I think that all has been sorted for the trip this year, flights, hotels, day-hire cars, trains etc. Now I just want it to happen. Closer, ever closer.
It works again...and almost certainly entirely my fault. The B A timeline is changed by now...
Yes, checked and I have 16 days remaining (in England). That’s too many.
Booked a July Amsterdam trip to soften my return, that’s wall-to-wall Rembrandts in this, his anniversary, year. Just seen one of his best, on v temporary loan to Gagosian, it was v carefully guarded. In the same exhibition was a Jeff Koons oil on canvas with blue ball...v celebratory.
Not desperate, no...
I’m following the same travel preparation as usual; I try hard to break this, but never do. I would like to be carefully prepared: clothes in small, neat piles alongside electrical essentials, passport and tickets. Nah, clearly never going to happen; come 1st June I’ll be hurling a packing miscellany at my case, stuff that seems vital on one Saturday morning knowing, at some level, that two days hence I will be queueing up in Mumbai Central Post Office with a heavy, calico-wrapped parcel for home. Same old...This time I am going without a diary, no writing except postcards. Just looked through my travel shelves and decided that I have to have a notebook after all.
I’m pleased with my decision to keep Journo, this blog thing. It’s easy and, when I’ve had problems, the people at the other end of the ether have been charming, efficient and, above all, patient.
Still in Cambridge...
I’ve spent a half day confirming hotels and various things, realising that it’s all a bit of a hit or miss affair. It would be naīve to assume a junior suite in a hotel unless you arrive at 12:00 precisely, with negotiating hat on. My friend in Bombay is posting a SIM to my hotel, one with pretentious to style, and I have to let them know who I am, when I’m staying and at what level. Of course all will be well when I’m there. Smiles, chai, spa.
Kick off at 11:50, preceded by the postman delivering my latest, a silver Parker, one with a far more flexible nib than my usual Sheaffer/Mont Blanc pens. It’ll get a fair trial. Today has the sort of weather that would encourage me to like England; I don’t feel quite so mad, wandering about in shirt sleeves. I resent carrying an ounce extra in my bags so quite what I would do should I decide to visit India in December I don’t know.
Time for books, magazines, writing, eating, a general gathering. Food first...gravadlax, Buddha bowl and some cheese. I might also have a glass of Warr’s Colheita port, 2000 having (easily) resisted other alcohol.
It’s teatime now but I can’t manage even the tiniest of macaroons dammit. Swilling a few cups of builder-shade Twinings and that’s it until supper. I’m drifting between magazines, the sort I don’t allow myself to afford, and ‘plane watching. I wish I had an Eye Spy book...
BOAC 747-400 retrojet, 1919-2019 - BA’s anniversary.
Black pasta crab tortellini with a take on mushy peas (can’t remember it’s menu name).
Arrived mid morning and struggled to find a taxi in the not inconsiderable heat. Eventually I found a tuktuk who took me to the limits of his geographical legality and handed me over to a proper taxi driver. It worked, and cost only Rs600.
Boeing 777 - you get a couple of windows up at the front. Slept throughout the night, turning down caviar to do so. Mumbai airport nestles up to a slum proper! The air bridge was massively long, drifting around corners
Not sure what this means...i
Bandra-Worli Sealink bridge - long and expensive.
Excellent hotel - Abode - v central and heaving with good types. Had a massage immediately and will now rest for an hour before wandering he streets.
Very annoying, my whole afternoon of snaps failed to snap so you have to imagine my chola bhatura and all that went with it. My trip around Taj has \240similarly bitten the dust. I will take greater care tomorrow. My ankle has returned with a mini vengeance. The chemist gave me a diclofenac spray and a strip of Ultraled-AP - I’ve taken one, they look sinister. Postcard writing now, better get used to it if Achilles is going to play up.
Bademiya, oppositely rooms and just about the best road ever to have opposite - there are several take-away cafés with uniformly excellent food. On my first visit to Bombay my friend Vikram took me there for our first (memorable) meal of the (v memorable) evening.
My rooms are close to the main entrance to Abode so this morning, at 05:30, I was able to yell out my need for hot water to make tea. Lovely tea set - though I deny the presence of a second person. The Diclophenac spray works brilliantly.
I bought a couple of soaps as hotel slivers aren’t really adequate. I’ve just looked up the beautifully wrapped Patanjali and find that it contains five different products of cow: cow dung, cow urine, gee, milk and curd. I was going to open the Cucumber and coconut soap but can’t resist finding out what I’ll smell like after a cow shit shower. Breakfast in the lobby from 8-11. Just had to put that after the soap info.
Breakfast was curds and a load of stuff that vaguely resembled muesli, pineapple juice, coffee and then a trio of idli, uthapam amd coconut chutney - irresistible because they were only tiny(and tasted wonderful).
The newspapers were ironed and hung on mahogany rails, v proper (maybe it was something more sustainable than mahogany). The Times of India carries the same status here as the Times does in U.K., except people here tend not to make judgements based on past political bias. Nevertheless a glance at some of these headlines might point to cultural differences; it certainly would if I were able to include ones that, even for me, push at boundaries of acceptability (language/racism/sexism/far to vivid descriptions etc).
This morning’s early view is less romantic than last evening’s; one’s conscience pricks slightly, especially when, as I was, running through breakfast possibilities.
Downstairs is this quasi-French café. I asked for flat white, definitely no froth, you can see what I got. Good though, I’ll eat here later. Slightly anxious about my ankle and the near miraculous recovery since using Declofenic spray - I’m left wondering if it’s just concealing pain but doing untold damage to my tender tendon. Who knows? So I’ll be assuming the worst and hobbling carefully everywhere. I feel most guilty about Vikram, his invitation to their new flat; I feel certain that I can’t accept, yet guilty since the ‘injury’ can’t be seen and, at least this time, I’m not being a flake. I’ve emailed him suggesting tea at the Sea Lounge for all, though only if he lets me pick up the bill (he’s frequently picked up the bill when we are out, accepting no contribution at all - he’s the age of my children, maybe a little younger).
Mukesh (this was autocorrected to Makeshift) Ambani’s $2 billion ‘house’ - it’s the second most expensive private residence in the world, second only to Buckingham Palace (apparently).
