I qualify that by reminding readers most of this time was spent in the African bush or a provincial town (Iringa) in Tanzania, or in the backwater quietness of Vientiane in Laos, where we had plenty of support in the form of house staff who did a lot of the work that would normally be my lot. Does that sound dreadfully colonial and exploitative? Bet it did - but I knew it would, and I have defended it so often that I genuinely feel I can stand over it as being neither of the above.
As many of you who live in the so-called LDCs (Less-Developed Countries) of the world will know (Lynda, I'm thinking of you here) human capital is central to the national economy, and people have the expectation that if you come into their country with a foreign NGO (Non-Government Organisation) as we did, that the least you will do is provide local employment. Had we come over all virtuous and insisted on doing everything ourselves we would have found it a lot more difficult to gain recognition and acceptance. We would have been labelled mean and stingy and unwilling to help people help themselves through the dignity of honest work. As the ethos of our NGO (Concern Worldwide) was not to give handouts but to provide sustainabale development for people, it would have sat uncomfortably with that ethic.
As it was, we were blessed with having household staff wherever we lived who were (clichéd though it sounds) very much part of our family, and we still have contact with many of them, via the blessings of Facebook and email as well as snail mail. The children grew up with them and their children, and they were at the various family and birthday parties as guests and friends and I love to follow their children as they grow up. The staff were like any employee of the NGO, with the same terms and conditions - living in Socialist and post-Communist countries ensured that Labour Law was strictly pro-worker and we adhered to it as fairly as we expect it to be here at home.
So that's my little polemic rant- I do tend to digress all over the place in my posts, maybe I should curb the stream of consciousness a little, as I never know when I start a post where it will take me. I hope the readers can cope with this - please be brutally honest if you can't and tell me to stick to the point - I can handle constructive criticism (I think!)
This post was supposed to be about my craft and cookery books - so I will share a few photos of the ones I love, including some new knitting books I got this week - one on Party Knits and one on Knits for Kids - New Knits on the Block. The latter is perfect now that I can indulge Sofia and as the two were for sale at a knockdown price of €6.99 for two - on a BOGOF (Buy one get one free) offer - who could resist!
The cookery books I love are on the bookshelves I photographed here - there are lots gathered over many years and plenty from recent years that were either given as presents or bought in the workplace bookclub sales - these are ubiquitous in Irish workplaces (probably elsewhere) and sales reps deliver a selection of samples to the offices for a week or so and they have wonderful knockdown prices for everything - so a Jamie Oliver marked at £30 can be had for €12 or so. I've got beautiful books for a tenner that would be three times that in the shops, so as I'm a sucker for a good bargain, once again I'm just a girl who can't say no! I love the Samuelson African Continent cookbook - it was a present from Anne in New Jersey, an old friend. Our recent houseguest Tandy (my knitting student!) gave me the BBC Masterchef book - you can see us in the photo. It ties in with the TV series so should prove fun to try out.
As I find all these books as pleasurable to read as to work from I think I'm getting plenty of great value - and I know from looking at those blogs of similar leanings that I'm not alone in that opinion! I actually use them as recipe books too - and as you can see from previous knitting posts - I get through quite a few of the patterns too!
My maternal grandfather was a tailor so maybe I inherited some of the gene pool there, I certainly have some skill in that line despite hating home ec. in school, yet I taught myself on his ancient treadle Singer machine where I made dolls' clothes, then I got an old Brother machine which died after a number of years making maxi dresses and fancy frocks for dinner dances (it was the Seventies after all!) and then I got my current machine, a Singer with lots of fancy stitching, in 1986 when we lived in the bush in Tanzania. It's a testament to the longevity of the brand that it's still going strong 24 years on, as fit for purpose as ever.
Some day I will get back to dressmaking - but I aim to lose about 5-8 kg first to get back to size 12 (no, I don't know what a size zero is and I never met anyone who did or was - but that may be just US sizing! I'm aiming for 12 UK or 40 European size and then I'll get dressmaking again - there's a goal to strive for and I have some classy pieces from my previous size 12 life that I can't wait to get into again. I made suits, skirts, bermudas, trousers, tops, dresses - you name it, I made it.
I even made a safari suit which hubby sported whenever visiting dignitaries like President Nyerere came on project visits.And as my middle son reminded me recently, my kids might need therapy in years to come to work through the trauma of being dressed in chaircovers and curtains - Sound of Music-style - during their formative years in Africa! As our curtains were the colourful "Vitenge" cloths worn by the women they made great curtains and chair covers, and it was a small step to move into kids' clothing. As the son said, many times they blended into the furniture like chameleons!