The Tunisian Election this weekend

Friday 24th October 2014

I happen to be here, during the first elections to be held in Tunisia, located in The Medina in Sousse. Pop. Approx. 250,000, a large sea side tourist town, with a port and Medina, about 1 1/2 hours south of Tunis.

I am going to try to report anything interesting I see regarding the election on sunday 26th October. I will describe anything I see but not the proposals of the many political parties. Thats too complicated,politically and you can find all the info from someone far better informed, arab speaking and politically insightful.

I’d like to say there’s some excitement in the air. There is not.I think it’s a miracle the country is still running at all, after no government, in three years.

The TV constantly has debating programs, but it has done  so all year long
We got a leaflet under the door but no one is canvasing, no banners, no demonstrations, and no loud speakers. If you didn’t know there was an election on, you would never have guessed.

Almost every one I have spoken to won’t vote, and feels international (the USA, Qatar) and religious influences will interfere.

Its been said “That was not a revolution. There is still one to come”

Regarding the original incident, of the young man igniting himself after being moved on by the police, what I now see is the cart market stall holders play a game of cat and mouse with the police.
They keep a look out and hide in side alleys until the police leave and gather outside the local covered food market where stall holders must pay a rent. The police are strict, hot, tiered, underpaid and want to see a lot of ID cards at a lot of road blocks.

Most of the hotels have a security presence but then so does every civic, government or public building in Europe. Security is a huge employer.

Driving out the villages a few roundabouts have police stops but they wave the locals on, don’t want to speak to tourists but stop any vehicle/person that shouldn’t be there. Nothing wrong with that.

They all need to coexist in a country where other jobs don’t exist.

Having ‘an election,’ as a concept is too easily said, but in reality there are many more ramifications.

Tunisia having a dictator for so many years was like living with your parents, beyond childhood. It gave them someone to blame. Not to thank, but to blame.

I have been here for nearly a year off and on and have keenly observed how they have continued to function dispute no government for 3 years.

Tunisia reminds me of Russia 25 years ago in one respect; the general population has never travelled and their impressions of the outside world are from TV films. I have never seen a decent clean operational cinema anywhere here so it’s not even big screen.

The procedure of getting a visa, tickets, sponsors, documents and approval is a nightmare and way beyond the reach financial of a normal person. Forget the poor folks, they can hardly leave the village so the concept of foreign travel is ‘interplanetary’.

They have been caged. The travel restrictions are still in place and probably remain so.

I often hear the phrase repeated time to time again “oh I could never leave my village”. Its like a mantra from 50% of them while the other 50% risk their lives, pay huge sums, and embark on a life threatening journey to get out and into Europe.

So now they have to examine themselves, their system, what they inherited under french rule until 1956, and where they are headed on a global stage, without a dictator to blame.

Ben Ali’s name is mentioned continually. Continually. Tunisians discuss and analyse continually.

TV debates are plentiful and two guests speaking exactly at the same time is very common. They can obviously speak and listen at the same time….

Money isn’t the answer. There are plenty of infrastructure projects built in the last 20 years that are falling apart around them.

They don’t comprehend ‘upkeep’ and ‘repair’. It’s not just money its also attitudes, actions and implementation.

It’s a great credit and testament to the Tunisian people, they have kept on their feet, kept, eating, kept working, kept building and kept learning.

Could a european country still function and not descend in riots, chaos, trade union strikes, shortages etc if it had no government? I hope we never have to find out.

Education is very important for the families here and keeping their children disciplined and studying is a great source of pride.

Religion seems moderate here, but custom and traditions stay strong. Multiple marriages are banned, women are educated, and the hijab is disliked.

Conversely head scarves, arranged marriages,refraining from drinking, drugs, girls smoking are generally chosen by the young people, but not forced onto them. This actually leaves room for a fundamentalism to sneak in, and influence and pervert the minds of the poor and socially disadvantaged.

They are still begging in the streets here, and when that older geriatric generation of beggars die off, the younger people won’t be linking up to take their places.

A new government might not be projecting thousands of them into a nice comfortable middle class lifestyle, but it could force thousands into destitution, starvation and desperate behaviour.

