Snow arrived covering my out-of-town neighbourhood. The development to the left are the ongoing, still unfinished Mayor's offices

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"What is it; house prices double every five or so years?", I put it, plucking a guestimate from nowhere in particular, "no, not at all", my friend's father – a property developer – corrected me. I expected him to maybe add another year, but it was quite the opposite; "no, house prices double every two and a half years". With my jaw still hanging some place below my neck I listened to him explain of how land prices increase at such a rate that development is given up on, leaving the major cities filled with concrete skeletons gridding the skyline.

My five year guestimate was certain to be off if only I'd remembered a family member purchasing a small spot of land in the north of Iran that long ago, at what would be $5000, and it currently being valued at nearly $400,000. This land, like the neglected patches around the major cities, has simply been left untouched; and why not; why have the headache and expense when you are earning while sitting still.

Not too recently I decided to look for a place to rent that would be closer to the office and the Tehran night-life. Initially I had problems with wanting to cohabit with a male friend; two young lads rang alarm bells with landlords. The next problem was having to front a refundable deposit of roughly ten months rent in advance, of which not I nor my friend had saving to hand. And it's this situation that baffles me daily: inflation is at such a rate that the money in my hands, or even the bank (if I was to use one here - which I don't) is currently depreciating at such a rate that it's frustrating if not futile saving for those big ticket items.

An odd, yet equally unfeasible alternative for us could have been to give a large sum of money to a landlord upfront. With this, our deposit of roughly $30,000 within a one year period would have adjusted (through inflation and bank interest) so much that upon getting this exact figure back from the landlord our rent would have materialised. If that same landlord were to invest it in land in the north of Iran then my five year residency could have gotten them a $2.5m asset to play with.

My friend and I gave up on the house hunt and continued living in the out-of-town apartment gifted by my family. The monthly rental amounts we were looking at never ventured below the national minimum wage (per month), meaning that to rent in what is wider-central Tehran, one must be of a healthy threshold. Although I met this threshold comfortably it didn't justify the exchange in commuting and would have paradoxically decreased the means to enjoy the Tehran night-life.

my savings may never keep up with the adjustment and I should claim the value while it correlates with my blood loss

With these big ticket items I am often castigated by my grandmother for not looking to invest in a house or being a, "real adult", and getting a car – apparently the money I drain away in coffee shops will bring this to reality. As she keeps pointing out, I do get a relatively healthy income putting me in the top 0.5% of earners here, yet when I thinking about saving money (which is made easier by my not currently paying rent), I can't help but wonder if I'd be wasting my time; that I'd be better off spending it fast. By that I mean that my savings may never keep up with the adjustment and I should claim the value while it correlates with my blood loss.

If I was to use a bank, I could accumulate the money there at what I think is around 18% APR, but this would probably still not keep up with the cost-of-being-alive and certainly not with the current climate in the property market. With this move I might then also be able to ask the bank for a loan, which I hear would be hard to arrange and not likely to be enough to get a footing. As for a full mortgage; they are pretty much unheard of here in Iran.

I was quoted in an Indian economics journal recently about this inability to keep up, yet was cut off without qualifiers such as joining the capitalist tramplings, using banks or using my family. The tramplings I think about a lot, by which I could buy and sell land - yet at the cost of any moral sensibility. The banks give me the same unease and the family is an altogether different unease. It's hard to avoid getting drawn in though; the longer I don't join in the tramplings the harder it will be for me - but I can't help but feel I would become part of the wider problem if I do.

everybody has two jobs - it's funny and it's true. That second job is the difference between being alive and living

For those slow or unable to indulge the tramplings there's always the blood loss. There is a funny comment I often hear in Iran; that everybody has two jobs, and that they work harder on the second - it's funny and it's true. That second job is the difference, the difference between being alive and living. It is increasingly more common to hear talk of all the above while sat in taxis around Tehran; the government bear the brunt of the frustration for which harsh words get shouted back at the car radios. Often I hear both inside and outside of the country that the president, Ahmadinejad is responsible for all the developing financial issues; I couldn't say either way, but I rather think he's an easy target and people maybe neglect external pressures and the country full-on embrace of neo-liberalism among other incidental matters.

The Iranian new year is coming and with it the usual price adjusting period where within a single week one can observe a national inflation hike. My healthy wage should increase also during this period but I figure it will only keep up with the post new year adjusted inflation, meaning that as the year creeps forward I'll lose more blood for my Rial and I'll still not consider buying a house or even a car. You'll more likely find me regularly draining it away in coffee shops, attempting to at least appreciate its value while discussing how bad this could all turn out.

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The month of Ramazan is upon us - good luck to all those observing it.

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"Don't worry about it; buy something for your mother", I suggested as I slipped the money back over to her side of the table. I cannot recall a having experienced a silence quite like the one that followed, not for a while at least. In curiosity as to why everybody had stopped talking, I looked up; two of the horrified faces staring at me opted to snigger into their hands, everybody else's gapping mug waited until after they'd given me a look of disgust before they looked at one another in disbelief. "Daveed!", exclaimed another, under her breath, as I started to grasp how what I'd said might have sounded. The very small English one-penny-piece had then dropped as I read the face of another colleague, "you idiot!", it said, almost reveling in my slip up.