What a thoroughly enjoyable time I’ve just had walking to the main post office and back. It’s not a long way but there are gems all the way (and, in a Museum-of-kitsch taxi, the same might well be claimed for my return journey). My first ever trip to India started out in Bombay (the dates I will have to add when I return to my archive), half way through this morning I realised that Bombay is now a city that not only claims to be playing with the big boys but is doing so on its own terms. Cafés are clean and their waiting staff produce what you ask for, cleaning up as they go. Hotels are justified in using the term boutique. Shop doormen have stopped insisting you leave bags with them at the door and smiles often accompany sales talk. What joy...what a change. There’s a p.s. to the Savon, merde de vache - ‘lingering fragrance’, ‘believed to be a favourite of Lord Ganesha’, ‘mesmerising fragrance’,’every Hindu ritual starts with the purification of the idol...the same concept is used in the making of Anuved Panchamrut. Made from five heavenly nectars - cow’s milk, cow’s ghee, honey, jaggery and curd’, things seem to have moved on a bit with this tablet of soap, Maddison Avenue has distanced itself from cow crap and urine turning them mysteriously into jaggery and honey: same colours, different tastes.
Something charming about aged signs, salt water damaged metal beneath hand-painted messages. Equally pleasing is the preponderance of Art Deco bits and pieces - cinemas, apartment blocks, offices, remains of lettering etc.
Café Mondegar, aka Mondy’s, almost lost amidst the excesses of patterns on Colaba.
At least one coconut a day: not a prescription, but ought to be.
Every twenty feet or so there’s a sugarcane squeezing operation going on. One of them boasted that they serve ‘full glasses’.
Not sure what was being sold here except that it was round, fried and had whole green chillis alongside.
David Sassoon library, founded 1847
I stopped by these men rather hoping that they would chat, they did. This card-playing was their way of filling in their v long days, they never play for money. The smiley one in the foreground pointed to the building ahead, somewhere about the fourth floor, ‘that’s where my boss works, he may come out any minute between now and midnight’. He asked where I was from and told me that his boss was from Scotland. For no reason I can fathom I took against this faceless one, the boss in a kilt; I imagined all sorts of serf-like indignities, the Empire at its height and worse.
Time out at the Yazdani Bakery for Brun Maska (buttered roll with dipping chai). The owner chatted away, this time mostly about wishing he were in England where, he imagined, it was cooler and less polluted. I argued in opposition. Two cups of chai and a roll cost me Rs 60. The chatter was free. I especially liked his free sauna offer, which suggests that his wishes were deeply felt.
Breakfast as watermelon juice, poha, curd and spinach/mushroom mixture - all totally delicious. Chai then green tea and collapsing back onto my bed nursing my ankle until Vikram arrives and we have to go out for lunch. I suggested Trishna’s. Here’s hoping...
I’m eating alone so will go to Café Mondegar: simple fare, chilli cheese toast and Mosambi juice. Perfect. It’s just before seven so only slowly building up the evening’s cast. Vikram warmed me of the heat wave, told me to drink huge amounts of water. So, even Bombay gets hot/hotter/hottest weather. Imagine. Visited my chemist and bought a larger Diclofenac spray plus a few sheets of 100mg Tramadol, just in case. I was told/read somewhere that India’s time was easy to arrive at, just rotate your watch 180’. It works: just done it and here it is 18:56 and, I’m assuming, in Cambridge it is \240
Water tanks? St Thomas’ Cathedral
Chai break (especially good with high ginger count)
A lawyer has his shoes mended and cleaned
Books - and you can use them to build your own shop. I bought an excellent folder of Old Master drawings for Rs100.
Sugar cane is very popular although it needs the half lemon that’s squeezed into every half pint to off-set the sweetness. It is said to do wonders for urinary tracts/prostate troubles etc. This I’m assuming, I’ve only ever seen men in the queues.
Random street scenes taken as I wander. Self-explanatory mainly... it’s delightfully warm, late 90s for those of us old enough to remember that calibration. \240Taxis here are hugely cheaper than in either Delhi or Madras - why? It’s a thankless task in this heat, would you drive someone across town in stop-start traffic for a quid? Thought not. Postcard writing accompanied by Clementi sonatas, newly discovered and wonderful melodies with sudden shifts from major to minor - the shifts that take your guts with them.
I’m eating alone so will go to Café Mondegar: simple fare, chilli cheese toast and Mosambi juice. Perfect. It’s just before seven so only slowly building up the evening’s cast. Vikram warmed me of the heat wave, told me to drink huge amounts of water. So, even Bombay gets hot/hotter/hottest weather. Imagine. Visited my chemist and bought a larger Diclofenac spray plus a few sheets of 100mg Tramadol, just in case. I was told/read somewhere that India’s time was easy to arrive at, just rotate your watch 180’. It works: just done it and here it is 18:56 and, I’m assuming, in Cambridge it is \24005:04...of course I could be day/night wrong - ought to have avoided 24 hour clock.
I have checked this and, because I have a border-line AHD disposition, I discover that I’m wrong, damn it. The summertime hour, which we either gain or have lost, never sure which, just that it’s supposed to keep Scotch farmers ploughing peacefully, buggered it all up. Sorry.
Had to get myself in somehow. I’d thought that this was a photograph of money, but no...indeed you, all of you, will probably be able to recognise these from your postcard. If you haven’t seen me recently I might be less easy to identify with my newly grown pewter hair
There are moments when a wave of happiness, for want of a better word, takes over as I’m wandering, reading, whatever. It’s inexplicable, deeply pleasing and leaves me wandering around, with partial limp, grinning like a loon. I ought to be self-conscious, but I’m not, reward for this minuscule nod to growing up ( a little, at last ) is the bank of small pleasures in which I have made my deposit. \240It sure this works and can’t be arsed to see it through - I know what I mean. It happened, most powerful, this evening as I was wandering down the road to Mondy’s. Freedom is an ingredient; my pocket is full of Rs., rather misleading this one since there are thousands to battle with; food and chilled mosambi fill my horizon; I look good in white, at least as good as I can expect to look; anxieties, that have travelled, are resting; I have been invited to a reception for an ancient, much revered artist - Shri \240A Ramachandran, held at the National Gallery of Modern Art - there’s a movie about him, drinks (soft, undoubtedly) and vast quantities of food. I have no doubt that people in the know have a password enabling the serving of alcohol - “might I have a mug of green fruit juice please?” that might do it. Back to Mondegar’s and my best-yet chilli cheese toast, it quite made up for the sugar in the mosambi juice. I will remember to tell juicers this v important detail. Good to see that Mondy’s had at least two thirds locals, and no obvious dealers. The juke box was a delight, a Dan Flavin done good delight. All I remember hearing was Bananrama.
This member of the ‘crew’ clearly works out and equally clearly doesn’t use a deodorant, \240the kitchen is bare bar him. Of course he may be a loner, with muscles - this can easily discourage conversation.