Every millieme counts here. They have open boarders into Libya, Algeria or Egypt but that are hardly a good option. The only reason they go to Libya is for temporary well paid work or to get the illegal boats to Europe which is big business.

In the summer thousands of Libyans and Algerian’s with money flood into Tunisia, some stay and some return, if they can.

Masses of food, especially lamb, has already headed south into Libya, contributing to shortages and price rises here. There is a limited supply of everything here, even fish, with a growing population, and it’s no longer so plentiful.

A predominately young population will expect more. They will not aspire to become toothless, shoeless, homeless beggars. They will revolt first.

They are generally happy people but undermined by the fear of rampant poverty, with no government support on any level.

It’s a holiday here for government offices, some schools and the larger employers. I went to the food market this morning which was the same assembly of organised chaos, spicy smells and wilting leaves,

I am very aware I’m seeing a transformation and a period of their history pass before me.Like a slide show of still photos and a way of life unchanged for centuries could all disappear in my life time.

Yes, they have not been allowed out but more importantly WE have not been allowed in. As  inTaoism, its what you let in that will cause the problems…

I will be keeping watch.

What are you drinking?

Excerpt from “Downsize your home and regain your freedom’
Amazon and Kindle

Its not just the preparation, menu, and serving food, that changes when you downsize, but making the drinks casual, low cost and easy.

Make pitchers, jugs and buckets of drinks. Lots of fruit, colour, flavour, leaves and ice.

Use plastic jugs,  bright buckets  and serve with a soup ladle or a large tea cup.

People like to see lots to drink when they arrive, not mean little thimble measurements where they sit waiting to be offered a few scant drops.

They also like to help themselves and, for some guests, passing the drinks bar/bucket can be a continual  journey and their only reason for movement.

Get a theme. Theme around the food and drinks and music. Let them travel a bit. The further south of the equator the more forgiving and tatty it can all look. Who knows what Chilean cuisine is really all about? Except roasted Guinea pigs, exceptional Chilean Sea bass priced  for Miami dinners, no one will know or dispute the menu.

Fun, fun, fun. You have downsized the property now upsize the fun.

Jugs filled with of lots of interesting stuff. Ice teas, sangria, punches, fruit drinks, iced flavoured coffee at

breakfast, iced Irish coffees. Its fun and no one studies the wine label.

Get out the espresso cups and make up some brandy/rum/whiskey coffee in advance.

Pop a teaspoonful of ice cream into cup and pour on the  warm coffee. They will lick the insides.

Fresh cut mint on everything, as it hits the nose and sends  out all the right messages.

Rose, orange and Geranium water is cheap form the arab shops and adds a scented touch to drinks.

If you do have to serve wine, decant it. Get to Argos or Debanhams and buy a glass red wine decanter or two. It improves the quality of your wine no end conceptually.

Save all old wine bottles and wash off the supermarket labels. Make your won wines labels labels, splash with tea and write out some drivel in french with a date or two. Do not put 18th century dates on your wine. Leave the bottle outside over night to gather dust.

Sake saves the day. Its reasonable  and very few people know much about it. Buy a chinese presentation box from Pier 1 and fill it with coloured tissue paper. It’s a ceremony to open and is exciting.

Serve  table waters out of glass bottles even an old olive oil bottle looks better than plastic.

Bowls of tooth picks with olives, grapes, raspberries, currants, dried fruits, lend a touch.

Its freedom and fun we all need, not grandmas lead crystal or plates with ‘names’ on the back.

“Medium, rare or burnt to crisp?”

Excerpt from “Downsize your home and regain your freedom’
Amazon and Kindle

To BBQ, or not to BBQ that is the question?

Men like it because its pagan, and a justifiable mess.

Women like it because they don’t have to cook, and ‘he’s’ busy.

It tastes delicious and is a great evening outdoors.

Originally a few flames licked at our food brought us into a world of tastes and smells our ancestors didn’t know existed and couldn’t have dreamt of. Something obviously fell into the fire a couple of million years ago we get ‘a roast’! Wonderful.

Buy a BBQ if you have the outside space. The cheaper ones get used, the more expensive ones get admired.