Having survived the episode, I later consulted my informant colleague for clarity, "you are suggesting that her mum is in need of charity!", she laughed, displaying a face not unlike those at the lunch table. "But I followed this by clarifying; saying that I meant she should buy something like flowers", I fruitlessly protested, "I was trying to be complimentary while deflecting the subject - you know, 'if you won't take, and I won't take it, then let somebody else have it', for example – In this case her mother". I had indicated as much during lunch, but I fear it looked like too much backtracking; certainly too little, too late.

I should have paid more attention to my father's advice, "never mention or ask after wives or sisters – or generally any female relative"

I should have presented the deflection in English – the usual language I talk with this particular colleague – at least I would have limited the damage. Yet, simply, I should have said nothing and paid more attention to my father's advice, "never mention or ask after wives or sisters – or generally any female relative", he's warned me after having escape previous such moments.

"So, how's the wife?", I've occasionally asked, having exhausted most other pleasantries. My expectation is to hear, "she's fine; switched jobs; better hours you know; she's happy, yeah", but I rather feel that this question is like asking about a man's locked-away possession or asking, "have you still got that lawnmower?", a questions that implies a follow up, "can I borrow it this weekend, I've a lawn that needs a good seeing to".

My father had helpfully explained; that this comes across like I'm asking with intention: what exactly do I want to do with her? Maybe the mention of flowers then, didn't make things any better. Like with similar such 'protection' over women in this country, I find it projects an inadequacy. The whole awkward episode certainly presented an inadequacy on my part.

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This guy doesn't hide well in society.

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"So which is better: here or there?", asked the barber, predictably, as he skirted his large everything around the chair while sculpting at a painfully slow pace. "Well it depends...", launched my friend as I sat waiting behind him, having been fussed over myself just moments before. My glazed stare at the passing weekend-traffic outside gained focus as my friend had plucked some plausible response out of the hat. He was interrupted, "so where abouts in England did you live?", I knew how my friend was going to respond, and froze hoping he wouldn't; I mimed the answer in horror as he said it; "Brighton...". I had to check I was there; I could see my reflection; I could see my friend's face in the reflection, but in it my friend failed to register my rigid eyes aiming him up in disapproval.

I've recently extended a charitable hand to a dear friend; offering him the spare room in my flat for an indefinite period. In this deal, however, I had not offered him aspects of my life to merge with his for public amusement. Aside from that, this new living arrangement struggles to be mutually beneficial, as I am reminded once again of communal living; it's great for the company, but such arrangements bring tedious clashes. For a change I am the tidier party, and with patience I put food back in the fridge, turn lights off in rooms (not being used) and take cups and plates continuously back to the kitchen, where I find meals continuously in some state of being prepared or eaten. My method for confronting this difference has so far been to knock on the doors of the empty room with lights on, and say, "hello? hell-lo-o?", then turning to my friend, "Who's in this room?", I ask; this usually brings a laugh and apology. Gradually he's getting it, and gradually the phantom tenants are disapearing.

The incident at the barbers was part of an outing of exploration, to discover the other end of the neighbourhood. It proved a success, with the discovery of an excellent bakery, a well stocked corner-shop and a dry cleaners.

Back at the barbers:

one such case being the repeated situation whereby English written menus are automatically given to my friend, and the Farsi version to me

As our newly-found neighbourhood barber pranced around, I sat listening to my friend's (and my) semi-fictional life being unveiled. His mostly-correct answer about British life had me itching to jump in; to clear minor errors or elaborate. I didn't though; like the barber, I was absorbed, yet was struggling to track back when I might have said the words he was regurgitated. On reflection, maybe I was being a tad uptight about this; what does it matter to the barber that the minimum hourly wage is not 4-pounds (this one can't have come from me).

I guess I'm not in a position to complain though, I too occasionally adopt alternative presentations of myself for passing strangers, mostly to avoid the many personal questions brought about when my accent reveals me. In fact, this is something we both do together, mostly due us attracting attention as we jump between languages. Embarrassingly we are beginning to firm-up on these roles we play; becoming characters in the repetition. Amusingly though, words are not needed; we are recognised without them; one such case being the repeated situation whereby English written menus are automatically given to my friend, and the Farsi version to me. This - it should be added - is more likely due to him being 6'.4", blond and dressed like a marine - and now, sporting a kooky hair cut; he's not exactly inconspicuous.

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My grandmother's kitchen wall.

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"Y'Allah! ... Y'Allah!?", I enquire in a deep mock-Arabic tone while stood looking at my toes as they skirt the door frame. "Y'Allah!? ... can I come in?", I ask, "yes, yes, come in Daveed", replies my auntie as she hops out from the pokey wash-room connected to the kitchen and tightens the headscarf she'd just had to grab. "How are you? How are things? Where have you been these last days?", she asks as she makes her way to the fridge to prepare me a diluted fruit-juice with ice. "Salam Daveed, how are you?", greets my grandmother as she comes in the door behind, "salam grandmother, how are you?", I ask her in Turk, mustering my finest mimic of her tonguey-tone. As I sit to my diluted fruit-juice I observe the questions as they branch off in there usual fashion, to which I unavoidably answer my way through them.