A short drift down to the Gate of India where crowds were massing for photographs ( proper ones taken by spivs with Canons), candy floss and giant pink balloons. There were significantly fewer this evening than there were at noon. The harbour was active, small, ancient ferries manoeuvred themselves alongside the quay, last trippers from Elephanta Island return safely (danger, most serious, from monkeys). Taj Palace looks glamorous alongside its younger sister Taj Tower - one is minded of Tracy and Ivanka Trump. I’m so very pleased that I’ve found this place to stay. The Taj was a delight and earned every plaudit it received but, and it’s a biggy, I simply couldn’t \240bear to pay the bill for a seven day stay. Bugger Biafra, it just triggers something from way back, probably my \240Yorkshire genes. The bill would cover the cost of a 65inch, OLED, top of the range sir, teevee. And we need one.
Walking back to my place takes a couple of minutes during which I realised that I have changed fully into my Indian persona. This was put beyond doubt as a slithery rat slipped over my foot, not a hair on my head turned, I didn’t squeak or look for a chair to stand on. I photographed it and watched as it decided where to go. All this took quite some time, we were neither of us unperturbed by the other.
A still-life on the stairs leading to my place. I’ve added the disappointingly blurred, distinctly not still-life photograph of a rat who’s made his mind up.
I sat in the tub which took an age to fill but was a welcome diversion from writing and reading. Alexandre Tharaud playing Rameau/Couperin, a ‘disc’ that’s been delighting me for a couple of years now. Was once that I couldn’t bear listening to that era of French music (or any French music). Odd, sitting waist high in water, the ceiling twenty feet away, windows surrounding me on three sides and an open aspect to the most popular street of take-always, or buy and eat on one of our ramshackle chairs, in Mumbai. It occurs to me that I am not disturbed by any noise; this is not due to triple glazing, but to the absence of alcohol. Macho competitiveness, I suppose happens, but doesn’t appear to value domination by volume. It might also have something to do with a distinct shortage of women wandering around the streets. They are seen in bars, cafés, restaurants, cinemas etc. but rarely in Hen Party mode. I’ll wake up tomorrow and remove all this for sure...
And here are the final words about time here and there...actually a picture which, at least in this case, speaks way more eloquently than a hundred words on this same topic. Got it - not all that much difference between U.K. and India - India’s five and a half hours ahead. I no longer have to stand on my head when I want to know what the time is in U.K.
A single mosquito sang a strange aria to me at 03:20 this morning. It sounded amplified, though probably was not. Whatever, I’ve revivified my reading/writing/drawing kit and intend sitting it out. I’m not going to let a minuscule sac of blood(mine) fastened to a skinny set of legs beat me.
Bets writes from France that her sleeping pill isn’t working so we set about sorting out time. Didn’t get v far though. The take-always are dwindling to a close. One wonders what they are taking away with them at this hour. Hummus and falafel are good fodder but at 03:30 something more compact, something that can be carried up a single nostril fits the bill. Incidentally, the dog was seen escaping from the back of the Kebab Stall. Just saying...
What a happy day. I’ll run over it from now to it kicking off round about 10:00. My last call was at a supermarket where I bought one mango from each of the available options. This evening I will be dining alone and exclusively on mangoes: just to be on the safe side I’ll be leaving the Alphonso till last. I was very careful when buying them to make sure I photographed the correct fruit/name tag: you’d have to be fantastically enthusiastic to identify them without these hints. I’ll probably add a few tasting notes when I start my autopsies. If the whole thing becomes too messy, that’s when I give up.
This was by far the largest of my trawl. Its flesh was entirely fibre-free, almost a juice, albeit a v thick one. It tasted less intense than some mango varieties but nevertheless was most enjoyable. It’s size and juiciness suggests that the tub might be the best place to carve one up.
Every morning there are ten newspapers, freshly ironed, put out for guests. There are usually \240a few supplements, mostly called something, something, Mumbai, e.g. After hrs Mumbai. All of the newspapers have a gossip section, frequently running to many pages and mostly filmie/Bollywood biased. Television stars/minor movie people are referred to as B-town actors. It’s like the Royal family writ large. Now there are whole families, three generations of them, all of who have made movies their life. A major scandal might be the child of an A lister marrying an Item girl/a television B-town - words would be spoken, newspapers would be sold, everyone would have an opinion. The main part of my day was spent walking slowly around the Oval Maidan, the large greenish park in the centre of Bombay. On one side is High Victorian/Gothic architecture facing an unbroken series of Art Deco apartment blocks in various stages of preservation. The first two are from a block undergoing serious renovation - a sneaky look into what’s happening.
Don’t flick through any further unless you have an interest in decaying Art Deco. There’s a lot of it...
Good morning...wandering around the market noticing some familiar, some unknown vegetables. I longed to have a kitchen. Today is to be spent posting a parcel; I know from previous experience that this is a long job, one that takes up at least half a day. Photographs won’t be allowed in the post office.
Striped Brinjal; Nagpuri Brinjal; sweet lime;chilli
Cow pea beans; drum sticks; Bhendi; garlic
Sambhar onion; small colocasia; bitter gourd;sponge gourd
Torn between self-indulgence and rude health. For the nonce health has won, but I’m weakening, Lotte Choco Pies are the best...as are the chickpea/peanuts sold in newspapercones on the street.
Eid holiday, the streets around me are packed with people in new clothes and my trip, admittedly a v short distance away, to the Gate was truncated owing to the masses.
I haven’t been reading enough so this is the end of my day, The Children of Jocasta calls.
Last day in Bombay for a while so not making the most of it. My walk this morning took me past a mansion block and it’s indecisive naming - PG Wodehouse or Woodhouse? I wonder...
My wandering took in lunch, not a very Indian lunch either, but a delicious one, Greece via India perhaps. On my way back a small man, though might have been a boy, his age was indeterminate, muttered a litany of products - hash, porn, marijuana etc. I said no thanks. Nevertheless he carried on, no evidently being the one English word he didn’t understand. His focus was on the hash which started at Rs10,000, sank incrementally to Rs1,000 before he got the message. I resisted telling him that a joint of best black, at 14:00 in an Indian heatwave, would make me madder than the Englishman who accompanied the mad dogs into the midday sun.
The pickled vegetables, on top of the vegetarian pitta, were a wonderful touch. The water a prime e.g. of how it’s possible to up the ante on a bottle of water.
Went to get my fourth bottle of water of the day and noticed a v sharp black shirted boy - on the back of his shirt, in large white letters, was Bad Choices Make Good Stories. Made my day...Found a taximan and arranged for him to be outside this place at 05:15 tomorrow morning. It’s all a bit hit or miss this sort of arrangement, generally it works. My bedroom was floating on the scent of jasmine all last night - it looks a little sad in the photograph - I forgot to take it whilst it wa fresh.