Never ask your neighbours if they mind, as they will say ‘no’, unless they are invited over to eat.

Start early as no one can see meat in the dark, and avoid eating it raw or  drunk.

Remove all children away from flames with tongs.

Dress accordingly, and eat before the guests arrive so you don’t serve raw meat. Starving people serve underdone food.

Invite friends that help carrying and cleaning up.

Most man can’t resist taking over the BBQ until it either heats up or goes out. Its great therapy for them.

Most flats do not allow BBQ’s in the lease  light up, don’t be a nuisance, dance widely, play loud music or light fireworks. Just eat and keep quiet and you might get ‘smelt’ but not get noticed.

A cheap BBQ set  from Argos it will reduce the risk of it getting stolen, buy it in the winter or on sale and don’t expect hit last.  Even gardeners and thieves aren’t fussed about the £9.99 kit from Argos so it will rot before its stolen.

Get BBQ tools from the Pound Shop,  or a cheap market  and expect to loose the lot. You won’t.  Only expensive BBQ implements go missing.

Think outdoors foods; Corns, salads, coleslaws, jacket potatoes, shrimps, fish….cook the lot and you can eat for three days.

Stock up on aluminium foil from The Pound Shop and start wrapping.

Put everything in large coloured plastic washing up bowls (the ones our Chinese cousins are making for us). All the sauces, all the salads, all the corns, knives and forks the lot.

Fish from the markets is the most affordable but get to know the stall holders to get the best deals.

Marinate the meats. Marinate, marinate, season and flavour all day or over night. Its easy in small fridges. Make kebabs, ribs, all cheap cuts and pretend its a holiday so have fun.

Buy cheap paper plates and cups and big black plastic bags for the rubbish.

Blame a child as the excuse for using plastic. Borrow a child if you need to.

CONS:

everyone eats and drinks before you do. Its very rude but they do.

food gets left on the grass for animals

knives and forks get lost

steaks are not cheap

ashes will burn holes

neighbours get angry

PROS:

everyone eats with out asking stupid gastronomic questions/requests

food can get thrown into the trees

plates/cups/foil gets thrown away or burnt

you can use cheaper cuts

lovely fire to sit around

smoking out an irritating neighbour.

I found the hardest thing about a BBQ is making sure your guests do actually arrive, stay sober and don’t touch the flames.

The basics

Excerpt from “Downsize your home and regain your freedom’
Amazon and Kindle

Lets face it, if your downsizing it might be for many reasons, a few of which might be;

Moving to a new city/country, money problems, divorce, job loss, death, taking the equity out of your present residence, kids all left home, too old for stairs, mortgage areas, gardens and upkeep, etc, etc.

Who knows, but what is vastly underestimated is the numbers of those of us who are ‘downsizing’. We are never mentioned. We are almost invisible. We are silent.

Its as if everyone is always moving up? They are not. Its not true. There’s a two way traffic. Those going up and the rest of us going down, downsizing, sometimes as quickly as possible, to avoid many circumstances.

We spend a lifetime working and dreaming for the best and biggest residence to show the world who we are or want to be,  but its not like that any more.

Films and dreams are not created in one beds, studios and bungalows, but living as a slave to your residence is a joke, so changes sometimes have to be made-downwards.

I lived in five homes, on two continents, in three countries, and in two states, simultaneously, and downsized before the SHTF.

Its not a punishment, a shame, or a failure to downsize, and this is a point I will keep returning to.

Its hard to move 5 kitchens into 1, its hard to move 5 wardrobes into 1 and its even harder to store 35 high ball cutlass Ralph Lauren glasses into a cupboard for 6, but it had to be done, so lets get on a do it.

Importantly, we also will ha to identify what makes it ‘a pleasure,’ and what makes it ‘a punishment,’ clearly from the beginning, or life is going to get confused and miserable

Plenty of personal philosophy is whats needed here, and a clear view on your future lifestyle, and goals.

