Saturday, 9 May 2020


My brother Rudi is 3 years and 1 day younger than I am. My mother always joked that he was my birthday present – the only one I will ever need! He was born in 1944, in the middle of the war, and although I lived with my aunt in Leoben (my mother had enough on her plate) I occasionally visited them and I was often asked by my mother to ‘look out for your brother’. He survived my well intentioned ministrations, at least physically, but there were a few near misses along the way. Like the time when we were going out together, my mother, myself and Rudi in his pram. Someone called to my mother just as we were leaving and she told me to watch the pram until she got back. I had often seen my mother ‘walk’ the pram down the stairs, so I thought; how hard can it be??? I took the first step and the pram got away from me and came to a crash landing at the bottom of the fairly steep stairs. Incredibly, my brother was fine, just a little startled. I was in shock, and so was my mother.

My brother was one of these fidgety children, who was always finding things to play with, which were not really safe and that often tried my mother’s patience. When he was two or so, he became fascinated by scissors and knives. He came close to harming himself a couple of times, so my mother asked me to take knives and scissors away from him, if I should see him playing with them. Sure enough, the day came when there he was, with a rather sharp looking knife in his hands. As instructed, I pulled it out of his hand, but he was holding it by the blade and the inevitable outcome was that he had a rather nasty cut with copious amounts of bleeding and had to be treated by a doctor. By then, I would have thought my mother would have realized that it is not sensible to ask children to watch children. But worse was to come.

The war had already ended although we were still under occupation and my mother and Rudi came to visit us in Leoben. Again, it was May time, around our birthdays. Rudi was 4 years old by then and I was 7. We were in the Glacis, the large park just outside our row of houses. My mother and my aunt were sitting on a shady bench, talking. I was playing with my friends and Rudi seemed at a loss as to what to do. He started to be a bit silly and annoying, so my mother asked me to keep an eye on him.

At the end of the Glacis, about 200m from where we were playing, there is a fast road, which takes the traffic through the town and out onto the main highway, which would then take you further towards Salzburg, or Linz or Munich etc. That road was often busy with through traffic and we were told to stay well away from it. While playing with my friends I noticed out of the corner of my eye, that my brother was running towards that road. I left my friends and started to run after him. I had recently had an operation on my left foot to correct a problem, and consequently he was a lot faster than me. I shouted for him to stop, but that only made him run faster. When we got near that road, to my absolute horror, I saw that there was a long convoy of huge British army lorries making their way slowly down that road and out of the town. I shouted for Rudi to stop, but he did not. He ran across the road between the lorries with me in hot pursuit. I was hoping to catch him on the other side, but he had already turned round and was running back across the road, between the lorries, somehow managing to avoid being hit by one of them. I seemed to have no other option than to follow. We both managed not to get killed, (a minor miracle, I think) and my brother reached the opposite pavement unscathed. I was not quite so lucky. A motorcycle, coming from the other direction, caught me and we both went down. The lorries kept rolling on, seemingly unaware of the drama we had created. In the mean-time my mother and my aunt had reached the road and my mother was relieved to see that Rudi was alright. It was only then, that they realized I was actually hit by the motorcycle and was lying injured in the road. The motorcyclist, thank goodness was ok. It could have been a lot worse. His bike was a bit battered and my main injury was a huge burn from the engine which had landed on my thigh. I was then taken to my aunt’s doctor, who was nearby.  He sent me to hospital, where they treated the burn.

I learned later that it was part of the British Army leaving our Province forever.  A contingent of the British Army went on to Vienna, where they remained with the other Allied Forces for quite a few years after the war.  Each of the Allies (Russia, America, France and the UK) were given a sector to administer. We finally saw off the last of them in 1956.

The main memory from that day, which I must admit still bothers me a lot, is that my mother blamed me for the whole debacle. Apparently, I should have known that the best course of action would have been NOT to run after my brother. Apparently he would have stopped and come back of his own volition. Well, excuse me (this is how I still feel), I felt he was in mortal danger and I was only trying to save his life!!! Clearly, I was thinking like a 6year old!

I have never forgotten how that felt, and how very young children can get into trouble for doing what is the right thing in their eyes. I think this has made me a very forgiving and understanding parent. And I don’t want to hear any contrary argument from any of my kids, thank you.

Montan Universit├Ąt, Leoben, Steiermark, where my father studied to become an engineer.

Thursday, 7 May 2020

V E - Day. a personal perspective

We are going to celebrate VE – Day in our Close tomorrow. We are going to have tea at 4pm in the middle of our Close, socially distancing as is required, and to this end, we have decorated our houses with bunting. It’s a small Close, only 4 houses, but we are a diverse lot and my friend Christine (Isle of Man) thought we should use flags from all the countries that mean something to us, i.e, where we were born, or have lived etc. The bunting that I have inexpertly strung around our house portray the Austrian flag, where I was born, the Pakistani flag, where my husband comes from, and the EU flag, which means a lot to me, because I thought that the best way to honour the sacrifices made by so many people in both wars would best be served, if we all got together and created a safe Europe. I still haven’t given up on that, despite Brexit. I am an optimist.