A very early start helped by my v early sleep. Up at 04:30, checking out seamlessly at 05:00. Houseboy wheeled my case to a taxi and off. The business of stations never fails to amaze, and so early. I’m on the train with perhaps half a dozen others and half an hour to go. The Times of India will fill that time.
Breakfast is heralded by the train equivalent of bedtea - tea and Marie biscuits - just to keep one going. I’ve refused cornflakes as I know that they are served with warm milk, no choice, but why warm? Pea omelette arrived with tomato sauce, two slices of brown bread, butter and that really unpleasant jam called mixed fruit. Tea and mango juice followed on. I’m in the top class - Anhubuti - on a Shatabdi, so the cream of Indian Rail, the trains that are seldom late.
Arrived at the Oasis and collapsed, the contrast between the serious A/C of the Shatabdi and the overwhelming heat in my room was extreme. It’s adjusted now, though I’ll have to keep the curtains drawn if I want to survive. The roof has a swimming pool on it, not exactly salubrious, rather murky turquoise in fact. The heat bounced around the empty roof garden looking for someone to focus on - I decided to retreat to the dining room for noodles and fresh lime soda (no salt no sugar). There are twelve women in saris having lunch, they are my age more or less - it was noted in the lobby that there would be a Kitty Party - I was expecting a bunch of pissed girls in bridal veils and pink t-shirts. 13:30 and the muezzin sounds loudly across the city, his mournful song suggests long vistas of unbroken, undulating desert.
Out for a short walk that took a long time. Outside the College of Arts was a man weaving named wristbands - I bought three for £1.50.
The College of Arts - an exceptionally grand building that I had though to be a mosque. I was failing fast, heading for the hotel only to see a market, a splendid one full of vegetables that I would have loved to buy had I a kitchen.
The twigs are tooth’brushes’ which older/country folk use instead of brushes. I’ve seen Neem twigs, these look different
I finished up buying sweets - I asked the man behind the counter to select four of his favourites. That’s supper sorted...
Starting early as slept well and there’s a mountain of traveller’s detritus on half of my bed. \240Breakfast at 07:00 so I have a deadline. Yesterday’s signage collaged:
Breakfast was enlivened by the Times of India Vadodara supplement and a long article about the antics of D-Towners (?) Mehr Mahayana and Dimple Biscuitwala - you couldn’t make those names up, though I suspect someone did. They are described as ‘models and actors’. The lift started out with me and two others but stopped on the first floor where three huge men got in, the lift floor groaned and settled.
Try telling the time...
Either side of the station is a motorbike/scooter parking spot - how carefully, economically it’s done. Walked to the park and around the museum/art gallery, there was some terrific stuff badly lit. I was thankful for the litre of (warmish) water I had with me. Several families asked where I was from then chatted about Baroda, Shakespeare, heat. I was going to walk back but climbed into a tuktuk instead, at 20 pence it would seem silly not to. Lime soda and noodles for lunch in this 100% vegetarian (by which they mean no eggs/milk etc) Hotel.
It’s early, call to prayer time, but a cup of tea and Kindle sounds good. A/C in and off necessary. Trains hoot, though sound more like amplified conch shells of priests.
Woke early, ate early. Suspect the call to prayer invaded my dreams. Serious heat so I’m allowing myself two tourist opportunities only. This morning’s was the stepwell at Sevasi. I tried v hard to call an Uber/Ola but failed so settled for a 14km round trip in an autorick. It was worth it. The well is 550 years old and it’s shoes off time as there’s a temple for Shiva half way down. I tiptoed from patch of shade to patch of shade. The well is a long flight of steps with a cylindrical shape at its far end. The construction is of large stone pillars and beams. Again, reminiscent of Escher. I got a feeling of the weighty structure that was above my head, the deeper I climbed the heavier the stones. The ‘temple’, an area on the way down, appeared to be mainly for females as there were thousands of bangles (praying for marriage?) on the main altar and attached to Shiva’s trident. Another contributory hint was that the stepwell was well looked after, brushed and with only a very little litter (this seals the deal for me - no dead pigeons). Imagine if these were in England how much it would cost to see them. I expect that we wouldn’t allow such a dangerous structure to be open twenty four hours a day with unrestricted access either. My driver waited patiently. The autoricks sound like angry wasps and have an agility that mimics flight - my driver was wearing an entirely appropriate yellow and black broad-striped polo shirt. I wonder if he ever considered this insect analogy? Lunch was lime soda, Singapore noodles and three gulab jamun, I am flat out for an hour or so with barely enough strength to hold my Kindle.
Moving day, on to Ahmedabad a town with a seemingly pronouncable name ( isn’t said as writte). I might get it eventually but have failed thus far to memorise it. On the station, avoiding the Upper Class Waiting Room, sitting on the platform under a ceiling fan, so fine. It’s the Shatabdi I arrived on continuing its journey further North (closer to the deserts). The new class - Anhubuti - isn’t any different from E/C class, won’t be using it again. The promises were great - like an airplane - the reality rather disappointing.
A last breakfast...
Leaving the station having witnessed all manner of dangerous activities - 500+ litre bottles of water transported by four men across four lines, two platforms; coolies moving across rails and through the (invariably/understandably)open doors of the train standing in the station; huge lengths of fat electric wires draped across all platforms, watched over by a teenager who just couldn’t be less interested etc. Interesting though...The man below is one of the many ‘coolies’ who leap about trying to get your custom, they charge by the case/bag/sack. I guess we, The Empire, left the word coolie and it has yet to be consigned to the inappropriate word dustbin.
Lunch is part of the deal and was quite good: tomato soup followed by a tray full of vegetarian delights - a daal, a dry vegetable, a wet vegetable, curd, lime pickle, rice and a heap of breads. I turned down ice cream.
A charming man, with an eight year old daughter, I met on the short train journey offered me a lift to my hotel. His driver managed luggage, porters etc., so now am settled into The House of MG, a hotel so suited to me that I might never leave. The huge curtains, next to the swing, conceal plantation shutters and the corner of a garden full of palms and rills - the noise the water makes is enchanting. I will sleep well.
