New Brits ….. rabbits, quails eggs and aubergine gratin

Last night we were invited to a party at the beautiful Vedado residence of the new British Ambassador.

It was my first official invitation to an embassy actually in my name  …..   The party was essentially an excuse to meet the new ambassador and his family, who I had already met briefly outside the French school gates and at the reception of the Guatemalan embassy a few weeks before.

Tim Cole and his family appear to be exceptionally down to earth and normal, and the party was fun, the excuse being an Olympic handover to the Brazilians.  So a bunch of miscellaneous Brits and Brazilians were hanging out in the gardens with a smattering of Cuban Olympic stars.  I already knew most of the Brits but met a very nice teacher from Wolverhampton and the head of Virgin holidays who lives in Varadero (all inclusive beach holiday central).  There was a very large Cuban wrestler with an impressive neck measurement, a female Asturian bag pipe player (I was informed), a few friendly journalists and us.    After a short speech the Union Jack Umbrella baton was handed over to the Brazilian Ambassador as the Scotch Eggs and mini Roast Beef and Yorkshire puddings were whisked past my nose.

This afternoon, my wonderful chef will arrive to concoct my randomly acquired food into delicious dishes for the rest of the week.  So this morning, I had the pleasure of planning menus knowing that I shall not be the one that cooks it.  How fantastic is that domestic arrangement?  And the fun is that in Cuba you just never know what we will get our hands on.  It is a bit like Ready Steady Cook in your kitchen once a week.  This week we have a very large rabbit so I have two rabbit recipes one with white wine, thyme, cream and garlic (Jamie) and the other with olives and tomatoes (Delia).  I bought some quite expensive baby aubergines a couple of days ago and intend to have them deep fried in olive oil with a yoghurt dip and then make the rest into a parmesan bread crumb gratin.

Recently I have also had an abundant supply of quails eggs, which hard boiled and chopped up on a lettuce based salad … rather delicious, or just dipped into mustard mayonnaise.  Saskia eats them likes sweets some days when she gets back from the nursery.  And then a few shortbread biscuits that we can eat with Vanilla icecream and a strawberry coulis.  The good frozen strawberries appeared again in 70 supermarket last week.

Later I am meeting with Amado my diminutive 80 year old upholsterer as I have finally found some material in Havana Vieja so he can do my art deco chairs and sofa.

Rafa is off to Margerita Film festival tomorrow with strict instructions to find a Zara and buy himself some clothes.  I shall be filling the house with friends to keep my children amused and eating lots of rabbit and aubergine ……………….. happy that life is slow and easy in Havana. 🙂

Next week will I get to do a one week workshop on script writing ……………….?  Or is that just pushing my proverbial luck!?

One year in Cuba …. the best telenovela!

I missed my one year anniversary here in Cuba.  It was August 14th when we arrived last year so I am summing things up a little late, partly due to not having much time to get on line; and also we were all in a temporary dip in our enthusiasm for our life here.  The telenovela had become a little bit too gritty and I was too hot and bothered!

Now we are back up, and I am enjoying my Cuban life again just as I did when I first arrived.  I am still not tired of meeting film makers and teachers and dancing with the students at the film school or getting dressed up and going to diplomatic parties in beautiful venues, palaces and hotels in Havana.  I am still meeting interesting people from all over the world and making good friends and I still have so many things to write about and to do that I am always busy.

Rafa gave me an official role at the film school which I was already doing.  I just wanted the acknowledgement and a card saying ….  International Public Relations, which means I get to talk to anybody and everybody about how great the film school is.  Not a difficult task.  But I too have other little projects like trying to get more African students, not easy but we are making progress and collecting contacts.  I also enjoy meeting and entertaining the visiting teachers who are a very important part of what makes the school unique.  We have around 40 teachers who come every month from everywhere ……. Spain, UK, France, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, US, to name a few …….. over a year that adds up!

After a year of good and bad domestic experiences, I now have my lovely Mayda running the house and the parties and the shopping and the maintenance and the children. She does it so well that there are days when I feel as though I am living in a hotel.  If there is one thing I would like to do for her in the time I am here, it is to reunite her in some way with her daughter and only child who left with her husband on a boat 4 years ago.  A classic Cuban story, Mayda is too young to be allowed to visit her in the States and her daughter was recently denied her entry back into Cuba to visit.  Her son-in-law was given permission to come back but not her daughter and they both shed many tears of disappointment.

Mayda to me represents the good side of Cuba.  She works hard, always has a smile and a kind word and is loyal, funny and noble.  Some days I have to force her to sit down and eat a proper lunch as she never thinks about herself, just how she can make my family’s life better.  She is the one who has consoled me when times have been tough, and my decision to promote her and recognise her work, I hope will help in some financial way, to reunite her with her daughter.

The boys are happy in school and reading and speaking French which makes me so proud.  They now have Cuban accents when speaking Spanish and supported every Cuban athlete in the Olympics.  In fact during the Olympics it was fun to see how they supported UK, Cuba, France, Guatemala (got their first medal!!) and of course Jamaica (on the grounds that it used to be British and was in the Caribbean and they had Bolt!).

And how do I feel about Cuba?  Life is never boring and I have learnt a lot about humanity and life and love already.  I know I will always defend the Cuban people for their fun and their intelligence and their ability to resolve their lives no matter what the world or the state throw at them.  You have to admire their resilience.  I hope that all the good things that they represent can shine through all the corruption and unfairness that can make life bitter sweet.  I also hope that the Bling Blings don’t take over and turn the country back to what it was becoming in ’59 except this time with Reggaeton and Dolce and Gabana fakes.  Please Cubans learn how to do business without selling your daughters and your soul and keep your own quintessential style, don’t copy from the mainland.

