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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A sculpture in the Prince of Wales Museum, Mumbai.

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"So where abouts in England are you from", asked the gentleman propped at the bar, "Oh I'm not from England my friend, I'm from Iran", I semi proudly responded, cautious to not seem too snooty as I glanced around at the various leathery northern England sorts that out numbered me. I got a similar response then as with all the other times I was asked while away, which was a slight pause in anticipation of a punch line.

I think the slight sense of cultural elevation carried over from stepping into Bombay's attempt of an international airport and seemed to continue throughout my trip. I can clearly remember the smell of Tehran as I first stepped out of the airport nearly 5-years ago and I'm sure the smell of Mumbai will remain just as long. India was to be a recorded for me by smells and it begun there as a waft of warm moist air literally hit me, filling me with memories of my hometown as I sensed the sea being nearby. If I found freedom from the Islamic Republic is was in air quality – I could breath in the literal sense – which was odd as most Indians I met complained about Mumbai's pollution for which could be seen lining the sky so thinly as we landed. I kept tasting the air as we made our way to the terminal at which the smell blended to a slightly soggy, chlorinated whiff, much like that of a water park.

I was in Mumbai for two days where I met my sister who'd been in India for nearly month already. My visit was to coincide her birthday, Christmas and meeting with my mother and a brother from England. My two days in Mumbai were to be followed by four in India's former Portuguese ruled Goa - now very much a tourist spot recognised as much by many Iranians before I left.

There was no consistency in anything I thought as rich and poor shared every square metre that could be found

During the lengthy journey from the airport to the hotel my sister filled me in on her adventures with many a surprising story of her lone travels. I was lost between following this and nine months of catching up as I tried to absorb the scenes from our tin can of a taxi in which the driver repeatedly sat on the horn or shouted some form of abuse when not. There was no consistency in anything I thought as rich and poor shared every square metre that could be found. Animals would do the same as dogs or cows lay rested where they would least be hit. Billboards tried to keep the standard up with their flashy graphics and English slogans but directly below would be families housed in corrugated metal sheet shacks with men idling, women cooking and children playing in the dust. Our journey ended as we reached a part of town that closely resembled Europe with its Gothic sculpted exteriors presumably gifts of the colonial past.

Those two days continue with much of the same as my sister and I chopped it up between rejected the barrage of harassment, "hello, come take at look at these", and the, "sir, can I help you - buy this!". It was a peculiar environment where I would remain baffled by how English was spoken everywhere, even with natives among one another. Think accented nationals would wonder the museums informing their children of the exhibits in English while I would accidentally respond to people in Farsi through confusion of a second language.

Continued IN GOA...

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My brother standing in the Indian Ocean.

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"All the usual, the people in Iran that you don't know have once again asked me to say hello", I redundantly informed them as much of the nine months of catching up got repeated as we took an equally long journey from Goa's airport to our seaside villa we hired in a lively part of town. My mother and brother had timed the flight with ours and their ensuing stories would compete with my tales of Iran and my sister's of India. The journey through Goa to the villa was illustrated with palm trees and narrow terracotta soiled roads would occasionally be blocked by heavy traffic and the occasional elephant being rather a different scene scene from Mumbai, lush and tricky.

As the family rested from their long journey I took to the moonlit sea shore and followed the far off sound of life pulsing in the distant. I followed the louder sounds, struggling with the soft sand as music from the passing beach huts blended into one another, "you want a drink sir?", they asked one by one and even on one occasion; "yes, yes my friend, you want some ecstasy". I reached the thick of it where nationals were leaping around to their fusion beats before I decided to head back. While returning I found that most of the huts had closed for the evening with tourists wrapped up asleep on the brollied sunbeds. I'd reached an open space and aroused a pack of dogs where the bark of one triggered many more as they set after me. I carried on slowly, not looking back, nor making a move to arouse them further, "OK doggies, I'm leaving", I nervously said as I felt every centimetre of distance between us. Just as they let off, fireworks exploded close by, setting the dogs off once again. With the increasing darkness I'd gotten lost, over stepping my noted marker, Jack's Shack, "Is it raining out there", asked my brother when I did eventually arrive back; I looked in the mirror to which I was dripping with, no doubt, nervous sweat.

In daylight things were very different, the sunbeds still had occupants but they were far from wrapped up. I did as one is suppose to do and tucked into a book and lay still for a few hours only breaking for the occasional swim in the warm water as the sun set upon the ocean. Sadegh Hadayat's Blind Owl described his mother's Indian background as beach traders interrupted offering massages, trinkets, nuts and even Christmas carols.