As the summer goes on I've been playing host; to some degree, with the various relatives arriving from abroad. Among these, I've just recently had the pleasure of my young brother's company; and, I should reluctantly add, that of his mother's. Sadly, too much of this precious time has been consumed with bickering: "he's got; she's got; we've got", and the gatherings; few though they have been, have been preoccupied with slagging matches. In an effort to avoid premature heart-attacks and give my father a break from the petty demands, I've tried to keep the conversations to contrived anecdotes.

"Take a look around grandmother's house; go in each room", I joked while sat to varying summer fruits and tea with the step-mother, father and my brother. "Look at each clock: the kitchen, 30-minutes fast; the hallway, 10-minutes slow; the front room, 1-hour behind; the guest room, stuck on 5". "They live in varying time zones", I point out, "but it goes beyond the clocks: they eat dinner any time around 11pm to 1am; lunch maybe 4pm and breakfast not too long before that". I then explain further, "If I stay there, I struggle to sleep while they* chat, argue or watch TV till 3am; and then during the night my grandmother scuffles past me; checking I'm comfortable; adjusting doors; putting blankets on me; fiddling with mosquito deterrents". We chuckle in recognition, "then, just before the traffic begins outside; say 5am, 'Daveed, are you not late? Daveed, are you not late for work?' - 'it's the weekend', I remind her - voy!".

The place has not changed in 30-years; same fridge, cooker, tables, chair, curtains, gas lamps, and the same damn clocks", and then I remember, "new seat covers though; 30-year old design however"

While relaying the alternative time observations of my family I realised that it's not just hours that are distorted there. "Just recently they bought new rugs; a change of colour, yet I went back the next day and they'd changed them again: new versions of the old ones". It was coming to me, "take a handful of mod-cons out and the place has not changed in 30-years; same fridge, cooker, tables, chair, curtains, gas lamps, and the same damn clocks", and then I remember, "new seat covers though; 30-year old design however". I wasn't complaining, nor suggesting unnecessary changes, it was just interesting: a conscious lack of change.

The off-spring and in-laws battle for grander chandeliers, I've seen them; they kiss when greeting, but their eyes calculate curtain prices as they go left; right; left. Maybe they even calculate bulb quantities; I have; my uncle and aunty's "museum" – as another uncle coined it – has 48 bulbs in the front room alone! Their clock is stuck on 6.15 though - it's a change I guess.

*My grandmother lives in a 3-story apartment owned by her but cohabits (between floors) with her youngest son and his family who pretty much look after her in her senior years.

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Me on the family's surveillance equipment.

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"Gather your things, I want you gone tomorrow, you can't stay here anymore, you upset me". It was meant seriously but said in passing, a sort of, 'oh and by the way, I never loved you', sort of way. This third occasion however, I happily responded, "Certainly, I'll be gone tomorrow", and I meant it.

Phone bills, of the shared variety, are surely one of life's more volatile elements - a dangerous combination of numbers so correctly; so annoyingly correctly displayed. By tossing one of these babies into semi-unstable commune you'll have the makings of a hit reality-TV show, or in my case, an eviction notice from my grandmother.

"Daveed, we got our phone bill, it's three times as much normal?".

I instinctively responded, "No worries, leave it to me", it wasn't wholly likely I was responsible but I saw it as an opportunity to contribute to the living expenses that my family repeatedly refuse to except.

"On the odd occasion I use a different type of internet card: with this one you pay in the bill, not upfront", I explained to a confused flock of eyes, "let my friend explain – they gave me the card", I added, sure that the friend's experience and native tongue would help.

"You're a fucking idiot, you stupid fucking idiot, how dare you insult the family and involve a non-family member in this matter", my father responded as the ordeal went transnational. Seemingly my dear and distressed grandmother had littered my father's answer-machine in England with, "fucking messages", about the whole, "fucking thing".

"You just don't trust us!", my uncle later added having concluded that I called my friend to check they weren't extorting money from me. Whilst away that day at work things had festered following the misunderstanding, but those numbers were still so correct while my family were so annoyingly not.

I'd compromised my cultural exploration, cautiously keeping to the imposed curfew of 9pm and when not, ample notice was given

I'd seemed to be getting better at the temporary living arrangement, arriving with gifts in hands, helping with the kids homework, keeping my belonging out of the way – certainly I could've done more. In many ways I'd tried to keep the peace; keeping up with my grandmothers demands; keeping an eye on the bigger picture. Most frustrating of all, I'd compromised my cultural exploration, cautiously keeping to the imposed curfew of 9pm and when not, ample notice was given. There's more, but not now.

From all this I take a collection away with me, it'll make a book maybe: reflections upon the logic of an unknown-aged woman - 'A Dangerous Combination: Ignorant and Opinionated'.

Later, comparing the 'mobile calls' column on that wretched piece of paper I'd reached a new conclusion, it seemed that my dear cousin's semi-secret nightly calls to the mobiles of his girly friend's had mounted up, and it was me who was now paying for it.

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