Yo Yo Times

Ooooh, I am completely discombobulated! With one leg still in the UK and one leg back in Baku, I am going through those few days so well known to all of us expats, where the emotional pendulum swings back and forth erratically and wildly. It seems that just a moment ago I was sitting at my London kitchen table, the cat cosily purring on my lap, organizing evenings out with London friends, thermostat repairs with the local plumber and hairdressing/dentist/doctor appointments to get myself presentable again after three months away. The next minute I find myself in Baku unpacking my suitcases, washing clothes, seguing back into my Baku routine, thrilled to bits to see the lovely husband after a week apart, mildly frustrated at the hard water which doesn’t let me do to my hair what I can in London, cross that British Airways lost my two suitcases but thankfully have delivered them since, mince pies intact, and finding space in my cupboards here for the ridiculous amount of washing powder sachets, Nespresso capsules, body lotion and favourite jam I have schlepped all the way with me. I have now done this often enough to know that the inner yoyo will come to balance in a matter of days. Deep breath and forward! All will be good.

That Yo Yo Feeling
That Yo Yo Feeling

Ahead of time, I had prepared a blog post for today to give myself time to get organised. It was, in fact, all about the lovely husband and his work here. Sure, I’m biased but I thought that my Baku readers might be interested to find out a little more about the man they call ‘the cashmere sock’ in London, on account of his warmth and gentleness towards his patients. I was going to tell you about how, aged four, during months in hospital having contracted polio, he made up his mind to become a doctor, which explains his dedication, and, how in his nigh on 30 years of practising as a consultant in obstetrics and gynaecology in London’s oldest teaching hospital and on call 24/7, he has treated underage prostitutes, expectant mothers suffering from HIV, female circumcision cases, innumerable cases of STDs, Jehova’s Witnesses refusing life saving treatment, women who want their virginity reinstated, married women who fell pregnant as a result of an affair, rape victims, women who ask for extremely unconventional birthing methods, as well as any number of medical challenges such as conjoined births, multiple births, very severely disabled babies as well as all the normal routine care and, how in the UK he was the only doctor to offer LIT (Lymphocyte Immunisation Therapy) treatment to couples suffering recurring miscarriage, which, in those cases where it is appropriate, is 75% successful, resulting in my drawer full of the most touching letters of gratitude. I should have known better really, at the mere suggestion of a profile he blanched and squirmed and became so bashful that I couldn’t possibly put him through the torture. Oh well, at least I’ve slipped in a bit here!

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Paul Armstrong

Aside from a few little settling in frustrations, I’ve actually had a rather nice time in those few days since returning to Baku. My slightly jetlagged evenings have been filled with watching a most fabulous English BBC mini series on DVD, Any Human Heart. It’s probably some of the best TV I have watched in the last few years. Admittedly, if, like the lovely husband, you prefer to watch man films, car chases, thrillers, action movies, well then it might not be for you, but if you like Downton Abbey, for instance, you will love it. It’s set across almost the entire last century and at different locations and tells the life story of a fictional novelist. Jim Broadbent, Matthew Macfadden, Sam Clafflin, Gillian Anderson, Tom Hollander, Hayley Atwell and Kim Cattrall star in this so quintessentially English story.

Any Human Heart

Aspect of the Bird Cage Room
Aspect of the Bird Cage Room at Amburan Winter Garden

On the culinary front, excitingly, I was invited to dinner and a very enjoyable evening at the Amburan Winter Garden at Bilgah Beach. It’s quite a fascinating set-up and very well presented indeed. To the right of the reception area there’s a funky and fun, very promising, burlesquey looking variety theatre with table seating which will open in February. To the left, is the Bar/Lounge area, contemporary, dark, laid back with a nightclub vibe, an ideal party venue, I imagine. Spread out over the lovely seaside premises are ten individual private dining rooms, each seating from six to twenty guests, each decorated to a different theme. There’s the Soho room, the Bird Cage room, the Moroccan room, the French room and so on and they are all stunning with no expense spared in terms of the interior design and every last detail considered. All have their own entrance, WC, wardrobe and comfortable seating area (with giant TV screen, of course!) as well as long elegant dining tables. Mario Carlino is the newly arrived chef. He hails from Southern Italy and, from what I understand, is in the process of devising a menu which will encompass typical Azeri cuisine as well as International and particularly Italian dishes, even partly Azeri/Italian fusion. This sounds unusual and interesting! Watch this space!

Salmon at Amburan Winter Garden
Salmon at Amburan Winter Garden
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Lamb, mushrooms, vegetables and potato dish at Amburan Winter Garden

Finally, two further bits of foodie news, one sad, one happy. To my great dismay, Reuben Gould has hung up his Baku chef’s apron and has set off to pastures new. His inspired cooking will be sorely missed in Baku, there’s no doubt about that and, without him pushing the boundaries, I do wonder whether standards here will drop. His will be big boots to fill! Still, he’s young, gifted and good and after three and a half years in Baku, perhaps it’s time to make his mark elsewhere. There is some talk that he may return for a summer stint at Evde Amburan but that, as yet, is unconfirmed. To cheer everyone up, here’s the good news: An all new Scalini is shortly to be opening in Port Baku! The ‘old’ Scalini will continue to operate in its usual location which means a double whammy of deliciousness!

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