We took to a popular night club in what appeared to be the middle of nowhere to celebrate both my sister's birthday and the coming of Christmas. The local preference of trance music intoxicated the punters beyond the free bar where the staff juggled bottles if only to compete with the flame swallowers on the lower level. I made up for the nine months, intoxicating myself enough to not be conscious of my mother shuffling to the beat and then her chatting with the twitching guy that was coincidentally from our home town.

"you're killing me!", they would gasp as I made offers on the limited rubbish they sold

Christmas happened, or so I was told. The following day we set of to the market for some harsh haggling. I thought I'd gotten the knack for it until I got treble-teamed by three young female traders, "you're killing me!", they would gasp as I made offers on the limited rubbish they sold. With each piece of crap I bought to fend them off they would pass that item to the next dragging me to their nearby stall. They were curious as the Iranian money they caught glimpse of; I explained who the picture on it was of – "how much is it worth?" they asked, to which my answer led them to reject it even as a gift.

I caught up with the family later and sat in a large beach hut where my sister was found in the linked internet cafe downloading her excel 'finance' spreadsheets, updating it then uploading it again. My mother had joined her there; checking on the Boxing Day football results as I sat with my brother observing the drop-outs skinning up as the sun came down. With the smell of weed, joss sticks, spilled beer on the tables and varying international dishes passing before us, both my brother and I turned to one another and agreed that we really didn't fit in. It was interesting sitting there observing what nice weather, nice scenes and relative currency strength brings. Among the culture of intoxication that has become associated with Goa I sat there breathing it all in; we were all breathing a freedom of sorts, and although mine may have been comparably modest, it was just as intoxicating.

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The writing's on the wall.

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"And she's got hair like yours", my auntie gleamed before I halted her, "she's loosing hair like me?" – I bark with intent. She held a smirk; gave me a moment to let me know she's serious, "no, it's short - she's the mirror image of you!", she continued, gesturing a body shape that wasn't too offensive. I'm glad one of us was exited; the sales pitch was dire, "oh, and she speaks French", interesting I thought, "but not English and more importantly she's not Turk", I added as flattery for her. My ensuing silence measured my discomfort in having been called up on my bluff, "great, arrange it for the weekend and tell me where and when".

In a rare moment of inter-office flirting I laid a few pointed questions before one of the secretaries; I got interrupted before a conclusion and figured another opportunity is sure to arrive. Four days passed before I was to be given the chance again. It could have happened in the even rarer moment, with her coming to the floor I work on. I noticed a lot of fuss, a lot of pink, a lot of makeup and something passed around before the procession left. I jumped as a tap came upon my shoulder; taking my earphones out I was greeted with, "have you heard?". Drops of bitchiness were gathering into a pool of jealousy, festering with "did you see the way she was dress? - slutty?". I got the story; without being told. Iranian living abroad*; wants semi-packaged bride; in town for a week; engaged that night; married the day after; discovery day followed, I presume; back to work the day after; "do anything nice this weekend?".

"That's very nice Daveed", she responded with a warm smile as I caught my reflection in the frame, "if you had of asked me Wednesday I'd be your wife now"

"So, if I'd have asked her on the Wednesday, I could be a married man now?", I rhetorically put it to my informant. "Daveed was saying that if he'd have asked you on Wednesday..." – farting would have made me feel more comfortable at that point. I stood holding a framed picture of what looked like the secretary in embrace with her now husband, "crumbs, look at how she's dressed", I thought. "That's very nice Daveed", she responded with a warm smile as I caught my reflection in the frame, "if you had of asked me Wednesday I'd be your wife now", she smoothly added; I gave a cocktail-party laugh; dragging it out as I struggled for appropriate questions. "He's gone back", she responded, "I'll join him when the paperwork goes through, in maybe eight month's time". "Oh me? Errr, I just hang out with my family this weekend", I responded as I passed the frame back to her.

I've still had no news from my auntie regarding the suggested khastegari** but have been increasingly hearing the question arrive, "have you found a wife yet?". Maybe again it's my hair; as it creeps back it exposes a look of loneliness. My mind collapses at the thought of taking these people seriously; I'm not sure I'm capable of such levels of certainty and don't care for such consistency. I'm assured that Khastegaris are rigorous and calculative, but it still seems so arbitrary; such a shocking gamble; maybe even inhumane depending on one's philosophical persuasion.

I've been here for almost exactly two years now and the weekend gone was the closest I've gotten to the much spoken about event. My family know the likely result and have – so I've recently learned – turned down many invites due to this. "Having my auntie pick me a future wife", I asserted to my friend upon being asked about the planned weekend, "is like asking her to choose software for my Mac: I'm sure she return with something I might work with, but there'll certainly be fundamental compatibility issues".

*Abroad, or, "Khaarej", as we say; simply meaning 'foreign'. The word has a certain ring about it – all things superior are Khaarej; escape is khaarej.
**"Khaastegari", is a proposal ceremony of sorts; an arranged event whereby potential coupling takes place. If I ever go on one I'll explain what is involved.

