A few days ago as I was at the bank, the cashier suddenly sneezed all over me. I was about two feet from her, I was completely showered with her sneeze she said, “Sorry,” there was nothing I could say in reply. She didn’t look at first that she had the flu, she looked the peak of health, it wasn’t until she sneezed using her paper hankie that I noticed it was wet and clearly had been used more than once and was now about the size of a fifty pence piece, too small to cover her nose. I hoped I wouldn’t catch anything, but the next morning I woke with a sore throat and a very tight chest.
I don’t usually have a bad cold, in general I feel almost immune to it, I get a touch of it because when I was seventeen and twenty one years old I had, had the flu very bad, and since then, just had a mild form of it. Now I’d woken up feeling unwell, I decided later on I’d buy honey and real lemons and do myself hot drinks with it, as a natural remedy. As the day wore on I did feel a bit better.
Two days ago our neighbour invited Paul and myself to their daughters fifth birthday party, but the invite was a bit vague, so yesterday morning I left them a note for the time, venue and name of their daughter. I’d had a full day, getting everything done that I wanted to do before today, Christmas Eve.
By the time the hand written card, our invite from our neighbour arrived to our door I felt very unwell, it was hard for me to swallow, and when I coughed it felt like a chest infection! And something that had never happened to me before, I lost my voice! Well ninety five percent of it! My Daughter Megan said I “Sounded cute.” It all seemed SO much so suddenly. I wanted to go to bed but it was only seven thirty and far too early, Paul said, “You know you can’t go to bed yet, as you know you will be awake early,” He was right.
I kipped for a while on the sofa and when I woke I said to Paul, “I feel too ill to go to the party tomorrow, it wouldn’t be fair to the kids there if I went, as someone could catch it, would you still go with the neighbour?” Paul replied, “It’s OK, if we don’t go, if you don’t go I’m not going.” Now Paul loves Asian food a lot and both our neighbours are Asians, and over the years our neighbours have given us home made food, I never have any, as I leave it for Paul and the others in the home to eat it, as I’m not fussed.
I decided to take drastic action and take my, paracetamol and codeine tables, I dissolved two in water before I went to bed, I told Paul, “These should stop the pain in my throat, during the night and tomorrow I will either be a bit better or I’ll feel worse!” I didn’t want to let my neighbour down but especially Paul I didn’t want to let him down. We had agreed that if I felt better and was well enough to go that I’d wake him up nine but if I was not going I shouldn’t wake him.
Today when I woke up I felt SO much better, the pain in my throat and chest had gone and as I spoke to the cats I realized I could speak, my voice had returned ninety eight percent. I decided I would take two more tablets at eight in the morning and another two more at noon just before I left the house and that would keep me in the ‘medication zone.’ I’d bought Halls extra cough sweets yesterday to help soothe the coughing fits when they arose. I was hoping I wouldn’t get worse throughout the day.
I chose carefully what I was going to wear, I didn’t know what to expect, was I going into my first Asian Temple? Would there be a lot of people there? Would I be asked to remove my shoes and socks? The thought of been bare feet and everyone walking around with nothing on their feet, filled me with dread. So I decided to wear my tights, not the knitted type but some that wasn’t too thick so at least my legs wasn’t bare. I combed my wig and put it on it looked fab and wore my favourite gray hat, would I be allowed to wear that I thought, yes I comforted myself head covering is important to those in the Temple, I reassured myself. I was a tad nervous. I wore my fab tie dyed blouse that I’d done myself and my amazing bag that I’d bought from TKMaxx and had dyed it was very colourful and had small circles of imitation mirrors on it with small sections frayed, quirky to say the least.
I decided to put twenty pounds in the birthday girls card and I said to Paul, “I will give the card to the man of the house as he clearly is the ‘boss.’” Whenever we go anywhere, Paul always hold out his hand to me, for us to hold hands, so as we entered the building both our male neighbours from left and right of us was at the door, one of them said, “Men this way Women that way,” and in a flash we were separated! I was sent up the corridor and entered a cold room with the Women. I felt very alone but my lovely neighbour whose little girl had the birthday came over to me and she said, “Thank you for coming,” I replied politely, “Thank you for inviting me.” There was also three other young ladies who were there, dressed beautifully, like they were going out to the best party ever! We recognized each other and said, “Hello,” I had at first thought I had over dressed with my colourful skirt, tie dye top and bag but these three ladies WOW they looked amazing, and they looked even more beautiful than ever. Beautiful make up, with jewellery on top of their head scarfs, and around their necks. Their legs had matching ‘leggings’ with a dress over it and over the dress was like a thin beautiful coat, which gave me the impression if they were to spin around would open up as they went round and round. These three ladies had their dress and coat touching the ground it was that long and all three had very high heels, they were slim and elegant, and each had a baby.
