My first book! – Free on KindleUnlimited right now

kindle image

This is a reblog of the post about my book. For a limited time, it will be free to KindleUnlimited readers if you would like to download it. It is short and an easy read.

I finally did it and my first book, Letters from Cairo by Kerry Duncan is now available as an EBook from Kindle/Amazon from both the UK and US sites as well as other European countries. For a brief moment it was the best selling guide to Cairo when it had only sold 10 copies – I guess no-one wants to go to Cairo… It is a short book and the title says it all, ‘This is a memoir not a travelogue’. There is another book with the same title but it is much more expensive than mine and I bet it’s not as funny! The current price is $4.49 – about the price of a Venti Latte. It is published on Kindle Select so they may reduce the price at times to market the book. It is available on a variety of Amazon sites including Amazon UK.If you don’t have a Kindle you can download it to your PC or other small device with this app – https://www.amazon.com/gp/digital/fiona/kcp-landing-page?ie=UTF8&ref_=kcp_pc_mkt_lnd

It is a poignant, hilarious and revelatory memoir about our expatriate posting to Cairo during the second Gulf War between 2002 and 2004. Some of you may empathize if you have been to third world destinations but the essence is about my battle to deal with illness in a foreign country during a very stressful time. The book is short, despite 10 years of writing, editing and agonizing about writing a memoir. Although I had worked as a research writer in the old country this time gave me an opportunity to hone my writing skills for pleasure. Writing this blog has opened my eyes to the joy of sharing with other writers and photographers. Thank you, all my followers, for giving me the confidence to finally publish. A very special thank you to Ed Mooney, my very first follower, who encouraged me and taught me WordPress etiquette.

This is the link to the book on Amazon US – http://www.amazon.com/Letters-Cairo-This-memoir-travelogue-ebook/dp/B015JFY1F0
If you read it (some may be able to borrow it) please give me a review.

El Paso, Texas

View over El Paso towards the border with Mexico

View over El Paso towards the border with Mexico

After being so sick this year, I was desperate to take a little late summer trip to a quiet town. Houston and surrounds has been blisteringly hot this year, so I wanted to go somewhere cooler but not cold. I swear I have lizard DNA; bask in the heat, hibernate into a death like state in the cold. There were still enough United Airlines points to go somewhere domestically so I decided to head to El Paso.

Y’alls know how big Texas is but El Paso is so far away from Houston (675 miles) that it is in another time zone. As I approached the city, I looked out in fascination at the mountains and river valley wondering whether I was looking at Mexico, New Mexico or El Paso, Texas. It was so beautiful – bright sunshine, arid landscape and mountains. My fellow passenger and I were astonished at how quiet the roads were, even in the middle of the city. Bliss…

My friend Lisa lives in El Paso. This is her blog title with a red link ‘Life of an El Paso Woman’ . I can’t remember when we connected but she kindly asked me if I would participate in her Saturday interview after my book, ‘Letters from Cairo’ was published on Kindle. It is so strange how connected we can become with fellow bloggers, invested not just in their opinions but the lives that they choose to share with us. I am happy to share far too much and then am embarrassed when a local friend reads my personal thoughts – go figure!

I got an UBER at the airport and lickety-split, I was at my new hotel. The Hotel Indigo is in a refurbished building – link to the El Paso Times article on the hotel.  It was built in 1963 and refurbished at various times. Teddy has Intercontinental points so I was given a top floor room on the 12th floor (squeaking in delight). I was awestruck as I gazed out the floor to ceiling windows with a view of Texas and Mexico. It was a hip and groovy room; the architects did a great job. All the little touches added up to a fantastic whole.

Each room was adorned with succulent plants

Each room was adorned with succulent plants

Curiously, on my first evening, I ate at the funky 5th floor roof-top bar where I met two architects. (I know that doesn’t make sense – the building was angled and some of the rooms had a view of the 5th floor bar). It was alongside the cute little pool which was lit up in different colors as darkness fell. The bar was underneath a roof but open on two sides, letting a cool north Texas breeze in. Temperatures were comfortable for me – a dry 95 degrees by midday.