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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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My grandmother sorting out the meat.

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"Bah! Bah! Bah!", right cheek; left cheek; right cheek, followed by a hug. "Bah! Bah! Baaaaah!", right; left; right; another hug and a pat on the back. "Bah! BAAAAH!", right; left; right; centre; centre; centre. So many men and so much kissing; a ring of them, bursting from the exit of Tehran's undersized airport. I joined in, "Bah! Bah! Bah! Dear uncle, welcome back", I warmly greeted him; cautious of him going central. With the embraces done, our visitor stood circled; trapped by the airport crowd and ringed by gleaming faces. Again it came; round two: "Bah! Bah!", in an emotive, pirouette finale.

Before the airport exodus I'd dashed round to grandmother's to bum a lift with another uncle; "your eyes are bright", I exclaimed to my grandmother, stating a common phrase for such occasions - "your eyes are bright", she reply with an amused smile. She was sat at the dining table, labeling numerous lumps of meat spread across it, "Are you coming with us?", I asked; more out of politeness, as I already knew the answer, "no... I'm an old woman", she sought to remind me, as she incrementally slapped squares of paper on the fleshy mounds. "So you sacrificed a sheep for the occasion?", I added; stating the obvious, as I waited for the eventual, "Shall we go?", from my uncle who was now ready. "Your eyes are bright", I answered, "your eyes are bright", he responded with an amused smile.

Around a year and a half ago my uncle returned to America from Iran, concluding his lengthy stint back here. This was a sad occasion for me, especially considering I'd freshly arrived to live here. I gravitated towards him more than my other three uncles, simply because my weakness in Farsi, and his strength in English; yet there was more. Like me, he'd matured in a Western environment – mostly – and thus he became an important bridge for me to unite cultures. Of course, my father also performs this role, yet the objectivity, and dare I say; increased intellect, was a valuable thing to me. It was interesting for me to see that our common ground had increased, as my uncle – bless him – battled jet-lag and fatigue while we caught-up into the early hours of that first night.

Three sheep, I thought to myself; I was out of the country for 25 years, and the only thing killed for me was my curiosity

The following day I was privy to a second round of greetings; joining my uncle on a visit to Karaj. We arrived at the entrance of the family business where a crowd had gathered in anticipation; eager faces lowered to get a glimpse in the car as we rolled in. Among the crowd were some special guests; two sheep being held between labourer's legs – I think I tutted: can we not just buy icecreams? Three sheep, I thought to myself; I was out of the country for 25-years, and the only thing killed for me was my curiosity.

Another kiss ring ensued as hoofs flapped around in the background, "come and see, come and see!", my young brother yelped; taking our younger cousins by the hand. They met with a pool of blood coming just as fast in their direction, before decided to go do something else. As the kisses turned to questions, melon and tea arrived; blood was washed away and skin turned inside out - my eyes were still bright.

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Keep banging on the walls of Fortress Europe.

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"No, it's not that they aren't allowed to leave, the government aren't keeping them here", my father corrected me, as we filled the commute with the usual analysis on Iranian life, "it's just that nowhere else will have them!". It was over a year ago that I'd had this realisation, it came as such a surprise that I remember the exact square metre of road he said this. This sad reality shouldn't have came as a shock to me, but I don't hide it – I'm incredibly ignorant of immigration and VISA issues – and to all those that find me, call me or email me it comes as a shock too.

"Daveed, I want to buy a house in Cyprus, maybe we'll go live there", my uncle perks up, something on the TV must have prompted him, "can I get a VISA?", he gets there, "do you think they'll give us a VISA? Can you find out?". This is the latest idea, Cypress, the latest country and his latest expectation of me. I look up inquisitively when he gets to these questions, maybe I look like I'm thinking about it, I hope so. If he could tune into my mind he might hear this between the distortion – "what dear uncle gives you the impression that I – dressed in my jim-jams, sipping tea while trying to block out Turkish soaps – have the foggiest about immigration and VISAs". I probably give a 'hmmm' at this point, then I sip, "never dear uncle have I ever personally* applied for a VISA or immigration, I've never even seen the form(s) and never made an inquiry about such things". These things are not aired, partly through politeness and partly because he and all the others that come with their questions don't want to hear the second reason why: that I mostly never need these things while traveling.

