LES BREVES DE SUZY VIDAL.
Suzy Vidal nous ouvre son petit calepin sur lequel elle a noté des évènements, des habitudes, des expressions qui ont coloré son enfance en Egypte. Elle s’exprime avec humour , dans un anglais simple, parsemé d’arabe et de français. Elle écrit comme nous
parlions, mais avec talent.
Short, very short stories.
By Suzy Vidal (Sultana Latifa)
Did you by any chance meet Baboula when you were a child?
No? It’s because you were particularly well behaved and he was never called!
It was the imaginary, dreadful figure no one had ever seen and that parents used to frighten their children.
Imagine Baboula? Huge, changing shape at will, with a distorted mouth, huge teeth and a cruel smile. It could travel at great speed everywhere and catch up with a naughty child.
“Je vais appeller Baboula” said the parents to their disobedient child.
Did they know that their child’s sleep would be disturbed with horrific nightmares?
There was only one thing to do, hide under the covers and remain hidden all night.
In the morning Baboula had gone but he always came back during the night!
Aml were the parents of lice. This microscopic sticky insect was the precursor of the kenim, black lice. It was therefore necessary to look through the hair regularly and comb it with
"un peigne fin". No matter how clean or how much care was taken to avoid aml, one day or another it would find a nest in a child’s head.
Picking them out by hand was extremely difficult as they clung to the hair.
In Egypt, mothers swore by petrol, which was "the" disinfectant par excellence. The hair was parted and scrubbed with a piece of cotton generously imbibed with “gas” as they called it.
Gas was easy to obtain as most families had their famous Primus three-legged cooker for which they needed gas. The gasman passed through the streets, his cistern pulled by a homar, donkey calling out “Gas, gas.” The housewife going to her balcony in turn screamed “Gas” and he stopped and looked up to see who was calling out.
Then a basket was lowered with the felous, money and a bottle. He filled it with gas and it went back upwards the way it had come down!
As I am writing this I feel something running in my hair!
El primus wel butagas:
All the kitchens were equipped with a Primus, that ancestral three legged cooking utensil.
To start it, you filled the bottom recipient with gas bought from the ambulant gasman.
You took a selka and cleared the lighting hole, poured some pure alcohol on the small tray surrounding the lighter then pumped the primus vigorously! At that moment you quickly lit your match and brought it near the alcohol.
Depending on how well you had proceeded with all the different steps, it would either light up with a clear blue flame or explode in your face!
Later when modernisation pointed its nose, the Butagas cooker was introduced in our homes.
It had a carboy with its gas at your disposal and the khadam brought it up all the 5 floors. (!) All you had to do was turn the valve and gas would come out. It was difficult for my nonna Sarina to understand that as soon as you had turned the valve you had to put your lit match to the alcohol. The gas was colourless so when she did not light her Butagas immediately, it exploded with a big boom and terrified everyone.