Hotel Indigo rooftop pool

Hotel Indigo rooftop pool

The wonderful Electricity sign glowed with an array of colors at night, as did the pool.  Every little detail was perfect from the pink chairs, to the copper wall detail with wood and glass.

Looking into the bar from rooftop

Looking into the bar from rooftop

Back to the architects; they had the privilege to be working on one of the many older buildings that are being refurbished. Downtown seemed to be reviving but you could see that El Paso was once a very rich city. It is directly across the Rio Grande River from Cuidad Juarez in Mexico. This was once an open, busy crossing until the cartels made Juarez one of the most dangerous cities in Mexico. There is a highly guarded fence between countries with a very high presence of border control. El Paso is home to the biggest military base in Texas, Fort Bliss, so there are many reasons to keep El Paso as safe as possible. For many years it was the safest city of its size and, in general, our Texan border towns are safer – see this article in the Texas Tribune

Highly guarded fence between El Paso and Juarez

Highly guarded fence between El Paso and Juarez

One look at El Paso and I was ready to move there. More posts to follow.

Zhenny – our crazy cat, RIP.

ZnK_Sept1
I had such a sad day yesterday. Our beautiful Zhenny’s heart stopped during a routine dental procedure and she is now buried in the garden with Mrs. Stripe who died earlier in the year. She was geriatric and had some cognitive difficulties but it was an unexpected death. Teddy and I are distraught despite knowing that she didn’t have much longer. She was so funny, loving and crazy, RIP our special girl. This is my original post about her.

I know – she is utterly beautiful. Her eyes are exquisite and she looks like a cat on a pyramid. That’s the problem… I first encountered her at the cat shelter where my husband and I volunteered in Cairo, Egypt. Her owner was moving from an American military base in Cairo to another in Korea and couldn’t take her fur baby. I can only imagine how her owner felt but Zhenny was distraught. She wouldn’t eat anything, despite our endless treats and pleading. The veterinarian put an IV drip in but she thought she was being tortured. We already had Mrs. Stripe and her daughter, Toffee, our garden cats, so we certainly didn’t want another one. We thought that Stripe would attack her anyway as she is so territorial. Then one day it was obvious that Zhenny was dying and I just put her in a crate, took her home so that she could die somewhere nice.

She was so skinny that we bought her a little cat nest with a hood so that she could feel safe and comfortable in her final days. To my surprise, when I introduced Stripe and Toffee to her, I could see them saying, ‘Poor little soul’ and thus she was accepted. The fight for her life went on for about a week with me forcing baby food into her mouth. In desperation I bought some minced beef and cooked it for her. For the first time, she seemed to have an appetite and started eating properly. By that time we were all bonded or used to each other’s scents and it was too late… That was 12 years ago and she was 18 months old. She is still alive but I have saved her life on another occasion when the veterinarian hospital could not look after her. We believe she may have sent someone to ER…

Stripe and Toffee are likely half Mau but completely feral. Zhenny looks like a tabby oriental but may as well be from Planet Zed. Even the vet said that she is just loco. I have looked after many cats but this one is an enigma. Only I can lift her, and only in special circumstances. Her Dad may only kiss her but not stroke her. He is also the only one who is allowed to play with her in a precise OCD way. Mum is just for cuddles and care-giving. The other two cats were utterly silent for years, as feral cats can be, but Zhenny is astonishingly vocal. I will be on the phone with my aunt in Ireland, Zhenny will be three rooms away and she can hear her screaming. After all these years we can tell the difference between her distress and laughter. The vet suggested that we give her Xanax – I looked at him and said, “How precisely should I do that, with a blow-dart, perhaps?”

She can be hysterically funny or drive us to tears. If she is upset she creeps along the floor, sobbing. Have you ever heard a cat sob? All treats have to be thrown like live prey and yet she is not a hunter. We discovered much later that she had kittens before we took her in but still hadn’t been neutered. Shortly after I saved her life in Cairo, she went into heat. Our villa was three houses from the baker’s shop at the end of the street and I could hear her howling inside our house. No wonder our neighbors had some issues with us… One time she was halfway up the stairs, with her head peeping through the balustrade and started ‘in heat howling’. Even she looked astonished at the guttural sound that came out of her mouth and we burst out laughing.

