لترى عالما في ذرة رمل
وفردوس في زهرة بربة
وامسك السرمدية في راحة كفك
والابدية في ساعك
Two reasons I stay friends with my ex despite the fact that in his culture it is unheard of and even in mine it can be notoriously difficult: مقلوبة and تبولة. He also makes mutabbal but that delicious grey slime is sadly less photogenic.
So this is our peculiar and fragile arrangement: he will call and ask me to fill in some form or complete an online task which he insists that, even after fifteen years in the country, he is unable to do. In return he will produce the famous dome of upside-down loveliness and tabboula so fresh and sharp it makes your eyeballs zing with the first forkful. My influence over the years means that his maqlouba is now more Syrian than Palestinian: less cauliflower and more aubergine and with chicken rather than lamb or rabbit (I have pushed for a vegetarian version but apparently this would be a step too far).
I think it’s more than a fair swap. And maybe if I help him do his tax return he’ll add a handful of سنوبر.
WordPress kindly sent me an email to remind me that it has been, chillingly, a year since I set up this blog. And this is my first post – that has to have broken some sort of record in terms of procrastination and inertia. If any other blogger reading this (hahaha) would like to tell me that the time it took them between setting up the blog and writing the first post was even longer then I would be very happy to hear from them.
As it has been a year since beginning this, it means it has been a year since I left The Bookshop. This was supposed to be a way of navigating the loss and heartbreak of leaving, a way of maintaining an attachment to that enchanted bookish world while at the same time earning enough money to live with a basic level of human dignity.
A year on, I still think of myself as a bookseller. And in this frame of mind which I just can’t seem to escape, I present, in no particular order, my favourite comments, queries and complaints from Bookshop customers. I know this has already been done by Jen Campbell but I think you will find these are extra special:
‘The pictures in your books about mermaids aren’t realistic enough’.
‘I don’t like the tone in your books about houseplants.’
‘Where are the rest of my books? Are you taking the f**king piss?’ (shouted by a celebrated English novelist and humorous columnist. We thought at first he was joking – he wasn’t.)
Customer: ‘Do you have any books on embalming?’
Me, after checking: ‘Not in stock, but we can order it in.’
Customer: ‘No thank you, I need it for tonight.’
‘How do you get bloodstains out of a book?’
‘Do you have anything good to masturbate to?’