Dishes you can’t make in small kitchens:)

Excerpt from “Downsize your home and regain your freedom’ Amazon and Kindle

Lobster thermirdor (go out for dinner)

Whole roast pig/lamb/goat/turkey (go on holiday)

Croissant (find french bakery)

Baked Alaska (it’s not even in restaurants these days)

Your own pastry ( buy  Waitrose ‘all butter’ ready made)

Stuffed goose (no room for fate geese)

Wedding cake (even a cup cake would be a challenge)

Bouillabaisse (buy in Selfridges)

Do not bring home live animals, do not set up a distillery, do not grow vegetables indoors and do not try to make a compost heap…they smell and annoy the neighbours.

Concentrate on what you can do-not what you can’t.

Do not see this a ‘limitation’ but more of a ‘freedom’.

I never made any of these dishes when iI had huge kitchens and now I can’t.

All the labour saving devices you buy, only end up owning you.

Years ago we had a freezer the size of a large coffin which we never thought we could fill. We did. But forgot what was in there and hardly ate the food at the bottom. It’s a symptom of bygone age when ‘more was more’ and ‘less’ was a misery. We sold the property, with the freezer, and I bet its still there..

Food in small kitchens

Excerpt from “Downsize your home and regain your freedom’
Amazon and Kindle

Don’t worry, i’m not even going to think of giving you a bunch of ‘small kitchen recipes’.

I had a small kitchen in different countries  and I ate completely differently in all of them, as I love markets and go for whats in season, inexpensive and ripe.

If masses of  huge kitchen utensils are now packed away keep out 2 plates, 2 bowls, 4 mugs, 4 glasses for juice, a frying pan, large pasta pan, med pan, small milk pan, a pile of plastic salad bowls, some cutlery and wooden spoons, bottle opener and can opener .

I can’t live with out a carrot juicer, soup whisk and orange squeezer.

To make this easy  there are a few jobs that are exactly the same on a limited work surface or a huge spacious kitchen.

Making a salad.  Fill the sink with everything,  wash it all well and drain in a large calendar. Chop, peel and dice when you next pass buy next.

Making a good large soup.  Wash everything, chop, sauté in large pan, add speices and herbs and water, bring to the boil and simmer. Go and watch TV.

Frying fish is a huge problem as the whole place will smell including your clothes. Put it in the oven or poach it. Go and relax.

Pasta, rice, noodles (get a wok) needs large pan to boil water. Don’t go too far:)

Sauces need a good base, fresh ingredients and attention. Stay and stir or it will all burn you will ruin the meal.


Tips


Clean as you go! You have no room. Use items then rinse immediately and wash as you go.

Buy spices and herbs from the country you are living in or buy in the ethnic shops they come from.

Make enough for two days as your fridge will be small and not full of nibbles.

Shop every day like the french.. A smaller quantity of quality products is delightful to pick up. I have not done a ‘big weekly shop’ for years.

Make dinner in the mornings. Do your preparation in the morning, chopping, peeling and washing, or at least by 4.00pm. Either pop it straight into the oven or let it marinate before serving.

Never cook when your hungry in a small space. You will be frustrated, impatient, you will spill, burn, drop stuff and loose the plot

Have emergency items like ham, cheese, smoked salmon with beelines, caviar, croissants, tinned sauerkraut, tinned spinach, puy lentils, frozen petit pops, sweetcorn, good jams, peanut butter, nuts, dried fruits, cereals for emergency snacks.I always have a large tin of Confit de `Canard in France to heat with red wine in case I have no time. In the UK I rely on risotto rice or pastas.

Do not eat crisps while you cook. Its cheating.

Galley chef

Excerpt from “Downsize your home and regain your freedom’
Amazon and Kindle

Have you ever cooked in a galley on a boat?

No, not many of us have or ever want to. I passed the galley a few times and felt sorry for the poor bastard in there and hoped he found some peace in this world.

Its always surprising just how delicious and complex the dishes are that come out of a galley. So heres your turn.

Your new ‘size challenged kitchen’ has one very good feature…..You won’t be in it for long!!

The smaller studio flats usually have electric hobs-which I hate-they are expensive to run and I want to see flames under my food.

These are equipped with microwave ovens which I also hate.

