Month: June, 2013


Today while wheeling my baby to sleep in her buggy (back and forth and up and down), outside a lovely cafe in the back streets of Hamra, a woman felt it necessary to come out of the building opposite and tell me to stop, because my sleep inducing technique was ‘bad for the baby’s intestines’. 

Unasked for advice about child rearing is not uncommon here. It’s true that the Lebanese love babies, and that is one of the things I love most about being a mama in Beirut, but it’s also true that sometimes, in my friend’s words, they act as though they own them.

I love your baby so I can tell you what to do with your baby. 

Maybe there is some logic in this equation but it is never nice to be told off by a finger-wagging woman you’ve never met. I felt like I’d been slapped in the face but then I came home and found this article, like a salve, about the 10 most irritating types of advice for new parents. Maybe there should be a number 11: People on the Streets of Beirut.


Four from last Friday

Four mamas in a real live forest where to the taxi driver’s surprise there are more than four trees.

Four babies carried on their backs or fronts, heads in sunhats bobbing up and down like wild flowers on the way to the picnic spot.

Four bags (and a few more) full of freshly baked bread and cakes, boxes of salad and fruit, bottles of juice and blankets to spread beneath the pines.

For not the first time,  we discuss the good things and the hard things about life in Lebanon, like pulling away the petals of a daisy one by one. We love you Lebanon. We love you not. We love you Lebanon. Today we finish here, feeling lucky.


At the weekend our infamous fridge was finally fixed. To our great surprise, a repairman (neither the liar nor the king) came when he said he would at 8.30am on Saturday morning.

An hour and half later, and $110 dollars lighter, we could declare it repaired.

On the same day, at more or less the same time as the fridge was cooling down, so was our baby, sickening all of a sudden, wilting like the floppy headed flowers on her sunhat. I knew something was really wrong because she didn’t try to take the sunhat off once on the way to hospital- normally her favourite thing to do.

Five hours later,  and for free (thanks to the insurance), she was declared re-hydrated, restored to her wriggly giggly self by a collection of lovely Lebanese doctors and nurses (none of them liars or kings).

Later we talked about the what-ifs of the day. If the fridge repairman hadn’t come, I would have gone to the Saturday Farmers Market. If I had gone to the market I wouldn’t have been there when she got sick. If I hadn’t been there (with the insurance card and pediatrician’s phone number) things would have been a lot more challenging.

So in the end, you could say that the fridge saved the day, staying sick just as long as was necessary. It was obviously the right weekend for repairs.

Father’s Day- again!

When you hear the key in the lock and the door opening you look at me with wide eyes. When your papa comes into the room you literally jump for joy, almost out of my arms, lighting up like the electricity coming on.

There is an Italian children’s song which we only know one line of: ‘batti le mani che viene papa’- clap your hands, papa is coming. We keep meaning to learn the rest of the song, but it seems that the other lines don’t matter, you have taken this one and made it your mantra, turning every day into father’s day.

Father’s Day

Father’s Day in Lebanon always falls on the 21st June, just as Mother’s Day is always on 21st March here.

I like the fact that mamas are celebrated on the first day of Spring- all about beauty and beginnings-and papas on the first day of summer and the longest day of the year- full of both fun and endurance.

Last year on Father’s Day I was pregnant, so officially my husband wasn’t quite a father, but his colleagues at work (mostly Lebanese women with sweet teeth) bought him a huge cake.

This year, now he is well and truly a father, there was no surprise waiting at work- the honeymoon period is over, and the sleepless reality of fatherhood has set in.

But then who needs cake when you have breakfast in bed with your baby, calling you ba-pa over and over again, singing and clapping-  an autonomous concert as you said- and almost managing a standing ovation with the help of your daddy knees to pull her up.


The Baby Guide To English Idioms 2

I’ll eat my hat

Real Meaning: I will be very surprised. (Used to express strong disbelief in something.) 

Baby Meaning: I will put anything in my mouth, especially things not meant to be eaten e.g. my pink sun hat. (Used to sooth a new tooth.)


The Baby Guide to English Idioms 1

To have egg on one’s face

Real meaning: to be embarrassed by something one has done. (As if one went out in public with a dirty face.) I was completely wrong, and now I have egg on my face.

Baby meaning: to be very proud of oneself and extremely satisfed. I’ve just eaten an egg yolk omelette all on my own and I’m not even a tiny bit embarrassed by the bits on my face!


Three loaves of bread from the past few days:

On Friday we were babysitters, or borrowed parents, for the daughter of our friends who live opposite. I liked the thought that my baby had a borrowed baby sister for the night even though they both slept most of the evening and didn’t actually see each other.  The next day we came home to find a card and a freshly baked loaf of bread, tall and toastable, outside our front door. The perfect thank you.

On Sunday I baked a walnut and honey loaf, warm and earthy, and wrapped in wax paper to take to a gathering at a house in the mountains, cool, green and quiet.

You owe me some stories said our host, his eyes shining, reminding us of the last time we had met when he had been the storyteller.

We spent the afternoon under his trees (one of them walnut) talking, laughing, eating, and sharing how our lives, our faiths, had led us, from as far back as our great-grandparents, to this very moment.

On Monday I baked again for a dinner at our house that had already been postponed three times over the last month due to a combination of work commitments, sickness, teething and our fridge crisis. The friends we invited are regular guests who usually bring bread and wine. It has become a tradition which I was slightly scared of breaking by making the bread myself- would we have to cancel again?! But in the end the loaf, white, round and rustic, was a lucky charm and the dinner went ahead despite a baby that wouldn’t fall sleep until the very last minute and our fridge which died and came back to life- again!

I wonder if life wouldn’t be simpler if we could use bread to barter- to offer up in exchange for luck, for stories, for kindness.

The story of the fridge, the liar and the king

The fridge is ours, the one of the famous false alarm a few weeks ago,  which stopped working and then started again…. and then stopped  again (after I had written a blog post about its miraculous recovery)

The liar is the repairman we never met, so called by our concierge who contacted him on our behalf, and then told us every morning, less and less hopefully, that he would come bukra –tomorrow (one of the first and most important Arabic words I  ever learnt.)

The king is another repairman we never met, so called by our very helpful English speaking neighbour, who contacted him after a week had past and neither the liar or tomorrow had come. He said if the king couldn’t fix the fridge then no-one could. The king, over the phone, said that we should unplug it for 12 hours and plug it in again- basically defrost it. But, and this is the secret, use a different plug ( maybe my husband was right about the electricity being the problem after all).

We followed the king’s advice to the letter and to our great amazement our fridge came back from the dead. To celebrate its revival we bought half a kilo of ice cream for us and a box of chocolates for our neighbour and that was the end of that-khallas- as the Lebanese say (another one of those vital Arabic words).

Or so we thought.

Ironically just after finally getting round to writing this post, I discovered that the ice cream had melted again.

Watch this space for the next installment of the fridge saga…

Little Fish Today



Little Fish at Lazy B