food. It’s only just gone midday. There’s 8 more hours to go. Is he hungry already? I know he’ll be having a caffeine withdrawal headache the size of Britain.

1.30 p.m – I say my afternoon prayer. Feels nice to not miss it and pray on time. I then do something I’ve never in my life done, even in Ramadhan. I find myself walking to my bookshelf and pulling off two books. One is the Qu’ran I was given in Mecca last year when on Hajj and the other is an English translation  of the Qu’ran. I look up Qu’ran recitations on Youtube and discover Omar Hisham Al Arabi and his reading of the section on Ramadan in Surah Baraqa. It’s beautiful. For once it hits home what this month is all about.

I start to read the Qu’ran and honour my promise of trying to read 10 pages a day. Will I keep this up? For now and for today, it feels good. Like a connection being made to the words. As I follow the text in my copy of the Qu’ran to the voice of the recitor I have time to appreciate the text, the aesthetics of the letters. I remind myself, it’s just day one. Come back on day 20. If I’ve got the energy to keep it up I’ll be impressed. I also expect this blog to disintegrate to a few lines a post, if lucky.

2.30 p.m – In Algeria, so I am told, the traditional dish to serve at Iftar is called Lham Lahlou – lamb with prunes, with a sauce made of honey and sugar. I can’t quite get my culinary imagination around that so my husband says to make a version without the honey and sugar – which turns the dish into Tagine Barqork. I have all the will in the world to be as trad as possible but sugar and honey with lamb is a leap too far. For now.

The reason they make this for Ramadan is because it’s made without salt thus helping to stave off thirst the next day.

So armed with the best youtube videos and Algerian recipe blogs out there I began to work.

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7.30 p.m – I am still in the kitchen cooking. I’ve been cooking the Tagine Barqork version of Lham Lahlou for quite some time. The prunes which I dutifully soaked before adding to the pot have almost dissolved. My pot doesn’t look like the images on instagram and PinInterest. I peel the almonds and brown them. Ready to scatter at the end, with the hope that it will at least look like how it’s supposed to. I throw in some more un-soaked prunes that will at least look intact, although not cooked through as they should be.

The shorba is something I can manage – I think. I’m feeling confident as I do the normal onions, garlic, cumin, ras -al-hanout and meat thing. It begins to smell how it should. But then in a moment of lack of faith, I reach for the packet of Majji shorba. A ready made mix of the traditional North African soup that is eaten commonly during Ramadan. It’s unnerving cooking without eating to taste so that’s what guides my hand to cheat. We are allowed to taste as long you don’t eat it but I don’t go that route. Sometimes it’s a bit like lucky dip. Cook it and then see if it works when you break your fast. Risky! But if it all goes pear shaped there’s always Deliveroo.

The last part of the trad Iftar is Borek – it’s a bit like somosa but long and cylindrical like mince meat filled cigars. I’ve got the mince ready with some peas and diced potatoes. A dash of cumin and some parsley. I’m all sorted and then husband decides he wants to help. It becomes a bit ‘too many cooks spoiling the broth’. Add to that a hungry caffeine withdrawing Algerian and then the tea towel gets it as it flies through the air.

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I am amazed at my response. I say, quietly and composed,  the words ‘calm down’ instead of what would normally come from my mouth at such times. I am quite impressed if not also taken aback. Maybe it’s Ramadan already having an impact. But the whole tea towel incident takes 20 minutes off my plans to be the ultimate housewife with a perfect table laid for iftar. Instead it’s a made rush and it’s all a bit chaotic. The thing at Ramadan is to make the table look appealing and ready. A time to celebrate breaking the fast every day. Mine is a bit lastminute.com.

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8.35 p.m – Time to break the fast. I taste the date and a rush of flavour comes to my mouth. It’s delicious. I know it’s bizarre to admit but I remember my time on the Bear Grylls Island last year or rather coming off it after 25 days of no food other than some occasional fish and coconuts.

I couldn’t quite stomach coconuts after day 2 on the island and I still can’t even stand the smell of them. All my cocoa butter lotions and potions have remained untouched for the last 12 months.

The flavour blast in my mouth, after no flavour whatsoever on the island, from eating a pineapple was incredible.

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We pray the Magrib (evening) prayer and by then all thoughts of tea towels aerial displays are forgotten. And yes the shorba is appreciated even with the Majji addition. I confess to that addition as if I’m on Come Dine With Me.

Coffee is drunk in copious amounts and all is well in the world.

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10 p.m – It’s time to walk to the mosque for the late night prayers – taraweh – said in congregation during Ramadan. It’s the first day of the fast and so the mosque is packed. Taraweh prayer deserves a whole blog on it’s own. But for now suffice to say it’s that time of year again when we stand next to strangers in whatever floor space you can find. The whole prayer time takes about an hour with the aim of the imam completing the entire 30 chapters of the Qu’ran by the end of Ramadan. Whatever anyone says, it’s a practise in stamina and standing for an hour with intermittent bowing and kneeling after a whole day of fasting. After the first 10 minutes you get into a rhythm. By the end of it I leave feeling like a champion for making it to the end. My feet are throbbing. But it also helps digest all the food you’ve just eaten. I often think Islam does have some logical practises – fast, then eat then prayer – in that order works for making you feel kind of put together.

