Which is great news! But the better news is that it is in the heart of Soho, right alongside the few remaining sex establishments. So, while I am shopping for great vegetables and fruit, delicious salame and cheese, seriously tasty tomatoes and many other excellent produce, I can observe the seedy life of those who run these places, and with a bit of luck, I can glimpse what type of men (or perhaps women) still go there in the age of free porn on the net.
I seem to have a love/hate relationship with everything and everybody. One minute I love one person or one place and the next I am bored. I am exaggerating of course. I have many friends (even lovers) whom I have adored for many years; and places like Sicily or Syria where I love to go back again and again.
But I am definitely not exaggerating when I say that I both love and hate Shoreditch where I live. I love my loft of course, and the architecture of the whole area — not the horrid newly built stuff — and I really like most of the people I know there, in particular Mrs Patel who makes the best Gujarati food in town. I also love many of the new shops that have opened recently like Chiki Chic and the great places to eat like St John’s and Rochelle Canteen. But most of all, I love my almost daily walk to Waitrose through Bunhill Fields where William Blake and John Bunyan are buried.
There are fabulous fish markets all over the Arabian or Persian gulf with some of the freshest fish I have seen. However, what makes them more fun than anywhere else, at least for me, is that there is a separate section where you can have your fish scaled, gutted, filleted and cut the way you want.
Here’s a little clip of the fish cleaners which I shot in the fish market in Ajman, a small emirate not far from Dubai. The big fish the guy is cleaning will eventually be grilled whole over charcoal and served over a huge platter of rice, either white rice or biryani.
What’s more amusing is all that is discarded such as fish guts, heads (unless they are eaten), shellfish peel, etc. is used in cosmetics. You may not smell the fish (or meat for that matter) in your expensive crème de la mer or Estée Lauder cosmetics but it is very possible that some of this fish debris has gone into making them, including these lovely heads below!
I was on my way to the Iranian embassy in Bir Hassan, a funny area of Beirut where luxurious towers are built right next to hovels. Well, perhaps not quite next door but a street or two away, and I have to admit that I almost prefer the downmarket areas. They remind me of my life in Beirut before the war, when the city was not so over-developped and when street vendors pushed their carts, piled with seasonal produce, through the smartest and poorest quartiers alike, shouting at the top of their lungs: “yalla ‘a batikh’ (come and get watermelons) or yalla ‘a kussa (come and get courgettes) and so on. Their calls changed with the seasons and my siblings and I could almost guess, from listening to them, what my mother would cook that day.