Think about keeping;

a wok

a griddle pan

a steamer tray

a pressure cooker

a nori mat

a le creuset oven dish with lid

a salad slicer

a juicer

a liquefier

You must now plan your menus! Its not Le Circle and you have a small fridge and few ingredients-so plan. It’s only 7 days in a week and it’s not that difficult.

Sunday morning cooked brunch juice,coffee, eggs any way, trimmings etc

Sunday roast dinner in one/two trays in the oven by 4:00 pm. Boil everything first in a big pot, including the chicken and it will massively reduce the cooking time and reduce it drying out

The idea is to get TWO meals out of every preparation; One day then another, the following day.

A salad becomes gazpacho

A pie becomes a soup

A roast becomes a soup

A rice dish becomes e.g.fish cakes

Monday evening leftovers. Liquidize what is left for a veg chicken soup

Tuesday fish either in the oven or steamed

Wednesday Thai lamb curry with fishcakes

Thursday pasta and salad

Friday couscous in the oven with any meat

Saturday market day for all the fresh produce-salad for dinner

Or put everything left over into a nice pie dish and top with best quality ‘ready made pastry’ and bake into a pie.

Or wrap salmon/fish in tinned spinach and then ‘best quality pastry’ pop into the oven and its now ‘en croute.’

Or liquidize everything into a broth and top with croutons.

Or liquidize old salad, add chopped tomatoes, onion, cucumber and chill its now a gazpacho!

marinate all the meats and fish, it will add flavours

I could go on…..

Pies, salads, juices and soups will save the day every time!

You need to open the fridge and eat fresh normal food NOT bought bits.

If you don’t plan and organise in advance, you will eat out of packets with photos on them, and your life will become unhealthy and depressing. If you get fat your living space is smaller.

A photo of a luxury boat galley, pinned to the fridge for a month or two, might really help the mind, and save on swigging all the rum:)

Eating Ideas in smaller spaces

Excerpt from “Downsize your home and regain your freedom’
Amazon and Kindle

If you were stranded abroad, were suddenly invaded, besieged at every port, or rejected the Monsanto monopoly you would have to adapt the way you ate and to another cuisine, so adept.

Except this time, its another kitchen and perhaps a fraction of the size. Its same thing.

No person who cooks longs for a smaller kitchen, full of basic cheap alliances and no work space. No one. But if is the new situation I approach it mentally first.

It’s a ‘galley’ and your on a boat, it’s a ski studio and you are on a mountain, it’s a wooden lodge, caravan, in a tent, up a tree or in a cave but mentally, you CANT BE IN A SMALL KITCHEN. Its too stressful and no fun.

Put up some kind of ‘symbol’ to remind you and get your mental approach worked out first. A fish, a photo, a shell, a postcard, a mosquito net, something to give this space a theme and some humour. It will save your mind and save you drinking the cooking brandy.

You will be eating differently as food is very dependant on tools, skills of the chef and expectations of the dinner. All three of these are probably now diminished but you still have to eat and gleen some pleasure from it.

The Dinning Table.

Obviously you are getting a smaller table, or one that tips up straight after use and stores against the wall. Ikea do a ‘corner tables’ that open up for 4 people. I remember the top was terrible quality but a nice thick plastic highly coloured table cloth hides a lot.

A slab/piece glass with menus, newspapers, photos or postcards underneath is cheap and fun and covers so much.

If you have less space only use the coffee table to eat off. Get a couple of cheap wooden chairs, paint them bright colours and chop of the legs to make them shorter and stubby which looks cute and trendy.

If you paint them white tie on ribbons, add cushions, hammer in coloured studs, entwine beads, spray on mural so they are bespoke and cheerful. Think Momos.

Fix up a Food Bar table from Ikea with 2 legs, 2 brackets, 1 piece of Formica and 2 high bar stools. It looks great and

Saves so much space. Blend in the wall, pictures, seat and plant pot and create a theme.

Pull out canvas aluminium framed camping/fishing chairs from Argos are practical, light and cheap and you can throw them under the bed later.

Padded wooden lap trays are not that bad and complete the TV supper experience. You won’t die from eating off a tray, better than a magazine, and its good for the core muscles and balance.