I did some maths, "at the current rate dear uncle you'll hear news in five years, so – don't make any plans"

Maybe I'm tetchy due to help I gave in what became an unsuccessful application for a visitation VISA to Great Britain and the ongoing help in the – as yet – four year process of immigration to America, both of which seem to appear more like a sick joke. I'll begin with the America gig, I'm still unsure with this one whether it's legit – the papers and stamps seem official enough, provisionally it's a green light, it's just the, "your application is being processed, do not make any plans..." bit that baffles me, maybe it's just the way the Americans put it, everything seems like a scam. "Can you call them", my uncle asks, "can you check online", he repeats. They've given him a handy user name and password, "your application is being processed", do not make any plans...", it says when I login with nearly a word-for-word copy of the letter, but it looks neat and makes my uncle feel that things are moving along. Just to confirm, I called, guided my way through the labyrinth of options, tapped in enormous strings of digits and finally got it, "your application number is 'x', we are now dealing with 'y', do not make any plans...". I did some maths, "at the current rate dear uncle you'll hear news in five years, so – don't make any plans".

The Brit gig was simply obscene and insulting as well as very expensive, remember, this is just for a two week holiday. I was drafted in for translation - not that my uncle can't read English - more that, even by lawyer's standards the paperwork contained an extra special weave of verbosity. My uncle had failed the initial application, having stumbled on the interrogation process, the poor feller mislocated a small town among other things, how silly of him to say north-west, it was clearly south-east. But the British aren't too harsh, they give you the option to appeal, and at only twice the price of the initial process, roughly two month's average wage. But it was failure again, this time my uncle couldn't prove that all the land and property he owed around Iran had any value, deeds don't mean dollars, oh how they wriggled out of that one. The re-appeal was available but the game could have gone on with the embassy raising the bar, inventing more English and taking further money. Unless the family were to leave a deposit, like my uncle himself, the embassy expected it would end up being an asylum case at the other end.

A colleague was rejected a visitation VISA for Canada the other day and another for America. In the Canadian case I was told that six people were successful in just over a hundred applications for that day, this is good business and psychological torture. I hear chants of freedom coming Eastwards, but they seem self-serving - as my father once enlightened me, the jail is imposed by those who chant the loudest.

*I have had two VISAs, one work related for America, but it was all taken care of for me and another for Lebanon, which was never used and also arranged for me, yet not entirely necessary due to me having a British passport, it was simply a time issue.

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Traditional sweet shop from the town my mother lives in.

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"Hello... yes...", my periphery hearing locked in, I knew this tone, I knew that yes, "HANG UP!", I shouted. Another yes came, "MOTHER, HANG UP!". "No, I don't have gas...", she answered confirming my suspicion. "YOU DON"T NEED IT!", I persisted as the door shut on me. Twenty minutes later the door opened, "you don't know what that was", she almost smugly stated aware of what was coming from me, "I know you don't need it", I replied...

My mother might consider herself lucky: prize draws inform her that she has been shortlisted for a possible £10 - £15,000; traveling traders that come to town, hire function rooms to exchange hundreds of pounds of my mother's limited cash for a black bin liner of unknown and already owned electronic goods. "I can't believe my luck", she'll probably one day write after adding her bank details in response to the email informing her that she's won a lottery she never played.

"well if you're dead how on Earth will you be able to press the button!"

"So you've just provisionally agreed on... what would it be? ...over £340 something over a two year period!", I shrieked. "Well what if I'm lying dead!", came the first of her justifications, "well if you're dead how on Earth will you be able to press the button!". "They call people!", "who?", "you know, people nearby", "and what if you're not carrying this alarm thing?", I hated doing this but I hated seeing my mum being taken for a mug once again. The burglary scenario didn't stand the logic test either as I pained to hear the poor repetition of the sales staff's pitch.

"Ok, ok, I can cancel it tomorrow", came the voice of defeat. "Mum, it isn't about me being wrong or right... you know...", I calmed myself, "if you haven't already got it, you may not need it". I then followed by asking her to join me in writing a list of everything she might need, this may have appeared a little condescending but I wanted to illustrate my point, and politely let her know that she just isn't that lucky.

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The hand-over - photographing the new phone with the old one.

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"Give me 30,000 Tomans now, I'll take your phone and I'll let you know when it's done and how much more you have to pay", replied the shop owner in all seriousness. Although my father had told me not pay more than 5,000 I certainly wasn't going to leave my handset with some random only to later have it held to ransom, and I certainly wasn't going to pay that much for a 2-minute fix. I gave a sarcastic reply as we walked away where my friends then informed me that my accent wasn't helping matters, "leave it to us", they kindly offered.

More room could be found in the floor-boards of a house and it might have also been a lot cleaner I thought as we scurried around the basement floor of an overly exposed shopping centre. We both knocked and were knocked as the pace of creatures slowed towards the half-filled window displays. Customer interrupted customer only to be interrupted by the customer who was interrupting another customer. Human heat united with display-lighting heat as potential customers sniffed and nudged at the windows while pointing out the various models available.