I was introduced to the other women in the room as, “This is my neighbour,” I smiled and they all smiled back at me. The whole time I was there from beginning to end, I didn’t want to be there, but I was there for Paul, so he could enjoy the food for he really loves Asian cooking. It was cold in the room I was in we waited for others to arrive and as other ladies arrived they warmly kissed each other on the left cheek and then the right, I had a hand shake which I was more than happy with, I wouldn’t have been happy with kisses on my cheek.
After about thirty minutes a lady who seem to be in charge of the food left the room to my right and walking across the room I was in went through the door on my left taking the food over to the Men. Then I remember they eat first, in some cultures, she went backwards and forwards with lots of goodies piping hot. When she was finished, my neighbour whose little girl was five she said to me, “The food is ready, come and eat,” and she repeated it to the other ladies in the room, we also had all the children! Boys and girls aged looked like up to six for the boys.
Clearly I stood out to everyone there like they did to me, and one good looking lad age six with a lovely smile, looked at me there was about twenty balloons in the room some as decorations and some for the children to play with, one of the balloons had popped and he took it and threw it at me it landed in my lap, I thought nothing of it, then five minutes later he did it again, I realized he didn’t like me, so I decided not to look at him again, and a third time I saw him throw a popped balloon at me but this time his Mum saw him and she looked him in the eye and as they were face to face she said to him, “No don’t do that,” Then turning to me she said, “Sorry,” I replied, “That’s OK,” With a smile, but inside It wasn’t, as I just didn’t want to be there.
I’d noticed a poster on the wall near me, saying, “We do not encourage Terrorists or Extremists, that all were welcomed to learn Arabic here and the Quran and that they should aim to be good British Citizens...........” I was really impressed with that poster, it was good to see. I thought of this little handsome lad and wondered what he would be like as a Man and thought of some of the other toddlers boys there, would they all take heed of that poster? I’d seen him kick his Mum earlier, just once and not hard, she hadn’t noticed as she was talking to another young Mum.
So I went into the other room where the food had been served and taken to the Men it was like a small warehouse, cold and spacious. The food was buffet style, the lovely host showed me where the plates, knives and forks were, I went and picked up a plate, knife and fork, it was a lovely spread, but I only went for three items, I had two chicken drum sticks, beautiful yellow rice which had other beautiful things in, mixed salad with peppers, raw onions, cucumbers and finely chopped lettuce. I opened a bottle of Pepsi and poured some into a plastic cup, I went back into the smaller room that I’d sat in originally. I enjoyed eating my meal without the stares of the others, the majority stayed in the warehouse room, which I was grateful for. The food was delicious. As I was eating someone asked me if the food was, “OK,” I put my thumb up and smiled and they put both their thumbs up in reply. I imagined Paul enjoying his too wherever he was. No one there spoke a lot of English, most didn’t speak English at all, but everyone smiled, that is a Language on its own, so when someone came up to me and asked, “You want sweet?” I replied, “No thank you,” it had brought me back to when I was a child, and my neighbours were Asian and they had various ‘sweets’ but not what you or I would call sweets, the ones I’d remember been offered to me were orange, some in a ball shape the side of a golf ball and others that were flat and linked together, both I didn’t like, as I don’t want to insult anyone by wasting their food. So I said, “No thank you,” To the sweets, and immediately had second thoughts, had I just said no to pudding? My favourite part of any meal, for some people call it sweet. Oh well I thought, If I’ve missed out, I’ve missed out.
The lovely host came over to me and said, “Would you like more to eat?” I replied, “No thank you, she had on her plate, what looked like two types of mashed potatoes of different colours she was eating it with her hand, she asked me, “Have you tried this?” I told her, “No I hadn’t,” I asked her, “Did you cook all this, or did the other ladies help?” She replied, “Usually I cook but today I had professional caterers in,” I told her, “The food is delicious, she smiled beautifully and said, “Thank you,” and then moved on to other guests in the room. I got up and went back into the warehouse, and there sat on the ground was the women eating in a semi circle, they had all the kids with them, they didn’t seem to have much peace but they were all happy, at least in this room it was big enough for the kids to run around and play.
Before we’d all eaten and was in the smaller room as I’d mentioned there was balloons, there was one lad aged about five he had a small plastic bat a bit like a table tennis bat but not as big and he was throwing the balloon into the air and swiping it hard, the little bat, it was amazing he didn’t hit any of us Mums in the face with it, he came SO close many times, and I wondered what I’d do if I was hit in the head, thankfully he managed to not hit any of the women or kids. But it did make me smile inside that a balloon has brought much happiness to children throughout the ages and in different countries, for this lad played with the balloon for about thirty minutes.
