England Cake.

I’m walking through the streets, almost home. The mobile phone sellers are chatting to each other from store to store, the tobacconist smiles as I walk by, and the fish monger is getting ready for a nights trade.

It’s the perfect Tangier evening, my basket it laden with goods and I stop in to see ‘No Teeth,’ the man who has no teeth and sells wine in a tiny shop on the corner.

We go through the ritual in Arabic ‘Good evening, how are you, all is well, thanks to God.’

‘I would like from you one bottle of red wine, God willing.’

‘Thank you.’

No Teeth slams his fist on the counter and announces the price. He always does this, as if its the first time we’ve ever brokered a deal over a bottle of wine. Then, he cackles through his one tooth. Always does. I love him.

The front door to the building is a struggle with all my shopping, and Mohamed the street guardian shuffles over to help me with the key.

‘Shoukran bzaf, Mohamed’ I smile, thanking him in darija and handing him ten dirhams before I walk inside and call the lift.

It’s quiet, save for a few toots from cars down on the boulevard, as I make my way to my front door. The light is on in the entrance, Twinkle’s been and I thank him (to myself) for being so sweet and leaving the light on.

He was missing for a while and returned after a couple of weeks with tales of a car hitting him and a stolen phone. I’m never sure what to believe, but I find happiness in his return.

I’m also happy that my loo is back after a three month absence. I returned from Australia and found it sitting on the kitchen balcony.

When I phoned Twinkle, full of jet lag, to see what was actually going on, he quite simply told me ‘he’s finished, not a good one…’ before telling me that I’d have to use the kitchen loo (perfectly fine) until ‘he is replaced.’

Everything in Twinkle’s world is ‘he’ or ‘she’. A cardigan once flew off the clothesline in a furious wind from the east.

‘Twinkle,’ I asked slowly, ‘have you seen my blue Zara cardigan?’.

‘She’s there,’ he responded triumphantly, leading me out to the balcony overlooking the neighbours terrace. There ‘she’ was, lying like a damsel in despair, sodden in a corner alongside a bag of cement.

‘She’ never came back.

I switch on the lamp before I unload my basket and shuffle around the kitchen. Coffee in the tin, salad in the fridge, tomatoes in the basket separate from the avocados. Tuna in the pantry, pasta too. I pour a glass of wine and open the french doors that lead out to the kitchen balcony, just as the evening call to prayer begins in the distance.

Lights sparkle and Spain smiles in the distance, a cool evening breeze brushes my face.

‘I love you, Tangier,’ I murmur as I turn on BBC Radio Four Extra.

I’ve got a whole lot of Desert Island Discs to catch up on.

***

‘What dat?’ Twinkle asks, as I tip a huge Christmas cake into a cake tin late last year following a trip to Gibraltar.

‘It’s Christmas cake,’ I tell him, ‘do you want some?’.

‘Ahhhh, England Cake,’ comes his response, ‘I love England Cake’.

He then goes on to tell me that Christmas will fall on the 24th of December, not the 25th as per every other thousand years before. ‘No, it’s always on the 25th,’ comes my response, eyebrows raised.

He’s already in the other room moving furniture muttering how it goes back a day each year, just like Ramadan goes back each year.

When Moroccans are furious, they shout. It’s not uncommon for me to be lying in bed at night and for Yousef and Younès to have a huge bust up on the street below. I love it because from the safety of my bed, I can pick phrases such as ‘I am’ ‘look, listen,’ and that’s about it. But it’s pure theatre listening to the language when it’s used in a verbal biff up – very different to ‘Oi, Shane, fuck off will you.’

Even when Moroccans are not furious, it can often sound as though they are furious – Arabic (with Darija being the local version here in Morocco) is a beautiful and terribly theatrical language, all guttural and animated.

It is also a language where one must be incredibly careful – two words with entirely different meanings can sound very similar. Did I tell you about the time I ordered a coffee with milk, all innocent and confident, only to see the waiter keel over laughing, having to return to the kitchen with his legs crossed?

Feel free to email me if you’d like, I’ll tell you what I was asking for.

It’s late afternoon not long ago – and unseasonably warm. I’m just in the door from lunch and back to my computer to try and finish a blog post which has seen me in a sort of ‘writers dystopia’. I’m loathing adding to it – there is too much to cover and too much time has passed since the last post.

A man is screaming in the street below. It’s broad daylight and I have the wireless playing to drown out the sounds of his impassioned bellowing. I wish I could understand what he is saying for the rant is never ending. I draw the curtains, blinded by the beautiful afternoon sun, before leaning over the balcony to take in his free performance from my vantage point four floors above.

Passers by are delighted, they can’t get enough of it. The man who sits in a chair (all day) outside one of the bars which doesn’t open until at least 10pm, circles him with intrigue. Women place their shopping on the pavement, and young boys appear from the shops rubbing their hands with glee. Hair all gelled back and dying from years at the hands of a GHD wand.

We’re all brought together by one mans furore, my neighbours and fellow bystanders are intrigued for the language, the sheer sound of his impassioned cries down the phone (they’re thick and fast) and his unwillingness to stop.

I’m enjoying the sun and the pure theatre of it all.

Finally, after what feels like an eternity but is probably thirty minutes, he wraps up and walks away. I return inside with no idea of the outcome and open the laptop again – the words on the screen are uninspiring. I turn on a podcast where a young mother is telling the interviewer about the way in which she lost her identity when she had children.

‘Wouldn’t you have found it?’ I ask her, even though she can’t hear me, and I’m suddenly sympathising with the lunatic from the street who is now ten minutes gone.

I am more than aware that this blog has been a long time coming. I decided to return home to Australia in a moment of haste towards the end of last year, and that in itself is a whole other piece, or two, or three. It was an amazing trip where I reunited with my beloved family and friends.

Upon my return, I began making plans for future projects and have been focussed on breathing life into all of them

No pressure, 2020. Winning the lotto would be fabulous, finding love would be but a dream, and seeing the wall painted where the loo was removed, even better. Here’s hoping they can get the blue right.

Until all, or even a fraction of the above, becomes a reality, I’m off to do some further research about avocados in Kenya (did you know that they are the seventh largest producer in the world), and I am curious to know what Miranda Kerr is up to these days?

Is procrastination a disease?

If so, I’m going to cut myself a nice slice of England Cake and put the kettle on. And, I might even get back to that last piece of writing which has been plaguing me for far too long.

I woke up this early this morning and began writing this for you before the sun had even started to rise. I needed to shrug my way out of writers dystopia and back into an inspired utopia.

With love from Tangier.

11 thoughts on “England Cake.

  1. Great blog, and welcome back, PIn.

    Love to know what you ordered that put the waiter in stitches of laughter!
    I made many errors in my language during my year in Italy.
    Half the fun of learning another language.

    Wishing you all the best for 2020.

    Cheers,
    Shelley

    Like

  2. You keep hinting at new ventures – looking forward to hearing more. The increased presence on Instagram is a joyous daily adventure…. and though the saying goes a pictures speaks a thousand words…. your words cast a thousand images. Looking forward to more of both.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh Pin I just LOVED reading “England Cake”!
    The sentence “Lights sparkle and Spain smiles… is perfect!
    With such sentences you transport the reader instantly to Tangier.
    Well done and more please!
    Julie Bingley x

    Like

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