East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Christmas Pudding in Kashgar, 1890

It’s been a while since we talked about the Silk Road, and I sort of miss my old obsession. So here’s a snippet from Frances Wood’s beautiful book, The Silk Road: Two Thousand Years in the Heart of Asia.


This was almost a decade before Lady Macartney turned the Kashgar Residency into what Peter Fleming affectionately called Kashgar-le-Bains, but that did not mean you could not enjoy a Christmas dinner, evidently… and what’s Christmas without the Christmas Pudding?




Gifts of food

For the first time in my almost-50-years of life, Christmas 2016 brought me a gift of food, that is, the classic “Christmas Gift Basket” that is sort of a traditional thing hereabout as a “family gift”.cesto-natalizio-confezione-fai-da-te-300x225
I mean, I usually get books, music, maybe a scarf or a pair of mittens.
But a food basket?
Never before.
In this case, it was my uncle, that hit me and my brother with a huge selection of fine traditional Italian treats that will cover all our needs for the New Year’s Eve four-course dinner with assorted associated extras. And then we’ll recycle the basket, and use it for our laundry.
And it was not the only gift of food we received: there’s a metal box full of home-made cookies that’s been keeping us happy at tea time for days, now. And then we’ll recycle the metal box to store paid bills.

Which gives me a good starting point for a somewhat more serious reflection on this Christmas in particular, and maybe more general things. Continue reading

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Playing with Pencils

I often remark on my lack of skill when it comes to drawing.
Apart from some personal “problems” – my hand tends to be heavy – I think any artistic proficiency I had was fully eradicated in primary school: much as I loved dabbling with pencils and paper when I was a kid, the first two years of school were totally language-oriented. Sketching or “fooling around with pencils” was actively discouraged.
As a result, I’m good at words, but I can’t draw to save my life.168814

And yet…
Back when I worked in a call center, to pass the long idle hours of the night shift, I got me a handbook – the ten times excellent Keys to Drawing, by Bert Dodson 1 – a drawing block and some pencils, and in a few months I went from completely helpless to not half bad at drawing still lifes and quick scenes.
Nothing worth writing home about, but from the absolute nothing that had characterized my life for twenty-odd years, it was certainly an improvement. Continue reading

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Christmas Idleness

This is the Christmas week, and Karavansara will slow down a bit – we’ll stick to schedule, with little variations or extras.

All things considered, I’m pretty tired, and I’ll take the opportunity to shut down all unnecessary systems, lay low, and try to recharge my batteries.

So, as for the next ten days, I will… Continue reading