She should not have lived this long but Mummy is just so good at saving her life. Sigh. Our vet looks at me in horror when I say very firmly DO NOT RESUSCITATE! She is so difficult to handle that we know that she would not be able to cope with a chronic illness or disability so it would be a kindness. She has the early stages of kidney dysfunction but I suspect she has at least another year in her. Oh we will miss these beautiful green blue eyes and her funny vocalizations.

Zhenny at 2 years old in Cairo

Zhenny at 2 years old in Cairo

Nikita and the flamingo

NIKITA

NIKITA

This is the adorable ‘poodle’ Nikita that friends of ours had brought from Azerbaijan to Egypt (via Kuwait). She was not 100% poodle but near enough that it made no difference. Our friends arrived in Egypt shortly after the second Gulf War broke out and had been evacuated from Kuwait. They needed to travel shortly after arriving and asked if we would look after Nikita in our villa.

I was delighted, Teddy not so much. At this stage we just had Mrs. Stripe, who was still very feral and living in the garden, so not our pet as such. Before we arrived in Egypt I had lost my mum and the two remaining elderly Scottish cats. I didn’t really lose them – they died… We had decided “NO MORE PETS!” Despite that, I really missed having little fur babies to cuddle.

So as indulgent aunt and uncle to Nikita, we spoiled her rotten. She came with her toys and food but we could tell that she, too, was traumatized by the recent move. Firstly, I insisted that she sleep in the bed with us, under the covers, because she might be frightened with new people in a new house. She was SO excited, Teddy not so much…

I noticed that she didn’t really play that much with her toys which included a pink stuffed flamingo. We decided that she might like a silly game. Our villa had an open staircase in the living area with a balcony. Teddy would steal flamingo and run up the stairs and dangle flamingo through the bars. Then he squealed in a high ‘flamingo’ voice, “Nikita, help me, help me!” I was at the bottom urging her to save flamingo from bad Teddy. She LOVED that game and would collapse in doggy giggles while rescuing flamingo. I would then praise her for her rescue skills.

Every day, when Uncle Teddy came home she would run to him with the flamingo in her mouth and the game would start all over. We had one small incident with jealous Mrs. Stripe who tried to scratch Nikita on the face – my leg got it instead. Finally mom and dad came back and I think Nikita was sad to leave us. The next week at work, Nikita’s Daddy said to Teddy, “You have ruined my dog. Why does she keep bringing me the flamingo and looking sad?” He probably wondered why Nikita wanted to sleep under the covers, too.

Ah, happy days and such a lovely memory especially since Nikita and her Daddy have both gone to heaven. Do you think they are playing the flamingo game in Heaven? Click on this link to read about my book, Letters from Cairo

Teddy and Nikita at the crime scene

Teddy and Nikita at the crime scene

Sinister flowers…

Oleander

Oleander

You might think that I dislike children from my last bluebonnet post but that is not exactly true. I adore perfectly behaved, clean, silent children… Curiously, most children seem to like me, a former nanny, and recently I told two young unsupervised children not to throw stones in the pond. They looked at me quizzically which made me wonder how often they were disciplined. I suspect that all young animals respect boundaries and instruction.

The exquisite Oleander bush above has amused me for a decade. It grows gloriously right in front of a kindergarten and it is one of the most poisonous sub tropical plants. I often walk past when the children are out playing and I wonder if any of the patient carers have ever been tempted to make some oleander smoothies. You would have thought the landscaper would have planted something different. 🙂

kindergarten

I noticed that my exquisite pineapple guavas flowered this week – aren’t they adorable? I always thought the fruit was ornamental but have now discovered from this wikipedia post that you can flavor vodka with them. Woo hoo! They are not really guavas but a member of the myrtle family.

Pineapple Guava

Pineapple Guava

Finally our glorious hibiscus bushes are in full bloom in the street. In Egypt, vendors would go around the streets selling hibiscus tea which apparently is good for high blood pressure. It looked delicious but where did the water to make the tea come from??? Sinister tea!

