Sand Through A Sieve

Men are restless, adventurous. Women are conservative – despite what current ideology says.

-Doris Lessing


“A3yigh thi xedmah agi.” (I’m sick of this work).

Thus spoke my father-in-law, turning to his wife with a shrug, his brows forming one straight line above his piercing dark eyes. His face was stern, even a little melancholy, in repose. It was a long-boned face, tapering to a rounded chin, with a prominent Kabyle nose, under which grew a neat black moustache à la Hitler. Beneath a high forehead, his deep-set eyes were half hidden by drooping eyelids, and his gaze was steady and slightly ironic. Continue reading

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First Book

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Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

“You can go and see the doctor on Friday, then….”

It was the summer of 1976 and I was on holiday in Britain with our two small children. Sitting in my parents’ living-room, I had clamped the phone against my ear to try to muffle the sound of canned laughter coming from the television in the corner of the room.  The children were sitting on the carpet in front of it, eating bowls of cornflakes, entranced by the novelty of daytime programming.  Shouting to make myself heard over the noise of the television and the static on the line, I asked T to go and pick up a prescription the following Friday at our doctor’s surgery in Bethioua. Continue reading

Contrasts

Don’t compare your life to others; you have no idea what they have been though.

– Sam Cawthorne


You may be surprised to learn that my husband enjoyed a far better standard of living than I did as a child. Although he lived in a country colonised by the French, one where Algerians were considered as second-class citizens, his life, in many ways, was far more privileged than mine. Continue reading

A Wicker Armchair In A Jumbo Jet

Dictionary definition of unsuitable: not fitting or inappropriate; out of place, out of keeping, out of character.


“Non, je suis désolé. On n’a pas la pièce qu’il faut. On n’importe plus de pièces détachées.” (No, I’m sorry. We don’t have the part. They’re not importing spare parts anymore.)

I looked at the Sonatrach repair man in despair. It was the early seventies and we had been living in the Clos des Poivriers (Pepper Tree Close) since just before the birth of our son a year or so previously. The Clos, a gated compound containing a dozen white-painted villas, was to be found right on the cliff edge overlooking the Mediterranean, midway between the sleepy rural villages of Bethioua and Ain el Bia, and with nothing between it and the golden stretches of sandy beach but a few terraced vineyards and a meandering, dusty country road. Continue reading

The Ant and the Grasshopper

Au milieu de l’hiver, j’apprenais enfin qu’il y avait en moi un été invincible.

In the midst of winter, I finally learnt that I carried within me an invincible summer.
― Albert Camus, Noces / L’été


Aya, a thametouth, arfed imanime! (Come on, woman, start packing!)” my father-in-law had shouted at the top of his voice after finally arriving back in the village like a whirlwind after nearly one year’s absence, surprising his young wife who, during the previous months, had resigned herself to being under the orders of her family-in-law. Continue reading