All that got me thinking about the actual VE Day. Where I was on or around that day. Who I was with and is there any connection at all between me and the Brits who occupied our area for a while. Well there is:

In May 1945 – the year and month of VE day - I was going to celebrate my 4th Birthday. I remember that May very well. I was living with my aunt in Leoben, in the Steirermark, the heart of Austria. My uncle was still at war and had not yet returned. My aunt used to breed rabbits for food in the back bedroom. I didn’t know the fate of the rabbits, she kept all that from me, but to feed them  we had to go to the Glacis, which is a sizable park right along the row of houses in my most favourite town, Leoben. The park, during wartime was left virtually untended. There were a number of air raid shelters dug into park, so that the people who lived there could be safe when the bombs were coming over. We didn’t have to use the shelters. We lived in a house with a very deep cellar. All the residents in our house used to go all the way down into the cellar for shelter. We used to pass many barrels of cabbage lined up on the side of the stairs on the way down. That’s where the Sauerkraut was fermenting. The walls were sheer rock which smelled earthy and damp and the air was both cool and musty. The steps were uneven and very steep and at the bottom, there was a coal cellar allocated to each resident for their personal use.  Naturally, there were rats down in the cellars and goodness knows what else. There was some light coming from the ceiling shaft, which also allowed some air into the cellar. I didn’t like being down there but what frightened me more than the rats was the talk amongst the residents as to what would happen, if a bomb did strike our building and destroyed it. The general consensus was that we would all be buried alive and that in the end, the rats would eat us. The stuff of nightmares. But back to the rabbits. The grassy areas in the Glacis were full of Dandelions and we used to dig those out for their food. They loved them.

 On a particular day in that particular month we went to the park as usual to get the Dandelions, and we found the whole area full of Army lorries and soldiers camping near them. They were part of the British Army, and I now think they were massing there before moving on out of our sector. I could see my aunt was shocked, and did not quite know how to proceed, but she could see no alternative, but to go ahead and get the necessary greens for the rabbits. I had strict instructions not to leave her side, and on no account to go near the soldiers, but my curiosity got the better of me, and when a young man in a vest and khaki pants, sitting near some kind of stove, beckoned to me, I went closer. He seemed very friendly and talked to me in a strange language, smiling at me. Then he put his hand into some kind of knapsack and took out a round, flat cardboard box, which he offered to me. After a bit I went closer and took the box and then ran straight to my aunt. Of course I was told off for my reckless behavior, but on examining the box, it turned out to be chocolate. Army rations, as I later learned.

This is the Glacis now, restored and improved. The house we lived in can be seen in the foreground, on the right, the one nearest the two Birch trees. 

We went into the park every morning to get the Dandelions for the rabbits, and every day I was handed a box or two of these chocolates by the soldiers. They seemed nice and were always very friendly and they did their best to teach me a few words of English. My aunt lost her suspicions of them. I suppose she realized what they were; a bunch of very young boys a long way away from home. One morning, before we went to get the greens, she baked a huge amount of simple oat kisses and handed them to the Brits. The next day they had gone. That was my very first encounter with the British, but not the only one. Before they left completely, a few years later, I had another encounter with one of their Army Lorries. But that’s a story for another day.

Since those days in Leoben, I have always been very fond of the British people and I loved everything to do with Britain. It is no coincidence that I eventually ended up living here. 

Monday, 18 November 2019

Professor Abdus Salam

A personal account
by Wasi Faruqi


My first encounter with Professor Abdus Salam was in the early 1950s in Lucknow - though I can only remember this vaguely. The occasion, which brought Salam to Lucknow was the Indian Science Congress (ISC), which took place in 1953. My father worked in the Department of Fisheries as a Senior Fisheries Biologist and was probably roped in to help with the organisation of the major conference. Professor Abdus Salam, who was, I think, still based in Lahore, was invited as a guest to the ISC where they got to know one another.

Six years later, Salam was part of a two-man panel (the other person was I H Usmani, Chairman, Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC). interviewing for Ph D scholarships, some of which were funded by the British Council for studies in the UK. By this time Salam was already a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) at an incredibly young age and appointed as a Professor of Theoretical Physics at Imperial College, London.  Following my scholarship award the question arose about which University to approach for admission to a doctoral course. Contact was re-established with Salam by my father to help with admission to the Physics Department in the same institution as Salam. My father had completed his PhD in Zoology at Imperial College, London, in the pre-war period. As my mathematical training was inadequate, Salam suggested that the Experimental High Energy Group as more suitable as I did possess some experience in experimental physics from my MSc course in Government College, Lahore. Coincidentally Salam had been a student and Professor at Government College Lahore prior to leaving for Imperial College. I duly enrolled at Imperial College with Anthony Newth, a friend of Salams, who was, like Salam a Cambridge man.

