8 21 MAY 2020
IN MY OPINION
The Radio 4 journalist airs her views
We have got very used to thinking inside the box. The past
few months have had an indoors-only quality to them and
I wonder how you’re feeling about your time in lockdown?
These are things I thought I’d do when the front door
closed on 23 March. Number 1: The house would get tidied.
This hasn’t happened. Some cupboards have benefitted
from sporadic episodes of manic clearing, yet the piles of
things on the stairs haven’t budged an inch. It’s as if two
completely different people have been in charge. I know
I’m not the only one to have been on a yoyo of emotions and
energy – one day full of beans, the next like a deflated helium
balloon caught in the branches of a bare autumn tree.
Number 2: I thought I’d read all the books I’d meant to
over the past 30 years. That hasn’t happened either. In
lockdown my eyes just slide across the page. We had one
of the most moving conversations ever on The Listening
Project several years ago between two women who’d
‘I’m not the only one on a yoyo of
emotions and energy – one day full of
beans, the next like a deflated balloon’
fled Syria and were living in Lebanon. Much of their
conversation has stayed with me, especially when they
talked about not being able to read fiction. The part of their
brains that was capable of taking on other people’s stories
had simply closed for business. Their imagination and the
human desire to be pleased by that imagination had been
taken away. I don’t compare my situation to theirs, but a
similar thing has happened to many of us – we’ve developed
a resistance to being rescued by our imagination.
Number 3: I thought I would have mastered something.
Taekwondo? Embroidery? Taken up a place on Ethical
Hacking at the Abertay University in Dundee (graduate
employment rate 95%)? I love the notion of being a life-long
learner, so I thought some kind of brain activity would be
stimulated during this extra me-time. But no. Actually,
I have learnt how to make myself look better on Zoom.
(In settings, tick all the boxes marked ‘make yourself look
better on Zoom.’) And we’ve spent time looking up quirky
degrees for teens worried about how this all pans out.
So has there been any real progress or achievement?
Maybe. The most important thing is Number 4 – and it’s
simple: nothing happens unless it is numbered and put
on a list. Is there an irony to making a list of things that
haven’t got done? Yes. But let’s also go with Number 5:
start every sentence with ‘in these unprecedented times...’
What would we have done without that one?
Fortunately… with Fi and Jane, and The Listening Project
are on BBC Sounds @fifiglover
feasts of Eid
A timely new cookbook provides a
rich culinary treasure trove as well
as honouring traditional recipes
from Muslim religious festivals,
writes Anna-Marie Julyan
Imagine a table laden with spiced roast
lamb and jewelled salads – bulgur wheat,
couscous and tabbouleh. A collection of dips
including creamy moutabel, salsas, labneh,
crisp fried samosas and biryani, wafting
scents of saffron and rosewater.
Dr Saliha Mahmood Ahmed is describing
the feast of Eid al-Fitr (23 May), which
Muslims celebrate at the close of Ramadan.
It’s a very special time, much as Christmas
is in the Christian calendar, when family and
friends gather together, dine on sumptuous
meals, share gifts and celebrate.
This year social distancing means it
probably won’t be the same, admits the
MasterChef 2017 winner. “It’s very sad, but
I think people will make it joyous in their
own ways at home. We will be decorating the
house and cooking a feast. A Zoom meeting
for the family is being arranged,” she says.
Food is central to both Eid festivals, which
follow the lunar calendar, so they change the
date each year. Eid al-Fitr translates as ‘the
feast of breaking the fast’ and marks the end
of the holy month of Ramadan when Muslims
fast during daylight hours.
Eid al-Adha means ‘the feast of the sacrifice’
and commemorates the ram sacrificed by
Abraham in place of his son. It also signals the
end of Hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.
This year it will take place between 30 July
and 3 August, depending on the first sighting
of the crescent moon.
Saliha has written the foreword to a new
book by Emma Marsden that brings together
Eid recipes from the UK and wider Arab
world called A Taste of Eid. The aim is to
help bridge cultural awareness, but it also
provides a crash course on the use of spice.
Recipes include Saliha’s centrepiece of
slow-cooked mutton and lentil haleem
stew, which she finishes with lemon juice,
ginger, fried onions and naan. There’s also
shami kabab – a brilliant idea for stretching
minced beef by adding pulses. (Saliha
won MasterChef with a venison version.)
Vegetable curries, soups and salads provide
There’s a huge sense of anticipation before
both Eid feast days, she explains. “The whole
month before Eid al-Fitr is about grounding
yourself, resisting temptation, exercising
restraint and analysing your behaviour. Then
there’s such excitement and joy on Eid day.
It’s a privilege to eat together in the daytime.”
In preparation, children get henna tattoos,
bangles and new clothes. Then on the day
itself, they receive gifts and presents of
money from all the relatives they visit.