Now I am planning my trip back to the UK with my Saskia to see her Grandma (not Granma!) and family and godmothers and good old friends who have patiently kept in touch with me and my life over all these years.  For those who don’t get the joke see link.  Granma was the name of the yacht that transported Fidel and Che and the others to Cuba in 1956 and has since become the name of a province and a newspaper.  The boat itself was restored and can now be seen outside the Museum of the Revolution in Havana.  I find it a little ironic that such an icon of the Revolution is a misspelled American word because we spell it correctly in England with a d!




I’m back ………

I know, I know ………. I well and truly fell off my blogging wagon.  But after a long hot summer with 3 children under 8, a certain composure has finally re-entered my house this morning (can a house be composed?  not sure).  I am alone at my computer and I have managed to get on line and there is no child screaming up the stairs for me or trying to climb on to my lap.

One thing that I was thinking the other day, as I was trying to come up with my next blog, and thinking that it better be good, because if I did have any readers I am sure they have all forgotten about me by now.  Anyway I was thinking that really I need to write posts every day as Cuba is like one great big telenovela (soap opera) and you just have to learn to roll with the good and the bad like a true Cuban.  Also Rafa’s life at the film school would be worthy of a good drama series and he doesn’t have chance to tell me the half of it.  I know I have not worked as an occupational psychologist now for some years but I feel as though I am.  Also I now manage 10 people in my house which is akin to a small business venture.

Also I had a few moments this summer when I really did not want to be in Cuba anymore which was not a good feeling as I probably have at least another 2 or 3 years to go!  So I had to shake that feeling and get back my Cuba groove.  The Olympic parties also made me feel terribly homesick for everything that I love about my country: great music, sense of humour, fighting spirit, throwing a good party.  I wanted to be there on the back of the Rolls Royce with Jessie J spinning around the Olympic Stadium …….. and no stealing Cubans.

Yes you guessed it, the main reason I have been feeling down is that the stealing has carried on, or at least the discoveries of more missing things in the house has only just stopped.  The thefts really bothered me and I had to work at being philosophical and think ….. its only money and we are all healthy and I have 3 wonderful children and a noble hard working husband who loves me.  But at one point it didn’t seem to matter how much hard cash Rafa was earning it just kept disappearing.  You need to bear in mind that Cuba is a cash culture and we are paid in cash and all our purchases are in cash.  Prior to this, I was a girl who lived on plastic, and the whole thing of stashing money and moving my hiding places was a new game that I did not do so well it appears!

We are now the proud owners of a safe with a roundy roundy twiddly knob with our secret access code like something out of another century.  I have until today been reluctant to learn how to open it which is beginning to slightly irritate Rafa.  I am not quite sure why I feel reluctant, maybe it is because I feel like an idiot that all these thefts have happened under my nose by people that I thought I could trust and I don’t want to be responsible for maybe not closing the safe properly or losing my little piece of paper with our secret code.

Rafa and I spent the summer like two amateur sleuths trying to piece together when we last saw things and who could have possibly been inside the house to have got their hands on our stuff which pretty much all disappeared from upstairs (although the cook did a good job of removing a few things from my kitchen).

It was awful because some of the people in my life who are entirely trustworthy, I had to mentally put them through the process of being under suspicion, especially as I felt that my ability to know what people were capable of in Cuba was evidently poor and I had to get with it and stop trusting people.  This is not my natural state.  You’re talking to the girl who had a baby (and then two more) with a man she hardly knew ……but trusted, and then proceeded to follow him to two quite tricky countries.

Anyway, we had to fire another couple of people and re-organise the house so that the people who I have always trusted are working for me more and have had a big pay rise.  It has taken me a lot of time to find a new nanny as the whole thing of letting another person into my house has been difficult.  Marylin started yesterday so lets see …….

Anyway this week I decided that I had to believe that the people around me are all good and our bad luck has stopped and look to the future.  And stop torturing myself with images of strangers handling and stroking my possessions and cackling to themselves at their good fortune to come across me!

Everybody is back from the summer break.  The party season is upon us once more and I have already met a handful of new friends.  We kicked off with the Brazil party in the Beach Club next to our house (Club Havana).

I still feel frustrated about my inability to get out of the house and do things for myself but I suppose every mother of 3 young children feels like that and not every mother is lucky enough to be living in such a beautiful house in front of the sea where everybody wants to come and chat whilst listening to the waves.

Also our new fairy godfather Santiago is sorting me out better internet connection so I don’t have to spend half and hour getting on line and the rest of the time worrying about the minutes ticking by on my dial up but knowing that to hop on and off line could mean another half an hour ………..  Soon I will have internet access from the film school and I can be on 24/7 and read some newspapers and maybe even download music.

I wanted to say a big thank you to all the people that have sent me and brought me presents ……. clothes, cheese, Vanish, toys, Nutella, tortillas…………   And also a big thanks to all my friends here in Cuba who have listened patiently to my tales of thieving woe.

So I will endeavour to catch you up on the events of the summer over the next few days and fill in the gaps of this log book blog book.

Our first graduation at the Film school and the emotions and all night party.

Juju’s visit.  Our wonderful nanny from Guatemala gets on her first plane to come and holiday with us for 2 weeks.

Our holiday trip to Cayo Santa Maria 5 hours drive away.

This week we have another party in the Mexican embassy (looking forward to the food!), and a party to welcome the new Guatemalan ambassador, and then we are throwing our first party of the season in our house with all the new people who have arrived at the film school ……….. but I shall be writing again I hope!