For a year I'd carried two phones in my left trouser pocket, one I photographed and was occasionally reminded of birthdays with and the other I excepted misdirected calls with

For a year I'd carried two phones in my left trouser pocket, one I photographed and was occasionally reminded of birthdays with and the other I excepted misdirected calls with. Partly for technical reasons and partly due to lack of effort I never got the superior handset unlocked from its UK network. As a splendid gift from my dear mother and sister I received a more superior model than the last (thanks again) yet this time around I'd arranged the unlocking prior to my receiving the handset. A childish joy befell me as I tossed the manual to the side and liberated my Iranian SIM card.

"'Inactive SIM', it says, you sure this was unlocked?" As I was to later find out, the Islamic Republic, in an effort to stop black market trading have called for all phones as of October 2006 to be registered. There are two ways* around this for me: the 'right way' is to find some office, bring the box, a receipt, my passport, my flight ticket and maybe money; the 'wrong way' is in theory less bother, or so I thought until visiting the basement of bull shitters.

"They don't even say anything, they just lift their head with a 'tut'", my friend exclaimed as we leap-frogged shop-to-shop. Aside from this response there was, "this phone is the only one that can't have this done", and, "50,000", "70,000", "90,000". The price increased with each shop that boasted the ability yet my desire to give up increased with every person informing me that this one specific phone can't be tampered with.

So it's the 'right way' for me now, yet I'm not expecting the process to be any less clear or frustrating.

*There is a third, which involves joining the recently introduced private network, IranCell, boasting many (long overdue) new features to the Iran market (MMS, WAP and the likes). This company have broken the monopoly and brought reasonable prices for SIM cards as well as putting a boot up the arse of state-run oversubscribed effort.

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Another nature spot sodden.

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"There's a lot of rubbish around here", my sister remarked as she held her video camera to the window while we made our way back from an outing to the east of Tehran for some tea and hubble-bubble. Damn, there's a lot of rubbish around here I thought to myself, looking left and right in shame. The semi-brown mounds cut with tarmac patiently saw our exodus as we repeatedly rearranged our convoy back to the city to conclude the weekend.

Plastic bottles, bags, cartons and wrappers seemed to keep an even distance from one another, sometimes self-consciously collecting themselves in a larger plastic-bags, maybe still deciding what next to do. "Damn, really lots of it", I regrettably agreed. Every improvised picnic since mass-production was still being enjoyed - less so higher up and more so near the roads - only good memories seemed to have been taken away.

"I was on Iran's Kish Island when first visiting, beautiful it was, white sand, clear water", I reminisced, "where the grass met the sand the Iranians had spontaneously created land fills". It was one of a catalog of moments I've witnessed. "There's a strange sense of commons with the Iranians", I continued, "inside the house they obsess about tidiness and cleanliness, yet when they leave the door the very same
parents instruct their children to discard any packaging wherever they may be". Often it's the open guttering (known as joobs) that brings the melted snow from the north to south of Tehran that bare the brunt, edging Tehran ever closer to a heart attack.

I'm sure the city blames the people and the people blame the city, like when friends complain while sat in traffic about how long their journey increasingly takes

"To be fair I guess it's difficult to distinguish where the bins are when so much of Tehran is in some state of repair", I joked referring to the pipes sticking out from the paths, pot-holes, open building sites and paving-slabs nearly all present -- yet mostly broken if so. "But it's interesting what this says about Iran and the Iranians", I speculated, "I'm sure the city blames the people and the people blame the city, like when friends complain while sat in traffic about how long their journey increasingly takes". But there can be no excuse for not taking one's rubbish away with them I thought.

"But you know, the people are rubbish, I mean they seem only aware of their own existence or enjoyment – and maybe that of their immediate family", I sighed confused at how coming from the 'West' I can say this. "Again, it's like the cars are their movable houses", I continued, loosely referring back to my comment about the inside and outside of the Iranian houses, "they are subject only to the laws of physics. I mean, if the car can physically go there, then is goes there - blocking the roads, going the wrong way and traffic lights goes unnoticed, it's the same with the rubbish".

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My sister standing in front of Hafez's tomb, Shiraz late at night.

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"Do you want to see Hafez's tomb?", our host asked late one night having just watched one of the 180-films on his hard drive. A late night expedition to one of the world's greatest poet's resting places seemed in keeping with the haphazard holiday activities and thus we went.

It was gone one O'Clock in the morning and to my amazement the place was in fact open and more amazing still, we were not alone in the expedition idea. Having circled the courtyard, taken pictures and jostled our way to tap the tomb, we stood back and reflected.

Not being too familiar with Hafez, I asked my friend to help explain a little more about him, sadly we didn't get too far before my friend's knowledge ran short. "C'mon, you have the apparatus for nightly romances, learn a little more about this fella and impress the girly tourists while they indulge their late night curiosities", I joked, getting into far too much detail about how he can achieve this.