Sit on the floor. Why not? Get cushions, take off the shoes, use a low table and sit on the floor. Our ancestors bonded on the floor and look what happened.

Spread out a washable cotton sheet as a mat and shake it outside every time or get a mini vac so you’re not sitting in crumbs and attracting the bugs. Do not eat onto thick carpets its unhealthy and are difficult to clean and will smell. Cover them or remove them first.

Eat outside as much as possible, eat at lunchtimes before you go home, take home doggy bags, get invited out, get invited over and stay friends with women that have dinner parties. Its better for you and will save the energy trying to cope.

You are going to be changing your diet as the roast pig, stuffed birds, soufflés and fresh ice cream look like they are off the menu:)


PUT ON THE OVEN.


Turn the knob. Its no big deal. We were not born to eat microwaved food and I would never never waste the kitchen space on that ghastly black box.

Get one good oven dish with lid and think French. Sauté and chop and put everything into the dish and cook on low-preferable in the morning. Wash a lettuce etc and make a salad with real olive oil dressing and theres a family meal. delicious simple and not expensive.

Most bed sits don’t have gas ovens and electricity is very expensive on a meter so ovens are a luxury. So its a good hearty soup made on top burner and slowly.

I  never to cook at night. The thought of chopping onions at 7.30 pm makes me ill and i’m no longer hungry.

Cook in advance and in the mornings before you are too tired. Like they do on the continent .

Hungry people order take out!

Books you hang onto.

Excerpt from “Downsize your home and regain your freedom’
Amazon and Kindle

Get rid of them. Cleanse.

Unless they are meaningful to you, educational, future reference material, large coffee table , valuable, with great photos,  get rid of them. Be kind and give them to a charity.

No one is.impressed by your ability to read. We all read these days, Its not the 17th century.

They collect dust, take up space and smell. Same with old magazines and papers. They all turn to dust and clog your lungs.

Buy a kindle

Do not collect news papers past a week old. Keep only expensive magazines,  and National Geographic mag are acceptable in the bathroom.

Give the others to the local launderette, dentist, doctors, hairdressers or leave them on the stairs. They won’t be there for long. Same with old CD, tapes,videos. Let someone find them and make their day.

Books can really bring out a stubborn side of a person. We think they represent ‘who we are’ .

They don’t…they represent what we ‘read once some time ago,’ which is only part of the story.

You don’t have space as your are ‘downsizing’ not trying to live in a library. Say good bye , thank you and pass the book on.

Downsize your home and regain your freedom

Excerpt from “Downsize your home and regain your freedom’
Amazon and Kindle

Lets face it if you are downsizing it might be for many reasons, a few of which might be;

Moving to a new city/country, money problems, divorce, job loss, death, taking the equity out of your present residence, kids all left home, too old for stairs, mortgage areas, gardens and upkeep, etc, etc.

Who knows, but what is vastly underestimated is the numbers of those of us who are ‘downsizing’. We are never mentioned. We are almost invisible. We are silent.

Its as if everyone is always moving up? They are not. Its not true. There’s a two way traffic. Those going up and the rest of us going down, downsizing, sometimes as quickly as possible, to avoid many circumstances.

We spend a lifetime working and dreaming for the best and biggest residence to show the world who we are or want to be at least, but its not like that any more.

Films and dreams are not created in one beds, studios and bungalows, but living as a slave to your residence is a joke, so changes sometimes have to be made-downwards.

I lived in five homes, on two continents, in three countries, and in two states, simultaneously, and downsized before the SHTF.

Its not a punishment, a shame, or a failure to downsize, and this is a point a will keep returning to.

Its hard to move 5 kitchens into 1, its hard to move 5 wardrobes into 1 and its even harder to store 35 high ball cutlass Ralph Lauren glasses into a cupboard for 6, but it had to be done, so lets get on a do it.

Importantly, we also will ha to identify what makes it ‘a pleasure,’ and what makes it ‘a punishment,’ clearly from the beginning, or life is going to get confused and miserable.

Plenty of personal philosophy is whats needed here, and a clear view on your future lifestyle, and goals.