Supper this evening was a Gujarat thali in the rooftop restaurant Agashiye. It was immensely complicated, I lost track of what I was eating after the fourth course. Here’s a pictorial summary but with loads missed out. In a dry state I guess that this is the equivalent of going out for eight pints of beer. I started with buttermilk (smoked with herbs) and a mint/cucumber/lemon drink. A salad arrived along with a bowl of chaat and something crispy to dip into it. Then I got lost as lots of little bowls emerged from the kitchen, the distinction between sweet and savoury collapsed. The icecream was freshly roasted almonds roughed up a little. The last photograph was an intense yoghurt, boiled and boiled until it was thicker than thick, Cornish cream thick, flavours with saffron and pistachio nuts. I brought the paan back to my rooms fearing an embarrassment of spitting out which proved quite unnecessary.
Never too sure about the ‘turn down’ service being more than capable of falling into bed unaided. The sight of the four lilac wrapped chocolates makes he feel quite ill, spoil sport that I am.
Early start - breakfast at 07:00 and my driver arrives at 08:00. Slept v well in my muslin coffin and am now drinking India’s favourite coffee - Nescafé, also feeling slightly sad as I see the days mount up behind me whilst those in front diminish (nothing metaphysical here, just that I can see the end of my 2019 India trip). A shower will dispel this momentary gloom.
My room is the one that ‘owns’ the far left corner of this square. There’s a great deal of running water around the place, odd landings and sit-outs with fountains, a curious swimming pool, sheets of flowing water in front of the porte-cochère/swimming pool/my room. The air feels good and the place is beautifully, unusually clean. The tiles are to be envied.
Just back from a lengthy cultural drive - Patan, Modhera and Adalaj. Terrific driver, fascinating life experiences and informative about the places we went (though stayed in the car whilst I drifted around - ideal in fact). It would be hard to ignore the accumulation of dust on the car which started out shiny white and finished up the texture of a suburban villa. The architecture here shows the cloud of local sandstone well.
Slightly bleached out owing to the heat, this is the Rani ki Vav, the Queen’s Stepwell at Patan. It’s worth remembering that this astounding stepwell was built in 1060, though only rediscovered and excavated in 1968, the carvings have been covered/protected so are sharp, clean cut, as fresh as if done last week - reputedly having some of the best carvings in India. It’s design is like the one at Vadodara, though wild with decoration - beautiful, intricate stone carvings of big-breasted women, gods, goddesses, tree of life, Shiva in his many forms, Vishnu, in several avatars, many-armed women with worrying smiles, Durga appears killing a demon buffalo. There’s an appealingly beautiful woman, hand raised to hit the monkey that’s climbing up her leg. The tube that holds the water is equipped with projecting arms which would have supported the rope/chain and buckets.
Moving on after several litres of water, in single use plastic I’m afraid, we arrived at Modhera’s Sun Temple (1027), a shrine to the sun-god Surya. The bonus, for me, was the massive stepwell in front of the temples - I hadn’t expected this at all but it undoubtedly adds to the stature of the buildings. The carvings of animals, gods and humans covered every inch of these astounding buildings. My driver told me that the idol, now destroyed/sacked, had a diamond in its forehead, placed so that the sun hit it first thing in the morning (during the time of the two equinoxes) illuminating the (admittedly) small octagonal space. He also told me, easily checked, though I haven’t yet done so, that the Tropic of Cancer runs through the site. I’m going to run with both of these stories as they are appealing and I’m lazy.
Bed tea, an excellent institution, and a pile of Marie biscuits, what a way to start the day. I feel a quiet day coming on, one of confinement to suite with plenty of water and Kindle. It won’t happen of course.
From yesterday: the Adalaj stepwell (1502) - they get better, more beautiful. This one had friezes of of elephants and horses, superbly carved, around it’s five storey depth. Owing to its odd construction history there are alternate Hindu, Muslim architectural flourishes including the tombs of five warriors (I had hoped they were concubines) on its roof. It’s the same long stairs pattern but this time finishing with two tube/cylinder-shaped chambers. Sayyid told me that the first was for merchants to wash in, the second for drinking and crop irrigation, the stonework accommodates this possibility. I like his living history tales and bought into them unreservedly. The tree of life has cropped up from the moment I arrived in Gujerat, it’s been on everything. Across the road from me is the best example ever; I will visit the Sidi Sayyid mosque this morning to see it.
Off to the Calico Museum, my appointment is for 10:15 and I’m the only one. My female guide was initially rather surly but, when she realised that I wasn’t going to start touching stuff, and that I knew quite a bit about Chola/Palava/textiles etc., she melted somewhat. It is an extraordinary collection of the most fascinating fabric paintings, embroideries,fabric collage, prints I’ve ever seen, all beautifully displayed and lit. I thought that we had finished, was led into a little village of, what turned out to be facades, ancient havelis saved from the bonfire. In turn these masked a huge display area. All this is free, nor do they receive any grants, they just have a very (very) rich family foundation. My guide bemoaned the fact of modern ‘plastic’ clothes and India’s inability to save what is good of its heritage - ‘nobody will spend money on stuff like this nowadays, you wouldn’t get Rs 1000 for these pieces’. I bit my tongue, thinking of how much they would command at auction and how much I would be prepared to pay. Needless to say, no photography allowed. Damn. Stole some totally unrepresentative pix from the internet. The reality includes lots of bronzes, artefacts and super scale pictures. Worth crossing an ocean to see it.
Back to the hotel hungry but far too tired to eat so it’s a cup of tea and the newspapers.
Drifted out for a pre supper wander, a very slow wander as it happened owing to the seriously crammed nature of the traffic. The traffic lights didn’t help, they just added to the uncertainty of surviving the crossings. In the centre of the road outside the hotel is a fairly unremarkable mosque, Sidi Sayyid Mosque (1572). Fortunately my lift from the station pointed out it’s jali-work windows. One of them is recognised as being one of India’s most famous, most beautiful pieces of Islamic art, known as the ‘Tree of Life’ carving. I tried to picture it, my failure to do so is evident. I will try again tomorrow. The delicacy of the sandstone carving is quiet unbelievable.
04:45 this morning so a leisurely run up to breakfast - bed tea x 2. It’s hard to shift tastes when it comes to breakfast, all other meals are up for grabs, really don’t mind experimenting, but breakfast...So this morning, as with other mornings, I’ve had a large bowl of muesli (which included cornflakes), a large bowl of yoghurt and a large bowl of cut fruit, a sort of do it yourself, greedy-looking cereal start to the day, espresso, masala omelet and a slice of toast with mango jam. Full. Collapse of stout man. Return, slowly, to my rooms and the smell of jasmine and roses greets me. These bowls are refreshed twice a day (sort of like getting rid of the floaters/dead goldfish) as well as the bowl, without water, that’s on my bed each evening, filling my muslin-draped cube with good dream smells.
