My new book, My Home is Your Home: A Journey Round Syria. Please scroll down to read more about the book.
My Home is Your Home
“Beautifully written, mixing historical observations with first-hand experience, Russell’s book will be a welcome introduction for all visitors to Syria.”
Dr. Eugene Rogan, Middle East Centre, University of Oxford
My Home is Your Home
A Journey Round Syria
Syria is a country few people know much about – apart from the political upheavals of the last few months. My Home is Your Home will change all that. Equipped with notebook, biro, bicycle and, occasionally, a bus ticket, Mary Russell travelled not only to places such as Aleppo, Homs and Hama but also to some of the more remote parts of eastern Syria taking, unexpectedly, an overnight taxi ride across the desert from Damascus to Baghdad. The result is an enthralling and quite unique account…
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My task for 2020 is to write a short story a month. To encourage myself j am reading two collections of short stories by William Trevor.
The stories I am writing don’t have to be prize winners but they do have to be finished not cast aside in despair or exasperation. Finishing them is the challenge. Too many distractions lurk in the corners of my mind….
Writers I like:Carver and of course Frank O Connor.
Halloween ( the eve of All Hallows) is a prechristian celebration of the underworld and remained so until the dastardly Christians took it over and linked it to their church. Hang in there ye Celtic pagans!
The above is a turnip which in Ireland was the traditional vegetable to carve to make a lamp.
17.5 million people in Britain voted to stay in the EU. Just saying.
The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford has an info leaflet suitable, it says, for ages 7 upwards. The leaflet touches, coincidentally, on events in Westminster though in a different century. Here is a slightly shortened extract: “King Charles 1 had fallen out with Parliament because he believed that God had given him the divine right to rule his way…but Parliament disagreed…The King was tried, found guilty of treason and executed.”
Here are a couple of anecdotes both told to me and both giving an insight into a relationship.Names have been changed.
1. Jill usually went to bed before John got back from the pub.That was the routine and one which they both accepted.It worked well except for one part of it. Jill always knew when John was back from the pub because she’d hear the downstairs door slam. This was followed by his footsteps as he climbed the stairs.At this point her body started to go rigid, waiting for the moment when he would come into the bedroom and started to get undressed as he always did. By this time she was stiff with anticipation.And why? Because every night- without fail – he would take off his trousers and throw them across the end of the bed where her feet were.
“This is the one thing that drives me mad,” she said and I knew it would have driven me mad too.Every night week in week out…door slams, footsteps on the stairs, trousers off and then wham! They’re thrown across her feet. So awful was this inevitable action that I never thought to ask why on Earth she didn’t ask John not to do it.
In any case , they separated soon afterwards.
2 there’s a funeral in the village church and we all sing what were the words of the favourite hymn of the departed- a dear old soul who had been our neighbour.The final lines was :”You in your small corner and me in mine.”
Afterwards we stiff outside chatting.It was a cold afternoon in February and Judy, now retired from running the village post office, pulled her fur coat round her. “I left Jim in bed with the paper but I told him you wait, the funeral will be over by three and then I’m coming right back so you keep that bed warm.”
I was surprised to find myself slightly shocked that a middle-aged couple should climb into their warm bed at three in the afternoon. But of course it wasn’t really shock: it was envy.
This coming Saturday, June 29 at 4pm I will be talking about all the generous hospitality I have had in the many countries I have visited including Syria, Iraq, Palestine and Sudan.
We’ll be at Gallery P21,
21 -27 Chalton Street NW1 1JD tel +44 207 121 6190 amd info
In Western Europe, we know a bit about giving bit have forgotten how to accept with grace. I relearned that I bought some olives from a stall holder in Souk Saruja, in Damascus. I was in a bit of a hurry as the man loaded a bag with olives and I put out my hand to get them and be gone again. But no. He noticed the nad was leaking olive oil everywhere and so he transferred them to another bag and this tiome tied a knot not once but three times to be extra sure while all the time I was anxious to get the bag and diasppear into the crowd. As he quietly went about his task I realised how ungracious I was being and had to slow myself down to match his speed – and to recognise the carfeful job he was doing.
In Palestine, I learned the sign which had to be given in order to leave the table which, with food still on it and unesten, might have given offence.
So many pitfalls. Come to the Gallery 21 on Saturday tat 4pm to join in the discussion and to see some of the tiny cups we drank coffee from in the desert.