Nobelprize Banquet in Stockholm 10 December 1979
As an aside, it is interesting to note that Salam was extremely helpful in training Pakistani students, many in his own group, with the noble aim of raising the general level of education in Pakistan. Salam was responsible for the higher education of a large number of Pakistani students, notably the twins Riazuddin and Fayyazuddin who later went on to set up their own groups elsewhere, including in Pakistan. I recall many interactions between the Experimentalists such as Anthony Newth and Salam, particularly when discussing the theoretical significance of some experimental results, or planning future experiments. During the period of my doctoral work, i.e. 1961-1964, Salam was in one of his most productive periods, probably similar to the 1950s when he narrowly missed the Nobel Prize for his work on Weak Interactions to Yang and Lee.  

However, in 1979 he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Sheldon Glashow and Steven Weinberg for his contribution to the Electroweak Unification Theory. He also won numerous other awards, including the Copley Medal and the Royal Medal.

The passion Salam had for raising the awareness for science in developing countries was reflected in his quest for the development of an International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP). He correctly imagined that such a Centre could be potentially much larger in scope than individual university departments in his objectives. An expensive venture such as the ICTP was not easy to fund. However, with skill, persistence and tenacity Salam was able to convince UNESCO, the Italian Government, and many others to fund such a centre in Italy. The Centre, now known as the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), flourishes to this day in a scenic location in Trieste overlooking the Adriatic Sea and continues to attract many scientists from developing countries who would otherwise miss out on this rich experience. The Centre ran many postgraduate courses, which included a bi-annual Biophysics Lecture Program. Having switched to Structural Biology myself and working in the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, I received an invitation to lecture on a couple of the Biophysics courses on the application of synchrotron radiation in biology. The course was during Summer with warm weather and Salam could be found occasionally sitting on the Veranda, post-lunch, teaching his young son. I joined him in these semi-leisurely occasions a few times but more often did not want to intrude on their privacy. Around this period, the Pakistani Government was going through an anti-Ahmadi phase and Salam was declared a non-Muslim. His reaction to this event was surprisingly mild and philosophical, suggesting that ‘we need to raise the level of education in our country’. I was extremely flattered in being included in the ‘we’ but was more surprised by the lack of bitterness he showed. Maybe you need to have true ‘greatness’ for such a reaction.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Raffay's 14th Birthday


Why are you sitting on a pile of money, Raffay?

It’s my new hobby. I am collecting it. 

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Get Well Card

James, stop that at once! You know the doctor said you should take it easy!

Friday, 24 November 2017


All cultures and countries have wonderful food to celebrate their festivals. In Austria, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the ubiquitous Vanille Kipferl, the Vanilla Crescent. Over the years I have been baking tons of the stuff. Hanna, our first grandchild, helped to bake them as soon as she was old enough to want to do it. She became really good at it and later taught her brother and sister the secrets of how to bake the perfect Vanilla Crescent.  I have posted the recipe including all the handy tips, as some of my FB friends were interested. 


10 oz (300g) plain flour
8 oz (240g) unsalted butter (essential)
2 oz (60g) sugar (caster)
4 oz (120g) ground almonds
(buy almonds with brown skin on and grind with skin – should be ground fairly fine)
Icing Sugar with Vanilla Sugar, mixed, for coating.

Sift 4 oz of icing sugar into a largish bowl or similar  and mix in 1 sachet of Bourbon Vanilla Sugar. If you have icing sugar which contains pods of vanilla then you can omit the addition of the sachet.

Rub the butter into the flour, add the sugar and the ground almonds and work them together into a ball of dough, keeping the touch light to make sure the dough stays ‘short’. ( This can nowadays be done in a food processor) Take small portions of this pastry, roll them into a sausage shape about 1" in diameter and cut the sausage into small pieces. Form each of these small pieces into a crescent shape, put them onto a baking tray (lightly greased) and bake in a moderate oven for 6 - 7 mins (maybe a little longer - until they are just turning a biscuit colour - not too dark). Take them out of the oven and gently take them off the tray immediately with a slotted metal slice and place them on a wire-rack to cool slightly. (I find it helps to knock the tray once or twice on the table top to loosen the crescents if they stick). Place them into the bowl with the vanilla flavoured icing sugar and coat them completely. Handle them carefully, because they are rather fragile. Take them out of the icing sugar and place them into a tin. When they are all in the tin, sift some of the icing sugar over the top. When the crescents in the tin are completely cold, put on the lid and keep them in a cool place, away from sunlight (very important)until needed. They keep well for about one to two month in an airtight container. 

On this picture you can see that Yasmin and Aania have shaped the dough into a sausage and have cut off small portions to be made into crescents. They then placed them onto a baking tray thus.

When they came out of the oven (notice the colour – they must not be darker than this) the girls turned them in the Vanilla icing sugar and placed them into a tin. 

  When completely cool, the tin will be closed and the crescents stored in a dark, cool place. They improve with time and can be stored for a couple of months at least.

I baked some as well that day and here are some that I made! 

Some photos of Hanna, Roman and Tabatha making Vanilla Crescents. 

Thursday, 2 November 2017


I had this amazing video from Iona. She filmed it herself. I am sure Yasmin helped with wardrobe and make up. Spooooooooooky!