The Ramadhan Diaries

Fasting in London and beyond

Archive for the category “Youtube”

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.

The optional extras you can’t resist – Taraweh prayers

When I was younger and first getting to grips with Islam and Ramadan I remember thinking how challenging the month long fast was. Not just the fasting itself but everything else that went with it. The thing that got me was the extra prayer after the last prayer of the day. There is a lot of praying going on. So not only do you not eat all day, but in the hours when you are allowed to eat, you then have an optional extra of set of prayers – called taraweh – to think about doing. Now these prayers are not compulsory, like the five times a day obligatory one but they are popular and people do flock to the mosques after eating to pray them.

It was whilst I was living in Edinburgh and immersing myself in the Ramadan experience fully – not just the detached ritual of not eating during daylight hours – that I began to partake in the extra night prayers. During this time, mosques scour the land and overseas for their favourite reciters, people who can recite huge chunks of the Qu’ran by heart and say it with the conviction, the stamina and the beauty that captivates the listener. In Edinburgh, two reciters from Saudi Arabia were annually brought in and they filled the mosque. I kid you not, it really was standing room only on any tiny spot of mosque ground you could find. I was amazed and then a bit embarrassed by how much of a light weight I had been in previous years of never making it to these extra prayers. During these thrifty days, the entire Qu’ran – all 30 chapters of it will be recited during these taraweh prayers. It’s quite a feat and becomes immensely moving.

Now I am going to a local little mosque near to where I am currently staying just outside east London. The mosque itself is in a house, which has expanded and is growing. It has become a hub. The men prayer outside in what would be the garden, under tarpaulin and some sort of temporary overhead cover. The women have the little semi-detached house, with an extra overspill outside under more tarpaulin. But praying outside is lovely – it’s refreshing. It reminds me of being out in Sarajevo, when I went to pray in the cutest little mosque I had ever seen. It dated back to Ottoman times and had a little balcony outside that we prayed on, with a gentle thunder storm rolling behind us. It was one of those moments imprinted and that I would love to repeat.

Praying under my little tarpaulin overhead cover in Essex is not quite Sarajevo but if I close my eyes, focus on the prayer being recited and feel the cool breeze in the night air on my skin, I could be anywhere.

If I am painting a very spiritually idyllic picture, let me bring in some realities. The crowd control can be a problem, the stampede for a space can result in the most unholiest of exchanges and in the years gone by this mosque also used to have it’s share of ‘hijabis in hoodies kind of groupies’ – the young ones that used to come for the chat and the hanging around. Used to annoy me beyond belief especially after having convinced my lazier self to drag myself there. I often ended up me telling them to shut up so that the women could focus on the prayers and not their chat about their day or their latest crush. One evening I stopped my prayer to stand with them, glowering over them to keep their voices down, as the other’s prayed. This year it’s quiet on the chat front but the space issue still exists. My mum, who is a little unsteady on her feet, uses a chair to prayer instead of standing all the way through and yet women around her kept hustling her to move over, even though it’s quite visibly obvious she is unsteady. Things like this make me wonder at the compassion, the charity and the peace that Ramadan is supposed to invoke. I then get angry and don’t engage with the community – live in my self imposed exile from it. A collection of these experiences has traditionally kept me away from group gatherings in prayer congregations, but for some reason this year I am embracing it again. I am trying a new approach to Ramadan and the night prayers are part of this. I always come back with a bit more of an appetite and a little less sluggish. So it is working for me.

It seems to be working. There are things I love about the taraweh prayer. I love when I am driving to the mosque, I can see individuals or small groups of people either walking to the mosques or leaving, in the surrounding streets leading. Men in white long robes called thobes and little caps. They don’t only wear just this, but when you see this outfit you kind of know where they are going or have been. For me it’s a peaceful image – someone who has just spent an hour in spiritual contemplation and prayer after a day of fasting and yet for many in the UK, the image of a Muslim ‘dressed as a Muslim’ has invoked fear and suspicion.

The mosque is heaving, and when the prayers are over people stream out. It seems bizarre to see such a large group of people coming out of a building, heading for their cars around midnight when the rest of the street are indoors and all the shops are closed. There is a quiet buzz – people are too tired to be boisterous and it’s not that kind of vibe. There is also a lovely smell of musk hanging in the air – people tend to use musk as a perfume including men. It smells so clean, so soft and just reminds me of taraweh prayers every time.

