And we’re back! In a manner of speaking at least. trailinggrouse.com has been shot down by a super nasty hacker and has been undergoing emergency surgery since late August. It’s has been touch and go, but is pulling through now and will hopefully be soaring through the cyber skies in 2011.
I’ve felt as though I’ve had my vocal chords cut with no blog. No blog during an extremely stressful move? Who on earth was I supposed to share the minutia of frustrations with? What a disaster!
So, it is with bounding joy that I have my digital* chords back. Perhaps more importantly, however, this is my first ever blog post where I am not, for a single second, considering self censorship. Not a teeny weeny moment. Ok, well, I’m not going to criticise a certain Pharaoh-type president, because I want to return to that country and not be refused entry at the airport, but I could criticise the president of France. I could even put in print that France is not perfect and not be concerned about any direct or indirect repercussions either now or in the future.
All this freedom and I have no desire to actually use it! Perhaps I just have no idea how to…
A little story…
Shortly after arriving in Paris, I decided to go for a walk along the Seine. I was happily following it along until I hit the area beside the bridge in front of Ecole Militaire. Out of the corner of my eye, slightly behind me, I spotted a booted, black trousered leg with a baton. I stopped dead. My heart was pounding at a million miles an hour and beads of sweat were forming on my forehead. Rooted to the spot, genuinely paralysed by fear, my brain was in overdrive: the Amn Al Dawla (State Security Police) were behind me. Behind! How on earth had it happened? This meant I had crossed their lines. This meant I was standing on the WRONG SIDE of them. This meant I was IN the protest. [insert any expletive you desire here]!
I think I began trembling, but I was so traumatised, that I cannot remember exactly what happened.
I started to look around. Walls of shields, helmets, batons and big steel capped, black boots. Oh my goodness, the boots. Those are the boots that kick people, that trample on them! Those are the boots that hurt protesters!
I realised that nobody was reacting to me. I moved very slowly to the side, hoping not to attract undue attention. It then occurred to me to look in the other direction and see what I was facing. A mob of crazy protesters? Nope. Nothing. Then I saw a journalist sitting on a wall with his laptop. A journalist! Inside police lines! Not harassed. Just sitting writing up his story.
Then it hit me: I’m in France! People are allowed to protest. They are truly allowed to protest. Not “allowed” to protest.
In a minute of potential madness, I decided to test the logic of freedom of speech. I whipped out my phone and pretended to sms, but took a photo of a police line. Then another, then another. Not a twitch of a baton. I began blatantly taking photos of the police and nothing, absolutely nothing happened!
Brave on a crazy feeling of liberation I decided to head in the direction I could feel the protesters would come in. Nobody stopped me. Nothing happened at all.
The wave of protesters, who looked more like a very large group of people meandering through the streets on a Sunday afternoon, made their way towards me. Standing in the middle of a normally busy road, facing the Ecole Militare, its golden roof statue gleaming against a leaden sky and the French flag flapping behind the protesters, I was over come by a desire to scream at them that they did not know how lucky they were. Nobody was risking life or limb to have their hand written placards shown on international media. No leather jacketed, sunglass wearing secret policemen were in their midst. Nobody at all following with a camera to film faces in the crowd for anything more sinister than a CNN broadcast.
No screams were made though. I just stared for a little while, tried to hide my tears and walked away.
It is France after all. There will be more opportunity for protest-watching!
*did you get it? Online and fingers..I know, I know, I’m too good ;)

Image from: here.

It's all in the eyes

I decided recently to check my vaccination record, in part because I couldn’t remember the last time a needle was stuck into me that wasn’t drawing the red stuff. After fruitless days of searching for it, I decided just to go do the doctor and get the ball rolling.

He ordered a blood test to check if I had (miraculously) antibodies remaining from my last vaccinations.

I’ve just picked them up. He was pleased to inform me that I didn’t need the hep A vaccination because I am autoimmune. Completely missing the ‘auto’ part, I was surprised and quizzed him about how long vaccines can remain in the system, because I was sure I had not had it since I was 18 (yonks ago).

“No,” he said, “You had hepatitis A and now you are immune”.

“Oooooh!” Silence,  ”So that must have been why my eyes were yellow!”