Walking home just before midnight in the dark streets crowded with other worshippers makes it feel like community. I feel part of something. I also feel less full.

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What’s it all about? This fasting thing.

IMG_1178Ok so before I begin to hit the blog hard with Ramadhan 2019 content, I better explain what it’s all about.

During the month of Ramadhan every year, Muslims are instructed by God to fast. You may have heard of your Muslim friends and colleagues fasting at different times of the years. Wasn’t it at the height of summer last year? Yes it was – you are right. It’s earlier this year because we follow a lunar calendar. The month of Ramadan falls within the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The actual date of Ramadan is dependent on the lunar calendar and is calculated by the moon. The lunar calendar is 11 days shorter a month than the Gregorian calendar. That’s why this year we’ve started in May and last year it began in June.

We fast from dawn to dusk and that includes water. Yep hardcore fasting. No water or fluid of any kind for us. If you are ill, or travelling you are exempt and can make up the fasts at a later date.

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It’s a deeply spiritual month for Muslims. It’s a time when we try to get closer to God, both through fasting and also through prayer. Every evening just after the last prayer of the day – called Isha – Muslims gather for the extra prayers said during Ramadhan called Taraweh. So if you see lots of people gathered around mosques at night these days, that’s what they are doing. They last about an hour and after a day of fasting, it can be challenging and a test of stamina, if you’re a bit tired. But you do get used to it after a day or two and it becomes incredibly addictive. The pull of standing in prayer with other’s doing the same as you. The aim of taraweh prayers is to complete the entire Qu’ran over those 30 days. It’s sizeable book with 30 Surahs or sections and 604 pages. There’s a huge sense of achievement, togetherness and satisfaction when you are getting to the point of completing the Qu’ran towards the end of Ramadhan in Taraweh.

Many Muslims try to read the Qu’ran themselves during this month – some finishing it multiple times.

So why are we so attached to the concept of reading the Qu’ran particularly during this month? It’s the month in which we believe the Qu’ran was revealed to humankind – when the archangel Fibril (Gabriel) brought the first word of God to the last prophet, Muhammed (peace be upon him) – and thus began the revelations that form the Qu’ran. Muslims believe the Qu’ran to be the exact word of God and so you’d expect that to be pretty important to us. It is. Just break that down for a moment. Sometimes I need to take a moment and consider it. A book I believe to be the word of God, delivered through revelations. Unchanged from the time it was first delivered, starting in 610 A.D. The final revelation came 23 years later again during the month of Ramadan. I write this as I am doing so, because the true gravity of that concept has just hit me. Yes I’ve been reading the Qu’ran for years on and off. Yes I knew what it was. But something has kind of struck today which explains my wonder.

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We are often told that we can speak to God and that He hears us. We are told to pray and to confide in Him. But this is not a one way conversation. Muslims consider the Qu’ran to be the words of God and thus Him speaking to us.

We are told that during Ramadhan – the holiest month of the year for Muslims – the devil is chained and unable to influence us. What we battle instead are ourselves. Our own self-discipline, will power and attempt to find focus.

This is recognised as a month of forgiveness as well as a month of worship, reconnection and centring when it comes to our relationship with God.

For me, personally, I really need it. It’s come to me like a gift. I need this time to do all of the above and to remind me of who I am. In the busy lives we lead, we can forget ourselves and our core beliefs get buried under other things. I’m looking for courage for all that I have to deal with in my life right now and I get my strength from my faith. So for me, Ramadhan is like an answer to some of my deepest prayers asking for a bit of guidance, a bit of strength and a bit of hope.

I’m writing all that I feel quite openly (and maybe later I’ll cringe a little) because I want this to be a space for honest reflection and exploration. I know it’s a long month ahead and being human I’ll wax and wane at points along the way. In true Sal style, I’ll get distracted or lazy or overwhelmed by other stuff. I’m hoping at those times, I’ll remember to read back to get the reminder of what I think this month is all about.

I’ve been reading around for some more insights and I came across the #MUSLIMGIRL blog which was pretty helpful. It’s called  ‘Why It’s Important to Read & Recite Qu’ran This Ramadan’ by Tahira Ayub.

One more thing I’ve got to point you to is a bit of a discovery of mine. I’m not one for knowing great Qu’ran reciters. It’s a bit of a thing within the Muslim world and folk get excited by great reciters of the Qu’ran. Well I’ve discovered mine today. My goodness what a voice. For the first time in my life I had ‘something in my eye’ as I listened. It was an accidental find on Youtube, I will confess.