The other night when I was trying to find a place to park – I was late getting in to taraweh – a man who had just left the pub around the corner was weaving across the pavement and then decided to get into the road in front of my car. It was an awkward moment – the mosque with groups of men leaving, a drunk man staggering in the road wondering what on earth the crowds of people were all about. Was it a rave?  And who on earth where those people bowing and kneeling inside? Then there was me driving at 2 mph behind him – giving it some road rage. I am not sure who the men in white thobes were most amused by – me being angry or the staggering man.

 

 

Having my cake and eating it.

Settled down to understand more about the physiology related to fasting and fell asleep. Even with the Simpsons on Channel 4. I have felt rather fatigued today – I think that’s my body readjusting to what I am doing to it. It really is a mind of matter situation and at the moment it’s neck and neck. Matter kind of won today but I know I have to get the mind back into it. I think when I am working, out there and doing stuff things really do go a lot easier during the fasting day. Today I stayed in my room, read, slept and prayed. I feel more lethargic and the thought of heading out for the night prayer seems like a mammoth effort. Bigger than it did on the other days.

Drinking my cup of tea is rather wonderful though. It makes me appreciate that particular luxury amongst others. In fact as I was pouring out something to eat today, I felt an urge to keep the portion size small. I was just not able to consider eating or even looking at vast amounts of food. In that moment I wondered that if more people were to undertake abstinence from food, through fasting, would that mean less food waste? There was a program on BBC Radio 4 last night as I was driving home about the horrifying amounts of food that are thrown away around the world. Fasting certainly does without a shadow of a doubt make you appreciate the privilege of easy and ready access to food and water. It’s one that not everyone has.

I’m settling down to the BBC’s Newsnight and another cup of tea. Just had a delicious slice of home made fruit cake, complete with icing and marzipan. Now I feel a bit sick.

 

Day 3 – In Fasting Hibernation

I have not left my room today. I live in a flat with three others and my en suite room is my domain. I just wanted to stay put, do nothing but be still and quiet. It’s not something I am going to have much opportunity for later in Ramadan, starting tomorrow – so I thought I’d make the most of my downtime. I got home late last night after the excitement of the Algerian football match and the successful cooking session. By the time I had settled, had sehur (breakfast) and prayed Fajr it was around 3.30am. I slept in this morning and ever since have gorged myself on the unthinkable other than food – a diet of day time tv. Now I feel a little unclean!

As I write this an ice-cream van drives by. Funny how I never noticed this before. How long have we been getting ice-cream vans down here? Weird how you notice these things on a fast.

I had for the first time this Ramadan pangs of hunger, that made me feel a bit nauseous and so I tried to focus on the physiology going on in my body and what was causing it. I found myself looking up the hunger hormone, ghrelin. It is secreted when the stomach is empty and when the stomach is stretched as it receives content it’s secretion stops. I think I am a ghrelin secretion hater as I always feel more comfortable in a stretched stomach state. The fuzzy head right now isn’t that bad but I am fully aware that I am fasting and that reinforces my negative state that I find myself in. I know for example that my own health and well being allows for me to fast and that within my own body I have enough food reserves to keep me alive and functioning for more than just a day. I also know that cutting my calorie intake is good for me and that subjecting my body to this kind of stress is actually a form of repair. I also know that I can survive without water until 9.20pm this evening. I also know that right now my body is going into fat burning mode to gain it’s source of energy and that I have plenty of fat stores to draw from. So what is it that is making me feel so much slower today? And hungry? It was not like this yesterday. But then again I was rushing around, shopping, feeling the Ramadhan spirit and today I am alone in my room with the television. Maybe that’s it.

For a more informed answer I am turning to science to understand. I am actually going to go away for a bit and read Michael Mosley and Mimi Spencer’s book ‘The Fast Diet’ and in particular the chapter about the science of fasting.

However I have gained some solace from the following, that Michael gives us from his and Mimi’s book:

‘…Once you have been really hungry you no longer fear it.

I thought fasting would make me distractible, unable to concentrate. What I’ve discovered is that it sharpens my senses and my  brain.

I feared it would be incredibly hard to do. It isn’t.’

 

Farewell to the Desert Foxes and their Fantastic Fans

Farewell to the Desert Foxes and their Fantastic Fans

The farewell from Algerian national football coach to the fans and the tearful hugs for his team. Vahid Halilhodzic did an amazing job and let’s hope he stays. Bravo team, bravo.

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