Harvest Home

In my belief, a harvest is also a legacy, for very often what you reap is, in the way of small miracles, more than you consciously know you have sown.

-Faith Baldwin


“Please, sir,” T. pleaded, “My brother isn’t fourteen yet. It’s only October, and his birthday isn’t until November. Just let him stay until then, and if he doesn’t work hard, he’ll leave.”  He was sitting in the headmaster’s study, holding his younger brother’s hand tightly in his, and trying to look grown-up and responsible. Trying to stay strong for K’s sake. Continue reading

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The Patron Saint of Sponge Cake

Mouskoutchou – ce gâteau algérien, léger comme un nuage, d’un gout très agréable parfumé au citron…..

Mouskoutchou – this Algerian sponge cake, light as a cloud, deliciously flavoured with a hint of lemon….

-Recettes algériennes


“Come with me, a mmi, this morning we’re going to visit the shrine of Sidi Messaoud, to ask for his blessing.” T. had just finished scrubbing his face with a damp flannel and was looking forward to another day’s adventures with his friends from the village. His mother’s pronouncement cast a slight shadow over the sunny day he glimpsed beckoning to him through the window of his grandparents’ house. Continue reading

The Sunlit Uplands

Temlal tasa d way turew. 

A family reunion (Loose translation)

-Kabyle expression


Kker, a mmi, kker!” (Wake up, my son, wake up!) T could hear his mother’s voice coming from far away. He could still feel the heady pull of his dreams, beckoning him back to play. Then he remembered. Sitting bolt upright in bed, he rubbed his eyes and looked at his mother, who was trying, rather unsuccessfully, to wake his younger brothers and sister as well. The windows of their flat above the bakery on the main square of Maison Carrée were still dark, the night pressing against the panes. He started trembling from excitement and anticipation. Today was the day. Continue reading

The End of Innocence

(He) wept for the end of innocence and the darkness of man’s heart….

— William Golding: The Lord of the Flies


If the ruler dies while the heir is too young to take over, the old monarch’s younger brother (i.e. the new monarch’s uncle) would probably become the interim de facto ruler and would be well positioned to take the crown permanently if something unfortunate were to happen.

— TV Tropes


“Come in here,” T’s youngest uncle mumbled, “We need to talk about money.”

As soon as T. had arrived back at the bakery from school that October afternoon, a week or so after his father’s funeral, he had found the latter’s two younger brothers waiting for him. Surprised, he also noted the unwelcome presence of his father’s cousin, S. It all looked very official. Finding nothing to say, he went to stow his schoolbag at the back of the shop, next to the huge stainless steel kneading machines where the batches of crusty baguettes, hot from the ovens, had been set out in preparation for the evening rush. Continue reading

Axxam

Ixxamen n medden weɛṛen, ma ur nɣin ad sḍeɛfen.

Living in somebody else’s house is hard – if it doesn’t kill you, it will make you lose weight.

— Kabyle proverb


If  you go ever go up into Kabylie  – either to make your annual pilgrimage to your ancestral village, or simply driven by a tourist’s curiosity – you will find that many of the villages, perched on their peaks or strung along their high ridges, have lost much of their traditional character. Continue reading

The Martyr

The fourteenth-century historian Ibn-Khaldoun said that, in the villages of Kabylie “flourish virtues that honour the whole of humanity; nobility of soul, hatred of oppression, bravery, the keeping of promises, kindness shown towards the unfortunate, charity and constancy in adversity.”


Everyone needs a hero. A role model. Someone to admire and emulate. Someone to look up to, especially when they are young and impressionable. For most people, it is their father – perhaps an older brother. I learned very early on who had been my husband’s hero. As he was the oldest sibling in his family and his father was often preoccupied and distant, inspiring fear and respect in equal measure, it was one of his cousins who filled the hero-shaped hole in his life. Continue reading

The Igawawen

I have spoken a great deal about the Berbers and their illustrious history, but, apart from describing my visits to Kabylie, I have not talked much about my husband’s people, the Kabyles. The Kabyles, one of the many groups of ethnic Berbers scattered all over North Africa, are by far the largest of Algeria’s Berber populations. They number between five and seven million, split between those still living in Algeria and those living abroad as part of the Algerian diaspora. Continue reading