Just as I was explaining how he should begin his romantic tours by picking and referencing a flower (that he should later give the girls as a gift ) the bedraggled man that had been edging backwards towards us, spoke. "Hey, are you guys English or something?", came an American twangy accent. And so began a random late night deep-one with a columnist of the Tehran Times.

This man turned out to be a walking encyclopedia with a dodgy dental arcade, obviously wearing the scars of his back-to-back rolly smoking

"I'm an American refugee", he joked as he filled us in on what brought him to be visiting this tomb at 2am. This man turned out to be a walking encyclopedia with a dodgy dental arcade, obviously wearing the scars of his back-to-back rolly smoking. I was absorbed, a little more so than my sister and friend who'd accompanied me, yet I made the most of the opportunity to pick his brain.

In roughly this order we'd discussed, Hafez, poets, heritage, anthropology, language, the United Nations, the WTO IMF and World Bank, America, Iraq, the dollar, the dumping of the dollar, 2012 and a small group of 'people' with an incredible amount of influence over human kind. At about that time a well groomed young man wearing a large CND necklace interrupted us, "I heard you talking English from over there, can I join in?". Things were not at a point where one can drop in and so we fell to silence. I didn't want to be rude but the conversation had gotten freaky, our refugee friend was well researched on some alarming topics.

This was not the only time I would be wrapped in deep-ones with a dentally challenged visitor to Shiraz. I wanted to go for a second meal at the famous Bathroom Restaurant yet both this and the second choice were closed leading us to a third option for our afternoon kebab. I chose table 13 as it was equidistant to other customers but the others wanted to sit at table twelve - maybe it was the fish tank.

I can't recall what we'd been talking about but halfway through my kebab a polite English voice came from the table beside us, I'd clocked this lone woman as German and was previously intrigued by her colourful dress. "You're talking English, are you English?", she asked, "it so nice to hear and English voice", she continued. She was Kiwi but lived mostly in the UK and began to tell us of her conversion to Islam and lone travels around the Middle East.

She re-piled her rice with each subject, possibly eating it or possibly displaying it between her one-up one-down dental arcade. And so began another intriguing discussion of travel, Iran, England, oppression, feminism, education, science, religion and submission.

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Russell Brand interviewing Iranian comedian Omid Djalili.

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Dear Russell, Matt and team (with Trevor being sadly missed),

I'm writing to thank you for the grand service you provide in cheering up a nostalgic ex-pat living in the Islamic Republic of Iran. A fine mix familiar tunes and juvenile behavior (made more so in the absence of Trevor) lifts the spirits for the working week ahead.

I'm not quite sure I'd want to translate that British citizens are calling a radio show pleading for advice on how to avoid friends pissing on their legs

Listening to the show is quite a laborious task and not made any easier by the circa 1998 connection speed. Dodging the IT guys hawking building in search of the culprit responsible for bumming all the bandwidth is a frustrating deviation from your verbal ramblings. Then having to explain why I'm folded over, ripping the earphones out in tears of suppressed laughter is my next problem. The strange looks from my colleagues who are poised with concern is a tad embarrassing. I'm not quite sure I'd want to translate that British citizens are calling a radio show pleading for advice on how to avoid friends pissing on their legs in the showers or about the reasoning for dolphins hooking their cocks on the slack of one's shorts.

Speaking of piss, work and living in strange places, I've just recently been kicked out of my grandmother's where I suffered a temporary stay while seeking new residence. Her official reasons for not wanting to endure me any longer were: 1. that I piss standing up (back-splash I guess, although I do wash the surrounding area of the hole in the ground) and 2. that I spend too much money. I found these reasons odd as she is unable to verify either. My next available living option adds an additional 3-hours commute to my day and quadruples the travel expense, thus nullifying 50% of her argument – I'm not sure I'd want to contest the other.

OK, it's been a sore subject for me lately and one I actually contemplated calling and pleading "help!" over.

Congratulations on being the number one downloaded Podcast, I hope you get around to finally dishing out some promised ice-cream and all the best of luck in your campaign of freeing Tibet from Chinese occupation.

Keep up the good work.


Russell Brand's weekly radio show on BBC Radio 2 can be found here.

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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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A metaphor if you wish.

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"Salaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaam!", "Seh-laaaaaaaaaaam!". "How aw wooooooo?", "What's the noooooooows!". "Gnawawaaaaaaw, doooodoooboo...". These are grown professional women, married too – this is what I remind myself as I cringe at my desk and push the earphones in further. A hand arrives to my shoulder surprising me, "Day-veeeeeed?", "Yes, morning... nothing, fine, thanks, you? yeah... so...". It wasn't going to go down well but I've finally brought myself to ask, "are all Iranian women like this, I mean, is it cultural?". Mostly it is I am told, two or more women are prone to trigger in close proximity, ascend in pitch before shooting compliments at any possible difference. "Ooooo, is this new? I like your hair! Nice colour!".

