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Sunday, 26 May 2013



Gjirokastër,  Albania in May 1984

"That evening after dinner, a number of us sat with Aferdita and Eduart in the hotel’s night club. Each of the hotels in which we stayed had one of these. With the exception of our two guides and the musicians who performed in them, these clubs were out-of-bounds for Albanians. This evening we were entertained by a small band that played western pop music, mainly tunes originally performed by the Beatles. The noisy background of these clubs provided our two young guides with opportunities to ask us about life beyond their country’s tightly sealed borders. However, it was clear that Aferdita was trying to eavesdrop on Eduart and vice-versa. As the musicians strummed away in the semi-gloom of the club in Gjirokastër, Aferdita turned to me, rolled her lower lip away from her teeth, and asked my opinion of her gums. She wanted to know if they had been treated properly. I told her that I was unable to give her an opinion in such poor light.

The following morning, I spotted some tubes of Albanian toothpaste on display in a locked glass display case near the hotel’s main entrance. I tried to communicate to the receptionist (who did not understand English) that I wished to purchase a tube. I used to collect toothpastes from wherever I travelled, and was curious to taste its contents. Whilst I was doing this, Aferdita appeared, and asked me what I wanted. I told her. She explained my desire to the receptionist, and moments later I had become the proud owner of a tube of Albanian dentifrice."

This is a brief excerpt from my book "ALBANIA ON MY MIND" (Click HERE for more detail), published in 2012. Until two days ago, I had believed that I had lost or thrown away the Albanian toothpaste  bought in Gjirokastër,to which I referred in the excerpt.  Well, I found it amongst some goods that we had kept in storage for almost 20 years. The illustration below shows 2 of the tubes in greater detail:

These were not the only dental souvenirs that I discovered in our family storage locker. Here is an extract from the draft of my forthcoming book "SRABBLE WITH SLIVOVITZ - Once Upon a Time in Yugoslavia" about Yugoslavia before 1991:

"Between Niš and the dull, nearby Niška Banja, we encountered a large number of Russian and Bulgarian cars parked by the side of the main road. Each car had a stall - usually a folding table - set up beside it. Their owners were selling a wide variety of odds and ends. I bought tubes of toothpaste manufactured in the USSR and the People’s Republic of China. For a long time these, and the dentifrice that I had bought in the Albanian town of Gjirokastër a few years earlier, shared pride of place in my large collection of toothpastes from all around the world. Sadly, this collection no longer exists, and I have also lost the Russian toothbrush, which I bought there."

This section is now going to need re-writing, as I have found the missing toothpastes...

Sadly, the Russian  toothbrush remains missing!

For more information about my forthcoming book about Yugoslavia as it was,
please click HERE

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