I had to pressure myself into moving this afternoon as it was seriously hot, the sort of hot that precedes a major climate event. The sky was bleached out, the shadows deep; my auto driver relied heavily on his horn, his foot resting on the seat beside him, eyes peering through bottle bottom specs. These were urban stepwells I was visiting, local unmarked, largely ignored. At the first stop I was pursued by a man trying hard to be my guide, I resisted, though it did mean walking briskly in the opposite direction several times. He eventually got it. Dada Harir Vav (1499) is a six level stepwell and by far the most complete I’ve visited having all its stone canopies and irrigation arrangements intact. The red hand prints are a mystery no one could help me with, the only other times they have cropped up they’ve been associated with sati/suttee memorials. I will ask but I’m not hopeful...
Mata Bhavani Vav (11th Century) one of the oldest stepwells in India, predates the city of Ahmedabad. It has been made into a Hindu temple whose goddess is Bhavani. There’s a lively community feel to it, small sets of room are huddled around its canopies: guardians, worshippers, families, caretakers. Water is still drawn from the well, I’ve never seen them used as gardens before. Back to the hotel to make a decision about posting a parcel or not (this is not as frivolous as may sound; it takes two or three hours to manage the process, from items to be posted, to calico sewn wrappings, to wax seals, to etc. etc. Decision made, parcel posted and it came in at under the hour - a record. I’m now more or less under the weight for my flight into the deep desert tomorrow. Parcel sewing was done by a fourteen year old whilst his father watched and chewed paan - he rewarded the children with a bit of Areca nut. Probably not such a good idea.
My room boy has just been to turn a corner down on the bedding which I disarrange hugely before sleep is possible (one sheet please). However the chocolate is excellent and the smell of jasmine/rose never fails to lift my heart. Having a postcard session which, unlike previous years, is a bit of a flop as I’ve been in places where there isn’t even a Gujerat word for postcard. I’m using up old stuff, some bought from a bookstall in Bombay and well passed their best. Hey ho...
Cotton Pent,Track Pent, Half Pent, Capry Pent - the banner fronting the shop proclaims, all for sale or made to measure. Eno’s Fruit Salts, only six seconds before they start working...gosh. This Neem tree looked beyond help, this morning it is supported, vertical and has a chance.
Two bottles of water, vegetable sandwich (exactly, alarmingly what it says), Times of India and my boarding pass. Security sorted and my overweight bag in the hole. I’ve been upgraded though by the charming man who checked me in - seat 1B, priority boarding, bag on carousel first and food onboard. We’ll see, really don’t need any of this for an hour and a half flight, it’s not exactly, even approximately, Concorde Room. I must remember not to smile whilst saying good morning next time I check in. Waiting space near the gates is rudimentary but clean. I am, by several stone, the lightest person in the room - hope that the ‘plane is reinforced.
The airport was tiny, as was the ‘plane. The man sitting next to me, we were 1A and 1B respectively, was terrified throughoutdespite flying all over the world as an advertisement man. Landing was a little like being a feather in a wind tunnel. Jaisalmer airport made Ahmedabad’s look vast. The hotel is as charming as I remembered, a welcome respite from the searingly hot wind (with the addition of sand) coming off the desert it borrows its land from.
My room gets great WiFi as it’s just behind reception. They appeared genuinely pleased to see me, I’m surprised they remember me. Jaisalmer is yellow sandstone, very yellow and very ornate. The short walk from here to the fort has the feel of a mediaeval farm yard with its cows (tiny), hogs (not pigs) and the detritus of both guiding my way. A torch will be needed. This evening there’s a music/dance/drama local celebration which starts at 22:30 and winds up at 06:30. They’ve set the stage up int he same square as the Bhang Shop, more or less guaranteeing a responsive audience. I’ll see how I feel.
Not a sunset, rather an unknown planet, a slowly closing eye.
I slept through local festivities, more or less passed out and now am reading the newspaper at 06:30-ish much refreshed. Time for planning...it’s beneficial being remembered, my breakfast is precisely as I always ordered but of a higher order, instead of a cup of coffee I get a flask full, more butter, more toast and a delicious masala omelet. Nothing much will happen today, nothing beyond a slow, short wander around the fort...and yet it’s now 13:45 and all I’ve done is read and drift around the hotel, ghostly empty as it is. Reception has a moveable group of locals, seldom more than four in desert garb, smiling their peg-toothed smiles at me. Namaste. I expect the camels are fastened to a post outside.
My wander was most fortuitously timed to coincide with The Cricket Match. Not sure who’s involved but the streets are empty the shops untended. I wander photograph and am unassailable by shopkeepers cepting one who tried to sell me a cone of ready mixed tobacco and dope. I said no thank you. Wonderfully decrepit place, nothing has changed except the addition of a top-layer of tourist stuff, mainly textiles. Anything out in this weather fades fast, so I’m heading home.
Jaisalmer is small enough to only require me to visit one major part of it a day, thus I am released from the terrors of tourism and returned to reading. Just started on Amitav Ghosh’s, Gun Island which is excuse enough.
Attention to ‘deatails’, so important.
The doors of Rajasthan are wonderful affairs of thick carved wood. Unfortunately these are being replaced with rather nasty modern equivalents, no doubt more secure, but not pleasing to look at. Some old doors go to museums/Western collectors, most are thrown on the fire. Sad. My waiter who is also the chef and chief bottle washer, said that it was ‘cooler today’, probably not an entirely appropriate phrase, certainly not noticeably verifiable. I ate daal and rice, I asked for a small amount and got masses of totally irresistible daal so ate the lot. I’d planned on a walk to the post office but only just managed to get to my bed. I’ll read until the memory of daal fades. I suppose that remembering a guest (me) from a year ago isn’t spectacularly surprising, however a beggar I saw once last year rushed out to speak, take selfie with me and mime his pleasure, miming being necessary as he’s dumb.
Off to the Post Office to post cards. There will be a v one-sided argument about the cost of the postage to U.K. I’ll cave in first and buy ten of whatever is currently the suggested cost. (later on) sorted that out in complete silence, a distinct lack of interest from the other side of the grill. ‘There’s a box outside’, was all I got: I dearly wanted to put my postcards anywhere but into the red/purple/rusted box hanging, lantern-like, on the outer wall. As for the time of collection, I wonder if the writing says in which month it is. Someone fucked with the focus button whilst I was in the Post Office. The street was blurred, the separation between sky and town, never very firm, moved, waves, swirled and filled my mouth, eyes etc with sand. An anathema for me, second only to birds. A First though, and there can’t be many of those coming my way...
