My Stay in Sydney



Without a chance to craft this edition of my news with care, as I am leaving for the airport in less than two hours, here is a quick summary of how I have spent my three months in Australia.

Just as I was completing the last website update, Nicola Nanette Levy set foot on Australian earth for her first time. We had two and a half weeks of strenuous fun together. As you can imagine, I was not in need of a ‘holiday’, but I certainly felt the benefits of the injection of close, old, friendship that she administered! Together we flew to Alice Springs, and had a fantastic week in Australia’s ‘Red Centre’; except that due to almost unprecedented rainfall in the last twelve months it could more justifiably be labelled the ‘Green Centre’. It was only the occasional sighting of the characteristic red sand, as well as the hours spent close to the famous red rock that reminded us, as we wandered among ‘The Olgas’ (or ‘Kata Tjuta’), walked around ‘Ayers Rock’ (or ‘Uluru’), and clambered through ‘King’s Canyon’ (or ‘Watarrka’).

Spending even a short time in this area of such outstanding natural beauty and historic and spiritual significance was very memorable and worthwhile – including in Alice Springs itself, where we enjoyed one late afternoon in the Desert Park, another taking tea and date cake in Australia’s oldest date plantation, a bicycle ride to Simpson’s Gap and a walk to the old Telegraph Station. And the sight of dear Nanette protecting herself from Australia’s friendly wildlife as she settled down in her swag for the night was worthwhile too!

Closer to Sydney, we kept up our hectic schedule, with two days in the Blue Mountains (after a 3.30 am rise for the Dawn Service on Anzac Day), a trip to an incredible beach (deserted and 7 miles long!) with Nanette’s friends Monica and Dusty and their little boy Eden, a day out in a boat on Pittwater courtesy of Nick, and a visit to the Zoo. We cooked dinner for nine on her final evening, then before she headed home in greying skies, we went over the top of the Harbour Bridge!

With my good friend gone, I settled down to work. A few weeks I go I finished writing the first draft of the ‘easy part’ of my book, which is accounts of all the eating experiences I want to share. I am now determined to see the manuscript through to completion. I have not made any overtures to publishers yet – so if anyone knows anyone……. I am returning to Sydney to continue working on the book come September – but only after a quick visit back to Iran! Having written ten thousand words on Persian food alone I can justify the trip as research…. And flying with Turkish Airlines as I am all summer, the cheap price of a side trip to Tehran was an offer too good to ignore! And of course it will be lovely to see my good friends in that most hospitable and friendly of countries as well. I hope to have ‘finished’ the book thing by Christmas – at least the writing part! – so it should be an intensive twelve weeks, with lots more reading as well as writing to do. But to make my life more difficult I am enrolling on a teaching English course that should take up about a further 25 hours a week of my time….. perhaps the stress will make me more productive!

I interspersed the hours sitting in front of the computer (which gave me headaches at first!) with a couple of courses (e.g., yoga), and efforts to maintain my fitness with trips to the lovely swimming pool under the Harbour Bridge and jogs up and down the stairs of this block of flats – though all such efforts have waned considerably recently! Winter is here though on many days you would hardly know it so I can’t really use the weather as an excuse. And of course their have been numerous other diversions in Sydney and around New South Wales, thanks to Nick and my few friends here, Anna, Mary and Yvette. Doing things with them and their friends has kept me at least as sociable as I wanted to be so I can’t pretend to have been a total hermit! What luxury.

Where is my plane to today? First stop Bangkok – only to change aircraft and airlines, arriving tomorrow morning in Istanbul. Hooray!! Not that I am spending more than the daytime hours there that I have to while away until the flight to Bishkek tomorrow evening. I arrive back in Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday morning, and am heading straight to Karakol to find my friends the Ibraevs. At the start of next week Alexa and Pascal are arriving too – having not had enough of Flynn holidays after our two weeks in freezing China in January, it seems! We plan to camp in flower-carpeted meadows, stretch our legs on the lower flanks of the mighty Tian Shan, and test out a Soviet relic: one of the lakeside sanatoria that party notables used to enjoy, now outfitted for whoever has the money to spend improving their health. I’ll let you know later what it is all like. Jalil and Asel are promising to join us for these activities, which will be interspersed with time spent with the rest of the Ibraevs in Tepke – including some targeted recipe-gathering for me…...

On August 1st I am leaving Bishkek, but not alone – as many of you have heard from me by e-mail already, Jalil and Asel’s visa applications for the United Kingdom were approved, so I have a chance to offer them some return hospitality! We are coming via Istanbul again – this time although the connections are smooth, we are choosing to spend two days to see some of the sights. There are a few restaurants I would like to re-visit and dishes I would like to re-taste, too, if I have the chance!

OK, I’ve run out of time – still got to do the washing-up and the vacuuming so this must finish here. I hope to see as many of you UK-based people very soon I hope!

Lots of love


The bowls on this border are filled with ingredients that go into Kaifeng's hallmark desserts. |Click here to view the original photo|