Also while I was in the first little room before the party had started, I’d noticed another poster, I could read the title from where I’d sat, “The Final Words Of the Prophet Muhammad,’ I thought well whoever he is he must have been important, and wondered if the poster was there to remind visitors to buy the CD or as I thought maybe he’d retired and those were his final speech. It wasn’t until much later after I had eaten, and was feeling a tad more relaxed, did I stand up and went over to the poster and realized it was about the man they worshipped! I felt quite a ninny! Was so glad I hadn’t asked, about that poster.
The smaller room eventually warmed up and the large box was brought in that held the cake, it was carefully removed and it had her name on it and something I’d not seen on a cake before, besides the candles, two metal poles about five inches high. The Women gathered around and so did I they had their mobiles ready to take picture ....... and then it happened the poles were lit and fire work sparklers came out of them! WOW never seen that before! Well I had seen it in Chinese restaurants when a pudding is paid for, for a birthday person but had never seen it on a cake. After that she blew out her candles.
Mobiles phones were used to capture the fireworks and candles on the cake, when I’d first arrived I had wondered if it was OK to use my phone, as I know in some cultures, women are not allowed to use a phone, in parts of the World, but I soon learn that here it was not like that, I watched as they took selfies in twos and threes, controlled the music, from their phones to the portable music system. And having know the country they are from, I couldn’t have been happier for them, I feel for their ‘Sisters’ in the land of their origin, where Women are treated badly.
After the lovely food was eaten the music came on again, it had been on before, and I had tried to feel part of it all by swaying my head to the music left to right and smiling, but now one of the beautifully dressed women stood in the middle of the small room where the chairs was arranged around the square of the shape of the room and in her lovely elegant way twirled round and round her exquisite long coat open wide at the hem, the embroidery in gold that was at the front trunk of her slim body and from her neck to her waist, looked amazing. Her slender hands and wrist went into circles, one went into a circle then the other and the other women clapped to the music and I clapped too. Two other ladies were encouraged to join in and the women made sure the door to the left was kept shut so the Men would not be able to see, as I got the impression this was forbidden.
After about thirty minutes of dancing everyone sat down again and the doors to the left of the room where the Men were, opened and the our neighbour whose daughter’s birthday it was, walked in with a tray of cups and as he went to each person he lowered it so she could take one, I said, “Is this tea?” He replied, “Yes,” I took one and as I lowered it to then take a well needed sip of my cupper, to my horror it was pink! To say I was puzzled is an understatement! In my life I’d never seen pink tea before. I took a sip and it didn’t even taste like tea! It tasted like pink warm strawberry milkshake, I took another sip and realized I couldn’t drink it! So I at first pretended to drink it, and if there was in a corner somewhere and there was a plant pot next to me, it would have gone in there. I didn’t want to be rude or wasteful, but I had to put it on the table next to me. Everyone drank theirs one lady said to the man, “Mine is cold,” so he took it from her and went back the way he had come in. He soon returned with piping hot pink tea for those who wanted it hot. He offered me a cup but I showed him my embarrassingly full cup next to me on the small table, he asked, “Too sweet for you?” I lied and said, “Yes, He seem to accept this. Then I thought of Paul a huge tea and coffee drinker, he’d hate it! A toddler age about eighteen months was given some in his bottle, with his Mum feeding him.
I wasn’t sure if Paul had brought his phone, so I didn’t know if I’d be able to contact him, I imagined he’d be beyond bored and would have wanted to leave ages ago, I rang him he answered, I said, “Are you ready?” He replied, “I’m just drinking some wonderful pink tea, give me five minutes,” Today seem to be full of surprises! He was the last person on Earth I thought would like it. But there you go, who knew? So I waited ten minutes and then I said, ”Goodbye,” To all in the small room, they all said, “Goodbye,” Back to me, the lovely host said, “Thank you for coming,” I said, “Thank you for inviting us.” I walked down the narrow corridor I know Paul had gone to my left so as I walked past an open door I looked in and there seated around a table in a small room was six Men including my Paul, I asked, “Are you ready?” He got up as he said, “Yes,” He said, “Goodbye,” To the men in the room and we left.
Back at home, he said, “I didn’t know where you’d gone,” I told him, “I was with the Women.” He asked, “Was children with you?” I said, “Yes with boys and girls it was noisy in parts,” He said, “It was peaceful where I was.” He and Megan when I told her all about it later, both didn’t agree for the separation, I said, “It’s their culture.” I told him the women ate seated on the floor, in a warehouse.”
It was all worth it, for I did all this for Paul, so he could enjoy one of his favourite food, Asian, and it gave us an insight into another world just on