A few years ago, I was positive that my eyes had turned yellow. Absolutely positive. The problem was that the more I stared at them in the mirror, the more I wasn’t really sure and thought it must be something funny about the lighting in my apartment. I decided to wait and see if someone commented, as they oft do in this part of the world if you’re not looking your best. Nobody did.

It seems that my yellow eyes must have been working better than I thought!

Smells a bit off (no, I don't mean me)

Right then. I’m heading out of the lift, sticky, hot and particularly sweaty after just working out. I would like to say I look good, but well, I don’t.  I might even smell, but I don’t especially want to go there. I have a sense that someone is following me. This sense is well-honed from living in Egypt for eight years, but not so well practiced after living in The Hood for the last three. I’m sure I’m mistaken. Paranoid even. I test it out. The real test: I walk on the pavement. Nobody in their right mind walks on the pavement in Cairo. Pavements are a mere concrete border to a dusty, tarmac-ed death run.

Not paranoid: the footsteps follow.

I meander as though I’m not aware of him (oh come on, did YOU think it was a her??) and then move to cross the road. He catches up. He was in the gym. “Hello,” he says like we’ve been friends for ages. “Hi” I say, knowing I’ll see him again in the gym, so will give him the benefit of the doubt: perhaps something fell out of my bag (Right. We know it didn’t, but I don’t want to appear a total b*tch without real cause).  “Did you have a good workout?” His voice falters. He’s nervous. He’s not cocky – just as well because then the “doesn’t suffer fools gladly” side would be unleashed.

My brain is shortwiring: I’m married. Isn’t it CLEAR I’m married. Don’t I have an “I’m married” sandwich board swinging off my shoulders? I go to open my mouth and my throat closes. I simply cannot utter the words that my brain was pushing out, “I’m a married woman!” because that makes me o-l-d! I’m no longer the girl who does x & y, I’m a “married-woman” who does x & y. I squeezed out a terse, “Yes.” and set off across the road.

Tailing me come the words “Can I give you a lift anywhere?”.

“Um, yes, that would be splended freaky-stranger-guy-who-has-just-followed-me-down-the-road. It’s dark now, so please, let me get in a metal box that you control and direct you to my home.”

What on earth did he expect me to say to that?!

Plagiarism at agnabee.com & Trailing Grouse is here only

Right, bound to happen at some point, but I was hoping it wouldn’t: Trailing Grouse is SUCH a bloody cool name (ok, I may be biased) and “..so pretty and witty and wise”, that someone has nicked it. Yep. What is more irksome, is that the thief/ves just copy and pasted it and the blog tagline onto their site and, in addition to aggregating some of my blog posts, have a load of rubbish underneath it.

The site is agnabee.com and they’ve got me down as a blog writer (from what I can tell). It seems they’ve now closed the ‘blog’ to further posts since I posted a reply message complete with a link to my blog (which they deleted) – but not removed the TG ‘blog’ and subsequent drivel! Niiiiiiiice.

Now, I’m not alone (so no, it’s not just because I’m pretty), Whazzup Egypt has suffered too, and I suspect that there are other Egypt expat bloggers out there who are also having their posts either systematically or randomly posted by the aggregator. If you are checking your blog stats frequently, then this sort of thing will harm your numbers. If you are the product of educational institutions that drill into students the abhorrent nature of plagiarism, you’re likely to feel cheated.

The idea behind the website is good and helpful, although not the first time a website has been set up for expats/foreigners in Cairo/Egypt – they normally end up being more popular with non-expats – but plagiarising either manually or by aggregator in order to make your blog look more established is not.

Going 'local'


Slouching through the streets,
Dirty sandals scuffing the sidewalk,
Week old stubble, perhaps two,
Stale shorts, skimming the knees,
Yesterday’s sweaty t-shirt, uncrumpled from the floor,
Screams to be washed.

Going ‘local’

Unique, different, unrivaled.
You may think.
Fitting in.
Definitely not.

‘Going local’.

Darting eyes,
Meandering footsteps:
They give you away.

Bargaining over nothing:
It gives you away.

Costly camera
Clipped round your neck:
It gives you away.

White skin, red skin,
They give you away.

Have you not noticed?
Do you think ‘they’ have not noticed?
The patronising.

Pssssst! Clones!
The ‘locals’ look better than you -
And smell sweeter too.