Pink Hibiscus

Pink Hibiscus

My heart is broken

stripe rip

Mrs. Stripe playing with mum in the dappled autumn sunlight.

Life has been very challenging recently and I hoped that three bad things were enough but not so. Last week we had to have our beloved Mrs. Stripe put to sleep at the veterinarians. I had mentioned previously in a post Mrs.Stripe and the pharmacy that she had severe muscle deterioration in her hind quarters which along with arthritis was causing her pain. On the last visit we shot her up with everything available and it was lovely to see her vibrant spirit emerge when she was pain free. The medication stopped working despite doubling the dosage and she was struggling to breathe through snuffling from an unrelated allergy problem that we could also not treat. Teddy and I talked about what we best, especially given that she was at least 15 years old and a feral street cat. We both agreed that we couldn’t bear to see her in pain and she finally made the decision for us.

I was sitting on the sofa, the night before we took her to the vet, and for the first time in her life she sat on a human’s knee. I looked at her in astonishment but she just settled down like she had always done it. The heat emanating from my knee must have soothed her poor little joints but I had no doubt that she was saying, “Please make the pain stop”. It was a sad day at the vets and almost all staff was in tears both at our sorrow and losing such a special patient. Even in her last days she played with her knitted catnip Spiderman, mewed plaintively for treats and even seemed to smile. She often made us smile see the post Resolution No 1 – wash more.

The house is in mourning and her daughter, Toffee, who is 13 years old, is wandering around the house crying. Zhenny, our other cat, has retreated into closets; occasionally giving us the odd cuddle but mostly biting us. We have euthanized many older pets but Mrs. Stripe was possibly my favorite. I became very mentally unwell when we moved to Egypt and when I caught glimpses of her in the garden it lighten my burden. She is probably half Egyptian Mau but has a bit of European Ginger which gave her fur the most gorgeous Titian highlights. She was exquisite and I couldn’t keep my eyes off her. I had no intention of looking after her until she had an injury. See my original post about our first meeting – Mrs. Stripe. Right to the very end of our posting in Cairo I wasn’t sure if she wanted to come with us – she was essentially a wild animal. One day she just made up her mind to stay in the house and we had to rush to get her neutered and vaccinated for the trip to America.

The veterinarian placed her in a beautiful blue shroud and we have buried in her beloved garden. Like most immigrants from third world countries, she loved her adopted new land and the odd new creatures she observed such as skunks and raccoons. She loved us and we will always love her. RIP Mrs. Stripe.

Mrs. Stripe's shroud on her favorite ottoman

Mrs. Stripe’s shroud on her favorite ottoman

Making kittens…

piper, prue, phoebe

Piper, Prue and Phoebe, Mrs. Stripe’s last kittens

We have been married a long time eons and we have had some droughts in our intimacy. As you know, my hormonal status has been making life more interesting over the last few years. Our cats were getting used to Mum and Dad having separate bedrooms and then suddenly they were together in the same bed, MAKING KITTENS! At first, Mrs. Stripe (who had myriad kittens in Egypt) used to stand on Dad, whining at him to stop hurting Mum. Why else would she be making those funny noises? Then they seemed to catch on that we were ‘making kittens’ and that wasn’t much better because three cats is more than enough!

They have learned to be discreet or they are locked out of the bedroom because Dad’s performance suffers with an audience who looks at him with distaste. (Imagine your teenage children finding you making kittens…) This morning, after what I thought was a romantic tryst, Mrs. Stripe came straight up the bed and washed my armpits. Well, it had been a boisterous session and we live in the subtropics. Teddy looked at Bunny with disdain, saying, “Why do you let her do that, it’s disgusting!” My retort was, “Well you did something disgusting to me last night that involved bodily fluids”.

His response was that he was compelled to make kittens with me – clearly it was not within his control. Either my attractive smell or visage made him behave in this way. I cracked up laughing, as did he. Maybe there was a compliment in there but I am sure he could have come up with something better such as, “I desired you so much, you are intoxicating or you are the love of my life”. 🙂

Let’s see what happens the next time Teddy wants to make kittens with Bunny…