"Do men like this, I mean, why are they like this?", I asked, worried to sound critical when really I am fascinated by what it might imply and how this might be. I thought about it, considered my current living situation and saw a link, I have regressed – returned to my early teens.

On a nightly bases I am subjugated to relentless interrogation by my family, all manner of personal questions arrive resulting in unwanted advice or criticism. I've been here before – "it's how they show their love". But my loaded stories of how I've lived alone or with friends, cooked for myself and others, cleaned up after myself, paid bills etc. are met with a curious silence, one of disbelief. From my friends, it's the same, walking anywhere near an oven is met with applause.

"No, when we go to university we leave home, I mean, we want to"

"No, I went to a university about 5-hours away from my hometown", I explained to a friend as I slipped into another comparison of then and here, "you travelled 10-hours a day for university!?", came a subsequent gasp. It was a serious response to a serious response but I laughed upon realising what brought it about. "No, when we go to university we leave home, I mean, we want to". We thought about it, drew silent comparisons and then retreated in the comfort of our familiar ways. Why would I choose to leave my family they must have thought? Naturally I thought much the opposite.

There is no gap, no discovery, no room for mistakes. The people of Iran have a seamless transition from one home to another, from their family to their new family. One is mothered, then a motherer - being mothered till a worrying age or mothering at a worrying age. But there is no means for something in-between, a lesser quality apartment, more time on chores, a greater expense. Women cannot so easily live alone or in groups, nor can they live with any one outside of the family. But then why would they? I mean, what would bring them to think about it?

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Playing Risk with my Christianist family, I'm the red player.

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"Watch out for those Christian Fundamentalists on the flight!", popped up the warning message on my screen hour before I was to embark on my winter break to Dubai. "Don't worry, I can spot them a mile off" I tapped, "they're the ones with the pink clean-shaven faces, muttering lines from the Bible", I japed – quietly concerned at the potential damage the corner of a bible could do.

My break from Iran has coincided with a short break from adding words here. Although nothing seems to have changed since I last wrote about my political exercise, I've noticed many changes outside of these borders – one less important change being an arbitrary alteration in a calendar. More interestingly though the British government have decided to abandoned the use of the the term 'War On Terror', yet more interesting still I've noticed a near universal adoption of the term 'Islamist' from the media corporations. This term I've rarely heard before yet by some remarkable coincidence the sources I click through seemed to have employed the usage near simultaneously. I spent my Christmas day spotting Islamists and was surprised to even find a couple in the car radio – in some way I guess they are destroying our way of life.

'Islamic Fundamentalist' without the fundamental part I gathered, meaning maybe all muslims are fundamental or a new art movement is sweeping the world. As I am currently a citizen in an Islamic Republic I guess they also mean me, and as the country I've arrived from will soon have Islam as the dominant religion I guess they also mean a certain majority of their future selves.

7-new members of an average age of around 3-years had enlisted before my eyes

Another change was noticed in my absence, for the first time a Quo'ran was used to swear-in a Democratist – a successfully imbedded Islamists maybe? I'd managed to embed myself also, I'd evaded the racial profiling as I walked down the alter on Christmas day joining the Christianist side of my family for what turned out to be a torturous couple of hours. Their leader seemed a little unstable, imbibed I assumed from what I'd witnessed during the recruitment procedure they called "Christening". 7-new members of an average age of around 3-years had enlisted before my eyes, surely they know not what they are doing I pondered in concern.

My prior concern for the damage one might afflict from the corner of a book, I guess, is shared by few, yet for varying reasons an increasing amount of us seem more concerned with other parts of these books altogether. Although I've browsed through a few of them I'm not too happy about an imminent suffix that is sure to misrepresent me.

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My auntie/zanamoo/father's brother's wife - knowing her role.

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"Pull your headscarf up", a friend finally points out to the lady on my right at the restaurant table. Relief washed over me, yet not due to the halting of impure thoughts that were obviously tunneling through my morality. I can liken the awkwardness in this dress-deviation to maybe that of seeing a dollop of mayo laughing on the unsuspecting lips of a guest at lunch. "You've got mayo on your lips, mayo-is-on-your-lips, there's mayo still on your lips and you haven't noticed but we all have". It should be added that as yet, mayo on the lips – regardless of whether you like the taste of it – is not punishable by death, even though my imagination runs wild at how I might help clean it off.

