Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Missed by a Mile

Week two of Girl with Pearl Earring went well.

Ok, I didn’t get very far on day one, but on day two I made real progress. I completed the foundation stitches on this part of the turban and began short stitch holding. I have not reached the short stitch holding phase in my Japanese Embroidery lessons and have only done a very small amount previously. According to the book, I should use temporary holding stitches across the foundations. Well, I am short of time and my foundation stitches are relatively short, so I decided to skip that stage. In the instructions the stitches are of equal length and arranged in an orderly manner. I want to give an impression of brush strokes so I’m doing my stitching in a more random fashion. Yes, you heard me correctly; I am doing random by choice! I also hope that the short stitch holding will blend the colours and reduce the blocky appearance of the foundations.

Day 6, 10 minutes

Day 7, 1 hour 20 minutes

Day 8, 20 minutes

Then we went on holiday for a week. When we returned I managed 3 more short stitching sessions.

Day 9, 20 minutes

Day 10, 20 minutes

Day 11, 20 minutes

11 hours 30 minutes

The exhibition has started now, so I failed miserably in my challenge. I intend to continue stitching my Girl with a Pearl Earring but first I have other things that are a higher priority. In some ways I regret starting her. I knew that I had left myself to little time to stitch her and my time could have been better spent doing some of the other things I have committed to.

Happy Stitching

Monday, 12 October 2009

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Khaled Hosseini’s second book, A Thousand Splendid Suns, is the story of the unlikely bond between two very different women.

When Miriam is only fifteen years old a tragic event forces her to marry a man thirty years her senior. Two decades later, when a similar fate befalls Lalia at the same age, Rasheed takes her as his second wife. Set against a backdrop of war torn Afghanistan, there are many parallels between the shifting fortunes of Kabul and the lives of Miriam and Laila.

Amid growing unrest between the warlords of the Mujahideen, Miriam is struggling to please her husband. As years past and she fails to provide him with a son his disappointment turns into bitterness and he treats his wife with contemptuous cruelty. When Laila first joins their unhappy household a tense and uneasy peace descends but when her first child is a daughter, Rasheed's unpredictable moods and violent outbursts resume. It is fear and loathing of their husband and their shared love of Laila's children that eventually draw the women together and a strong bond develops between them. When the Taliban seize control of Kabul, Rasheed takes perverse pleasure in their arrival. His control over his wives is as suffocating and brutal as their Shari'a laws.

The book is divided into four parts with short chapters that move swiftly through the defining events of the story. The crisp narrative does not waste words on anything unimportant and yet leaves no loose ends, no questions unanswered. The author paints a vivid picture of the brutality of war and the savage beatings Rasheed's wives endure, there is a welcome lack of gratuitous gory detail. The story is relentlessly brutal with only brief reprieves in the misery and suffering. Yet it is a story about love, about many loves and mainly about the love between mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. It is a story about the trusting, innocent love a child has for a parent and the all consuming love of a parent for their children.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Probably the Best View on the Island

We'd spent the morning searching for a cave.

In fact we had looked for it the previous day but had given up and gone to the beach when someone told us that the cave was extremely difficult to find and definitely could not be accessed from this side of the hills. Unwilling to accept defeat so easily we had set out early to find the remote village of Giri and resume our search. Following some sketching directions from the owner of a local Taverna we drove causiously along the gravel track he'd discribed as a 'not very good road' until the surface deteriorated to a state unsuitable for our hired Hyundi i10! We continued on foot marvelling at the complete lack of man made sound. The Western side of Zachynthos is more sparsely populated than the east and we were about 3 kilometers from the nearest habitation. There was no farm machinery to be heard, no music from the tourist resorts, not even the faint hum of a distant road. Only the the gentle buzzing of insects, the occasional rustle of grass as a lizard darted away and intermitent bird song accompanied us. As soon as we crossed the summet of hill sounds of the farming community 600 meters below drifted up to puncutate the stillness; a dog barking, cocks crowing, the creaking and clanging of a tractor.

At the end of the track we found the foot path that wound its way down the steep hillside to our elusive cave. We might have been exhilerated at meeting our objective had we not been so underwhelmed by the cave itself. To be honest, that was not unexpected; this is not the first time we have spent hours searching for a cave that turned out to be little more than a small hole in the side of a hill and nor do I expect it to be the last.

Travelling back to our resort by the road that the previous day we had been told did not exist, we saw a sign for a taverna boasting the best view of the island.

Now we are sitting on a terrace that seems to be suspended above the roof tops of Agios Marina. To the north of the island Kefallonia is clearly visible, as is Laganas Bay in the south. Beyond the ancient bell tower in front of us are acre upon acre of olive groves, beyond them the sea shimmering in the bright afternoon sunshine, and beyond that the purple mountains of mainland Greece just showing against the purple haze of the horizon.

The tavern's boast may not be exagerated, this may well be the best view of the island. After our hot, dusty trek our plate of calamari is possibly the best in the Mediteranean and the cold beer we are drinking is probably best in the world.