In every Indian town there’s a small district which sells booze wherein all the shops are called The English Wine and Beer Shop or some such name. Why is this so? Are we really such old soaks? The smell surrounding these shops is distinctive, the entrances intimidating.
There are quite a few of these steps around the place, brilliant cantilevered slabs for people with a fine sense of balance and who don’t suffer from vertigo. I’ve also seen them in other places in Rajasthan (e.g. Amber, near the stepwell).
This area has been tidied up since I was here last. The tree (peepul) painted gnome green and starting to look as though it might stride off its platform, limbs ready to burst free from the trunk. Krishna watches on, impassive...I am quite keen on avoiding any further sandstorms, once was enough. Next time one brews up I either stay indoors or grab a tuktuk before they go into hibernation for the duration. I was slow thinking yesterday. One of the pleasures of Jaisalmer is its limited range of activities - I don’t need to look far for an excuse to stay in the hotel reading, writing and fussing around. Rice and daal for lunch? What else?
Time for my morning pint (of coffee) and some eggs. The rooftop café is charming and has the best view in Jaisalmer as well as the most thoughtful waiter cum chef. Long, slow walk through the old town which presses hard up against the fort. Memories of Varanasi, even Venice, since the place is riddled with v narrow lanes, scooters and cows. Beautiful architecture, even the new stuff is a simulacrum of the older havelis with its intricate stone carving.
When I was a child chokey was a synonym for prison, presumably one of the many words brought back from India and incorporated into word-greedy English.
This (below) is my favourite set of balconies in Jaisalmer, the Jali-work exquisite. The smaller the holes the more beneficial they are in helping lower the temperature by compressing the air passing through the holes...or so I’m told.
It’s three, not very big, rooms stacked one on top of the other with a beautiful carapace of stone carving
I want to remember my room with its efficient, quiet A/C and WiFi that works moderately well and never cuts out.
Today has been very leisurely thus far, breakfast (same as) packing and sitting with the hotel men, all under 30 I would guess, drinking chai and comparing places. Most of them have been to Delhi once, but that’s all, none of them have holidays, they all, from a v young age, have teeth stained by paan and tobacco chewing. Sad, though understandable, there’s not a great deal to do and probably no surplus money. The chef/waiter’s life is corralled by the parapet around the café on the roof; this time he even had his bed out on the roof. He, of all of them, must have the hottest time of it, especially during high season - ten banana pancakes table 5, Haka noodles x1 table 2, lime soda, no ice, sugar or salt x5 table 8 etc. The airport is v quiet, as though built for just me. One tiny, hopeful, shop with a selection of pashminas and a smiling man. Nobody has visited it since I’ve been here (there are two flights this afternoon/evening). But the guards, policemen, check-in desk people have been charming, relaxed and smiley (after security there was an exception - the boy who sold me water for Rs50 (standard cost being Rs20 a litre), who was grumpy and abrupt. I didn’t say anything though...I’ve been moved to 1B again so have the responsibility for opening the doors should there be an emergency. I’ve been working on memorising the sequence, I don’t suppose there’d be much time for reading and, given a general response to action in movies, the noise generated would be in the higher decibel range. Currently facing half a dozen heavily armed policemen/soldiers? And a sign forbidding photography on pain of? Heigh ho...The ‘plane lands, there’s a ten minute turn-round, then we walk out across the parade ground, in the searing heat, climb up three steps and collapse into the tiniest jet imaginable (well, perhaps not quite, though I have a v limited experience of private jets).
Bombardier Q400 - a turboprop ‘plane, whatever that is.
Uneventful flight apart from the mystery of me being moved to 1A/1B and given a (delicious) sandwich and drink both ways, oh and my bag being first onto the carousel. Really, really pleased that I’d arranged to be picked up at the airport, the joy of seeing my name held up after immigration...inestimable. Excellent, clean hotel. The room I’m in is rather smaller than I’m used to, but it has everything and everything works. Walked out in the warm evening as the streets begin to crowd up. Food sellers doing well especially those selling plastic bags of sauces which must be hell to decant without slipping all over the place. Took several goes to find an ATM that would issue me money, why?
Delicious breakfast this morning (though both coffee and tea abysmal), I’m getting to like dhokla a lot. Hanging around until this evening and then off to the railway station for an over-nighter to Bandra. Tomorrow into the Ashram so no photographs and no WiFi, cut off for a week.
Just had excellent daal and rice (onion salad arrived with it), then just had to have gulab jamun and coffee/litre bottle of water - I guess that here’s slightly above average - the bill was Rs388. The waiter-ing was excessive so I had to make a stand, even so I had the finger bowl, jug palaver to get through (even though I’d used a fork.
Miles down the platform, hoping that I’m going the correct way for A/C 1. \240Settled, checked and given pillows, blankets etc.
What a confusing day. Arrived at the Yoga Institute and immediately there always an asana lesson for which I was conspicuously late being the only U.K. on the course. Everyone has been wholly welcoming. I saw a doctor and had my Achilles’ tendon signed off (in triplicate). Lunch was great, couldn’t manage tea but thoroughly enjoyed supper. The food is made without the use of onions, garlic, chilli, a sattvic diet. Now the trial of three in a room - one charming 27 yr old and a more sullen one I haven’t yet really met. The yoga takes me right back to Janet and the tortuous positions she managed to get my (admittedly) far younger body into. Not too hard, not yet. The Institute couldn’t be better in terms of rooms, huge ones open to the air (and the noise of aircraft overhead). Sleep will come easily this evening.
Very tired - there’s no let up during the day. Food superb (sattvic), people splendid. My ankle is better and better though I still have to take great care dipuring the asana sessions. Reading time before I sleep. Probably the least I’ve read in decades.
Up early today after a tiring yesterday which put me to bed at 20:00 without supper. It was a good day but stretched my attention and physical strength to their limits. One or two of the sessions I had to slide out of, Dancing Meditation for one, the other I have no idea what happened but I heard “fun and games” mentioned, then “teams of ten”, and I was off. The food continues to be excellent, though the locals moan about it being bland. I sit at a side bench, sitting on the floor to eat is a skill I don’t have. I’m joined by ten guilty locals.
Such fun - I was reminded this evening, by Raghav in the photograph below, that I was his first ‘roomie’ and ditto he mine - US language I suppose. There are some/many asanas that I can’t begin to fathom, I tend to relax during these, saving myself for the parts I can more or less manage. Anything scary and I do a runner.