It is stunning. Do listen if you get a moment or even if you are curious. The reciter is Omar Hisham Al Arabi. The part of the Qu’ran he is reading is from the first section called Surah Baqarah. It’s the only part of the Qu’ran that mentions and describes the significance of Ramadhan. Confession time here, I’ve never really absorbed it’s meaning before until today, when I heard it recited by Omar Hisham and read the words in English. I had goosebumps. I found it spiritually really beautiful and even though I know it’s a challenging month ahead, I feel I’ve started it the way I’ve always meant to but never managed before really got my act together in time.

Here is his Insta link : https://www.instagram.com/omarhishamalarabi/

And his youtube link : youtube.com/omarhishamalarabi

Surah 2. Al – Baqarah 183-187

O you who believe! Observing the fast is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al- Muttaqun (the pious).

Enjoy.

Acclimatising – Day One Fast

A new routine for the month begins today. It’s only when you commit yourself to a journey like this that you realise how powerful your own mind is in controlling what you do. On the one hand my mind is focused, determined, full of resolve and hopeful. On the other hand another part of my brain is conjuring thoughts of self-doubt, fear and even wishing the month over. I’m going to be brutally honest.

This is without a doubt a test of will-power, self-discipline and of also confronting yourself.

No morning coffee. The husband, who is Algerian, is already having a sleep to get over the caffeine withdrawal headache he is dealing with. He’s a hardcore coffee drinker – the stronger the better. For me, there’s no headache because I don’t actually physically drink as much as he does but it’s the habit of making that coffee that I’m missing. The act of switching on the kettle, choosing the drinking vessel – which mug with which quote to fit with which mood – and then is it going to be be instant or filter?

With none of that going on, there’s more time. Time to do the things you avoid doing because you are procrastinating and then escaping to make a brew instead. Or fooling yourself that you are actually working, hunched over your laptop on a coffee shop.

When you take away all those practises that actually stop you from being productive, working and focusing – what is left? Just the work itself.

But fasting during Ramadan isn’t just a body thing. It’s very much a spiritual thing. An act of worship and also one of the five pillars of Islam.

You find that during this month, even the most lapse of Muslims during the remainder of the year, will take part in the fasting of Ramadan. For them as it is for the more devout, it’s unmissable. You just don’t even consider not fasting and being part of it.

It’s already 2pm and I’m feeling fine. Not hungry. Not thirsty. Not even tired.

The Plan:

  1. I’m going to try to get as much of the Qu’ran read as I can. I’ve never read the entire Qu’ran during Ramadan. Many people finish it multiple times during this month. So I’m going to make a commitment to read it every day and to get a decent way into it. That starts today. So today, I’ll begin and spend time to read, reflect and connect. I have always found it deeply spiritual to pray and read whilst in a state of fasting.
  2. I’m going to cook (scary) but yes it’s that time of googling all those North African recipes out there and getting my Shorba, Harira and Boreks at their peak. Kitchen is sparkly clean and ready for my North African cooking adventure.
  3. Blogging my way through this Ramadan so I can share, discuss and learn with brothers and sisters the experience and journey we are on.

Ramadhan 2019 – It’s here

Ramadhan 2019.

Where did the year go? Where did the years go since the last time I blogged on here? It’s been a few.

That’s just the thing with years. If you don’t keep track of them they will speed past like a bullet train and all you’ll remember is the blur.

I’m going to blog through the month. Again. I want to see how far into Ramadan I can keep up a daily burst of content.

The last 12 months have been varied and challenging in a whole host of ways.

This time last year I was in Panama on an island with no contact to the outside world. By now I had found water with Martin Kemp. I had looked after James Cracknell and Anthony Ogogo who were suffering from abdominal pain and diarrhoea. I had hung out looking for limpets with Jo Wood and I had steri-striped Pete Wick’s finger together which he later tried to loose again when a shark bit him. I had looked after Eric Roberts and his headaches and visual black spot. Montana Brown had been super kind when she came to talk to me when I was having a bit of a moment.

Meeting all these people came about because I was on the Bear Grylls Celebrity Island series and we’d met Bear just a few days before.

We had no food and had to filter water to make sure we had enough to survive on. But it wasn’t like fasting all day.

I missed a large part of Ramadan back at home with my family and husband last year. It feels pretty special to be home with hubby from day one. I think this is the first one where we have been home together for the start of the month. Last year it was Panama, and the year before I was working in Bangor ED. Finally feeling a bit married now even though it’s our 3rd year.

It’s also been a hard 12 months in terms of navigating the new normal with family. My parents have been unwell loads and I’ve spent a ton of time in hospital with them. Flash backs to some of my scariest days with both of them are still pretty raw and make my knees feel like jelly when I linger over them.

And so with all this in mind, I’m so blessed to have the chance to contemplate and repent, to pray and worship and to be thankful. It’s Ramadan and this is the month to stop. Take a moment. Get closer to God in a way that you have not had a chance to all year, because life has been happening around you.

Ramadan Mubarek.

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