"I just can't do it", I remarked to our good samaritan, "Normally I can't either", he responds, "which is why I said it in a joking way", he adds while humorously reenacting the initial advice. "Any attempt to indirectly point out this deviation is still not comfortable", I continue, "'oh look, a respectable policeman' or 'are your ears cold?', it still equates to the same thing for me", I add in frustration. "Similarly, I will never buy a headscarf as a gift, it's like buying one's mother frying pan as a gift", I conclude.

"Actually, the man must rule the woman, in fact he has to!"

My difference in facial expression between headscarf-on and headscarf-off is maybe the same as before my uncle recently enlightened me of a woman's role in life and after – yet maybe my rigid stare in response was giving the man more respect than was deserved. "Actually, the man must rule the woman, in fact he has to!", I was helpfully informed. And in a way I help him do this – beginning with my aunt – simply by using her title to me, "Zanamoo", which translates as 'my father's brother's wife' (with Farsi different titles apply to paternal and maternal sisters and brothers and their respective in-laws). Even the language is helpfully structured to remind her of her position in the hierarchy.

Like with the mayo, it can be seen on my lips – they are silent in response but nevertheless heard.

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Parsian Mall, Karaj. Looking out through an empty shop window.

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"Can you design me a reception table?", inquired a former director. "Certainly!", I happily responded, "tell me more about what you're after?". His face shined over like a stale wax-work and our eyes remained connected while I admired his amazing life-like appearance. Such pauses normally conclude with me clicking for the Task Manager but on this occasion it wasn't necessary, "Make a table!", eventually came the response. On this occasion it was my turn to lock-up in confusion.

I might say that I'm a very unsuccessful interior designer, bloated rumours exist about my ability but in nearly a year's worth of attempts I've yet to have anything realised. These rumours led my colleagues to believe that I have a supernatural ability to foresee all the variables without consultation. "Just come up with some ideas!", they gasp, somewhat pestered by my queries. I've meditated much over these ideas, trying to presuppose every function but little enlightenment has ever arrived.

"What are you doing, no!", lambasted the director, "we are going to block that doorway!". Of course they were! Fundamental changes were needed for that fifth draft – a wall needed to be incorporated to the table design.

I also hadn't foreseen the previous job's arbitrary alterations, where I'd arrived to confirm the final measurements for a shop fitting. "Who told you to build a window here?", I harshly asked the labourer who was adding his final touches to a window that sat where my shelves were going. "Your father", the labourer meekly responded. I chose to let my father learn that I was no longer doing this job the same way he'd let me know about the window.

"he designed all of his family's buildings", my friend pitched – maybe he thought I did

The rumours have leaked further, I've reluctantly excepted an interior design project for shopping mall development – "he designed all of his family's buildings", my friend pitched – maybe he thought I did. My friend insisted on joining me for the introductory meeting, oddly leaving me with less than 5-minutes from a 3-hours episode to quiz the client. During this time he'd managed to scare the client into desiring an excessive security system of his making while repeatedly referring to me as his employee. "I want cash up-front boss", I joked following the meeting, "Don't worry about these details, just come up with some ideas – get them from the internet of something", he hushed.

Without lifting a finger I may soon become a design legend, but I feel my finger will sooner be clicking for the Task Manager. 'The program, "Iranian People" is not responding, do you want to end this task?'.

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The view from my new office window.

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"Maybe it's because of my two Russian girlfriends", answers the company director in response to my poor flattery regarding his more European accent. "Yes, that might be it", I hastily added. It was only after his self-congratulating chuckle that he paused for a while before connecting eyes – "I was joking, I don't have two Russian girlfriends".

And so, I got the job – I now, unquestionably, suck corporate [religiously cut]

This wasn't one of the highlights of my tenuous 3rd interview with one of Iran's larger advertising agencies. Nevertheless my equally as startled responses to their business practice seemed to have made up for any ground lost in flattery. And so, I got the job – I now, unquestionably, suck corporate [religiously cut].

"Where are their offices?", interrupted my father while discussing the result on the phone. "Where are the offices again?", I asked my friend – forgetting the name. I was reminded of the district, "...it's very close your father's place" they added. "It's in this district", I inform my father, "that's very close to my place", he hastily responds.

Somewhere between this revelation and the end of my call my father managed to confirm his unconditional love for me. "So you can stay at your grandmother's while in Tehran, you'll be cooked for washed after, yes, I think that's a good idea!". I thought it was a good sale's pitch. His sincerity was met with such poetry, for, not only has he recently taken over my place (in the neighbouring city he works) but he'd preempted the possibility of returning my hospitality.

"Eat this", she demands, "Don't eat that". "Wear this", she instructs, "Don't wear that". "See these people", she begs, "Don't see those". Unfortunately the extra distance between my grandmother's house and my newly found work seems to be proportional to the distance in her judgment. My father informs me that this is my grandmother's way of showing love and with each word I write it is showering upon me.

It seems it won't only be at work that I'll be sucking it in.

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