Wonderful experience today, making a lump of superbly elastic dough into a roti shape: too thin, too fat, just right - got it quickly and enjoyed it hugely. There’s beginning to be a hint of end of termism about the place. People are more and more friendly as they realise that its ending soon (I’m assuming). I have established a pattern, one that leaves v little time for anything that could be described as leisure. Seven until seven it’s classes, hard bloody work, apart from those that I skive. After seven it’s supper, from whence I disappear upstairs for diary, music and a little Kindle in my vest and khadi towel. It’s hot but there are two ceiling fans in the room so it’s pleasant. Rain this morning, masses, but followed by serious sun and extreme humidity. Just completed the last, probably most arduous class, of the day, the 5.30-7.00 led by the most charismatic teacher I’ve ever had: if he asked me to stand on my head, I would. Time for bed, music, Kindle and passing out v early.
Bottle gourd (above)which I’ve just eaten. Workers below - I only wish that I have a table and bench to eat at. Every day the menu is carefully written out and mostly stuck to. The tea we have is an infusion of ginger, lemon grass, basil and mint and is superb. The chef said that I could watch him make tomorrow’s batch. I will attempt to replicate this when I return to Cambridge though in a mini edition.
The cannonball tree (look closely) is in its prime at the moment, full of flower and balls - Lord Shiva’s tree. It’s early, I’m washed and semi dressed, sitting on my bed waiting for the others to waken. Raghet woke at 5.00 and told me to get ready first...we talked of gurus and miracles last evening before crashing out.
Today has been distinctly the day before the end of term-ish. Everyone is relaxed and cheerful, the classes familiar and manageable. I missed out on the breathing session because I didn’t understand all the technical bits, the tutor was hugely enthusiastic but overly detailed (scientifically). I bought the sattvic diet cookbook hoping that today’s chickpea salad is in it. I have asked for more Tales of the Yogis - I haven’t had bedtime stories for seventy years.
I rather expected food to become a big part of my day here, the four times release from sessions, but curiously its importance has diminished. This is in no way a reflection of my liking for the food, this sattvic diet suits me, I like it massively. Doing an hour of yoga before breakfast feels good.
The Volunteers and Prem - all dynamic, major contributors to the seven day course’s success. The Volunteers look considerably more relaxed here than they did at the start of the week (it’s part of their teaching certificate qualification so they have to take a week off work to do it. Must be a bit of a financial strain for some).
Sitting in a huge circle, not able to hear what’s being said (shared by my neighbours), the start of sentences, perfectly clear but then it gets all gibberish when excitement sets in. End of term fever most evident. Photographs/selfies, no tears but lots of hand wringing, shaking and rain. Rain. Mumbai rain. Torrential redefined, started at 09:00 and stayed on full flow all day. I had to buy a brolly from the Institute shop, was told 150 when I asked how much it costs so handed over 1,500 as being the most reasonable price for a good-looking brolly. The girls howled, fell about a bit, returned my money and took their Rs 150 (under £2).
Moved to a hotel for a couple of nights, the contrast couldn’t be greater. I am suffering from separation anxiety, I’m sure it will dissolve after I’ve eaten my Jumbo Club sandwich.
It’s breakfast in Bombay, despite my resolution I have assaulted the help-yourself displays with vim and vigor. Jalebi for breakfast, not good; Patra (below), both excellent and new to me, a Gujerat savoury, that gave my palate a surprise since it \240had been expecting chocolate. It’s raining intermittently so today might well be a reading day (the new Mike Heron perhaps). I’ve just dismissed the cleaning team so will be free from interruption.
It was a v large mirror, so irresistible to a person whose vanity extends to sitting down for breakfast at a table bearing his initials (even though it’s C1, it’ll do). Being confined to a hotel isn’t so bad and after a week of hard work it’s a real pleasure to have shoes on, soft furnishings, WiFi and no compulsion to sit cross-legged on the floor. Incidentally, yesterday Bombay had 182mm of much needed, but chaos generating, rain, flights, trains, roads backing up badly. Wonder if I’ll manage on 1st?
Just had a wander around the roof (swimming pool, view etc), through the small museum of historical domestic articles rattles, oil pots, walking stick heads etc. That sounds dull, it wasn’t at all. Then a late lunch, hummus, baba ganoush, tabbouleh, pitta and a fresh lime soda (tastes like lemon not lime). Excellent, quite as good as any I’ve eaten in the Emirates. There’s a wonderful arbitrariness about electricity outages - two today - just sat in pitch black for three minutes whilst, presumably, they cranked the whatever one cranks to get light when the grid’s down.
Khandvi for breakfast and off to the airport in an alarmingly puce SUV. Easy process with no queues (though have, because of my Rs150 umbrella had my case polythene wrapped), so in the lounge pdq with espresso, papers and thou. Bought gin and tobacco - the girl sent me back to buy a more expensive gin thus saving Rs1,200 - go figure. Sad to leave. The weather is rainy, showery rather than monsoonal and wonderfully warm, grey skies aren’t at all depressing here.
The bicycles represent the two categories of person here (airports/India/the world?): them and us, gold for the lounge, happy bike for the masses. I don’t mind which I have...
The airport won awards last year and is, it has to be said extremely peaceful, rendering the lounge quite unecessary. Gentle wandering with increasingly smelly neck and wrist, scents galore, and heavier duty free carrier bag. I was told not to unstaple my duty free until after arriving home; not quite sure what image I present if it suggests that I might be swigging a litre of 47.5% proof whilst rolling up Golden Virgin gaspers, but it ain’t good.
Joey L covers the walls of the airport, looking very good; he must be both pleased and proud.
Lobster for lunch, v delicious though left all bar the carrots. Off to the gate now...
The latest Slow Horses, Mick Herron, for the flight: another that smashes it through deep field (though what this means I’m not quite sure, but it sounds right/good). Nuts, water and waiting. Amenity kit, pyjamas, slippers, safety film over and cabin crew standing around disconsolately all,“hello Mr Eyesly I’m Siobhan”, done to death. Everywhere in India, whenever my name is needed, I become Mr Chris (think it’s thought of as a part of Krishna - kudos), which is way better, less likely to be mashed. I’ve enjoyed this year’s trip massively, certainly more than a couple of my preceding year’s trips. It’s the yoga that has made the difference, added a novelty, purpose and access to residents (all sixty four of them). The Institute of Yoga is extremely cheap but the client-base is most definitely middle class. The cooks/kitchen staff arrive at 04:00, every day preparing food to be given out to poor people in the community, then they make our breakfasts. This was given to me as the reason why we wash our plates after supper: I had suggested that it would be a good idea for us to wash our stuff after every meal, hardly arduous - a spoon, a tray, a small bowl. Apparently the average middle class male wouldn’t countenance this...they would if they weren’t given the choice, said I.